In Search of the Ellusive Piss Pot

“And when he wanted to go back, down to earth,
the earth was an overturned piss pot
And he was all alone…”
Tom Waits – Children’s Story

Here we go again, back to Boston in another life, when I was a waiter at one of the restaurants there and had a friend named Jack.

Jack was a waiter too, but he always seemed to be on the edge of getting fired. Somehow he managed to stay, though, week after week and month after month. Jack was always very entertaining, in between customers, lots of jokes and stories. Smoking cigarettes, stealing food, laughing. We made pretty decent money there, but Jack was always broke and switching apartments.

Every night after work, we’d all go out on the town. 11:30 pm to 5:00 am was party time. Then we’d get up the next afternoon in time for work. Lots of times after work I’d be standing at the bar gabbing to Jim, the head of Jack’s crew.

“Look at Jack”, he’d say, “Can’t afford a pot to piss in and there he is buying drinks for the house…”

Sure enough, Jack would be there laughing and slapping…
“Waddayou drinkin’ man? Johnny, set em up! Suzy, git over here! Wadda ya drinkin’? Haw Haw!”

Jack and I worked the same job and made the same money. Even with all the late nights, I had so much I didn’t know what to do with it and had to stick it in a savings account. Jack was always broke. One time after yet another eviction, Jack needed a place to stay. I had a summer rental on the Cape so I told Jack he could stay in my basement apartment in Cambridge. When I got back a couple months later, my window was opened and the tv was gone. I said, “Jack, you left my damned window open!” “Oh”, he said, “I’m sorry man.”

A few weeks later he came over to me at work, grinning from ear to ear. “Hey man, I just quit! I’m outta here! I’ve got this great job starting tomorrow. We drive around different states and when we get to a town, we all get out and sell stuff. Then we get back in the car and go to the next town. It’s all expenses paid! I’m gonna be rich!”

“Uh”, I said, “You already quit?” “Yeah!” said Jack. “I’m outta here!”

“Well, good luck then.” I said. “Call me when you’re in town.”

I never saw Jack again, but I never forgot him, you had to give him that much.

Whatever he’s doing, I hope he still has his sense of humor. I hope he still likes to take chances.

And I kind of wonder if he was ever able to afford that piss pot.