There’s a lament and a wail bouncing off the sick green tile of the Lafayette Coney Island tonight. It’s bouncing off the pie case and the slung-low red swivel seats that moor this lonely joint. It’s careening off the lady who sits by herself, dabbing a napkin to her chapped and chili-burned lips, looking blankly at the waiter who’s sitting and looking blankly at another waiter. It’s soaking into the matching leisure attire of the six cell phone-flipping brothers over at the big table by the window. It’s Lafayette and Michigan, cold and quiet. The city ain’t talking, but if it were, no one is around to listen.
Jason Platz doesn’t know why it’s taking so long. Not the dogs, mind you. Those come fast and laden with beautiful shock-white onions that are as sweet as an October apple. He wants to know why a professional wallpaper installer with a crooked, yet not unattractive, grin and four days of stubble can’t find a woman.
Maybe you’ll meet someone in one of those office towers you’re in all day, I suggest, scooping up the brown-red remains of the “three on two” with a french fry. Do you know anyone who’s ever hooked up while wallpapering, Mr. Platz?
“Uhhh … well … there was this one guy I heard about who was caught banging one of the secretaries in a janitor’s closet. I personally have not seen this happen. I always hear about it though. That shit never happens to me. Always another guy. I’ve never even had a threesome.”
There is something at the Lafayette that always squeezes a little melancholia out of these cynical, bloody eyes. There’s a row of coat rack hooks that stretch along a 10-foot section of tiled wall. There must be 50 of the things. I’ve never seen a coat on one of them. Were they used at one time, I wonder, these brass antlers raising a stiff metal finger to the ceiling? Sophisticated Sophies and dapper Dans in formal wear may have rushed to employ them in a bygone time, keeping an eye on their bulging overcoats as they crunched down on an all-natural-cased wiener. I may have started bawling right then and there, but I’m aroused to attention by this bawdy outburst from Mr. Platz:
“I once got a blow job from a girl who wanted a ‘Made in Detroit’ cap. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Robert Stanzler after that”
The caps were sold at Off The Record, the now-defunctified hipper-than-thou centerpiece of early Royal Oak commerce. Mr. Platz was a clerk. Mr. Platz was a very satisfied clerk.
“That was the best job I ever had. You can’t believe the shit that went down in that place. It embodied everything you were expecting from life when you’re 20 years old. I milked it for everything, man. We were getting fired constantly. Getting fired and coming back. Insubordination. Lack of discipline. Shit like that. We had a futon in the rafters. We got drunk on Friday nights. I went to every show that came through town. For free. And I could fuck someone in the rafters if I wanted to. Man.”
Mr. Platz is 31 now. Three years without a steady gal. Feeling pressured to find one, he says.
By who? I ask.
“I don’t know. I just do. The last one almost ruined my life, so I don’t know why I’m in such a hurry”
After the last one, he played Led Zeppelin’s first album.
“My cousin Kevin turned me on to that. He said that first Zep album always did the trick. He was right. He also taught me a lot about weed. And he used to take me to the Space Station video game palace on Woodward. I miss him, man.”
Cousin Kevin now works at an adult video store in Seattle. He’s in a band.
“It’s such a small town, ya know? Where ya supposed to meet them? Where the fuck ya supposed to go? You can’t really date one-night stands. That’s just drunk-sex. I once had a girl break up with me at the Bangkok Cafe. You ever been there? There’s about three inches of space between you and the next guy eating his dinner. And she lays it on me. I had to sit there in silence. And eat. Nightmare.”
Have you tried the Internet, Mr. Platz?
“If I had a computer I would. I know a couple people who got married that way.”
Our waiter is sitting at a small table against the wall. He’s staring at his shoes with his head in his hands. He looks up every time we make a noise. A fork hitting a plate, an ashtray sliding into a water glass. He looks at us, his only customers, and drops his head back into his hands.
“Did I tell you about the time when I fucked Princess Leia at a Halloween party? How about the time I dropped acid at the gas station I worked at? No? When I’m done, I’ll tell you about the first girl I ever had a crush on. She killed herself last summer.”
I clink my lighter against the tiles. The waiter lifts his head. I nod, and he walks over.
“Uhhhh … $10 … OK?”
OK.Dan Demaggio dines with interesting people for Metro Times. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org