December 30th, 2003


His Invention.

Who the hell drinks coffee after dinner before a work day?

Apparently my friend Doc does, and he needs a good night of sleep. Because in his job if you fuck up, someone potentially dies; whereas if I fuck up on my job, a noun gets misspelled.

However, he claims he can drink a hot cup after dinner and still fall asleep at a reasonable hour. This can only mean the man already has caffeine for blood, which I guess would make him clinically dead - unless he were existing in a world where people breathed opium and the livestock was made out of hashish.


So we walked over to the Coffee Bean across the street from the restaurant. It was packed with the usual cashmere shawl-wearing crowd you'd see in Brentwood. We were waiting for Doc's drink when a scraggly old man suddenly approached us.

"I've invented something!" he exclaimed.

Doc and my girlfriend immediately walked away. The guy, after all, had the long, greasy hair and scruffy beard of a homeless person. At the very least, he was a crazy, dirty person.

"Awesome, let's have a look," I said.

Normally most people don't consider it worthwhile to strike up a conversation with a homeless or crazy guy. At the very least, he'll try to work in a long sob story about how he lost his entire platoon in 'Nam and then ask you for a dollar. Or he could suddenly lunge at your face screaming "Your eyes look like candy!"

But I really wanted to see what the guy invented. I was hoping he'd pull out a contraption made out of Sprite cans, toothpaste caps, and popsicle sticks. He'd give it a wacky name, like the Hot Dangitty Mind Changerer. Then he'd aim it at voluptuous Brentwood women, with the hopes it'd make them want to pay him for sex.

Instead he pulled out what looked like a grimy wooden business card holder. He explained to me how he'd sanded it down to make it comfortably fit in your hand.

"You know how when you carry plastic grocery bags that are heavy and the handle part bunches up and digs into your fingers? Now you can hook the plastic bag handles into this wooden grip to make it less painful for your hand."

Holy shit, it was actually practical. Lord knows my girlfriend buys tons of fricking groceries, and when I carry all those bags they really do dig into your fingers and turn them purple.

"That's a great idea, man," I said. "I could totally use something like that."

I began to wonder if this guy wasn't homeless, but just one of those lonely eccentrics who just seemed homeless 'cause they didn't shower. Like the old man on Wilshire who pushed around a shopping cart filled with cans while wearing a powder blue prom tuxedo and a German Kaiser helmet.

The inventor guy got excited and told me how he planned to make them out of titanium. Titanium supermarket bag holders ... at this point I was half-expecting him to lunge for my eyes. And then he proceeded to explain to me what titanium was.

"Titanium's this new alloy they use to build things like NASA rockets and jet planes. It's a fancy metal," he said.

"Wow, titanium sure sounds cool," I replied.

After a while, Doc and my girlfriend got impatient and gestured for me to end my conversation. I shook hands with the guy and told him I'd be looking out for his invention at a supermarket some day. I wasn't sure if he was ever going to try to sell his invention, or if he'd just keep using it as a conversation piece that for a few minutes a day, at least, kept him from feeling lonely.

"Good luck," I said and patted him on the shoulder.

He never did give me its name.

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