Chapter Seventeen: “Rat House”


Buzz had a motorcycle. It was a cheap Yamaha 750, but it got him around. Now, having a motorcycle in Seattle is ballsy, since it rains most of the year. You have to be determined. He chose to ride his motorcycle over his 1969 yellow Pontiac GTO with a black racing stripe because the GTO was an investment while the motorcycle was transportation.

A GTO was an investment if it has low mileage, which his did, and perfect body and frame, which his did, and cherry interior, which his did. Buzz had bought it his junior year of high school from a drug dealer that needed money to keep out of jail. The dealer had been arrested and his lawyer wanted his fees up front. The car had been purchased as an investment by the drug dealer who in turn had bought it from another gentleman who bought the car as an investment. Thus the low mileage, no one wanted to drive the thing lest they lose money on their investment.

Buzz would spend sunny days working on the GTO, making sure every part was in good order in case that was the day he would be approached by a collector and offered untold wealth in exchange for the car. He would wash and wax it every week, weather permitting. Bill and Howard often helped him work on the car, helping to pull plugs or adjust the points. That car was pristine, and for as long as I knew him no one offered to buy the car for untold wealth.

Buzz had a handlebar mustache that he waxed as often as his car. When he rode his motorcycle he wore leather pants and jacket. He called it his second skin, in case he skidded off the bike he wouldn’t become hamburger. He had a girlfriend when I first met him, she would ride on the back of the bike and hold Buzz tight. It didn’t last long and she was gone when Buzz moved in with Bill.

Buzz had a large black velvet painting of a tiger that went with him to each new living situation. It resided proudly above the couch in their new apartment in South Park. I thought the thing was hideous, but my eyes always went to it when I was there. It made me think of all the nudes, matadors, and Elvis paintings on black velvet. I wondered if it would glow under a black light. It was the thing of nightmares.

Buzz had gone to community college and received a degree in auto repair. Maybe it was a certificate. This information, what little there was of it, came out when we were chatting one day about working at Boeing. All the brothers except Eugene were Boeing employees at one time or another. Chuck still worked there. Buzz said he preferred working the assembly line at Boeing but because he knew auto repair and he had a degree to prove it he got lots of work at auto dealerships. He knew how to repair cars from when he was a kid, but it was the proof that made it official.

Cheap Trick was Buzz’s favorite band. He liked Bun E. Carlos, the drummer. I asked him how Howard compared to Bun E. and Buzz just laughed. I wondered how we’d sound with Bun E. Carlos as our drummer.

Buzz had been married briefly right out of high school and they lived in a double-wide trailer in Tukwila. His wife’s name was Belinda and she’d had a miscarriage right before she left Buzz. Buzz blamed the miscarriage on his marriage failing, but I think she wanted more than a motorcycle, a collectible car, and a double-wide. Last he’d heard she’d married a dentist on Mercer Island and had two boys.

Buzz was the only one without a plan for a business. He was going to piggy-back onto Howard or Bill’s business as a partner. That’s when he would sell the car for big money and invest in the business, reaping huge profits without having to dirty his hands with the day to day operations. Buzz knew the value of money. It meant cigarettes and beer, hamburgers and steaks, lottery tickets and automobiles. Buzz was the only one that did have a plan for getting money without working. He played the lottery, from the pick-6 and scratch offs to the pull-tab games they had in the taverns. When he won he’d be jubilant, as if he overcame the oppressive slave labor he’d be forced to endure if he wasn’t lucky, and when he lost he shrugged his shoulders and said better luck next time.


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