I was still the go-to guy. Changing light bulbs, killing spiders, carrying the heavy box up the stairs, unclogging the toilet or the sink … I was on call for my roommates.
They also brought me less practical concerns – like those annoying little questions that no one can remember the answer to. What team originally drafted Johnny Unitas? Who did the original version of Pinball Wizard? What was Ringo Starr’s real name? Who wrote ‘All the Young Dudes’ for Mott the Hoople?
Yeah – nowadays, you have the answer in 5 seconds. Back in our day, though, people bet on the answers. Or they consulted ‘experts’ – like me. I had enough useless knowledge crammed into my head to win on Jeopardy – as long as the categories were music, football, music, auto repair, sexual preferences of the K. sisters, and music.
In case you didn’t look them up, the answers were the Pittsburgh Steelers (in the 9th round), The Who, Richard Starkey, and David Bowie.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised when Rina burst into my bedroom (thankfully, I wasn’t doing anything private), and yelled: “Joe – who did ‘I’m the Man’?”
I didn’t even have to turn my head.
– “Joe Jackson.” I said.
Rina turned on her heel, and ran back into the living room.
– “Joe Jackson!” she screamed.
– “No, you dummy!” shouted Laurie. “Not ‘I’m the Man’. ‘I’m a Man’.” To make it crystal clear, she started singing:
“I’m a man Yes I am And I can’t help but love you so”
I could hear her clearly. Rina came sprinting back into my room.
– “Spencer Davis Group.” I said, before she could get a word out.
She grinned, and bounced back to the living room.
– “Spencer Davis sang it!” she shouted.
I couldn’t let that go. I had to get up, and go follow her.
– “Spencer Davis was the group.” I said. “Steve Winwood was the singer.”
Laurie just smiled. “Thank you, O Great Oracle. Remind me never to play Trivial Pursuits against you. Not for money, anyway.”
Rose smiled at me, too. When I grinned back at her, she looked down.
A few days later, Rina phoned me from the Lion. There was a payphone outside the ladies’ washroom.
– “Joe – can you help us out?” she said.
– “What’s up?”
– “Umm … Laurie’s had a few too many. She needs to go home.” said Rina. “I’d walk her back, but … things are going good for me right now, with Mike.”
I thought Rina’s boyfriend was named Paul – but what did I know?
“Also,” said Rina, “Laurie told me to call you. She said you’d take her home.”
That sounded odd, too. But the Lion was a five minute walk from our apartment, and I was studying only half-heartedly.
– “On my way.” I said.
I’d never seen Laurie as drunk as she was that night. Her balance was shot to hell, and she had a goofy grin plastered to her face.
– “It’s Joe!” she said, trying to standing up straight. “Hey, Joe!” I caught her before she fell over.
I looked at Rina, my eyebrows raised. Rina just shrugged.
– “I don’t know why. She was just really putting them away.”
– “Okay.” I said. “I’ll get her home.”
– “Thanks, Joe.” said Rina. “I owe you one.”
– “You have a nice night, Rina.”
– “Yeah – have a rice night.” said Laurie. She was slurring her words. “Joe’ll see me home. Maybe Joe’ll see more than that …”
– “Come on, Princess.” I said. I helped (half carried) Laurie up the stairs from the washrooms. Then I took her out the back way, behind the pub. There was a narrow alley to the main street. It reeked of old piss, but I figured that taking Laurie through the pub, in her condition, would have been worse.