Marty was a "townie." Marty drove a shuttle bus from the Binghamton University campus to a local route where many students lived off campus. Most of the students ignored Marty even though he was about the same age as us. I was Marty's best friend.
"What's up Mike", said Marty cheerfully as I boarded the 8 AM bus on Monday morning.
"Not much", I replied, taking a seat up front across from Marty. This was my senior year, my last semester. I was taking twenty credits so I could graduate on time and not disgrace my parents.
"I can't wait for Friday night", Marty blurted out, a little louder than necessary. A few of the other passengers looked over at Marty and smirked. I turned and stared back at them.
The Clash, Marty's favorite band, were coming to Bingamton and playing the Broome County Arena. A few weeks before, Marty and I stood for five hours in the rain to get tickets for the concert.
A common interest in punk rock was how Marty and I became friends. Marty had a cassette player on the floor next to him while he drove, and he was usually blasting a song by The Ramones, The Clash, or The Sex Pistols.
"Hey Mike. What are you going to do after graduation? Why don't you stay in Binghamton for the summer, hang out awhile, before you get a job?"
"Yea right. What job?" I was a Poltical Science major. The only thing I was qualified to do was go to Law School, a fate which I was trying to avoid indefinitely. All of the entry-level jobs that I applied for in advertising and publishing required someone who could type sixty words per minute. The one job that I was offered was at an Employment Agency. How about that for irony. I couldn't get myself a job, but somehow I was perfectly qualified to procure job opportunities for others.
"We can always open the 'Park and Wash', Mike."
"Here we go again," I thought to myself and grinned.
The "Park and Wash" was Marty's master plan. Downtown Binghamton was a depressed area. Marty wanted he and I to buy a big, vacant, corner lot and convert it into a parking area and car wash. People would park their cars and for a small extra charge, the car would be washed when they picked it up.
Theoretically, the plan made sense. On the other hand, parking was free in downtown Binghamton, and there already was another car wash.
The day of my graduation was very tense. My parents knew I had no job and that I would be moving back in with them in Queens. Marty did not attend the graduation. We had already made plans for him to come down and visit. We would catch a few shows at CBGBs, hang out at the cool record stores near St. Mark's Place, and pretend that everything was the same.
I needed to make some money so I could move out from my parent's house. I had been away for four years and the potential for domestic violence was highly probable. A visit to my sister's apartment on the Upper East side provided the inspiration.
My sister's apartment was across the street from the 92nd street YMCA. The neighborhood was fully gentrified, filled with yuppies and yuppie wannabees. My sister wanted me to try something new so she took me out for dinner at a sushi restaurant.
What the hell is sushi? Raw Fish. You gotta be kidding me. These people are spending big bucks to eat raw fish and cold rice? Has everybody turned Japanese? Apparently so. The Japanese had bought Rockefeller Center and the new trendy dog to own was the Akita, a japanese breed.
How could I capitalize on this temporary insanity? I noticed that the guys behind the counter making the sushi made a lot of tips from the hungry yuppies. Then everything became crystal clear. I would learn to be a sushi chef! I would make enough money to move out before I committed matricide, fratricide, or the ever-popular double homicide.
I found a "Sushi Chef" course in the Village Voice. One could find almost anything in the Village Voice. The course lasted two months and only cost a few hundred bucks. I could sell my bass gutar and amp to pick up the dough.
As soon as I told Marty about my plans, he wanted to be a sushi chef like me.
"Listen Marty. They don't even have any sushi restaurants in Binghamton. What's the point? Go to Bartender School." Binghamton is full of taverns, saloons, and dive bars.
"Come on Mike. It will be a blast. Let's do it man!"
The first day of class was intimidating. Marty and I were the only two non-asian students. The instructor or Itamae-San was a stern looking Japanese gentleman named Tiko. Marty and I secretly called him "Tyco", because it rhymed with pyscho. Tiko was very skilled with a knife and he barked out instructions like we were in sushi boot camp.
Everything we did was ritualized and orderly. We washed our hands more frequently than someone with OCD. The smell of the raw fish made Marty nauseous. Tiko kept yelling the word, "Fugo" at Marty, which we later found out meant poisonous blowfish.
Somehow, we made it through that first day. We both knew the truth. Our idiotic dream of becoming sushi chefs was over. Fortunately, we did not pay the full tuition, so we only lost a small deposit.
We went to a bar to drown our sorrows. The bartender asked us to leave because we smelled like fish. I drove Marty over to the Port Authority and I bought him a bus ticket back to Binghamton.
Last I heard, Marty was still driving the off-campus shuttle bus.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction loosely based on the classic novel, "Of Mice And Men" by John Steinbeck.