Cornbread

I know it’s been a few days or longer since I’ve written anything here. But it is still on my mind. I’ve accomplished one thing since we last spoke: I can know order and administer my own medication.

May not sound like a big deal, but it means I know longer have to go down to the Wellness Level (more like a crippled mob pit) and get a number and listen or watch the inmates fight over who is next.

This happened because I became friendly with the new head nurse, who has a good sense of humor and is from some eastern European country. I generally get along better with foreigners than Americans. Sad but true.

My favorite PT worker is from Taiwan. I ask her endless questions about the culture while she tortures me.

My health aide while I was at home was from Trini. She still comes to visit me and bring Trini delicacies.

My favorite “blue shirt” here is Muslim. Her name is Sannar, or something like that and she is the friendliest woman I’ve met in a long time. When she told me how to pronounce her name, she practically sang the last syllable: San-NAR and her voice rose and she gave a broad smile and said: As if you’re singing opera.

I knew she had fasted for the month of Ramadan so she was obeying at least some of the rules, but if you saw her on the street… she dresses like Marlon Brando in the Wild One. Leather hat with silver studs tilted on her head; leather jacket. And she looks like she’s about to jump on a cycle.

I’ve been able to get more info from the silent ex-boxer, ex-Hammond organ player that I share a table with.

He started his pro career when he was 16. They changed his age to 18 so he could be a pro. His sponsor was Kirk Douglas (this was around 1951) and his manager was also an actor, Richard Benedict who mostly played gangsters and directed a few movies.

You can look up Ace In the Hole which may have been released under another name like the Big Carnival. Directed by Sir Billy Wilder.

What’s been amazing to the people who’ve been here for a while is that I’ve gotten him to talk and laugh at all.

For example, one dinner, they served corn bread for about the fifth time since I’ve been here. And for the fifth time he looked at the cornbread and said: There isn’t supposed to be sugar in cornbread.

And I replied: You say that every time they serve cornbread.

He looks at me and says, “but I was a short order cook. I’ve made corn bread a thousand times. You don’t put sugar in corn bread. Now, if you are making corn meal porridge, than you put some sugar and maybe some milk in it. But not in corn bread!”

The next day, they serve the cornbread as a dessert. They put a sugar glaze on it. They call it glazed cake.

I ask him, does the dessert look familiar?

He opens his eyes, and looks at it, and a smile creeps to his lips.

“Sure. Yesterday’s left over corn bread. But that’s alright. Now it’s a dessert. You know, I wasn’t really a short order cook. I was a dishwasher. I think Kirk Douglas owned the place. He was my sponsor when I was a boxer.”

He’s told me this 50 times, but I pretend it’s the first time.

“Is that so? What does a boxing sponsor do?”

“Oh. He supplies money for equipment. Fees. Setting up the fight. You know he hired me as a dishwasher at one of his places so I’d have money between fights. Richard Benedict was my manager then. Before him I had a Mexican fight manager. Pancho something. I think his name was Pancho. He had been a boxer but was blind when he managed me.”

“You mean from something that happened in a fight?”

“Yes. I couldn’t understand spanish too well, but his opponent put something on his gloves. It caused Pancho, I think that was his name, yes Pancho. He was blind when he managed me.”

“How,” I asked, “could you have a blind boxing manager?”

He laughs. “I don’t know, but it is true. It was only for a few months. Then Pancho went back to Mexico, I think. And Richard Benedict became my manager. Nobody wanted to fight me. I was knocking everyone out. So they got me that dishwashing job to hold me over between fights. And then Kirk Douglas sponsored me and I he got me into the movies.

“I was lucky because nothing happened to me physically.”

“How did you end up here,” I asked. “Is it because of your memory?”

He looks at me in puzzlement. “There’s nothing wrong with my memory.”

By then we’re walking back to our rooms.

I pushed him a little harder.

“You know,” I say. “You tell me the same story about the cornbread being sweet every time they serve cornbread?”

Without missing a beat he replies: “Well what else is there to talk about in a place like this?”

And I nod in agreement and tell him to have a good night. He wishes me the same and we disappear into our rooms.

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