It's the Little Things

Bouncer takes to Emmy's Spaghetti Shack, shares story about the vertically challenged

Say what you want about Chicago, girlfriend, but it's a better museum town than this place. Polish-parking-lot-attendant-looking mofos with big shoulders will tear your tickets, but once inside, it's all culture and class. To wit: the Museum of Science and Industry, which manages to take two of the most boring subjects and make them palatable, even interesting.

One day long ago, when I wore a younger man's clothes, my class went on a field trip there. Usually we would go to the St. Louis Arch, which is really only good for the Mork from Ork egg of an elevator that jostles you to the top. Let's face it, once you're up there, all you've got is the Missouri skyline, which is the visual equivalent of Patrick Swayze's recording career.

But the Museum of Science and Industry always had cool stuff for field trips, like the time that it had the dollhouse exhibition. Entire rooms were filled with gigantic (relatively speaking) mansions in miniature, with tiny li'l Georgian moldings, diminutive Persian rugs, and Lilliputian settees. Awwww ....

That was when I first realized that, damn it, I like things tiny. A John Deere threshing combine, you say? No, thank you. But make it 3 inches big and we might talk. What's that? A dowager's vanity set complete with brush, mirror, and a jar of cold cream? Why, thank you for making it no bigger than a snuffbox, m'lady! You get the picture.

This week I heard a story that will make all of us lovers of the mini, the peewee, and the bantam very sad. Please prepare yourself if you fall into that group.

We were at Emmy's Spaghetti Shack in Bernal Heights off Mission. It's a tiny space with warm colors and cute bitty booths, slim, slight waiters, and small prices. Of course, there is big stuff there, like the 40-ouncers on the menu, or the meatballs, which look like apples. The Shack also has loud DJs spinning hip hop, soul, and downtempo records Thursday through Saturday. It was originally opened to cater to the late-night cravings of people in the restaurant biz, who didn't necessarily want to eat at their places of employment. As a result, the vibe is geared toward takin' it easy, eating high-carb comfort food, and getting a buzz. Jesus, it was like I never left my house.

But what I like most about Emmy's is that it's little; it fit nicely into an evening of nibbly food and small talk. I went out with my duplex housemates again, in what is quickly becoming a weekly drinks-and-dinner date. Things were going great. We waited for our table next door at the El Amigo Bar, where the beautiful, buxom bartenders looked like they should be in spangled hip-huggers on Sabado Gigante. I got a margarita, natch, and the roomies did their usual pair of Stolis on ice and a Pabst Blue Ribbon, or, as I like to call it, two homos and a redneck.

Then Tilden began to tell his story, as told to him by his friend Frankie from that Oakland band Jim Yoshii Pile-Up, as told to him by his bandmate, as told to him by said bandmate's brother's friend. And here it is.

Somewhere in the heartland, Frankie's bandmate's brother's friend bought a hundred-year-old house. Oh, it was lovely, a dream come true. Sure, there were some weird noises late at night, but what old house doesn't make settlin' creaks and moans? Heck, thought Frankie's bandmate's brother's friend, it may even be haunted. Wouldn't that be cool?

So FBBF lived with the strange noises. Then other stuff started happening, like food would go missing or Scotch tape would be gone when he knew full well that he had just put it in the drawer. "Dang," he probably said out loud, "now I knowI left my dental floss right here! Where the hell is it?"

At this point in the story I was rapt with attention. Not even the allure of my ice-cold 40-ouncer and a big-ass plate of garlic bread could pull me away (well, almost; right around now we moved on to the restaurant). I do believe in ghosts, you see, and it would make sense that they would steal Scotch tape, because it is transparent. (You know, for, like, mending their opalescent ghostwear.)

Well, one day FBBF decided to find out where the noises were coming from, and so he pulled out some cabinets near the sounds so that he could get into the wall. And do you know what he found? A little man, not 2 feet high. Homeboy was living up in the walls of this old house, scurrying around at night and taking supplies.

"Oh, come on," I let out with a guffaw. "That has to be an urban myth."

"No, no, it's true," said Tilden. "Ask Frankie. The guy was a dwarf, like an old-school midget, perfectly proportioned but tiny. He had been living there for years."

Well, that was just about the sweetest thing I had ever heard. Little Buddy, all alone in the rafters with only a Walkman and his little tiny things. Oh, how I wish I had a dwarf in my walls! Surely FBBF and his roomies wrapped him in swaddling and made him a nice hot cup of cocoa when they found him? They must have said, "Wow, you can live here with us in happiness forever. We will give you the walk-in closet. Help yourself to the cheese, and do you like cable television?"

"Nah," said Tilden. "They kicked him out."

I felt like someone had socked me in the stomach. I couldn't finish my spaghetti. All I could think about was Little Buddy, living in some drainpipe under a bridge, or wedged into a mailbox to keep out of the rain. Jesus, they could have at least dressed him up like a jockey and had him stand in the yard during the day to earn his keep. I was more than a little sad.

There was only one way to make myself feel better, and that was to convince myself that this was an urban myth. All one has to do to prove that it's a myth is to find someone else out there with a similar story, then we will know that Little Buddy never was. The other thing that could happen that would bring me succor would be if someone knew where Little Buddy was, and he could come live with me. I have a nice roll-top desk fit for sleeping.

The waitress brought us a dessert menu on a tiny little clipboard, handwritten with markers. A panhandler called us assholes when we told him to leave our table, but dude was at least 5 feet tall and not on my charity radar at that moment. Little Buddy, if you are out there, I am here for you. Call me.

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