You could not buy a saddle in Little Aleppo, not anymore, nor cattle or sheep or horses; the neighborhood was not zoned for cowboying. There were no pool-supply stores. The tunnel-borer used to create the Chunnel is in not one shop in the neighborhood–not one!–and the Poet Laureate has checked. You do not have to worry about a big old jet airliner carrying you too far away, as you cannot purchase one. Some things you just can’t get.
You could buy a gun, but not a rocket launcher. (You could probably order a rocket launcher, but not buy one the same day you wanted it.) Cheeseburgers were plentiful and high-quality, and Chinese and Italian and Mexican and all the other American cuisines, but if you felt the urge to spend $500 a plate for fancy bullshit, you had to slide into C—–a City. (Nero’s had real tablecloths and heavy forks and a lobster tank: it was the local nice restaurant, but it it’s not fancy. Mostly because of the diners who keep trying to liberate/attack/fuck the lobsters. On weekends, security needs to be hired.) Love was not for sale. (It was, but not the kind you wanted.) Some things you can sort of get.
You could always buy an umbrella on the corner of the Main Drag and Robin Street from Umberto Clamme, and you could pay triple for it every 18 days. The Cenotaph whamps onto the sidewalk in front of the Broadside Newsstand on Gower Avenue every morning at 6:10: four tightly-bound bundles that weigh 30 pounds each. Angus likes to gnaw open the plastic ties, and before Omar can even put the papers in their rightful place there is a line of coffee-holding impatience. Riots, strikes, turtlemonsters: the Cenotaph was there at six.
The publisher had come by the newsstand one day. Everyone called him Punt, because rich people enjoy making the poor say their stupid nicknames. Punt told Omar,
“The Cenotaph delivers! A blizzard couldn’t stop us.”
“What blizzard? We’re on the West Coast,” Omar said, but Punt had walked away. Both Omar and Angus had to admit that walking away from a blind man in the middle of his sentence was impressive.
“Power move,” Omar said.
You could always see a movie, and you could always get your ass kicked, and you could always get your heart broken. Fear, and the joy that exists within cookies. There is never a moment in which you cannot contract herpes in Little Aleppo. Some things you can always get.
Like an Arrow. When you’re hunting for taste, Arrow hits the mark. Tallboys from the main batch came in white cans with red lettering: the O in Arrow was a bullseye, and the crossbar of the A was an arrow pointing towards it. Bodegas, take-out places, pharmacies, Beer-Cooler Ethel: tallboys of Arrow were easy to find, and the paper bag was free. Arrow Good Times came in an elegant amber bottle, and Arrow Reserve Executive Bock came in stubby green and cost twice as much. (Same beer.)
Scientists will tell you that water is necessary for life. Germans will tell you that you need to turn the water into beer first. The Büntz brothers were Bavarian, and not very good at farming. Heinrich was an inventor; he liked staying indoors and fiddling with things, and he liked sleeping in. Shtümp only had one arm. He was born that way, with a little chicken wing with two useless fingers hanging off it, and Shtümp can remember the first day that their father had put him to work on the family farm.
“You will have to work twice as hard,” his father said.
And although Shtümp lived to be 91 years old, he never forgot how he reacted to his father.
“Oh, no, I don’t want to do that.”
His father beat him thoroughly, because it was the past and that’s how children were raised, but Shtümp was not convinced that a life of ease was not a desirable one. They were the third and fourth of ten children, and therefore not needed, and so their father sent them off to America in 1891. The two landed in New York and kept going west until they found somewhere without a brewery. Unfortunately, by 1891 Germans had settled pretty much the entire landmass of North America, and so the Büntz brothers were forced about as far west as you can go without getting wet.
Far on the Downside, by the natural harbor created by the Segovian Hills sloping off into the ocean and alongside Cutty’s Stream which they used for water, the brothers built their first brewery with their own hands. (Hand, in Shtümp’s case.) The floor was dirt packed hard, and the windows were crudely cut from the walls that were made from redwood. Copper everywhere. Pipes and nozzles and cranks and levers. Mustaches were enormous.
Heinrich knew what he was doing, and the beer was tasty and smooth and golden, and he spent his days happily tweaking and twisting and worrying about tolerances and sleeping until ten. The water came in, and the beer went out. Heinrich was happy. Shtümp was a talker, a good one, and he had become roly-poly very early in life and his laugh was as big as Montana, but not as mountainous. You were happy to see him, though you couldn’t quite put your finger on why. He had all of the qualities of a good salesman. Heinrich made the beer, and Shtümp sold it.
Horse-drawn wagons pounded up the newly-paved Main Drag headed for who-knows-where and laden with stout wooden barrels of lager with the Arrow logo seared onto the staves. (The name had no particular meaning: Shtümp thought it sounded good, and Heinrich didn’t give a shit.) The beer went out, and the money came in. Then came Prohibition, and five time as much money came in. The LAPD (No, Not That One) made a deal with the brothers: if you bribe us, then we’ll overlook your crimes.
Henry and Stan Boone found this to be an acceptable deal, and bought up a good portion of the harbor with the inflated profits. (World War I was an unpleasant time to be known as Heinrich and Shtümp Büntz, and so the brothers Americanized their names.) They threw a few jetties into the surf and charged the rich to berth their boats there, and this was called Boone’s Docks. It was a cash cow, and the brothers invested these further profits into land and stocks and precious metals, and by the time that their children took over the family business there was so much money that even worthless junkie heirs couldn’t put a dent in it.
The brewery still stands, and still pumps out beer; the water is trucked in now, Cutty’s Stream having dried long ago.It is a local concern, and there is no effort to expand or diversify. Arrow is profitable enough to not be noticed on the Boone Trust’s financial report, but not profitable enough to be noticed. Negligence kept it alive.
Certainly not this generation of Boones: Tildy had overdosed at age 22, and 24, and 25, and then again at 25 for the last time; Volstagg was at a party in Goa, and had been for seven years; Marduke had been eaten; Brest-Litovsk was still trying to be an actor despite having a face like an octopus on fire; Melisandre was in her third year at Harper College.
A person could work up a mean thirst after a hard day of nothing much at all, and Arrow hit the spot. Bodegas and convenience stores and bars and gas stations and restaurants and Beer-Cooler Ethel: you could always get yourself a beer, and when you’re hunting for taste, Arrow hits the spot in Little Aleppo, which is a neighborhood in America.