My name is Rupert Hope Denton.
Now close your eyes and conjure up an image of what Rupert Hope Denton might look like. A cherub perhaps? Surrounded by other cherubs with names like Caleb, Alexander and Tobias? Maybe Caleb, Alexander and Tobias are savagely beating Rupert Hope Denton with their lutes and harps for having such a wussy name. So when a guy called Rupert Hope finds himself in a city called Philly he ought to be scared.
Philadelphia is a tough city. Everyone looks like a character from The Wire, The Sopranos or Skins. I on the other hand look like a character from Doug. Everyone has a take no shit suffer no fools attitude. I on the other hand, am a fool and talk a lot of shit.
I’m standing in line at a restaurant in Italian Market in South Philadelphia. One of those establishments were the walls are covered with signed black and white photographs of boxers and musicians posing reverently with the owner. Do these people ever enjoy themselves?
Above the cashier hangs a framed image of handgun being thrust towards the customer, beneath it the bold letters WE DON’T DIAL 911. This is the first time I have been in a place where the management reserves the right to shoot the customer.
As I wait I watch two people, both resembling James Gandolfini, chatting in a booth. The conversation is vanilla but for some reason they are using a tone and urgency you’d expect at a drug deal that’s going wrong, “So I just got the new iPhone 5 and then one of the drivers at work told me that it ain’t much better than the previous model. So I’m thinking WHAT AM I DOIN’ WITH THIS PHONE?” He waves his phone around, “WITH THIS HERE PHONE, THAT AIN’T NO BETTER THAN THE PREVIOUS GUY, YA KNOW?”
The other Gandolfini brusquely removes several paper napkins from the dispenser leans over and mops his flustered forehead. He puts the phone down, “Thanks hun’, you’re a great wife,” he slams his leg of ham sized fist on the table and repeats, “YOU’RE A GREAT WIFE!” Dear god, that’s a husband and wife?
My turn comes to order. I approach the cashier who is wearing a Philadelphia Flyer’s cap pushed backwards and a Temple University hooded sweatshirt, the sleeves pushed up revealing his tattooed forearms. He doesn’t say anything he just stands at the counter and nods his head in acknowledgement. I give a reciprocal head nod but say nothing. We both wait for a moment before he says, “Whaddaya mute or somethin’?
“Whaddaya want?” He points up at the sandwich menu chalked onto a blackboard above him.
I glance again at the barrel of the gun bearing down on me, reminding me that, WE DON’T DIAL 911. I want to seek qualification about this. The sandwiches are obviously designed to shut down a human being’s vital organs. So what happens if my heart stops or my gut busts? What if one of the Gandolfinis flatlines? Will 911 be dialed then? Or, in accordance with the sign, will they just shoot us like we’re dying cattle? It’s a risk I don’t want to take. So I try and pick the healthiest option.
“I’ll have a Heartstopper.”
I feel the unfriendly eyes of the boxers and musicians who hang on the walls and have probably all been gunned down by the mob by now. I can’t say Rupert Hope Denton.
“Robert… o. Roberto… Bellini. Roberto Bellini, um,” I look at a poster of Sylvester Stallone jumping up and down in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, “Rocky Roberto Bellini.”
“Rocky Roberto Bellini?” He repeats back to me, “I only need your first name big man.” He yells back at the kitchen, “One Heartstopper for a blonde, skinny guy called Rocky.” I hear a snort of laughter/derision from the kitchen.
“6 bucks, Rocky.”
I get out my wallet I only have 2 dollars. I go to get my credit card, but freeze. My name is on my credit card.
“Hey, boy-o, we got customas ta serve, kapeesh? 6 bucks!”
I hand him my card, defeated. He examines it. He pauses, and scratches his head. He then points at me, “Wait a minute, you said your name’s Rocky Roberto Bellini,” he points at the card, “But this here, it says, Rupert Hope Denton.” He looks me in the eye.
I stammer something. But he ignores me.
“Hey, Rupert guess what?” He says.
I say nothing, I know what’s going to happen. He’s going to inform me the cards are stolen and (I look up at the gun) according to store policy he will shoot me.
“What?” Comes a voice from behind me. I spin around. The Gandolfinis have stopped eating and are looking past me at the cashier.
“This guy’s name is Rupert Hope!”
“Ya kiddin’ me?” The husband calls back, he looks to his wife, “Did ya hear that, Hope? This kid over there has our names: Rupert (he motions to himself) and Hope (he motions to his wife).” Then he bursts into laughter, slamming his hands on the table making it rattle. What the hell is happening? I ask myself.
Then, suddenly, his laughter turns into a choked gasping, his face contorts in pain, “My heart… My hear…” he wheezes, grabbing his chest, he lurches over sideways in the booth and goes silent. “Oh my god!” Hope yells, turning to the cashier.