Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tales of the real life Beastmaster!!!!

The lifeless form of the doe lay stretched in front of me on a hard wooden pallet.
I jumped when I saw it, before breaking into a string of Tourette’s-like muttered cursing. This was the handiwork of The Beastmaster, there was no question. Otherwise known as RoadKill Randy Lisdt, he was the only person insane enough to do this. It was 6 am, and I had better things to do than try and explain to my boss how a road kill deer came to be lying on our cool room floor.  Infuriated at the audacity of the man we called The Beastmaster I walked outside into the cool Santa Cruz morning to wait for the head cook to arrive…

This guy is much cooler than The Beastmaster in this story.

Between the ages of 19 and 22 I spent my summers working at Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center in the hills outside of Santa Cruz CA. Those were the halcyon days of youth, walking in the deep silence beneath the towering redwoods, causing untold mayhem with golf carts and custodial supplies, not to mention meeting my musical hero’s at places like KPIG radio. Up until the present day, it was the furthest I had ever lived from home and home to many vivid memories, most of them fond.

The first time I met The Beastmaster was at a BBQ on the recreation field by the main conference center. I was a custodian that year, my first, and one of our jobs was to empty the trashcans after the BBQ. It was an easy gig because you just had to sit on your ass until it was over. So there I was, 19 years old, eating steak in the Santa Cruz Mountains, when a legend crossed my path.

The Beastmaster was a bald man with a white beard, an egg shaped head and a rotund belly. He wore shorts most of the time to show off his great legs (he had really toned calf muscles). I was at a table near the BBQ’s when he came by and got some food. We casually struck up a conversation. He was a charismatic old bastard, the kind of guy with a story about everything. Soon he was telling me about his days coming home from the army, when he just hitchhiked around in his uniform and all the girls who were into him.

We talked for probably half an hour before everyone had cleared out and I could assume my duty. All I knew was that his name was Randy and that he seemed nice. Interestingly, Matt the guy I was working with asked who he was. Apparently he thought he was my grandfather because we were conversing so casually for so long. Today, I shudder to think at the idea of The Beastmaster being even a distant cousin (though I could probably write a fairly entertaining book if he were).

Looking back, there were a lot of red flags from that first conversation. To begin with I have no recollection of The Beastmaster doing anything other than talking about himself. As someone who likes to tells story’s, often about my own experiences, I work very hard to ask questions about other people when I am in conversations because I can very easily take over conversations. In my later dealings with The Beastmaster he made no attempt to do this, a trait I now associate with con artists and weasel dicks. Additionally, when old guys go out of their way to tell you they used to be a hit with the ladies, it should be an immediate warning sign. At the time my naïveté was charming I suppose.

That was the last I saw of The Beastmaster for a couple years, except in passing. His wife worked at the conference center, so he popped up occasionally. Then in 2000 I decided to stay on through the winter because I could get work quite easily. I started working with a welder named Randy (this is crazy ex acid using Randy, who was pretty cool actually). After a series of incidents during which a truck I was driving caught fire and burned up, I got food poisoning and I cut myself badly and went to my own doctor to get stitches because Hippie Randy was out and not answering his phone I was laid off. Actually I was glad sort of. But being in between jobs was no good, and with bills to pay, my friends Bill and Patrice suggested I help Randy work on his remodel project, which I thought was a perfect idea.

By now, even though I did not work directly with Randy, I had learned more about him. He worked teaching natural science at Ponderosa Lodge (the camp at the top of Mount Hermon), where he earned the moniker “Roadkill Randy” due to his consumption of road kill. He often encouraged school children and coworkers to do the same, though most or all declined.

This seemed more comical than anything else. What seemed more sinister was that he was living in a house he was trying to remodel. This is fine if you knock out a bathroom or something and immediately get going and finish it. Randy unfortunately was the type to gut an entire house then work on everything.

When I started he had me packing bundles of composite roofing up a ladder. It was hellish work, and I distinctly remember being exhausted when I finished. Carrying 80-pound loads up a ladder does a number on your calf muscles to say the least.  The job didn’t last more than 5 hours or so, and we had finished by mid-morning. Randy invited me in for a glass of water and to pay me, and it was then that I started to become aware of how much of a bastard he actually was.

When we walked into the kitchen there was his wife, washing her hair in the sink. She gave a look that would have made flowers wilt. It was highly embarrassing for everyone but The Beastmaster. Of course he didn’t care, he had probably ripped out the shower months before in one of his work frenzies (these type of guys can really get shit done when they are “on”). In fact the whole house had been demolished, with bare wood for floors, and exposed framing everywhere. He clearly did not believe working in phases, or in making sure his wife (the one with the full time job) was comfortable. That moment in the kitchen was the beggining of the end. Even though I had known Mrs Beastmaster for years, there was an awkwardness between us and we could not speak to each other. As for her husband, the veneer was shattered completely, but it would be ground to a powder in the months to come.

That was the first day, and things progressively got worse. The next Tuesday when it was lunchtime, he decided we would go up to Ponderosa Lodge to grab a bite. This was fine with me, I had a lot of friends working there, and to be honest I would much rather talk with them than the damned Beastmaster! What I didn’t know was that he was also planning on taking 5 gallons of leftover chicken soup and 50-60 grilled cheese sandwiches (made from white bread and pasteurized processed cheese food). Of course since I was his minion it was my duty to carry the buckets out to his truck after lunch.

Now when it comes to being poor I am well versed. I am not worried about sleeping on the ground, or scrounging a free meal. What bothered me (aside from my friends seeing me having to carry the buckets for this prick) was a grown man with a job taking food simply because it was free. I can see taking a few sandwiches for a snack later or lunch the next day, but this was insane! By my rough estimate he would have been eating about 7 to 10 grilled cheese sandwiches a day, not to mention 4 bowls of soup! Of course you must remember, Randy got free lunch everyday, so this was all for dinner!

Later I was asking my friends who worked there if he always did that, they confirmed my suspicions. It was hinted (by me) that he was actually using the sandwiches as siding since the cheese food was not biodegradable. By this point I could not bring myself to even look at his poor wife. If only I knew just how crazy things were going to get!

It was during the December school break that my friend Zac Johnson and I worked with The Beastmaster together. It made things a lot easier having someone there to confirm the insane shit the man did and said. One classic quote came after he was hurling abuse at us for listening to KPIG, one of the best roots radio stations in the world.

It is my opinion that when working or participating in activities with others that some diplomacy must be practiced when it comes to music. I can tolerate most things for a while in the name of peace, if I must. If given control of the radio I will usually try to find a happy medium. In this case there were three of us. Two of us were fans of KPIG and its eclectic roots and rock format, and Randy certainly wasn’t.

On this particular day we were installing dry wall in his vaulted ceiling and insulation in the attic. It was tough work, and the upbeat music was keeping us together, barely. The Beastmaster though, could not stop bitching. Every single song that came on pissed him off and reminded him how terrible our taste was. Which he was quite vocal about. This went on for half an hour before he suddenly switched stations on us without warning.

As I mentioned, I can listen to almost anything. Except the crazy ass station he put on. I thought I knew all the stations in the area, but I was wrong. One had slipped past me in a big way. It was the sort of station they use to induce comas on trauma survivors. If Lawrence Welk had the misfortune to stumble upon it he would have punched it in the genitals for boring him. Abruptly, we were trying to install sheet rock to the inspiring sounds of Bing Crosby and Mel Torme!

To be honest, I think The Beastmaster’s musical choice probably cost at least $25 in labor due to our dramatic drop in pace. We had been struggling to install the damn sheets on the 12-foot ceiling, now we were simply struggling to stay awake. That is when The Beastmaster dropped the bomb!

It had been about half an hour when a song came on that sounded like all the rest. Fucking boring. It was called “Torn Between Two Lovers.” Immediately, The Beastmaster started freaking out. He was pounding his fist into his palm and his face started to redden.

“I hate this song!” He muttered as he stalked over and jabbed at the stereo with his finger to turn it off. “My ex-wife played that song right before she left me!” He said shaking his head. He walked into the unfinished shower and started some completely new project in a sort of stupor.

Zac and I exchanged terrified looks with each other and as soon as the opportunity arose, we excused ourselves for the day. It was bad enough to know that one woman had been stupid enough to marry the bastard, but to try and picture someone who was torn between him and literally any other human was too much. The Beastmaster was terrible!

Our working relationship with Randy was deteriorating by the day. Zac and I were worried that he would try and get out of paying us. Besides that, we had been shifted away from the upper portion of the house to the insane asylum, which was the basement. At one point The Beastmaster had me crawling deep under his ramshackle shanty to put insulation into his floor cavity. It was bad enough that it was patch dark and I barely fit, but this was Santa Cruz; earthquake country.

I started to think about the big one. What if it hit while I was down there and all the grilled cheese gave way?!!! I could be crushed to death in a heartbeat and I was damn sure Randy wouldn’t try to save me! It was just as likely he would try to eat my still warm corpse with a bowl of chicken soup! Yes this was bad, but what took it to the next level was the cat shit. I was working in a litter box! The smell was so bad that I almost pretended to be done, knowing damn well The Beastmaster couldn’t get his fat ass into that crawl space. It is to my credit that I finished the job.

The very last day we worked for him was typical as everything else. He had sent Zac and I down to the basement to reorganize or something. Since he was working upstairs we turned on KPIG. He would come down and bitch, change the channel and leave. By this point we didn’t care if he fired us, so we would switch it back. The next time he came down, he changed the station, and disconnected a large pipe. It did not take long or an advanced degree to realize that it was a sewage pipe! The smell was nauseating.

We struggled away, hoping he would come back down and put his shit spout back together, but he never showed up. We switched the radio back to KPIG and soldiered on. Finally, Zac had enough and he went to go ask Randy to put it together again, but he came back a few minutes later to tell me that Randy was gone. We packed it up right there and left The Beastmaster with a note that had each of our hours listed on it. Our pay didn’t come until a couple weeks later after we had complained a few times. Neither of us ever worked for him again.

My work situation improved a couple weeks later when I got hired as a full time cook at Ponderosa Lodge. It was much better to be working with my friends and also to get paid regularly. It had the added benefit of letting me observe The Beastmaster in his migratory pattern as well. Oddly, though everyone who worked with him knew he was insane, they didn’t know just what an asshole he was. It was obvious when I heard through the grapevine that some of the naturalists were going over to his house for a “Sheetrock Party!” To my credit I held my tongue until the rubes were out of hearing.

Nobody on the kitchen staff liked The Beastmaster. His attitude was off-putting as were his assumptions about getting to take food home with him. If he would have been nice nobody would have cared and this story would be excruciatingly boring.

One Tuesday I was cleaning up well after lunch, when I noticed that there were stacks of grilled cheese strewn haphazardly across the counter. I am not too stupid (though I do get into really stupid situations on occasion). It was obvious that The Beastmaster wanted to save them, but by this point I didn’t care. If the bastard wanted the damned sandwiches he should have packed them up after lunch. As it was, we were responsible for cleaning the dishes and the counter, and saving 75 grilled cheese sandwiches, was far from a priority.  So I swept them into a bin where they made a satisfying thud, and I finished cleaning up the kitchen.

About an hour later The Beastmaster arrived. He was incensed at the loss of his free sandwiches! His ruddy face blackened with rage and he was waving his pudgy fingers with a pathetic futility. I ducked into the dish room, just as my friend Jason snapped into action. A veteran street-fighter, though long since retired, he banished Randy from the kitchen saying “Get out of here with that attitude!” The Beastmaster left deflated and defeated, and the kitchen staff all felt quite good about that. Of course, this is not the end.

It was early in the springtime when I arrived at 5:50 for my 6am shift. Needless to say I was tired. The kitchen was dark, so I went first to the lights, and second to the coffee machine. I drank my coffee, soaking in the silence and generally trying to wake up, quite possibly clearing my head of an alcohol induced fog. After a couple minutes, I walked towards the walk-in refrigerator to get the juice made for breakfast; another easy job.

I pulled the heavy door open, and took my first step, but something was wrong. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something dark on the ground. Looking down, I was so shocked that I jumped in fright! Lying on a pallet in the middle of the cool room was the stiff form of a full-grown doe deer! I could not believe the audacity The Beastmaster had! Not only was it unsanitary, but keeping a road kill deer in a commercial kitchen is highly illegal. I shudder to think what a health inspector would say, NOT TO MENTION THE PAYING CUSTOMERS!!!!! Fuming, I went outside to wait for one of the other cooks to arrive.

It was funny to me, but nobody else was that shocked by the whole thing, and for the rest of the day we stepped over the remains when we needed something in the refrigerator. Always careful to keep the door closed enough that nobody but our staff could see in. I went home assuming it would be taken care of. Imagine my consternation when I got to work the next day and found the deer was still there!

By this point, the deer was highly questionable. It hadn’t been gutted, and who knew what kind of internal injuries it might have suffered. To be honest, if I hit a deer I would have no problem eating it if it was fresh, but this was a random carcass with its organs intact. By this point the rest of the staff were not too pleased with the Beastmaster.

On the third day I arrived to find that the corpse had been pulled outside to the loading dock. It was gross but at least the damn thing was out of the refrigerator! It lay cooking in the 80-degree heat while we went about our business. The body remained outside for another day or more before it finally disappeared without a trace.

Since it was clearly inedible, I assumed that animal control had been called. When my boss Steve told me that The Beastmaster had taken it I was dumbfounded! But it gets better! The crazy ass Beastmaster not only took it home and ate it, but he offered it to Steve! When he came through the next time to get grilled cheese someone asked him about it and he replied with relish that it “Made a delicious stew!”

Thus ends my personal journey with Randy “The Beastmaster” Lisdt, he moved away from Mount Hermon a couple years later and died of heart failure soon after. At least that’s what they said, though it’s quite possible he died of “being a bastard.”

As the rest, when I left California on September 12th 2001 I lost touch with Steve, he was one of the best bosses I ever had. Jason went through a rough patch and ended up losing his job, which he said was actually a good thing when I spoke to him last summer.

Zac Johnson and I kept in touch fairly regularly though. I would come down to visit him, and he came up to Seattle a couple times as well. It was always good to see him, it seems like he was always smiling about something. He got married to a cool woman named Hollen, and I got to be friends with her. The last time I saw him was at 6 in the morning when he was dropping me off in his hippie van after a night of drinking and camping which makes a whole story of its own.

That was in June 2007. In September I got a call telling me Zac had been killed on his motorcycle while passing someone around a curve. I dedicate this, and all of my work to his memory.

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