Saturday, July 31, 2021

Friendship

Blog Fodder is a blogging friend I have had for over a decade. We have never met face to face.  He is not a friend from my youth, my bike shop, or a neighbor in my hood.  He is a persona who claims to live in Ukraine and is from Canada originally.  He also claims to be an expert on all things bovine related.  He’s one of the guys who wrote the book so to speak.

Allen is his supposed real name. After a decade of swapping thoughts, ideas and laughs with him, I believe he is real.  But more than that, I do not care if he is or isn’t. He and I have formed a connection that transcends physical verification. We have become friends and from my point of view, the best of friends.

So Blog Fodder posted a piece on his blog about the notion of who is a friend and how do we categorize them. Good friends? Best friends? Fair weather friends? And where do we separate friends from the massive numbers of assholes we have dealt with over the years.

The notion of friendship can become an evil pit of never ending frustration as I try to find convenient cubby holes for the many friends I have had over the last 69 years.

There are my first friends. My playground best buds. My pinky swear allegiance friends for life.  My drug friends. My college friends. There have been so many friends float in and out of my life, I sit here in a daze trying to put the ones who manage to float to the top in perspective.

What about the friends I always got in trouble with? The friends who always helped me avoid trouble?  This whole notion of breaking down friends and friendships Is overwhelming……….. (Take a breath Mike……. Settle down asshole, and break it down so it makes sense in that void you charitably call your mind).

The first thing I guess I know about friendship is that it is a fluid thing. A good friendship has many challenges that stresses the commitment and still ends up a solid relationship.  The fluid part is the constant weeding process of friendships that do not stand up to those stresses. We have friends for life, but at the same time have many different “best friends” who share our trip from the cradle to the grave either briefly or are there for the duration.

I would call the friends who have hung in for life as my true best friends.  Of those, I have few left it seems.  Now as an old fart, many friends that I thought gone and forgotten have found me again and we picked up right where we left off.  So for me, at the top of the “Best Friend” list is one who can stand the test of time. The next friend in the “Best” category is one who had a major impact on my life at and during a certain period of my life.

But because I ultimately want to bake things down to simple notions my mind can actually comfortably handle;

A good friend is someone I think of and smile at the same time.

A bad friend does not exist.  Bad friends are just the assholes we have to sort out while we plod our way to the horizon.

Keep it ‘tween the ditches ……………………………………..

____________________________________

Image by "One Line"

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Newichawannock Canal


The Newichawannock Canal connects Great East Lake and Horn Pond. The canal defines the state border of New Hampshire and Maine hereabouts.

Its construction marked the beginning of a consistent water source meant for the mills downstream in Somersworth. More mills would pop up over the years in Rochester, Milton, Milton Mills and Acton. The first stones of this canal were laid without mortar in 1850.  Because of the Civil War, it was not finished until the mid to late 1860s. The canal and the bridge have existed mostly intact since.  And now finally, 170 or so years later, the bridge has been replaced.  Not bad for a stone bridge made by hand with no concrete except what was laid on top of it.

I first came to know this canal and bridge when I was a child visiting my Aunt Hellie and Uncle Herb Sibley at “Half Way Up Farm” in Acton several hundred yards away on the Maine side of the border.  My uncle would sit on some dead fall or a rock edge of the canal, smoking his pipe and keeping an eye on my eight year old self as I fished for brookies and chased craw daddies.  I saw my first otter there.

It was my time with Uncle Herb and Aunt Hellie that opened my eyes to a life without asphalt, millions of cars and the cookie cutter suburban existence I suffered most of the year further south. I never wanted to leave this peaceful exciting place.

And I guess I made a vow to come back and never leave.  I don’t know for sure if I did, but after some years spent working the wiggle worm out of myself, I finally settled in Acton in 1981. I have been here as a permanent resident for the last 40 years.  I married and raised a family here. I chose to make my last stand here.

I wouldn’t change a thing. 

Keep it ‘tween the ditches ………………………………..

_____________________________________

2 Images of old Canal Bridge

By Magicpiano - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44278565

Monday, July 26, 2021

Moderators Are Nazis

I was called a nazi this morning by a very upset poster on a FB page I moderate. I was not singled out per se. His parting shot before another moderator put him out of our misery was, "we shouldn’t allow 10 n@zi to run this page."

I do appreciate that he thinks there are ten of us Nazis when there are actually only a few doing the work of ten. No, that is a lie. Moderating this page is a cakewalk rural outing. I sleep through most of it. Pretty much everyone minds their P's and Q's and life imitates art.  Idyllic and sane, yeah sure, that is how it is ...... right.

The FB page I moderate is a town page owned by a local fellow. It is by far the most popular of the several pages focused on our area. His rules are simple. Be nice, no politics, no over commercialization, no profanity, and ferchrisakes, pay attention to the flagged words not allowed by FB. That limits me somewhat, but I am guessing my world champion grasp of the many ways profanity can elevate a person spiritually may be one reason I was asked to help. Hire the criminals if you want the best protection.

I was directly responsible for the initial dust up this A.M. Our righteously indignant friend of Acton made a claim about Covid and a local business without supporting evidence. I deleted the comment and forgot about it. In less than an hour of escalating enraged comments, he called on the owner to fire us 10 Nazis while shoving something unnamed where the Sun don't shine.  And with his parting, ride off into the sunset remark, what he meant to say was the perfect opposite of what he ended up saying:

“We live in America and have the freedom of speech you are trying to distinguish that and it’s disgusting."

Word ……………………………………………


Friday, July 23, 2021

Issues From My Periphery

Now that I am sitting in the nose bleed seats, Life has become both bemusing and amusing all at the same time. Life Truths I once considered facts of living are now often suspect or downright wrong in the cultural mindset unfolding here in the twenty-first century. So many of the norms I grew up with, lived my life with, and often fought against are no longer considered relevant.

Some of the norms from my youth were nasty evil things that did not work to separate us, they did separate us, legally and for some, morally. We all existed in the same country but not in a comfy ya'll come back, we'll grill some brats and tip some beers kind of way. I learned that early as I was always a stranger and never one of the up and coming group of good ole boys. My family moved around too much.

The invisible wall between me and whatever bo-dunk town I lived in at the time was often tough on my childhood feelings. Overall though, I think having the outside looking in perspective gave me a leg up in my adult life. As an adult I have been more malleable and less entrenched in old ways. I have been able to embrace changes in the country easier than many of my Boomer peers.

But I have to face facts. The world is spinning faster now. It is getting harder and less important for me to try and keep up. The larger issues, I am still working on. But the ones I have ranked as issues from the periphery are no longer of any interest to me other than for entertainment purposes.

For instance, End Times. If the planet is about to go belly up in some way,i.e., Zombie Apocalypse, World Wide Plague, Nuclear Street Fight, or whatever scourge that might bring us to the gateway of a new Dark Ages, well, I just cannot be bothered worrying about it. I have had a good run and would hope to check out with a smile on my face.

And then there is the clusterfuck of symbols, letters, and pronouns that have become part and parcel of the LBGTQ, etc. movement. I have been a supporter since before gays were called gays. My father made sure I understood they were just people. Sexual preference was a stupid tool to judge the worth of another human. His experience working for a homosexual in college taught him that.

I continue to support anyone to declare whatever they want or need to with regards as how they identify. I just cannot keep up with the newer rules and don't intend to. Identify however or as whoever you want. You can also use whatever pronouns you want. All I care about is your name. I will identify you as that.

"Oh, that goof ball? That's Fred." ...... " Uh what? How does Fred identify? Shit, I don't know. ..... You need to ask Fred that."

And that is how I am going to stop worrying about pronouns and identifiers.

Keep it 'tween the ditches ..............................................

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

My Second Email to Ted

To: Theodore Kryzak(R) - State Representive, District 20, Maine

Ted,

I received your Happy Fourth of July meme on Facebook yesterday.What a nice gesture from you and the local GOP. Thank you for that. You are a marvel when it comes to empty gestures.

It has been over a week since I emailed you and asked you about your vote on LD 557 and where you stand on the Jan 6 insurrection or the legitimacy of the November presidential election. I have not heard back from you. I am not going to let this go. Now that you are on my radar, you have become the bone this old dog wants to chew on.

Your failure to respond to my initial email has given me more time to acquaint myself with your record up in Augusta. Frankly Ted, I am less than impressed.  I was beginning to think you only knew the one word, Nay, when voting; then I saw that you had voted "YEA"  Jan 20th, 2020 to allow candidates to include a nickname on ballots. Sir, that must have been a tough decision. I applaud your courage. 

Below is a compilation of your votes over the last two years regarding elections in Maine:

  • 6/4/2019 - NAY - Voted against setting up a presidential primary system
  • 6/5/2019 - NAY - Voted against automatic voter registration
  • 6/19/2019 - NAY - voted against increases in rank choice voting
  • 1/20/2020 - YEA - voted for allowing nicknames on ballots
  • 3/10/2020 - NAY - voted against allowing more time to process absentee ballots
  • 6/7/2021 -   (LD557) voted for photo ID when voting
Now that I see your voting record on election related issues, I no longer wonder about how you feel. You have no interest in making the voting process easier, more accessible and user friendly. You are nothing but another GOP lackey following the edicts passed down from Trump and his cronies who now control the spineless Republican Party.  If I am wrong, please set me straight.  But at this point, I don't think I am wrong.

I don't want to over burden you with things to think about. So I will close with just two questions you should answer, if for no other reason than to separate you from the rest of your spineless Republican cohorts. Be a man. Speak your mind honestly. I just snickered when I wrote that.  Honesty and politicians are not two images that mingle well in most minds these days.  But please, give it a shot.
  • Do you feel Biden won the election fair and square? If not, why? I am so waiting for a Republican to create a coherent defense for the stupid and fraudulent claims the party supported regarding the last presidential election.
  • Was the invasion of the Capitol on Jan 6 an assault on our form of government or not?
These two questions are not complicated nor are they "gotcha" questions.  They only become "gotcha" questions when you continue to refuse to answer them. By not answering them, you allow any conclusion one wants to make to be floated as a true rendering of your opinion.  Sort of like what I have concluded about your negative actions regarding voting rights and how you want to restrict them rather than expand them.

So far Mr. Kryzak your silence is deafening and telling at the same time.  I am beginning to think of you as a very, very sad excuse of a legislator.  And that is probably unfair, but there it is. Your silence gives me no choice but to come to that conclusion.

Change my mind.

Sincerely,

Michael Macrum, Acton
__________________________________

Contact Info for Theodore Kryzak - Legislative District 20, Maine

Mail:

2 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04330

Email:

Theodore.Kryzak@legislature.maine.gov

Legislative Office:

(207) 287-1440

______________________________

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Happy 4th of July

So it's the Fourth of July, the day that celebrates our nation's creation.  Beyond this one fact of the date, much of what we believe about how we came about is buried in mounds of myth and bullshit.  Our beginnings were precipitated on noble ideas, but the functional parts of the noble cause were anything but noble.  It was an ugly situation to be embroiled in a revolution.  Thankfully King George decided he had other fish to fry and pulled out.  He could have dragged it out like we have recently in the Middle East.

Today is not a day to worry about stupid foreign policy fails.  Today I want to think about that which many folks do not consider when they think of our honorable founding fathers and their alcohol infused hoe down during the second meeting of the Continental Congress in June and July of 1776.

It is a convenient myth that the Founders were inspired by God and what resulted was a democratic and free nation under that god. While most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were men of religious fervor in public, in private, more than a few were anything but. As a matter of fact the main man who is credited with the final draft was not a religious man in the typical norms of the day.  Thomas Jefferson rejected most of the popular Christian tenets at the time.  Jefferson and many others were Deists.

In a nut shell, Deism is a belief that God may have started everything, but that is where God's participation ended. God was not interested in the affairs of Man and was then as God is now, just a spectator.  Deism becoming  popular was a natural result of the Age of Enlightenment, when a growing intellectual class was scrutinizing everything, patrticularly religion.  The draconian days of hard line Christianity were waning, but still held sway among the rank and file.  Deism was considered blasphemous by many leaders, religious and political. They wanted to criminalize its advocacy.  So, many true deists kept their opinions to themselves, went to church, kneeled with the best, and went home to live the rest of their week in heathen joy.

Americans at that point had not known real government that was in theory under their control. They had always been chattels and tied to the whims of a government thousands of miles away.  Many of the early settlements were created by religious dissenters who emigrated from England and Europe. Many of the early colonies were actually set up under local theocratic rules which had unbending and rigid religious based ideas about how one should live their life or pay serious consequences. 

Some modern theologians seem to want to bury the notion that Deism had anything to do with the creation of this country.  Mark David Hall, a professor at the religious university, Fox University in Oregon, wrote a book debunking deism's contribution to the formation of America as we know it.  I only read the first chapter, "The Myth of the Founders Deism".  It was enough to tell me like any less than objective historian, he was interpreting the facts to fit his forgone conclusion.  Nothing wrong with that I guess, but it does not treat the subjects they write about fairly and objectively.

It would have been logical for the new United States to be set up with more religious control than it was.  You can thank the Deists that it was not.  They insisted on keeping the idea of the separation of church and state front and center.  And their first battle was while drafting the original Declaration of Independence.  The real battle came eleven years later when the Constitution took form. Sane men of religion who understood the wisdom of Separation joined forces with the Deists to insist that separation became one of the bedrock notions upon which this country was established.  Without the Deists and their influence, I wonder where and what we would be?

So the next time you go to church, thank God for staying out of the affairs of Man and respecting the Deist way of life.  Snicker, snicker, snicker.

Later ..................................................

Saturday, June 26, 2021

An Email to Ted

An email I sent a few minutes ago to my Republican state rep in Augusta

To: Ted Kryzak

Subject: LD 557 – The proposed bill to require photo ID when voting.  The vote was convoluted in that a Nay vote meant the rep was for the required photo ID.

Ted,

I was raised in a very hardcore Republican family.  I broke from the party in 1980 when Ronald Reagan took it over and ruined it.  Call me a spurned lover, a reformed sinner, whatever, but the GOP is no longer the party that looks to protect our country or the ideals it is based on. They have  become the party that wants to serve the people with deep pockets ensconced in boardrooms and gated communities throughout the country. The will of the people means nothing to the GOP.  To them it is the will of some people over the rest.

That said, I will get to my point.  I noticed your nay vote on LD557, the recent photo ID bill presented up in Augusta.  Why would you want to introduce more restrictions to elections in Maine, a state with a history with next to no instances of voter fraud? Is it because you are just another bleating member of the GOP flock? Or do you have a real and sane reason that may make some sense out of your vote.

And, if you are as much of a down the line party man as your recent vote indicates, where do you stand on the Jan. 6 insurrection, or on the legitimacy of the presidential election in general?

Even after leaving the GOP behind, I used to vote for the occasional Republican.  I haven't been able to with a clean conscience since Dubya was in office.  Will you be the Republican who changes my mind? I'll remain skeptical with a dose of hopeful.

Sincerely,

Mike Macrum, Acton, Maine

PS. I am posting this and any future communications on my blog and FB page.  

___________________________

Article explaining it all

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Caught Being Stupid - Another Tale in a Long Line

I learned early in life that future scenarios I dreamed up for myself rarely lived up to my self induced hype. So as soon as I had done enough in my life to have created a backlog of memories, I began to look back at what I had experienced instead of trying to worry an unfathomable future into existence.

My trolling past escapades and misdeeds has only become more important now that I am an old fart. And though I have been tempted to use rose colored glasses to interpret my ealier years, I have also tried to remember the oops parts of my life as objectively as possible. Remember fondly but don't gloss it over to hide the many instants of stupidity that were the root causes of said memories.

I garner more enjoyment from recalling those moments when I was performing less than even I expected. Some make me laugh. Some make me shake my head. And some of my less than stellar moments on the planet make me cringe when I pull them up for perusal. Arguably though, many of my favorite blasts from my past are those moments when I was caught being stupid.  Funny now. And often, even funnier then.

I was living off campus in a small brand new rented townhouse with Bean and BeBop in the fall of 1971. The semester was winding down and Christmas was just around the corner. My mom decided she was going to leave Maine and take a road trip to the Washington, DC area to visit my brother D and friends from her past. After a few days down there socializing, she would swing by Towson to pick me up to go home for Christmas.

In the meantime and actually backing up some, I had met George a few months earlier. George was the perfect connection for me and my crew of pot head friends. We no longer had to suffer paying retail prices or suffer the all too frequent dry spells when smoking seeds and stems was all there was. We could score by the pound and become a mini-cog in the bigger cogs of George's burgeoning pot dealing enterprise.

The usual plan was to buy a pound of pot, break it down into enough ounces to recoup our investment and then split what was left. But since my roomates and I did not want to go home for Christmas without a decent stash to see us through until the second semester started in a few weeks, we decided to just split up the pound and take out what we considered enough for ourselves and then stash the rest in the freezer for when we came back from Christmas break.

It was late morning on the day before my mom was to pick me up to go home to Maine. I scooted down to East Baltimore, hooked up with George and then scooted back to the townhouse. As was our habit, after I dumped the brick of pot on the kitchen table, the three of us tore into it to clean out the more obnoxious roughage and waste.  This time George was absolutely right.  We had only a small pile of sticks,stems and loose seeds left when we were done. This was a definite step up from the usual commercial pot he sold.

I had just brought out the triple beam scale to weigh up ounces when the door knocker loudly announced someone's wish to get our attention. I can remember the instant gut wrenching panic I felt. I looked at the pound of pot spread out on the table, then looked at each one of my roomates. I could tell they were not happy either. BeBop hightailed it upstairs and Bean just looked at me with an odd look on his face. We began pointing at each other and silently mouthing at each other, "You get the door".  Neither one of us was very eager to see who was there.  What seemed an eternity passed and then came another knock.

Now, this new cheaply built townhouse we had rented was all hat and no cattle.  It had the facade of class but the soul of a double wide on the outskirts of town.  One of the pretensions was a mail slot on the door set up higher than usual like it's height indicated only classy people lived here.  It was a convenient addition in that it allowed us to flip it open to see who was wisihng to come in. Since I was closest to the door and had resigned myself to being hauled off in handcuffs, I went to the door and flipped up the mail slot cover. 

My mom was not a tall woman, maybe a couple of inches over five feet.  So when I flipped open that mail slot lid, the annoyed face of Mom was glaring right at me. I dropped the slot cover back down and looked at Bean.  A new kind of panic set in. Through the still closed door came a muffled mom voice, "Goddammit Mike, are you going to open the door?"

Bean smiled.  It was instantly funny to him.  I was not so sure myself but went ahead and opened the door.

The previous year was my freshman year. Mom delivered me and a crammed footlocker to West Hall, a dorm on the Towson State campus. The was a mix up somewhere and the guy checking people in showed no Michael Macrum was supposed to be rooming in his dorm.  I was not on his list.  I went back to the car and told Mom.  Two hours later, I was in my new digs in West Hall after several bureaucratic asses had been knawed raw by Jane Macrum.  She raised so much Hell, someone gave her a nickname.  She became know as Mrs.Cannon, a reference to a TV show highlighting the crime stopping antics of a bad ass private detective.

When I opened the door, I prepared myself for the full on assault of Mrs. Cannon.  I was not disappointed.  Bean's smile quickly turned to one of fear as Mom came in swinging a serious attitude.

She started out berating me for not opening the door on command and then she noticed the pot on the table.  That stopped her cold.  Silently she looked at the pot, then looked at me and turned her evil eyes on Bean.  It is funny watching a six foot four man crumble into something sad and pitiful.

"So now you are selling drugs, huh?"

I could not look her in the eye.  I knew there was nothing I could say. The evidence was right there.

"Ah, .... Well yeah Mom. I guess I am.  But, .... but only to friends."  That last part died hard as she aimed a withering stare at me. An uneasy silence descended. For several moments Bean and I stared at the floor and Mom tried to burn us out of our shoes with her eyes.

In an attempt to break the serious mood, I spoke up.  "You are a day early Mom. You weren't supposed to be here until tomorrow.  I haven't even packed."

Mom looked at the pot on the table and said, "Not packed?  Well that's obivious." She turned back to me and said, "I am going to a motel, I'll call with the number after I check in.  Be ready to go tomorrow at 7:00 AM. And leave that crap here.  I don't want it in my house."

And that was the end of it.  At least it was the end of it until the next morning and the silence of the first two hundred miles had worn off.  I was then treated to seven hours of every lecture and disappointment in me she could come up with. Getting arrested might have been easier to take.

Keep it 'tween the ditches ............................................

Monday, June 21, 2021

Allowing Stupidity to Win

A recent comparison poll of Trump voters points up the insanity that currently has the GOP by its short hairs. 19% of the Right Wingers polled had a favorable rating for Vladimir Putin, while only 9% thought the same of Joe Biden.

I don't hold polls in such high regard as to put them on some sort of fact based pedestal. But I do find they often give us a hint of what is going on in the minds of a certain population. The results of this poll plus the admiration GOP leaders had for Putin during Obama's presidency and the absolute disgusting display of Trump sucking up to Vlad has me believing a growing segment of the GOP is finally in the place they have secretly always wanted to be.

They are now openly advocating and pushing legislation that will move us away from any further hint of democracy in our system to a country ruled by autocrats supported by laws dependent on suppression rather than the expansion of rights we hold sacred.

And sadly, I have little faith in the Democratic Party to do what is necessary to thwart the upcoming GOP assaults on our political system. The Democrats are hand wringers, always searching for the consensus. Very rarely do they go on the attack until it is too late. The time for searching for bi-partisanship was over a decade ago.

January 6th was not an aberration. It was a warning. We should heed that warning.

Later .........................................

Thursday, June 10, 2021

A Gun in His Ear

Final Exams were over. The boys were celebrating. Mike had just sparked a third joint when the three of them heard Bill up on the third floor. If they could hear Bill on the third floor, it meant Bill was probably having self-control issues again.

Bob looked at Mike, shrugged and motioned him to pass that joint. Tom sat between them on the couch and snickered. He was always useless when he mixed pot and beer.

The boys were not unsympathetic to Bill and his struggles. The guy had just come back from Nam ferchrisakes. They knew he had seen some shit, done some shit and he had night terrors regularly. But tonight was a celebration two extra semesters coming. Two of them finally snagged enough credits to graduate and they wanted to party. Damn Bill and his personal demons. They turned up the stereo.

Sometime later, loud banging on their door broke through their drunken fog. Mike was the first to crack an eye. He wiped the spittle off his chin and rubbed his eyes. He stood and found his footing. Barely awake, he staggered to the door and opened it. It was Bill’s girlfriend wide eyed frantic and incoherent.

“Bill’s threatening to shoot himself.”

Mike leaned into the edge of the door. “What? Bill has a gun? When did he get a gun?” Mike’s return to Reality picked up its pace. He turned and yelled, “Hey assholes, Bill has a gun.”

Mike, with girlfriend in tow, began the trek up to Bill’s apartment.

“I have never seen him this bad. I only wanted to use your phone …… Please, don’t go.” She continued her warnings right up to the moment Mike pounded on Bill’s door.

The door opened. Bill’s six-five, 250 pound body filled the doorway. Mike looked up into his neighbor’s face.

“What are you doing Bill?”

Bill stuck his .45 in Mike’s ear. “I will blow you away.”

Really pissed now, Mike grabbed the gun and pushed it down.

“Meet me in the alley asshole. And leave the gun.”

Mike turned around. With Bill on his heels, they tromped back down the stairs. Bill’s girlfriend followed, her weeping eyes bulging and wondering which one was the craziest.

The drunken warriors passed Mike’s open door. He shouts, “No one sticks a gun in my ear.”

In the alley Mike and Bill faced off. Before Bill could focus, Mike knocked him down, rendered him helpless and pushed his face into the gravel. “Never, ever stick a gun in my face again. Got it asshole?”

Bill mumbled. Mark lifted Bill’s head and said, “What was that? You give up?”

“Yeah”.

Just like that the fight was over. The two of them staggered back to their respective apartments and life returned to normal. The next morning Mike’s roommates asked how it was possible he was able to best Bill. The man was a scary monster ferchriskes. Mike took a moment to answer.

“He was drunker than I was.”
_____________________________________
        Is sticking one's nose in other people's affairs wise?  In this real situation 
        from my college days in the early 1970s, I must have thought so.

I whittled this story down from 763 words initially to the 500 you see now.

BTW - As I wrote this I kept wondering if I was mis-remembering some of the details.  The big moments happened as I wrote them. But now in retrospect, I did mis-remember some things worthy of note and maybe should have been part of the story.  Bill had gone to Nam, but his most recent issues stemmed from his three years as an inmate at a state prison in Jessup, MD. He was on parole when this happened and he was definitely not allowed to own a gun.  No one called the cops and Bill was not put back in jail.  Not sure if that lasted as we were out of that apartment within the next year.

Keep it 'tween the ditches ...........................................
_____________________________________
Cross posted at the BoZone ll

Thursday, June 03, 2021

The Barbeque Challenge

In my eight year old mind the ordeal lasted hours. When panic sets in, seconds become minutes, minutes become hours which can soon turn into overnight. In this case it was still daylight when someone finally saved me. So, as to not exaggerate beyond customary norms when I retell it, I say hours. And folks can then infer it was more likely an hour or less, maybe even only minutes. The panic was real regardless of how long I suffered.

It was the fall of 1960. My family had recently settled on Augusta Street in Bethesda, Maryland. If memory serves, we moved there in spring of that year. I had plenty of time to make friends and engage in all sorts of outdoor summer adventures. The two friends I remember to this day was Jimmy, "Can't remember his last name" and Chuckie Doyle. All of us lived on Augusta St. It was a natural bond formed out of geographical and equal age conveniences.

It was on Augusta Street I first learned the rules of playing in the street and what the territorial limit of my wanderings from home were. When a car came, someone yelled, "Car" and as if Moses had just parted the Red Sea, the gaggle of dirt encrusted little tackers would step to the side and let the car pass. And I was allowed to wander as far as Mom's voice could travel. Life was beautiful. I had a grand time that summer.

One of our favorite games was Follow the Leader. Each time, Chuckie, Jimmy or myself would try to outdo each other by pushing our path into increasingly dangerous scenarios. Sometimes it was a tree we climbed. Sometimes a wall to walk on. The choices became more risky and less sane each time we played.

The more we played, the harder to find new challenges became. But it seemed each time; one of us would finally find a dare the other two were not interested in. That day's game was then over and a victor declared.

I cannot remember who was first with the Barbeque Challenge. I am guessing it was Chuckie. He was the craziest of our trio. Plus he was skin and bones, while Jimmy and I favored the chunkier, but ever popular Russian Peasant body style. He knew if anyone could meet this challenge, he could. He was skinny and had the right mindset.

In our travels and investigations of the backyards in our neighborhood, one yard had a very nice natural stone barbeque set up. The grill was huge and the chimney stack was a good size, maybe five feet high. It did not take long to include that barbeque into our regular follow the leader challenges.

At first I am sure it was all about climbing the chimney and standing on top. Once we had all manned up and successfully climbed up, stood up, and then climbed down, there was nothing to do with that barbeque. But then Chuckie noticed the opening of the flue. He looked at it one way from the top. He climbed down and looked at it from the bottom. Satisfied he could make it, he climbed into the fire pit and into the flue.

I imagine Jimmy and I were shocked and wowed when he popped out of the top covered in soot. We most likely said something like, "That was so cool." Chuckie definitely won that day's contest. Eventually Jimmy and myself found the courage to try it and the barbecue became just one of the mandatory obstacles we incorporated into our version of "Follow the Leader". It became so mundane, we even began going down the flue and out of the fire pit. No other kid in the neighborhood would try it. We were bad ass.

Fast forward to the fall. The advancing cold weather drove any thought of barbeque adventures from our minds. That yard quickly became just a connector to the best walking route to school. And the walking route to school quickly became an unpleasant journey of heel scuffing drudgery, especially as the temperature sought lower temps day in and day out.

I remember the day of my ordeal well. It was a rare warm fall day. I was walking home alone. Like every other day I walked home from school, I began to cross the backyard where the barbeque resided. It all gets somewhat hazy at this point.

I remember looking at the barbeque and thinking I ought to climb down the chimney just for old times’ sake. And I proceeded to do just that. Unfortunately I failed to appreciate I was not wearing summer shorts and Tee shirt. I was bundled up in jeans, long flannel shirt and a zip up jacket with a hood. I had become too big to fit down the flue. Just past my waist with my head down was when I realized the ugliness looming in my future.

I have endured moments of panic here and there as an adult. But no panic is more impactful I think than the panic of a child. As soon as I became too wedged to move, I knew I was screwed. And of course my next reaction was to scream and scream loudly. Unfortunately, my screams had to make it down the rest of the flue before the sound of my panic made it out into the light of day.

The older kid who finally found me said later I was lucky he heard my pitiful sobs. All I remember is his laughter and after an eternity, him asking, "Where do you live kid?' I told him and he ran to my house to fetch my mom. It was only after he ran to get her that I remembered she was probably still at work at a department store nearby. My panic level spiked even more.

As luck would have it, Mom had clocked out early at Woodies and she was home. While it felt like forever, she probably was at the chimney in a few minutes. Any notion I had that I was being saved because she loved me went out the window as soon as she opened her mouth. 

"How the Hell did you get in there?" and, “Christ on a crutch Mike, what gave you impression this was a good idea?” The verbal rebuke never stopped as she and the kid struggled to extricate me from the chimney.

Once I had been yanked out and was sitting on the ground rubbing skinned hands and knees, Mom began to laugh. The kid began to laugh also.

I did not laugh. I was just thankful the nightmare was over
_________________________

Keep it 'tween the ditches ...................................

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

The Duke of Puke – The 2nd Yawn is Always the Most Satisfying

I first saw Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band in a tiny bar in the Washington DC area back in the late 1970s. Touted as a cross between the punk experience from England and the great Blues of the South, Rootboy Slim put a jagged edge on contemporary American music. 

 His music was best heard after too many beers and shots in a run down dive with a tiny stage crammed into the corner. His most famous song, "Boogie til you Puke" still ranks as the best binge drinking song ever. One concert at the Varsity Grill in College Park, Maryland turned into a riot that spilled into the streets and onto Rte 1. He was banned by local bureaucrats from playing there ever again. But public pressure brought him back for a coliseum gig a couple of years later. He died in 1993.

What I knew about Root Boy was his public persona. I had no clue of his real world life until I googled it. Raised in what I would assume was upper income circumstances, he misspent his youth getting kicked out of one prep school after another. But he did land a scholarship to Yale and was in the same fraternity with Dubya, a future president. Dubya, as president of the frat, banned Root Boy from ever stepping foot back into their frat house after an apparently raucous night of debauchery when Root Boy came back to campus the year after he graduated. Root Boy was also arrested for climbing the White House fence while way too high on LSD. All this before he formed his band.

I often wonder about guys like Root Boy, Divine, Iggie Pop, and all the other icons of outrageous behavior I enjoyed back in the day. Their music and films maybe did not reinforce my own struggle to come to grips with the white bread culture I found myself in, but their music and films did prove I was not alone in my dissatisfaction with the status quo. It seems that youthful rebellion is woven into our humanity more as a reality check for the rest of us than just the surface pain in the ass it seems to come off as. ..... The Kids know.

I have no clue now why I did some of the things I did as a brain dead punk. I can only guess it had to do with a general cluelessness that accompanies teenage boys as they stumble towards adulthood. Not thinking before they jump is their stock in trade. 

If it felt good, looked good, or seemed like a good idea at the moment, I did it. I still wonder how I survived. Root Boy did not.
______________________________

Some Root Boy Tunes you might like or maybe even remember:

~>  Credit Card Woman

~> Mrs Paul, Mrs Paul

 ~>  Too Wrong to be Right

~>  Livin in the Ghetto

 ~>  Boogie Til YouPuke

Monday, May 31, 2021

Tulsa Race Massacre

100 years ago seems like a long time.  And it is.  But 100 years is not long enough for some of the ugliness of our collective past to have faded into the shadows that hide memories long forgotten.  Some tragic injustices will not stay hidden no matter how well they are covered up.

The Tulsa Race Massacre, which began 100 years ago today, is a perfect example of such evil. If America is even half ass serious about changing our future, the nation needs to face its past, warts and all.  No more Pollyanna history books.  No more glossing over the genocide of a native population and certainly we can no longer contend that slavery was no big deal and hasn’t been an issue for 160 years. 

We need to admit to the injustices our country committed as well as the wonderful events that made us a great country.  Until we face our past, good and evil, our true greatness will never be realized.

Later ......................................

Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Big Con

During my coffee deliberations this morning, I again considered organized religion and its overall affect on the human condition.  I often think about religion, specifically the big three religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.  And though their control is slipping, between them they still have the planet by the short hairs.

I long ago stopped believing the notion that followers of religion had a moral leg up on the rest of us.  In fact, after years of being force fed the big lie of “Religion good, Heathen bad” nonsense, I have decided the opposite is true.  All three use subtle and insidious language to justify their exclusion of any not within their fold.  They have used and some still use convoluted logic to justify political actions including war, enslavement, and genocide to force people into or out of their sphere of influence. 

I have nothing against spirituality that includes believing in an intelligent presence greater than we are. Considering just how orderly and precise our natural world is, I am of a mind that there is some intelligence invested into what and who we became.  But as soon as any spirituality becomes a group who uses intimidation, exclusion, and secrecy to push its agenda, any morality the tenets may include become moot.

Organized religion is not our friend. At its core, organized religion is not even concerned about the fact or fiction of an all powerful god in charge of us all. It is a bureaucracy clad in fancy vestments and holy rhetoric that is more about controlling us than saving us.  It was created for this reason in the beginning and so it shall be forever and ever.

We have been bamboozled, hoodwinked, and played for fools by the biggest and longest con in history.

Keep it 'tween the ditches ............................................

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Perfect Joint and a Circle of Hippies


I was on You Tube looking for some "how to" videos a while back.  One video led to another, and before I knew it, I was watching  "The 10 things not to do with a Joint."  Funny how Google/You Tube manages to subvert your original search purpose by dangling enticing titles on the side bar.  Surely ten things not to do with a joint has to be of more import and interest than how to change a spark plug in a Jonesred chain saw or the best way to replace a rake handle.

Anyway, I punched up this tutorial about the author's notion of ten things not to do when handling, rolling, passing or smoking a joint.

While some of the hints and suggestions had merit, I could not get past the pitiful excuse of a joint the young ladies used as their main prop.  I watched in horror as fumbling tattooed  talons created what they obviously considered a righteous and acceptable smoke.

Is there no pride anymore in the artistry needed to roll a solid doob?  Where is the respect to all us aging hippies who perfected the techniques needed to produce a rail free joint that burned clean from first spark to that last ember burning the thumb and forefinger before dying a noble death?  Damn Kids.  No respect for tradition.

I perfected my joint rolling in military school rolling countless Bugler cigarettes in the dark of night to be consumed out of sight of upperclassman officers who wanted nothing less than to catch me with a butt and punish me ridiculously and embarrass me in front of my peers.  

 A pack of rolling tobacco was easier to hide than a pack of cigarettes. So when the commissioned officers came sniffing around with one of their snap inspections at dark thirty in the morning, I was usually safe.  I did get caught occasionally, but nowhere as often as some of my classmates.

So I graduated from high school and headed off to college. With my solid background in rolling cigarettes, it followed that I was a wiz when it came to twisting up a doob to pass around the circle. Just another face in the freshman crowd. It was not long before my joint rolling made me stand out.  I took pride in rolling a good joint and my results proved it.  My joints more often than not smoked evenly, were solid enough to stay together and were not so tight that getting a hit was like sucking a golf ball ball through a garden hose.

Along came 2nd semester and the speech class I signed up for.  Our final grade was based almost solely on our performance in three speeches.  I only remember the demonstration speech.  The other two are lost to the dust heap of historical doesn't matter.  The demonstration speech was one where we were tasked with not just speaking, but also physically demonstrating something we thought might be of interest to the class.

I agonized about this speech.  What was I going to demonstrate?  How to clean a M-1 rifle, another skill I acquired in military school?  Problem with that was I no longer had a M-1 rifle to use in my demonstration.  I voiced my dilemma out loud and all my roommate said was, "Teach em how to roll a joint.  You taught me."

Eureka! Problem solved. Waitng until the day before the speech actually worked out this time.  I was prepared by years of practice.  Now, all I had to do was write the words.

The next day, as I prepared my materials on the table at the front of the class, my introduction went something like:

"Fitting in in today's Hippie world takes more than the right tied dyed T shirt or Mother Earth sandals. If you want to hang with the long haired freaky people, having some basic skillsets in your quiver will go along way to cementing that relationship with that barefoot bra-less blond in the summer dress stuffing a flower in her hair. And while there are many things you can learn that will impress, nothing will create more admiration than rolling and passing the perfect joint in front of a circle of Hippies."

At this point I had all my materials ready.  I then began the process of rolling the perfect joint and explaining each part of the process so that anyone who paid attention could roll, if not the perfect joint, at least a passable one.  And though the instructor commented that my speech was inappropriate in a way he couldn't relate because he had never been faced with this kind of quasi illegal behavior. But he clapped, he smiled, and I got an A. Gotta love that Liberal Education.

Keep it 'tween the ditches ..............................................

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Insurrectionist Party

 

So Joe, of "Morning Joe" wants us to stop calling Trumping Qanon Insurrectionists Republicans.  He contends that they are giving good Republicans a bad name. He claims there are now three parties, Democrats, Republicans and the Insurrection Party.  Damn convenient parsing of reality there Joe.

Hmm..................

Sorry Joe, but as long as those Trumping Qanon Insurrectionists call themselves Republicans, the whole party owns them, lock, stock and barrel.  And even if they drop their affiliation, they are still members of the Right and responsible for the stupidity that followed Trump into the White House.

Who sat mute and did nothing as the Tea Party movement poisoned the Conservative roots of the GOP?  Well, in case you are suffering  convenient Right Wing Memory Loss you Wingers love to engage in, then you would know it was the "Good Republicans" who are first and foremost responsible for what we are dealing with today. If your members had a spine in the first place, we might be looking at more of a bi-partisan arrangement than we are now.  You allowed the stupid and uninformed of your movement take it over.

Your GOP birthed the John Birch Society.  Your "conservatives" were responsible for Joe McCarthy and his clown friends, John Wayne and Ronald Reagan ruining so many people's lives in the 1950s.  Your economic policies have never been good policies for anyone but the rich and yet, you keep shoving them in our faces.  Your tendency to mix in religion with your politics is most definetely a recipe for the disaster that unfolds today. 

All in all,  Right Wing mentalities have done more harm than good to our country. So stop with the apologetic squirming meaningless effort to disengage from that which you are responsible for.  But then that is what Republicans do, never own up to anything.

Later ..........................................

Friday, May 21, 2021

Johnson Closure ll

 


Your Hose is too short

    Your Pump is too weak

       Stand closer to the seat dude

         Or you'll Piss on Your Feet


The words scrawled on the wall above the urinal caused me to laugh out loud. It was a generous and boisterous laugh. I tried to stifle it, but the damage had been done. I could feel the eyes of others turning my way. Interrupting the solitude and false perception of being alone in a men's bathroom was an unspoken taboo. These guys were concentrating and now I just broke the mood. Way to go asshole. Laughing out loud in a public toilet can bring the wrong kind of attention. 

Totally embarrassed now, I attempted a hasty zip up. Shit! Seems I didn't pack it all in and now I had my business pinched hard in the zipper. I began to double over like my butt was trying to run away from the pain. I wanted to scream. It hurt, oh so bad. I knew if I screamed right on the heels of the belly laugh, someone might beat on me. I managed to stifle myself.

A decision needed to be made quickly.  I was drawing attention standing there with my hands holding my naughty bits well past what would considered an acceptable time frame. I knew it was going to hurt more when I unzipped that which had been stupidly zipped up between those evil meshing metal teeth. Holding back the tears and the screams of agony, I yanked hard and yes,...............It hurt even worse going down than it did going up. I tried to not make a sound, but a weak little girl squeal escaped without permission.  

I tried to regain my composure while repackaging the wounded package. I thought I was cool as I stiff legged it over to the sink to wash up. All I could think about was the pain while frantically waving my hand under the stupid sensor to get some flippin water going. Nothing. No water. 

I looked up in the mirror over the sink. My face was beet red and a vein on my forehead was throbbing hard enough I thought it might blow. Again I began frantic hand waving trying to get some water to flow when a hand reached over and hit the top of the faucet head.

"Bub, you have to hit it. Waving at it ain't gonna cut it." 

I looked over at a huge guy standing two sinks over. The look on his face told me I was not acting cool. He was doing his best not to laugh. 

I muttered, “Thanks”, and focused on washing my hands.  I found the door and left. The sounds of several male voices laughing followed me out into the daylight.  I can remember thinking, “You just don't follow up a belly laugh with a scream and leave a men’s toilet with your dignity intact.”

 I returned to the car and the journey with wounded pride and wounded body. My darling wife asked me what was wrong. "Nothing", I said, preferring to not have more salt poured on my wounds.

This happened to me on one of my trips south some years ago. The tale speaks for itself.

Later Gator ...........................................................

_____________________

Originally written in 2009.  I re-worked a few corners, tweaked this or that and well, here it is, same ole shit in a brand new almost fresh package. ................ Enjoy

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Mile Stick 32 - 1/26/1978 - Expect No Mercy Tour

Nazareth's "Expect No Mercy" tour in the winter of early 1978 was aptly named.  While the tour was in support of their latest album, "Expect No Mercy", the title also predicted the grinding punishment the tour became. We pulled off 28 gigs in 38 days, with most of the shows happening in the Snow Belt of Indiana and Ohio.

The last trailer was loaded at the Morris Auditorium in South Bend, Indiana, early AM, January 26. Because we had several days to travel the 150 miles to Columbus, Ohio, the drivers went back to the motel.    The plan was to leave the next morning. There was no hurry.

By the time we had gotten our act together the next morning the snow had accumulated to over ten inches and was blowing and drifting like crazy.  Before we even pulled onto the Ohio Turnpike, we had white out conditions.  It only became worse once we hit the open spaces of the super slab.  The landscape had become a kind of Siberian wilderness totally inhospitable to anything alive.

The planned convoy fell apart at that point with each driver deciding how much to push themselves and their trucks.  Two drivers pulled over and parked.  I ribbed them some as I passed them, but said good luck, I'll save you a stool at the hotel bar in Columbus, Ohio. I don't know why, but I was sure I would make it before dawn.  It was less than 150 miles ferchrisakes.  Slow and steady, just don't let up.

In conditions like this it's a good idea to keep the CB turned on and the mic handy. Everyone in a thirty mile radius it seemed was trying to talk at the same time.  I punched up Channel 19 and kept my mouth shut.  I wanted to know what was ahead, but didn't think I had anything to add. All I could do was react to what the truck in front of me did.  The snow was drifting, blowing and at some point we lost tangible contact with the turnpike and were relegated to driving blind with only the flickering tail lights of the vehicle in front of us to show the way.  Trucks and cars in our group began to bail by either pulling onto the shoulder or if they were lucky onto an off ramp presenting itself in the few moments of visibility that broke the constant waves of blowing white.

At some point the CB chatter almost died out. The truck I had been following pulled over into a snowdrift.  He said his goodbyes and good lucks and he was gone. Suddenly I was in the lead of, I did know how many, vehicles trying to continue  East on the Ohio Turnpike. 

I hesitated to key the mic as it seemed reckless to remove a hand from the steering wheel at that moment.  But I did.  I also slowed to about 15 mph as I began a running commentary over the air regarding the obstacles, any cars and trucks following me might be interested in missing.  The road was littered with stuck and stalled traffic.  

Like some Twilight Zone Pied Piper, I navigated through and around more than a few jack knifed trucks, too many cars to count and one oversized rig with a double wide house trailer tipped over in the ditch.    That is when my headlights lit up Mile Stick 32.  The road was completely blocked.  Three tractor trailers had tangled up together and had become one mashed up mess of trucks and truck parts.  

I found out later, no one was seriously hurt. I remember one aggressive trucker was whining over the radio about the pace I was keeping.  I told him he was welcome to pass the convoy and take his chances.  He passed us like we were standing still, all the while hooting and hollering on the radio about his mythical legacy in the annals of truck lore.  And when he passed us, I took note of the long nosed Kenworth hauling a black refrigerated trailer with shiny stainless steel doors.

As it turned out, he had caused that accident that stopped me. I had to smile when I saw the damage he had done to that beautiful rig.  Mythical legacy, yeah right.  Driving too fast for the conditions, he plowed into a stopped rig at the tail end of a six mile back up.

At this point, I want to relate some thoughts from the journal I was keeping back then.

“Here I sit at mile marker 32 1/2 behind 6 miles of backed up traffic. The states of Indiana and Ohio are completely shut down.  The CB has gone crazy. A CB voice from a base station comes in louder and stronger.  The voice tells us his handle is "Black Bird" and that he can see the highway when it isn't snowing. He is located at mile stick 32 about a quarter mile off the highway. Blackbird then informs us the only way out is by snowmobile."

So there I was stuck in a truck with an idling engine and snow drifting up the windshield.  At first the CB was full of voices, some calm and others frantic.  The folks stuck in cars and some of the truckers needed to be evacuated.  I remember Black Bird informing us he had talked to local emergency honchos and they asked if any of us drivers would be willing to camp out in our trucks and keep the other trucks running by siphoning fuel from one to another.  In my immediate area, a Roadway driver and I agreed to fill in.

Almost immediately after agreeing to stay, I decided to get out of the truck to check the tanks of the trucks near me. I called on the CB for a weather check.  Black Bird came back with a report of -18'F windchill.  I pulled on an extra pair of jeans and four tee shirts and then my jacket before I jumped out.  

Damn it was cold.  The scene was out of some horror story that transpired in the harshest moments of a winter night.  The vehicles in the immediate area had become scattered ghostly lumps upon which snow would continue to build for the next 14 hours.  My windshield was almost covered by a drift nine feet tall. And yet, it was actually passable by foot as the snow had been blow off the road surface between the vehicles.

The Roadway driver and I took turns over the next few hours siphoning diesel from one truck to another.  I ended up smelling like a fuel jockey.  The big R driver managed to stay immaculate.  I actually had a great time feeling useful. Drinking Jack Daniels and smoking a couple of doobs between moments of duty out in the elements kept everything mellow.  A huge bonus was feasting on bodaciously good sandwiches and coffee delivered to us by Buckeye State Eskimos on snowmobiles. They fed us three times before the tow trucks found us in the massive traffic jam. And it helped that we kept those twelve trucks running. It made the clean up on our stretch go faster.

This kind of storm is not unusual in that region what with the Great Lakes nearby and all.  But this storm was definitely one of the "once a century" storms.  One truck driver ten miles south of us on a two lane highway drove off the road and tipped over.  His rig was completely covered by snow and he was not found for three days.  It was that kind of storm.

Keep it "tween the ditches .....................................

Monday, April 19, 2021

Buckeye, Arizona or Near By

 

The four truck David Bowie Tour left SHOWCO's headquarters in Dallas, Texas on the 25th of March, 1978. We were given three days to make it the 1500 plus miles to San Diego for the first show. The second show had us backtracking to Phoenix, Arizona the next night and then turning around again for a show in Fresno, California on the second of April.

So it went for the whole tour. Back and forth, up and down and then back again. A crazy person constructed this itinerary. Add in the five flat tires, missing mud flaps tickets and a coolant leak among the four truck entourage those first few days and right out of the gate I was sweating bullets.

The load out in Phoenix went smoothly. By 2:00 AM all four trucks were loaded and on their way to Fresno, 600 miles away.  I drove the last truck out. With two full days to make the trip, no one felt much pressure.Cleetus ran into trouble on a bypass off  Interstate10 around Buckeye, Arizona about 30 miles outside of Phoenix.

The construction detour stretched for miles in the desolate tumbleweed country betwix and between the dusty bo-dunks scattered across western Arizona. Nothing but moonlit desert and the occasional reflection of coyote eyes caught in my headlights as they crossed in front of me. A few miles into the bypass I came across Cleetus’ truck pulled over. Cop cars and their flashing lights were parked at both ends of his rig. Not the typical driving violation scenario.

I pulled over just past the mess of vehicles and jumped out of my cab. As I ran back towards Cleetus' truck, a cop magically appeared in front of me with his hand up insinuating I was to stop and engage him. A few yards away, Cleetus was standing in the lights of his truck. He was handcuffed and playing the sad cowboy perfectly without his "Gus Model, Fine Palm Double S" cowboy hat sitting on his balding head. Yeah, nothing more pitiful than a cowboy with no ten gallon hat perched loud and proud on their noggin. 

I explained to the cop that Cleetus was driving one of the tour trucks. The cop seemed unimpressed and remained unwilling to let me pass. I pushed past him anyway and crossed the few yards remaining.

I was fired up. I knew Cleetus going to jail would put yet another crimp in a tour that had already gotten off to a rough start. All I could think about was "the show must go on" attitude that permeated everything in a Rock tour. I yelled, "What the Hell Cleetus? What is going on?" I could feel the vein in my forehead begin to bulge.

A small man with a very large sidearm strapped to the side of his brown uniform turned toward me. Parked on his head was one of those small bill dress "Cattleman Stetsons" all the cowpoke bankers and lawyers wore with their string ties and Tony Lama boots. He looked at me hard and asked, "And who might you be?"

Without thinking I blurted, "Okay, maybe you know what the fuck is going on."

The look on cop's face was one of true incredulity. I knew immediately this guy was not used to insolence from anyone. A local Napoleon of some kind I guessed. 

"Steady there son.  Don't go off half cocked."  

Dress Stetson stepped toward me and continued, "Son, we locals don't get the chance to associate with you boys in the big rigs much anymore now that the Interstate is built. The state says we aren't officially allowed on it. So, all we have are our local roads like old US 80 here. But lucky for both of us…….” He hesitated, grinned and continued, "Well it’s lucky for me and the boys there is construction out on Interstate10. The bypass dumped you and your friend here in our jurisdiction. And son, we don't tolerate as much foolishness on our roads as the State boys do on theirs."

I heard what he was saying but could not focus on the words. He was obviously on a different page than I was. I needed to bring us together. I stuck out my hand, introduced myself and stated the reason I stopped. Bowie Tour, need to move on ASAP and what can I do to make that happen? I really was not interested in the why of the stop at that point.

Dress Stetson took my hand. Instead of shaking it, he covered our mutual grip with his other hand and squeezed hard until it hurt and then let go. "Son, I am the sheriff here. You are in my town now and this driver has broken our laws."

My mind was beginng to calm. In a more measured tone now, "Okay. What law did he break?"

"Initially it was a lighting problem with his trailer. No lights. Then it turned into much, much more."

I looked at Cleetus. He shook his head. I was immediately suspicious. Cleetus was always meticulous to a fault regarding his tractor and trailer. This seemed to be an encounter with cops looking to commit some extortion or worse.

"Much, much more? What do you mean?"

"Drugs son, drugs. His brief case is full of drugs. …… Take a look.” He signaled one of his deputies to hand him Cleetus' briefcase.

I looked at the cop and said nothing. He stepped closer to me with the open briefcase in his hands. There in the glare of truck lights I saw neatly packed on top of Cleetus' itinerary, more than a few bags of what I figured were go fast pills. Nestled right next to them was a sizable bag of pot, maybe an ounce or so. I shot Cleetus a hard look.

The sheriff’s eyes stared at me throughout this review of the evidence. When I looked up he said, “A bigger question though is, what are we gonna find if we search your cab? More drugs or what?"

I was no longer anxious. I was pissed. The kind of cold, well controlled pissed I needed to be as it turned out. I looked the local sheriff in the eye and I lied. He didn’t deserve the truth.

"You won't find drugs. Got some Jack Daniels and cigarettes in the sleeper, but no dope."

We looked at each other. The sheriff finally turned to one of his deputies and told him to search my cab.

I asked, "Did I do something wrong?" The sheriff turned back to me.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I did not get pulled over for anything, suspicious or otherwise. I stopped on my own. And I don't remember giving you permission to search my cab."

The sheriff smiled. It was not a friendly smile. But he did stop the deputy he had charged with the search.

"Son, you are making this more difficult than it needs to be. Are you giving us permission or not?"

I looked at him and said, "Go ahead. ..... Though, it would have been nice to be asked first. You won't find anything."

Meanwhile inside my head, my mind crossed its virtual fingers and hoped the deputy would not find my bag of pot hidden in the cassette tape box. The sheriff and I continued to stare at each other for some seconds. He broke our mutual trance and yelled at his deputy just as he opened my cab door. "Nevermind, come on back here. We gotta go. Take the cuffs off. We'll continue this back at the station."

The sheriff looked at me and then at Cleetus. His smile had disappeared. "You two follow us back and we'll figure all this out."

I had a moment with Cleetus before I headed back to my truck. He looked so pitiful I couldn't be mad. He said, “Mike, my trailer lights were fine until after I stopped. They must have pulled the pigtail. And you know I wasn't speeding. They're just breaking my balls. I think this sheriff is looking for a pay day."

I had already considered this. "Yeah, me too Cleetus, me too. Go ahead and follow them back. I'll be there directly."

All the way back to the cop shop, I considered how to approach paying a bribe. I had only done it one other time in Cherry Hill, South Carolina. And in that case, the cop had been right up front. Plead guilty on the ticket and pay him an extra $100 dollars over the fine and I wouldn't have to stay overnight in jail in order to go to court the next day.

Back at the station, I was struck by the sad condition of the adobe covered building. But this was Arizona in 1977. The whole state was run down. The wave of retiree condo constructions and golf courses was still a decade or so in the future.

Inside the station was a single big room cluttered with desks, tall files and bookcases. A drunk tank was in the rear separated by floor to ceiling bars. The sheriff’s office was a closet sized room tacked onto the side of the building. 

It was in the sheriff's office with just Cleetus and myself present, the sheriff worked everything out. It only took maybe ten minutes. He made it clear that he had us by the short hairs. If he wished he could really throw a lot of misery into our lives and screw up the tour.

He stopped asking and began telling us what we were going to do. We were going to pay him to turn a blind eye. After which, we were going to leave his town and never darken its streets again. And we were not going to speak of this to anyone else in the law enforcement world in and around Arizona.

Then he asked me how much money I had in my pocket. The cash they took from Cleetus when he was frisked was just enough to whet his appetite. As he explained, he had to have something to share with "the boys".

The sheriff was holding all the chips and I knew it.  Rather than arguing, I dug out my wallet and pulled out the $1200 that was in the main dollar sleeve. I conveniently skipped the other $1000 I had folded up hard in one of the credit card pockets. As I handed it over, I asked, “So how much did Cleetus give you?

As he counted my cash, he muttered, "Your boy had $1000 on him. You guys sure travel well loaded, I will say that much. $2200 will do just fine. ............ Now, go out to your trucks and drive away. We are done here."  His cat ate the canary smile made me want to punch him.

Cleetus started for the door. I didn't move. "And what about the drugs and the ticket." Is Cleetus free and clear now and in the future?"

The sheriff laughed this time."Son, you really are a pain in my ass. If I say it's over, it's over. You'll just have to trust me. And by the way, the drugs stay here, but he can have his brief case back."

So Cleetus and I continued on to Fresno. Not once did we go over 55MPH.
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True story - Dialog added to make it less a report and more a story.  I do remember though puckering hard when I lied to the cop.  I called his bluff and won.  I do not recommend doing that however.  I was lucky.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Swimming Trunks

When I was a young child I became used to having my older brothers drop in and then out of my life without warning or notification.  After all, they were twelve and thirteen years older than I was. There was not much we had in common when I was a kid.  Our interactions only lasted until the next new adventure entered their lives.  Army, college, marriage and professional careers all interrupted any continuity I may have wanted or expected.  But being a military brat, I had become used to inconsistency in the flow of my life. So, their erratic presence in my life was nothing I took note of.  They were just here one day and then gone the next.

When I was nine or ten, D was living with us on San Rafael Street in Tampa, Florida.  I cannot remember whether he had just gotten out of the Army or was about to enter the Army.  Regardless, he lived with us for a period.  At that point in my life he was twenty one or two.

D was not quite just another adult in my life.  He was something in between someone I had to listen to and someone I didn't.  Or so I thought at the time.  As soon as he showed back up in my life, I jealously and selfishly thought I should be the main focus of his attention.  My view was there was so much to do together, we had better get started.

I heard he was talking about scuba diving with friends in the clear waters of limestone caves scattered around the state. Of course I wanted to be included.  But I wasn't.  Not once.  Not ever.

In my mind, I was being punished for some reason.  There was no good reason to keep me from coming along.  I was an excellent swimmer who loved the water. Excluding me was just mean and I was not going to put up with it. 

It never occurred to me that besides being a pain in the ass little brother, cave diving was dangerous and he knew damn well Mom and Dad would never let him do it.  To his credit, he did try to tell me all this and more.  I heard what I wanted to hear. It was punishment, pure and simple.

I watched him leave for his various dives and plotted my revenge.  He would be sorry he did not let me go with him. Yeah, I was going show him. But how does a nine year old get payback on an adult without serious repercussions?  As it turned out, they don't. 

 One night I heard D on the phone making new plans with whoever it was he dove with.  By that time I had come up with what I was sure a fool proof plan. I was going to hide his swimming trunks. So, I stashed them in my room out of sight. He would not get them back unless he let me come along. That would show him. 

Yeah, right.

What happened the next morning is why I remember this incident so clearly.

The next morning D was frantically looking everywhere for his swim trunks.  He was fired up and getting angrier by the minute.  Mom was telling him to calm down, we would find the trunks.

Twenty minutes or so later of fruitless search and D is ready to scream. I sat on my bed, ostensibly minding my own business but beginning to realize I may have over played my hand.  D was really pissed he could not find his swim trunks.  So of course, I kept my mouth shut, now more afraid than vindictive.

It was the second or third time he asked me if I was sure I had not seen his trunks, when I caved and came clean. The look in his eye at that revelation told me if I had been anywhere close to his size, I would have probably been beaten senseless.  Never saw even tempered D as a scary human to that point. I produced the swim trunks, and with a disgusted last look in my direction, he headed out to meet the people he would go diving with.

Since a parent was involved in the search, this dust up with my brother fell under parental interest.  From my mom's demeanor, I knew to expect incarceration in my cell until suitable punishment had been deliberated. Since Dad was at work, any final decision would have to wait until he got home. So I cooled my heels in my room.

I heard dad drive up.  I opened my door a crack and listened to my parents as they conversed in the kitchen.  Too many walls turned their conversation into gibberish accented by laughter and then silence. In a few minutes, my dad appeared at my door. His face gave away nothing, but when he spoke, I knew I had screwed up.  He listed all the reasons I could not possibly have gone with D and all the reasons they were angry at what I did. And then he surprised me.  He told me I had been punished enough and I was free to go.

Mom came to the door and looked in at me in my sad sack state and then looked at Dad.  When their eyes met, they both busted out laughing.  Each time they looked at me, they laughed harder.

Go figure  .........................................