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.

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  .........................................

Saturday, April 10, 2021

The Three Little Pigs

My brothers and I have been trading memoirs these past few months. The different ways we three have approached our memoir activity reflects I think basic outlooks we each have regarding our time on this planet.  Think of the Three Little Pigs.

My brother D is methodical, chronological, and logical in his approach.  Start at the beginning and tell the story as he remembers it unfolding.  I am jealous of his ability to line up his life so cleanly in his mind. I'll call him the Brick House Pig.  D's the guy who sets a goal and with nose to grindstone works on it, whatever "it" is, until realization.

J has offered brief vignettes that do not necessarily connect any dots chronologically, although his stories do favor the early part of his life. J is the Stick House Pig. He was focused and successful, but always looked fondly at the grass on the other side.  

Me? Well I am a loose dog.  There is no logic or continuity between the tales I share.  When I am reminded of something from my past, I write about it.  Memories from the age of first awareness to some less than a decade old and everything in between. And yeah, I am the logical choice for the Straw House Pig.  I'm the brother who wandered aimlessly through Life trying to latch onto that next bright object. The butterfly catcher.

Three brothers of the same mother but different fathers.  Three brothers who were well prepared for Life by imperfect parents who struggled with their own demons. Three brothers who approached Life on their own terms.  All three of us have had victories.  We have all experienced failures.  But each of us lived our lives without livng in each other's shadow.

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

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

The Tortoise - An Almost Completed Dream

I went through a phase some years ago when I was sure I had stopped dreaming.  I know of course this is not so because everything I read about dreaming is that we all do it, all the time.  We often just do not remember doing it.

Well, I missed dreaming.  Or rather, I missed my ability to recall a dream. I found myself waking up and immediately wondering if I dreamed this time.  Then about a decade ago, I began to remember pieces and parts of sleep time adventures again.

Okay. I had re-established the fact that I still dreamed and that the dreams were as odd as they ever were.  Now I wanted to remember them enough to write them down.  

So, this is my best recollection of what I dreamed last night between trips to the toilet to pee.

Suddenly I found myself in a van. Of course I was driving.  After all this was my dream. With me are several unrecognizable people. Their faces were vague and blurred, basically just three voices talking at the same time. I couldn't tell what they were talking about.  They seemed to be enjoying themselves, so I concentrated on the deteriorating rural dirt road we were traveling on. It quickly became a road set at a steep angle to the side.When I looked out the right window I looked directly into the ditch.

No one seemed concerned other than me.  The blurry faces were too busy talking and laughing.  I decelerated because of the embankment and we began to crawl along at a couple of miles per hour.  Up ahead I saw a tortoise in the ditch huffing it the same direction as we were going.  As we slowly passed him, I could not take my eyes off him. Only a last second yank on the steeering wheel kept the van from going into the ditch.

All the while I pointed to the tortoise and shouted multiple times, "Did you see that? Did you see that? " 

The Blurry faces in the car stopped talking.  As if on cue, eyes appeared on the blurry faces. They glared at me for a second and immediately turned back and fired up their conversation again. 

I said, "Hey, calm down assholes. You just missed something you won't see again any time soon."

I wanted to stop and check out the tortoise. But there was no safe place to do so.  The road had become a goat path, leaning this way and that. I was now faced with a real possibility of rolling the van.  Magically, or because I am such an awesome driver in my dreams, I lifted my legs and the van kind of jumped and landed tires first on a road of asphalt with proper ditches on both sides.

Before I could get back up to speed, a house appeared on the left that had not been part of the upcoming landscape before I saw it.  Suddenly it was there with a proper driveway, a huge two car garage and many gabled windows built into the roof of slate shingles.

I pulled up the driveway and right into the garage like I lived there. Leaving the chatting trio in the van  I got out and went into the house by the front door.

Entering a huge foyer, I stopped and considered where to go first.  I heard voices straight ahead.  Down a hall and into a den or family room filled with worn out furniture. An older couple was sitting on a couch watching TV.

Without any introduction, I started right in. "Do you know you have a tortoise walking this way.  It can't be more than 100 yards away.  It's huge.  Big as a spare tire.  Must be 100 years old I bet."

The old man turns in my direction and waves me off with an insolent and smug shake of his hand.  He points at the TV screen and turned back to watch it.  I stood mute for a few seconds considering how no one was interested in the huge tortoise outside.  It pissed me off.  I moved in front of the couple and blocked their view of the TV.  In unison, they looked up at me.  Again I stood mute.  

The old lady finally says, "Well, what is it?  You're blocking our TV."

I did not move.  Just as I am about to speak, something wet and cold hit my face..............

My eyes opened and Maggie's nose was about three inches from my face.

Damn!  But I smiled, scratched Maggie behind her ears and immediately set to remembering the dream.  And now here I am having successfully retold as complete of a dream as I ever have. Total accuracy is a bit sketchy, but its close.

Good morning everyone.  Getting off to a great start. 

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

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Free Speech and Other Nonsense

I have mentioned my run as a moderator for a local Facebook page, "What's Up in Acton".  It is a closed group page that only insists new members have some kind of connection to Acton, however vague. It is a private page with no official connection to the town government or those who run things here.  

The page is popular I think because Jim (the main man) has rules about keeping it a page free of animosity, political garbage, and senseless whining.  To that end, Jim brought on board as moderators folks he thought would help him run it as he had envisioned.  I think he picked me to keep me from breaking the rules.  I have heard the best cops are the ones with law breaking in their past.

When I began this thankless task I think we had under 1900 members. As of today, 4/6/2021, there are 4,872 members.  Thankfully, most of them follow the rules and post their recipes, their proud images of sons, daughters, and the new brood of baby goats videos.  It's really not a tough job moderating the page, until it isn't.

Every so often someone will get a hair across their butt about politics or other controversial subjects and the posts end up getting out of hand.  A moderator will show up and quash the animosity ASAP.

What follows is often butt hurt responses about Free Speech no longer existing in this country. I won't get into from which side of the aisle these claims come from, but they are a predictable result of shutting comments down.   Moderators are called losers, Big Brother, and once I was called a POS in a private message from some guy who was kicked out of the group. The POS comment was a badge of honor I am proud of.  Made me wish I had actually been the moderator who had shown him the door. The guy was a constant thorn who was sure the World revolved around him and his petty stupid whining.

What instigated this blog post and the title regarding free speech was last night a post was able to gain legs and really take off.  Apparently all four moderators had better things to do than monitor the Acton page at the time. 

It was another rant about a resident who lives on our conduit to the world, Route 109.  This citizen finds it neceesary to fly an American Flag upside down in their dooryard.  It has been up for quite awhile now.  And at least two posts about it have been a center of hate and discontent.  What I find interesting about the post is it points out the folks who really have not taken the time to understand the rules of flag flying as opposed to the laws of flag flying.  There are no rules, only US codes with no penalties attached. The back and forths also establish just how many folks hypocritically pick what flag code is sacred and which flag code isn't.

I found the post at 2:00 AM and after 3 minutes of reading the stupidity, I deleted it.  

So now I am guilty of stepping on someone's Free Speech rights when in the post they posted they were all for stepping all over the Free Speech rights of the flag flier.  I did explain that on a private FB page, the owner or their designees establish what is considered acceptable.  

I only post this piece today in my blog because I can't post it on the Acton Page.  It would be against the rules.  But here on the BoZone, I make the rules and if I want to whine, then by jeezus I will whine.

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

Friday, April 02, 2021

Corporate Hypocrites

So, I was listening to Little Marco Rubio, US Senator from Florida, spout off this morning about US companies putting negative pressure on the State of Georgia regarding their recent legislative assault on the voting rights of Georgia citizens. He called Coca Cola and Delta Airlines "Woke" corporate hypocrites because they continue to do business with China, while here at home attack the very institutions Americans hold dear and near. I assume he meant the voting bill in Georgia as if it was somehow good for America. 

I literally choked on my coffee when I heard one of the nation's biggest hypocrites call anyone else a hypocrite.  And in keeping with the shameless ways of the GQP, he said it with a straight face.  I couldn't see his hands.  I imagine he had his fingers crossed.

His point centers on specious GQP logic that Coke and Delta are using false idealism to pressure Georgia.  They are not. It is all about their bottom line. They want to keep the money flowing into their coffers.  Any threat to that flow needs to be addressed.  And believe me, boycotts are a serious threat.  Not so much for the actual lost business from losing customers, but the negative Public Relations that result and haunt them for a long time after. They don't care about voting in any state.  They care about losing money and most of all, market share.

Corporations survive on their ability to deal with the various pressures of their markets.  That they may reflect the attitudes of their customer base is not hypocritical, it is just business as usual.   There is no hypocrisy, just what can they do to improve the bottom line.

And rather than call out Georgia himself, Little Marco Rubio insists on being the good Republican by pointing fingers at someone other than his own party.  He attempts to make it seem that Coke and Delta have become pawns of the Chinese in their quest to defeat America. The real enemy of America is the GQP. And Marco is eagerly and enthusiastically spreading the Right's destructive propaganda.

What a worthless, lying piece of shit Marco is.

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