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Thursday, February 25, 2010

FLINT CONCERN

In early 1966, my father was transferred from Fort Bragg, North Carolina to Bad Tolz, Germany leaving my mother behind to sell our mobile home, car, and most of our belongings. We moved to my aunt Ruby’s house in Texas for three weeks until we had our travel orders for our trip to Germany. I was in the fifth grade, Danny was in the third and we had to go to school in Monahans during our short stay there. I honestly don’t remember much about it except that the father of one of the boys I became friends with owned the local Chevrolet dealership and his mother drove a beautiful red over white 1964 Cadillac Coupe De Ville which made me green with envy.

On my first day of school my teacher was wearing sunglasses in the classroom, she told my mother she ran into a cabinet and got a black eye. Later that day when my mother picked us up from school she said, “I’ll bet she ran into a cabinet, I’ve run into that cabinet a couple of times myself.” “What do you mean, she didn’t run into a cabinet?” I asked. “Hell no, I’m sure her husband punched her in the eye.” “The teacher had a fight with her husband?” I said. “Honey, every woman has fights with her husband from time to time. Only some husbands hit them, not all men do it though.” I couldn’t believe it the teachers I looked up to that were supposed to be so perfect actually had fights just like my mother and father. I grew silent because I didn’t want to stir up old memories and I couldn’t remember my parents having a really bad fight since I was seven and they came home from a party where my father ripped the buttons off my mother’s beautiful gold stripped dress and punched her to the floor of our dining room when we lived on base in San Antonio.

The time passed quickly and soon it was time for us to leave. “I don’t want to go to Germany,” I whined. “Why?” my aunt Agnes asked. “Because I can’t speak German and they eat funny food over there.” I said. I’d been reading a little bit about Germany and Bavaria where we were going to be living and I wasn’t too keen on living near “The Black Forest” where the trees grew so close together it appeared to be dark, hence the name. I figured that was where Hansel and Gretel had gotten lost and I sure as hell didn’t want to get lost in there. “Oh they’ll speak English over there and I’m sure you can find something to eat. You like German potato salad don’t you?” my mother said. “No they won’t” I pouted. “You need to look at this as an opportunity of a lifetime young man.” My aunt Agnes said. I always remembered her words and I tried to learn and see as much as I could while we were over there. Ruby and Agnes drove us to the airport in Midland in Agnes’s white 1965 Oldsmobile where we boarded a prop plane that took us to Love Field in Dallas. Then we transferred to a big jet that was to take us to JFK airport in New York City. Whoever booked our seats couldn’t get the three of us together, so there were two seats side by side and another several rows forward. Well my mother wasn’t about to let an eleven year old and a nine year old sit together, so she sat beside Danny while I had to take an isle seat beside two strangers, which I was none too happy about. I made my mother recite our travel plans to me over and over because I was afraid I’d get separated from them and I’d have to know what to tell people to get us reunited. The stewardess’s were so pretty one even looked like that German actress I liked, Elke Sommer. She walked down the isle with a basket of fruit and offered it to people as she went. I saw a beautiful pear that I wanted badly, but when she got to me I pretended to be asleep because I thought you had to pay for it and I didn’t have any money. Boy was I pissed when I looked back a few minutes later and saw that my brother not only had the pear I’d wanted, but an apple and a coke too. There were two slightly older boys wearing navy blazers that were carrying on with the stewardess trying to get her to give them cigarettes and drinks. They were thirteen and fourteen and told her the name of some school they attended in the city, I was very impressed by them.

When we arrived in New York City we took a cab from JFK to our overnight quarters at Fort Hamilton. The cab driver pointed out landmarks along the way like the Empire State building and the Chrysler building. After he helped us with our heavy luggage my mother handed him some bills and told him to keep the change. ”Keep the change, keep the change?” I couldn’t believe it, I’d only heard people say that in the movies not my mother. The next morning April 11th, we got on a bus with a lot of other people that took us to the dock to board our ship. I was so ignorant I thought I saw those two boys in their blue blazers on their way to school that morning. The USS Rose was only an old troop ship on its last Trans Atlantic voyage before reporting to duty in the Pacific for the war in Viet Nam, but it might as well have been the “Queen Mary” to me. I’ll admit that when I tell most people we took a ship to Germany I don’t usually tell them it was a troop ship. After finding our cabin and our luggage we went up on deck to wait for it to set sail. It was so exciting as the ship moved away from the dock. Mother was holding on tightly to Danny because he was trying to climb up on the railing and it would be just like him to topple over into the water. He and I were wearing the brand new beige Ban Lon shirts my grandmother had bought us for the trip. I loved new clothes and we didn’t get them often, so I was being very careful. Just then my mother pointed to the Statue of Liberty just ahead of us. I was shocked it was green! I knew it was made of copper we’d learned that in school, but all the photographs I’d seen of it were in black and white, so I just assumed it would be shinny like a penny. That bright flat green wasn’t anything I’d ever imagined in my mind. As we sailed past it my mother was holding Danny up to get a better look and I stood on a rung and leaned against the wooden railing in awe of its size and its greenness. After the excitement was over I got down and my mother said, “Sammy look at your shirt.” There was a huge black strip of grease right across the front. I was heartbroken my new shirt was ruined the very first time I wore it.

The trip across the Atlantic took seven days. Larger, faster ships could make it in four, but this wasn’t the SS United States, which we’d missed sailing on by about a week. The first day out we had a lifeboat drill. I didn’t like the fact that we were assigned to boat number thirteen and they kept on repeating the women and children first rule of the sea. I was big for my age and at eleven you’re stuck in between I was worried, but my mother assured me that if the ship sank she would see to it that I got in the lifeboat with her and Danny. When we first saw our little cabin it was pretty dismal. We had to share a bathroom with the cabin next door and it had one twin bed and a bunk bed. All Danny could do when he saw it was jump up and down and squeal, “I want the top bunk! I want the top bunk!” I wanted it because that was where the porthole was and you could look right out on the ocean, but mother said he could have it. It wasn’t long until he regretted his decision because April isn’t exactly a good time to sail the Atlantic and three days out we ran into some pretty rough storms. The ship bucked and pitched so much that some crazy military lady ran around the dining room pouring our glasses of water on the table cloths to keep our plates from sliding off. She threw open the door to our cabin one day and yelled at Danny to get off the ladder to his bunk. Mother said, “The next time she does that I’m going to throw my book at her and say, oh I’m sorry you scared me.” Mother gave us some of the sea sick medicine she’d brought along, but all it did was make us groggy and we had to get in our bed at times to ride out the storms because walking around was too dangerous. Danny lay on his top bunk with a green face and moaned, “Close the curtain. Close the curtain.” because he couldn’t stand seeing the ocean pitch and roll outside the port hole. One stormy night mother attended a party in the dining room and had to hire a babysitter because children under twelve weren’t allowed to stay in the cabins by themselves. We weren’t happy with the fact that the girl my mother found to baby sit was only twelve. Danny made that couple of hours pretty miserable for her by getting up on his bunk and letting a long slow stream of spit flow out of his mouth onto her hair. All I could do was set back and laugh while she read to us because the string of spit would sway with the ship on its slow journey to the top of her head and she wasn’t even aware of it. The ship jerked and seemed to turn suddenly and we were a little shaken by it. When mother returned, she said some people that were dancing actually fell down. Apparently one of the portholes near the waterline broke and they had to turn the ship away from the current to patch it up or something. She had a hard time making it back to our cabin in heels.

When the weather was nice the trip was actually an adventure. It was great having breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in a dining room and getting to choose what we wanted. Our waiter was foreign and made us laugh by calling milk “Cow Uuce”. There was another man that walked around the ship playing some sort of a hand held Xylophone when it was meal time. One day we heard a sound like he’d dropped it down some stairs, we turned around and he was letting Danny bang on it. People got a good laugh over that, but I was a little embarrassed by it. Danny seemed to know every inch of that ship if mother and I got turned around he could tell us exactly how to get where we wanted to go. Mother gave us some money to spend and he spent his on some kind of toy, but I bought her a beautiful strand of cultured pearls in a pink velvet box lined with pink satin from the ship’s gift shop. On our last day we sailed through the English Channel and got to see the White Cliffs of Dover and Danny actually spotted some dolphins frolicking in front of the ship, we docked in Bremerhaven although today mother insists it was Bremen. I guess it’s an easy mistake since Bremerhaven is in the state of Bremen, but Bremen is a city on a river thirty seven miles inland.

From Bremerhaven we took a train to Munich and actually our own private sleeping cars like people did in the old movies. I was glad to have one all to myself while Danny had to stay with my mother. I didn’t sleep much that night because I was afraid the vibration of the train would cause my suitcase to fall from its overhead storage shelf on my head and I just had to peek out the blind every time the train came to a stop so see the strange looking buildings with their steep sloped roofs. I was also shocked by the fact that when you flushed the toilet it opened up and you could see the train tracks below. My father met us at the train station in Munich, driving a borrowed Volkswagen Beetle with a buddy of his. What was he thinking, five people and all that luggage? I ended up having to sit on his buddy’s lap for the forty miles to Bad Tolz, while Danny sat on mother’s lap. I don’t know if I was embarrassed because I was almost as big as he was, or because he was so handsome. We stopped at a Gasthaus to get something to eat and I didn’t care for my first taste of German cuisine. Everyone else ate wurst and brochen, a bread roll with a hard crust, I just ate brochen with mustard on it.

We soon found out why daddy didn’t bring his own car. He’d purchased a 1951 Volkswagen Beetle. He’d paid all of one hundred fifty dollars for it which was about one hundred forty eight dollars more than it was worth. It was black with a light blue right door. The beige mohair upholstery was rotten and smelly, it had a huge slide back cloth sunroof with plenty of water stains and every time he pressed the accelerator the passenger seat fell backwards. My mother would squeal and holler and my brother and I would burst into laughter as we tried to help her back up.
If we still had that split rear window car today it would be worth a small fortune, but haven’t we all had those thoughts about a car we had in the past? At first we thought the Beetle was funny, but soon it became an embarrassment for both of us and we realized it was a sub standard piece of junk. The turn signals were metal flaps that came out of the “B” pillars and didn’t work, so we watched my father use hand signals to turn left, or right, which we’d never seen anyone do before and wondered where he’d learned such things which seemed so silly to us. He had to roll the window down even when it was snowing, or raining. We owned it throughout that spring and summer, the car always seemed cold, damp, and moldy, and it smelled that way too. Danny and I hated it while at the same time we thought it both silly and amusing. We missed our 1963 Plymouth Valiant convertible, it was black with a white top, red vinyl interior, with a heater, radio, and turn signals. Oh, for the simple American things in life.
In reality the Beetle was the closest thing to what Ferdinand Porsche had planned as the production as the 1936 “Peoples Car” for Hitler. As this was one of the first few years of production runs when the British had re opened the factory after World War II. The 1951 model was as close to anything Ferdinand Porsche might have planned for Hitler, the “People’s Car” became the hope for Germany’s future. You could actually buy something like “Green Stamps” to apply towards the purchase of a Volkswagen, but that plan never actually panned out. There were actually game pieces shaped like the cars so you could see how close you were to having your own Volkswagen. No one ever got one that way though. Try to buy one of those games on eBay today!

When we first moved to Germany it was fun like a new adventure to another planet. It all seemed so exciting. Our first apartment was on the fourth floor of the American housing and had seventeen bedrooms. We were forbidden by my mother to go into any of the bedrooms that weren’t our own only because this was temporary housing and she was responsible for cleaning the entire apartment before we left. We would peek into all the other bedrooms looking for something different, but they all looked the same. To tell the truth I really didn’t like the fact that fifteen of those rooms had to be kept shut, it gave me the creeps. God only knew what was lurking behind those doors at night. I suppose they were built for GI’s who when were first deployed to Germany, shared the same housing with one kitchen, dining room, and bathroom, until they were moved to other accommodations. I thought we were rich like “The Beverly Hillbilly’s” or something. Seventeen bedrooms, seventeen bedrooms! We had no idea all those happy memories would soon change and Germany would become the worst nightmare of our entire lives.

My father was a Green Beret, a paratrooper, and one of the 10th Special Forces group that was stationed at the Flint Kaserne which was built as a huge training facility for SS Officer Candidates in 1937. It was like a huge fortress built in a rectangle with turrets at the entry like a medieval castle at the main entrance and always seemed dark and verboten to me. It was pretty much self contained and had almost everything we could want, or need. A movie theater, library, Olympic size indoor swimming pool, commissary, cafeteria, bowling ally, doctors offices, dentist offices, a bookstore, and even a Sunday school. There was no American television, so we went to the movies which cost almost nothing, at least three times a week and since there was still snow until early June sometimes I’d walk through the snow to spend endless hours at the library. A man who lived in our apartment complex told my father once, “You must be proud of your son. I see him walking to the library in the snow by himself all the time. He must really be a smart kid.” My father told him, “I am proud of him” and related the story to me, which made me feel good. Little did he know that I would find any excuse to get the hell out of the house.

Germany could have been such a wonderful experience for us. We could’ve taken weekend trips to all the beautiful castles and towns, there’s so much history there. Even the little town of Bad Tolz is like something out of a story book. We did take a family trip to Garmisch once and I remember walking through the “General Walker Hotel” thinking it had only been a little over twenty years since Hitler had walked those same halls. We did take one camping trip to Lake Chiemsee where King Ludwig II castle Herrenchiemsee is. We pitched a tent and stayed there three days, but my father had to get pretty drunk at both places and Danny and I ended up sleeping in the car so we wouldn’t have to be near him. He forced my mother into having sex with him in the tent and we heard everything.

I don’t remember when my father’s drinking started getting out of control, but it began to consume our lives. By then we’d moved to our three bedroom apartment and he’d sold the Beetle and bought a dark blue 1958 Mercedes Benz 190 for five hundred dollars. What I remember most was my father coming home from work drunk and my mother attacking him as he came in the door. Curse words flying, fingernails flashing, hands slapping, and him trying to fend her off, which resulted in punches, hair pulling, furniture being broken, endless crying, black eyes, and embarrassing looks from the neighbors. We’d gone to an October Fest carnival at the Kaserne and mother took daddy home because he was getting too drunk. Before she left she said, “You keep an eye on your little brother and be home by eight o’clock.” When it was ten minutes of eight I found him and said, “Danny we need to go now, mother told us to be home by eight.” “I’m not ready to go home yet.” He said. “Danny, we have to go or we’ll get in trouble!” I pressed. “I wanna play some more games.” He said. We argued a while longer and then I went home by myself. When I got home daddy was still up drinking and mother sent me back to get him, he still refused to come with me, so when I arrived without him again she drove me over there in the car and waited while I searched for him. I ran into my sixth grade teacher and she said, “Why Sammy, it’s after nine o’clock, what are you doing out this late?” I said, “My mother told us to be home by eight, but Danny won’t leave.” She knew him because she tutored him after school and she said, “I’ll go with you and we’ll find him and make him go home.” When we found him she said, “Danny it’s too late for you boys to be out. You go with Sammy right now and go home like your mother told you to.” He walked with me a little way and said, “I’m not going home, she’s not the boss of me and I’m going back.” No matter how much I threatened and pleaded he wouldn’t listen and just kept on walking. I went back to the car and told mother and she said, “We’ll just have to go home and tell your father to go get him and he’ll give him a whipping.” When we drove down the street to our apartment my father was standing in the street beer bottle in hand screaming at us, “You’ve been out screwing somebody haven’t you, haven’t you? You bitch!” Mother drove off down the street and turned the car around keeping a safe distance between him and us. She drove forward slowly trying to reason with him, “Sonny we were just out looking for Danny and he won’t listen to Sammy and come home.” “No you weren’t! You went out to screw that guy didn’t you? You whore!” He screamed at the top of his lungs as he kicked in the driver’s door. You could hear his screaming echoing between the buildings, and since most people kept their windows open everyone could hear him. A man who lived downstairs from us had to come fend my father off with a baseball bat because he wouldn't let my mother and me park in our parking space, my dad started fighting back. Then some more neighbors got involved and mother parked the car and got out to intervene while she sent me once again to get Danny. Half way there I found the little shit walking home and I said, “You don’t know all the trouble you’ve caused,” and told him what happened. When we walked into the apartment it looked like a bomb had gone off, furniture was overturned, broken glass was everywhere and the living and dining room were in ruins. Daddy was already in bed and mother was sitting on the sofa crying with her hair all askew. She wore it in a “French Twist” and it was almost all down to her shoulders by then. I could see the beginning of a black eye through her running mascara. She looked up and said, “Danny why didn’t you just come home when I told you to?” He slinked off to bed and then mother went to bed and asked me to go get Judy to help me clean things up. She knew all the neighbors had witnessed and heard the whole brawl anyway. I went across the hall and asked mother's best friend Judy to please come and help me clean up our apartment. She and I spent thirty minutes up righting furniture, cleaning up broken plates, dishes, and knick knacks. Judy made a big pot of coffee, but I don't remember anyone drinking it that night except her and stayed with me until after midnight. Thank God for Judy, I was twelve years old at the time and I don't know what I would've done without her.

As a child trying to survive I had to do the best I could, so I learned a few tricks. The door to our apartment on the third floor must've been at least two and one half inches of thick, solid, wood. When I came home from school if my car was in our parking space I'd listen at the door to see if I could hear any noise before I opened it. Most of the time if it was quiet I knew it was safe to go inside, but there were a couple of times I opened the door and just missed being hit by flying objects that my mother was hurling at my father. Another time he was so drunk she had him bent over at the waist with one hand on the back of his shirt and the other full of hair as she slammed hid head into the door frame screaming, “You son of a bitch! You son of a bitch!” When she let go of him he stood up and staggered around in a drunken stupor with his hair sticking straight up. I had to back out of the apartment and shut the door because I busted out laughing and I was afraid that even as drunk as he was he’d get mad at me. If I came home and put my ear up to the door and heard screaming and yelling I'd go up to the top of the stairwell on the fourth floor, start my home work and wait for Danny to come home, so I could warn him not to go inside. I can't tell you the times that we sat up there waiting for my drunken father and my hysterical mother to calm down so we could go inside.

Once for some reason mother had needed the car to drive to Munich, probably to shop at the commissary there because they had a much larger store than the one at the Kaserne. We rode with her to pick daddy up in the small town of Lenggries about five miles away where he worked. He hadn’t called her to come get him until he was good and wasted. She was so angry with him she drove home at a high rate of speed with the tires on the Mercedes squealing as we wound our way through the mountainous roads screaming at him. Danny and I became scared because we’d heard stories of guys crashing their cars on that very same stretch of road. It was then that we realized for the first time in years that we were in a car with no seat belts, so we held onto each other. My father looked back and said, “Wanda slow down you’re scaring the kids, look at them.” She screamed, “What does it matter if we crash? They’ve got a drunk for a father. What in the hell do they have to live for?” I was then we were certain we were going to plunge off the cliff in a huge fire ball and that would be that.

My mother would blame herself for his drinking. She would think it was because she didn’t keep the apartment clean enough, or because she wasn’t pretty enough, or because she didn’t cook well enough, or because she wasn’t good enough in bed. She would sit in the front window of our apartment dressed like “June Cleaver” with a wonderful dinner on the stove and wail and cry because my father was out drinking. She even fell to the floor clasped her hands in prayer and swayed back and fourth in a shirt waist dress like some TV evangelist begging God to just make him stop drinking. Once, when she was in one of her “High Drama” episodes when I was twelve and crying like someone who’d just witnessed a great calamity with her head in her arms on the dining room table. I tried to comfort her by saying the only thing I’d ever heard in my entire life, “Why don’t you divorce him?” Her head spun around like Linda Blair’s in the “Exorcist”. “That’s what you kid’s want isn’t it, isn’t it? Well let me tell you something, if it comes down to choosing you kids or your father, I’ll pick your father every time!” At the age of twelve you can imagine just how that made me feel. People wonder to this day as to why I have no self confidence.

She decided she wanted a baby girl and they were going to adopt a German baby. I couldn’t imagine why she would want another baby when she was constantly threatening to leave my father anyway. I asked her about it and she hissed at me, “Maybe a baby is just what this family needs!” When I returned from one of my field trips in April, 1968 she greeted me with some left over home made tacos and the news that she was pregnant. Danny and I were both so embarrassed that my parent’s were still having sex that neither of us told any of our friends. My sister Stacy was born in November after we’d moved back to the U.S.

What little happiness I had came from the money I earned baby sitting for fifty cents an hour to buy Motor Trend Magazines, "Jo Han" Cadillac models, or "Diana Ross and the Supreme's" albums, which cost two dollars and ninety five cents, which equaled seven hours of baby sitting. The theater at the Kaserne was a nice escape from reality too. I spent many an hour there watching almost every American film made from 1962 to 1968. By the time I was thirteen I’d stay at home alone while my parents and brother went to the movies just so I could listen to my records on our fantastic new Grundig stereo without being bothered. I did find some measure of happiness at school my best pals were Vicky, Craig, and Jacque, and our German teachers would take us on field trips. Our regular teachers were American, but Frau Zerluth and Frau Schneider taught us to speak German and taught us about German culture and food. We got to go to nearby churches, towns, restaurants, and even took an over night trip to see some of King Ludwig II castles Linderhoff, Neuschwanstein, and Hoenschwangau. I was even awarded a little book of photos of Bad Tolz where the back page has “13 June 1967 A reward for outstanding work done on German culture folders, Frau Zerluth.”

There were occasional happy times at home, like our first Christmas there when we got new bikes. Even that was tainted by a late night conversation I overheard where my father was bitching about spending so much money on us. I remember my mother saying, “Sonny, do you know how much money we spent on the boys last Christmas? Eight dollars! I think they deserve a decent Christmas this year to make up for it.” He still wasn’t happy about it. When we went to bed Christmas Eve mother said, “I can’t believe here it is our first Christmas in Germany and we don’t even have snow.” The next morning when we awoke there was a foot of beautiful snow covering everything, it was magical. My parents bought us a poodle puppy from a lady who was knocking door to door with a basket full of all kinds of puppies Poodles, Dachshunds, and Schnauzers. We wanted the one she had, but apparently it was a “display model” and we had to place our order and wait. The day we picked him up at the train station there was this tiny black puppy in this big crate filled with excelsior. A German man at the train station brought out a crowbar and opened it for us. We both grabbed for him at the same time and Danny got him first of course. When we got him home we named him “Jocko” and mother discovered he was much too young to have been weaned, so she had to make a paste of “Gains Burgers” and milk to feed him until he got a little older. I loved that dog and he brought so much joy into our lives. We also got bought a black and white TV from someone who was going back to the states just before we moved and even though what little TV we could get was in German, I did get to see the Supreme’s perform in Berlin and that was a treat since I didn’t know who was actually singing lead on all those albums I’d bought.

One particular incident has always stuck in my mind, for some reason one day my friend Craig got mad at me and told me he was going to beat me up after school. I was scared shitless, I was no fighter and he started telling everyone in school to gather outside my apartment to watch him beat me up. I spoke with a teacher about it and he said, “Just tell him you’re more mature than that and you’re not going to fight him.” Craig looked like the “Pied Piper” on the way home from school with all the kids following him. He stopped me at the front door to the stairwell and we argued and exchanged insults. He said something derogatory to me and I said, "Shut up." He said, "Make me." Then I said, "I don't make trash, I burn it." and turned to walk inside. He shoved me in the middle of my back and all my books and my glasses went flying and kids started laughing, they didn’t laugh for long though. I went blind with rage and I turned around and beat the living shit out of him. As he lay on the ground bleeding from his nose, one of his friends looked down at him and said, “Cool fight Craig.” I got my books and went upstairs where I was absolutely giddy because I won the fight I’d dreaded all day. There was a knock on the door and a girl said, “Sammy here’s your glasses.” Then another knock and a boy said, “Craig’s waiting for your little brother.” I went downstairs and confronted Craig and said, “If you don’t leave Danny alone I’ll give you some more, now go home!” Years later when I saw the movie “A Christmas Story”, I felt as though they took the fight scene right out of that chapter of my life. I never realized the memory of that fight would lead to a reunion of Craig, Vicky, and me, forty years later in August, 2007. Craig said he’d always wanted to find me so he could apologise. We had a wonderful reunion and plan to get together again in the future.

We had to leave Germany early, because my maternal grandfather was dying of cancer and we flew back on a jet to JFK. Then after refueling the same plane took us to Charleston, South Carolina where we picked up Jocko and rented a white 1968 Dodge Monaco to drive back to Texas. We were so glad to be home where we could get good old American hamburgers and see the sights. That August my father left for Viet Nam for eleven months and life was blissfully peaceful. I used to secretly wish he would be killed over there and years later my mother admitted she was wishing the same thing.

When I went back to Germany for the first time in December, 2003 and the second time in September, 2005. The Flint Kaserne has been given back to the Germans and they’ve remodeled the entire complex into hotel, offices, a convention center, movie theater, and torn down the wall surrounding it and painted the buildings pastel colors. The quadrangle has two new chrome, and glass, buildings in it now, and wildflowers growing around them. The Germans don’t waste anything they reuse it. The façade of the hotel we stayed in when I went there in 2005 was built in 1640. We drove back to Ludwig’s castles again with the top down on the Porsche and had a wonderful time. I now have terrific memories of Bad Tolz and I wish I could live there year round. In 2003 I took a photograph of the 2004 red Porsche Carrera S convertible I picked up in Stuttgart in our old parking space in front of the apartments where I’d taken the photograph of the 1951 black beetle with the blue right door in 1966. I didn’t do it, but I wanted to put a caption under the photograph of the car saying “You’ve come a long way baby!” The car wasn’t really mine anyway, I was picking it up for the dealership. I just looked up at my bedroom window and thought of how much I wish I could’ve seen that scared, frightened, lonely, thirteen year old gay boy looking down at me and say, “It’s going to be alright kid, you’re gonna make it.” Something no one has ever told me in my entire life.

DORIS DAY

I just got one of those silly "Room Ba" robot vacuum cleaners. They had them on sale at home Depot for ninety nine dollars, so I figured as much as I hate to clean house, even though I'm a neat freak, I'd try one. I find myself talking to the silly thing like it's a dog, or a cat. It did the kitchen twice while I was taking the dishes out of the dishwasher and I had to shoo it away.
It's actually pretty neat. I can fold clothes and do other things while it's vacuuming. I'm sure it would scare the hell out of cats they'd be under the bed, but it goes there too and most dogs would be chasing it around snapping at it, or hiding under the bed with the cat. I have two other vacuum cleaners a big Hoover and a little Hoover. The Room Ba is pretty much just a floor sweeper, but after an hour I stopped it and cleaned the filter it was full. Mostly, hair, lint, glitter from Christmas decorations and dust bunnies, but I think it's great. Now if they'd just invent something that flies around the house and dust for you.
Wasn't there some kind of crazy movie in the 60's where a family lived in a "High Tech" house and a robot vacuum cleaner came out of a wall every time something was dropped on the floor? I seem to remember Doris Day, or someone like her being in it. Of course everything went haywire and all hell broke loose when the darn thing took her shoe or something like that. I looked it up and it's "The Glass Bottom Boat".
Excerpt from movie description;
“Tashlin, who always used gimmicks in his pictures, has a field day with "Glass Bottom". Templeton's kitchen is state of the art and completely electronic with fun gadgets that to this day we still don't have. It did, however, have remote control and microwave, which is pretty standard in our time.” I always liked Doris Day.

Back in 1979 I was visiting my friend Steve in Los Angeles. We drove all over Hollywood, Beverly Hills, etc. I had to re load my camera right at the top of Benedict Canyon after taking pictures of Valentino's house, “Falcon Lair”. I was tired and wanted to go back to his place. He wanted to know if I wanted to drive by Doris Day's house. I said let's just go back to your apartment, but he insisted. I hadn't seen one single star all day and I was disappointed. When we got to her house there was a diesel Mercedes in the driveway with the engine running and the vanity plate was DIAS1. He wanted to drive off, but I told him to wait because that was her car. He said in Beverly Hills that could be the maid's car. I told him no I knew it was her car because I'd seen a “Tonight Show” where Johnny Carson held up star's personalized license plates and people tried to guess who's they were and I remembered they were her's for “Daisy”. Sure enough a man came out with a dog and was started taking pictures of the dog in the car. Then out walked Doris Day in a dark green velvet pant suit wearing a matching hat. He began taking pictures of her when she saw me through the gate hanging out the car window. I was afraid she'd ask us to leave, or call the police. Instead I said "Hi" and she said "Hi" and then posed for me several times waving for my shots. I told her "Thanks!", then we went home. I was so excited I couldn't wait to get home to have the photos developed. When I went to pick them up I'd loaded the camera wrong and that whole roll was nothing but a blank. So much for my seeing a real live movie star.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

KENNETH ANN

I’ve never seen any place that seemed to have more drag shows than Odessa, Texas and bad drag at that. I suppose because there was usually only one gay bar operating at any given time. In Dallas they have special nights for drag shows, or even certain bars that have a drag theme, but not Odessa. There were times they went on every single night at one bar called the “Misty Blue”. I remember once there was this guy standing at the microphone one afternoon in full drag miming the words to some Judy Garland song while a scratchy old LP played over the speakers. No one in the room was watching him and we were all going about our own business having a merry old time. Suddenly there was a commotion from the stage and I looked over my shoulder, the guy was throwing a fit. He kicked over the stool he was sitting on and stomped off the stage, high heels clicking all the way, cursing us for not paying attention to him. What did he want us to do? There was a drag show there twenty four seven and we were tired of that shit.

No drag queen was ever as famous as Kenneth Ann, at least in his mind. He had such a thick West Texas accent and he was the only person who could turn one syllable words like Ann and Sam into three syllables. When he said my name it always came out something like, “Saaaymmmnnn”. Someone told me years later that when he lived in Abilene Kenneth was given a shot glass of Crème De Menthe and he said, “Why that tayst jus like Haley’s MO.” If you’ve seen the character Beverly Lesley on “Will and Grace”, then you have some idea of the way he spoke. In fact, I’d almost swear whoever created that character based it on Kenneth Ann.

I first met Kenneth in 1975 when I was standing at the bar at the “Fisherman’s Warf” in Odessa. My old friend from fourth grade, Amazing Mazine walked over to me and said, “There’s someone who’d like to meet you.” I was feeling cocky at the time and asked, “How much do they weigh?” “Less than you honey.” He said. I asked, “Where are they?” and he pointed to a table with four or five guys sitting at it. He said, “The third guy from the left.” I looked and it was a tall good looking guy with black hair. I said, “I might come over there in a minute.” and he walked off. When I got my coke, it was a BYOB bar, I walked over and they made a place for me next to the black haired man. I introduced myself and he told me his name was Larry, but as luck would have it he wasn’t the one who wanted to meet me, it was the guy on the other side of me.
He held out his limp wristed hand and said, “Hi, my name is Kenneth.” I almost spit my drink all over him. Here he was this balding man with mascara, long nails with clear polish, a dozen bangle bracelets and he absolutely reeked of “Jungle Gardenia” perfume. I wanted to get up and run, but I didn’t want to be rude, so I sat there like an idiot until I got good and drunk. I did everything I could to ignore him and flirt with Larry who seemed pleased by my attention. I found out he and Larry were roommates and lived in a duplex in Midland. Later in the evening they asked me to go home with them I said “Yes.”, but I was pissed when Larry got in one car and Kenneth got in my Cadillac. We followed Larry the sixteen miles to Midland, while Kenneth ran his hands all over me and kept kissing my neck the whole way. When we got there and I realized there was only one bedroom I was hopeful that we could all get in the same bed, but Larry started making himself a bed on the sofa, so there I was drunk, tired, and stuck with Kenneth. Thank God it was late and I feigned drunkenness to keep from having to have sex with him. Kissing him was bad enough, I’ll never forget the awful taste of his perfume in my mouth.

When I woke up the next morning Barry Manilow was singing “I Write the Songs” on the radio and I wanted to chew my arm off to get the hell out of there. Luckily after rough housing with him I was able to coax Larry into bed with us, we rolled around together and had somewhat of a good time. I wouldn’t relive that night for anything, but it actually helped my reputation for years afterwards, because Kenneth Ann told everyone, “Sam is wild in bed.” Kenneth Ann was in love with me and we were an “item”, even though I didn’t know anything about it. He apparently told everyone he knew that we were boyfriends or lovers, or something, because when I began showing up at the bar alone he would sit in a corner in full drag without his wig and dab at his eyes with a hankie. A guy walked over to me and said, “You’re a son of a bitch!” I smiled at him and said, “You must know me.” I found out over the years he did this to lots of guys. One of the funniest things that ever happened was that years later after his circle of drag queen friends grew one of his loyal followers walked up to this guy and said, “This is from Kenneth Ann!”, and slapped him across the face. The guy sat down his drink, walked over to Kenneth Ann, and decked him. I didn’t see it, but they said Kenneth hit the floor like a ton of bricks. Another time Kenneth had ridden to the bar with my friend Andy and some others. There was some guy Andy had his eye on only to find out Kenneth was having one of his “things” with the guy. They fought about it on the way home and Andy screeched his Buick into the gravel driveway at Kenneth’s house, reached over, threw the passenger open, and yelled, “Why don’t you tell everyone who you’re in love with this week!”

Kenneth never missed a chance to say catty things to me. In 1977 I was doing laundry at the Laundromat down the street from where I lived and by some coincidence there were several gay guys there that evening. Kenneth made a big deal of telling everyone to come to his house when they got finished for a party. On his way out the door he stopped and said, “Oh, and Saaaymmmnnn, you cin come toooo.” In the mid eighties before I had my stomach stapled he would see me somewhere and say, “Oh my, you look so healthy.” Then when I lost almost fifty pounds he saw me in Furr’s Cafeteria one day and said loud enough for the whole dining room to hear, “Ever time I see you, you just get skinnier and skinnier are you seeick?” This was when people were so afraid of AIDS everyone turned to look at me. The final straw came one night in 1987 when I went to “Miss Lily’s” in Odessa with two friends of mine. It was my turn to buy a round of drinks, so I went up to the bar and stood in line. While I was standing there some guy wrapped his arms around me from behind, lifted me off the floor and said, “God, I haven’t seen you in so long.” When I turned around, he turned beet red and said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were someone else.” He was handsome so I asked him who he thought I was, but he wouldn’t tell me. Then a couple of minutes later these two girls walked up behind me and said, “Where’ve you been?” I turned around and they apologized and said they thought I was someone else. This time I wouldn’t let it go I kept pressuring them as to who it was, and they reluctantly said, “Kenneth Ann”. I looked across the room at my friends just knowing I was the victim of one of their pranks, but they weren’t even looking at me. I returned with the drinks thoroughly pissed off and told them what happened. They tried to console me by telling me, “You should be flattered, Kenneth Ann is skinny.” It didn’t make me feel one damn bit better and I soon was custom fitted for a hair piece and I wore one for eleven years after that.

The designated drag night at “Miss Lilly’s” was Sunday and God only knew what you might see. Those queens would do a Diana Ross song wearing a blond wig, or do a Marilyn Monroe number in a brunette wig. One Sunday they were having a drag contest and half the judges were from Amarillo. They voted for the best performance and that didn’t sit too well because everyone from Midland-Odessa knew that Kenneth Ann always won no matter what. After they announced the results and the guy got up on stage and accepted his trophy, I’ll be damned if the manager didn’t walk up to the microphone and announce that there’d been a mistake and Kenneth Ann was the actual winner. The other guy’s boyfriend could be heard yelling as Kenneth got up on stage and did his usual “squat and pee” acceptance dance with tears streaming down his face like he didn’t already know he was going to win.

I really regret missing the night “Rita Rhinestone” wiped out the meat rack. It was 1979 and the guy came out on roller skates in a leopard print leotard miming “Take Me Home” by Cher. He got to going a little too fast and couldn’t make the turn. They said he hit the side bar we called the meat rack, where all the single guys stood cruising and “Whomp!” guys and drinks flew everywhere as Rita hit the floor. Those drag queens were mean as hell, even to each other. One night some queen decided to do a World War II number and sang Kate Smith’s version of “God Bless America” wearing a vintage WAAC’s uniform. At the end of the number he was to pull a cord and unfurl a U.S. flag, but someone tied one corner in a knot and only half the flag would come down. I gotta tell ya the girl was pissed.

I moved back to Midland from Dallas briefly in 1991 and went to the bar with a friend visiting from San Antonio of course there was a drag show and the drinks were so watered down I couldn’t even get a buzz, so I switched to beer. After living in Dallas and seeing drag there I just knew Odessa was going to be more pathetic than ever. This guy walked out in a Madonna outfit from the days where she wore her underwear on the outside. His hair was done up in an “I Dream of Genie” style and he was wearing a sharp pointed silver lame bra with stiletto heels. Just as I was turning to my friend to criticize him the guy did flips head over heels from the stage to right in front of us. I looked at my friend and said, “I take back everything I just said.” It turned out he had a show in Vegas and he was just there visiting relatives. He was the best I’ve ever seen.

Todd heard sometime in 1992 that Kenneth had AIDS. He told the guy who told him, “You know, I’ve never really cared for Kenneth, but I hate to hear he has AIDS. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” The next day Todd got a call from Kenneth chewing him out for spreading vicious rumors about him. In the summer of 1993 I went to visit Todd and we decided to have an impromptu party. We started calling everyone we knew Kenneth almost always got an invitation because he knew so many people. Once in 1981 at the annual Labor Day party we threw at Todd’s parent’s house on H Street I was opening a bottle of champagne for a friend. I said, “You want to see if I can hit Kenneth Ann with this?” He laughed and said, “Yes!” Kenneth was standing on the opposite side of the pool from where we were. The cork made a huge pop as I opened it and I’ll be damned if Kenneth didn’t turn and look right at me as the plastic cork sailed two inches above his head and landed in the grape arbor over the bar. I certainly didn’t score any points with him that night. As we made our calls we couldn’t get an answer at his house, so we called the furniture store where he worked. The girl there told Todd in a tearful voice that Kenneth was in Midland Memorial Hospital. We called his room and spoke with him. He suggested a couple of people we could call and said, “Here I aaam on my daythbed.” Todd said, “Now, now, that’s how rumors get started.” Kenneth died less than two months later. He was buried in a small town near Abilene and his parent’s didn’t put an obituary in the Midland paper until a month later because they were afraid his drag queen friends would show up and create a spectacle. His death was truly the end of an era.

Monday, February 22, 2010

SHADOW MAN

In 1979, I rented a small guest house behind a larger house on West Illinois Street in Midland, Texas. It was small and quaint with a very nice yard, but I moved out in less than a year because I was bothered so much at night by dark shadow figures. Once I awoke with the feeling that someone was standing over me and when I opened my eyes a dark shadow figure was standing beside my bed bending down to look at me then it vanished. While in the house I constantly felt as if someone was standing behind me, or I'd see a shadow walk across an open door. Another night I awoke to find a shadow standing at the foot of my bed. This one backed into a corner and squatted down as if it were trying to hide from me. It was so solid looking I turned the on the lamp beside my bed to see who it was, but no one was there. My cat slept at the food of my bed in cold weather and one night she woke me up growling at something. They never did me any harm, but I did feel like they were getting stronger. I had only mentioned it to my mother who thought it was because I'd just started taking Valium. I had a dream one night that the sheets on my bed were billowing in the air and making flapping noises. I woke myself up holding out my left hand to make them stop only to realize they weren't moving.
I finally broke down and told a friend on the phone about them and before I could get to the part about the sheets he said, "Oh, don't worry about it. As long as you don't hear wings flapping in your room you'll be OK." I got chills, and asked him what he was talking about? He said, "Wings flapping in your room are signs of demons." I was speechless and a tear ran down my cheek. Two weeks earlier a guy at work walked into my office and handed me a book. His wife had asked him to give it to me because she was worried about me. I barely knew the woman, but the book was about demons trying to possess people. I moved out soon after that.

I had no idea other people had seen anything like that and once in the mid eighties I saw an episode of the "New Twilight Zone" about "The Shadow Man". It scared me so bad I almost passed out. I've never seen them again and I pray I never do.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

THE AWAKENING

Like most boys I had a couple of little sexual adventures with other boys. When I was seven a boy named Donnie who was a year older than I was sleeping in my bed because his family had just moved from Springfield, Illinois to Merced, so they were staying with us until they could find a house to rent. Donnie talked me into taking my underwear off and told me that the way you made babies was that the man put his thing in a woman’s belly button and peed in it. His parents had a new born baby girl, so I thought he must know, but it still sounded dumb to me. How could babies come from pee? He got on top of me and tried to pee in my navel, but he couldn’t, so he said he had to go to the bathroom then he put his underwear back on and left the room. Little did I know he went into the living room and told my mother the sheets had come off the bed and he wanted her to come in and fix them. Before I knew it both our mothers came in the room and guess who got caught naked under the covers? My mother whipped my naked ass and told me I was a nasty little boy and Donnie had to go sleep in another room. As I lay there in bed feeling embarrassed and humiliated I knew that little bastard had done it on purpose, so I beat him up every time they came over to visit if he so much as looked at my brother or me the wrong way. No one could understand why I beat him up so often.

When we lived in Germany I had reached my full height of five foot eight by the time I was twelve and there was this kid who’d pitched a tent out behind our apartments. He wanted to compare “things” and he wanted me to rub mine against his. We only did it a couple of times and he always told me that mine was as big as his father’s. I didn’t wonder until years later how he knew how big his father’s dick was.

The first real sexual experience I had was when I was fifteen years old and it was the second summer I’d gone to Irving to work for my aunt and uncle. It allowed me to earn enough money to buy my school clothes and that was a big deal to me at the time because I loved to dress nice and I couldn’t have too many clothes. That summer I’d been living in Fayetteville, North Carolina, but I was able to ride back with my aunt, grandmother, and my two cousins when they drove out to visit us.

I would baby sit my cousins while my aunt was at work and clean the house. On certain days I worked with my uncle, who was a fireman on his days off with his lawn care service. He mostly worked on one large apartment complex called “The Beverly Hills Apartments” in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, off of Davis Street. I thought it was all quite glamorous and I couldn’t wait until I grew up and could live in an apartment where they had a pool and people threw pool parties and cooked out. That was the lifestyle in the sixties and early seventies for hip swingers and I wanted to be just like them. I was very concerned with my looks at the time, and after being chubby most of my life I’d was down to one hundred and thirty pounds. I wore my hair very much like young guys wear it today, combed down across my forehead just above my eyebrows, wire framed glasses, very short cut offs and tank tops. For the very first time in my life I felt like I was good looking and fit in with the other kids in school.

When we worked we got to eat lunch at Norma’s Café, I can’t believe it’s still there after forty years. My favorite thing to order was a BLT, or a club sandwich with fries. I remember this sour faced waitress we saw all the time and my uncle said, “I’ll bet she wears droopy drawers.” I usually was given certain sections of the lawn to mow and water while my uncle trimmed the hedges, sometimes I wouldn’t see him for hours at a time. I didn’t think much about it then, but later I realized he was probably trimming some ladies hedges in an apartment there at the complex. I liked the work even though it was hot and humid, because I got to be alone and think about the kind of apartment I’d have and what kind of Cadillac I’d drive when I was grown up. Sometimes people could be a real pain in the ass though. They’d call me over and want me to mow a little section near their front door, or water a certain patch of grass. I always did what they asked me to, but I thought they were sure picky for people who lived in an apartment complex. One day a well dressed lady in a silver 1967 Sedan De Ville stopped and asked me directions to some place. I didn’t have a clue as to how to get there, but I sure did enjoy admiring her Cadillac and feeling all that ice cold air coming from her open window.

It was August 5th, 1970, a day I’ll never forget. I was leaning against a fence watering this area of grass and I noticed this man in his late thirties walking by carrying boxes, he appeared to be moving. He would look at me every time he went by and I thought, “What are you looking at?” Then on his fourth or fifth trip he started walking toward me I thought, “Oh hell, what does he want me to do?” He just came over and started talking about the weather. He said, “It sure is hot today isn’t it?” I said, “Yes, I heard on the radio its ninety eight degrees right now and it sure is humid here in Dallas.” He said, “Oh, where are you from?” I said, “Fayetteville, North Carolina.” He said, “Really, do you go to high school there?” “Yes” I said. “What grade are you in?” I said, “I’m going to be a sophomore.” He said, “I bet a good looking guy like you has lots of girlfriends.” “A few.” I said. Then he asked, “Do you date anyone in particular?” I said, “Kelly” as I thought, “What in the hell is this guy doing asking me all these personal questions I don’t know him it’s none of his business.” He told me his name was George and I told him mine was Sammy and he said that he’d had a room mate, but the guy had moved out, so he was moving from a two bedroom to a one bedroom in the same complex. He asked me a few more things and then said, “Would you like to come up to my apartment for a drink?” I said, “No, I don’t drink.” I didn’t in those days. Then after more chit chat, he said, “Would you like to come up to my apartment for a Coke?” I said, “No, my uncle might get mad at me for not watering this grass.” He must’ve thought he was talking to the dumbest kid in the world, I was pretty naive back then.
Finally as he was getting ready to leave he said, “I don’t really have anything in my apartment to drink, but if you’d like to come up and get cooled off you’re certainly welcome.” I told him no and thanked him anyway. As he began to walk away a light went off in my head DING! I suddenly felt even hotter than before and slightly out of breath. I said, “Wait, I’ll come with you!” as I turned the faucet off. I followed him upstairs to his apartment. I didn’t have a clue what was going to happen, but I knew my life was about to change. As we entered his apartment he shut the door and began showing me around. It was a small place, so there wasn’t a lot to show. He had a nice burnt orange swag lamp in the corner of the living room and a little patio off the dining room. Then as he showed me his bedroom he pulled me to him and started kissing me. I’d never had anyone stick their tongue in my mouth before and my left leg began to involuntarily flop like a fish out of water. I didn’t want him to know how nervous I was, so I put my leg down forcefully on the floor to keep it from shaking. We stripped our clothes off and began making out on the bed. He went down on me and then wanted me to go down on him. I’d never done it before, but I just tried to do what he’d done to me. He and I were both sweaty and I was both slightly repulsed and at the same time excited by his slightly sweaty smell. When he ejaculated in my mouth I thought I was going to vomit from the salty taste of it, but I kept thinking, “This is what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life, so swallow it.” I gagged, but I forced myself to swallow it, then he did me. I couldn’t believe how it felt jacking off was never like that. I hurriedly dressed and he wrote down his name and phone number for me and made me promise to come see him again. I told him I would be leaving the Friday after next and I didn’t know when we would be back again. I went back to watering the lawn and soon my uncle came and got me so we could go home for the day.

When we got home my aunt took my cousin’s and me to North Park Mall. I rode over there in the back of her gold 1969 GTO and sniffed my fingers discretely while Freda Payne sang “Band of Gold” on the radio. His male smell was all over them and I couldn’t get enough of it. That was on a Wednesday and when we went back on Friday George had me come up to his place. After making out for a while and taking our clothes off he laid a towel across the bed and got out a bottle of “Corn Husker’s Lotion”. He lay down on the towel on his stomach, rubbed some of the lotion on his ass, then some on my dick, and wanted me to fuck him. I didn’t know what to do, so he guided me in and I thrust like crazy. When I came I thought my head was going to explode. I didn’t know a man could do that to another man, by that time I was thrilled by all my new discoveries. When I went back downstairs my uncle said he’d been looking for me and I made up some excuse about where I was and what I’d been doing. I don’t think he believed me for a minute and I even thought I saw him look in the direction of George’s apartment, but he didn’t press the issue. I was horrified to find out that we weren’t scheduled to work at the apartment before I had to go back to North Carolina, so all weekend I made myself sick trying to figure out how I was going to see George one more time. I know I called him a couple of times when no one was home and I don’t remember if it was his idea or mine, but I put my star sapphire ring in my pocket then began to whine about taking it off while I was watering some hedges and forgetting it. My uncle said,” Well it’s probably gone by now and I can’t take you back over there until Tuesday anyway.” I kept on until he said he would drive me over there. I don’t think he believed me because instead of helping me look for the ring, he dropped me off and said, “I’ll wait for you at Nora’s.” I got to have sex with George one more time, we only exchanged blow jobs because I was in a hurry, but it was wonderful. I walked over to Nora’s when we were through and proudly held up the ring in my hand with mud on it that I’d “found” in the flower bed.

George and I kept in touch over the years even after my mother became suspicious and asked me how old he was. He’d sent me a photo of himself and I told her he was in college, but the photo showed a handsome dark haired thirty eight year old, so after that I suspect she started reading his letters and throwing them away except for the ones I was able to intercept at the mail box on my way home from school. I always day dreamed about moving in with him when I graduated high school. He was the father figure I was looking for and I just knew we could live happily ever after. The last time I saw him was in February 1978 when I drove from Midland to Dallas to trade my Cadillac Coupe De Ville for a Lincoln Mark V. I stayed at his apartment that night and we had sex, but I was twenty three by then and I suspect George was a “Chicken Queen” and I was too old for him.

I know we spoke on the phone a couple of times over the years and in 1990 when I was living in Dallas I sent him a card inviting him out to dinner to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of my “Coming Out”, but I never heard from him. It seems to me I did some research on the internet years later and found out he died in 1991. I think it was probably from AIDS, but I’ll never know he would only have been fifty nine years old. I’m sorry I didn’t get to see him one more time because I’ll never forget him and my first time.

VAC U FORM

I think since most of us can remember toy's we loved, or didn't. We all have some we were at least fond of.
This evening on the way home from work I remembered the "Slip N Slide". It was a long plastic yellow slide you hooked up to a garden hose, then you ran towards it, fell down and hopefully slid to the end of it, great fun right? Except one day when I was about six I decided if it did that well on grass, what would it do on the sidewalk?
After placing it on the sidewalk taking the first slide down it and busting my head until I saw stars I decided it wasn't such a good idea. I think I have brain damage to this day.

I also had a 1957 Ford Retractable. The remote was attached to the car with a plastic cord. Mine was two tone beige and white. It was fun making the top go up and down as long as the batteries lasted. I always had to have some kind of toy car as a kid. My brother and I would stage "crashes" and if we could sneak matches out of the house sometimes they were "fiery" car crashes. Of course if my mother caught us our behinds were usually on fire.

Another thing we would do that drove her crazy would be to get a hammer and place a whole roll of caps for our cap pistols on the cement and hit them hard with a hammer. It sounded like a gun shot and made our ears ring so much we almost couldn't hear mother yelling at us from inside the house.
I had two female first cousins who were four and six years younger than I. My mother babysat them a lot when we were kids. They always lugged their cases of Barbie, Midge, and Ken dolls with a ton of clothes along with them. They used to bug my brother and me to play dolls with them I really enjoyed it myself, but boys being boys we posed the Ken and Barbie dolls in suggestive ways, in other words they “boinked” and boy did it make them mad. They told my mother and that was the end of that. I convinced them to leave the Barbie’s at our house so they wouldn’t have to lug them back and forth and I’d play with them and style their hair when my mother wasn’t home. I was good I actually had the blond one’s hair styled exactly like Elke Sommer in the “Pink Panther” movie, “Shot In The Dark.”
I remember my grandma had a Mimosa tree. We never did anything with the pods except rip them open with my grandmother warning us not to eat them. We did make mud pies though using her pie pans simply patting them together just wasn't good enough for us and pretend we were selling them in a store to each other.
I vividly remember a toy I got for Christmas in 1964 when I was nine called a "Vac U Form" it was made by Mattel. It was this rectangular metal box either red, or orange. There was a handle/lever thing on the top, you placed a piece of colored plastic on one side that had holes around the edges to lock it in place. Then you laid it down on the side that heated while you placed a "form" on the other side. I know it must've had more than cars, but the cars are all I remember. When the plastic was heated you quickly flipped over to the other side on top of the form and used a handle on the side to quickly pump all the air out of it. The hot plastic formed over the mold and when it cooled, you trimmed off the edges you had a new toy in the color of your choice. Pretty cool, but I don't think it stayed on the market very long because the first night I had mine while no adult was in the room I just had to stick my finger on the hot side to see how hot it really was. It burned the shit out of my finger, but I didn't tell anyone because I didn't want it taken away from me for being so stupid, my brother was sworn to secrecy. I remember it did make a huge blister though and throbbed so much I had a hard time going to sleep. That was all I remember about that Christmas.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

LOONEY TUNE BABY

In 1984 my friend Todd introduced me to the craziest woman I’ve ever known. Mary Jane was married to a wealthy oil man in Midland and had everything she could have ever wanted, a rich husband, two grown daughters, a beautiful home, furs, jewelry and a brand new yellow Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz. Her only problem was that she was a hopeless alcoholic.

The very first time I was introduced to her she gave us a tour of her house, but instead of “Here’s the living room, here’s the dining room, here’s the kitchen.” She took us through the house and showed us her husband’s silver and gold coin collection, which were in their boxes under some cabinets. Then she showed us her gold plated silver ware and her collection of fur coats. She took one and modeled it for us and said, “I’m a size two, the man at Neiman’s told me I should be a model.” I thought to myself, “Model my ass, why didn’t you take some of that money and have something done about those brown teeth of yours?” Then on to her bedroom where she began showing us her jewelry collection one piece at a time. She finally invited us into the living room where she offered us a scotch, then began a tirade about her sorry miserable no good husband who was living in a local hotel because she was divorcing him and how he left her alone to deal with a miscarriage that must’ve happened thirty years earlier.

I told Todd later that was the most uncomfortable introduction I’d ever experienced. “Who in their right mind takes a perfect stranger through their house and shows them where all the valuables are kept?” Don’t ask me.” He said. “She did the same thing to me the first time I met her.” I asked, “Do you think she shows the yard man, and the pool guy?” “Probably.” He said.

He then began telling me the most outrageous stories about her. Once, he and a lady named Alice had accompanied her on a private jet from Midland to the Betty Ford Center. I suddenly remembered picking them up at the airport and Alice was slathered in jewelry, rings on every finger and a whole purse full of stuff. I didn’t say anything at first. I just wondered why the usually elegant Alice had on such a tacky amount of jewelry until she explained that it all belonged to Mary Jane. I didn’t know the woman, but they had me laughing all the way to Alice’s house with tails of her drunken antics and how she drank all the way to Palm Springs and had to be helped off the plane. When they flew back to pick her up they had to use a commercial plane and they said she was snockered by the time they had to change planes in Denver.

We stopped by to visit a couple of times after that and I finally told Todd, “I don’t want to go there again. I’m sick of hearing the same drunken stories over and over and she always insists on showing us her furs, jewelry and such, every time we walk in.” He agreed the novelty of it all had worn off and she’d grown tiresome.

She called me once after that to help her find her Cadillac. She thought it was in the body shop of the Cadillac dealership I worked for, but after a few calls I found it at the Buick dealerships body shop. When I called them about it they told me that it had been finished for weeks, but her husband didn’t want her to have it back because she kept wrecking it while she was drunk. She once burned up an Eldorado of hers by getting it stuck on a median at the drive through at a bank. She kept jamming the accelerator so much that gas flooded out of the carburetor and caught the car on fire. It made the front page of the Midland Reporter Telegram. I called her back and told her where to find her car and considered the matter finished.

Little did I know the shit was just about to hit the fan.
A week or so later I’d decided to visit a friend in Dallas for the weekend when I got a call from Todd that the police had called him. Mary Jane had reported her jewelry stolen and she had told the police that we were the last two people in her house. They wanted Todd and me to come in the next morning at nine for questioning. Talk about ruining my weekend. That was Saturday night and my flight wasn’t scheduled to fly out until Sunday evening. I couldn’t get a flight out of Dallas Saturday night in any shape, form, or fashion. I called my mother and asked her to ask my father, who was Captain on the Big Spring police department, what we should do. First off he wanted to know if we did it and after assuring him that we hadn’t taken anything he said to go ahead and go in for questioning when they asked us too even if I had to rent a car to get there and to never take a lie detector test. He said, “The burden of proof lies with them and if you didn’t do it you have nothing to worry about and don’t take a lie detector test because they aren’t fool proof and they aren’t admissible in court anyway.” I called all the rental car agencies and finally found a “travel car” at DFW. I had my friend take me there and I started the five hour trip home in a Mercury Grand Marquis.

All the way home I was worried sick about what that crazy drunken bitch was accusing us of. We hadn’t done it, but she was the wife of a wealthy local business man and I didn’t know how that would weigh in her favor. I made it to Todd’s apartment at about five in the morning and got in bed with him. We didn’t get a wink of sleep as he briefed me on what had happened and things he’d never told me about Mary Jane. It seems that she’d bragged to him and Alice on the way to the Betty Ford Center that she’d gotten mad at her husband and flushed a pair of seventy thousand dollar diamond and platinum earrings down the toilet. It seemed she’d done something to a necklace in the past, but he couldn’t remember what it was. She’d bragged about collecting the insurance and then buying new pieces to replace the old ones.

We got up and got ready to go talk to detective Jenson with the Midland police department. It seems that she had reported that only a few pieces of her jewelry had been stolen not all it. As the detective read off the list Todd stopped him when he got to a pair of diamond and platinum earrings and related the story she’d told on the trip to Palm Springs. They asked us if we knew anything about jewelry. I told them, “I think I can tell a real diamond from a fake and maybe real from costume, but I wasn’t a jeweler.” They seemed concerned that only the most expensive pieces were missing and wanted to know why we thought someone would go through her jewelry box and only select a few items. Todd and I both told them if we were going to steal her jewelry we’d have taken the whole damn box. The questioning went on just like you see on television, the what if’s, where were you, do you have alibis, will you take a lie detector test? We told them “No.” and they seemed to bristle at that, but I told them who my father was and what he’d told me. They still weren’t satisfied and had us come in a couple of more times alone. They even tried to tell Todd they thought I took it, while telling me they thought he took it. We just kept telling them we didn’t take it and they’d better look in the back yard, or the toilets, or something.

The crazy bitch turned it into her insurance company and they sent an investigator out to talk to us. He turned out to be one of Todd’s dad’s golfing buddies and I sold him a new Oldsmobile Toronado after he made a couple of trips to the dealership. After we told him what we knew about her, he turned in his investigation and her claim was denied, she’d cut off her nose to spite her face.

Once while this was going on one of the salesmen came into my office and said, “Sam that lady in that yellow Eldorado wants to see you.” I looked outside and thought, “God, what is that crazy bitch doing here?” I went out to the car which was parked right in the service drive and she put down the passenger window and tried to spit on me, while screaming something incoherent I couldn’t understand. I yelled, “You get the hell out of here or I’ll call the police and have you arrested for drunk driving!” She quickly left, but then I started getting hang up calls and calls where she threatened me. I called the detective and it was obvious that he thought the two gay boys were guilty because he said, “There isn’t anything I can do about it unless she threatens you and someone else hears it.” My father gave me a police whistle and after I blasted her with it a couple of times when she called me at home, she started calling me at work, so I went out and bought a tape recorder with a suction cup I could attach to the receiver to tape her calls. Sure enough, I picked up the phone once and taped her in her drunken southern drawl saying. “You are being waited on… to be killed!” The break in the middle was an obvious mix up of what her drunken ass wanted to say. I called the detective and played her death threat for him, but he still refused to do anything about it. I actually think he thought it was funny that she was harassing us. In the end he may have regretted it because we heard that even after Mary Jane had left Todd and me alone she kept calling him at all hours because he was the only one who would take her calls and once even insisted that he sent a patrol car to her house one night because there were two clowns in full costume, long shoes and all sitting in her living room and wouldn’t leave when she told them to. Now that’s one Looney Tune Baby!

CYBER FRIENDS

Sometimes people don't understand when you don't really have that many people to talk to and in our modern world who could've known we'd share our innermost feelings with thousands of people we've never even met? I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but that's just how it is, and I've felt a lot of compassion and kindness over the years from people on the internet. Maybe I tell too many unpleasant things people don't want to deal with and that's my fault, but they're all true and sometimes I'm just looking for a little support from all the craziness in my life that I don't really understand anymore.

I know sometimes I've done too much of that. Maybe it should be like the old days when families "kept" all their secrets, or at least, thought they did. Like a cousin who had a child out of wedlock, or someone who went bankrupt, or someone who cheated on their spouse, or drank too much.
I know the internet can be a good thing sometimes because it's filled with people who care. Still, I don’t like the world of today. I wish I had a familiar place to go home to, where things never change, and life was simpler.
My grandparents sold their farm in Adamsville in 1976, it has changed hands many times over the years. The current owners decided instead of restoring the old rock farm house, which didn't need a lot of work, just bought a double wide and moved it on the property. The roof is sagging and it hasn't been painted since my grandfather last did it.

Ruby's house in Monahans, which she and Earl built in 1932, was sold in 1960. The house and property were sold to a guy who owned a car repair shop and for years the place was filled with old broken down junk cars. The ground has been saturated with oil and the house is also falling down.
Agnes sold her house and small strip mall beside it in 1979, to a guy who moved his insurance agency into it and took out most of the walls. It's kept up, but I was inside it once and it was sad. When I was there in 2000 for my aunt Ruby’s funeral, I drove by and I noticed a 1998 Oldsmobile Aurora in the carport. It made me smile, my aunt Agnes always drove Oldsmobile’s, so it seemed normal to see it there. It made me want to go up and knock on the door to see if she was home.

I guess what I'd like most would be able to get in my car and drive back to those places where porch lights would be on, black and white TV's are playing in the background. Smells of good cooking, fire flies and crickets, dogs would run barking and people would come running out with arms open wide to give me big hugs. God I miss them.

FEEN A MINT

We had to leave Germany earlier than we’d expected because we received a telegram from the Red Cross that my maternal grandfather was dying of colon cancer and wasn’t expected to live more than three months. In the rush to pack what few belongings we had besides our collection of thirty three German clocks our furniture was Quarter Master Army supplied, I found three things my mother had thrown in the trash. They were three little plaques that had hung in out kitchen for as long as I could remember. One said “God Bless Our Cozy Apartment” the other two were a pair and one said “God Bless Our Mortgaged Home” the other “99 More Years And It’s Ours”. I was shocked that she’d thrown them away and asked, “Why didn’t you pack these?” “Oh they’re just junk.” She said. The movers had already gone and I was furious that she was throwing away one of the few things that we’d had all my life. She used to hold me up and read them to me when I was two and wanted so desperately to be able to read.

When the bus came to take us from our hotel in Bad Tolz to the hotel in Frankfort I carried them in a brown paper bag along with some items of clothing. It fell over and one of them spilled out, I remember her giving me a dirty look because she was embarrassed that people had seen it. I don’t remember exactly, but somehow we were able to pack them in a suitcase and they made it home without getting broken. I still have them in my kitchen this very day.
At the hotel after they’d already picked up our bags and our dog Jocko, my parents sent my brother and me down to the cafeteria to get four cups of coffee for them to drink while they finished getting ready. They were small cups with no lids and we had to walk very carefully to make sure they didn’t spill hot steaming coffee on us. Danny as usual was traipsing along in no hurry whatsoever. I pushed the button for the elevator and when it came I walked in and he still wasn’t there. I turned and said, “Danny, hurry up!” He was just at the door of the elevator when the doors began closing and hit him in his skinny butt. He pitched forward and doused me from head to toe in hot black coffee. I chewed his ass all the way up to our room. When I got there my mother helped me clean up as best we could. I had to wear those coffee smelling clothes on the flight across the Atlantic and from New York City to Charleston, South Carolina. I was miserable the whole trip and I just knew everyone was looking at me with coffee all over my gold and brown sweater and my gold corduroys. I wanted to kill my little brother.

When we got to Charleston my parents decided to rent a car, pick up our dog, and start the long drive to Texas. We’d been gone for two and half years, so we were really looking forward to seeing the country and getting some good old American food again. I remember after my mother and father drove long into the night they couldn’t sleep due to jet lag, we finally stopped at a motel in Georgia and slept a few hours. We got up, showered, dressed, and I was finally able to get out of those coffee smelling clothes. We went to a diner for breakfast and when we walked in my father made sure to say “How ya’ll doin?” because our rental car had Illinois license plates on it and he was afraid we’d be treated badly if they thought we were “Yankees”. As the waitress poured their coffee she asked, “Have ya’ll heard the news?” “What news?” they asked. “Bobby Kennedy was killed last night.” We listened to the news on the car radio all that day.

After we arrived in Texas we really didn’t have a home for the first month or so. My grandfather was in a hospital in Odessa, so we were lucky to have several family members in the area. We lived with various relatives and out of suitcases. While we were staying with some cousins on my father’s side of the family I got in an argument with one of the girls a couple of years older than I. She slapped my face and I called her a bitch, then they all went into one of the bedrooms to ignore me. My brother Danny went with them. After a few minutes I called him into the bathroom and asked, “What are they saying about me?” “They’re not sayin nothin bout you!” I knew he was lying and I began trying to figure out what to do to him. I realized my mother’s overnight kit was in the bathroom and along with her makeup was the ever present package of “Feen a Mint” laxative she always had with her. I always remembered her having it and just figured old people needed it to go to the bathroom, she was thirty two at the time. It looked exactly like “Chiclets” chewing gum once you took it out of its foil blister pack. I read the back of the package and it said children under twelve should chew one piece for thirty minutes, he was eleven, so I took two pieces and put them in my shirt pocket, then called him into the bathroom again. “If you tell me what they’re saying about me I’ll give you a piece of gum.” I said. “OK.” he said. So I gave him one piece and placed the other piece in my mouth, but I immediately turned and spit it out, putting it in my shirt pocket. “I’m not gonna tell you till you give another piece of gum.” He said. I thought OK, when he tells me I’ll tell him what he’s chewing and he’ll spit it out and that will be the end of it. Once I gave it to him and he had it in his mouth he said, “They’re not sayin nothin bout you!” I knew he was lying so I just said, “OK.” and went into the living room by myself, Feen a Mint package in hand, to watch TV.
I have to tell you that was the longest thirty minutes of my life. I watched the minutes slowly tick by on the wall clock and when the thirty minutes were up I called, “Dannnny, Dannnny”. “What?” he asked. “Come here.” I said. He walked into the living room vigorously chewing the gum. I simply held up the package and smiled. He stopped mid chew and stood there with a shocked look on his face, then looked at me defiantly and said, “So!” He’d experienced Feen a Mint just as I had and we knew its “Strap your self to the toilet” effects.

Later that afternoon we’d gone over to another cousin’s house on my mother’s side of the family who I liked and we were outside playing. When I went into the house to get something my grandmother was standing at the kitchen sink with the water running she said, “Sammy I ought to whip
you.” I looked over and she was scrubbing out my brother’s underwear. I went down the hall and stood outside the bathroom door and softly sang, “Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!” “Shut up!” he whined.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

RICHARD’S CHOICE

When I was twenty three in 1978 I was selling Cadillac’s, Oldsmobile’s and GMC trucks in Midland, Texas. The sales manager hired a twenty eight year old man named Richard and I was a more than little threatened by him. He was so handsome, impeccably dressed, and had a beautiful smile that lit up his entire face. Confident men like him always made me feel inferior like a worthless “ugly duckling”. I couldn’t find enough excuses to walk past his office that day to get a closer look at him and he spent his first day calling everyone he knew telling them about his fantastic new job selling Cadillac’s. His excitement was infectious, like a man who’d just won the lottery and his conversations were punctuated by an exuberant laugh that came out as, “Huh, Huh, Huh, Huh!” while showing his sparkling teeth. With a head full of thick black hair and green eyes, I had an immediate crush on him.

In the days and weeks, that followed he revealed that he was now married to his second wife and they had a three year old son. He also had a son and daughter from a previous marriage, but he’d lost touch with them and that we’d both been born in the same hospital five years apart in Kermit, Texas delivered probably by the same obstetrician. His father had recently died from a heart attack at fifty one and Richard was so depressed he’d been out of work for over a year, but having received a small inheritance he was OK financially during that time.

At first I was afraid he’d surpass me in my position as the top new car salesman he seemed so much more talented than I, but I soon realized he lacked the focus to stay in there for the long haul. My boss asked me to show him the ropes and do a complete “walk around” on a new Sedan De Ville. After the first seven minutes I could see his eyes glaze over and that bored totally uninterested look come over his face. He kept looking at his watch and made an excuse that he had to meet someone for lunch. That was my last effort in training him. If he didn’t care about product knowledge, then I couldn’t make him care.

Surprisingly in the few short months we worked together we actually became good friends and bonded in a way I’ve never bonded with anyone. I of course never told him I was gay in those days. Once after an early morning sales meeting he told me he’d taken a woman he’d met in a bar the previous evening upstairs to the office we’d just been in and fucked her on the sofa. Not ever knowing we were having a meeting the very next day. He laughed and said, “All through the meeting I kept waiting for some to ask, what is that funky smell? Huh, Huh, Huh, Huh!” Oh God, how I secretly wished I’d been the woman he’d fucked on the sofa.

Once, three of us had to go to an Oldsmobile training class in Abilene. It was Richard, old Mr. Hill, and me. We took Richard’s silver Delta 88 Royale demonstrator and I sat in the back on the pale blue velour seat and listened to the “Eagles” album he was playing on the eight track. To this day whenever I hear “Hotel California” I always think of Richard. He and I kept the conversation going most of the way and I drank in every word mesmerized by the sound of his voice and his fascinating way of telling a story. He was so full of life, excited, not boring and depressed like me. When reached the town of Big Spring he insisted we stop at the “Brass Nail” for a few drinks. “I don’t think that’s a good idea because we have to go back to the dealership.” I said. But Richard kept on until I gave in. I just couldn’t pass up a chance to spend more time with him. Mr. Hill gave in too and I adored watching Richard drink, talk, laugh, and smile.

In less than six months Richard quit because he thought sales were too slow and he was bored. Once he left for lunch and when he returned an hour later, I was sitting in the same chair in the showroom I’d been in when he left. He mimed bashing his head against the wall and spinning around while jerking off. I howled with laughter and got a full mental picture of him with his pants down around his ankles spinning around masturbating, it gave me a semi hard on.

Later he told me in secret that he’d applied and been accepted for a job selling Southwestern Bell Yellow Pages and within six months he came back and bought a new platinum silver 1978 Coupe De Ville from me. He begged me to go to work for the company and told me he was making twenty five thousand dollars a year. I reminded him I’d made twenty eight thousand dollars that year and got a free Oldsmobile demonstrator, so it didn’t seem like such a good deal to me.

Over the next few years Richard bounced from job to job and always whatever he was doing was the best thing that had ever happened to him. I couldn’t help think about all those excited phone calls he’d made his first day on the job selling cars. He always wanted me to come to work with him or for him and he began referring to me as “My Friend”, he once even suggested we go in together and open up our own used car lot. I told him, “We’d make a good team because you’re always way too enthusiastic and you take too many risk, since I’m a little more conservative, I might be able to keep you from bankrupting us.” The truth was I just didn’t feel comfortable going to a bank and asking for the kind of loan we’d need to open a dealership, also I’d begun to see a pattern in his behavior. He’d be so excited about his current job, but then a few months later I’d find out he’d quit for some reason, boredom, lack of business, or he’d supposedly been lied to. Yet still he begged and pleaded with me many times to give up my job and follow him. God knows Richard could play my heart strings and I wanted to follow him, but I just never had the courage to leave the security of working for a company and going out on a limb with his latest venture.

As the years passed we enjoyed sharing our success with one another and we were both always very supportive and excited about one another’s accomplishments. In 1982 Richard was managing a used car lot in Odessa. He told me he made over sixty five thousand dollars that year and wanted me to come and sell cars for him. I was green with envy, I’d never made more than thirty thousand dollars a year in my life. I’d changed jobs and was working for the Buick dealership. I was unhappy, but I decided to stick with it for a while and give it a chance. One Saturday in 1982 I drove to Odessa after work to show Richard my new Coupe De Ville. When I got to his dealership his assistant was all by him self and told me Richard was out running an errand. “He should be back within the hour.” He said. I told him, “I’ll come back in a few minutes, if he shows up before then ask him to wait for me.” He said, “OK.” And I left.
I decided I’d kill some time by going to the one of the adult book stores on 42nd street. We all know what men do in those dark peep shows, gay, or not. After checking out several video booths I spotted a really good looking man with a beard through a peephole in the thick plywood wall. I locked the door, dropped in a couple of quarters and tried to get his attention by sticking my index finger through the hole hoping to get him to let me suck his dick through the “glory hole” between the booths. He kept looking down at my finger signaling to him, but kept his pants zipped and although he kept dropping quarters into the slot he wouldn’t do anything more than stroke the bulge in his jeans suggestively and fiddle with his Western belt buckle. I grew tired of his “Prima Donna” attitude and moved on. After giving a couple of guys quick blow jobs I was anxious to get back to Richard’s dealership before it closed, so I smoothed my hair, wiped my mouth, popped in a piece of sugar free peppermint gum and walked outside to my car. I’d parked outside the privacy fence where no one else parked. I had no wife to hide from, so I didn’t give a shit if someone saw my car in front of the book store, but I was worried about getting door dings. As I was maneuvering the huge Cadillac out of the drive a gold Honda came barreling out from behind the fence and almost hit me head on .We both stomped our brakes and missed hitting each other by mere inches. I was pissed and I gave the driver a dirty “How dare you, I’m driving a Cadillac!” look. Then I saw it was the good looking guy with the beard and at almost the same second I realized it was Richard. I was so shocked I just sat there and let him go ahead of me. I didn’t know what to do and I was so afraid he’d be embarrassed, there was no mistaking my car and it was so flashy that I didn’t go back to his dealership, I just drove back to Midland. I never did show Richard that car.

About a year after that he stopped by the Buick dealership unexpectedly and when I asked him how things were he said, “My friend, if I could take a trip around the world by rubbing two nickels together I couldn’t afford it.” He then asked, “Can you loan me fifteen hundred dollars?” I said, “Richard I don’t believe in loaning, or borrowing money. I’ve been burned in the past and things aren’t going that well for me right now either.” I finally said, “I’ll think about it and let you know this afternoon.” All day long I struggled with the idea, he sounded so sad and I loved him so much and wanted to help. I finally called him and said, “David I’ll have to borrow the money from my bank, but if you really need it that badly I’ll get it for you.” He said, “Thanks buddy, but I can get by without it. It just makes me feel better knowing you would do it for me. Thank you for being a true friend.”

Four years later in 1987, Richard called me at work while he was staying at a hotel in San Angelo, Texas. For some reason he seemed vulnerable and wanted to talk. It was then that I told him I was gay and related the 1982 book store incident to him, he totally denied it. He didn’t get mad, or upset, he just said it wasn’t him. I said, “Richard I’ve known you since for almost ten years, how could I not know it was you? Besides I’ve seen you with a beard since then and I know it was you.” He again denied it for the third time and I dropped it. It was during that same conversation that he told me his father was gay and that his parent’s had gone through a nasty divorce. His mother had never gotten over the fact that his dad had moved in with another man and she hated all gays because of it. He said, “Promise me you’ll practice safe sex and take care of yourself my friend, I don’t want to loose you.” I could feel the genuine love and concern in his voice, and I promised him I would. He made me feel special.

It wasn’t until years over ten years later that I would find out from his third wife that Richard had moved in with his father and his lover after his parent’s divorce and that he’d lived with a man twenty years his senior for almost two years after high school in Hobbs, New Mexico.

During the years that followed Richard and I kept in touch mostly by telephone, sometimes while I was at work, other times while I was at home. Once, after I’d gone to bed he called while I was lying there in the dark under the covers, it was cold that night and we talked for over an hour. I wanted so much to believe his voice was coming from the pillow beside me instead of through that Goddamn phone.

Richard began to change jobs so often that sometimes I’d loose track of him, but I had his in-laws phone number and his father-in-law knew me, so he’d always give me a new number for reaching Richard, even after he and Valerie had divorced. It seemed people always had a soft spot in their heart for Richard no matter what.

By September 1988, he and his second wife had divorced. I’d just moved to Dallas and had a very tiny apartment. I got a call from Richard one evening. He said, “I’m between jobs and flat broke, do you think I could get one in Dallas and can you loan me some money?” I reminded him of my feelings about loaning money and I told him to get himself to Dallas even though my place was tiny he could sleep on my sofa. I said, “I’m having a tough time myself right now. I can’t offer you much more than a roof over your head and three square meals a day, but you know I’ll help you anyway I can, get your ass up here right now I need the company.” He was so appreciative I just knew it was a done deal and I was ecstatic at the thought of him living with me. It didn’t matter that he was “straight” I just needed a friend so badly at that moment I didn’t care. I needed someone to share my life with. He called back a two days later to tell me how much he appreciated my offer and what a terrific friend I was, but he’d decided to move to Salt Lake City and live with his mother until he got back on his feet, I was devastated.
Over the next few years I heard from Richard sporadically. I always cherished our conversations, he always made me feel good about myself, and reminded me what a true friend I’d been to him. He could always bring a smile to my face and fill my heart with joy.

In the early nineties he’d gotten another job selling yellow pages in Salt Lake City and remarried for the third time. Then next thing I knew he was living in Enid, Oklahoma and he was selling some kind of stuffed animals to discount stores. I somehow got the idea he was filling those machines where you dropped in a few quarters and used one of those robotic “claw things” to try and snag a silly looking green frog with a heart around its neck that said, “I Love You.”

Richard was never satisfied and was always looking for something better. Soon after that he informed me that he and his wife were moving back to Salt Lake City to start up their own business selling some kind of restaurant discount cards. As always I wished him luck, gave him encouragement and then shook my head in wonder as to how such an intelligent man could never seem to get a handle on life.

In July of 1996, I’d actually been selling yellow pages myself for over four years myself. I got a phone call one day and it was Richard saying he would be flying through Dallas on Southwest Airlines, he had a layover on his flight and he’d let me give him a blow job if I’d let him spend the night at my place. Had I heard him right? I was stunned by what he said, not only by the comment itself, but that the fact that some of our telephone conversations were monitored by managers and having worked for the same company he knew it. I said, “What?” and he only repeated the part about spending the night. I told him it was fine with me, but he needed to be aware that the air conditioning was out in my condo. I had a temporary window unit in the bedroom and we would have to sleep in the same bed the couch wasn’t an option since it was a hundred and ten degrees in the rest of the place. He gave me his arrival time at Love Field. When I picked him up at the airport he offered to take me to Pappadeaux’s on Oak Lawn, which I found strange because he said he couldn’t afford a motel room. We had a nice dinner he had three beers and I had iced tea. We caught up on all that was going on in both our lives and he was proud of the fact that I’d just lost twenty five pounds, stopped drinking in February, and had just had liposuction on my stomach, my neck, and had my eyes done. He as always was optimistic about the future and said his wife was a “great gal”, and that they got along so well, “Because the sex was great.” The only thing that seemed to upset him recently was that they’d gone to his son’s graduation from Marine training and his son had said, “Dad, you’re getting fat.” He insisted on paying for dinner and then we drove to my place. Richard was so complimentary about my condo, my car, my furniture, etc. He said all he and his wife had was junk and second hand stuff. He complimented me on all my recent achievements and my new look. We sat in the bedroom, I on the bed, he in a chair, and talked for two more hours. He told me he had re-connected with his son and daughter from his first marriage and they were great kids and his daughter who reminded him of Jennifer Beal was about to make him a grandfather. He seemed happier and more content than I’d ever seen him in all the years I’d known him. Finally we decided we’d better “hit the sack”. I changed into a pair of sleeping shorts and he put on his own pair and a T-shirt. I got into bed first and before he got in he said,” I don’t want to be rude, but am I going to be safe in this bed?” I patted his side of the bed, grinned and chuckled, “As safe as you wanna be big boy!” He smiled and crawled into bed beside me. I’m positive neither one of us got much sleep that night. The electric current between us filled the darkness and the spaces between us. We lay in bed side by side and talked for over an hour. I told him so many things I’d wanted to tell him over the years, such as how much I’d always loved him, and that I always thought we’d have made such a dynamic couple, but he kept getting married on me. I wanted so badly to reach out to him, pull him to me and kiss him, long and hard. I felt certain in my heart he’d respond to my touch, but what if he didn’t? Or what if he did and he was filled with guilt the next morning? I’d seen a lot of “straight” men react in that way and I didn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize our friendship. All through the night we slept like spoons without touching, I’d turn, he’d turn, or we’d lie back to back. I looked at him in the semi darkness and marvel that after eighteen years, I finally had the man of my dreams in bed next to me. A couple of times our legs touched he didn’t jerk away, but carefully moved his leg, or turned over, and once when we’d actually gone to sleep, or at least I had, I threw my arm over him, but quickly moved it when I remembered it wasn’t just another one night stand in bed with me. The next morning as we were about to leave for the airport we were at the front door and I said, “I want a hug and I know you’ll be too embarrassed to give me one at the airport, so how about now?” He assured me he had no problem hugging me at the airport. I thought it was just his way of skirting an intimacy issue, but his issues were more about affection in private than in public. Sure enough, when we had his bag out of the trunk he reached for me and gave me a great big full body hug. I kissed him on the cheek and whispered “I love you” in his right ear. He squeezed me tighter and said out loud, “I love you too, buddy.”

A month later I received a letter from him thanking me and giving me his new address in Salt Lake City to mail him some sales tapes I’d offered to loan him. It was around May of 1997, when he called me and asked me for the number of a supervisor we both knew who worked for the phone company. I asked, “Why do you want his number?” and he said, “I’m going to tell him you give the best blow jobs in the world.” and then he cracked up laughing. He told me he was thinking about going back to work for the phone company and his business wasn’t doing as well as he thought it should. I told him, “Let me know if there is anything I can do for you. I’d love to see you come back to Texas and let me know what you decide.” I never imagined it would be our last conversation.

On December 26th, 1997, I’d just spent Christmas with my parents in San Angelo and I was getting ready to get in the shower and head for home. I called my home phone to check my messages. A lady who sounded very upset and on the verge of tears said, “Hi Sam, this is Louise, Richard’s wife, I’m calling about Richard, something’s happened, would you please call me?” I panicked, everything in the world went through my mind, was he sick, had he been in an accident, did he leave her? I was hoping he’d left her and was at this very moment on his way back to Texas. I ran to get my address book because I hadn’t written down the phone number. I called her and she answered. I said, “Louise, this is Sam, I’m returning your call about Richard.” She said, “I’m afraid I have some bad news.” Again I thought car wreck, hospital? She went on, “Richard’s dead, I’m sorry I didn’t call sooner, but with the funeral arrangements and all I just forgot until Valerie reminded me that I needed to call you.” I was numb, “Oh God no! What had happened to him?” She then told me he’d shot himself in the head in his office at their house during the night of December 14th. He’d been cremated and there’d been a memorial service for him in Lubbock the week before. I felt weak and nauseated. I told her I had to go, but I’d call her when I got back home. She said, “Good Sam, there are some things I’d like to talk to you about and I know how much you meant to Richard.” I sobbed in the shower where no one could hear me, finished getting ready, and cried most of the drive home maneuvering my beige metallic 1997 Buick Century through the traffic on interstate 20.

In the past year and a half I’d felt that after that night in my bed there’d been a turning point for Richard and me and that it was only a matter of time until we’d wind up together as a couple, just as I’d always wanted.
Now with Richard’s death that dream was gone forever along with so many others. Why hadn’t he called me? I could have cheered him up, I could have talked him out of it. Then I realized I’d had a fire in my condo the day after Thanksgiving and I’d been sleeping on an air mattress on the floor of a friend’s apartment until I got some insurance money to rent another place. Although my telephone still rang when you dialed the number I didn’t have a real phone or an answering machine until after he’d killed himself. The thought that he might have called and gotten no answer will haunt me the rest of my life.

When I called her later that day it was apparent she was looking for answers just as anyone would who’s had a loved one kill themselves. She told me that they’d argued about money and she had stopped speaking to him. He spent that night on the couch and the whole next day they’d ignored one another. That night she said she heard the garage open and Richard drive off in his Jeep. He was back within twenty minutes and she said she could hear beer bottled clinking together. She thought, “Great Richard, that’s the way to handle things get drunk.”

Around 3:00 AM she woke up and he still wasn’t in bed. She thought it was time to stop the silliness and went down to the living room to see if he was still sleeping on the couch. He wasn’t there she figured he’d fallen asleep in his office, so she went to the basement and from the light next to his computer she saw him in his chair, back to her, she thought he’d fallen asleep and then she saw all twelve beer bottles had the labels peeled off them and were neatly lined up on the desk along with envelopes addressed to each of his family members, she made a point of telling me there wasn’t one for me, then she saw the gun lying on the floor. She flipped the overhead light on and saw the small bullet hole in his right temple she said there wasn’t much blood at all it was a twenty caliper. Oh God, that was almost the same spot where I’d kissed him and whispered, “I love you.”

Over the next two months we spoke on the phone often and she seemed very anxious to meet me and insisted that I fly to Salt Lake City so she could. Why did she want to meet me so much? She said, “Richard didn’t believe in insurance, so I don’t have much money, but you can have my daughter’s bedroom when you get here.” I offered to buy some of Richard’s clothes and told her she could just mail them to me, but she was relentless in her idea that I come for a visit, so in March I flew to Salt Lake City. She picked me up at the airport. I’d expected a tall red head with a two hundred dollar hair cut, instead she was a short, slightly plump, bleached blond. I soon found out the reason she so badly wanted to meet me and the questioning began almost the minute we got in her car. She had a lot of questions regarding our relationship over the years and told me she’d read all the saved documents on Richard’s computer including letters to me and that Richard had told her about spending the night and sleeping in the same bed with me that July. “Now why was it exactly that Richard had to sleep in your bed?” and, “Richard told me you said the two of you would make a great couple and that you kissed him at the airport.” I couldn’t imagine Richard telling her all these things. Why for God’s sake would a married man tell his wife shared whispers while lying in bed with another man? I wondered if there really had been a letter for me after all. “Did you and Richard ever have sex?” She asked, ever so sweetly. “No we didn’t.” I answered. The questions went on and on, until I felt like an animal trapped in a cage. Richard’s ashes were in a box on top of the TV and I just wanted to grab them and make a run for it. He belonged to me she didn’t deserve him and she gave me the creeps. She told me that Richard’s father had repeatedly raped his older brother Gary when he was a child and would come home late at night drunk. Telling Gary if he didn’t give in to him he’d just go fuck Richard. Gary said he’d given in to his father to protect Richard. I spoke to Gary later, who is a physiologist in Lubbock, Texas and he told me it was true. Before leaving I bought all of Richard’s suits, shirts, and ties for fifteen hundred dollars, way too much money for them, but I felt sorry for her, she was almost destitute. I had my own selfish reason for buying the clothes, they’d belonged Richard and by wearing them I could feel close to him again. I packed them into the huge empty suitcase I’d brought with me.

Louise and I shared a few more calls, but honestly I was glad to be through with her. Then one day she called me and asked to borrow two hundred dollars to help her pay her rent. I felt resentful since I knew her rent was twelve hundred dollars and mine was only five hundred ninety five and I could barely afford that. I explained to her as I’d explained to Richard years earlier that I didn’t make loans, but I’d send her a check on one of my credit cards if she’d send me Richard’s leather jacket. For some reason she said she couldn’t bear to part with it when I was there in March. She agreed, I sent the check, she never sent the jacket and we had words over it and have never spoken again.

The only photo I have of Richard is the one she used on the memorial cards for his service and that came from his driver’s license. I had all the suit pants taken in Richard had put on a little weight and I wear one of them occasionally. I feel Richard’s arms around me when I do. He favored double breasted suits and I’ve never cared for them. There’s one suit coat with a Halls cough drop in the right pocket, I’ll never take it out.