Thursday, April 29, 2010

No Free Lunch

My checkbook was in the back seat of Trauma Car when I got arrested. It definitely wasn't in the car after Steve got me out of jail. Maybe I left it at home.

The checkbook didn't turn up after a thorough search of my apartment. I figured I must have lost it and called the bank. Several checks had been cashed--each for several hundred dollars--at locations in and around Salyersville. Oh no!

Went to the bank to sign an affidavit saying I didn't write the checks. They believed me. Even though it was printed on the check, the thief spelled my name wrong on the signature line. Dumb ass.

When I called the Kentucky State Police about my checkbook being stolen during my arrest, they wanted me to come to the Pikeville post to sign a complaint. I'd heard stories about mountain police. Couldn't I just go to Frankfort? Nope.

To get to Pikeville required driving through Salyersville in my pumpkin-orange Fiesta. I figured my chances of making it back home without getting arrested and beat-up--or worse--were slim to none. Never mind.

Ran out to the Hilton to find out why I'd been fired. Turns out, Dave had mentioned my unfortunate incarceration to Jeff, the dining room manager. Jeff, a poor listener and a bit of a drama queen, thought I was still in jail somewhere in the mountains.

While I danced at the gay bar in Huntington, Jeff and the hotel General Manager called every jail in Eastern Kentucky trying to find me. Did I have any idea how upset they were? Since they couldn't find me I must have lied. Did I have any idea how that made them feel? After we talked they changed my termination to a suspension. Even then good help was hard to find.

Shortly after I got the window repaired, Steve decided to make a surprise visit to Lexington. Trauma Car was in the parking lot behind my apartment. I was nowhere to be found. Since the bars had closed an hour or two earlier, Steve jumped to certain conclusions. He opened the hood and slashed random cables and wires.

I never drove Trauma Car again. It sat in the apartment parking lot for probably two years. I finally placed an ad hoping to sell it so I wouldn't have to pay someone to tow it off for scrap. A very nice older man bought it for $500 and paid to have it towed to a garage for repairs. I suspect he thought I needed the money.

A year or two later I finally got another car--a 1976 Chevy Impala with bench seats that slept six people comfortably. When I called my Uncle the insurance agent about a policy, he said he couldn't insure a driver without a license. Huh?

My license had been suspended for more than two years for failure to appear in court. They issued a bench warrant for my arrest. I called the judge. Believe it or not, he did not remember me or any conversation we may have had about fixing any tickets.

It cost a fortune to get my license back. Throw in the extra premiums I had to pay for years because of the suspended license and it ended up being a very expensive weekend. Even so, thirty years later, I'm inclined to believe it was worth every penny.

[NOTE: This is the seventh installment in a series starting with Remembering Trauma Car.]

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Blue Moon in Kentucky

The two-lane mountain road was deserted. Steve always drove when we were in his neck of the woods. We pulled over and parked in an open spot with a good view of the night sky.

Trauma Car mostly blocked one lane on the curvy road. We figured we'd hear a car coming in plenty of time to move out of the way. Since the door handles had long since broken off we climbed over the back seat and out the hatchback.

Steve believed sitting in the middle of the road should be done in the buff. We threw our clothes in the back of Trauma Car and sat facing each other on the double yellow line drinking Asti, smoking cigarettes and talking. Honest...that's all...get your mind out of the gutter!

The unmistakable sound of a car approaching urged us to action. We ran to the car, dove through the hatchback and climbed over the back seat. Steve turned the key and Trauma Car wouldn't start. Uh oh.

Still naked, I climbed back over the seat and out the hatchback to push the car so Steve could pop the clutch. After it started, I dove through the hatchback and climbed back to my seat. We were on our way with only seconds to spare.

About ten minutes later we drove over a pothole in heavy traffic in downtown Paintsville. The battery hit the hood. The lights went dark and Trauma Car rolled to a stop. Honking started immediately--only this time, we're both naked.

There was only one option. I mooned half the population of Paintsville as I climbed over the back seat. Somehow, I managed to slide into gym shorts before emerging from the hatchback to push the car so Steve could pop the clutch.

I steered while Steve got dressed. We decided to stop at the Dairy Barn for a snack. Somebody locked the keys in the car. I wasn't driving so I hardly see how it could have been me or my fault in anyway. Just saying.

The keys were in the ignition. We needed them to open the hatchback to get back in the car. Perhaps I could hook them with a coat hanger.

It didn't take nearly as long as expected to retrieve the keys. The kind people at the Dairy Barn gave me a coat hanger. I straightened it out and started feeding it through the passenger side window. Seconds later the window exploded into a billion little fragments. Problem solved.

I smiled all the way back to Lexington. Even the rain coming through the plastic taped over the passenger side window wasn't enough to wipe the smile from my face. Ignorance is bliss. Had I know what was coming as a result of this one weekend...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

When It Rains, It Pours...

Ronnie ended up walking a good part of the way back to Martin. Sara drove along beside him for all but the last few miles calling him all kinds of names and demanding he get his sorry ass back in the car. Ronnie refused, insisting he'd kill her if he did. Steve and I believed him. It was a long night.

By the time we got to Sara's trailer the sun was coming up. Anxious to exit before Ronnie got home, we jumped in Trauma Car and headed to Steve's house to get some sleep. The coat hangar and whatever else was keeping the exhaust system attached gave it up within sight of Steve's house. We were too tired to care.

Woke up knowing the drive back to Lexington was impossible without a new exhaust system. Had to wait until Monday to find a mechanic, and another day or two until the car was fixed. Maybe by then I'd figure out how to pay for it.

In the meantime I had to let somebody at the Hilton know I was going to miss a few shifts from my job waiting tables at Todd's. Took a while to reach anyone. Finally, Dave answered--the bar-back who came in early to set up for the evening.

I asked Dave to let the boss know I was stuck in Martin and couldn't get back for my next shift. He said he would and asked if I was having a good time. I said it had been a crazy weekend and mentioned spending a night in jail.

Since I was stuck in the area anyway, Steve's Mom took me to see the judge in Salyersville about my night in jail. We went to his house. I was terrified. She just barged in, explained it was all just a horrible mistake and asked if he could just make it all go away. He said sure. Those mountain people sure are nice!

I was scheduled off Monday. When I called to let the Hilton know I'd miss Tuesday, too, I found out they had fired me. That simplified things dramatically. Got the car back and decided to stay one more night. We picked up a couple of bottles of Asti Spumanti because we thought it was classy and headed out.

To be continued...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

July 4, 1980 (Give or Take a Year)

When we left Camden Park it was still too early to head back to Martin. Sara suggested we go dancing at Huntington's one and only gay bar. The rest of us were much less enthusiastic about the idea.

Steve was a bit of a player and often went to Huntington on the weekends we weren't together. He didn't have money, a job, or a car and lived with his parents. I suppose he depended on the kindness of strangers. Gorgeous was about all he had going for him. It was enough for me. Apparently it was also enough for another half dozen guys in as many states.

Anyway, Sara was the only member of our little foursome excited about going to the gay bar. As a straight man Ronnie had his concerns. Steve and I, each for our own reasons, worried about who we would run into and what it might mean.

I don't remember the name of the gay bar in Huntington. It was out in the middle of nowhere in a nondescript concrete-block structure surrounded by a gravel parking lot. You couldn't just walk in. You knocked and a little door at eye-level would open. If you looked OK, they let you in.

Inside there was a dance floor, a couple of bars, a DJ booth, and a stage for drag shows. Huntington had some of the best drag performers I've seen, before or since. The drag queens would do a few numbers then the DJ would play music for dancing.

Going to a gay bar affects people different ways. Straight women tend to let their hair down, kick off their heels and dance with wild and reckless abandon. Straight men cling to their date all night and look uncomfortable on or off the dance floor. You can tell they have suddenly realized what we've always known: straight guys can't dance.

Some make-out with their woman on the dance floor so everyone will know they are a real man and not one of the gay boys. Making out on the dance floor wasn't going to do it for Ronnie. Nope. He wanted to bump uglies with Sara in a stall in the men's room.

Sara was drunk enough to give it a shot. But between her size, the space available in the stall, the skin-tight jeans they and everybody else wore at the time, and Ronnie's inability to manage all of the above it wasn't going to happen.

Ronnie, however, was drunk and determined to accomplish his goal. Sara went along until she got an ugly scrape on her back from the toilet paper holder and called it quits. When Ronnie wouldn't take no for an answer, Sara kneed him in his man-parts and returned to the dance floor.

Ronnie and Sara fought all the way back to Martin. Steve and I sat in the back seat and tried to mind our own business. It got ugly a few times. We pretended like we were asleep and prayed they wouldn't wreck the car.

It was a weekend I will never forget. Over time Ronnie got more and more violent. Sara eventually kicked him out of the double-wide, divorced him, and became a lesbian. I wonder where she is now...

Monday, April 19, 2010

More April Flowers

The middle of April is beautiful in Athens. Most days it's sunny, and warm enough for shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops but not so hot you need to close the windows and turn on the A/C. The flowering trees and shrubs--especially the azaleas--are spectacular.

Many locals consider planting the lowly azalea to be a waste of valuable garden space. Not me. I think azaleas are the most gorgeous shrub on the planet and add a few more every year. In this picture are four different varieties in bloom with candytuft--a shrubby, white-flowering groundcover. As always, click on any picture for a larger version.
If azaleas are the most beautiful shrub in town, then clematis is the queen of the climbing vines. I started out with six named varieties years ago, and was amazed when they produced seedlings all over the garden. Here several different varieties climb a dogwood trunk behind a large grouping of bright pink Rutherford azaleas.
Another favorite shrub, Kolkwitzia amabilis (Beauty Bush) is covered with fragrant pink bell-shaped flowers. The Knock-out roses next to it are just starting to bloom. I added some red verbena a few weeks ago. You can see the Rutherford azaleas in the distant background.
I planted California Poppies in the garden several years ago. They must like cold winters because this year they came up everywhere. They're just starting to bloom and a tad hard to photograph since the flowers only open on sunny days.
And that's what's happening in my garden this week. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Camden Park

This story picks up where Trauma Car: The Legend Continues left off.
The tailpipe was still dragging on my pumpkin-orange 1978 Ford Fiesta (aka Trauma Car). I needed the car for the 125 miles back to Lexington and didn't want to drive it to Huntington. Steve didn't have a car. We decided to drop by to see Sara, his (married) best friend from high school.

Sara and Ronnie rented a double-wide in a trailer park between Prestonsburg and Martin. Sara was a cheerleader/wild child in high school. Ronnie was the high school bad boy--hot, a little rough and just a tad scary. Sara and Ronnie had no plans and a full tank of gas. Within the hour we were loaded up and on the way to Camden Park.

Thirty years ago Camden Park resembled a traveling carnival or county fair more than an amusement park. There was a small roller coaster and maybe a log plume but the rest of the rides were portable. The park was packed because of great weather, the holiday, and the promise of a big-name entertainer.

I don't mean to be unkind but this was one homely bunch of people. Everyone in the park wore blue jeans and too-tight white or black t-shirts featuring a Harley Davidson logo, liquor, a rebel flag, or some rock or country band. Many were the nearly transparent three-for-ten-dollar variety.

Out of nowhere the sky opened up. Rain came down in solid sheets for a good ten or fifteen minutes. There was no shelter anywhere. Getting soaked to the skin rarely improves one's appearance. Once-white t-shirts turned transparent. The images still haunt me.

We headed to the amphitheater to catch the big-name entertainer. We had great seats, close enough to reach out and touch anyone on stage. The excitement was palpable. Suddenly he was standing right in front of us. We were just yards away from big-name entertainer...Freddie Fender.

It was the saddest performance I've ever seen. The first thing he did was turn around and shake his middle-aged booty. We gave up our front-row seats after the first song and returned to the park.

We opted not to stay for the fireworks and left. After all, we were in the big city. The night was still young, and so were we.

To be continued...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Trauma Car...The Legend Continues

I dated a guy from Eastern Kentucky when I had Trauma Car. Steve moved back home for financial reasons a couple of months after we met, to Martin, KY (population 800). Given the state of our finances and the 125 miles between Lexington and Martin, we decided to call it quits.

We did stay in touch--by phone--before unlimited long distance plans or e-mail. I was in love, or so I thought. Steve was lonely, bored and without a car. Trauma Car was mostly intact and running on all four cylinders. I offered to drive to Martin. Took 2 1/2 hours, a tank of gas, and $1.20 for the tolls. That was the first of many, many trips to Eastern Kentucky.

There wasn't much to do in Martin. Mostly we drove around--to Prestonsburg, around the lake at Jenny Wiley State Park, or maybe to Paintsville, Pikeville or even Huntington. When you got where you were going you went someplace else.

Late one Friday night I headed to Martin after work. We planned to go to Camden Park in Huntington the next day for the Fourth of July festivities. Camden Park always had a "big-name" entertainer on holidays and the best fireworks in the area.

Trauma Car didn't cooperate. The exhaust system fell off before I even got out of Lexington. I got second degree burns on one hand holding the tailpipe up so I could wire it back in place with a coat hanger. Brilliant!

Feeling quite proud of my ingenuity and more than a little festive, I picked up a 12-pack and continued to Martin. The tailpipe slipped loose before the first toll. Too late to turn back now. Might as well have another beer.

Dragging that tailpipe from Lexington did not improve engine efficiency or gas mileage. It did, however, provide a nonstop fireworks display in the rear-view mirror from the sparks as the tailpipe bounced off the pavement. By the time I got to Salyersville I was almost out of gas and more than a little buzzed.

Stopping for gas landed me in the Magoffin County jail. I used my one phone call at 3 a.m. to call Steve. His dad answered and said Steve had gone out earlier and wasn't home. Huh? Any message, he asked? Oh yeah--I had several messages for him but just said, "sure, when he gets home tell him I'm in the Magoffin County jail." He laughed.

Steve got me out of jail early the next morning. We got Trauma Car back and headed for a Fourth of July picnic with his large extended family. As the last to arrive we parked in the back of the field and headed toward the family, already enjoying fried chicken on picnic tables set up all over the yard. I was touched when upon seeing us, they all waved. I smiled and waved back. They got up from their seats to welcome us. Those mountain people sure are friendly!

Then I noticed several of them were waving with both arms. Note to self: next time your tail pipe is dragging, don't park in dry grass. As the waving became frantic I finally heard what they were yelling: The grass under your car is on fire!!!

Talk about making an entrance. We put the fire out and moved the car. I got cleaned up and ate enough down-home country cooking for three people. Then we headed to Huntington.

To be continued...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Remembering Trauma Car

I am not a car person. Never have been. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than Trauma Car--a pumpkin-orange 1978 Ford Fiesta with a brown scorpion decal across the top and on the hood. That's right--a scorpion, positioned to sting anyone who dared sit in the drivers seat.

I should have known better. My friends never let me forget I traded a 1974 Cutlass Supreme for Trauma Car. Why? Better fuel efficiency.

The dealer added A/C at my request when I bought the car. Months later I finally had an occasion to open the hood. Just below the windshield where you couldn't miss it was a large sign: Not Equipped to Handle Air Conditioning. Ooops.

My beautiful, two-door, red Cutlass had a V-8 engine, bench seats and an 8-track player with speakers in the back. Nice. Trauma car boasted 4-cylinders and a factory AM/FM radio with one tinny speaker. It quit picking anything up after the antenna broke at the base in a car wash a few weeks after I got it. Damn.

Trauma Car was designed for a battery with side terminals. Someone installed a battery with terminals on the top. It wasn't me, I swear. Drive over a bump fast enough for the battery to bounce and the posts would come in contact with the hood, shorting out the entire electrical system. Sounds obvious, but it was years before a wise mechanic figured out the cause of the problem.

Consequently, Trauma Car just died in traffic all the time. To make matters worse, once the engine had warmed up enough to trip the cooling fan, it wouldn't restart with the key until it cooled off enough to avoid tripping the fan. Depending on the weather, this could take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.

Fortunately, Trauma Car had a stick shift. Stick your foot out the door, get the car rolling, pop the clutch and you were on your way. Great, until opening the car door became a challenge. When the inside handles broke off, I rolled down the window and used the outside handles. Then they broke off, too, along with the handles to roll down the windows. Finally the only way in and out of the car was through the hatchback. Convenient.

My roommate, Linda, and I took my mother and my godmother out for drinks one evening. Several hours and too many cocktails later, we were on our way home when I hit a bump and Trauma Car died. Linda had a cast up to her knee and was unable to pop the clutch. The matrons, snickering and giggling in the back seat, were too trashed to get out to help. Linda finally hobbled out to push so I could pop the clutch.

One hot summer afternoon I was driving through the campus of the University of Kentucky. As I turned left from Euclid Avenue onto Rose Street, the battery arced out yet again smack dab in the middle of the intersection in 5:00 traffic. Honking started immediately.

As I prepared to lunge over the seat to the hatchback, a group of shirtless, sweaty University of Kentucky football players came running by. I hollered as loud as I could through the little tilt-out vent window. "Excuse me! Could you boys give me a push?" They did. I popped the clutch and drove off, yelling "Thank you!" through the little vent window hoping they could hear me.

I could write a book about my adventures in Trauma Car. Just thinking about them makes me laugh. More than a few are not fit for public consumption. Perhaps when I have nothing to lose in the telling, I'll write about them, too. But until then, I will remain...

The Crotchety Old Man

Saturday, April 3, 2010

April Flowers

Forgive me for yet another garden post. Right now everything is growing so fast you can see a difference from one day to the next. Things will slow down soon enough and I'll write about something else.

Until then you might get sick of reading about the garden. Especially the first few weeks of the season, each and every variety in bloom is a favorite. Later it takes more to get my attention.

No garden is complete without the "bulb of the week", Ipheion uniflorum, better known as spring starflowers (below). Several clumps drifted over from the neighbor's yard. They do well in dry shade where little else will grow. [Click on any pic to make it bigger.)
Dicentra spectabilis (aka bleeding hearts) is one of my most favorite plants and the "flower of the week". Beautiful heart-shaped flowers dangle from long stems for many weeks this time of year. Mine are just starting to bloom and will likely show up here again when they reach full bloom in a few weeks.
I use a lot of annuals. Since you need new ones every year anyway, they make it easy to change things up. This weekend the front edge of this border welcomed several flats of pink begonias and red dianthus (below). I'm on a red binge this year for some reason.
Now we need some April showers. If not, reckon I'll be watering. A yard full of dead flowers for the Derby Party would turn anyone into...

The Crotchety Old Man

Friday, April 2, 2010

That Time of Year...Again

Our third annual Derby Party is just four weeks away. I'll be fine once the party starts. Between now and then I will very likely have a meltdown or two and stay in a steady state of panic wondering how we'll ever get everything done.

We will. We always do. But until then, I'll worry. I could just re-post my post from this time last year, but what's the fun in that?

This year, just to keep it interesting, we also set a goal to complete a hefty number of room makeovers before the party. Motivated by Clean House, each room makeover has included a massive purge. We're trying to get the house ready to sell.

Four of the five rooms have been painted a lovely shade of white. The fifth room is piled high with purged items from the other four rooms. The pile now extends into the living room and clearly wants to hook-up with the pile in our garage.

The mountains of crap have to go before the party. Don't want our friends thinking we're hoarders. What would Niecy and the gang from Clean House do? They'd have a garage sale.

And so shall we. Next Saturday. Sure could use the Clean House gang around here this week to help us get ready.

This is also the last weekend to plant. If I wait, new arrivals look like they were planted the day before the party. I hit the garden center circuit earlier today and filled my car up with stuff I need to plant this weekend.

We'll get it done. We will. It's the kind of thing that makes me...

The Crotchety Old Man
Follow CrotchetyMan on Twitter