Sunday, January 18, 2009

Six Random Things

Strangely enough my very good friend Utah Savage wants to know six more random things about me and given that I have absolutely no life and, even worse, no beer on a Saturday night I am more than happy to comply. Word of warning though, I am really rummaging through the dusty bins of my mind for this stuff and I will not be held accountable for what spills out on the page. Here are the rules:

The Rules
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Random Thing One:

My mom and dad had one of those special relationships made in Hell. If ever two people shouldn’t have ever come in contact with each other it was them. The only relationship I can think of that comes close to being as bad was my mom’s second marriage to a guy I will call “Billy”. Mom and Billy met while she was still married to my dad and they had one of those full-fledged affairs that engulfed my siblings and me. Several times mom and Billy decided that they needed a fresh start on life and packed us kids up and drove until the felt that they had ran far enough away from whatever might be chasing them. Our locations ranged from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Fort Smith, Arkansas, Birmingham, Alabama, or something as close to home as Mount Pleasant, South Carolina back before it was overwhelmed by the urban sprawl of Charleston.

But for this little segment I will limit myself to Birmingham, Alabama. Billy’s occupation was building kitchen cabinets, writing bad checks, along with an interest in alcoholism that he and my mom shared. More often than not his preoccupation with alcoholism screwed up any money making gig building cabinets he could find. Never one to rest on his laurels, whenever he was between jobs Billy could write a check for anything we needed, the small matter of having no money in the bank to cover those checks was little concern to him for several years. Those bouncing checks finally did catch up with him and he ended spending two years in prison as a guest of the state of South Carolina. Yes, my mother was still seeing him but that is a whole other story.

But during one of Billy and mom’s epic journeys across the southern United States some word floated to them somehow about a cabinet maker needing people. Billy, actually quite good at woodwork, was hired and we once again settled down in some little town just outside Birmingham. Now their money had run out somewhere in Georgia and they had nothing to even rent a room at a motel. It turned out that one of Billy’s new coworkers had a small cottage behind his house that was unoccupied and he would let us live there until Billy and mom could afford something else.

During this time the ripples of racial integration in the public schools were still bouncing around and something called “White flight” was still happening. In the years after “Brown versus the Board of Education” the good Christian Southern white folk, ever scared that the empowered black man might despoil their precious proto-Southern belles, hurriedly established private schools that only they could afford. So as Billy’s generous new coworkers was showing us the cottage he pointed out that the local school district was completely African-American and that his kids went to a nearby white Christian school so they could properly learn how the world was really created in six days. Okay, I greatly paraphrased what he actually said but what he did say was so offensive I’ll just let y’all figure it out.

Now I must admit to some outright fear at my two brothers and I going to an all African-American school, after all I was child of the South being fed the normal racial stereotypes. My youngest sibling, my sister, was not yet old enough for even kindergarten. Early the very next Monday morning mom brought us to the school and began filling out the required paperwork as my brothers and I sat in the office lobby. I could already tell we were making a huge impact with the stares we were receiving through the office window facing the hallway. After what seemed like several hours my mom left and my brothers and I were sent to our respective classrooms.

Please forgive me but my little story is ultimately anticlimactic. Far from having any racial troubles at that school my brothers and I were huge hits becoming something of celebrities. A great many of the details escape me, such as the name of that school, the exact time we spent enrolled there, and a great many of the names of the people that became my friends there. But I will write that the entire time there we were treated with respect and kindness. Many others would do well to experience what my brothers and I went through at that school.

As usual Billy and mom’s relationship either blew up or Billy began drinking again just a few months later. Either way it forced us to leave that school with mom leaving Billy and returning to our father who was living in Wichita Falls, Texas. Confused about the mom, dad, Billy relationship? Just think how I feel.

Random Thing Two:

South Carolina started its lottery a few years ago and while I do not spend much money on it as compared to some I do occasionally waste a dollar or two from time to time. Back in May of 2003 I returned to work for a local manufacturing plant that early 2002 had laid me off when the telecommunications bubble popped causing a minor recession. It took me about three weeks after returning to this employer to realize that I had screwed the pooch coming back. The entire nature of how middle and upper management treated their employees had changed and my coworkers, upset that I had been called back ahead of others with more seniority, were none too happy to see me return.

Finding myself working both mechanical and electrical maintenance alone during the 11:00pm to 7:00am shift without a complete grasp on all the equipment I had responsibility for I truly felt that I was not only up a creek without a paddle but heading straight for a large waterfall.

The employer I worked for after being laid off in 2002 repaired X-ray equipment at a different hospital than I work at now. They were great people and treated me well but for several reasons couldn’t match what I had been making at the manufacturing plant. So when the manufacturing plant called me back I jumped at the chance leaving the X-ray people behind. Three weeks later I called them back literally begging for a chance to return. As usual my luck stayed the same with them having filled my position with an experienced technician. Being screwed I had to dig my heels in and make the best of the job I had despite the circumstances.

One of my avenues to relieve the stress was that once a week I would buy a lottery ticket consisting of two separate sets of numbers that covered the two drawings that were held each week. When my first line supervisor would come in at 6:00am I would joke with him that if he ever came in the next morning and I was missing from the plant he should assume that my numbers hit the night before. He would laugh when I told him once I checked the numbers finding out I won, I would simply walk out without saying anything to anybody. My first line boss understood how I felt and he wasn’t happy either with the way things were going with the company. So he had no issue with my “little jokes” although for once I had enough sense not to tell anyone else.

I played the same two sets of numbers for a good long while using the same number slip in which you colored in the numbers with a pencil then ran it through a machine that prints out the actual ticket. At some point I lost that particular slip and not ever really believing I would win filled out another picking different numbers.

By early 2005 much had changed for the better at that job, although there were still several issues that were never resolved. Through long hours of toll and sweat I learned most of the equipment in the plant and as business continued to improve eventually they hired another guy to work with me on the night shift. And I had long since stopped playing the lottery on a regular basis and when I did I almost always played different numbers.

One quiet night at work that same year as I surfed the company supplied internet by chance I drifted over to the South Carolina lottery web site to check the numbers. Much to my surprise I noticed the numbers drawn that night bore a strong familiarity. Yes, while I can’t be completely sure since I didn’t keep old lottery tickets and the number slip had long since itself been lost I’m still pretty sure one set of numbers I had played for so long had hit. No, I never told my wife, she wouldn’t believe me and this is the first time I have ever made any mention about the whole subject.

Random Thing Three:

This one little piece of information so totally freaks out both my wife and in-laws that their strong reaction to my opinion actually surprises me. They are completely enamored with the idea of owning a large house, letting the value of that house increase, and then at some point selling it and moving into another bigger house. Talking with them to the best of my understanding a house to them is nothing but an investment, an item that holds no other value that the resell price, and a place to store the stuff you buy.

The way I look at the subject is completely different. I look at the lemming-like behavior of constantly going deeper into debt for a bigger house something akin to willingly entering a 21st century serfdom. I see no great advantage to having a bigger house just to go even deeper in debt buying more stuff on credit so you can fill that one up requiring an even bigger house once you have ran out of room again. Where in my wife and in-laws come into this is that I often speak of downsizing even to the point of living in some sort of camper trailer so I could return to the coast. Of course my wife will chime in saying that if I ever did do such a thing she would not be with me. That is when I tell her I didn’t say anything about her coming in the first place. Stay tuned on that one, there may be more down the road.

Random Thing Four:

As much as it may surprise some I dated a married lady for a short time while I was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. One of my friends, Brian Summers, received the greater portion of his enlistment bonus at some point and wanted to buy a motorcycle with it. Brian had no other means of transportation so he asked me to drive him around so he could shop for one at the various dealerships. He finally found one he liked and started the paperwork with the finance lady. While Brian drifted back over to his new two wheeled lover I returned to the waiting area which was right next the desk of the finance lady. Mind you this is way before the internet and even before computers because I remember the lady working on an actual typewriter. With the approval process taking up so much time she and I began to talk and found that we both had several things in common. The lady’s name was Annette; she was in her early thirties, blond with a nice build and pretty face. Being honest here when she told me that she was married I did change gears on the conversation going from actively interested, to just friendly. Finally Brian shows up having done everything he needed to do and wanting to head out for pizza and beer that he had to buy since I drove him around.

A week or so later we head back to the motorcycle dealership so he can take procession of the bike. Annette was there and after Brian rides off looking far more goofy than cool in my opinion she comes over and asked if I wanted to get a bite to eat.

Yes, had I any decency I would have turned her down but I was in my twenties, she was downright hot, and I hadn’t had a date in a good while. So I was mortal, got in her car and we went out to a nearby deli. It was there I learned that her husband was a soldier and stationed in Korea. He had been there for six months and after a huge fight in which he admitted to Annette of doing something he shouldn’t with someone, along with getting emotionally attached with that someone, they had not talked for three months. Our conversation drifted for a good while until she brought me back to my car. I saw her again three more times until she called one day to tell me we shouldn’t see each other anymore. She had heard from her husband and wanted to work things out with him. I agreed, and never saw her again.

Random Thing Five:

We have had our new dog Sparky for several months now and I must admit to one bad thing. Please understand that I wouldn’t take anything for him and that he is a member of my family but Sparky is a hassle in that any activity we plan must work around him. I almost talked Dragonwife into going on a weekend trip to Charleston a few weeks ago with the whole plan falling apart because we had no one to take care of the dog. A kennel would have added a whole new expense that far exceeded the budget for the trip and we have no one that could have come to the house to take care of him. So we stayed home and instead my daughter and I just ended up walking him at one of the parks. Go ahead and shoot me I’m a terrible person, I know.

Random Thing Six:

Most everyone who has been a steady reader of my posts know that three members of my family passed away last year, my grandmother, my mother, and the man I called Uncle Paul in my posts. Never being someone who worries about such things I did come up with plans for my own passing. It has been arranged that when I do join the celestial reggae band in the sky I am to be cremated with my ashes spread over the marsh at Pawleys Island. Screw that expensive casket crap and other stuff. For anyone from Georgetown County that does stumble across my sad words hopefully far down the road just think, that grit you wash out of that flounder or shrimp you caught in the creek between the island and the mainland might be this Parrothead. This circle of life shit rocks, later y’all its late and I’m going to bed.

Okay, y'all saddle up and go random:





C. Rag



Utah Savage said...

Wow, you did it again. This is all great material and you have several stories here.

Is the story you're entering in a contest posted anywhere? Good luck.

I'm edgy and nervous. I'm making deep cuts into the novel. It is a monster at the moment. But each time I read it I see the things that might work better as short stories.

Ghost Dansing said...

i saw your comment over on Utah's blog about your writing.... don't worry so much.... just do.

Randal Graves said...

Yeah, I don't think I'd classify these as 'random things,' because there's some weight in these and as utah, said, definitely some stories.

Dusty said...

You are one fine writer dude!!!

I enjoyed this. ;)

Jessica said...

Only you could take a list of "random things" and give us great stories! Thanks again!

lime said...

very interesting little stories there. may i say i agree on the housing issue. i was perfectly content in the small duplex we had. made sense to stay there. we could afford it and it was perfectly adequate and we had nice neighbors. nooooo, had to move to this big place we can't afford. irks the living crap out of me every time the bills come and we have to figure out how to pay them.


You are an amazing story teller, Beach.

Enjoyed reading every bit of these 6 random things.


Beach Bum said...

Utah: As I was writing this stuff I could have put a whole lot of more detail. My mom's travels had a sorts of crazy stuff going on like the one might spent at a rest stop in Texas, a place that wasn't meant for overnight stays, in which she had a long and very audible( to all around her) conversation with God.

The story I sent to South Carolina Fiction Project doesn't release the stories until July when they announce the winners. I'll post the link whether or not (far more likely not)I get anywhere with it.

Writing a novel is still something that to me seems like building the pyramids, a very large and hard job. I've read a good bit of Maggy and will read more but what I have read is very in depth but yet readable. It is a remarkable work that I will buy when you get it published.

Ghost Dansing: Yeah, took the day off from work but yet had the usual stuff prevent me from getting much writing done. When I finally did sit down and write some I did most of my editing on the short story that will simply not allow me to finish. On notes I had it done and everything was going fine until I got to the last sentence. After that it hung up yet again and I'm once again trying to figure out a closing sentence.

Randal: The one part I will explore further was the time I was at the all African-American school. But because I have forgotten so many of the details I will have to overly fictionalize it while remaining true to the intent. It was really a special place and it opened my eyes to how other people lived.

Dusty and Jessica: Thank you so much! I just wish I had some beer while writing it. No telling what else I would have put down.

Lime: AMEN! I would be so happy living in a smaller place where more money could go to such things like the kid's college funds, and retirement 401k's. If there is one factor that my wife and I can't seem to resolve its her need for a bigger house. Another reason I would like to downsize even now from the house we live in now is I'm not certain the worst economic stuff is behind us. I would be far more comfortable with some more wiggle room as far as money is concerned.

Hill: Almost put another army story in about my time in West Germany in 1987. But will save that one for a later date.

oo7 said...

wow dude...
that was so interesting..

u tagged me..
well someday i will write but not immediately..someday for sure..soo pretty soon


take care buddy

oo7 said...

and till i tell u i read this post twice... :D

hugs bro

oo7 said...

add me here

Beach Bum said...

oo7: Take your time with the tag. I know how things are with work, school, and other issues.

Distributorcap said...

you really do tell a great story --- and have a wealth of experience.......

Beach Bum said...

DCap: I talked with my brother over my first random thing in this post to try and remember more about it. A real short story out of that episode is possible.

Naj said...

I am bored tonight ... but i am glad I stumbled across this, I really enjoyed this ... already curious to read more of your work :)

Anonymous said...

Great writting....
thanks for sharing this...

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