Monday, October 27, 2008

My life in tucks

I had a long drive to a job last week and it allowed me time to think. We were cleaning up an old farm and to make the job go faster I put my old truck back on the road. Steph was driving it, following me to the job, and I was looking at the battered, dented 90 GMC in the mirror and my mind drifted.

The old guy who owned the farm never got rid of anything. We were pulling rusted horse drawn plows and 1920's model truck frames out of the woods. Every vehicle he had ever owned was sitting on the property. And looking at it you could see a progression of the mans life. He started with horse drawn plows and moved to tractors then started driving Lincoln Towncar’s in 1969 as he made more money up until he was put in a nursing home when he owned a 1995 Towncar.

My wondering mind went to the stages of my life and my trucks. I have owned four trucks in my life so far. The first was a little 1983 Mazda B2000. It represented realizing a dream. Since I started driving I wanted a pickup and finally I had one. It was small and noisy and I loved it. It was the first truck my son ever rode in. My ex-wife drove it and seized the engine because she didn’t check the oil like I told her. I kept it for 3 years after that and finally sold it to a man who could fix it. I didn’t have time or finances to put another engine in it.

After a bad wreck in 2000 I bought my first real truck - The WarWagon. The 1990 GMC was my first step to financial independence. I started a business, and put the truck to work. I put a camper shell on it and an over the camper ladder rack and went to work doing home repairs. It hauled lumber and tools for two years until I hit the lowest point of my life.

My wife left me, my business failed, the injuries from the wreck started causing me intolerable pain, I was diagnosed a bipolar and put on the wrong medication that had severe side effects, I lost everything I owned, and wound up living in my truck. It represented my only lifeline, my security, my shelter, my home. With a twin sized box spring and mattress, a 5 gallon water cooler, an ice chest, and a little tv, I spent two years surviving. I applied for disability and was denied - it was a fight that would go on till January of 2007. I could have moved back to TN to live with my parents but I didn’t want to leave my three children behind. At least In NC I could visit them. I read library books by the dozen to fight the boredom. I refused to go to a shelter. The WarWagon was my home and as I found out was more faithful than my ex had ever been.

During that two years I learned who my true friends are. I learned my limitations. I found a love of writing. I made new friends. I propped myself up on my cane and learned to fight the odds.

Finally, I got an apartment through a government grant. I wasn’t happy with taking the handout, but I had no pride left. It took me fifteen minutes to move in. I had nothing but the contents of my truck.

I took the camper shell off and began driving around town collecting what scrap metal I could find on the curb on trash days. The truck represented standing on my wobbly feet again. I started making some money and bought a prepaid cell phone. And I drove around looking in yards and leaving notes on doors about hauling off scrap metal and old cars. I bought an old laptop computer and started putting my thoughts and ideas down. I wrote two books that need work and may one day find a publisher.

Finally in 2007 I got the best news since the birth of my children. I was approved for partial disability and I got back pay. I found a piece of land I could afford on my disability payments. I retired The WarWagon and bought the Suburban. It represented comfort and stability.

I met my girlfriend, she moved in with me, and we started working together. The work caused pain but made me feel alive again.

I bought an 84 Chevy S-10 from my brother. He was restoring the truck when I bought it and I haven’t managed to make much more progress that he did. It has sat for a year in the barn untouched. It represents the future. Plans that are unrealized. It sits and taunts me when I see it. It reminds me of all the things I have let slip through the cracks.

And then I was looking in the mirror again. My old truck, my girlfriend coming along behind me. It represented happiness. It represented life. It represented rebuilding. It represented striving for independence. But most of all my trucks represent moving forward - no matter what the obstacle.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Dirty words

A few days ago I got an email from a girl I went to high school with. Just out of the blue this gal who I remembered as being a sweet, funny, cute gal sent me an email with the worst kind of foul language in it. I was shocked. I had never heard her use such language. I am here to tell you I was dismayed. She used such language that I am afraid to even repeat it. She said the ugly “t -r” phrase. She said it was time, please forgive me, and if you have delicate ears turn away now, it was time for the “Twentieth Reunion” Of course then she had to get really nasty and remind me that I was the oldest one in the class.

Well, after I picked myself up off the floor I got to thinking. It can’t have been 20 years. Why only yesterday it was 1989 and I was a fresh high school graduate with a 1972 Pontiac Bonneville.

Yesterday, well, maybe a few yesterdays ago. Back when the internet was in its infancy and CD’s were modern technology. Back when my old pickup hadn’t even been built yet. Granny boots were fashionable. Flipped up collars were cool. The Fresh Prince was still in Philadelphia. Portable computers weighed 80 pounds. Boom-boxes were huge shoulder carried monsters. Portable CD players were super expensive. Digital applied to watches not televisions. Home computers had less memory than my cell phone does now. And speaking of cell phones they were the size of our
metal lunchboxes and were carried around in bags. Russia was still the enemy.

1989, just yesterday.

I went to a small school. In my graduating class there were only 7 of us, and I was the only guy. Don’t get me wrong there were advantages of being the only guy. I got to lift all the heavy things, kill all the creepy things, and dispose of all the disgusting things. But the 7 of us were fairly close as you could imagine. We talked of all kinds of subjects that a larger class would have probably prevented. And since most of us went to church together we saw each other seven days a week. ( There was usually a church activity on Saturdays.)

It is funny that as close as we were then, that most of us have drifted off and have not seen each other much since graduation. We got married, went to college, got jobs, or some other endeavor that pulled us away from our little group. In the intervening time we grew apart.

Some got as far away from Springfield, TN as hundreds of miles, and a some never left. And now we have drifted, ebbed and flowed, traipsed, lollygagged, sidetracked, hobbled, wobbled, and somehow made it 20 years into the future. Yesterdays future.

1989’s future.

But, I still cant believe she said those dirty words to me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Monday last week a I was sitting at a redlight minding my own business. I was driving my bright red Chevy Suburban and pulling a 30 foot flatbed trailer when a kid with his head stuck up his butt plowed into the trailer. (Ouch my poor back just what it needed was more trauma) This thing pulled straight as an arrow at 80 mph before the wreck with a ton of weight on it. Now I cant get up to 55 with a small car on it without the trailer trying to pass me on the left.

The insurance company sent an adjuster out this morning and he said, " it cant be bent unless the welds are broken, and the welds are fine."

It took all my self control to not beat the guy with my cane. I asked him if he actually meant you couldnt bend a piece of steel without breaking a weld. He again said yes. Well after a good amount of yelling and nearly bending the adjuster - without breaking his welds - he admitted that it could be bent.

So now I have to find a place that repairs trailers to take a look at it.

Why couldnt the guy just look where was going?

The doc has me on muscle relaxers and I cant stand for a long period of time. Great fun.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Strange days

Have you ever had a day that was just strange. Not necessarily bad, or even good, but just strange. One of those days when you sit back in the evening and review the day in your head and say, “ man that was weird” Well Friday and Saturday were like that for me.

Friday started out normally enough. We took a car the scrap yard and ran a couple of errands then headed up to Charlotte for one final stop before we headed to Tennessee for my nieces birthday party. Coming up Wilkerson Blvd we saw what we thought was a police car with someone pulled over. However, as we got closer we realized it was an unmarked patrol car with its blue lights on sitting behind one of those radar signs that tells you how fast you are going. When we got closer still we saw that the patrol car was buried in mud. So being the good citizen that I am I offered to pull the car out, and a few short moments later we had the little Impala back on solid ground and headed off to our destination.

About a hour later we started back toward home we nearly got broadsided by a rescue vehicle that was making a u-turn in the middle of highway 74. Two miles later we found out why. The entire road was closed off to a bad wreck. So after taking a handful of back roads we were on I-85 and sailing along again.

We made a quick stop to fill up the truck and since the gas station we use offers a discount if you get a car wash, we got a car wash. Only when I started to pump I noticed we didn’t get our discount. SO after dragging the manager out in the unbearable heat every thing was rectified and then some. He refunded the price of the car wash and then gave up a free carwash. So instead of saving $7.99 we saved $15.98. Not a bad deal at all.

After all that weirdness was over we embarked on our journey to Tennessee. We successfully made it half way there and decided to stop for the night. Enough weirdness for one day.

Saturday had its own special breed of strange circumstance. The kind that could have gotten someone killed.

About 2 hours outside of Nashville I noticed a red pickup driving erratically behind me. I noticed it when it nearly rear ended my truck. Thinking the driver was drunk I got on the phone with 911 and made a report and told the dispatcher that I was going to slow down and see if I could get the truck stopped because it was all over the place. After it nearly rear ended me twice more it darted down an off ramp so I headed through the grass to catch it again and finally cut the truck off and got it stopped.

The driver wasn’t drunk - she was in insulin shock. She was diabetic and out of insulin. Almost as soon as I got her stopped a city officer arrived and I told him that I would drive the woman to where she was going and Steph could follow me in the beast. So he said to go ahead and do it, and we did. After the initial shock and fear of being stopped by a large hairy man she was very appreciative and gave us both a big hug. Hopefully, she made it back home with no problems.

Then we encountered the real weirdness - I arrived at my family’s house. And we all know how weird family can be…

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Wal-Mart effect

I used to live in heaven. It was a nice place. If you needed something you had to plan for it. There wasn’t a store too close by, that way spending money was planned and done carefully. The nearest grocery store was 6 miles away. The nearest Wal-Mart was 10 miles away. If you needed milk you got it while you were out doing other things. Then the unthinkable happened. The mother ship Wally World flew over and dropped a Super Center in my back yard. Just a mere 3 ½ miles away. Why, I could walk that far. I would have to steal one of those little electric wheelchairs to get home, but I could walk there.

At first I thought it would be a good thing. Need some oregano, take fifteen minutes and go get some. Need some eggs, why they are just a short way down the narrow streets. And coincidentally, going to the grocery store to get eggs, I came back with eggs and maybe orange juice. Now, I come back with deodorant, dog treats, beef jerky, flower pots, birdseed, tennis shoes, a DVD player, three pocket knives, and maybe eggs, oh yeah, and a much lighter wallet.

It is amazing that before I survived without setting foot in Wal-Mart but once a a year, now It is a miracle if I don’t get there once a day. This is what I will now and forever call, the Wal-mart effect. It is the complete and utter inability to go into that cavernous land of delights without coming out with 50 things that I didn’t know I needed until I saw them. Not that I am buying frivolous things, I just never knew I needed a combination moustache/toenail trimmer. I never knew I couldn’t live without 20 pounds of oatmeal cakes. Before if I wanted fresh doughnuts I had to go to Krispy Kreme 12 miles away, now I can go to Dunkin Doughnuts inside the Gates of Wally conveniently 3 ½ miles away.

It used to be that Northern tools or Ace hardware were the only place I couldn’t get out of without buying something, but then I came home with a new hammer, screwdriver, super strong magnet that would suck the iron out of your blood, or a chainsaw. Last week I came home from the store, blinded by the Wal-Mart effect, with a huuuuuuge coffee cup shaped flower pot. Is my manhood in jeopardy. Should I start wearing pastel colors. Then I look at the receipt and see that I also came home with 4 quarts of motor oil and a pair of pliers. Hummmmmmm, maybe this effect isn’t so bad after all - just someone hide my wallet.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Midnight Ramblings

It used to be that a midnight snack consisted of crawling out of bed, staggering to the kitchen, stuffing my face, and then staggering back to bed and slipping into a coma. Those were the good old days. Now it is a bit more involved.

Now I sit up, check for animals that will be harmed if I step on them, and then try to get out of bed without waking up Steph. Next I run the gauntlet of furry beasts sleeping in various parts of the floor. The worst is the big dog, the Great Pyrenees, there is no telling where she will be laying. Sometimes she is in the bedroom floor, sometimes in the hall, some times in the living room, sometimes upside down in front of the front door, and sometimes she materializes from the paneling - although she snores so I can usually get a general direction.

Turning on the lights is also a must. There are times when the little dog leaves little presents in the middle of the floor. Nothing like stepping in a warm pile in the dark. But that is another story entirely. Lights are also good to see miscellaneous dog toys in the path to the fridge. You only step on a rubber ball and fall on a big soup bone once before you want to see where you are.

After all the hurdles are cleared there comes the fearful time when I actually open the fridge. This is usually followed by the cacophony of furry feet in a wild stampede. The second the magnetic bond on the door is broken there are three bodies sitting at my feet and three tongues drooling on the floor ( and one rat running up and down the sides of her cage) wondering what gastrointestinal delight will be brought forth to appease their discerning palates. In other words what kinda grub am I gonna toss on the floor for them.

After I make a selection of the leftovers lurking in the icebox, I have to pay toll or run the risk of not getting out alive. Between the two dogs, cat, and the rat it is amazing that I get anything at all. So the dogs and the cat get a couple of pieces of whatever and the rat get a little nibble and I make my way back to the bedroom shutting off lights as I go. Finally, I get back to the bed, push Steph back to her side of the bed, and lay back down.

Only problem is now I am wide awake again, and hungry. Wonder if the dogs left anything.