COMPULSIONS AND ADDICTIONS

Yep, I got ’em both.  Someone told me one time that addictions were simply compulsions that harmed my body.  I don’t believe that is true, but I can understand why one could think that.

Five years ago, I was hit from behind and while sitting at a traffic light at about 9 pm on a Tuesday evening.  I was on the way home from church.  It was raining, but there wasn’t much traffic out and I was just waiting for the green light so I could get on home.  Suddenly, there was a sudden loud sound like an explosion and I was shot into the intersection forty feet or so.  The seat broke loose from the frame my Ford Focus, but the belt sill held me in place.  All so sudden that I didn’t know what to think.

Then it was quiet, almost silent.  I could hear the raindrops splattering on the windshield and the intermittent wipers swooshing them off.  I put the trans in PARK, turned off the motor, unbuckled my seat belt, and got out.  Still no idea what happened.

Outside, I looked back where I had been waiting for the light to change.  The was a white car at the light where, moments before, I had been waiting for the light to change.  I could see what looked like steam rising from the car.  Suddenly I understood that that car had hit me from behind and knocked me into the intersection. I could see that I had been rammed in the rear by this wrecked car.  I turned and looked at the rear of my car, but I couldn’t see any damage.  It was crazy.  The car that had booted me into the intersection looked totaled.  Mine seemed to be barely scratched.

I thought, then, about the driver of the other car and hurried to see if I could help them.  It was a woman and she was still seated behind the steering wheel.  “Are you alright?”, I asked.

“I’m OK,” she said, not looking at me.  I looked into the car and I could see that it was filled with paper–fast food wrappers, receipts, soft drink cups, empty cigarette packs and the like, but lots of it, six inches deep it seemed.  She proceeded then to poke through the trash.  “I’m looking for my purse,” she said.  “I had it right here.”

“Are you sure you are not hurt?”

“No, I’m not hurt.  What happened?”

I looked up at my car still in the intersection.  There wasn’t much damage to be seen, I thought.  I said to her, “You rammed me in the rear and shoved me into the intersection”

“I what?”  She looked up at my car and then turned and looked at me.  “What did you say?”

I said it again and she shook her head.  “Well, I never.”  Then she opened the door and got out.  I realized that she had been drinking when she fell back against the car door after she closed it. “I’m alright,” she said.

I remembered my cell phone then and ran back to my car.  It still didn’t look as if there was any damage.  I felt where I usually kept my phone, but it wasn’t there.  I felt around of the floorboard, but couldn’t find it in the darkness.  I turned on the flashers and wondered if I could still drive the car.  I went back to the other car.  The driver was on the sidewalk now.  She must have found her cigarettes because she was taking a deep drag on one when I walked up.  I could see that she was unsteady on her feet.  She had her cell phone, too.  I overheard her telling someone to come and pick her up.

There was a man now standing by the car and he turned when I walked up and said, “I called the police.  I didn’t know if anyone was hurt so there’s an ambulance coming, too.”  I thanked him.

I asked him if he saw her hit me.  “No, I didn’t.  I was working late in my office and heard the crash.”  He pointed to a building on the corner, I knew there was an insurance business there.  Then he walked closer to me and said, “She’s been drinking.  I heard her tell someone on the phone that she was at the bar in the Mexican restaurant up the street.”

I asked him if he’d let the police know when they got there and he said her would.  The sirens could be heard a few blocks away now and were getting louder.  I walked back to my car to see if I could find my phone again.

Still, no luck.  The seat I was sitting on wouldn’t slide anymore, but I could rock it side to side.  I felt underneath it and there was my phone.  I got it and walked back to the car that had hit me.  A couple more people were standing there now and the police drove up just I reached the car.  They were followed by the ambulance which was followed by another patrol car.  The paramedics were already out of the ambulance by the time the cops opened their doors.

“Oh, shit,” the woman said when she saw the police.  “Who called them.”

“Are you injured,” one of the paramedics from the ambulance asked her.  “No, I’m not injured and neither is he,” she said, motioning towards me.

“Do you want to go to the hospital for an examination.  You might be injured and not know it,” he said.

“Hell, no, I don’t want to go to no hospital,” she said.

Just then, one of the police officers came over.  He was tall and lanky and looked to be in his twenties.  “Are you the driver of this car, mam?”

“Yes, I’m the driver,” she said.

“Have you been injured?,” he asked.

“I already told the paramedic that I’m OK.  God, what do I have to do around here.  I’m not hurt and I don’t want to go to the hospital.”

The officer was patient and told her he was only looking after her care.  The paramedic asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital and I said I’d drive myself when I was through here.  I looked back at me car and wondered if I could still drive it that far.

Suddenly, I saw that the police officer was in the process of handcuffing the woman who had rammed me from behind.  She had tried to leave when she saw her friends drive up.  Later, after talking with her friends I learned that they had been driving around looking for her.  They were afraid she was drinking somewhere and she might get into an accident because her boyfriend had just broken up with her.

Well, I could continue, but the essence is that I had just been hit from behind by a drunken driver.  I was not hurt much, I thought at the time, but within two years I would have to have two lower back operations totaling 10.5 hours of surgery and still be left with much ongoing pain.

The irony of it all is that barely two weeks before the accident I had vowed to never drink alcohol again.  I had spent over fifty years of my life as an alcoholic, most of it my most productive years, and had finally realized it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Evolution of A Man’s Life

The twists and turns of a person’s life can be really awesome, especially for someone like me who can find something interesting in almost anything.  I like traveling, seeing new things and things I have seen and haven’t gotten enough of yet.  A rolling stone, my mother once said of me.  I guess she was right.  There’s a part of me that just wants to see what’s over the rise, behind the next mountain, or just down the road a piece.  We live in a beautiful country.

Here’s a little vignette

After I became divorced, I wanted to do something new.  Like the sign at the end of the road that says road closed, I knew I could go no further with my job.  I lived in an apartment complex, a faux townhouse with beds and bath upstairs, with the living room, dining room and kitchen below.  My life had become unexciting.  I was no longer married.  My daughter, along with my ex’s three kids from her first marriage, would come over every weekend and we’d play and we’d go to Opryland and eat out a lot and go to movies, but I was completely bored.  Workdays were long and my weekends were busy with the kids.  It didn’t seem as if I had a life.  My ex announced that she was going to get married again.

After she had come and picked up the kids on one particular Sunday afternoon, I sat back in my easy chair and piled the Sunday Nashville Tennesean on my lap and looked at the employment section, as I had been doing for several months.  I noticed an ad for a Truck driving school in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

My Dad had been a truck driver, in fact he had owned his own truck, in fact he had owned several trucks and at one time he ran a pretty good business with several drivers,  I traveled with him a lot when I was out of school.  At twelve years old, when he had taken me with him to New Jersey from our home in Miami, Florida during the Christmas holidays, I saw my first snow.  I loved traveling.

My Dad hauled produce, tomatoes, watermelons, strawberries, oranges, grapefruit, and bananas from Central America. From south Florida to the east coast and midwest, then fron Boston or New York, or Michigan, or Minnesota, wherever, he would pick up their produce and haul it to another place, off load it, and look for another load going some place else. By the time I reached fourteen, I had been in almost every state east of the Mississippi and in Texas and Oklahoma. There was a drawback, though.

When I was in school my Dad would be gone sometimes for months on end.  He’d show up every two or three months for a week or two off and then he’d be gone again.  As I grew older, I considered myself the leader of the pack being that I was the oldest of three kids, and I assumed a lot of the resonsibility of seeing that things got done.  My mother worked at a child’s nursery a few blocks away.  When she was gone and with my Dad not being there I was in charge.

This caused a problem when my Dad would come home.  As our Dad, he wanted certain things done while he was home and would tell us what to do.  I grew to not liking this because I had been the one in charge while he was gone and because of that he ought to have talked only to me.  I would have then directed the other kids as to their responsibilities.  Nope, that didn’t go over well.  My mother took his side, as she should have, but I fumed and resented him anyway.  Selfish kid, I was.  Who was he, I thought, to come and tell us what to do.  Who did he think he was.  I made a promise to myself that if I ever had a family, I’d never drive a truck where I had to be away from them.

And yet, here I was looking at an ad for a truck driving school.  I reasoned that now that I was divorced I had no family for which I was responsible.  I was free to do whatever I wanted to do.  With my ex remarrying there was no chance that our marriage might get somehow fixed.  I had been set free.

The ad said that if I completed the course and passed the final driving test, a trucking company, J.B.Hunt Trucking, Inc., would hire me and pay for my school.  All I had to do was to apply and, if accepted, get there and pay for my lodging and food for the six weeks the course lasted.  I applied, was accepted, started raising the money I needed which was about a thousand dollars.  My ex had a fit and asked what was she going to do with them in the weekends.

I sold everything I had until everything I had was on the back of a Suzuki motorcycle.  I rode that bike to Bowling Green and paid for my lodging up front for the next six weeks and set enough aside for food and gas.

The six weeks passed quickly.  The instructors said I was a natural.

The final test was a written test of all we had learned.  I aced it and was finished long before anyone else.  I asked about the actual driving test.  That, I learned, would be conducted by J.B. Hunt Trucking at their terminal in Little Rock, Arkansas.  I had to be there the next Monday.  Today was Friday.  My room was paid up only to this day.  I had to find a place to live for the weekend so I rode back to Nashville, diploma in hand.  I was low on money.

I had given up my apartment when I had left for Bowling Green so I called someone I knew when I got to Nashville.  He put me up for the night and the next morning I was on the road to Little Rock.  I spent Saturday night in Little Rock at a well-worn, but cheap, motel.  It was clean, I guess, unless you called reeking of cigarette smoke clean.  (I had stopped a few years before.)

The next day I piddled and rode about wondering what I was going to do with my bike once I got assigned to a truck and had to leave on a trip.  Drivers I had met at the motel had briefed me on what was going to happen after I passed the driving test the next day.  They said I would be assigned to a driver trainer and would drive with him as a team for a few weeks and he would teach me about the skill and the art of being a long distance truck driver.

In the employee parking lot that the drivers used I did not see any motorcycles parked there when I rode up to the entrance of the terminal the next day.  There had to be three hundred parking spaces in the fenced in lot. but not a one was a motorcycle.  I asked someone why there were no motorcycles left there and was told that the parking lot was only for the convenience of those that wanted to leave their vehicles there and that the company was not responsible for them.  That meant that if the vehicles got dented, or broken into, or whatever, the company was absolved of any responsibilty.  Yes, there were several motorcycle riders, but no one left their motorcycle there for that reason.

I passed the driving test and was told that I would be assigned a driver trainer the next morning and that I should be prepared to leave out for an extended period on that same day.  I had to be back at seven the next morning.  I returned to the motel.

Perhaps a storage facility.  I called around and priced them, but it was going to be expensive and I had to pay a kmonth in advance.  Many would not allow me to leave a motorcycle in storage there at all.

As it was, I didn’t have much money left.  After selling all my stuff, I had netted enough to pay for the food and lodging at the truck driving school in Bowling Green and for gas and incidentals.  There was not much left when I reached Little Rock.  I also learned that it could be about two to three weeks before I could expect a pay day from J.B. Hunt Trucking and that I had to buy my own food until then.

Creative thinking was needed.  I had noticed a pawn shop down the road from the motel where I stayed on one of my rides I had taken to pass time until I could actually go to work.  It was a huge blue painted concrete building with flags and streamers hung everywhere.  The was a fenced-in area next to it with razor wire on top and a mean looking German shepherd running around inside.

I rode over, set the motorcycle on it’s swing-out side stand, and went inside.  The pawn shop had been there a long time and was crammed with pawned stuff for sale: tools, lawn mowers, bicycles, furniture, stoves , refrigerators.  On the right was a long glass counter with dozens upon dozens of pistols and knives from end to end inside it.  I was asked if they could help me and I told them I had a motorcycle that I might want to pawn and asked them if they took bikes.  They answered that they took anything as long as it didn’t eat.  The only thing was that I had to sign the title and leave it with them so that, if I didn’t pick the motorcycle up, they could sell it.  I asked how long could leave it was they said as long as I paid the interest charge every month they’d hold it as long as I wanted.

The guy asked me how much I wanted to pawn it for.  I told him two hundred dollars.  He went outside and checked the bike, started it and shut it off and wheeled it around to the side chain-link gate and pushed it to the back.  He told the helper inside to pick up the tag he was going to fill out at the counter.  He did that,  I the signed papers, showed my drivers license, signed the title I had brought with me, and put the two hundred dollars in my wallet.  The interest was going to be less that $5.00 a month, due in thirty days.  I was good to go.  Cheap storage.  My truck driving career was about to start.

SWEET HOME ALABAMA

Alabama loves football. No, I mean Alabama LOVES football. There are two major college football teams here, Auburn and Alabama. Forget the rest. Those two are the only ones that count. In fact forget ALL the other teams in the SEC. They don’t count. God help a Tennessee fan if he shows up wearing their orange cap with the big T.

Here in northwest Alabama, Crimson Tide fans dominate. How can I tell? First, the gear that identifies their loyalty. Hats, sweaters, t-shirts, jackets, pants, shirts, shoes, wallets, bookbags, knapsacks, purses, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, watches, sunglasses, hair bands, painted nails, socks, underwear, whatever. The legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant wore a houndstooth hat as well as a red jacket. Let me tell you, a little houndstooth goes a long way.

Second, the vehicles they drive, all Alabama red, of course. Vans, sedans, sports cars, Smart cars, pickup trucks, SUVs, camper trailers, motor homes, and airplanes. Believe me, if you can say it, it’s been done. There’s also the license plates and frames, decals, flags. I did see a minivan painted in houndstooth. Yep, it was awful.

Third, by the names they’ve chosen for their children. You can’t count the kids named after Paul Bryant. Some are even named Bear. No, don’t feel sorry for the kids They’ll be ok…as long as they don’t leave Alabama. Countless, too, are the kids named after football players themselves. Remember Joe Namath who went on to the New York Jets after playing for Bear Bryant? Yep, you guessed it. Names, lots of names. We don’t sell many naming books here for parents-to-be. No need, we’ve got Alabama football.

What about “crimson tide” as a name? I don’t know of anyone using that as a name, but, hey, this is Alabama, I’m sure it’s happened. Crimson Tide Smith. It has a ring to it.

My wife Joy knows someone who named their boy Tide and their daughter Crimson. They’re not twins, either. Tide is about fifteen months old and Crimson is only six weeks old. Their dad and the kids all have red hair and the diaper bag is a large one, of course, and it’s houndstooth. Of course. That took strategic planning as well as religious madness…er…fervor.

It could be worse, I guess. No doubt some kids were named after coaches who were later fired for not winning. Some of those coaches are coaching other SEC teams. Perish the thought. They’ll survive. The coaches I mean.

Personally, I do not watch much football. I am aware of when there’s a big game at Alabama’s Legion Field. You can’t book a hotel room within a hundred miles, maybe more, and everyone puts on their colors and there’s a lot of honking and waving between the decked out cars and trucks.

All this makes it hard to ignore the game. Wherever I go I can hear the announcers. The TV set at my barber’s shop is on every televised Alabama game, as are the restaurant and sports bar TVs in the area. I try to ignore them all, though. I’m just never sure who they’re playing or where or what inning they are in.

TO BLOG OR NOT TO BLOG. IS THAT A QUESTION?

I read many blogs, actually a whole lot of blogs. Whenever I find a blog that piques my interest I always look to see the blogs they’re reading and check them out. My cup runneth over with blogs.

Because I read so many I’ve become more selective. Some I read the first week of the month, others the next week and still others the week after. Some, of course, several times a week, there are bloggers that prolific. I will eventually get to where I have too many blogs to read and when I reach that point I’ll become even more selective and pare them down. Need I say I like to read blogs?

The question is why? What is it that draws me to reading what others are saying and doing?

Nosy. That’s what my mother always said when she found me curled up with a book. “You read all the time. You’re just too nosy.” She was right, I was. And still am.

She passed away sometime ago, but I remember her as my enabler. I can’t ever remember being without books when I was young and unable to buy them myself. She provided. I read all of them regardless of subject or theme.

The point is, I am nosy. I want to learn what other people are doing with their lives. It’s vicarious thrill-seeking. Some bloggers I read are living in campers and vans and they live it fulltime. Others are circumventing the world on motorcycles and bicycles and one guy is walking it. A family with smallish kids are riding bicycles all over this creation. It’s exciting.

Others are on different quests with their own observations on life in the big cities while others tell me about their lives on their farm in the country. Some raise exotic animals and some not so exotic but just as interesting. I love photos of baby animals, just born and full of life. Shame on us for eating them.

There are others who are on distant lands preaching their gospels and others who are just trying to help others and finding that in giving of themselves they reap huge rewards. I envy them.

Others blog about their trials and others their successes. Then there are the blogs about hobbies, writing, traveling, cooking and on and on. I’m nosy.

All this begs another question. Why am I blogging? Well, why not? How else are you going to learn about a “wild and crazy guy” like me? (kudos to SNL)

Now here’s a tip. If you like good writing, I mean the kind of writing that causes you to hang on every word and makes you cry when you finish reading it—not in sadness, although there’s that too—but having read something so powerfully written and poignant that you shout out with the pure joy of it, then read Christina Nealson’s book, Drive Me Wild. You’ll love it.

I found myself going back over her paragraphs again and again just for that breathtaking thrill of reading really strong and descriptive writing. What a talent. Check out her website too, Christinanealson.com.

As they say in Alabama, “‘Nuff said.”