Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day Friday

Dragging the Dog to the Vet
Just after sunrise on Friday we loaded our asses into Jungle Jim's '78 VW Bus and pointed her North towards Daytona Beach and the local Veteran's Administration. Jim is an old hand up there; he has long been going in for treatment of his body and soul. Me, I usually only see a doctor after a few moments of wild excitement and an ambulance ride.

But recent episodes around the Park and some lack of physical aptitude on my part caused Jim to come around to my trailer recently armed with a six-pack of Bud and god knows what else. He was a point man on a mission: get the Fix-it Man to a place that understands the aging process in guys who have a powerful aversion to admitting weakness and who may have a few tunes playing in their heads that never made it to the Top Forty.

I Am Stubborn
I drank his beer and nodded solemnly in agreement to everything he was saying but I wasn't going. That shortness of breath is just my recent weight gain and the fact that after only fifty miles on my bike I need a recovery day of 48 hours was lack of training. Sitting in my room for hours on end playing computer chess and drinking beer while honing the Ka-Bar to razor sharpness was, was, well; those are my hobbies. No need to get poked, prodded, interrogated and classified by those incompetent hacks at the VA. Who needs 'em.

I Am Crafty
But I agreed to go, then I started figuring out a way to get out of it. I was confident of my ability to dodge the whole thing by going for a predawn bicycle ride and I laid my plans with care. I oiled the chain and topped off the tires. I filled my water bottle and threw a banana and some trail mix into my Goodwill messenger bag. I went to bed feeling a little guilty but proud nonetheless that I was my own man and Independent of the System.

The next morning I quietly opened the trailer door with my Schwinn on my shoulder and gently crept down the stairs.

“You don't plan on riding in the dark without lights, do you?” I didn't drop the bike, but I jumped a little into the air.

“No, man, I was, uh...what are you doing out and about so early?”

“Waiting for you. Go suit up, brother. The first visit is the hard one.”

“Oh, that's right! We're supposed to go to the VA this morning! Damn, I forgot. Let me get changed and I'll be right out.”

Old and Older Discuss Right and Wrong
So as another Memorial Day Weekend began, two old pony-tailed veterans found themselves trundling North in a thirty-four year old hippie van as the morning sun came blasting out of the Atlantic Ocean. The day was clear and made for long rides and sailboats, drinking in the shade, taking the dog for a swim; the day was perfect for everything except a visit to the vet. I mean doctor's office.

“Jim, you realize I wasn't in Vietnam, right? I didn't enlist until the end of the war and I spent the whole time in the Air Force, riding my motorcycle up and down the Pacific Coast smoking pot and chasing girls.”

“Doesn't matter.”

'Yeah, man, but it just doesn't seem fair. You and your buddies in the Marines were over there getting your asses shot off and I was just goofing off Stateside the whole time. And what about all these young guys coming back from the Middle East? They need help worse than I do.”

“No they don't.”


“If you were still knocking back the bucks and had medical insurance, would you have gone to the Doctor by now?”

'Well, hell yeah.”

“OK. So you know that you need to see a Doctor. When you gave Sam those four years of your life when you were just a kid, you made a deal and he made a deal and now here you are years later at a time when a guy needs a little help. You held up your end of the deal, you kept your promise and now it's time for Sam to keep his.”

I Am A Veteran
The sun was up now and I was looking out the window of the bus. I had my face turned full right, I was Right Face and I was watching the sun and it would be a couple more seconds before I could turn my face back into the van. Familiar scenery was flashing by but I was not seeing it; I was seeing a time long ago and remembering how it felt to be eighteen and me and a couple buddies were picking up our greens from the base tailor. We had them tailored to fit a little better and look a little sharper and we polished our boots while we sat around doing nothing. You do that a lot in the military. But you never know. We were proud to be a part of something, right or wrong, and while this time it wasn't our turn to bleed or die or kill and suffer we had the strength and pride in our hearts to know that called upon, we would go. Willingly and with sharp uniforms and polished boots and nervous smiles, ready to do whatever it took for Our Service, Our Country, and Each Other. Most of all for each other.

“Thanks, Jim. Really. The bus is running sweet.”

“Yeah, brother, I adjusted the valves a couple days ago. And you're welcome.”

For an excellent short piece by my friend Jim: Deep Hunting

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Old Soldier's Home

Monday, May 7, 2012

Drama, Dust and Dramamine

A Year Goes By Like Nothing
A lot can happen in a year. Not at the Whispering Pines Trailer Park; this place is like a bad black & white television series stuck on summer re-runs for all eternity. Certainly a lot happens, it is just that the stuff that happens almost never varies and mostly involves the cops coming around to pick up some lost soul who “forgot” to show up in court or “forgot” to drop by the office and spend a little quality with their probation officer. Last week the gendarmes came screeching into the center court where I live and two squad cars did pretty cool sliding stops in the gravel parking lot. This sends up huge clouds of dust that invariably find their way into my trailer so that my bike shop/living room looks like a remake of Lawrence of Arabia, except this time Lawrence is not as slim and rides a bicycle instead of a camel.

The lawmen (and woman) leaped out of their cars and quickly surrounded the trailer across from mine.

Yippee kayay
Drawn guns always catch my attention. I was up on a ladder pressure washing a trailer whose roof I was getting ready to paint. Rather than remain in my precarious perch where I felt rather like a bird on a wire I decided to clamber down the ladder and mosey on back to my own trailer. I was wearing my pressure washing clothes. These are a big oversized pair of bright yellow fisherman's overalls and a pair of very white rubber boots. Pressure washing is wet and messy.

The Tink
My path took me past Sgt. Tinker, a guy who has been on the Hawks Park force as long as I can remember. And I can remember pretty good since he is the only human that has ever lifted me off my feet by the shirt collar with one hand. Of course, I weighed a lot less twenty years ago but he hasn't aged much and his six foot six frame is still pretty stout.

“Who you guys killin' today, Tink?” He had his right hand on his gun and he was talking into his cell phone with the other.

“Hold on a minute , honey,” he said. He wasn't talking to me. “What's up, dude?” he said.

“You're surrounding an empty trailer,” I said.

“I'll call you right back,” he said into the phone. “You sure?” he asked. He was already snapping the strap closed over the top of his gun and you could feel the tension go out of him. It was a palpable thing.

“Of course I'm sure. You after Little Mike?”


“What's he done this time?”


'Oh good lord. Dramamine again? What a dumbass. Oh well, when he comes home I'll ask him to give you a call.'

“Yeah, right. He also has a VOP. I want him. You goin' fishin'?”

“Nah, I dress like this all the time now.” I went into my trailer to get out of the hot overalls and watch what they would do next. I tried to decide what was the right thing to do. Before I came down off that ladder I had seen Little Mike duck into the dumpster enclosure on the other side of the Park. While I was drinking a beer and watching the cops (who were now clustered in the middle of the parking lot in conference) the Blonde came over from her trailer, the one next door to mine.

“They after Little Mike?”

“Nah, they're just surrounding his trailer for practice.”

“Don't be a smart aleck. He's hiding behind the dumpster.”

“I know.” The two squad cars were pulling out of the center court. More dust. 

“How do you know? You were way over on the other side.”

“Because when I am up on that ladder I am like unto the Lord, and see all things.”

“Yeah, right, Lord. What are you going to do?”

“I'm gonna get out of these hot damn rubber clothes. Wanna help?”

“I mean what are you going to do about Little Mike?”

“I know what you mean. Nothing.” But it was too late to do nothing. We heard that loud 'CHIRP' the cops make with their loudspeakers when they want everyone's attention and there they were, storming back into the still dusty parking lot, kicking up yet another cloud of dust. I was going to have to pressure wash that trailer roof again, after all this dusty drama. Little Mike was just a flash of bright red Bob Marley t-shirt and baggy shorts, the kind you have to hold up with one hand in order to run. He flashed like a ghost into his trailer and slammed the door behind him. The cops repeated their surrounding positions. Like I said earlier. Reruns.

Dressing for the Five O'Clock News
I went into my room and took off my Tuna of the Sea outfit and put on a pair of shorts. I pulled on a nice clean t-shirt. It was one of the Redfish series by Guy Harvey. The Blonde and the Twins bought it for me Christmas before last. I went back into the front and got another beer out of the fridge. The Blonde was watching the action across the parking lot, maybe thirty feet away. The cops had their guns out again.

“Why do they have their guns out? They look stupid.” She was worried.

“I don't know.” I reached up on the key board and took the keys to Mike's trailer off the hook. I chugged my beer and went outside. Big Tinker was in the same spot. The strap was off his gun and this time he wasn't on the phone.

“Hey Tink,” I said, in a voice that wasn't a whisper and it wasn't loud. It was a voice I would use to let a distracted friend know that it was his turn at the pool table or to point out a tailing redfish on a quiet lagoon. He turned a quarter turn and saw the keys in my upraised hand.

“What are you going to do with those?' he asked.

“Let you guys in so you can get a clean shot.”

“Stop fucking around, Blix.” He muttered something into the radio on his shoulder and the guns went into their holsters. I went over to the porch and the two cops that were there moved away, one to the side and one behind me. I would make a pretty good shield if shots were fired but I knew damn well Little Mike didn't have a gun and that if he did that damn squirrel-headed fool would shoot himself in the foot before getting one off in my direction.

 But as I was getting up to the door I had a sudden vision of butcher knives.

Trailer Park Negotiations
“Mike!” My trailer park voice. Maybe friendly, maybe not. It depends on you.

“Go away! You can't come in without a warrant!”

“Mike, you dumbass, it's me, Tim Joe! Not the cops! I've got the key and I'm coming in! These guys are pissed and I just want to get you out and safe and sound and in the back of the patrol car before this gets any worse. It's only shoplifting man!”

“Go away!”

“You already ate that whole pack of pills, didn't you?”

“I'm not coming out!”

“OK, dude I'm coming in!” I put the key in the lock and turn it slowly. I turn the knob and give a push.

Nothing. The deadbolt is locked. I take the other key and put it in the deadbolt. It won't turn.

This happens. There is so much turnover and confusion here at the Park that keys and locks get swapped and lost and my big hero moment is now stymied by a ten dollar deadbolt.

The Red-Faced Redfish
I turn to the cop behind me. He does me a favor and doesn't mention what a loser I am. I know that Tink won't be so gracious and I look around for a way to get back to my trailer that doesn't involve going past that big ape. I am surprised to see that while I was busy playing the Big Man   a couple more squad cars have pulled in. Those must have been some very important pills.  I turn back to my trailer just as the Tinker goes bombing past me, moving fast.

“The hell with this,” he says, going over to the rear door of the trailer. It doesn't have a deadbolt. 

 “You inside, the manager has given me the keys. We are coming in!”

 I look down at the ring of keys in my hand, then I look up just as Sgt. Tinker puts his big ham-size hand on the flimsy aluminum rear trailer door. A shotgun has magically appeared in his other hand and I am not surprised when he yanks the whole door out of the wall, lock, hinges and all. He reaches in and makes a grab and out comes Little Mike, all 160 pounds of hallucinating thrashing little squirrel-headed shoplifter. The other cops swarm all over him and Big Tink comes over to me. That twelve-gauge looks like a toy in his hand. 

  “Here's your keys back, sir,” he says in a loud voice. 'Did you see me enter the residence at any time?”

“No, sir, looked to me like he came out on his own. Practically flew out.”

“I'll take a picture of the damage he did coming out of the door in case you decide to complain to the department.” I look at the door laying there in the dusty grass. It was no more damage done than any given weekend in any given trailer in this dump.

“Why, Sarge, whatever are you talking about? I'll have that door fixed and swinging before you guys even get that rascal back to the station. And as always, I apologize for your troubles.”

“No trouble at all. See ya next time. And by the way, you're fixing this place up pretty good. Keep it up.”

"I'm doing the best I can, Sarge.  I'm doing the best I can."

Whispering Pines Trailer Park  and Squirrel Cage