Saturday, January 24, 2009

Boredom in the off season..Random thoughts to keep me busy....




Yeh, the monkey with the gun is about what I think many Financial Experts are doing right now....shooting with their eyes closed, guessing WTF is going on in the financial sector right now GLOBALLY....Circuit City, which has been around since I was 12, just went the way of the Do-do bird and is now extinct. It is a really weird feeling for me. I have a place in my heart for Circuit City. It is where I, as a young 12 yr old, became interested in "all things electronic"....I guess since today is the 4th anniversary of my fathers death from a massive stroke, I guess I need to do a little reflection on how I came to be who I am.......A Bama fan and a good father.(I hope, you never really know since there is no instruction manual, or unless your kids tell ya.) :)


My dad was, to me , the worlds greatest mechanic since he came from a generation of "do-it-yourself" or "build it yourself", and ironically, my Grandfather or "Paw-Paw", was a Master Mechanic and electronics wiz, and welder, and farmer, and carpenter, and brick mason, landscaper,fisherman, hunter, iron worker, all wrapped up in a 5'9, 160 lb frame. Both he and my dad were very similar in build, and appearance. Both are short, wiry, bald and have forearms that belong to bodybuilders since they work on stuff and have a grip that would break your hand if they wanted to. Only difference was that they were 20 yrs apart, and always felt that one was smarter than the other.


My dad didnt care for telephones, or the new fangled car computers, or cell phones or home computers that they were coming out with in the 80's, he was raised on carbs and gas and all things that make cars go fast. For comparision, when he was 14-15 til the time he was 18, before he went off to war, he built and restored an old '32 Ford from the ground up, full on frame restoration, painting the frame, restoring and rebuilding the motor, tinkering with the pistons, headers, anything to make it the baddest thing on the strip, very similar to the guy in the yellow car in "American Graffitti" that ended up racing Harrison Ford in the '55 Chevy. My grandfather told me that my dad rarely, if ever, asked for advice or help, that he had a knack at looking at things, taking them apart, putting them back together, usually modifing them someway to make it run better, and could usually put things back together with his eyes closed. Of course, my grandfather was the same way, and although he worked a full time job, many people knew he could fix things, and many times he would for extra money, though many times he did it for free.


Both were stubborn as old mules and wouldnt take advice from anybody, much less each other.
And both were alcoholics from the word "GO". It didnt matter, beer,wine, whiskey, moonshine, it was always drank the same way, in huge gulps. And it always was done either around cars or during football season on Saturdays, and on Sunday during the games.


So when a car was being fixed and one was helping the other, alot of loud talking about how things should go where always came up. The one that was "helping" usually left in a huff...


"Fine fix it your damn self" type of conversation. My dad finished the 32 Ford, and sold it, for 4 times the money he had in it, and thought he should have held onto it, but he found a niche in restoring things and selling them as a hobby. By the time I came along, he had finished several projects and decided to go to work full time, and kinda let the restoring stuff go on the back burner.


Now by contrast, when I was 12, I was interested in electronics and took Beta Maxs apart, VCR's that were as big as briefcases and those things had parts you actually could replace. I had a working knowledge of electricity thanks to my Granddad and dad, and learned to read schematics. When computers came around..IBM, Apple IIe and IIc, I was "all up in it", learning why and how and what this and that was........


All this will tie back to Circuit City, eventually, hang with me here..... But growing up, they had a passion for Dragster and Stock Car Racing. Mind you, this was in '77-78-79 and the sport was really made up from people who were rich and could afford the best parts, etc, and many times the "guys with money" were the dominant force from the local tracks to the big tracks in Talladega and Atlanta. I remember them and my other uncles in the garage, the smell of hot metal, freshly welded pipes, the smell that a wheel grinder gives off as it cuts into metal, and of course, cutting torches. It was like some medieval torture chamber, but for cars. I remember getting scolded for playing with the friction igniter that they used to light the blowtorch cause it would make these cool ass sparks. And blowtorches are cool for playing, but they are meant for working and I wasnt a metal worker. I asked my Dad, how a welder could weld for 8 hours a day for a career, and he said "Thats why you stay in school, most welders I know are drug addicts, mostly junkies and dropouts, from looking at that bright little dot all day in 100 degree weather!"

I usually sat back in amazement as all of this stuff, a wheeless frame from some car from the junk yard, became this tubular cage of a race car. Even though this was for a late model car, and on a very tight budget, I felt my dad and grandad had missed their calling by not being in NASCAR as crew chiefs or head mechanics, hell, even fabricators. The care in which they built these things and the bond he and his 3 brothers had doing this stuff together with his dad was what I envied since I only had 1 sister while growing up,and all she wanted to do is play with damn dolls, plus she hated race cars , because when they fired it up with out the pipes, fire would race out of the heads and it was LOUD!!!And it scared the living hell out of her.....And to a little boy(me), thats was awesome and it blew me away. I was 7 at the time and all I could think about was "I wanna drive it.....NOW!!!"....Thats when I knew I wanted to go fast,and had the need for speed.


Well my dad and granddad couldnt drive it, wouldnt let me drive it, and they really built it for my youngest uncle to drive at the local track. Once they put the finishing touches with the sheet metal, it was a clone of a car that #11 car Cale Yarborough drove in the Nascar Winston Cup Series that year. I was just as excited to see this project come together since I couldnt wait to jump in the seat, press the button, and feel the car come to life. My dad told me to get in one day when they were tuning it up, and he told me to cover my ears...He primed it, flipped a bunch of switches, then pressed the button and fired that mutha up!! I swear once it rumbled to life, it scared teh shit outta me, and the only thought that went thru my shaking skull was "THAT IS AWESOME!" The whole car jumps to life in a loud ROAR of thunder and the whole thing shakes, the earth moves, and I swear I was scared and thrilled since you cannot hear yourself think.

No wonder my Granddad and dad are half deaf...... My granddad was the proudest as I have ever seen him when my uncle took it to the track, and won it on the last lap. I got to ride in the car on the victory lap, and even though I was 7, I never forgot the scene of the crowd, the smell of burnt rubber, crashed cars and antifreeze, exhaust fumes, and the lights and the cheers as he drove by with the checkered flag......It was one of the last times we were all together since in the next few years, Paw-Paws health went downhill, and my cousins tragic death from street racing, plus the economy wouldn't allow any extra money for racing, it all went away except basically for Alabama football. And yes, Bear Bryant was a central part of influence on my Grandfather and Dad. They were passionate about racing, whiskey, Alabama football, plus we were really spoiled from '76-81' when the Tide was rolling thru their winning seasons and Championship Days....I remember going to a game in Bham with my dad and Grandfather where their passion was barely matched by thousands in the stands. It was like church. And everyone wanted to shake Bear Bryant's hand, and I believe all of them would eat out of it, if he would let them... And God forbid if we lost(only once or twice that I saw or could remember), because Paw-Paw was in-con-sol-able....usually because he was drunk by the 4th quarter, and whiskey or bourbon has the ability to make someone really over dramatic. I think it is one of the few times he actually wept, besides Bear Bryant's death and my Grandmothers funeral(there was no sadder image I have ever seen and is burned in my memory than when, after my Grandmother had passed from a heart attack, during the funeral,my Grandfather walking up to the casket, and she was in her favorite Sunday dress,and he slowly gazing up and down the casket during the wake, and all the while, big tears streaming down his face, he tenderly leans over and kisses her on the cheek, and whispers something in her ear, gently lays his wedding ring on her hand, and walks away, a broken man. He wept. He was embarrassed of the pain showing in his face, and he hurriedly wiped his eyes with his handkerchief he always had with him, although he shouldn't have been embarrassed. He immediately walks outside to smoke one of his favorite cigars, and to simply decompress.) My father told me later when I asked him, since all the children they had together were there, watching this unfold(they had 4 boys and 2 girls together) my father told me Grandad told her that he loved her since the first day they met in 1st grade(they married at 14 and quit school), and he thanked her for all the kids that they together, that she was a great mom and grandmother and that he wished he would have been nicer at times, and that he really loved her more than anything in the world and he would have a hole in his heart and miss her cooking and the smell of her perfume, and he didn't know how to say goodbye, and he didn't want to go home alone. I could tell this really moved my dad, since that whole family was not the touchy-feely-lovey-dovey type of family, no one really showed emotion except at funerals or births of babies.
Other than that, maybe Alabama football games is where I saw the next set of tears from my Grandfather, God forbid if they lost, then it was a tirade for the history books.
He would spend 30 mins lamenting on blown coverage, missed blocks, turnovers, bad tackling. Although there were few losses, those stung because he felt Bama could beat anyone in the universe as long as Bear Bryant was on the sideline. You could tell he was really mad if he went into the garage and started throwing tools around, or hitting stuff with a sledgehammer. Plus finances were tight and he was pissed about not racing or building stuff to race, so a loss just mounted that much more rage to expel. He never had high blood pressure since he seem to vent rather well. My dads thing was throwing shoes, or anything he could get his hands on. Mainly my collection of Hot Wheels. One time he threw Mini-Ha Ha, a car that was made from an oversize Red Army Helmet, about 100 yrds out the back door...It took me a week to track it down. I am glad my Grandfather passed soon after Bear Bryant, or it would have killed him to see the past 10 yrs. His head would have exploded.
Soon after his death, it seemed that the other parts of the family began to fall apart. It seemed like my Grandfather and Grandmother really kept the family together, and once they were gone, the aunts and uncles left behind really were kind of lost. They had saved well, had prime property-beach front propery, hunting land in prime spots, with acres and acres of waterfront river property on a part of Alabama that was being developed to be the "next place to be". Long story short, they had well over $1 mill. in assets,in 1985, and many of my aunts and uncles kinda felt it was worth something, but had they known what it was to become, they would have kept it and made 30 times the amount. But greed drives people apart, and throw in the mix some of the vague language in both of their Wills, things got interesting real quick. Some of these people were slowly beginning a spiral of self destruction. Here is where the fun starts....
Growing up, you know that your mom and dad may or may not like someone from the other side of the family. They keep things from you, so you don't freak out or say something out of line whenever both sides of the familys are together, like the holidays. Enter my Uncle Donnie.(he looked like Steve Buscemi with a Dr. Phil bald-head hairstyle, only white-trashier)
For some reason, my Grandmother felt the need to have names that sound alike.
My dads name is Johnny, and he had 3 brothers, Jerry, Ronnie and Donnie. I knew my dad liked to drink, no big deal. What I didnt know is that the rest of his brothers pretty much went a little off the edge when Grandma died. They went completely off the reservation when "Paw-Paw" died, except they did it in piles of money. And drugs, and money, and more drugs.
My Grandparents house was a huge 2 story, antebellum looking scaled down plantation in a small town in Alabama, on about 30 acres, about 40 miles away from any real civilization. Rolling hills, lakes, ponds, pastures, horses, cows, chicken, pigs, all that. My Grandpaw had a pecan orchard and a lot of farm land and gardens and the like. He was a typical retired farmer, who loved to get up at 4 am, do chores, repairs, feed cattle, the whole bit. HE was not lazy, he was driven. Once he passed away, somehow Jerry, Ronnie and Donnie, and my dad, were given an equal share of the "farmland". My dad is the only real business mind in the bunch. He knew if they were given anything in the form of cash, it would be gone. The problem was, Donnie had gotten divorced and moved in with PawPaw after Grandmaw died. Donnie was your atypical Vietnam Era vet who was well on his way to becoming your prototypical homeless vet. Long beard, bad hygiene and pretty much a full bore wino-alcoholic who could drink 24/7 for no particular reason.
Paw Paw(PP for short) had decide if Donnie didnt straighten up, he would be cut out of the will and be on his ass, or in jail. PP could whoop any of them with no problem, and he told them if they wanted a piece of him, to bring it on. I remember the last year when PP was alive, my mom relunctantly agreed to let me stay up there with PP and Donnie and go rabbit hunting, and deer hunting. Only problem was, Mom didnt know that Donnie was running a little MaryJane business, and strung out on about 4 various heavy drugs I knew of, and assorted pain meds . I was about 14, and I remember walking up to the house. Donnie had to be at least 30ish or so, and had just lost his job as a welder at a shipyard. He came out, high as a kite. It was 10 am, and PP had to run into town to get some feed for the cattle. I, being a church going, middle schooler from an uppity private school, had never come in contact with someone that was high on "dope" as mom used to call it. Mom dropped me off and told me to call her if I wanted to come home early, if I got bored or what-not. I have been hunting with mainly my uncles from my moms side of the family, the pure bred Baptist who didnt cuss or drink and took their hunting seriously. I had killed 3 or 4 deer from the time I was 12, so I knew how to shoot a 30.06 pretty well. They were professional about hunting and were very skilled, with many trophies at their camp in the middle of Alabama. Even taught me how to skin or "dress" a deer. Real Rambo like stuff, plus they like to shoot skeet, target practice, the whole deal..This was not like that at all.
The first thing Donny asked me was(he talks just like Youtube Bama fan--CowboyinTn1979)
UncleDonnie: "Hey man, lets go deer hunting, follow me...You got a light?"
ME: "No, Uncle Donny, I dont smoke, I'm like 14."
UD: "Bummer, man, lets go back here ,I wanna show you some cool stuff I found over here...."
We start walking to the house, he goes in and grabs a .22 automatic rifle, and I have a 12 gauge shotgun.
UD: "Hey man, you got Buckshot in there? I swear I saw a buck with a rack the size of a moose down by the swamp. Be ready, sometimes he likes to charge me and fire shoots out of his nose."
ME:"Uhh, I dont think fire comes out of his nose"
UD:"Man, you dont know, I know, I live here, there are dinosaurs back in them woods, man, I am raising them, they all come out at night and talk to me. I call them my little friends." Right then, I suspected he may be on PCP, something we had learned about by becoming Junior Deputies and watching all the Refer Madness films they showed 6th and 7th graders at a private church school. It was all of 10:30 and I found out later that he was tripping on acid, or "that crazy shit" my dad called it.
ME: "UD, are you ok, you seem to be acting like you are dizzy or whoozy."
UD: "Man, look at the sun, man, its drippin down like candle wax.....wow, you look funny..man...when did your hair turn blue and shiny, ....wow....you ever smoke weed? Lemme tell you man, it will make you think more, man, make you a deep thinker...everyone here does it, all your cousins do it, Tanya does it....and she's alot younger than you, she loves weeeeed..man.."
ME:"UD, Tonya is like 7 yrs old, I dont think she's smokin anything...."
UD:"You callin me a liar?(voice gets raised a lil bit, now he is struggling to stand up, its 11:04 am)..cause I can kick your ass, just so you know that, I can kick your ass, I dont care if you think you are bigger than me(I was, at 12, 5'7 155 lbs, he was 30ish ,5'6 145)..I was in Vietnam goddammit, and I will KICK YOUR ASS!!!(starts doing a weird version of a clumsy Kung-Fu Bruce Lee, complete with spastic chopping motions and high pitched Kung Fu noises like Hi-YA, Woooooo,weee,woooo goddammit!!!) (now he is staggering and as he is saying the last goddammit!, he sits down by a fallen pine tree, lays his gun down) man why is the ground so muddy(it wasnt) hey Bubba(dont know why he called me Bubba, but from then on, I was called Bubba by UD til he died, my dad said he had a friend in 'Nam named Bubba that was shot in an ambush, just like in Forrest Gump. This was like in 1981...Donny never saw Forrest Gump, but the movies he did see, "Platoon" being one, was, to him, utter bullshit. His fav was Apocalypse Now)

"Get your ass over here and get me out of this mud before the leeches get me.....HURRY!!!(only problem was, he was obviously seeing things that I couldnt see and he is starting to freak TFOut, and me being 12, was getting a little antsy, I had a loaded 12 gauge and felt , if I need to use it , I will)
ME: "UD, just pull yourself up onto the log that you are leaning up against, all you have to do is stand up! There is no mud here, dude, hell there aint no water in 3 miles from here."
UD: "Fuck you, I am in quicksand now and I dont know if I can touch the bottom(he was slowly sliding from a sitting position on the log and oozing onto the ground, as if he was actually going under water or quicksand...a mime would have been proud) throw me a limb and pull me out--- PLEASE...O God, a goddamn alligator GODDDAAMMM ALLIGATORRRR!!! FUCKIN HURRY!!!"
ME: ( I am wondering if anyone else can see him. I have never seen anyone do this, ever, and its really kinda funny and amusing, its like he is putting on a show for me, or a one man Broadway stage act, and its pretty entertaining with all the emotion, if we would have YouTube back in '81, this would have like 10 million hits....) "Donny, trust me, there is no gator, no leeches, no quicksand, no mud, no nothing, dude, all you have to do is stand up."
UD: "The gator is smiling at me, he knows he is gonna eat me, HURRY THE FUCK UP....holy Shit, a dinosaur just got that gator ....look!!(he points maybe 2 feet away from the soles of his boots) My friends have saved me!! My friends in the forest!!! I knew they would come and help!! I knew it!!(Ok, thank god for the damn dinosaur that he can see and I can't. It is all of 11:15 am and I can tell this is gonna be a looonnng 3 days)
ME: "Uh, yeh, great, now can you stand up now? Are you sure you dont want to go back and lie down at the house, we are pretty close and you can rest and pull yourself together"
UD:"Maaaann, yoouuu dooonnnnn'''tttt unnnnndddeerrrstannnnd, you cant leave my friends here without talking to them, that would be mean.....you cant see them?(I nod my head No)
Well thats your loss man, your mind is closed off, man, thats why, your not tuned in, you need to see the promised land, and ease your mind...."
ME: "Uhh, ok, do you think you can walk? I really think we should go back... and...."
UD: "HUSH, you will scare them off...(he stands up, and wobbly legs and all, he heads towards the treeline, and seems to be ok under his own power, my fear was that he would think his legs have fallen off and I would have to drag his sorry ass all the way back)
ME: "Where in the hell are we going? How far do we have to go?"
UD:"We gotta cross this fence over here....barbed wire, man, it will chew you up if you run into it at full speed,man, I KNOW!"(lifts his shirt, and, yes he is scratched up like a tiger swiped his ribs)
ME: "Ok, point taken.." We cross the fence, and we are officially tresspassing. I have no clue where we are, and we walk toward what looks like netting in a clearing, something you would see from M"A"S"H...
UD:"Well look at this, hey Bubba walk over here....."
ME: "Ok, whats up?" Then I step on a tall, green plant that is like 7 ft, and turns out, a Marijuana plant, and here comes phase two of a major freakout.
UD:"What the hell are you doing? Do you have any fuckin idea what that or this is? You owe me like $300 bucks, dude!"
ME:" Uh, sorry, but I didnt know plants cost that much. Is it rare? Seems to me there are several hundred just like it right here and right over there...."
UD:"Stay away from them....I sell these to people. This is weed, man, and its easy money.....you got friends that smoke Malboros, right? "
Me: "NO!"
UD: "Cause if you do, they will buy weed by the truckload man.....and I need someone who can help me move this before it goes to waste or I smoke all of it up......thats why you need to try it..."
ME:(the whole time he is talking, I am shaking my head in the "No" way) "I dont smoke, UD, its bad for you and I hear drugs are bad"
UD:"The only reason people tell you drugs are bad is because they want more for themselves, man, especially the goverment, man,...back in 'Nam, we had all the drugs we wanted, hell we need them, it was kinda like bonus money....its the governments fault I like 'em so much....
we need to go back to the house, I need to pick something up.....my buzz is wearin off and Im thirsty......"
It seemed that he was gettin more and more coordinated and less agitated, and I was guessing what drug had a hold of him was wearin off, and I was guessin he wanted another hit or something.......to be continued................I'll complete Uncle Donnie, part 2 later.......


Now getting back to electronics....my dad slowly came around to push button phones, and even bought a Fish Finder for fishing, which it did help us catch more fish and cut down on the guess work. As for a comparison of my 14-15yr old self vs his 14 yr old self, the most ambitious thing I ever did was take out the seats and carpet of '82 Camaro my soon-to-be car and install my new Coustic Auto Reverse Head Unit w/Bass Boost, and wire it to 3 amps via a Coustic 3 way Crossover, and build and install 2 -12" M&M Subwoofers, and install 2 Tweeters, 2 6x9's.



All in all, it cost me about $1000.00 from my summer yard cutting money, and my mom picked up some of it. My dad did help a little bit to make sure I didn't mess up any wires behind the dash, and making sure I didn't blow up the battery in the mean time. The biggest difference between my generation and my dads generation is that they were taught the value of a dollar and how to take care of things, since they were hard to come by. The car eventually became a running joke, a real training tool for me, learning how to fix stuff on it with his help. The Car may be broken down, but the stereo sounded good. He felt that stereo was overkill, and didn't see the need of it. Always the performance minded, he said for $1000.00 I could have bought new heads and get some more HP out of that 305 Chevy.



My dad was one of the few people who could keep something good as new for 10 yrs, even with everyday use, wear and tear. I remember some tennis shoes I bought him when I was 6, or my mom bought him and let me give it too him for his birthday. When I was 16, he still had them, good as new. And he wore them every weekend for 10 yrs. He was all about maintaining things. Things always had a schedule for this and that, and he always had clean tools and the best running lawnmowers. His shop/garage, was always pristine like a Nascar Garage with posters of hot Snap-On tools calendars of big breasted women in tight shirts, or bikinis. He was methodical, and I guess it came from his time in the military. He felt that people who couldn't take care of their things shouldn't be able to get new things. And that was his rule. I guess you could say he was a tightwad, and my mom was the free spirit as far as money goes. My dad was a master of hoarding money away in various accounts that my mom didn't know about. My dad was also, it turns out, a master gambler. He knew the game of football, and I guess he was good cause he had an eye for talent and could tell a mismatch when he saw one. He rarely went with the Vegas picks, he went with his gut, on both the pro and college game. My mom had no clue, since he never bet more than he could afford to lose, plus he went to church and I think that is where he did his transactions. I am convinced one our Elders, a real estate guru, was his bookie, or dad was his bookie, I never knew.... I'll never forget, one day he was at work during the summer when I was about 8, and I remember stumbling onto a military ammo box that was in the bedroom closet. It was behind about 4 boxes of shoes of his, and underneath several Louis L'amour western books. The reason I was in the closet in the first place was that one of my hamsters, Mr. Whiskers (how original) had escaped his existence in the Hamster 'Quarium, and had crawled under the door and wiggled into his closet. Hamsters are quick when they want to be, and will multiply if you let them run wild in the house. I had to stop this rodent before he turned our house into one big Hamster-Rama.....



Anyway, for whatever reason, I thought the hamster had gotten into the box, so I opened it, and underneath a pile of papers from the military and some ribbons, there was a stack....let me rephrase this......a pile of money....I had never seen so much cash, ever.... I had both hands like I was holding a hamburger, a big ass hamburger, made of money...it had to be at least $20,000 because underneath that pile was a stack just as big, all neatly bundle up in $100.00 bills with bands around them.....I think this is what many married men refer to as the "rainy day fund" than many men, me included, have stowed away, away from the spending fingers of wives.
It smelled like old money, that stale, almost mildewy, old sweaty smell of wealth. The whole closet smelled like that. One thing was for sure, I couldnt tell my mom........TO BE CONTINUED>>>>>

2 comments:

Bama Greg said...

Yeh, like anybody has money their wife doesnt know about....maybe back then, but today, I promise you THEY KNOW ALL...If you have any money, she will find it. It is just a matter of time.

JJ Smoove said...

Saw ya on twitter. Funny stuff.
Bama will be good next year.
Is your family technically sane?
Did your mom kill your uncle?
IS this some fictional novel, cause this is 8 kinds of crazy.