Okay, that may be an overstatement, but we did love burning shit and building fires, albeit small ones. During the Sixties on Bruning Street every back yard had a ‘burning barrel’ (Can you imagine? Today? In California? Actually burning trash in town? Oh how times change.)
There was only one rule: The fire in the burning barrel had to be out by noon. No problem. I always volunteered for Burn Barrel Duty. Mom was happy to oblige.
Fire fascinated me, but what I really craved was camping out and with a ‘proper’ camp fire: just a little rustic thing with rocks all about and something to cook, preferably some dead animal, but a potato would do in a pinch. Ricky shared my fire obsession, but was none too keen on the culinary part of the exercise. He just liked breaking the rules. And building fires. And burning shit.
So for about three weeks running, every day after school we would meet in my side-yard, where there would be less chance of prying eyes busting us, and build a small camp fire. I would steal potatoes, or carrots, or bologna, or spam, and using an old coffee can, we would cook away. As I recall we never ate any of this food, but that wasn’t really the point was it?
The Old Broad who lived next door hated all the kids in the neighborhood–with a purple-fluorescent passion. Her daughter had managed to escape her conscience by purchasing the house and dumping her off there to fend, checking in every six years (OK: weeks).
She had a beautiful pristine grassy front yard, golf-green-like, never feeling the wet kiss of a Ked’s sneaker, a bicycle tread, or even a bare foot. She had drawn a line on her border:
Abandon All Hope:
KIDS Who Set Foot On My Lawn
My buddies and I were rowdy kids (Read: Normal) But when we played in my front yard we were cognizant of The Witch’s Yard, and did our best not to inadvertently step on it. Because we all knew That Bitch was watching from her window; I mean, what the hell else did she have to do with her time?
One afternoon, just about the whole neighborhood was playing ‘Batman & Robin’ vs The ‘Green Hornet’ vs ‘The Man from Uncle’ vs ‘James Bond’ in my yard.
Call it a ‘Super Hero Smack Down’ if you like.
Things got out of hand and I took multiple bullets from Kato and then method-acted my death, falling prostrate onto The Bitch’s yard. Seeing my over-acting (and my trespass), my gang scattered like dew in West Texas on a hot summer day. I lay there for a moment, not unlike Laurence Olivier in the death scene from ‘Lear’, waiting for the applause.
What I heard instead was the screeching of what should have been an owl.
Was The Witch/Bitch. She was screeching and running toward me,(Shades of Mr. Peabody)I got up, jumped back onto ‘safe ground’ (mine) and prepared myself for the royal chastising. I did not have to wait long.
This old broad proceeded to lay in to me with the most vitriolic rage I had ever heard up until that day.
Not knowing what to say, I just stood there, head half-bowed and took it. My gang slowly made their way back in what I mistakenly thought to be a show of Solidarity. They gathered around on either side of me, but not too close. The Old Bat, now with a perfect opportunity to lecture the entire population of juvenile delinquents on Bruning Street, took her stage and launched her soliloquy,
“You kids have no respect! You know you are ruining my yard! Look at all of you! You-should-be-ashamed! You have no respect!” Then she leveled her eyes, laser-like at me,
“And this kid,” she said, pointing a bony finger in my face. “This kid! Look at him! He is laughing at me! Laughing!”
(Clarification: it was a smirk, involuntary, but certainly to the uninitiated a smirk nonetheless. You see, my entire life I have had no control over my ‘smirk’ and this has gotten me into much trouble and has indeed cost me some relationships, but I just cannot help it. When something strikes me funny or ludicrous, the muscles in my face take over, and… well, I guess ‘smirk’ works well enough for the description.
Alas. Tis a curse.
Growing exasperated, and then feigning great ‘Old Helpless Lady’ sorrow, she said,
“Look how he laughs at me! Look how he mocks me! Me! Just a poor old woman who only wants to have a nice yard. Is this too much to ask from my old age?”
And with that performance thus ended, she turned and slowly (for full effect) sauntered off and made her sorrowful, broken old lady exit, stage left. (Mind you: this was the same lady that, OJ Simpson-Like-in an Airport, had burst upon the scene five minutes previous, flaying talons and rage.)
My best buddy, Randy, came up to me and asked oh so solemnly, “Lance, do you… laugh?”
“Not anymore,” I said brusquely, and walked toward the front door of my house. Everyone else slowly dispersed, all heart-sick and remorseful.
“And thanks for having my back” I said under my breath, to no one in particular, as I entered my house.
So I was pissed at my Bruning Street Gang for some weeks and fell in with Ricky full-time. Fine with me. We were having great times every afternoon building our campfire, roasting and boiling whatever I could filch from Mom’s fridge or upon occasion, the odd hapless toad or lizard, or mouse.
One Friday afternoon, I scored two potatoes and a couple of carrots from Mom’s fridge and went to my side yard to wait for Ricky. Presently he showed up with a half package of hot dogs and a few slices of five-day-old Wonder Bread and a bottle of Ketchup.
Now we had a problem
“Ricky, gonna take us hours to cook all this shit,” I said.
“Aw shit! Well, we can just build a bigger fire, yeah?”
“I dunno. Too much smoke and we gonna get caught,” I protested.
“Bullshit! Ain’t nobody around. Who gonna see it?”
So we went to work digging out our fire pit to accommodate a much larger fire. I had some bricks I stole from the pile my stepfather had brought for the construction of the patio he had started. I placed them around the perimeter of the fire pit. Ricky scrounged about and found some pieces of four by fours my step-father had been using to lay out the pattern of the patio. I went into the house and found a fresh McCall’s Magazine belonging to my Mom and brought it out for kindling.
We proceeded to build a proper ‘camp fire’. Actually, it was more of a bonfire to tell the truth, but we weren’t worried. The McCall’s magazine smoke was a little overwhelming though.
As we were preparing the vegetables and the hot dogs for cooking I heard the sliding door slide open. Not good. Mom was not supposed to be home for another hour. I ran to intercept her before she could get to the side yard.
“Hi Mom,” I said. “Hey Mom. I’m hungry. Can I have a sandwich?” I was actually trying to push her with my chest as I said this and she was having none of it.
She pushed by me and turned the corner to the side yard.
“Lance! Ricky! Put out that fire! What is wrong with you?!”
“OK! OK! Mom! We will!”
Then I heard the sirens.
Three fire trucks pulled up in front of my house and firemen jumped out frantically, dragging hoses and shouting like crazy. They knocked the little fence down which separated my side yard from the street. The lead fireman, looking left, looking right, shouted, “Where’s the fire! Where’s the fire!”
Then he saw it: A fire about the size of a ‘Smokey Joe’ BBQ grill, and he fell down laughing, dropping his nozzle.
He recovered, picked up his fire hose, then doused the fire, me, mom, and Ricky (I think out of spite, or frustration), then turned to his fellows and said, trying to regain his composure,
“Fire’s out Boys. Somebody call it in.”
Of course now I was in deep shit. The Fireman summoned me out to the front yard (which was embarrassing as everyone, and I do mean everyone in the neighborhood were assembled all about) and had a little talk with me before they left;
“Son, do you realize you could have burned that house down? Did you see how close that fire was to your house?”
(‘Yeah’, I remember thinking; ‘about six feet, no wind, and me with a garden hose at the ready’. But wisely, I said nothing and opted for remorseful—the one time my built-in smirk did not betray me.)
He continued, “If we are ever called out here again, we are gonna take you down to juvenile hall. You understand?”
“Uh Yeah, I mean, Yes Sir.”
After the smoke cleared, literally and metaphorically, I discovered it was the Old Witch Next Door who had copped us out and called the fire department.
Yes. A Repost. If you do nothing else, please scroll down and listen to the clip. It is hysterical (and real) Even better.
Cheers Y’all and Happy Saturday Oops! Sunday (is it?)
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Texan, Father, School Teacher, Rancher, & Much Maligned 36th President of The United States of America.
I love LBJ, or as Brother Dave Gardner (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4E_Nrm0j8k) once called him: ‘Daddy Bird’. Johnson was a divisive entity during his one and a half terms as president—primarily due of course to the Vietnam War—which he inherited. Yes, I realize I am gonna get some push back. Favorably mention ‘LBJ’ even today and you best stand by for some unhappy and contentious words.
Young Daddy Bird
The problem I have, in general, when talking to folks about Johnson is that most are ignorant of the man, his history, his upbringing; his good works: Rural electrification for Texas. Medicare, Civil Rights, The Great Society (never really came to fruition, due to Vietnam) and so on.
Once he became ‘The Accidental President’ he took JFK’s dreams and made them reality. Johnson could do that. Why? Because he was the consummate politician—far more effective than Jack Kennedy. JFK’s dreams were hollow pipes. Johnson made them happen. This is historical fact: For those of you who would care to search it out. For those who don’t really care to do that: Just-Trust-Me on this one, ‘cause I am a Texan, and Texans don’t lie (overmuch).
I have read all of Robert Caro’s books (http://www.robertcaro.com/) on LBJ and I have done my own research, and I have my own memories.
During the Sixty-Four election, my Mom, the originalHippy Chick informed me she was voting for Goldwater.
“Goldwater! Mom! Are you serious?”
“Yes Son. He is right for America.” “‘Right?!’ Right don’t even come close: just to the right of Attila the Hun.” (Even at that tender age of seven, I was politically astute. Honestly.)
Our country does not produce colorful leaders like LBJ anymore.Much of the blame must be placed on the information revolution and the manifestation of the instant sound bite. I am not bemoaning the Information Age. I would not be able to throw my thoughts so carelessly about to the entire world if it were not for this Internet Thing we all embrace. All I am saying is one must ponder how many potential great leaders are out there, but refuse to step up to the plate simply because they do not wish to have every word they have ever uttered tweeted or twerked or posted or face-booked for all to see. Some things should still be classified as TMI. That is just good manners.
What if JFK had had the internet to deal with? We would all have known of his affair with MM. WWBS? What would Bill ‘Oh Really’ Say? We would have been ass-deep in the Cuban Missile Crisis, but Fox and CNN and even MSNBC would have burned more video on JFK’s infidelity. Castro would have loved it. Just sayin’…
My Step-sister worked for Oliver Stone on the film JFK. She was one of the on-set-dressers. We got into a heated argument over the whole conspiracy thing. She was convinced that LBJ was behind it all. I know quite a lot about LBJ as I have mentioned. I have done my research and I love Texas history.
Anyway I asked her upon what she based her unwavering belief.
She said, “That photograph of Johnson taking the oath of office on Air Force One in Dallas.”
Smug? Ladybird? (Just behind his right hand, in case y’all don’t recognize her) Of course, that is Jackie on the other side.
“You’re shitting me,” I said.
“Look at that photo and see how smug Ladybird looks in it. You just know then and there, she knew the whole thing.”
“I think I need a drink,” was all I could muster by way of response.
(Oh! And my step-mother worked for Jack Ruby: I know some shit about it)
I am not writing here as an apologist for LBJ. My focus is on the wonderful Texan caricature character he was. His humor, his down-to-earth’ed-ness, his vibrant lust for life, his convictions, and his larger-than-worldly-life persona: His ‘Texan-ness’.
Therein lies the rub for me. Johnson could be a buffoon. He could be portrayed as an idiot. He could be rude, crude, and socially unacceptable. He would be chastised and eventually ostracized.
But he got shit done!
He was a great, moral, honorable man.
No one will ever convince me otherwise (but you are certainly welcome to try)
Watch and listen to the Video Clip. It proves my point (and it is hysterical). These tapes were released a few years back. I have them all.
Loved it. Hated it. Few decades ago I could truthfully say, “Hey! I’ve spent half my life in California.” (See This Or This)
Now I can say, “Hey! I’ve spent most of my life in Dangerous Desolate Places.” (Middle East & East Texas) That worm did turn some. (Go Here or There)
As a Native Texan, I am supposed to always hate California and yes, Yes to all you Texans out there: I know this. I get it. Put the rope down.
Yet I more love than hate California.
In California I learned to appreciate music, art, science, literature, hippies, beaches and blondes. My first kiss was not in California, but I didn’t miss that milestone by much–In California.
In Texas I learned to appreciate drankin’ whiskey and beer , smokin’ dope, playin’ football, chasin’ cheerleaders, and Raisin’ Hell.
Arriving home to Texas late 1968 folks made fun of my ‘California Accent’ if there even is such a thing. (There were no Valley Girls in the Sixties as far as I know). My ‘accent’ was ‘just the way normal people talked’ as far as I was concerned. Texans sounded funny to me (Blasphemy!)
My Attitude Adjustment didn’t take long to take.
In California I was a Little League Baseball Star. In Texas no one gave two shits about baseball. I had to learn football. Not that that was necessarily a bad thing, but I had all those baseball skills which were not worth a cup of spit in Texas.
I love Texas and don’t get me wrong. But once in a while, when I see a photo or a news bit showing San Francisco, or San Diego, or a beach, or a blonde… I hear this guysinging:
Sometimes I even hear this blonde singing:
And I tear up. (Just a little bit) but then I throw on some Bob Wills and Remember Who I am.
And thus remembering, I go out and buy a case of Lone StarLong Necks and listen to this guy:
And I Thank The Spirit of Sam Houston I Am A Texan.
And for all the Dark-Eyed, Dark-Haired, Dark-Demeanor’d Dark-Complicated–Dark-Complexion-ated Cajun Womeninthe world.
(Those with the Sloe-Gin Eyes–and all that implies.)
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction.
“Any resemblance to persons living or dead should be plainly apparent to them and those who know them, especially if the author has been kind enough to have provided their real names and in some cases, their phone numbers. All events described herein actually happened, though on occasion the author has taken certain, very small liberties with chronology, because that is his right as an American. Warning: this story will [eventually] have drugs in it [specifically, Pot] read at your own annoyance.”
–Stolen From Various Sources while illegally surfing the internet using a U.S. Government Network and Computer
It was the Summer of ’77 and I had just dropped out of college (yet once again). There was an old friend of mine from high school living in Lake Charles, and pretty much on a bet I loaded up my ’68 Chevy Impala and drove to Louisiana to look him up. Of course I had no idea where he lived in Lake Charles or what he was even doing there, but I knew Kim John and I knew that he would not be difficult to find even in a town of over one-hundred-thousand.
Really all I had to do was to find McNeese State University and ask around. For you see, Kim Jim/John was probably the most charismatic, outgoing, affable guy on Earth and I knew that even if he had only spent one week in Lake Charles, everyone would know him or know of him. He went to East Texas State in Commerce just long enough to pledge and become a Kappa Alpha.
That was his only driving ambition in life: to become a KA like his big brother and hang out with the Brothers. I despised Greeks and all their ways. (Still today, these are not my favorite people. Kim James was my best friend, next to Peanut, and for many years before, even though we did not see eye-to-eye on many things and most especially, things Greek.)
It took me all of about 45 minutes to locate him once I arrived. He was living large in a beautiful apartment complex close to the university in the best apartment they had to offer: Two-story with four bedrooms, a large den/living room, three baths, a decent sized kitchen with a breakfast nook, a porch facing the pool—‘Classy” is all I could say when he showed me around.
He had a stereo in every room (All of them ‘Marantz’ because years before I had told him “Marantz makes the best, (and most expensive) audio equipment you can buy”. He apparently never had forgotten that and I was properly impressed. Kim Jim always did his best it seems to impress me. To this day I am not sure why. It was just his way. Actually it was probably because I was the only one who really knew he was a fake and he knew that I knew.
In addition to the large pool, there were two tennis courts, a game room, outdoor dining room, a sauna, and all the ‘beautiful’ people of McNeese lived there, or so it seemed to my small-town eyes.
One of the upstairs rooms had a balcony overlooking the pool and the tennis courts. Wonderful.
Against my better judgment, I will continue this story, if I get just one request. It is rather long…
Someone let me know, but be not hasty in your remarks, as this one could land that fictional character in prison.
Is the prose worth it?
Well, the story is just that good, so I suppose so, since the author will be the one to do the hard time.
I never gave two shits for the heat anyhow…
(In light of recent events in NYC, I retract the above statement, 22 December, 2014)
When I hear songs, they lead me into other songs, which lead me into more songs, and then inevitably, they collide, atom like, and split into even further songs, and therein lies that rub. Yet in the currency of life, well… songs are life. Fatal collisions notwithstanding.
But they do resurrect memories.
At least mine in my mind do.
This one, This Herb Alpert one, Taste of Honey, I first heard while shopping for glass slides for my microscope. (I think I was approaching my nine years’ on Earth anniversary) I was in a shopping mall–long before there were such things in any other place but my Bellwether California.
I was walking through the ‘toy store’, for that was the only place a ‘wee child’ could purchase slides for microscopes back then (without a legal guardian), when I, with the helpful help of the condescending moron at the store, found the blank glass slides.
“How much?” I earnestly asked.
“Four dollars,” he earnestly answered.
“Four dollars!” I exclaimed.
“Yes Son, Four dollars.”
“OK,” I said. “When a child needs slides, a child needs slides, but be somewhat forewarned and aware, that your sum represents two months’ allowance for me, reaped from the heavy hot labor of mowing yards, taking out trash, keeping my mouth shut, (when so ordered), and generally just being an unwillingly good kid. Someday you will lament this encounter when you are in Purgatory for ripping off a wee child.”
“Plus tax,” he added.
Sometimes one’s Bullshit falls short, and fails to hit The Mark.
You see? I was a wanna-be microbiologist even then. Of course, I did murder, sacrificedissect-ize, euthanize some frogs along the way. (For The Good of Frog-Kind, and for Science, of course) I figure the ‘statue’ of limitations on Frogicide has long since crumbled…
I sure do hope so. Once, my buddies and I captured a frog (probably a toad actually) and we, the four of us, tied strings around his legs and then on the count of three, we ran in four different directions.
The frog exploded.
My mother, drying dishes and watching through the kitchen window, witnessed this.
She was vociferous in her chastisement. Then I had remorse. (for about ten minutes)
Dust now, most likely, that statute.
So now, Gentles All, I confess to my crime… of Frogicide.