About Me

I feel the wanderlust and the call of the open highway. Which is good, because I drive cars for a living. But I'm a writer, and someday hope to once again make my living using my writing skills.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Two days ago, I was on my way to see my friend Lisa. I planned to see her and stay for the night, and was in need of that special loving care she always gives to me in abundance. I'd have to deliver a car by noon the next day in Charleston, S.C.

When the cell phone rang and I could see it was Riff, I let out a long sigh of frustration. Somehow I just knew it would be bad news. "Hello, Riff."

"I have a special assignment for you. Go to Lewisburg and pick up my friend Jack Grindle and take him to Wheeling, West Virgina. Where are you now?"

"Waynesboro, Virginia."

"Perfect, you're not far at all. Just hop on Interstate 64 and head straight to Lewisburg."

"We're not supposed to take passengers, right?"

"Maybe you didn't hear me. This is a personal friend of mine, you will do this. Clear?"

"It is way out of my way, I'm headed to Charleston."

"Suck it up, cupcake. You work for me and you do as I say." Riff went on to give me the address and I jotted it down. Then I hung up and made the sad call to Lisa. She was understanding.

"I can't say I'm not disappointed," she told me. "But I do understand, its your job."

"You just don't know how much I wanted to see you. I've been feeling a little discouraged lately, and the holidays are hard. My Mom and brother are both gone, I don't feel like I have anyone."

"Cut that crap, you've got me and a lot of other people who love you."

We talked a little bit longer, and then I lost cell phone service. I found the small town of Lewisburg and drove to the address Riff had given me. An older, wiry gentleman came over to my car, half-striding, half-hopping. He opened the door and jumped in. "Hi, I'm Jack, you must be Bill." Then he held his fingers up very near my nose, presumably for me to examine. "See these callouses? That comes from 50 years of banjo strumming."

I pulled back onto the highway and continued down the road. I didn't feel much like talking, but that did not matter to Jack. "I guess you know that I'm an expatriate. You might call me an expat banjo player. And then again, you might not, your choice."

"We're headed for Wheeling, correct?"

"Unless you'd rather drive me to Hawaii!" He began to laugh with gusto, then stopped suddenly and said, "Of course I'm only joking. But in all seriousness, I have lived half my life in Greece. Met a beautiful woman there and married her. She loves me with all of her heart, and man, that woman can make love!"

"Good to know."

"They love my banjo in Greece. And I love to grease the banjo. Just kidding. Now Steve Martin, he can play the banjo. I mean, movie star, comedian, best selling author, and banjo player. I want his life. But seriously, I'm very pleased with my own life. If you take my meaning."

"I do."

"Good. Do you know the history of banjo? I'm not going to bore you with some long story, suffice it to say that banjos have entertained many people over the years. Ever see that movie DELIVERANCE? There is a hillbilly boy at the beginning of the movie that plays a banjo like nobody's business. He looks like a very cool customer, a shrewd one if there ever was one. There's a lot going on behind those eyes, and it left me wanting to know more. But instead, the story took a turn towards backwoods male rape and such. You follow?"

"Uh, yeah, I've seen the movie."

"Sure you have, of course you have. Did I mention that I lived in Greece? My wife is still there, and I miss her something awful. I play the banjo for her each night, although she's not here to hear it. I'm just in America thinking how much I miss Greece. And sharing my place with a Catholic fella who is addicted to porn. I mean every time I pass his bedroom, he's doing things to himself that I'd rather not repeat. You know what I mean?"

"I've got the picture."

"No, I don't think you do. This guy has a special way of--"

I interrupted quickly. "Let me stop you right there to say I know as much as I need to know."

Jack eyed me warily, then clicked his tongue on his dentures. "Well, suffice it to say that he's hard to live with. I mean, he's a Catholic, for God's sake. I keep telling him he should be fondling his Rosary beads instead of his johnson all the time."


Jack was still taking stock of me. "You don't like banjo music, do ya?"

"I love banjo music."

"Prove it!"

"Prove it? How would I do that?"

"Tell me the name of a banjo player."

"One of my closest friends in the world, Frank Wilson in Birmingham. He can play with the best of them."

"Well I have never heard of him, and so you are obviously making up a story. I do believe that I've lost all respect for you, and I'd like to make the rest of this trip in silence. Please don't engage me further in conversation. I'm just a quiet and pensive expat, and would like to be left alone." With that, Jack curled up in his seat with his back to me. Fine by me. I put on some George Strait music and just enjoyed the rest of my drive.

It was a long way to Wheeling, and even longer back to Charleston. But I kept on moving so I wouldn't think of my loneliness during the holiday season. Christmas is almost here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


A few months ago, I was just outside of Phoenix waiting to get a car. I decided to kill the time by going to an early movie matinee at a nearby theater. I love the experience of going to a new theater in a new town where I've never been before. I refer to it as a virgin theater experience.

This was an older theater, and as I arrived before it officially opened for the day, I got a chance to speak to a staff member as he was setting up the Concession stand. Turns out that this was once a big old movie palace, but had been split into four smaller auditoriums to compete as a multiplex. They were playing NEVER LET ME GO, an indie film that I had been anxious to see. A quiet, nice, gentle little movie.

The staff member, a jolly fellow named Jerry, explained that it was usually slow enough for the first show that the box office out front was closed. Tickets would be sold in the lobby at the far end of the Concession stand. So I stood there to be first in line, and by the time they were ready to open 20 people had lined up behind me. Jerry was now setting up a cash drawer so he could begin to sell tickets, and suddenly there was a commotion coming from the entrance door to the lobby.

"Come on! Let's go, hurry up!" came the screeching and overly loud voice of an elderly woman. I turned and saw her, as she marched forward followed by her much older-looking husband who was dependent on a cane to stand up.

Jerry smiled at me and said, "OK, all set. What movie are you seeing?"

"One for NEVER LET ME GO, please."

"Excuse me! Excuse me!" It was the elderly woman, who had walked right up beside me and slapped her hand on the counter. "Is this where I buy the tickets, please? We want two."

"Ma'am, you'll have to wait in line," Jerry patiently explained.

"What?" she shrieked.

"What's he saying?" her husband asked.

"Hush, Herbert. Young man, we are senior citizens, we don't wait in line. Now, do you have any of those headsets for those who are hard of hearing?"

"No ma'am, we don't have those at this theater."

"Oh, that's a shame, a terrible shame."

"What's that? What did he say, Louella?" asked Herbert.

"Never mind, Herbert!" It seemed like each time Louella spoke to Herbert, her already loud voice got much louder.

"Did you ask about the headsets?" Herbert wanted to know.

"They don't have them," replied Louella. "I'll just have to explain what's going on to you throughout the movie. No problem."

I got my ticket and started away. Louella grabbed me by the arm. "Excuse me, young man, I need to ask you a personal question."

"Yes ma'am, how can I help you?"

"I overheard you say that you're seeing NEVER LET ME GO. That's what we came to see, what do you know about it."

My heart sunk. They were there to watch the same movie as me, and I knew that there was going to be non-stop loud talking all through the feature. I looked at her sadly and said, "I hear that it's really horrible."

"What? Really?"

"What'd he say?" asked Herbert.

Louella seemed perturbed by her husband. "He's telling me about our movie."

"He's telling you how to move?" Herbert said, confused.

Louella shook her head. "Tell me more, tell me what you know."

"I know that there is supposed to be a lot of gratuitous sex and nudity."

Louella made spitting gestures as she made a noise something like "Tu, tu, tu."

I felt I needed to add more. "And there is also a lot of grotesque violence and
graphic bloody torture scenes."

Louella's face puckered up like a prune. "Oh no, no, no. That doesn't sound any good at all."

"Very dark, very depressing. It will leave you with an intense sense of dread."

Herbert demanded to be heard. "I want to know what this man is saying."

"He says our movie is bad, very bad," said Louella.

"Of course I'm glad," crowed Herbert. "I'm alive and at the movies."

Louella eyed me with scrutiny. "Now wait. Why are you going to see the movie if its so bad?"

"I see every movie, I'm sort of an amateur movie critic."

"And then you can tell people like us what to avoid. Very smart, very industrious. But now what can we go see?"

"I suggest SECRETARIAT, its the feel-good movie of the Fall season. You're gonna love it."

"What? What?" asked a flustered Herbert.

"He says we should go see SECRETARIAT, Herbert!" she yelled.

"Now you know I haven't had a secretary since I retired 20 years ago."

I went to my theater and enjoyed the movie in peace and solitude. And in my heart, I felt good about sending Herbert and Louella off to see a movie that I knew would bring them a smile.

Friday, December 3, 2010


I picked up a car in Chicago that was headed to Laredo, Texas. Way down at the bottom of Texas next to the Mexican border. I was traveling down I-55 when my cell phone rang. It was good old Mrs. Sherman again, who seemed to like to call me from time to time.

"Hello, is this Bill?" she asked.

"Hi, Mrs. Sherman."

"Bill, is that you?"

"Yes ma'am, how can I help you?"

"I just baked a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and I thought you might enjoy a slice."

"Thanks for offering, but I'm in Illinois right now."

"OK, what time will you be here?"

"Uh, no, I won't be there. I am headed south to Texas."

"Oh that's a real shame. I'm sorry to hear that. But I do have some good news for you."

"What's that?"

"I am going back down to Florida soon, and you'll be driving my car for me."

I smiled to myself. "Yes, I believe you mentioned that last time you called."

"Did I? You'd think I'd remember something like that. That's two weeks away, should I save you a piece of cake?"

"No thank you, I'm trying really hard to diet. I better let you go, see you soon."

"Oh yes you will, yes you will."

I had passed through Springfield about 40 miles back, and saw a sign telling me I was nearing a town called Litchfield. Up ahead, I saw a Volkswagen off on the shoulder of the road and a woman pacing back and forth next to it. It was cold outside, and I felt for her and whatever distress she was in. I thought I better pull over and offer to help her.

I parked behind the VW and got out. She barely acknowledged my presence. "Do you need any help?" I asked.

"People. Damn people," she mumbled, continuing to pace. "You can never depend on them. Damn them all."

"Is everything OK?"

She stopped suddenly, then walked up and got nose to nose with me. "No, everything is not OK. Not by a longshot."

I noticed that her face and hairstyle was a dead ringer for Morticia from THE ADDAMS FAMILY. Only she was much chunkier, more Rubenesque. There was a fire in her eyes, but a confused and lost quality to the fire. "Are you having car troubles?"

"You could say that. Oh yes, you surely could say that," she retorted.

"What seems to be the problem?"

"Alice. Dumb, stupid Alice. You think you know someone, you think they are your friend, and then they turn on you."

I was completely lost. "I don't think I understand."

"Of course you don't. Because just like me, you put your trust in someone you love, and then when they betray you..." She slammed her hand on the roof of the car.

"How can I help?"

"Alice has been stealing from me, is there some way you can help with that?"

"I pulled over because I thought you might be in trouble."

"I am in trouble. I'm in crisis, for God's sake! Alice has lied to me, betrayed me, and taken money from me. And this isn't the first time."

"OK, well... What is wrong with your car?"

"Haven't you been listening? Alice is a thief!"


"Yes. This is Alice, the sneaky bitch." She pointed at the VW.

"Oh, Alice. Gotcha."

"She can't be trusted. I'm at the end of my rope, I don't know what to do about her."

"You say she steals from you?"

"That's exactly what I said, and that is exactly what she does."

"How did she steal from you? I mean, what has she taken?"

"Where do I begin? She stole a watch from me, she stole cash numerous times, and now she has stolen my favorite ring."

I shook my head. "I'm trying to follow you."

"It's very simple, I put my valuables into the glove box, and the next day they are gone."

"Do you lock the glove box?"

She smiled winningly and stuck her hand out. "By the way, my name is Mary. Very nice of you to stop and check on me."

I gently shook her hand. "The pleasure is mine, Mary. I'm Bill Thomas."

"Now what was your question? Oh, do I lock the glove box. Of course not, why would I?"

"For security?"

"Alice is supposed to be my security. When an item is in her possession, she is responsible for taking care of it. I never lock my doors, and always leave the windows open. I'm a bohemian."

"Do you live in a good neighborhood?"

"I live in St. Louis, and it's a pretty rough area. I have to park on the street two blocks from my apartment building. But I know everything will be fine, because Alice takes care of herself quite well. If you know what I mean, and I think you do."

"Hmm. Mary, have you ever considered that some bad people might come during the night and take your things out of the glove box?"

Mary began laughing uproariously. "What? Are you serious? That is the most absurd thing I have ever heard in my life! You are too funny. Do you know what Alice would do if someone tried to steal from her?" Very suddenly, Mary went from laughter to sullen seriousness. "Although she seems to have no problem at all stealing from me." She turned and pointed a finger at the VW. "Traitor! Betrayer! Benedict Alice!"

"I really do wish there was something I could do to help."

"The truth is, you've been no help at all, Mr. Bill."

"Can I at least help you get your car started?"

She stared at me like I was a lunatic. "There's nothing wrong with Alice, she runs fine. But when I opened my glove box 30 minutes ago and found my favorite ring gone, I had to pull over and have a long talk with her. But she doesn't have anything to say, which only proves her guilt." Mary went and climbed into the car. "I wish you luck on your journey. But can I tell you that you're lousy at helping people in need." She started the VW and pulled out onto the highway, nearly causing a truck to hit her. The truck swerved wildly, and Mary drove down the Interstate at a cautious 45 mph.

I shook my head and climbed into my car. I thought about it, and decided not to be dissuaded from trying to help people in need. I looked around the interior of the car, then started the engine. "Listen to me, car, I don't know your name, but you better never steal anything from me." I grinned and pulled out onto the highway, ready to continue my travels.