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.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


I was driving a van from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale just the other day. The man who gave me the keys had told me that he wouldn't want to be in my shoes, this van had 255,000 miles on it and was in real bad shape. Sure enough, it began to act up on me as I neared the Florida border, and in Valdosta it broke down. I found a nearby Firestone and barely limped into the driveway before it shut down completely. They told me it could be fixed up enough to finish my journey, but I would have to stay overnight.

The next day, as I sat in the Customer Lounge wondering much longer the work would take, I noticed the TV was playing DR. NO. I have always been a huge James Bond fan, and so I thought this would be a nice way to pass the time. Suddenly, a man who appeared to be about 70 sat down next to me.

"Oh boy, DR. NO," he said. "This is Jimmy Bond at his best, and his very first movie. I can remember the first time I saw this movie."

"Did you see it here in Valdosta?" I asked politely.

"Oh hell no, this was in the 60's, I was a teenager living in Illinois. Me and my buddies had to crawl on our bellies across a soy bean field to climb over a fence and sneak into the Drive-in. And let me tell ya, crawling on our bellies prepared us for Vietnam, which is where we went a few year later." He pointed at the TV. "This is the first Bond, and I still say Roger Moore was the best Bond. Just look at him."

"That's Sean Connery."

"Son, son, son, you are so wrong. That man is Roger Moore, and the woman is Jane Seymour."

"I believe that's Ursula Andress."

He laughed. "You couldn't be more wrong, but I won't hold it against you. My name is Roy, and I served my country proudly in Vietnam." He held out his hand, and I reached out to shake.

"Bill Thomas."

"That's a good American name. And it was America we were fighting for in Vietnam."

"I appreciate and respect you for your service, Roy."

"Thank God someone does. I killed a few men in Vietnam. Actually, more than a few. In point of fact, a whole, whole lot of men. I saw many of my close friends die bloody deaths. But there were good times, too. It was fun riding in those helicopters."

"I'm glad you made it out OK."

"Despite what you may think, it wasn't all fun and games over in Vietnam. The best movie depiction I've seen of that war was in that movie FORREST GUMP. I really loved that movie, except for that one character, the dumb guy who was always talking about 'Stupid is as like a box of chocolates.' I can't remember that character's name, but he got on my nerves. Really annoyed me."

"It was a good movie."

Roy stared at the ceiling and shook his head. "Guess I've had a good life. I came back from the war and ended up at a base near Dothan, Alabama. And one day I was looking out at a beautiful girl sunbathing in a bikini, and guess what?"

"You married her?"

"Hell no, she was already married. But she did have a very cute sister, and guess what?"

"She became your wife?"

"Nope, but she had a friend who had a neighbor, and I married her. She was from Tallahassee, a sweet little Tallahassee Lassie, and she was everything I could ever want from a wife. OK, I'll admit it, she wasn't as good in bed as some of those whores in Saigon, but I forgave her for that. She sewed her own clothes and was a heck of a cook. That makes up for a lot."

I smiled. "You really love her."

"I did until she died last year. Now I just try not to think about her. It reminds me too much of Vietnam. And now here I am, living in Valdosta, waiting for my car to get fixed. It broke down on me right in the middle of the highway and caused a traffic jam. One woman drove by and rolled down her window and gave me this." Roy gave me the bird with both hands. "Can you believe that? She didn't offer me help, she gave me the finger, in fact two fingers. But I memorized her face, and I will remember that face. And one day, we will meet again, and let's just say I wouldn't want to be her on that day. We knew how to deal with people like that in Vietnam."

"I'm sure war can take a toll on a man."

"Oh sure, men, women, children, dogs, cats. No one likes war." Roy began coughing harshly. "Did I tell you about my son?"


"I love my son. Well actually, he's my grandson, but I love him like a son. He's more of a son to me that my own son, who is his father. His name is Willy, and he's eleven, and boy oh boy can that boy hit a baseball. He makes that bat crack like nobody's business. I would have liked to have had him over in Vietnam. He could have killed the Viet Cong soldiers one after another after another with his bat. Though in reality, we used guns, it was a lot more effective."

"No doubt."

"Did I tell you I'm a Gym teacher? P.E. class. That means Physical Education."

"Yep, I took P.E. when I was in school."

"And I bet you got a paddling when you stepped out of line, didn't you? Kids need a good paddling every now and then to keep them in line. A good swat with the board of education on the bottom. But now its forbidden, and that's why kids are running loose and crazy. Over in Vietnam a lot of those enemy soldiers could have used a good paddling, too. Though again, guns and knives were more effective as killing tools."

"I'm sure of that."

Roy pointed his finger at me. "Don't be too sure of yourself. Don't be too sure of anything, you may just find that you're wrong. Like thinking that's Sean Connery on TV playing James Bond. That's the kind of mistake that could have gotten you killed in Vietnam. Listen, no offense, but this whole conversation has really upset me, I need to go take a walk and get some fresh air. If you'll excuse me." Roy marched out the door.

I have nothing but deep respect for all Veteran's who have bravely fought wars for America, and I salute their courage and valor. But as I spent the next few hours waiting for the van to get fixed, I wondered about how the most interesting and unusual people always find and fixate on me-- even in the Customer Waiting Lounge at Firestone.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I believe I have mentioned before that I never met my Father, and that is one of the biggest regrets of my life. He was gone from our home when I was born, and I was told that he and his family did not want to know me. I was informed that he died when I was 7, but I was not allowed to attend the funeral. My Mom said he did not love me or want to see me, and it always made me very sad and more than a little confused.

As I drove through the state of Mississippi yesterday, my thoughts were full of fatherhood. I never had a dad that I knew, and I have never fathered any children of my own. But over the years, there have been some men who had a profound influence in my life.

First and most important, my Pappy, who was my Mom's father. We lived at his house during the first five years of my life, and he was a quiet and somewhat distant man. But he cared about me, and tried hard to be a good role model for me. I always felt that he didn't understand why my own Dad didn't ever come around to check on me.

There was Ernie Parkinson, my boss at a car dealership when I was 20 and driving a shuttle van. Everyone said we resembled each other, and they even called me Ernie, Jr. I have stayed at Ernie's house many times as I've driven around the country. He asks each time I stop by when I'm going to get off the road and put my true talents to work.

My old college Professor Sam Levinson, who encouraged me to be a writer and to push myself beyond my personal expectations. We used to drink beers together until we got silly, and then he'd grab me in a massive bear hug and scream, "Give 'em hell, kid!" That man loved me so much, and he was certain that I could achieve anything I put my mind to.

Morty Blystone was the owner and publisher of the magazine that I worked on as chief Editor, before it went bankrupt. This was one of the most brilliant men I ever met in my life, and he shared many valuable life lessons with me. He also had a wickedly dry sense of humor.

And Stan Manning, the Air Force pilot who flew many dangerous missions back during the Viet Nam conflict. He was a quiet, unassuming man who loved to cook and made a superb dry martini. Whenever I had a problem, he'd say, "Let's go take a walk on the beach." We'd walk for hours, and I'd get sand between my toes while he dispensed wonderful common sense wisdom.

How could I ever forget the crazy guy at the mall in Denver last month, who followed me for an hour saying, "Son! My son! Don't you know me? It's your Dad, your dear old Dad, I love you and I miss you and, by God, I'm damn proud of you. Come here and give me a kiss." As you know by now, everywhere I go "Bill's people" always find me, the nut jobs who are attracted to me like a magnet. God bless them each and every one.

I sent each of these men mentioned a Father's Day card every single year, and called them to thank them for being so kind and loving to me. Stan and Morty and Sam all died this past year, and I miss them all terribly. When I went to buy cards last week, it hit me pretty hard when I remembered I had three less to purchase. I will never forget them, or what they meant to my life.

In my heart, I believe that my own Dad was just as fine a man as those I mention here today. And though I was raised to believe that he wanted nothing to do with me, I still hang onto hope that he really did love me. And sometimes when I'm out traveling the open roads of America, I feel like he is watching over me. I never met the man, but I love my Dad. He's my guardian angel, and that thought keeps me going.

Happy Father's Day to all the great Dad's out there.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I had to stay overnight in Chicago to pick up a car this weekend. I decided to go and see the new Woody Allen movie MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, mostly because I knew it was a movie none of my friends would ever see. When I do get a chance to go with friends, I save more mainstream fare like SUPER 8 and GREEN LANTERN.

The movie was playing in two auditoriums at this huge multiplex, and I was lucky enough to arrive five minutes before the first one was to begin. The other one wouldn't start for another hour and a half. The movie was pretty amusing, though I still prefer Woody's earlier, funny films.

Near the climax of the movie, I heard a voice shouting loudly, "Sue! Sue!" At first I thought it was on the soundtrack, part of the movie. But it didn't fit at all with what was happening on the screen. "Sue! Sue!" I looked around and saw that there was a man standing down under the movie screen shouting. "Sue! Sue!"

I kept on thinking to myself, "Just ignore it, he's one of Bill's people, but you're enjoying a movie, so don't engage."

"Sue! Where are you?"

The problem is that I knew what the trouble was and how to solve it. So I could fix this or I could sit and here him bellow for the rest of the movie. He was obviously in the wrong auditorium, and was looking for Sue who was in the other theater showing this movie.


I got up and ran down to the front. As I got near to him, I could see that he was an elderly man, and was holding a large popcorn and large soda. I stepped up slowly to him, approaching cautiously. "Excuse me, sir."

"Sue?" He dropped his soda, which hit the floor and splashed up onto my legs. He used his free hand to feel for me, and soon was running his hand over my face the way a blind person might feel your facial features.

"Sir, my name is Bill, and I can help you. Come with me."

"Where is Sue?"

"I'm going to take you to her."

"You know where Sue is?"

"Yes sir, just follow me."

As we started down the hallway to the door, three girls from India entered the hallway from the lobby. Seeing that they all had full containers of popcorn and soda, I assumed they were also in the wrong place.

"They aren't Sue," the old man said with an accusatory tone.

"Ladies, I think you may be in the wrong theater."

"This is MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, isn't it?" one of them asked. It was her accent that made me think they were from India, very distinctive.

"Yes, but this showing is almost over. I'm showing this man to the other theater, if you'd care to follow."

"And why should we believe you? We don't even know you. This could be some kind of a trick."

"Suit yourselves, I was just trying to help."

The girls huddled for a whispering conference. "We have decided that we will come with you."

"Where in the hell is Sue, dammit?!"

They all followed me out into the lobby, then I led them down two hallways until I saw the sign for their movie. I pointed and said, "There it is, right there. That's the theater you want."

The old man squinted. "That sign says PARIS. I want Sue."

"That's where the movie MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is starting right now."

"Is Sue in there?"

"Yes, Sue will be there."

The old man started moving as fast as he could shuffle, calling out, "Sue! I'm coming!"

The girls conferred with each other again, then one of them said, "We are going to trust you. This time." They walked off with their noses in the air.

I went back into my theater just in time to see the closing credits. Does anyone know how MIDNIGHT IN PARIS ends?

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Last week I celebrated my birthday. I had a car to deliver to Indianapolis, and I was excited because it would give me a chance to see Karen, my first love. But when I arrived at her Cafe to surprise her on the day of my birth, it was me who got the surprise. I was told by an employee that she and her girlfriend had taken off for a week at their lake house. Admittedly, the news left me feeling a little low.

I climbed on the city bus a block from the Cafe, trying to decide how to spend my birthday alone in Indy. The bus went through downtown, and then into a bad neighborhood. I engaged the driver, a friendly Hispanic man named Joe, in conversation about the highlights of his city. I was hoping to find something fun or interesting to do.

An old man stood at the bus stop when we turned a corner. He waved and jumped up and down, as if he wouldn't be seen by the driver otherwise. Joe laughed and murmured, "This guy." When Joe stopped and opened the door, the old man hopped onto the bus with an agility that frankly surprised me. The man looked to be in his late 70's, and his hair was a mess. It stood straight up, sort of like he stuck his finger into a light socket, only less well-groomed than that.

The old man stood next to Joe. I sat back and watched as he began to ask Joe a barrage of questions rapidly. Joe tried to answer, but the old man interrupted him. "You talk funny."

"Excuse me?"

"You people, you all talk funny. You don't talk normal, like us."

"You people?"

"Yes, you, all of you, you're the ones. With your crazy accents and your enchiladas. You know what I'm talking about."

"Sir, you need to take a seat."

"Don't you tell me what I need. You can't tell me what to do."

"It's for your own safety, sir."

"You need to mind your manners and watch your station. Know your place."

"My place?"

"This is America, by God. And I love it. I love it!"

"I love it too."

"You? You don't know what the hell you're talking about. You're talking out of your ass, you stupid SOB."

"Sit down, sir."

"No! No! I won't do it, and you can't force me. I fought for this country, by God, and I will die for it. Do you quite clearly understand me?"

Joe looked at the old man. "Sit down, now."

"You talk funny."

"You already said that."

"And I'll say it again, you talk funny, damn you. I'm tired of it, I'm sick of it."

Joe was being extremely patient. I was very impressed. "America is my home, and it welcomes a diversity of cultures. That's what you fought for, to protect and preserve that principal. I salute you for your service to our country, and am honored to have you riding on my bus."

This stopped the old man cold. He sputtered and tried to say something back to Joe, but nothing came out. He looked confused, flustered, absolutely dazed. Joe made eye contact with me in his rear view mirror, and we smiled at each other. The old man saw me smile, and suddenly he came to life again and found his words. "And you!"

"Me?" I asked.

"Yes you, don't think I've forgotten about you. Why do you think you have the right to smile? What do you have to smile about? You go too far, you push the issue."

"What issue?"

"No more, do you hear me? No more! It's enough, it's all I can take. And you, you're always there, always stirring the pot and causing trouble."

"Not intentionally."

"But yes, yes, yes you do! Damn it, you drive me crazy."

"Not on purpose."

"A dolphin is not a porpoise!"


"No! Absolutely not, and it never will be! Chico, let me off this bus. I have to get off this insane asylum on wheels!"

Joe pulled over and opened the doors. The old man jumped off, then ran down the street flapping his arms. I watched and hoped that he might get lucky and actually take flight. "That's Ernie, he rides this bus every day, and throws a fit each time," explained Joe.

"You handled the situation very well."

"Thanks." Joe scratched his chin. "So you want to have a good dinner tonight, eh?"

"It's my birthday, I'm on my own, so I might as well treat myself right."

"Yes you should. So I want you to come to my house, my family all gathers on Friday nights and we make a huge feast. There will be music and dancing."

"And girls?"

"Yes, but don't get your hopes up too high."

"Joe, all I have is hope. But if you are serious, I'd love to come over."

And so I did. I met Joe's wonderful family, and they made me feel so welcome in their home. It turned out to be one of the best birthdays I've had in years. I drank too much, and I know I'm not supposed to do that because of past problems. But that's another story.