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, July 31, 2012


I was on my way to deliver the car to Mrs. Sherman at her Maryland home.  My cell phone rang and Riff was on the line.  "Hello, Riff.  What's up?"

"Your time is up, that's what.  Why are you always late?"

"I'm due at Mrs. Sherman's in one hour, and I'll be there in half that time."

"You shouldn't show up too early, it makes us look bad.  Sets a bad standard."

"Whatever you say."

"Damn right whatever I say.  I'm the boss."  He paused.  "Can you get up to Boston to pick up a car headed to Miami?"

"Sure.  Is it ready?"

"Ready today, the question is whether you can make it in time."

"I will check the train schedule and let you know."  I hung up and concentrated.  It was early morning, so if I could catch an Amtrak train within the next hour or so, I should be in Boston before evening time.  First I had to drop off to Mrs. Sherman, and I knew from experience that her motto was  "I know you are a man of integrity, so I won't insult you by offering a gratuity."

I pulled into her driveway, and the 94 year old lady came out to greet me.  "Hello, Bill.  I'm so glad they sent you to pick up my car."

"To be honest I am delivering it to you, Mrs. Sherman.  I picked it up from your Florida home 2 days ago."

She held her hand up to her forehead and seemed embarrassed and a little lost.  "Yes, yes, that's right.  Can you please unload my car now?"  I would not do it for anyone else, and it is against company policy to touch any customer's personal belongings.  But this was sweet old Mrs. Sherman, after all.

When I was done, she handed me an envelope and said it was my tip.  "Please open it later."  Then she began to absent-mindedly sing YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE as she walked into the house.

I took a cab to the train station, and ten minutes after I arrived the northbound train came along.  I called my old high school buddy Justin Alexander up in Boston and asked him if he could pick me up at the train station.  Not only was he willing, but he said he'd drive me to Waltham where my pick up car was waiting.

Justin greeted me at the station, and we had fun catching up.  Last time I had seen him was at the 2011 New Years Eve surprise party thrown for me by my friend Lisa.  "You still manager at your company, or did they promote you?" I asked him.

"No, they let me go."

"Say what?  You've been with them for 18 years, how could they just let you go?"

"Good question."

"No seriously, I want to know."


"What?  You have to be kidding me."

"I wish I were."

"So what are you doing for money?"

"We're here, this is the address."  Justin had stopped the car, and nodded at the gate leading into the parking lot where a car waited to be driven down to Florida.  "Looks like they are about to close that gate and shut down for the night.  Get your car, then follow me home.  We can talk more there."

It was nearly 20 miles back to Justin's house.  His sweet wife Mary was waiting for us with a fresh cooked lasagna just out of the oven.  She'd also made a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, my favorite.  We talked about old times and laughed, and Mary reminded me that she had to warn me to behave myself when I was a groomsman at their wedding.  Back then, she was afraid I might come running down the aisle of the church pushing a grocery cart and yelling.  I used to do stuff like that, only in movie theater parking lots.  Never at a wedding.

After dinner, Justin and I sat alone and talked.  He really opened up to me about how hard things had been since his job ended.  "The tough part is having no benefits.  Mary was sick for a month, and she wouldn't go to the doctor because our budget was too tight and we don't have health or medical.  We owe so much for the kids' college educations, and we're just...  I don't know.  I'm trying to keep my head above water.  I don't think the man we have in the White House is helping matters much."

"I agree."

"Still, I have a good family who loves me.  And friends like you who make me laugh."

"Who me?"

"Yes you, you silly son of a bitch.  But when I'm alone, out there going for interviews, it gets me down sometimes.  You know, hard to keep my spirits up."

We talked on into the night, and finally he said he had to get to bed.  Since I planned to get up and be off very early, I needed the sleep also.  I was looking through my paperwork and I found the envelope Mrs. Sherman had given me.  I opened it and found two one hundred dollar bills inside.  Wow, good timing.  I had been short of funds and could really use the money.

The next day, as I was driving through Connecticut, Riff called my cell phone.  "What is it, Riff?"

"I got a call from Mrs. Sherman's daughter today.  She said that she thinks her mother may have given you an envelope with money in it that was meant for the landscaper.  You know anything about that?"

"No, not a thing."

"I thought maybe she gave you a tip.  She's a rich old broad, she can sure afford it."

"Yes, but she never does.  Tip me, I mean."

"Call me when you get to Miami."  And then he was gone.

About that time, I imagined Justin was in his kitchen and found the envelope from me with the note that said I AM YOUR FRIEND FOREVER AND I BELIEVE IN YOU.  HOPE THIS HELPS.  The $200 was wrapped in the note.

Monday, July 16, 2012


I stopped over yesterday at my friend Beth's house in Hammond, Louisiana.  I had not seen her for a while, simply because when I stayed with her in the past she always had an odd assortment of houseguests and it was somewhat stressful and annoying.  Beth has a good heart, but she likes to find sparrows with broken wings and try to fix them.  Or rather, people who are troubled or have problems come into her home, and she feels she can make them "all better."  Sadly, it never seems to work out that way.

As I was leaving, she asked me if I could help her out.  "My new friend Rita is here," said Beth.  Since you are going to deliver this car to New Orleans, could you take her home on your way?"

"I have been here for nearly 24 hours, and didn't even realize she was here.  Where has she been hiding?"

"In the attic.  Rita is a bit of an odd duck, but she needs my help.  So I tried to keep her here and solve some of her issues, but she is beginning to get on my nerves."

"Wow, that's really saying something," I said.  "You are one of the most patient people I know."

"Yes, well, she has worn out her welcome for a while.  So could you take her home?"


"And Bill... please be careful what you say."

"I won't say anything to upset or offend her."

"Yeah, well the thing is, you never know what will upset her.  For instance, never mention THE WIZARD OF OZ."

"OK..One quick question:  why is she in the attic?"

Beth held up a hand in the air.  "Trust me, you don't want to know."

"Yes I do, and now I really do."

"Don't go there."

I got into the car and waited, as Beth promised to bring Rita downstairs.  When Rita got into the car, I saw a frail woman with a tooth here and a tooth there in her mouth.  She eyed me suspiciously, and then snapped her fingers.  "What are you waiting for?  Get going."

Beth leaned into the car.  "Bill, this is Rita.  Rita, this is Bill.  Have fun."  Beth shut the door, and I started the engine.

As we drove out of Beth's neighborhood, Rita shifted in her seat to face me.  "So Bill is your name?"

"That's right."

"You listen to me, Bill.  As long as I'm in this car, I'm in charge.  So you don't speed and you don't drink and you don't do drugs while I'm in the car."

"I won't."

"I mean what I say."

"Gotcha.  No problem."

"Don't be flip.  Don't be glib.  Jeez, I can tell already that I'm not going to like you."

"Everyone likes me, I'm a driving fool."

As I got onto the Interstate highway, I turned on the radio.  I had the local NPR station tuned in.  The announcer said  "Next time on Fresh Air, we take a look at the life of Judy Garland."  And then we could hear Judy belting out SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW.

Suddenly, Rita got agitated beyond all reason.  "No!  No!  No WIZARD OF OZ!  No, no, no!"

""What's the matter?" I asked.

"The yellow brick road!  The wicked witch!  Flying monkeys, flying monkeys!  Turn it off, turn it off!"

I reached down and changed the station.  There was an ad on the AM band for Rush Limbaugh, and his distinctive voice said,  "Listen to me right here every day at noon on --"

"No!  Please God no, not Rush!  He's a commie pinko bohemian bleeding heart libertarian Republican with neo-realist views!  I can't stand him!  I can't listen to him!  Turn it off now!  Now!"

And so I turned the radio off.  I was extremely rattled and nervous by now, and did not know what to expect next.  No wonder Beth wanted me to take her home.

Rita turned to me and smiled, then asked sweetly,  "So what do you do for a living?"

"I drive cars."

"Really?  That's surprising, considering what a lousy driver you are.  Oh my God you're doing 55, slow down, slow down.  You are a speed demon!  You're a complete maniac!  You are a monster!"

"Please calm down."

"Do not presume to tell me what to do.  I told you that I'm in charge."

"I just need you to mellow out."

"Mellow?  Mellow?"  Then she became blissful and began to sing.  "They call me Mellow Yellow."  She seemed to go into a trance and sang this over and over all the way back to her home in New Orleans.  I was so glad to let her out of the car and see her leave.  "Thanks for nothing," she said as she got out.

I called after her.  "Watch out for the flying monkeys!"

She screamed hysterically and ran off into the night.

Monday, July 9, 2012


I had just dropped off a car in Jackson, MS and had a few hours to kill until my next pick up was scheduled.  My boss Riff had been calling me in a particular surly mood, reminding me over and over to be sure to get there on time.  Seeing as how I am very punctual on my job, it was more than unnecessary to keep telling me repeatedly.

There was a movie theater near the next pick up point, and I had been wanting to see TED.  It looked like a good, silly, rude, crude, and socially unacceptable comedy, and that is exactly what I was in the mood for.  But when I got to the theater, TED was all sold out.  It was opening weekend, a Saturday early evening show.  So I decided to get a ticket for the other new movie which had opened, called MAGIC MIKE.  Yes, I knew it was about male strippers, but the appeal to me was Director Steven Soderbergh.  He has made many movies that I liked very much, including ERIN BROKOVICH, CONTAGION, and all of the OCEANS movies (11, 12, 13).  And Channing Tatum continues to happily surprise me with his acting range.   So I went.

Inside the auditorium, there were mostly women, ranging in age from early 20's up to middle-age.  They seemed to be frisky and ready for fun, and I thought this might be a really interesting moviegoing experience.  I went up the the very back row at the top of the stairs, where I always sit.  Because if all the people who are talking in the movies are not behind me, it doesn't bother me as much.  Plus if no one is sitting behind me, no one can kick my seat or put their feet up on the back of the seat next to me.

There were a few other people in the back row with me, but most of the women making up the majority of the audience were sitting closer to the screen.  I presumed that they thought the nearer to the movie, the better view they felt they'd get of the male strippers in the movie.

Just as the previews of coming attractions started, a group of elderly men climbed slowly up the stairs to the back row.  There were 8 of them total, and they took up most of the seats that were still available in my row. It was funny to watch them move so slowly in the dark, especially the one guy who shuffled agonizingly slowly just like Tim Conway's little old man character on the Carol Burnett Show from the 70's.  I had to wonder what these old gents who looked to be in their 80's would think of this movie with young men stripping.  Had they perhaps walked into the wrong auditorium at the multiplex?

I got my answer in the first scene of stripping.  I heard one of them shout,  "Shake it boy!"

Another old voice said,  "Dance for me, only for me!"

Yet another said,  "Bend over and show me where the sun don't shine, you young stud!"

Also,  "Take me home and make me smile."

And finally a voice that sounded electronically modulated, like a patient with throat cancer.  "Shake your moneymaker!  Do it, do it, do it!"  This went on for the duration of the movie, and with each new scene of stripping, these old fellows seemed to reach a new level of excitement and enthusiasm.

As for me, I thought that the movie was well made and less exploitative than it could have been.  There was a good story, and surprisingly good acting performances.  But I'm afraid I will forever connect this movie with the 8 old men, who came to the movies to be turned on by the beefcake on the silver screen.  I almost expected them to start pulling out cash and throwing it at Channing Tatum.