|Posted by Admin on February 24, 2015 at 3:15 AM||comments (0)|
Two weeks after I graduated high school, my mama put me on a Greyhound bus and sent me to live with my daddy in Southern California. She had hopes that attending art college would civilize me somewhat, and to some extent I recon it did. I started wearing shoes all year long, not just in the winter.
After a couple of years of breathing smog, dodging traffic and trying to understand the accent, I’d had about all the sophistication I wanted, and decided to start back home to Tennessee with two brothers and a cousin in an old plug of a Ford (a whole ‘nother story in itself). I knew I was never going to learn to get along in a place where I couldn’t find the woods. As a matter of fact, if you want to talk to me about moving back out there, you’re going to have to burn the woods and sift the ashes to find me. It was a great relief to get back to a place where there was fresh air – air I couldn’t see.
Back in Tennessee, I laid around all summer, eating my mother out of house and home. I didn’t even look for a job. After my mama dropped enough hints, I finally decided I’d ease her mind a little. My buddy, Buford Ellington, was fixing to go down to Memphis to look for a job, so I thought I’d just ride along with him, make Mama think I was looking for a job too. But after we got there I figured there was nothing else to do, so I might as well take a shot at job hunting. We stayed with friends for a few days while we pounded the pavement. Buford didn’t land a job that trip, but I made a contact that would eventually work out to be my first job in the art profession. Later on Bue tried again and got a job in Memphis, and we got a room together in a fleabag flop house. We stayed there a week, reasonably satisfied until the landlady put an old man in the room with us who snored. He was a retired railroad man, and when he snored it sounded like one of his steam locomotives. We couldn’t sleep with him snorting all night, so we left. We weren’t eating any too well at that place anyway. Most mornings, before we could wash up and get to the table, the roaches would have already eaten half our breakfast. That’s the place where we learned how to eat raisin pie. First we’d stick a fork in the pie and wait, giving the raisins time to crawl off. When everything quit moving, it was safe to eat.
We went from there to a good boarding house, a nice, clean place serving two good meals a day. But we soon got lonesome for the roaches, and wound up renting our own fleabag duplex apartment. I used to have dreams about that place. The roaches there were bigger, and they had names. They were identifiable. One of them, Maurice, had this tattoo…
|Posted by Admin on February 16, 2015 at 11:10 PM||comments (0)|
"You mus' to go back and buy a ticket," she told me. Why couldn't they understand that I, a bonafide American tourist with camera bag and everything, had already bought a blooming ticket that was supposed to get me all over Paris and into every place but the mayor's private bathroom. At least I believed that was the kind of ticket I'd bought. I looked at the card. Hadn't somebody told me this thing was all I needed to see all of Paris?
"That card," the nice guard lady explained, "allows you to ride the Metro all day anywhere in Paris." She tried to hide her smile." But to see these exhibits you mus' go back downstairs and purchase a ticket."
Well, you don't need to hit me over the head with a brick. I went back down the steps and bought a ticket.
Finally (I couldn't believe it), I stood before the Mona Lisa. I gawked at the dingy looking little painting in the glass case and then looked around for the real one. Surely that wasn't the Mona Lisa, just hanging there on a nail like any other painting. Well, they had at least finally put it behind glass and roped off a little space in front, but there were no guards with machine guns standing there ready to cut you in half if you took a picture. People were doing that, too, with flash and everything. I pulled out my little borrowed camcorder and started videoing. The only thing I can say about the Mona Lisa is to quote Jerry Clower’s Uncle Versey Ledbetter upon seeing the Gulf of Mexico for the first time: "I always thought it'd be bigger than that." The painting wasn't over a couple of feet tall.
As I left the building I saw why people had warned me to get there early. The plaza was filled with people waiting to get in. The line stretched out of sight around the end of the building. If they had been there when I arrived I would never have seen the Mona Lisa. The sky was overcast and threatening rain, and the air was nippy as I walked along the Quay beside the River Seine. All my life I'd seen paintings of this place. Over on the other side was where the artists of old had set up a colony. That was what they called that the “Left Bank,” I figured. Matisse, Van Gogh, Cezanne and all the other French impressionists used to hang out over there. If their first impression of Paris was like mine, I could see why their paintings always looked blurred.
I walked out on a bridge called Pont Neuf, which means "New Bridge." The guidebook said that nowadays it's the oldest bridge in Paris. Go figure. I took some pictures of the island called Isle de la Cité, pointed at the end like the nose of a ship. I wished I had time to go out on it and see Notre Dame Cathedral. Just out of curiosity I wanted to check the sidewalk in front of the cathedral to see if I could spot any stains remaining from where the hunchback took his dive.
I checked my watch. I was tired when I started out on this caper, and now I was about wasted. All I wanted was to just get back to the hotel and crash. I left the bridge and started walking back down toward the subway station. All at once a woman dressed like a bag lady and a ragged little girl who looked to be about ten years old swooped in from nowhere and surrounded me. They both had one hand stuck out palm up and with the other hand they were frisking me, jabbering away in a language that didn't sound like French to me. They slapped every pocket I had and touched every zipper on my camera bag before I knew what was going on. Suddenly I knew I'd had it. These were gypsies and they were going to rob me blind. I could already hear my mama back home telling the story to her friends: "Well, I been warning the boy about running off on them trips. I told him he was plump enough they'd eat him in Africa. Never counted on the gypsies gettin' to him first. Picked him clean, them gypsy women did. Wandered three days out of his head before the cops caught him, wearing nothing but a T-shirt, wavin' some kinda little ticket stub, trying to force his way into that there Loove Place."
They patted me down pretty thorough. Embarrassed, I was slapping at their hands going, "No-No! No tengo dinero!" Then I remembered they don't speak Spanish in Paris, so I tried French: "No gottee monee," I spluttered, grabbing frantically at every place I felt fingers touch. This was getting serious.
The mother and daughter looked at one another when they heard me switch languages. Then they started jabbering again in another language that wasn't the one they'd used before, and it wasn't French either. Then they redoubled their efforts, and if it hadn't been me they were working over I might have admired their teamwork. With my left hand locked in a death grip on my camera bag, I only had one hand for defense. They stayed one step ahead of me. By the time I'd reach up to slap a hand away from my shirt pocket I'd feel another hand on my billfold pocket. I've always joked about the one-armed paperhanger with the seven-year itch, and now I know how it feels.
Right about then I was getting myself into a pretty good panic. Those gypsies were fixing to have me for lunch. But suddenly my natural country boy cunning kicked in. Where I grew up not everybody made moonshine, but everybody shared the same attitude about the po-lice. Let the high sheriff come cruising up and down the roads and folks started looking for the nearest escape route, whether they were guilty or not. Just about the time I was ready to admit the gypsies had me, it came to me to nod my head toward the street and point. It worked. They thought I was warning them that a cop was coming over to check them out. Like a flash they were lost in the crowd and I beat it in the other direction.
I found me a bench away from the crowd and sat down to take inventory. I was sure I was going to be shy a billfold at least. But to my utter relief I found nothing missing. Except for maybe a few nerve endings. God is so good to hayseeds.
That's it for me, I said to myself. I can take a hint. I hauled my stuff off that bench and started looking for that hole that would take me back down into the subway. I didn't like the idea much of getting caught in that rat maze again, but I had this Formula One ticket, and by golly if they wouldn't let me use it in that art museum I was for sure going to get my money's worth riding that underground train. At least now I was a hardened veteran. I'd figure out some way to get back out into the fresh air once I got to the end of the line.
There's not a whole lot of other stuff to say about my trip to Paris. I didn't look right nor left out of that subway train window on the way back. I had seen as much of the elephant as I was interested in. I made it back to my hotel and breathed a sigh of relief once the door closed behind me. I went up to my room and hunkered down to watch TV until suppertime. I ate in the hotel dining room, but I didn't take any chances. I ordered a hamburger. Next morning I caught the shuttle back to the airport and was deliriously happy to find that they hadn't lost my reservation on the plane or something. I buckled myself down in that nice soft seat and tightened the belt extra snug. I wanted to feel secure. I needed to feel secure. For the whole eight-hour flight I didn't even get up to go to the bathroom.
Aw, I guess Paris was all right, if you like to see old buildings and hear people talk funny. But for an experienced and sophisticated world traveler like me it really wasn't all that much. Overrated, really. They didn't even know what I was talking about when I ordered french fries with that hamburger.
|Posted by Admin on February 10, 2015 at 3:00 PM||comments (1)|
Finally I saw a sign coming up I thought I recognized. Frantically I thumbed through the guidebook and found that this place was indeed on my route. Immensely relieved, I found a seat and settled back trying to look bored like everybody else. I kept a thumb in the guidebook. If the next stop had the same name as the one in the book I'd know I was headed in the right direction. I felt better, but I was still a bit uneasy. Up to now things hadn't been working out as slick as everybody had led me to believe they would. They had made it sound so simple that I half expected to see a sign light up over the door saying, "LOUVRE - JOE, GET OFF HERE." Nothing I could read on that train said anything about the Louvre, but on my map I lined up where the Louvre was with a station that looked pretty close. Sure enough, that station came up next, and I almost knocked a fat lady down getting off. All I wanted now was to find an exit back out into the light of day. I needed me some air.
Now I've got to ask you to follow my line of reasoning pretty close so you'll know that every step I took was entirely logical. I know you would have done the same thing I did. Simplest thing in the world, you get on a subway, you ride to your stop, you get off, climb the steps to the street and you're off for a delightful and fulfilling excursion on the exotic streets of gay Paree. I know you would have done exactly like me after you'd walked about a mile in that subway tunnel without finding any dang exit to the outside. You'd have turned yourself around and marched off along one of the other infernal offshoot tunnels that seemed to go on forever. Maybe you might not have mumbled the same words I did, but I predict you would have kept walking past little shops and snack joints, checking the signs at every intersection for something, anything you could make sense of. All I wanted was a simple little sign that said, "This way to daylight." In my world you got a right to expect that. We have things like that here to show us where to go and what not to touch or step in. No way I wouldn't have been able to fight my way out of a subway in the good ole U.S.A.
But I was in France. They did their signs in a different language, and for all I could tell they didn't give a hoot what you touched or what you stepped in or where you went. People were going in every direction. I decided to pick me out somebody to follow and see where they ended up. Surely these people went up for air sometime. I fell in behind a short bald guy with an umbrella, but he went through another turnstile and got back on another train. I was getting depressed.
I saw an information booth. Beverly always tells me I should ask directions, so I went over and asked a guy in a red coat how to get to the street. He smiled and pointed and told me how simple it was to go in that direction, turn left at something, turn right at something else, go through a turnstile and up the steps. I followed his directions and kept staying lost. As a matter of fact I kept staying a little more lost than ever. I bobbed and weaved and ducked down every side tunnel I came to, but kept coming back to a big, brightly lighted intersection where people were crisscrossing like ants. I walked faster and faster, checking every possible avenue, only to keep running into dead ends or turnstiles leading to other trains, God forbid.
I wasn't mad at anybody anymore. I was scared.
To this day I can't tell you how I got out of that underground prison. All I remember is somehow I found myself entering a turnstile on the other side of which was a flight of steps leading upward. Thank you, God. I expected to see angels ascending and descending like Jacob's ladder.
Taking the steps two at a time I emerged into the blessed overcast of old downtown Paris. I hunted a bench and sat down to give my shoes time to quit smoking.
Looking around, I couldn't help being excited. Paris, France! Man! It was about like any other big city with traffic and all, and crowds of people stepping on each other except that here there were a lot more old, old buildings. Bronze statues scattered around. Historic is what it was. I pulled out my city map and located the Louvre. Not over ten or fifteen blocks away by my reckoning. I was so glad to finally get out of that subway maze that I felt as happy as if I'd made a bullseye. To a man like me a town was no different than the woods. Those tall buildings over on the right were trees. Keep them on your right as you head up the street, and keep them on the left when you come back. I ran a thumb over my shoe soles to check the thickness remaining and struck out for the Louvre. Mona Lisa was waiting. Today in Paris I was going to see at least one smiling face.
The museum was big and old and U-shaped. I walked around it until I came to the inside of the U, a wide brick paved courtyard with pigeons and sculpture all over the place and a glass pyramid right smack in the middle. As a matter of fact there were some other smaller glass pyramids sticking up, too, and fountains spraying water everywhere. I headed for the big pyramid. That's where they said the tickets were bought for the museum. There were about 50 people in line outside the doors. It didn't take long to get inside and down some steps. Holy cow... was I back in another subway? I shivered at the thought. Some people were lined up at a ticket window but I was still laboring under the belief that I had already bought all the ticket I needed to see all of Paris. I pulled out the Formula One card and crossed the lobby to another set of steps leading upward to the Italian art hall. A guard at the top stopped me, even though I flashed the Formula One card in her face. I suppressed my indignation when she told me that card did not allow me passage to this part of the Louvre. I stalked off to find a section where they had a guard who was a little more on top of things.
Another flight of steps, another hall, another guard. I flashed the card in her bored looking face and she almost let me past. Then she took another look at the card and waved me back. Exasperated, I weighed my chances of decking her and making a break for it down the hall. Looking at the babe's hatchet face, I reconsidered. She looked like she could take me.
Come back next week for the conclusion of....Redneck in Pairs!!
|Posted by Admin on February 3, 2015 at 10:55 AM||comments (0)|
I got on the shuttle, clutching my camera bag. I called myself watching for something with a big "M" on it, for "Metro.” I rode for thirty minutes, keeping a hawk eye on the signs. We passed intersections, crossed over, cut back, stopped at every airport terminal and suddenly the bus stopped back in front of my hotel. I was right back where I started from.
I got off and walked back inside. I collared that same clerk and said, "Did I miss something?"
He said, "Explain me, please."
Me being a paying customer he didn't laugh, but patiently went back over the instructions, which could not have been simpler. I got back on the shuttle thinking that maybe I had missed my calling by going into art. Probably my God-given purpose in life was to go around finding things that were simple to everyone else and screwing them up. I was sent here for that.
I never saw a big "M" but this time around I did read the sign on a big low building we stopped at. It was the train station, or Metro. The subway. The place where I was going to buy me a ticket that would make the rest of my day ridiculously simple.
I went up to a little window and asked for a Formula One ticket. The girl took my money (about $10.00) and shoved a big white envelope in my hands. Puzzled, I decided I'd better take a minute and think this through. What I held in my hand didn't look like a ticket, I don't care what formula they used. I picked me out a bench off in a corner away from everyone and sat down. I opened up the envelope, hoping there would be some kind of ticket inside. There was a big folding map of the city with the subway route marked. There was a plastic card about the size of a credit card and a little stiff paper stub. I think there was a letter explaining how to use all the stuff, but of course it was printed in French. I finally figured out that the little stub was what I really needed, but I stuck the plastic card in my shirt pocket so it would be handy in case the police or somebody tried to arrest me for illegally riding a subway. I’m not dumb. When you wind up in somebody else's country you got to figure all the angles and be ready for surprises.
I sat there and watched until I saw somebody go through a turnstile, so I figured you had to do that to get to where the train was. But then some punk teenagers vaulted over the turnstiles, so that left me a mite uncertain as to the proper method of passing that barrier. Then I noticed a skinny girl holding a little stub in a slot on top of the turnstile machine. She yanked the little stub out and the turnstile bars turned as she went through.
So that's what you had to do. I fished the little ticket out of my pocket and walked up to a turnstile, looking real cool and casual, like I had been living in Paris all my life and going through a turnstile was just about the boringest thing a sophisticated world traveler like me could be called on to do. Holding my little cardboard ticket between thumb and forefinger I jabbed it down in the slot on top of the machine and started to step through the turnstile the way I'd seen the others do. I almost crippled myself when I walked into the bar. It didn't give. It stayed locked. I jabbed the ticket into the slot again and pushed. The bar stubbornly refused to move.
I tried again. Jab, jab, jab, jab, jab! Still nothing.
I tried another turnstile, with the same results. Exasperated, I backed off and set my shoulder bag on the floor and commenced to unzipping pockets, pretending I was looking for something (like maybe a bazooka to blow the gate off that dang turnstile, or a book of instructions on how to have a clue). What I was really doing was killing time while I scoped out the situation. There had to be some way to get through that infernal gate.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a guy walking fast come up to the turnstile, feed his ticket into a slot down on the side of the machine and zip! That little stub went through the guts of that machine quicker than castor oil and shot out the hole on top! The guy yanked his ticket stub out of the slot and pushed the turnstile bar out of his way, and off he went.
I looked within myself and didn't see anybody looking back.
But, once I see something done, I can do it, almost every time. As I approached the gate this time I had lost a little of my strut. Whether you know it or not being stupid can take a lot of energy out of you. I regained some of my confidence, however, when, lo and behold, the little stub worked when inserted into the proper little slot ( I must say there were other places I would have liked to insert it, if only I could have found the guy who designed that blasted turnstile system). I proceeded down a flight of steps wondering vaguely if there had been some kind of lesson for me in the turnstile episode. But what the heck. Life is full of lessons that I never got. I applied the few brain cells I still had working to the problem of figuring out which train to get on.
French is a beautiful language, they say. Standing there beside the tracks trying to decipher the signs, I decided that the most beautiful language is the one you can read. I looked at my little guidebook and I looked at the signs, and they didn't match. The different lines were color-coded. I still couldn't make any sense of it. I wasn't sure whether the blue line or the yellow line would take me to the Louvre. I looked through the open door of one of the trains and noticed that a map of the system was displayed up over the windows on the wall. I stepped in to have a closer look and suddenly the door behind me went "Ssssssssshp!" like on Star Trek and the train took off. I grabbed something to hold on to and looked around into the unsmiling faces of hard-eyed Parisians and mentally dared them to start something. Ready or not, I was on my way somewhere in Paris.
I took out the little subway guide and read some of the names of places I was supposed to pass on my way to the Louvre. Then I looked out the window to read the signs on the stations we stopped at. As you've already figured out, the names didn't match. I started to sweat. I recalled a song I once heard about a guy who kept going back and forth on the subway for years because he couldn't find the place where he was supposed to get off. I didn't want that.
Come back next Tuesday for Part 3..........
|Posted by Admin on January 27, 2015 at 11:00 AM||comments (0)|
Mission work is an adventure. In April, 1995 it was my privilege to go to Africa to do some artwork on a series of health posters for a missionary in Bamako, Mali. Going and coming I had to change planes in Paris, France. On the return trip my layover was long enough to allow for an afternoon of sightseeing. I would probably never get another chance to visit the Louvre. I had always dreamed of seeing Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa.
Paris is a pretty good place to go take a look at if you want to see some old buildings. Downtown Paris is a jumble of really old buildings. And if you can read French you might find the graffiti along the Metro tracks interesting. Otherwise I'm not sure I could recommend Paris as a good place for a Tennessee hillbilly to go, at least not for relaxation.
I went there with all kinds of advice ringing in my ears, and it must have got me a little uptight. Nothing really worked out like I expected.
I thought I was going to see gendarmes on every corner directing traffic, and flocks of fashion models in designer clothes followed by herds of photographers. I thought there would be guys with big noses and pencil mustaches wearing turtleneck sweaters and berets, sitting at sidewalk cafes sipping wine and smoking cigarettes through long cigarette holders. I wanted to get me some pictures of lovers walking hand in hand beside the Seine, like in the movies. I was all set to fight my way through yapping packs of French poodles.
I didn't even see a dropping.
I did see a few couples sitting in the sun along the banks of the river, but to me they looked more like brain dead winos waiting out a hangover than lovers.
My education started at the airport. Charles de Gaulle Airport has two terminal buildings, an old one and a new one. Like airport terminals everywhere, neither one is a place you want to go to relieve stress.
I got off the plane at the old building, the one shaped like a guitar. Since I had a layover, I had to go through customs. That was so quick I had to blink. Did the guy ever look at my passport? I know he took the little declaration slip, because they had never given me one on the plane and the customs guy at the airport gave me one, which took about 15 seconds to fill out. Then I was through the line on my way downstairs to pick up my two suitcases (one full of my belongings and the other full to bursting with mail the missionaries in Africa had sent with me to put in the mailbox when I got back to the States). I had my baggage claim stub clutched in my sweaty hand and kept waiting for someone official looking to challenge me so I could shove the stub in his face. But I just picked up my suitcases and walked right out on the street, with no one saying so much as aye, yes or no. I guess no one at the Paris Airport cares whose bags you walk out with. I took another look to make sure I had the right ones.
At a little desk I asked directions where to wait for a shuttle bus for my hotel, the Ibis. I went to the place they told me to wait. Thirty minutes later I hadn't seen any shuttle with the Ibis Hotel name on it. Finally I happened to glance up, and noticed I was standing next to a phone with a sign in English over it that said you could use it to make reservations at the Ibis. I looked around guiltily to see if anyone was watching me and snickering. I picked up the handset and a female voice answered. I asked if they had a reservation for me. She checked and said no. NO? There I stood in the middle of Paris, France with no hotel reservation and fifty dollars in my pocket. Mentally I was thinking that there must be a canine branch to my travel agent's family tree, when the hotel clerk said, "At which hotel do you have the reservation?"
"You mean you got more than one?"
"Oh, yes, sir. Ibis has many hotels in France. There are three in Paris."
Trust them to pull something like that on me. Now I was really getting hot at my travel agent for omitting that little bit of information, but that's a hick travel agent for you. I guarantee you there wouldn't be more than one Ibis hotel in Paris, Tennessee.
The clerk asked me to look on my reservation sheet and give her the address, which I did. She told me which bus to catch. A few minutes later I saw one parking a few doors down, so I got on it and asked the driver if he would be passing by the address I had on the paper. He nodded and burnt rubber. I grabbed a handrail and tried to enjoy the ride, not at all sure the guy had understood my question. The anxiety of times like that eats me up. I didn't recognize anything, so I sure didn't know where I was going.
Finally the bus skidded to a stop in front of the Ibis Hotel. I staggered in with my two suitcases and asked the clerk if he had a reservation for Joe McCormick. To my relief he said without hesitation, "Yes, I believe so." He checked me in, handed me a little plastic card key, and I started looking around for the guy who was supposed to be hovering around waiting to carry my bags up. I had a whole pocket full of one-dollar bills I was going to use to tip guys like him. After a minute I realized that this wasn't going to be like it is on TV, so I picked up my duct-taped suitcases and went on up to my room.
The room was nice. I wanted only to lie down on the double bed and sleep the day away. I had been up all day the day before, leaving Bamako at 11:45 at night. Sleeping on a plane might be possible if a person drank a lot, which I didn't. After 5 hours in the air and some time changes we landed at Charles de Gaulle (the pilot pronounced it Shah-de-Go) at 7:30A.M. I was wrinkled and red-eyed and not really looking forward to any more stress. But I'd bragged around how when I got to Paris I was gonna go see me the Mona Lisa. So I knew I had it to do.
I took a shower, changed my clothes and went down to the desk. I asked the clerk how to get to the Louvre and he told me it was very easy. Walk out the hotel door, catch the shuttle, get off at the Metro station, buy the Formula One ticket and ride all day on the subway, bus or train for one price. I thought I understood that the ticket would also admit me to museums around town, but as we shall see, something always happens between the transmitter and the receiver whenever someone is trying to give me instructions. Me, I’m a Sesame Street type of person. You got to repeat things to me over and over before I start to get it.
Tune in next Tuesday for part 2............
|Posted by Admin on January 20, 2015 at 10:25 AM||comments (0)|
Finally we backed off to get our breath. The sweat dripped from our red faces, and our T-shirts were plastered to our heaving sides. Cautiously, we eyed the bag of fur stretched out motionless on the asphalt, looking for any sign of life.
“Reckin we done killed ‘im?” Buford queried.
But no – as we watched, incredulously the raggedy lump stirred, staggered to its feet and stood, swaying unsteadily, trying to get its eyes focused.
“That – that beats anything I ever seen!” Horace breathed with awe.
I agreed. That pointy-faced rat had taken everything we could throw at him, and still he could pick himself up, brush himself off and glare at us like he was deciding whether we’d had enough or if he should take us on again.
I don’t like rats. Don’t believe in ‘em. But I just couldn’t help feeling a little tug of admiration wrung out of me as that beady-eyed bag of fur turned, having decided to let us off, and lurched drunkenly off into the darkness.
We let him go. Just as he faded into the deep shadows I’m sure I heard a distinct burp.
The night had grown almost imperceptibly cooler. We hung around a little longer, fanning our T-shirts out away from our bodies, laughing and telling each other every detail of what we had just been doing, like it was news or something. A junebug droned past and dinged himself off a light post. Gradually we wound down and began to yawn and scratch. A little breeze was beginning to stir. The sleeping ought to be good now, with a window raised.
“C’mon, Ralph, let’s hit the sack,” Horace said, getting to his feet.
“Well, see y’all tomorrow.”
“Take it easy.”
Soon the cooling parking lot was empty again, but nobody was there to know….
The following night, and for several nights after that, we kept looking hopefully over at the parking lot, but we never saw that mangy rat again. We felt regret at his absence, but I doubt if he missed us. At least he had been a lot more fun than hanging around the telephone booth and waiting for the phone to ring, or something.
We conducted a half-hearted search through the bushes and leaves, thinking maybe we had really done the scudder in, but we never found a body. We did find, however, a crumpled map of Memphis, with rat tracks on it. Near the Yacht Club at Mud Island, at the point where the Mississippi River barges tie up, there was a red circle marked.
Sadly we concluded that our rat buddy figured it was time to ship out to friendlier climes, to someplace where there would be no kicks coming over a rat moving into the neighborhood.
Joe McCormick, February 13, 1983
|Posted by Admin on January 12, 2015 at 11:50 PM||comments (0)|
Apparently deciding against a head-on attack, the rat began to waddle (he probably called it running) toward the nearest clump of bushes. Ralph was there before him with a stick to head him off. Ol’ Ralph’s heavy lidded eyes widened when he got closer up to our ferocious looking friend. The thing made like he was going to run right between Ralph’s legs. Uttering a high-pitched maniacal shriek, Ralph let fly with his mightiest home-run swing. The length of two-by-two he was carrying almost broke in two as it connected with brother rat’s bloated paunch. The rodent was flung back to the center of the empty lot, and we all closed in for the kill.
Our luckless victim picked himself up and shook his head. His beady eyes cut this way and that. Then he made a quick dash toward Horace. Bad move. Horace wears a size thirteen shoe, and one of them came down on that rat like an upside-down aircraft carrier. It was like stomping on a ball of rubber. The rat was addled, but he wasn’t out. Horace drew back and gave him a powerful kick that sent the hideous thing skidding across the asphalt toward me. I let out a startled yell and began kicking insanely three or four times before the furry projectile even rolled into range. Then my toe connected and I punted the filthy ball of slime through the air in Buford’s direction. Bue almost panicked, thinking he was going to get the thing right in the face. He threw his hands up in front. But instead the rat bounced off his knee and ol’ Bue did a frenzied jitterbug on the poor ol’ guy’s body.
Then for a little while it was open season on that rat....
Come back next week for the final installment of "Kicking A Rat" !!
|Posted by Admin on January 3, 2015 at 1:40 PM||comments (1)|
In the summer of 1961 Buford Ellington and I shared a fleabag duplex apartment on Watkins Street in midtown Memphis. Two of our old schoolmates, Horace Tedford and his brother Ralph had also come to the big city to make their fortunes, and had taken lodging with their sister in another fleabag apartment across the street from us at the corner of Peach Street. We usually hung out together at night, either at their place or ours, lolling around on the overgrown lawn, getting chiggers and shooting the breeze. We had us a car, but nowhere to go.
One sultry night as we sat there chewing grass stems and bragging, Ralph suddenly sat up straight, craning his neck toward the parking lot across the street. “Whatcha see,” Bue asked. Not that it would have made any difference. Anything at all was worth checking out if it offfered the slightest possibility of variety. “Dono,” Ralph mumbled. “Looks like prob’ly a rat or sump’n, maybe.” You never dealt in specifics when you dealt with Ralph.
We all stood up and looked. Sure enough, there he was, right smack in the middle of the dimly lit parking lot, shuffling along like he was in no particular hurry. Maybe he had just finished off a huge garbage souffle, perhaps washing it down with a nice brown sewer wine at his favorite dump. We could just imagine him ambling along, a toothpick between his teeth, burping occasionally as he enjoyed the rotten pizza and fish scales all over again.
He stood out like a sitting duck in the green glow of the street lights on the parking lot. Something about the repulsive shape appealed to the murderous side of our nature. The gorge rose up in our throats. The minute we caught sight of that scuzzball his doom was sealed. Nobody likes a rat.
We stampeded across the street yelling, “Get a stick!” and, “Don’t let him get away!” and, “Wait until you see his face… It might be somebody we know!”
To Be Continued next week.......