My Great Grandma Lindner always saved the wishbones for the grandkids when we came to visit.
And out of all the toys we never had, my most fun times were at her house.
We were so poor the rats ate the soap and the first words I ever read were:
“Minimum Speed Limit”.
I wore a razor strap for my only pants or at least it might as well have been,
It was covering my ass more than anything they made me wear.
Right about the time I had a few names straight
I’d been enrolled in a new school, in a new town,
Where the Principal was told to beat me if he needed to.
They say you are what you eat.
Now, if that were true, I’d be a potato pancake that smells and tastes like bacon.
And if I’d known then, what I know now,
I’d have known what to wish for when we broke the wishbones when we were little.
Written by Zachery Scott Polk
Escaping the Despondent Sea: The Adventures of Mad Pat Kiderm
My name is Zachery Scott Polk, a forty two year old man with hopes, dreams and aspirations. Thirty five years, (I’d call that a majority), have been spent trying to rationally, comprehensively, and productively understand and accredit my acquaintances and family members for their efforts and sufferings, as well as, to do what I can do to make things resemble a closer version of a family and the way I feel life could be for all of us.
It’s possible that these familial contemplations and heartaches motivated my desire to want to be a writer and a musician, coupled with memories of us gathering around the television to watch the “Lawrence Welk Show” at my Grandma and Grandpa Lindner’s house, earning me some of the attention that I felt I deserved but was not getting.
When I was three to four years old my attention was a concentration. Grandma Lindner called me brooding because I was always in deep thought. Mostly, I was trying to figure out what, exactly, a boy could do without enduring the mistreatment that one gets when they cannot be heard or unseen.
Everyone I have ever talked with, studied or sought advice from said the same thing: “Write about what you know”. Well, I only know what I have lived and learned along the way. When I get to something that I know little about, I either forget about it or start the research process depending on my level of passion for the subject.
Special interest groups, a derogative term for the reasonably concerned, grant security or, tactfully termed, consideration, to persons willing to focus on issues that are believed to be of great consequence or detriment to the Earth and Mankind. Some people pursue these interests for the convenience of the funds provided. Others are sought out and baited with money to become involved, and only act when their needs and desires have been met. You could call me a Philanthropist but I am not sure if anyone would see my humor in creating a special interest, using nepotism to appoint myself the allocations, presenting myself with a statue or award for my solutions all the while creating the actual problem or dreaming it up entirely.
Anyway, it was my own observations of the world, man, and certain family members, (both bad and good), that spurred my contemplation of what I ascertained was Right and Wrong, where it came to being a man, husband, father, friend, and human.
One of the things I had begun fantasizing about, when I was around nine years old, was proposing to a girl and starting my own family- becoming valuable in those respects. Only, while I occupied myself with hoping for my tomorrow, my today was evolving into an acute nightmare or so it seemed.
My senses were relieved. He was leaving, taking pieces of all of us with him that he had stole, including what I came to find out was my half-brother and sister, as opposed to my full relation. It came out that our “father” had left our mother for her brother, uncle Gary’s, wife. (Uncle Gary happened to be one of my favorite people among all of my uncles and aunts.) Our father had been repeatedly accusing our mother of going to bars, drinking, and flirting with the opposite sex, which is exactly what he had been doing. Eventually, she started doing it, and naturally, it swept her up into a routine.
Mom didn’t understand or just feared being without him, and as a result did not see that he was acting out as a result of his own guilt. One thing I will never forget is the pain I imagined she felt, and the words she said to me, while on the way to the hotel room that he claimed he needed in order to concentrate on the completion of his book on the game of Golf. The hotel room, and his book writing efforts, turned out to be a cover, extended as to accommodate for his going to bars, drinking, and playing around with women. He had been playing around after work at the Red Shag Carpet Inn that was located in Grandville. He had been messing around with cocaine and prostitutes. He had brought a variety of minor sexually transmitted diseases home to my mother. One night around the house he had commented on running a load of cocaine for the lust of the quick and easy money. There was also the torn up coke fold pieces that didn’t get flushed down the toilet all the way. At the time I had no idea as to what these signs meant or that they were signs of anything but looking back now it is all so very clear.
So, It was a bit of an accident that I stumbled onto the truth, only because he had seemingly forgotten about picking me up at our driving range when we closed it up at night. I was left stranded for a couple of hours before finally asking Ed Rode to take me to his room. Ed had been helping him with the book, especially since he was a photographer who worked for the Grand Rapids Press. He took photos at concerts and other events that were featured in the section of the press called “Connections”.
After managing to get the manager to let me into the room I found the woman’s travel bag with her clothes in it. When I realized what that meant I panicked and fled to the strip mall where MC Sporting Goods was located, on Plainfield Avenue. The phone booth made a nice place to take refuge out of the cold wind, where I slept while waiting for my mom to come and pick me up after getting out of work. This was my first experience of being on the street with nowhere to go. I was 14 years old.
On the way to the hotel room the next day, she told me that she hoped I never mistreated my wife in this way or dishonored my family, in the event that I should ever become married. The few serious attempts at getting established to build a family or life for myself were wholehearted. Whether it was out of self-pity or concern for me that she said that, was never a question, but as I think about it now, I am quite sure it was both.
Mom always talked about “the long run”. I never understood my mother and I to be close- what she calls tough love are the scars left on her and transferred to me from her own mother. It’s possible that her mother’s habit of working as a barmaid is where she failed, only to bring her twisted attitude and perspective home to the children. I can only love my mother for it, despite the pain I felt that was a challenge to cope with- part of my inheritance. It’s pretty ironical to me that schooling costs so much. The equivalent of some sort of degree in Psychology only cost me tears and valuable pieces of relationships before most kids finish Junior high school, which happened to be where I was when my Stepfather left in 1984 or so. And in “the long run” my mother and I finally became closer than we had ever been.
I didn’t drink milk, throwing my bottle from the crib around one and a half years old. For the most part I never, voluntarily, drank milk again. At every family gathering, holiday or special event, a spectacle was made, where I often ended up beaten and humiliated by way of my step father dragging me from the table and taking me behind the garage, woodshed or out into the cornfield out of view, and physically funneled to put it mildly. I was fourteen the last time this happened. It was Easter. I can’t help but wonder what my Grandpa Lindner thought, especially since it was at his house in Bay City. It seems like a great display of disrespect, to make it a point to beat a child at a family holiday gathering.
That year, 1984, I believe it was the day before Thanksgiving when he finally left. I am confident that it was a Thursday. Was it a gift from my, deceased, Great Grandfather Maximilian Lindner? Needless to say, I still do not care for milk but the man I am, I sometimes force myself to drink it anyway by exhaling, holding my breath, and slamming it down when there is a lack food. The milk was a symbol- rejecting my mother’s rejection, and it was my first argument in life. Although we were a Baptist family, it seemed that I was protestant. And to this day I have remained the black sheep but not with that intention.
Rejection was something that I learned I needed to work at coping with, which was not unlike coping crown molding. Recognizing that I was allowing others to destroy me by allowing my pains to govern my actions and ability to constructively manage them, when I was twenty-two years old, was very positive. I told myself that the best revenge was to succeed, and I quickly learned to move on. Acceptance, forgiveness, self-discipline, and perseverance should be clear to see in this stream of thoughts, though roiled with what my Language arts teachers at Coopersville Junior High School would call, “run-on sentences”.
As I read over what I have shared, I ponder where to go next. I realize and appreciate these memories, however unpleasant, but I cannot recall what Christmas was like that year just as I can’t remember most of my childhood, which is a blessing. The majority of who I am is the result of the value found in what I do remember. Anything more would send me into a void where self-destruction is eminent.
My mother started drinking and actually doing all of those terrible things Rick had accused her of. The disharmony created by her desperation to maintain her emotional needs, and the family, resulted in my having to remove myself from the home the following winter. The place I found refuge in was Jim Zemiatis Junior's house, my only close friend, who happened to be only three months older than myself.
Jimmy and I started hanging out after his mom had brought him down to meet me, shortly after we moved in. It was 1980. We began spending time hunting in the woods and fishing, using the guns and equipment that his father had. His father, James, was a Veteran of the Korean War, and an avid outdoorsman, as well as an alcoholic. My mother never liked Jimmy at all. And she didn’t hide the fact. She never liked any of the kids that came around the house to see me. Whenever they did come by, she’d put us all to work digging out tree stumps or what have you. They stopped coming by after a while, and Jimmy became aware that he wasn’t welcome around myself or our house and property.
Jimmy and I started meeting halfway between our homes, riding our bicycles. We would spend our days fishing the ponds and creek, and becoming acquainted with the forests, wildlife, and the trails in the area. As for me, since I had always had only nature for my playthings, I found myself quite comfortable and “happy”, if I could ever assume what that was.
We also started experimenting with his father’s cigarettes. The excuse for our smoking began as a way to combat bugs while we fished. Alcohol was also a curiosity, especially since it was always around the house. After we had consumed all the liquor that his mother kept in the cabinet we would steal beer from his father’s case of “Blatz” beer, replacing the ones we had taken with empty ones. It was usual practice for me to have to sneak around, so it was my idea to take empty cans and place them under the full ones in the very bottom of the case, making it look like the beer hadn’t been disturbed. This worked out excellent, especially since his father was in so much of a stupor as to never catch on.
It was common to see us with shotguns and twenty-two caliber rifles. My first gun was an Iver Johnson single-shot twelve-gauge shotgun. My stepfather had introduced me to it when I was twelve, when I shot it for the first time. When he left us it stayed behind. A shotgun is the property of the house and belongs to the man of the house, which, in this case, now happened to be myself. My marksmanship and love for shooting developed very quickly.
One winter day in 85, we got our hands on a John Deere JDX440 Snowmobile that his mother had gotten for him, eventually finding out exactly how much abuse it could take, and that we weren’t as good of mechanics as we needed to be to keep it going. We also got our hands on our share of dirt bikes, and had a Honda three wheeler for a while. That year marked the beginning of our experience with gasoline engines, aside from the lawnmower, leaving another indelible mark on my Serotonin receptors.
The issue causing me to stay at Jimmy’s was regarding my mom’s boyfriend and some “stuff” of his, which is what people call things when trying to minimize their existence. Jimmy was pretty much the only friend I had, and having low self esteem and always receiving the lame duck treatment at school, (being that I was only sublimely scarred, was what some may try calling my Water Lou or at least an indication of coming avoidable problems, which I am happy to say were not an overdose or an untreatable STD; highly likely for affection starved people who have been stripped of their self esteem, that is to say, if it was ever nurtured at all).
The next generation of jokes may start a little something like this: “Sometime in the fall, a latchkey kid came home from school…” Whether I had put the Ray Charles Greatest Hits album on the record player or not, I do not remember but out of boredom I decided to give in to temptation and open a very curious looking briefcase, where I happened to find a very large amount of marijuana. Thanks to the Hudsonville Elementary School, and the Michigan State police showing it to us, (probably planting seeds for their job security and future) in the third or fourth grade, I knew what I was looking at.
[Someone should investigate to see if it was an operation to set up our youth.]
There may have been a pound or two, I don’t know but the physical look of the size was akin to a bag of cereal without the box. A few older kids, and a couple around my age, were always talking about things like drinking, cigarettes, music, girls and… weed. Well, with me being a quick study, and having a void in my life that needed filling, it didn’t take long for me to see the opportunity… to be accepted, to have friends or at least people who would talk to me, if not think I was cool (every kids dream) even in the slightest sense of the word. I decided to bring a small amount to them the next day. Strange thing is, here I am in a situation that resembles the one of my youth, only today I am not in need of the camaraderie but I am readily available for substantial conversation, elaboration not included. You may think it’s weird but I’ll say it anyway, (it never stopped me from sharing things before): though unlikely, I don’t believe it impossible that my Guardian Angels protected me from intoxication that day. I was only a boy in the woods, and among demons, the epitome’ of vulnerable. Only my name isn’t Hanzel.
It goes without saying, that everyone without loved ones and self-esteem is vulnerable, but I am told that it’s wrong to assume that they’ll think the smell is perfume and I find myself having to sometimes cover up or explain my Marijuana garden.
Anyways, I didn’t care for the affects of the Marijuana at all, aside from the effect of having the Marijuana. It wasn’t until I became more mature and able to comprehend the immediate benefits, that I developed an appreciation for the herb. With a developing maturity, recognition of the need for self-preservation, and with aspirations of becoming something more altruistic, I quickly became aware of the usefulness of the “drug” and how to use it to my benefit. And not as a recreational intoxicant, which was the extent of it to me- nothing more than a tool. The first step toward discipline pertaining to the use of marijuana as a tool, is to recognize and understand that knowledge of its possession attracts people and can create all the situations that are purely a distraction that undermine ambitions, desires, and commitments to something other than your true calling(s). “It’s not the sixties anymore. It’s time to weed out who your friends truly are, and recognize where an individual finds genuine confidence,” I said to myself. This was one of my more profound understandings, and was realized at the time of my twenty-first birthday.
Ironically, (boy, this seems to be a diet high in iron-y), this was when I realized it was time to eliminate using alcohol entirely- even mouthwash. My foremost concerns began the summer of my twenty-first birthday, when I realized what was a serious possibility at a family so I prioritized a couple things to ensure it. First, to continue developing as a skilled tradesman/finish carpenter, which was mostly made possible by way of my mentor and Master, Paul Valdamar Jensen, whom proved to be a true friend and remains to be to this day. If it had not been for his patience, (he’d laugh at that word), and ability to identify my potential, as well as the forces at work tempting to deny myself any amount of success at all, I would not be alive today to make the willful efforts at contributing to society that I have been motivated to make- however small or seemingly undeserved, second.
[Personally, I dream of reaching a multitude but reality and the ability to rationalize allows me to accept the possibility of going unheard or misinterpreted, though a single person would be a success.]
It was my trade that empowered me with an identity and provision. And just as those great cultural icons of the world whose careers and lives ended at twenty-seven years of age, so did mine seem to. It was the loss of my business as a Finish Carpenter when I was twenty-seven years old that caused the devastating blow of destroying my household entirely. The trigger was fear. The fear I had of my wife put me on the road when I was:
A friend of mine needed an estimate for replacing the windows in his home but I needed to be home at a time dictated to me by Mindy. I left the jobsite early enough to go look at the window situation, and still be home for dinner. Well, thankfully for me, I did not have time to load up my tools or my head may have been crushed when I was stopped in traffic, only to become the primary victim of a triple collision- the definition of which is not that there were three vehicles involved but that I was hit three times. There were, in fact, three vehicles involved. One was the semi that hit me, from the Grand Rapids Trucking Company, which happened to be traveling at fifty-five miles per hour. He was looking down blouses when he failed to observe that traffic had backed up to a complete stop near the 196/U.S.131 interchange. The third vehicle was in front of me. It was also hit three times, secondary to the impact. It should be easy to deduce that I was hit six times. The only word I can use for the moment is “senseless” because I had no idea what had happened- only that I had somewhere to be and the man in front of me, not only wasn’t proceeding but was now getting out of his mini-van and going to the rear of the vehicle. I was so agitated and knocked so senseless that when my door refused to let me get out, forcefully springing back to slap me upside my head, I simply used the other door without a second thought. After all, there were two doors. The explanation softens the blow but it absolutely crippled me with despondency, to say the least, especially after my wife began catting around in A.O.L. chat rooms, and then soon after, announcing to me that she wanted a divorce. I stated one simple question: “I guess you won’t mind me having a beer then?” It came out almost as if it invited an answer from her. At that point I think it was more of a dare or a challenge. It was a thinly veiled threat, a tactful yet passive way of saying, “I’ll kill you.”
I realize it would have been the easiest way out, and for that I will never get credit from man but the cynical human self-preservation defensive part of me that provides humor in the face of adversity couldn’t help but at least wonder, “what if ”, like Dr. Seuss.
While making my second twenty ounce cup of instant coffee, emptying my bladder and washing my hands, I briefly pondered a lesson meant for someone else in my cube but gifted it to myself. I imagined asking him what the difference was between the time God gives you on this planet, and the time man gives you in prison. The answer is, “Nothing, it’s what you do with the time”. I immediately thought of Danny, Dan DeRuiter, Danimal, S’Dan. And as I work on something I feel could be important to someone, I remind myself, “don’t ignore the message though the messenger is imperfect”. Due to the fact that drinking was one of the more arbitrary things we did the most of. Even though we spent a lot of time drinking, we searched for, and found, substance and meaning in almost every minute together. Trivia was merely a moment of rest, combined with comedy and appreciation for the arts. It recharged our creativity and our passions to be able to focus on the bigger picture, the one most people are too busy or selfish to see. So, it was Danny that I gave credit to for my time in prison, away from my regular prison of my own existence. I recognize it as his test on my relationships, and other sailing vessels, and his value in, and of, my ability to have something to share- if not powerful. It was only up to me to decide when to get over my grief and focus. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it Dorothy?
So, I’m doing exactly what they say to do, no matter what you do. When someone writes abut something they don’t know or have no idea about, you will know. And even when I stumble on my topic I hope to have captured your interest enough to keep you reading regardless if I have ever sought compensation for my work. Rewards come from what you have done, your feats, not what you do. To me, you are rewarded for your efforts with support from those people that believe in you- embracing your loving heart for what it is.
Too often, lately, people get portrayed as heroes for fulfilling their job descriptions. Have we underachieved so grossly that anyone who does even the smallest thing is a hero these days? Is it possible that the state of society is related to the travesty of the disservice we have done to our people, our children, the youth- the future, for claiming Einstein was a genius for instance? Meaning nobody is smart enough to figure anything out unless they are? Boy, somebody really messed up for us! (SHHH, the game is on.)
Danny was one of my most intimate friends. It was because of meeting him in the spring of 1999 that I was able to get away from drugs, and trying to deliberately drink myself to death. It was at this moment in time that I became reunited with my dreams of being a musician, and finally finding a friend at a time in my life when I was totally lost. We were far more than drinking buddies but when he died from “natural causes”, while exceeding his daily allowance of fun, I lost my drinking buddy, only gaining the perspective that I was next.
On the night of 6-6-06, I had a dream. My truck was in a shallow stretch of the Grand River, with the hood up and me under it. I was startled by a slender, muck covered being that swam up along side of me and popped out of the water. Frightened by the sudden appearance of it, I grabbed a long handled tool, bludgeoning it to death. When I went to work the following day, my roommate came to the job to tell me that Danny was found dead that morning. The thing in my dream had all of the earmarks and character of Danny. It had all of the indications of the state of my life, and I had killed him but I also killed the thing that was what I was becoming. A murder/suicide through my fear of what lay ahead.
The emotional strain caused some decisions to be made. The only one I had made with any clarity at all was that the drinking, drinking, drinking had to stop. And even though some great things happened, the worst or what would seem like the worst, was failing to recall that the job offer that followed was from someone that was never a friend, and who had caused a lot of problems for Danny and I out of his jealousy of us, and his Heroine addiction.
Now here’s where a friend or a family member would have come in handy. My decision to go to Florida for work was rationalized with the desire to put fear to rest with the Friend of the Court, buying time until my SSDI came through. It was not until one and a half years later that I could change the last statement that I made to my son, which was: “Cody, I am going to go to Florida to work for a few weeks. I need two thousand dollars for the court to keep from putting me in jail over child support again.”
It was only too late before I realized that I had been set up and robbed of my band equipment. Some of it was purchased from the guy offering me the work, and some of it I had inherited from Danny directly.
Have you ever heard of “the Key West move”? Google it and see if anything comes up. I never have but I am willing to bet my Brazil nuts that something is there to illustrate what I am talking about. Anyway, I was clueless until I discovered myself abandoned on Key West without a single soul to help me with much of anything, (well, almost nothing). I did find help getting rid of my money and smokes. The police arrested me repeatedly on a string of charges without any witnesses or evidence. And when I tried to defend myself I found that I had no real Defense council. It was myself against them, and I was playing on their turf with nothing but the words of the local police, and mine- a homeless person in the Florida Keys. 422 days were spent in the detention facility on Stock Island but I left with a lot of stories, and information, that under certain circumstances I could be killed for. Danny would exclaim, “Unbelievable!” Just when you get into it, and start enjoying the ups and downs, the speed changes, the screams of the fast drops, and the giggles of the climbs- it’s over. Just like life. I can only say two words: Actuate Yourself.
I lived it, and wrote it down to share with you.
Sincerely, Zachery S. Polk Convicted Felon
It was almost time for the public schools to begin when I met Sandra Van Winkle. Having met her at a place on College Avenue called, the College Inn bar, across the street from the house I was staying at on the North side of Carrier Street, and West of College Ave. Next door, North of the bar, was a local, middle-eastern owned convenience store. It was just a beer-slinging joint that sold Chore-Boy scouring pads, glass pipes, and cigarettes. It wasn’t much later that I realized she was just another drunk to add to my long list of distracting acquaintances. I am certain we were drinking beer while sitting at the bar but it was her inquiry about whether I had any “smoke” that got us together in the house I was occupying. She seemed very sweet and loving, and was an all around fun person to share space with. She would always refill the ice cube trays and spruce up the house a bit. She did little things that a person appreciated. I very quickly appreciated her greatly, especially since nobody ever did anything for me except smoke my “smokeables” and drink my “drinkables”. In essence, they merely prayed on my “emotionals” to spend my “spendables”, as if they had done the “earnorable” thing and earned them, thereby contributing to the “sociables”.
The framing in the couch was broken from a time when a very, very large man, in an overweight category that has yet to be given a term to describe it, plopped himself down upon it’s emptiness. His name happened to be, “Tiny”. When you sat down you couldn’t help but feel tiny in, the now permanent, depression.
The house was divided into two separate residences, and it was haunted. The part I was staying in was Michele Shackleton’s, who was about thirty years old, and looking very much like Goldie Hawn. The part she rented was the area that was most affected by the haunting. The adjoining residence was in the rear and was occupied by an older man who lived with a couple of friends. It was him who she had been out with when she got a drunk driving charge that finally landed her in the Kent County Jail. It had been his birthday when the incident occurred, having taken her out for “steak and lobster”, which everyone knows is a set up for sex. They had gotten extremely drunk, to the point where he couldn’t drive. He had her drive them home in his Cadillac instead of driving himself. Of course, she clipped another vehicle and sped away. They hid the car in a small garage behind a stockade fence in the backyard. She was so drunk that she fell out of the car when she went to get out. They were such bad alcoholics, and were so wasted that I doubt they ever found their way out of their clothes that night.
In the meantime, she had lost a relationship, and custody of her daughter, because of the drinking and drugs. This man she had been out with was suppose to be helping her get her six year old little girl back. Her mother had custody at the time. As for her ex-whatever he was, I have no clue of his position or of his concerns.
This man she had been out with for the birthday celebration was in his sixties or just looked like it, and had an alcohol monitor at the house that was required by the conditions of his parole. He worked as a self employed contractor, knocking on doors to drum up work doing home repairs. I had met Michele at the Scoreboard bar a few months earlier. Little did I know she was… let’s just say- another learning experience. There’s more to her that I may explain later, like the fact the she was a descendant of Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, the Polar explorer.
I am illustrating the how, where, why, when- starting with Sandy because she was the most pivotal. Michele had been in the county jail, for I don’t know how long, before I met Sandy. It may have been weeks. I was house sitting while Michele was serving her jail sentence. Project rehab was part of her rehabilitation ordered by the courts. This was a joke in itself, and anyone who has been through the program can attest to that.
So, anyway, Sandy had just had her fiftieth birthday, keeping that a secret from me. She started coming over before and after work at Vitale’s, where she was a drink preparer at a bar area that wasn’t really a bar but was just a bar area within a restaurant- a server’s station actually. A few people could sit there, a place to have a drink while waiting for a table or for their party to arrive. It was a nice place- a family place. If you wanted to drink, the Sports bar portion with take-out items was located in another building of the same parking lot.
Sandy would often come by with a picnic basket. There would be beer and treats, and sometimes money. It was all out of her appreciation for my having pot to share with her. She was always helpful in some way, repaying me for sharing my space in time with her. [Here is where it would have paid off to dig a little deeper than Schizophrenia in my Psychology studies.] Sandy was a California girl, and was unlike any person I had known at that point in my life. I was very attracted to her aura, care, kindness, and the way she expressed her gratitude for being welcome. She was always sharing things like weed, which I now believe was always a chief concern or motivation of hers, and why she did so much to keep in good standing with me. It kept the availability of pot open, as it was a crucial part of her everyday life. She would say things like, “make sure you find me when you have pot”. She would end up proving herself to be very concerned with pot and drinking but wouldn’t reveal these concerns as a problem until I was able to appreciate the information.
One day, early on in our relationship, while at the house I was sitting, she started dropping questions about religion, asking me if I knew the name of the Lord. She explained that she felt very uncomfortable in this house and that it felt heavy, that she sensed a negative aura about the place. These were things that would further convince me of her being genuine, loving, trustworthy and sincere. She would tell me that I am teachable, probably because I listened intently, reciprocating and displaying a general knowledge as opposed to ignorance, I guess.
As a Pisces, my natural concern was for capturing her interest in me, hoping to win an important place in a relationship and fulfilling a need to belong, never mind that she was twenty years my senior. She invited me over to her place, where I found a wonderfully kept and decorated upstairs mother-in-law’s apartment. There was an extensive collection of scaled down replicas of classic automobiles, a large assortment of photos displayed, and seashells that she had collected and scattered around as accents. She was clearly a music lover, noted by quite a large collection of cassette tapes. An exercise bike near the stereo stated a concern for health, along with the assortment of herbs and vitamins that were in a wicker basket nearby. The place looked and felt like a small museum. It felt very comfortable. Maybe it was the salient affect that took hold of me, with so many things to look at and touch- a bombardment of distractions for the senses. Steeped in this environment, a strange and serious web ensnared me in almost everyway. She had told me that she thought the place was being haunted, since there were things that had happened to her that she thought were odd; suspecting her deceased father. She told of how she had opened the oven door one day and was blasted in the face by an explosion, burning her eyebrows and singing her hair badly. This house did have some strange activity in the upstairs Sandy occupied. I had noticed a figure in the upstairs window on occasion, and after a time situations would occur that I was apprehensive to think of as coincidental.
I would soon learn of her son, Richard, his pretentious wife, and Sandy’s grandson. Sandy had me sneak up the stairs in sync with her footsteps so that her son would not be aware that she had company. Richard and his family lived on the ground floor of this home on the North East corner lot of Carrier Street and Lafayette Avenue. At thirty-two years old, Richard was just about the same age as I- six months apart. He may have been a few months younger or older. He was very protective of his mother or so it appeared but I was not sure exactly why. Regardless of his opposition of me being involved with his mother, or that we were the same age, I had just lost three children in the recent past, and was thankful to have found her. Him and I would butt heads for some time- he would insist on it, even going so far as to tell her that I had been in their basement snooping around- an attempt to plant seeds of doubt in her mind of me. It was a tactful attempt to conjure up trust issues, which he knew she was sensitive about- a hope to separate us quickly. It nearly worked.
Well, with mutual confidence gained in our relationship, stories of our individual pasts would be told by both of us. It would not be very long before she figured out about my state of mental health, from a head injury, and the Kent County Friend of the Court. She would be the one that got me into the doctor’s offices and got me the attention needed to begin tending to my many needs. I am pretty sure getting locked up, eventually, for child support, and my unhidden handicaps were a factor. She would slowly reveal stories of her past, like how she had been taking care of her father up until he died. And how Richard had come out to California to bring her back to Michigan to live with his family, where he rented her the upstairs. She explained how she got stuck with all of her father’s worldly possessions or what was left of them after all of his acquaintances learned of his death. And how she hadn’t seen many of the key items of that inheritance since the move. And how she handed them several thousand dollars to fund the endeavor. Having a poor education resulted in her having weak math skills. It wasn’t hard for greed to impede on her situation, handing her back the short end of the stick. Sandy would continue to grieve over the situation at her son and daughter-in-law’s insistence. She was strategically being punished but for what was unknown.
In short, I mean to highlight the keys to the story. Her father was always a bastard. He sexually molested her, abused her, and neglected her. He was a drunk and a womanizer. Back in the early days of auto racing, he was a racecar driver. He had been with Sandy’s mother up until she had a hemorrhage at the hands of his girlfriend after an abortion that she performed. She was found dead in the hotel room by the cleaning lady.
He and this woman could now be a known couple, only to separate Sandy from her sister. Incidentally, they had just found each other after all of these years but, sadly, it wasn’t until after Sandy had relocated to Grand Rapids. This estranged sister was in California near where Sandy had been living all along, South of San Rafael. One of the last memories she had of them being together was when their father had locked them in a fruit cellar as punishment for one thing or another. Steeped in the cool dark room, one of the only things she could feel was the fur brushing across her skin from the rats that were crawling and climbing around them as they held each other in terror. Her and her sister were four and five years old. She would become reunited with her sister just two months before we became acquainted. Forty-five years had been lost since they had last seen each other. And even though there was much anger and resentment for what their father had done to them, they picked up the pieces and began mending what had been so badly broken. The strange thing was that Sandy had three brothers from a different mother. They were in contact routinely. One of them was in San Quentin dying with Parkinson’s disease.
Fall rolled around on the seasonal clock, bringing the joy of harvest time and the festivities of Halloween once again. Richard hosted a costume party, inviting us to attend. It was a western themed event, utilizing all of the stores from the last years gathering, topped off with store bought emotions and the poisons that help trick people into getting along and thinking that they are happy. Angie’s mother was there, if only to take a stab at me by asking where the garbage was, as if I would certainly know.
That evening during the party a phone call came for Sandy. It was her sister calling from California with news that she had been diagnosed with liver cancer. She had been to the hospital because of some issue that arose. Our evening was interrupted by this news and began our Worried Blues, spending the rest of the night walking around the city drinking and talking. That night she decided that she needed to save some money and go to California soon to try to help her sister, to try to make her well with herbs and vitamins.
Thanksgiving drew near with the leaves finally changing; late in the city due to the impact of concrete, asphalt, condensed populous, sewer gases and automobiles. We walked around town quite a bit but especially now, enjoying the fall air and the colors of the leaves blowing away from the trees. We came upon a small camper that was put up for sale after a member of their family had passed away. It was a Little Gem, made in Grand Rapids back in 1963. The camper door was open when we walked by it at eleven o’clock that night, so we went inside to look around. We sat at the dining table with our mixed drinks, (vodka and grapefruit), getting a feel for it and taking pleasure in our little hiding spot. It was reminiscent of something we did as kids back where I grew up- pool hopping when no one was home. The sign in the window said they only wanted four hundred dollars. Since we were getting hassled by Richard for being together, we saw it as an opportunity to move somewhere else, living in the camper.
Sandy had lived in a cube van that was set up as a camper when Richard was a little boy, defecating on paper plates or in buckets as an alternative to not having a bathroom or plumbing. The camper was taken by the man she had been living in it with when he broke off the relationship with her for another woman, causing for Richard to be taken by his father. Sandy then turned to staying with friends, living with elderly persons she cared for, and living in shacks in the mountains and desert, where water had to be hauled in from hundreds of miles away. Living the life of a gypsy may have been the reason for Richard’s animosity towards his mother.
Living in the camper with me was very appealing to her since she was accustomed to living on the rough side of existence. What appealed to me was to be out of the city and away from people who find pleasure in involving themselves in everyone’s business but their own. We decided to buy it, and went back the next day to secure it.
Salih had been providing me with work since the log cabin job with Dan Doyle had ended abruptly. Salih’s wife had a van that she was trying to sell at the time, which I bought for about three hundred and fifty dollars. The idea was that I would use the van to haul the camper with. She had sabotaged the vehicle by slicing the serpentine belt with a razor but not all the way through, just enough to weaken it. The problem was that it was broken at some point after I started driving it, leaving the motor and accessories to drain on the battery that was apparently already weak. The next time I tried to start it I found that the battery was dead and the belt was gone. Sandy and I walked up to an AutoZone store on Fuller Avenue to have the battery tested and get a belt. Who knows if the battery was any good, of course, the person who was selling batteries told us it wasn’t. We walked back from the store with the battery and belt, taking small breaks every block or so along the two-mile trip but we were kept elated with the thought of the day Sandy and I would finally have enough money saved for the camper, planning on the big day when we would be able to move away from the drama that wasn’t entirely our own. Richard’s wife, Angie, would continue to taunt her mother-in-law by keeping the kid and herself too busy for Sandy to have any time with her grandchild. Hiring a babysitter to watch the child was especially grating since Sandy was there waiting for the opportunities to arise.
The day finally came when I got paid from Salih. We could pick up the camper and bring it to the house to prepare for living in. That evening, around dinnertime, Sandy and I were inside the camper celebrating the outlook on our new independence with a drink, and thinking of the new living situation. Thanksgiving was ten days away. We had been investigating various RV parks, discussing the pros and cons of each one. We had just smoked a joint when Richard and Angie knocked on the door. He was smiling and seemed to be in a good mood. His hand went to his face as if he had a tear to wipe away, informing his mother of a phone call saying that her sister had just now passed away of Liver Cancer. He tried covering the smile as it widened, having difficulty concealing it. He had a hard time resisting a chuckle as he spoke. It was a pain he felt she deserved and he was laughing at her despair. It seemed he was taking advantage of the in-your-face punishment. A person could possibly perceive it to be dealt to Sandy by Jehovah.
The money we had been saving for our season payment at the RV Park would come in handy so that she could fly out. There was money coming in yet from another two weeks of work to make up for it. She got on the phone that evening to make arrangements for a flight, which happened to be for two days before Thanksgiving, and the day before we were to make our move with the camper.
What she would find is that it was a waste of effort on her part. We drove to the airport, where I waited with her until she could board her flight. The plan was that I would move the camper to the River Pines Camp and RV Park the next day. When she boarded the airplane I returned to the house, I contemplated my options, considering calling my mother while on my way back from the airport to explain how I needed to move the camper. It wasn’t going to be easy for me to ask her but I had no other person to ask. She was accustomed to hauling her large horse trailer so I knew it wouldn’t be difficult for her. The more to it was that I didn’t feel confident that my van would pull it. Don’t ask me why I had that feeling but something told me it wasn’t going to work. Trusting my intuition, and setting aside my pride, I called my mom to help.
Mom came out with her boyfriend, Tom, and hooked the “Little Gem “up to her truck. I stashed a quarter ounce of weed inside a panel near the wheel-well along the foot of the bed, so that if we got pulled over for some reason, it would not be found- just in case I had a warrant. We took the most direct and inconspicuous route, which was M-45, all the way out to Allendale, turning north on 60th Avenue, where an intersecting road lead to The River Pines Campground and RV Park. The RV Park was nestled in some very tall pines, and had a pretty nice pond out front near the road. We checked in at the manager’s office and found our way to the site to place the camper. I chose the site closest to the bathhouse because of the convenience of the washroom and laundry facilities. It didn’t take long to drop it off, and within minutes my mother and Tom returned to their home just eight miles back toward Grand Rapids, in Marne. I went right over to Arek and Ruth’s house to surprise them with the news that I am living two miles away from them.
Some time after my mother had left, I was working at hooking the electricity up to the camper. The cord extended just short of my connection point. No problem, I just backed my van up to the camper, attached the ball to the hitch, and lowered the weight of the camper onto it. After backing it up to where I needed it, the park manager came cruising up on his little utility golf cart to see how I was fairing. We discussed a bit about the park, with him making particular mention of the strict five mile per hour park speed limit. He zipped away on his cart at fifteen miles an hour while I returned to unhooking the camper from my van. What I found was that the weight of the camper had collapsed the Reese hitch assembly, folding it down as if it were tinfoil. The rust had taken over and eaten the steel almost entirely. The only thing that was holding it together was the paint and the rust that hadn’t been cracked apart. Now it hung like a wet noodle, and if I would have been relaxed about it I may have been able to see it being blown slightly by the wind. That may be a bit cynical. The hitch maintained just enough integrity for me to stand on it but if I were another five pounds I’d need to be treated for a laceration. What occurred to me was that my intuition in calling my mother to move it was correct, yet I had no idea that the hitch was no good, and it hadn’t even dawned on me when I had to pound the tongue into the receiver with a maul. It was my first hitch and my first camper. I have never had any experience with towing- the Cops were the ones who always towed stuff for me.
One of the things I have been searching for years for is information to gain a better understanding of ESP and the paranormal. It’s been more of a subconscious effort than anything but my conscious curiosity and experiences keep motivating that search.
Anyway, my drinking wasn’t a problem at the time of moving in to the park, mostly due to having no one to wrestle with for ‘who’s got more in theirs.’ And it’s funny, I don’t recall scraping the bong either… but I didn’t recall stashing a sack of grass in the camper either.
It was magnificent at River Pines. There were very, very few to no leaves left on the trees. It was pretty windy the next day as I climbed from the camper to soak up the sun of the morning. Grabbing a cup of coffee from my campfire, I strolled out toward the river to check out the wildlife. As I walked, there were Sand-hill Cranes standing here and there. Bits of rabbit fur were lying about in quite a few places, looking like a hunting ground for something or other. There were two Bald Eagles flying in the area, which happened to be over the flood plains and bayous. There were plenty of areas to fish from around here. I suspected the eagles as being the hunters feasting on the rabbits, and that a nest must be somewhere nearby. The river itself could not be reached on foot because of the nature of the swampy area outstretched beyond the bayou. Oh well, I was satisfied with the wildlife anyway. It was time to get back to the camper and be off to work.
As the day progressed I told my friend Joe Grimminck all about the new digs. He was pumped about coming out after work to check the place out. We made a plan to get some beer and hang out at the campsite, and since it was Friday he planned to camp out for the night.
When we got out to the campsite with our thirty pack of beer, we went out back to explore the bayou a little bit. Sitting on the bank, smoking a bowl, Joe spotted an otter that was floating on it’s back with some food he’d found to eat. It was an exciting thing for Joe, who had been out of the city very little. A short time went by when Joe suggested we go back to the camper to make a campfire to sit around while knocking back some brews. I tried to tell him that it was too windy but he set right to gathering wood from a row of trees that separated the adjoining westward field. It was a bit windy but what the heck. I had to give Joe the real camp treatment. We just had to watch the fire closely.
Watching the fire closely was a pretty big job because the winds whipped up the flames, making the fire bigger. Sparks were being sent into the air by the heat as it intensified, helped along by the wind. Huge pieces of burning debris were being blown everywhere causing for the leaves to catch fire and be blown into more leaves that had been piled up by the wind where branches on the ground had grabbed them and held them down in masses. I ran around stomping them out in a panic. We got some water to put on the fire, knocking it down quite a bit. My hopes were that everyone was too occupied with their own affairs to have been watching the new guys try to light the forest on fire. Joe never heard me say, “I told you so”.
After having about four beers, Joe wanted to make his bed near what was left of the fire. I tried to tell him that it wasn’t a good idea to sleep by the fire with the winds blowing as hard as they were because embers being blown about could set his clothing on fire. He didn’t care, it was his desire to do it cowboy style, like in the movies he had seen. I couldn’t argue with him, if that was what he wanted to do. He was going to do it anyway. He said he would watch the fire, so I went inside the camper to sit at the table and reflect on my day- an excuse to drink until I was ready to pass out.
The next day reminded me how windy it was during the night. Beer cans were scattered all across the ground. Beer cans were all the way past the tree line, which was fifty yards away. Most of them were stopped from blowing into the field by the remains of a fence and the weeds. The rest were over a hundred-fifty yards away, falling just short of the wall the forest made along the west and north sides of the field. I picked up over four dollars in cans, matching up with the thirty pack we drank, and what was left of the second one.
This was an average night of drinking- one to two thirty packs of 5.9 percent alcohol by volume. At this rate a guy (me), can drink about four hundred and fifty bucks a month. That was taking into consideration the beers Joe drank, and that my average, alone, is thirty. Let’s not forget smokes and weed, which would be another two hundred and fifty bucks a month, for a total of approximately seven hundred dollars a month. Strangely enough, that’s about how much money people get from the government who are receiving Social Security and other compensations- like monies for Native American peoples. So, you can see where it would be cost effective to grow your own “smokables” and brew your own Hooch. Just food for thought for the underachievers in your life because this needs to be said by someone, and I know for a fact that unless they’re using this for study materials in prison or rehab they aren’t reading squat except for…
Oh whom am I kidding? I don’t care what they read. Many of them spend their reading time trying to figure out how to “get down” on someone. As far as I’m concerned at this very moment I write, I’m “getting down” on them by not sharing what little knowledge or understanding I have. Now, if they search for it, that’s different. Knowing stuff isn’t for everyone. It’s for sharing with your children, loved ones, your team members- whoever they are. That makes me sound a bit dictatorial but you can only share knowledge with those you are bound by moral obligation to, and to those who seek it in earnest. Or, reconsidering the options, share with those who can evade the bullets- and the dog.
Where was I before my display of disgust for my so-called fellow man, and for my foolish desires, motivations, concerns with the prison environment that I am forced into… the cost of existence when you are consuming all of the things that keep you in the maze, frittering your life away while working to replace them on a daily basis. And never getting anywhere in life accept the poor house, which happens to come with a tell-lie-vision, so you won’t miss the big game.
Shortly after cleaning up the mess, Joe and I were having a cup of coffee and watching the northern section of the property when we saw an Eagle flying over the trees to the right of the trail that led to the bayou. It was carrying a large stick in its talons. Joe explained how Eagles are constantly building onto their nests, and that they occupy them for a very long time. As he spoke, the Eagle flew westward. The area it flew towards was the forest that lined the corner of the field where I had just picked the cans up. As I scanned the top of those leafless trees, I backed up to the camper, watching for a change in the direction it was flying in as I went feeling my way for my binoculars. I grabbed them and zeroed in on the Eagle. Then I looked at the treetops for a sign. Through the limbs was a dense looking area where a bunch of branches came together in one spot. I had found the Eagle’s nest! The nest was the largest nest I had ever seen, the size of an upside down Volkswagen Beetle. As I marveled at the sight of the nest, the bird flew around it and landed on the edge of it. Just then a head popped up. There were two! It was a functioning mated couple and it explained the pieces of animal fur that were scattered all over the morass out back around the perimeter of the bayou. I handed the binoculars to Joe so he could view the sight.
At that moment Jerry, the park manager, cruised up on his golf cart. He stopped and got out. He wanted to know why we tried burning the woods down last night, exclaiming that we needed to be careful with the fire pit. After apologizing for it, I quickly tried to hand him the spyglass to see the Eagle, mostly to take the subject control away from him and schmooze him over a little bit. He said that he had seen them before, that they were planted out here by the DNR as a rebuilding project, and that there was a nest somewhere nearby that he has been unable to find. Offering him the spyglass again, I said that he could see the nest pretty easily. He snapped his head around to look where I pointed, saying that he had been here for years trying to find it. His comment that I had come to find it in two days revealed a bit of animosity. And didn’t help in building a good report with him. I sensed my troubles were already beginning with this man. And between the speed limit, forest fire, and the eagle, my fate was almost certainly sealed. Great. Wait until Sandy gets here. The rumors are sure to fly when they see us together. And they did.
It was snowing and cold with a below zero wind chill the day Sandy was arriving at the Kent County Airport. The morning was off to a late start since I had a habit of drinking myself to sleep for fear of my nightmares but I had enough time to be where I needed to be to pick her up. It was a weekend and there wasn’t much traffic as I headed onto the highway from Coopersville. As I went along at sixty miles per hour in the Ford Econoline 150, without a blower motor working to get heat in the rig, I noticed the engine temperature gauge quickly climbing past the normal operating range. It steadily climbed further and further until a loud popping sound, followed by a cloud escaping from the hood, forced me to pull over. It wasn’t even two miles since I had merged onto the East bound lane of I-96. Now I was broke down, parked at a most inconvenient time.
My heart started racing because I knew I was going to be late now. Knowing how Sandy had just been dealing with a very bad situation in her life, it wasn’t hard to understand that was going to be quite cranky and unyielding, especially since it was a little too early for the airline stewardesses to be serving drinks on the flight. When I got out and looked at the radiator there was slush inside of it and the radiator hose had popped off of the water pump flowing into the top of the radiator. The first thought I had was that there wasn’t enough antifreeze in it or the thermostat was bad but I saw the disconnected hose and reattached it, thinking that it was just not tight enough. The antifreeze was low for sure now since it had blown out of the hose, and the fact that there was slush inside told me that it was definitely in need of being drained and filled back up with the correct amount of antifreeze. The gauge fell after twenty minutes, so I tried to start the van again but it wouldn’t go. I kept cranking the starter until the battery lost most of its power to turn it. My cellular phone was going to be handy now, along with my AAA auto insurance with roadside assistance. This wasn’t the right time to be putting the service to the test but I was about to find out how reliable AAA and my cell phone were.
Making a call that took through an automated answering service finally took me to a service representative. I was asked a series of questions and asked if I could be put on hold while the few cars that were on the road passed me by. I explained that I was using a cell phone, and that I would rather not be put on hold but the person heard no part of my statement and I began to hear the sounds of recorded music through the earpiece. I got an earful of Yanni. The call was dropped within six bars of the music score. Making the call again, I was reconnected with the same person I had spoken to. She got on her computer and started locating a tow truck in my area, placing me on hold again as my battery showed the symbol of battery life dwindling. Several minutes turned to half an hour, while my cell phone battery petered out to a trickle. The call was lost again. The third time I called, I was told that the tow trucks were all busy and that it would be three hours before one could be dispatched to aide me. Now my phone was dead and I couldn’t plug it in to the accessory power outlet because the battery was too low in the van. Lighting another cigarette, and working myself into a panic, I tried the van again but got only two full cranks on the motor before it started clicking again the way Fords do. I turned the key off and hoped it would recharge itself enough to start it. Now my bladder is full, my feet are freezing, my phone is dead, and my mother and friends are all within six miles of me. Help is all around me but there is no way to get to them. I can hear Sandy screaming at me in my head, thinking I had been up partying all night. Just then an Ottawa County Road Commission truck is coming up behind me in the distance. He is scraping the roadways and dressing the ramps with the salt and sand mixture that they use. The truck pulled right up behind me and stopped. A man got out and approached my vehicle. He had stopped to offer some help. Thank God for the few good people there seem to be left in the world. Explaining what had happened to the van, he said that it had just frozen up in the radiator because of the wind chill., and that it sometimes happens to their rigs, which is why they put the covers over the grill in the winter. He told me to try it again and that it would probably start, which it did. Relieved, and late, I thanked him for stopping to offer help and resumed my mission to the airport. All I could do was continue on my mission, while thinking that this was a great way to start the day and to begin Sandy’s new homecoming celebration. Too bad my phone had died or she could have called to find out what had happened. I limped the van all the way to the airport, which seemed like a hundred miles away but it was closer to sixty, only stopping once at a filling station to check the fluid in the radiator.
I finally pulled up in front of the area where people wait with their luggage for their transportation to arrive. It was pretty difficult for me to discern that it was Sandy standing there among a small group of people. The scowl on her face had distorted her from recognizable. I had never seen her face contorted in such a way. Most of the individuals she was standing among were women who, judging by the looks on their faces, were forced to listen to an authoritative explicative tirade of about me the whole time. She was heavily cloaked in anger and vehemence, sharing the heaviness of it with me entirely now that we were alone. She screamed at me while I could do nothing but sit and endure her expression until the opportunity finally arose to make amends and offer my apologies without triggering more negative energy.
Having thought little enough about the situation to ask me what had happened, she assumed I had been flying high and was unable to get up to handle my responsibilities. Sandy would hear nothing of my situation with the truck and kept screaming to be sure of it, berating me most of the way home. It was odd to me that it was so normal because here I am grown up and out of the control of my father but still in an environment that was identical to what I had experienced throughout my life. It seems we don’t feel normal unless we are receiving that type of treatment to which we are oriented with. Things only softened up after I stopped at a liquor store and she smoked some weed but how soft…. I didn’t save any mental notes about that.
Our camper was a real novel thing at the time and it wouldn’t be until after we sold it that I would learn of the pot I had stashed in it when I took the precautions of anticipating being pulled over when we took it to the RV park on Thanksgiving Day. The possibility was pretty good since the camper had not been registered or plated. It was not unlike me to hide things and then not remember where I had stashed them- hiding them from myself in effect.
There was no heat in the camper only because the gas line leaked somewhere and I was more concerned with drinking than fixing anything as menial as the source of heat in my home, besides I could do it tomorrow. On top of that there was a bit of a bonus: when I got home my glass from the night before still had ice in it. And as for heat, I bought a twenty-five dollar Mr. Heater at Meijer’s a few nights before Sandy came home. It was an electric jobbie that took the frost off of the place. Hell, we’d light a couple candles, and between us, the cat, the booze and the cigarette embers, we’d get it up to forty five or fifty degrees in there and we were happier than, well, a well lodged tape worm. It will eventually prove to be detrimental to my health from the winds blowing through, loosening the filth and fiberglass from the walls, and the heavy concentration of second hand smoke. It wasn’t until too late that I finally realized the filth we’d been breathing on top of the smoking- non-filtered rolling tobacco. Oh well, I have to live with it now. I am just thankful to be able to tell the story, partially made possible by my thirteen-month stay at the Jackson Penitentiary, where I got the idea to segregate myself by occupying my mind with whatever I could get that would expand my knowledge and add to whatever I had already stockpiled as an artist of sorts.
Sandy returned, two days later, to her job at Vitale’s. It was Monday. We drove into Grand Rapids together, where I would return to work with Salih. After work I would carouse around to visit with friends until she got done at eleven p.m. It went on like that for another two weeks until one day when Sandy had the day off and joined me in Grandville where Salih and I were putting an addition on a home. Salihs wife showed up at that project around noon and berated him for about twenty minutes. She even made mention of their sex life and his manhood, to which he replied something about the Grand Canyon. It was very soon after that Salih and I had a falling out due to the impact that his wife had on our work environment. And with Sandy’s observance came even more difficulty in dealing with the Drama. I just couldn’t take it anymore. With Sandy on the sideline influencing the situation with her sentiments on the relationship the decision was made for me to quit. He really needed me at that time since the workers he had were mostly unskilled, and Salih was more of the coordinator. I was the lead man, making all of the field calls and construction decisions needed to complete the projects. He really depended on me. When I just didn’t show up, and let the calls go to voice mail after telling him on the phone that I had to quit, Salih headed out to the park to try to talk to me about it. He couldn’t accept it and had no real understanding of what the reason was, and I was unable to tell him anything further than the first phone call I was allowed to take from him. When he got to our camper Sandy had barricaded us inside, forbidding me to open the door or respond to him in any way. I felt extremely bad for what I had done to him by quitting, and even worse for not being able to talk to him. I knew in my heart that he deserved an explanation or an apology but I couldn’t do it without making mention of his wife and her hatred towards me, or without Sandy being involved, all of which would have only made things worse for both, Salih and I. The chief problem was something I was not willing to focus on at the time, Sandy’s possessiveness and jealousy. She had taken full control of everything I did, and everything I was going to do.
It was nearing Christmas, on the twenty-first of December, when I took Sandy to work. Someone had given me a Smelt basket that I had accepted and reheated in a gas station microwave oven when I got gasoline. When I was arriving back at the Vitale’s parking lot, my stomach began to wretch, rejecting what I had eaten. As I was pulling into the parking lot I opened the door of my van and puked as I drove, hoping that Sam Vitale was not watching on one of his many surveillance cameras as I did so. It was a hope but highly unlikely. I went to the sports bar next door to have a drink and use the bathroom, twenty minutes afterwards going to the van to take a nap. Sam’s cameras were in the sports bar as well.
When I awoke, I turned the radio on in the van just in time to listen to an emergency weather report that stated everyone in the area was to remain indoors and not to drive anywhere, unless it was an absolute emergency, because of “Black Ice”. The temperatures dropped dramatically and freezing rain were certain to create hazardous road conditions. At about eleven p.m. closing time, I went inside to warm up and wait. Sandy was drinking her fill from the serving station, having the perfect excuse to taste the drinks as she made them, for quality control purposes. When I told Sandy that we should stay at a friend’s house that night, she refused the idea saying that she intended us to return to our camper. The warning about the “Black Ice” was not important to her. She suggested we just drive slowly and carefully, taking the highway because there would be no stopping and starting and less traffic.
Well, with no one else on the road, we left as she insisted. We made our ritual stop at the liquor store for tobacco and alcohol on Plainfield Avenue, just a mile from the on ramp. Whether it was vodka, rum or gin, I cannot recall but I can recall that we made drinks in the parking lot for the ride home. We entered the empty westbound highway of I-96 tiptoe slow and headed for Coopersville. We made it all the way to the Marne exit without any slipping or another vehicle on the road. Four miles later we passed the forty-eighth avenue exit, still without any signs of another car on the highway going either way. Everything was nice and smooth and I was relieved to be only five miles from our home in the park. In a few minutes we would be sitting at out dining table with the heat blowing on our toes, while Zoey the cat was soaking up her love from us for the day. As the thoughts of being home waltzed through my head I felt the van sliding for the first time.
Our van was an older model but it was in nice shape. The tires were great and the rims were aluminum mags. It had running boards and was furnished with a seat that folded down into a bed and a table with swivel bucket seats, four Captain’s chairs. There were some tools that I kept inside because I had nowhere else to store them, along with a bag of concrete and a slide compound Hitachi saw I used primarily for finish carpentry work.
When I noticed that the van was sliding, I looked around for the lights of any other vehicles but there were none in the blackness. The rear slid slowly around to the right turn around one hundred and eighty degrees. We kept sliding sideways off of the road and into the median of the east and west lanes. When the wheels stopped sliding the van continued to move, rolling over onto its passenger side. My tools flew from where they were stowed and my saw bounced around along with the bag of concrete, which had broken open. Our drinks were spilled and the bottle of booze was tossed and rattled in the cab. Sandy complained of neck pain as I tried to open the door but the weight of it was extremely difficult to move from the position I was in. Repositioning myself, I managed to get my door open and climbed out.
The first thing I noticed was a dark Jeep Cherokee parked on the side of the highway. There were no lights on of any kind except for the glow of a cell phone in the cab. Approaching the vehicle, I noticed that it was a man behind the wheel, and that he was wearing a Kent County Sherriff’s patch on his coat. He seemed to be making a call on his phone. He answered my question regarding what happened with a statement that a little blue car had hit me and took off but I knew there was no little blue car but he and I knew that there was no such vehicle. I had been keeping my eyes on the mirrors and entrance ramps for other vehicles, especially cops that like to sit there when shooting radar or looking for people. As an accomplished drinker and someone who smokes pot, I am always aware of my surroundings. I kept an eye out for these things. If there is something there, I know it before they think I can see- the epitome’ of perfect vision.
As I went back to the van, foolishly hoping to flip it back over, I thought about the whole situation. We had been alone the entire time since passing Alpine Avenue. We were snuck up on from behind. He had been waiting for us at the entrance where 48th Avenue crosses over the I-96 highway. There are entrance ramps for both, East and West bound traffic. We or should I say I, had been monitored along the way via radio by officers posted up at every entrance ramp. When I got into the area, the cops pitted me, arresting me for child support. I do not remember how long I was in jail that time but I do remember that I was never told what the warrant was for. They said that the reason for my arrest wasn’t one but “fifteen thousand of them”, which ended up being the bond amount that I was unable to post. I gave my wallet to Sandy immediately, knowing that they would take what little money we had. I was denied the opportunity to use my phone to call a tow truck or my own insurance company, which ended up costing me a lot of money for the flatbed they arranged. They denied me to call anyone at all regarding this matter, taking my phone from me when I tried to call my mother, who lived near by. Memory doesn’t serve the details but I am sure that the documentation is available to back this all up. There are files in my possession that support this story. Sometimes I imagine that I keep these things in case I ever go on a rampage that ends up with me gaining some kind of notoriety, the kind of thing where they decide to do a bio. Funny thing is, I always likened myself to the great men of our past and to be in the history books since I was old enough to think of tomorrow, which I am told was pretty early. Only, it was probably more like: “tomorrow I will kill them”.
The move on the states part was illegal, but I haven’t the capital to pursue it, especially them denying me to call my insurance company. To me, that would be a witness to the situation. I should have sued but how can anyone fight without money? If they were smart, they would have written the accident up as a routine weather condition incident and issued a drunk driving charge but they never gave me a Breathalyzer or mentioned my alcohol use to me or in the police report.
Sandy used every bit of the hundred and fifty dollars to pay for the tow truck that brought our van back to our camper. I think it was this incident that ended up costing her the job she had at Vitale’s but since we had our bills caught up and I had family in the area, she was able to get by until I returned home.
We used to walk back to the north end of the RV Park, to the river bayou, to fish. Along the way were a few campers that people had stored in the back of the property, out of the way of the park. Some of them were for sale. We entertained the idea of getting a new one or one new to us. And it’s funny because someone else was thinking the same thing.
One day in the fall we asked Jerry Cannon, the park manager who was an ex-FBI agent, about the other “units” because we had become interested in upgrading. He made a comment about being glad we asked because he was just about to come and tell us that our camper was too old to be in the park for another season. Whether that was true or not had nothing to do with why he was going to tell us this. He tried to sell us a modular cabin but the price was beyond ridiculous, and it was meant to be. He really didn’t want us in the park. It was apparent that the other park residents had been discussing us too. Probably out of boredom. Jerry then tried to rent us one at a price that he felt we could afford, making it too easy, which scared us a bit, and rightly so. We were sensing being set up for something but we couldn’t tell what it was. What we ended up deciding was that we wanted to buy a camper, so he reluctantly showed us the ones that were for sale, starting with the most expensive one. The prices on all of them ended up being more than we wanted to spend or could afford.
During this time we were targeted for our campers antiquity as well as being “undesirable”. We had gotten to know young woman named, Katirna, who worked at the store in the park on the other side of the river- Conestoga Camp ground. She filled us in on a lot of the dirt about the park and it’s people. The rumors were, in fact, flying in the park. It came out that Jerry didn’t care much for us but there was nothing he could do about our being there since we complied with the park rules and paid our bills on time. One of the stories was that Sandy was my mother and we were an incestuous couple. That story made me laugh out loud. Sandy was appalled.
The typical people that reside in these RV parks, come to find out, are mostly on fixed incomes. They live in the RV’s because it’s inexpensive compared to traditional housing options like senior citizens with no family members who are caring or stable or willing to give back to them. There are many people who have child support demands that prevent them from living any other way, basically living in whatever is big enough to hold whatever it is that they have left in life. There are many people who are so much into chemical dependency that they have adjusted their lifestyle to accommodate their use. We were really no exceptions to the rule. Yeah, it’s a sad reality in the RV Park we lived in, and there we were doing much the same thing. Don’t get me wrong. You can’t discount the people passing through, the tourists, the hunters and the nature lovers. And then there are some who are shackled with the leg irons of a modern society and can’t afford themselves the leisure and luxury of traveling and exploring the wonders of our country. There are those who keep an RV or camper year-round or seasonally to have as a get-away, that don’t want to buy property or can’t find what they want. Then there is the management. The managers always seem to be some tyrannical control freaks who are the Dictatorial Hitler type of person, as far as I have ever seen in my limited experiences.
One day as the snow was beginning to melt at the end of Winter, Jerry came and told us about a camper at the other camping and RV Park- Conestoga Campground, on the north side of the river. A last stitch effort to get us to move out of the park, which would provide a great comfort to those who are there and afraid of outsiders coming on the scene to learn their secrets.
Conestoga was being prepared to open for the season since it was not a year-round park. It was owned by the same man who owned The River Pines but it was ran by Jerry’s son who had a camper parked there that they had rented out from time to time. It was on a lot right next door to the managers unit. This was a decent looking camper and appeared to be in good shape. It was a thirty-two foot 1984 Jayco Bunkhouse that slept six people. There was a nice little bathroom with a shower, a queen sized bed, a new fridge and furnace, as well as a newer water heater. It was a beautiful camper. To us, having been living in the Little Gem for the winter, it was a palace. Jerry claimed to own this camper, offering it to us for two thousand dollars, which he would finance, of course. He drew up a payment plan that was a land contract type. The camper would remain at Conestoga Campground until it was fully paid for, while payments were to be one hundred and thirty seven dollars and change per month but if we missed one payment we would lose our entitlement and all of our interest. We happily agreed knowing that we would easily be able to make the payments, making arrangements to have Jerry put our Little Gem in the back with the others that were for sale. We placed a sign in the window of it and hoped for it to sell quickly. Now Sandy was ready to call Richard to claim her stuff back that she had inherited from her father- the stuff that vanished when she got to Michigan.
Sandy kept on about the coo-coo clock and various antiques and possessions that Richard and Angie kept tucked away, including many guns. She kept on about it until we decided to call her son to ask for them. A threat had to be imposed in order to get him to comply with her request. These items were all stored in his basement, along with the pot he was growing. The very thing that he had suggested I broke in to get at. He refused to give up the items, saying that they were his, which fueled a battle that lasted for days until I got on the phone, threatening to turn him in for the pot if he didn’t give his mother what she was after. He hung up at that statement, only calling back about an hour later to say that he had checked his perimeters and was willing to concede to Sandy’s argument. The next day we met him at his house, retrieving a van full of stuff. It was packed to the gills with just enough space to get back in and ride home, stopping off at our storage unit to unload the items. The van had over heated from the haul and wouldn’t start when we went to leave. It finally started after about two hours.
Jerry moved the Jayco to a site we picked out at Conestoga but it didn’t have a full hook-up, meaning the sewer line. That would require me to drain it manually, hauling a thirty-gallon honey pot back and forth from the tank to the dump station. Jerry’s son said to just run the grey water out a hose and down the hill into the Grand River. He said that was what a lot of them did with the grey water, which is a separate holding tank apart from the actual sewage tank.
It was the first of April when we moved into the Jayco. The lot we picked was on the very end of the row along the ridge facing south. It overlooked the forestry below where it met the bank of the Grand River as it flowed westward to meet Lake Michigan in Grand Haven. Our lot was also next to the graveyard- a very old graveyard. I remember worrying about the very large oak tree that was standing on our North side- a mere six feet away. It had a huge limb that was more like another trunk, hanging a big threat that stretched precariously out over our trailer. All I could think about was a story that my close friend, Arek Clark, had told me about when he lived here years ago.
A man was lying in bed but then got up to make a bowl of cereal. The tree that was next to his camper suddenly broke and fell onto it, landing right where he had been sleeping. It destroyed his camper and would have killed him if he had not gotten up to eat. This was an especially haunting tale, being that we were located right next to the graveyard, and reminded us of death almost every moment of the day.
The storage facility, in Allendale, where we kept many things, was right next door to a gas station where I liked to acquire Drum rolling tobacco. I would always get two pouches from the rack and then go to the drink cooler, where I slipped one down my coat sleeve. Then I’d approach the counter, go through my act of pulling out my wallet to see that I didn’t have enough money, then to return the pouch to the rack. This was almost always too easy to pull off, unless the person behind the counter was someone I had done it with recently but since the store had a big employee turn over, and was always pretty busy, it was fairly easily done. Sometimes I could do it two to three times a day but at least a couple times a week, which was enough to get by. This was a technique I used at the places that sold beer as well, grabbing two jumbos but slipping one down the sleeve of my heavy coat.
We didn’t go a day without drinking. Sandy wouldn’t really discuss not drinking. Her emphasis was just on me not drinking. And I agreed but not drinking wasn’t something easily done on the one-way street of a relationship. Strength is in number, yet we remained divided in many ways. One morning she opened the cupboard doors and beer cans spilled out everywhere. It’s funny, for a person who claimed to be a hippie, and always talking about Jehovah and the Kingdom Hall, she was a nonstop consumer. She’d always say things like, “there’s nothing to have”, but we’d spend money that we had to sell things to get, to buy gas, and risk driving all the way to the city, drinking both ways, to buy a small amount of pot. We ended up spending thirty bucks for a ten-dollar bag of grass- smokes, drinks, gas and pot. What a waste. We could have just grown our own pot. None of it was that serious but it was to her. We would scrape the pipe at least three times a week and I hated it every time she asked me to do it. This evil would remain veiled by her home-making skills, her deceptiveness, charisma and her charm. I was so loved starved that I was blinded completely. I was so blinded by her wiles and my own drinking and psychological issues that I couldn’t even see myself to find my own errors for correction. It’s funny how things can compound so thick and fast, stealing you away from the future with the moments.
For the most part, while with Sandy, I had forgotten what I was doing and what I wanted in life. I had become brainwashed with the promises of love, giving up my hopes and dreams to follow someone else’s. She was a siren but I didn’t know it yet. She would always mock me about my dreams and aspirations of becoming an entertainer, telling me, “There’s no time in this system. Jehovah is creating a new system for you to do it there”. My dreams of musicianship were rekindled when I had met Danny but they were lost when we became separated by a situation caused by lack of money, coupled with his despair from his afflictions- all of which were caused by alcohol.
After a week in the trailer, I had a fit of paranoia fueled by Sandy’s own. I began to tear out the radio and speakers that came installed in the trailer. Since Jerry was an ex-federal agent with the F.B.I., I was concerned of eavesdropping. One of the things that motivated my concerns was a very large and powerful looking two-way radio antennae. Sandy was always an instigating factor for suspicion and evil doing, which got me pumped up pretty badly.
When we got down on our luck we would drive around looking for returnable beverage containers on the roadsides. It was while on one of these excursions that we stumbled upon one of Bob Smithe’s Home Builder signs. He would put me to work doing whatever he had going on at the time until his alcoholism and demeanor contaminated our work relationship again. The main problem was that it seemed he couldn’t be man enough to deal with his personal frustrations on his own time. He took advantage of using me as his punching bag until he couldn’t stand it any longer. Mostly he was ticked off because I wouldn’t lose my cool on him.
After a while, I would end up calling Tom Bruin to ask him for work. He had me come out to a project in Jenison, where he was building a house for the Parade of Homes, offered me twenty-five dollars an hour. At that moment all was well. That is, until Sandy got wind of the Cleaning Lady.
My first big standing cabinet was a four-person locker bank with a boot-box seat. It stood eighty-four inches tall by sixty inches wide, was built from birch plywood, made with bead-board inlaid doors- all painted white. I have pictures of it somewhere. Tom also had me build the staircase, especially since he had witnessed some of the work I had done in the past; how solid the newel posts and banisters were, the accuracy in the miters, and the meticulous attention to detail.
The house was to be in the Grand Rapids Parade of Homes, which meant that it was doomed to heavy bombardment and buffoonery of morons yanking on the staircase to see how well it was built, being the defeat of many who claimed to be a carpenter. Now, this staircase has to be the neatest one I have ever done. And I was proud to be the one to build it. The main newel posts were site built out of Maple. The balusters and spindles were wrought iron with a painted finish, and had decorative piece that slid onto them to be fixed in a position with a hidden set screw to make up a collective pattern that the artist assembling it felt would be most aesthetic and pleasing to the eye. I had to use a clear silicone adhesive since it was “finish complete” except for the maple. The newel posts were monumental, rigid and solid. And when struck they reverberated throughout the home. I received more compliments on that staircase than almost anything I had assembled in my life.
So, feeling very proud of myself, I took Sandy to the jobsite to show her my accomplishments. She had been continually complaining about not being able to go along with me to work. She wanted to do the cleaning after the work was all done. I explained that Tom had someone he always used on his projects. So, she asked if she could help them with the task. I said I would ask Tom about it, which I did but Tom couldn’t make it happen. For a while she kept on about the teachings of the bible, trying to manipulate me into taking her to babysit me for fear I was doing something wrong or that she felt she should be included in. It was her intention that I understand God gave man woman for a helper, and that I acknowledge that, and always have her as my accompaniment, according to the Scriptures.
We arrived at the project and everything was fine. Having never seen a lot of my trade, she was amazed at what I had been working on, taking a few pictures of the staircase and the cabinetry. Around noon a van pulled up and someone got out. It was the cleaning lady. When she walked into the house, she greeted us with a smile and cleavage, along with a radio, plugging it in right away. Sandy’s body language said it all: “What’s with this precocious little skank?” I mean, the cleaning lady was blonde, cute, maybe thirty years old and trying to appear sexy with her mannerisms and style of fashion, and she was flirtatious. She was everything she needed to be in order to work feeble men over for money and opportunities- it was clearly her M.O.
That afternoon the guys showed up to do some punch list work, last minute details. The cleaning lady was washing windows inside the house, chatting away with Tom and whom ever she could engage in conversation.
The decorators showed up with furniture and ornamentals to dress the place up for the showing in the Parade, pushing items they happened to have for sale in their store. The speakers in the boom box were blaring, “It’s getting hot in here, let’s take off all our clothes,” and the cleaning lady was singing along. An emotional volcano built up pressure inside of Sandy. As the song ended, the cleaning lady turned and said, “I need to wash the windows outside but I have to climb the ladder. Zach, will you hold the ladder for me?” The top of Mount Sandy found a crack and she finally exploded. She turned crimson, screamed a series of cuss words and stomping out of the house, knocking things over and slamming doors as she returned to our van.
Tom came running out of one of the back bedrooms asking, “What happened? What was that noise?” I explained Sandy’s jealousy, and that she lost it when the cleaning lady asked me to help her with the ladder while she washed the upper windows on the backside of the house. Tom muttered something about Trust being important in a relationship, which was funny to me because he was selling cookie dough for the cleaning lady, and telling me not to tell anyone about it. I suspected he was having an affair with her.
Anyway, on this day lots of things came together about this group of people. For instance, Tom wore a baseball cap because he was bald but for a small wreath of hair that stuck out from around his hat. He took it off that day to scratch his head in confusion over why I even brought Sandy to the job. The male pattern baldness didn’t go well with his Napoleon-like stature, making him look even smaller than before.
Tom was married to an accountant who had shown up at the job with his son- a blonde haired child of about eleven. This little boy looked like he could have been the twin to Tom’s son, only four years younger. His wife wore the look of years of suspicion and a bad marriage, where a husband is rarely ever home. I could tell by her aura that she was extremely unhappy.
John, Tom’s right hand man, was an alcoholic who had a lot of familiar problems as well but he managed to stay working for Tom for a long time, though off and on as the drama caused by the constant drinking would always do. It didn’t stop Tom from drinking with him routinely after work, which had some purpose but I did not know what. I think Tom may have appreciated this relationship with John due to distracting himself from his own problems in life.
The cleaning lady was married, also working for Tom for a number of years. She had brought her son to the job as well, which looked almost exactly like Tom’s own son but about four years younger. It came out that the cookie dough was hers that Tom was selling when she asked me if I would buy some, saying that it was for her son’s class at school. It was to help raise money for an upcoming class excursion. She spent a lot of time with Tom during throughout the day, chatting about everything and flirting with anyone who would reciprocate. Every time I walked into a room, they were there acting as if they were busy with their duties. Her with her expensive undergarments riding high above the waistline of her jeans, and her blouse unbuttoned down to the bottom of her sternum, exposing much of her breasts.
Now whether the cookie dough was really for the school or if it was to offset child-rearing expenses, I never concerned myself much with determining. However, I did determine that Tom and her had something pretty big going on. I could not get the image of Tom’s wife out of my head. I felt so sorry for her, and I could only imagine all of the broken and empty promises, the shattered hopes and dreams, and the feelings of betrayal- all of this drama because of the concerns of a man and his penis. I couldn’t help but think of how he told me that his wife couldn’t find out about the cookie dough, and how the look on her face said there were too many lies, and enough poorly kept secrets already. And there I was in the mix. I felt her pain, her frustration, her broken heart and her anger. A poisonous situation that was poisoning my own life even more than I poisoned it myself. Throughout the coming months Sandy would administer a dose of abuse whenever she had a problem with me by mockingly mimicking the words of the song the cleaning lady sang that day.
The day we completed the job, I accidentally busted in on them “working” in the lower bathroom together. Her g-string stuck out in plain view from the back of her pants, as if her pants were hanging lower than they should have been. It became very clear why they were always working in the same room, away from the rest of us. On this day we all went into Jenison to Brann’s Steakhouse after work, where he threw hotel room keys at Johnny after buying him an excessive amount of drinks that would require him to sleep it off, knowing full well that Johnny is an alcoholic but needing a scapegoat for the room. Some routine small talk verified that Tom’s wife was an Accountant, and that she was extremely suspicious about his expenses. I must admit that Tom was clever but not clever enough to get what he wanted without any hassles. Oh God, what a pain in the neck I had from all involved. All I wanted to do was practice my trade and receive compensation for it.
A week or so after the job was over, the Sandy wind stopped blowing so hard. Within another three weeks of the job, I was called to another project- this time up at Crystal Mountain Resort. Naturally, I agreed to do it. Having some money to work with, Sandy and I rented a car and we were off, eager for the road trip.
Now, it’s hard to do things when you don’t have a partner that contributes in a comprehensive fashion, which is why I took so much clothing and tools that I really had no business taking. Like bringing an antique Italian revolver that looked like it was found after lying for eighty years in a river somewhere while fishing. It was all rusted and froze up, though intact enough to clearly be a pistol. At first glance it looked like you may be able to fire it, although for the last time, before exploding in your hands. This was not at all practical, and with a clear mind now, it’s easy for me to see- hindsight. Luckily I never made it fire or else the demons that Sandy and I had haunting our lives would have forced the bullet to find her fate or mine.
We arrived at Crystal Mountain to find a very prestigious little community nicely tucked away in a Pine forest. Ski slopes were revealed through the trees, at few points, which would be a comfort to people like Judge Power of the Thirteenth Circuit Court or Mr. Jarboe- my joke of a defense, since I am sure that there are people who would love to take a rifle shot at them. This place would be a secure area in that respect.
My eyes were wide as the log style look of the homes caught my senses with their grand features extending out port style over horseshoe driveways like something you’d come to expect to find in Colorado. A golf course wound through the forestry that cradled the loosely scattered homes, here and there a flag indicating a putting green. It was great. It was magnificent.
After several lazy turns of the road, we found the project, easily identified by the two trucks and large enclosed tool trailer. The tool trailer was pretentious, yet petty and anal retentive, revealing more about Tom. Inside it were nicer kitchen cabinets than the majority of homes being built in the affluent communities I had worked on in the past. These were for keeping tools in. I felt it was an example of how important his time with his wife or his own children was to him. He probably used it as a makeshift dwelling when his wife threw him out of the house, which I am sure happened a lot. He was just another self indulgent egotist to add to the list of piss-poor examples of men I had dealt with, and what a list it was until I realized it’s a disease of men and that most are afflicted, although willingly. I was no exception.
We spent that day building onto the house until early evening when Tom handed me a room key, saying something about my probably wanting to “go to the womb.” I am sure it had a lot to do with seeing me show up there with Sandy, and the fact that she was so much older than I. It seemed clear to him that I had “mommy issues.” And whether that’s true or not, the reality was she had issues of her own that didn’t allow for me to be out of her sight, however blurry.
Tom and Johnny had a room down the hall from ours, if not each having their own. They came by later for drinks, and then we went outside for a smoke while Sandy insisted on preparing something for us to eat. That’s when I took them out to the car to show them the stuff I had in the trunk, mainly, the revolver. Sandy’s eyesight came up in conversation, saying that she must not be able to see very well. Maybe it was another crack at her age, I don’t know but I just replied with that for being the reason I rarely let her clean the weed- because she can’t see well enough to get all of the seeds out of it. The three of us laughed pretty good at that comment, knocking back the rest of our beers for another round. And, Oh man, how we drank that night.
We went back inside to eat some food but instead of eating I broke out the bottle of Cherry Kijafa, putting that on top of the thirty pack of Milwaukee’s Best Ice I had been drinking on… and the weed… and the gin. As if five point nine percent beer wasn’t enough. After they left for the night, we started fighting. We fought for much of the night. Management came twice or maybe three times, to quiet us down. The police came at one point but couldn’t do anything because I seemed to not be a problem when they arrived. At some point she attacked me and I bit one of her breasts in the scuffle, leaving a nasty bruise. I drank so much that night that I passed out and urinated all over the bed, which was a very nice bed, causing her to get out the hide-a-bed to sleep on.
The next morning we tried to clean the place up. She found the hair dryer and tried to clean up the bed but it was useless. I was still drunk but that didn’t stop me from opening a beer that morning, which must have been when Sandy decided she was taking the car and leaving me behind. She packed up the rental car and took all of my money, leaving me a twenty-dollar bill that I was too drunk to find in my wallet. She took the booze and the pot, except for what I had in my pocket that was rolled up from the night before. My glass marijuana pipe got hidden somewhere during the drunken madness of the evening with the expectation that the cops were coming, It was left behind to be found by the cleaning staff or person who owned the room wherever I had hidden it. She loaded up the food we had brought, and finished by loading up all of the empty beer cans. I followed her out a moment later, after finishing my beer, my arms full of my belongings. She was already in the car as I set them down to open the trunk. Then she turned the ignition, put the car into gear and pulled out of sight. She just went to get gas I told myself, expected her to be coming back to hurry me along and take one last look around for the pipe or something we may be forgetting. I waited there while drinking another beer. I said out loud, “maybe it’s just a threat. What happened last night anyway?”
Moments went by before I realized she had no intention of coming back. I had a momentary lapse of reason, deciding that I was in no condition to see Tom and Johnny after what had happened last night. I panicked over being seen by any of the resort staff or being seen sitting out in the parking lot at all, so I started walking with all of my things. Fortunately there were only about one or two hundred people that could have witnessed my display, reminiscent of Steve Martin in the Jerk, drunkenly, and slovenly, walking down the street with my arms loaded with pure junk- my clothes, my tools, a broken pistol, and a Zip-lock baggie full of whatever it was she had made the night before. I wasn’t very happy about it. “Maybe she just went to the store,” I thought. I kept telling myself that she was going to turn around and come back for me in a minute but the minute kept renewing itself to a new minute that I would have to wait through all over again. The thought renewed of what she was doing, like she had just gone to clear her head or get some cigarettes.
While on the “heel-toe express” I dreaded every fully exposed and hung-over step of the way. As my feet were shuffling, I wondered WHEN she would be coming back for me. And if I walked the right way for her to be able to find me when she did. I mean, how could I get very far with a big bag of crap and all the rest of the junk I had with me? How far could I get before I ran into the cops like this. They would surely stop and ask me why I was in the area looking like a vagrant. I had weed on me and was inebriated. I had a gun, working or not, it’s still a gun. And I am hiking on a highway with a difficult load to carry. Getting picked up was a huge risk and it motivated me to push on quickly. I am sure it was a sight to see.
Before too long, I located a gas station in my view up ahead. I recognized the place from the day before. We had stopped here and bought alcohol and supplies- as opposed to supplies and alcohol. I went in and asked for directions, buying some tobacco with some change I had in my pocket- still unable to find the money in my wallet. He pointed me in the right direction and I left the store, stopping outside to roll some cigarettes.
My arms were so tired I knew I couldn’t keep carrying the stuff any longer, so I took in a good visual of my surroundings. Up the road I spotted an intersection with a lot of forestry along it. I spotted a good spot to enter the woods, heading toward it with my stuff. There was no traffic when I entered the forest but I wondered if hunters would stumble across my booty, if this were where I left it. I looked for something that I would easily recognize when I came back to the area. As it was, all I needed to do was to find the gas station again to locate the spot. Now all I needed was a geographical oddity that would be a good secondary marker. I found a large felled tree, knocked over by a storm. There was a depression in the dirt with lots of limbs and leaves lying around the area. The bag of clothes, the gun, the tools and the food, everything except for my tool belt with my hand tools in it, was left in that spot. I buried it in leaves and limbs and left for the road.
Now I was liberated or so it seemed. The leaves of that October crunched under my feet as I exited the forest with confidence that I would relocate it. One of my last worries was of wolves or coyotes tearing up my buried treasure. After a pretty good handful of miles, I happened upon a liquor store where I, finally, was able to find that twenty dollar bill in my wallet, so I poisoned, I mean, treated myself to a small bottle of whiskey to find the realm of familiarity I was lost in while I was in my abandon.
Many cars passed me by on that road, and feeling rejected and helpless, it was easy to temporarily abandon my abandonment to take a breather under a bridge where a creek ran through. This was a great place to smoke some weed. It was out of the wind, and out of view. The sound of the flowing water was much needed, as was the time off of my feet, giving me time to think about things and recharge a bit.
The distance I had hiked after that is uncertain, though I am sure it was quite a ways because the sun got to a point where it was no longer morning but nearing sunset before I finally got a ride from a young couple who happened to be in Traverse City at a family gathering. They had a tray of Hors d’oeuvres that they offered me to eat from- finger foods like onion wraps and veggies with dip etc… They drove a light blue Blazer, saying that they had just left one of their parent’s homes and were headed to the Alpine area off of U.S. 131 in Grand Rapids. Perfect, exactly where I was going. I thanked them profusely as I climbed in, offering to compensate them if they could get me to my trailer, just twenty miles from where they were going.
They drove me right to the Conestoga campground, where I found the trailer to be locked. It wasn’t hard to get in by climbing in through the utility hatch that was on the side near the access to the holding tanks. The hatch went in under the bed and the bed lifted up to expose storage space underneath. I still can’t believe I did it. Had it not been for my being so thin from drinking so much, I probably would not have been able to do it but I was so angry that Sandy had left me behind that anything was possible. Opening the door to let them in, a car pulled up just then. It was Sandy.
Sandy was all smiles and cheer when she saw me there, nonchalantly stating how she had stopped and got a room at a Motel Six to catch up on some sleep, just as drunk from the night before as I was. It was as if we had met back at the trailer after a much-needed vacation, like nothing dramatic had happened at all. It was a sticky sweet interlude but had I not shown up when I did, the trailer and her would have vanished completely, I am certain. I had a strange feeling that she was on a trip to somehow get revenge for things that happened to her in the past, like losing a mobile home in a bad break-up, something she felt she was entitled to. All she needed was the right situation, which I pretty much gave her in the events from the night before.
My memory of all of these things may not be as fluid, as far as any time-line or chronological order goes but it’s pretty damn good. Actually, I am amazed that it is as good as all of these stories make it seem. It should be only a blur from all of the polluting I did to myself, drinking some of the worst drink and my using the finest poisons. Oh well, call it a gift and be thankful.
So, I’m not sure how things were that next day but I know things were quiet that night. And I know that I never worked for Tom Bruin again. It was several weeks before I got paid for the work I had done but when I finally did get paid, he had his wife meet me off of Alpine Avenue at a Dentist where she was already taking her son for an appointment., in order to meet up to get the check. She handed me a check that was nine hundred dollars short, telling me that they were forced to deduct it by their insurance company because I had no liability insurance policy to cover me being on the project. What good was it to even try to argue with her about it? It’s not like I was going to be able to get her to write me a check for the difference. Tom had made no mention about this huge detail. Clearly, he sent her as a buffer, and I, working paycheck to paycheck, needed the money days ago. It was a typical scenario for a sub-contractor in the construction business. But it’s possible that the nine hundred was for the repairs to the hotel room and replacement of the bed. We still haven’t spoke and I have yet to return for my treasure.
All Sandy cared about was getting some pot, and going back to the camper to pass the time by getting high and sucking down some booze, pretending we were all by ourselves on the planet. I was fit to be tied. My grief was compounded from all sides and there was no place to go to find a single person to confide in over anything. All that my mother would say anytime I tried to talk to her about things was, “You people sure have a lot of problems.” This from a woman who had a complaint about everything and everyone, having worked at the post office for a number of years- the exact kind of person you hear about on the news going “postal.” If anyone were ever suspected of “going postal”, it would be her though it never happened as far as I know. Yes, that’s what she would say if she took time to acknowledge me in my distress. Eventually I ran out of money and resorted to my ol’ standby… picking up cans for their ten-cent deposit.
I remembered the night I caught the Allendale grocery store using illegal labor as my elbow ached while combing the roadside for beer cans: I had been drinking all day and I was fighting the end of it, so I jumped in the van and limped to the store for another thirty pack. When I got to the store it looked open but the doors were locked. A young man saw that I was trying to get in. He came to the door and opened it with a big smile. As I hurried for the beer cooler, I noticed that the store was being cleaned and that everyone was Latino, and that they were actually closed. This issue was in the news a lot in the prior weeks- illegal labor from over the border. My only concern was with getting a box of beer before the store manager realized I was there, planning on swiping my card at a self check out and blasting out in a flash. My feet marched me right to the cooler. I grabbed the beer and raced back down the aisle to the register but my feet magically slipped out from under me. On the way to the floor, I put my hand out to break my fall but had my arm locked, which jammed my elbow, slamming me into the floor and aggravating my back injury. The floors were wet with fresh wax. The machines that were being operated on the floors shut off and several people who spoke no English came to help me up. That’s when the manager came around to see why the machines had stopped running. She chided me for being in the store since it was closed, asking me how I got in. When I explained that the help had opened the door, she ordered me out. She was pretty startled at my being there in a precarious position to observe what was going on there with the illegal help functioning as employees. It’s too bad I was drunk because I could have blackmailed or outright exposed the store for it. Too bad I messed that up. Live and learn, I suppose.
These things we had of her fathers in storage proved to be valuable, calming our needs and wants. After a while went by of pawning things, starting with the two salamander kerosene heaters belonging to Tom Bruin, we had a big sale at a friend’s house down the road from us. On the third day of the sale a person came by telling us not to sell anything until they brought their brother to see about buying some of the stuff, giving us a fifty-dollar bill to hold it. He came that night, looked around, offered us fifteen hundred dollars and bought every scrap. Sandy was relieved to have it gone because she felt it was all bad to have versus the money that actually just gave us back what we had spent in storage fees to keep it.
Now, it wasn’t just Sandy’s, and my own, once again, broken dreams that clouded my perception. There were other people who had damaging impacts. I am not making excuses for my drinking, which I did know was a problem. It was a familiar comfort that I had discovered when I was a teenager surviving a badly broken home. Bob Smithe was a factor in my struggle to overcome during this time, as he had been in and out of my life since immediately after the truck accident, which happened just a handful of months before my family became to be destroyed. As I think about it now, I wonder if it wasn’t his twisted aura that poisoned my own?
Bob had his house up for sale, while building himself another one that was very much like it. The only person who became interested in it had no credit of any use, and was unable to purchase the home. Bob, needing to unload it, had a discussion with his loan officer about his little problem. The fact that this particular loan officer was known as “The Loan God,” was what made Bob seek out his confidence in regards to how he could unload this house.
The arrogance and vanity of this particular loan officer was evident by way of his vanity plate on his automobile. The vanity plate on his car say’s “Loan God.” His manipulation included instructions to Bob that he needed to bring the money that the potential buyer was required to have in order for the loan and purchase to be made possible. That meant that Bob would have to bring fifteen thousand dollars cash to the table, placing the pile of money in front of the buyer as if it were his own money, which he then slid toward the loan officer as if he were paying it. The deal was sealed and Bob could now move on with his plans. The whole thing is fraudulent and is part of what is plaguing us this very day.
Part of Bob’s browbeating of me was to throw these things in my face. Like I was nothing, insignificant. Always saying that I needed to start small and work my way up. Stating that he got what he has in life because he took it. Myself, I am not like that. All I could do was to pretend to listen intently- as if he was some kind of teacher. He would inundate me with these kinds of things throughout the day. My theory was that he could not handle his own conscience, needing to drown it out by ripping on me constantly.
Lucky for him I was use to it since my so-called father was much the same, constantly beating me into submission, which I stubbornly fought from the beginning, much to his dismay. No matter how much he beat me or smacked me, I would get back up. He would refuse to listen to something I had to say, swatting me in the face and telling me to “tick-a-lock” but I would keep on. No matter how many times he hit me, demanding me to shut up, I would continue- forcing him to work harder at it. Just as much as he could dish out, I would provide an amount of resistance equal to or greater. My tolerance for pain is extremely high as a product from that abuse. That is a triumph for myself. No one can hurt me now.
By the time I got home from work with Bob, I was a useless heap of flesh. I couldn’t talk very well, stuttering my words and becoming hard to string them together in sentences. My hand would curl up in an odd way that I’d only seen in invalids. During the day I would be subjecting myself to a barrage of abuse, things like semantic lectures, and statements such as, “My kids got me…for Father’s day. What did your kids get you, Daddy?” Or, “You must not have been that great of a husband or your wife would have never divorced you.” Or by taunting me with calling out to my ex-wife’s new husband as if to be hunting him, “Peetah, oh Peetah...” Peter, being his name. Never, have I received closure for the decisions Mindy has made, and it continues to haunt me to this day, more or less.
Bob had a way of starting the day off as a confidant, which, having no father to confide in, I desperately needed in my life. As the week progressed, he would take that which I had told him and twist it into his own brand of torment. I would continue to persevere and do my best work for this man, constantly trying to prove my worth, sometimes on a minute to minute basis and just as often, I would secretly forgive him. The abuse I endured would only be the cork that seemed to keep me tucked in the bottle, especially after telling me things like, “Maybe you just don’t know how to suck up right”, which to me meant that I should be serving his intimate perversions- to put it lightly.
Back at the park, I was content in my trailer. My mother even came to visit, sometimes bringing us pork sausage made from hogs that her boyfriend, Tom, had raised and slaughtered. I would end up working for her, pouring my heart into whatever it was that she wanted done, as I always did. We had been having trouble with the van and it would get worse, running out of gas all of the time because of so little money and the defective gas gauge typical of Fords from the eighties.
The season came to an end and we had to move back to the River Pines since the camper was not paid off yet. I scrambled to get it winterized. The entire bottom needed to be wrapped in skirting before the cold weather, which put me under the gun because the cold was already upon us. I had no choice or assistance to get the work done before the snow started flying. One freeze could create so many headaches for us that I couldn’t begin to calculate the potential expenses. I made a call to Bob, hoping to find work that would, once again, back me up financially and to make it known that I was living in my own home fit for the occasional guest. He would call it my “hut” in the “tin ghetto”.
One day, we had scraped the payment together that completed our purchase of the trailer. We were sitting inside celebrating as the sun was going down, having just given the last payment to Jerry’s wife, and the receipt still in our hands. Jerry came tearing into the lot we had and came pounding on the door. He seemed upset, which we were used to. We opened the door to an irate shyster, saying that we lost our agreement because we messed up on the payments. What he was really upset about was that he had no intention of us paying it off, knowing we were cash poor and banking on us having a hard time doing it. We were supposed to mess up. He was working at making it impossible to make that last payment, if none of the others, by not being there to accept it or write us a receipt but his wife was home at the right time for us to do so. He figured it would be like shooting at dead men and he knew we wouldn’t be able to fight him in court over it. This was a money scandal of his, and not the only one. He had made a bet and lost, and, boy, he was more angrier when he left. He slammed the door so hard that it shook the whole trailer, knocking stuff off of our walls and jamming the door so hard that it wouldn’t open back up to get out of. We just smiled and laughed to each other. We had finally won something.
Come to find out, Jerry had been caught with his hand in the park till. He had been caught renting out the modular units that were for sale, and pocketing the money. Only Jerry knows how much money he embezzled. He was ousted from the managing of the park, and forced to take up residence in his own motor home, a brand new Bounder.
Money sources were about exhausted and the lot rent was becoming difficult for us to maintain. We still had not missed any trailer payments or electric bills, and I had no phone bill because Dan Doyle had given me a phone as part of the money I earned but never got due to his purchase of a Harley Davidson Fatboy, which used up the money he had been paid for the contract to finish the Log home for the Minster family. Dan repeatedly denied any wrong doing but taking into consideration the things that Mark and Connie had to say about what they paid him for the project, I am not sure that Karma was going to let him slip by unscathed for his seeming violation of our trust. This took place while I had become to be involved with Michele Shackleton, just before I met Sandy- another flash back:
Out of my desperation for an income, and my innate ability to extend trust to anyone for a chance to earn their own, my sight failed to recognize the paid meals and few dollars, now and then instead of a check, as part of a scam. Dan kept promising the pay would come when we finished the project, while he petered out a few dollars each week to keep us hanging on for as long as he could. This was a classis carrot-and-stick tactic that is commonly used in the construction business to take advantage of sub-contractors and their labor. I like to call it the “West Michigan Trade Robbery”. Never mind that I was happy to be working on a log home with people whom I felt were my friends that I knew from the past. That small detail helped to keep me completely blinded to what was really going on. Keeping on at my trade, and trusting Dan, I whistled the song in my heart.
Other than Dan Doyle, Bill Bolthouse, and a young guy Dan had working with him for quite some time on his various projects in the past several years, he also had his son, Danny junior, and his daughter, Mandy, helping him off and on as he needed them. Dan kept managing to land gigs, like this carpentry gig, while working as a licensed electrician, servicing run-down mobile homes and small businesses that used antiquated warehousing spaces to run their shops out of. It was one of these dilapidated buildings that Dan ran in to Bill at, while Bill was performing plumbing tasks for a crook named Gary McQuaig, who kept Bill around for inexpensive under-the-table cash labor.
Dan’s son, Danny, was working with him from time to time, instead of steadily due to substance abuse issues that interfered with the work demands. He would be slowly replaced by his oldest sister, Mandy, who, at twenty-six years old, had just been released from a lengthy jail sentence for substance abuse related charges herself. Mandy would work a few days a week when she didn’t have furthering education classes. It would end up being my job to work with her, training her in the carpentry trade. This was mostly because her father lacked the mindset, and had little patience or ability to effectively communicate with her or anyone else who was without any skills that he tried to use as help.
Being a patient parent, and a happy teacher, I corrected her efforts as she worked, rather than blow a lot of wind trying to “teach” her, which took a lot of time away from my own productivity. This was the right way to go because I could continue working while observing her, letting the tools she used do the talking, telling me what her instruction needs were. The table saw would holler or sing after a tag team primer lesson. My ears could always tell what I needed to know. “Smooth continuous feed on those boards- it leaves less blade kerf to remove and gives less strain on the motor,” I would tell her. Mandy was a good student, always eager and very earnest and enthusiastic about learning the Finish Carpentry Trade. She was also motivated since she was a mother of two, and needed to provide to them without having any help from the children’s fathers, unfortunately.
One evening a year or so later, around nine o’clock in the evening, while Sandy and I were enjoying cocktails around our fire pit, I received a phone call to come and do some emergency repairs at the Gezon Building in Grand Rapids, near the corner of Plainfield Avenue and Leonard Street. Apparently someone went through the building, busting down doors of some of the most active musicians studio spaces, where they stole anything of value. For some reason Dan Doyle gave them my number, which I am glad he did because I could use every dollar I could get my hands on at that time, especially since I was still feeling the sting of being robbed on the Minster’s Log Cabin project. Sandy and I immediately jumped in the van and dashed out to perform the repairs and collect the money that was being offered.
One day, while at that same studio building about a year or so after that, I was told of how Dan Doyle’s daughter, Mandy, had been found dead of an overdose in her apartment. I was told that evidence was found in her apartment that indicated her body had been violated after her death, as well as violating one of the children in the home at the time. Apparently, this evidence supported blatant sexual misconduct to both of them. I instant became weak and my knees buckled, collapsing me to the ground. My stomach wretched with dry heaves, and my eyes flooded with tears as the news sunk in. It was as if she was my own child that had died, and it had been my own grandchild that suffered this terrible atrocity. Mandy was only twenty-nine years old.
Dan Doyle was my oldest daughter, Sarah’s, uncle. Sarah’s mom, having been the victim of sexual abuse as a child by her father and several other men, had become a man hater. She had accused me of “hitting” on Mandy back when we had first gotten together, when Mandy was a young teen. Another twisted up family in the world. Sarah would prove to be the only one on her mom’s side of the family to do anything with her self, like graduate high school, not get knocked up, and to become enlisted in the military. Because of her grades, she was offered an opportunity in the Air Force, where she tested out high ranking and was offered placement in Intelligence. She made the final decision to go into Meteorology. Thanks to her Great Grandmother Lawrence, Sarah went to a Catholic school on Bridge Street, and was looked after by her Great Grandma Lawrence most of the time. This proved to be a significant influence- Great Grandma Lawrences’ involvement, not necessarily the Catholic school.
Sarah’s mother was known as, “Crazy Mary,” by her whole family and everyone who knew her. I didn’t think much of it until she started accusing me of having sex with everyone she and I knew. She got me fired from a good job once because when she called to speak to me, a woman answered- the boss’s wife. Mary accused her of having some kind of relationship with me- sex mostly. Mary began to force me to drop my pants to smell my genitals to see for her self if I smelled unusually clean or like another woman. This was when I met Bill Bolthouse, while working with Mary at Florentine’s Italian Restaurant in Grandville. Mary’s antics drove me crazy, and I used anyone I could as a convenient buffer to spend my time with, especially for drinking or getting stoned. I could no longer stomach going home to Mary. I could no longer handle her without drinking. I was miserable but had no idea how much so, or what a relationship was suppose to resemble since I came from a broken home myself. The fact that she became pregnant with my child was a total shock. I thought my testicles were damaged from a bicycle accident that ripped a large gash in my scrotum. We had been together for over two years, having unprotected sex the whole time. I was sure I was sterile but I was also just a clueless kid. The fact was that her level of acidity in her bodily fluids made my sperm sterile- a clue from God that I was in the wrong place in life maybe.
One day, after Mary had gotten me fired from Florentine’s for accusing the waitresses of trying to steal me, my mother picked me up from the Wheeler family’s home where I stayed at the time. She took me to meet a friend of hers that she new from the American Legion on 44th street and South Division. His name was Bob Bolthouse- a plumber. His son, Bill, had just gotten out of rehab earlier that month. This was in 1988.
Bob was the owner of Midwest Plumbing and had a habit of finding apprentices every once in a while, that were nothing more than someone to be available to drive him to various bars around town. He always had this story that he needed to collect money from people that owed him from jobs he had done for them. Bob would dispatch Bill to plumbing jobs that would come up, things like repairing or installing carbonic systems and water heaters at bars and restaurants. They were always small jobs from repeat customers. The truth was that the business had been bankrupt for some time. He always sent me with Bill as his assistant. Bill and I soon became very close friends. I quickly learned of Bill’s addictions to cocaine and alcohol, which he drank everyday. It was a routine I became accustom to and continued, ironically enough, until I turned twenty-one years old.
The music was always blaring loudly from a shrine of a stereo system Bill had built. The speakers were one of his many accomplishments that he would routinely show off, along with his extensive knowledge of the music that he paid daily tributes to. We were like brothers in many ways, and everyday was a party. Since I was eighteen at the time, it was a welcome environment. I came to spend a great amount of time there with him. By 1991 Bill and I would part ways after my meeting Mindy, who became pregnant the first night we were together. It was her that pushed for sex that night. Anyway, Bill would end up spending over three years in prison for drunk driving charges where he also punched a cop. It was one of several drunk-driving charges Bill had accumulated. This all happened right after Paul had to cut him lose from our trim carpentry crew because of his drinking and using coke on the job.
Bills performance slowed way down because he was constantly tending to his use instead of working, occasionally calling one of us in to the room he was suppose to be working in, for a line of cocaine. He was always sweating profusely because of it. It wouldn’t be until the spring of 2002 that I would see Bill again after running into Dan Doyle whom Bill was working for. Dan quickly scooped me up to help him on the jobs he had going on at the time. After a few weeks we began working on the Minster project- a log home. That was when I saw Bill again. It was like old times with Bill, and I was happy to see him. Soon, I became to understand that he was worse off now than he ever was. Alcohol had almost complete control of him, if not entire control. The funny thing was that Dan was a devout A.A. guy but he just watched Bill dying there, right before his eyes. Maybe it was a reminder to himself to not begin drinking again, since he too had spent time in prison for alcohol related charges involving criminal sexual misconduct with his daughters, which two of them were his stepdaughters. This was the final straw in the marriage he was trying to maintain at the time.
Anyway, Dan paid for the phone through his service plan that he had with a well known, over priced company called, Verizon. It had been his son’s phone before he quit working the kid. The day I became separated with having the phone was while fishing on the Grand River at Conestoga Campground, kicking it off of the dock when I stood up to leave by stepping down in the wrong place. Since my back had been injured in the automobile accident in 1997, I had many issues that made me clumsy. Besides, I was having cognitive problems from the head injury that also contributed to my many dysfunctions. And who brings their phone fishing, anyway? It kind of defeats the purpose of escaping the monotonies of daily life. After the phone was lost, everything finally went to hell but I am ahead of myself a bit.
Yard sale flashback selling Sandy’s junk collection she got from her father.
One day we got the idea to have a yard sale, taking the Yamaha 650 Special that I had bought with some of the money from the Tom Bruin project, and all of the junk Sandy had inherited from her dad, to our friends house a mile to the west of us. This friend was one that Sandy has developed when I was in jail for nonpayment of child support. Mainly, he was a source for Sandy’s chief concern- marijuana. It would be about five days into the yard sale before someone would stop to look at our junk and say that they were sending their brother back to look at the stuff, asking us to hold off on selling anything else. They were certain that he would be very interested in everything we had for sale.
There were lots of tools and tool chests, antiques, a lot of model trains and the stuff that goes along with them. There were quite a few old record albums, long guns, and an old coffee grinder that stood twenty-six inches high and had been completely refurbished by her father. There was a pretty cool police siren from the thirties or forties- the kind that went on top of the vehicle. There were all kinds of unique items, and every bit of it was antique. The value of everything, if it was sold individually was probably close to twelve thousand dollars. When the guy showed up he offered us about fourteen hundred bucks for everything without even walking around the whole display of goods. Sandy was ecstatic. Never mind that it cost us ten times what he offered her, in grief, and three times that, in moving expenses to get it here from California. Not to mention the storage fees at the mini storage. ARGH! The sale of these goods was not a moment too soon. We were in need of lot rent, and we weren’t sure where the next beer, I mean dollar, was coming from.
We slept in the van for a few weeks, including the parking lot of a local church, and at a boat launch on the river, just miles from the Conestoga campground. It was the end of the season and they were winterizing the park to remain closed for the winter, which meant that we needed to come up with the lot rent to be put back over at The River Pines RV Park until the trailer was paid for. They had already kicked everyone else out and we were left scrambling for the money to get in there even though they didn’t want us back in that park. Our leverage was that we still owed on the trailer and hadn’t defaulted. Jerry had no choice but to let us back in, and we didn’t have a choice either. We came up with the money byway of the yard sale just in the nick of time. Now, my only problem was getting the trailer ready for the cold and snow, which was coming fast. Having no help to do it was what made it difficult. It was the kind of job where you need five sober hands. Sandy only had one that was helpful.
Our second winter in the park was nice with heat. Bob and I began working together again, mostly due to the fact that everyone else who worked for him would soon quit after realizing that they couldn’t stand him long enough to get anything done that resembled work. Those that could stand him could only do so as long as alcohol was involved but since I am a father with lots of patience and a love for the trade, it could be done. The drinking helped too. Luckily I hadn’t shot him, only because Dale Earnhardt’s death had prevented him from returning in time for me to get the gun that I had the opportunity to buy. The man who had it had a deadline to board a plane for his new job and home in California.