Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy whatever-it-is-you-celebrate!

First off, I want to thank everyone who has donated to the cause. All I want for Christmas is to stay out of the pokey in the new year and, thanks to good people like you, it looks like I may get my wish.

My court date isn't for a couple more weeks yet so there's still time to donate if you haven't already. Even five or ten dollars helps. Think of it as the beer or two you would buy me if we ran into eachother.

Been borrowing a neighbor-cousin's truc
k to get to a few cleaning jobs but otherwise I've been sticking around the homestead. That job at the nearby poultry farm never really panned out. A few days here and there but not nearly as much work as I'd hoped for.

Been cleaning stuff out of the old Mitsubishi I drove from Alaska. It's just been sitting in the driveway, serving as a storage unit for over a year. In the summer, I used the heat trapped inside to sun-dry tomatoes, apples and hot peppers. After I get it emptied, I'll give it a jumpstart and see how she runs.

The only reason I wasn't driving it was because I had the truck. No sense paying insurance on two cars. I was going to switch back to the car this spring when the tags expired on the truck because the car gets better mileage. Ah well...I guess it'll happen a little sooner than I planned.

No matter how far out in the boonies you live, you cannot escape advertising. It will find you!

Recently had a blimp fly directly over the house. As I've mentioned before, the airspace above Spenardo del Sur sees many types of flying contraptions.

Most noticeable are the navy jets which frequently pass overhead at sometimes alarmingly low altitudes. Helicopters are common too - whether solo or in military groups of eight. C
ommercial jets fly way up high and almost out of sight but, when the weather is just right, they leave the sky criss-crossed with contrails.

But blimps are rare. This was only the second blimp I've seen since moving here - and the first one probably didn't get within 3 miles of my place.

But this one was coming straight for us. Della switched into guard dog mode and ran to the edge of the hill to confront the intruder.

I couldn't help but laugh as she wildly barked at the approaching blimp. But, in the end, the blimp did leave so I guess Della had the last laugh. I gave her a treat and a little extra lovin' for being such a fierce guard dog.

Glad to see solstice pass. While winters aren't nearly as dark (or cold) in Alabama as they are in Alaska, I'm still glad to herald the return of the sun. Thirteen years in Alaska makes you realize that winter solstice is the really big kahuna of the holiday season. Yay, sun! Go, sun!

Well, it's Christmas Eve. I didn't put up any decorations this year. Last year I hung some lights & decorations on Donner the Dead's antlers. But I sold Donner to B.J. Boomhauer a couple months ago. He'd been begging me to sell him that caribou head since the day he laid eyes on it. A few months ago I needed some cash and I finally gave in.

It was two years ago over the holidays that Donner &
I drove out across the frozen wilderness, crossing from Alaska to the Yukon to British Columbia and south back into the states. We had some good times.

Donner chillin' in the Hollywood Hills.

Donner will get a spot of honor in the cabin B.J. built this year by the creek on his farm. He loves that raggedy old caribou head. On the first few days of deer season, he drove around with Donner's antlers in the back of his pickup just to fuck with the locals.

This year, the only sign of Christmas in the house is the holiday cards on the mantle. And I'm cool with that. I spent a decade working jobs that abnormally extended the holiday season to anywhere from 3 to 10 months of the year. It's nice to take Christmas off.

I didn't even build a fire tonight. Hell, it's 60 degrees out. Screw ambience - I'd rather save the wood for a cold night. I'm drinking some of B.J. Boomhauer's homemade blueberry wine and munching on toasted pecans.

Playing old records on the record player I bartered for last summer. No Christmas music though. Currently playing old Beatles LPs (though "Hey Jude" does kinda sound like a Christmas song - at least it does when you're drinking blueberry wine). When I was in junior high, I got a few friends to raid their parents' record collections and bought many old 50s & 60s LPs for a fraction of their worth.

I'm actually listening to these records now to ascertain their condition. The time has come to sell them. I need the money more than I need the vinyl.

Thinkin' about making a pot of rice. Need to clean up the house a little. I'm expecting guests tomorrow - a couple old Alaskan friends who currently live only a couple hours away.

The mice have not stopped stirring. The world has not stopped spinning. It is just another night.

Last but not least: Angela has finally jumped on the blog train. Check out her daily drawings at Life In Spenard.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Never meanin' no harm...

Was hired to do some cleaning for a guy that I’m pretty sure will be the next Boomhauer Brother. We’ll call him Ray. He lives not far from B.J Boomhauer’s farm. I hadn’t expected to work anywhere except home on Monday but Ray stopped by that morning and asked if I’d be available for a couple hours work. Hell, yeah! I’m poor. I need the dough.

I tell him I’ll be by in an hour and a half. I haven’t eaten yet and need a little something in my belly otherwise I’ll be absolutely starving in four hours. I stuff a little of the previous night’s pasta in my maw, just enough to keep me going until I’d get back home around 3pm - almost 2 hours before sundown. That’s the time the chickens need to be locked up inside Frankencoop so as to be safe from nocturnal predators. (After the dog attack from the last post, I kept them locked up for about a week but then started letting them out again. I hate keeping them locked up all day and, besides, it's much cheaper when they can forage for their own food.

After a while of working at Ray’s place, he offered me a whiskey and coke. Alcohol - especially hard liquor - is a rare luxury for me these days so I gladly accept. We take a smoke break and shoot the shit for a while. As I get back to work, he refills my glass before putting it away. The next break saw my glass refilled a couple more times.

I used to be able to hold my liquor but now out of practice. Plus, I don't always remember that there’s 65 pounds less of me to hold that alcohol with.
By the time three o'clock rolled around, I had no business being behind the wheel. I told myself that it was only about three miles and it was all back roads.

It was broad daylight on a clear afternoon. I was driving down the road - a bumpy red dirt road winding through the backwoods. I’ve been down this very road a couple hundred times and I never go over 25 miles an hour.
I always have so much crap in the back of the truck: stuff pulled from the old barn that needs to come into the house, stuff from the house that needs to go in the storage shed, stuff in the storage shed that needs to go to Frankencoop. You get the idea.

When going down bumpy dirt roads, I worry about the tailgate dropping down while I’m driving. It only happens about once every four or five months - but that’s enough to be extra cautious when I have dozens of glass canning jars in the back of the truck. These jars - dating mostly from the ’40s and ’50s - had been washed and loosely boxed for transport to the storage shed. I probably would’ve done this Monday had Ray not dropped by.

I have no recollection of the accident. All I know is
, about a mile down the road , the car veered out of control. I went back to look at the tire tracks the next day. There’s not much traffic back there and the tracks were still easily visible. I could see where I just started swerving. And the gouge in the middle of the road where my wheel came off. Not just the tire but the whole damned wheel. Busted the rear axle too. And the scars on the embankment where my truck came to rest after one complete rollover (in which it also ended up facing in the other direction).

Good thing I always wear my seatbelt. It's one of the few good habits I have.

All those glass canning jars in the back went flying. Fortunately, I have a topper on the truck. Or I should say “had.” It ended up tearing loose in the rollover but did managed to confine most of the broken glass to the pickup bed.

I don’t know how fast I was going Monday afternoon but, like I said, I never drive over 25 mph on that road. I don’t know why I pulled the wheel so hard to the left. Nor do I remember the driver’s side window facing the dirt or the buckling of the windshield. The most exciting thing to happen to me during my almost two years here and I miss it.

I do remember the old lady asking if I was alright. I remember picking glass up out of the road and tossing it the back of the now-open truck bed. And I remember B.J. Boomhauer coming to the rescue.
He’d heard about the accident on his police scanner. Since he was already so close by, he went to take a look.

He stayed with me and my mangled truck until the cops arrived. He left to take a bucketful of feed to my chickens and locked up them in the coop for me. When he came back, he was able to talk the tow truck driver into dropping the truck off at my house down the road as opposed to taking it all the way to town 30 miles away. The driver agreed to it only after insisting on payment up front. God bless B.J., he paid it.

For a while, it was looking as though I might be able to just walk away from the mess - only be stuck paying B.J. back for the tow bill. But then the news came over the radio: a state trooper had somehow been called and was on the way. Fuck. Any hopes of making this quietly go away vanished.

It was almost an hour wait for him to show up. Then I was whisked away to the county jail about 15 miles away. Fingerprinted, photographed and suited up in orange. After being issued my mat, sheet, blanket, toilet paper, comb, towel and toothpaste, I was dumped in a concrete block room with a dozen other women. Most of them were sitting on the floor in front of a small television that sat atop an upside down garbage can. It was tuned into an episode of “Samantha Who.” Someone said it was the only channel that was coming in worth a shit.

Most of these women were not here on an overnight visit like me. They were serving out sentences of anywhere from a few days to a couple months. It gets really boring in the Randolph County Jail. I was something new and therefore interesting. After about 90 minutes of being the center of attention, I just wanted to lay down and not think about it all for a little bit.

I know some of you, at some point in your life, have seen the inside of county jail. I don’t need to tell you that you don’t sleep well in jail. But, for those of you who haven’t had the experience, it’s a very noisy place. Lots of people in jail are loud people. They don’t care if you’re trying to sleep.
Sounds echo in those concrete walls. Everything is amplified. You hear people through the walls. You can’t always tell what they’re saying but you can hear them. A cellmate demonstrated that, if you yelled directly into the vent next to my bunk, you can carry on a conversation with someone in the juvi section. Of course, she did this while I was trying to sleep.

Being the new fish, I got the least desirable bunk. It was a top bunk in a room that slept four. The other top bunk had two metal steps bolted to the wall to help getting up there. My bunk was missing that amenity. You had to step on the lower bunk while pulling yourself up on the frame of neighboring bunk bed. You threw your leg over the metal edge of the bunk that dug into your skin - even through the orange jumpsuit - and use your upper body strength to hoist yourself into bed.

And if you had to pee in the middle of the night, you ran the risk of stepping on your lower bunkmate during the dismount. And the toilet in our cell was the loudest toilet I’ve ever heard in my life! The toilets in the other two cells were probably just as loud but were muffled to my ears by the concrete walls. But the cold bare steel bowl in our cubical sounded like a jet engine.

At 4:30 am, breakfast was served. A Styrofoam plate with a small serving of plain scrambled eggs - no discernable salt or pepper, thin oatmeal with only the slightest hint of sugar and one slice of unadorned slice of stale white bread. I hadn’t eaten anything in about 17 hours so I greedily accepted the grub. I watched other inmates do a little trading. “If you’re not gonna eat your eggs, I’ll give you my bread for ‘em.” I just ate my food in silence, leaning against the wall, dumping the empty tray in trash before clambering back into my top bunk. Most everybody went back to sleep within half an hour of eating.

I grabbed a few more hours of shitty sleep until finally climbing out of bed a little before 8am. I’d been told I’d go before I judge around eight. I wanted to be sure my hair was combed and my face was washed. During booking, I’d gotten a look at myself in the mirror. Big mark on my forehead. Bigger than a scratch but smaller than a gash. I could feel a couple knots along my hairline. I didn’t know it yet but I had developed a big purple shiner. No mirrors in the jail cells. Turned my socks inside out. They were dirty and spotted with blood. That doesn’t look good. I don’t know why I wasn’t given back my shoes. Everybody else had their shoes, Mine were with all my other clothes in a paper sack elsewhere in the building.

I sat in the common area between the cells, where the TV/garbage can set up was. I sat there for at least an hour and a half, waiting to see the judge. Everyone else was still asleep. I watched some fuzzy CNN for a while but then the reception on all channels cut out unexpectedly, leaving me alone with no books, no newspaper, no nothing. Not even cigarettes. That’s fucking cruel. My fellow inmates said the men get to smoke. I made some tiny paper airplanes out of a scrap of paper found on the table.

Finally, a female officer called my name and I was told to gather all the stuff I’d been issued and follow her. I was getting out. No appearance before the judge. My half-asleep bunkmate muttered “Congrats” as I pulled my mat off the top level. I gave her my roll of toilet paper.

I was led back to the room where I’d been booked and handed the sack holding my clothes. I changed out of my orange jumpsuit with “RANDOLPH CO JAIL” in black block letters running down the leg and into the grubby work clothes I’d worn the day before - now splattered with blood.

Then I was led into a room where B.J. Boomhauer’s smiling face waited to greet me! He'd come in to fill out all the necessary paperwork and take me home. We still had to go across the parking lot to the courthouse and go see a man about a court date, but then I was going home.

I face the judge early next month. Regardless of the outcome, I will be stuck with some hefty fines. Fines I cannot really afford considering I live on only about $300 a month. So I’m in a money gathering frenzy right now because I don't want to go back to the pokey. I’ve already sold the truck for parts-n-scrap, though I still have to finish cleaning all my broken crap out of it first. Also scrounging around for more stuff to sell on eBay.
I’ve still got a number of housecleaning gigs set up for the month but now have to borrow someone else's car to get to them.

I still have the Mitsubishi I drove from Alaska - all it needs is a jumpstart and a tire inflated. But before it’s street legal, I have to get new plates, tags and registration. And that costs more money that I don’t have. Not to mention my insurance rates will go up now. And property taxes are due at the end of the month. And all my regular bills.

So, if anybody out there wants to make a donation, I ain't too proud to beg.