Wednesday, July 30, 2014

South of Nacogdoches, Stoned, Stuck in the Mud, Listening to Dr. Brinkley while the Rain Comes Down

The next morning it starts raining while I’m downstairs having breakfast. I tell myself that once it stops, I’ll go to the station and just catch the first train out. But the rain doesn’t stop and I’m up in my room with nothing else to do, so I open the windows and light up another reefer. And next thing I know, I’m flying high and next thing I know after that, I’m feeling the fear again. Have I stayed in Nacogdoches too long? Could Hamer be back on my trail. Could he be lurking around somewhere one or two blocks away, waiting for the moment to open up on me again, this time without any benefit of warning? This rainstorm may be the only cover Imo get. I decide what I need to do is put as many miles as I can between this place and myself.

So I pack my bags, carry them downstairs, pay my bill at the front desk, and then I load them into the back seat of my Ford. At that point, my plan was to drive to the station, ditch the car and get on the first train heading out. But instead of going there, I see a sign pointing south for Lufkin and head that way and I’m mentally slapping myself on the back at just how dang clever I am.

Two hours into my drive, the rain is still coming down and the road is mostly empty. I’m feeling so good about everything I decide this calls for a reefer! It’s my last one and I was intending to save it for later, but now I’m thinking, what the hell? This in itself is a perfect moment that needs to be observed. So I take it out from my pocket, stick it between my lips, grab a strike-anywhere match from the carton in the glove box and light it. But before I can even bring it to where I got the reefer stuck in my lips, the car blows a tire, goes into a spin and goes off the road. And that, dear friends, is how, two hours ago, me and this dang car ended up stuck in this ditch.

I’m stuck here, so I turn on the radio to see if there is anything worth listening to. Once again, it appears the Blood of the Lamb loses to the Gonad of the Goat.

"Can a man be… re-activated?” asks a husky female voice. “I need him to satisfy me just like he used to. Is there any hope?”

"Yes!” answers the friendly radio announcer. “Write today to the Brinkley Hospital, Del Rio, Texas, and be sure to enclose ten cents. Do it now!

Absolutely! Do it now! Don’t wait another minute. And make sure the envelope is postmarked before midnight tonight, because this is a special limited offer and the supply of goat testicles is liable to give out at any moment. Meanwhile, my reefer has gone out. I fetch another wooden strike-anywhere from the glove box and rip it across the dashboard’s surface. It bursts into flame and I bring it up against the long stub of a reefer I’ve got in my mouth and start sucking the smoke into my lungs, where it might do me some good.

Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah! My mood is definitely improving.

Just doing my job, answers the reefer, now just sit back and relax!

Then I take another good long hit and, oh, man, I am cooked! I’m not sure if I’ve ever been this high. Maybe it’s a good thing this is my last reefer.

Doctor Brinkley is once again addressing all his friends out in Radio Land.

"I know right now a lot of you folks are telling yourselves that you can’t afford it. That you don’t have the money right now. That in the current economic climate you can’t afford to spend a lordly sum like eight hundred dollars for something that doesn’t actually put food on your table. Well, folks, nothing could be more wrong. Because nothing affects your economic well-being as much as your sexual health. Ask yourself, how hard-charging can a gelding be? Why, just today I received a letter that I have in my hand now. It reads, ‘Dear Doctor Brinkley, I am writing just to let you know that, following your surgery and recuperation at your fine institution, I have made a full recovery and my wife and I are once again enjoying sexual joy of a sort not experienced since our earliest days as a young buck and doe. What I paid you was a reasonable sum, indeed, but what you have given me in return has been truly priceless. Thank you, Doctor, and God bless you!”

I stub the reefer out. Eight hundred smackers? That’s a fortune in anyone’s book! That’s more than most people make in a year. In this day and age with a depression going on, how can anyone afford it? And for what? To con yourself into believing he can make your Johnson ten hut and stay ten hut!

(Excerpt from Friend of the Devil, available on Kindle).

Friday, July 25, 2014

Saturday, July 5, 2014

One Year After the West, TX Fertilizer Plant Explosion, Looking Back on How the Czechs Found Out About Their Cousins in Texas

In April of 2013, I was living in a small town in the Czech Republic. One morning I got up at my usual crack of dawn, got on to Facebook and quickly learned that there had been a catastrophic fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West, Texas. Being from Dallas, I quickly got in touch with a couple of my coffeehouse buddies who had not yet gone to bed and were still on Facebook and got them to tell me the details of what had happened. As I was doing this, I noticed that one of my Czech buddies, a local radio reporter, was also on Facebook as he was doing his morning show.

We started chatting and I told him what had happened in West. He said he'd heard about it but didn't see why it was of any interest to anyone there in the Czech Republic. I explained to him that West was an entirely Czech town, that it was for almost everyone in Texas among their favorite places. And that Texans loved West precisely for its Czech-ness and that they considered it the heart of "real" Texas. This stoked his curiosity.

After that, I told him about the Czech Stop, the famous roadside bakery that sells authentic kolaches on the highway between Dallas and Austin and that everybody traveling between the two cities will stop there. I told him that my guess was that the explosion was something Texans took extremely personally, akin to having their hearts ripped out. My buddy said it was very interesting and that he was going to place a couple of phone calls to Prague to see if anyone was interested in covering the story there for the Czech media.

About twenty minutes later, the first of more than a dozen phone calls started coming in. Since I don't speak Czech, I was asked to get my wife out of bed to tell the nation how Czech the town of West really is. She was on, live, for about ten minutes, talking about the Czechs of Texas and how they love their heritage, her memory of chatting with some of the older residents, who'd grown up speaking the language and still did from time to time.

Then a TV station called and told us they were sending down a crew to film us looking at the news from West and our friends' reactions on Facebook. We met them in a cafe off Masaryk Square. Later in the afternoon, another TV crew came down and they shot us in the square, buying kolaches at a farmer's market and explaining to the viewers what real kolaches mean to Texans and the lengths that they will drive to get them.

That night, West, Texas was the main topic of news in the Czech republic. Viewers all watched clips of the explosion and the Czech Stop and its kolaches and, in the process, something changed in the Czech psyche.

I don't know how it happened, but somewhere in the mid-20th century, the Czechs lost any sense of connectivity with the Czech diaspora in the outside world. In this regard, they are completely unlike the Poles, who have always seen the Polish world as being global in breadth. Maybe it was the Nazi occupation or the four decades of communist rule that followed. But to the Czechs, when you go, you're gone. This goes even more for the Czechs who left in the nineteenth century. They may understand that they are out there but they feel absolutely no connectivity to them, which is something I'm not sure the Czech-Americans every really grasped.

But now, they realized that those people in that town in central Texas that got flattened by a huge explosion were Czechs, just like themselves, even though most of them drove pick-up trucks and watched high school football games on Friday nights.

One thing that had happened was the Czech Rotary Club had immediately started organizing a charity drive to raise money for the victims of West, Texas. As Waco Tribune recently reported, Rotary Clubs around the world have since raised over $100,000 to help them.