I wanted to cry.
My hometown stunned me.
Old. Faded. Sucked dry of energy and vibrancy.
On so many of the houses, the paint was old and chipped, blasted down by the west Texas wind. Most of the yards were overgrown. When I’d been young, homeowners nailed those yards constantly. And if they didn’t, some kid who’d pulled his mower along behind him (sometimes while riding a bike) came along and sheared that shit down for a few bucks.
On my old block, Crockett Street, it was the same. The entire flavor of the neighborhood was old, like an jar of picante that had been left too long on a shelf. It was probably still edible, but it had no taste left, no bite or color.
Ditto the house I grew up in. Even vaguely same color, though more blue and washed out than the gray my mother loved. The cinder block fence my mother had built was still there. So were the wrought-iron gates to that fence. Exactly the same.
It was depressing.
It wasn’t that time had stood still, it hadn’t. In fact, I was acutely aware of the slipping away of so many years, but it was like that same passing time had refused to allow any people to pass within it.
Everywhere was the same. So many houses, so many blocks, so many streets and buildings and memories. Like Rod Serling had reanimated and locked parts of my city down in a bubble that refused to let people move forward.
Ain’t I the hypocrite? I was puttering about in the past, too, wasn’t I? I only come to town for reunions and even while driving my block, I gave Brad the penny tour of crimes past.
“That’s where Zebern’s dad offed his mother with a 12-guage…that’s where the boy who fell off the Gulf building lived…that’s where the drunk chick tried to get into the wrong house through the bedroom window. Shot through the head. That’s where the fire was. That’s where…that’s where…that’s where….”
At my old elementary school, Anson Jones, the most striking thing was playground equipment that had been new when I was there circa 1975. It was still there. Old and tired.
My junior high school had been remodeled and now it literally looks like a prison.
Trust me on this, I’ve been to a few in the last few years and I know.
It wasn’t quite as bad at my high school, but that’s a place where the football team frequently wins state championships and where the band constantly kicks the crap out of everyone. So lots of focus and energy get put on it.
My old roller skating rink, my old Baskin-Robbins, a host of other places. Seeing them left me melancholy. What I remembered was a town that had worked hard to move forward and what I saw was a town that had stopped running altogether.
It’s possible that my memories were wrong, made shiny with the patina of nostalgia, but I don’t think so. I think I have a fairly clear memory, and understanding, of what Midland had been in the 1980s.
But the worst for me was KCRS. 550 AM. My step father had worked there, news director and voice of the station, and I spent hours and hours there. I knew all the jocks and all the booths and most of the gear. I knew the urgency bells on the AP news wire intimately. I knew when to be quiet and when to talk by aural feel of each booth, rather than by the giant, red ‘On-Air’ sign that lit up.
The station is still around, though I don’t know where the new studios are. And I realize buildings get old and outgrown and all the rest, but this place captured my imagination from the first moment I knew it existed.
My love of music began when I listened to songs the jocks played. My love of news began when my step-father read it over the air. My love of radio (an industry I worked in for a number of years) began at that station.
Seeing the building in such shape got to me. I won’t say I cried; it is, after all, an inanimate object. But I was certainly emotional.
That emotionalism exhausted me. So after crashing in my skanky hotel and trying to understand what happened to my town, I geared up for the first party. The first time I’d seen most of these mopes I went to school with in twenty-five years.
It was fabulous.
Brad and I hit the bar early and, honestly, I don’t remember much. I remember a sea of faces and flashes of memories and slices of personal history that hadn’t swum to the surface of the mental swamp in decades.
Everyone was relaxed and laughing and having a great time and, for the first time ever with these people, it was completely chilled. At the ten year reunion, there was still so much baggage and clique-ish bullshit that I didn’t bother with the 15 or 20 year.
But this night was incredible and completely devoid of any of that bullshit.
Except…well…Trey is still Trey, ain’t he? Trey still hates The Man (weird, since he is The Man) and still really hates fucking wannabes who let a sliver, a micro-sliver, of power go straight to their heads where it fills the space between the rocks.
Yes, I had a moment.
Wasn’t my fault. But these two assholes, security hired for the party (that MY graduating class paid for) spent the entire night flinging their weight around.
First of all, get over the too-tight Wrangler jeans, get over the tight black knit shirts, and damn sure get over the Chuck Norris cowboy hats.
(there are no pix of the security guys…so this is a still-pissed off artist’s interpretation!)
But mostly, stop it already with the handcuffs and cans of Mace. You need two pair of cuffs? Really? And they have to be visibly strapped outside your jeans? Not hidden in a cuff case?
Subtext: “Look how big my dangler is!”
So after the bar closes, Brad, Harvey, Eric, and myself are talking outside the bar. On the public sidewalk (very important to remember). Along come the Security Bobbsey Twins.
“Move along, gentlemen,” the first dork says.
And my partners started moving! Because, like good Americans, when someone with a touch of authority asks you to do something, you do it.
Yeah. Fuck that.
“No, no, no,” I said. “This is a public sidewalk. We’re staying until I – “
(notice I didn’t include my partners in the decision?)
” – decide we’re leaving. They can’t put us off a public sidewalk.”
Oh, to see the look on Brad and Harvey’s face. Like, ‘Dude, here we go with a Trey-thing.”
We talked a little longer, and I know I talked a little LOUDER (all the better to make a point, my dear) and then we headed for our cars. In the parking lot, they tried to move us along again. But this time it was different because it was a private parking lot. I understand that.
However, we – apparently – weren’t moving fast enough. They came back, their damned cuffs banging against their skinny asses. “Move on or you’re gonna get some DIs.”
First of all, what the fuck is a DI? I’ve been a cop a while and I have no idea. I wanted to say, “You moron, it’s DWI.” (driving while intoxicated)
Brad wanted to say, “You moron, it’s PI.” (public intoxication)
I think Harvey wanted to say, “I’m a Federale, get the crap outta my face.”
What we said instead was, “We haven’t had anything to drink.”
Dude, we are tough.
See, here’s the thing. They accused us of having something to drink. And they wanted us to drive outta their parking lot. Isn’t that…like…aiding and abetting in the commission of a misdemeanor?
While this is going on, two drunk chicks stagger toward us. I’ve seen drunk in my line of work a few times and I’ve never seen anything like this. They couldn’t speak. Hell, they could barely stand.
One of the women is saved from driving by a nine-hundred year old guy in a truck who gives her a ride.
“Well, that’s going to be an interesting negotiation in ten or fifteen minutes,” I said.
But the other woman goes to her car on the far side of the lot.
My heart sank. I wasn’t in my jurisdiction, or in my county. Crap, I wasn’t even in my state! But she was going to kill herself or someone else. I knew it in my bones. I’ve seen it too many times before.
When she started the car, put it in gear, turned on the lights, and passed out with her foot on the brake, I was done. I went to her car and tried to talk to her. I gave her my best everything. I talked for a good seven or eight minutes straight and couldn’t get her to turn that car off.
Eventually I go back to my partners, who had never taken a step in my direction to help thank you very much, and as we’re trying to figure out what to do, the Midland Poh-Poh rolls up.
Headed straight for us.
See, I think those goober security guards (see drawing above) called them because we weren’t hitting the road fast enough. Yeah, they’ve got all the gear and their Chuck Norris hats, but they ain’t got the eggs to step up.
The officer drives over and I explain who I am and what’s up. Then I point at the drunk woman in her car.
“Easiest DWI you’re ever going to get.”
He took off. Cloud of dust kind of speed. I hope Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-Dumber were watching. Hah, take that, Chuck Norris sycophants!
Now, normally, field sobriety takes fifteen or twenty minutes. Officer Midland gets the woman out of the car, I see her head go back and forth a few times (horizontal gaze nystagmus test, no doubt) and then –
She’s in cuffs and in the back of the squad car. In…I don’t know…half a minute? Maybe less?
Harvey just shook his head. “Man, you fucked up her night, didn’t you?”
Maybe I did. But I may have also saved someone’s life. Both my mother and my wife have been hit by drunk drivers and I simply don’t give a shit for someone who gets behind the wheel hammered.
What’s depressing, though, is that I’ve not had a DUI in my own jurisdiction (1160 miles from where I stood at that moment) since last October. I gotta come to Midland to find one?
That’s a helluva commute for a DUI stat.
And I probably won’t get any Illinois stats if I’m making arrests in Texas.
Damn, I hate when that happens.