The Redneck Sleeping Bag, Acts 2 & 3
Trip Start Sep 20, 2007
150Trip End May 16, 2008
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Dave: Early 40's male. Out looking for some action.
Mikal: 23 year old male from Ohio. Has 1 year-old daughter. Been in South Carolina for 7 years. Has a Graphic Arts degree. Was laid off from that and has started his own pool cleaning business.
Eric: 23 year old male from Ohio. His 1 year-old daughter's mother is Mikal's cousin. In town visiting for Thanksgiving.
Friday night...John's Place. I walk in, sit down in the same seat I was in the other night. Ernie comes over and sits next to me. We start chatting (we had also chatted during the Thanksgiving Dinner).
The Redneck Sleeping Bag
John & Sheila
Saturday night...John's Place.
Scratch all that. I've had this giant mental block trying to write my blog. Nothing wanted to flow as I was trying to write this stuff. Friday and Saturday night I was in John's Place. I met quite a few interesting people. Between the 2 nights I was there for over 10 hours. You can discuss a lot of stuff in 10 hours. Especially with 5 different people with completely different backgrounds and perspectives on life. I met a few other people but the majority of the conversations were with Ernie (the local barfly), Mikal and Eric on Friday night, then Darren and Dave on Saturday night. My dilemma is trying to summarize what was discussed so that the conversations make sense to those of you reading this and the blog being reminder notes for myself of the topics I want to expand on when I write my book. So I'm not going to worry about it and if most of this sounds like ramblings, than that's the way it's going to end up. I might also test the limits of how much I can type in this blog. So here goes.
Ernie came and sat with me on Friday night. I found out that he's been living in his truck the past month. He had a big fight with his girlfriend of 12 years because her 27 and 24 year old kids moved back home. The deal was that it was suppose to be for a few months. After 9 months and neither of the kids contributing around the house it was either them or him. Guess who lost. A mother will rarely pick a guy over her own kids. John, the campground owner, heard about Ernie living in his truck and offered to sell him an old trailer that John had and in exchange for parking it at the campground Ernie would help out in the bar renovations. Ernie's done some concrete work for John in the past and Ernie's realized that John can be an S.O.B. But he's stuck. He needs a place to stay. Ernie states that he's partially responsible for the issues with his ex. He says he's come to the realization that he loves her. But now she's not ready to take him back. She wants to think about it for a while. Ernie says he's been homeless before, having slept on a park bench for a few weeks once. Ernie buys me a drink, a Smirnoff Ice. Through all this Dave comes in and sits next to Ernie. Dave knows Ernie but Ernie hasn't the faintest idea who Dave is. Is it someone he's met in John's Place? After a while Dave tells Ernie that they hung out at a bar in Charlotte quite a few years ago. Then Ernie remembers. Dave buys me a drink. At some point in time a couple of women come in looking to play pool. The pool table is in storage due to the renovations. They ask around which other place in town might have one. Dave sends them off. A little while later, Dave follows them. At the beginning of the night Ernie had discussed leaving to go have some supper. A couple of hours later he's still not gone. Just one more beer. Dora had gone to the back to get Ernie some turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving. Keith (from last week) was there for a while with the friends he was visiting. He had a partial loaf of bread (I missed that story) that he passes on to Ernie. Ernie goes to the store next door to get some Miracle Whip. Dora throws everything in a bag for Ernie. A couple hours later Ernie finally leaves with his bag to make turkey sandwiches. I almost forgot, Ernie had his 45th birthday on Wednesday night. We talked about a bunch of other things but these are those that are important to note here...for whatever reason.
Ok. Ernie's gone. Then Mikal and Eric walk in and sit down next to me. Mikal lives in town and has been showing Eric the local bar scene since his girlfriend and his cousin (Eric's daughter's mother) have gone shopping with their two one year old daughters. It's their 3rd stop, or maybe 4th. Who's counting. Eric is pretty drunk. Mikal is still lucid. Eric is visiting from Dayton, Ohio. He installs Office Cubicle walls and furniture, owns his own home, has read Einstein's Dream and loves "his daughter's mother" but will never marry her because they fight all the time. His daughter's mother is Mikal's cousin. This is how they met. They're both 23 and born in June. Mikal is starting most of the topics with Eric putting his 2 cents in every so often. This is where documenting the conversations could get confusing, because the conversations themselves were off the wall and all over the place. So we talked about the guns that Mikal and Eric carry. Concealed weapons, but that's legal. Mikal's opinion is that there would be no crime if everybody carried guns because everybody would be afraid of getting shot since everybody would know everybody else had a gun. It would be back to the days of the Old West where the fastest gun would lay down the law. MIkal is a conspiracy theorist. He hates George Bush, just like 90% of Americans. 9-11 was planned by the Americans as an excuse to start a war. Mikal watches the science channels and believes we will be starting up a colony on Mars soon. Scientists are planning on sending all our greenhouse gases to Mars to heat up the atmosphere and start up an environment like we had here on earth before we screwed it all up. Mikal has a graphics design degree. But he was laid off shortly after starting to work. So he scanned the yellow pages to see where there was a market. He realized that there were very few Pool cleaners in the area. An area that has a lot of swimming pools. He'll also never lose money because it's the rich people who have pools and so they always have money for this even if the economy tanks. Southern cops are all crooked. He's always targeted by the cops because he doesn't have any money. The rich people get away with everything because they pay off the cops. He was arrested once for yelling "way to go" at his friends High School Grad. Supposedly these are solemn events in the south and you cannot celebrate or say anything during the grad. He was charged with obstructing justice because he said something to a police officer would was trying to find the people who had said stuff during the Grad. A video tape supporting his position wasn't admissible in court because it showed the cop in a bad light. Marijuana is legal in Canada as long as you don't have more than 3 plants. It made for an interesting evening. Eric was being quite loud about something against Bush and Mikal kept on telling him to be quiet because the South was mostly pro-Bush so there was a good chance the cops would come in and arrest him. I should have had a tape recorder because I'm sure I'm missing a few interesting topics that were brought up that night. They left after a while in search of the next bar, but first wrote down their email and other contact information on a napkin to give to me.
I had 4 Smirnoff Ice that night. That was too much sweetness for one night. I didn't sleep well and wasn't feeling that great the next day. But I had a great night. Definitely worth suffering for.
Saturday. After last night's interesting conversations I figured I'd head back to John's Place and see if I would meet more people with different stories. That is one of the purposes of this Journey...to meet and talk to people. But I wouldn't be drinking Smirnoff Ice. I had had enough of that for a while. So I order a glass of red wine. John's Place isn't exactly a wine bar. Dora had just poured a glass for one of the locals. She didn't have any more wine glasses so she gave me a glass of wine in a plastic glass. Well...it could have been worse...like a paper cup. Sara (the other bartender) was sitting next to me and had just finished her shift. She tells me she broke the second wine glass earlier today as she was washing it. I remember a comment Dora made one of the other nights I was here about the quality of the wine glasses, or maybe I should say, lack of quality. On the other side of me is Darren...an acquaintance of Sara's. On the other side of Sara is Shannon. It's her birthday. Behind me at one of the tables is John and Sheila, the owners, with another couple. They're having a few drinks before heading out to some fancy steakhouse for supper. Ernie is sitting at the other end of the bar. Next to him are David and Anthony. Sara, or more specifically her mom, is having a house warming party. Sara and Darren are trying to figure out what to bring to drink to the party...beer...or something stronger. The party is outside with a bonfire, which makes a difference as to what you drink...I guess. Sara is trying to convince Shannon to come the party. Shannon wants to go to a bar in Charlotte and is trying to convince Sara to go with her. Beer is flowing. I'm on my second plastic glass of wine. Darren leaves to go to the liquor store to get something for the party. Must have been some hard liquor because the convenience store next door has beer. John and Shelia leave for supper. Dora takes her "John's Place" t-shirt off as soon as they're out the door. She hates wearing it, but John forces the bartenders to wear them. Darren returns. We start chatting.
Darren is an actor..was an actor...would still like to be an actor. He was just laid off from his job at a car dealership. He's glad. He wasn't happy there. It doesn't sound like he's held a job for very long. He was an actor for a while. Then got heavily involved in drugs. It was a downward spiral from there to the bottom of the pit. He's surprised he actually remembers what was going on through that period as he was always so wasted. Had 2 or 3 "crack whores" in his condo all the time. Parties where everybody was high on whatever drugs they could get their hands on. Hung out with his "friends". Though he knew none of these people were actually his "friend". Everybody was taking what they could get and then when there was no more to take they would be gone. He had to hit rock bottom before he could start moving forward again. He's slowly getting there. At 35 years of age he figures it's time to get his life together. There have been too many years of drifting. He's talking about moving to Wilmington, on the North Carolina coast where Paramount has a TV studio. Maybe he can get back into acting. Tells me he's planning on going to church on Sunday. The first time in a very long time.
He's never been married. Doesn't have any kids...that he knows of. We talk about love and relationships. How it's a miracle that there are even any couples out there after a few years. We all come from such diverse backgrounds and it all gets in the way of making a relationship work. People talk about having to give to the other person to make it work. But at what point in a relationship are you giving so much that you are no longer being true to yourself? I mention that I see a lot of couples who have it during this Journey. That special connection. They have to have it if they are going to spend most of their time together in an RV or Motor home. That, I believe, is the true test of love. We should force all couples to travel, either in an RV or backpacking, for 6 months or a year. Who you really are has to come out during this period. Because the only constant during this period is the one person you are with. Everybody else comes and goes. If you are honest with yourself, at the end of the trip you will know you have that special connection...or NOT! Ok. Slight detour. Back to the bar. Sara has had a few more beers. By now her head is bobbing and she has this glazed look in her eyes. Then slowly her head hits the bar. It doesn't look good for a bartender to be drunk in the establishment they work in. Dora asks Darren to get her out of there. He gets his car. A few of the locals carry Sara out.
Shannon is still here. She had been chatting with Anthony, Sara, and me. It's her birthday, so she's had all her drinks bought for her. Earlier I had bought Ernie a beer (payback for the one he bought me Friday night), an also a round for the others. Dora pours this drink for one of the other clients. It looks awesome...Kahlua, Bailey's, Crown Royal, and milk. I ask her to pour me one. Very potent...but smooth and goes down easily. I chat with Shannon for a while. Then Dave comes in.
Dave. Late 50's male. Architectural Designer. Has 7 kids...all adults now. Divorced. Born and raised in South Dakota. Moved to South Carolina about a dozen years ago because of his ex-wife. When they lived in South Dakota they owned a hunting cabin in The Pas, Manitoba. At that time he was in insurance and he would take clients up on hunting and fishing trips. He owned an old school bus and he would drive his clients up. As most Americans, I'm assuming, he was in the Army. He went to Vietnam for the last 8 months of the war. He's into photography. He took his old Brownie Camera with him to the war. He owns numerous cameras, but none are digital. He owns a couple hundred acres of land in Montana next to his brother's 3000 acres of land. Once he went out and shot a few rolls of film. When he came back, people asked him what he had shot. He says he shot shit. He literally shot over a 100 pictures of shit...cows, moose, birds, coyotes...all kinds of shit that he came across. He indicates that he owns an old bellows style camera with plates. He says it takes the most amazing black and white shots. Though he loves photography, he doesn't get out much anymore to take pictures. His Architectural Design firm specializes in Law and Accounting office reception areas and he also does a lot of high end kitchen design. We talk about raising kids. Teaching them responsibilities. Hoping they'll turn into responsible adults. When the kids were growing up, suppertime was family time. Discussion time. One year they sat down and discussed where everybody wanted to go for a summer holiday. New York was the general consensus. He figured it would cost about $7000. So they all sat down and discussed how they could make the trip work within the confines of the family budget. Money set aside for education and long term savings wasn't to be touched. The "disposable" part had to be shuffled to make the trip work. I never did find out if they went. We talked about one of his daughters who was in College. One Christmas when she was home he found out she had a credit card that was maxed out. He told her to give it to him or cut it up in front of him. She wouldn't. After Christmas he gets a call from her saying her tuition is due. He normally pays, but won't if she has the credit card. She has a choice. Send him the credit card and cut it up, or she's on her own and can pay her own tuition. Life is about choices. Dave leaves.
I order another of those smooth tasting drinks. Shannon decides she wants one. Dora won't make one for her because Shannon has been drinking coconut rum all night. This drink will make her sick. John and Shelia and their friends return. Dora get's busted for not wearing the t-shirt. I chat with Shannon and Anthony for a while. It's getting late. That last drink is starting to take effect. Time to call it a night. Tell Dora to tell me the damages from my bar tab. Dora also tells Shannon she owes for a few of her drinks because a few people who "bought" her drinks didn't pay for them. I tell Dora to add it to my tab. It is Shannon's birthday. My tab, including tip, was $100. Add in all the drinks I bought for the others. Those smooth tasting drinks were $18 bucks a piece. And I thought drinks in Calgary were expensive.
It was worth it. To experience life, you have to spend some money. Too bad to experience this I have to spend it in a smoke filled bar. I felt a little light headed when I got to the trailer and crashed after posting a few things on Facebook. I felt fine the next morning. The smoke bothers me more than the alcohol. To all those of you correcting my grammatical errors, get over it. I know this is written in different times...now and then...but this is being written 3 days after the facts. It's my blog...not my book that will end up being proofread a dozen times before it gets published.
I forgot (this is posted a while later). Ernie has convinced me to stick around until Thursday. Wednesday night is Karaoke night and the bar is just hoping. I'm enjoying myself here. I'm sticking around for a few more days.