Friday Firesmith – Retirement Means Tired Again

I spent the last twenty-seven and a half years getting up way before dawn, going to bed early, making sure everything at work got done before I worried about home stuff, and generally throwing my life away one day at a time in the name of a career. I did things, I knew things, there are bridge projects out there that will outlive me by a hundred years, at the least, and there’s a lot to be proud of at the end of things. But things ended. It’s been two weeks now. There’s a new life out there, and new discoveries to be made. Here’s some of the newest ones.

Time. When there isn’t a clock to watch and there isn’t anyone telling you there’s a meeting or a conference, or there’s something happening somewhere you need to be, time takes on a new meaning. I lose track of what day of the week it is. Days fly by because I’m always doing what I want to do and never doing anything else. I watch movies early in the day. I drink coffee at night. I take naps. The dogs are going to be very well trained before it is all over with.

Yet I find lacking any sort of external pressure to get the things done that need to get done, they get done anyway, just not in the same frenetic I’ve-only-got-this-weekend-to-get-things-done activity. I can mow grass today, or tomorrow, or after I get done with something else, because weekends do not mean anything anymore.

I’m not a morning person. I spent most of my life as an early morning person but after two weeks I discovered I’m not, actually. Seven in the morning is beginning to look a lot like my wake up time, but if I sleep longer that’s okay, too. I stayed up last night until after eleven. The dogs are being pushed into a new routine, but that’s okay, because I have time to teach them. I’ve discovered I really love coffee in the morning, and during the day, too.

There’s something to be said for hanging out with other retirees. We have nowhere to go, all day to get there, and none of us are trying to get there any sooner than anyone else. There’s no reason to rush anymore. There’s no reason to hurry. There’s no reason to do something right this very instant. When I was working I planned meals and cooked food for several day and now I don’t.

The Keto Diet and I hooked up a week or so before I retired. The weight is dropping off me, and I’m getting into jeans I thought I had retired. I’m in better shape than I was two weeks ago. You have no idea how much stress you’re carrying, and how much you eat because of that stress, until it is gone. I don’t eat lunch some days because I’m not hungry. I don’t feel the urge to eat right now because I know I can later if I want.
I’m going to be ruined totally once I hang the hammock up in the woods. There’s going to be a day I go out there and just sit and watch the trees grow. I’ll let you know what it was like, if you want.

Take Care,
Mike

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
 
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.
 
 
24+

Friday Firesmith – Timber Rattlesnakes and the Atlanta Braves

A woman I knew had an uncanny ability to find the very worst men to live with. Invariably, any boyfriend she hooked up with left her with debt, problems with law enforcement, or Timber Rattlesnakes. Okay, only one left her with Timber Rattlesnakes, but how many times does it really have to happen?

I make snakes shrink. That’s my superpower. I’ve had a dozen people tell me they just killed a six foot long rattlesnake and once I get there half their snake is missing. I’ve never had anyone tell me they’ve killed a two foot long snake and it was really pushing five feet. Gina assures me both snakes are at least five feet, each.

Gina’s boyfriend had this great idea of turning two Timber Rattlesnakes into a belt. He dragged a big and totally massive table into the spare bedroom, then put a fifty gallon aquarium, that was missing its bottom, on top of the table. There was about six inches of Styrofoam peanuts in the aquarium, to help keep the snakes warm, a hot rock, and a plastic tub that took up half the space in the tank. There was a screen from one of the windows in the room on top of the tank with two boards holding it down with a couple of bricks. Security, you know, is paramount.

Feel free, please, to use this design to keep hot snakes in your home. I know you are wowed. I was breathless.

“How are you going to catch them?” Gina asked, standing at her front door, with her car keys in her hand. Gina hadn’t slept well since she walked into the spare bedroom one day to discover she was living with two venomous reptiles. How her boyfriend got them into the tank only Darwin knows.
I started by trying to locate both snakes in the tank. One was curled up against the glass, and that was good, but the other? I checked the floor near my feet. You know, it could be anywhere. Eventually, I discovered the second snake in the water container. Neither was over two feet long. See? I told you I could do that.

The Timber in the pool acted interested in me but didn’t rattle. I used a hook to fish it out and get it out and it was fairly calm about this, but the entire operation had to be done with me standing on top of the table, and standing over the tank. I’ve never been bitten by a hot snake. Most of the times I’ve relocated anything packing it’s always outside, in the open, and not on a tabletop.

“I’m not having sex with you if you do this, okay?” Gina yelled from the front door.
“You’re not helping by offering disincentives,” I yelled back.

Honestly, I was more into this for the snakes than the girl. If she called animal control and told them she had the snakes they would come in and kill them.

“Please just get them the hell out of my house.”

Gina saw me come back into the living room where I sat down on the sofa to watch the Braves lose to some other team playing baseball. She stood there, sat down, and asked, “This is your idea?”

“Braves Baseball will bore them into leaving. Any sports team that every played in Atlanta will kill the ambition of any sentient being forced to listen to them on radio or television. Live action has been known to produce suicides.” I opened a beer, a prerequisite in South Georgia if there are venomous snakes involved.

“Okay, I’m going to go to the store, I’ll be back in twenty minutes, have a plan, please.” And she fled. I think the Braves’ pitching got to her. It was worse than snakebite that season.

“Jesus Theodore Christ!” Gina didn’t actually say this, but her vocabulary strayed towards the exotic at times. The woman had been married three times, and she was only twenty-four. Yeah, her mouth showed it, at times.
“It’s freezing in here!” she said, and it was very cold.
I turned the thermostat down to fifty. After a half hour or so, I lifted the tank straight up, laid it to one side, and took a broom and gently pushed the snakes, and about six inches of Styrofoam peanuts, into a trash can. The lid snapped on tightly, and we turned the thermostat back up to seventy-five and watched the Braves go into the ninth tied 6-6 only to lose in it in the tenth 12-6. (To St. Louis, I think, Jon)

I took the snakes out into the woods, and watched them slowly realize they were free, and warm. They headed into thicker brush, and I cleaned up the Styrofoam and left.

Take Care,
Mike

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit. Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

13+

Friday Firesmith – Paid

The last bridge project I managed cost over nine million dollars. It went over a railroad in Valdosta, Georgia. The railroad, being a powerful and private entity, held up construction when it pleased them to do so and there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it.

So, let’s say I owned the bridge going over the tracks and decided that because the traffic count is ten thousand vehicles a day, I’ll charge every car a dollar for each trip over my bridge. In just over two and a half years I recoup my money.

But let’s say after that I charge ten bucks a car. Anyone using that bridge will pay me $3,650 a year to use my bridge, even though I’ve been paid in full for it. People too poor will have to find another way around the tracks.

Now, imagine I go out and buy a sewer system, yesssss, now you see where I’m going with this don’t you?

Let’s go deep, okay. Imagine you live in a small town in Mississippi. September the 1st, 2005, your town is all but destroyed. If all services for recovery were privately owned, what do you think would happen to your town?

Deeper still. When the British invaded America during the War of 1812, we didn’t have much of a navy and not much of a treasury. It took getting mauled by the Brits for the United States to start thinking about a stronger central government.

Now, I have your agreement that bridges, sewer systems, the military, and disaster relief should be paid by the taxpayers for the mutual benefit of all citizens.

Why is health care, college tuition, and fifteen dollar minimum wage so radically different than the items we already pay for?

Take Care,

Mike

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
 
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.
 
 
17+

Friday Firesmith – The Milk of Memory

I remember my kindergarten class being taken to a milk factory in Dothan Alabama. We saw the milk being poured into vats, being pasteurized, being bottled in glass bottles, and some of it was being processed into paper cartons, which was a fairly new thing back then. We had a bunch of parents with us, and all of us nodded politely and we all said “Yes sir” and “no sir” to the man leading the tour. After it was all over they gave us each a carton of chocolate milk and that was one of the best things ever, really. I’m willing to bet you my next paycheck that I likely would not have remember it except for the chocolate milk.

Flash forward in time, it seems like the two events were a lifetime apart, but we middle school students were taken to some place in Albany to see something that was in a factory, and because I was totally bored and disinterested, I cannot remember what they were building there or why we were there. There was an air hose with a nozzle on it hissing away at me, so I reached over and pressed the handle of the nozzle and the sound of the released air scared the hell out of everyone. The teacher was so angry he led me back to the bus and left me there alone. Poor Mike. Left all alone on a bus with nothing but reading material. I was reading “Cracked” magazine, and they were spoofing all the protests that were going on at the time, and one of the cartoon groups of protestors were carrying signs, “Free the Lapland Six” and for some reason, that has stuck in my memory. Four or five other people were kicked off the tour for various offenses and I wish I had thought to call ourselves “The Lapland Six”.

Leap again, into the future, I was a surveyor, or I was on a survey crew, using a bush hook to cut a line through bushes and swamps. It was incredibly hot and dirty work, and our crew chief was a total jerk. No one worked harder or knew more than he did, and all mistakes were our fault, and when he and his wife were fighting, he took it out on us. Survey equipment was just being computerized at that time, and no one really knew how to use it. While the crew chief and his assistant fought against the demons stored in the computer, I watched as our summer help dude, a clueless and klutzy nineteen year old just out of college, attempted to get into the survey van to escape the triple digit heat. The crew chief never allowed anyone in the van unless it was moving so shouting and screaming ensued.
I took a walk down the freshly cut line, two hundred feet of Viet Nam style thicket at a bottom where a new bridge would be built one day. The line had been cut in the wrong place, it seemed, and now I would shift one way or the other and start hacking away again. I sat down on the back of the stream, which was barely moving, and there in the water was a blue and white glass marble, that looked ancient. I kept it for years, and I wonder if I hadn’t found it would I have remembered that day.

What have you found, or been given that summons a memory?

Take Care,
Mike

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
 
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.
 
 
17+

Friday Firesmith – In The Afterlife With Ziggy Stardust

Suppose in the afterlife, you meet everyone whose art you’ve enjoyed, and they’re as grateful to you as you were for them. Imagine Davie Bowie tracking you down and just really being jumping-up-and-down excited about the time you sang “Young Americans” while it was playing on an eight track tape, and you sang loud enough for the neighbors to hear, but no one cared because you were so into it.

Imagine Bowie telling you about how that track was made, and who sang backup, and he was really thrilled about the whole thing, and he remembers, yes, he shares the memory of you sitting in a bar, listening to Ziggy Stardust while talking to a woman you’d wind up in love with, like he was right there all the time.

Please. This sounds ridiculous to you and you believe half the stuff modern religion tell you? Come on, this isn’t half as far out there and at some level you know it. And this is a lot cooler.

Then you see some young woman running towards you and Mary Shelley arrives, out of breath, thrilled to death that you finished her book after putting it down for nearly a year, and in any other universe there would be an awkward silence, but you’re loved and revered by this woman, and she understands. Would you have let the bride live, she asks, because that’s a question a lot of people ask, and she wondered herself at times.

There’s Captain Kangaroo talking to the Professor, and three of you have a lot to talk about, and time to talk about it, too. Television was cool back then, relaxed and spontaneous, and a lot more fun.

There are others, of course, but they tell you he’s looking for you, and has been. He’s been waiting because you’re one of his favorites, and they tell you they’ll catch up with you about that concert, or about that song, or about that movie, and there are a couple of young people from the college play you went to see three nights in a row because it was breathing and incredible, but he’s been looking for you since you died.

You expect him to be old, and gray, but he’s not, and you aren’t either anymore, and you know who he is, and of course, everyone knows you, because here in the afterlife, you’re as famous to your favorite artists as they were when you lived. You hug like old friends, and he’s crying now, because people like you made him what he was, and he can hardly speak. You have some many questions to ask, how did you start that damn thing? Did you know it would be that long? My Dog, how did you keep up with some many characters? And, oh really, you have your notes and charts and everything?

Tolkien leads you through the early years of writing “The Lord Of The Rings” all the changes, all the doubts, all the fears, all the dead ends and editing. It’s worse than you ever thought, better than you ever dreamed, and the whole book is laid out before you, as you always wanted to see it, written in longhand, in perfect handwriting. Others stand at the door, nodding, with patience, for they know of all the works of art, this was the one that most changed your life.

The Hobbit, and the Lord Of The Rings. Two books that rocked my world as a teen. Nothing else has ever impacted me like that, as far as art goes.

JRR Tolkien in the afterlife would find me. Who is looking for you?

Take Care,

Mike

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

8+

Friday Firesmith – The Cup

Back when I got out of the Army in 1985, I decided to learn how to cook real food. That’s one of the things that sucks about being in the Army in that you get what you get for food. If they’re having baked chicken and hamburger day, then that’s your choices. If you were late for a meal you missed it. You ate what you were served and you got there when they told you to get there.

Of course, I was in college right out of service, and I was broke. Learning to cook what little I could afford wasn’t hard. There was a short list of affordable ingredients, and a shorter list of things I could experiment with. Yet I bought a cookbook, and I bought a measuring cup. The cup was a one cup cup, smallish, and cheap plastic. It survived my first attempts at cooking, survived half a dozen moves, and finally one day, about ten years ago, a girlfriend asked me, “Why the hell do you have this dinky plastic measuring cup?” and I realized I could do better. The plastic cup was demoted to measuring dog food, and I bought two nice glass Pyrex cups, one was the two cup size.

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019, the plastic measuring cup broke.

I remember dropping it right after I bought it and it bounced like eleven times and ricocheted off a chair. I was sure it had broken then, and back then, losing something that cost a dollar was a big deal to me. I rarely threw away leftovers because there was so little to eat. When I got a real job and could afford more, I was careful with it, and I kept the little plastic cup as I continued my quest to learn how to cook, and learn I did.

A few things did learn, in this journey. First and foremost, Garlic is of the Gods. A good garlic press is like having a Holy Relic. Never enter a kitchen without one. Next, vegetables should be steamed, not boiled. Third, instructions from a cook book are suggestions only. You have to learn on your own. And finally, salt is widely abused, and too much used in America.

I remember trying to cook brown rice for the first time. Having my little cup and my one saucepan, and a bit of butter, I was stunned to find out rice took forty minutes to cook. Surely that wasn’t right. But I learned how to cook brown rice, and realized very early in life that rice was a wonderful and versatile thing.

Things, objects, instruments and tools, should be valued, but not loved. They’re expendable once their use in gone, and there is no sadness in this. I’m not the skinny twenty-something that was counting pennies on the counter to get a measuring cup and I haven’t been for decades now. Yet at the same time, I think that was one of the best buys I ever made in my life, and I did learn how to cook with what little I could afford.

Take Care,
Mike

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
 
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.
 
 

 

22+

Friday Firesmith – Stoned & Stuff

I got stoned, a few years ago, with a friend of mine who was dying of cancer. I knew I might get selected for a random drug test, but it wasn’t like this was a time to worry about such a thing. It wasn’t very good pot, even though I hadn’t been stoned in decades and I wasn’t impressed at all. Pot has always made me a little paranoid, but it also gives me a lot of good writing ideas. But this wasn’t a time for that either, because we both knew, everyone knew, this was the last time the two of us would be able to sit down like we had a million times before, and smoke pot.

As you get older, if you get older, people die. It’s the price you pay for living. Usually, your grandparents go, and then older people your parents are friends with, your parents, but one day you’re going to lose someone close, very close, that’s the same age as you are, or younger even, and that’s the difference. Intellectually, you know you are going to die, but watching someone you’ve known all your life dying is a shock.

Curt and I got some really good pot one time and it was on a road trip to the beach. We barely made it there alive. We sat in the car grooving to Pink Floyd and finally staggered out to the water and splashed around for a while. Curt forgot he had the pot in his pocket and it got wet. We dried it out and smoked the rest of it but it wasn’t as good and tasted harsh. He apologized for that the last time we got stoned, and I had nearly forgotten about it.

That was an odd beach trip because he had to go back the next day, and I got handed off to some friends we saw there. That was a time of my life I could just drift from one party to another, no problem, no dogs to be fed, no job that I couldn’t call in sick two or three times a month, and no real idea what was going on in life. I don’t think we ate more than one meal that weekend.

It was really strange because I wound up spending time with a woman trying to find her husband, who had gotten drunk and wandered off. The woman’s friend was named Lizzie, and Lizzie found a guy who spoke haltingly, maybe a word every ten seconds, so listening to him required a good memory and a lot of patience. But he had some really, really, really, good pot, and after half a joint I understood his speech impediment.

The married woman and I took a walk because Lizzie and the Haltingly Dude went into the bedroom and the noise was impressive, as well as more than a little disconcerting. Some random guy started following us, and we discovered this when we turned around and almost ran into him. But he turned around, too, and we wondered who the hell he was and what the hell he was doing, but once we got close to lights he faded away back into the shadows.

Once back at Lizzie’s place, we were told the woman’s husband had dropped by to pick up his clothes and left, which was really strange.

I fell asleep on the sofa, while the two women talked about what it all meant, and the next day, the husband came back and we all rode back to Blakely, Georgia, and smoked good pot on the way. It was about this time of year, the Summer dying slowly, still hot but September looming ahead. That was nearly forty years ago, and Lizzie disappeared never to be heard from again. The married couple divorced and remarried twice apiece, and Curt is dead.

If you’re my age, maybe older, these things have happened to you, and if you’re younger, these things are going to happen to you. Random events and people pop back into your memory from the past, and you wonder what happened to the guy who talked funny, or the stalker dude, or Lizzie. You wonder if some friend of yours wasn’t trying to push his wife off on you because he had a girlfriend and you wonder if she knew, and was good with that idea.

In five weeks I retire, and I think I’ll find some pot, just to see what it does to me. I’ll go to the mountains and see what they do to me. And I’ll wonder if one day, those memories will be written down.

When was a time you remember being stoned at a weird time?

Take Care,
Mike

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
 
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.
 
 
21+

Friday Firesmith – What’s Eating You?

If you’ve never seen how truly petty human beings can be, and for some reason, you’d like to, I highly recommend working in a restaurant. Other than that, I can’t recommend it for anything other than fodder for writing, and even then, you get both at the same time. I gave up working trying to feed people back in the 1980s and returning to that business is not on the menu. 

A few months ago I was invited to join a FB group that was created for people to give reviews for restaurants in Valdosta Georgia, and the surrounding areas. Seemed simple enough, and because a good friend of mine created the group, she asked me to help moderate it. Things got weird right off the bat

The first thing we had to do is remove people and block them from the group because of politics. There is no subject so far removed as to be safe from being connected to one political position or another. A review of local seafood restaurant turned into a bloodbath with people from every tiny sliver of the political spectrum weighing in. We decided that membership had to be approved before letting people join at that point. 

Next, people were writing lengthy reviews, mostly negative, about the food found in fast food joints. Almost nothing they serve in those places could remotely be considered food. The help is making minimum wage, and if that’s where you and your partner are spending your dates, well, yeah, go for it.  No, don’t. It’s a waste of time to complain about fast food places.

One thing that snuck up on us, was that we started getting popular and we started getting big. A group with 2,000 members can wield a significant amount of influence on restaurants in a small town. A strongly negative review, complete with photos of a burned pizza, can hurt a restaurant. Your employee put a torched pie in a box! Don’t tell us how great you are at that point! Owners and managers began to join the group to defend their products, or to try to make things right. Suddenly, it was a very real and very serious thing that we were doing. Photos of a bug in a plate of food were seen by hundreds of people within a few hours. Our group could really help or really hurt a real business. 

Factions formed and fights broke out. People defending their favorite steak place against other steak houses would trash their opponents’ favorite place and we had to put a stop to that sort of thing. There was name-calling and cussing. There were people taking the argument into PMs and screenshots of these fights began to appear in our messages. We had at least one case where employees of a restaurant were leaving positive reviews of the place they worked, and we suspected disgruntled employees were doing the opposite.

At the end of the day, the group works, but it only works because of a very heavy-handed Admin. If I had to guess, I would say three dozen people have been blocked and twice that many booted. Whatever we learned from social media, we learn that any group of people, as a whole, are only as civil they are forced to be.

Take Care,

Mike

PS By the way, where you live, where’s your favorite eating establishment?

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit. Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

10+

Friday Firesmith – The Hilltop

Back in the late 70’s, there was a little shack on top of an embankment someone turned into a bar – The Hilltop. There was draft beer, a few tables and chairs, a bar of course, and one bathroom out back. There was a juke box and if you wanted to start a fight all you had to do was play some of the “black music” and it would happen.

I went there after work, as most of us did, and we were drinking, and very rarely would women be there, and even more rarely would two women be there alone. These two had gotten off work and wanted a beer and decided, you know, how bad could it be?

Tommy, who was a mess even when he was sober, asked one of the women to dance with him. There was barely enough room to turn around much less dance. But Tommy bought them a beer, asked the woman to dance, and each time she would tell him no.

It reached a point where he was being obnoxious for the hell of it, but the women ignored him, and finally, Tommy came back to our table, killed a beer or two, and said, “Watch this.” And he headed back in.
“Are you sure you don’t want to dance with me?” Tommy asked the woman.

“I’m sure I do not want to dance,” the woman replied with a sigh.

Tommy turned around and grinned at us and then turned back to the woman.
“So a BJ is out of the question,” Tommy said loudly, and even for Tommy, this was out there

“I’ve already flossed,” the woman said and two of us spewed beer out of our noses. I could not stop laughing, and as Tommy sat down the look of total and awesome defeat burned in his face like a thousand suns. The two women got up and left, and the bartender, who couldn’t stop laughing either, paid their tab.

For years after that incident, Tommy got dental floss for his birthday and for Christmas from people who were there, and from people who heard the story, which lost nothing in the telling. But it good truth, adding nothing to it, the story was still damn hysterical.

Except for the fact there were two women who couldn’t get rid of Tommy. There wasn’t room to dance, and Tommy knew it, and once the woman said no the first three or four times, he was just showing off for the rest of the guys there. It was funny to watch, unless you were a woman who had gone through something like this, and both of those women had to have more than a little fear of how weird things were going to get. I’ll bet neither of them ever went to the Hilltop again.

It was funny how Tommy went down in flames that day, but it was at the expense of the security and privacy of two women who were not bothering anyone.

Take Care,
Mike

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
 
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.
19+

Friday Firesmith – Road Kill

I got a text from a strange number, and all numbers are strange unless they’re in my contacts. My app for screening strange numbers, Robo-killer, is an aggressive and merciless thing. It doesn’t do nearly as well killing off texts, but we’re getting there. The text reads, “Mike, this is Susan, call me.” And I ignore Susan. She’s likely some Russian sex worker who had read my profile and sees that we live near one another and she would like to show me her breasts for four bucks a month. They found Greg’s body” is the next text and now I know who it is.

I remember the very moment Greg decided to ruin his life. We were both working at a restaurant named “Shoney’s”. I was a cook and Greg was a dishwasher. He was making about four bucks an hour and he came up to me and said, “I think I’ll become a cocaine dealer.” Now, this guy was going to college, had a great girlfriend, Susan, made decent grades, his family was helping support his education, and he wants to be a cocaine dealer. Greg couldn’t sell more cocaine than he snorted and you can guess how quickly things went from stupid to worse.

Greg started stealing. First, he stopped paying his rent and bill at the apartment he shared with two other guys, and he started borrowing money. Then things started disappearing. He sold me an aquarium, a fifty-gallon tank with all the accessories, for twenty-five bucks, and a couple of weeks later I discovered it belonged to one of his roommates. I offered to sell it back to him for the same price and he told me for twenty-five more he would forget the whole ordeal, which was decent of him.

They kicked Greg out and he moved in with Susan. He stole her bike and sold it to a pawn shop. Susan’s parents stepped in and offered Greg a place in their garage, and Susan’s mother got a call while she was at work. Greg was having a yard sale with her stuff in the driveway. He sold some small appliances, and some of the woman’s jewelry. They kicked him out and he lived for a couple of days in the front lawn of his ex-roommates’ apartment, sleeping in his bed next to the street. It was an odd and sad sight. But the first hard rain ended that and Greg took his bed frame to the pawn shop and sold it.

As far as I know, that was the beginning of Greg being totally homeless. That was the first time I remember someone telling me he was seen at Exit 16, holding up a sign, looking for beer money.

Greg’s family quit him after he asked for tuition money and used it to throw one hell of a party. Susan got a restraining order. Everyone learned to let Greg into your home or your car meant he was going to steal something, anything, he could. Once he stole a stack of sticky notes from me. Half a stack actually. I always wondered if he tried to pawn them.

A maintenance worker found his body near the interstate back in May. Because Greg had been homeless since the mid 1980s there really wasn’t a trail to follow, except when he had been arrested, spent time in jail, and picked up for being too drunk to stand up.

Eventually, they did find his family, and they found Susan. She had tried to help him as late as a few years ago. Her husband, Jim, who knew me, and hated me, from the last part of the 80’s, went with me to find Greg, and we were going to get him into rehab, but Greg has slipped away into the void of underpasses and culverts.

There isn’t a cause of death. Drug overdose, alcohol poisoning, kidney failure, liver failure, dehydration, starvation, heart failure, take your pick. The body had been wherever it was found long enough for it to have begun the process of returning to the earth. Greg was in his late fifties and the way he lived was harsh on the body. He had been living on the road for over thirty years.

I don’t have a moral for this story. I really don’t know what I’m trying to say. I’m sad, relieved, and more than numb. A lot of people tried to help Greg, and as hard as they tried Greg tried harder not to be helped. Maybe that’s it, Greg’s final message to the world, and this one is true: You just can’t help some people.

Whatever else happens, I hope they spread his ashes on I-75.
Take Care,
Mike

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
 
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.
 
 
15+