Friday, June 9, 2017

Hosea

 While I was at seminary, I wrote a Biblical monologue on the personification of the Cross.  I did the monologue for a class.  It started with me as a seed and growing up to be a tree.  As time goes by, the tree gets chopped down and fashioned into a cross.  The cross does not understand why he is being used for the purpose of killing someone.  The monologue was physically demanding, because I had to hold my arms out straight for several minutes.
 When I got back home from Ft. Worth, I rejoined First Baptist Church.  They knew of my success in drama and asked me to do several things including stewardship promotions and puppet shows.  One day during Sunday School, my teacher asked me to prepare a monologue on Hosea.  Her name was Nezza Howard.  I didn't know much about Hosea, so I went home that afternoon and read the book of the Bible.  I got an idea about his life and what he preached about which was sin.  I read commentaries on Hosea and history about the time he lived.  He was especially upset about the prostitutes in his community.  God tells Hosea that he is to marry, and He wants Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer.  At one point, Gomer leaves Hosea and goes back to her wicked ways.  Hosea is distraught, and God tells him to take her back.  There is a some apprehension about doing this, but he eventually comes around to what God wants him to do. 
 One of the things I wanted to do with the monologue was to get the audience involved in it.  I didn't want them to just see what I was doing, but to also experience it.  I also wanted to put it in a more modern flair, because I have always hated the way some actors portray Biblical characters by wearing bathrobes.  So, I created this modern approach to the story.  I also wrote some humor into the piece, because it also allows for the audience to hear and respond.  And, I made it to be about 5-7 minutes to allow the audience not to get bored.  I also wanted to use the monologues to imagine what might have been going on in these characters' lives which are not spelled out in the Bible.
 So, the next Sunday I presented Hosea.  It was very well received.  As a part of the monologue, I did Hosea as an old man reflecting on his life, and also as a young man living his life.  I did it several others times for groups including White Oak Conference Center, the Spartanburg Arts Center, several churches, and even Dock Street Theatre in Charleston. 
 I also wrote other Bible-character monologues.  One was called Saul/Paul on Paul's conversion.  Another was called Peter on his denial of Christ.  Another was called Moses on him killing an Egyptian.  Another was called Peter vs. Paul on who was more important in the early church.  And, my personal favorite was called The Fishing Disciple, which was the story of a fisherman who is mad that Jesus was taking all of his fishing buddies away from him.  That one was the most fun to do.  It also provided me to do some improvisation in the piece.
 But, back to Hosea for a minute.  I would change the monologue a little to the times I would do it.  For example, when God tells Hosea that he must marry a prostitute, Hosea ponders who it should be.  Originally, I used the names Farrah, Cheryl and Suzanne, which were three pretty actresses of the day--Farrah Fawcett, Cheryl Ladd and Suzanne Somers.  These were three names easily recognizable by an audience.  As time went on, the names changed.  The last time I did Hosea, the names had become Paris, Britney and Miley.  The other thing I did in the monologue was to look out into the audience and find a girl or woman that didn't seem to be paying attention.  I would then go out into the audience, point at her, and yell "Harlot".  After all, Hosea was preaching against harlots.  It would also wake up the audience.  I had done it numerous times with no response, other than a little laughter.  So, I did it for a youth camp.  I looked over, and there was a teenaged girl looking off into space.  I went over to her; pointed my finger at her; and yelled "Harlot"!  Her face turned deep red, and she looked like she wanted to crawl under her seat.  Some of the boys snickered.  I knew I had gotten into something pretty bad with her, but I couldn't stop my monologue.  Afterwards, I went up to her and apologized.  She said it was okay, but I knew I had struck a nerve with her.  After that experience, I changed the word "Harlot" to the word "Sinner".  It didn't have quite the same effect, but it saved a lot of embarrassment. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Blue Mountain

 I was sending letters of interest to all the colleges and universities I knew in the United States trying to find a teaching job.  I got back letters from most of the schools saying no.  But, in late July of 1979, I got an offer from a college for me to come see them.
 It was Blue Mountain College in Mississippi.  They wanted me to come see them, and they would pay for my airfare to fly out there.  I had to fly into Memphis, and the academic dean would meet me and drive me to the school.  Blue Mountain was an all-girl college and affiliated with the Baptists.  They had heard about me and wanted my expertise there.  It was a win-win for both of us.  I would have a job, and they would have me.
 After I got picked up at the airport by the dean, he drove about two hours to get to the school.  It was beautiful.  There were mountains around (hence the name), and the air was cool in mid-summer.  The dean put me up in his house, which was not far from the school.  In fact, everything was not far from the school, as it was a little town.  The college was the town.  I was first amazed at the fact that the dean didn't lock the door to his house, when we left.  I made a comment about that, and he told me that there was no crime in the community, and everyone left their doors unlocked.  He said the only situation they had ever had was a guy passing through town years before and was hungry, so he went into a house looking for food.  He only took some food and left.  It was like being in Mayberry.
 He took me over to the college and showed me around.  Even though it was summertime, there were some students on campus.  They seemed friendly.  I also met some of the faculty.  They seemed nice.  This was going to be the perfect fit for me.  The dean took me over to see the theatre.  It was in an old building, but I could work with it.  He also showed me where my office would be, and the textbooks I would be using.  He even showed me where I would be living.  He really did a good job selling the college to me.  My last visit there was a meeting with the president of the college.  He had to sign off on me, before I was to be hired.  We had a nice chat, although he told me one thing he expected of me that I had a hard time with doing.  He wanted me to direct a musical once a year.  I had done a musical in college, and knew how hard it was to coordinate the drama department with the music department.  A lot of egos.  The president told me that the community expected a musical, so I told him that I would work with him on it.  I thought that once I got established that I could do the productions I wanted to do. 
 So, after a weekend with those folks, the dean took me back to Memphis to get on a plane and fly back to South Carolina.  He told me that it would be soon before he would call me and let me know when to move out there. I thanked him, and got on the plane.  When I got back, I was confident that I had the job.  Two weeks went by, and I had not heard from them  I knew it was getting close to school starting, so I called them.  I didn't want to sound anxious, but I just needed to know.  The dean told me they had decided to go with someone else.  Okay, I was a big boy.  I knew I was not the only fish in the sea.  But, I was perplexed.  Why did they say I was the one, and then I wasn't?  So, I did some checking.  It turned out that they wanted to check with the seminary to see if there was anything that would prevent them from hiring me.  A man in the administration told them that I was a troublemaker, and related to them about the witch hunt that occurred during my last semester. 
 When I was going to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I was told that I could go anywhere in the world with a degree from there.  That is true, although one cannot get hired anywhere in the world with a degree from there.  I discovered that I could not get a favorable recommendation from the seminary, where I had gotten my Master's degree.  The seminary where I had created the Communications major.  The seminary where I had spent two years of my life there.  It was all for naught, or so I believed at the time. Blue Mountain didn't want to reimburse me for the plane trip out there, and I had to beg them to do so.  The president reluctantly agreed to pay me back. I knew I had to go a different direction in my life, and teaching in a college was not on my radar anymore. 
 I did entertain an option to teach drama in a high school, instead of college, but I found that my courses in seminary would only translate to states where there were other Baptist seminaries--Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri, or California.  Otherwise, I would have to start all over again and take Education courses at a school in South Carolina.  I was unwilling to do that.  So, I did get certified to teach in public schools in Charlotte, but I never followed up on that.  I also took the teacher's exam in South Carolina and was given a provisional certificate, but it expired two weeks later, so I didn't pursue that.  I have taught a little since to high schoolers, which will be covered later in my stories, but for now the teaching job door had closed for me.  Another was soon to open.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Datsun

 There is a scene in the movie "The Blues Brothers".  They had been evading the police on a long chase to Chicago.  The car had been through a lot, but they were on "a mission from God".  At the end of the chase, they stop in front of a building, and the car falls apart.  That pretty much happened to my Ford Maverick.
 It had survived a wreck; a beer run; 2 1/2 round trips from Columbia to Ft. Worth; and numerous other ailments, but it had gotten me home.  Then, it fell apart.  My father and I got it to the Dick Smith dealership, and the first words out of the salesman's mouth were:  "How did you get back home?"  It was on a wing and a prayer.
 It was time to trade it in for another car.  They were willing to take back the Maverick for parts.  I looked at cars and found a Datsun 210.  It was sort of an orange/brown color.  It was smaller and lighter than the Ford, but it was perfect for me.  My father had to cosign the loan for the car, and I had to make monthly payments of $167/mo. to start, but it was so worth it.  It had 4 doors, which was 2 more than the Maverick, and an AM/FM radio.  The Maverick only had AM.  The only downside was that the air conditioning dripped water into the passenger seat.  The carpeting squished a lot, but that only happened on trips.  In town, it was fine.  Also, I was used to a six-cylinder car with a lot of pep.  This was four-cylinders, and I had to learn to get a running start in going up steep hills.  I also had to get used to the automatic transmission selector on the floor between the seats.  The Maverick had it on the steering column.  Once all that was ironed out, it was great. 
 When I got home from Ft. Worth, I found my parents needed help with the house and their lives, so I agreed to stay at the old homeplace and become something of their caregiver, while they gave me a free place to stay.  It was a little confining, as I couldn't drink there, nor do other things, but I made do, and I was their caregiver for the next 15 years.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Au Revoir FW

 It was 1979, and I was trying to find a job in my field of teaching Theatre in a college.  I had sent out a lot of letters.  I had gotten some positive responses, but nowhere that I would feel comfortable.  Then, Lander College in Greenwood, SC said for me to come see them.  Greenwood was the town where my father was from, and where my Grandmother still lived.  I even have a street named allegedly after me (W Durst Street) that runs next to Lander. 
 I had to think about leaving Ft. Worth.  I had a good job that I enjoyed at Sanger Harris.  I had a girl who I loved named Kare.  I had a great apartment across from TCU.  All of those things made it harder to leave.  I made the decision that I had to go.  I quit my job.  They understood.  I terminated my lease from my apartment.  They understood.  I had to tell Kare.  That was more difficult.  We talked about her moving with me to South Carolina.  She was in college at UTA and liked the courses there.  She said she had an uncle in Atlanta, and we could meet up there, when she visited him.  Our last time together was when she picked up my Stearns & Foster mattress from my apartment.  I asked her to sell it for me, as I couldn't take it with me.  It was incredibly sad.
 I also needed to do something about all of my records and books, as I had accumulated a lot, and they wouldn't fit in my car.  A friend told me about shipping them on the train back to Columbia, and it wouldn't cost much.  I got everything boxed up and took it to the train station.  When the boxes arrived in Columbia, my father picked them up.  Somewhere along the way, a handler had stuck a metal rod into the side of each of the boxes, which put a dent into the cover of most of my records.  I was not pleased.
 I left Ft. Worth with my car and clothes.  I drove to Vicksburg, MS which was my standard stop on the way back.  I couldn't sleep that night, as I was missing Kare and the other people I had left behind.  I got up at 3am, and left Vicksburg at 4am.  I got to Atlanta around 5pm and called home.  I told my parents that I was going to try and get to Columbia.  By the time I started on that last stretch of highway on I-20, I was very sleepy and very wired.  I didn't know anything about anything.  My mind had cut-off, but I was still driving to Columbia.  I had on the radio full-blast to try and stay awake.  I had the window down to get fresh air.  About halfway there, I realized I was running out of gas.  Anyone who has driven on I-20 between Atlanta and Augusta knows that there aren't many gas stations on that stretch.  I passed an exit where one was, and stopped.  In my stupor, I backed up on the interstate to get back to that exit.  I know it was stupid to do so, especially at night, but thankfully there were no cars coming.  I got the gas and moved on.
 I got to Columbia around 9pm and went to my parents' house.  No talking.  Some hugging.  A lot of sleeping.  After a few days, I contacted Lander about coming there for an interview, and I was told that they had changed their minds about me coming to teach there.  I was back home.  If I had known about Lander's decision, I could have had more time with Kare.  God had other plans for me.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Bible Scholar

 After graduation from seminary, I spent an extra year in Ft. Worth.  Mainly to be with Kare, but also to spend the time looking for a job in my field.  I had gotten my Master's degree to teach Theatre in a Christian college.  My ultimate goal was to do it at Anderson College in SC, my alma mater.  I had been guaranteed a job by the Academic Dean there, but he left before I graduated, and that job offer was off of the table.  I went looking elsewhere.
 I should say here that I was one of the few Christian Baptist dramatists in the country.  You could count on one hand who they were, and I was one of them.  I had an ego as big as all outdoors.  I was good.  Everyone told me I was good.  That is why I wanted to share my goodness with students to make them good, too.  Not as good as me, but good.  That is the perfectionist in me.
 So, I checked around.  Colleges were looking for me too.  I had built up some kind of reputation.  Pat Robertson from the Christian Broadcast Network contacted me.  He wanted me to come to Virginia and run his TV network.  I didn't know that much about the TV business, so I declined.  Then came the colleges and universities.  The three major ones were Hannibal-LaGrange in Missouri, Hardin-Simmons in Texas, and Liberty in Virginia.  All three had heard of me and wanted me to come teach there.  All three were very complimentary of me.  All three sent the same questionnaire.
 As I have written earlier about honesty, I have always felt that one should be honest when filling out questionnaires.  I did on the MMPI in seminary and almost got kicked out.  I have on my resume, too.  I never went to Harvard or Yale.  I never worked for IBM or on Wall Street.  My  resume is truthful, and I never thought I could live with myself if I lied about my credentials.
 So, the questionnaire they sent me had ten questions.  I could truthfully answer yes to 9 of them.  Most were questions of character and beliefs in Biblical principles.  But there was one that I had trouble with, and that was asking about the inerrancy of the Bible.  When I was a kid, I learned that there were two chapters of the Bible that were identical:  II Kings 19 and Isaiah 37.  Look it up.  They are almost word for word the same.  These two chapters were probably written 200 years apart.  Not the same person wrote them.  How could this be?  I believe that it was a mistake by the scribes who copied the original manuscripts.  Perhaps one got up to go to the bathroom; a gust of wind came along and blew the copied manuscript; and when he got back, he had lost his place.  So, I could not say honesty that the Bible was totally inerrant.  I sent each questionnaire back, and each school thanked me for being honest.  Jerry Falwell even wrote me to say he could never figure out about those two passages either.  I have often wondered what if I had just sucked it up and answered yes to everything.  My life would have been quite different.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Joe T's

 One of my absolute favorite places in Ft. Worth to eat was Joe T. Garcia's Mexican Restaurant.  Located in North Ft. Worth, it was the place to go to see and be seen.  Many celebrities would eat there.  It served authentic Mexican food.  And, it wasn't too expensive. 
 I went there a few times, mostly with friends.  The best food and the best beer you could find.  The last time I went was by myself.  The tables were kind of close together.  That night, my table was next to two guys, who were very well dressed.  One was Cullen Davis, and the other was Racehorse Haynes.  If the names don't ring a bell with you, I will explain.
 Cullen Davis was probably the richest man in Ft. Worth.  He was an oilman.  There was a rumor that the character of J.R. Ewing in the TV show "Dallas" was modeled from the life of Cullen Davis.  He lived in a huge house in Ft. Worth.  The house could be seen from my apartment near TCU, and it looked really close, until you started driving toward it.  You just kept driving, until you were upon it.  There was nothing nearby.  One night, at that house, some people were killed and wounded.  It was well known that his wife was having an affair.  Her lover was killed, and she was wounded.  The main suspect was Cullen Davis.  Eyewitnesses saw him there and saw him pull the trigger.  He was arrested and put on trial.  The trial had to be held in another city, because of all of the publicity.
 Racehorse Haynes was Cullen's lawyer.  He was well-known for his track record in winning cases.  It cost someone a whole lot of money to hire Racehorse.  He was from Houston, and he was only one of two attorneys in the country who had the best defense record of getting his clients off.
 So, here they were.  Both of them sitting at the table next to me.  It was the night after the verdict that afternoon.  Cullen Davis had been found not guilty.  Despite all of the forensic evidence.  Despite all of the eyewitness testimony.  Despite all of the motives.  The jury found him not guilty.  Racehorse had earned his fee.  Cullen had hired the best attorney.  And, I heard them joke about the verdict.  Cullen was so appreciative that he had gotten away with murder.  Racehorse was a little more careful in his remarks, because he knew others were listening.  Cullen didn't care.  He knew he couldn't be tried again for the murder.  The law wouldn't allow it.  Now was a time for celebrating.  I got sick to my stomach. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Poker

 There were a few families in Ft. Worth that allowed me to come into their homes, while I was out there.  One of them was Arch Miller and his wife.  Arch was a retired Colonel in the Air Force.  Mrs. Miller worked with me at Sanger Harris.  They were a nice older couple.
 They organized picnics for those of us who worked with her.  We went out to a park next to Carswell AFB and to a swimming hole outside of town.  We would go over to their house and just sit.  Arch loved to play poker, so he taught some of us how to play.  Growing up, my father never allowed us to play cards, unless it was Old Maid or Uno.  My brother and I would play cards under the sheets at night using a flashlight.  So, the idea of playing real card games was very appealing to me.  Arch taught us many games, but the one I liked the best was something called Cutthroat, which was like 7-card stud.  It was like sweating bullets.  We never played for big money, but the pot could get up to around $50. 
 After getting the lessons, some of us guys from work would get together on Thursday night to play poker.  It was more of an excuse to drink beer than play cards, but it was fun anyway.  One night, Kare through a surprise party for me.  Everyone had chipped in to give me a money tree.  There was $150 on it.  There was a poker game going in the back of the house.  Kare told me that if I took the money tree to the poker game, she would never speak to me again.  I did it anyway, and I lost it all.  Kare made up with me a few days later. 
 We also would drink beer at the Miller's house.  One Sunday, it was my turn to buy the beer and bring it to their house.  I went to a nearby 7-11 to get the beer.  While I was inside, a group of Hispanic guys pulled into the store, and their car blocked mine from getting out.  I was mad, because I had to get to the party.  I had the beer.  Everyone was waiting for me, so I got into my car with the beer and tried to get out of the parking space.  No luck.  So, I rammed their back bumper with my car.  Several times.  Until their car moved enough for me to get out.  As I was pulling away, I saw them running out of the store.  Their back bumper was hanging from their car.  They were yelling things at me, but I figured that if they didn't know how to park, that was not my problem.  I had a big dent in the back right side of my car from pounding theirs, but I had to get to the party.  I had the beer. 
 Drinking began to be a problem.  As I have written before, there was a club in the mall where my store was.  Kare and I would go there after work and get drunk.  Sometimes, I would go there on my meal break and get a sandwich.  One day, I was working late in the Luggage Dept.  I took my supper break and went to the club.  Rather than eat anything, I had a couple of Vodka Collins and went back to work.  A woman asked me to show her a bag on the shelf.  I reached out to grab the handle, but I couldn't find it.  I was grasping at the air.  I finally got hold of the bag and made some comment about the handle being too close to the bag to grab.  She laughed.  I couldn't see.  That was when I decided that I had to cut back on the booze.  It scared me.  I had a beer once in a while after that, but no more hard liquor.  It was affecting my functioning.  That is what scared me.  I told Kare about that experience, and she agreed that she would quit too.  We are both alive today, because that woman wanted to see a piece of Luggage.  I don't remember if she bought it.