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.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Shorts

  Some stuff has happened to me that needs a mention without a whole blog for its own, so here are a few short items from Ft. Worth in no particular order.
  One warm summer day, Kare and I were invited to go to a wedding that was in a park in Arlington.  We got there and found that the bride and groom wanted to get married nude.  So, they went behind some bushes and got married.  The bride's father didn't like the idea of his daughter getting naked, so he stormed out.  He went to his car to leave, and his fan belt broke, which left him stranded. 
  I had to rent a car to go out of town.  I got a Mustang.  I was driving back home on the interstate at night. All the cars coming toward me flashed their lights at me.  I realized I had on my brights,  but I couldn't find the thing to push with your foot to dim the lights.  It wasn't until I got home that I found the dimmer on the steering column.  Boy, did I feel stupid.
 One of the nice places in Ft. Worth was the water park downtown.  Water cascading over rocks and concrete slabs.  I went there a lot as a means to relieve stress.  I wrote a lot of poems there.  About a year after I left, "Logan's Run" was filmed in the Ft. Worth area, and they used that water park as part of their movie. 
  One Saturday, I went to a mall near Carswell Air Force Base.  Next to the mall was a big hill which overlooked the base.  I got to watch F-15's take off and land.  The Secretary of Defense was there to watch the planes take their trial runs.  It was cool.
  One thing about Fort Worth is that it is not pronounced the way it looks.  It is pronounced "Foat Wuth".  We sold these t-shirts that said "Foat Wuth, Ah Luv Yew".  They were big sellers.  I still have mine.
  I worked with an older woman at Sanger Harris named Gert Weisberg.  Her son was a professional bowler.  Gert wanted to read some of my poetry, so I picked out a few for her.  She came back the next day and told me I was "deep".  I wonder what she thought of me before reading them.  Shallow?
  We sold these nut bars in our Candy Department.  A shipment came in with bugs inside the bars.  The bars were enclosed in clear plastic, so the bugs had to have gotten into the bars at the factory.  It was like looking at tiny ant farms.  We called the vendor, but they said it was impossible for the bugs to have gotten in the packages.  It was all very gross.  The vendor wouldn't take them back, so they were all destroyed.  Several cases of these bug farms.
  I was leaving work early one night, and it was raining very hard.  The roads started to flood.  My car started to float down the road.  I got the car off of that road and cut through some residential streets to get home.  Normally, it would take me 20 minutes to get home.  That night, it took 45 minutes.  I got home and called the store to tell my co-workers to be careful going home.  I asked them the next day about it, and they told me that the rain had stopped when they left work, and all they saw was some mud on the roads.  It just goes to show that if you don't like the weather, wait a minute and it will change.
  I got a couple of days off at Christmas in 1978 and flew home to Columbia.  The flight was uneventful until we got to Columbia.  The pilot overshot the runway and landed halfway down the runway.  He jammed on the brakes.  When we got to the gate, the passengers applauded.  We weren't applauding the pilot.  We were applauding that we were still alive. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

TCU

 After enduring a month in that bug-infested duplex, I moved up the street to an apartment building across from TCU.  It mostly housed retirees and professors, so it was really quiet.  I got an efficiency that was $205/mo. and worth every penny.  The apartment was pretty big with a walk-in closet.  I loved it.  I was on the second floor, and my balcony overlooked the inside swimming pool across the street and the university.  Just down the street one way was the football stadium.  Just up the street was a grocery store and movie theatre.  Just down from there was a record store.  It could not have been in a better location.
 Being across from TCU had its perks.  I went to a few events there.  One was a lecture by James Dickey, who I had known previously.  Jim brought his wife and daughter.  I met up with them after his lecture, and we laughed about old times.  I think he was very glad to see someone from home.  Another was a lecture by William Colby, who used to be the director of the CIA.  I told him the story about my working for them in Israel for a week and the dangers encountered there.  He confirmed to me that the agency often used civilians in their work.  I knew they did.  Another was the Van Cliburn Piano Festival, and I got to see him play. 
 Another plus for being at this new place was that it was close to the Ft. Worth Zoo.  If the wind was right, I could hear the animals vocalizing.  I went down there a few times.  It was not the best zoo, but it was nice to go.  One of my friends and I went there to ride the train around the park.  There were a group of Japanese tourists in front of us on the open-air train.  They had friends taking pictures of them as they went around the track.  We decided to ruin their pictures, so we covered our faces with our hands as they took the pictures.  I know they wondered who these guys were, and why they were afraid to have their faces seen.  One of life's mysteries for them.
 Across the street from the zoo was a rose garden.  This was where my father proposed marriage to my mother.  It was nice to go there.  I kind of wished Kare and I could have repeated that event, but it was not meant to be.
 Just up the street from the garden was the Colonial Country Club.  I could watch the golf tournament from a hill above the course.  Very cool.
 Also near there was another movie theatre.  I went to see "National Lampoon's Animal House" there.  At that showing, a bunch of fraternity guys went from TCU.  We had the best time watching that movie.  It was a party (literally).
 One winter, it snowed five times over a period of six weeks.  One snow piled on another, as none would melt.  I had to get out to go to the grocery store to get some milk.  It was 30 degrees below zero with the wind.  I lived only two blocks from the grocery store, but it took me almost 20 minutes to walk there, because I had to stop every few feet to catch my breath.  I learned not to run out of something and plan ahead.  I was young and stupid back then.
 I bought a lot of records at the store nearby, especially Beatles import albums from the UK.  It was a goldmine. 
 To be able to live there and not have to worry about an attack dog or millions of bugs was a real blessing.  It was also easier to get home from work or clubbing or both.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bugged

 This story has nothing to do with bugging any kind of electrical item like a phone or a microwave.  It is about my first apartment.
 After having been kicked out of the dorm at Southwestern, and then kicked out of the apartment that I was sharing for free with three friends, I had to find a place to live.  I drove around the neighborhoods near school, and I saw a rent sign on a duplex. 
 The duplex was just off West Berry and a block from Travis Avenue Baptist Church.  It was a one-bedroom with a living room, bath and kitchen.  The tenant on the other side of the duplex was a TCU student majoring in dance.  She had a big dog as her roomie.  I went to see the apartment during the day, and it looked okay.  It was $150/month.  I gave a check for the rent plus deposit to the landlord and moved in.
 It didn't have curtains, so I had to put up a couple of blankets in the living room over the windows for privacy.  The landlord told me that the other tenant put her dog out, when she had guests over to her place.  That was okay by me, as long as the dog was tame. 
 I went to work the first day in my apartment.  When I came home after dark, the dog was also outside.  It apparently thought of me as a threat, and it went into attack mode.  I screamed for the girl to come out and get her dog, so I could get inside, but she didn't hear me.  She was "entertaining" a male friend.  I had to wait in my car until he left, so she would bring the dog back into her place, and I could go into mine.  This happened frequently, as she "entertained" many men.  She seemed to be rather popular at night.
 When I finally go into my place, I found something that I didn't see upon first inspection.  BUGS!
EVERYWHERE!  Primarily roaches, water bugs, and moths.  There was a Mexican restaurant close by, which made the place smell good with fresh bread baking, but it also attracted pests.  Each night, I spent an hour killing bugs.  They were all over, but mainly in the bathroom's tub.  I couldn't take baths because of them.  The kitchen stove didn't work either.  The dials were melted to the frame.  So, I had to buy a toaster oven to cook.  I learned a valuable lesson with the bugs.  Always check out your apartment at night before signing rental papers. 
 I bought a fogger for my place to get rid of the bugs.  That didn't work.  Between the mean dog and the pests, I drank more.  I would put down a six-pack of beer every night just so I could pass out and sleep.  It was just too much to take.  I made a list of 21 things wrong with my apartment and asked the landlord to fix them.  He refused.  So, I told him after a month of living there that I was going to move out.  I asked for my deposit back.  He refused.  I learned another valuable lesson.  If you are going to rent an apartment, it is better to rent from a company instead of an individual, especially if you don't know this individual. 
 I kind of wished that the student would have invited me over to her place and "entertained" me, but I probably would have gotten some disease.