Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Saga of the Old Yellow Truck

The Saga of the Old Yellow Truck!
Back in 2001 I was driving to my bank on my way to work at my Pizza job. Sitting across the road from my bank was a BRIGHT yellow 1983 Ford F150. Something about that old truck just screamed ,”Buy me!” I went over and test drove it, haggled a little over the price, headed to to bank, withdrew $700, and bought myself a truck.
Or Rather, I bought my Dad a truck. I already had a 1984 Ford F150. So I drove the truck to work and afterward gave my Dad an old beat up pick up. That was 8 years ago.
Over the next few years the Yellow Truck was driven nearly all the time. My Dad drove it back and forth to Nashville and Cleveland Tennesse from Knoxville twice a week. When he stopped driving it and started scooting back and forth in a little 4 cylinder, I started driving the Yellow Truck as my main vehicle.
In 2003 when I first went to work for the phone company I was still driving it. I drove it until I bought myself a 1989 Ford Bronco. I had long dreamed of owning a Bronco with a big 351 Windsor. Still I kept the old Yellow truck around. Not too long after that though its transmission went out. A month later though my birthday rolled around. My Dad bought me a used transmission out of a Ford Taurus from a Junk yard for $100.
I bought a BMW, an Izusu Trooper, and a 1991 Ford F150. All the while Dad drove the old Yellow F150. When time came around that we decided to move to Germany we started getting rid of all our old junk cars. Yes this maybe east tennesse where having a salvage yard on your property makes you popular, but since we didn’t really have any way of upkeeping the herd with all of us gone it was time to crush cars.
One of the very first things I noticed when I got the truck was the holes in the panel between the wind shield and the passenger side window looked like it had been shot several times with a BB gun. I also noticed that the neon mustard paint was missing around the drivers side window and had been sanded and replaced with primer gray. I suspected that some kids had gotten angry with whoever owned the truck and shot it up with a pellet or BB gun. The truth was much more outlandish.
The yellow truck had been bought without a tailgate. It inherited a brown hood and brown tailgate. Now the banana boat had a pair of rotten ends. Still even with the color wrong the over all condition of the hood was better. Come to find out there was good reason for that.
I have lived in my house for years. Before I lived there it was my grandparents property and they had had the same neighbors on either side for the better part of 20 years. When I moved in I was surprised to find that I knew the people living to either side of me. It has mostly been a friendly situation. As a result though I met the guy who painted the yellow truck yellow.
According to this source, he was working as a mechanic for a car lot when the old yellow truck came through for sale. It had been a one owner vehicle and was in good shape except for its, “Shit Brown Paint!”. The truck was certainly brown because the roof of the cab is still factory brown. His boss apparently wanted to move the truck and had it painted bright yellow. Since the sticker from the car lot was still on the back bumper I believe the story.
Now interestingly enough as I went back to driving the yellow truck I learned a few more things about it. On my way home from work one day a police man stopped me. I was very confused by being pulled over because I wasn’t speeding and I was wearing my seat belt. The cop came to my window and got my license and registration. After running my information he came back to the truck and asked,” How long have you had this truck?” I told him I had had it for nearly 4 years. He nodded and said,” I knew the guy who had it before you. It is probably not a good idea to drive this through the wrong part of town.” I gave my most respectful,”Yes Sir” and drove home highly confused.
Nearly six months later I was driving through the Wendy’s drive through when a car pulled up next to me and made the universal motion to roll down my window. I did and was regaled with a tale almost too incredible to believe. Come to find out this person knew the dark story behind my truck. She explained that the original owner of the truck was in some way related to her (her brother’s cousin’s sister’s husband or some such shite. This guy had been driving the truck through a rough part of town looking to score some drugs. (her words not mine) He apparently called a guy over to the truck and the two got in an argument. The alleged drug dealer pulled out a sawed off shotgun and shot the guy through the drivers side window in his face!
I have a rule since having a child that unless I am writing my fiction I tend to spoil surprises or suspenseful situations. The guy lived. Sorry for anyone who lost interest here. He is apparently severely scarred, but he did in fact live.
So after he was shot, our hero floored the gas pedal.The truck ran down the road out of control and crashed into a fence. The impact scratched up the yellow paint, dented the front bumper, dinged the front quarter panel, and put a couple of dings in the hood. At some point while he was recovering, as the story was told, the truck was sold. A few months later apparently, I bought it.
We had the truck and passed it back and forth over the years until the decision was made to move to Germany. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of my old faithful yellow truck. In fact I got rid of my 1972 Chevelle Malibu. I got rid of all my project cars except for my BMW(which I sold but has yet to be moved or paid for), the Trooper (which we thought we had sold and didn’t), and the Truck (which I had no intention of getting rid of. After looking into the cost of storage units I decided that the truck would make do sitting in a field until we returned.
Two years later Dad and I made a trip out in the Trooper to pick up the truck. With all our stuff making its way back from Germany I thought it would be nice to have a way to move things around (besides the Trooper and trailer). With much trepidation Dad and I drove out with a good selection of tools, a set of booster cables, and a gas can.
Ten minutes after arriving the truck started with no more tinkering that a jump start. That is massively impressive for a truck that has been sitting for near to two years. Well, I was massively impressed anyway. It is not bad for a 26 year old vehicle. We were still left with one problem. The drivers side tire was flat. That in and of itself would have been minor. My spare tire though was flat as well. With my handy dandy little lighter run air compressor I pumped air into both tires. When that wasn’t enough to bring them to full we jacked the truck up, took off the one tire, and got both tires aired up down the road at the gas station. The whole affair took just over half an hour.
I decided I wanted to drive my truck home. As soon as I pulled out of the driveway though she died. (yes the truck is a she. I wouldn’t want to be INSIDE a male truck.) I coasted down the hill and down a side road. Dad jumped the truck off again, and we traded vehicles. ( I am Johnny on the Spot for most endeavors, but Dad is just the man when it comes to stuff like that!) We dropped the truck off at my place and headed out to get back on with our evening.
The next day I got the tags renewed and added the truck to my insurance. I wanted to get her road ready so Dad could take over driving her the rest of his time in town. He and I maybe the only people on the planet that are sentimental about my old rust bucket. I at least knows he appreciates the truck as much as I do. So Dad drove her around town for a few days.
Sadly, the yellow truck took its final turn at my Mom’s place. After a couple of days of sluggish running she wouldn’t start again. After tinkering under the hood I found that the oil was mixed with water. With that sad discovery the yellow truck was pronounced Dead! I towed her home to my place with my Trooper, and put her resting (with two new tires now) in her place of honor, my far driveway.
I have put my heart into resurrecting the old girl. Right now the plan is to pull the motor and buy a new one. With that done I am going to chase down all the wiring quirks (yes I haven’t had all my turn signals at one time since I bought the truck), replace a few key body panels, and get a paint job. I don’t know if I will return to yellow. The original factory brown is out of the running though.

Keep watching for new pictures of my old truck. Oh and better believe that as soon as I make some progress the saga of the Old Yellow Truck will continue!

You Gotta Have Faith.

At work and in some areas of my personal life, there are two subjects that are absolutely taboo. The first is politics. I am not a politically enlightened person. I don’t like politics. I don’t believe that I can ignore them anymore though so I am making an effort to gain a fast political education. To highlight my ignorance I had Newt Gingrich confused with Ralph Nader. The good news is this isn’t a political post.  
No I am about to write something intensely personal about the other forbidden subject : Religion. I used to believe I was rather mixed up and ignorant when it came to religion too. Like most areas of my life I felt weird and different. Truth be told, I doubt I am very different from most people though I am about to say somethings that aren’t going to make me popular.  
Politics and Religion both cause intense controversy. The good news is if you have an open heart and an open mind you can listen to other people’s opinion and experience without losing the reality of your own. Here is a piece of my mind, heart, and soul. Read it with caution. You may not like what you see.  
My maternal Grandparents were every Sunday church goers to North Knoxville Baptist Church. To my recollection the only other church I saw them in was when, in my preteen years, they visited me and my parents at Black Oak Heights Baptist Church. My parents and I have gone to a few churches over the years. Most recently they joined Clear Springs Baptist Church (that would be my Parents. My Grand Parents area all dead). Are we sensing a theme to denomination here? 
I guess this is a good time to broach that subject. I don’t see the difference between any of the denominations. Granted I have never taken the time to educate myself on the differences besides some talk of dunking versus sprinkling. Maybe there is a moral there. If you don’t take time to dwell on differences and instead focus on the good things that are the same the differences don’t amount to much. My first wedding took place in a Methodist church. The church was pretty. The marriage was not. My second was in a Baptist Church. I was just glad to find a church willing to marry a man who had been divorced. That isn’t as easy as it sounds in the Bible Belt. Anyway, amongst the Christian faith I see no sense in making demarcation between one denomination and another. Faith and religion is a very individualized thing. As a whole Christianity should concern itself with saving souls and the underlying requirement of faith, not on how the baptismal water is applied or whatever other minute differences there are from one church to another.  
I also grew up with the view that forcing religion on people is wrong. I was expected to go to church on Sunday mornings when my parents went. It was ritual. It was a family outing. It was meant to instill faith and duty in me. It worked until I was a teenager and more preoccupied with earthly concerns than getting a religious education. The good news is when I was twelve I was baptized and saved.  
My salvation is a very hard thing for me to put into words. I am sure it is for everybody. I liken it to a spiritual coming of age or the beginning of the pursuit of enlightenment. Being 12 at the time and that being 20 years ago this coming April I do not have perfect recall of the lead up to my feeling the need to repent. Our preacher at Black Oak was particularly good. I won’t name names because of the nature of my blogging and many of the skeletons in my closet, but I remember he could keep my attention and set my mind to thinking. That is no small feat to a preteen boy in the early 90s. 
My girlfriend at the time went to church with us. I loved the time with her and she did a lot to challenge me to read my Bible. I wish I could say the reading and the time spent in prayer led me to be a better behaved young man. It did not. Perhaps those sins left me with the guilt that led me to worry about making a trip to Hell. I doubt it. I have always had a very light hearted sense of guilt. She did push me to think more and act a lot less. 
During a particularly good sermon a conviction struck me that I wanted to go to Heaven. I wanted more than anything to not go to Hell. It also fell on my shoulders, not for nearly the first time, that I was going to die and I couldn’t avoid it. Per the Pastor, the path to salvation was to believe that Jesus died on the cross in a symbolic sacrifice and in extreme suffering to redeem me from my sins. The imagery of anyone enduring that is powerful. When you take into account that this man was God in human form and he had committed no sin of his own… well that can move you to tears, guilt, and asking for forgiveness. So I did.  
I made a trip down the aisle of the church, tears in my eyes, and the Preacher and I prayed together. It was a powerful moment of surrender for me. I admitted to my mortality. I admitted to wanting eternal salvation. I wanted Jesus to be my Shepherd. To my great surprise I felt a great warmth fill me up inside. I would say that started in my heart but that doesn’t define it properly. I feel my soul keenly within my body. That feeling of hope, love, and serenity started in my soul. Typing this now I can feel it again though it isn’t always there. The tears dried up and I felt a sense of purpose.  
In my mind a voice very not my own said,” I have work for you. It won’t be easy. Will you do it?” Without a moment’s hesitation I said yes. I would love to claim that was bravery or the overwhelming sense of right of the moment. It wasn’t. When you hear voices in your head like I always have you learn to pay attention to them and answer when you are asked a question. Admittedly this wasn’t the first voice in my head, but that is another story entirely.  
The Preacher announced to the church that I wanted to be Baptized and saved and asked my parents to join me at the altar. I assume it was a proud moment for them. I was terrified the Church would say no. Turns out churches like salvation. They scheduled a Baptism and I was dunked. Honestly, this was much less of a spiritual moment for me. I just felt weird in a robe being three times pulled under water, and totally miserable at how wet and snotty I felt afterwards. At least the Baptismal pool was a heated tub. I was never very good at ceremony, a weakness I have had occasion to work on.  
Over most of the next few years I turned into a heathen much worse than I had been before my salvation. There were about six months there where I pursued my faith attending church when I could and reading the Bible when I couldn’t. I spent a lot of time in prayer giving thanks quite frequently with little real thought or consequence to the prayer other than just general conversation with God. To this day I cannot pray before a meal without it feeling awkward. I raised a rather blasphemous thought about this time as a result of an evening meal shared with a friend’s family from our church. 
My family didn’t pray as a group. Again, my family gave me the freedom to choose my level of devotion. The family I went to visit prayed by the numbers. Food in front of you? Give thanks time to pray. Time for bed? Pray the lord your soul to keep. I closed my eyes and listened to the prayer trying to be respectful. I wasn’t sure if I needed to give an audible amen or not so I opted for silence (always a good choice).  
For me group prayer except within church or at a memorial service was seldom real prayer. At most funeral visitations, I made a point to say a silent prayer of my own at the casket preferable in contact with the body. That prayer normally ran along the lines of “ May you find peace in Heaven until I see you again. Amen” Years later I would buy myself a Book of Common Prayer and switch to the ever appropriate “ May the Lord bless you and keep you….” Sadly, my life has seen a lot of funerals. 
My Grand Mother died when I was 15. Her unexpected death threw me head long into a great deal of anger with God. It wasn’t a crisis of faith where I couldn’t believe God and Jesus were real, but instead an inconsolable anger that was much more about wanting to demand answers. Anyone who has lost a loved one is familiar with the feeling, or at least may be familiar with it. I took her death extremely personally. In my teenaged mind I associated my lack of religious devotion or piety with her dying. I guess because I was exploring my sexuality and not following my parents lead I had  taken responsibility. That logic runs along the lines of,” I have been out here straying from the grace  of God and so, obviously, to punish me God killed my Grandma.” It isn’t a terribly realistic view, but boy does it give the devil a lot to work with. 
The trick was on the part of the Devil and I spent years “not speaking” to God before I figured it out. This is a place where I break from a lot of modern Protestants. I don’t believe in salvation as a one-time get out of jail free card. I believe strongly in justice. I believe in the totality of my actions determining the balance of good and evil that I have done. I do believe that there are unforgivable sins. Those aren’t to be confused with the unforgivable curses. Many Christians I have talked to believe that once you have been saved (and/or baptized) you are destined for Heaven no matter what you do for the rest of your life. 
I have lived the proof of that not being true. When I turned my back on God during those dark years I stepped from my salvation. That isn’t the same thing as God turning his back on me. I could feel the presence of God in my life. Like a rebellious child (or maybe a Prodigal Son) I turned back on that guidance and walked my own path. No matter which way I turned though it seemed as if my choices always led me to explore faith of one kind or another. 
I did a lot of religious study. On a business trip to Hawaii my Dad picked me up the Teachings of Buddha. I, for years, had liked the idea of meditation. Imagine that, a teenager with raging hormones and uncontrollable emotions liking a moment of calm breathing and reflection meant to bring a centered balance. I meditated a lot as a teenager. It didn’t replace prayer, but looking back I realize that in those quiet times I was actually listening for God. I did manage to dispel a lot of anger that way. I also learned a lot about being selfless. I am too Narcissistic to ever make a good Buddhist. Yet, the idea of Karma in this life and the next still resonates strongly with me. The idea of Enlightenment, a state of complete understanding and peace, is still something to be sought.  
The Bible was, and is still, the base of my religious research. I spend (and spent)a lot of time on Apocryphal tomes. I also read the Koran. I recommend everyone take time to read anything related to the Bible. It certainly brought me to a greater understanding of my own faith. Frankly, this is just too controversial to say too much more about here.  
The Bible though does have a great deal to say about witches, demons, and magic. Necromancy is noted several times. As a result, I find those things factual and worthy of study. I might not have been a teenager in the 90s without learning a bit about Wicca and the other “magical religions”. Yes kids, this is where David admits to reading up on Witchcraft and the Occult. Let me put that into perspective. The word occult when used in context of blood in waste bodily fluids literally means an amount hidden from sight. It is there, but it is unseen. By definition, the occult is interesting… even when talking about trace amounts of blood.  
I studied lots of myth and folklore from around the world. Tribalism and Shamanism have 
common themes in different groups throughout history. I wanted to find proof of the unseen and when I realized that is what I was looking for I realized the ultimate truth.  
God would not be God or by extension Jesus mean the same thing if I could sit down for a face to face conversation every day. I wanted to prove that our world, our existence was based in fact. By that very proof faith is removed. So around age 20 I started feeling very Zen. I started asking things like,” Who had more faith us or the apostles?” I was fishing for the answer of the Apostles so I could spring out and say,” No because they knew Jesus in person and we only know him by faith.” I felt smug and superior, and I thought I had it all figured out. I was a prat. College and Zoroastrianism didn’t help.  
I could hold these intellectual arguments about religion and faith without being emotionally or spiritually connected.  I would sneer down my nose and tell people why they were wrong based on my interpretation of my earmarked favorite pieces of scripture. It was very jerky. In my heart I was pretending to be righteous while I knew I was further away from God than ever before. It was a dark time parading as an enlightenment. 
God had become a cold unloving, abstract idea. Something about him was only attainable through dusty books and all these hypocritical church folks were ignorant. They might claim to be Christians, but I knew the truth.  
Ever met anyone as arrogant as me? If you are reading this you probably know me and can say yes. I am the eternal Narcissist. My favorite point of self-pride…. or maybe my second point is my big sexy brain. It took me a while to realize I had it wrong.  
It hit me when I was reading an article about medicine and prayer. The basis of the article ,which I wish I had saved, was that “terminal” cancer patients who were prayed for had a 75% higher recovery rate than those that did not have prayer. It was submitted in a very scientific dry language that said almost nothing about God. So I thought to myself why would that happen? Is there power in the act of praying, not God mind you, but praying itself? 
Then it hit me. Sunday school from when I was about 4 smacked me right between the eyes. God is everywhere. He is in every rain cloud, every seat in every pew, he is in me, he is in prayer. The people with faith had it right all along. The people who were prayed for and who prayed themselves took part in God in an active way. They put aside their own assumptions and allowed God to do what God does. That is the supreme act of faith and the way that religion really works.  
When I started looking around me I could see the Hand of God in the world around me. People are charitable and they will put out a million reasons for it, but the world’s biggest atheist could be following the will of God and never know it. Turns out it was easy to follow God and all I had to do to hear him speak to my heart again was to stop ignoring him and listen. Not that I follow all the time, nor have I gotten myself back into church. I do see God working again and I feel that salvation again. I would say I am on the path. It is a lot easier to tell when I have stepped from it. Most importantly though I don’t try to judge where other people are on their own journey. Faith is really too personal for all that. 
That isn’t to say I don’t sometimes see God’s hand where other people don’t. I have a friend who has had all sorts of personal tragedy lately. In the past few days she has had some really great happenings. A good piece of that has been some unexpected and unsolicited kindness than began with me just giving her a hug.  
The people who know me well know I will give out a hug when I see someone needs one. I am not really the touchy feely type though. It is rare for me to touch someone I don’t know almost intimately. Something, that part  of me linked to God’s will, told me to hug her and it meant a lot to her. Sometimes you just need a hug. God knows that better than anybody. I can’t be certain of too much but I know for sure God is found in kindness, charity, a friendly smile, and probably more than anywhere else in a hug.  
You won’t find me witnessing. I am never going to stand on the corner in town and hold up my Bible. I will probably not even write anything else “nonfiction” about Religion for a while, but I am going to spread God through simple human kindness every chance I get, and even with the supposed horrible state of the world around us and all the non-sense I see every day I can see God working in the lives around me. Maybe this will get to somebody else going through that dark time that I think we all struggle with and help them put aside their own doubts and concerns and just have faith.  

Because you gotta have faith. Just ask George Michael. Great song that! 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Merry Christmas! Stay Home!

Let me begin by saying this is not an angry rant. I simply cannot keep my mouth shut any longer about something so obviously and blatantly hypocritical. Follow along carefully, kids, there will be a test in your future.
For the past few days, I have listened to a number of people bitch and moan about my store being open on Christmas day. These folks hold and strong and firm belief that as a country we are getting too far from the morals of yesteryear when everyone was able to huddle around the family hearth and enjoy their holidays in the warm embrace of family. They sing the praises of those times all the time standing at the register to make a purchase.
Those same folks turn right back up on Christmas buy stuff. Now the story changes to ” you really should be getting paid more to work a holiday” or the even more sung “your manager / owner sure must be greedy to make you work the holidays.” Neither argument does more than frustrate and confound the people who are working. It lowers their morale and boosts their hatred towards their employer. The customer feels better for having used the system while still expressing their hypocritical outrage.  
Let me just say there are lots of places that still do it “the old way”. Beiersdorf Germany, where I used to live, is very much a little town. The shops all close at 6 pm. They are closed Sundays and all holidays (and the Germans celebrate a bunch of holidays!). They live the life that all these customers want to revert us back to, and you know what? It sucks!
If you get a cold or run out of toilet paper, there is no corner market to grab Sudafed and Charmin. God help you if its Sunday night, or worse a Christmas falling on Friday. You may not be able to wipe your nose or your ass until Monday around 9. Talk about a miserable holiday…
Now as for greed, yes maybe it is a capitalist greedy thing to do to have businesses open, but at the very same time it is successful. Consumers who shop and travel on the holidays enable corporate entities to justify being open in any day or hour that they stand a good chance of making more profit by being open. If you want to change this the answer is very simple, don’t make use of the stores during the hours you don’t want them open. Staffing, product, and electricity aren’t cheap so using them only makes sense if there is a demand. The first year that not a single purchase is made on Christmas I can guarantee you that more businesses will be staying closed the following year.

In other words, the customer who are bitching are the very ones keeping folks at work on the holidays. If you want everyone to have a Merry Christmas, shut up and stay home!  

December 2nd Comic Books on a Budget