Welcome to My Autobiography

 

 

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Chapter Thirteen©

 

A Goodbye is Better Than a Bad High

 

††††††††††† If I donít warn people doing ďevilĒ things to stop, they will die in their sin and I will be responsible for their death. (Ezekiel 3:18)

††††††††††† I had an answer, however ludicrous or illogical, for everything someone tried to tell me that I didnít want to hear. I could even manipulate the Bible to give the answer I wanted. A little knowledge is dangerous and, believe me, my knowledge of the Bible was little.

††††††††††† Most of the arguments with my family were about long hair and my comeback was always, ďJesus had long hair.Ē First of all, how do we even know what kind of hairstyle Jesus had? Did any artist, who knew him personally, ever draw or paint his portrait? Was he ever described in the Bible as having long hair? All the paintings we take for gospel were painted at least, a thousand years after Jesus died.

††††††††††† Anyway, my family always came back with the scripture a man with long hair is a shame to himself. (I Cor. 11:14) And I would use the next verse (I Cor. 11:15) as my rebuttal, because all the women in my family, except Maw-maw, had short hair. I always wondered if Jewish, hippy boys used the ďJesus had long hairĒ argument on their parents, probably not. Those of you with tattoos, did your family ever bring up Leviticus 19:28?

††††††††††† I know my family meant well, but they were pushing me away with their arguments. These were all cultural things, anyway, and had no bearing on us. We should only concern ourselves with the things that matter, the absolutes, those things that will always be true beyond all cultures, beyond all nationalities, beyond all boundaries, even beyond all time.

 

Wedding Bells are Breaking up that Old Gangrene of Mine

 

††††††††††† In the spring of 1971, I was 22 years old. All my peers who went to college were graduating and starting careers. I was really feeling left behind. Getting married seemed to be the thing to stop that feeling. So in July, Della and I got married.

††††††††††† Some people get married because they have to. Some people get married out of financial necessity. Some people get married for the sex. Some people just get married because theyíre in love. I donít know why Della and I got married.

††††††††††† My mother and my brother, Joey, flew in from Albuquerque for the wedding and I had also invited my real father. That was probably the final brick in the wall between my mother and me. Our communication had become rather terse, but after this it would be almost nonexistent.

††††††††††† Our marriage was wrong from the very beginning. Even my best man was a guy I had met at Eastfield Jr. College and had only known for a few months. I donít even remember his name. Della and I had very little in common. We did both like to spend money. It was just, she wanted to buy one expensive thing and I wanted to buy a whole bunch of cheap things. The only thing we really had in common was we were both artists, but that just created conflict and animosity.

††††††††††† Our first act as husband and wife was to find an apartment across the street from the University of Texas in Arlington. There was a creek right behind our apartment and I never once played in it. I guess I was starting to mature, somewhat.

††††††††††† We were both enrolled, full time, in the fall semester at U.T. Dellaís classes were during the day, while I was working in Dallas, about thirty miles away, then I would drive back to Arlington to take my twelve hours at night. That barely lasted six weeks before I withdrew from all my classes. This didnít make Della happy, because she wanted me to be somebody and she didnít think I could be without a college degree. (She never said this. Thatís just the way I felt.) This would be only the first of many disappointments during the next twelve months.

††††††††††† We argued about everything. We argued about bumper stickers. She wanted one and I didnít. We argued about dope. She was happy with just a couple of tokes. I had to toke until I was wasted. I think we argued about what we were going to argue about. It just wasnít a marriage made in heaven. There was no trust. There was no faith. We did have two other things in common now that I think about it: jealousy and suspicion.

††††††††††† We each only had single friends, so we were trying to find some married friends, which wasnít that easy in a college town.

††††††††††† Della called me at work one day and told me about a couple she had met in the rather large apartment complex we lived in. They had invited us for dinner and she gave me directions to their apartment. I was to come straight from work and she would meet me there.

††††††††††† I left the directions at work, but I was pretty sure I could remember them. When I got home I stopped at our apartment first to see if Della might be there. She wasnít. So I took off, trying to remember what was in my head, which wasnít much in 1971.

††††††††††† I finally found the apartment and knocked on the door. I asked the guy, who answered, if he was Phillip and he said, ďNo.Ē They had gone to the store. So, he invited me in and shared a joint with me while we waited. After about twenty minutes, Phillip and a girl came in. I introduced myself and asked them where Della was. They looked confused and said, ďWho?Ē It seemed I was in the wrong apartment. So, I thanked them for the high and left to search for Della.

††††††††††† I found her wandering around looking for me. She wasnít very happy, either, and Iím pretty sure she didnít believe my story. I donít blame her, though. I didnít believe it and I was there.

 

When It Came to Losers, I was a Winner

 

††††††††††† I got caught smoking dope at lunch and nearly lost another job. If my in-laws hadnít been such good friends with the president of the company, I would surely have been fired. Of course, I probably wouldnít have had the job in the first place. I still didnít think marijuana was addictive and I sure didnít think I had a problem

††††††††††† Who wouldnít have been proud of a son-in-law like me? Hair down to my waist, dope dulled senses, on probation, a college drop-out, no future, no past and no prospects. When it came to losers, I was a winner.

 

I Love Art More than You Love Art

 

††††††††††† I got back into my art that winter. I hadnít even drawn a picture in almost three years. Della was taking art classes and doing a lot of artwork and, quite frankly, I was jealous. I had to show what I could do. She was a much better artist, but I never admitted it to her.

††††††††††† We began to compete. I would never compliment her work, just nit- pick it apart. There are two types of losers, gracious ones and foolish ones. I was not one of the gracious ones.

††††††††††† In the mean time, Della met another couple in one of her classes and they, too, invited us to dinner. This time Della waited for me to get home and we went together. Of course, this couple lived in another town.

††††††††††† This couple seemed real normal until after dinner, when they asked us if we wanted to swap. We immediately said, ďnoĒ and left. It wasnít that I was so moral, because I wasnít, but Della was. Thatís why I assumed we would never see them again.

††††††††††† Until one day I came home from work early and caught the husband alone with Della in our apartment. The heavy drapes were closed, the lights were low and marijuana smoke filled the room. He was sitting on the couch beside Della and immediately jumped up when I came in and hurried out the door, leaving her there to face the music alone. What a cad. It seems I remember somebody else doing that to her. Oh yea. Never mind.

††††††††††† Della kept saying that nothing happened and I believed her, except, my mind kept remembering that I did come home almost two hours before I was expected. What would have happened ifÖ?

††††††††††† I stormed out of the house and went to visit a friend, who knew a couple of girls, who didnít have anything better to do. Anyway, I cheated on Della, honestly believing she hadnít cheated on me. But I justified my actions by telling myself she had been planning to cheat on me, either way I was an adulterer and she wasnít. A mind really is a terrible thing to waste and mine was really wasted.

 

Maybe a Little Vacation Will Help

 

††††††††††† Out in Albuquerque, my mother and the fake Mick were divorced and she had remarried. I met her new husband, Ken, in the spring of Ď72, when Della and I went through New Mexico on our vacation. We were on our way toÖ(Well, guess)ÖCalifornia. Mother had finally married someone I actually liked. Of course, we werenít living under the same roof, but he was a pretty easy going guy. He had been a cop in Albuquerque for sixteen years and was now a security guard for Circle K. He seemed indifferent to the fact that my hair was hanging to the middle of my back.We sat and drank wine and talked for hours. He was very amicable. I told him what I believed and he told me what he believed and they were left and right. But it was okay. It didnít matter that we had different ideas. We were just a couple of guys talking.

††††††††††† The next morning, May 13th, Della and I headed on our way to California. We stopped that night at a motel in Needles, Ca. where we heard on the news somebody shot that crazy segregationist Democrat, George Wallace but he didnít die. Then they said Dan Blocker had died. I guess somebody famous had to die and since George didnít die, Dan was chosen. It was just the way my crazy mind worked back then.

††††††††††† When we arrived in L.A. we checked into a cheap motel at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and the Ocean Hwy., right across the street from the beach. L.A. sure looked a lot better this time. I was with my lady, was driving a Mach I (Dellaís car) and had spendingí money in my pocket.

††††††††††† We spent a lot of time on the beach and walking down Sunset. We even drove to Huntington Beach and ate at a nice restaurant. Della and I had a great time and I donít remember us arguing about anything. It was the honeymoon we hadnít taken and it was just like we were in love.

††††††††††† But as soon as we got back home the fights started up with even greater intensity than before. I never hit her, but I came very close in the summer of Ď72. I had my fist balled-up during an argument (I have no idea what it was about) and she got in my face saying, ďGo ahead. Hit me.Ē Oh, how I wanted to, but I refrained and Iíve always been glad I did.

††††††††††† Things were really getting out of hand and mostly over silly little things. One Sunday, while we were actually having a rare, great afternoon, laughing and playing, while we went to and from the apartment laundry-mat. She suddenly sulled up like an opossum and wouldnít tell me what was wrong.

††††††††††† Finally, after much coaxing, she hissed, ďI saw the way you looked at that girl by the swimming pool.Ē The truth was I really hadnít seen a girl by the pool, but after several minutes of trying to convince her, I shouted that I was going to go see what I was being accused of looking at and stormed out of the apartment. There was no girl by the pool. She had either gone inside or was never there in the first place.

 

Respite

 

††††††††††† My brother, Joey, had gotten his license and a car and drove down from New Mexico and stayed with us for a few days. He and Della got along great. But, then, she was closer to his age than mine. That had no bearing on the fact that less than a year later, Joey joined the army.

 

 

The Music was playing, but the Horses didnít go ĎRound Anymore

 

††††††††††† By October Della had a boyfriend in the apartment complex and she told me to leave. I went into a nosedive, a major depression. When your joy is based solely upon people or things, it will never last. At best, it will come and go and mine had come and gone.

††††††††††† I was feeling sorry for myself. I was sure nobody would ever want me in a relationship. I felt like an ugly outcast and I was so sure nobody else had ever gone through what I was going through. At times like that, do you think people look in the mirror and really see themselves? They only see what they think other people see; a loser.

 

Standing alone

In an empty room

And itís cold.

Thereís no fire in the stove.

Thereís no rug on the floor.

And she is gone.

 

Life after Death

††††††††††† Ryk and I had been acquaintances since the mid-sixties when we each sang in revival bands. His band usually won the battles of the bands and my band usually came in last place. Somewhere around 1970-1971 we became friends. By the end of 1972 we had become good friends.

††††††††††† When Della and I split up, I moved in with Ryk and his girlfriend, who lived in a big two-story house near the S.M.U. campus. They rented the downstairs and let me live in their extra bedroom. The upstairs was rented by two S.M.U. students. One of them, Wm. Rawson, later became a famous muralist and portrait artist in his home state of Tennessee (another brush with somebody elseís fame).

††††††††††† That first week after Della and I split up, when I wasnít at work moping around, I was sitting around the house bringing everybody around me down. The Sunday after we had split up, while Ryk and his girlfriend were gone to the State Fair and left me there alone, I lost it.

††††††††††† I called Della and begged her to take me back and she hung up on me several times before taking her phone off the hook. I went into the bathroom and took a razor blade and attempted to commit guilt, shame and, perhaps, sorrow upon Della.

††††††††††† It was not an attempted suicide. I donít believe I really wanted to kill myself. I cut too far above the wrist. The bad aim excuse only works with guns. Perhaps I was just trying to get some attention or I just wanted to split open the skin and let the demons out. I wonder how many people accidentally commit suicide.

 

It was an accidental suicide.

Just trying to hurt someone.

Or maybe get some attention.

Here we are standing in

A cemetery on a rainy day.

Youíve got our attention, now.

 

††††††††††† When Ryk and his girlfriend came home that night, he found me in a chair, crying nowhere near death. He took me to the emergency room where we told the doctor I fell on a piece of sheet metal while playing football. He probably just looked at me and knew that was a lie. But he went ahead and sewed me up without anymore questions.

††††††††††† Ryk and I became best friends after that and Della faded into the background. I didnít hear from her for several months after that. I got the divorce papers in the mail. I signed them and mailed them back.

††††††††††† In retrospect, it seems I had been a lonely person since I turned my back on God and began to search for something to fill that vacuous desert I called my heart. I was trying to find out who I was supposed to be, where I was supposed to be and, most important, why I was supposed to be. The places where Jesus used to live can only be filled with emptiness. Demons wonít go there. But they will hang around outside and make suggestions.

††††††††††† I began to feel better as cooler weather came with the fall. It is wonderful that God created time, because time does have healing power. But I still had to stay away from things that reminded me of Della, and one of those things was my real father. With no explanation, I just went back out of his life. I didnít communicate with him again for over ten years. I remember thinking Iím giving him back what he gave me.

††††††††††† I stayed at my job at the chemical co. though, Iím sure the friend of Dellaís parents, who had hired me, wished I would quit, under the circumstances. But he was nice enough not to fire me.

††††††††††† I got an apartment in far north Dallas. It was the first time I had ever lived alone. I didnít have a television, so I painted a lot, as my thoughts of Della went from dejection to ire. Most of my paintings during that period reflected my feelings about her. In one, I painted her towering over me holding a knife in her hand, with an evil glint in her eyes. I was on my knees before her.

††††††††††† Sometime after the new year of 1973 began, she and I met and talked. As time mellowed my feelings, I changed the knife to flowers and softened her eyes, but I remained kneeling before her.

††††††††††† I had several girl friends during the next ten years, but I never dated one very long. I didnít want it to get serious. I didnít think I could take that kind of rejection again. I knew I wasnít good at taking rejection in other areas of my life such as my art or later on, my writing. But just like a real relationship these things are, also, all about the heart.

 

Still a Quitter

 

††††††††††† The problem with most jobs is the redundancy. The same smells, with the same people, saying the very same things every single day of every week of every year, in my case, two years. I didnít understand how people did that for ten years or twenty years, or, God forbid, over thirty years. Probably the worst I had to deal with was small talk. If you havenít got anything to say, for heavenís sake, donít say anything.

††††††††††† By May of Ď73, I couldnít take it anymore. I had no outstanding bills, was no longer on probation and no one was depending on me. So, I quit my job and moved into a $65.00-a-month garage apartment at 3822 Hall Street, about a block from the intersection of Oak Lawn and Lemmon. I was going to become a famous artist.

††††††††††† I threw away most of my old life with the exception of my record collection and, oddly enough, my old Bible that my mother had given me right after the giant had died, when I was twelve years old. I kept it, but I donít remember ever opening it back then. It had a zipper, so that made it easier to keep it closed.

††††††††††† D.L. Moody had written in his Bible, This Book will keep me from sin, or sin will keep me from this Book.

††††††††††† I threw away the short-hair wig, because I wasnít going to ever use it again and I didnít want a pet. My hair was almost to my waist and I grew a beard. I had reached my lofty goal. I looked like that guy I had met in San Francisco. I was a true hippy artist living on an incline or maybe it was a decline.

You see, the whole apartment was one big room that leaned a little to the east. I think the setting sun, everyday, was slowly pushing it over. There was a sink, an oven and a small refrigerator (that came with the place) in one corner with a short counter separating the kitchen area from the rest of the room, which was filled with my stuff, a bed, a set of board and cinderblock shelves, a loveseat and a chair that someone gave me. There was a small closet and bathroom and an air-conditioner that worked great.

††††††††††† There was a strange array of people who lived in the big house, which was a hundred year old house (in 1973). It had two stories and a large attic. There were six bedrooms and four of them were each occupied by a medical student. The other two were each occupied by doctors. At least, one of them was a doctor. The other, I wasnít quite sure what he was.

††††††††††† He worked at the VA hospital south of downtown Dallas. He was either a doctor or a lab assistant. He helped me make extra money letting the doctors experiment on me. He was forty years old and his hair was almost as long as mine. His six year old son and eight year old daughter lived with him in the big house. Sometimes I would pick his kids up at school and watch them until he got home. His ex-wife (the kidsí mother) either owned or worked at an erotic art gallery in San Francisco. I started painting porn to try to get hung in her gallery. I guess I wasnít gallery quality, but I was dropping lower on the moral scale. Thatís what artists do, right?

††††††††††† The other doctor and the doctors-to-be were each a little strange in his or her own way. Of course, I wasnít strange at all. I was going to be a famous artist. We got along fine as long as I paid my rent. They helped me reach that goal by supplying me with odd jobs like mimeographing notes for the students every Wednesday at the medical school. I also painted signs and some houses. I even worked at some apartments helping paint and clean apartments getting them ready for move-in. It was a low point for an artist and me, too. I even worked as a cook for a while at Victoria Station to make a living. But I was an artist. Donít forget that. I am serious.

††††††††††† That part of Dallas was very eclectic. One could walk down Hall Street for just a few blocks and see once great old homes that had been turned into apartments that were just a broken porch board from squalor. Then four houses down would be a huge beautiful home with automatic gates to let the Rolls Royce in and keep us hippies out.

††††††††††† It was a wonderful part of town with clubs and bars and liquor stores. My favorite hangout, when I had money to spend, was Boís Place, a little hole in the wall on Oak Lawn just a block south of Lemmon Ave. A young guitar player/singer, named Will Barnes, was there every night it seems. I always enjoyed sitting and listening to him.

††††††††††† Helicopters would fly around at night and their search lights would sometimes flash against my windows. I was always afraid they would see the huge marijuana plant growing in a pot on my front porch, but they had more important things to do, like searching for criminals. It was a great place to live if you didnít believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, because it was preparing you for hell.

††††††††††† Back then I didnít know a liberal from a conservative, but now I know I was a good liberal. I tolerated everybody, except people who disagreed with me, and I handled them with venomous anger. I didnít think anybody should have more or less than anybody else. Of course, only poor people believed that and I was poor, in more ways than one. I believed my way was right and everybody else was wrong. I knew I didnít like the powers-to-be and they were democrats. I remembered the hippies had protested the democratic convention. Basically I didnít like politicians. And I proudly called myself an agnostic, which has nothing to do with politics. Are does it? I did not want the government running my life and telling me what to do and I thought all the other liberals wanted that, too. Boy was I wrong.

††††††††††† That year, 1973, was the year the phony-baloney gas crisis hit and we could only buy gas on, either, even or odd days depending on your birthday or your license number or your social security number. I canít remember which. To get gas you had to sit in long lines, so I bought a bicycle. I only drove the car if I had to go over ten miles, which was almost never.

††††††††††† Iíll never forget the time I saw Lightininí Hopkins filling up his Cadillac with gas. He had been playing at Mother Blues, just a couple of blocks from the gas station. He had on a white suit and a white hat, pumping his own gas. It was a sight to behold and I beheld it. If you donít know who Lightiní Hopkins was, all I can say is, ďIím really sorry for you.Ē

††††††††††† My little brother, Joey, was dishonorably discharged from the army. It had something to do with drugs, but I never knew the details. He moved in with Mother and Ken, who were then living near the uranium mines in Ambrosia Lake, New Mexico, where Ken was a security guard. Joey got a job in one of the mines.

††††††††††† Trying to make a living as an artist was a disaster. I got into as many sidewalk art shows as I could afford, but I never sold enough to break even. I was constantly having to do the, afore mentioned, odd jobs to pay the rent and buy food. I rarely had extra money to go to Boís place or buy dope. The marijuana plant didnít produce as many joints as I had hoped.

††††††††††† I had known Jamie for several years because, like Ryk, he played in other bands than I did and we knew each other through osmosis through the local gig circuit. Jamie moved into a house about a mile from my garage apartment and we began to get together and write songs. Then we formed a band with friends, Sue and Norman. We called ourselves Southern Comfort. We practiced real hard then played one gig and broke up. Itís too bad, because it was the best band I had ever been in. I still have some recordings we made. We were good. I sometimes wish we had kept going, but we each kind of went off in different directions from that point.

 

Ennui & Bore-Dumb

 

††††††††††† I was getting bored again, too. I was ready for another change, but what would it be. I had a knack for making the wrong moves. I still wasnít getting it.

††††††††††† One day, in the summer of 1974, I pulled my hair back into a ponytail and cut it off then I shave off my beard. It was the new me. Unfortunately, it was superficial, because the old me was still on the inside looking out at that mirror and thinking I was changed. Into what, I donít know, but I hadnít changed.

Youíre a straight line in a crooked land,

Where you hear a whisper in the dark.

And you turn and gasp when you realize

You have full hands and an empty heart.

Hell seems much closer now and a lot more accessible,

With rampaging sin and a faltering will.

Youíve moved slowly from existence into the realm of memory.

And youíre always hungry, even after youíve eaten your fill.

You go stand in the corner like a wallflower at a dance,

Even though you really want to shout and beat your drum.

But you shrink back in fear and stay in the shadows,

Because the darkness is for hiding, but what are you hiding from?

 

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