Welcome to My Autobiography

 

 

Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

 

 

 

Chapter Fifteen

 

 

Remember, you have to live tomorrow with the decisions youíre making today. Just look at Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:16-20).

 

The Darkest Hour

††††††††††† In May, 1978, I packed up everything I owned into a rental trailer, attached to the back of my Lincoln, and drove away from the safety of my little white house on a dead-end street. I did contribute one thing of beauty to that neighborhood. I planted an oak tree that Papa had grown from an acorn he had picked up on the White House lawn, when he and Mommy had gone there one summer on their vacation.

††††††††††† I drove away after midnight and by morning I was driving through the Texas panhandle past the most stinking place in the United States. I think the only residents of Wildorado are cows. There were so many cows jammed together that if one of them had died it wouldnít have been able to fall. And the way that place smelled, I think quite a few of them had died. As I drove through that stench, I saw a bright light in the early morning haze, a little place on the highway that advertised Fried Pies. I didnít have the guts to stop, but I figured they must have had the best fried pies in the world, if they could stay in business there.

††††††††††† About an hour later, still driving north, I finally got the smell out of my car, as the morning sun was shining through the right side of my windshield.

††††††††††† New Mexico was a land where you could walk around and stir up a little dust. West of Albuquerque looked like a giant chess match had been played by giants in some ancient time, when giants played chess. Such a mysterious beauty, that I kept missing, because every time before I was in a prison of one kind or another. This time I thought I was free.

††††††††††† It had been ten years since I had spent a weekend in the Gallup jail, but my paranoia was still working on me. After all, that judge had told me to stay out of New Mexico. I donít think that meant forever, even if he did have the jurisdiction to keep me out. This time I stayed there long enough to alienate most of the people in the Land of Enchantment.

††††††††††† I took two ounces of marijuana with me, so I had to ration it out, since I didnít have any contacts in New Mexico, which didnít matter since I was rationing out the small amount of money I had saved. The plan was, to do art shows and make a living, maybe even become one of those famous New Mexican artists.

††††††††††† In July mother and Ken moved their trailer to ten acres of land they owned in the Zuni Mountains, about thirty miles southwest of Grants. I helped stretch barbed wire and dig a septic tank. We also put in a cistern, but it didnít rain enough to fill them, so we wound up hauling water in fifty- gallon drums, when we went to town twice a week.

††††††††††† Ken wanted to drill a well for water, but their next-door neighbor drilled over three hundred and fifty feet and came up dry, so Ken decided not to even try.

††††††††††† I started building a house on the front part of their property. Mother and Ken paid for the materials and said I could pay them back later, when the money started flowing in on my art. I got the foundation and the floor down and the walls framed out by Labor Day weekend. That weekend, what small amount of happiness I had left, drained from me like an Arkansas lake into a sinkhole.

††††††††††† It was the same old story and it was getting older. I had met a girl and we got together several times. She had dope and I had sex, so we got together and shared. She put up with it for a while, but then she wanted us to spend Labor Day weekend at the lake with her friends. I reluctantly agreed, although it wasnít what I had wanted to do. Even though I tried to share at time, my life was still all about me.

††††††††††† There were four cars full of people in a three-hour caravan from Albuquerque to Elephant Butte Lake.†† It was dark when we arrived, so we built a fire and sat around smoking dope and drinking and talking. Mostly I just smoked dope and hung back at the edge of the darkness.

††††††††††† When morning came, I was bummed out. The start of new days did that to me. You have to remember, I had become a bit of a recluse. I wasnít use to being around a lot of people. So I proceeded, quite successfully, to ruin my girlfriendís weekend, as I asked her if we could leave. We drove back to her house in three hours of silence. She was not happy. But I didnít care. I was getting my way.

††††††††††† The next morning I went back to the mountains to find my house was gone. Mother and Ken had decided they needed the material for a project on their house and had taken all my work apart, piece-by-piece. A couple of days later I got a letter from my girlfriend telling me she didnít think we should see each other anymore, and donít write or call, either.

I checked on some paintings I had in a Labor Day Fair show. I had won several ribbons, but nothing had sold. Ribbons look good on the wall, but they donít pay for the wall. I had done several shows in Grants and one in Albuquerque. I probably made about $500.00 in all of them together, but I paid out over $300.00 to get into the shows. That was over a period of four months. Anyway you looked at it, I was not making a living as an artist and I was pretty sure I wasnít becoming famous. Oh, they were probably going to remember me in New Mexico, but not as an artist.

I was so depressed. I was standing on the corner of Overdose and Die waiting for the light to change. The end of everything was in sight, the dope, the money, the sex. Everything that mattered to me was either gone or going. No matter where I went, loneliness followed me. I couldnít get a puppy to follow me, but loneliness wouldnít leave me alone.

I got my pack and my tent and went camping in the National Forest. That night I smoked the last two joints I had and stared into my campfire. Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ďWhy did you make me?Ē(Rom. 9:20) Does the painting argue with the painter? Does the pot argue with the potter? Well, yea, in my world they did, but then, I had a whole different set of problems. It was time to cry out to God. But I didnít.

 

Difference was the Same

The new relationship with my mother was starting to disintegrate again. She and I just could not live together. I used to think we were too different, but we were really too much alike. Anyway, I had to get out of their house and they certainly didnít want to stop me, but I didnít have anywhere to go, especially without an income.

So I got a job at a lumber mill in Grants and also joined a theater group. These two things kept me away from my motherís house, and with a paycheck coming in, I would able to stay at the Motel 6 several nights a week. It felt good to take a shower and watch cable t.v. And every once-in-awhile I would score a few joints. I was starting to make some contacts in that wonderful underworld.

El Morro National Monument was about five miles from mother and Kenís trailer-house. It was a beautifully eerie place of sheer cliffs and plateaus. There were ancient Anasazi ruins on top of the plateau and dozens of names and pictographs carved in the sandstone cliffs. The word had gotten out that they were looking for an artist to paint new murals on the walls in their visitor center. I put in my bid with sketches and ideas, then waited, because thatís what you do when youíre dealing with the government.

In November I met a husband and wife who were building a large cabin about three miles from Mother and Kenís. I told them my situation and they asked me if I wanted to stay with them. They didnít know me very well or they never would have asked.

I finally performed in my first play and realized, ďI love this stuff.Ē I felt like a celebrity. It had never dawned on me that I might become a famous actor. But once the play was over, I was just another person working at a lumber mill. But that job soon went into the out-box with all the other jobs that had the misfortune of meeting me. I tried to get on in one of the uranium mines, but apparently they werenít looking for a skinny, slump-shouldered pothead.

El Morro informed me their decision was down to me and one other artist. While I was waiting, I got a job painting a mural at Patís Bar on the main street in Grants. I guess my reputation had preceded me, or else they heard I worked cheap. They paid me $200.00 for an 8í x 20í wall.

The winter snows were coming with frequency, so I stayed with a couple of guys in town, I had met while working with the theater group. They were not gay. No really. Iím serious. They werenít gay. I donít think. They said they werenít. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. No really, they werenít gay.

Each morning I would go to the bar to find parts of my oil painting smeared where some drunk had rubbed against it the night before. I spent half my time redoing what I had already done. But I was entertained with the thought of the drunk trying to explain to his wife about that paint on the back of his shirt. Iím sure he didnít know where it came from, and Iím also sure she didnít believe him.

It took three weeks to complete the mural and by that time my friends were ready to kick me out of their house.

I was a man in the desert without water. I hadnít had any dope for about a month and my head was clearing up. Reality was setting in and it was scary. It was like being in the sunshine with no eyelids. I was going to bars and trying to drink beer without gagging, while looking for women. But even the ugly ones wanted to run away screaming after about ten minutes listening to me whine and complain about my pathetic life. I guess I was becoming quite a celebrity of sorts. Every woman in the area knew who I was, and they were staying away in droves. When I walked into the bar it looked like the great caribou migration of í42.

By the first week of December I was back at the mountain, when we got our first debilitating snowfall. Twelve inches fell in just a few hours. At first it was fun, but after a few days of more snow upon snow, I began to learn the true meaning of cabin fever.

It was the first chance in my life for a white Christmas, except, it warmed up by the twentieth and all the snow was completely gone by Christmas day. I was alone most of that day, and to make matters worse, the only gift I got was a pair of shoes. I did get some gifts in the mail, but it wasnít the same.

It was the most depressing Christmas of my life. All I could think about was everybody at Mommy and Papaís having a big meal and opening gifts. (Öa crushed spirit dries up the bones. Prov. 17:22b)

Then it really began to snow, after Christmas. For over a month all I saw of my Lincoln Continental was the top five inches. You couldnít walk across the yard without snowshoes. Up to that moment, I always thought those things were very old tennis rackets.

Most of the people of New Mexico were safe for a while, because I couldnít get off the mountain. Even though the snowplows cleared the highway, the cabin was about a half mile off that.

I worked with a man drilling water wells, partly for the money, but mostly to have something to do. I would make my way to the highway, where he would pick me up. He didnít pay much, but at least I wasnít sitting around the cabin thinking about women and wishing I was high. I was outside working, thinking about women and wishing I was high.

I was making myself learn to drink beer, because I had to be high on something. I just couldnít stand to be around me sober.

 

It was January, 1979, and El Morro was still waiting for their funding to come in before making a decision on which artist would do the mural.

On February 25th mother got in contact with me to tell me Papa had a stroke and was in the hospital not expected to live. She and I boarded a plane for Dallas.

The family stood vigil around his bedside for weeks praying their selfish prayers, asking God to let him live. He did live for ten more years, but he lived them lying on his back, not being able to speak a word or even roll over on his side. He just withered away to a mere shadow of the man who used to chase me in his ghost suit.

How do you torture a man who loves to talk? Put him in solitary so he has no one to talk to? No. Heíll just talk to himself. You take away his ability to speak or even use sign language. Thatís what God did to my grandfather.

Once again, as I look back, I can see Godís hand was all over my miserable life. He was trying so hard to persuade me to let go of the misery, but I clung to it like blood clings to splintered old wood.

Since I didnít have a job to go to, I would sit all night with Papa while the rest of the family got some sleep. Watching this, once happy, loquacious man just lying there staring at something inside his mind, I became so angry at God, which, I think, was okay, because it meant I did believe in God. I donít think I was catching that connection at the time, but I was actually praying. They were angry and accusing prayers, but I was praying, sometimes for hours.

What did God owe me? I had turned my back on Him. He hadnít turned His back on me. The way I was abusing this life he had given me, what was I that God even thought about me? (Ps. 8:6) Can I dwell in sin and expect Godís blessing? (Is. 59:2) But what ifÖ(I John 3:21-24)

Papa wasnít lying in that bed because God was punishing him or me. He was lying there because he ate almost raw bacon every morning of his life. No matter how good we are, we still have to live tomorrow with decisions we make today.

Mother flew back as soon as it was certain that Papa wasnít going to die. I stayed for several more weeks and helped Mommy take care of Papa at home. Of course, she had a nurse and didnít really need me, but I just didnít want to go back to that lonely mountain.

I knew I would eventually have to go back, though. After all, my car and all my earthly possessions were there buried in the snow. So I told myself I would wait until I was sure all the snow had melted.

The first week of April I flew back to Albuquerque, boarded a bus to Grants, and waited for mother and Ken to come get me. That was an awkward trip back to the mountain. They dropped me off on the highway next to the road to my friendsí cabin and didnít even hint at me spending the night with them, which was okay. It would have been too weird, anyway. I had pretty much worn out my welcome, not only with my mother, but in New Mexico.

Even my cabin friends werenít as cordial toward me as they had been in the fall. The snow was only on the shady side of everything, but, all in all, you could say it was gone. And I needed to be, too. I was a man without a home. Just like old times.

The couple who owned the Ice Caves liked to take off and go places and asked me if I would move in to one of their very old cabins and be available when they decided to take off. They wouldnít pay me anything, but I would have a place to live, all by myself. And I could eat their food when they were gone. They didnít tell me that. I just ate their food when they were gone. They had a microwave that they bought in the fifties. That thing was huge. I didnít even know they made microwave in the fifties. It actually looked like a little nuclear reactor. We called it Three Mile Island. It certainly explained why the owners looked and acted like they did. ďHow did they look and act?Ē you ask. Just picture someone whoís been exposed to radioactive material. Come on. Youíve seen people from New Mexico before.

The Ice Caves was an interesting place. It probably still is. It really helped me being there at that particular time. It was spring, which, in itself is a fresh beginning, but it got my mind on something other than myself for a while. There was a beauty here that I had been in the middle of for almost a year and still had missed. The smell of the Ponderosa and the Pinion pines was second only to the beauty beheld by the eye. Iím sure this was the beginning of my conversion. My subconscious was seeing a beauty that only a majestic God could have created. My conscious was going to be a while longer getting it.

The little cabin I was staying in was one of several built in the twenties when people used to stay there on their vacations. There was no indoor plumbing so, therefore, no indoor toilet. I was living like the pioneers, Yuck. Nobody else stayed in the cabins anymore. Ever since the early sixties the Ice Caves was just a place to stop and visit for an hour. In the twenties the little two-lane highway was actually for getting from one place to another, but now people had to see the sign on Interstate 40 and exit and go southwest for about thirty miles. The sign they actually saw and exited for was El Morro National Monument. The Ice Caves was just happenstance along the way.

But when the accidental visitors came by they saw something quite unique. They stopped at the visitor center, where they would meet me, and I would give them a brochure, which I had made, and directions. ďOh yea, and watch your step!Ē The most important part, because it was slippery.

The trail wound through the woods and the edges of the Malpais (An ancient bed of black lava rock that covers about one-forth of New Mexico), then down a long set of rickety wood steps (Also built in the twenties) into a tube-like opening (Thus the name cave). Once at the bottom, slimy, green ice covered the walls and floor and it was suddenly thirty degrees, no matter what the temperature at the surface. The people who came in the winter got the biggest thrill, because even when the temperature was in the teens, or lower, it was still thirty in the cave. It actually felt warm as you descended the steps.

The Bandera Volcano ascended like a giant anthill behind the Visitor Center and there was a trail up to its edge where one could look into the crater. But most people were content just seeing the Ice Caves and leaving. It was usually the people with children who had to make the climb up. I personally never looked over the edge of that particular abyss. The abyss I was looking into smelled a lot like hell.

††††††††††† Speaking of hell, it was election time in New Mexico and the Ice Caves was one of the polling sites for the area. I had never registered to vote in my life, because I couldnít have cared less about national politics, so I sure didnít care about local politics. But a good-looking lady was in the area registering people to vote. A pretty female showing me attention at that time had no problem at all getting me to sign-up for anything. I was not what was known as a ladyís man.

††††††††††† Everything was going great until she asked me, ďWhat party affiliation?Ē I didnít like either party and I didnít remember another choice, such as middle of the road or fence-sitter, because thatís what I was. I donít remember independent being a choice in that New Mexican race. I only remember Republican and Democrat. So I had to stop and think.

††††††††††† The first thing that came to mind was my family. They werenít all Democrats, but the ones who were believed anything Democrats did was right and anything Republicans did was wrong. They believed the Vietnam War was right, only because the Democrat politicians believed it was right. Now, I wasnít the hottest pepper in the jar, but I knew nobody was right or wrong all the time. But you couldnít argue with them. Well, I mean, you could. They loved to argue, but they became very angry when they argued, much like Democrats today. They didnít vote for someone because of what they stood for. They voted Democrat, regardless. They would have voted for a Democrat even if the Democrat was a lying, adulterous philanderer. They would have voted for Hitler if he was a Democrat. I decided I wasnít going to align myself with people like that.

Next, I analyzed history. Democrats were the slave owners and pretty much made up the rebel cause in the Civil War. The Ku Klux Klan was started by, and made up of, Democrats. Republicans freed the slaves. Martin Luther King was a Republican and the Kennedys (Democrats) openly hated him. Eisenhower (a Republican) was for desegregation in public schools and Democrats fought against it. I figured no African-American would surely be a Democrat. I thought that would be like a Jew being a member of the Nazi party. Never back the people who killed your people. You can forgive them, but donít back them.

††††††††††† The Korean War and the Vietnam War were both started under a Democrat president. As I mentioned earlier, the Chicago Seven and the hippies protested the Democrat Convention. I didnít like rich people, and it seemed like most of the rich people, that I knew what their party affiliation was, were all Democrats. I figured no hippy would surely be a Democrat, especially since a Republican president had gotten us out of Vietnam, even though he did leave office in disgrace.

Like I said earlier, nobodyís always right or always wrong. I have a problem with people on both sides who stand behind their guy no matter what. I know Republicans who wonít admit that Richard Nixon was a criminal. And I know Democrats who wonít admit Bill Clinton was a habitual liar.

††††††††††† The Democrat president holding the office in 1979 hadnít done anything, good or bad, that I knew of (at least to that point). He also sounded kind of stupid when he talked. He sounds even stupider when he talks today. But be that as it may, this was 1979.

††††††††††† After mulling all of this through my cranial cavity I had the answer I had been seeking. Iíll never forget the look on the ladyís face when I replied, ďRepublican.Ē Her face was masked in horror and it suddenly dawned on me. She wasnít trying to register voters. She was trying to register Democrats. Why? She seemed like such good hipster. Now, I wasnít sure if I was a Republican, but I knew I wasnít a Democrat.

At that moment I realized I had made the right decision. (Ecc. 10:2) I was a Republican. And it seemed my fellow hippies had turned traitors. They had joined the very side they had once protested against. ďWe shall, we shall, we shall overcomeÖĒ What a joke that was. You didnít overcome. You came over.

 

Back to the Future

The couple I had lived with in their cabin asked me to drive one of their pickup trucks back to their parentís home in Paxton, Illinois. I agreed without a second thought. I had to go somewhere. It only took me two weeks to alienate the entire town of Paxton. But in my defense, it was a small town.

When I got back to New Mexico, I was ready to move back to Texas. I had had all the fun I could stand. So, I called my aunt and asked about my old job. She told me it was waiting for me.

On June 11, 1979, I packed a U-haul trailer and headed back home. Just after midnight, as I was driving through Albuquerque, I heard on the radio that John Wayne had died. He had been an icon throughout my life. It was the end of an era.

Not long after I got back to Texas a letter was forwarded to me from El Morro National Monument. I was almost afraid to open it. What would I do if they offered me the job? It would be a mural that thousands of people a year would see, but I would have to go back to that lonely mountain. I opened the letter with much trepidation, then a sigh of relief. The federal government wasnít going to give them the funding for a new mural.

My cousin and I moved into an apartment in Plano and I bought a í79 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais with the limited edition Hurst package. (I just thought somebody might be interested in that information. Okay?) I kept the Lincoln, which was running great, by the way. I was a two-car family and I didnít even have a family.

In July, 1980, my aunt and uncle, who owned the vacuum cleaner company, bought a rent house in Plano, and my cousin and I moved in. We not only got to move from our apartment to the house in the hottest August on record, but we also chose to move the vacuum cleaner service center from downtown Plano to a new location about three miles away, all in a two-week period.

 

So, I thought my life was going along better than ever, as I was scraping along the bottom of the spiritual barrel. I was making good money, living in a nice house, owned two nice cars, and always had plenty of dope to smoke. In fact, I was back to being high most of the time. I was now painting mostly nudes. Some were sexually explicit and had crossed the line from art to pornography, which had become the center of my world.

 

A Light in the Darkness

 

Unbeknownst to me, the Holy Spirit was starting to get through the cracks in the shell, and I was so high Satan couldnít get through to warn me. A couple in the new neighborhood was talking to me about things like joy and hope, but I didnít realize the God connection, because they never really mentioned Jesus. If they did it was so subtle, because I didnít slam the door in their face. Those sneaky people were probably praying for me, too.

I had added the new Bob Dylan album, Slow Train Cominí, to my collection. My eyes were totally closed to the fact that it was a Christian album. Sure, I heard some references to biblical things, but so what? It was Bob Dylan. He had always done that.

Ever since I had returned from New Mexico, my other aunt and uncle had been inviting me to their church, where they were leading a singleís class. I had never accepted until a weak moment in October, when they invited me to a singleís picnic.

Thatís where I met Lindi, one of the twins I had gone to elementary school with. We didnít recognize each other right off. Of course, she wouldnít have remembered me. I didnít have any distinguishing features, like someone the same age who dressed exactly like me.

Lindi and I spent most of the afternoon reminiscing about things I couldnít remember, but I put up a good front. I was enjoying her company, despite the fact that we had no future together. I knew she didnít get high and she wasnít going to have sex with me. So what was the use? Even if I could get past those things, I knew she wouldnít go out with someone who smoked cigarettes and dope and smelled just like the hell he was in. So I got in my car and left that night with absolutely no thoughts of seeing her again.

 

The Light Flickered but it Didnít Go Out

In November I went to Las Vegas and came back with a woman I had met there and knew nothing about, except she was lonely, too. She moved in and stayed during the Christmas holidays and both of us were totally miserable, and we didnít even know why. The only thing we had in common was the sin we were both deep into.

She was longing to go back to her home in Mississippi. I told her that if her life was depressing, she should change it. Itís too bad I wasnít listening. That was good advice.

I took her to the bus station in downtown Dallas, bought her a one-way ticket home, and said good-by. I never saw or heard from her again.

My life was down to seeds and stems. I guess I was longing for my home. I just didnít know where that was. I went to work, came back to the house I was staying in, got high, and slept. I felt the same depression I had felt in New Mexico, except now I wasnít lonely in the middle of a mountain desert. No. I was lonely in the midst of the busy city, surrounded by friends and family. What a wretched man I was. Who would rescue me from this body of death? (Rom. 7:24)

You have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to doÖ(I Pet. 4:3)

 

I was hoping for mercy, but I, mercifully, got hope.

 

 

 

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