RIP Old Friend

14 07 2011

My friend Jim is dead.

The crusty ol’ conservative engineer from Arkansas has left this world. There will not be a third road trip to Vegas and back. And his death, at this point, remains a mystery.

I received word a few weeks ago from a mutual friend that Jim had taken his own life. This was shocking news, but it seems Jim had run into some financial difficulties that he was not prepared to combat.

You see, Jim was a proud man. His wealth, gained through hard work and vast knowledge, was slipping away. At 74, he would not transition well into a life of poverty, so he did what he has always done — he took control of the situation and fired up his vintage 1960 Thunderbird one last time inside a closed garage.

I never got to say goodbye.

There has yet to be an obituary published in the local paper. Jim rarely spoke of any family. For the most part he was a loner, married to his work. And with work hard to come by these days, Jim decided to check out.

I’m frustrated that he could not ask for help and reminded of the biblical saying, “Pride cometh before the Fall.”

Our trips through the American Southwest were incredible and first class. Jim spared no expense and said he was taking me along for the ride because he knew that I would appreciate the experience.

He was right. I realize this now more than ever.

Maybe he knew something I didn’t. Maybe he knew time was running out and he wanted to share some wisdom with a young writer. Whatever the case, his passing leaves more questions that will probably never be answered.

One thing is for certain. The man who showed me the Grand Canyon for the first time is gone and there is a big hole left in my heart.

Goodbye Old Friend

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Meeting needs through Action

11 04 2011

“I can throw a major fit when my latte aint how I like it.”

That’s a line from a country song about celebrity status. It can also be used as a shot at the ruling class.

The campaign for Panama City enters its final week now and a new establishment is rising. Endorsements are being made, inside information exchanged and heavy negotiating taking place.

Southern politics at its finest.

Like the line from that country crooner eludes to, entitlements are — at play. The latte is just the beginning. You see, there are those among us that insist ‘Life’ be served to them on silver platters. They’ll interact with you, just as long as it’s on their terms.

It’s often eluded to — although rarely proven — that City elections can be fixed. One might come to the conclusion that City grandfathers and prominent families meet way before the next election cycle to decide the winners. Then they go search for the losers.

And in the process, reality gets in the way. That’s where things don’t always go according to plan.

The Chosen One may find the chores difficult. Lose patience with the questions. Get tired of listening.

It is not easy campaigning. In fact, it is down right hard work. Nobody should be expected to take the Mayor’s office without a fight.

Yes, without a doubt, it is during the process that an electorate sees who really wants the job. Who is capable of understanding needs of a civic-minded society and willing to meet those needs through action.

Legacy is important and so too is progress. The Future starts now.

 





Follow Me on Twitter

28 05 2010

Gordon and I have had many meetings over the years.

I remember the first, inside a dingy coffeehouse in Downtown Panama City, where Gordon arrived — right on time — with cane in hand.

He lectured me about theater that day and he hasn’t stopped since.

“I going to teach you how to sit in a chair,” he said to me that day. His words still come to mind when I find myself slumping.

Meanwhile, the campaign is close to beginning. This is, what my consultants tell me, the calm before the storm. Tallahassee called today. They want to start organizing …. Tomorrow.

There is no turning back now.

“Keep a smile John,” Gordon always says before we go our separate ways.

Keeping a smile through November is going to be a tough act. Shouldn’t the challenger be angry? Shouldn’t he feel just a tad bit pissed off about the state of affairs in his District??

But we digress.

Anyone still reading this can follow me on Twitter @pcbjohnnymac.

It’s going to be a helluva ride.

Oh, and Gordon, I’ll see you soon.





Time to Trust

9 02 2010

I’m still kind of surprised the officer pulled us over. It was really nasty outside. Bitter, bitter wind and freezing temperatures. But we did have a Florida license plate — good Ol’ Bay County for all to see.

The officer was of Hispanic descent and in good shape. Hell, he had to be — just to be standing out in these conditions. My sneezing had not gone away. The officer asked for Jim’s license and proof of insurance. Jim had it ready.

Now, I’ll have to admit, I have a lot of respect for men in uniform — and women too for that matter. I’m not sure if this guy lived in Vaughn, but if he did, I sure felt sorry for him.  It was pretty desolate and all. If the economy was puttin’ a hurtin’ on Vegas then it had damn near killed Vaughn.

Downtown Roswell

The officer returned to his patrol car with Jim’s information and I continued to blow boogers into my supply of Kleenex, which were starting to run low. I’m here to tell ya, I felt like Holy Shit. Flagstaff seemed like last month.

As we waited for the officer to return, Jim didn’t seem too put off by the state of affairs. He’d been pulled over before on this trip, he said, but that was in Texas. I wondered what ol’ Gabe did? I doubt his powers of persuasion and cock sure attitude work too well on law enforcement.

“I’ll just pay the fine,” Jim said.

And that’s what he did. When the officer returned he handed Jim a ticket and explained the speeding infraction. He also explained that if Jim wanted to contest this decision that another trip to Vaughn was in store.

“We’ll pay,” Jim said.

To his credit, Jim tried to politely engage the officer in conversation, asking how many inches of snow had fallen the night before.

“About nine,” the officer said. He didn’t want to make small talk and I don’t blame him. It was damn near frigid outside. The wind was blowing sand and sheets of snow across the highway. This officer was a real trooper indeed.

So, we left Vaughn a little lighter in the pocketbook, but grateful to be close to Roswell and the cozy confines of another Holiday Inn Express. The place was like an oasis by the time we finally arrived and thankfully a drug store was not too far down the road. Once we got checked in, Jim drove down to the drug store and bought me a pack of antihistamine. It was a mighty noble thing for him to do. Those kind of drugs aren’t real cheap. They do, however, work and my sneezing began to subside.

I’m sure that made Jim happy. Nobody likes to be around someone sneezing all the time. I remember when I was in grade school and would have those sneezing fits. Mom always said I didn’t know how to blow my nose.

That night we had dinner at the Applebees next door. As usual, Jim headed straight for the bar and, like clockwork, we got top-notch service. We both ordered the chilli and a few rounds of beer. The bartender was a young skinny fellow with a slick, freshly cut head of hair. He asked me for my ID.

“You got to be kidding me,” I said. “It’s back at the hotel. You’re not going to make me go outside again are ya?”

“What year were you born,” he asked me.

I told him and he left to get my beer. And that, my friends, like the speeding ticket in Vaughn, is what we call … Trust.





Engineering a Road Trip

8 12 2009

Jim picked me up at half past eight on a Wednesday morning. As I would come to find out — Jim was a stickler for schedule.

“You’re going to learn all about engineering on this trip,” he said before setting his in-car computer with the necessary coordinates.

We were driving to Las Vegas and back from Panama City Beach and, yes, there was a daily itinerary.

The first leg of the trip was to Monroe, Louisiana, a place I had visited once before during my sports writing days. And much like its college football team, Monroe is quite depressing.

I was so ready to go that morning that, in the process of loading up the car, I forgot a very important piece of clothing….a heavy winter coat.

Thankfully, Jim came prepared with several coats and jackets. From leather to suede to material I can’t begin to name. Jim had it all covered. And as well he should, seeing how he had made this trip many, many times in the past.

Always at the same time of the year.

The Nissan Murano

Jim had most of what we would see already planned out. Reservations were made and dinner dates set.

My only request was that I see family in Dallas. It had been two long years since I last saw my brother…on his wedding day, in fact.

Keith was a father now. My how time flies.

On the way to Monroe, I tinkered with the I-phone, checking weather, stocks and Facebook. Social networking is a lifeline for so many these days, especially the country’s rising unemployed.

Jim wasn’t sold on Facebook. He scoffed at the idea of “strangers” knowing his daily activities. I found this somewhat amusing considering the fact Jim’s life was so planned out, you really didn’t need Facebook to know where he would be at any given time.

“John was a tappin’ and Gabe was a nappin’,” Jim liked to say.

This being a reference to the previous escort, Gabriel, who accompanied Jim out West last year.

Gabe, according to Jim, slept a good portion of the way. He was your classic hustler. A good looking boy with dark features that knew how to work a pool table.

While Gabe was a napping, John, the nerdy kid from Port St. Joe was a “tappin'” at his new I-phone, an “engenius” gadget that, however so cute, at any time could cause World War III.

John didn’t have Gabe’s stunning beauty, but he did keep up on current events.

At every layover from Florida to Nevada, Jim would have the television tuned to Fox News, a brodcast he felt was very “fair and balanced.”

We watched the news together and I tried hard to agree with Jim, although sometimes we had to “agree to disagree.”  Ultimately, each night we found common ground at that famous, and timeless, watering hole.

The hotel bar.





Ready to Ride Again

20 11 2009

Adventure awaits and preparation begins. We leave next week for the American West. There are still a few Ts to cross and Is to dot. Gonna need gloves, jackets, sweathers and such to brave the elements.

The desert, I’m told, gets quite chilly at night.

A cell phone is also on my wish list, thanks to an unfortunate incident with the washing machine.

Today, the Doc gave me the go-ahead. Test results were vastly improved compared to when I returned from New York. There was no doubt, I had pushed myself too hard in the City and it showed — on paper and in person.

Months of rest and rehab along the World’s Most Beautiful Beaches restored my strength and I am ready to ride again.

“Dallas is a great city,” the Doc said. “You’re going to love it.”

The Doc’s office is undergoing some renovations. They are replacing the tile flooring with linoleum.

“It will be easier to clean,” the nurse said as she took my blood pressure.

The Doc has a son in college who wants to be a journalist. And like all young writers, he has dreams of New York.

The Doc is going back to school too, studying business online through the University of Massachusetts.

“Education is the key,” Goede told me during our brunch this week. “You don’t need a job, John, you need a career.”

Goede urged me to take the necessary steps to return to college before leaving on my Westward journey.

“Don’t put this off,” he said.

So I called one of the counselors at the community college and left a message on her voice mail about scheduling an appointment.

The Doc advised computers as a career path.

“Data,” he termed it.

Computers have evolved a lot since those days of playing “Oregon Trail” on the Apple back in high school. Now there are things like “apps” and “widgets” and “html” to learn.

Before leaving the newspaper I was just getting a handle on the I-Mac, specifically video-making. Journalists these days must be well-rounded. You write a story, take pictures and shoot video, or else you don’t get hired.

Yesterday I visited the AT&T store to look at the new I-phones. Very impressive equipment. A device that can pretty much do it all — phone calls, text messaging, photography, video, internet, even Facebook — this I-phone appears to be a revolutionary product.

If I am blessed to carry an I-phone on this trip my education will begin in earnest. Tomorrow night, I will meet Mr. Smith for a few cocktails downtown. We’ll go over the itinerary one final time before departure.

I can’t wait to see little Miss Dillan.





Birthday Reflections

17 10 2009

During tough times you learn to appreciate things that you so often took for granted before. Expressions of love, genuine good-will and sincerity.

My birthday included all those, mostly summed up in two words: Happy Birthday.

The words came from those close and far away. Even Dad telephoned his well wishes.

After dinner, I took a walk around the fantasy town known as Rosemary Beach with a close friend. The cool autumn breeze is beginning to roll in.

My friend said I had many more ‘Happy Birthdays’ ahead of me.

I hope he is right.

There is a time in everyone’s life when you feel as if you are damaged beyond repair. It is uniquely human.

Battling back from that place is tough, hard and, at times, can feel like an impossible task.

This is when your faith is tested. Faith in mankind, faith in yourself and faith in God.

For 37 years, I have struggled with this faith. My anger and frustrations reached a boiling point during the summer in New York City.

Soon, I will tell you about the Summer of ’09 and as a disclaimer, you must know it will be raw, real and uncensored.

Are you ready my loyal readers?