Because the Road to Nowhere Leads to Me

Latest

The Sound of Silence – Our Journey’s End

Desert Highway

Nearly a year of silence rest on this side of forever for a writer without words but that is how much time has passed since my last entry on our nonstop to nowhere.

When I first started writing this blog five years ago, I mentioned writing until I found a better person. I was at one of the lowest points in my life feeling extremely angry for most, if not all the time and could never seem to understand or explain why. I started wrting as a way to explore those feelings and the series of choices that had led to that point in my life.

I have been revisiting my past through the words that I had written and wondered why it was that memories previously forgotten still stirred such overpowering emotions. Our memories are meant to serve as reminders of our past experiences whether it is loss, gains, joy, love, anger or pain but as I continued reading my entries, I wondered what evoked the words I had written. What long dead demon had I conjured to torture my spirit and guide my hand in an attempt to understand the chaos that stirred from within? More importantly, I wondered why I was allowing these demons to hold such power over me and feed upon the darkness.

It was at that point that I realized that every one of us knows these demons and even though the past can remind us of the hardships we have endured, it only serves as a reminder that we are still here in the present; a place where the past has no right and no ability to harm us unless we allow it. This gave me an inner strength to stand against those past demons, command their silence and in the process find a newfound peace of mind.

In my previous entry, I talked of the injury that took my vision and left me legally blind. In the months that followed, my entire life was erased one painful piece at a time until I felt like there was nothing left. I lost my job as the Office Manager of an oil company because I could no longer perform my duties and took a job as a full time cashier at a fast food restaurant because the owners were willing to work with my visual limitations. The pay was only $6.00 per hour and after paying taxes and child support, my forty hour paycheck usually amounted to about $30.00 each week. I stretched it as far as I could and Heather worked very hard to help make ends meet but it wasn’t nearly enough.

The nice apartment was the first to go and the two of us were forced into an old rundown mobile home that had been built in 1965. Then my car was next to go. After working as a repo-man myself and being nearly two months behind on the payments, I knew it wouldn’t be long before someone came to collect. So I decided that if I had to lose it, I wanted it to be on my terms and voluntarily relinquished the Camaro before anyone came knocking on my door. Heather took a new job that was within walking distance of the trailer. She worked full time as a night auditor at a local hotel but even that still wasn’t enough. My next failing came as a father when I was unable to make my child support payments any longer. I had been summoned to court, summarily prosecuted and sentenced to 90 days in jail.

Four more years would pass as Heather continued working to support us. The old furnace in the trailer would break down every winter and numerous holidays were forgotten entirely because there just wasn’t any cause for celebration while making meals out of peanut butter sandwiches and ramen noodles.

I had originally intended to write about all of these chapters of my life in painstaking detail but the truth is that with the demons silenced and knowing that I not only survived those desperate years but emerged a stronger person has given me a new outlook on life.

Even though I realize that there will still be challenges to face, obstacles to overcome and moments where I question the reasons to keep going, I am reminded of an old saying that tells us there cannot be light without darkness and it is our darkest hours that make the lights in our lives shine brightest. So with that in mind, I invite the demons to do their worst because they no longer have power over the better person that I have become; the better man that is now looking forward to brighter days rather than staring into the darkness of the past.

Wake Up the Zombie – My Finding Myself Again

scary eyes

Who in the fuck has been writing my story?!

That was the question that I kept asking myself as I repeatedly read over some of the most recent entries. There is a sadness that looms over the words but it wasn’t just the emotional melancholy that comes from being repeatedly beaten down and crushed. There was something more and as I read over those entries, I realized that I no longer recognized the man that had written them. I was a shadow of my former self and the memories I wrote about were ghosts of the past that had become dark and distorted apparitions created by years of legalized drug abuse. These spectres were not given breath by the designer drugs that one might expect to find in social situations but the medical grade poisons that the FDA pimps to the AMA whores across the country who in turn distribute millions of pills to Americans who trust those greedy bastards to make them well again. While I wish to believe in the inherent goodness of mankind, knowing that so many prescription drugs come complete with a laundry list of side effects that often require even more prescription drugs to counteract, I have to wonder how many of those so-called medical professionals actually care about making their patients well again and how many only care about the fees they can charge or the bonuses they will receive from their pimp if they meet the quotas of our country’s government approved drug cartel.

What does it say about our healthcare system when so many are taking handfuls of drugs on a daily basis, have been doing so for years and still get no relief? What does it say when we begin to see health-scare commercials on television weeks before we come across somebody that has been diagnosed with the condition as advertised and prescribed whatever pill was being pushed after talking to their doctors?

Wake the fuck up!

That was the answer I received after purging myself of the poisons that fed and nourished the miserable monster that festered beneath the surface. I gained clarity and it was in that moment that I found a piece of myself again. I was able to laugh instead of cry, love instead of hate and live instead of die.

So what does all this mean for Nonstop to Nowhere? I cannot say for certain because I don’t know the answer yet. I can certainly continue telling my story, the heartache along with the heartbreak. The pain along with the agony and the suffering but I am hoping that I can revisit those past memories, write about the difficulties and express my emotions but also offer a bit of hope because I now know that there is a light beyond the darkness after hearing the primal scream that opened my eyes.

I am awake.

Road to Nowhere – The Biggest Mistake of My Life

Red Eye Stop

I had spent the weekend dreaming of my new Corvette but struggled to control my excitement because I knew from past experiences that allowing hope to overwhelm reason would often result in disappointment. I wanted to tell all of my friends about the test drive and the deals that were being made but limited myself to telling only one other person when I pulled Shawn aside and spoke with him quietly allowing myself a moment of release.

After the weekend ended, I had never been so happy to see a Monday morning. I practically jumped out of bed and made the morning rounds with a bounce in my step before getting behind the wheel of my Camaro for what I believed to be the last time. I anxiously awaited the phone call from Ronnie; the Chevrolet dealership manager that assured me the necessary strings had been pulled but as the hours ticked away, my excitement gradually turned to despair.

Most of the day dragged by with the phone ringing numerous times but none were the one I wanted. In the final hour, I decided to call Ronnie instead but he had already left for the day. By the time that Tuesday morning rolled around, I had already decided that I would go to the dealership on my lunch hour and find out exactly where everything stood.

A few hours passed and late in the morning, I decided to step out of the office to visit the convenience store located across the street. I honestly don’t remember if I intended to make a purchase or if I just wanted out of the office to get away from the phone that refused to ring. I was walking by the bathrooms on my way to the beverages when I decided to make a pit stop. The men’s room was out of order but the cashier, who had come to know me over the past year permitted me to use the employee bathroom.

The bathroom had the basic sink and toilet but it also served as a secondary storage closet with the usual supplies stacked in the corner on a shelf. The door was being held open by a bungee cord that had been hooked around the knob and anchored to the shelf by a knot on the other end. When I reached to remove the cord, I heard a warning in the back of my mind; that little voice that reminded me how dangerous bungee cords can be but somehow in that moment it wasn’t enough. After unhooking the bungee, the metal hook slipped from my fingers and struck my left eye.

Upon impact, I saw a bright flash of light and felt a burn that left me staggered. My first instinct was to rub my eye but all I could feel was a warm wetness against my hand. I tried to open it but the burn was far too intense and after having lost the vision in my right eye to diabetes several years earlier, I found myself completely blind.

I felt along the wall and made my way back into the store calling out for help to anyone that could hear me. I recognized the voice of the cashier as she reached out and guided me to a chair behind the counter. She asked me to hold my head back and I felt the rough texture of a towel against my face. It was cool to the touch, moistened with cold water and I held it there while she asked what had happened. Obviously I couldn’t open the left eye but it stung just to open the right so I kept both eyes closed while I explained everything.

One of the oil company employees came into the store and found me there before guiding me back across the street to my office where I called Heather to come pick me up. I could hear the gasp of fear in her voice followed by that sense of urgency that so many of us experience when panicked.

She arrived very quickly and drove me to the Ophthalmologist that had served as my primary eye care physician over the past decade. Soon thereafter, I was placed in one of the rooms. The nurse had applied numbing drops to both eyes so that I could be examined but it didn’t do much good. The eye had filled with blood and the doctor couldn’t get a clear view of the damage. His recommendation was that I go home and rest for a few days, give the blood a chance to clear and come back on Friday for a more thorough examination to better estimate the amount of damage done.

It would be three very long days before I discovered that the bungee had ruptured the lens and that it would need to be replaced with an implant. Numerous blood vessels had bursts under the strain, continued leaking deposits into my eye and would require a multitude of laser surgeries to repair the damage. I had a long road ahead but my life had come to a complete standstill while I repeatedly replayed the moment in my mind. So many variables had come into play that day and it was enough to drive anyone mad if given enough time; something I suddenly found in abundance while dwelling in the darkness. The life that I knew was over and it had all vanished in the blink of an eye.

Little Red Corvette – Another Dream Within Reach

1997_Corvette_Coupe

I have dreamed of owning a Chevrolet Corvette since I was a young boy. It was my first choice when pushing Matchbox cars around the tracks that I had fashioned in the dirt, the ramps made of cardboard and the electric and radio controlled toys that followed. The first time I watched the movie Corvette Summer starring Mark Hamill, I thought it was one of the most beautiful cars I had ever seen on screen; a Hot Wheels brought to life and I simply had to have one.

Before my mother’s passing, she had offered to buy me a Corvette for my sixteenth birthday. With our being as poor as we were, often struggling to make ends meet, I honestly don’t believe she could have ever afforded it and maybe she was just making empty promises as she often did while drinking but to a naïve teenage boy, it was a promise worth holding onto.

My sixteenth birthday came and went just as many other days with her plowing through cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon before passing out while I sat in my room quietly just waiting for the day to end.

I still held onto the dream however planning to make the purchase myself one day after the “you can be anything you want” speeches had convinced me that it was meant to be. When I wanted to be a rock star, I thought of all the Corvettes I would own. And when I studied architectural design, I envisioned a future with the big house on the beach and the Corvette in the garage.

I admit that I lost sight of the dream after tasting office politics and having that bitterness  linger in my mouth but while managing the oil company, the dream came back stronger than ever with a very real possibility of it actually coming true.

My Mazda Rx-7 had been burning through so much oil that I had to keep extra quarts in the car just to keep it topped off each week. Smoke billowed from the dual exhaust every time I started it up, if it stated up at all. It was getting harder with each turn of the key and I found myself paying a mobile mechanic $250.00 each week just to keep it on the road. Just over a month and more than a thousand dollars later, I decided it was time for the trade-in. But it wasn’t the Corvette that I went after. Instead it was a Camaro that was two years old; red with a grey cloth interior and black T-tops. I chose it because the divorce and subsequent Chapter 11 filing had ruined my credit. I was paying far too much for my monthly payments but it was still less than half of what the Mazda was costing me. And I was thinking that maybe, just maybe I could pay on the Camaro for a while, show that I was a responsible consumer, maybe build up my credit score and finally get the car that I had dreamt of for almost 30 years.

After getting the raise at the oil company, I was ready to make my move and take the leap from Camaro to Corvette. After all of that time, I was finally ready to sign on the bottom line and get the deal done. Heather and I drove to the local Chevy dealership where they had a Torch Red Corvette sitting on the showroom floor. I sat down behind the wheel, smelled the new leather and felt a surge of excitement pass over me. I spoke with the dealership manager who was on good terms with my boss after brokering the deals whenever he wanted his next Corvette. I explained my past financial problems, the ugly divorce and the even uglier bankruptcy. I continued by explaining how I could make the Corvette payments easily with less than one week’s pay, how it had been a lifelong dream and how I needed his help to make it happen.

He ran the numbers and the request was automatically rejected but he told me not to lose hope because he was friends with a local bank president that often golfed with him on the weekends. He offered to speak with the banker and promised we would get everything ironed out before the close of business day Monday.

I asked to take the car for a test drive. I couldn’t resist the urge but instead of allowing me to enjoy my cherry red, I was handed the keys to a Bowling Green model they had parked on the lot. Heather and I got in and with a quick turn of the key, I sat there feeling the power at my fingertips. I drove the car downtown before hopping on the highway and giving it some gas. The sound coming from the engine was a low rhythmic rumble as it smoothly accelerated to cruising speeds that allowed me to breeze by the other vehicles. Sitting behind the wheel of a dream and having Heather at my side on a sunny Saturday afternoon was a perfect moment in my life or at least as close as it could have been without having signed my name to the paperwork and claiming ownership of my prize.

Now I hold onto that perfect memory because my life was about to be forever altered and sitting behind the wheel of that test drive Corvette would be the closest I would ever come to driving that dream before being forced to walk down a much darker path.

Money Talks – Another Oily Company Offering

Sanke3

I had been managing the oil company for nearly a year and I imagine this is where any number of people working any number of jobs might say that it had its fair share of ups and downs but that simply wasn’t true. Aside from a nice paycheck and weekends off, the position was mostly a downward spiral with a dead end destination.

During a moment of weakness after a particularly brutal few months, I let down my guard of professional fascade and confessed my frustrations to one of our frequent business associates. I told him how tired I was of all the bullshit. I had made that company a lot of money during my tenure. I had made the employees a lot of money. And I had tried and lied to help them whenever I could however I could. But none of that mattered because I was just the guy in the office doing a woman’s work, something that real men would never do. Or at least that was the perception created by years of ignorant inbreeding and the ever popular redneck mentality that clung to that place like the crack heads clung to their pipes.

After spilling my guts to our business partner, the CEO of his own oil company out of Atlanta, he surpised me with a job offer but it wasn’t just any job. He promised a hefty pay increase, full benefits package complete with all the bells and whistles, a company vehicle and the respect that I so richly deserved. But everything comes with a price and my golden ticket as it turned out would require me to betray my boss. Remember when I said that the oil business was a pit full of vipers? Well this particular snake in the grass wanted me to turn over all of the customer names, the volume of oil they produced, service dates and most importantly, the revenue they generated as he planned on expanding his business to South Carolina and handing me the keys to the kingdom.

Now I could pretend that I was above such tactics but after sinking low and going nowhere fast, I had to at least consider his offer. I even copied all of the necessary files to a flash drive and took them home with me while I pondered the possibilities. All I had to do to get the white collar career that I wanted was burn my current boss to the ground.

I took the weekend to think about it and when Monday morning rolled around, I declined the offer. I would like to believe that some kind of morality was in play, a sense of doing the right thing, making the good choice but the fact that all I had was the word of a man so ruthless that he would ruin the life of another person didn’t sit well in my gut. Everything that he promised could have easily just been what I wanted to hear and there were no guarantees that he would keep me employed after the new business was established. The whole pipe dream could go up in smoke as soon as he got his grubby hands on the information he wanted and it was a risk that I was not willing to take.

My boss came in later that same week and sat down at my desk. He had heard that I was considering going to work for another oil company and wanted the details. How did he know? It didn’t matter because there was nothing to share. I was staying with his company and that was all he needed to know. Had I mentioned the proposed arrangement, I am certain that his anger would have trumped his better judgment potentially severing one of our business contacts and costing the company hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. I had been trusted with extremely valuable information and pushed to help build those profit margins. Both were under my protection and I wasn’t ready to see either of them fall.

There was however a powerful bargaining chip in play and my value had been made clear by another company’s interest in me. My boss saw it and reewarded me with a pair of Oakley sunglasses, a massage chair for the office and an immediate $200.00 per week raise with another $300.00 promised on top of that after I helped establish his new quick oil change business. It really didn’t improve the taste of the shit sandwich I had been chewing on but it did make it more palatable.

Into the Black — The Loss of One of My Closest Friends

Into the BlackOne of my closest friends has died.

I first met Derek when I was working as a delivery driver at a local restaurant. I viewed him as one of the luckiest people I had ever met. He came to my home every weekend for almost seven years to hang out in our circle of friends and disappeared after marrying and falling off the radar. The two of us kept in touch by phone however and during our last conversation, we spoke of the usual topics that revolved around work and family. He said that his job kept him jumping and was very proud that his son just turned four. I asked about his ventricular fibrillation, a heart condition that he had been diagnosed with a few years ago and Derek reassured me that the doctors were taking good care of him and that everything was under control. Three days later, he was gone.

His funeral service was labeled “A Celebration of Life” but it wasn’t. It was two preachers from two different churches reading scripture and a guy with an acoustic guitar singing a few songs in between. Most of the faces were strangers and nobody seemed to be celebrating anything, least of all Derek’s life. It seems like everyone should have been sharing their favorite memories of him. The way he would do everything he could to help others and made the world a little brighter just by being in it. I cannot recall a time where he wasn’t smiling, laughing and joking with those around him. And now the thought of never seeing him again consumes me. It doesn’t seem real; more like a poorly written cosmic joke where I’m still waiting for the punchline.

I had hoped to visit his grave to say a private goodbye, to get some closure but his wife had his remains cremated and I was denied the opportunity. Her and I have an unpleasant history to say the least but out of respect for my friend, I will keep those thoughts to myself. I’m sure that sooner or later, it will hit me, that moment where I accept the reality of the situation, break down and allow myself to mourn but for now, there is just a stoic numbness where I am unable to feel the full impact of his passing.

Derek,

I loved you like a brother and counted you as one of my closest friends. You were part of the inner circle and now that circle is broken. I miss you man.

Fire It Up — My Managing a House of Crack

Smoke Face1When I accepted the position of Office Manager at a local waste oil company, I honestly didn’t know anything about running it but it didn’t take long to discover just how dirty the business really was. My office was nothing more than a notepad, desk and 3-drawer filing cabinet filled with crumpled pieces of loose paperwork that the workers had scribbled on and shoved aside. The owner had inherited the business from his father and grew it from the back of a truck with an oil drum to a multimillion dollar facility filled with some family members and a group of his closest friends. He was a spoiled manchild that had grown up with rolls of cash in his pockets and was accustomed to getting whatever he wanted. He showed off his collection of big boy toys before introducing me to his mistress along with his wife and kids. Outside of the family, I was introduced to the rogues gallery of various business associates; many of whom had been corrupted and placed personal gain above any sense of morality. If there was ever a snake in the grass, this was a definitive pit of vipers.

It became obvious that the owner wanted me to run the company so he didn’t have to anymore. One of our first orders of business was to have me added to the company account. I was going to negotiate the prices for our services, the value of the used oil that we sold to refineries and handle the company paychecks. After our trip to the bank, I was given carte blanche to purchase a new computer and whatever else I wanted to personalize the office to meet my needs. After bringing my workspace into this century, I was given a crash course in OSHA regulations, which rules had to be strictly adhered to, which could be bent and which could be broken. But following the rules wasn’t nearly as difficult as trying to lead a den of thieves. The men I worked with were redneck pirates born and bred, just as likely to stab a man in the back as shake his hand. Most of them came from troubled backgrounds that involved any number of crimes that ranged from drunk and disorderly conduct to robberies, charges of violence and drugs. At least two of the employees were addicted to Crack Cocaine but they were kept on the payroll due to their relationship with the owner. I was writing paychecks every Friday ranging anywhere from $2000 to $3000 on average and those men would be completely broke by Monday morning. One of them had a moped that the owner had bought for him and the other walked to work. Knowing that that those two were smoking an excess of $4000 each weekend completely confounded me. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would ever put themselves in that position, to give up everything for a taste of that pasty white rock. But then I remembered my old friends from my own hard partying days. None of us had picked up a bottle, popped a pill or fired up a smoke with the intention of addiction but it happened anyway. I’m sure we all thought we could handle it just as my co-workers had and just like with everyone else, the addictions proved otherwise. I wondered if granted access to that much money when I was surrounded by the beautiful people at their beautiful parties if I would have fared any better.

%d bloggers like this: