Monday, July 28, 2003

life of buddy don, chaptur 26:
them blues


once i gut my promoshun, they startid into larnin me how to program computers. ye mite not member how they wuz back then, but they wernt nearly the easy fun they wuz later to becum. in them days ye couldnt git thangs lack upper n lower case n ye had to enter everthang by either tellatype machine or punch cards or even paper tape. furst they put me thru a corse in basic, witch the hardest concep wuz whar they had i = i + 1. oncet ye gut past thatn, thangs gut a bit easier to unnerstand.


so they sent me to houston fer a class on the ibm 1800. this wuz a big time in our lives. i wuz makin purty good money, near $10,000 a year, so thay wuz no reason darlene had to keep a'wurkin. she wonted to study lecktricull injuneerin, n i wuz thankin bout maybe studyin english or philosophy or sumthin long them lines. we new twernt norml to send the wife to skool furst, but it made more sense on a counta they dont pay women the way they do men, least not back then n far as i kin tell, thangs aint much better now. n best of all, she wood be able to upgrade her educayshun frum roane state comunty collidge to the university of tennessee.


that month long trip to houston wuz a nuther of them dividin lines, witch in the calculus of life keeps slicin up the befors n afters, n this one changed fer good how i wuz gonna git mos of the money i mite git in this life. at the time, i dint seem lack no big thang, but twuz.


i drove to houston, takin the big old car n leevin her with the vega, witch it could still run at that time. twuz the furst time i had been away since californy, n i wuz calculatin the money i wood have to eat with. they wuz a'givin me 'per diem' rates to cover the costs of food n such, n i had this noshun i wuz a'gone save sum of it n have a big time. but jes tother side of cookvul i gut caught in a speed trap.


furst time that ever happened to me, n the main thang that made me glad wuz i dint have none of theevil weed with me. twoodnta mattered on a counta they dint search my car nor nuthin, but leest i wuznt all nervus lack i wooda been. but it made me mad n seemed lack a unfar trick on a counta i wuz goin egzackly the same speed as everbidy else, witch everbidy wuz runnin bout 10 miles over the limit, witch in them days wuz 75 mph. that kep me movin slower fer the res of the trip, n i couldnt seem to stop calculatin how much twuz gonna set me back on my budget a'havin to pay fer that ticket, witch twuz a whoppin $25!


i gut to texarkana n thought i mite stay the nite on a counta i wuz tard, but whenever i gut outta the car n walked aroun, seem lack the place dint feel the leest bit frienly, so i deecided i wood git back on the rode, n long story short i gut into houston after midnite, witch i had a open reservayshun at the shamrock hilton, a huge hotel with a gigantic frunt lawn.  they turnt it into a medicull thang in the mid 80s, but twuz in full swang whenever i wuz thar in the summer of 1973.


dont know whuther ye member much bout them daze. twuz a'gittin hot fer nixon, witch i had dun used my verr furst vote fer him n twuz fun joustin with everybidy down on the swang shif, witch i wuz still a'wurkin it whenever the leckshun cum around. everbidy else wuz a demcrat ceptin woody thomas, witch his real name wuz woodrow wilson thomas, n he wuz the only publican sides me. n twuz fun but too easy on a counta the demcrats had dun chose the radicull george mcgovern. turnt out even tho twuz a'gone be a landslide, nixon still had to cheat. i reckon you dun herd bout that.


thay wuz lots of other stuff a'gone on. elton john wuz bout the biggest thang on radio. the hole watergate thang wuz jes a'gittin startid. thay wuz a bunch of injuns took over woundid knee. lbj died. oregon decrimnullized theevil weed. folks wuz satisfide reedin books lack jonathan livingston seagull by richard bach or once is not enough by jacqueline susann. on tv we wuz watchin all in the family n the waltons n sanford and son n m*a*s*h, witch the movie wuz better. n this weirdo name of atkins cum out with a diet whar ye gut to eat jes meat n butter n such but no bred n that made no sense a tall to me. the nashnull debt kep a'goin up, hittin an amazin total of $466 billyun. cb radios wuz a quick fad. they made aborshun legal. billie jean king beat bobby riggs in tennis, n they made a grate big deal over it. that movie bout spiritchull possession cum out, witch that wuz the exorcist n i half to add mitt furst the book n then the movie scairt both darlene n me plum outta a good nites sleep. n whut wuz a hittin me on that trip wuz how gas wuz up to near 40 cent a gallon, witch bad as twuz, that wood seem lack a bargin purty soon.


but i dint cum to houston to study gas prices. i gut in on a sundy nite n classes begun the verr next day. i dont no ifn ye member the ibm 1800 data acquisishun n cuntrol center. i barely member it my ownself. we had ours in a speshull room to keep it cold. twuz made up of sevrul differnt parts that wuz all spread out on the floor: thay wuz the console, witch it looked lack a ibm selectrick typewriter only the computer run it most of the time. n thay wuz the card reader. n thay wuz a line printer. n the disk drives. i cant find much bout em at the momint, but if memry serves, they held bout 600 megabytes on huge brown spindles that had sumthin lack six platters strung together.


nowdaze this here cumputer ima usin is way more powerful than that ibm 1800, but in them daze, twuz sumthin to have. fack is, ibm purty much run the hole computin show in them daze. whenever i wuz furst promotid, they tuck me over to the computer center at k-25 n tole us how twuz lanked together sumhow with one over at ornl n a nuthern out at los alamos n thay wuz competishun twixt the various ones over witchn wuz the biggest.


witchevern twuz, twernt the 1800, witch they called a mini (or wuz it a micro?).


i half to add mitt i dint lack programmin computers at furst. fack is, i never gut to whar i wuz too awful fond of it n heres why. no matter how keerful ye mite be whenever yer settin up yer program n gittin the requester to agree on whut ye wuz about to do, whenever ye dun it, they hardly sed nuthin, witch werent much of innybidy who new how hard twuz to git a program to wurk jes the way they wonted it, well, ye wood give it to em, n they mite say thanks, but mainly the only time ye wood here bout yer program wuz when it dint do sumthin the requester thought twood do n then ye wood have to rite the hole thang over agin accordin to whutever the requester thought wuz wonted by then. fack is, the only time ye wood ever here innythang bout yer program wuz when thay wuz sumthin rong with it.


but i dint no much of that whenver i begun that class, n the furst week i tride my bes to pay keerful tenshun to everthang n larn it all bes i could. thay wuz a good 25 or 30 folks in that thar class, n we all had quote hands on unquote time n we larnt bout the operatin system n the deevice drivers n such lack.


durin the time we wuz thar, thay wuz a fire in a gay bar in new orleens. killt a bunch of folks, 30 or more as i recall, n twuz a topic of conversayshun durin brakes in the class. thay wuz a man thar with a crew cut. he wuz a army man n seem lack he couldnt say a nuff bout the far. he wuz the one sed the far couldnt have happened to a better bunch of folks, n thay wuz sum thar that lafft at that, n crewcut did his bes to git all the mileage he could out of his statemint. way he carried on ye could wunder why he wuz so concerned to let everbidy no he hated the folks that had jes been burnt.


durin one of the furst evnins, i walkt up to a park nearby called the hermann park. i dint no whut i wuz a'lookin fer, but purty soon this guy cum up to me n i half to add mitt i wuz a bit nervus about him. he wuz jet black n bout a half a foot taller than me n he pointid to his crotch n mumbled sumthin. i dint git whut he sed tho i wuz afraid he mite could have ast sumthin i dint wonta here nuthin about. i leaned back n sed, 'pardon me but i dint catch whut ye sed.' so he leaned in n ast did i wonta buy sum smoke. n that relaxed me a nuff to whar i ast how much n he sed $20 n i sed ok n that wuz the furst time i paid more'n $15 fer a ounce, n the odd thang wuz, i never found a $15 ounce agin.


corse, once i had me a supply of theevil weed, i had new trubles on a counta i wuz scairt bout whar i could put it n not git caught. i wuznt about to take it to class but if i lef it in my room, i wurried i could git caught ifn the maid servus found it. then i thought i could leeve the do not disturb sine up, but that seemed a lil suspishus on a counta when ye pay that much fer a room, witch twuz near $400 fer a week, then ye chantses are ye wonta take all the cleenin n servuses ye gut comin.


so i wint into one of them shops they had in that thar hotel n startid a'lookin round. thar wuz crewcut a'browsin n he nodded n i nodded back. a kind lookin young man cum over to hep me n i figgered i wood buy me a cigar that had a plastick case fer it, n i could cut off the tip of the cigar n put the ounce inside the plastick n then put the lil bit of cigar back on the end n mayhap that wood be a good place to keep the stuff. i startid in to talkin bout cigars n twuz purty clar i dint no much bout em. but that dint seem to bother the man, witch his name turnt out to be lance n we made friens. furst, tho, he ast did the man with the crewcut wont innythang else, n fer sum reason ole crewcut glared at me n sed no, n lance tole him they wuz bout to close n crewcut sed he had jes been lookin innyway.


so they closed n lance ast did i have plans fer the evenin n i sed no n he sed did i wonta go out n fine sum ackshun n i thought that wuz jes whut i wonted to do. i tuck my stuff up to the room, cut up the cigar, lit the big piece, n cum back down. he dint car fer my choice in cigars, but he dint no twuz fer the plastick holder n not the cigar, n purty soon i let him talk me into throwin it out the window.


we went to a cafeteria to eat n turnt out he had dun red most of the better books n he new his composers n fack wuz, he wuz a opry sanger in the houston grand opera, witch they wuz proud of theyselves on a counta they did opry in english, witch that wuz a blessin. later on i went to here him sang in a piece called william tell, witch they dun it in english, but i still couldnt hardly tell whut they wuz a sangin bout most of the time.


but that furst nite, we dint do nun of that. after we dun finished eatin, he ast did i wonta go to a bar n see whut kinda ackshun we could fine, n i agreed. my car wuz in the parkin garage so he drove. seem lack he couldnt hardly make up his mind, n fack is, he stopped n ast wood i wait while he checked the bar to make sure twuz ok but he cum back out n sed twuz a shitkickin bar n i dint need to see nun of that. so he kep on drivin n eventchully, he pullt into a huge parkin lot n we went in.


the music wuz loud, so loud that ye couldnt hardly here yerself thank. that song will it go around in circles wuz a hit n seemed lack they had to play it bout ever third or fourth song. i had dun tole him i drunk gin n tonic, witch twuz a lie i made up to make it seem lack i wuznt a lergic to alcohol, n i dint even bother to splain the problem to him. he went off to git sum dranks n while he wuz gone, i gut to lookin round n purty soon i could see sumthin wuz not egzackly right. thay wuz plenty folks in that bar, n sum of em wuz women, but problem wuz, the men wuz a'dancin with the men n the women wuz a dancin with the women, n bout then i unnerstood whut wuz a'gone on.


lance cum back with the dranks n we found a place to sit whar twuznt quite so loud n he wuz a lookin at me lack i wood hit him. he dun new i wuz marrd, but he figgered that since i always called darlene quote the wife unquote, he figgered i dint care fer it all that much. i splained that i lacked larnin thangs n i hadnt ever been in such a place but that i wuznt egsited by men. seem lack he figgered he could change my mine, n fer the rest of the time in houston, he tride.


he wuz a good guy n i larnt a lot frum him. he had me over to his place one time fer a stake dinner n he wonted to seduce me but twernt no way he could n i tole him n thay wuz a note in my voice that let him no i wuznt a'kiddin. n then he turnt his tenshun to playin beethovens third symfunny, witch i hadnt never much lacked thatn befor i met lance.


now i spoze i wuz spozed to be disgustid by the quote gay life unquote i wuz a seein. my daddy had made no bones bout how he thought twuz rong, n i spoze i wuz spozed to feel the same way, but fer sum reason, i dint feel thataway. fack is, lance wuz mosly sad. we wood talk bout how he wuz trapped in his body, that he had wished he coulda turnt into a gurl, that he wisht he wuz white sted of black, that it made him angry to see happy couples a'walkin round lack they desurved speshul treatmint, n fack wuz, he new twernt fair to be mad at folks fer whut they wuz. n he shed tears over sum of the stories he tole n he splained that the way his life wuz, he dint no why he dint jes end it.


n durin all this, he never quit trine to cunvints me to let him give me pleshure, n thar wuz a time he tride to the point it made me git a lil violent. we had gone out the same as always, n fack is, we purty much kep to the same bar. i wood dance with him, but not slow, n i wood try to git women to dance with me, witch they wood but not slow. he kep brangin me dranks ne when twuz time to go, all my lergickul symptums wuz kicked in. they dint have the idee of designated drivers in them daze, so even if we wuz bof drunk, sumbidy had to drive n he baiged me to doot.


so i did n tuck bout all the concentrayshun i had to keep the car on the rode. he scootid over nex to me n startid into undoin my pants. i tole him to stop, but i couldnt do too much on a counta twuz all i could do to drive. long story short, by time we gut to the shamrock hilton, he had dun got my zipper aloose n he wuz puttin his haid down in my lap. i pullt in n turnt off the car. he wuz a'gittin no reackshun to his treatmints n i wuz a tellin him to stop it, n he wuznt payin me no mind so i tuck a holt of his hair n give it a good sharp jerk till he sit strate up n sed he wuz sorry n he woodnt do that no more. n jes as he did, i looked up n thar wuz crewcut a lookin rite in my eye.


'damn!' i sed before i realized it.


lance ast whut wuz rong, n i splained bout the guy n how he kep a'goin on bout that firer in new orleens. n that made lance laff. i ast whut wuz so funny, n he sed, 'that old queer?' n then splaint that crewcut had dun tride to make it with lance, but lance sed crewcut wernt his type.


when twuz time fer me to drive back home, he gut me a 8 track tape of derek and the dominoes on a counta he sed i dun give him a case of them blues, witch he sed them blues wuz when ye new jes whut ye wontid n also how ye wernt never a'gonna git it. drivin home, i tuck the southern route sos i could go thru new orleens even ifn i did have to go thru alabam afterds. n i listened to them blues over n over n over agin n i wundered how folks could git to the point of wontin sumthin they couldnt have, n i couldnt git why they wood doot.


as turnt out, darlene wood larn me that it aint sumthin ye make up yer mind to do.

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