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The Dashing Life and Exuberant Times of Brian Harrison....And Other Rare Anecdotes

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

On Pirates and Childhood

Some would consider themselves lucky to be made to attend a basketball match. Others would deem themselves lucky to be tricked into a computer game. I, on the other hand, was fortunate enough to be made to dress up like a pirate.

A boy's birthday arises; his imagination has been kindled and sold to the movies of the Pirates of the Caribbean. This boy's parents want to throw this boy one giant bash; spoil him just right for everyone knows that after age 12, birthdays all go down hill. Birthdays are a ball, a festival, an all out carnival at childhood, but once one crosses the era of velcro into that entangled era of knots, buttons, and zippers, then that person dreads his next anniversary of life, which reminds him, not any more of his birth, but of his waning life. Sad. Sad. Sad. What used to be a celebratory day of infinite icing licking and kool-aid mustache making quickly turns into a pensive day of wondering is this what its all about or a powerful nostalagia which calls back times when the kool-aid mustaches were indulged by all your birthday party guests. We've got the progress of man in reverse. This child, the prolific inventor at heart, evolves backwards into the stumped over, brooding ape glaring at that stick on the ground, wondering how in his flat world, he could have envisioned a sword or gun from it.

But enough our birthday's demystification, let's step back into its enchantment. I was approached by the parents of this lucky boy, to play a pirate for his birthday party. I've been helping out in children's church recently. Skipping sermons to play Jesus a number of times, why if I play Jesus so well, why not a pirate? Or probably the better question is how come parents don't discourage theft, drunkeness, and violence by inviting Jesus to the party, instead of a wreckless pirate? Would the parents be too upset with me if I just showed up as Jesus and explained to the parents that I'm sorry, I think that dressing up as Jesus is better for their kid, his guests, and myself? But no, I am just as thoughtless as the 6 year old boy...I was more than delighted to dress up like a pirate, in fact, as weird as this is, I think I'm always on the edge of my seat waiting for some excuse to dress up like a pirate. And the excuse finally came. So I couldn't turn it down.

It's in accordance with one of those thoughts, which I would be willing to bet most guys have, all of a sudden, while one's stuck in traffic, or one's studying for an exam, or one's waiting for a computer program to download, from out of the sky, the thought will hit, "Dang It! I should've been a pirate." For me, I suspect, this happens much too often to count, but I'm an exceptional case, and sometimes the idea of a "pirate" is interchanged with other dashing figures like a cowboy (much like Toby Keith's song) or a knight, or a WWI fighter pilot. -But that's just me...I'm absurdly romantic and fantastical like that. But I'll warrant any man whose worth his salt will have thoughts somewhat like these.

So I dressed up like a pirate one Saturday afternoon when most guys my age are watching ESPN or being owned by their companies and newly found wives. The birthday boy, Will, was so struck by the Pirates of the Caribbean that I thought it only suitable to dress as sort of a representation of the pirate who made the movie, Captain Jack Sparrow. This required great preparation on my part, buying a play sword, borrowing my mother's gaudy jewelry, donning the long-haired Jesus wig from the church closet, and getting my mother to apply make up...eye shadow was a must along with a dark beard and mustache. I had the British accent down. I had his drunken half-effeminate swagger down also. Just a few reviews of the movie itself, and I was ready. I even had my own play pirate pistol that looked like the real thing. And then what appeared in the suburban neighborhoods of Dothan, Alabama on that Saturday afternoon was the illustrious Captain Mack Finch, a much better and nobler pirate than the aforementioned Jack Sparrow. I could out-connive him, out-fence him, and out-charm him, I assure you that, mate....Savvy?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Trailer Park Traversings

My experience within the confines of the Waffle House franchise brought me venturing into places of violence-frenzied fortitude, and down-home, redneckin' refuge, where a king owns his castle with wheels, and if this king happens to have not left his castle and family, he bears himself majestically in a wife-beater shirt as robe, and his satellite remote control as sceptre, where he displays his lordship with tyrannical yells at the Nascar racer that's winning or losing inside his empire-chest of a TV. His crown is his indifference to all else around him...his wife's nags, his dog's yelps, and his neighbor's shotgun blasts. This indifference or ignorance is comical, at first, for we tend to laugh at whatever is very apparent in others when it lies hidden within ourselves. There is an entire world out there that we term and stamp as "ignorant". Only by this quick judging,we very well term and stamp ourselves as ignorant also.

I recall a cook at the Waffle House asking me why I chose to work at Waffle House. They knew I didn't fit in. They all thought I was from California. The regulars who ate there called me "the cool surfer dude". At times, I would hear behind my back the high pitched call, "Sunshine". I answered him it was all for the cultural experience. He spun around, "Cultural Experience! There's no culture at the Wafflehouse. You need to go to an art museum or to Europe." "Oh, but there's definitely culture here." I assured him. He couldn't see; he was in the thick of it. His eyeballs were swallowed up in it to make him blind. And why do we insist on making culture such a fragile thing? It is not so delicate or embroidered. True culture is nitty-gritty. It makes one's teeth clench together. Hard as a rock, as out-of-date as a stone, real culture remains pure and untarnished from the influx of other cultures. Culture is the identity of its people. When traveling through foreign countries and wanting a cultural experience I don't barge into the latest diner hoping for a roll of sushi (unless I'm in Japan). No, I go to the back alleys or into the mountains, deserts, villages, and have what those sunburnt shepherds, farmers, and cattlemen are eating...if edible. Real culture, in most countries, brings to the nose mixed smells of burnt trash, religious incense, and goat manure. Anything without these smells is not what I consider culture. It is perhaps the irony of culture that those who attempt at becoming more cultured loose their own culture themselves. So have I lost my accent, my college football enthusiasm, and my ability to skin a buck by reading so much at an earlier age and traversing the globe at a later one.

So my first day's encounter with the ex-stripper (see previous Wafflehouse post) ended with her, after the taxi came to pick her up, telling me had she'd known I'd had a car, I could have sped her to the Wafflehouse where she works on the southside of town. But since the taxi was already there, she gave me quite a look with those alligator eyes and said, "I'll see you around." I haven't seen her since which doesn't leave me very disappointed at all.

At the end of the day, learning the basic ropes to being a server, a dilemma was brewing in the tiny office in the back. Apparently, the next shift worker couldn't get to work because of a lack of a vehicle. To me the problem sounded absurd. They're gonna be short-handed because of no transportation. "No, I'll go get her." I volunteered, "I clock out right now anyway." "But she lives in the trailer park way on the other side of town. Near Cowboys." chimed in the cook. Cowboys being the best honky-tonk bar in Dothan, I knew where it was. (However, knowing where something's at is different that frequently visiting). But all objections were useless on me. I told them that I would retrieve this Wafflehouse employee and, by golly, I would do my best on my first day for those Wafflehouse colors of black and yellow. Besides, I like to drive and I like a good adventure. And so began my Quest for Merle. (I can't really remember her name, but I think this one will do an excellent job.)

I got in my little white steed of a Honda, smelling like cigarettes, coffee, and grease, and set out on this Quest for Merle. The driving instructions given to me set me back. Thinking that the trailer park was past the infamous Cowboys, I drove until I got to the peanut shop that had the statue of a life-sized Elvis in front. I called my boss asking her to clarify the directions, which finally got me bounding into this trailer park. It had been raining that day. It was then drizzling a bit here and there. My car crept into the park where these plain, white shoe boxes were sitting in rows. I could already tell this is one of the poorest trailer parks in town. Believe me, there is a status ladder in trailerology. The nicest and ritziest society in the trailer park spectrum are double-wide and have ornate gardens running throughout. They'll have large decks and patios, and a huge dish out back. They may even have one of those sit-on-the-ground swimming pools. But this trailer park was a far hoot and holler from those ambitious ones. Nope, this trailer park had the single trailers, half of which were falling apart. No decorations anywhere. Uncut grass and weeds sprung up everywhere. Nobody kept pots of flowers, bicycles, grills, or birdbaths outside. I guess they all knew better than that. Few vehicles were to be found as well. It almost seemed to be a ghost trailer park. An eerie feeling fell upon the whole place. Any minute, I expected a bramble of tumbleweed to roll across the road.

I rolled down my windows and had the humorous thought to cry out, "Merle!!" even stringing out the syllables, "Me-e-e-rle, are you he-e-e-re!!" But I thought that such behavior was uncouth among strangers, however frequent this custom may be among themselves. Just then in front of me stood two really large white women, one was holding an umbrella, even though it had stopped raining. I knew they couldn't be Merle, for Merle would be wearing her Wafflehouse outfit. I do not know why they were waiting on the side of the road like that. I drove past them when I heard one of them yell, "Hey! Are you lookin' for that gurl that's goin' to work!!" I say "Yes!" and they respond with a point, "It's just over there, the 2nd trailer on the left!!" "Thank you!!" I yell back, the whole park echoing with my gratitude. So I guess every trailer park has these sort of guardians or genii that sprout out of discarded beer bottles or dip cans and point the wary traveller to the correct trailer. -That or, as simple observation can tell you...in trailer parks everyone's life is everyone elses' business. For them, it's common knowledge to know which trailers are the meth labs, which ones you say you don't know them if anybody's looking, and which ones you stay away from at all costs.

I pulled up to the designated trailer, hoping that the trailer park genii had not tricked me and sent me to my doom. I was blaring CCR from my radio. Not a bad selection for a trailer park. When out of Merle's supposed trailer pops this young black man in a wife beater with the bling bling. He looked like Martin Lawrence, except fiercer and with no smile. I thought, "Oh no, this is the wrong trailer. " It is a psychological fact that all middle-class white boys from Alabama have a deep fear of encountering black men in trailer parks. Well, I braced that fear still blaring my Clearance Creedwater Revival, thinking half-racily, "Why turn it down? He probably blares his music all over town. Now, he knows what its like."

I was about to poke my head out the window and say, "Hey...Man...Is there a girl who needs a ride to work here?" It's amazing how one word can relax racial tension. That one word has always been "man". Growing up in Alabama, I know its full power. At school, it gives courage to the frial white kid during PE. It then, in return, gets the cool black kid paper from the same frail white kid in biology class. You just simply attach "man" anywhere during a question or comment to a person of the other race. It equalizes you to a level playing field. It erases intimidation on both sides. Martin Luther King Jr. probably thought the thing up. Before I could release the incantation out of my mouth, a plump white girl struts out of the trailer on this little deck in a Wafflehouse uniform, saving my speech. It's definitely Merle. She is holding this baby and both her and the scowling Martin Lawrence have an emotional moment. They look like they just had an argument. I sit in my car, tapping my fingers. John Fogherty's voice comes ringing out the radio, "Let the Midnight Special...Shine the light on me." I start singing along wondering when their moment was going to be over. I mean she's already 30 minutes late to work. She gets into the car. The car rocks as she sits. We don't say hardly a word the whole ride back to the 231 North Wafflehouse. But that's okay...I found my Merle and went beyond my duty as a Wafflehouse employee.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

On Writing

You know, upon writing, you are letting something emotional out whenever you can trace your fingertips upon your scratch page and feel the grooves where your pen bore its bledding ink into that victimized sheet of paper. And perhaps doing so, exerts more muscle tension, over enough time, than hitting a punching bag...so I write and write. Hoping all things so strongly felt whether love, hate, anger, pain, joy, sorrow, bitterness, truth, hope, sexuality, unkempt wrath...all passions that consume a wild heart in a caged body in a caged society can exert its vibrance and find its more acceptible outlet. I thought to take kick-boxing one day but I'm afraid I'd knock somebody's teeth out. Or perhaps, I'd get my own knocked out...either way it would involve physical pain and embarrassment. My smile as a writer is prettier. Besides such violence would only further fan that emotion-to-release cycle all over again. However.... perhaps, writing is all about a cycle. We writers grab for this crystalization, or freeze frame of this cycle. Whether we cry, laugh, curse, praise, sleep, or wake into space with open eyes, there is both a conscious and unconscious attempt at stealing that moment and deeming it our own. We are the principle idolaters, for we mold from our very hands the sacred elements of life, that holy fire, and fashion it according to our clay minds and shaky hearts...something as holy and as sacred as that cycle itself, and then we commit the blasphemy of blasphemies by attaching our names to it and giving ourselves applause and expecting praise. When, in reality, we are just conductive plants that have been blown by the wind, scorched by the sun, drowned by the rains, like all the other plants...except we somehow were the rare few that were struck by lightning as well...and I guess that event alone has made all the difference...and the reason I write these things and for so blasted long.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Symbolism in the Waters; Dealings with the Past

Just last week, I went deep-sea fishing for the first time. Mr. Henderson and I struck out across the smooth Floridian waters. On the drive down, we talked about buried pirate treasure and wrecked galleons. We rode out as far as 15 miles, no land in sight. And there admist the blue ecstatic movement, we dropped our lines...down, down, it fell...that sound of the reel letting go which can only be heard when fishing. The line stops slacking. The bait's at the bottom of the sea. What lurks hidden from the surface and from the skies? I think to myself as the boat sways on the waves, "To reach another year of age, to be alive and far out to sea. I should feel freer than I do." You don't let the bait pause for too long; you begin turning the reel again pulling the bait back up through the mysterious waters. There's barracudas circling stealthily under the boat. They wait for that fish being reeled up from the depths and with a flash of silver in a darting swoop they feast on that already confused fish. Hook in mouth, and eaten from behind the finned-creature plops down on the deck of the boat wondering how a plain-looking cigar minnow could bring him to an end.

Eventually, a barracuda's captured and we haul him over the boat. 4ft and the ugliest thing you've ever seen. Ugliness keeps this small monster away from the transparent light of the day. Ferocity keeps this small monster never entirely hidden in the depths. Examining him on the deck you think "Rejected by light, Rejected by all the other fish, and Rejected by God, no wonder you are so hideous and mean. " They're born, raised, and thrive just on the surface always attacking what you pull up. They have massive teeth and if hooked they'll try to cut the line...fighting and thrashing about. They're never good meat, just a neat beast to look at in the ice box and know that you've wrestled with one.

Mr. Henderson and I went home that day talking about buried treasure and wrecked galleons. Someday we just may find one. But as of this day, so far, the biggest thing those waters have yielded are those fierce creatures with the teeth.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Lesser Known Secrets of a Night-Shift Waffle House Employee

Behind the yellow glowing lights, behind the foggy windowed walls, behind the high bar where grits and hashbrowns are slammed down every hour of the day and night...there is a world that few of us have had the privilege and perhaps the careless audacity to penetrate into. I have indeed plunged right in and have bore my final responsibility by reporting what it is actually like being a night-shift worker at the Waffle House.

First Impressions: My first name being Charles, and knowing that that nor Brian would do, my first move to embrace the Waffle House community and have it embrace me in return was to go by the name, "Chuck". It wasn't too long until I attained to the full status and proud dignity of a Wafflehouse server, by having "Chuck" gleaming, greasily, from my name tag. It, of course, was bound to get me better tips. My co-workers were a hard-working, independent bunch. Independent...in that, an opinion shouted from one end of the kitchen to the other, was undisputed fact. Perhaps to some, the word, "shame" is something "in them dictionaries" but found no where else.

My first experience with this sort of "shameless" woman was at my Waffle House class. We all met together, anybody placing an application to any nearby stores, was required to go to class. It was during the prized smoke break which was the delight of most, but was the worst fish-out-of-water experience for me; I sat at a booth sipping my Coke, wondering if they wouldn't "graduate" me because I'm a nonsmoker. My thoughts were quickly scattered like their smoke clouds, when this cute girl plops right down across from me. I say cute...in a loose tense. She was wholly sensuous. There was something about her that reminded me of alligators and swamps. For she had alligator eyes and alligator teeth, though her figure and face was strictly female. She eyed me all during class...and I could tell that she wasn't or was the type of girl to be caught alone with in the storage room. I say "was or wasn't" depending on your moral point of view. Conversation commenced. I learned many key elements about her only within the few minutes that we talked. Probably her life story in a couple of sentences. Which, is a feat, as I learned, that the crowd inside a Waffle House can do exceptionally well. We of the academia, of the middle to high classes, we like to hide things in empty jargon and mediocre hobbies...small talk. Why, I could sit beside one of my Harding colleagues in a class, and borrow pen and paper from him but not know one iota of his life's story. Maybe because there is no story. If there is one; it's assuredly dull. Better to keep quiet and be cool, like everyone else..."What? Problems? I don't have those."

But within the Waffle House, the whole greeting ritual is instigated by the boasting of one's problems. "This here's Rick, he done wrecked hiz truck into that there light post 3 weeks ago, he wuz drunker than a skunk. Hiz wife left 'em becuz he gits drunk like 'at." Irony comes into play in all this. Things are surely backwards. Those of us who claim to have Knowledge...live in Denial. Those that have Ignorance...live in Openness. Openness to goodness knows what.

This girl with dyed blonde hair and a huge tatoo on the side of her neck, in our first greeting, revealed to me that she has worked for Waffle House before, until she climbed the midnight job ladder and became a dancer at Drifter's. Now, hold that thought there. Due to the way I was raised and my recent ex, the word "dancer" at first conjured up an image of a bunch of strangely dressed ballerinas doing very weird things across a concert hall floor. However, what she meant and what probably would have been apparent to most, was that she was the type of ballerina not dressed at all...that also did weird things across stages and next to poles. Her mentioning of Drifter's brought me to reality, for Drifter's is a notorious night club on the other side of Dothan. This reference corrected my mistaken image and replaced it with...well, nevermind.

But her life took a turn for the worst and she was charged with domestic violence against her ex and she was "pinned up". She's out now and looking for some work to support herself and her child, but something less exciting as her better-paying job, so she fell back on the more conversative role of a server at Waffle House. -That's how she spilled it to me. Simply and without any hesitation in her voice. It was as though she was telling me about a church function of bake sale.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

On Forgiveness

My hand clutches onto the stone. The history of this mineral is worth noting. It was once flowing from magna boiling in the center of the world's bosom. It has sat in the dust and in the heat of the day collecting the cruel warmth from the sun. It's hot as it sears my inner palm. And through the heat, and through the burning, I know it has laid ages upon ages in forests, in pathways, being kicked every which way. Sometimes carried by the winds; sometimes puddled by the rains. This rock still hard, impenetrable, and forever jagged...and what's the big thing about stones...if thrown...they hurt. -All the better, I tell myself.

A stone into the forehead of a loathsome giant...makes the giant topple and fall. For every monster of pride shall do just that. -Fall into the dust. Why, there's no place better for a stone to be sent, but in the hard head of a detested enemy. And the strange thing about a stone...why does it not change in one's hand over time like the sifting of sands? or the transformation of water? Time elapses but yet it's solidity is unbreakable. It's worth...only dead weight. It cries out to be thrown from the heart and hand to the foe. I know not what else to do with it.

But there was a teacher once who stood before an unrighteous woman of disgust and shame and said, "He who has no sin throw the first stone." And someplace within me that phrase still resonates. So I clutch the rock in my hand, its heat continually burning my palm. I do not know what to do with my stone, Lord, I do not know what to do with my stone.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Why Waffle House?

I know that many of you are wondering about my job at Wafflehouse and why i chose to work there. This brought me to something I wrote almost 3 years ago and mailed it out in group installments, if some of you remember. It talks about my desire to work there and describes why. I couldn't help but post the entire piece, no matter how big it is, because I believe it still permeates with the rhyme and reason of my desire to work there. I probably could've gotten a job then; but i had school and i didn't want to push too hard. Everything in the below resonates still with me. By the way, this Waffle House that I mention here is the same one that I have been working at for the past week.

I decided that if the symbol of America will not have me.....then
perhaps the symbol of my good ole heartland, the South, she will not
neglect me. This brought me around to the prospect of maybe getting
hired as a hashbrowner (person who cooks the hashbrowns).
WaffleHouse is the ideal location for anyone who likes smokey
atmospheres, greasy food, and people who are just that....people.
I couldn't have picked a better place to want to be employed. I
guess that it was a subconscious wish to always want to be the guy
behind the counter throwing sausage and bacon on the grill, while
the passing-thru trucker spills out his contemplations on the
weather and how it reminds him of his 2nd wife.
I must admit that upon writing this, i feel very
intimated by the behemoth of a task before me. That is presenting
all the pervasiveness of character that the Waffle House Company
entails. I am worried whether or not i have the appropriate quill
pushing skills to bring you Waffle House as i see it....and as
every good-natured Southerner sees it.

For every southerner holds somewhere in his or her
dixie-whistling fiber reverence for this quiant little dine-in
where he or she can have their steaks cooked alongside their waffles. In the southern man's predicament, he witnesses the Confederate flags being taken down one by one and stuffed in dusty attics along with the lucky coonskins that Uncle Esker killed when
only 7. Our southern pines do not work as the rebel flag did.
Our skies are left empty and barren and no longer tell us who we
are....that was until the Wafflehouse franchise began to spread.
Now our purple skies glow in an ethereal yellow light due to all
the golden Waffle Houses stretched along all the main highways as
soon as you cross the Mason-Dixon line. A southerner goes there
not only to eat, but to smell and breathe in that ancient, heavy
Confederate gunpowder that permeates the counters, the booths, and
the glass-walls of the sacred Waffle House.

A really good friend of mine moved up north to Illinois to get
his PhD in Philosophy and the first thing that he comments on after
not talking to him for awhile was very staggering for him . After
all the reading and contemplation his philosophic head had wrestled
with, the most shocking discovery that his mind come upon was the
fact that the north has no Wafflehouses. -And what a profound
mystery it all is. I can see him now, sitting like a Rodin, his
hand bracing his chin, saying "Eureka! O ye gods, no Wafflehouse!"
Northerners can't understand it. My ex-girlfriend, back
when we were a couple, came down from her home in Canada to visit
Alabama. I was sure to take her to the rich delicacies of my home
state which, of course, pointed us towards the Wafflehouse. She'd
never heard of anything like the place....and likewise she never
heard of grits. She tried them both the very day that she arrived.
And wasn't too impressed with the Wafflehouse or grits. Which is
interesting.......that relationship ended not too long after.

A quick glimpse inside this happening joint would yield a
worthwhile contribution for any keen student on the subtle art of
people observing. Another one of my friends, who brags that Waffle
House is he and his girlfriend's favorite place to dine out,
observed that there are basically 2 personalities that you will
find working at any Waffle House stretched throughout all of
Dixiedom. These include the thin grizzled old man who smokes 3
packs a day and has skin as thick as rawhide. He's always the cook
and grunts in irritation when someone has the audacity to play one
of those "gay boy bands" on the juke box. Then there is the large
black lady who is very nice, refering to everyone in the entire
diner as "Sugar" and "Babe". She's usually a waitress and is busy
humming one of her favorite choir tunes, so soulfully that it's a
wonder they even have a juke box in the joint.

However, there are several characters who have been very
fundamental in showing me the appreciation of this little diner.
These are characters that i have had the privelege of witnessing at
my old stomping ground,.....the WaffleHouse on the corner of Ross
Clark Circle and Hwy 231.....in my home town of Dothan, Alabama.
It became a regular habit, an unstoppable rite, a frequent
indulgement, for my friends and I, when nothing else was happening
in Dothan, which was often, to go where the very fetus of
festivity, that babe of excitement, was alive and kicking inside
that maternal womb called the WaffleHouse. My friends where a
lively, ecstatic bunch. There was the Stallion a.k.a. Guido who
was the philosopher friend i mentioned above. There was the
Cheshire Cat who everytime we met together now we still hit the
House of Waffles and fall into a fit of laughter like we used to.
There was Big Fro Clayton and Ozzy and a few others that would take
too long to name.
Our "motley-looking crew" came to pass stories and the time in
our respected seats far to the right of the entrance door. It
wouldn't be long until the presence of the Wafflehouse regulars,
drew our attention to the whole surrounding atmosphere and the
characters that we saw. For the yellow lights of the WaffleHouse
attracts and lures some intriguing creatures from the caverns and
manholes of Dothan where they lurk in the daytime, but when the
beastly night sets in, they come to pow-wow over a cup of coffee
and a waffle. Like the yellow moon that pulls the shrinking wolf
out of his lair to meet together as a pack and howl the night away,
this is the effect that the WaffleHouse has on its local community.
A glimpse around will deliver you to each of these creatures.
Puffing on his stogie at the bar sat, CigarMan in solemn
dignity. He was some sort of ex-marine vet officer who had ran
through many a rice field and I am sure could snap a man's neck in
less than 2 seconds. He hardly said a word to the waitress but sat
there with his coffee and his lit Macanudo, changing the common
cigarette smoke of the Wafflehouse into a richer aroma. Soon his
friends joined one by one as the night darkened and the moon rose.
Seeming to crawl straight out of the juke box was Willie Nelson
himself. He wore his braided hair long and his beard grey. And
he would order his coffee black with his scratchy voice and his
rustic laugh.
Over in the corner sat the officer on duty that night,
Sergeant Gonzalez., who spent his idle crime-preventing inside the
only place in Dothan where people are still awake. This hispanic
cop had his bald pate that gleamed in the dull yellow light of the
diner which was quickly unnoticed due to his large bulbous eyes
that bulged out and kept vigilant and unfaltering watch over the
place. He seemed as the insomniac owl who watches with large,
penetrating discs for eyes, the whole nocturnal romps of the
weariless wildlife of the night. His x-raying sight catching hold
of everyone's move in the restaraunt, he never utters a hoot but
stays perched in sullen judgement to the same seat smoking his
cigarette and sipping his coffee. Every customer there can't help
but feel his intruding gaze.

About the same time that the moon had climbed its ethereal summit, and the nightly spirits of the deep come out to play, and the point when the sweet dreams of the sleeping world are
interrupted by the invasion of barbaric nightmares, the whole
Wafflehouse goes silent for a brief second, which is the voiceless
herald for the entrance of the most restless carnivore in all of
Dothan,.......the Beast. The Beast was what we called him for we
really didn't have any better name that could define him but that.
He had to be near 7 feet tall. His black mullet whipped down so
frizzled onto his shoulders that it appeared to be his mane. The
way his facial features, his cheeks and jawls, were arranged it
appeared as though they were concealing large sabertooths behind
them. But most disturbing and terrorizing were his eyes that were
very small and beady but had this meat-lusty glare in them. They
seemed almost a sharp yellow color that gave anyone he so much as
glimpsed at a skipped heartbeat.
My friends and i over in our corner would find the Beast the
most intriguing of all, and we used to find great amusement in
watching him. This became a true test of courage, who could watch
the Beast the longest, for the creature had an amazing animalistic
sense and could detect the slightest bit of gaze on him. He usally
sat with his friends, Willie and Cigarman as they sat talking about
politics and life, his back usually turned towards us. We used to
with extreme laughter imagine how the Beast would react if he
noticed our gazes. What would such a character do if we knew that
we were finding such supreme fun and humor in watching him? I
could see him jump up, throwing his chair across the room, his
clothes ripping off of him, and lifting up his head while letting
out this blood-freezing roar-howl, displaying those large swords
for teeth to heaven and then turning to maul and eat us all alive.
Instead of risking such a thing we devised a way we could truly
watch the Beast for a long, less dangerous way. We would watch his reflection.
For the walls of WaffleHouse are all glass and the light from
within mingled with the darkness from outside creating a perfect
dim mirror. Until only after a few minutes of our banter when in a
sudden second of potential fury the Beast glanced exactly at the
piece of glass that we were staring and witnessed our ridicule. I
swear that with those beamy yellow eyes, i saw him seeming to lick
his chaps and huff a loud carnivorous grunt, as though he was about
to let the real animal out. We no longer stare at the Beast after
that confrontation. I think that he smells our smirks.
Indulging in all these memories and the rich characters that
the WaffleHouse has, I thought to have gotten a job there. For
every Waffle House has its creatures of the night that it attracts
like vibrant moths to a bulb. And while the Dothan Wafflehouse
has Cigarman, Willie Nelson, Sergeant Gonzalez, and the Beast. I
am sure that every different store has its yocals. I sent an
application in to 2 different WaffleHouses in the region. One in
Auburn, and one in Opelika. I couldn't wait to begin my lessons on
life that our schools don't mention in their fake goals of "higher
education". While it may appear that i speak of the Beast in
complete jest, I do feel a certain serious intrigue into such
people. Our colleges and churches do their best to hide these
nocturnal beings of low-income and low-achievement, and says, "No,
you mustn't become as the Beast." I would venture to say that there
is something so humane in those that the world calls less than
human. It wasn't until Nebuchadnezzar became a beast that he understood what being
a human was about. It's not until we have welcomed the night and
all its visitants that we come to the light. I could not wait to
get hired and learn of such things. But, once again, i was turned
down. It appears that everytime i went to a Waffle House, they
sensed something about me. That i spent too many days in the
sunshine, that I had worn a tie too many times, that i wash behind
my ears in order to appear proper in society. All these things
added up and they saw that i didn't fit the bill for the
WaffleHouse. So I never recieved a call back. And my search still
But someday, far from this present age, I am sure that
up behind the curtains of Heaven, on one of those golden street
corners, there will be a diner there....which will reek with smoke.
And the characters in that place will not be the ones that we thought would be there....the jukebox will be playing Willie Nelson. The grizzled cook will be preparing some grits. The black waitress will be scrubbing the syrup off a table while humming a song of praise....and Peter will be at the corner of the bar puffing on a cigar talking about the greatness of God and life with his friends, the Psalmist David and John the Baptist. -And I sure hope to make
the cut then.