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

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In Search of My American Dream

Have you ever had a desire, almost like a vision where you're doing something in the future? Now these are not goals or lifetime ambitions....not that kind of dream. But more like a whimsical pondering, where you could really receive a full visualization of that curiosity. And then you would stab at it with your imagination coloring it all types of vibrant. But the most curious thing about this, is when you forget about the entire desire, only to realize, after looking around, that you are living this very desire, but still feeling bored or, better worded, unfulfilled.

This job that I have now is this exact case. I don't know how many of you have noticed but I tend to get around. If I'm in Birmingham one night, I could be in Arkansas the next, followed by a short romp in New Orleans afterwards. My car is my office. My map my main office planner. I am living that dream. As a vagabond, gypsy merchant.

I recall one of the first desires that I had was planted in me when I was living in Europe and I remember thinking that the world I had once known had suddenly become smaller. I remember all the traveling I did. -All the different nations, even continents I crossed...and cultures I wandered through, and how everything in my homeland seemed smaller, more accessible. While back before my globe-trotting days, everything in America seemed so spaced out. A full day's drive was a very big and major trip. But foreign travel shrinks all that. Also, some serious nostalgia gets a hold of your imagination and you paint your homeland in idyllic colors. Maybe that was my personality's version of homesickness. But even in that questionnable state, I desired not going home to stay, but going home to explore.

I remember particularly sitting in a hotel room in Bangkok. It was late at night. My brother was konked out, snoring up a storm. But I lay on my bed entranced in a very special film. It had came out in America while I was across the pond. And before my brother drifted off to sleep, he was surprised that I hadn't seen it, and that I should definitely watch it, that is, if I kept the volume down. So laying on my bed, my head stretched forward towards the TV, I tried to catch all the rich dialogue that was going on in the remarkable film that is titled, "O Brother Where Art Thou?" You understand that it had been almost 2 years since I had seen people talk like that, since I had seen the very culture that I had sprang from. It was all so wonderful. I might have had tear drops standing on the verge of my eyes when I saw all the greens of the crops and fields. Poignantly, I remember the lighting of the whole movie is given in this sort of yellowish tint, as though you are looking at old faded photographs. It was as though I was looking into the pictures of my Bigdaddy's (my grandfather's) youth and the stories that had so long been quiet there had sprung open and come to life. It was a re-attachment phase back into my roots. I felt it sharply. And I couldn't wait to get back over and explore this mythic land we call the South. For that was another feature that I absolutely loved about the film, it displayed the South as this land of mythology and legend. Ulysses goes bounding through the kudzu-infested land on his adventures, meeting all types of characters, forever running from something (the law; reality; himself), but at the same time chasing after something (love; hope; understanding). You see both Homer and the writers of this script, (and Alfred Lord Tennyson for that matter) had me feel that Ulysses was me.

Then again, I came back to the states and my southern portion of it, and realized that everybody here is rush, rush, rush, go, go, go... but at the same time never really getting anywhere. This rush is all sedentary. It's rowing upstream. Racing in a roundabout. For what? A yard. A plaque. A car and a house, in truth, a sense of accomplishment. True wandering around was never an American dream. We stole the land from the Indians so that we could build two-story houses on them with Suburbans parked outside our garages. (Parking them inside the garages would be pointless, for they are a symbol of our own competence, or rather, veiled mediocrity, to our neighbors, who may just be tempted to think we are losers if they don't see that big, plain vehicle huffing in the drive from all our precious errands.) The white-picketed fence could never be contained in a traveler's backpack. What would it encompass? Surely not, all on this earth that we could call our own? Leave it to Beaver and Mayberry had always had bigger audiences than Jack Kerouac. But yet, there is something in us that is pioneering and pilgriming, that has survived through the periods of the most practical, bland ideals and brought us Kerouac and some sort of restless urge that lies just below the skin where we can't quite scratch it.

Then, I remember going through college and feeling as though I was chained to a system, that might be fine for generating an appropriate income, but is altogether fine in burying one in debt as well. Here, I am not merely talking about college loans, but the entire mentality that is set up by this intangible American Dream, because it is common knowledge the more income I can acquire the more payments I can bear. It's as though it's to be expected the more afloat I am, the more indulgent the plunge into financial waters. An increase in the former, gives us incentive for the latter. All the while, our much hyped about liberty slips away from us. And after our days run and raze, we are but slaves and serfs to rust and rubbish, and the entanglement that makes us all so sedentary and fearful. Thoreau was dead on. We don't own our possessions, they own us.

Enough of my soapbox, more of my crazy-eyed, dream-like whims. While at Harding. my last semester there, I hatched an entertaining thought. Instead of sitting in keyboard-clicking cubicles, or climbing that erudite ladder to goodness-knows where in grad school, or even getting paperwads hurled at me from acne-faced high schoolers as a teacher, I dreamed big and I dreamed bold and I thought to myself, I should spend a year in the indomitable profession of a trucker. Yes, an entire year living like a real Wal-Mart patriot. Cruising the highways and byways. My heartbeat slapping time to those yellow dashes whizzing by. Why, at Harding I couldn't stay from behind my steering wheel, always wanting to go gallivanting about the roads and horizons. I detested the classroom; I loved the sky through the windshield. I remember sitting up in a room overlooking the campus with Jonathan Towell talking this plan over. Instead of being just your average, run-of-the-mill, hashbrown-eating trucker, I would become a sort of scintillating, sparkling character of folklore. I would don a huge Indian Headress and everywhere I go the other truckers and Wafflehouse waitresses would exclaim, "Here comes the Golden Injun or Sundance Pawnee" Or some such name. But some of the more aggressive truckers, and they do exist, would probably just call me that "Crazy Queer" and I would have to fight them. And after a few brawls, cracking napkin dispensers and Heinz 57 bottles over a few mullets, I would win my respect, slightly feared by the rest of the Bubbas and Clems, but secretly adored by the Flos and Bettys. I would dazzle the country. Through hearsay, people up in Washington would hear about my adventures while crossing through Florida. And the trucking community in Vermont would whisper of my escapades in Arizona. I would seem everywhere and always at one time in one place. Yes, it was as though I was hauling the sun as it rose from one end of America to the other, as I rode zigzagging through the Appalachians, hopping across the Mississipp, hovering over the Plains, and hurdling the Rockies...and always there would be sightings...."I saw 'im driving at the bottom of the Grand Canyon to escape a state trooper and then disappear into the desert like a mirage." or "I was there when he clean ran over them herd of sasquatches up in Alaska." and "He was known to dangle his foot to fish for gators at the same time that he drove through them bayous of Louisiana." On and on the stories would roll. America has heard of Pecos Bill, and John Henry, and Paul Bunyan, they were sure to hear of me. But I didn't go that route. I opted on another path.

But circumstances, has brought me around, now, to live just a fraction of that dream. I'm on one long road trip. And I must say, that even with this I am getting restless, bored and unfulfilled I feel that there is much more to do with and in life. So we shall see where that sun-glintering road takes me now.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Fool in the Storm

Fortunately, I find myself oftentimes not far away from the beach. Fitfully, I was born a mere 90 minutes drive from the sea. Today I woke up in my hometown of Dothan and I thought to go down to some of the stores that my company’s merchandise is held. I had not much of a complaint. Accept when I saw the grey clouds outside my window. It was not the best day to pick to go to the beach. But work is work. I would hit 3 Walgreen’s stores, coercing managers to allow me to reorder those indispensable Florida T-shirts with neon dolphins and bowing palm trees on them.

After these 3 stores and making two large orders, I was winding down that Panama City Beach Front Road. Usually, I would find a more remote spot, and spread a blanket out and either read or write or just lay there under the sun with the sounds of the ocean nearby…so nice and so ideal. But there was no sun today. Only huge dark clouds and rain pelting the white sands. But even in these dire circumstances, the beach parades its own beauty. I actually like the beach in the rain. For once a spectacular beach can be yours alone. And for once the magnificence of the ocean is felt, undiluted in grandeur without the fracas of blaring radios and whirling volleyballs. It’s just you and the entirety of the ocean and the sky and the rain and what threatening awe it poses if you observe reverently. This very day, I didn’t feel like getting wet, (I didn’t bring my shorts) I was driving down the strip, when I noticed two dark streaks stabbing down into the ocean. They were funnel clouds. I got excited. And everything inside me called for me to stop the car. So I pulled over in the parking lot of this pizza joint. And got out, observing the two water spouts dancing and spinning across the ocean. As I was watching, trying to take it all in. Some customers in the pizza joint came out watching the same dark-clouded ballerinas of storm and sea. I didn’t know if there was anything to feel danger about. Fear was nearly absent inside. Just a sense of curiosity, of awe, of excitement rose inside.

Just then, this large mullet haired man peeps out of the door of this pizza joint.
He reminded me of Dog the Bounty Hair, had the same type of look except dark hair, the same swarthy eyes and big bouncer, tough guy look…with a black sleeveless shirt and irrefutable cheesiness. He comes glancing about, exclaims to the group he’s with, his family, “It’s comin’ this way! We gotta get away from these glass windows. Let’s, everyone, load up the hummer and get outa here!” I looked over at his huge, bright shiny yellow hummer over to the side. His hurried exclamation supported my view that people who drive hummers pretend to be tough on the outside, while inside they’re just big wieners. However, I wasn’t yet sure to make sense of the waterspouts. They weren’t tornadoes. I had glanced around to see what how other people would react, and this is what I saw. And still I felt that they were being paranoid.

However, one guy ran out across the road to the beach to get a closer look. And this is what I really wanted to do. So I followed this person who looked like a punk kid with combat boots and a bandana. But in the trail of white sand between these two beach houses, I saw that this punk was a girl. She was hurrying back towards the pizza joint mentioning that she’s going to get her camera. I ran to the beach and stood there entranced by the entire scene.

The two funnel clouds where getting closer to land. The dark, ominous cloud that sat ontop of both of them was drifting in shore. Then the two did something unexpected. They merged into one waterspout. All the while you can see it turning, turning closer and closer. I took out my phone and snapped 3 different pictures. I have them on me. I just don’t have the phone plug to transfer them to a computer or I would post them in this note.

All the while, while holding my phone up I felt the wind getting a little heavier. There was that element inside me, where I was waiting for the smallest dab of discomfort and then I would take off sprinting across the sands. I trust my intuition wholeheartedly and call it foolish, but I didn’t feel that warning tug. I felt that this waterspout was something to take in purely and wholly and not go panicking away from. I imagined myself being hurled a few yards in the air. But deep down knew that this wasn’t going to happen. The waterspout quickly changed into less of a narrow twister and more of a twirling gust. I could see the crests of the waves around this swirl being spun around like a miniature maelstrom. Looking back at one photo I have, it looks like the torso and the arms of sea god pummeling his angry way to shore. Instead of coming directly for me, what seemed to be the case when I first stepped onto the beach, this Poseidon, turned his spinning path to my left, but he was still hoping to make shore. He was slowly winding down, which is what I believed would happen. Maybe a hundred yards or so down the beach, the sea-god had hit the beach spraying a tight shower all around as he continued to journey past a hotel and across the road. As far as I know, nothing was damaged. I walked back to my car still amazed. And then I stopped in a restaurant not far to eat and I showed some of the waitresses my photos. They live there and they said they’ve never seen anything like it.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Texas Romp

I don't remember how it started. I don't know how it will end. I tore across that Texas line a few weeks ago, for my random, wind-blown job. My footsteps were quick to lead me out of Arkansas. Supposedly, and I'm not joking. I'm almost a wanted man in Searcy. Though nothing serious, just a little conflict with some security officers over a little random celebration, an idiot mistake on my part involving, bright colors, a boom and a bang, the sloppiest getaway, and the ridiculous tech savvy security features on my car. So I slipped out of town like an outlaw; out of the heat of Arkansas and into the warmth of Texas. And when I came to step out of my car in Texarkana, looking at my feet, the thought occurred, "I should have brought my pair of cowboy boots."

Landed in Dallas, staying with a cousin of mine. Hung out and caught up, and had once ventured up to Ft. Worth to a huge Honky Tonk, where we were both hit on by a pair of 45-year old, completely plastered ladies. We would break our way from their drunk, derailed seductions and "offerings" to sit on the edge of a bustling, shiny dance floor and watch several young, beautiful girls being twirled around the wooden panels all in succinct, rhythm, like a well-oiled machine. Meanwhile, I'm thinking if only they would free-dance, instead of these set maneuvers then I would burst out on stage. My cousin didn't seem to care, asked a homely girl to dance, while I thought to myself, "If only I had my cowboy boots on then, I would scuff and raze the floor, and maybe throw some cowgirl to the twang of a steel guitar."

Attended a wedding in north Dallas. It was a small, outside wedding. The bright white pavilion shined like some medieval pageant in that vast, blue sky announcing the union of man with woman.. And so their oaths were delivered, their paths converged, and their souls shuffled. The king and queen assembled with all the suits there attending….with hearts, and diamonds, and spades, and clubs. And the jacks and the aces felt the solemn vows of the majestic sunset. And I appeared, as always, the token wild card. There was mingling of old acquaintances as the punchbowl spoon tore through the chunks of ice. And all the while, I hoped, so wished, that the dancing would begin. Because dancing at a wedding is the most sublime thing. But none occurred. But I did manage to give my gift a tad late to this couple. And what was it? And what could it be that would so capture the essence of a binding and strong love? I had the gift hidden in a bag, for I can’t really wrap all that well. But within this bag sat the one thing that a poor shopper like me, would think could seal a sacred relationship for all times…it was a 3 disc-set of Kenny Rogers greatest love songs. Yes! And I can’t wait until the newly-weds tear through the bag and see this fine treasure of white beard and hair and most especially, ballad-singing cowboy boots.

Outside of Waxahachie, I began speaking with my cousin’s neighbor, we sat on a bench at this apartment complex. We talked about life and love and the other important things. Me and this stranger. And she told me about her husband whom she is separated from though not divorced. How cruel he is, his jealousies, his drunkenness….and how he has raised his fist in the air and swung down, beating her and kicking her. She only pressed charges once. But she still thinks he will change. So she spends time with him, and she returns his calls. She left her phone inside as we were talking, and he called 11 times in the span of an hour and a half…wanting to know what she was doing and how come she hadn’t called back. She, poor creature, called him back..and I could hear his voice on the other side…accusative, possessive, belittling,….a monster of a man. I wonder would he show up. He only lived a few minutes away. And if he did, how I would love to stuff my fist in his face. Raze him to ground, throw back all types of rage his way, tackle him, subdue him, erase his angry deeds with the angry deeds of my own, vanquish and castrate him, kick him over and over again, in the head, and all with those cowboy boots that I’d left behind.

Made my way up to Wichita Falls and I didn’t know a soul. I found a large field in a park and popped out a blanket and very picnic-like, I kicked off my shoes and laid down trying to read The Prophet, but my mind was distracted trying to take everything in while the afternoon pealed away its golden layers before the few remaining trees of this West Texas gateway. I sat in contemplation and prayer and I felt like a large weight was lifted from my tumultuous heartstrings. It was the release of what was my heart’s wrestling with the true acknowledgement of grace and faith. And in sitting at the beginning of the Great Plains, I felt all anxiety drip from me, and I felt assurance all around. Love and peace were so close, they had been all along. And yet, all the while, I had been striving, and striving for perfection and against perfection. For love and in absence of love, and for joy and for the darkness that was the shadow of my disappointments that seemed to have gripped me like a vice for the past months, years, maybe. And yet it was one huge grappling match for a faith, that I didn’t really have much of…but all the long I howled and fought, never realizing that if I just believed in complete acceptance…then what peace was there. I was always thirsty. In search. Like a wandering cowboy in a desert land without his pair of boots.

Further West I ventured, into the city of Lubbock. A place I once lived. I stepped forward in my life, but stepped back in time. Again the nostalgic footfalls were heard. And the sun on high in every direction cascaded its light all across the scene. I recounted memories, but not reachable from their usual melancholic hold. Talking with old friends and laughing about the times. Sometimes I wonder about the past. Is it really as beautiful as the present? For the present can seem so mundane and lonesome, so boring and trivial. And sometimes I wonder about the future. It can seem so gray at times. But how gorgeous is that West Texan sun in general and how blessed and thankful I am to be alive, though my path always seems to be rough and zigzagging, without a guide. Fragmented and broken-sharded, my life and self appear to be….but I’m making my way through the blessed days of the past to the blessed days of the future, My hands for once are at ease, and my footsteps in grateful rhythm being lead across the canyons, and valleys, and ravines, even when I’m thoughtless enough to forget my boots on this one long wild adventure of mischief, dancing, commitment, revenge, love, and life.