Steve Meador is the author of Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, a poetry book that was an entrant for a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is widely published in online and print journals. He has been a real estate broker since the early 1980s and currently lives and practices in the Tampa, FL, area.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mr. Know It All

So, Mr. Know It All has learned that he does not know it all after all, which will come as a surprise to some, and result in “I told you so” from others. Many, many others. I am going to share what I learned with you, because most of you probably don’t know about it either. I have been driving a loaner car from the dealership, while my Avalanche is having some work done.  It has stretched out for over two weeks and is starting to aggravate me, but that is a different post to be written. For years I have driven vehicles that have the gas filler tube on the driver’s side. I like that I can pull up to a gas pump and be right 100% of the time, without even thinking about it.  HOWEVER, the Malibu’s filler is on the passenger side. This has resulted in me pulling up to the gas pump along the wrong side of the vehicle 100% of the time. That is even more aggravating than not having my own vehicle back timely (or fixed correctly the first time). So, I pulled into a gas station today (not a Citgo, never a Citgo because it is the nationalized gas of a government that hates this country—but that is a different post to be written) and got out, only to find I was on the wrong side. Again. All the lanes were all full, so I backed the vehicle in at an angle to allow the hose to reach the passenger side. I slid my credit card in the pump and as I lifted the handle a voice from the next lane says, “Do you know how you can remember which side your gas cap is on?”  Obviously the person did not know who she was offering advice to.  I took a deep breath and swallowed my pride, “How’s that?” The woman said she was retired from a company that manufactured instrument panels and gauges and that every vehicle has a small arrow on the gas gauge pointing to which side the filler tube is located. “Take a look.” I did, and darn if she wasn’t right! I have been driving since June of 1970 and never knew that. (Actually since fall of 1968, but we don't discuss the pre-license years.) I had to be told by the little filly in the next lane. Well, she was more like the old gray mare, one that had probably been well-ridden, but that is a whole different post to be written. We both went into the mart to buy something and we chatted for a couple minutes. She bought coffee and cigarettes, said good bye to me and hoofed out to her car. I bought an unsweetened ice tea and, because I was feeling lucky from my new-found knowledge, a PowerBall ticket. The old mare taught me about the arrow, but she wasn’t Lady Luck.  Not one of the numbers on the ticket matched the numbers drawn. But, if I drive until I am 100, I will never again pull up to the wrong side of a gas pump. I will have less aggravation in my life. I can rightfully reclaim my title as Mr. Know It All. Finally, I have a tidbit that I can always share with others at concerts, parties, the pool, wherever. In a way, that’s kind of like winning a lottery. A very small one and one that will aggravate listeners in the future.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I had several foreclosure properties to look at today. It is dreary and depressing work. We are in hard times, times when it is easy to be disgusted with events, the government, the country in general. However, after a right turn and finding $1.37 in loose change in the cup holder of my vehicle, I saw the day from a different and less disgusting point of view. The sign had a big red arrow, pointing in the direction of Dixie’s Dockside. Curiosity took hold of my steering wheel and led me to the dead end at the riverfront. Dixie’s is a bar for boaters and locals and anyone else who can find it.
I found it. I saw another sign on the building announcing $1 drafts, all day long, so I grubbed through the coins and found enough, plus a $.37 tip. I had no idea what to expect. I live in Florida, where some places can be a little like the old west. But I have put away those days, in exchange for a quick wit and ability to chat my way out of trouble. Dixie’s is located in Gibsonton, known as Gibtown or Carnietown.
It is a place well-known for its wiley inhabitants, who are mostly carnival owners and workers who travel around the county about nine months of the year, then come home and cause a ruckus the other three months. It is a place where justice is distributed in local fashion and then, if that does not settle the matter, by the sheriff and the county courts. But I always figure a man with a camera and a southern drawl will be welcomed and revered. Most of the seats and stools were empty,
but those who were there waved or nodded as I climbed the steps. That is always a good sign. I went inside, walked up to the bar and ordered one of the $1 beers, left my .37 and said, “That’s all I got, honey. Catch up with you next time.” She scowled at me and three roughnecks sitting at the bar each gave me the evil eye. I nodded and smiled at them. One guy says, “What you takin’ pitchers of?” I said, hoping to joke, “Well, at a place like this I figure it ain’t safe to leave a camera in the car, better to carry it on me.” They laughed like hell and another says, “I wouldn’t bet on that.” Then they laughed even harder. I went outside and took a seat across from an older couple, who I called Ma and Pa Kettle,
a biker, who I called Easy Rider and an 86 year old former biker, who I called The Kaiser. I always work the names in easy like, “You remind me of the old movies of Ma and Pa Kettle,” or, “Say, how are things on the road, Easy Rider?”
How are they going to respond to something like that, to a guy with a camera around his neck? I watch people, notice their eyes and body language.
I can tell when they are more curious than dangerous and these people were looking at my camera. In half an hour, and one beer, I gathered no names but lots of background. Ma and Pa have been married over 50 years. He was in the Air Force, served in Vietnam, was stationed in Guam and many other places. Easy Rider has been to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally where he was invited to stay with a family of strangers, where he witnessed a shootout between gangs, where he would like to go again. The Kaiser walked with agility and ease, drank with experience and ease, talked like a 50 year old and quit riding motorcycles a couple years ago. So, here is this out-of-the-way place, on the banks where the Alafia River is near its widest, where people shared information about their lives, their loves and their politics with a complete stranger. We all chatted and wished the best of luck to a couple of crab trappers and a couple other boats full of fishermen who strolled up the dock.
I have to consider whether these people were simply a bar full of tongue-wagging drunks, or just friendly, everyday folk. I think it was the latter. In fact, not one ordered a drink while I was there. Dixie’s is a place where seafarers, rednecks, bikers, rebels, carnies and others, including suburbanites like me, can gather and enjoy each other’s company, regardless of our obvious differences. Each of them made a comment, or comments, about the current ignorance in Washington, DC, and all the others agreed. These are not the privileged, wealthy or lobbied. They are ordinary folk, either working or retired, but each one concerned and worried about this country. I don't know about their religious beliefs, and don't give a damn about those beliefs. Nobody ran out to their car and strapped on a bomb vest or grabbed a weapon. In a way, I felt like I was in Boston, a couple centuries ago, huddled beneath the Liberty Tree, talking about how things are and how they should be. I felt like I was in the company of genuine Americans, people who are getting near to the end of the rope of patience and ready for the gong of the bell to strike their way. Damned if it wasn’t a good feeling, and it had nothing to do with that nice cold beer.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Suddenly, there was the brightest of lights, blinding, really, but I was able to look into it and ahead I saw movement. Whatever it was moved forward with a fluid motion, so, I followed, being curious. Then, there was music, singing, very faint and childlike. I continued to walk, but there seemed no motion or movement in my legs, I flowed, as though I were riding on the water of a stream. I looked down, but saw nothing other than the light. That was when I began to panic. The singing stopped and the sweetest of voices said, "Do not be afraid. Follow me." I then saw the figure again, blurred and moving away from me. I could see delicate wings, translucent and firm. The light was growing dim, more gray, not much different than the clouds of an afternoon storm, but the quiet was absolute.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I recently visited New Orleans for the first time. It was a Saturday night and the crowd was thick, bumping, zigzagging and raucous. I guess I am not sure what I was expecting to find on Bourbon Street, at a time other than Mardi Gras.  Perhaps a cozy, homey strip of businesses where one could take the family to buy trinkets, bobbles and sno cones, then enjoy a quiet supper. Maybe that is how it was at one time, but I found just the opposite. Hopefully, folks from that area will not be too offended as I offer my observations.
I am not worldly, more of a small-town-country-boy-turned-metro-man savvy, which means I have seen, and partaken in, my fair share of odd and peculiar events. And it takes a fair amount of the odd and peculiar to shock me. I found there, in The Big Easy, the seedy, the greedy and the needy. I inhaled and smelled the musk of depravity, piling garbage, spilled beer and food deep-fried in stalest grease. I saw breasts, boobies, hooters, tits of all perkiness and droopiness, taut and wrinkled, golden tan and sunless pale. I witnessed homelessness, drunkenness, senselessness and numerous other words ending with  –ness that describe what I think is wrong with our country today. I found truth in the saying, “Stay on the main drag.” I found young teenagers roving in areas, and at hours, they should not have been roving.

I found a permanent carnival, complete with sideshows, hucksters, hookers and people who want to sell you something they shouldn’t, or buy something from you they shouldn’t. I suppose I am no different than most people. As I age I do lots more shaking my head in disgust, as I develop a growing intolerance of some things. On the other hand, I have become more tolerant of some things. We kind of balance the scales that way. I was not shocked by any of it; I could write on and on about all the negatives, but I won’t.

New Orleans is certainly a city under repair, everywhere. Nearly six years after Katrina there remains ample evidence of the destruction, in both the commercial and residential areas. I followed the news during and after the storm, and, to be honest, I was one of those individuals who thought the whole city should be abandoned, leveled, never rebuilt. Why subject the residents, the taxpayers, those of us who pay homeowner’s insurance (our rates reflect the overall liability) to the likelihood that another calamity would cause billions more in destruction? I was wrong in that knee-jerk reaction, and that is clearly apparent after my visit. (Not like that was even a remote possibility.) Once I scratched beneath the obvious I was impressed and amazed. The crowd was mostly young people; maybe the average age was 25 years old. Most, at least those I talked to, were local people. There were a few foreigners. I detected what I thought was German, French, possibly Russian and some New Yorkers. (One of those snapped at me, as I stood near one corner, “Look at you! What are you going to do, photograph the breasts?” She scurried in disgust when I asked her to flop her hooters out!) People were there to eat, drink and enjoy time with friends. They were stimulating the economy, themselves and others. They were listening to talented street performers and bands on the stages at numerous bars. I don’t believe I heard a bad note waft from the whole singing lot.

There was no evidence of  concern or worry about hard times, high unemployment, skyrocketing prices for food, wars, or any of the other ills encasing America. The farther I traveled down Bourbon Street, the more I came to appreciate who we are as a country. I came to realize that however long it takes, whatever the costs, New Orleans is a place that is unique, and it needs to always be there. It needs to be there for Friday and Saturday nights. It needs to be there for the rest of the days of the week. It needs to be there because it needs to be rebuilt so that we can thumb our noses at the world, in American fashion, and say, “Not only can we rebuild you, but we can continue to rebuild ourself, and have a good time while doing so.”  But most of all, it needs to be there so that Americans like me can visit and say, “Holy shit, what a terrible place this is. But, I love it!”

So, leave a candle in the window 


and a drink on the table.

 I'll be back.