Monday, October 25, 2010


I'm between cars right now and had to catch a ride home with one of our delivery drivers the other day. Donald is from California. There must be a worm hole in California somewhere that sucks people in and dumps them out, bewildered and resentful, here in Arkansas. Everyone who is from somewhere else is originally from California, with the exception of me. Donald is in his 60's and has a band. He's been putting flyers up in the windows at work for their shows at various VFW halls and family functions, he brings in burned CD's and is always sure to let us all know when his shows are. To my knowledge nobody at work has heard the band. I felt pretty certain that on my way home I would be the first.

After a fair amount of small talk about why education in America is failing our children and how frustrating it is when those children grow up and get jobs working for people who buy auto parts from us, he started rummaging around for a CD. What I heard next was not half-bad. The band, and I've failed the reporter in my father because I didn't think to ask the name of it, is Donald singing and playing this bluesy guitar, someone on bass, and someone on drums - all older men. The song that he played was a cover of Dusty Springfield's "Spooky." I like that song anyway, but the way they did it was really good. Donald kept talking though, first about the quality of the recording, explaining that, of course, the drums are way too loud and if they had just listened to him when they were making it it would sound much better, then he started telling me who was playing what, then he got really into it and was dancing and saying things like "this shit is HOT!" and telling me about all the women who rush the stage at the VFW halls. Which led into his days as a guitar player in California. People used to say that he was "the blackest white guy they ever saw." I didn't get what "they" could possibly mean by that because I was looking at a 60-year-old man dancing in an old pickup truck wearing denim shorts with white socks up to his bony knees. He pretty much looks like the whitest white guy you ever saw. Apparently he used to play guitar in a lot of blues clubs in LA, and he was good at it. Based on what I heard he still is, really. As I was getting out of the car he was telling me that this one time Janet Jackson saw him play before she made it really big and wanted him to be a part of her band. He turned it down because he was married, "and that marriage didn't even work out anyway." He didn't seem too broken up about it, but the fact that he mentioned it makes me think of him driving back and forth to Little Rock everyday picking up and dropping of auto parts, wondering what his life would have been if he he had just gone ahead and left his wife and went on the road with Janet Jackson.

I remember one time when I was little Mom was talking about some movie scout wanting to use our barn to film a scene for "Huck Finn," the one with Elijah Wood. I thought at the time that they would probably use our barn and that Elijah Wood would probably fall in love with me and I could be famous with him. They didn't end up using our barn, but for a long time I thought about how different my life might have been if they had. I guess we all have little off-hand chances at totally different lives. I could be Mrs. Wood somewhere right now, hanging out with the other Hobbits and running around New Zealand. Donald could be mourning the death of Michael and helping to care for Prince, Paris, and Blanket. NAPA is lucky to have us.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'm Back - Tool Sale

In October we at Cross Auto Supply celebrate the anniversary of the store's opening in 1950. We send out flyers in September's statements, we make phone calls, advertise, and tell everyone who walks through the door to come to the event, which we affectionately call "The Tool Sale." We could have gone with "Cross Auto Supply's Birthday Bash" or "Cross Auto Supply's Anniversary Celebration," but here in Arkansas, in the auto parts industry, "Tool Sale" evokes the same excitement, the same festival quality as either of the first two options. At the tool sale we, as the name implies, have tools on sale, but we also have balloons, free beer-can-coolers which I learned are called "koozies," chips, chili, and Petit Jean's token red hot dogs. Cross Auto Supply has three stores, in Russellville, Morrilton, and Conway. The tool sales are lined up like machine-gun fire, one after another. Trish and I got to go to all three because the work we do in the office can be put off more than the work the counter people do, which requires them to actually be present to wait on customers.

People come out of the hills for free food around here. At one point we had a line that stretched out into the street and up the block. There were the people who had gotten the flyer in their statements, people who are loyal Cross Auto Supply customers wearing their grease-smudged shirts with their names embroidered on them, the mechanics, body shop guys, the road department employees with their orange vests, the oilfield workers in their jumpsuits, and the people from the hills with stringy hair and missing teeth with their graphic tees, the ones that say things like "Do something with your life. Get me a beer," and "Why couldn't I be rich instead of good looking?" shirts with pictures of dogs with floppy ears that say "Can't hear you. Don't want to." There were skater kids with black hair who should have been in school, who smiled awkwardly when you smiled at them sulking through the line getting their free chili dogs, and the Walmart people who saw the balloons from across the street and knew that where there are balloons, there's free something. It was a good mix, an Arkansas mix.

We must have served about 1,000 hot dogs, we went through onions and pickle relish as fast as we could put them out. Chili was everywhere. Everyone got a koozie, I ended up with three myself. Yesterday was Conway's tool sale, the last one. About 1:00 we started slowing down and I sat down for a minute in the shade, only one of my eyes wouldn't adjust to the light. I went inside to see if it would work itself out and when it wouldn't a sense of dread that I've been waiting for for about twenty years descended upon me. When I was about eight I got a migraine headache. My dad gets migraines and when my vision started going all wrong he sat me down and told me what was happening and what to expect, but nothing could have prepared me for the pain my eight-year-old head was about to endure. I've been on my guard ever since, but had somehow avoided getting another migraine until yesterday. I was praying that I had just burned a retina from the glare of the sun on the aluminum pans sitting around, maybe it was just a fluke thing, maybe I got some scalding chili in my eye or some jalapeno juice. My vision eventually got better and I was praising the Lord for his infinite mercy when the pain hit. I put on my ridiculous sunglasses with these giant Polo symbols on the sides that I never wear until the pressure on my nose became too much, I took my hair down, I sipped water and Sprite, and eventually gave up and sat down in a little ball in the shade. Things had wound down enough that Trish and I were told we could go home. I knew I wouldn't make it back to Russellville without throwing up and I did not want to throw up in Trish's car, which meant that I would have to either roll down the window and throw up ON her car or throw up in my purse, in her car. I decided to try to get it over with before we left. When I came out of the bathroom, hair a mess, face all pale and splotchy, eyes squinted against the florescent lights, Trish had everyone all gathered around in concern looking at me like "was it the chili?" and I had to contort my aching face into a smile and explain that it was a migraine thing, and that we were probably safe from a massive lawsuit for poisoning half the town with tainted chili. I made it back to Russellville, back to my car, back to my house, back to my bed, koozies in tow, to sleep it off.

I woke up feeling better to the cable guy knocking on my door. That was yesterday evening, I've been thinking about the tool sale since then and wanted to tell you about it. If you're ever in Arkansas in October, it's a thing to see, not for the tools or the red hot dogs, not the clever t-shirt quotes or the cute chili server balled up in the corner hiding her eyes, but for the people and the snippets of conversation and those Southern sayings (I don't know how many people asked for their hot dogs to be "baptized" with chili), just to mill about and listen to people talk. It's truly a different world down here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Helllloooo, India!

Can't write right now, I'm at work. I'll get my internet on soon hopefully, but just checked the stats and there's someone (some people???) in India reading, or accidentally stumbling on this page on their way to something more relevant/interesting. I think that's so amazing, thought you might too.

Monday, October 4, 2010

This part of my life

Sometimes I think about my life in pictures. Like, this part of my life I'm breaking fingernails climbing up the side of a cliff, and this part of my life I'm standing in the middle of an open field spinning in circles, etc. Right now, this particular part of my life, I'm a Spartan. Yes, a Spartan.

A Spartans life focused not primarily but exclusively on the army. Boys were taken from their homes at age seven to begin boot-camp-like training, in which they were given little to eat and little to wear. This encouraged them to steal food and blankets. If they were caught they were punished, not for stealing but for getting caught. The punishment was usually some sort of beating and they were taught never to show fear or pain. The only people who were given a burial were men who died in battle and women who died in childbirth, those were the only noble deaths. When sending their sons off to fight a mother would hand him his shield and say "With it or on it," as in either win or die, don't trudge home a loser. Plutarch said that "they are the only men in the world with whom war brought a respite in the training for war." It was intense. One of their tactics, used by many ancient Greeks, was the phalanx. The soldiers would line up with their shields interlaced and their spears sticking out creating a little dome of protection. In that way they could march directly into enemy lines, and push. You'll remember it from the movie about the Spartans in the battle of Thermopylae, "300," during which 300 Spartans fought millions of Persians, and won...almost.

I don't know if I remember this from the movie or if this is an original picture in my head. I hope I came up with it myself, but I probably didn't. In the picture the Spartans sandals are digging into the sand, head down, shoulder forward, as he's pushing against his shield against the enemy. He's getting nowhere but he doesn't give up, he keeps on pushing and pushing. He looses his footing, it's hopeless. He doesn't give up. He regains his strength, braces his feet and continues on, despite the millions of Persians pushing against his one tiny shield. It's hopeless. He doesn't give up. Then, all at once, he summons his strength, gives a mighty shove and sends his enemies flying through the air and he's on his feet, alone. I think that was in "300" because I remember the ramping they used when the enemies flew through the air. I wish it were an original thought, but it's something that has stuck in my head and it's how I feel, this part of my life. I'm a Spartan. Maybe the next part of my life I can be sitting in a treetop somewhere or watching a sunset. I'm tired, what with all the climbing and spinning and pushing.

I'm without internet right now, so I'm stealing time at work. Don't give up on me, I'll be back more regularly soon. Thanks for reading.