It's been a tough week for me, just one of those weeks that beats a man down. And when I get beat down so far, I throw a party...a pity party. Weeks like this get me to thinking about how, if I were really honest with myself, truthfully...my whole life has been pretty tough. So, I've moped around for a day or two contemplating that perhaps I should throw in the towel. Give up. Not anything major, mind you, like eating rat poison. No, more along the lines of piling up on the couch, turning on Netflix, and devouring an entire family size bag of Lay's potato chips. If you know me, you know that if it comes to that, I've pretty much given up on life.
We all go through these little bumps in the road and I suppose we all handle it differently. Some drink. I'm not much of a drinker...I've still got a beer in the fridge from 1999. I just haven't had the urge to drink it. Some folks turn to drugs. The last time I laid eyes on any illegal substances was the night Sticky Nikki pulled a baggie out of her panties on some dark country road back in Nineteen Seventy Something. Ah, and there you have it. I just gave it away with that last sentence. When I get down and out, I go back...to Nineteen Seventy Something.
I wrote a book titled 'Nineteen Seventy Something' a few years back. It's a good book if I do say so myself. I wrote it during a pretty tough time in my life, much tougher than this week has been. Looking back, I didn't realize it then, but writing the book was a form of therapy, probably the best therapy I could have gotten. As I wrote what would become a fictionalized account of my early years, I began to realize just how bad those days were...and I never knew it at the time.
I found myself on my own at the age of seventeen with my senior year of high school looming ominously before me. I had a piddly job sacking groceries that brought me a paycheck of around seventy bucks a week. I had a car payment, rent, and all the usual bills, and somehow I had to feed myself with what was left over. If I had a twenty dollar bill in my pocket, I thought I was living in high cotton. More often than not, my money usually ran out a couple of days before payday, and most of those days, supper was a piece of bread or a few saltine crackers and the scrapings from an empty peanut butter jar. Those were the good weeks. There were weeks where I'd have to buy a tire or a starter for my car, or a jar of peanut butter. Then there was the senior ring, a tux for prom, and all those expenses that come with graduation. When the soles of my boots wore through to the pavement, I made insoles out of cardboard. That'd get me by for a few days, and then I'd put more cardboard in my boots. I suppose I could write a book about those times...oh yeah, I did.
Not much of all that made it in the book. When I allowed my memories to rattle loose from their hiding places within the depths of my mind, it wasn't those times that I remembered. It was the good times. Only in later years did I realize that in spite of all the trials and tribulations I endured in the seventies, I looked back on them as the good old days. I asked myself why and the only answer I ever came up with was...because I survived. And I grew up strong!
I was a kid at the end of his teen years, full of hope and dreams, and I never let anything take either of them away. I took life by the horns and held on tight for the ride of a lifetime. I never even considered failure a possibility. I worked forty hours a week and made the A honor roll. I was in the senior play, active in FFA, editor of the school paper, and won second place in the state in the UIL journalism competition. I paid off my Plymouth Roadrunner and never missed a payment. I had friends, best friends. I had girlfriends...two at once and they didn't care! I discovered a love of such magnitude that few would ever experience in a lifetime. I received a scholarship to college and never missed a day of class. I moved from a shack that had been converted from a chicken coop into a three bedroom, two bath house, charming and quaint...with carpet and air conditioning! I promoted up through the company to become the youngest store manager in its history...then promoted to become the youngest area supervisor ever. I accomplished all of this before the age of twenty-one. Not one time did I ever consider giving up...not once.
I've had more tough times since the seventies, lots and lots of them. I call them adventures. The Good Lord grants some folks immense success, financial wealth, enduring love. ageless beauty...me, I've been blessed with lots of adventures. I'm grateful for every one of them. Through it all, I've never lost the hope and dreams...and I've never lost faith. I suppose without those bumps in the road, there'd be no adventures...and no stories to tell. Am I really going to let one lousy week get me down? No...because I go back...
My eyes focused on the girl sitting beside me on the hood of my car out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. She was all I had in this whole world at this exact moment...and I couldn't bear the thought of losing anything more than I'd already lost. My hand drew her face close to mine until our lips touched and I let Sticky Nikki D take my loneliness away, if only for the night. Rising up through the air like the smell of colitas, the wail of the guitars of the Eagles played on the 8-track and the words rang in my ears,
'We are all just prisoners here, of our own device...'