'Saturn Twice!' (continues)
Texas was a nightmare, an eleven-year nightmare (for me)! Yet, some very interesting things happened to me in the Lonestar State! 'If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd rent out Texas and live in Hell!' This my favorite quote about Texas (I forget the author?).
I moved there, with my wife Gail, from Berkeley, California (talk about a 'jump cuts'), because I thought this was the place to write the Jack Favor screenplay (near to where he lived).
I'll never forget driving to buy a bottle of wine in Arlington, Texas, only to discover this was a 'dry' county! It was one hell of an education, living in Texas! 'I'm 'fixin' to go to the store!' I had to drive ten miles west to Tarrant County to buy the wine, right on the county line, where there were many liquor stores.
We had found a little wooden house with a yard in North Arlington, at the end of a cul de sac (maybe I'll think of the name of the road?). This was 1985, and the road hadn't been 'punched through' to the Mall nearby and renamed.
Just east of us was Texas stadium where the baseball team played, where George W. Bush had some job (don't remember if he was the owner or General Manager). When Jack found out where we were living, he said, 'Ah, that's 'Donkey Flats,' where the poor people live!' I responded with, 'Well then, we're right at home!' which shut him up.
It was a 'working class' neighborhood, and our neighbors were friendly (as Texans are). We'd be invited to barbeques, and do they ever know how to cook brisket (a part of a steer). Our neighbor, to the south, had made a cooker (on wheels) and he knew how to cook brisket all night, smoking it with mesquite wood. After about twelve hours it was 'done,' tender and delicious! I wasn't a vegetarian back then. You couldn't have been around macho-meat-eating Jack Favor! He was on my case enough about my life style (too whimpy for him), as I used to smoke dope with his daughter, Jane.
Gail and I had a huge fenced backyard with a tornado shelter, and an old garage (circa 1930s). There was the 'front' backyard, and then the 'back' backyard (which I turned into a garden until I lost the battle with fire ants!).
We wanted a dog. So, one day we went to the 'Pound' in Fort Worth. After walking around observing all of the dogs in cages we selected a red-haired combination retiever and 'something' who looked especially forlorn. A male he was supposed to be 'neutered' upon his 'release.' I refused to have it done, and made a big mistake (you live and learn hopefully)!
This dog had more energy (maybe one-year old) than ten huskies! He was hard to control, if not impossible! We named him Rufus because of his color.
Note, I always think of Rufus B. von Kleinschmidt, a Cancellor of the University of So. California, when I think of our 'Rufus.' I remember being at a wedding reception at some resort in Riverside, California, this years ago, where Mr. von Kleinschmidt has his own cottage (with name plate)... Thus, I've always remembered the name!
Anyway, I took to training 'Rufus!' Actually, in the long-run I think it was Rufus who trained me! He was incorrigible! I tried to leash train him on long (miles) walks through Northern Arlingon. But, I don't think I ever did! He had a mind of his own (just like me). They say a dog reflects the personality of his 'master.' Had I been a little wiser at the time, I might have realized this!
The 'front' backyard, was fenced and Rufus' home. For the winter I had built (or acquired) a dog house, which I heated with light bulbs. We were not the kind to have a dog (I just 'inadvertently wrote the word 'god' for the word 'dog') in the house.
Rufus toughened up. He could jump over the low (4ft. high) fence. He was a wanderer, and took to being 'AWOL,' for periods of time. Mostly to visit his 'girlfriends' (when in 'heat'). We'd get calls as had put our telephone # on his dogtag. I'd go and bring him back, scolding him in the process. But, I think I only made him 'angrier!'
I tried to discipline Rufus. It backfired! I installed an electric wire above the fence, but he could 'sail over this too.' You just couldn't keep him unless you put him on a chain, and then he'd sleep for days (depressed). But, one time he got his comeuppance as his choke collar (around his neck) got tangled up in the electric wire and kept shocking him (we heard him wailing) until I managed to turn it off. Thereafter, he wouldn't try to jump over, but would dig holes underneath the fence. I'm surprised no Texan ever tried to 'shoot' him, when after their female dog. But, Rufus seemed to have 'nine lives!'
When Gail and I split up (I drove her back to California), I gave him to a friend named Cher. The last time I saw him was in her backyard in Fort Worth. She had him on a moveable chain (sliding up and down wire). After losing track of Cher, I heard she gave Rufus to a rancher. God knows where he is now, probably 'Dog Heaven.'
I had another experience with an 'animal' in Texas. That's what his nickname was, 'The Animal,' thus his real name will go unmentioned here. I'd first met him in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, at Angola when 'shooting Warden Jack.' He was Jack's bunk mate. So, when he was released where did he head but Texas to be near Jack.
Years earlier this was the same guy I'd gotten paroled to me in New York City. I remember before departing Angola, after completing 'shooting Warden Jack,' he'd come and ask me to sign his parole papers. I went to consult with Jack. 'Give the kid a chance!' was Jack's advice, the worst he ever gave me.
I was living in Lee Arthur's penthouse (E. 52nd St.) while she was working at KDKA/2 in Pittsburgh. I remember a New York State Parole Officer coming for a visit to see if I was properly 'qualified' to host this parolee (from Louisiana). After examining the penthouse, the man tried to level with me. He looked me straight in my eye, this to make sure he got his point across. He asked, 'Mr. Hutchison, how well do you know _____________?' Not to be intimidated I said, 'Well enough!' He shrugged, and said, 'Well, I tried!' He knew, I didn't! I was just the kind never to back down from any challenge. As Howard Cosell once said, 'I've never taken a step backward!'
My parolee, Jack's bunkmate, had been a 'Hog' at Angola -- meaning the 'worst of the worst!.' This is someone so completely fearless everyone feared him, including the guards. This guy had once wadded into a group of black inmates, all armed (with homemade knives), wanting to kill him. Somehow he put most of them into the hospital. He ending up there too. I think he was stabbed thirty times or more, but recovered!
While he was with me in N.Y.C., I tried to help this guy, give him a chance to 'go straight.' He had no work ethic, having been a criminal and mafia killer all this life. Originally from New Jersey, an orphan, his step-father had beaten him regularly. As soon as he was old enough he ran away to the 'Big City,' and ended up as a Mafia 'runner.' Later he'd been involved in a robbery in Lousiana, and why I discovered him one day in 'Angola' (as we called the Louisiana State Penitentiary). He'd didn't understand 'going straight!' He called me a 'Square John!' He explained people like him were called 'characters.' He'd killed people (later he told me how). I had no idea who I was living with, really.
Yet, he could be as timid as a mouse. He had no social skills, and whenever I had a female guest over he would hide in his bedroom.
He would sleep all day, as up all night. He had no work discipline. So, when I had him rennovate our new office space, he might only work for an hour or so, then disappear. Or, he'd work too long breathing plaster dust we were ripping off the walls and almost pass out. He was a problem child!
Sometimes I'd get a call from a freaked-out bartender down in the Bowery. Mr. ___________ had gotten drunk, and was holding the entire bar 'hostage.' But, he had been smart enough to have given the bartender my telephone number in case of what he knew might happen.
I'd go down to a bar on (usually on Houston St.), and there he would be, the customers too frightened to move, the bartender more than happy to see me. I'd sit down next to him and have a drink or more, as he'd insist. He was pathetic, sometimes crying openly about some woman. He was, in a word, impossible! But, I would spend an hour there, and finally get him to leave with me! This situation was repeated many times.
Then one day I asked him, 'What's the worse thing that can happen to someone in the Mafia?' He said to be slapped in public. He said this was an affront that could not be overlooked. So, guess what? One night I slapped him at a party (I was drunk too). He didn't do anything for several days, I'm sure conflicted, as he loved me on one hand. Then one day it happened.
I was working (editing) in your new office space (where we had moved to work and live). I heard what sounded like an explosion (he'd ripped the frontdoor off the hinges). It all happened so quickly I can barely remember. I got up, and he hit knocked me down with a blow to the head. I fell to the floor where he jumped on top of me (weighed something like 250lbs.). He started banging my head to the floor with my hair (had more then). I remember going in and out of consicousness. I thought I would die, that he would kill me. Then, for some reason he stopped and stared into my face. Suddenly, he started to cry, first just tears, then sobbing violently. He rolled off of me, and I got up.
Nothing was said between the two of us for days, then one day he apologized. He said I shouldn't have slapped him, and I agreed. He grabbed me and kissed me on the lips, told me he loved me, that I'd been the only one ever in his life time that had tried to help him. I learned this is what Italian Mafioso guys do. Trust me, he wasn't gay! We had an interesting relationship, a writer and mafia killer.
He told me, even though I didn't want to hear, how he'd killed people. It sounded straight out of 'The Godfather' movie.
He had a 'long con,' he used to pull off for major money, and I thought the story would be a better movie than 'The Sting.' We started working on the screenplay together. But, ultimately I knew it wouldn't work, him and me as business partners.
He took me to after-hours places in the meat-packing district of Manhattan. Clubs where you could get anything for a price. But, he didn't couldn't take The City for too long. Part of his parole agreement was that he never return to the State of Louisiana. So, guess what he did? Returned to Louisana. Of course, ultimately arrested and sent back to Angola where he was for years before Texas.
In Texas when we met up again he hadn't changed much, although Jack had some good influence over him. He was living in a nice apartment with a women, hustling for money as always. I never knew him to have a regular job.
My wife Gail and I had lived with them before we found our own house. They would get drunk and then argue all night. Gail had never experienced anything like this in her tender, upscale upbringing in Portland, Oregon. I think the term 'white trash!' Yet he was extremely intelligent. I couldn't beat him at Chess, and he knew many things. It's just that he had no education to speak of, outside of the street. Later, when we had moved to North Arlington, they would have us over for dinner, a feast really, as he was a good cook. Italian, and barbecue, with some good wine. He was always trying to make up for his 'de classe' behavior. I wonder if he's still alive, as ended up back in Angola?
Gail and I had decided to split up (circa 1987). I wasn't bringing home the 'bacon,' and she was tired of being the 'bread winner.' She had a job in North Dallas, which she hated as so long a commute. She also hated living in Texas! I was writing 'A Winner Never Quits,' the Jack Favor story and thought I couldn't just leave.
I decided I would drive her back to California where we were to meet her family for Christmas. The weather report said a front, with snow, was moving east from the West Coast, but we decided to chance it. From Arlington to Fort Worth and then north on old highway #287 up to Amarillo. It's a long way, and we'd departed late, packing our little VW Rabbit. I'd had to rent a luggage rack for the top, as she was moving all her things 'home.'
Outside of Amarillo we hit lumpy hard ice, but made it into town by sundown. Stopping for gas the attendant warned us that a big front was heading this way, and we'd be wise to spend the night in Amarillo. I should have listened, but being the kind of chance taker I am, I suggested we continue driving as we had a long way to go. Big mistake!
But, once back on the Interstate (I think #40) there was little evidence of ice, and I gradually increased our speed until we were going maybe 70MPH.
West of Amarillo there are a series of 'overpasses' (bridges). I was going too fast when we hit 'black ice' on one of the overpasses. I remember I was eating some of my favorite carob almonds at the time. I lost control and then got it back, then lost it again, and we starting making 360-degree turns, around and around we went, the carob almonds floating in front of my face. I think we did three complete turns before slowing enough and smashing into the snowbank/guardrail. First on the rear bumper then bouncing off doing a 180-degree turn and hitting it again with the front bumper. The engine died and we just sat there stunned! It was dark by now. We could have been killed, but weren't injured in any way. I got out to check to see about damage. Nothing was damaged except for a dent in the rear bumper! It was amazing! The engine even started right back up and we drove on as if nothing had happened. We spent the night in the first town in New Mexico (forget the name and not on 'Google Earth'). But, the next day... just thinking about what might have happened rose the hackles on the back of my head.
It's a long drive from Arlington, Texas, to northern California, something like 2,000 miles. I think we made it in three days and nights. I think the second night was on the Colorado River at Needles. By the time we arrived at this seaside resort (approximately 100 miles north of San Francisco) I was happy to get out of the car and walk. I spent the next few days hiking up into the hills.
By now, Gail and I were estranged, but sleeping in the same house. Christmas is an emotional time for most, and certainly for me. I think we cried together when we finally realized we were going our separate ways. We were ill-suited for one another, however, so in some ways it made sense. But, separation and divorce are always a wrenching process!
I'm not a big fan of the standard marriage, and so-called 'nuclear family.' I think it's a failed idea, but such customs hard to change!
Labels: 'Saturn Twice!'