Thursday, February 24, 2005

The bums lost. condolences.

I was reading something the other night where it was espoused the most overused literary tool was the coming-of-age gig. Simple rules for hacks like me: Don't try to describe sunsets, don't pull a catcher-in-the-rye.
After my last tome of a rant, to no response (is anyone in the forum actually in JC anymore?) I thought I'd hold off in the future, save for the occasional cough. Bad etiquette you know - i didn't know. But then Brook slapped down those ol' chestnuts of that unfortunate working girl with former city manager John Campbell (and one of JC's finest whose name I forget), and something came roaring back, and I just leaned back and thought... holy shit.
I'm not sure why Brook had me be the guy to go right into the belly and interview Campbell about these. I remember I was so nervous I went to the library first to draw up a couple of sheets of bogus, softball questions to ask first. Kind of like buying condoms at the grocery store. And some milk. And maybe this gum here. And a TV Guide. You get the idea.
I think Brook found the photos slipped under the door of the expansive mildewed basement office the Beat inhabited then. I think David told me it was from a disgruntled ex of the police force, some redneck with a grudge. Why they didn't go to the JC Press with it was beyond me, but I didn't care. Holy shit. I mean, holy shit - pay dirt, a damn miracle. A stripper (and, unfortunately, a prostitute). In what was obviously city hall. With laughing, leering officers of the law. And cash money. In the city manager's hand. Who seemed to be having a really good time, and stupidly didn't seem to think the camera in the room was such a bad idea. Obviously, he thought he was among friends.
I remember the photos hit the table one at a time, me trying to do it quickly but consciously without some sort of spinning flair or anything. They slid to a halt, one by one, and then I just held my gaze and leaned back in this plastic chair that was already making my underwear bite into my soft, clammy ass.
(I had been watching the unheralded officer standing in the doorway with the reflection from the cheap glass of some stupid fox hunting print on the scuffed wall, opposite. The guy's silhouette stood up higher to see over me at what I'd put on the desk, and then sank about eight inches. For some reason it occurred to me that he'd spread his feet -- ready for anything. Man of action.)
John Campbell was a fat man. He was fat in the way that career obese people aren't. There was something corrupt about it. Like the baron from Dune.
I actually watched the sweat bead out on his head, and that stale sweaty polyester smell immediately filled the room. The interview lasted less than ten minutes more. Campbell and his officer made two obvious suggestions that I leave, but I stayed seated and kept my face passive. I think they thought I was some sort of hard case, that I really knew what I was doing. They didn't know I was so scared I didn't think to move.
I went to the Beat office immediately after. Well, after drinking my first three beers in a row, ever, over at The Cottage, for some reason. I had worn a sportcoat to the interview. The waitress asked me if I'd gotten a new job and was celebrating, with my briefcase against the bar rail. I was afraid to let it leave my site. It had occurred to me what I'd done. This wasn't just a eye-poke, this was a conspiracy we'd uncovered. This was Tittygate.
What Campbell told me after I totally ambushed him in his own office was that it wasn't his idea, some of the boys had arranged it for his birthday. But, I said, that's money in your hand, there. You are smiling. This is a woman, barely dressed, on city property, on tax payer's time. Didn't you think this was the wrong thing to do? The man was absolutely blindsided. He actually teared up. I almost felt sorry for him.
Then, late one night while coming home from ETSU, I got stopped on one of the blind roads near the Shamrock. Two officers, one car.
Then again, a week later, on the road behind the baseball fields near the university. Same two officers, one car, another joining after ETSU security was waved off and I was asked to step onto the asphalt.
The third time, it was different. A moustache with one of those under-uniform turtlenecks and a real hard-on (He called me "cowboy") got testy and held me onto my hood by the back of my neck, telling me some story of an identical blue blazer that went over the radio just a few minutes before. He stank of cologne. I told him, I don't doubt that, you guys have been stopping me all winter. I haven't done anything, ever. I'm clean. My wallet's in my back pocket. Search my truck. Write me a ticket. But let me up, and get me my coat. I got a couple of bruises that time from rough handling. They found a dusty, empty Pete's rolling around in the very back and a pair of long-lost forceps I had used for trout fishing, and gave me a hard time about it. I talked to a lawyer.
The fourth stop, I mainly remember being jammed into the cruiser, trying to breathe, sitting on a broken finger. At some point my hand had been slammed in my own door. My entire hand made little internal crunchy noises if I shifted in the seat. My left index is still a little crooked.
Johnson City had always been a sort of gritty estuary for me, right from when I was sneaking into Quarterbacks under-aged to see the Nightmares and choke down a beer and watch the University High girls dance, right until about that moment I slapped those photos down on Campbell's desk. I was a late learner, but I learned it all in a very short time. Before spring I'd leave JC, leave school, leave period. Despite all that bullshit, no where has felt quite like that particular flavor of home since. That's weird, isn't it?
OK, I know I'm not David Sidaris. I'll either keep my submissions shorter or start my own damn blog.

4 Comments:

Blogger Nicky said...

Don't shorten your entries...that was a damn good read.

Thursday, February 24, 2005 6:50:00 PM  
Blogger Brook said...

yeah, what nicky said.

real nice post, marty! i had forgotten about how you were harrassed. good times.

Thursday, February 24, 2005 9:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, an actual Johnson City Story on this blog. An interesting one, too. Every now and then I stop by to see if there's anything about JC on here--and lo and behold. Wonders never cease.

Sunday, February 27, 2005 9:26:00 PM  
Blogger Brook said...

hey anon -- we have been JC Stories in a long time. changed it to be inclusive of the now.

everyone is encouraged to contribute stories from the day -- new blood will keep that aspect of the blog going. ergo -- thank you marty (again) for a spectacular story!

Monday, February 28, 2005 10:01:00 AM  

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