Walking Away From Dixieland

Saturday nights at the State Farm house were something else. Sometime after dark cars would start rolling into the parking lot and people would start stuffing themselves into the two room apartment in the back of the house. Tim and Brad shared the small space that looked every bit of the run down bachelor’s pad that it was.

A vintage couch with orange and black tiger stripe prints served as the main sitting area in the front room. The couch was at least second hand and maybe even greater than that. There was a smell in that fabric that could not be conquered by any cleaning agent, but few seemed to pay attention when they came over. There was always music, plenty to eat, and room to stand in the large back room and kitchen. The furnishings in back amounted to a bed with one leg that was bent, earning the bed the nickname, Everest due to it’s leaning. There may have been a chair, but it often ended up outside for the smokers and dippers who fancied a bit of fresh air with their tobacco waste.

Tim was the official tenant. Brad was the gypsy trying to move on from dorm life and living in an equally small house with his parents. The two guys could not have been more different. Tim was the construction working, hunting-fishing type. Brad was the white color, basketball playing idealist pumping himself full of whatever theory struck a chord at the time. Tim loved his country music with a dash of rap. Brad tended towards classic rock spiked with a bit of punk.

One Saturday, with the Beastie Boys getting equal air time with Hank Williams, Jr., a crowd of people gathered at the house. There were the regulars, most of them flannel wearing dudes with their girlfriends or hangers-on just looking to part of the group. Tim and Brad did not care who came over so long as they did not wake the old ladies across the way. All were welcome and given it’s location, the State Farm house proved to be the perfect staging point for heading to the bowling alley this particular night.

Only this Saturday was different. There was a new kid in town. And the word was out on this celebrity of sorts. His name was Alec Knobert and he was a little older than the rest of the crowd. He had a huge Chevy truck that was lifted to the sky. That by itself made him something of a legend because all of the guys hanging at the house on this night were mesmerized by the chrome, huge tires, and cut out wheel wells. All they could manage to do was walk circles around the truck checking out all of the gear. Alec just took it all in with a cockiness that rubbed Brad the wrong way. There was something about this old guy, a Wooderson type, that just felt wrong.

With the crowd nearly in a frenzy over the truck, Brad took the opportunity to go inside and get rid of the repeating madness of “You’ve Got To Fight For Your Right To Paaaarrrrtyyyyy.” He slipped in the Joshua Tree and just soaked into the hole that was the tiger print couch. Alec came in.

Outside it had been hard to get a good look at him, but in the fuzzy light of the fake wood paneled front room, he was a contradiction in terms. He had a huge truck, but he was barely tall enough to get in. He played the part of country boy, but he took great care to dress in dandy western wear gear, tight pants, a vest, and a bolo tie. He even went so far as to wear dingo boots which made him look like he was ready for Super Toe and for that he should not have been taken too seriously. It was the large buck knife that he carried that kept Brad’s attention.

Alec started with his almost surfer tone, “Who put this music on?”

“Me,” said Brad.

“These guys are gay. You know that don’t you?”

“No, I didn’t, but I don’t think that’s correct.”

Alec was sure he was correct and started off on a rant about homosexuality and AIDS that was frightening. He had a way of finishing sentences that was punctuated by a hateful snicker and a tap of his knife. Given that Brad was alone in the room, he chose to let the multifaceted hater with the big knife continue on about his rant.

“You know these guys are also Communists. (Knife tap) They did that song about MLK. (Knife tap) He was a communist too, so that makes them all communists.” (Knife tap)

By this point Bono was in full voice and the refrain “With or without you,” became a rallying cry for Brad. He stood up and headed for the kitchen. There was no sense in dealing with this guy, he was too much of an ass to ever understand that his view of the world would never make things better.

“Hey, c’mon, man, you agree with me don’t you? The musician commie homos have got no place in America, right?”

Brad had heard more than enough from this little man with the big truck and big knife, so he planned a strategy to get out of harm’s way.

“Alec, I don’t much concern myself with that stuff. I’m going bowling.”

The escape out into the ceremonial truck worshippers proved to be a temporary respite from the diatribe that was going on inside. Tim got everyone to mount up and they all convoyed the four or five miles to the bowling alley. Once there Brad started hopping the lanes checking in with all of the people he knew and never even bothering to rent shoes.

“I thought you were going to bowl,” said Alec to Brad.

“Yeah, I might. I don’t know,” said Brad.

Alec did not have his big knife now, but his cockiness was strapped on for anyone who would buy into the little man’s attempt to be larger than life. He felt that he had something on Brad. He thought that Brad might be a communist. He thought Brad was okay with black people. He even began to think Brad might be homosexual. All of his hatred was being focused on Brad for the simple reason that Brad would not entertain this little man’s small brain.

“Boy, are you a pinko commie fag? Are you even proud of your white heritage? Are you some kind of sympathizer or something?

Brad had taken all he could. He gave Tim the look as if to let him know that he was leaving, but Tim had seen this move once before. Brad started heading for parking lot with Alec right behind him wagging his tongue with all the ferocity of a little chihuahua. Once the two got outside a small crowd of truck worshippers came out of the bowling alley to see what was up. Tim took a spot behind Brad who stopped to face the Alec.

“You know those Polo shirts are for…”

Alec never finished his sentence for the man with such big balls had them smashed by an untied Nike high top basketball shoe that Brad put square on them. Before Brad could do anymore damage, Tim picked Brad up off the ground and hustled him out of the parking lot. No one ever saw Alec around town again.

That Saturday night would be the beginning of the end of Brad’s southern life. He would rush to finish college and move away thinking that the kind of people like Alec Knobert did not exist outside of small southern towns. He would be disappointed when people did not live up to his idealism up North, but at least everyone in his old town knew where he stood.