Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Get A Little Mud On The Tires

“…I’ve got the perfect place in mind.  It’s in the middle of nowhere. Only way to get there. You got to get a little mud on the tires…” Brad Paisley Mud On The Tires

I just walked next door to Captain Eddie’s and got a little nostalgic as I looked around. I remember when there was a Fleet gas station where my car lot is now. I’ve been working in this area for decades. I was with Brad and Danny Williams in the early 90’s. There is a CVS where our lot was then. In 1997, My brother Jeff and I started a lot where Landmark is now. In 2005, I started selling real estate with Steve Adams at Re/Max Westside. Our office was just a block down the road. In 2009, Doug and I started Landmark Auto.  All of this has taken place right here near latitude 33.9 and longitude 84.7; better known as Charles Hardy Parkway and Atlanta Hwy.
When I was a lot younger, working at American Tire in Smyrna, I bought a 1959 Ford truck from Tommy Rakestraw. It was a beast of a truck. The oil that didn’t burn would leak out in a month. It smoked and chugged, but I liked it. That was thirty years ago. I was 18. Robert Farmer and I would take turns driving from Powder Springs to the tire store. He didn’t like riding in the old Ford. It had a complete round of play in the steering wheel. Fortunately, it pulled hard to the right so all I had to do to keep it in the road was to keep a constant pull left on the wheel. It was dangerous, but if you had good coordination, you could get it up to 55 or so safely.
I decided to try to find a steering sector for it. I called around the junkyards until I finally found Auto Parts Recycled in Dallas. Ernie Simmons answered the phone and said that he didn’t have one, but his manager, Ken Zeal might have one at home. Turns out, Mr. Zeal was restoring a truck like mine at home and he had some spare parts. I met Ken and picked up the steering sector and we hit it off right away. “What do you do?” He asked.
“Right now I work at American Tire in Smyrna, but I like to keep my options open.” I said.
I originally started in Smyrna, nearly a year earlier. At that time I was working at Tire Town with Ricky and Allen Myres. On one delivery to American Tire, I met Slade Jones and Tony Eubanks and applied for a job there. They hired me on the spot. American Tire was a big move up from Tire Town. And Slade and Tony let me keep a car for sale out on the grass right there on busy, South Cobb Drive.
Ken asked me if I would like a job pulling parts. I don’t know why that appealed to me so much more than tires, but I knew I would gain experience at Auto Parts Recycled. Just how much I gained has blown my mind over the many years since that decision. Just about thirty years ago, I drove out here to Dallas and sat down with Ken Zeal at Auto Parts Recycled. They hired me and I began pulling parts. I bought more tools and quickly moved up to management and moved into the dismantle shop. Where the shop once sat is a muddy tract of land, roughly 400 feet from where I am right now.
I used to get so muddy out at Auto Parts Recycled that I would have to throw clothes away. They were red with mud. The boots I wore were black. When I left that job, I was about to toss them when Daddy said, “Don’t throw them boots away. I want to hang them out there in the shop and when you get older, and have a nice office, I want you to put those muddy boots on display so you can remember where you started.”
I managed to save them up until a year ago when Bill was cleaning out the old shops. He had no idea. I tried to retrieve them from a full 30 yard dumpster, but I was dealing with cancer then and I just let them go. At that moment, they were not a priority and I didn’t feel great. The dumpster got carried off and the boots went with it.
You won't believe this next part.
Amazingly, Interestingly and ironically, while I was writing this note, a guy came and drove one of my cars. It is a 2006 Honda Ridgeline. It was spotless. Poetically, he took it on a test drive and drove into the property where the old junkyard used to be. Where the old dismantle shop used to be. In all my years selling cars, I’ve never seen one get any muddier on a test drive. The boots are gone, but I can go next door and get all the old mud I want. Chris, my potential client, got mud all over my Ridgeline. All over the tires. Authentic, Auto Parts Recycled Mud.
I’ve got that nice office now. Daddy, thank you for the reminder. I won’t forget where I started. How can I? There is mud all over the parking lot.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My Favorite Song

My earliest memories of church are now a bunch of random, black and white films that play in my mind from time to time. The little brick building sat on a hill in Powder Springs, Georgia. We seldom missed a Sunday morning service. I vaguely recall the times when my dad actually went with us.
We only had one car back then; and daddy was the only one with a license. The car was a dark green, 1958 Chevrolet Biscayne Sedan. This was a few years before my youngest brother, Jeff, was born. I remember climbing in the back seat of the old car and standing on the seat while Bill, my older brother and Myra, my sister, sat. Our driveway was red dirt. We didn’t have gravel, we had dirt. I would track in the clay and grind it into the back seat. I finally wore the seat completely out and daddy knew some guys at Puckett Upholstery. They gave him a small roll of orange vinyl. He took the vinyl home and… I’ll bet we had the only dark green Chevrolet Biscayne in the world with an orange back seat.
On Sunday morning, mom would make me dress up and then she’d drag me into the tiny little bathroom where daddy was still combing through the thick VO5 in his hair. She’d squeeze out a little and work it into my hair. She’d borrow dad’s Unbreakable black comb and I’d have the most perfect part you’ve ever seen. That was the brand name of the comb. I always wanted to challenge them on that, but I never did.
As soon as we all piled in the green car, daddy would light one up. He smoked Pall Mall Golds back then. He had a Zippo lighter with a very distinct sound. When he flipped it open, you could hear the trademark clink and when he closed it, you could hear the trademark clunk. Zippo lighters still make that sound and if I hear one, I think of him. 1958 Biscayne Chevys were big cars; big enough to hold all of the secondhand smoke from the two cigarettes that daddy would smoke on the four mile trip. We were used to it. By the time we got to church, we all smelled like Pall Mall Golds and we all had a little nicotine buzz. That would come in handy.
Our lessons were about Jesus and His love for us, God and His grace and The Holy Ghost and His particular interest in our denomination. We were taught that these persons were one person, but The Holy Ghost was the one you could really get ahold of.
It was hard to distinguish the difference, but rings and necklaces were ornamental jewelry. Watches and brooches didn’t count. You couldn’t even wear a wedding ring in those days. We couldn’t go to bowling alleys or theaters. There was the big ten and then we had twenty-nine really important teachings right after that. In those days, a lot of denominations were competing for exclusivity. There was The-First-This-Or-That and then there was a whole bunch of One-And-Onlys. We were one of those. I felt really lucky to have picked the one church that Jesus was actually coming back for. I had no idea.
The sermons were powerful. The preachers would really work up a sweat and I thought they were really mad sometimes. Maybe they were. They’d pound the podium and stomp their feet. It would get your attention. We were all looking for a deeper experience and this seemed to be a step in the right direction. The old timers had obviously gotten ahold of The Holy Ghost. I’ll have what he’s having.
As I grew up, I began to challenge some of the old doctrine. I had met some people who had never even heard of our church and thought they were a genuine part of The Body of Christ. I got in a few arguments about it and lost them all. I finally withdrew my membership when I was 28 years old. A friend was going through a difficult divorce and the pastor wanted to discuss her rights to fellowship with our church. This happened during a business meeting on a Wednesday night in 1992. I didn’t want to judge another person. That was nearly twenty years ago and I still feel the same way.
How often we get it wrong. Sometimes, we get it all wrong. To me, it seems that this is how we eventually get it right. The first time I ever wore a necklace, I felt self inflicted conviction. I thought it was a sin. It took a while for me to accept people who didn’t believe the way I did.
“I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” Psalm 37:25.
I was young when we were climbing in the back seat of that ’58 Chevy. Now I am old. I’ll tell you what stands out in that black and white memory: It’s my dad’s pressed shirt and shiny hair. It’s mama singing hymns all the way back home. It’s the orange vinyl seat. It’s a big meal and a big crowd at grandma’s house. It’s the red clay driveway and the tiny, cinderblock house. It’s the woods and the creek. It’s my brothers and my sister. We have not been forsaken.
I have a favorite tune from those days; it’s the clink and the clunk that daddy made with his Zippo lighter.