I've known some interesting people in my life—you know that if you've read much of anything I've written. But there are “crazy guys” and then there are crazy guys, the kind who never quit kidding around when you need them to and wish they would. They can't quit playing around because they aren't playing around; they're being themselves. Some never mentally grow to fit their larger bodies; they age, but fail to mature.
Stonewall was crazy. Of all the friends of friends I ever had, this chump would qualify as “most memorable once removed” if ever such a title existed. Ron White is correct when he says, “You can't fix stupid!” But I'll add that you almost can't forget crazy. Speaking of crazy, I have a saying: Crazy men tell no tales; they live the tales to be told. They live out the tales that others tell about them and have, in my experience, no interest in telling their own stories. The ride of life is enough for them.
If you think about it, I'm fulfilling my own saying with every strike of each key.
A Scary Good Time
The very presence of Stonewall was an indication of a scary good time. Stonewall drove this 1986 Chevy Astrovan. It was white with orange stripes, as I recall, with the paint starting to chip off. You always knew that van coming and going. In the back sat a checkered brown, 1960s-style couch that rode around on that scratched floor in the empty back cargo area. It once sat squarely in the center of a 3rd floor apartment before being deemed unfit and too tacky for living room usage.
I can't say much for riding around in that vehicular abomination, but at least we were comfortable everywhere we went. So what if some pieces of foam were stuck to our pant legs when getting up. And just as you suspected upon hearing about it, that damn couch slid around everywhere we went. The ride was always a blast. Stonewall made it a game to throw on the brakes and see how hard the couch would knock against the driver's seat, but that was only part of his agenda; the other part was to surprise us and see how uneasy he could make us when coming into or out of a turn, or a sudden stop or start. He laughed with every “thud.”
This old van had seen it's day as a commuter's cargo van for a local and now defunct courier company. Stonewall's dad got it for him and always told him he'd learn to treat it better than he did when he came to have to pay for the repairs. Those ghetto speakers lodged against the back doors...those cracked and sun-baked cupholders...they only seemed to make the tattered old bomb look better. I memorized every line of every crack. That six-cylinder had some go-ahead power for a vehicle of that size, I'm telling you. And Stonewall never let us forget that. But the poor old auto would never live long enough for Stonewall to learn the lesson dad wished he'd learn.
Oh Honey! Don't Forget Me!
Stonewall had a way with words like he did waywardness and throwing food at people when their backs were turned. When his girlfriend decided things weren't working out and broke up with him on a whim, he drove over to her house – owned by two older, white parents who hideously hated the guy – and sang a love song entitled: “Oh Honey! Don't Forget Me!” It was intentionally old-fashioned, designed to sound romantic to the young girl, but also to satirically lash out at the cheesiness of generations before his. We all shared in that ridiculing passion.
Unexpectedly, the song was followed by a power-braking segment on her parents' front yard flowerbed that left a huge patch of ripped-up dirt in their $260,000+ home. It was Stonewall's way of saying: “I'll get you flowers! I'll tear out your dad's and my spinning tires will land them on your doorstep. I never said our love isn't wild, baby!” Neighborhood security couldn't get there fast enough. Her dad ran out to catch him and pull him out of the vehicle, but Stonewall just locked the doors. He took his time fleeing, and “dag nabit” (my own little stab at older generations), the son of a bitch won his girl back.
+1 for Stonewall. -1 for the police and security letting him get away.
On Deer Hill in Stone Oak Parkway
I remember a night in 1995. The night was clear, but oh so dark and hot. The mosquitoes were out. You seemed to be able to see more stars than normal. I remember there was no wind.
I take only a moment to stare up at the sky on the way out to the car, and then head over to cousin's house in Stone Oak Parkway in San Antonio. The road leading up to my cousin's house was steep and deer were always spotted there. It almost never failed. Drive through and you spot a large, innocent family of deer traipsing out, usually with a buck among them, even in broad daylight. The area came to be called Deer Hill.
This was the place a week before that my cousin's Ford Ranger took a beating from a 6-point buck that got bloodily trampled under the front left tire and shot out the back like a crushed-headed porceline baby doll thrown by an angry child across a room. Jace said you could hear the hooves clicking against the pavement as its lifeless deer body came to a stop while spinning and slapping against the pavement. That was so cool...but, yes, sad. The Ford logo barely survived, missing getting smashed to bits in the impact by only inches.
Always drive slowly on Deer Hill.
But Deer Hill had another feature—it was steep as a motherfucker! The hill was so steep that you could get to over 50 mph just by costing without touching the pedal. It was a long way down, with a wide field out to both sides and a stop sign at the bottom, with a huge dip leading onto a flat surface where the road evens out. The surface acted as a ramp, giving a jolt (right into the air if you went fast enough). Just coasting would make for a thrilling ride.
Tonight promised to be more scary than fun or funny. The booze were ready, the ice chest was cold, the buddies had been called, and it was to be a night to remember, which began and ended with a full-speed ride down deer hill. I was a minister in training at the time and never participated in their “sinful” activities at this point, but simply tagged along in hopes of converting the heathen crowd.
The most rebellious sinner of them all was Stonewall, of course, the same guy who rounded us up, and just when we got comfortable on that old couch, floored the gas at the top of the hill. He didn't plan it. It just happened, as with most of the chaos in Stonewall's cop-familiar life.
The thrill of barreling down a hill at nutty speeds soon gave way to fear, and quicker than we thought, to shoulder-grabbing panic. After the laughter, our protests were all that could be heard: “Slow down, man. Stop! I mean it! Stop, dude! Seriously, I mean it! It's not funny!” All we could hear is his chuckling and the engine accelerating. We grab his hair after shoving him from behind, hoping more yells would get him to slow down. Made no difference. He kept on. It was the prelude to a reckless teen beginning to an “I Know What You Did Last Summer” sequel.
According to the digital speedometer Stonewall had installed, we hit 110 mph. We were somewhere in or around that speed, now shaking and shimmying violently as the vehicle felt more and more unstable and lighter. The feeling was so intense. And as expected, here came yet another innocent, ripe-for-the-ripping-apart family of deer.
No, we didn't hit them. We flew right by them like a formula 1 car. The blast of the ride ended with a bump...a bump that felt like a train wreck. By now, we were expecting to die. The stop sign at the bottom we were coming upon with Stonewall’s foot still on the accelerator—no point in even trying to stop now. Just go with it...and pray...
We didn't hit another car. That blurring thing made of asphault with a line in the middle that we ignored and were riding on, plummeting in this tretcherous moment was the now flat road that we hit. The popping that morphed into a chorus of crushing metal parts were the shocks, engine mounts, the transmission, and the oil pan underside of the engine that had done a Spock-style “mind-meld” with the pavement. Our heads hitting the roof as we bounced to a stop was not the end. It was the last moment of being upright before landing face-first against the cargo main side door with that couch slamming against our backsides as we hit a curb.
Now, we were at a stop, with a swaying of some parts of the front bumper and license plate holder. A rolling sound was coming from the engine as all rotating parts came to a stop. We had to crawl out the front. I was the last one out. All were yelling at Stonewall, but at first there was silence. The adrenaline was pumping. We were just glad to be alive. Now to check for bruises and blood splotches we missed in the shock.
Oh, that's right, it's nighttime and the only light we have is from the amazingly still on headlights of Stonewall's van as it stood on its side against a curb next to a field, as we began our walk back home with the beginnings of whiplash. It was a dark walk home that seemed to take forever.
We got home that night and every one of us was soar from the experience. We slept in late the next day. But at least we weren't stuck with the bill to repair the van. Stonewall said his goodbyes to that trusty bomb and never looked back. Off it went to the salvage yard. He couldn't pay to get it running again and dad refused to help. A 1983, “old-man” style, maroon El Camino was his new ride, donated unwisely by grandpa. He actually liked the ugly thing.
The Good Times End
Life and Stonewall weren’t meant to get along. If they had been, causality wouldn't have taken the route it took over the next two years. The good times were about to be over.
Stonewall had a passion for mudding in his new truck. The 83' El Camino didn't last long because when he had car trouble, he couldn't pay to have it released once fixed, so a mechanic's lean ended up with him losing it. The new love was a 1989 Chevy S-10, one that, believe it or not, ran well. He had it only six months before a mishap had him crawling out through the driver's side window to get the thing towed as it stood 4 feet high in mud. Another week later, when his lazy ass managed to get back out to have it towed, the windows and lights were smashed out and cow crap patties had been tossed inside. It took yet another week to save up to get it towed and fixed again.
A year passes. Stonewall is none the wiser and in his first legal pickle for possessing a controlled substance and driving while impaired. Probation, then some leniency from a cool old dude judge, and he's back out again. Then he's in trouble, again. This time, it's a wreck he caused due to driving under the influence. Some fines and now a little jail-time later, he's driving again—but that's a bad idea since he lost his driver's license in the second pop and was supposed to wait three years to get it back.
That didn’t stop him from trying to drive home one rainy night after getting off work from Chester’s Night Club. And it didn't stop him from pursuing altered states of consciousness, or to recollect what he so convincingly told that cool judge back at the second sentencing...
“Oh, don't worry, your honor. I've learned my lesson. I will never so much as think of getting behind the wheel wasted again.”
He both thought of it and did it.
Stonewall pulls out in front of an oncoming car, some girl in a tan Ford Taurus. A wreck occurs. Cousin and I are sitting at home doing much of nothing but polishing off a pizza and playing video games when a call comes. It's Stonewall calling from a gas station pay phone at 2 am.
After approximately one minute of conversation, we begin to think two things; one, why is there a girl crying in the background? And two, why isn't Stonewall laughing like usual? We practically hadn't heard him cease to laugh except for that short period of time upon finding out that his truck windows were smashed while stuck in the mud, and as he stood before that (soon to be furious) cool, aged man judge, assuring him of his newly found penitence.
We ask what in the fuck is going on. He tells my cousin: “I…I…I…don't know what to do. I caused an accident. I'm high again. I’ve got coke all over me, and the police are coming. I wasn't even supposed to be driving…now, now what am I going to do?” Cousin: “Is the girl I hear really hurt?” Stonewall: “Maybe. I think so...what...what I am going to do?” A few more airy pauses as the rain continues to pour and hit that tin roof above the phone. Soon, the sound of a police siren getting close can be heard. Then…
And we’ve never heard from him again, and that was back in 1997. But Stonewall gave me a story to tell, one I’m sure he wouldn’t care to hear or read about. And that’s the way it is with the freaks and the insane; they live it; they never talk about it. But the rest of us – we cautious cowards who sit on the sidelines and watch – we sure talk about it. And the philosophical moral beneath the moral of the story is not a comforting one.
It doesn’t matter who you are. Life will do a flawless job at robbing you of your laughter. It seems the only things to laugh at without fear of repercussion are the miseries of life, along with the wasted chances and blown opportunities on the part of some that give the rest of us something to talk about and to learn from. If you can't laugh at the expense of yourself and everyone else, then maybe you shouldn't be laughing at all.