Auto Neurotica

Posted: December 22, 2016 in The Roper Files
Tags: ,


January 20 2014

It was a typical pre-dawn drive to work; driving the same road I had driven countless times before.Running a few minutes late as usual to my menial job, I hit the exit from the freeway and was cruising down the three-lane access road when I spotted the 18-wheeler rumbling along slowly in the left-hand lane. Since it was going flat-tire slow I started to pass it.

Didn’t really give it much thought; where I work is in an industrial area and 18-wheelers are pretty much a normal part of the scenery. This one got my attention however when I noticed it taking a very sudden right-turn from the outside left-hand lane and turning right across all three lanes in front of me. There was a split-second moment of disconnect; why was this guy making such a sudden turn? I hit the brake pedal with both feet and cut the steering wheel to the right but there was water running across the road (still uncertain to this day what the source of that was) and my car slid helplessly into what looked like an auxiliary gas tank about mid way back of the 18-wheeler.

All at once the windshield shattered, the front end of my car crumpled like paper, the air bag on the steering wheel deployed, the car horn came on and wouldn’t shut off. Oh great...And as if this wasn’t all dramatic enough, flames erupted between me and the 18-wheeler with a quiet “foom!”

I scrambled to find my glasses which had flown across the car upon impact and fumbled with my safety belt; it was time to get out of the car and fast. The door on my side wouldn’t budge, so I crawled across the passenger seat and let myself out of the other side of the car. Gas was pouring out of the auxiliary tank on the truck and feeding the flames. The driver of the now-stopped truck suddenly appeared from around the other side of the truck and was warning me to get away from the two vehicles.

What a fucked-up way to start the day; action-movie shit at five-thirty in the morning. The sound of sirens approaching added to the early morning chaos. As if they were parked around the corner waiting for their cue, the police, fire department and an ambulance all rolled up at the same time.

Are you alright?” the two guys hopping out of the ambulance asked me. I felt my face and held up my hand covered in blood. “Yeah just swell” I told them. They made me lie down in some nearby grass and told me to be still. As I laid there looking up at the black sky, a police officer appeared over me: “You got any ID?” I handed him my wallet, he opened it up and promptly spilled the contents at his feet. He found my drivers license, copied the info and handed me back my wallet as the ambulance guys loaded me onto a stretcher despite my protests.

At this point I had no real idea how badly I was really injured; I just thought the blood on my face was a scratch from some flying glass and that I was just going to walk the rest of the way to my job and go to work. I was loaded into the ambulance and it wasn’t until the ambulance began rolling that the intense pain began. It felt like someone had hit me with a baseball bat in the left side of my chest; any time I tried to move my legs it just seemed to intensify. This couldn’t be good.

At the hospital they subjected me to a “CAT scan” (that’s Computerized Axial Tomography to us non-physician rubes) and informed me that I had a fractured rib. They also tested me for everything from K2 to opiates even though I told them I was “clean” and they were wasting their time. Nice try but no cigar guys; I turned up negative on all counts.

They kept me in the hospital about four or five hours, then discharged me with a bottle of pain pills and telling me to “Take it easy for a month or so” . I was forced to call my wife and Mom and have them come get me. My car was totaled; it was twelve years old and there was no salvaging it.

My father bought that car in 2002 when he retired and hardly drove it; when I got it from him in 2012 it only had about 60,000 miles on the odometer. Other than the paint being slightly faded from ten years of exposure to the Texas sun, it looked like it had just rolled off the showroom floor. Everything on it worked except for the CD player.

By the time I got home I hurt so bad  I couldn’t even bend my legs without an intense pain shooting through my entire body. Former routine activities such as changing my socks or just getting in and out of bed became an excruciating ordeal; I had to have my wife help me do these things.

And if all of this wasn’t mortifying enough, our one-car family now had no vehicle. I got out the phone book and began looking up attorneys; I decided then and there I was going to sue the trucking company that owned that rig that pulled out in front of me and put me in this situation.

I picked an attorney  who specialized in auto accident injuries who sent someone over that same day to talk to me. They sent me to a accident injury clinic staffed by a chiropractor who took X-rays of me and would later subject me to various treatments.

I called work and told them why I wasn’t there that day as well as requesting a couple of weeks of vacation time (which they granted) to recoup. For the next two weeks I laid around in agonizing pain and watched the bills roll in and felt useless and In The Way.


Our little chihuahua Sophie would lay on top of me and lick my face; even she seemed to know Something Was Wrong. I had to resort to using a cane to get in and out of bed by myself, and even sleeping  under the influence of pain killers was difficult at best. If I rolled over the wrong way in bed I would wake up screaming in pain. The only break in my new routine was once a day a van from the Injury Clinic would roll up to the house and they would take me to the clinic for treatments.

Shortly before my father passed away he had purchased a new Toyota pickup which mostly sat unused in my Mom’s driveway since his passing. With Mom’s permission I borrowed it until we could figure out what to do about replacing my now-totaled Camry. We drove to the City auto pound to get the remainder of my salvageable belongings from the car. It had just rained and the auto pound property was a boggy, muddy mess; one of the employees drove us to where they had towed it. As we slowly drove past a long line of impounded vehicles, both driveable and totaled, I couldn’t help but wonder about the stories attached to each one.


The sight of my once-beautiful Camry smashed up beyond recognition almost brought me to my knees crying. As I got inside to pull out my Red Wing work shoes, a small tool box in the trunk and other items inside of it I looked in the back seat and imagined my wife’s children sitting there the previous summer before when we drove to Galveston and went on a Carnival cruise. I pictured in my mind’s eye our 9-year-old grandson hanging out the rear window with the wind whipping through his hair, hanging his tongue out and going: “Look at me! I’m a dog!” I imagined our chihuahua sitting on the transmission hump between my wife and I as we explored back roads through Texas ghost towns. I remembered us using that car to take the kids to see a movie for the first time at a  drive-in theater. I recalled showing my grandson how to wash it at the car wash. We’ve still had the memories but we weren’t going to be doing any of those things in that car now. We drove away from the lot in sad silence. Goodbye old friend…


I spent a lot of time the next couple of weeks on the phone on hold trying to talk to the lawyers. We had to drive to the big courthouse downtown and get a copy of the police accident report. The process of suing someone in an injury accident I soon realized is a lot of Hurry Up and Wait. We started getting letters in the mail from agencies representing both the hospital I was taken to and the ambulance service. I spent a lot of time on the phone arguing with my auto insurance company and my health insurance company, both of whom stuck their heads in the sand when I told them I had hired an attorney. “Well we cant help you until you’ve reached a settlement, sorry.” No one seemed too interested or in a hurry to help me.

After two weeks of this I begged the chiropractor at the injury clinic to sign a release statement allowing me to go back to work; if no one was going to help me I obviously had to help myself. At work they seemed relieved I was back and there was a large back log of stuff to do. I went back immediately to working 12-hour shifts.

We finally, after a volley of phone calls, got my auto insurance company to cough up a check for about six grand for my car. Even though the car looked like new, it was still twelve years old and had little Blue Book value. I couldn’t see spending six grand on a used car with an unknown history so we bit the bullet and put that down on a new car and were now saddled with monthly car payments that were never in our budget, but at the very least we now had a dependable vehicle that got good gas mileage sitting in the driveway.

The next twenty-one months were spent it seems like going to my job, eating, sleeping, and spending my breaks at work with one ear pressed to the phone trying to get through to the attorneys while Muzak jazz played in my ear occasionally interrupted by a voice thanking me for my patience. “Your call IS important to us…”

I soon got the rhythm of it down: either call the attorneys early in the morning, before lunch and in the afternoon it was Forget it; they were always either In A Meeting or With A Client.

And even when I did get through to the attorney, there was almost never any news I wanted to hear. The attorneys for the trucking company did everything in their power to stall the process. At one point they offered us some piddly little amount that wouldn’t begin to pay my medical expenses.

In the interim my wife and I were living on almost nothing; almost every dime I made went out as fast as I could bring it in. We got good at shopping with coupons, buying stuff when it was on sale and just plain Doing Without. I picked up and sold aluminum cans like a homeless person and we sold things on Ebay I didn’t necessarily want to sell.

Almost two years later a court date was set, and when they figured out I was serious about going to court they stopped ignoring my attorney. We got around to depositions and finally one day a mediation date was set and my wife and I drove over to Dallas and met with two more attorneys in a huge steel and glass office building and a settlement was agreed upon after a nerve-racking two or three hours. We didn’t get rich off of the deal; in fact we settled for a fraction of what the attorney was originally asking. But the hospital will be paid and we got a small amount of cash “for pain and suffering” I can’t say I’m happy as much as I can say I’m relieved this miserable ordeal is finally over.

If you are ever in an injury accident, here’s a few words of advice: (1) Don’t talk to anybody from the time you enter an ambulance until you can talk to an attorney, who is the ONLY person you should talk to and on a related note (2) Hire an attorney, period! Just do it. The lawyers for the insurance companies are a species somewhere in between piranhas and sharks; they should only be dealt with by professionals. (3) Don’t expect anything to happen quickly. It won’t. Trust me on that one.




My wife asked me this earlier this morning as I stared into my coffee cup. Gawd I hope not. But I gotta be honest; I don’t think I was this depressed on 9/11.

The Nazis won. The Great Unwashed turned out in record numbers and voted into the office of the President the most unqualified candidate  ever in the history of our once-great nation. Because “he wasn’t a politician” Because “he’s a great businessman” Because he’s the “star” of one of the stupidest, most inane TV “reality” shows ever to befoul the airwaves of a once-great medium.

And now I am expected to “act my age” and just take it. Accept it. Deal with it.

Act my age…grrr! Talk about something else I don’t want to accept….

I saw the Who perform with Keith Moon back in the 70s. I’m old enough to remember when Phil Collins had a head full of long shoulder-length hair. I lived though the dreadful Reagan/Bush years (and boy did those spawn some GREAT punk bands) as well as the equally dreadful elected Bush years, the Clinton years and the gawd-awful Bush/Cheney regime. And then America elected Barack Obama.

I didn’t vote for him the first time; I think I voted for Ron Paul but in retrospect I’m glad Obama got into office. He conducted himself with a cool, calm dignity under a record number of death threats and a barrage of ridicule on the Internet, mainly from the colostomy bag of right-wing web sites. He got my vote the second time. Then the clown car backed up to the door in 2014 and one by one a long parade of useless assholes stepped out, each one more repugnant than the previous one. They all had virtually the same message, the same spiel, the same sales pitch. Repeal Obamacare. More guns. More war.

And finally after all the debates one stood alone.

The single most unqualified one out of all of them. A spoiled-rotten trust-fund baby who never worked a day in his life, who hasn’t paid taxes in 20 years. A man who was like the lyrics to a Dead Kennedys song come to life. And the morons embraced him with both arms. He catered exclusively to the scum on the bottom of the barrel. The white supremacists, the Klan, the NRA, the “religious right”, the Tea Party. He insulted minorities, Gold Star-decorated veterans, former POWs, women, the disabled, yet somehow he came through unscathed. How could this be? Everyone mocked him. There was NO WAY he would make it past the primaries. The media gave him billions of dollars worth of free publicity, broadcasting his hideous face and irritating Mayor Quimby voice on TV 24/7.

He’s not a politician” Yes I would want a automobile mechanic performing surgery on me because he’s not a physician.

He’s a great businessman” He bankrupted a casino. You’re familiar with those, right? Those places where people save money all year to visit, walk in, dump the money then go to the ATM and get more money and dump that. He beat his own house into bankruptcy. Nice trick if you can afford it I guess.


How stupid can my fellow Americans be? Well they just showed us all, didn’t they? I couldn’t have possibly over-estimated their intelligence more. But what did I expect? I live in a country where gun stores out-number book stores and people think that’s “freedom” Real freedom is not being afraid to leave the house without carrying a gun, but try explaining that to the knuckle-dragging slope-browed, slack-jawed Troglodytes that make up the majority of the population of America.


Tuesday night November 8th will, mark my words, be a night of infamy for this country. The idiots who voted for this pompous jackass will come to regret pulling that lever and putting those two fascist sons of whores into the White House. Those two shysters will be the only winners in this scenario when it’s all over and that’s if they haven’t started World War III and we’re all piles of radioactive ash by then. “Make America Great Againmy aching ass! Gawd help the next person who tells me: “Oh let’s give him a chance

Fuck you. Fuck you twice.

Oh the jackals are gloating on the Internet. “We showed you libtards, hyuk!” Yeah you showed us.


Red states are typically the largest recipients of welfare and EBT cards and you cretins just wait until all of that is gone. Just wait until the highway and interstate system has been privatized and you have to pay tolls just to drive to your menial jobs. And just wait until 90% of the promises that were made to you never come to pass because you put someone in office who doesn’t have a clue how things in Washington really roll. That wall will never be built; besides have any of you stupid gringos driven past a construction site lately and noticed who’s doing the work? You elected a trust-fund baby with the thinnest of skin who whines and cries at any sign of criticism. He can’t take the heat and you put him in a kitchen with nuclear codes. Let’s see how much he REALLY wants to uphold the Constitution then, especially the First Amendment. Yeah you showed us alright.

I’ve been in shock for the last two days. Staring into my coffee as if it was a crystal ball and it would show me the future and even then I’m not sure I want to know. Tuesday night we watched a grim-faced Steven Colbert on the Late Show trying his best to put a positive spin on things and trust me that was painful to watch. Wednesday morning at my menial job I had almost nothing to say to anyone. I overheard one of the higher-ups on their bloated staff gloating about how the next few years were going to be good ones for the aerospace industry; well good for you, asshole. I haven’t had a raise in four years while you lying sacks of shit tell us you can’t afford to give us raises because you only made a million and a half dollars last month, and the goal was two million. Poor babies; fuck you too.

I was walking though the shop and one of my Hispanic workers pulled me aside. “What’s the matter my friend? Are you okay?” I fought back tears as I looked at him and told him I didn’t vote for El Diablo. He just smiled and said: “I know you didn’t

I should have let that make me feel better; it was a noble try on his part.

But as I read about The Evil Ones choices for cabinet members I recoil in pure horror.

Rudy Ghouliani?


Sid Miller? Sarah fucking Palin? Are you fucking kidding me?

Oh this is just getting better and better….feel “great” yet America?

My wife reminds me that it’s wrong to let this get to us (and it IS) ; we only have so much time left on this world as I think to myself we’re going to have even less now.

I’m tired of biting my lip when I want to scream obscenities at this world. I only have two middle fingers.

So… life goes on I guess. I took the day off work today. Just went outside and threw tennis balls around the back yard as my dogs chased them. It just rained; the grass that needs mowing is still too wet to mow. The dogs don’t mind; they run happily around the yard and chase the tennis balls with a gleeful vigor I wish I could muster up right now.

In case you can’t tell I’m trying to put a happy ending on this, but it’s hard. Real hard.

Something has been stolen from me, and I’m not sure what to do about it. But whatever you do, don’t be like me. Hug your partner, same-sex or otherwise. Play with your pets. Enjoy a good meal. Life must go on.

I have faith in what’s left of America’s artists, writers and musicians to react to this appropriately.

We need a good new army of snot-nosed potty-mouthed punk bands to offend the sensibilities of the smug. We need to go on the offense because they aren’t afraid to be offensive. The gloves are off.

They want to do away with “political correctness”? Well be careful what you ask for.

Every pile of poop you flung at Obama for the last eight years is coming back at you in spades, mother fuckers.


Every cheap shot you took at his wife. Every insult you made at his children, it’s all coming back at you, and hard. Just wait. You’ll see. Enjoy your temporary victory. Karma is a cruel bitch. And if I have no other faith in my fellow Americans I have plenty that we can deliver in that department.

The Tar Baby

Posted: March 25, 2016 in The Roper Files
Tags: ,


PREFACE: Sometimes I wonder if I’m toxic; almost everyone in the following story is dead.

Someone who isn’t a Facebook “friend” recently sent me a private message informing me that someone I’ve known since the 1970s had passed away in November of 2015. “I knew you guys used to be friends; I thought you would want to know” I thanked him for telling me with extremely mixed emotions.

This particular person (let’s just call him “Jay”) was a bridge I burned behind me back in the late 1980s and had only spoken to twice since 1989 and that was only using the phone as a buffer. He got married and divorced in a period of about two years, began to exhibit serious signs of a mental breakdown afterward and I was anything but a trained marriage counselor or psychiatrist; there was little I felt I could do to help him.

We had been friends since the mid 1970’s; we knew each other from school but didn’t start hanging around with each other until one night in 1976 when I picked him up hitchhiking after a midnight movie near a theater where I had just watched Pink Floyd In Pompeii. Turns out he had been to the same movie, we got to talking and found out we had a lot of mutual musical interests and we spent a lot of time after that hanging out and listening to music and going to live shows together. At that time he had a job, his own apartment, owned a car, a mototcycle and seemed like a fairly independent person. But this turned out to be a very temporary situation.

I lived with the guy for about two years in the late 70’s and he was a terrible roommate. He was by then an unemployed two-bit pot dealer while I had a regular job and he loved bragging about how much more money he made than me. He talked a cute redhead into moving in with us and for a brief period of time he thought he was hot shit. He taunted me when I was depressed, waved hand-fulls of $20 bills in my face when I was counting pennies and was just generally a horrible person to live with. Dealing pot isn’t exactly rocket science but he managed to screw that up by selling people bags that didn’t weigh what he said they weighed and he never could keep a steady clientele of customers. He got us kicked out of the apartment we were sharing by mouthing off to our landlord who refused to accept our rent anymore and I wound up living in a sleazy $90-a-week motel room. He bounced around for years  from room-mate to room-mate,  having his own apartment only three times after that for the rest of his life.

In 1987 just totally out of the blue he told me he was getting married to a young woman I had never even seen him with; I still to this day have no idea how they met. I was the best man at their wedding and they moved into an apartment together in Fort Worth. He was working at a restaurant, she was a waitress. All seemed stable enough; I wished him well and hoped marriage would bring some stability to his life. He even held his job long enough to get a paid weeks vacation, something I had never seen him do before. But one day he showed up at the restaurant wearing a sleeveless shirt; his boss told him to go home and change into a shirt with sleeves. This is something that would have taken a half hour tops. Instead he blew his stack, cussed out his boss and got fired.

For the next few months going over there to visit was uncomfortable. “Jay” sat around drinking beer and watching TV instead of looking for another job and his wife was working double shifts at her waitress job to pay the rent and bills. You could tell their marriage was in a “thin ice” stage. After a month or two of this “Jay” began showing up at my place where I was I was sharing a house on a 55-acre farm with another room-mate and wanting to hang around on weekends. And it was on one of these particular weekends that his wife moved out of their apartment while he was gone. Needless to say “Jay” didn’t take this well. He sat around drinking beer for the next few weeks instead of looking for a job while his landlord was beating on the door. His landlord even tried to help him find a job, but apparently that wasn’t in accordance with “Jay’s” plans.

It wasn’t long after this that “Jay” approached my room-mate John while I wasn’t home one day and told him a heart-breaking sob story about his getting divorced and evicted from the apartment he was leasing and asked him about moving in with us. He was unemployed and told John that “it would only be temporary until he got his life back together” I was livid when I found out about this; I told John we would have to run the guy off at gun-point to get rid of him and sure enough we came just short of that a few dreadful months later.

“Jay” brought his few possession with him including a Fender guitar and an amplifier that he sold to John on an installment plan, insuring him of both beer money and a place to stay until they were both paid off. And for months afterward he never left the house to go look for a job. He stayed drunk every waking minute of the day, refused to go fill out a single job application anywhere or pitch in a penny for utility payments while he took two or three showers a day and spent most of his time watching TV while my roommate and I went to our respective jobs each day.

And as if all of this wasn’t annoying enough, he began to exhibit serious signs of a mental breakdown.

I won’t go into all the details here but it was apparent he was losing it in no small way. It looked to us as if he was trying to drink himself to death and while both John and I  drank like fish, we slept and ate food on a regular basis. “Jay” was getting up and cracking open beers for breakfast and when we suggested it would be a good idea for him to start looking for a job, he would feign illness. “I …uh …don’t feel so good; maybe in a few days…” Our other friends would phone up asking about coming out to visit on weekends but would always ask: “Is Jay still there?” and if we said “yes” they would suddenly have other plans they forgot about. We began to dread weekends and having “Jay” staggering around the house plastered 24/7 began to grow tiresome.

As soon as my room-mate got the guitar and amp paid off, we decided that one of two things needed to happen: we either shoot “Jay” and bury him on the back forty and drive his car to the highway and leave it for the county to haul off or we give him the boot and get rid of him for our own sanity’s sake.

Needless to say “Jay” didn’t exactly take it well when we told him he needed to shove on and find another place to live. “I thought you guys were my friends; you gotta help me!” He made noises about killing himself. He got on the phone and called relatives, who he cussed out when they said “NO you can’t move in with me” (including his grandmother) He had two kittens he made me take before he got in his car and drove off (“I can’t afford to buy them food or kitty litter”)

It wasn’t until after he drove off that we later found out just how far gone the guy had gotten.

He used our phone to make threats against both the judge handling his divorce case and his ex wife’s lawyer. He called Suicide Prevention using the name of one of our mutual friends (they called our friend’s house and damn near gave his Mom a heart attack; “We haven’t heard from Tom in a while. Is he okay?”) He made frequent late-night trips to the restaurant he got fired from right before his divorce to vandalize the place. He was on probation for a past offense and gave our address to his probation officer, then stopped reporting to probation. A police cruiser came rumbling up the driveway one Saturday morning twenty miles out of their jurisdiction with two police officers looking for him.

I found out later he was staying with an apartment across the hall from the same apartment he got evicted from with about ten guys sharing a one-bedroom apartment and they all worked for some tree-trimming service and that they had gotten him a job with them. I prayed that somehow he would get his act together. He phoned me up on New Years Eve of 1989 trying to invite himself out for a visit but I said No knowing what would happen if I said Yes; he would be out to lay more sob stories on me and try to con me into letting him move back in.

Ultimately I wound up moving away from that farm and in with someone else in March 1989.  A few months later another acquaintance of ours got into a disagreement with “Jay” over a pair of stereo speakers. “Jay” wanted $40 for them and they both blew when “Chuck” plugged them into an amplifier. Chuck refused to pay him for them and “Jay” showed up late one night with a pistol and emptied a clip into Chuck’s apartment door, terrifying Chuck, his girlfriend and her 8-year-old daughter. Neighbors recognized “Jay” sprinting away from the apartment, the police picked him up later that week and he spent a whopping four hours in jail before they let him go for “lack of evidence” The cops stupidly gave him back his pistol even though he was on probation and wasn’t supposed to own a firearm. They could have held him for firearm possession alone but didn’t.

I heard about ten years later that “Jay” had landed a prison sentence for something; not sure what. Occasionally someone would tell me about seeing him somewhere; I would tell them “I’m sorry.…” My friend Tom whose name “Jay” had used when calling up Suicide Prevention told me that “Jay” called him constantly on the phone leaving long rambling messages on his answering machine.


We called him “the Tar Baby” because of the way he would stick like flypaper to people who didn’t want anything to do with him anymore. He even bumped into Chuck (the guy whose door he shot through) at a liquor store one day and acted like nothing had happened (“Hey man; howsit going?”)

In 2009 the phone company screwed up and printed my name, address and phone number in the phone book even though I was supposed to have an unlisted number. About two months later “Jay” phoned me up trying once again to invite himself over. I just flat out told him I had stopped drinking and doing drugs and that I felt that at that point there just wasn’t much for us to do together or even talk about. I knew damn well what would happen if he came over and saw a place big enough to put a sleeping bag. He would give me a sob story and try to talk me into letting him move in. No way that was happening again.

Now upon hearing of his demise part of me wants to feel sorry for him. Another part of me is surprised it took over 25 years or that someone hadn’t shot him by now. The guy was mentally ill no doubt and yes a certain part of me feels sorry for the poor bastard, but I’m not a psychiatrist.

If I wound up sleeping in a tent in someone’s backyard I would be out banging on the door of restaurants saying “Hey I’m Sleeping In a Fucking Tent. I’ll sweep floors. I’ll scrub toilets. I’ll bus tables; just give me a chance.” But apparently he had too much “pride” to do such a thing.

I could easily remember the times he waved hand-fulls of twenty dollar bills at me when I was broke and bragged about having more money than me and take joy in knowing he died broke and friendless, but I won’t.

He wound up living in a tent while I got up every morning and went to a job whether I felt like it or not for 25 years. Okay maybe I’m a dumb-ass for doing it the Hard Way instead of taking shortcuts like dealing drugs but I lived by myself in my own place from 1991 to 2014 when I got married.

I’ve traveled to Canada, been on cruises and gone to Yucatan, Jamaica, Cozumel,  Roatan etc  I drive a car that’s less than two years old and I have a new roof over my head. I sleep in a large comfortable bed with heat and air conditioning. But I take no such schadenfreude in knowing this, I can’t. I won’t.

I feel a tiny tinge of guilt that there was nothing I could do to help the guy without getting even further entangled in the gummy sticky fingers of the Tar Baby.

I wish I had a happy ending for this sordid little tale but I don’t. Years later I still have no pat answers what can be done for someone like “Jay” but then again he refused to help himself. I’ve spoke with “Jay” two times between 1989 and 2009 and to be honest I wasn’t very nice to him either time. During that same time-frame I quit drinking and doing drugs; I grew the fuck up and Moved On. Even if I could turn back time and speak to him again I’m not exactly sure what I would sat to him if he wasn’t willing to listen to me. He never once took responsibility for anything. Most of his “problems” were always some one else’s fault. If he got drunk and did something stupid and got arrested, the police were “conspiring” against him as if he were important enough to conspire against. If he mouthed off to his boss and got fired, it was his boss’s fault. If his wife was working two jobs to pay the rent, got tired of it and left him, She Left Me.

I never ever heard him utter phrases like “I shouldn’t have done that” or “I made a mistake” or “what was I thinking?” These phrases simply weren’t a part of his vocabulary. His grandmother took out a loan from the bank not once but twice and got him an apartment under the condition that he look for a job. He sat on his ass and drank beer until the day he was evicted both times. By 1983 he was living in a tent in someone’s back yard. Another time he had a cot set up in someone else’s walk-in closet. (“Check out my room!”) He went through friends and relatives one at a time using up their good will until it was gone for the last 25 years of his life. And by 2015 he had gone full circle and was once again living in a tent in someone’s back yard.

Mental illness is a bitch.

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It wasn’t far from our house, just a few miles away and ran east and west adjacent to I30 in between Fort Worth and Weatherford, “The Old Weatherford Road” according to the road signs.

On its east end which started in far west Fort Worth just a short distance north of the highway were the subdivisions of cookie-cutter look-alike houses but once you got past those it was a nondescript two-lane road that stretched as far as the eye could see. On each side of it were generic barb-wire fences on the other side of which were fields of Johnson grass, weeds and mesquite trees.

The fields would break occasionally to give way to a majestic ranch-house type of home, probably no doubt belonging to someone who could afford to build their little “JR Ewing” type home away from the city, a doctor, lawyer or judge perhaps, but these were few and far apart unlike the previously-mentioned “cookie-cutter” houses in the subdivisions on the roads east end which were built close together. The road would twist and turn once in a while but for the most part was in a straight line. The local teenagers must have been fond of this road too for the ditches on both sides of the road were always full of aluminum beer cans I would occasionally pick up and when I did I always brought a lot of them home to go sell at the scrap yard.

We loved to drive out there from time to time. It was just outside the city, but not real far away. I would ease off the gas pedal and we would drive slowly down the road, just cruising and taking it easy. We called it “our old country road” and just generally found it very relaxing to take this little drive. We brought our nine-year old grandson from Canada out here and he would sit on the sill of the car window and stick his tongue out as the wind blew in his hair: “Look at me: I’m a dog!” he would say as we all laughed. But like all good things it would come to an end when we saw the gate that led to a large ranch on the road’s west end and we hit a dead end on Aledo Road near Weatherford. I would turn left and get back on I30 heading east and back to Fort Worth.


We always took our cameras because we never knew what we would see. There was usually all sorts of wildlife to be seen: deer would leap over the fences in front of our car and bolt across the road as coyotes called out in the distance. Cottontail rabbits would run alongside of the road with us. We would see hawks flying overhead or ugly buzzards perched on fences or tree limbs just off the roads. Once we found a huge tortoise crossing the road far from the nearest creek. Another time we pulled up to a bird on a fence singing his heart out to us.


There were a couple of creeks running adjacent to the road and once just on instinct I stopped the car, got out and peered over a fence just in time to see a heron the size of a large dog spread its wing and take flight. Other times there would be large black-tailed deer sipping water there.


It was on this same road I snapped the photo of a large owl perched in a tree right off the side of the road. I lived on a 55-acre farm in nearby Parker county for three years in the 1980s and never ever got this close to an owl.

About mid-point down the road there was a very old tree my wife would always make me stop so she could take a photo of it. I never really understood her fascination for this one particular tree, but I always hit the brakes so she could take this photo and now I am so thankful I did. Over the last couple of years I began to get an ominous feeling when we drove down this road and when we drove down it yesterday we saw something that confirmed my gut feelings. Change was coming and it wasn’t pretty.


As we drove past some of the larger homes on the road I noticed a new sign on the side of the road: LARGE TRUCKS CAUSING ROAD DAMAGE- USE CAUTION. “This can’t be good”, I thought to myself. And sure enough as we drove along I noticed the fence lines alongside of the road now had freshly-cut tree stumps on both sides of them. Where there used to be thick forests areas were now cleared out by bulldozers. Ugly gas wells were on both sides of the road. And adding insult to injury we didn’t see one single living animal along the whole way.


Where there used to be pastures where horses and cattle grazed looked like the aftermath of a war zone; entire fields had been bulldozed and leveled, the horses and cattle nowhere to be seen. Bundled stacks of green plastic pipe for what I suppose were for future gas and sewer lines were piled up everywhere and when we came around the curve to where the tree my wife always like to photograph was, the tree was still there but everything around it had been leveled and bulldozed flat; the tree looked like a lost child, out of place amidst the destruction. The tree where I took the photograph of the owl was gone as were all the trees that were formerly around it.

When we got to the end of the road there was a huge sign from some realty company: “ COMING SOON: New homes in the $250s!” I steered the car left towards I30 as both our hearts and stomachs collectively sank. “Progress” was now taking our little getaway road away from us and there was nothing we could do about it. We drove towards I30 in near silence.

Realistically I suppose it’s inevitable; damn near everything from Fort Worth to Granbury is paved over as is almost everything else in north Texas is these days. Five years from now there will probably be a WalMart, a Love’s truck stop and a Buccees on that road along with the McDonalds, Raising Canes fried chicken, Wendy’s, Family Dollar, Dollar General, Dollar Tree and the CVS and Walgreens across the roads from each other etc etc etc and I would be foolish to think there’s anything I could do about it but it doesn’t make it any less of a shame. After all one person can’t stop “Progress”

Letting Go Of Childish Things

Posted: January 24, 2016 in The Roper Files


I’ve got a confession to make; I’m a hoarder.

Didn’t really think about this much until my wife moved in with me; I lived in a two-bedroom apartment at the time. My clutter was filed away in one bedroom; I slept in the other. My second bedroom was cutely referred to as “the Odditorium”; a place where I stashed my enormous collection of records, comics, books, magazines, musical equipment and shelves and shelves of knick-knacks. The walls were decorated with framed portraits of GG Allin and Ed Gein, signed 8X10s of movie and TV actors and signed LP sleeves. A room suitable for an eccentric bachelor indeed.

And then my wife entered my life. One by one things began to change around my humble little apartment. The kitchen began to be used for its original intended purpose. Utensils were pulled out of storage, dusted off and used for (gasp!) actual cooking. My computer, office chair and desk which had for years always been within arm’s reach of the coffee pot, refrigerator and oven were unceremoniously rolled into the living room so the wife could cook in her new kitchen.

Then she started her own website and began to sell books she had written and published herself. At first she was content to work off of a laptop on a TV tray in the living room but as her website grew in popularity and the numbers of books she began to sell grew, she wanted my man-cave for an office.

I cleared off a desk that had become a major catch-all so she could put her laptop and printer on it, got her a comfortable office chair to work in from a nearby office supply store and even installed a large rug on the hardwood floor to roll the chair around on. A fan and a space heater were installed. I tried to make it comfortable for her but she didn’t like the windows I had covered to keep the Texas summer sunlight out, or the crappy view of the wooden fence or the brick house next door (or in other words not much of a view at all really) The prementioned portraits of Ed Gein and GG Allin came down next, not surprisingly.

Eventually as we rearranged the room and she moved in more of her things it became painfully obvious a storage space was going to be needed. We rented a midsize storage unit, I borrowed a pickup truck and trip by trip I began to move stuff out of my apartment and into the storage space.

This is when it began to dawn on me that I had over the course of the last thirty years or so I had managed to rat-hole a LOT of stuff away without much thought as to (A) what I intended to do with it (B) who was I going to leave it to? I had no children. (c) Why was I keeping it? (D) when was I going to do anything with it at all? I had about a dozen large heavy boxes of magazines: National Lampoons, Heavy Metal, Fangoria, Psychotronic, miscellaneous film and music mags and more “adult” magazines than anyone in their right mind would want to admit owning. There was five large crates full of LPs, two large heavy boxes of comic books, boxes of rolled-up posters, tons of cassettes of live shows and no working cassette player in the house. This was ridiculous; I had become a hoarder without giving it a single thought.

As I spent a week emptying out the man-cave and turning into my wife’s new office, my wife brought up the idea of selling some of this stuff on Ebay. We opened an account, rented a PO box and even though it was like pulling my own teeth, I began to cull through the stuff. What could I let go of? I skimmed the comics and magazines for things I thought might sell and in a few brief months we made enough money to go on a Carnival cruise just by selling comics I hadn’t looked at in twenty years. After we went on the cruise however we stopped selling stuff; Ebay itself was a time-consuming affair and we had other things on our minds.

In November of 2014 we packed up and moved out of our now-cramped apartment and moved into a for-real house. The storage space which was supposed to be a temporary measure was now packed full of collectibles and just plain junk. The company who owned the unit also began to slowly raise the monthly rate for the storage and paying the bill became a painful monthly expense. And as if that wasn’t bad enough the company I was working twelve hours a day for announced No More Overtime and cut my hours down to eight a day, putting a real cramp in our monthly budget.


So once again we are selling things on Ebay, only this time I’m serious. We emptied out a big heavy box of Heavy Metal magazines and sold them for a few hundred dollars. Now I’m starting to slowly inventory the rest of them, digging boxes one by one out of the storage unit and lugging them back to our house. I dig the magazines out one by one, write down on a clipboard what they are, the date of publication and their condition. Then I look them up on Ebay and see what other people are selling them for, knock a dollar off their price and list them.

So far we are doing okay; it’s amazing what sells and what doesn’t. I sold two crumbling issues of Rolling Stone for $25 just because they had John Belushi on the cover. Anything with Traci Lords or John Waters on the cover sells almost immediately. People seem to like anything with Pee Wee Herman or Devine on the cover as well. And I just LOVE getting $5, $10 or even $15 or $20 for magazines I paid $3 for. It’s like pulling money out of the air. Some of these magazines I haven’t opened up and looked at since the late 1980s or early 1990s.

I’ve still got a lot of magazines I find painful to sell. I’ve got a dozen or so HELP magazines that are almost as old as I am, three large heavy boxes of National Lampoons and just cataloging the inventory is a time-consuming business; sometimes I spend all weekend doing it.

But to hell with it; if other people enjoy them and are willing to pay for them then it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. It makes paying for the storage unit less painful and if I have any money left over, then hooray. Our eventual battle plan is to move to my wife’s native Canada; I’m not getting any younger and America is certainly with each passing day becoming a shitty place to retire.

We currently have Presidential candidates promising us that if elected they will keep pointless wars going FOREVER in the Middle East and to do away with the ACA and while it should be ludicrous to take these bozos seriously as human beings, I’m actually seeing people driving around with bumper stickers with their names on them. Are Americans really stupid enough to actually elect these guys? If so retirement will come early for me and We’re Outta Here. And this is where Ebay just might help make this happen for us; I certainly can’t take this ton of pulp paper with me.

I can’t touch my 401K for another couple of years and every spare nickel and dime helps us get closer to leaving. So far we’re doing okay; I’m making regular trips to post office clutching bundles of 9 X 11 envelopes. I’m not getting rich off of this but a few extra bucks every week certainly helps us pay the bills and stay fed. And these days that’s a balancing act not everyone can deal with, but we’re doing okay so far. Sometimes being a hoarder can actually pay off.


I’ve written before on this site about the new drive-in theater that has opened near where I live; the Coyote just north of downtown Fort Worth. They opened in 2013 with three screens and business has been so successful for them they have erected a fourth screen in the last year. Since they cater to families anxious to share the nostalgia with their kids, the Coyote pretty much only shows “family films”.


They are the one, the only, the sole drive-in theater within an hour’s drive of my home. There are three more in North Texas that I am aware of but they are all a considerable driving distance from my house. The Coyote caters hard to families, running mostly PG family movies. Off-duty police officers provide security and they reserve the right to search your vehicle. They have the only drive-in game in town and market themselves as a novelty form of family entertainment.


We had our nine-year-old grandson staying with us again this summer and two of my wife’s older children spent a couple of weeks with us during the latter half of August. Of course we dragged them to the drive-in theater a couple of times while they were here since drive-ins are even scarcer in Canada than they are here. And boy have I been getting caught up on my “family films”: this summer alone I have sat through MINIONS, INSIDE OUT and most recently we took the kids to see SHAUN THE SHEEP.

Now mind you I actually LIKED Shaun the Sheep in spite of it being a “family film” but as we sat in our lawn chairs broiling in the Texas summer heat (it’s still hot here even after the sun goes down) my mind couldn’t help but drift back to the early 80s when Joe Bob Briggs still had his column in the Dallas Times Herald and the few remaining drive-ins left in the Dallas/Fort Worth area DIDN’T cater to families.


In the early 80s I had a friend named Tom who purchased a used1976 VW camper van from an attorney. It had a fridge, a 4-burner stove and the top popped open so that six people could watch a movie at the drive in in perfect comfort. We began to scout out the remaining drive-ins in the DFW area.

The drive-ins by this point had endured the advent of cable TV and the mass realization of millions of former film goers that they could run the “audio out” cables on their VCRs into their stereo receivers and turn their living rooms into state-of-the-art theaters. And then there was the video stores which in the early 80s began popping up everywhere; people could rent movies for as little as a dollar. Why drag the whole family to the drive in and pay $4 a head to see THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE or MAD MAX when they could rent the movie for the whole family for a dollar? The drive-ins by the mid 80s were all pretty much in their death throes and they knew it. Eventually they just quit trying; sometimes they would get a pair of movies that became stock features, change the B-features they were paired with from week to week and switch screens every week as if the regulars like us wouldn’t notice. (“Rambo AGAIN?”)

It was about this time we noticed there was a sub-genre of films that would occasionally pop up on the drive-in screen; movies with an extra dose of sex and violence. Some would call them exploitation films; we called them “drive-in movies” though because they were meant to be shown in drive-ins or other such theaters that were desperate to sell admission tickets.

Unless they were showing something everyone wanted to see (a first run of a FRIDAY THE 13th sequel or cult favorites like THE ROAD WARRIOR) it wasn’t unusual for Tom and I to pull into the drive in theater and see the place nearly empty. It was shocking to pull in and see the theater packed in fact on the rare nights that happened.

And security was lax to put it lightly. The only time I ever saw police officers at the drive-in was at the entrance to the four-screen Century in Grand Prairie where officers stationed at the box office made everyone open their trunks and ice chests; weapons and drinks in glass containers were forbidden. A case of beer in aluminum cans? Enjoy the show, boys.

Unlike the Coyote who have a strict policy on outside food and drinks we would load up on our own liquid refreshments before entering and we also would take frozen dinners in those boiling bags and heat them up in a pot of boiling water on Toms stove. Sometimes we fixed our own hot dogs as well but we always made our way to the snack bar for a large tub of popcorn at some point of the evening. No one ever searched our vehicles; they didn’t want to scare off the ever-shrinking number of paying customers with such Gestapo tactics.

One night we pulled into the drive-in and were flabbergasted to see the place packed to capacity for THE RIGHT STUFF. Another night we pulled into a double feature of the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD billed with the infamous BLOODSUCKING FREAKS  only to find it hard to get a parking spot; the place was packed.  As Night ended and Bloodsucking Freaks  began ( BF is basically 90 minutes of nude women being systematically tortured; the management obviously had NO idea just how offensive it really was when they booked it) ; five minutes into the film and the car engines started and the brake lights came on in near-unison as carloads of horrified families sped for the exit. (“ I think the kids done seen enough of THIS one!”) Within mere minutes the drive-in was almost empty we were the sole members of the audience.

However the drive-ins couldn’t afford to exist forever just for the sole pleasure of Tom and I; by the mid 80s the handwriting was on the wall. One drive-in after another closed. First our beloved Cherry Lane, then the Southside Twin. The lone hold-out was the Mansfield which struggled against diminishing crowds until 1992, then they too called it quits. The screens were torn down, the snack bars and ticket booths bulldozed and the properties either became flea markets, WalMarts or were leased to gas drilling companies. It saddened me to see them go, but there was nothing I could do about it.


For years after that if I wanted to see movies it was either rent them from the video store, wait until they played on cable or just flat out buy them. I got my first DVD player in 2000 and my gigantic VHS collection began to be replaced by a growing number of DVDs, which began to seem like a bad crack habit after a while.


In 2013 the Coyote was erected with three screens and a fourth added in 2015. Most of what they run are family films with a big emphasis on Pixar and Marvel films. All four lots are usually packed to capacity seven nights a week. It’s a joy and a privilege taking the grandson and my stepchildren to experience the thrill of watching movies under the starry Texas sky.


But once in a while I still imagine I can see the opening scenes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre flickering in all of their 35mm glory on the screen back-lit by the red glowing Texas sunset on the brand-new screen of the Coyote. Or I can close my eyes and imagine hearing the Ennio Morricone soundtrack of The Good The Bad and the Ugly playing on tinny aluminum speakers as a faint whiff of popcorn drifts through the air. I could try to explain these things to the kiddos but it’s probably best not to even try…


Yesterday was September 11; the anniversary of one of America’s darkest days. I had an eerie feeling writing the date on some paperwork at my menial job, yet…it was just another day.

Now I mean no offense to anyone. I myself didn’t have any friends or loved ones perish that day and I know it’s a painful day for lots of people and I mean no offense to anyone who did when I say this, but it was just another boring day at work.

And so it seemed apparently to my employers and the majority of my co-workers. At a company meeting one of our newer employees asked: “Are we going to have a moment of silence at 9am?” and one would have thought he asked why there wasn’t a tampon dispenser in the men’s restroom by the response he got. People actually snickered; one guy behind him asked him “if he wanted a hug.”

Even as someone who thinks Bush and Cheney should both be rotting behind bars for the incompetent for the way they ignored warnings of the attack and the way they responded to the actual attack etc I was appalled at the insensitivity of my co-workers and the management. Do these goddam people think about anything besides themselves? Apparently not but I don’t know why I’m surprised…


I work at a bottom-feeder aerospace company that subcontracts for several major defense contractors I won’t name here but many of them profited heavily from the Iraq war. Companies like Lockheed and Bell Helicopter typically have a one-minute moment of silence at 9am on September 11; we did it for about a year or two after the attacks and then it was just business as usual after that. “You can have a minute of keeping your goddam machines running!”

We all remember where we were that dreadful day; I know I do. Once word got out amongst the employees of the attacks we were all crowded around the mini-TV in the break room watching in shock as the second plane hit. About that time the owner of the company came barging in and started bitching us out for not working. “What in the hell is wrong with you people? You’re all acting like you’ve never seen a plane fly into the World Trade Center before! Get back to work!”


Okay he didn’t say it in those exact words but he didn’t like paying us to stand around watching TV. And just as the towers started to collapse he went into full Mr Burns mode: “This is an act of war; we’ll be building lots of airplane and helicopter parts NOW…..”

I had to remind myself to close my mouth which I’m sure was ajar at hearing that. We were watching thousands of people die and he’s standing there with dollar signs in his eyes and mentally rolling through stacks of bills like Scrooge McDuck.


I’m pretty hard to shock or I used to think I was; I like Russ Meyer, HG Lewis, John Waters and Troma Production films. I was an avid reader of underground comics and National Lampoon back in the 1970s. But that day has forever engraved itself in my mind but maybe for different reasons than other people because I was horrified at the insensitivity of the American people as a whole.

Oh for a VERY brief time the American people came together as one. Flags flew everywhere in front of homes and businesses; people had two-dollar made-in-China mini-flags fluttering on their cars like so many General Staff cars. For an even shorter time the whole left-right dichotomy got put aside. But I remember the joke the late great Rodney Dangerfield used to tell about the “guy who was half Polish and half Irish; he wanted to beat somebody up but he didn’t know WHO”

Well 911 turned America into That Guy. A pointless war was launched against a country that had nothing to do with the attack and no one cared. Anyone who muttered a syllable against it was ridiculed and called unpatriotic. And fourteen years later little has changed; and to me that is perhaps the greatest tragedy of all.