"Well, I'll Be John Brown"

Real stories about folks who have blessed my life with the joy and fulfillment of laughter. Long may they live.

Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

A Southern Boy - Born In Alabama, Reared In Georgia, and Matriculated, Married & Initiated Into Manhood In Tennessee.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bill - The Dancing Guitarist

Playing music has been this writer’s, “drug of choice,” since the age of nine. No high in the world (sorry, honey, not even sex) can compare with having performed well a popular song for a receptive crowd of listeners. Standing ovations are God’s way of paying you back for the fatigue of packing and moving heavy amplifiers and sound equipment, untold hours of practice, and the pain of developing and maintaining calluses on bleeding fingertips.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of music; and for the blessing of being a rock guitarist in an enormously popular band, amongst the vast array of music venues in Atlanta, Georgia, in the middle of the greatest era of popular music – the 1970’s.

“Silver Creek,” was our band’s name. Previously, we had been known as, “Andromeda,” (a name taken from a boring 1971 sci-fi movie). Whatever band member(s) came up with, “Silver Creek,” thus delivering us from our former name, should be given a Pulitzer Prize.

The nucleus of the band had been together since high school. Our first gigs were a high school talent show (which we won by performing two of the biggest tunes of the day – Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Green River” and Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4”) and playing in the lunch room during 4th period (A, B, & C Lunch) on St. Patircks’ Day (our school was the O’Keefe “Fighting Irish”). We were one of two bands on campus, and extremely popular with our fellow students.

All bands eventually go through personnel changes. We certainly did. When the band began to get serious about our future, the practice schedule really started cranking up. With this development, both our original drummer and bass player (two brothers) decided they didn’t want to be THAT serious about playing music. The departure of these two dear friends was tough on all of us, but the remnant moved on.

One of our charter members switched from playing third guitar over to bass. He “took to” the change really well, and became a top shelf bass player in almost no time at all. He was also one of our two vocalists. When this writer listens back to tapes from those days, it is amazing to hear what “Buster” could do on a bass, and in singing rock.

Also, some of our guys happened to work with three other musicians who wanted to either start or join a band. Musician #1 was a really good drummer – skinny as a rail, with fiery red hair. “Robert” would become a real asset to our group in the years to come. Musician #2 was a vocalist who was also a songwriter, harmonica player, and the owner a decent PA system – which we badly needed at the time. “Bob” became the tender-hearted core of our band. The third musician (let’s call him “Terry”) was a highly egotistical guitarist and vocalist. Being somewhat of a, “legend in his own mind,” it soon became apparent that he viewed himself as nothing short of a clone of Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, and Elvis all rolled into one.

All three of these fellows were welcomed into the band, though there would be trouble down the road with Terry. Nonetheless, it was good to see a real band beginning to take shape.

The next hurdle was and is the most common one faced by every band that has ever struck up a tune. Where do we practice?

We had bounced around between parents’ living rooms, neighborhood garages, at least one old barn, and an apartment complex clubhouse (where some of our equipment was eventually stolen). Grrrrrrrr. We were musical gypsies searching for a place to ruin our eardrums and forge our sound. If Silver Creek was ever really going to “be”, we HAD to have a place TO “be.”

About this time, as good fortune would have it, this writer’s parents moved from one metro Atlanta County to another, and into a brick house with a basement. This house was located on what was then still somewhat of a county road, on a piece of land that was surrounded with woods on one side and open terrain on the other. It was THE perfect place for a bunch of loud, head-banger-type musicians to polish their act. Our destiny of becoming a true band was looking up.

Back to Terry, the ego-maniac. Eventually, he was asked to leave the band. Since the day he entered the group his ego had taken charge. From everything including song choices, to lead vocal and guitar duties, to equipment purchases, to what each band member would wear to gigs, to what our business cards would look like, Silver Creek was rapidly becoming “Terry’s band.” Something had to be done. Something was.

A strained, adversarial, tearful, and bitter “intervention” took place at one of our next practices. Terry’s dominance, the wisdom of some of the choices/decisions he had made for the band (without asking our opinions first), as well as a few other pertinent items were passionately discussed. Terry bristled at the idea that he had somehow become the “mac daddy” of the band. He was told that the band would henceforth be a true democracy, and that if he couldn’t live with that then we certainly wished him well. With bruised ego in hand, Terry moved on.

This kind of trouble and conflict, unfortunately, has broken up many a great band down through the history of rock and roll. Anyone who has ever been in a band (or bands) for any period of time will tell you that a group of musicians is often much more difficult to manage and keep together than a marriage. Divorce is ugly and painful - even when it “only” involves a group of guys or gals who do three chords and a chorus together on weekends.

To his credit, Terry did get us our first string of gigs. He also brought to the group a host of good cover tunes for us play. The crown jewel of these songs was a newly-released number by a then regionally-known group called Lynyrd Skynyrd. The song was, “Sweet Home Alabama.” Give the devil his due. Because of Terry’s musical foresight, we were playing “Sweet Home” (as well as a handful of other songs that eventually became hits) even before Atlanta rock radio was playing them. Kudos to you for that, Terry.

With Terry now gone, we were a band of five: two guitars, a bass, one drummer, and a vocalist (who occasionally played rhythm guitar or blues harp). Through the years a few keyboard players came and went, but we were almost always a “guitar band.” This story is about one of the guitar players. We knew him as, “Bill.”

In the 1970’s, with rock music becoming almost an obsession among baby boomers, and with it growing progressively harder-edged all the time, places for live performers and bands to play multiplied like fleas on a collie. Clubs, bars, singles apartment clubhouse parties, fraternity and sorority parties, corporate outings, private parties, restaurants and “lounges,” county fairs, small concert halls, outdoor sports venues, grand openings for new businesses, high school dances and pep rallies, and a hundred other venue types were constantly needing rock and roll bands. The work was steady and the money was decent. Silver Creek had found its place. We were a working band, and loving every rock and roll minute of it.

One of our favorite places to play was a restaurant/bar in a small town just west of Atlanta. “Effie’s Kitchen” had benefited substantially from the growth of Atlanta. The metropolis that Atlanta was destined to become was almost daily reaching farther and farther into places like the west metro county where Effie’s was located. Liquor by the drink, dancing, and loud rock and roll was packing them in. In some places, there was a rock and roll band playing five to six nights a week.

Silver Creek was given a tryout at Effie’s when their regular cover band had a conflict on a Saturday night booking. We were promised that if we did well, there could be a chance for a week-long gig in this little place. That Saturday afternoon we loaded up the gear and headed for what would become a great launching-pad for our career as a cover band.

The largest crowd ever at Effie’s showed up that night to hear our little five piece group. The time was “right,” the crowd was “ripe,” and Silver Creek was rocking. After four hours of almost non-stop cover tunes from Aerosmith, Grand Funk Railroad, Bad Company, ZZ Top, BTO, The Stones, and scores of others, the crowd refused to go home. The spirits were flowing, the music was hot, and the money was rolling in.

When the night was over, the club owner told us we were THE best bar band he had ever heard. We were immediately booked for an entire month, which was longer than Effie’s had ever held a group over. Our time had finally come. We could quit our day jobs.

Effie’s Kitchen, like any other club or lounge, attracted all types of people. Long hairs, rednecks, hippies, geeks, bikers, blue collar and white collar, black and white, male and female. They all came for different reasons, but, certainly, each was there because of rock and roll.

At the risk of overlooking anyone from the preceding collage of faces, bodies, and hearts - and for the sake of brevity - let us focus on perhaps THE most “important” segment of patrons that frequented Effie’s, or any establishment where there was/is dancing, loud rock and roll, and booze. I am speaking, of course, of women.

Women, women and more women. They came in the door like cattle at a county fair auction. Blondes, brunettes, red-heads, tall, round, thin, big-chested, flat-chested, bone-hard ugly, drop-dead gorgeous, some of legal age, and some not. One by one these precious creatures appeared. And, all with one thing in common: they were searching for a good time and for Mr. Right (or, as the country song says, Mr. Right Now!). Too, anyone who has ever followed rock and roll knows a second universal truth about women who show up at clubs, concerts, and most other places where music is to be played. That is, women L-O-V-E the boys in the band! One of THE sweetest places on earth for a musician to be is onstage performing before an adoring crowd of females.

One of the “boys” in our band was “Bill.” He was our second guitarist and sang harmony vocal. Bill was an excellent musician, who could also repair amplifiers and pretty much all things electronic with both hands tied behind him. However, he was as “a-typical” a rock guitarist and performer as there has ever been in the world.

By nature, Bill was a scientist, a borderline egghead, and a scholar. He won every award for science achievement our high school ever doled out. Blindfolded, Bill could take apart a guitar, an amplifier, or even a nuclear power plant and put it all back together in perfect order. He also had an ear for THE song that the crowd was sure to love. Bill was, in many ways, the backbone of our band.

There were two things, though, that Bill was NOT.

First, he was not a dancer by any means. If Bill had starred in “Saturday Night Fever,” the Bee Gees might never have gotten beyond singing for weddings and funerals. Bill rarely if ever moved while onstage. During a four hour gig, he would stand statuesquely in the same place, never moving unless it was a step or two toward the microphone to sing a harmony vocal. His guitar work was impeccable and he capably sang many a harmony line. But, beyond this, Bill’s onstage and real life persona were never going to get him confused with Tom Jones or Elvis.

Second, Bill was not a ladies man. He was in many ways a terribly shy person, and quiet as a whisper in a crowd. It was not that Bill didn’t like girls. And, it was not that he was at a loss for knowing what SHOULD be done whenever a room suddenly filled with a bevy of scantily clad females. Bill was just not the type to openly cavort and carouse. He occasionally confessed a minor crush of sorts for a sister of one of our band mates, but was not about to go off chasing the first pretty pair of jeans that walked by during one of our gigs. (That particular duty fell to this writer, and was a cross he bore repeatedly throughout Silver Creek’s days as a band.)

One particular Saturday night, Effie’s Kitchen was “hopping.” Silver Creek was loud and in fine form. The beer and booze were flowing. The crowd was steadily becoming liquored up, and quickly gravitating toward full party mode. The dance floor was filled on every song. And, as always, women – hot, incredibly good looking women – were everywhere. What a great time to be young, a guitar player, and part of a really, really good rock band. Ahhhhhh, the sweet memories.

At some point during the show, the dance floor emptied enough for one young lady to stand out. And, boy did she ever stand out! She was a strawberry blonde in her early twenties, the possessor of a beautiful face, and an even better physique. She was wearing stacked heels, tight jeans, and the prettiest orange chiffon, 100% cotton, tube top that K-Mart ever sold. That top was perfectly positioned in the one area of this pretty young thing’s upper body that most every guy in that place wanted to be. No one but her and Good Lord knew that the top she wore into Effie’s that night would not be in that position very much longer.

The song that seemed to light this young thing’s fire was ZZ Top’s great dual hit, “Waitin’ On The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago.” Her boyfriend had stayed with her on the dance floor through, “Waiting On The Bus,” but retreated to his seat for the second part of the medley. “Jesus Just Left Chicago” was a slow, bluesy type number, with a steady, pulsating bass line. It was THE perfect song for a lead guitarist to show his chops; and, for a pretty young thing in an orange tube top to show hers as well.

We were right in the middle of the guitar solo when the action began. The doll-baby all alone now on the dance floor must have known that every guy in the place was watching her (and every girl, but for different reasons). Slowly, sensuously, and graphically our young mistress began to disrobe. Keep in mind that she was already only half-clothed from the waist up to begin with. One gentle tug after another at that orange top was gradually bringing it ever closer to her navel. And, not a bouncer in sight (a “bouncer” is big male brute who removes rowdy folks from dance floors – not the “OTHER” variety of “bouncer” which had a partner bouncing with it on this girl’s upper torso).

Never has the male portion of any audience we ever played for made that much noise. Every male in Effie’s that special Saturday night was euphorically caught up in ecstatic approval of what they were witnessing!

Being the serious guitarist that this writer was, he was totally and absolutely focused on the solo he was playing, and thoroughly oblivious to the show that was taking center stage right in front of him. Sad to say, but he thought the audience was cheering for him!

Suddenly, I heard Robert, our drummer, screaming at me. “Hey, dude! – D-A-V-I-D!!! – Look, man! – Look at…BILL!” I opened my eyes and saw the eye-popping mammarial display only a few feet away. She was obviously “digging” the solo I was playing. The better I played, the more vigorously she moved that body and that top to places one would have never imagined.

At that point, in my own mind and field of view it was, “Bill W-H-O?”

Robert yelled again, “Man! - Not her!! – Look at BILL!” Being the stalwart drummer he was, Robert was attempting to continue the beat of the song while gesturing wildly toward the opposite end of the stage with one of his drumsticks.

This guitar player was finally able to tear himself away from the unbelievable sight unfolding (or undressing) before his young eyes, and look in the direction that Robert was pointing. What he saw was almost as unbelievable – and a thousand times more entertaining!

Bill was D-A-N-C-I-N-G!!!!

Bill - the science freak, egghead, intellectual, solitary, “stationary” man – was hopelessly overcome with the sensuous, fleshly display he was witnessing. Bill, my buddy and fellow guitarist, was smiling, laughing, moving around, smiling, swaying, grinning, leaning back and forth, shaking his head in approval, and doing something akin to the “bump!”

This stoic, unmovable, lug that stood like the Rock of Gibraltar on the other end of the stage from me, never changing his position or his countenance, was going absolutely rock and roll crazy!!! He was dancing around like Buster Poindexter did when he performed, “Hot, Hot, Hot!,” in his Vegas show. That little stage at Effie’s rocked and rumbled each time Bill would gyrate back and forth and side to side. As the Motown hit says, the earth was truly moving under his feet.

Soon, the bouncers came and got little Miss Orange Chiffon Tube Top(less) and gingerly escorted her off the dance floor. We didn’t see her again the rest of the evening. But, no matter - the deed was done – the transformation complete!! Silver Creek now knew what made our rhythm guitarist “tick” – not to mention jump, shout, shake, rattle, and roll.

Bill never stood still again. From that night until our band took its current thirty year hiatus, Bill enjoyed every minute of every show. He moved around onstage like the late Billy Preston, flirted with the girls in the front row, and became one of THE greatest memories this guitar player still has from the days of rock and roll, and a band called Silver Creek.

Thank you, Bill.

Rock on, brother.

- David Decker

"Mama's Mad & She's Beating The Hell Out Of Everybody!"

Daddy was born on August 21, 1920, at 2525 Forrest Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia. The old home place was actually a family farm when daddy was a boy - located in the middle of a farming community in the edge of Atlanta. Little did daddy nor anyone in his family foresee what Atlanta would one day become. In his day, the future premier city of the south was to him nothing more than a piece of red earth that fed the eleven people in his immediate family.

The community of Riverside was just that – a settlement of farmers that originally located themselves on the old hillsides near to the Chattahoochee River. In those days, before pollution and overcrowding ruined this fine old tributary, the Chattahoochee provided plenty of clean water for irrigating crops, feeding livestock, fishing, and swimming. It was the latter of these that brought heavenly pleasure to a community of young boys after a hot day of working the fields - plowing, picking peaches, or splitting wood.

One hot, summer afternoon all the neighborhood boys had made it up to high-tail it down to the river when the mid-day work was done. During previous summers, someone had taken an old piece of grass rope and a worn-out T-Model Ford tire and made a swing that jutted out high over the deepest bend of the river (near what is now South Cobb Drive and Southern Company’s electric generating plant Jack McDonough). During daddy’s day, there were strong, storm-tested oaks and hickory trees lining the river bank, with an occasional washed out, natural ledge overlooking the water. A more perfect launching pad for a river swing there could not have been.
Fairly near the water’s edge at two locations ran two farm roads – today known as Spink Street and Main Street. These were little more than pig-trail roads just wide enough for a mule and wagon. Hardly any traffic ever passed along them, unless it was a farmer coming to the river to water his mules or to fish in the late evening.

On this fateful day, daddy and about thirteen or fourteen other neighborhood boys met at the river. They had come straight from the fields, still clad in their sweaty Liberty overhauls and long sleeved gabardine shirts. There was no time to go back to the house and change. Besides, going back to the house might have meant that mama would have found some labor-intensive chore that needed doing, and you were the perfect candidate to be drafted for her need.

Growing up in a southern, farm community almost guaranteed that you would be in the regular company of devout church going folks who understood and practiced decency, modesty, and other Bible-based mores. As such, these boys had been taught that swimming in the river was always properly done in one’s cut-off overhauls, boxer shorts, or in some other form of “bloomer” designed to cover one’s lower extremities. Nekkid swimming was for “heatherns” and hobos, and was strictly forbidden even during the darkness of night.

When fourteen or so sweaty farm boys showed up at the banks of the Chattahoochee that day - out of breath and in the hurry of their lives to dive into that cold, refreshing river water – the decency that had been taught around the supper table and in Bible class was the farthest thing from their minds. Each boy stripped off nekkid, threw all their clothes in a great big pile by the river bank, and into the water they went. Daddy often said that the cool, sweet taste and feel of the water of that old river on that hot, muggy afternoon was as near as dying and going to heaven as anything one could imagine.

For the next few hours those boys - who would later go off to war - swam, dove, leaped off that old tire swing, played games in the water, and became so lost in the cool, refreshing water of that old river that they forgot about the hardships of life on a farm. There were no computers, I-Pods, cell phones, or amusement parks in their world. There was just nature – a playground provided by the good Lord. How much better off our world would be today if more kids grew up like this.

At some point during this heavenly respite from following a hot, stinking, old mule down a corn row, someone drove their own team of mules up one of those old nearby farm roads. This development brought with it a great temptation. Though it was often denied in later years, daddy claimed that it was his older brother Hubert (ironically, himself nicknamed “mule” for his strength and stubborn nature) who did the dastardly deed. In full view of the road, “mule” Decker jumped out of the Chattahoochee river, ran to a spot on the bank that was easily seen from the road, started making a boisterously loud and rowdy, “woooo-woooo,” noise, and shook his budding maleness wildly at the passing wagon. This, of course, drove his accomplices into a frenzy of howling laughter and giggling that echoed off the water and up through the path to the road.

When the wagon had passed, the perpetrator jumped back into the water with his mates and they resumed their care-free frolic under the hot, Georgia sun. Little did any of them suspect or anticipate the process that Uncle Hubert’s foolish, boy-driven, antics had set into motion.

Unbeknownst to them, the party in the wagon was old man Leke Donehoo’s wife. The Donehoo’s lived just down the road from daddy’s family and farmed the adjacent acreage. Leke’s wife was on her way that day to take an afternoon helping of food and cold water to her husband as he worked the back part of their property. Mrs. Donehoo got a full bird’s-eye view of Uncle Hubert’s mindless behavior on the river bank. She recognized him straight away, but said nothing as she went on her way to deliver the food and water. Once her errand was complete, Mrs. Donehoo drove her team of mules directly to the front door of my grandparent’s old farm house. It was there that she revealed to my Grandmaw Georgia what she had witnessed on the river bank. My grandmother thanked her, and assured her that she would handle it.

Those fourteen boys never saw it coming. They were still so preoccupied kicking, thrashing, diving, and playing in the river that they never detected my grandmother. She carefully and quietly positioned herself between them and their mountain of clothing piled on the river bank. Then, as loudly as the archangel’s voice at the Second Coming, Grandmaw’s voice cut through the air, “All right! Every one of you boys!! Come out of that river one at a time!! Every one of you has got to come out by me to get to your clothes! I know that none of you will want to go home nekkid! And, Hubert, you wait in the water until everybody else has come out! I want you to see what you are going to get!!!!”

Daddy said that his petite mother, though barely standing five feet tall and weighing little more than one hundred pounds, had a tree limb in her hand the size of Buford Pusser’s infamous “stick” from the Walking Tall movies of the 1970’s. Daddy swore that the tree limb grandmaw had secured on her way to the river that day featured numerous jagged edges where smaller limbs had been stripped off at their base. The effect would be nearly the same as being flogged by a strand of barbed wire.

As those boys obeyed her in coming out of that water, my grandmother would make each one lie down on the bank while she administered at least three vigorous licks to their back sides. Daddy said that he remembered two things while witnessing this process. First, the blood-curdling screams of these robust farm-hand type boys; and second, the look of absolute terror in uncle Hubert’s eyes as he witnessed the carnage that would soon come its climax on his own set of exposed butt-cheeks.

Being the baby of the family, daddy said that his own licks from Grandmaw were somewhat merciful, though extremely painful and humiliating nonetheless. However, daddy often recalled that it seemed that grandmaw saved the greatest reserve of her wrath for uncle Hubert. Both men swore later in their adult years that grandmaw beat uncle Hubert with that tree limb for what seemed to be a half an hour – all the while asking him questions. “You ever gonna’ get in this river nekkid again?” “You ever gonna’ shake your ‘dibbie’ at anyone again?” “You ever gonna’ embarrass your daddy and me like this again?” To each question, Uncle Hubert squawled a tear-filled, “no ma’am!”

When the beatings were finally done and the boys scattered back to their respective farms, my grandmother marched behind Uncle Hubert and my daddy all the way back to their farm house, talking to both of them every step of the way. “I didn’t raise you two boys to run around nekkid in public!” “Neither one of you were taught to act like ‘heatherns’ when you’re away from your daddy and me!” “Hubert, what you do you think you were doing shaking yourself at Mrs. Donehoo like that?” “You both better keep your peckers in your britches before I take your daddy’s razor and cut them off!”

This protracted lecturing during the journey back to the house evidently made uncle Hubert angry. It was one thing to be beaten in front of your contemporaries. It was quite another to be lectured by this little, frail woman after she had embarrassed you with such a display of discipline. When Uncle Hubert could stand it no longer, he mouthed off something under his breath back at my grandmother thinking that she could not hear him. How wrong he was a second time. She swatted him twice more with the tree limb on his bare back, and promised additional licks once they had reached the house.

With this, Uncle Hubert took off running to try and get to the house in time to hide or barricade himself in one of the bedrooms. When “mule” ran in through the front door, one of the older sisters who had stayed behind to start supper for the family asked uncle Hubert why he was running, crying, and acting like he was being chased by a bear.

His answer still rings through this writer’s ears and brings profound laughter each time it is remembered – now over eighty years since that fateful day. Uncle Hubert told my aunt, “Sis, run away as fast as you can, mama’s mad and she’s beating the hell out of everybody!”

Never again did daddy nor any of his running buddies ever strip off nekkid in the old Chattahoochee. Never again did Uncle Hubert expose himself to Mrs. Donehoo or anyone else. And, never again for any reason did Grandmaw Georgia have to administer a whipping to the boys of that grand old community known as Riverside. Her point was made.

(During the times of year when we honor fathers and mothers, let us remember how blessed we were and are to have been brought up by godly parents. May we always entertain the greatest love and respect for these remarkable men and women who not only loved us enough to hold us to Divine standards of behavior and decency, but also through that same love applied the, “rod of correction,” when we needed reminding of these and so many other things.)

- David Decker

257 Channels & Nothing On

Bruce Springsteen is a musical prophet.

A few years back, “The Boss,” penned and recorded a song entitled, “57 Channels & Nothing On.” The song was about the empty, broken viewing promises of the intellectual and entertainment landfill commonly known as cable TV.

Given the three channel menu that this writer remembers from TV in his youth, it seems reasonable that the entertainment industry would find something substantive to air within the broad spectrum of fifty-seven airwaves. Little did Springsteen know that his words hinted of an even greater dilemma for the TV viewer of the future. With the advent of satellite we now have, “two hundred fifty seven channels & still nothing on.”

Recently, while recovering from coronary by-pass surgery, this writer experienced the chronic, nightly insomnia that comes with having your chest sawn open and new plumbing installed. Since you can’t sleep and there is no one awake to play with, it is assumed that finally someone in your house will get some good out of the $50 being shelled out monthly for satellite. TV in any form has become a service that most families are too busy to use, but wouldn’t be caught dead without. This patient remembers thinking, “well, if I can’t sleep, at least there will be something I can watch on TV.”

Enter Bruce Springsteen.

Enter the newest innovation from our friends down at Direct-Dish –Network-Comcast TV.

Namely, The Infomercial.

Night-time TV would be better described as, “Infomercial Hell.” Like snake oil merchants at an old time carnival, the personalities of night-time TV come into your living room with one purpose in mind – “sell!” (which, again, rhymes with “hell”). Like an already way-too-long sermon gone to seed, these extended sales pitches are to the marketing world what Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 14 minute classic anthem, “Free-Bird,” was and is to southern garage-band rock. They go on and on and on and on. Enter the Energizer bunny.

Infomercial creators and producers evidently have one and only one cookie-cutter template they adhere to in making these, “Nightmares on Insomnia Street.” Their ingredients are predictable. Their format is mindless. If you have seen one infomercial, you have truly seen them all. And yet, night-time TV is saturated with these inane productions. They spew endlessly and uninterruptedly through the broadcast night - like feces through a goose.

One night’s excursion through the infomercial haven chamber by this, “Sleepless in Sickville,” heart patient left the following impressions.

First, infomercial folks will shamelessly sell anything. In one eight hour stint the viewer is offered hundreds of items for sale including: grills, vacuum cleaners, jewelry, record (excuse me – CD & DVD) collections, perfume, cat litter, automobile and truck accessories, hunting and fishing gear, DVD’s of the well-traveled series “Girls Gone Wild,” dishes, paintings, feminine hygiene products, light bulbs, lingerie, stamp and coin collections, golf clubs, male enhancement drugs, trips, vitamins, club memberships, aerobic CD’s & DVD’s, internet business opportunities, erotic sex toys (yes ma’am – saw that one three times in one night – advertised by two of the homeliest women in broadcast TV), yard tools, furniture, cosmetics, swimwear, computers, stereo equipment, books, diet pills, exercise equipment, and (did I mention?) erotic sex toys.

It is easy to understand why Wal-Mart now stays open all night. The competition never sleeps. If it can be manufactured, imported, packaged or marketed in any way, it is gonna’ show up eventually at 2:30 AM on channels 240-310.

Second, cleavage. One particular infomercial evidently did not trust that one young lady’s endowment was enough to capture and keep the buying public’s attention, so they added a second. The two young ladies that “starred” on this particular infomercial are likely going to wind up one day in some chiropractor’s office with serious back trouble. All they did for the minute or two that this insomniac was watching was to lean exaggeratedly forward with their extremely low-cut blouses hanging open and talk wild-eyed into the camera about their product and/or service. It is amazing that this viewer even saw their eyes. The next morning, I could not for the life of me remember what they were selling, but their marketing approach was forever “implanted” in my mammary, uh, memory.

If the feminists are correct and sex does not sell, someone forgot to tell the folks down at, “Infomercial Central.” From the very least hint of cleavage all the way to a full-blown avalanche of female foliage, infomercial folks live and die with exposed female tissue.

Exposed female legs enhance the package - as panelists do their best to mimic the poses that made Entertainment Tonight’s Mary Hart famous. But - make no mistake – the folks who produce this sort of thing are placing all their bets above the female waist.

Third, infomercials are the world’s haven for testimonials. They are bizarre, and they are extremely entertaining. “This product worked for me even though I was on death row!” “I made $3 million my first week with my brand new internet shoe repair business.” “I learned the entire Chinese language in my first month with this new speed-reading course and never even cracked a book.”

Infomercialists always hedge these outlandish testimonials with legalese fine print at the bottom of the screen which cautions, “Not every person achieves the same level of performance as results may vary.” This really means, “We are lying through our teeth and don’t care if one day we will go to a devil’s hell because of it – just buy our product, sucker!”

The thing is, in the middle of the night, lying there like a zombie in a cage, with all sorts of medicine coursing through one’s system, some of (many of) these bald-face lies start to sound believable.

If only we could sit down face to face and find out how much the liar was paid to sell his soul – not to mention the sponsor’s product – then we could get the real scoop on whether or not this new magical diet supplement will make us look like Brad Pitt.

The power that the infomercial demons have over us is that if we bite the bait and try the suppository, buy the DVD’s, or drink the kool-aid and the promises do turn out to be lies, who are we gonna’ tell? It is embarrassing enough to admit that we might spend an evening watching this junk – let alone that we might be foolish enough to spend $150 just to see if a pill can make hair grow on a bald head by six inches in just two days.

Finally, infomercials are hosted by losers, has-been’s, wanna-be’s, and “ain’t-gonna-be’s.” For example, note the infomercial host who was previously an out-of-work actor, whose last meaningful role was as an island native rowing a canoe in a three second long-distance shot that didn’t make it to the final cut in one of the lost episodes of Gilligan’s Island. Or, the former forth runner-up in the 1901 Miss America pageant. Or, the ex-big league ball player whose sole claim to fame came through his being at bat as a pinch-hitter at Wrigley Field in 1972 when someone fell out of the upper deck behind home plate.

If the promise of your next big gig in the entertainment world involves hosting an infomercial, either get another agent or get another gig – one with steady, day-time hours. Truth is - you ain’t about to go from hawking Popiel’s Pocket Fisherman at 3:00 AM on the Lifetime Network Channel to a starring role opposite Jenny McCarthy in Mission Impossible V.

Being sick is a drag.

Being sick and unable to sleep is an even bigger drag.

Being sick, unable to sleep, and then being lured into watching 175 year old Jack Lalanne try to convince you that his longevity is due solely to his drinking regularly from his Bionic Juicer Machine – which you can have right now for four “easy” credit card payments of $375.99 – this is the biggest drag of all.

It is the spiritual and existential equivalent of dying a thousand deaths, waking up to find that reincarnation is true, and that you have come back each of those thousand times as the padding in Hillary Clinton’s brazier.

Strange, but, here we are back again to the chest area of a female. Well, at least with Mrs. Clinton, maybe not.

Time to go to sleep.

Good night, Edith.

- David Decker

Thanksgiving & Uncle Hubert

My recollection of Thanksgivings past is decorated with many great memories. Tops among them were the Thanksgiving Days spent at my aunt Katie’s house. Aunt Katie and uncle Bill lived just north of Atlanta, Georgia, in a very nice, well-to-do neighborhood. Aunt Katie was an older sister to my dad, and herself the youngest girl among nine kids. Many of these siblings and their broods would gather each Thanksgiving at aunt Katie’s house for a double feature. First, there was always a feast to behold. Second, there was always a fight to be had.

The food was splendid and delicious year in and year out - southern cuisine at its finest. The menu always seemed to include the following: 1) Home grown vegetables such as garden corn, green beans, field peas, Crowder peas, bunch beans, green limas, fried squash, fried okra, rutabagas, potato salad, and sliced tomatoes; 2) Several varieties of meats including roast, fried chicken, venison, turkey, and sliced ham; 3) Sweet potato casserole served at least three different ways; 4) Desserts of various kinds – including lemon icebox pie, chocolate cake, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, homemade fried apple and peach pies, and more homemade peanut brittle than all the kids who came could possibly eat. Diabetes ran in our family, but you would have never known it by the size and quality of the “feed” that aunt Katie and my other female ancestors trotted out every year on that glorious Thursday in November. Blood sugar levels would ever more take a royal beating on Thanksgiving at aunt Katie’s house.

After the meal, the ladies would clean up, the kids would go outside to play, and the men would retire to the living room or den for football and conversation. The annual Georgia and Georgia Tech freshmen Scottish Rite Hospital Benefit football game, played for many years on Thanksgiving Day, provided ample entertainment while the food settled. No one seemed to really care, though, about the football game. There was a far greater contest awaiting.

Uncle Hubert was by far the most boisterous of all my father’s eight siblings. He talked so much, and so loudly, that his nickname as a young man was, “radio.” It was said that when uncle Hubert was born the doctor vaccinated him a Victrola needle, and he never was able to shut up after that. Uncle Hubert was also a die hard, yellow dog, Democrat. He believed in God, the Bible, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “Roosevelt saved the world!,” was uncle Hubert’s stock answer to any negative comment about the holy Democratic party.

Without fail, on those Thanksgiving family gatherings, uncle Hubert would always get into a red-faced, vein-popping, verbal brawl with somebody over politics. Most of the time that somebody was cousin Tom - who himself, at the ripe old age of twenty one, thought that he knew everything there was to know about everything. Cousin Tom was not necessarily a Republican, he was just against anything that was, “establishment.” If it had to do in any way with uncle Hubert’s generation of politics, cousin Tom was against it. He didn’t like Social Security, the fact that the United States had used nuclear weapons to end World War II, nor anything else that the federal government had done since the end of Herbert Hoover’s presidency. Tom was the perfect foe for uncle Hubert in these annual Thanksgiving Day Battle Royals.

Consistently, uncle Hubert defended his ideologies like the true Archie Bunker prototype that he was. Through the sheer energy of his anger, the booming volume of his baritone voice, and the unrelenting hard-headedness of his personality, uncle Hubert shouted down every opposing view.

Though no official victory was ever declared, uncle Hubert always seemed to prevail in these verbal bloodlettings. The fight would usually end with one of the women coming in and announcing that the coffee was ready to be poured. The cooler heads and softer voices of the women were very powerful, and were exactly what was needed to calm the storm that was uncle Hubert. Only once did any of these elegant ladies deviate from the Biblical pattern of, “soft words turning away wrath…”

It was during the torrid climax of one of these mêlées. Aunt Hester, uncle Hubert’s meek, quiet, and incredibly petite spouse came rushing into the middle of the fracas, shoved uncle Hubert down into a recliner, and bent over him like his own mother probably did in his youth – wilding shaking her bony little finger in his face. As loudly as her tiny diaphragm would allow she shouted, “Hubert, you big, mule-headed jack-ass, the way you are acting only proves that there is more than one great big turkey in this house today.”

Aunt Hester, if you can hear me…You go!

©David Decker, 2006

My First Date

In this writer’s high school days, during the late 60’s and early 1970’s, dating was a status symbol. If you WERE somehow able to secure regular dates with other human beings of the opposite sex, you were then, and only then, judged by your peers to be worthy of personhood. If not, then obviously you lied about your weekends, because the greatest curse of all would have been to be labeled an un-dateable nobody. Pride, ego, and your “rep” amongst your peers were all at stake – not to mention your very existence.

For everyone who has ever dated, the first time can be the best of times and/or the worst of times – all at the same time. From the initial, “what are you doing Saturday night?”, all the way to the good-night kiss, the first date is sometimes more frightening and fraught with uncertainty than is coronary by-pass surgery. Yours truly has experienced both. The latter of the two was, comparatively speaking, “duck soup.” The main difference is that during the first-date the “victim” is wide awake and painfully aware of each exhilarating, yet excruciating, moment of the procedure.

Regardless of the outcome, however, the first-date has the potential of being one of THE greatest and sweetest experiences in a young man’s life - one that fills his heart with the most precious of memories. That is exactly how it was with this writer.

Her formal name was Anna Laura Hamilton. What a great old, southern, female (and family) name. I never knew the reason, but her nickname was “Jaye.” She was blonde, as petite and adorable as a newborn Shetland pony (she probably would have more than a little difficulty appreciating this writer’s comparison of her to miniature equine), and monstrously popular with all the guys (and most of the girls) in our high school. She played saxophone in marching and concert band, and held one of THE most coveted positions associated with our school’s music program - she was a majorette.

In later years, Jaye freely admitted that one of the reasons she much preferred being a majorette to playing sax at football games was the difference in the uniforms. Amen, sister! Jaye was asked out a lot during her high school days – but rarely if ever was it because of the military-style marching outfits worn in high school band. Her majorette outfit declared to the world that God had done some mighty fine creative work in Jaye’s particular case.

I had known her for some time in contexts not related to dating or high school marching band. Jaye’s two brothers and I, along with some other high school chums, played in a rock band together. As either dumb luck or Divine providence would have it (and since her brother did not want to lug his drums all over creation just to rehearse) we always practiced in her parents’ living room. One of the great perks of practicing in the Hamilton living room was the fully functional jukebox, filled with the hits of the day, that her parents kept there. I never told Jaye this, but that incredible jukebox was probably more of a reason for this guitar player’s passion for being in that place on those evenings than even her presence was.

What a sweet thing it was, however, whenever Jaye would join us during band practice. Sometimes she came in just to listen. Sometimes she came in to flirt. And, sometimes she came in to twirl her baton and do her routines - always in sync with our renditions of tunes from super groups such as Bloodrock, The Who, and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

John Fogerty and Pete Townsend, eat your hearts out!

There were times that I, as the lead guitarist, completely lost my place in the song, playing chords that came out of who-knows-where, as she entered the room twirling that infernal baton. I was immediately and terminally smitten! I am certain my band mates could see right through my insistence that we practice at Jaye’s house at least six nights a week, every week (which NEVER happened).

We were sitting in the school library when I finally worked up the courage to ask her out. I don’t remember what brought us to the same table in the library that day. But, I DO remember the almost overwhelming power of the fragrance I encountered during that class period. The sweet, intoxicating, unmistakable smell of White Shoulders perfume floated across that library table from her to me like a wave of fresh honeysuckle in the early summer. At the time I didn’t know what her perfume was called, but I knew I had to get closer to her than across that library table in order to fully experience and familiarize myself with that potent, angelic scent.

My mind was made up – I was GOING to ask her out. Even if she said no, it would be worth the risk. If she did say no, Plan B was to ask her if I could borrow her bottle of White Shoulders long enough to coat the walls of my room with it. Either Jaye or her aroma was going to spend a Saturday evening with me somehow – and very soon.

Too, I don’t remember how I got around to popping the question. There was no begging, bribing, or other mode of coercion. This fifty-something memory recalls the young man sitting across from Jaye biting his lip, closing his eyes, sucking in his gut, sitting up straight, and before he could pass out from lack of oxygen to the brain, saying very plainly, “would you like to go to a movie Saturday night?”

The few seconds that inevitably pass between the first-date invite and the RSVP seem like death. They always play themselves out in S-L-O-W motion. They frequently involve nervous convulsions in the chest, as well as deep, red, flushing of the face and neck. On the part of the invitee, these times often result in a barrage of flimsy excuses, uncomfortable apologies, and/or bald-faced lies. This time, however…the invitation resulted in…


I sat there stunned. For a long minute I was sure I had died and gone to heaven. Did she say yes? WHY did she say yes? Do you think she means it? She’s not just jerking my chain, is she? Surely not?!

In trying to reason through these questions, in the blink of an eye - and long before the brain could fully process her surprising answer - yours truly said the only thing in response that he could think of….


“Really! ”, she said, smiling sheepishly. The gracious southern belle that Jaye was had truly come shining through. Her tone and demeanor almost seemed to say, “You big dummy, I thought you’d never ask!”

I don’t remember what I said in excusing myself to leave the table for a moment (the rest of that whole day is, frankly, a bit of a blur). My overwhelming urge was to run in breakneck fashion to the boy’s bathroom so I could throw up (in reaction to the convulsive nervousness I had experienced). Or, to fling open the bathroom window and shout boisterously to all of downtown Atlanta, “Yaaaaaaa Hooooooo…she said YES!!!!!!.”

The only thing I DO remember saying , in a very cool, collected, hip, matter-of-fact way was, “I’ll call you.”

Still in a state of joy-filled shock, I left the library with a series of first-date mountains to climb. “She said, ‘yes!’”, I whispered, “now what in the heck do I do?” This writer was a full seven months away from turning sixteen, with no driver’s license, no car, and not one single outfit of cool, “date clothes,” to his name.

And, oh yes, did I forget to mention that Jaye had just broken up with THE most extremely jealous and uncouth boyfriend that any horror movie could ever produce? None of that bothered me at the moment, though. The only thing that mattered was that she had said, “YES!!!!!”
When I called her the next night, I was a great deal more collected than in the library. After all, she was now, “conquered territory.” For at least the next few days - culminating with Saturday night - whether she knew it or not this woman was, “mine.”

During our conversation (in which I was witty, funny, and VERY cool) I asked what movie she would like to see. Maybe the then-popular “Love Story” or some other sappy, girl-movie, I thought. It didn’t matter to me what we saw. “Godzilla Gets A Day Job At Waffle House,” would have been fine with me. I did not anticipate watching the movie to any great degree anyway.
Jaye’s answer was truly NOT what I would have expected in a million years.
“Well, who are we going with?,” she asked. I was more than a little taken aback. Funny thing was, I didn’t recall asking a “group” of people out that day in the library. Did she have in mind one of her parents going as a chaperone? Or, was she somehow suggesting (in my dreams) a ménage a trios? Or, was she alluding, heaven forbid, to THE most hated, dreaded, night-from-hell that no guy in the world would ever want to agree to? Was she proposing a (wash-my-mouth-out-with-soap-as-I-gag-on–the-term) double-date?

“I don’t know,” I said calmly, “whom did you have in mind?” What else could I say??? “You’re nuts, sweetie pie, if you think I am going out with you AND somebody else!?????” I waited nervously for her reply.

Jaye must have suspected that my prohibitive age and the driving predicament that had to be worked out because of it were at issue. Looking back, this was perhaps my first encounter with the infamous reality of, “woman’s intuition.” Regardless, her proposal was delivered quickly and with substantial evidence of forethought.

“Beau (one of her brothers – and my band-mate) has been wanting to see that new science-fiction movie called, ‘The Andromeda Strain,’” she said. “What would you think about doubling with him and Phyllis?”

Again, this love-sick, first-dater was pretty much stuck. Without this option, what WOULD we do? Would I walk to her house (which was at least nine miles from my front door), and then stroll the obligatory fourteen miles to the movie theater? Not likely. Could I steal my parents’ car for the evening and risk being arrested for driving without a license, not to mention auto theft? The certain death that would have awaited me back at home for such an act made this particular option seem highly unwise.

Clearly, not having thought out this rather significant detail of the overall proposal, this writer was forced to quickly dismiss these ludicrous non-options. Then, in a sudden rush of level-headedness and wisdom, yours truly said the only thing that made any sense…

“Sure, what time does the movie start?”

Eventually, I talked to Beau. He was such a cool guy. Beau was brilliant in techno things. He finished at the top of his graduating class, and while still in high school was employed as an engineer by Ted Turner’s then-budding-communications-empire flagship TV station, WTCG (Channel 17). Beau was our bass player and our band’s electronics mister-fix-it. If an amp blew during a song, Beau could have it back in business before the last solo was played. He was THE best possible male candidate I could have ever wished for in this first-date/double-date experience.

Thank you, Jaye…Thank you, Lord.

His girlfriend Phyllis was another story. From the neck down, God had really been good to Phyllis. From the neck up, well, it suffices to say that she had a million-dollar body and a fifty-cent face. It was a very good thing indeed that Beau was a proto-type techno-geek, engineering-minded, guru. He was always infinitely more interested in what was going on inside of something than on its surface. Given this, Phyllis seemed the perfect match for him. She was a lot of fun to be with. And, along with the high-quality anatomical “equipment” she possessed, Phyllis also had the savvy and hormonal drive to know how to use what God had given her – and use it quite well. Beau always had a profoundly “satisfied” smile on his face the day after a night out with Phyllis. No one ever had to ask why.

Beau assured me that he was cool with my dating his sister. After all, I was his lead guitarist. We had a mutual respect that, while unspoken, was keenly evident. Beau said that he would be come by my house to pick me up about 6:00 PM, and that we would go together to get the girls.

What a guy!

Beau well understood what it would have done to this first-date ego for all three of them to have shown up together to pick me up dead last. For this concession, and for the other reasons aforementioned, to this day, Beauregard Hamilton is in my eyes, “the man!”

The rest of the week passed like a whirlwind. I don’t remember what I finally decided to wear. But, there will be no forgetting how Jaye looked when I finally saw her that fateful Saturday evening.

God-given blonde hair, jade green eyes, a gorgeous face, and a petite female teenage body are a lethal combination. Jaye could have worn a Martha White Self-Rising Flour sack and it would have knocked any young man to his knees. She was a true beauty – both inside and out.

When we got to her house, Beau dropped me off and went to pick up Phyllis. Jaye’s Mom (whom I already knew from band practice – and who obviously loved me) answered the door and sat with me in the living room while Jaye put on the finishing touches. The fact that this writer had been in their house so many times previous to this helped relieve the normal nervousness and anxiety of such an experience. As it is with every first date, the few minutes I waited on Jaye in that living room were a bit like sitting in a dentist’s office with an old magazine in hand. One could only wish that the rest of a life’s span would pass so slowly.

While waiting on Jaye to appear and Beau to come back, Jaye’s mom excused herself to go into the kitchen and check on supper. The delectable smell of meat and vegetables filled that great old house on that memorable Saturday evening.

Jaye’s dad stuck his head in the door to say hello. He was greasy from head to toe, having been neck deep in a car repair out in the garage for most of that day. And, her younger brother, Hugh (our drummer) also came in to wish me luck for the evening. “Be careful,” he warned, “my sister can be a real wildcat!” Hugh was messing with me – but only to try and help calm my nerves. In many ways, being at their house was a lot like being at home.

When Jaye finally came down, it was like a dream. She was dressed in a pink dress and white boots. Her hair was perfect. Her make-up, flawless. She was in every way a living doll. Suddenly, the only thing more intoxicating than the smell of the meat and vegetables coming from the kitchen was Jaye. She also obviously had applied in generous proportion (in all the critical places) my now-beloved White Shoulders perfume. Passing on the meat and veggies, I could have easily eaten her alive right then and there.

“Dear God – thank you,” I silently expressed. If I had died at that moment and gone to heaven my life would have been supremely complete. THE most beautiful creature in the world was standing right there in her living room next to me. She was mine for the evening. There wasn’t anything that could possibly be better than this.

“Let’s go stand outside,” she suggested, “Beau and Phyllis will be here in a minute.” It was now less than an hour before the 7:30 PM show, and the early spring sun was beginning to set on Atlanta. As we stood there on her front porch talking, I wondered why I had been so blessed. Everything had gone SO right, so far. How could anything that had begun so perfectly go wrong?
Just then, as if Satan himself had read my mind, our picture-perfect first-date bubble burst into a million pieces.

We heard a car round the corner, and looked in anticipation of it being Beau and Phyllis. Instead, it might as well have been the anti-Christ himself.

Jaye’s recent break-up with her boyfriend, Reece Anthony, had been anything but civil. Reece was the epitome of a red-neck’s red-neck. He drove an old 57 Chevy with wide tires, cherry bomb exhausts, furry dice hanging from the rear view mirror, and “STP” stickers plastered all over the back windshield. Reece had jacked up that great old classic car so high in the rear that the front bumper almost dragged the pavement as he drove. His was truly one of THE baddest “rides” in our school.

Reece Anthony also had the reputation of being one of THE baddest “dudes” in our school as well. He was a varsity football player known for his temper and violent play on the field. Reece was loud, lewd, unmannerly, and permanently entrenched in his studies at about a 1.3 GPA.

Clearly, his future lay somewhere between the chain gang, Alcatraz, and/or running the grill on second shift at McDonald’s.

Too, no one would have ever mistaken Reece for a pretty boy. His facial features resembled something of a cross between an ant-eater and a rhesus monkey. His sandy blonde hair was as nappy as a used Brillo pad, and his teeth were bucked out in front so exceedingly that he could have easily eaten corn through a fence.

With the knowledge that love is sometimes stone-cold blind, no one but Jaye and the Good Lord could have ever appreciated what she saw in Reece. Most of our school was of the opinion that she had definitely chosen far beneath herself.

Perhaps it was a combination of these and other things that led Jaye to finally break it off with Reece. Their ugly, very public, parting of the ways came just days before this writer showed up at her library table. Timing has rarely been my forte in life.

Reece, as I later found out, had already spread the word around school that if he caught anybody “messing with” Jaye, he would publicly and quite painfully separate them from the limb (or limbs) of their choice.

What a guy!

As we stood on Jaye’s porch that wonderful evening, Reece drove his old ’57 slowly, deliberately and LOUDLY down Sumter Lane. He coasted to an almost complete stop as he passed Jaye’s house. With his car idling and rumbling like a 747 waiting for take-off, Reece glared at both of us with an expression of hate and loathing so demonic that it could have only come from the bowels of hell itself. For a long, extremely uncomfortable moment, it was clear that come next Monday morning, my prospects for a future of life, health and/or happiness would scarcely be worth about .15 cents.

“Let’s go back in the house,” Jaye said, as she quickly opened the door and ran inside. Reece, realizing that we both had seen quite enough of his manly display of charm and grace, popped the clutch on his monster car, loudly squalled its tires, and left at least $40 worth of Goodyear’s rubber on the street in front of Jaye’s house. By this unforgettable demonstration of anger and immaturity, Reece left his mark not only on the pavement, but also on Jaye’s heart. She was visibly upset.

Thank goodness for Beau and Phyllis. They saved the day. Showing up just seconds behind Reece, they came in, sized up what had happened, and immediately began to joke, kid, laugh, and even poke fun at the childishness we had just witnessed. They single-handedly rescued the evening.

What a couple!

Jaye’s smile returned. This writer’s heart was restored. And, Mr. & Mrs. Hamilton came to the door and told us to go and have a good time. I am certain that Reece’s exhibition had greatly embarrassed them.

The four of us hurriedly piled into Beau’s old station wagon - driving like mad to make the movie on time. Along the way we laughed, turned the radio up loud, and generally acted like the crazy teenagers we were supposed to be on a Saturday night out on the town. The night was still young, and Jaye was still the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Life for the moment was still good, and the prospects for it getting even better were improving with each tick of the clock.

The motion picture, “The Andromeda Strain,” debuted on March 12, 1971. It was billed as a sci-fi thriller involving scientists who discover and try to stop a deadly new alien virus from spreading. The movie featured Arthur Hill, who went on to star in his own television series, “Owen Marshall – Counselor at Law.” His co-star, Kate Reid, later appeared in a supporting role spanning one full season on the popular night-time soap, “Dallas.”

Once the movie got going there were elements that made being there quite enjoyable. The popcorn was warm and buttery, the rocking chair theater seats were soft and comfortable, and the smell of Jaye in her White Shoulders sitting next to me was magical.

The movie itself, however, was underwhelming. The longer we sat there, the more it became evident - “Andromeda Strain” was a snoozer! At $1.75 a head (which was big entertainment money in 1971), even watching folks die from an out-of-this-world flu bug was nothing short of a lackluster rip-off. No sex, no skin, no kung-fu fights, and no John Wayne to save the day! Instead of applause, at climactic points in the movie the audience yawned.

Even Beau, the sci-fi addict, became visibly bored. His obvious disinterest in the movie was reflected in the lustful sounds emanating from the lip-locked, death-grip embrace he and Phyllis had lapsed into barely fifteen minutes into the picture. At one point, it seemed that a good many of the theater patrons around us were getting more for their money from watching, “The Beau and Phyllis Strain,” rather than the one they originally paid to see.

At several intervals during the moan-filled wrestling match next to us, this writer wondered what Jaye thought of her brother and his girlfriend’s carnal display. Surprisingly, she looked up at me several times, and not with expressions of disgust and disbelief. Instead, Jaye’s countenance reflected more of the sentiment, “that sure looks like fun, doesn’t it?” Each time, this still-scared-out-of his-mind, first-date, rookie would look away thinking to himself, “I wonder if she expects me to attack her like that?” “Should I try something?” “What if she slaps me and runs out of the theater?” “Would Beau make me walk home for attacking his sister - in a public place - on our first date?” “Why am I SO stupid?”

Each time, when Jaye would look at me and smile so invitingly, this writer would look away in fear – repeating the same questions as before. Finally, having worked up the nerve to go for the gusto, I turned to Jaye, pulled her close, stared into those beautiful green eyes, and, just as I was preparing to plant a “whopper” on her lusciously pink lips, she...

Stretched, yawned big like she hadn’t slept in several days, and whispered that she had to go to the bathroom. Tapping Phyllis on the arm, off they both went to powder their noses – and to likely compare notes about the kind of time they were having. One shudders to this very day to imagine what must have been said in that, “Ladies Room.”

Back in the theater, Beau was slowly recovering from his hormonal tsunami with Phyllis. He leaned over to me and said, “When they come back, let’s get out of here. This movie is the pits!” I agreed whole-heartedly. Beau added with a wink, “Look dude, I know you want some back seat time with my sister…You can count on me – I’ll make it happen!”

What a guy!

When Jaye and Phyllis returned, they both seemed relieved when Beau said we were getting out of there. This writer has rarely seen two young girls bolt out of a theater so quickly.
As we climbed in Beau’s station wagon and sped off to find pizza or a world-famous Varsity hamburger, or whatever, Jaye did not slide over close as she had done when the evening first began. Was she angry? Was she still bummed out by Reece’s behavior? Was she bored? Did she want to go home? Do I grab her and rip her clothes off now or after the meal? “Whoa, big fella,” I thought, “there is still plenty of time and she hasn’t asked to be taken home yet…you’ve still got a chance!”

Thankfully, Beau’s old station wagon was MADE for dating. It had great big, firm but really comfortable, bench seats. A whole gaggle of offspring could have been fathered on those huge, couch-like, slabs of spring and foam. Taking the bull by the horns as Beau had done earlier in the theater, your writer slid across and corralled Jaye on a small portion of that very large back seat. My rapid advance seemed to surprise her. My intention and hope was that my sudden “move” would rekindle her perceived interest from earlier – and that she would lustfully await the opportunity for her tonsils to be polished during our upcoming, “back seat time.”

We found a pizza place, enjoyed our meal, and drove away. As we rode around for the next little while, Phyllis and Beau took advantage of several longer-than-normal traffic lights. Every time we stopped at a red light Beau personally and directly shared his gum, his after dinner mints, and his tongue with Phyllis. Of course, she was more than willing to cooperate. I had never seen so much mouth-to-mouth contact in my young life – not even in emergency room scenes on Marcus Welby, M.D.

Each time, Jaye would look up at me as she had done in the theater – evidently waiting to see what I would do. Almost forty years after the fact I now realize that she was trying to tell me with those looks that she was, as my friend Travis Tritt says, “warm and willing,” for the same type of exchange. Dang it!!!! If only there was a way to rewind time and space. Please forgive me, Jaye.

True to his word, Beau finally drove over to Phyllis’ place. Her family was well-to-do. They lived in a very swanky part of Atlanta - in a large two-story, white brick house that looked almost like 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

As we pulled up, it was evident that Phyllis’ parents were “out” for the evening. Beau parked the car on a section of the street in front of the house next to Phyllis’. He made sure to position the car near a section of the curb that was darkened from the street light by a large, overhanging oak tree. Beau said that he and Phyllis needed to run inside for just a minute to get something, and for us to stay in the car. They would be right back (wink, wink).

What a guy!

Here it finally was. The answer to this boy’s prayer. He had the girl of his dreams, all alone and in the back seat of an old station wagon, on a darkened street, in the greatest city in the south, smack dab in the middle of the spring time when the, “sap goes to rising.” The stage was set.

This young, first-date Don Juan prepared to make his move.

Sliding closer to Jaye for one last desperate attempt at following Beau’s lead, he was again taken aback. Instead of leaning into him and making his move a success, Jaye reacted in a way that taught her young escort a valuable lesson about making hay while the sun shines – as well as the consequences that come when one fails to do so. She leaned forward, placing her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands. She sighed, looked out the car window at the house and yard close to where Beau had parked, and said in a very detached and disinterested tone, “those people need to cut their grass.”

If there was any doubt before, it was now confirmed. Jaye was thoroughly and genuinely bored. The whole evening had been a flop for her from beginning to end. Her interest in this date, the movie, the pizza, and now this solitary moment together was nothing short of graveyard dead. Reece had opened the grave, and this writer cooperated fully by shoveling in the dirt.

Beau and Phyllis had been inside now for several minutes doing the Good Lord only knows what. Well, that’s not exactly true. Both Jaye and I knew. My time was running out. If I was going to resurrect this corpse of a date, I would need to quickly think of something meaningful, witty, reassuring, and supportive to say. I gently put my arm on Jaye’s back, rubbed her tenderly, leaned forward, and whispered: “I think you’re a great girl, and I really like your boots.”

Many years later, while watching another movie in the theater (this time a really good one) I was shown how such a statement must have sounded to Jaye. The latter movie featured the beloved character, Forrest Gump, as he uttered those immortal words, “Stupid is as stupid does!”

Forrest wasn’t the first one to say those timeless words. I am now convinced that they originally came from Anna Laura “Jaye” Hamilton’s mouth as she mumbled several things under her breath in response to my imbecilic utterance.

How in the world did Jaye keep from either laughing or crying? Was she now ready and anxious to go back to Reece? Was this her lowest hour on earth? Had I become her, “date from hell?”
Not only did this writer’s eloquent observation about her character and her clothing NOT move her to respond carnally, it also did not move her to even smile or say, “thank you.” Her only audible response to the boot remark was a half-hearted, “sometimes they make my legs sweat.”

Thankfully, Beau and Phyllis emerged from the house, having breathlessly survived their second installment of the flesh-fest that had begun earlier at the theater. When they got in the car, they asked what we wanted to do next.

I said that the hour was late, and I needed to be getting home. Being only fifteen, my parents had levied an 11:30 PM curfew for this my dating “test-drive.” I can only imagine that Jaye was never so glad in her life to see 11:30 PM come.

As the three of them dropped me at my front door, Jaye did at least have the decency to get out of the car with me. She smiled sweetly, lied through her teeth saying she really enjoyed the evening, and then proceeded to kiss goodnight this poor, stupid boy. In attempting to describe Jaye’s kiss, it suffices to say that she very graphically and capably demonstrated the oral ecstasy that could and should have been experienced much earlier in the evening . Dang it!!!!!

I thanked her, put her back in the car, thanked Beau and Phyllis, and told them all that I would see them Monday at school. As I walked to my front door, I looked at my watch. It was 11:35 PM. Five and a half hours - vanished in the twinkling of an eye.

I walked in the house and was immediately asked the typical nosy questions from both of my folks and my younger sister. Afterward, I went straight to my room and climbed in bed - never to sleep a wink the rest of the night.

Instead of cursing myself, my inexperience, and my royal display of stupidity, I opted for something more beneficial. I bowed my head and thanked God. I thanked Him that I had been so lucky to have dated a girl like Jaye as “my first.” I promised Him that if He would give me other dates, that I would learn from this experience and try to do a better job next time, and the next time, and the next time after that.

Thankfully, God answered that prayer a thousand times over as the years went on.

On that next Monday, Reece Anthony did not kill me after all. Beau glad-handed me as we passed in the hall. Phyllis came up and hugged me (giving me a first-hand sample of the anatomical blessedness of her upper torso). And, Jaye spoke sweetly and kindly to me just like always – as we exchanged friendly glances in the band room during first period.

Since that day, this writer has dated many girls and has enjoyed many romantic experiences. Also, this writer has now been married for almost thirty years to an incredible woman. Again, God has more than held up His end of the bargain.

But, the Good Lord knows - as does this writer - that even though there have been a lifetime of second chances granted in response to that night’s prayer, there will never be another night like that night.

And, more importantly, there will never be another Jaye.

If this writer ever really did finally become a man, or if he has ever been one at all in any sense…Or, if ever he was able to reach that coveted level of dateable “personhood” during those timeless high school days, he wants you to know, Jaye, that you were THE one above all others who helped make it so. You gave him courage and hope. The fact that you said, “yes,” in that school library on that fateful day helped a frightened, immature boy believe that he one day could be the person of someone else’s dreams – just as you were to him on that wonderful night in 1971.

Until his dying day, he will always be grateful to you for these things.

And, too, he will always remember that first date. It could not have been more special to him, both then and now.

Thank you, Jaye.

Finally, this writer has wrestled off and on through these many years with one single, lingering, burning, question. In concluding this account of, “our night,” Mrs. Anna Laura “Jaye” Hamilton Jackson, I must now ask it of you.

Do your legs still sweat whenever you wear those boots?

- David Decker