County Lines by Bob
I was recently on a flight to California to be interviewed for
a job as a writer for a Los Angeles based magazine. No, I'm not
stupid enough to want to live in Los Angeles or any city.
But the trip was all expenses paid and I've always wanted to see
the mansion where Curly used to live. The real Curly, not any of
those second-rate ones who played Stooges in the fifties and sixties.
The scene where Moe puts Curly's head in a vice and tightens it
until Curly's head pops always cracks me up. Don't ever try that
for real without parental supervision. Trust me on this one.
I wasn't allowed to watch the Stooges for six years after I tried
it on my brother Eric, or Flathead as he's known now.
The trouble with my flight to LA was changing planes in Denver.
I'd began reading Robert Parker's new Spencer novel when the 767
lifted through the clouds and left Nashville behind.
As the jet taxied down a runway in Denver, Hawk was saying, "Ain't
right givin' me dem orders so fast, boss man. You knows I's just
a backwoods boy from way down yonder in Suwannee land."
"Cut the lawn ornament act," Spencer said. "Cover
my back. I'm going in."
I can't put a Spencer novel down until the end. I looked up once
from the book, to make sure I was still in line as I boarded what
I thought was the connecting flight.
Closing the book, after Spencer and Hawk solved the crime and killed
all the bad guys, I heard the pilot say, "We will be landing
in El Paso shortly. Please fasten your seat belts."
Waving my hands in the air to catch the attention of a flight attendant.
I said, "Excuse me, miss. But I'm going to Los Angeles."
"Not on this plane," she said.
While pacing back and forth outside the El Paso airport, trying
to figure a way to get to LA, I saw a man in tattered clothes sitting
on the sidewalk.
He'd play his harmonica. Then he'd shake an empty Maxwell House
can and moan, "Alms for the poor. Alms for the poor."
This guy needs help, I thought. An idea flashed in my head like
an epiphany from a Muse on Mount Parnassus. I walked over and told
the poor fellow my plan.
He put the harmonica to his toothless mouth and began wailing away.
Scrunching my face up, I danced around like a chicken after a
worm, while singing, "Under my thumb, there's a Siamese cat
of a girl. Under my thumb, she's the sweetest little pet in the
A blue-haired lady in the gathering crowd yelled, "It's Mick
"Fill me chum's can with alms," I said, "and I'll
sing another, perhaps Ruby Tuesday or Satisfaction or Mother's Little
The crowd quickly turned into a mob. "Give me your autograph!Ó
Another voice shouted, "Where's Keith Richards, still in rehab?"
The mob swarmed toward me. I'd created a monster.
I easily outran the elderly Jagger fans, after the rest of the
horde diverted off in the direction of a baggage handler who looked
like Kevin Costner.
Or maybe he was considering his continuing flops. The Postman.
Message in a Bottle. Excuse me while I puke.
Here I am, I thought, in El Paso, the pass, a gateway to Mexico.
I remembered a lyric from a Dylan song: "Lost in the rain in
Juarez, and it's Easter time too."
No rain and Easter was a long way off. But Juarez was close, just
over the border.
Being in Juarez when I was younger was like turning a monkey loose
in a banana plantation. Every destructive pleasure known to mankind
can be purchased on the streets of Juarez.
But I'm older now. I avoid those things when I recognize them.
I did need a few things, though.
Hopping off the bus in Juarez, I heard, "Pssst, hey, gringo,
A Mexican with a floppy sombrero and a mustache to match was leaning
against a lopsided taco stand, made from wood and tin. "My
cousin, she is pretty, much beautiful," he said. "Come,
I bring you to her if you should like."
"No thank you," I said. "But I do need a few things.
A leather jacket, a motorcycle helmet, motorcycle boots, and a motorcycle."
"Mi hombre," the Mexican said, "how you pay for
"American cash," I replied. "Your friends hiding
in the shadows might be able to take it from me. But not before
I break your kneecaps."
After receiving my purchases, I roared through New Mexico, Arizona,
and most of California, until reaching Curly's former mansion in
I paid a tour guide and followed a line inside.
In the living room, roped off from the public, was the vice Moe
used on Curly's head.
I jumped the rope and yelled, "Anyone want their head flattened?"
I sped off to my job interview after the security guards threw
me off the premises.
After we exchanged pleasantries, the editor said, "Judging
by your work, you have an active imagination."
"Not really," I replied. "I just write about what
happens to me during normal, everyday life. Want to hear about the
time creatures from outer space kidnapped me?"
"I thought you were from outer space," he said.
"I didn't think you'd notice," I replied.
Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570