I can smell your car stereo
Hannibal Lecter: First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?
Clarice Starling: He kills women…
Hannibal Lecter: No. That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does? What needs does he serve by killing?
Clarice Starling: Anger, um, social acceptance, and, huh, sexual frustrations, sir…
Hannibal Lecter: No! He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to answer now.
Clarice Starling: No. We just…
Hannibal Lecter: No. We begin by coveting what we see every day. Don’t you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice? And don’t your eyes seek out the things you want?
There are two different stories that link to this week’s growing up story, but the main theme, the main life lesson for me was to strive to be positive and good because I do believe we reap what we sow. If we are nice to one another, we receive kindness. If we live our lives as an agitator, we will get agitated. In this story, (link
), I learned that if you trash talked and played dirty, eventually you’d meet up with someone you couldn’t handle. And in this story, (link
), I became exposed to being cheated by someone I trusted.
Our last son, (Tim link
), has just now left the nest. He and his girlfriend of two years are sharing their first apartment together and so Tim’s learning what it means to have to work hard for money to pay the bills and to buy things he wants or needs. Most of us know the feeling, right? After all, I bought my own underwear with paper route money (link
), so in 1977, I had been working hard for my money for several years.
I had managed to buy my second used car, a 1968 Mustang that my stepfather Joe had put in a used transmission from one of the older stock cars they raced in Lawrenceburg. After weeks of working a full time schedule, I had finally been able to afford something I had my eye on for months; a shiny new top of the line Clarion car stereo with a graphic equalizer. The sound on that beautiful piece of electronic magic was awesome, the best I’d ever heard. It was my pride and joy, it represented my Taco Bell sweat. Turn that bad boy up on the intro to Boston’s Long Time and it would turn some serious heads.
Our church, (the First Baptist Church out past Columbia Lanes), had a pretty decent youth program. We played softball and in the cold seasons, the church’s seating area doubled as a basketball court. Heck, I even met a great girl there, (Betty link
). On regular week nights, there would be a decent turnout for pickup basketball games. They were fun and those years are an overall great set of memories of my youth.
On one such basketball night, I had driven up in my Mustang. I had brought someone with me, not sure but it might have been my brother Steve. Tim Hardin, (one of the Prytania kids), had gotten up to the church somehow with his friend Bill. Bill was pretty good looking, dark complexion, a little on the tall side and a decent ball player. To Bill’s detriment, he could have a bad temper and could be….well, an ass – there’s no better word. For a few years, Tim and Bill were best friends. Unfortunately though, I think their common denominator was alcohol.
Tim and Bill needed a ride home from church one night so naturally I offered. They both sat in the back of the Mustang. Like any stupid teen, I was more than anxious to show off my pride and joy. During the ride home, they both were amply impressed, and I dropped them off at Tim’s house.
Even the cassettes sounded great
Just a few nights later, I parked my car in the alley, out behind our house, just like I always did. When I got up the next morning, I went out to the car for something and that’s where my heart sank. Someone had broken into my car and stolen my stereo system. I was fuming. I was so stupid and inexperienced that I went back upstairs and put a knife in my coat pocket. What did I think I was going to do? Did I think the crooks were going to come walking down the alley to laugh and point their fingers at me? Like I said – I was inexperienced and dumb. Mostly though, I was mad.
For the next several hours, I thought on it and I kept coming back with the same conclusion – Tim or Bill or both. I soon saw Tim. Since he lived just a few houses up the street, I went up to his house to confront him. To his credit, he was feeling guilty so he fessed up everything. He told me that it was Bill’s idea and that Bill had already sold it. In fact, he had sold it to some kid whose dad was apparently a detective on the Hamilton Police force. That brightened me up. Maybe I had a chance to get it back. Certainly when a policeman finds out his son is in possession of stolen property, all Hell will break loose.
Like I said, I was naïve. I telephoned the Police and asked to speak to a detective. I got connected to one and made my report. I’m paraphrasing here, but what the detective said was something like;
yeah we know the kid. He’s not a good kid and his dad’s going to be upset. Why don’t you call me back in a couple of days.
I felt gratified and hopeful….for two days. When I called back in two days, I got the same detective on the phone. He told me that they went over to check out the kid’s car and he didn’t have the stereo. And that was the end of that.
I did consider vigilante revenge. Bill did have a car he was proud of. Maybe a few slashed tires would be appropriate. Nah…I wasn’t a fighter and I wasn’t a vandal. I’m a believer that we reap what we sow, so I figured sooner or later he’d get his due. I just hoped I’d be there when it came around. Tim had asked me not to say anything to Bill because he was afraid of Bill. Tim said that Bill was drinking a lot and was always looking for a reason to fight. People like that are crazy and I figure I didn’t need to be his friend or to start anything.
As fate would have it, I did later get an opportunity to watch a little justice get doled out to Bill several years later. I was coaching a softball team named The Sultans of Swat. Maybe I’ll write a Sultan story one day but for now I only want to relate a good ‘Bill’ story. I had put together a decent team, but several of the players were, let’s say ‘savory’, Bill being one of these players. He and Tim both played for me, both decent outfielders and both would show up for every game a little inebriated. I never understand how drunks can function so well while they’re drunk, but some do – I’ve seen it firsthand several times.
Among other things, Bill was a trash talker. If you run your mouth all the time and get in others’ faces, eventually it will bite you in the ass. It was about to take a big chunk out of Bill’s. On this night, Bill had singled out a stocky first baseman. In the outfield, Bill was being overly loud, trying to taunt everyone. The first baseman had hit a decent shot into left center field, but Bill had run it down. Like I said, he was a decent outfielder, even when drunk. It was a third out and as he was running back into the benches, he said something nasty to the first baseman. I’m not sure what it was, but that was the first warning the stocky guy was to give Bill. Bill just laughed it off, like it was nothing.
When Bill got up to bat, he hit a nice shot that got him onto first base. If he had been smart, he would have just kept his mouth shut but that wasn’t Bill. He just kept running his mouth, razzing this guy. I was watching it and I could see those two sizing each other up. Bill had a few inches of height over this other guy, but the blond first baseman likely had 30 pounds of muscle on Bill. Drunks don’t seem to take notice though. Bill just kept on. I heard the guy give Bill a second warning, but again, Bill kept running his mouth, on and on and on.
Around the fourth inning when Bill was headed out to the outfield, he intentionally ran past the same stocky guy he’d been trying to get under the skin of. I don’t know what Bill said, but I definitely heard what that first baseman said to Bill.
He yelled at Bill, “HEY! Asshole, you and I are going to finish this immediately after this game!”
Still, it didn’t phase Bill. Every chance he got, he kept running his mouth. We batted last as we were the home team and immediately after grounding out the last out and losing the game, the first baseman kept his promise. Bill had been left on second base. Mr first baseman threw down his glove and headed right over to Bill. When Bill saw him coming, he responded in kind, no doubt thinking Mr first baseman was going to get an ass whooping.
I’m not even sure if Bill got in a punch. The other guy just ran right into him, grabbed Bill and threw him to the ground. In a fashion similar to the Terry and Jeff fight, (link
), Bill was no match for Mr first baseman. The stocky guy pummeled Bill rightly. When he was sure Bill had had enough, he slowly got up and before he left, he looked down on Bill and loudly offered Bill advice he probably never took:
LEARN TO KEEP YOUR BIG MOUTH SHUT, ASSHOLE!
Many of us hung around to watch that unfold. Bill was probably way overdue for that lesson and I rather enjoyed watching the old saying play out – what goes around, comes around. It came around for Bill.
As the years went by, I didn’t really hear much of Bill and Tim. I knew Tim had become alcoholic and eventually died at a young age. I don’t know if Bill ever wizened up or not. I hope so, I hope he dropped the booze and straightened himself out, but I doubt it.
There were a lot of lessons in this story. “Friends” will steal from you. I had experienced that in earlier years, but I guess I’d been too trusting where it came to neighborhood ‘friends’. The lust for gold drives some people to the dark side. I also learned what it felt like to work hard for something I wanted, only to have it stolen from me. Let’s see, another lesson would be to be careful not to trash talk, especially if the other guy is bigger than you. Mostly though, there was a positive lesson here – always try to be the best you can be. Kismet often has its way of ensuring you get what you deserve.