Doug C. and the Belle Drive-In

Countdown to Kianna

Seventeen. 18. 17. 16, 15, 14, 13 days away from the “scheduled” appearance of Kianna Allene Brown. And by “scheduled,” I mean planned, outlined and diagrammed – I’m not sure there could be more deliberate planning for a couple’s first child.

Check the Journal on Thursday when guest blogger and mom-to-be Kishia shares her heart and her own message to Kianna.

Kelly and I attended Sunday morning services yesterday with Kishia and Darnell, and when Kishia raced her hubby to our car after a powerful time of worship, I was astonished.

“What are you doing?” I asked my 8 1/2 –month pregnant daughter.

Her winded reply: “I’m tryin’ to get this baby out of here.”

Songs of the Seventies

Journal note: Mondays are dedicated to a memoir-in-progress journey back to the 70s. For the next four weeks, I’m sharing a 2,000-plus word story – in four installments – that weaves songs of the 70s and one particular 1980 hit with a look back at my encounters with Doug C. while I worked at the Belle Drive-In.

Without warning, Doug leaped across the counter, his eyes wild and red, seemingly guided by the evil concoction of drugs and whiskey that so many times unleashed the tortured soul that to me – at least before that moment — was usually a really nice guy.

In the instant his feet landed on my side of the counter at the Belle Drive-In, I grabbed the solid, two-foot butt end of a broken pool cue, a weapon I’d needed only once before in my 12 months of working at the local eatery/pool hall.

“You got one swing!” Doug shouted, poised to pounce. “And you’d better hope you knock me out!”

His hot breath stunk like a dirty ash tray of half-smoked Camels soaked in cheap liquor. I said the only thing that came to mind.

“How about some fries, Doug?”

A friend later told me my voice was calm, but I was terrified, certain that I’d finally wound up in the direct path of Doug’s explosive rage. Instead, he took the stout stick from my hands, gently tapped the blunt end against his forehead, handed the weapon back, and flung himself back across the counter onto a stool. He sucked in a giant breath, running a hand through his dirty blond hair.

He nodded.

“I think I’ll have those fries now, Little Preach.”

Doug called me “Little Preach” because, at the age of 16, I’d made the transformation from preacher’s kid to occasional preacher. That fascinated Doug, who knew enough scripture to know that a group he called the “old bitties” at one of the local churches was wrong to suggest that he get cleaned up and wash his shoulder-length hair before he could get baptized.

“The years rolled slowly past

And I found myself alone                                                                                                               

Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends

I found myself further and further from my home.”

Against the Wind, Bob Seger, 1980

– – –

E.J. Banks hired me in June 1979. The job paid a princely wage of a buck-fifty an hour and all the Coke I could drink, in exchange for my services as an order-taker, floor sweeper/mopper, cashier and occasional cooking duties. Within a few months E.J. handed me keys to the place, changed my title to assistant manager and gave me a 50-cent an hour raise – in exchange for a more than 50 percent increase in duties and responsibilities.

The Drive-In was basically a greasy spoon, fast-food diner with a wide assortment of pinball machines, pool tables and a new electronic game called “Space Invaders.” The after-dinner din of pool cues scattering billiard balls and the steady cacophony of pin ball activity competed to drown out the juke box of 45 rpm records that blared hits old and new by Queen, Styx, Journey, Foreigner, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers and more ‑ an eclectic mix of tunes.

Doug, a high school drop-out and rebel without a cause, did a perfect impression of Bob Seger. A quarter got three songs, and Doug often selected “Against the Wind” back-to-back-to-back when that single made it to the juke box in our little town in the summer of 1980.

“You do Bob Seger’s voice better than Bob Seger,” I told him.

Doug agreed. “Those are my tunes.” He took a long draw on the cigarette that hung from one side of his mouth, held his breath and released the smoke from the other side of his mouth. “He stole my stuff.”

Doug’s vocal ability included Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” in his raspy, almost bluesy Bob Seger voice. He never accused Billy Joel of stealing his lyrics, though.

“Sing us a song, you’re the piano man

Sing us a song tonight

Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody

And you’ve got us feelin’ alright”

Piano Man, Billy Joel, 1973

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #24

Grammy and I were in church yesterday with your mommy and daddy. Your extended spiritual family at One in Christ Baptist Church is going to love on you. They sure loved on me and Mrs. Grandpa! One of the choruses they sang so beautifully, “Bow Down and Worship Him,” included the phrase, “This Is Holy Ground.”

Kianna, one of my favorite Bible verses is Exodus 3:5, where Moses approaches the burning bush, but encounters God instead. (Here’s one of your Grandpa’s “old fogey moments,” because I simply love the dramatic, deeply spiritual moment conveyed so majestically by the King James Version of the Bible.) God tells Moses: “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”

Someday we’ll watch Charlton Heston trembling as Moses during this scene in The Ten Commandments, one of Grandpa’s all-time favorite movies.

I’ve had my own “burning bush moments,” and you’ll have yours. Maybe we’ll share some together. The best “burning bush moments,” though, are the ones that you arrive at by yourself, at the most unexpected time, but at just the right moment. Oh, you’ll see. I’m sure you will.

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Filed under Family, Kianna Allene Brown, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Uncategorized

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