PART ONE; COMING BACK
Don Hill was in a jet approaching RDU airport; he was coming home from Korea, having been discharged after his obligatory two years in the U. S. Army. It was summer of 1975, and before he had been drafted he had briefly considered trying to join the Air Force or Navy, but they were both four year hitches, and he had decided to take his chances, even though Viet Nam was still rolling. But Don Hill lucked out, and after basic training and technical school he had spent a pretty fun year and a half in Korea servicing helicopters. But that was all behind him now and his thoughts centered on resuming his life in the civilian world. His parents had died together in an automobile accident while he was in service, so he had a place to stay, having inherited a small two-bedroom house off Whitaker Mill Road on Mills Street. Don was an only child, so the estate settlement had been simple. But the house was about all he had, his parents having not been thrifty with money, and they had not taken out life insurance; however, Don felt pretty fortunate, having a paid off house at the age of 25 and getting ready to go back to college on the G. I. Bill. Working a job now and then to supplement the G. I. Bill $400.00 monthly payment would allow him to have a reasonable lifestyle—at least not be hand to mouth as so many of the people he knew in his home town were.
Don Hill thought about some his hometown friends as he rode in the cab to 621 Mills Street. Of course the house had been shut up for months, but it did not look overgrown, the family attorney having had the grass cut on a regular basis. It was eerie going in the house where he had grown up; he half expected to see his Mom and Dad come around from the living room, but immediately dismissed the silly thought, realizing that he had slept very little in the last two days. The old Plymouth Valiant he had left there when he joined up had not been cranked since his parents died, so he didn’t even consider worrying with it, stowing his gear and walking up to the Profile Bar and Restaurant on the corner of Bernard Street. He sucked down a Miller Lite and peered around, not readily recognizing anyone. He was not surprised by this, for he had not frequented the Profile that often, even with its close proximity to where he lived. After the beer he asked the bartender to call him a cab. She complied and said “You’re a cab”, winking at him in the process. They both laughed and he realized it was a girl he had gone to high school with at Broughton High. They had not known each other well, and after chatting a bit she called the cab. “Tell them I’m going to Jones Street”, Don said, and ordered another beer while waiting on the taxi. When it arrived he told the driver “The Bar on Jones Street”, and he was off.
Don Hill got out in front of The Bar and paid the driver but did not go in; instead, he walked across the street to a two-story office building and knocked on the door of suite B. In a few moments the door opened and there stood a smiling Billy Warren, extending his hand and happily inviting Don Hill in. “Have a seat”, said Billy, and he quickly went over to a small refrigerator and put two cubes of ice in a glass and poured two shots of Smirnoff vodka in it. “It’s been a while, but I think that’s the way you like it”, laughed Billy as Don grabbed the glass and drained half of it. Billy, The Bar owner, fixed himself a drink and the two of them sat and chatted for an hour, Don catching up on everything. Billy kept this small office across from The Bar for business and pleasure. At certain times Billy would invite people over for a drink or two but it was always attractive women, or certainly within the “Billy Warren Parameters of acceptance”. Now the women may have been accompanied by a male but Billy Warren did not worry about that; he figgered something could happen, and even if it didn’t, he would have a foot in the door. If Billy thought he had a pretty good shot he would let the liquor roll and soon get around to his favorite topic—“getting’ nekkid”—as he would say. Billy Warren came from a relatively moneyed family in Lizard Lick and he was right proud of his heritage. He loved to talk about how many hundreds of acres of good cotton land his family had overseen when cotton was king and the area was one of the richest in the state. But cotton had been gone for a while; even with that , the Warren family still had a lot of land and were upper middle class, at least economically, Billy had some documents showing how many slaves his predecessors had owned in the early eighteen hundreds, and he loved showing them off. Don Hill remembered one session in Billy’s office when he was going on ad nauseum about the slaves and how his great great grandfather had picked out a new one to screw each Sunday when he realized, too late that there was a black guy in the group—- a big, bad assed one wearing a spiked collar around his neck. Billy saved his own ass by fast talking, faster liquor pouring, and lots of apologies. He entreatied “Darnell, I know how what I said must have sounded, but I ‘swa-ah’ I didn’t mean anything by it. It is just that I have been raised around that kind of talk all my life, and it is awful hard to escape from it”.
Darnell’s bellicose scowl softened a bit after Billy’s talk, and after a few more doubles he was seen nodding reassuringly as Billy Warren explained that he felt “trapped” by his heritage, “almost like he was in chains, like the poor blacks had been”. Billy Warren had the gift of being able to weep on cue, and at this juncture he cut on the water works; Billy watched Darnell closely and saw him wipe away a tear.
Don Hill recalled that after Billy had escaped the potential wrath of Darnell he went back to the main thrust of the jollities. “Now I am sure all of you have played the game ‘Twister’ before, but I bet you ain’t played ‘Nekkid Twister’”, he said as he rolled out the twister game on the floor. The group was oiled up enough to where shedding clothes did not seem so far-fetched, and before you knew it there were four unclothed people on the Twister Tarmac, with Billy Warren spinning the arrow and calling out the number of the circle where each participant had to move. Billy would keep a hand over the spinner so no one could actually see what the number was; this bit of chicanery allowed him to control all the movements, and he was a master of such maneuvers as getting a guy’s face positioned directly in a girl’s woo-woo, and of course vice versa. Billy Warren got out the “nekkid twister” game every time he thought there was fertile soil, and he was locally famous for it, but his biggest claim to fame happened a couple of years before Don Hill went in service—-the event even spawned a nickname for Billy Warren. It happened during the preliminary to one of the hopeful “nekkid twister” encounters. Billy had the usual group in there, about ten all told, and he was administering the usual generous libation of liquor; additionally, he was very free with lines of cocaine, proffered with a straw on his little glass topped coffee table. Under the glass were Polaroids of previous “office parties”, so you could actually have your nose “in it” as you had your nose “in it”. Billy Warren proudly proclaimed himself “the most perverted son of a bitch to ever escape the environs of Lizard Lick”, and everyone who knew him well was in total agreement. This particular time the intoxication was proceeding along famously; Billy had even convinced everyone to totally disrobe when he blew a whistle, a new wrinkle. So after giving a long toot on his little plastic whistle everyone took their clothes off in preparation for “nekkid twister”. Billy had a set of bongo drums in the corner and one of the regulars, Ben Crockett, hollered out “Hey Billy, play the bongos for us”. A new girl in the group who was standing beside Billy Warren had been giving him a “massage down south” much to his delight and the southern member of the Warren Brigade was “standing at attention”.
Billy’s head jerked up when Crockett presented this challenge and Billy Warren grinned widely and hollered out “I’ll show you how to play the bongos old boy”. With that Billy grabbed the drums out of the corner and placed them on the floor; he then got in front of them, on his knees, and proceeded to whack the bongos with his pecker. Billy went on a while with his solo, everybody whooping and hollering and clapping in time to the drumbeat, but after about a minute of the lewd scene a “natural diminution” occurred and he returned the bongos to the corner. From that day on Billy Warren was known as “Bongo Billy”; hollering this out when he came in the bar would always precipitate a wide smile and an added twinkle in Billy’s eye.
As Billy Warren and Don Hill drank and got reacquainted Don started asking about The Bar regulars. First he asked about Lamar Clodfelter; of all the characters Don Hill had ever met at The Bar Lamar was by far the wildest. Billy Warren told him that Lamar was fine, that he was probably across the street at The Bar, and that Lamar was getting ready to celebrate his 83rd birthday. Lamar was a World War II veteran, having served in the Pacific Theatre, where he was seriously wounded. He had taken a lot of shrapnel at Guadalcanal, and additionally had lost his right index finger at the first joint from the knuckle. Don Hill thought about what a dynamo Lamar was; in addition to “banging” everything he could, he was still running a commercial painting company. His painting days were over personally but he was able to keep two crews busy on a regular basis. Lamar was full of life, and always talking shit; for example, when he was holding court and telling his wild ass stories about women he would always talk about having to “tie a helium balloon” to his pecker to get it up. After the laughter subsided from that he would wiggle his little nub finger and shout “and if all else fails there’s always Mr. Happy.” Everybody loved him; he was truly the life of the party. Lamar had a lovely wife named Rose, the same name as his first wife. She apparently dealt with her situation okay, for it was obvious that Lamar did about what he wanted to, and as they say in the country, he did not “cull” many. He was brazen and very straightforward with women, and if he got “lucky” he would just tell Rose that he had to go out of town on business and would be back the next day. Don Hill had watched a scenario like this one day from start to finish; he remembered what Lamar said as he departed the bar with the attractive thirty something girl. “It was touch and go for a bit”, he chortled, “but I got away from ‘thorn in my side’”. He frequently referred to Rose this way and it was always greeted with raucous laughter.
It was about six o’clock when the two old friends decided to make the trek across Jones Street from the office to The Bar. Steve Blair, a good carpenter, had been hired a few years before to build a small treated wood deck on the right side of the front of the little bar. It had served well, and between where it ended and the little brick wing wall was where Billy Warren had inserted a large gas grill; he had commissioned Charles Jeffreys to construct the grill and he had done a bang up job, being an expert welder. Charles had passed away within the last year; he had been a most well-liked fellow. Every year he would have a pig pickin’ at his concrete block welding shop down on Gavin Street off Whitaker Mill Road, out from Five Points. It always drew a big crowd, and everyone brought a covered dish. In addition to being very well-liked Charles was famous for two things. One was the blessing he delivered in a deep baritone each year before they dug in at his pig pickin’. He always said it the same—-“Good food, good meat, good God, let’s eat”. His recitation always brought a loud cheer from the group. The other thing people remembered Charles Jeffreys for was his answering machine message; it too was always the same—-“Fiiiiiiive minutes, I will return your call in fiiiiiive minutes”, Charles hollered. It was funny as hell, and Don Hill used to call him up just to hear it.
The deck at The Bar was pretty full of regulars, and they all greeted Don Hill warmly. Joe Braxton actually leaped over the railing, almost losing his balance on the deteriorating concrete. “Hey Don”, he shouted, slapping him on the back. Joe Braxton was a wild one, but a good one. He was about five foot seven and strong, but sported a generous belly and heavily tattooed arms, most of the tattooes being applied when he was in prison for three years for cutting a fellow. Joe was fond of saying that he was innocent “just like every fucker he met in there”. Joe’s biggest regret from the ordeal was having a sharp knife when he wielded it on the unfortunate fellow.
“I hit him once with that sharp knife and he didn’t even feel it, just kept coming. By God next time I’m gonna carry a dull one”, he would say, and everybody loved it. Joe was an extremely good cook on the gas grill, and on about every special occasion at the bar he would be the chef. Joe would barbecue Boston Butts, and Don Hill and most everybody else agreed that it was the best pig around. Another of Joe’s specialties was chicken; his favorite method of cooking them was to place a small chicken on a beer can about a third full, shoving its hollow interior down about halfway on the can. The chicken had been treated with Joe Braxton’s special sauce and rub; he then cooked them for about forty minutes, the beer in the can moistening and flavoring the chickens from the inside out. They were super delicious, and very comical to look at. It looked like a chorus line of headless, reubenesque girls; there was a very good picture of this inside The Bar.
Joe Braxton brought Don Hill a welcome home Miller Lite , and Don stepped back for a moment to look at the little bar, greeting other tavernites as they approached to say hey. The Bar had a red brick façade with a typical window and door store front. It was essentially one big room, with two bathrooms and a utility room partitioned off. It had a flat roof that leaked frequently. About three years previously, before Don Hill had been drafted, Billy Warren had let a painter/roofer named Darrell Smith run up a tab of almost two hundred dollars. When Darrell couldn’t pay up he offered to fix Billy’s roof, if Billy would buy the materials. Since Billy Warren was satisfied the Darrell was never gonna pay him anyway he readily agreed. So over the next three days Darrell poured forty gallons of liquid tar on the built up roof, moving the mess around with a squeegee on a pole and a mop. The tar was the type of product used to seal the roofs of mobile homes, with the recommended application being a thin layer. The upshot of the roof repair was that the tar was so thick that it never congealed; moreover, as the heat of the summer bore down the tar started dripping off the front of the roof, making the deck virtually uninhabitable. The regulars were having a big time with this mess, teasing Billy Warren about his “new roof” and mentioning rather frequently that Darrell was nowhere to be found. After 2 days of the dripping tar Billy installed an aluminum gutter, complete with downspout, and the problem was solved—-at least the dripping tar problem. The flat roof still leaked like usual ‘bout every time it rained.
When don Hill had departed for the U.S. Army the roof was still leaking, Billy Warren being somewhat less than a dynamo when it came to taking care of things. The last time Don Hill had seen the inside the ceiling was pretty much a mess; the flat roof was supported ty 2×10 joists running front to back, breaking over a 2×10 header at the halfway point, it being supported at two intermediate points ty two stud columns. Don remembered that some years ago he had noticed that one of the stud columns was just hanging there, not supporting anything. When he pointed this out to Billy Warren he promptly removed the wood and never replaced it. “Guess it was over built,” Billy had remarked; regardless, no apparent harm had come from the minor modification. The cavities between the joists had always been filled with R-19, six inches of batt insulation, paper-faced. The batts had a flange which allowed one to staple it to the underside of the joists. It had been that way for years, totally unadorned, until Big Ethel, one of the bartenders, or “Bar Wench” as she preferred to be called, started dating a painter whose specialty was spray painting. Again, to work off a tab, the boyfriend, Leon Krause, sprayed the entire ceiling black, so when you looked upward you saw black wood and black insulation. Quite a bit of time had passed since this had been done, and layers of dust coated the ceiling. Of course if a Fire Marshal had ever walked in the place they would have been shut down immediately, the exposed paper faced insulation being a flagrant violation of the Fire and Building Codes. That was the way Don Hill remembered things, so he was surprised to walk into the bar and see that the entire ceiling was covered with thick black plastic. Larry Beaver, a long time habitue of the bar, even when it was at Five Points, was the first person he saw, and after the salutations Don Hill asked what the hell was going on with the ceiling. Beaver, a very gregarious and good humored critter proceeded to explain. “Well Don”, he said, “after the roof kept leaking, Billy Warren got real worried about the possibility of mold. It all started when Perry Markis, your attorney friend, came in here one day and immediately pointed out the potential liability that existed. He took Billy Warren aside and explained that mold was a very hot topic in civil litigation, and that it was becoming exponentially more incendiary. He told Billy ‘I am telling you, if these fuckers get wind of this you will see such an eruption of coughing, sneezing, and hacking, and doctor’s visits——-it will be so voluminous that it will make your Lizard Lick head spin. As being your attorney and friend, I urge you to get this damn roof fixed ASAP.’ Well, of course Billy took this legal advice under consideration, and after a couple of days of chewing his cud over it, decided on a different tack. That’s when he employed me to staple 6 millimeter plastic on the ceiling. He figgered this would be waterproof and would seal away the potential mold problem.”
“I am not so surprised,” said Don Hill, grinning widely. “And how is that working for Billy Warren?”.
Larry Beaver laughed wildly. “Bout like you would expect,” he chortled. “Ya see those two big bulges over there near the pool table? Well I advise you not to stand under them. When they really get bulbous Billy will place a garbage can under them and poke them with a pool cue to let the pressure off. Ya know, Billy Warren is all about lettin’ off the pressure.”
Don Hill got the joke and he and Beaver had a big laugh together. Just then Lamar Clodfelter walked up, slapping Don Hill on the back and shaking his hand vigorously. Lamar was jumping around and cracking jokes and spouting his favorite sayings, like “who hit Nelly in the belly with a flounder—the same one that hit Mack in the crack with a hydraulic jack.” Sometimes when someone would walk in he would erupt into one of his favorite songs, like “It’s Howdy Doody time”, or “Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail”, belting it out at the top of his lungs. He would occasionally throw in “Damn, it looks like rigor mortis done set in,” if a particularly attractive woman came in. But his most famous was “I swear I ain’t got no luck; if it was raining pussy I would get hit by a dick.” Lamar’s stories and witticisms and songs were legendary and loved. Just then Lamar did his famous Boll Weevil impersonation. He would hunker down and pretend he had a suitcase in each hand and scoot around the bar hollering “I’m just a boll weevil, lookin’ for a home, just a boll weevil , lookin’ for a home.” Don Hill had seen him fired up before; it was very predictable. Lamar’s birthday bash was the next day.
PART II: THE PARTY
Lamar Clodfelter was possessed of a divine obsession—to have the best time possible. Not only did he want to experience this, but he wanted it to be all inclusive; therefore, he thought nothing of spending at least a thousand or two each year on his birthday party at The Bar. This bash would always be the Saturday closest to his birthday on June 7th; additionally, the party having become so popular over the years, there was a second party a week later at the Barn, another hole in the wall on Old Garner Road across from the scrap metal plant where Curtis used to work. Used to work was appropriate; use to be alive was equally accurate. Curtis was a big good looking freewheeling man who loved to drink and smoke dope. To say he lived a life of excess would not be an exaggeration. He took up with an attractive bartender at the Barn named Mickey; Mickey was separated from her husband, while Curtis was still with his wife. The official “party line” story from the Barn was “Curtis had just sat down to have supper at Mickey’s trailer when he complained of having trouble breathing. He was dead by the time EMS was there. The unofficial and much more believable rendition was that Curtis had been taking some kind of prescription “performance enhancing” drug and didn’t realize that there could be complications if one had a bad ticker, which according to the autopsy Curtis had unfortunately possessed.
Possibly the biggest embarassment other than Mickey’s apparently harried and quasi-successful effort to get ol’ Curtis clothed occurred before the EMS arrived was when the widow of Curtis was informed of his demise, and the venue thereof. She was less than enchanted; she did not claim the body. Curtis was put on ice for five days while stellar Barn attendees organized a fundraising chicken grillout; the fete made enough to get Curtis “grilled” and put in a bottle. The Barn owner graciously gave the shocked Mickey the day off, sparing her any direct or innuendo laced questions, which certainly would have been asked.
But the biggest party by far was The Bar party. For several years Lamar Clodfelter had picked a theme for the party and had dressed appropriately. If Lamar was anything he was a showman, and obviously he loved being the center of attention. The first theme party was called “Lamarvelous” and featured a flyer with a picture of Lamar in a pimpy looking Zoot Suit swinging a watch on a chain. At the party he talked five of the regular females at The Bar into wearing bikinis and dancing around him as he boogalooed around the parking lot at The Bar. The ensuing year the theme was “LaMargaritaville”, the flyer featuring a picture of Jimmy Buffett, conspicuous by his absence at the party, and a superimposed head of Lamar on a muscle beach guy. Lamar always made a grand entrance, and that year a smoke belching old hearse pulled into the parking lot, the rear opened with an explosion of green smoke, and Lamar jumped out clad only in a red speedo trunks and danced all over the parking lot, pulling in girls out of the crowd to bump and grind with him. Of course the crowd loved it. Then there was the year the flyer read “LaMighty Lamar”, and sported Lamar’s head affixed to the body of Rocky Graziano. This party ended in a rather spectacular fashion. The little brick building of The Bar was set into a hill, so with the flat roof one could easily walk up the side to the rear and step up onto the roof. As things were winding down a spotlight was turned on down near the sidewalk on Jones Street. It was getting pretty dark as the shaft of yellow light centered on a figure standing on the flat roof, just over where you entered the bar. Lamar was wearing black and red boxing trunks, a red cape flowed from his back, and a big pair of “Everlast” boxing gloves were hanging around his neck. The theme for the upcoming party was “Life on LaMars”. The flyer featured a picture of Lamar balancing a green ball, depicting Mars, on his nubby finger, AKA “Mr. Happy.” It said a “a 3:00 landing in Raleigh at The Bar on Jones St,” and that it was going to be “an out of this world” birthday party. At the bottom it named the band to be performing—“Shakin’ Sherman and the DTs”—-a local favorite. There was also a white spot on the flyer about the size of a fifty cent piece which in black lettering proclaimed “oldest and coldest”, a reference to The Bar having the oldest uninterrupted beer license in Wake County.
But everyone agreed that the most spectacular, the most well received, and by far the most inventive and best choreographed was the year that the party was entitled “Man of La Mara”. The flyer showed Lamar on a horse with a helmet on his head and a lance in his hand, and in the distance there was a windmill. “Come tilt a few with Lamar”, the caption read, and they showed up in droves, by far the largest turnout ever. Of course the thought of free food was a great enticement, but the flyer had people intrigued, and they were not disappointed. After the band, the “Pigz Brothers,” had played one set and people had pretty much finished eating, Larry Beaver got on a megaphone and told everybody to gather up on top of the hill adjacent to the parking lot. When the well-oiled group made the trek up the hill they beheld the following—–Lamar was sitting astride an old horse he had dug up somewhere with a shoe box turned longways on his face. He had eyes cut out on the front and the back was held on by two rubber bands. The whole apparatus was spray painted gold. Resting in his right hand was a long stick, which if you looked at it carefully you realized was two pool cues lashed together with duct tape and also spray-painted gold. The cues gave him about eight feet of lance length with the stick overlap. To add to the joy Lamar had secured the indigent man of color who came by all the time looking for cigarette butts to be his second. Lamar had adorned him in gold also, his top being a garbage bag with openings for his arms, and his bottom being the same material with openings for his legs. Ironically his real name was Lance; the poor fool had few teeth and a strange tonsorial habit of shaving half of his head, going right down the middle from front to back. As near as anyone could tell his life consisted of butt collecting and shaking people down for a cigarette or a buck to secure a pint of “King Richard,” the sobriquet for “Richard’s Wild Irish Rose Wine.” As the crowd surrounded the parking lot they noticed a curiosity up near the edge of the little strip of trees at the back of the McDonald’s. It was Billy Warren in costume, and what a costume it was. Larry Beaver, a skilled carpenter, had purchased six brooms from the Harris Teeter and had screwed them together so that the business end of the brooms formed a circle. He had then attached a rod to the center of the contraption so that one could twirl it. It made a reasonable representation of a crude windmill; additionally, Charla, the bartender, a former girlfriend of Billy Warren and a graphic artist, had constructed out of a cardboard box and duct tape a gold colored obelisk which essentially covered Billy from shoulder to knees With a little imagination he truly looked like a windmill as he ran around the parking lot twirling the brooms. Lamar, lance in hand and his second Lance at his side, would give the old horse a little kick and make a run at Billy as he scampered around the lot. They carried on with this for about fifteen minutes, the crowd going nuts, until Billy Warren got tired and very thirsty and called a halt to the chase.
Don Hill headed to the men’s bathroom “to let some out.” When he turned on the switches, the light and the fart fan, he made note that nothing had changed—the fan still did not work. But what really grabbed his interest was the missing St. Pauli Girl beer sign that had adorned the wall behind the toilet for as long as he could remember. It was the green and white sign with the beautiful buxom fraulein displaying her gorgeous smile and all her other fine stuff. She was dressed in an Alpine outfit and was a sight to behold. In the place of this iconic sign was a large handwritten note, written in red magic marker on the dark green wall. This is what it said: “Fuck you to whoever punched the St. Pauli girl sign that was here. I like looking at titties when I am pissing, even if they are cartoon titties. To recap, fuck you! You titty punching faggot.”
Don Hill thought briefly about who may have written this, but after thinking of 5 or 6 The Bar regulars who would have fit the psychological profile of the author he gave up. As he departed the men’s room he saw four guys scrambling into the women’s bathroom. If he had seen this at the “Capital Corral” down on Hargett St. or “Flex” on West St. he would have understood, those being two flaming gay bars, but here at The Bar all it meant was that “there was snow on the mountain,” the phrase the local druggies used when some cocaine came into town. Don Hill had been to both of the gay clubs; Don was fershure straight, but had visited them in the company of a wild girl he was dating at one time. The “Capital Corral” was by far the biggest gay joint in town, and the time he went he remembered that a limpwristed hairdresser from Norfolk had asked him to dance. When Don declined the suitor said “How ‘bout a game of pinball?”, which Don agreed to, figgering it was harmless and knowing his girl was still there. After the game he beat a hasty retreat, realizing form the guy’s chatter that he wanted way more than a pinball game. The second foray into gay land, at “Flex”, was a bit different. The had gone there to see the monthly “Drag Queen” night, pretty self-explanatory, and were impressed with the entries. They really did it up, with an elevated walking surface for the participants, and the costuming and impromptu choreography was “utterly divine.” The turnout was tremendous; Don Hill remembered going home that night and being a bit surprised that there were that many queers in Raleigh. Chapel Hill and Carrboro were well known as gay havens, but apparently Raleigh was “up and coming.” But by far the most memorable moment of the evening was when he went to the men’s room to take a whiz and saw a bank of old-fashioned tall urinals mounted to the wall. Don looked at the opposite side of the bathroom and saw the standard one toilet, two urinal configuration. The quite odd thing about the old-fashioned urinals was that they were not hooked up to any plumbing whatsoever; the more noteworthy observation was that all four of them were filled to the brim with peanuts in the shell. “Quite a curiosity,” Don Hill had thought as he gazed at the wondrous sight. Don was a great lover of peanuts but it was not difficult to curb his appetite under those curious circumstances.
Don was getting another Miller Lite when he heard a commotion from over near the women’s bathroom; as he turned that way he say two guys pick up a very buxom blonde girl and carry her inside the bathroom. She had huge titties and bright, bright, red lipstick, and they all watched as the guys hoisted her to the ceiling where she planted big red kisses. I t appeared that she got about five real good impressions before she started running out of pigment. The entire bar watched the raucous event and erupted into applause as she was lowered from her perch. The girl was Wanda Wild, and my God was she named appropriately. Wanda was a good-natured sort, given to having a “very good time,” all of the time, and well liked in The Bar community of curious misfits. Don Hill often thought that if John Steinbeck had happened upon The Bar the author might possibly be reminded of a scene or two from “Cannery Row”; Hill made a mental not that if that unlikely eventuality occurred, he would certainly buy John several beers. In addition to her joyous countenance Wanda Wild was known for two original sayings she had come up with. The first was “well you can’t be first, but you can be next.” Don Hill personally felt that this one was super inspired. The second saying was Wanda Wild’s stock answer to the hackneyed question of “what’s up?” She would position a mischievous pouty grin on her face and respond “hard peckers and airplanes.” This aphorism was also quite well received on a regular basis.
Every year before the party there was a “clean up The Bar” push. It mainly amounted to blowing the deteriorating parking lot off and staining the deck. Joe Braxton, in addition to being the resident wild ass and cook, made it a point to apply a new coat of stain to the deck personally. As Don Hill walked outside he noticed Joe had popped the lid on a can of stain and was fixin’ to give it the yearly once over. To get comfortable for his chore Joe Braxton stripped off his Talledaga Race shirt, exposing his ample beer gut. Don Hill made note of several healed scars on Joe’s stomach; some looked like puncture wounds and some like slashes. It was apparent that Joe had been proficient with cutlery but had also been on the receiving end. Joe had thinning hair at the front, but he wore a classic mullet style in the back. He kept a mustache and whiskers on his chin; he often referred to himself as looking like a billy goat. He sported several obvious “jailhouse” tattoos on his arms, but the one on his upper left arm was different. It was a little larger than a baseball and was a very recognizable rendition of “Yosemite Sam,” the Hanna Barbera cartoon character. “Yosemite Sam” was always depicted wearing a big wild looking hat, having a giant twirled mustache, and brandishing pistols. The tattoo had eliminated the pistols and had ol’ Yosemite shooting the bird with both hands; additionally, on Yosemite’s exposed belly were the words “fuck off.” Joe felt like it got the point across, and anybody who knew him would agree. Joe set about staining the deck, and soon a group of guys, all his friends, gathered around and started messin’ with him. Like saying “oh you missed a spot” or some other such silly shit. It did get a little risqué however when Rene the bartender came out to collect empty bottles. Rene was dark and feisty, which she attributed to her ¼ Cherokee Indian lineage; she was also rather buxom. Joe hollered at her “hey Rene, I got my top off, how ‘bout you takin’ yours off?”. Good natured Rene responded by putting a finger under each bra strap, pulling sharply up, and then letting them snap. The movement was pronounced to say the least, which prompted Joe to shout “wow, looks like bobbing for apples—-no, melons.” All the gallery loved this and continued to hang around keeping Joe Braxton company; one by one they kept Joe supplied with Busch Lite beer while he worked with the stain.
Although the bar was getting more crowded every minute what with it being a Friday and after work, Don Hill decided to go on home; he was a little tired and wanted to have a quiet evening at home with a few beers before the Lamar event the next day. He had decided to come down early and help Lamar and Joe Braxton and the regulars set up; they always put up a few tents and situated the fold up tables in the usual places. Don had assisted in doing these very things in the years before he went in the army, so somehow getting back into this routine gave him a kind of “homecoming” feeling. So he took a cab and went back to his little house on Mills Street. There would be more acquaintances to renew on “party day”; plus, he wanted to experience the feeling of being in his own house. He thought on how he knew that there would be some sad moments that night as he reflected on his life and his parents’ tragic accident. Don Hill wiped a tear away as he opened the door of the cab and headed home.
It was seven o’clock on Saturday morning; it was the day of Lamar’s eighty third birthday party, and the octogenarian was on fire. He was racing around orchestrating the tent raisings and locations and was making sure that Joe “the chef” Braxton did indeed have enough chickens, ribs, and Boston Butts to feed the expected crowd of one hundred. Actually, the core of The Bar certainly attended but they more than likely made up only a fourth of the group, the rest being occasional patrons and homeless people. Of course, naturally, the offer of free food was a virtual magnet for this group to be attracted to, and they came by the score. As unappealing and smelly as they were, at least for that day they were more than welcome and treated very cordially. Typically, to a person, they were very well behaved, with one notable exception—Shirley.
Shirley was a curiosity, and enigma, a being akin to a conundrum, but as near as Don Hill could figger more than anything she was a nut. Don Hill had been present at The Bar when Shirley had first appeared. It was a couple of years before and warm weather so a group of the regulars, including Lamar, were sitting on the deck out front when an old black Cadillac sedan drove by and slowed down. Then came the momentous shriek that started the Shirley legacy rolling——“Lamaaaaaaar”, she hollered as she brought the car to a halt on Jones Street. A middle aged very dark black woman came scrambling out of the car and raced to Lamar, grabbing him in an intense hug, and planting a big kiss on his cheek. Lamar’s nature was such that he was very receptive of attention from women, expected or not, so he returned the hug and planted a big kiss on her. Then he asked her who the hell she was.
“Why Lamar”, she said, “it’s me, it’s Shirley, the woman what used to work with yo’ wife Rose at the Big Star supermarket at North Hills. Don’t you tell me you done forgot my ass?” Lamar then remembered Shirley, and quickly bought her a beer, and the two of them spent a while reminiscing about the “Big Star” days and then she left. But as she departed Lamar hollered for to “come back”, an invitation he probably regretted. Soon afterwards Don Hill had departed for Army basic training, so his information about Shirley was from letters he received from a few of The Bar regulars, but apparently she became a fixture quickly, and was more and more amorous toward Lamar. To add to the problem Shirley was quite fond of “hair products”, rather to excess: to say her redolence preceded her was an understatement. “Damn”, Lamar had exclaimed one day after a Shirley visit, “that woman has got to be lathered up with every ‘Afro Sheen’ product there is.” According to the witnesses, it was quite odoriferous. But apparently Lamar put up with it for quite a while; it was not his nature to turn people away or shun them so he just tolerated her and put up with the situation. As Shirley’s appearances became more and more frequent Lamar kept thinking about how he could get rid of her; one day he was kind of complaining about the “Shirley” situation in front of a carpenter named Ben Crockett when Crockett spoke up. “Lamar”, he said, “I can take care of this, and I guarantee you two things—-you will never see her again and it will not cause you, personally, any embarrassment.” Lamar knew Ben Crockett well and knew him to be a man of his word, so he readily agreed to the offer, the situation having gotten to the point where it was way beyond annoying.
So thereafter Ben Crockett carried some clothing, some wood, and a can of lighter fluid with him in his truck, awaiting Shirley’s next visit. Crockett did not have to wait long, for two days later Shirley showed, as smelly and loud as ever and as loving on Lamar—maybe even more.
Lamar had been stuck in one of those situations that he always had a lot of trouble with; all his life he had been a party guy, and he wanted EVERYBODY to have a good time. For this reason he truly hated to put anybody down, or offend them; so he tended to give even very offensive people a ton of forgiveness. So what happened he accepted as an escape, a way to save face and keep his “good time Lamar” image intact.
When Shirley showed, being Lamar, he was buying her beers and putting up with her advances, but when he saw Crockett’s red pickup with the camper shell pull in he knew that something was going to happen. He watched as Crockett looked over at them and immediately went to the rear of his truck and came walking by with an old duffel bag on his arm; he only spoke obligatory hellos and went on inside The Bar. Crockett went directly to the men’s bathroom and emptied the duffel bag. He pulled out two pieces of 2”x2” wood that were screwed together midway so that you could turn them so they would form a cross. Then he carefully retrieved a long white robe and a white pointed hat that covered his head and face, with openings for his eyes and mouth. After that he reached into the bottom of the bag and got the can of charcoal lighter fluid. Most everybody at The Bar knew that Ben Crockett was not overly fond of Negroes, but no one knew why, or the story behind his feelings. They were not aware that his Daddy, who had been dead for ten years, had been third in command in the organization known as the Imperial Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. This Klan group was one of the largest in the Carolinas, and Ben Crockett’s father, Rufus, was the Chaplain. Ben had described to Don Hill how serious his dad was about the organization and had intimated that every Klan meeting had “begun with a prayer, and ended with a prayer”; additionally, Crockett had given Don a business card once that said “you have just been greeted by a member of the Imperial Knights of the Ku Klux Klan”. Don Hill still had it in his wallet.
If you walked out of the men’s bathroom and turned right there was a door to the outside, where you would not be seen by people reveling on the deck in front. Ben Crockett walked out this door, doused the top half of the wooden cross with the lighter fluid, and silently rounded the corner, setting the cross aflame with a match as he went. The top half of the accelerant saturated cross was shooting flames a foot in the air as Crockett came into view. Shirley had her back to the corner but when Lamar saw what was going on he hollered “look Shirley”. Shirley turned quickly and would have gone white as a sheet if it had been physically possible. Her visible shock was accompanied by an eardrum shattering shriek and a scrambling exit toward her car, screaming “It’s the Kluxers, it’s the Kluxers”, oh sweet Jesus save me”. There was a moment of shocked silence—-nobody had seen this coming—–but after a grinning Ben Crockett pulled his pointed hat off the whole bunch erupted in laughter, with Lamar jumping up and down and high-fiving Ben Crockett like it was Christmas day at the Oxford Orphanage.
Don Hill nursed a beer and thought about how that had been the end of Shirley at The Bar. Don circulated in and out of the bar, helping out where he could. Then he saw Andy Kelly come in and made a bee line for where he was sitting.
According to Don Hill’s bedraggled Merriam-Webster dictionary on page 511 on the upper right it had the following to divulge about the word “malapropism”: [Mrs. Malaprop, character noted for her misuse in R. B. Sheridan’s comedy ‘The Rivals’ (1775). 1: a usually humorous misapplication of a word; specifically: use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended but ludicrously wrong in the context. 2: an example of malapropism (as in “an allegory on the banks of the Nile”.) Don Hill remembered back to when he had looked up the word after being exposed to some of Andy Kelly’s comments; a mutual friend of Don’s and Kelly’s had tipped him off and when he read the definition that night he remembered thinking that some of Andy Kelly’s jewels were way superior to the “allegory on the Nile”. The mutual friend, Palmer Williams, had hung out with Kelly at The Keg on Hillsborough Street, a titty bar of some renown. It was one Saturday afternoon at The Keg where Don Hill first heard some of Kelly’s gaffes; Kelly was smart, but not a wordsmith—his speech was not fakery at all—it was just dead on his personality. Of course Palmer Williams would bait Kelly when he had a new person in the group, bringing up situations in conversation that would foment some of Kelly’s gems. For example, Palmer would say “Hey Andy, hear you got a raise down at Capital City Lumber,” and Kelly would reply “Yep, they made it radioactive back to the first of the year.”
Then Palmer Williams would wait for a while as they slugged beer and watched the titties. Then he would say “Kelly, I heard Joe Jones died; what was wrong with him?”. “Phosphate cancer,” Kelly would bellow as he downed another Budweiser.
When Don Hill caught up with Andy Kelly he just chatted with him for a while; Andy was pleasant to talk to, and Don chose to just keep the conversation congenial—he would leave the malapropistic baiting to the expert Palmer Williams. But it was good to see Kelly, and Don told Andy to be sure and hang around for the afternoon party.
As Don Hill got up to get another Miller Lite beer he saw one of the true oddballs enter the bar. It was a stocky red haired guy clad in khakis, an ascot, and a herringbone jacket with leather elbow patches. He walked slowly, looking around the bar with an imperious air, and ordered a Red Stripe from the bartender. Don recognized him immediately as Rich Harris, a city of Raleigh building inspector that he had known for years. Harris had been coming to The Bar for a long time, even when it was located down at Five Points in what became a locally famous pizza joint and Don had always like him well enough, although always considering him an enigma. Harris was sometimes very chatty and other times very quiet; this demeanor gave rise to a theory among the regulars that he may even be bi-polar. Don did not subscribe to this psychological theorem about Harris, but he was satisfied about the validity of his oddness; however, he liked him and his eccentricities—one never knew what to expect. He had heard stories about this latest curious sartorial venture of Harris’, but he had never personally witnessed it.
As Don Hill sidled up to the dapper Rich Harris Harris he said, “Well hello Don, so good to see you; how you been?” As Rich Harris made this inquiry he arched his right eyebrow, something he had inherited from his father. “Just fine Rich, just got out of the Army, and how have you been?”. Rich Harris reached inside his herringbone jacket and extracted a business card, handing it to Don Hill. Don read the card: Studleigh Budleigh Van Landingham IV, Bon Vivant, Epicure, Man About Town”. Don Hill looked at the grinning Rich Harris and said “What the hell is this all about?”. Rich Harris arched his right eyebrow again and said “I have thought about this for some time and I feel that this is the perfect snobby, affected, nomenclature. From this day forward you are to refer to me as Studleigh, S. B., or if you like S. B. Van Landingham IV. I will respond to all.” Knowing a little about S. B. Van Landingham IV’s quirky personality Don Hill readily agreed to the new moniker and addressd him appropriately.
“So what have you been doing with yourself Studleigh?”, Don Hill asked. “Well”, said S. B., “I have been in law school for the last two years”. “How the hell did you get into law school with your anemic G.P.A.?”, asked the incredulous Hill.
“Persistence”, relied S. B., “persistence. The state of California has twenty entities that offer correspondence courses in law. The one I attended required only a college degree and a G.P.A. of 2.50. I qualified instantly”, he said, smiling broadly.
“So how are the law studies going, Studleigh Budleigh, or would you prefer just Studleigh?”, Hill asked, suppressing a laugh. “Actually, any of the aforementioned, including the totality of the title will evoke an answer from me,” S.B. V. L. IV responded. Don Hill smiled, remembering that Rich Harris had always tended toward a rather stilted speech style, loving to throw out “big words” like baseball pitches. Don Hill thought of one day a few years back when Studleigh had engaged a new fellow at The Bar in conversation. S. B. had an inkling that the “newby” might be of a similar ilk, until he used the word “punctilious” in a sentence and the guy gave him a strange look and left right away, before Harris could tell him that the meaning was “punctual”. Thus some thought him a pseudo intellectual, and others a showoff; but in actuality, considering the group at The Bar, anything beyond a two syllable word was frequently greeted with a rather bellicose and suspicious look.
“Actually I am now a dropout of an unaccredited correspondence law school”, Studleigh said, grinning at Don Hill. “Seems that they had a requirement of passing a test at the end of two years; after three attempts at $500.00 per and three consecutive failures I gave up. But it was quite interesting. I have moved on; I have taken up the guitar, and Gene Hale is my guitar instructor. Gene is an excellent guitarist and has the voice of an angel; furthermore, he only charges me $20.00 per hour. Gene’s mantra is that anything he does he charges $20.00 per hour, whether it be ceramic tile work, carpentry, landscaping, or guitar lessons. He has the heart of a teacher, and has told me from the beginning that if I practice 30 minutes a day I will be playing guitar in a month. We have met once a week for two months and at this point we can play and sing together”.
Don Hill congratulated S. B. heartily and was actively searching for an avenue of departure; S. B. could wear on the nerves after a bit. But it was not to be, for just then in sauntered “Toothless Tommy”. Tommy had big false choppers, but he had gained his moniker during that time between “pullin and fittin”. A look of disgust came over the face of Studleigh Budleigh Van Landingham IV; he despised “Toothless Tommy” passionately and did not try to hide his feelings. He considered him lazy, worthless and a total screwup. S.B. arched his right eyebrow and looked squarely at Don Hill, and uttered “that boy would decimate a dual auto funeral of color”, which was a very whitewashed rendition of the venerable aphorism attributed to Billy Warren, bar owner, “that boy could fuck up a two car nigger funeral.” Having said that S. B. Van Landingham departed.
Don Hill did not hold Toothless Tommy in the same regard that S. B. did, but in the words of his late mother felt that the Toothless one was “to be pitied”. Don did feel that Tommy had taken laziness and shiftlessness to a new level; for example, Toothless Tommy lived in a tree in Johnston County outside a little burg called Wise one year from May until September. He was accompanied by his ne’er do well buddy Thompson Henderson, who claimed to have been drunk for twenty-five years. Don Hill pretty much accepted Henderson’s claim, having never seen him anywhere close to a sober state. By far the most disgusting aspect of the duo’s arboreal adventure was their frequent barbecues. Their little home bordered a large hog farm, the type where the critters roamed free. Once in a while one of the hogs died; Mikey and Thompson kept their eyes peeled for this occurrence and were usually able to drag it away before the owner saw it. Then they would gut it and lay it out on their makeshift pit. Tommy and Thompson did not overly worry about the circumstances leading up to the porker’s exit from porcine life; “Dead is dead”, Toothless Tommy proclaimed, “and if you cook the son of a bitch long enough it will kill what killed him.” Understandably these fetes were not well attended.
The Bar was filling up with pre-party revelers; as Don Hill moved away from Toothless Tommy he noticed a solitary figure sitting alone at a table near the rear of the bar. It was Bill Umstead; his full name was William B. Umstead, aka “Bumstead” by his detreactors. Bill was a self diagnosed manic-depressive, and Don Hill was in agreement with Bill’s conclusion; Bill was either way up or way down. In his manic phase he was full of energy, chatty , funny, a ladies’ man and prosperous. In his down stage he was listless, severely depressed, and had nothing but hate for women. Don recalled an episode several years back when he had stayed at Bill’s little shack in the country; Bill was in one of the depressive cycles. He had been working as a brick mason but had quit his job, the finance company had repossessed his pickup truck and he was a helpless mess. The afternoon Don Hill had moved in Bill Umstead was drunk and mucho depressed; naturally, he turned the conversation to the disdain and hatred he had for the fairer sex and instructed Don to “bring no women” to his abode. He concluded his diatribe by reciting the following: “Don, if they didn’t have a pussy, we would be shooting them for sport”. Don quelled a strong impulse to laugh, and it was good he did, for one glance at William B. Umstead’s face left no doubt that he was dead serious—super dead serious. So Don Hill nodded solemnly and vowed to Bumstead that he would abide by the rules; and he did purty good, only violating the “He-man Woman Hater’s” credo once, when he just could not resist the charm of the little red haired girl he bought goldfish from. Luckily Bill had stayed at a friend’s house that night, so Don Hill was spared a severe blessing out or worse. Don stayed less than two weeks; Bill Umstead’s outlook did not improve, the cycle usually running ‘bout eight months, be it good or bad, up or down.
Bill Umstead frequently lapsed into extended periods of brooding when he was “like that”, and once he had sat in his chair and looked at the table for five minutes Don figgered it would be safe to move on. Besides, one of the more interesting and intellectual characters who frequented The Bar had just entered. Ron Parker was a sixty-five-year-old attorney who made a living as a mediator. Ron lived in Sanford, but many times had mediations in downtown Raleigh, so he was a fairly frequent visitor. Barrister Parker had battled heart disease for decades, and Don had heard that he was losing pretty heavily. This thought was reinforced when he saw Ron, for he was gaunt, his Jos. A. Bank suit hanging off him. He was as ebullient and exuberant as he remembered, although his prognosis was dire. Ron for many years had performed a comedy routine at Charley Goodnight’s Comedy Club in Raleigh and other venues on the east coast. Ron had once told Don Hill that he could do standup comedy for forty-five minutes without stopping, and Don believed him. One of the funniest stories Ron had ever told Don Hill was the time he had been booked into a Christmas party at the Chatham County Country Club. So happened that “Aunt Bea” of Andy Griffith fame had died two days before, and her wake was at McPherson’s Funeral Home the same night as the party. Ms. Bavier had spent her last years in Chatham County accompanied by multitudinous cats.
“Well Don”, Ron had said, “I was pondering on what would be a good opener for that party and about five miles before I got there it hit me. So this is what I said. There musta been three hundred people in that room and they were already purty good and likkered up. So after I was introduced and received the typical polite applause given to a comic before he says anything, I just looked out at the crowd very solemnly, waiting for at least thirty seconds after the last hand clap had subsided, and then with a sad face said ‘I guess y’all didn’t make it to the wake’”. Don remembered asking Ron how that had been received and Ron replying “The place was in an uproar, and I had them in my hip pocket the rest of the night”.
The comic streak ran deep in Ron Parker, and he was forever coming up with funny things to say about less than comical circumstances. His latest referred to his declining health. “Ya know”, he would say, “when I come in here people always say ‘good to see you’. Occurred to me it is far preferable to be seen than to be viewed.” Don Hill thought this saying possibly Ron Parker’s best.
Don Hill and Ron Parker moved to the front of The Bar where there seemed to be sort of a stir outside the double doors. Then Don remembered, after noticing that it was exactly 2:00 p. m., that it must be the annual appearance of the “Holstein Girl”. The “Holstein Girl” was loosely patterned after the television commercials for Chick Fil A in which Holstein cows did all kinds of cute little tricks to get people to “eat more chicken”. These commercials or television billboards were very popular, featuring the “bad spelling bovines”; the advertising blitz had bugun locally three years before when the only Chick Fil A restaurant within fifty miles opened in Cameron Village. Every year since then a hot titty dancer from a men’s club in Durham had decided to take advantage of the large gathering at The Bar for Lamar’s party; at precisely 2:00 in the afternoon on the day of the party the tall, leggy, auburn haired vixen appeared for only a few minutes. During that time she walked up and down the sidewalk in front of The Bar carrying a sign. The beauty was dressed in fish net hosiery, a black garter belt, and a cave woman style dress in a Holstein cow design of black and white spots. The dress was ragged around the bottom and hit her at about the top third of her thigh, leaving an expanse of creamy flesh exposed. Up top she sported a super plunging neck line with a push up bra that left little to be imagined. But the sign was the deal; on both sides it read “Elizabeth Electra says EAT MORE PUSSY”. Under that was the name of the club where she worked. Don and Ron stood in front of The Bar and watched her prance about; she was truly a beauty, what with blasting blue eyes, tumescent lips colored in a dark brown hue, and a pearlescent smile with perfect teeth. The two were transfixed for several minutes as they watched her. Then a two-seater Mercedes Benz convertible drove up and she hopped in with her sign, waving and flashing the most beautiful smile Don Hill had ever seen.
The crowd continued to gather, for rumor had it that Lamar would make his grand entrance at 3:00, and the prevailing thought was that he would arrive in a hearse again, something he had done a few years back. Sure ‘nuff just at three the ancient smoke belching multi-colored purveyor of the dead pulled up in front of The Bar. The rear door opened and out flew the birthday boy; Lamar sported green longhandles that were skin tight and little gold epaulets on each shoulder. His face was painted green and a set of gold deely-boppers sat on his head, jiggling each time he moved. The crowd let out a roar as he danced around the parking lot with several women, and they hooted when he did his famous chest clutching routine a la Fred Sanford. But they fell silent as he pitched forward face first onto the deteriorating concrete of The Bar parking lot.
Near the end of his book “Cannery Row” John Steinbeck had the following to say about parties: “The nature of parties has been imperfectly studied. It is, however, generally understood that a party has a pathology, that it is a kind of an individual and that it is likely to be a very perverse and individual one. And it is also generally understood that a party hardly ever goes the way it is planned or intended.”
And so it was with Lamar’s party, his last party. Don Hill had left the gathering shortly after the EMS crew had departed with Lamar, having worked on him for over twenty minutes. Don was sure that if Lamar’s face had not been painted green it would be blue; Lamar never had another breath. Don had gone home and finished the book he had been reading, “Cannery Row”, and had read over many times Steinbeck’s comment about parties.
Word came that on Monday there was going to be some sort of ceremony at The Bar for the departed Boll Weevil. Turned out that Lamar had some quite specific language in his will about how his ashes were to be handled and apparently Billy Warren was privy to everything and had totally agreed to it. The essentials were unclear, only that everyone should show up at 5:00 Monday afternoon. The Bar was overflowing at the prescribed time. Billy Warren stood at the head of the bar and placed a 16” square wooden form on the surface of the bar. The form was about ½” thick. Then solemnly he dipped a half cup of grey ashes out of a bag and sprinkled them in the form. Next he opened a can of high gloss polyurethane and poured it inside the form, until the liquid was even with the top. The bar stool was tilted against the bar. The back of the stool lay on the edge of the bar just below a shiny new brass placard that had been affixed there. There was a likeness of a bug-like creature engraved into the placard. The critter carried a suitcase in each buggy tentacle, and the inscription read “The Boll Weevil Has Finally Found A Home”.