Quartzsite Library Unfair to Vet and Pensioner

Picture of Quartzsite Library
Think of this title as a placard. A rectangular bit of cardboard atop a 1×4 stick of wood hoisted in the overly hot Arizona air held by the sweaty and angry hand of a USAF Veteran and ill health pensioner from HMPS standing in front of the “unfair” Quartzsite Library. A 56 year-old man who is temporarily “down on his uppers” as they say and more than a little annoyed at the condescending attitude by one member of staff at the local public library.

Over a week ago, I was in the local library near the door, which is the least freezing part of the facility, using my laptop to watch Hulu, write reviews, email and do other chores on my website. My MacBookPro was plugged into the electrical socket under the row of computers for free use in the library. As I plunked away at the keys, a lady volunteer (who has been rather short with me before) sauntered past and stopped abruptly.

“Is that plugged it?” she asked. Pointing at my Mac with her voice raising she continued, “You are not allowed to charge your things in here.”

I stopped typing, “Yes it’s plugged in, but it isn’t charging as it is fully charged. I’m just trying to keep it that way.” I smiled.

“You can’t do that, it is not allowed,” she said. Reaching down I unplugged my offending MacBookPro. “You are welcome to use the free computers,” she continued, “and you can use your laptop but only on battery.”

“Well,” I asked, “Could you tell me why using the same electricity for my laptop that a computer would be using is not allowed?”

No answer. She whirled around and headed back to her station behind the check out desk. I followed. “Is there someone I can talk to about using my laptop without the battery instead of the computer. I have software on my Mac that is not on your Window’s system that I need for my website.”

In a tone laden with frosty overtones she repeated that I could use my laptop with the battery. I then explained that my poor old battery only ran for about an hour or so.

Looking down her nose at me she said loftily, “Sounds like it’s time to get a new battery.” My “Hulk” meter immediately shot up to the very top and before “greening out” I replied. “No, sounds like its time to go someplace else. Good day.”

I was seething. Not just because of the obvious; if I could afford to purchase a new Apple battery with a longer life then I would not be using their free WiFi along with every homeless desert rat for five miles around. I would be at home, or in the Internet Cafe, which costs money to access their WiFi, it was mainly because of her sh*tty and snotty attitude that my anger levels hit danger levels.

Since being in Quartzsite, I have tried to be polite and friendly to all I meet. This is my home for the moment and I intend to “be a good neighbor.” The only denizens I am not nice to are the ones who feel the need to run me off the road on my bike or act in manner less friendly than I would like.

So I am boycotting the library as a result of this volunteer’s poor and insulting attitude. After telling my chums at Burger King, where I now go everyday to access their free, and stronger, WiFi, they suggested that I should complain. I did, but apparently neither the library or the town manager, who is at the top of this local food chain, read their emails. I have not gotten reply to either message of inquiry.

I do not ask for an apology, but I would still like the question answered about the plugging in of the laptop. If one looks at the “posted” rules in the actual facility there is nothing about just using your battery. Still, they have lost not only a customer but any good will that I’d been harboring for the other volunteers who were, admittedly, very nice to an old guy who talked funny.

So, until I get an answer to one of my emails, please picture me with a placard in hand stating that “Quartzsite Library are Unfair to Vet and Pensioner.”

An Arkansas Razorback in Queen Elizabeth Country 6

A new arrival in the unit asked me if I was interested in sharing a house with him in a small Suffolk village. He’d rented the house and it was large and had about four bedrooms in it. I went out to the village of Swaffham Prior and had a look at the place.

For starters it was excellently placed in the village as it was right across the street from the village Pub. Don’t get the wrong idea. I liked my drink as much as the next person, but that wasn’t why I was so pleased with the proximity of the Pub.

The Red Lion

Pub’s were, at that time anyway, a meeting place for the village. Through the Pub, you met people, found out what was happening around the area and who was who in the village. That and if the Pub was close enough, you could drink a skin-full of booze and just stagger home.

The house itself was old. It had been a coach house in the olden days. (I cannot for the life of me remember when the house was originally built, but the coach house bit is a dead give away for how old it actually was) It was long, much longer than than the Google earth picture above. And when I lived there with Ralph, it was white.

On the right hand side of the house as you faced it from the street was an agate gravel drive that branched off to the left and led you to the back door. The front door was used only once when I lived there and that was when the local vicar stopped by to welcome us to the village.

When you entered the back door you would find the back hall, bathroom, stairs to the first floor (that’s second floor to denizens of the US) and a smaller hall to the rest of the house.

Nestled in between the drive and the back door path was our ‘sitting’ room. It had a two seater settee, Ralph’s leather recliner, a fireplace and the television. The window faced the front of the Pub across the street.

When you walked out of the ‘sitting room’ you crossed the small hallway and walked past the front door to the huge dining room. If you continued you walked through the kitchen (a perfect square of a room) and on the other side of the kitchen was my massive bedroom. That plus a utility room that housed our washer and dryer made up the ground floor of the house.

My bedroom featured the only other door that opened onto the high street. I say opened, but that is a bit of a misnomer. The massive four inch wide door was sealed shut and could not be opened at all.

The first floor of the house was comprised entirely of bedrooms. The one opposite the Pub was our ‘cold’ store. In the winter we left a window cracked and it kept most of our perishable foodstuff nice and cool.

The first couple of months that Ralph and I lived there we would occasionally both watch the telly in the sitting room. When anyone walked up the gravel drive and the path to our door you could hear them as clearly as if the path were in the room with us. One night we sat there watching the news when, during a break between stories, the volume lowered enough for us to hear someone walking up the drive.

“Looks like we have a visitor.” Ralph said with a smile.

He turned down the volume on the TV. We both sat grinning like a couple of idiots as we listened to the footsteps progress from the side of the house to the back door. The gravelly steps stopped at our back door and waited we for the knock.

Silence permeated the air. No knock. Nothing. We sat there is silence and waited for the footsteps to start their journey back to the street. Still, nothing.

Finally, we couldn’t take the suspense any longer. We both got up and jogged to the back door. Ralph flung open the door with a loud and cheery, “Hi!”

There was no one there.

We had quite a giggle about this turn of events and made jokes about ghosts and possible pranksters having a laugh at the ‘new boys’ in the village. As we walked back into the sitting room we watched the fancy leather throw on the back of Ralph’s recliner start swinging back and forth.

Ralph looked at me with one eyebrow up and said, “The fireplace must be open. I’ll close the draft.” He walked over to the fireplace and knelt down to close the flue. He suddenly stopped and looked up the chimney. He looked back over his shoulder at me.

“Damn thing’s closed already.”

As he stood up, the throw began to sway again. Ralph walked over to it and held his hand by the throw. “Nothing.” He moved his hand fractionally. “Not a breath of air.” We both shrugged and sat back down to finish watching the news.

This occurrence would be a regular event at the house. We used to make jokes about our mysterious sitting room ghost and our invisible house guest who was too shy to knock on the back door.

It was only after we had lived there for about six months that the activity increased and soon shifted it’s focus on to Ralph’s new girlfriend. But that was after it decided to pick on me and after I had moved out of the house and  into  a flat with my new fiancée .

My bedroom and it’s inoperable door.

An Arkansas Razorback in Queen Elizabeth Country 4

The traditional "running hog" image ...
Arkansas Razorback

Before I moved out of my now haunted flat, I was sent to Ramstein Air Base in Germany aka USAFE Headquarters for a week. I’ll have to write another blog post or two about an Arkansas Razorback in Europe, I guess.

I was glad to get back. In spite of the fact that Ramstein AB was huge and boasted a Burger King, I didn’t take to it very much. Part of the tour of the base when we arrived was showing us the blown-up Headquarters building that had been car-bombed by a German terrorist group. So although Germany was beautiful, it was also a place where you could get blown-up while doing your day-to-day ‘peace-time’ duties.

It left an impression all right.

The first person I bumped into when I got back to the village was Frank my toilet sharing buddy. As I walked up to my front door, he sat in the little courtyard outside our adjourning flats, barbecuing a steak for a young lady in high heels and blue-jean shorts.

He had a fixed grin on his face and he greeted me effusively.

“Hey, Holmes! When did you get back?” This was said through gritted teeth as he talked through his fixed grin.

I stopped and looked at Frank.

“What?” I started laughing, “I got back today. Why are you talking like that? Are you drunk?”

Frank shook his head. “No, Holmes. I got my jaw broke by  a fucking midget! My jaws wired shut.”

I laid my duffel bag down and sat on it.

“Dude, what happened?”

“Well, Holmes, I was in the pub and it was close to closing time. Tom was serving last orders when these three punks came in.”

Frank took a drink out of his beer and turned the steak over.

“They started giving Tom a hard time and I was the only one left in the pub, man. The midget was talking big and threatening Tom. So I stood up and got involved.”

“What happened?”

“Well, you know I’ve been taking Karate lessons, right?”

I nodded. Frank took the steak off the grill and after putting it on a plate handed it to the girl. “Here you are darlin’ put your mouth around that. Why don’t you check and see if your boyfriend wants one. I’ll be glad to put one on for him.”

The girl giggled and said okay and trotted obediently into the hall leading to Frank’s flat. I looked a Frank, stunned. “Isn’t she one of your ‘massage’ girls?”

Frank nodded.

“And she brought her boyfriend?”

“Yeah, Holmes. He’s cool with it. He brings her over on his motorbike..”

I was very surprised, I mean, these girls didn’t give massages, if you get my meaning. The idea that the girl’s boyfriend would tag along and have a steak dinner with his girlfriend’s client was beyond my comprehension. She didn’t come back out, so I can only assume that her boyfriend had some scruples that precluded eating a steak from clients. Either that or he was sharing hers.

Frank handed me a beer and continued his story.

“Well I’m just about to get my black belt, Holmes, so I figured I could take care of these little chumps, no problem.”

“So what happened.”

“The littlest dude in the group, the midget, hops up and punches me.” He paused, “Once.” Frank rubbed his hand over his jaw. “Little fucker knocked me out and broke my jaw,” He pointed to first one side of his jaw and then the other, “Twice.”

I bent over double with laughter. Frank stood glaring at me for a minute and then started braying laughter through his wired up jaw.

Taking a swig of beer, Frank stopped laughing and glared off into the distance.

“Man I’m gonna sue that son-of-a-bitch instructor. Or at least get my money back.” Shaking his head he started back into his flat muttering, “One punch, Holmes, one fuckin’ punch.”

I went into my flat then, only to discover that my electric meter had run out of money the week I was gone and everything in my little refrigerator had spoiled.

An Arkansas Razorback in Queen Elizabeth Country 3

Flats for let.

My cold-water flat was getting claustrophobic. Despite having a huge window, the room was oddly airless. Smells seemed to ‘dig’ into the room, refusing to leave no matter how much you ‘aired’ it out.

The final straw came when a girlfriend, after a particularly amorous night, threw up a horrible mixture of Yukon Jack and cheese savouries on my duvet. This momentous event occurred while I was in my communal toilet and she struggled to reach the sink which was  an arm’s length away.

Our relationship sort of cooled after that night though the memory of it remained. I was reminded of it every time I entered the flat. Despite air fresheners and freezing the room out by leaving the window wide open in the winter, the smell lingered. Even the duvet’s chemical smell from the dry cleaners didn’t mask the rooms pong.

As I went to pay my monthly rent to the landlady, I noticed someone was moving from a huge ground floor flat. I inquired about it and Lady Luck was on my side. No one else had even looked at the flat yet, so I transferred my deposit from my tiny flat to the new huge one. I was able to move my things the same day.

The new flat was an old shop, I don’t remember what type of shop it had been, but, it still had the full window street footage in front. A giant floor length curtain covered the room sized window and it was separated from the rest of the flat by a ‘false’ wall.

My front door was a glass ‘French’ door. As you walked in the flat if you looked immediately to the right you could see another door that led into another flat. This door, though permanently locked, was very thin and let a lot of sound through. One night my ‘neighbour’ had two local ladies in for entertainment.

They were very vocal about their obvious enjoyment of my neighbour’s love-making techniques. When the noise began to mimic the ‘When Harry Met Sally‘ moment in the diner, I banged on the door.

“Hey!”, I said. “Either keep it down or invite me in!”

There was a startled silence followed by muffled whispering. I did not receive an invite, but they did lower the decibel levels of their appreciation. I took a couple of cold showers and was finally able to go sleep.

Back at the front door, if you looked to the left you had the sleeping area and a door leading to a short hallway. The hallway when entered from my end had a shower room to the right and a little further down from the shower room was the toilet.

The toilet was a small windowless room with a door that was hard to close. The door itself had ‘bolt’ lock on it. The ‘bolt’ lock was as hard to use, old and a bit rusty, you had to really shove the damn thing to lock the door.

At the other end of the hallway was the other flat that I shared the shower and toilet with. He was a nice enough chap who had a lot of fondness for drink. I can honestly say, I don’t ever remember seeing him sober.

He was a very amiable ‘drunk’ who liked to laugh and loved getting ‘massages’ from the local working girls which he paid for in steaks bought from the USAF commissary for a couple of dollars that would have cost a fortune if purchased down town.

One day I came home from work and really needed to use the toilet. Rushing in, I ran for the littlest room in the flat only to find it closed and locked. Peeved, I went back to my flat and waited for a minute or two.

Nature was dying to take it’s course and I soon rushed back to the toilet door. Trying the door again, I found it was still closed tight and locked. I tapped on the door.

Frank? Dude, I really need the toilet. Can you hurry up?”

Silence. I knocked louder.

Still nothing.

I was worried now. What if my drunken neighbour had passed out in there? What if he had died in there.

This time I kicked the door. Hard.

“Frank!”

Panicked now, I pushed myself back against the narrow hall’s outside wall and shoulder down slammed against the toilet door. I had to do this two or three times before the door smashed open.

The door rebounded off the inside wall and something tinkled on the floor.

The room was empty. There was no slumped body on the actual toilet or on the floor. The only thing in the toilet was the door frame bracket for the bolt lock. Looking at the inside of the door, I saw that the bolt lock tongue was protruding.

The door had been locked and the only way to lock it was from the inside. 

It was impossible to lock the door from the outside.

So who in the hell had locked it? Or more accurately, what had locked it.

After I was finally able to answer my ‘call of nature’ I got a screwdriver and re-attached the bolt lock’s end bracket to the frame. I went to the pub and promptly forgot all about it.

One week later, I came home from work and went through the little hall to use the toilet. The door was hanging forlornly off of one hinge. I drug the door closed and paid my compliments to Mother Nature. As I came out, Frank exited his room and faced me in the hallway.

“Hey Holmes (Frank called everybody Holmes) I got home today and I really needed to use the toilet. I come in here and the door’s closed and locked.” He pointed to the door. “I thought that you were in there and I left. You know? Then when things got a little more urgent, I decided to knock and ask you to hurry up. You know? But you didn’t answer Holmes, cause you weren’t in there. But I didn’t know that. I thought that you were like, passed out or had a heart attack or somethin’. So I kicked the friggin door open? And Holmes? There wasn’t any body in there!”

He looked at me, clearly puzzled. “Holmes? How did that damn door lock itself?”

Shaking my head, I recounted my bathroom adventures from the week before. We both decided that we’d better fix the door back on its hinges and not tell the landlady that we were trying to destroy her property.

The door went back on the hinges no problem, but the bolt lock bracket was a little worse off. It hung loosely on the door frame and the bolt that slid into it was very wobbly.

Exactly one week later, I returned home to find the door closed and ‘locked’ again with no one inside. This time, however, it was very easy to force the door open. I told the landlady about the ‘self locking’ door when I moved.

Everyone I told about the door said the same thing. “The place must be haunted.” My ‘new’ girlfriend, after looking at the door and the room, said the same. “There is no way ‘humanly’ possible to lock that door from the outside. It’s definitely a ghost or poltergeist or something.”

I never did find out what had locked that door, but I did move. I had a mate at work who had rented a huge house in the country and wanted someone to split the rent with him. He asked me if I was interested.

I said yes and then moved into a house that was more haunted than the flat I’d just moved from.

Reborn on the Fourth of July

RAF Mildenhall
RAF Mildenhall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The USAF sent me to the United Kingdom in 1982. It was not problem, I had volunteered to go. My first marriage had died a pretty messy death and the airbase I was at held too many harsh memories. My unit commander had suggested I put in a transfer request. He said that he happened to know there was still a place or two left open in England.

Alamogordo Air Force Base in New Mexico was my first assignment in the Air Force. I had just changed jobs and my new commander was a “re-tread” an officer who had been promoted from the enlisted ranks. He was one hell of a guy.

He had been stationed at RAF Mildenhall years before and had loved it. His idea was to get me away from the memories that were making my life a misery. I put in for a transfer and got it. We were a small career field  so it was a bit easier to get ‘choice’ assignments.

I drove my immediate superior’s car to Dover AFB. She was being reassigned to Germany and wanted to ship her car. On my way I stopped by and visited with my son, my parents and the rest of my family. Sad, bitter thoughts kept me from enjoying anyone’s company too much and I was anxious to “get going” and start forgetting.

I flew into England via the “Freedom Bird.” The Freedom Bird was usually a stretched commercial aircraft, stretched meant that it had moved the seats closer together so they could fit more military personnel on the flights. It was cramped and uncomfortable. This commercial aircraft was dubbed the Freedom Bird because it, or another one like it, would be the aircraft that would take us back to the USA when our assignment was over.

The minute my feet hit the tarmac in England I fell in love. Instinctively I felt that I this was the place I had always been looking for. I had conflicting emotions running through my head. I was excited, relieved, expectant, and sad all at the same time.

I was also jet lagged.

England was a welcome change for me. I got the chance to ‘live’ my life again. After a few years I fell in love with a girl from Cambridge. We tied the knot and we moved to The Netherlands for four and a half years. While we were there she gave birth to our beautiful daughter. And we made plans to move back to England when our stint in Holland was over.

Then I got out of the Air Force in 1993 (under the downsizing drill in 1992) and made England my home. I became a British citizen and my visits home had to stop due to lack of funds.

Fast forward to 2011. My second marriage was over. Thankfully for different reasons than my first one, I’d learned that much at least, but it lasted a lot longer than my first marriage. The first thing I knew I had to do was to go home and visit.

My daughter and I flew over for a two week ‘rest period’ and as luck would have it, we would be in the USA over the Fourth of July.

English: Downtown Miami on July 4, 2007
English: Downtown Miami on July 4, 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We spent the holiday at my brother’s house with his family. He went all out for my daughter’s first 4th of July in America. She saw her first baseball game and saw her first firework display at the ripe old age of 21. She fell in love with ‘live’ baseball and America. She will be coming back to live and work there.

She also saw her first Rodeo and got to see a lot of the places I’d lived and visited when I was a whole world younger. She also got to visit family she’d either never met before or she’d only met when she was too little to really remember.

Something else happened on that flight home. Something important.

It started on the flight over. I sat (watching one of the in-flight movies) and my eyes started watering and I got a lump in my throat. I was going home. I hadn’t been there since 1990. It was a little overwhelming. The culmination of this feeling came on the 4th itself.

As we sat watching the brilliant firework display put on by the town of Coppell, Texas tears ran down my face as I ‘taped’ the colourful explosions. I suddenly remembered that I was an American.

It was like being reborn.

I had spent so many years ‘overseas’ that I had forgotten what I was, where I was from, and who I was deep down. I had begun to think of myself as a citizen to of world and of course I was an British citizen as well.  I think that visit helped both my daughter and me a great deal.

We still live and work  in England but life has changed. We both discovered our ‘roots’ last year. My daughter for the first time and I got back in touch with mine. So while I’m setting here writing this, I am reliving last years 4th of July celebrations. The smell of the popcorn and other delicious foods at the ballgame and the sounds and smells of the fireworks.

So even though I was born in September, I was reborn on the 4th of July.

English: A chocolate cake during the 4th of July
English: A chocolate cake during the 4th of July (Photo credit: Wikipedia)