The Christmas Wedding


I. The Youth of our Lives!


They each graduated from The Oak Park Senior High Class of 1975 in Kansas City, North and went their separate lives. She Janet remained local to her roots. He Charlie a graduate of the University of Missouri at Columbia earned a bachelor of science in business spending his time and curriculum in the business hall listening rather intently to the late Walter Johnson professor of Economics, completing his curriculum of Real Estate Law, and Risk and Insurance Management courses offered by Dr. Robert Hershberger.


Business school road trip in those days were not to Omaha to attend a presentation, question and answer session and later eat Cheeseburgers while slurping Cherry Cokes with Warren Buffet but simple car pools to downtown St. Louis while attending overnight insurance industry sponsored forums and when Charlie returned to his hotel room early on that cool fall Friday morning he gazed into the lit windows dotting the landscape of the high rises across the street as executives and secretaries alike arrived for work at slightly past five.  


He graduated four years and three summer school sessions later in 1979 but barely. From there he moved to St. Louis and sold Life Insurance for Penn Mutual for the Jerry M. Hawk Agency but after only one year and a half left for his return to Kansas City as a route man for Rent-A-Center where his idealistic expectations already under assault from his chance meeting with fellow life insurance salesman Don Gathman in St. Louis and his car crash prophecy found that people weren’t always what they seemed especially when they fell behind on their television, stereo or refrigerator rental payments when he came to collect the cash or repossess the merchandise.


After another year and a half he left and moved to Nebraska on the fly and to the consternation of his family of origin back in Gladstone, Missouri. It was one of the happiest times of his life awaking at four in the summer morning to attend to the miles and miles of corn and soy crops, breaking the flowery tops off the corn {de-tassling} to prevent pollination on behalf of the seed companies in their quest to develop and sell a pestilent and drought resistant kernel of seed corn. Charlie worked with is former crew from Rent-A-Center with local connections to this small community known as Beavers Crossing west of Lincoln.


But the farming gig that paid in cash only lasted a month and the three of them departed for another lead in Des Moines where they hired on to deliver the small portable refrigerators rented by students at Universities nationwide. They drove a Ford Van with a box trailer attached across the Midwest as far north as Minneapolis to Tennessee and seemingly all points in between including Bowling Green, Ohio locating storage facilities then the lockers stacked to the roof with dirty refrigerators that they would clean in the parking lot by attaching a pressure hose to the local water spigot and wiping each unit dry prior to stacking the trailer to capacity then making the run to the university with the most critical shortage of rental units within a days drive all during the first week of school.


They drove in shifts twenty four hours a day and late one night while negotiating a windy stretch of Wisconsin highway Charlie lost control of the trailer as it swayed heavily from right to left. Both of his companions awaked immediately but neither said word one. He checked his rear view mirror as the constant stream of Heavy Trucks and Freightliners behind him jammed on their emergency flashers and braked for the pending rollover crash ahead of them.


But it was not to be as he gradually slowed the rig without braking until the trailer corrected and remained true to the highway. Whispers of gratitude were simultaneously emitted from both of his friends followed by screams of relief and congratulations for how he and they just averted disaster and death. He accepted their affirmations, though knowing that his guardian angel leaned forward that early morning, and thanked his travel companions for their coolness under intense pressure especially after they being awakened from a rare moment of uninterrupted sleep their comfort zone always fleeting whether via the exiting of the highway or the eye shuddering brightness of  illuminated fuel stations in the black of night; the rumblings of giant trucks idling in perfectly parked rows or loaded to the max departing as the younger drivers grind their low gears while gaining speed from zero belching diesel exhaust on their way to another payday somewhere thousands of miles from here and this non descript truck stop with adjoining restaurant and massive three bay diesel garage out back.


One rainy Sunday Morning in Milwaukee and while enjoying a cup of hot coffee and a meal in a stationary position at an off the highway café the two couples next to them quietly left without paying their bill. First the men departed and drove the care to the front door where the women then vanished from their table and were last seen waving good bye to staff and customers alike as they sped away. The chef arrived from the kitchen converging at the now empty table, with the entirety of the wait staff and the waitress who was horrified at the knowing she was responsible to pay for their dine & dash scheme.


Charlie, Jim and Barry rallied the rest of the patrons to drop an extra buck or two into the plastic cup they passed around for their waitress who had to arise in darkness on this dreary rainy cold Wisconsin Sunday morning to be played by degenerates on their race to somewhere, anywhere but not here; their win streak in life culminating now at a half tank of siphoned gas and full stomachs. But Charlie, Jim and Barry weren’t through as when they paid their bill they each palmed her five, ten or twenty dollars She was embarrassed by the attention focused on her now but quietly appreciative that three total strangers would so quickly reverse the misfortune visited upon her by equally anonymous desperados.


Soon thereafter their services were no longer needed as all operable refrigerators were rented to students near and far and they drove back to Des Moines to off load the units in need of repair, collect their pay again in cash and depart after such an intense two weeks never to see one another again ever.


Charlie drifted back to St. Louis where he won a job with ADP and traveled to rural automotive, truck and farm implement dealerships through rural Missouri from Kirksville south to Springfield and east to Bowling Green Kentucky signing contracts for automated delivery systems including parts and new vehicle submissions. Charley loved to meet and bullshit with dealers and view their prize game bear and boar heads anchored on the walls above their velvet lined desks. He spent many hours hanging around dealerships waiting for the owner to appear and then often after a few minutes with Charlie their calendar was cleared and they spent hours talking the good life in Kennett, Missouri the alleged home port of call for one Sheryl Crow who now abandoning Los Angeles for greener pastures in Nashville or better yet Franklin. Choice Move!


Long after the summer sun faded Charlie could be spotted walking to his 79’ Silver Olds Cutlass 305 with dual exhaust and moon roof with a newly signed contract and check in hand in eager anticipation for the all night drive home from a family run Chevrolet dealership in Vienna, an International Harvester, Mack Truck, Diesel Garage in West Plaines, The Cadillac dealer in Poplar Bluff or the tumultuous Chevy dealer outside of Sikeston.


 Charlie loved his work and moved to a more central location in Cape Girardeau where when in town he was quickly accepted into the Tuesday night Poker Game with the likes of Tim Roth, Mark the Jeweler, Richard Harder, Jim Drury, Gary the Angry Dentist, Steve the concrete engineer recently arriving from Houston and an extra or two who cherished the opportunity for the last seat if one was available on any given night. They drank inverted margaritas at Foolish Pleasure, partied until the lights came on at the Mule Lip and traveled the rickety bridge from Missouri to Illinois to see Rare Earth take the stage at the Purple Crackle at two one Sunday morning. They attended different churches but would meet for brunch afterwards. 


They traded stories and sometimes women and had the time of their lives all while in their late twenties and early thirties. Charlie was eventually summoned back to St. Louis by his bosses at ADP and remained there in an equally hedonistic community lifestyle for several more years prior to his release from the only fortune five hundred company who would employ him and who curtailed its sales force one by one until even the Area Director was fired as the consolidation of the automotive industry was now complete and sales teams and handshakes were replaced by internal operators who would hold the hand of the client on the telephone while instructions were conveyed as to how to reboot the computer or load a floppy disk into the “A” drive.


Charlie reverted back to the brief life he enjoyed that one summer in Nebraska and Iowa and moved from one job to another with his pet cat Casper stretched out on her hind legs peering out the wind shield, curled up and sleeping next to him on the passenger sleep or on his lap or squeezing behind his head and the front of the head rest. His wardrobe and daily necessities packed in the car and trunk; the balance of his earthly belongings consisting primarily of his vinyl album collection and more clothes locked in a climate controlled storage facility somewhere in downtown Kansas City.


II. The Ghosts of Loneliness


Casper and he traveled far and wide primarily west and north through Portland, Seattle into British Columbia and Prince George and then onward to Alaska and where with no experience he endured the grueling estoppels of signing on to work on a fishing trawler. It was probably the most depressing time of his life when the Captain of a Ship spewing diesel fumes or drifting in silence in almost impenetrable darkness twenty four hours a day approached each crew member and said: “Open your mouth” When they complied he popped a marshmallow peep onto their tongue to remind them that today was Easter Sunday.


Charlie couldn’t believe that he had totally lost track of all time especially not knowing that today was Easter Sunday. He reflected on his early childhood how he cried when he couldn’t find his Easter Basket one year as it was hidden in the dishwasher. All the memories of his childhood came rushing back as to how Christmas and Easter and going to church and his first communion prayer book which he retained all these years and all the other life events around family, friends, church and school came grinding out of the woodwork during this time of acute loneliness and fatigue. His callous scar prone hands smelled of fish. He hated the smell of fish. He remained true to his commitment though of working hard and not complaining knowing that they were at least two weeks from a home port call and release from his current stop gap employment.


Despite an offer of a one and one half share of the next catch Charlie thanked the skipper gathered Casper from the boarding house appropriately named the cat house and headed south away from the rain, sleet, snow and on a stretch of British Columbia was cited by the Royal Mounted Canadian Police for speeding in excess of 200 mph which was considered stunt driving by law with a levy of $500cad and a night compliments of the local constable in the crowbar motel while awaiting  the arrival of the magistrate from a neighboring and equally rural logging town.


He was released around noon the next day and after refueling and a market stop Charlie and Casper once again set off for the United States via Seattle then Portland before finally settling this time in Los Angeles where he remained for almost five years in the northwest part of the San Fernando Valley in a home in an exclusive neighborhood. He rented the remaining four bedrooms to people he met through newspaper adds and although his drinking escalated so did his cash position working from home to assist in hospital and medical group physician staffing needs.


Christmas time would come and go and although he hosted Christmas Day Dinners for those like him who were estranged from families or living to far to travel home for Christmas it just wasn’t the same without a life partner he thought to himself. Each year Charlie promised himself that this would be his last year alone.


His drinking escalated and so did his problems earning him an eviction from the house he called home and a much needed reprieve from his life on the road without a home. He looked on the map and calculated that he had just enough money to make it to Phoenix and a new beginning. The movers were contracted the cats crated and off Charlie flew into the desert.


His phone skills were second to none and in no time he was sending physicians to this hospital or that clinic and some at St. Joseph’s Medical Center were so anxious to meet him in person that they scheduled lunch appointments to discuss their additional staffing needs while handing him checks of $20,000.00 to $45,000.00 for previous services rendered. 


He joined the Society for the Arts Singles Club in Phoenix and visited many art galleries, the Phoenix Zoo and other events coordinated around town but never met anyone other than his friend Ruth Ann Lefcourt who fled Florida for the Desert after Hurricane Andrew lifted the roof off her home and it rained on her furniture, art and other keepsakes for three days.


One night the security guard at his apartment complex stopped by to chat and Casper who was deaf walked out through the open door and fell into and drowned in the pool only a few yards away. He lost another Cat named Bourbon while residing at Sycamore Creek in Scottsdale. Bourbon was allegedly poisoned by someone in the complex.


Phoenix eventually gave way to Las Vegas where upon his arrival he crawled into an A.A. meeting dying from loneliness as much as acute alcohol poisoning. He sobered up in a Combat Veterans meeting and moved from a weekly rental to a nicer complex on the on the west side of town. One thing lead to another, and he moved from his apartment once again facing an eviction notice but his time while sober into a friends condo with Joy Holm who allowed him the use of her garage to reboot his business. He met a guy in A.A. named Lee who designed his first web site and he was once again off to the races in the field of medical referrals.


He left Joy and moved into his own rental house, then another nicer home at The Lakes. He continued to prosper but was no closer to his goal of canceling the long running series of sequels to: Is this really my loneliest Christmas ever again? 

Continues on page 2


Cowboy Junkies-Trinity Sessions-1988-2


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