I mentioned when I started posting “Beg Mercy,” my book about the Jack Hudson murders in Yuma, Arizona, on the night of July 4, 1995, that I had helped in a small way to prosecute as a Deputy Yuma County Attorney, that I would periodically take a break to write about other things and to just let my mind wander like it likes to do more than anything else in the whole wide world. That’s probably because I’ve had ADHD ever since the drugs they gave my mother when she was bringing me to birth back in January of 1957 got delivered to me in utero and I became just another “substance exposed newborn.” At first they thought that I was dead. I wasn’t dead. But I WAS trippin’, Man. I surely was “TRIPPIN’,” and that’s for damned sure!
Fast forward to the summer of 1977, and I was twenty years old, two thousand miles away from home, and moving farther and farther away still. If you recall, I told you that I had been hell bent on a selfish, hedonistic and, dare I say, “narcissistic,” life of doing my own thing aptly summed up in the phrase, “sex, drugs, and rock & roll.”
However, a few months prior I had made the mistake of praying, “God, please lead me to do Your Will.” I had at the time assumed that I was praying to myself because I believed then that I was God according to the New Age mysticism that I had absorbed from the spirits in the air of so much sex, drugs and rock & roll, and I was trying to actualize with that stray prayer all the things that I wanted more of in life, namely as much sex, drugs, and rock & roll as I could have whenever and wherever and however I wanted it.
By happenstance I took a job selling books door to door for the summer so that I could make enough money to buy a gun, a motorcycle, and then move to California, the holy land of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. But there was just one problem. I really sucked at selling books door to door!
I could deliver my sales pitch to perfection in practice at the sales school the company sent us through for a week in Nashville, Tennessee. And I was great at the sales meetings that they made all the sales staff attend every Sunday afternoon. But Monday through Saturday, six days a week, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., knocking on hundreds of doors every thirteen hour day, meeting all kinds of people, I sucked. I sucked because if the people who I was meeting everyday didn’t want to buy my over-priced and almost useless study guide for their children that was designed to replace the need for a bothersome trip to a public library or the purchase of an expensive set of home encyclopedias . . . well, I didn’t have it in me to try and push these nice people into buying my crap! But “push” you must if you want to make money at door to door sales.
So instead of making money, the twenty year old college drop out that once was me spent the first six weeks of that life-changing summer trudging mile after unsuccessful mile between house after house in neighborhood after neighborhood only to come back to my rented room at the end of that day physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted with nothing to show for my day’s exertions and with nothing to which I could look forward except to get up in a few hours from a dreamless sleep and try to do better again the next day! Somehow, I would make the very rare occasional sale here or there that enabled me to pay $25 dollars a week to a nice childless widow who rented rooms in the nice New England house that her late husband had built decades before when they were newlyweds with a few bucks left over to buy a meal here or there. Had we not been sent out in small sales packs with an experienced salesman leading us, I’d have quit that first fucking day, the first fucking hour, the first fucking minute as soon as I had tried to make my first fucking, unsuccessful sales pitch on a real live person. Please pardon all the expletives here, but THAT’s the way we all talked back then. “Fuck” was my go-to adjective for everything good or bad. Please just ignore it, if it bothers you, because I’m simply trying to convey how really fucking unpleasant my new job was.
But I couldn’t quit because I’d been successfully, albeit unknowingly, brainwashed in that week of sales school that the company had cleverly sent us to in Nashville into thinking that if I couldn’t do this one simple thing that thousands of successful men and women before me had done for the last hundred or so years ever since the company had first formed after the end of the American Civil War to provide employment to veterans of what the southerners called, “The War Between The States,” who all sold Bibles door to door back then, then I was going to end up a “LOSER” in my life, that’s “Loser” with a capital “L” forever branded on my forehead! This was my first great adventure in my young life, and I was losing it . . . in more ways than one.
What I’ll describe next can be readily explained I’m sure by various theories of psychology, but not to my satisfaction. Human psychology doesn’t adequately explain all the timely coincidences, nor the “spirit,” or should I say “Spirit,” of my “salvation” experience, at least not to me it doesn’t. I’ve bet my entire life and also my eternal soul, if there is such a thing, that what I’m going to describe herein is “True.” That’s “True” with a capital “T,” what good old Francis Schaeffer would call “True Truth.”
I had plenty of time to think by myself walking for thirteen hours a day, six days a week, for those first de-formative, reformative six weeks on the field of my sales territory with only the occasional interruption of a rare sales pitch completed and the even rarer successful sale made. And what I thought about mostly was my SELF. Everything from “How the hell am I gonna get out of THIS SHIT?” to “Why am I here (in existence, that is, NOT in Connecticut)?” and “What is the meaning of this seemingly tragic farce called ‘Life?’”
I had avoided military service and so had never experienced a “boot camp,” where the design is to break a man or woman down so that he or she can be rebuilt to military specifications, but I suppose that’s what was happening to me in answer to that simple prayer that I was still praying with more and more fervor every day as my desperation intensified. It was more an existential cry out into what Albert Camus once termed “the benign indifference of the universe.”
But don’t get me wrong. Looking at me from the outside, one would see a seemingly physically and mentally fit young man, a bit stressed at times, but usually with his characteristic good cheer and sense of humor. But inside my heart, mind, and soul was anguish. I felt that I couldn’t go back home even though I knew that I’d be welcomed back by my family and friends. And I couldn’t go forward because I wasn’t making enough money to complete what had been my stupid but simple plans for my immediate future. I could just quit and do whatever I found where I was at, but what would that prove? What would that say about the man I had thought that I was? So I just kept on keeping on, like Bob Dylan would say, with what I was doing, which was more than anything else thinking and taking inventory of my brief past life and what I thought the future could hold . . . if only I could have my prayer answered by “God,” whomever or whatever the hell He/She/It was IF He/She/It wasn’t just ME!
“Father, PLEASE LEAD ME to Your Will!” – a scribbled prayer all through my spiral ring sales notebook that I still have.
When my prayer was most intense . . . when I didn’t care what happened next so long as that prayer got answered . . . then IT happened.
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