Sunday, April 13, 2014

Alien in the Delta - Book for Young Adults

(excerpt from Alien in the Delta)
I will never forget the word “Commodities.” My father would go to the county’s food-distribution site to pick up our family’s share of government commodities. That’s what it was called when I was in elementary school. It was not called food stamps. You could not hide your poverty back then, and it was out there for everyone to see. You had to stand in line to claim your portions of food. Sometimes, the line was so long that it would curve around the corner of the block. It was a reminder that you could not even feed your loved ones without the help of the government. It was embarrassing and humiliating for most people to stand in that line. The only consolation was that almost every family in town was in the same line as your family member. Even though most families received assistance, the children would make jokes and tease each other about eating commodity cheese. Once each month, my father went to pick up various items: sugar, powered milk, flour, butter, canned meat, and yes, commodity cheese. Almost every family in Arkansas received some assistance from the government in the 1950's.






My parents also received Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) money for my care. In order to receive aid, you had to live below the poverty line. During the time that I was on welfare, a social worker would visit our house every six months. The worker would spend time questioning my parents about how they had spent the money on me. The social worker would speak to me alone, away from my parents. She had a long list of questions that she asked me. The questions were mostly about how the ADC was spent on food, clothing, and shelter. I always resented being put in a position to report on my parents. The ADC checks stopped when I turned sixteen years old.








Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Race Relations - Alien in the Delta


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            In the sixth week of basic training, two of us were sent over to the headquarters building. The captain wanted to let us know that we had been selected for overseas duty. This was great news. I had applied for France, and I was so excited. The captain called me in and said.
“I   have your orders to go overseas.”
            “France?” I asked.
            “No, you are going to Germany.” The captain said.

The military would try to accommodate your request, but their requirements came first.  A little disappointed that I wasn't going to France, I still looked forward to going to Europe.
             With basic training done, six young men from Detroit headed back home on the train. Someplace in Texas, the train stopped so that we could stretch our legs and get a snack. The six of us got off the train and went into the restaurant to get something to eat. We were all dressed in our nice, new blue uniforms, proudly representing the United States Air Force. I walked into the restaurant with all my buddies, and before we could sit down, the waiter looked at me and the other black serviceman and said.

            “We can’t serve you in here. You have to go out back to order and pick up your food.”

             Born and raised in the South, I had experienced discrimination before, but this time it hurt me deeply because I was dressed in my US Air Force uniform and was prepared to die for our country, and yet my fellow countryman still would not serve us.

This was the United States in 1962. No one should ever have to experience that kind of treatment! The both us just got back on the train without eating and sat in silence. We began basic training as six buddies from Detroit and returned as four white serviceman and two black servicemen.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Brothel or Guesthouse - Alien in the Delta


My German friends took me to this village called Roden, close to the city of Saarlouis. We would often go to a guesthouse named after the owner, Agnes. At first appearance it looked like any other guesthouse that we were used to visiting, except the young women waiting the tables were in their late twenties and early thirties. They were older than the other young women that worked in other guesthouses.
Normally, guesthouse seating had tables with four chairs and nothing else. Agnes’s guesthouse also had that type of seating in the daytime. The place was rearranged differently at night and especially on weekends. Two sliding walls were opened up to reveal what looked like living rooms. They had nice, soft couches and chairs with low tables in front. Candlelit lamps sat on end tables, and beautiful maroon drapes hung in front of the windows.

We went to Agnes’s place during the day most of the time, when beer cost less. At night the beer and other drinks would double in price.
Agnes, the owner, looked to be in her middle fifties, was about five feet six inches tall with dark, short hair, and was a little on the heavy side but not fat. When she spoke with you, her voice sounded confident and clear; even though she displayed a motherly type personality toward everyone, you knew that she was the boss.
Her husband Nickolaus was a small man about the same height as Agnes, and his hair was beginning to turn a little gray on the sides, which made him look older than his wife.
            Their daughter, young Agnes, was five feet seven inches tall and in her late twenties. Her skin looked as if it was naturally tan all the time. She had a beautiful face with shoulder-length black hair, which complemented her slender figure. You would never guess that she had two children. Her husband Josef was a handsome man who looked about thirty. He was six feet tall with brown hair and a muscular build. He was very friendly and very jealous. When we went to Agnes’s guesthouse, I would speak German with her, and she would help me by correcting my German. Everyone working in the guesthouse helped me. They treated me like a family member.

           Their home was in the same building as the guesthouse, with a kitchen on the first floor and their bedrooms on the second floor. I was invited to their home one Sunday morning to have breakfast with the whole family. I noticed that the young women who were waitresses also lived with Agnes. They joined us for breakfast. As we sat and had breakfast, Agnes asked me if I could bring them some liquor from the base. Nickolaus said that they would pay me ten times more than it cost me to purchase on base. I happily agreed to their terms.
             I brought them liquor every time we visited their guesthouse. Liquor was rationed to servicemen monthly. My allocation was four bottles per month. This turned out to be quite a little profit-making enterprise for me.

           On Friday nights, Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoons, the guesthouse was always packed. The living room sections would be opened up to provide additional space for the mostly male customers. The waitresses would remain in the living room with their customers. The men bought expensive bottles of champagne, wine, and shots of liquor for the tables in the rooms. About every hour a male customer would leave the living room with his waitress and go upstairs. She would give him a tour of the bedrooms, and she wasn’t even a real-estate agent.

            Agnes and family were the owners of a guesthouse that turned into a brothel at night and on weekends. At the same time, the young women waitresses would turn into prostitutes. You could make arrangements to have sex with them for a price. Prostitution was a legal business activity in Germany.

        On Saturday and Sunday, it was very difficult to find a parking spot close to Agnes. Their backyard was used for VIP parking. The yard would be filled with expensive German vehicles. Several waitresses would be sitting in the living rooms next to their customers. Young Agnes would also be sitting with the executives. Her section was filled with the wealthiest executives; they bought the most expensive drinks.
            On Sundays when we visited the guesthouse, young Agnes would ask me to take Josef (her husband) away for a while to Luxembourg because he was extremely jealous. He could not watch his wife sitting on the coach drinking with other men without saying something to the men. So Agnes paid me in US dollars many times to take him anyplace for several hours.

         I almost never had to buy drinks in Agnes’s place, because usually the young waitresses and the owners would just bring drinks and leave them on my table. Drinks that had been purchased by the customer seated in their section
       About every six months a new group of young women would come from other parts of Europe to work at Agnes’s place. Each one of them had a unique appearance or distinctive personality. While in Germany, I never though very much about Agnes’s guesthouse being a brothel. Now when I reflect back on the situation, it was an incredible experience I had as a nineteen year old, selling liquor to the owners of a whorehouse.
          Are you wondering if I was ever paid in trade? I will never tell.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

WRITE ABOUT YOUR LIFE


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A short story from Alien in the Delta

An experience that stands out in my mind happened in a German restaurant. We were young men from the United States, living in Europe without a lot of exposure. Our knowledge of culture limited because we had not seen or done many things before coming to Germany.

Bobby and I went to a German restaurant to eat dinner. We had gone there once before, and this time we brought our friend, Shorty with us. The hostess seated us and gave us the menus. While Shorty looked over the menu, Bobby and I had already decided what we wanted to order, so we placed our menus on the table. Noticing this, Shorty said that he would have whatever we were ordering.


This restaurant was very upscale. Each table had a white tablecloth on it with a beautiful flower arrangement in the center. The settings consisted of plates, silverware, glasses, and white cloth napkins. When the waitress came to take our order, we all ordered the chicken dinner, just as before when Bobby and I had eaten there. Each dinner included a large piece of chicken, baked potato, salad, bread roll, and dessert. Except for the dessert, all the dinner items were serve to us at the same time. When we finished eating our dinner, our plates were remove.

The waitress returned to our table carrying several small plates and bowls half filled with water with a lemon slice floating on top. She placed the small plates in front of us and set a bowl on each small plate. I asked Bobby if he wanted my lemon soup. He had enjoyed it so much the last time we were at the restaurant.


Shorty began to laugh and said, "Let me get this straight. Are you telling me that Bobby ate the contents of that bowl the last time you were here?" I told Shorty that not only did he eat his soup, he also ate my serving. I described how Bobby took his bread and tore it into little pieces and placed them in the soup and used a spoon to finish eating his soup.

At that point Shorty had started to convulse from laughing. We laughed along with Shorty, not knowing why he was laughing. When Shorty regained his composure, he told us that we were really ignorant country people. He explained that the bowls were call finger bowls because they were use to dip your fingers into after eating chicken to remove the grease. Then the bowls would be removed, and our waitress would bring us dessert and place it on the small plates.

Well, we did not know anything about finger bowls in Arkansas and Mississippi, where Bobby and I came from. We continued laughing after finding out that Bobby had eaten finger bowl water, thinking it was soup. That was the last time we ate there. We were too embarrassed to return to that restaurant ever again.

                     
                                

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Child - Free Thursday and Friday



The Alien (inner child) never leaves us regardless how old we become. Some of us learn to live with the inner child. Others want to forget the memories of the inner child. When I started to think about writing a book about my life I wanted to remember my childhood years as far back as possible. It was such a challenge because you do not know what you will encounter as to try to remember. I actually spent several years recalling my early childhood. You could say I got stuck in the pass. When I finished my childhood years I had two chapters finished.

My inner child takes you on a journey that highlights the life experiences of a boy from the age of six through manhood. He grew up on the Mississippi River in the Arkansas Delta, but felt out-of-place in that environment. In his home town prejudice and inequality were practice openly. His escape from the Delta was not realized until he went abroad. He takes you on his adventures in the rural south and throughout Europe. He shares with you a variety of emotions including fear, sadness, happiness, and amusement. Alien in the Delta is a memoir about overcoming adversity.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Alien in the Delta - Kindle Edition $4.99 Paperback $14.99

Click to Look Inside

Grandfather shot the man as he opened the gate to the front yard. The man died on the spot. After killing the man, my grandfather went into hiding for seven years. This event was the legacy left to my father by his father. Would what happened thirty years before my birth have an impact on my life?

Alien in the Delta takes you on a journey that highlights the life experiences of a boy from the age of six through manhood. He grew up on the Mississippi River in the Arkansas Delta, but felt out-of-place in that environment. In his home town prejudice and inequality were practice openly. His escape from the Delta was not realized until he went abroad. He takes you on his adventures in the rural south and throughout Europe. He shares with you a variety of emotions including fear, sadness, happiness, and amusement. Alien in the Delta is a memoir about overcoming adversity.
                                            
An experience that stands out in my mind happened in a German restaurant. We were young men from the United States, living in Europe without a lot of exposure. Our knowledge of culture limited because we had not seen or done many things before coming to Germany.

Bobby and I went to a German restaurant to eat dinner. We had gone there once before, and this time we brought our friend, Shorty with us. The hostess seated us and gave us the menus. While Shorty looked over the menu, Bobby and I had already decided what we wanted to order, so we placed our menus on the table. Noticing this, Shorty said that he would have whatever we were ordering.

This restaurant was very upscale. Each table had a white tablecloth on it with a beautiful flower arrangement in the center. The settings consisted of plates, silverware, glasses, and white cloth napkins. When the waitress came to take our order, we all ordered the chicken dinner, just as before when Bobby and I had eaten there. Each dinner included a large piece of chicken, baked potato, salad, bread roll, and dessert. Except for the dessert, all the dinner items were serve to us at the same time. When we finished eating our dinner, our plates were removed.

The waitress returned to our table carrying several small plates and bowls half filled with water with a lemon slice floating on top. She placed the small plates in front of us and set a bowl on each small plate. I asked Bobby if he wanted my lemon soup. He had enjoyed it so much the last time we were at the restaurant.

Shorty began to laugh and said, "Let me get this straight. Are you telling me that Bobby ate the contents of that bowl the last time you were here?" I told Shorty that not only did he eat his soup, he also ate my serving. I described how Bobby took his bread and tore it into little pieces and placed them in the soup and used a spoon to finish eating his soup.

At that point Shorty had started to convulse from laughing. We laughed along with Shorty, not knowing why he was laughing. When Shorty regained his composure, he told us that we were really ignorant country people. He explained that the bowls were call finger bowls because they were use to dip your fingers into after eating chicken to remove the grease. Then the bowls would be removed, and our waitress would bring us dessert and place it on the small plates.

Well, we did not know anything about finger bowls in Arkansas and Mississippi, where Bobby and I came from. We continued laughing after finding out that Bobby had eaten finger bowl water, thinking it was soup. That was the last time we ate there. We were too embarrassed to return to that restaurant again.

 

 

 

 

 



Monday, February 3, 2014

Alien in the Delta: A Memoir


(excerpt from Alien in the Delta)

Grandfather shot the man as he opened the gate to the front yard. The man died on the spot. After killing the man, my grandfather went into hiding for seven years. This event was the legacy left to my father by his father. Would what happened thirty years before my birth have an impact on my life?

John Strother my grandfather, “Papa,” was born in 1876. Papa had what he described as horrible nightmares. My very favorite story was about what caused his nightmares. When Papa was a young man, he killed a man and before being captured went on the run for seven years. The dead man would come for Papa nightly. He must have relived that shooting hundreds of times in his dreams. Grandma would have to awaken him to stop his screaming.
Papa went to prison for two years and seven months, and he served most of that time as a prisoner who was in charge of guarding fellow prisoners. Papa would not only tell this story, he would stand up and show everyone exactly how it happened.

This is what I remember about the story. Papa was inside his house when this man came to the front gate and called him to come outside. Papa must have expected trouble because he went to his front porch with a Colt .45 in his hand, and he asked the man to leave and not to come on his property. But the man would not leave. In fact, he told Papa that he was going to come inside the yard and kick his ass. Papa warned him that if he opened that gate, he would shoot him. The man ignored Papa and opened the gate, and Papa proceeded to empty his gun into him.

Papa would then stand up and pretend he had a gun in his hand to show how he shot the man. That’s when my grandma would say.

“John, why are you telling that child  about that man you killed?”

My grandmother had lost her hearing, so she did not know what papa was talking about until he stood up and pretended he had a gun in his hand. Papa never told us who the man was or why he was threatening our family.

Papa was not convicted of murder, but he went to prison for leaving the scene. That’s why his prison stay was so short.  After he served his time, he was offered a permanent job as a prison guard,  but he returned home to his family.