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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Orange Moon



First time I fell under the spell of an orange moon was when I took this girl Harkey for a motorcycle ride one night and we fell in love with each other standing next to my bike on the side of the highway. I'd known her for less than an hour and we were together for two years from that night on. That was a big one as far as orange moons go. There's another couple of orange moons that've rocked me pretty good too but the one that turned in to the song will require a little back story to give you the context and gravity of it.

Robbie shot cars in a paint booth at Hwy 106 motors. He was always trading on something, an intake manafold off a Trans-Am 400 small block motor for the interior door panels and the custom chrome pieces off a '51 Chevrolet stepside pickup or some such barter. He had Bulldogs on chains and half a dozen cars on blocks in the yard and was always ready to get worked up and fly off the handle about something. I was messin' with an old Chevelle I had and Robbie knew where to get Camel Hump heads and SS parts to convert my Malibu into an SS Chevelle. It wouldn't really be an SS car but i'd have a bad ass little Chevelle none the less when I was through with it.

Robbie came by to see me with some urgent news. He'd heard that Leon had a fresh 327 small block motor that he was trying to unload real quick, said we needed to get over there and get it from him before somebody else did. So i piled in with Robbie into an old Mustang he was working on. It had a motor with a little cam in it, a 4 speed hurst and no back seat or rear window glass. That little pony screwed pretty good though. It'd pull the right front wheel off the pavement.

Anyways, we get over to Leon's and get out of the car and it's kinda quiet. He's not out at his shop, he had a little booth and painted cars too, so we walk over to the house and knock on the door, No answer. Robbie peeps the door and hollers. Still no answer. We walk on inside and hear some noise down the hall. We walk down the hall and the air was strong with the odor of paint thinner. We get to the bath room and Robbie opens the door.

There's Leon shut in his bathroom with three sheets soaked in laquer thinner hanging from the shower curtain rod and draped all over the place like a damned tent, just sitting there on the toilet breathing laquer thinner with this wild eyed look on his face. Robbie's like "you crazy son-of-a- bitch get your goddamned ass out of there!... I told you I was coming over, now quit fuckin' around and show us that goddamned motor you in such a fuckin' hurry to sell".

Leon pulls it together a little and comes outside after a minute and shows us the motor. There's a pecan tree right outside the shop, so we're stasnding there cracking pecans and talkin' trade. That's a thing, to stand around and crack pecans and talk about some serious shit. Robbie comes at him pretty hard 'cause he knows Leon doesn't have his shit together and Leon gets all flustered and we end up leaving out of there with the motor for a paultry 375 dollars. The motor was worth every bit of $3k. I ended up selling it later for 25 hundred bucks and building the 350 in my Chevelle instead.

I had a little extra cash left over since I'd gotten the motor like that. I gave Robbie a hundred bucks for making it happen and went home to see Harkey when we were through. I was in a good mood and had a plan.

When I wasn't busy fuckin' around with motorcycles and old cars I was playing guitar and singin' with my band. I had a three piece outfit and was getting around from Chattanooga down to Charleston and out as far as Little Rock, playing thursday friday and saturday nights. So i'd gotten to know a bunch of fraternity boys 'cause that's who payed the best money for loud guitar playing. When ever I didn't have something booked out of town I'd work the local collage scene a little.

These guys liked me pretty good 'cause I'd pitch a rock&roll fit for'em then I'd hang out and throw dice and carry on till the sun came up. I'd started dropping by on occasion when I was in town just to hang out even when I wasn't booked to play their place.

So I get back to the house and Harkey's out in the garden watering her plants, barefoot, wearing a mischievous smile and a pair of cut off overalls without a shirt or bra. She sees me coming and when I get about ten feet away from her she turns the hose on me and soaks me. We wrestle around and I get the hose and return the favor. It's the end of a hot day in the middle of September and the cool water feels good.

Harkey's after me pretty bad and wants me right then and there. I'd just read Miles Davis's autobiography and understood why he didn't have sex right before he played the same way boxers don't fuck before they fight. I wasn't playing that night, but like I said I had a plan. So we go inside and dry off and take a nap with the sound of her 20 gallon fish tank and some R&B lulling us. I can't remember exactly what was playing but I'd been listening to Roberta Flack, STP, and Lynyrd Skynyrd "Street Surviors".

We wake up after dark and I say "hey baby put on some cloths and let's go out". I loved to watch Harkey get dressed. She was impish and casual as a sigh about it. She washed at the sink in the bathroom with the door ajar. I could see her raise her arm and bring the soapy wash cloth to her arm pit. She turned her back to the door put a foot up on the side of the tub and bent over to wash her feet. She stood naked and brushed her long gold hair in front of the mirror and looked back over her shoulder through the crack in the door with playful disdain and then a smile. I took a phone call and Harkey came into the bedroom and lazily put on lotion while I talked on the phone. She knew I liked to watch her but would never let on that any of it was for my benefit. And she was fast about it, all of this didn't take more than a half hour. It was incredible theater.

I put on my black leathers even though they were still a little wet from the water hose fight. Splashed some 4711 on my face and upper body. I like the way your skin feels after swimming in a lake or bathing with a hose, the way your hair is soft and a little greasy. I sat down on a bench at the foot of the bed and put on my boots and laced them up while Harkey slipped into a dark denim jump suit cut low in the front, real '70s like. I put on a fresh t-shirt, she put on some eyeliner and her boots we grabbed our jackets and helmets and split.

It was about a 20 minute ride into town. It cooled off at night and felt perfect to ride in a t-shirt and leather jacket. I could feel the cold air and the warmth of leather on my skin. There was a big moon sitting low in the sky and on the rise. We ride up and park the bike in back of the frat house. We're greeted by Charlie and his girl friend Liegh. Harkey and I had become friends with them. They were cool. Charlie was smart and Leigh was gorgeous and brilliant. They liked us better than they liked their real friends. We walk around to the front of the house and go inside. The house has a grand spiral stair case and 20 foot ceilings in the foyer, there's a study and a den on either side and a sun room porch in the back past the living room.

Charlie and I go to the bar in the study and mix drinks while the girls sit in the den. Leigh put on some MC5 and we could hear them laughing and talking across the foyer. Charlie's a pretty good hustler and tells me about some new stuff he's in to. He's been working as an assistant to a designer in Atlanta who's just launched a new line of women's accessories in Neiman Marcus. The guy he's working for is sharp as he can be and friends with everybody in Atlanta. I ended up playing the Coca-Cola Christmas party and the Woodruff's private Christmas party that year because of the conversation Charlie and I had while we were mixing those drinks.

We take drinks in to the den and join Harkey and Leigh who are glad to see us and make a formidable pair of women. Leigh is in Law school and in the middle of her internship with a prestigious firm in Atlanta and Harkey is one of the most charming and most desired women any of us know. Harkey has celebrities and rock stars calling after her regularly.

We're all sitting together in a small seating arrangement, on a love sofa and two upholstered victorian chairs. We talk casually for a while then the conversation turns to more serious matters. Charlie turns up the stereo a little for confidentiality and gives me the low down on Palmer and Tumpy, two of his fraternity brothers whom I'd beaten pretty badly throwing craps the last time I'd played there two months ago for their big 4th Of July party. Leigh has some insight on Tumpy, she knows his girl friend Rene. And Harkey had talked with Palmer last time we were there while I was playing. She said Palmer was keen on her and would relish any conflict between her and me. I had called Charlie on the way home from Leon's earlier and explained the situation, he said it would be a good night 'cause Tumpy and Palmer were going out to see a band and would surely come home lit and even more arrogant than usual.

Leigh gets up to put on some new music. She was wearing long loose legged slacks and a blouse. She walks across the floor and stops half way and kind of stretches her knee then continues. She's squatted down by the stereo searching for a selection and says "hey what do you guys want to hear", "Oh I got it, you're gonna love this Boo". She puts on Shuggie Otis. I'd heard that single before but i'd never heard the whole record. I still love her for playing that record. We sit in that room like there might not be any place else in the world. Just basking in each others company and laughing at the beauty of it.

We listen to the whole record. When it's done I get up to fix a drink for Harkey. She's gone the bathroom and Charlie and Leigh are sitting on the sofa talking. "Hey kids what's shakin!". in walks Palmer good and tight like Charlie said he'd be. He plops down in a chair and says "Boo Ray, mutha fucka fix me a drink". "Hey Palmer, what's your poison". I pour him a stiff goddamned gin and tonic. I walk over hand Palmer his drink and sit down. Just as I'm about to engage with him I hear behind me "Can I have my fuckin' drink please Your Booness!" It's Harkey right on time. Palmer looks at me laughs and says "you need to learn how to take care of that girl". I scramble to appease the character Harkey's playing so she can dig in a little deeper. "Oh sorry baby Palmer just showed up". She's like "If you had your shit together you'd be dangerous". "Daaamn!" says Palmer. Charlie asks him where Tumpy is. "Tumpy got in to it with Rene".

Now if Tumpy doesn't show up game's off 'cause It just wouldn't hardly work to have me Charlie and Harkey tryin' to beat up on one guy. The action'd be all fucked up and obvious. Charlie had told Tumpy that I beat him playing poker dice and he wanted to get it back from me. I guess Tumpy had told Palmer 'cause Palmer says "forget Tumpy let's play poker dice".

They had a card table in the den so we pulled it out of the corner and set up. Poker dice is cool but you can't get a big swing like you can in craps, it.'s too slow. Anyways, we play poker dice for a little while, Harkey, Charlie, Palmer and me. Place your bet, throw 5 dice down on the table under a cup, call your hand and pass it to the left. Thankfully Tumpy shows up a half hour later. He's pissed and pissed. Charlie had got over a little on Palmer playing poker dice and been talking a lot of trash and got him worked up pretty good. Tumpy surveys the scene and says "let's roll bones you pussies".

It's on. Tumpy wants to play Acie Ducie and Palmer ain't no pussie so he's in too. We get started and I recklessly bet on the low rolls daring Palmer to throw some real money down. I had about 25 hundred in my pocket and Charlie told me Palmer had like 8 or 9 thousand on him 'cause he was fixin' to by a bunch of herb. Palmer takes the bait after I loose the first round and bets big. I wasn't trying to win it right then and there I was just trying to get him a little reckless and get in his pocket after a while. I mean there's just no way i could've won these bets i was making. I was gonna burn 4 or 5 hundred and then crush both of them once they got reckless.
Right on time again, Harkey responds to the rediculous bets I'm making "What are you a fuckin' idiot!" Palmer throws a stack of hundreds down and tells Tumpy to do the same thing. There's like 38 hundred out there and I hit ace duce.

So Palmer's on tilt and Tumpy's following suit. Rene shows up and starts fussin' with Tumpy. After a minute Charlie say's "hey man are you gonna fight with'at girl or throw dice". Palmer agrees, "yeah man I gotta get back in this damned thing". They wanna play 7/11 now. We play a couple rounds not much action and then I get Palmer betting against my 11. He throws a thousand at one roll and it pushes. He throws two thousand at the next one and it pushes and then he throws three thousand at my last roll and I hit it. Tumpy was in for about half what Palmer was so there..s more than 15 thousand down including my money.

Harkey had hung in there and split about 5k with Charlie. I walked away a little more than 10k up. I gave Leigh a thousand bucks for playing that Shuggie Otis record and Charlie was happy as a clam with his take. There was a little drama getting out of there but Harkey picked another fight with me and scared everybody and then Mose the fraternity cook came out to see what all the commotion was. He assessed the situation and said "Palmer you lost now and if you don't stop it I'm gonna call your Daddy". I was friends with Mose. I knew him from church. So that was it.

Leigh and Charlie and Harkey and I walked down the stairs and out the back door and stood there for a minute in the parking lot. The moon was so orange and so big it made me feel kinda sick. We could hear the stereo playing Tyrone Davis' "Loosing You" and Harkey twisted her arm around mine and whispered to me "Baby that was incredible" and i said "it ain't no thing just a damned old orange moon you and me and a sorrowful old tune".

I built the Chevelle, and lost Harkey. One day I dropped that car off to Robbie to tie up a last couple of details. It was almost finished, he was just installing newly upholstered diamond tuck door panels and then it was all done. We'd built the 350 motor and painted the car black. When I picked it up Robbie had finished the interior and painted across the boot lid in silver pinstripe letters "bad news travels fast".

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