Harking back to the late ’70s and early ’80s, this micro-journalist lived communalistically—wait, does such an adverb even exist? If not, it should—whilst enrolled at the local university and working as a mild-mannered, rock-‘n’-roll disc jockey at one of the finer FM radio stations in the Mid-South.
Eight utterly eccentric and colorful individuals lived gregariously in joyous peace and harmony under one big roof, covering a large, split-level house we rented on a short cul-de-sac, located on the long way out of a small, rural city in East Tennessee; yet a significant amount of hell was certainly raised there.
Most of the residents were students at State U, barely two miles (3.2 kilometers) away. The alpha-dude, who put the diminutive commune together originally, looked like Charles Manson; however, the former was not like the latter at all, but rather a very low-key (most of the time when he was sober), intellectual sort who enjoyed exercising his vast knowledge and extensive vocabulary with whomever gave him their ear.
One fellow who lived with us while he studied to be a nurse was horribly saddled with severe post-traumatic-stress syndrome, in my opinion, from having served as a medic in the US Army’s First Calvary Division during the Vietnam War. Alcohol was his drug of choice, with which the seemingly tormented housemate was never without a beer in hand or at least close by.
The young women with whom we shared this fun house were all gorgeous angels in their own right, being able to put up with our crazy shenanigans and join happily right into the good-natured hooliganism and the outrageous festivities that accompanied any gathering around the massive card table in the outer dining room, or downstairs by the roaring fireplace in the family room.
With lots of rambunctious revelers on the premises, partying non-stop many times all day and night, the massive accumulation of plastic refuse bags became the worst part of the entire bargain, forming a ceiling-high mound of polyethylene sacks in the attached garage.
The remedial task of removal was especially burdensome if the one whose responsibility was to cart the debris out to the curb on garbage day forgot his duty. The dreadfully sorry knave or woeful wench was coerced to get rid of all the trash by him or herself. Thank goodness we recycled the aluminum beer cans, otherwise the chore would have been uncontrollably monumental.
The ladies were usually able to get around this annoying chastisement, as they rarely forgot; but we hardcore derelicts had too many occasional instances of selective amnesia and readily learned where the nearest landfill sat, which really wasn’t too harrowing of an ordeal for me when I was the culprit: just a backup to the open garage door, pile the sacks into the huge trunk of old Gilbert—my 1965, drab-olive-green, 4-door Dodge Coronet with a big boot and backseat—and I’d be on my merry way for a quick drop-off at the dump, which was a bit further out of town than we were.
After an hellacious, celebratory bender, having lasted for several days straight at the end of State’s spring semester, both garage bays overflowed with Hefty Bags, half of which contained beer cans to be squashed and recycled. The rest was general waste to be hauled away.
Naturally, I had forgotten to place our tremendous assemblage of wanton, Epicurean effluvium at the front curb, containing mass quantities of all kinds of sediment from the biggest event on the household’s Bacchanalian calendar. Never had I ever seen such a mess as was present on that illustrious Thursday morning, after the garbage truck had passed by.
I was cussing about how I was required to make two trips to the dump, considering Gilbert was filled to the gills with discarded junk; and another trunkful was left by the wayside.
“What’s all the hubbub about, Mike?” my good friend Curt said as he exited the house into the garage, having spent the night in the comfortably furnished sleeping space beneath the front vestibule and the stairs to the basement, reserved for visitors and occasional strays.
He surveyed the situation while listening to my little tirade. “I’d offer to go to the landfill with you, and the rest of these bags in my car; but I have an important appointment downtown. I’ll load them in my trunk and dump it later,” he added. “I know of a great place to get rid of the trash.”
“Cool, if you don’t mind; I would appreciate it,” I said and moved Gilbert out of the way, so my benevolent chum could back his auto up close and load the rubbish. “Thanks, Curt, I owe you one.”
While on my 6PM-to-midnight shift at the radio station on the following Friday, I received a disturbing telephone call from one of my roommates, Katherine (Kat for short), who said the constable had just been there looking for me, as he had a subpoena for my appearance before Judge Roy Bean (not his real name but should have been) in two weeks. “What the hell for?” I inquired.
“He said for littering.”
“Littering, how can that be? I brought our garbage to the dump yesterday. I can’t think of anything else it might be for.”
“He left me the paperwork after I said I would give it to you. Let me open and read it.”
“I can’t believe this is happening. What does it say?”
“Apparently a bag or bags of our rubbish were dumped in Tommy’s dumpster at the general store toward town. A bag fell from the overfilled can onto the ground and broke open,” Kat explained. “They found a cancelled check with your name and address on it.”
“Holy Alice’s Restaurant,” I bellowed. “Wait a minute, I’ve got to make a commercial break and put on another record,” returning after taking care of business and launching a long cut. I think it was “Voodoo Chile” by Jimi Hendrix; albeit, Arlo Guthrie’s long-winded, epic composition was instantly considered for airplay; but the musical nugget was reserved for only on Thanksgiving. “I bet that was the so-called ‘great place’ where Curt dumped the last bit of our garbage.” I said. “And now I’ve got to take the rap for it. This will be the one I said I owed him.”
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