Went to Vada's house Sunday to see the race on tv. I had not seen her in four weeks, maybe five. They returned day before yesterday from a week at Myrtle Beach, Vada looking like the Coppertone girl. Crystal said Vada spoke to everybody on the beach. Crystal's attention drifted and she found Vada talking with some people nearby, eating a cookie they'd given her. Everyone told Crystal Vada was the cutest thing there ever was. I said, "She is. They recognized it." Vada is a spirited child; life energy beams from her laughing or crying and every emotion in between. She cried several times today, not getting her way. She's pushing the envelope, stepping over boundaries, asserting herself. I picked up Baby Doll and said I wanted to play with Baby Doll. Vada snatched Baby Doll away and said, No! Another time I said I wanted to play with Baby Doll. No! A little later, I told her again I wanted to play with Baby Doll. OK. Dadu and I bent over in our chairs cracking up. This child has a natural-born charm. When she misbehaves and is spoken to about it, she can charm you into getting over it. I don't mean to imply other babies are not so cute. This is the baby I know in this time of my life. I walked in the front door upon arrival. Vada was standing beside the coffee table, looked at me in puzzlement, staring like she didn't quite know what to do. At the moment I didn't get it, but see it now that my hair has grown out and my chin has a goat beard since she saw me last. She's only known me with short hair looking like a retired cop. She stared like she was stuck in place. Dadu said, Aren't you going to say Hi to TJ? Vada ran to me, I picked her up and we hugged. I told her I love her. She held the hug for a long time, relaxed into it and I held her until she wanted down. It was an endearing moment, one of many with my real live baby doll.
vada examines baby doll's toes
Jeff Gordon won the race straight up and smoked a few thousand dollars of Goodyear tire rubber spinning black circles on the track. He made a lot of noise arousing the crowd to ecstatic cheers as loud as his roaring pipes. We watched golf awhile. Justin is a golfer. He is studying while he watches the pros hit the ball. I'd brought Melvin with me. He lives nearby in Whitehead, his truck isn't working well at the moment, inside a week he'll have a replacement. I went by and picked him up on the way to see the race. Vada loves Melvin like she loves me. I said to her when I put her down, Melvin's here. She ran to him, he picked her up and held her for a long time. He is round and roly-poly. He's a big teddy bear that hugs her in turn. Melvin's wife, Ellen, works at a daycare place. Melvin said when he picks her up after work, he goes early, sits on the floor and plays with the kids. The kids love him. Melvin is free enough inside himself to adore kids and they adore him back. I saw his other daughter, Hailey, 13, same age as Beth, before we left the house. She was wearing a tshirt that said, LIVE YOUR LIFE. I thought: the gospel in a fortune cookie. Later, when I took Melvin home, his girl, Beth, came running out the door as soon as he stepped out of the car. She jumped on him, gave him a big hug. She'd been away with a Girl Scout adventure for a week at the coast and returned while he was gone. She's a charming girl with fire red hair. He calls her Pumpkin. Melvin is somebody who becomes more interesting for me the more I know him. I've seen along the way there are people who seem interesting at first, but as you know them they diminish down to nothing. Others, who sometimes don't give any appearance that something is going on inside besides tv, turn out to be more and more interesting as time goes by. Every time I'm around Melvin I learn something new about him that blows my mind. He comes on like somebody who is neither here nor there, doesn't seek attention, comfortable in the back seat.
vada's little mermaid sunglasses from the beach
Justin, Melvin and I go to the basement to smoke cigarettes, or outside on the porch, to keep the house free of cigarette smell. Crystal would prefer her house not smell of cigarette. We respect her. Crystal, who does wedding photography, had a shoot on Sunday, which she often does, leaving Vada with Dadu, her baby name for daddy. Vada would play with Baby Doll nearby, sit on the laps of each one of us, attracted to our circle of attention, us sitting in the mancave corner laughing at funny stories we'd take turns telling. In a time when Justin took Vada upstairs and was gone for a spell, Melvin and I talked. High school came up and he said he had a good time all through high school. He said, "I was the mascot," explaining why he had privileges in school. I asked what he meant by mascot. My first thought was something like the San Diego chicken. He said, "I lettered five years in cheerleading." That one really took me by surprise. The team was the Bulldogs. He dressed up in a bulldog costume as part of the cheering squad. I did not see it coming. I lit up, wanted to hear more. Melvin is short and stocky; it wouldn't take much to make him into a bulldog. He said the other kids, the teachers, administration, the jocks, all thought he was the coolest guy in school. He said, "I didn't have any enemies." He had privileges such as freedom to skip class if he didn't want to go. His name those five years was Bulldog. Even the teachers called him Bulldog. Everybody called him Bulldog. He said he had a Nissan station wagon with big speakers in the back seat area, "You could hear me comin." The car had a foot-wide stripe of primer paint along both sides. A friend painted "Bulldog" in the primer stripe on the fender. He said, "My car was Bulldog too."
Melvin wears tshirts in this time of his life announcing he's proud to be a redneck, keeps a calendar on the kitchen wall of the tv show Duck Dynasty. Middle class people like to look down on the Duck Dynasty characters as obnoxious pigs, but in the working class they're comedy, like Larry the Cable Guy, Rodney Carrington and the other blue collar comics, who are really funny when you understand the culture's humor they appeal to. Many times in our mancave retreats Justin has put on Rodney Carrington cds for us to bend over laughing at. Not many of my middle class (more or less educated) friends could sit through more than two of Carrington's stories. I can watch Duck Dynasty with Justin and Melvin and laugh like crazy. To one part of my mind they're upper middle class actors making a lot of money from a successful gig, celebrities in a society that honors only celebrities. It worked for them. The other part of my mind thinks they're hilarious in a redneck humor way. I applaud them. I don't share redneck political mind, but it doesn't stop me from allowing them their own minds. Their show is a present day I Love Lucy, but funnier. They're playing bulldog for the rednecks. Middle class tends to look down on rednecks, finding them disgusting. I have redneck creds to some degree, in that I appreciate the people, their lives, their culture, their humor, their absence of pretentions especially. It's the rarity of pretention in the working class that appeals to me in a big way, makes me prefer the company of the working class. Some of it is a bit beyond my reach, like there is a criminal element, as in every culture of people living in poverty or on the borderline. I'm not particularly attracted to the criminal aspect. It puts a lot of them in prison, makes them angry people who lose faith in the society they live in, making them all the angrier. Lots of anger issues in the working class. I feel it, I live it, I understand it. I appreciate them. I have learned to regard people I know who have been in prison with the highest respect. Few I know believe I respect them, because nobody else does. For that, I respect them all the more.