Since I’ve started telling y’all about some of the less great periods in my life, I thought I could write something about another of those times that seriously sucked for me.
I’m talking about from between my last game in Hickory and when I moved to California, September 2016 to right after New Year’s 2017.
I had nowhere else to go after my season with the Crawdads ended, so I went home. The first thing I had to face there was the super hard decision about if I should go back and play for another season or start off in another direction. I’ve already told y’all that it was the hardest decision I ever had to make. I knew at the time that I’d made the right decision, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. I was giving up on all my plans and dreams of being a pro ball player, and it sucks big time when you have to give up on a dream like that.
So there I was, back home, with no plans for the rest of my life. I had my idea for a baseball resort, but I was totally brokeass and needed to find a job. Mom and Dad gave me all the space I needed to make my decision and adjust to it, but then it was time to start moving on.
The only serious job I ever had – and it was hardly that serious – was bartending. I thought I could go back into that since the money can be pretty good if you flirt with customers the right way (ask Dani!), but I hated it when I was doing it. Somebody got me an offer to work in a gay bar, but that only sounded worse. So no to bartending.
Then Meemaw suggested I get a job in retail. They’re easy to get and you don’t need a lot of experience (I had next to no experience at anything except playing ball), so I thought I’d apply for one. I like Gap clothes, so I applied at the the Gap in Knoxville. And I got the job.
Turns out I was good at it. I learned about the merchandise (learning about the women’s stuff was a whole education), customers liked me, and I quickly figured out all the store procedures. I did so well that I got promoted to supervisor after only two months…although the store manager just happened to have a big thing for me. Let me make it super clear that I didn’t have a thing for her, and I didn’t get the promotion that way. Some people who wanted the job for themselves thought I did…so my popularity at the store went down pretty fast for a while.
Meanwhile, at home, I was busy being an asshole. I know all dudes who are 23 are assholes, but I was way worse than the average.
I went out drinking like five times a week and got shitfaced practically every time. Uber wasn’t a big thing in Eastern Tennessee at the time, so getting home involved either a cab (if I had the money) or calling Dad or my brother-in-law Jared to come get me. (I went out drinking with Jared a few times too, but he couldn’t get all wildass with a wife (my sister Melanie Kate) and two totally awesome boys at home.) At least I wasn’t so big an asshole as to drive drunk. I know I was a huge pain in the ass, but they were great about it. Ok, Jared gave me a few lectures on the way home, especially when he had to drive to the strip club in Knoxville to get me.
Dad, I gotta add, never complained, even once. It was too important to him that I not drive drunk for him to tell me he was pissed off at having to drive out to some dive at 2 AM to get me. (Mom’s since told me that he did start getting pissed off at me. I don’t blame him. But he kept it from me and it kept me off the road.)
Ok, so how did I get so drunk when all I drink is beer? I mean, yeah, you can get shitfaced on just beer, but it takes a lot of beer to do that. I helped it along with shots of Tennessee bourbon. They did the trick and got me about as drunk as I’ve ever been in my life.
Now y’all may remember what happens to me when I drink hard liquor: I get into fights. I got in a whole mess of fights during those months I was home. I don’t remember too many of them, but I don’t think any of them were real angry fights. I do remember one time when I popped a dude in the nose, helped him up, and bought him a beer.
Turns out I can take care of myself very well when I’m drunk. I never woke up all fucked up. Not even close. The worst I got was a bloody nose and a messed up tshirt.
Well…not exactly. A while back, I told y’all that I’ve gotten KOd twice in my life. One of those times was back then. There was a bouncer I didn’t like at this one bar in Knoxville, and one night I was in super asshole mode and picked a fight with him. He wasn’t one of those scaryass bouncers like Miguel at the Volcano, but he was bigger than me. But I won the one bouncer fight I got myself into, so I decided I was gonna show this dude he wasn’t as tough as he thought.
Bouncers get challenged a lot, but they usually do nothing about it. (Ask Keaton.) I don’t know what kind of a super asshole I was, but this bouncer decided to take me around the side of the bar at closing time.
The next thing I remember is coming to inside the bar, lying on a bunch of chairs, and being “nursed” by a super nice waitress who put a cold bar towel on my forehead and shit like that. I have no illusions: my looks helped me in that situation. I’ll even admit that I played up being the poor pretty boy who’d been bullied by the big bad bouncer.
She even drove me home.
Her name was Charlene, and she was blonde and curvy like I like ‘em…and she became my girlfriend for a couple months.
I promise y’all that I didn’t do it on purpose and just to be an asshole, but it turned out I’d picked a girlfriend my family didn’t like or approve of. She only met Charlene a couple times when she came to pick me up, but Mom took an instant dislike to her. And I mean dislike. I’ll admit that Charlene looked pretty dang easy (she was), hadn’t been to college, was ten years older than me, and was working as a cocktail waitress. Basically she was the kind of girl your mom was going to call white trash.
Which is exactly what Mom did.
When I got home the night they first met, Mom was actually waiting up for me to give me a lecture. She didn’t even wait until I’d sobered up. And, man, was it a lecture. One of the longest I’ve ever gotten from her. I don’t remember all of it, since I was still fucked up, but the basic gist was that Charlene was going to get pregnant and force me to marry into her white trash family. I do remember she said I was “deteriorating as a human being” – that’s how much she hated Charlene. You didn’t raise your voice in the Block house; that night I raised it as much as I ever have and gave my door a huge slam at 3:30 in the morning.
I was totally pissed off at Mom, who didn’t understand Charlene at all. She was exactly what I needed then: a fun girlfriend who even kept me out of trouble a couple times. Yeah, we basically just got drunk and had sex (she knew nothing about baseball, so I couldn’t even talk to her about that), but the sex was dang good. (The only chick I’ve been with who knew more about sex than Charlene was Candy the stripper…if you can remember back to when me and her were hooking up once every other week.)
Dad and Meemaw were more understanding about Charlene. Dad trusted me not to get a chick pregnant, and he even kinda got that she was good for me in a way. He tried to get Mom to chill about Charlene, but that only got them into a big fight. Meemaw just stayed out of it. Even after she met Charlene and Mom tried to get her on her side.
Like I told y’all: I was a total asshole.
But luckily the phase didn’t last all that long.