Welcome to South Carolina, take your handcuffs off and stay awhile, hear?
A rewrite to JT Hilltops great American novel “Zen and The Art of Culinary Maintenance”
Here I was on the first day as I moved into my new digs, a guest suite in the local detention center of Aiken County South Carolina. I remembered having detention in high school. Often! It’s a form of scholastic punishment for any of a variety of mischievous and normally mundane infractions. Detention in my high school was even nicknamed “Brig” to accentuate the feeling of being locked away. This however, was quite a different form of detention. Instead of sitting in a room with the other shenanigan producing student inmates forced to pretend we were working on homework after school I was given my very own guest suite. It wasn’t an especially large room in fact I’ve seen studio apartments ten time the size and this particular living arrangement came fully furnished yet totally unadorned. I suppose you could say it was decorated in minimalist style, complete with four bare walls, a stainless steel toilet and sink, a pamphlet thin mattress on a wooden platform with a polyester sheet and Government issue wool blanket, and…..well actually, that was it. That was the extent of the furnishings, all the comforts of home for a down and out hermit. Whatever the case it was to be my new living arrangements for the next thirty days. So here I am, this young suave New Yorker, locked up somewhere in the deep south where I feared I may never be heard from again. The pace in this city, I think I heard it called Grandmaville, or Grannyville or some shit was anything but urgent. Great, I thought to myself, here I am in Petticoat fucking Junction. There’s Uncle Joe he’s a movin’ kinda slow!” Somewhere between Mayberry and Hootersville. “Jesus shit,” I thought, “Not a familiar face anywhere and not a single person left to turn to.” Thirty days in this hell hole with no beer, no weed, not even a fucking TV to help pass the time. Just me, myself and….and a band of hillbilly cops. Actually, I wasn’t completely alone, it was kind of a low life criminal condo.
Along with yours truly, and against their wills as well, were five “block” mates each with their very own sardine can housing unit and each sizing up this long haired city boy. I could tell they were wondering what skyscraper it was that I crawled out from under. I was relatively certain I detected a mix of urban admiration and good ole boy Yankee hatred, but I may have been setting their intelligence bar higher than I should have. Having been in the wrong bar at the wrong time on occasion I instinctively I understood the importance of establishing the “upper hand”. I had heard some of the other detainees, let’s call them “Inn” mates, refer to the guards as“turn-key”. So it was time to establish my dominance with my jailors while developing my “street credentials” with my new roomies. I determined that a perfect place to start was right this very moment by showing these local yokel criminals how we do it up north in the big city. So in my toughest NYC voice I let out an authoritative directive. “Ay Oh, Turn-key. Yea you in the uniform over thar, I need to make my phone call.” I had attempted to inject just the perfect modicum of disdain and rebellion as was necessary to achieve my goal of upmanship. An awkward silence befell the cellblock and I‘m not 100% sure but I believe I felt a slight wind from the eyes of my roomies opening wide in astonished disbelief. I was half expecting Barney Fife to come take me to a phone but instead a burly mean looking police officer began to stare at me with such a deadpan sarcastic glare I almost felt jealous. I’m from New York, where sarcasm is taught in kindergarten and is a second language. This dude had such killer swagger in his walk he read me a cynical short story without even uttering a single word. I began to wonder if I was taking the proper approach or if I should rethink my technique. It was then that this komodo dragon in uniform began to saunter quickly in my direction with a slow and deliberate pace that screamed “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” The oily haired officer got his face as close to mine as humanly possible and just stared at me a moment. I could feel his smoky foul breath dancing across my cheeks and I felt the lashes of his eyes as they blinked. Little hard eye hairs that could successfully cleaned under his fingernails if he had the gumption to appear clean. I had a sudden and humbling movie memory penetrate my tough NYC exterior and turn me into shimmering mass of spineless amoeba. “Suey, let me hear you scream suey!” Before my ‘Deliverance’ became a reality I attempted to coax myself back from my baseless paranoia and re-establish control. Oh Hell, stop thinking like that and get your shit together tough guy. You faced bigger opponents in Spanish Harlem just three days ago. You’ve spent countless hours in a Pagan Motorcycles Club bar. You have faced off with New York City detectives. Not very successful with the detectives, but stood up none the less. Well maybe stood up was not the right term, more like whimpered through a face full of mace as I dropped to my knee’s, but I did get a kiss my ass pig in which my friends found impressive a few days later from the safety of our hometown bar. I gave my head a hair clearing shake, swallowed hard and began to feel like I was back in charge again. Apparently, none of this impressed Sergeant Komodo Dragon. He began to speak, and I swore the voice was the same voice I recalled from that scene in Deliverance. “Say what boy?…. Did I hear you say turn-key you long haired New Yoke piece o’ shit? Are y‘all gonna tell me y‘all came alla way from da big apple jess at git an ass kicking here in Aikon County?” I couldn’t help but detect a certain note of arrogance and alarming disdain in his voice. But alas it was too late the drama had begun. I sensed that any second now the proverbial pig shit was headed directly in the vortex of the rotary oscillator. And the fan was humming a darkly ominous Dixie tune! The two of us stared each other down for a minute and the silence raised to a tense ear shattering level that damn near burnt my ears. Then as if right on cue a big shit eating “who the fuck does you think your dealing with” sardonic grin broke out on his upper lip, quickly spread across his jaw until cynicism took over his entire face. He gave my solar plexus a formal introduction to his police baton with a shit kicker smile of an exclamation point. Now I am staring directly into this shit eating evil Cheshire Cat’s angry eyes and what’s most obvious is that it’s giving off some very serious vibe implications. I had to think quick to get out of this predicament, to ease the tensions and repair the relationship with my captor while not losing face with my new room mates. Something big and potentially life altering was about to go down. But let me back up a bit and explain how I even came to be here in the first place.