Thursday, November 5, 2009
Stuart - and one of many lost chances at Fame and Fortune
A dear friend passed away in May. Even though I had not seen him for years he is always in my heart. I met him at Lee High School. I was a Sophomore and he was a year older than me. Stuart was tall, thin and had great hair. I loved that he liked to hang out with me. He always had fabulous ideas. He was fun, fun, fun! I thought of him as my personal Cat in the Hat. He got me in lots of scraps but somehow he would make things right before Mom got home.
Once he talked me into taking our RED 1973 Honda 50 on a joy ride. It was a beautiful fall afternoon. Stuart was driving and I was on the back hanging on for dear life. We rode it to his house (off Highway 12) while he serenaded me - singing "Teenage Runaways"! We were not wearing helmets and that highway is so narrow and winding that it is a wonder we didn't get killed. We girls (the sistas) were only allowed to ride our motorcycle in the back yard.
Stuart was very witty. One time in High School a "hood" from the Air Force Base slammed Stuarts locker closed and asked him if he was a Basie (from the Air Force Base) or a Townie (from Town). Stuart replied, "I'm a County" (He lived outside the city limits). That Basie was later convicted of murdering a local Lawyer! Stuart always claimed that his mom and dad loved his little brother the most because he had blond hair and blue eyes and Stuart had brown hair and red eyes. Once at a bar he fashioned his straw into a triangle and stuck it on his nose. He proclaimed to all in an alien type voice, "I am from the Golden Triangle Region!" (That is what the area we are from is called because the three small cities in close proximity are like the points of a triangle.)
Stuart talked me into having a "wild" party at my parents house while they were out of town. We had a fabulous time and were the perfect host and hostess and would have gotten away with it too if a genuinely good hearted classmate had not told my Mother in the Sunflower Grocery Store parking lot what a beautiful new home we had and what a lovely time he had at the party! Stuart had fun parties at his house too. He and his brother shared a Toyota named Turkey Red. One night while leaving a party, I backed into Turkey Red! I was a wreck! Stuart said, "no worries, we have insurance". A few years later I let it slip to Stuart's Dad that it was me that maimed the Turkey. He had been told an unanimous driver had hit it in the parking lot at Leigh Mall.
He was my date to Senior Prom but had to leave early because he worked the night shift at Beneke Corp. They are called Magnolia now. They make toilet seats. I got him a gorgeous boutineer. He loved it and later that evening took a bite of it. He said he read some where that some flowers were edible! He wasn't the least bit embarrassed that he forgot to get me a corsage and later that evening he presented me with a beautiful one. I asked him where he got it. He said he got it off an empty table. I don't know whose it was, but I wore it proudly that evening and still have the dead thing in a scrap book in the attic. I regret that I didn't tell him to put it back. I know it was some heart broken classmate's.
On most Saturday Nights a group of us would go to the Country Club Golf Course. Stuart had worked there and said he knew the night watchman's schedule. It was a great place to drink beer and look at the stars. There is something special about rolling around on the golf greens at night. After a few beers we would usually take a golf cart ride. I'll never forget the night I learned to fly. I remember saying, "Stuart! you are going too fast!" then I was airborne. Stuart got confused and hit the gas instead of the break. I got a nasty bruise and a temporary limp from landing on the decorative bricks that lined the drive.
I guess our most exciting adventure was a road trip to Nashville. One summer we got this harebrained idea to get jobs at Opryland. He planned to get hired as an entertainer and I had experience in retail and could count back change so I'd have no trouble getting a job in one of the gift shops. (I still can't believe my parents were okay with the idea.) I was in charge of transportation and Stuart was in charge of reservations. I picked him up at his house Friday morning in my baby blue 1972 Pinto and off we went! We made lots of detours but finally arrived in Nashville around 7:00 p.m. We had about $20.00 left between us. We stopped to get gas, call our friend we were staying with and when we couldn't reach him, cleaned up a little in the nasty gas station bathroom before we went to dinner. We decided to celebrate our new beginning by dining at a what was to us a "nice restaurant". Stuart got a little agitated when they seated us in the back by the kitchen (which had a swinging door). I asked him again about our accommodations. All day he assured me he had them taken care of, nothing to worry about. At the restaurant I asked him to please call and get directions. I was starting to get tired and we had found out at the gas station that there was a major prostitute war going on in Nashville. Prostitutes were killing each other! Frankly, I was nervous. I knew what a prostitute was but had never seen one. I was scared that I might be mistaken for one. That may sound ridiculous but at that time in my life I was naive and scared most of the time about things that could never possibly happen, happening.
Stuart made the long walk back to our table with no smile. He said, "Lisa, I can't get a hold of David." I said, "He knows we are coming, right?" I'll never forget what Stuart said next. "I thought we'd surprise him!" We had just spent the last of our money on our celebratory dinner and had just a few dollars between us. We needed a new plan. One of our friends lived in Memphis! She and her husband would probably love to see us! I called Elizabeth. She and her husband were thrilled to let us stay the night but, they were going to Mississippi Saturday morning so we'd have to leave then too. We made it to Memphis but I did fall asleep at the wheel and woke up on a bridge but luckily in the right lane. I've often thought about that and wondered how far I drove while sleeping and also about the great schematics of life.
What if David Stampley had been home and expecting us that night? What if we actually did get summer jobs at Opryland? What if we were discovered by a famous Hollywood agent and the rest of our lives were magical like Sandra Bullock's or Nathan Lane's? and What if we had not spent all our money on the way to Tennessee and had been able to get a hotel room that night? What if some prostitute saw me entering the seedy affordable motel room with Stuart and shot me thinking I was an encroaching prostitute? What if I had not woken up while driving on that bridge.