All God's Creatures
Beyond the Yellow Line >> by Sean Bonniwell
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Copyright © 2012 Uncle Helmet's Music, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Promoters stand unnoticed, in the very center of the eye of the storm, directing traffic. They are the dinosaurs of the entertainment business — as old as the profession is — with immunity to changing times and vacillating economies. They will take a prisoner or two, but they're known to shoot their wounded if necessary: Promotion is "survival of the fittest" at its best, worst, there is no distinction. Still, it's hard not to like most of these entrepreneurs, they possess a charm that is peculiarly infectious.
Independent agents booking small towns and out-of-the-way places can't really cheat you — a shoe-string operation is easy to watch when you're the shoe. They enjoy organizing events that bring the artist and the people into reciprocal fulfillment; some even do it for money. Never take a check from a small-town promoter. Let's face it, their enterprise is a form of gambling, an honest way to make a buck by playing a hunch. Some use fictitious names and some use fictitious banks. Most of them are honest men and women guided by the compelling notion that Murphy's Law is rendered victimless by astute attention to detail.
Fast Eddie spit in Murphy's eye and booked us wherever he could throughout Texas and Louisiana. Eddie looked like a good argument for the theory of evolution. The globosity of his drooping belly was profiled by long hanging arms that didn't swing when he walked, and his small, almost completely bald head, made his handlebar mustache look like an insect antenna. To be sure Eddie was humanoid, but that’s as far as it went.
Eddie's flat, slanted forehead, defied the twinkle in his beady-blue eyes, and his beaver like mouth could talk as fast as was necessary for things to go his way. Eddie had a raspy Louisiana twang that often betrayed his unyielding temperament, for he never spoke a word below the kind of yelling you hear in a cannery. He tried to install a moral dictatorship and nearly succeeded, but there are only so many teenage girls a man with Eddie's physiognomy can discourage. Without intending to, he sifted and culled the disagreeable and underage, inadvertently allowing us a preferential choice in each town we invaded. This was not as freewheeling as it sounds. The South refuted the sixties just as it refutes all compliance to social engineering; free-love, as it became known, was only habitually endorsed as rational behavior in California.
Eddie's only vice was food. It was his mission in life to ferret out every undiscovered diner, chophouse, and lunch wagon. Wherever we went, Eddie proclaimed it "THE PLACE FA EATS!" One late afternoon, on our way to yet another of his "clubhouse gigs" as he called them, Eddie stopped at a boardinghouse where he said we'd get the "best home-cooked meal ya eva had."
When they brought the food out we followed Eddie's lead and dug right in. We were all quite taken aback when a small gathering of elderly folks shuffled in, sat down, and began to pray. There we were with our mouths stuffed — munching and grunting, making noises of approval and satisfaction. Eddie had mashed potatoes and gravy all over his handlebar mustache; it was humiliating, disgusting actually. With a pained expression of diabolical concentration, Eddie shut his eyes tightly and stopped chewing long enough for the food to be blessed. His "Amen" sounded more like "UMmmm! Uuuummmm!!" Then he resumed masticating, head low, as if he had to protect his plate from over-populated carnivores. Not too long after the prayer of thanks ended, the cook came out from the kitchen and announced, "We feed PEOPLE here, NOT horses!" I was so ashamed I got up to leave. The rest of the band fell into step — some more readily than others — as one by one they realized we looked as noodle-brained as Eddie. He was still chewing furiously! shovel-stuffing roast beef and cornbread into his mouth with a furled brow of worried concern for the rations he would not have time to gluttonize! We were almost out the door before Eddie decided it was too embarrassing for him to stay, and with one final lunge at the zucchini......!!!
Back in the big car ( his prized gas-guzzling Lincoln, the one in which a pillow was provided for each rider as some sort of life-jacket — "Got a pilla?" How ’bout you? Got a pilla?" Then everyone in the car chorused, "Got a pilla?? Everybody’s got a pilla!!") Eddie was downright misunderstood. How could we make him leave a table like that!? He said he'd never take us "eat'n" again. Thank God.
Eddie loved the telephone, but he hated the telephone company. His pride and joy was his desk, and the big comfortable reclining chair behind it. Eddie was top man in that chair. When Eddie's phone rang his eyes would sparkle with anticipated profit, and he would grab the receiver and plop into his chair in one decisive movement. This he did often, but each time he had the same unfailing dash, flair, purpose, and style: Eddie was going to talk money.
Eddie found a baby sparrow one day on the sprawling porch of his Louisiana "mansion." He nursed the baby bird and fed it with an eye-dropper. He even kept a low-watt bulb burning day and night on the poor little creature. It was (Trilby confided), Eddie's one and only humanitarian act. The bird became strong enough to cling tenaciously — if not somewhat desperately — to the top edge of Eddie's shoulder, and was soon regarded as having always been there. But when Eddie left the den where his desk, chair, and all-important telephone was, the bird (although now quite sure of itself) opted for the safety of familiar surroundings. Evidently there was a big deal in progress — hanging on the line so to speak — and Eddie was pacing... waiting for the phone to ring. Under such auspicious circumstances he preferred not to do his waiting in the den, believing this required lady luck to act on his behalf. No one knows why this worked, but it did. Sure enough, the big phone call came and Eddie let the ringing fill the house, announcing to all skeptics once more that his strategic superstitions never fail. He waited until the number of magic rings satisfied his intuition, and then whipped the phone from its receiver and flung himself into his chair, squashing the little sparrow beneath his ass.
Sean Bonniwell with pet bird, Bing