Sunday, February 10, 2019

Bad Dad

Walt James always had a get rich scheme. After 1967 I don’t remember him holding a real job, meaning one where he collected a paycheck. His last legitimate gig was probably opening a Village Inn Pizza Parlor in Plantation, Florida, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale. I don’t know where he got the bucks to build and equip a restaurant, even modest operation like the VI. Probably from his mom. Anyway, being between semesters and a stint teaching guitar in Upstate New York in the summer of 1966, I needed a steady job and a new adventure, so I jumped at the chance when Walt asked me to help him open his Village Inn franchise. It would be my first restaurant opening. Little did know I’d open 50 more before I folded my tent in 2003.

This meant I had to find my way to Dayton, Ohio for a bit of training. All I needed was a refresher since I’d worked for Walt at the original Village Inn in Tempe, AZ in 1962 and 1963. The VI years are a story unto themselves. There was the animal house Chuck Friedenmaker and I rented from the adjacent restaurant and an unexpurgated novel’s worth of bacchanalia to be recounted. But that’s a story for another time if ever.

I borrowed my roommate’s ASU letter jacket so I looked as preppy and unthreatening as possible while hitchhiking.  Vance, my roommate, had used his brother Rex’s colors to good advantage with the ladies and now I was repurposing the garment for more august purposes. Vance dropped me off north of Phoenix and I stuck out my thumb. It took me just two rides to make the 1,700-mile trip. One dude took me to Route 66 in Flagstaff and Pat Conley, a star linebacker at Purdue, got me to Fort Wayne. Pat told me he wouldn’t have stopped if I hadn’t been wearing the ASU letter jacket. A genius stroke on my part. I took just under 24 hours at 80mph and without stopping or sleep. Pat and I knocked back a couple of beers at a dive bar in Fort Wayne and he left me in front of a Shell station where Walt picked me up for the last 132 miles.

The training was forgettable and when it was completed Walt, his wife Mandy, his sons and I drove to Fort Lauderdale to build out and open the restaurant. I had a snug little studio apartment a block from the beach and, importantly, near the Bikini Lounge. I commuted to Plantation for the night shift six nights a week. Once the restaurant was up and running, I returned to Tempe just before Christmas to complete my last class at ASU. Knowing me I would be three credits shy of graduating. Shortly after getting back Peggy and an unforgettable Christmas eve, we got married in Phoenix, had our son Garrett in Tucson and my career began in earnest. That’s the truncated version to be sure.

On the first day of January 1968 I went to work for Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream and so began a dozen years of abated growth. When I co-founded Four n’ 10 Pies with Kurt Kornreich in 1969 I hired Mike James, Walt’s kid brother, to be the assistant manager of our third location in Studio City. So, Walt had the occasion to visit our hovel in Van Nuys and that’s where his son Walt Junior told me, “You’re always safe when there’s a cowboy around.” I was headlong into my boots and buckle phase. The poor child actually thought I was a buckaroo. “All hat. No cattle” is the saying about posers like me.

By the time the mid-seventies arrived, Peggy, Garrett and now Peggy’s sister Kim whom we kidnapped were living the quintessential New England life in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Walt who was hawking ersatz Indian jewelry at shows across the country and had just finished events in Philly and Boston visited us for a few days. He arrived all white shoes and belt. It was too cliché.  He gave us turquoise tokens made in China. I still have a couple. Jim’s jewelry adventure was hot on the heels of promoting Monster Truck extravaganzas and before he became a bail bondsman and Libertarian candidate for Governor in Arizona.

It wasn’t till 1979 that I saw Jim again. I attended my one and only high school reunion in Tempe, the twentieth, and ate Mexican food with him in Chandler. On the ride to the restaurant I learned about Jim’s true calling throughout the seventies.

He picked me up in his pick-up at the Sands Hotel in Tempe. The first thing he did was light a half smoked joint on the dash. He told me he’d stopped drinking and that grass took the edge off. 

“Steve” he said, I want to tell you what I was really doing when I saw you in Ipswich.”

“I’m all ears.” I responded.

“That Indian tchotchke I showed you was all a front. I was a drug smuggler, pal. I had planes and trucks. Big time stuff. I bought the coke in Chiapas and Guatemala. We flew the stuff into Arizona and landed the shipments in the middle of the desert at night. Jack helped me sometimes.

God, I loved it. It was such a rush, I’d be in the middle of the jungle with guards with machine guns surrounding the camp. There were hot and cold running chicas, plenty of nose candy and stacks of hundreds everywhere.

One time we crash landed in Chihuahua and got picked up by the Federales. They roughed us up, but we gave them the shipment and they let us go.

Later when I had my trucks at my house in Carefree, we got raided by the DEA. We were all arrested. My two partners and me. They both got sent away, but I got off because the Feds didn’t have a proper warrant for my place. My one partner was a tennis coach at ASU and wound up playing tennis for four years in minimum security out by Safford.”

But Walt James was more than a cheat ‘em and beat ‘em character. He turned me on to jazz and read Thurber to us from the armchair in the little apartment he shared with his wife Mandy and the boys Walt Jr. and Charlie. The sweet sounds of Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Ahmad Jamal and Mose Allison filled the living room. Walt, his buddy the very militant Monkey D from Brooklyn and I watched Muhammed Ali KO Sonny Liston at Saint Domenic’s Arena in Lewiston, Maine on May 25, 1965. Or more correctly they heard the count while I repaired to the bathroom having no idea the fight would be over in the first round. I guess you could call it a one beer fight. All I remember was the triumphant Ali standing over the KO’d Liston. A lot of people say it was a mystery punch, but I’ve watched the replay a dozen times and saw him deck the big man.

When Mandy died in the mid-seventies Walt lost his anchor. It was clear that she kept him tethered. She was the moral compass of the outfit. He dove deeper into drugs and then the drug business. Without Mandy who was an engaged parent who took the job seriously he became more of a co-conspirator than a parent to the boys. He wanted to their buddy with disastrous results. He spoke with too much pride about drugging and whoring with the Walt Jr. who was barely twenty. His unthinking and selfish example led junior to multiple arrests and finally hard time for a drug fueled rape. Charlie, whom a last saw fifteen years ago in Dardanelle, Arkansas was a long-haul trucker with a life partner and her three teenagers who were living with Jim in Dardanelle. It was a loving family but about as Tobacco Road as it gets. The septic was on the fritz, the preternaturally youthful Walter O. James had become a white bearded Jobba the Hut and our family meal together was free but cold Grand Opening burgers from the new Piggly Wiggly in town. He told me he could tell I was appalled. I really tried hide it.

Walt James was full of promise. He was handsome. He was charming. He was funny and smart. I have fond memories of the giddy days that began almost sixty years ago. But how he remained a cult leader father figure to them and their families mystifies me. The mess he made of his life is one thing. That he gave them no guide posts and no aspirations is criminal.

But still I care about the guy and would love to see him of he’s still above ground. Yesterday I searched for Walter O. James as I do from time to time. I lost him in Cordell, Oklahoma five years ago when our Christmas card came back as undeliverable. This time I got a hit in Tempe, Arizona where the tear jerker started in 1962. Then I found what may be his younger brother Rick in Colorado. I sent him an email today. We’ll see.

Fingers crossed that I can find Walt so I can flesh out his story and see if he feels any responsibility.


Blacks Crossing said...

As photographers and writers, we know that inspiration arrives at the strangest times and in the weirdest ways. It looks like you had a real gust blow through when you put together this blog. A fabulous piece of storytelling and another hit from your life in the restaurant business! I do hope you hear from Walt and thus are able to continue this great if disturbing story of a bad dad. It would be amazing to see you start a new career in writing at this point in your life, and become a best selling author! Can be done.....

Steve Immel said...

You are too kind, Daryl. It's quite a saga for sure. Walt's (not his real name) influence was insidious though I don't doubt that he loved his kids. I hope to learn more but haven't gotten a response from his brother.

دريم هاوس said...

افضل شركة رش مبيدات بالرياض الشركة متخصصة في مكافحة الحشرات بطرق حديثة وجودة عالية بشكل لا يضر بأهل المنزل أو يضر الأطفال أو يؤثر عليهم
الشركة لديها كافة الحلول للقضاء على الحشرات ورشها وإبادتها إبادة تامة ,
تمتلك الشركة أيضا أفضل الكوادر البشرية الذين يوظفون جُلَ طاقتهم من أجل القضاء على الحشرات وذلك عن طريق الرش والأمصال التي تؤدي للقضاء عليها ,
لدينا الخبرة لذلك وبأقل الأسعار وأعلى مستوى جودة و أمان بإذن الله تعالى
اتصل بنا نصلك أينما كنت
نحن الأفضل في هذا المجال,
نحن جميعاً نعلم أن السر وراء إبادة الحشرات هي رش المبيدات لذا فكان أول اهتمامات الشركة أن تحرص على استخدام أفضل أنواع المبيدات الحشرية التي تجعلها من أفضل شركات رش مبيدات بالرياض، نظراً لما يملكه المبيد من فعالية قوية و إبادة فورية دون ان يلحق أي أضرار بصحة الموجودين في المنزل ولا يسبب لهم الإزعاج، و كما حرصت الشركة على أن توفر كل ذلك، وكان من ضمن اهتماماتهم أن تقدم خدماتها بأقل الأسعار لكي تناسب كافه فئات العملاء دون أن تسبب لهم أي ضغط مادي.
الرش يكون بأنواع مجربة وغير ضارة وآمنة على كل من يستخدمها معنا أنتم بأمان وصحتكم بأمان و لا داعي للقلق أو التفكير طويلا فإننا لسنا الوحيدون ولكننا المميزون… اقرأ المزيد

المصدر: شركة رش مبيدات بالرياض

شركة مكافحة حشرات بالرياض للحشرات تعاني كل ربات البيوت من مشكلة تكاثر الحشرات ووجودها بشكل مستمر في المنزل، مما يسبب لها الكثير من القلق والإزعاج ويضعها في العديد من المواقف المحرجة أمام ضيوفها فبالرغم من نظافة المنزل ولكن عند وجود الحشرات أمام الضيوف يشعرها بأن المنزل غير نظيف، كما أن الحشرات تحمل الكثير من البكتيريا والجراثيم العدوي الفيروسية التي تسبب الأمراض .
وتقوم بإبادتها بكل سهولة بين الأشخاص مما ينتج عنها الضرر والأمراض الذي يلحق بصحه الانسان من ما يجعلها تبحث عن الطرق التقليدية التي تساعدها في القضاء نهائيا على الحشرات المزعجة، مثل العته و الفئران والصراصير وأيضاً النمل الابيض وغيرها من الحشرات، التي تسببها الإزعاج مجرد أن تتواجد في المنزل ولكن بعد اليوم لا داعي لكل ذلك يمكنك التخلص من كل هذه الحشرات عند التواصل مع شركة مكافحة حشرات بالرياض ، التي تقوم بالتخلص من كافة أنواع الحشرات ومكافحه الحشرات المنزلية الضارة، عن طريق شركة رش مبيدات بالرياض التي هدفها هو مكافحة الحشرات داخل الدمام وخارجها، كما أن الشركة لديها فريق عمل متميز قادر على إبادة الحشرات نهائياً،
والعمل على ضمان عدم عودته من مكان مرة أخرى كما أنها تحرص علي أن توفر أفضل أنواع المبيدات الحشرية، المصرح بها من وزارة البيئة والصحة و الأمنة تماماً، على صحه الإنسان وقادرة على إبادة الحشرات من المرة الأولى كل هذا وأكثر، شركة مكافحة حشرات بالرياض على أن تقدم كافة خدماتها لعملائها الكرام بأقل الأسعار الغير قابلة للمنافسة و التي لا تجدها إلا من خلال تعاملك مع شركة مكافحة الحشرات بالرياض تتصل بنا الآن من أجل الحصول على كل ذلك…… اقرأ المزيد

المصدر: شركة مكافحة حشرات بالرياض