“Well how’s about another one, Vern?”
The Reverend paused for a moment, looking inquisitively at his stuffed
Parrot Vern. I also looked up at Vern, despite myself, half expecting
“Well I don’t mind if I do, Vern.”
The Reverend Goose answered himself in his Kentucky Miner drawl, laughing
at Vern’s wit for a few seconds before starting on another beer.
The Reverend talked with his stuffed parrot as he drank and as he drank,
Vern had more and more to say. After nine beers Vern was telling
jokes; “Ok Vern, WHAT IS the difference between a blond and a
lawn mower?” At eighteen, the Reverend wanted to quit, but Vern
demanded that he drink more. “Well maybe I can do one more for
old Vern.” Around twenty-six, Vern became belligerent and aggressive, “Hell
no Vern, I’m telling you Davie didn’t mean nothing by it.” The
Reverend fought bravely to contain Vern’s drunken violence.
Vern shoved case after case of cheap American draft down the Reverend’s
parched throat, regardless of the effects it might have on the poor
man’s health. We sat around a circular patio table, shaded from
the Indiana July sun by a large umbrella. The good Reverend Goose,
Rick Mossburg, and Rick’s parents Barbara and Dale Mossburg sat
in big comfortable lawn chairs around a circular patio table. Vern,
the stuffed parrot, sat on his perch a few feet away, under the garage
gutter. The patio deck overlooked Indiana Highway 47. We drank and
watched traffic. Rick’s daughter Anna, sat on the lawn, playing
with an oversize plastic ladybug.
I was fascinated with Rick, his family, and their eclectic group of
friends like the “Reverend Goose”. They lived epic American
lives equal parts black and white matinee, Hunter S. Thompson novel,
and after school special. I was a devoted fan of his southern fried
satire and impressive lack of restraint. As the son of a prominent
children’s dentist from a bland upper middle class suburb, I
yearned for the excitement of Rick’s family. Rick hailed from
the coal mining country of Kentucky. Rick’s father, with only
a sixth grade education, became a coal miner, bank robber, bar tender,
Baptist preacher, and house painter in that order. Rick’s mother
Barbara Mossburg, a West Virginia native, was the quintessential southern
woman, a blend of strength and kindness, the backbone of the family.
Big haired, foul-mouthed and large-breasted, she ruled the family’s
Beech Grove Indiana home and partied with Rick’s college friends.
Rick chose accounting as a college major, which changed my entire
view of the profession. I always assumed that accountants pursue hobbies
such as stamp collecting or model train restoration. Rick somehow maintained
a high grade point average while passionately enjoying his own extracurricular
activities: truck stop strip clubs, recreational drug use, unplanned
pregnancies, and general “hell raising” as his mother called
it. He did all of it with a style, grace, and humor that turned conspicuous
vices into something akin to performance art. His tastes were too refined
for the keg parties and cover bands that compose the social lives of
most undergraduates. Rick treated weekends like an extreme sport. He
prided himself on his partying ability, each time providing me with
a unique and often dangerous adventure.
Rick introduced me to strip clubs or tittie-bars, as they are known
throughout Indiana. He avoided the national chains like Déjà vu
or the Gold Club, considering them pretentious and overpriced. The
seedier places had more entertainment value. His favorite club, “Lace
and Panties,” occupied a dilapidated building conveniently located
between interstate truck stops. The strippers didn’t really dance
here. They sort of stumbled using the fireman’s pole in the center
of the stage to regain their balance. The club served as a last stop
for these dancers. The Dominiques, Crystals, and Candies who worked
here hid stretch marks, caked on makeup, and argued with their biker
boyfriends about child support.
Rick was well known here, a regular. Rick’s proclivities made
these trips entertaining and often dangerous. One Friday night, Lace
and Panties had a long line of truckers looking to relax after a week
on the road; outlaw bikers using the club as a hangout; and assorted
thugs ready for the “hot adult action” advertised in pink
neon across the front. I waited in this line behind Rick, carefully
avoiding eye contact.
Rick paid his cover charge and walked through the large swinging doors.
He immediately turned and walked out, announcing to the bouncer and
line, “Holy shit, you call this a strip club? I want my money
back. Where are all the hot teenage guys?”
Rick was overjoyed when he discovered that the strippers used stage
names. I guess most self-respecting people do not name their newborn
baby daughter “Busty Brenda”, and Jennifer does just not
have the same erotic appeal as local star “Sextasia”. Rick
introduced himself as a male erotic dancer and asked if we might be
able use the stage for “a little choreography that he’d
been trying to perfect.” He explained to the skeptical bouncer,
Jerry, that we had a tag team act entitled “Buttermilk Biscuits
and a Side of Gravy.”
Rick’s exotic nightlife did not stop at Lace and Panties; in
fact it rarely stopped at all, sometimes continuing for several days.
My own tolerances were less adapted than Rick’s. I happily crawled
into bed reeking of cheap beer and body spray from the last lap dance
around three in the morning. Rick would come home from his own Friday
night outing early Monday morning riding bitch on the back of a soft-tail
Harley Davidson motorcycle. Brenda, the six-five lesbian that he met
at the cockfights the night before would swing her bike into the driveway
helping Rick from the back seat.
Rick introduced me to the best place in south central Indiana to find
recreational heterosexual sex: gay bars. Girls here were friendlier
and less guarded when I approached them with a wine cooler from the
bar. The bar contained stunning women from the surrounding college
and farm towns, tired of the grinding and groping of white trash heterosexual
PeriWinkles or “twinkles”, as it is affectionately known
in Bloomington Indiana, is the only gay bar in seventy miles. It’s
unique cultural and sexual mix created a scene that should have been
directed by David Lynch. The combination of homosexual design sensibilities
and small town white trash culture collided violently on the flashing
disco dance floor. An impeccably styled cowboy complete with black
satin hat, wranglers and embroidered western shirt groped the assistant
stylist from the local Super Cuts. A pair of randy farm hands stole
a moment together on the dance floor while ABBA pumped “Dancing
Queen” from the fur-covered speakers at the edge of the stage.
Abba, Blondie, Pet Shop boys and the ever popular YMCA were the crowd
Rick introduced himself to the bar tender as an inspector from the
health department. He demanded to know if the frothy blue “Cowboy
Cocksucker Cocktail” had been made with freshly squeezed cowboys.
Rick ordered two. Rick loved it when one of the crowd would try to
pick him up. He was a large man, fuller figured, built like a professional
bowler, and described himself as “corn fed” in personal
ads. As we walked across the bar, a small blond man put his hand on
“Hey their fat boy, I like flesh.”
Rick howled with laughter and ordered the man a Cowboy Cocksucker.
Stanley, a closeted frat boy was particularly put off by Rick and
constantly tried to intimidate him. When we would walk into the bar,
he was never without a comment about Rick’s ass. He stood with
a small crowd of Banana Republicans, the closeted underbelly of frat
row. “When the hell are you two going to come out?” he
said making a grinding motion toward Rick. Several of Stanley’s
friends whistled, hoping to intimidate Rick. “When I see you
in hot pants,” said Rick not missing a beat as he handed me a
The Electronic Saloon was the aesthetic antithesis of PeriWinkles.
Its patrons were decidedly heterosexual, Appalachian poor, and ripe
for the twentieth century’s advancements in dental hygiene. While
PeriWinkles’ customers dueled with catty comments and fashion
advice, the Electronic Saloon crowd preferred a more traditional ass-kicking.
After years of living in Seattle, San Francisco, and Chicago, the
audacity and rawness of the Electronic Saloon seem almost unbelievable.
An out of control bar brawl was contained with a warning shot from
a .45 through the floor of the bar. God help the Thrifty Auto Parts
below. The bartenders were dirty lecherous bastards that plied the
college girls with free drinks and used terms like “pussy” with
reckless abandon. Local gals had an assortment of scars, teeth and
bad breath that Rick found intoxicatingly attractive. After a successful
night, he would call me the next morning from a local trailer park
screaming in the phone. Sentiments usually ended with driving directions
and the phrase, “before her husband gets home.”
For me, the Electronic Saloon in its decided heterosexual nature was
a far less fertile hunting ground than PeriWinkles for eligible or
even coherent girls. The Electronic Saloon, this southern Indiana jewel,
was not without its charms however. Its beer list contained two brands:
Budweiser and Coors Light. While your choices were limited, they were
priced to sell at 95 cents per aluminum can.
Those of us that enjoyed the colorful local culture that the Electronic
Saloon provided eventually came to the same annoying question. The
saloon part was self-explanatory but what did this foul drunken cacophony
have to do with electronics? One night, I asked Gordon the bouncer
and owner about the name. He just pointed to a rusting Miss Pack Man
Video Game sitting in the back of the bar. “What the fuck did
you want me to call it the Dumb Fuckin’ Shithead Saloon?” he
said. I thought that the Dumb Fuckin’ Shithead Saloon might be
a bit more forthcoming, but I just smiled and nodded.
I enjoyed the Electronic Saloon every bit as much as Rick. I was a
single college student at the time without children or responsibility.
Rick had a live-in girlfriend that probably considered herself more
of a wife and a two-year-old daughter. Rick’s girlfriend Jessica
was a thin Asian girl that Rick had been dating and impregnating since
his senior year at Beech Grove High School. Jessica and Rick’s
relationship was ripe for the afternoon talk shows. Jessica made an
impressive victim. She was slight, pretty, a straight A student, and
soft spoken. In truth she was more of a street brawler, ruthless, obsessed
with winning at any cost, and fanatically devoted to beating Rick’s
overpowering libido into something that would fit nicely into a future
suburbia. The results were far from promising.
Rick and Jessica broke up weekly. The frequent endings of Rick and
Jessica’s relationship was a major event not only in Rick’s
life but that of his friends, family, school officials, several social
services, federal agencies and of course local law enforcement. Rick
was always the one that ended the relationship. It became painfully
obvious within the first week of Rick and Jessica’s ill-fated
romance that it was doomed to failure. It was obvious to everyone that
is, except maybe Jessica. Her controversial methods of relationship
counseling were legendary to all that spent time with the couple.
After one particularly memorable breakup, Jessica made a two-hour
heartsick drive in the middle of the night to Rick’s parent’s
home in Beech Grove Indiana armed only with a Louisville Slugger and
a dream of winning Rick back. Amazingly, she was successful in her
quest and once the five windows, mailbox and family cat had been properly
fixed, things were back to normal for the happy couple.
I quickly learned to screen my calls when Rick and Jessica were working
things out. As soon as Rick would take his phone off the receiver his
friends and family would begin taking messages for him. With dozens
of my own romantic relationships behind me, I have yet to break up
with anyone that was as painful to me personally as Rick and Jessica’s
frequent romantic tsunamis. I would reach from my bed at 3:00 in the
morning knowing what was in store. After a groggy and incoherent “Hello,” I
would hear Jessica on the other end of the line.
“Hi Mike, how’s it going.”
“It’s three o’clock in the fucking morning.”
“I know, but I have an important message that I need to get
to Rick. I wouldn’t call if it weren’t an emergency. What,
do you think that I like waking people up in the middle of
the night? Maybe Rick should be a little nicer to me and I wouldn’t
have to do this kind of thing. Don’t blame me. Blame that asshole
“Why don’t you call him yourself?” I screamed.
“Rick’s phone doesn’t seem to be working.”
“It’s not working because of the fifty-five messages that
you left on it today, you psychopath. IT’S NOT WORKING BECAUSE
RICK DOES NOT WANT TO TALK TO YOU.”
“I just want you to give Rick a message, tell him that I love
him and that I think that I might be pregnant. Can you tell him that
for me? Or are you too big an asshole to care about the unborn life
of Rick’s first offspring?”
Jessica was always pregnant when Rick had managed to stay away from
her for longer than two days. A life-threatening injury or any number
of other cataclysmic disasters happened with alarming regularity during
these intermissions in their relationship. When Jessica made
these request I knew that she was deadly serious. I also knew that
whatever choice I made always resulted in the same sleepless consequences.
If I walked across the hall to find Rick and deliver Jessica’s
message she would call back to inquire about Rick’s response.
To ignore Jessica meant that she would continue to call until I picked
up the phone or unplugged it.
In the last year of Rick and Jessica’s relationship after their
daughter was born and they were living together, things were particularly
bad. Jessica often threatened to call the Police, claiming domestic
violence when they got into a fight. Indiana has a twenty-four-hour
holding period for any claim of domestic violence, whether or not the
claim is substantiated. Rick had to factor this twenty-four-hour holding
period any time he went out for a night on the town. I watched several
times as Rick was hauled away by the local Sheriff with a smile on
Calling the police was a two-edged sword for Jessica. It was an act
of desperation, but it also gave Rick an additional chance to be away
from her. Jessica would try to recant her claims of domestic violence
but the holding period made this useless. It didn’t matter to
Rick. He liked going to jail. It was the only time that he could get
any sleep, a needed sabbatical from Jessica. When Jessica would try
to recant, Rick would argue with the Pplice. He demanded a well needed
twenty-four-hour vacation and he reminded the officer that according
to the letter of the law, she called and he should be held. Before
being pushed, handcuffed and smiling, into the back of the squad car
I heard Rick yell back, “Take me to jail, at least the sex will
By his senior year I think that even Rick had enough of the fights.
He finally called it quits despite a constant barrage of Jessica’s
personal tragedy, homemade desserts, and trips to the Monroe county
jail. Jessica finally forced Rick over the edge. She would not be defeated
and she spent the entire summer trying to ruin his life through both
conventional means and by trying to destroy his relationship with his
Rick decided that something drastic had to be done. In a fit of despair
he left town a few days later to stay with family in Kentucky. He was
staying with his half sister and her two-year-old son George. Two days
later I received a phone call from Florida. Rick was screaming into
the phone and he sounded happy.
“I just got married!”
“You did what?” I said. It was difficult to hear over
the loud noise and music in the background.
“Bambi. Bambi ahhhh? Hey what is your last name? Never
mind it’s Bambi Mossburg, I almost forgot,” screamed Rick
“You’ll love her. I met her in a bar, and I knew right
away she was the perfect woman for me. She smells like beer. How could
I go wrong?”
The newlyweds made the twelve-hour drive back to Indiana the next
weekend. The Reverend Goose, Rick’s parents and a few friends
planned a wedding reception on the porch of Rick’s house to commemorate
the couple’s arrival.
A big haired southern gal with immense breasts stepped from the passenger
side of Rick’s truck. I couldn’t help but think that Bambi
and Rick’s mother were cut from the same cloth. Rick’s
mom stepped forward to greet her new daughter-in-law.
“Why Rick, She’s built like a brick shit house!” said
Barbara Mossburg, smiling.
Bambi stepped forward, hiccuped and introduced herself to her new
in-laws. “Anyone got a bud?”
I pulled a Budweiser from the cooler, we drank, watched the traffic
go by and listened to Vern.