Archive for the Personal Remembrances Category

Cheer Up: Negativity bias – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted in Faith, General Discussion, Personal Remembrances with tags on September 17, 2013 by McKinley Pitts

Negativity bias – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


Roofing A House

Posted in Humor, Personal Remembrances with tags , , on March 6, 2009 by McKinley Pitts

(Originally penned 2/20/1985)

I remember my grandfather. He was loads of fun at times, but he spent a lot of time hinting that I needed to do various things around the house–his house in the silk-stocking neighborhood of Belle Meade located in Nashville, Tennessee, that is. I lived just up the street with my family, so I was there quite a bit checking on him, my grandmother, and my mother. They all lived there, and I felt kind of responsible for them.

One day I went up to see Grandad (we pronounced it Grindead). He was upstairs, and when he saw me he blinked through his thick bifocals, scratched his tuft of snow-white hair, tucked a hand in between his profuse belly and his braces, and said with his central south, ‘Aw, shucks!’ drawl, “Ya know, the roof is leaking.” I knew what that meant and doubted that I should offer anything, but my brain had not hardened adequately at that point in my life. I weakly suggested that maybe I could do it. Grandad wasn’t the kind of person to ever discourage his grandchildren from attempting any kind of endeavor, no matter how dangerous it might have been, so he gave me the name of a lumber yard where he had an account and suggested I try it.

Of course, he wasn’t about to help, being seventy-six or so, diabetic, and generally adverse toward any thing that might make him sweat. So I set about to get the job done, regardless of my apprehensions, by getting this equally soft-headed friend of mine named Richard to help. I knew that at that time Richard was hankering to learn the manly skills of construction, so it was not hard to talk him into helping. The money I offered him wasn’t so bad either. I also offered money to my next-door neighbor’s son, Jim, to help, and he agreed. Once the materials were delivered, we were ready to go.

Remarkably, Richard and Jim showed up on the appointed day. We figured that we should do the garage first to learn on, and also as a trial to see if we could do it. Lingering deep down inside was the doubt that we wouldn’t succeed, but outwardly I remained optimistic. At that point Grandad came out onto the backporch to supervise and casually mentioned that the old roofs had to come off, since there were three separate layers on the house and garage, the maximum allowed by code.

“No problem, Grandad.” I chirped. “We can handle it.”

We climbed up a ladder onto the roof of the garage and started to pull the old roof off with hammers and pry bars. The garage was only one story, and the pitch of the roof was only about 30 degrees, but the temperature was about 90 degrees and climbing. Also, at one corner of the garage, Jim’s parents kept a pen of chow chows, enormous, slavering, bear-like dogs of Chinese origin, that displayed the unnerving habit of staring at us quietly and hungrily. Like Chinese Tong killers, they would stand off from the garage, waiting with expressionless faces. When one of us slipped a bit on the roof, the chows would perk up and move forward slightly, opening their mouths to show blue tongues and sharp teeth. Since it was only a corner of the garage roof that hung over the chow pit, we weren’t too worried. We let Jim do that part of the roof, figuring that even if he did fall, they were his dogs, and they probably wouldn’t eat him.

The temperature continued to rise. Around eleven o’clock it began to dawn on me that August in Tennessee was a bad time to roof a doghouse, much less a garage and a house. I climbed down from the roof saying that I had to repair some stucco inside the garage. The stucco had been busted up pretty badly–my grandfather had done it a while back when he stopped his Lincoln in front of the garage, forgot to cut it off, forgot to take it out of gear, forgot to put the brake on, and then got out. He had been lucky; the car hadn’t run over him, and I was kind of glad he had done it, since it was now giving me an excuse to get out of the sun. Richard and Jim bought that story without a lot of grumbling, so I started the stucco repair inside the garage.

About an hour later, Richard poured off the roof looking as if he had just spent a month crossing the Gobi desert on foot. Muttering something about how next job he was going to be stucco-man, he stumbled over to some shade and collapsed on his face in the dirt. Grandad, still on the porch, stared at him a while, then disappeared into the house. He came back directly, called me up to the porch, handed me a brand-new outdoor thermometer still in the package (it read 96 degrees and it had been in the house), and quietly remarked with deep sincerity, “Ya know, no one in their right mind would roof on a day like this.” I didn’t say a word; I just took the thermometer out to Richard and showed it to him. He put his head in his hands and shook convulsively for two or three minutes. He got up a little while later and seemed to be okay.

Finishing the garage the next day wasn’t so bad since the temperature had plummeted to around 92 degrees. We spent the first part of the day hauling the old roofing to the dump, from which we brought back almost as much as we had taken: old books, pieces of wood that we might find useful one day, half of a slide, and other garbage that we thought valuable. We carefully stored it in the garage. The second half of the day we spent roofing the garage.

We first nailed the roofing felt to the roof, then started to lay the shingles. Row upon row, we were rapidly covering the garage with a roof. The chows seemed less interested in us, and things were going along without hitch, until my mother started up a fight in the house with my grandmother.

Now I had grown up with their fights and was used to them, but this fight was special. My mother, if she thought there were strangers around, could, according to my grandmother, make Jesus Christ curse. And I half believed it that day. It started somewhat quietly at first, with only some loud talking. We couldn’t see anyone in or around the house, but the noise got louder and louder like the rising wind of a coming hurricane. The loud talking grew to screams and yells, and eventually, amid some of the most creative curse-words ever screeched, you could hear doors slamming, people running up and down stairs, pots and pans crashing, Grandad hollering “SHUT UP! SHUT UP!”, and the sound of my grandmother hitting something solid with a broom. Jim was used to all this, as he had grown up next door, but I was a bit worried about what Richard was thinking. Embarrassed, I blandly suggested to him that my mother was explaining nuclear physics to my grandparents and that she lectured this way all the time. Finally, there was a sudden silence, and a few seconds later my mother burst from the back door. Damning my grandmother and all her family to hell, she hopped into her car and shot out of the drive, not to be seen again till long after dark.

Things calmed down after that, but I began to have suspicions about my ability to roof. The heat, the work, the chows, and the screams of the people in the house began to congeal in my mind, along with a vague premonition of doom, into a suspicion that perhaps we had taken on too much. I wisely kept this to myself, though. The garage was Thunderhead Mountain; the house turned out to be Nanga Parbat, south face. From atop the garage, the house didn’t look so tough. The garage was easy, and we had finished it. We could, we felt, handle the house. But then we climbed up there.

The roof could not have been less than 45 degrees. Richard found out, suddenly, that he was afraid of heights. I was still determined and evidently had sun stroke, because I boasted to Richard, “We can do it.” In order to make Richard feel better about his fear of heights, which he tastelessly displayed by roping himself to the top of the roof, I roped myself to the top of the roof. I could tell he appreciated it, so we began to tear off the old roof with shovels and pitchforks. It was my idea to use such tools and it worked quite well. Since the roof was so steep, we would just dig under the roof, loosen it, and roll it over upon itself, after which only a slight shove would cause the rolled up roofing to peel off like a rock slide. At times, large sections of the roof would give way and slide to the ground with a roar. When this happened, it generally scared the wits out of us since we were usually working on, and were supported by that portion of the roof that gave way. But even so, I was beginning to feel positive again, and we finished up the day having removed all of the back roof.

The next day, storm clouds rolled in. Frantically, we worked to get the felt nailed on, which would at least shed most of the impending water. Thunder began to peal in the distance, and the wind began to rise. Then there was a huge crack of lightning close by, and I heard this scuffling sound behind me where Richard was. When I turned around, he was gone.

I called out “Richard?” To my relief, he answered, from inside the garage, that he was okay, and that he was busy removing all metal objects from his person. I kept at the roof, however, as I was thinking about the possibility of the house as my inheritance. I prayed fervently that it would not rain, and it seemed to work. The wind died down, the thunder trailed off, and the lightning stopped. I thanked God and kept nailing. Richard kept cowering in the garage.

Then–KABOOOOM!!–a huge, completely unexpected, terrific clap of thunder disturbed the idyllic vapours right over my head. Richard said later that I threw the hammer and was in the garage before it hit the ground, but I think that’s a bit exaggerated. However, it was at this point that I began to have suspicions about my ability to roof, and if there were any doubts, the skies opened to wash them away. The wind picked up again, and what little felt had been nailed down began to blow away.

I slowly walked into the house to explain to Grandad what had happened. I found him standing in his attic closet where he kept all those special belongings that old people collect over the years and hold dear, watching a cascade of water stream through the roof and pour over his memories. I left quietly, realizing that I didn’t need to say a word.

Next day, I called Grandad on the phone rather than visit (just to be safe), to tell him that maybe he ought to hire a roofing man to come finish the job. The day after that, five or six guys showed up to finish the job. I came by to see how things were going and found several of them lying in the front yard pouring water over their bodies. The outdoor thermometer read 98 degrees. I told them this and quietly remarked with deep sincerity, “Ya know, no one in their right mind would roof on a day like this.”

The Six Days of Eddie Diamond

Posted in Personal Remembrances with tags , , , , , on October 18, 2008 by McKinley Pitts

“Where did you find him?” I asked, as we stood in the foyer at 1415 17th Avenue South.
“We were downtown preachin’ The Gospel out in front of the Nashville Union Rescue Mission,” Danny McGraw, a nineteen-year-old drop-out, answered, “and we got to talking. I told him about our place, and he said he wanted to see it. So here he is.”
“Praise the Lord. I’m the deacon of high school ministries here at the Twenty Third Psalm house ministry, because I’m the only one that hasn’t dropped out of high school. My name’s Ken. What’s Yours?”
“Maw name is Eddie, Rocking Eddie Elvis. Hayr’s maw card.” Eddie handed me his card, the standard business variety with

Rockin’ Eddie “Elvis” Diamond
Singer and Guitar Player

printed on it. A telephone number was in the upper left-hand corner, and a little guitar was in the lower right-hand corner.
“I play the guitar and sing real good,” Eddie assured me.
He was a five foot, six inch greasy fellow with dark, slicked-back Elvis hair and a barely visible pencil-thin black mustache. About twenty-three, he had a chin so weak that I wondered what held his head up. He couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred and thirty pounds. His skin surely was an institutional color underneath his dirty three-piece Carl Perkins suit of dark blue and pin-stripes. He wore cheap, brown Wellington half-boots over thin dirty-white socks. He was smoking a Marlboro with his fist like Elvis held a microphone when howling at full-auto. As he stood leaning up against the wall, one leg bearing all his weight, the other leg cocked so that the top of his Wellington peeked out from under his cuffless pants, he’d flick his cigarette ashes into his boot.
He tended to drool when he listened to you for very long–his mouth hung open except when he took a drag off of his Marlboro. He talked like his little crooked nose was packed with wet cement, and he sniffled constantly. He had a lot of post-adolescent acne on his face. When I looked into his eyes, which were small, dark, and set close together, I wasn’t surprised to find an expression as dull as a dirty mirror. He looked quickly away, not liking anyone to peer in. There wasn’t a lot in Eddie’s mind, and you could tell it right off. Eddie packed a guitar.
“I come ta stay with y’all,” Eddie informed me.
I looked at Danny as if to say Eddie is your baby, pal and invited Eddie to come on in. Danny and I sat and talked to Eddie for a while. He evidently spent his time at his parent’s house somewhere in Nashville, the Nashville Union Rescue Mission–a street ministry that takes in and feeds all the derelicts that get tired of living out of trash cans, and Central State–the state run institution for the insane which at that time in 1971 elicited as much affection from its inmates as Dachau did in 1944. Central State was really into electricity.
His parents treated him all right Eddie said, except for the fact that they were the ones that had introduced him to the wonders of Central State Psychiatric Hospital, since they couldn’t afford a private hospital for him. He had just finished a stint at Central State and had been checking out the Rescue Mission for a meal when we found him.
“Lemmie play a song fer y’all,” suggested Eddie as he whipped his guitar around off his back. “I play an sing as good as Elvis do. Jes lissen hyar.” Eddie believed only in one cord that consisted of him whanging on the top string of his guitar with his right hand and occasionally moving his left hand along the frets at a feeble attempt to change the sound. No matter what he did to that guitar, it all sounded the same. The rhythm he pursued was early lawn mower. He would sing:

Whang-Whang-Whang-Whang-Whang-Whang-Whang-Whang- Whang-Whang-Whang-PLEASE-Whang-Whang-Whang-PLEASE- Whang-Whang-Whang-YO MAW GOURLFRIENBABEEEE-Whang- Whang-Whang-PLEASE-Whang-Whang-Whang-COMAWN, GOWITMEDOWNTOTHARIVER-Whang-Whang-Whang- ANLESGITWET-Whang-Whang-Whang-Whang-Whang-Whang- Whang-Whang-Whang-Whang-Whang-Whang-Whang-Whang- Whangity-Whang.

      “I calls that maw old Briggs an Stratton Blues,” Eddie told me.
“Very nice,” I lied. “Eddie, do you know Jesus?”
“Yeah, I know Jesus. I pray to him alla time, like when I was out at Central State. Everbody pray out thar, specially at night when a lot o the patients git ta screaming.”
“That’s great Eddie. Have you ever done drugs?”
“Naw. I wouldn’t never touch drugs. They’s messes up your mind.”
Over the next few weeks we saw a lot of Eddie. He came to meals and we fed him. We let him spend the night with us. We let him bathe there. We washed his clothes. He said that we were a heck of a lot better than the Rescue Mission. He showed up at the Friday night prayer meetings and leaned up against the walls. We prayed with him that God would help him, and he prayed the same.
Most of us had come out of the drug scene and had messed ourselves up pretty badly. Eddie, without the benefit of drugs, had been born messed up. But to us, Eddie was a challenge. That’s what the Twenty Third Psalm was for, to help the helpless and give those ‘hopeless’ cases another chance.
If anybody seemed hopeless it was Eddie. All the psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers that had ever talked to him had done him no good, but we knew that we could. We had the Holy Ghost. All those professionals didn’t. Eddie obviously needed ministering to.
He had lots of problems just like most of the kids that lived and ministered at the Twenty Third Psalm. Eddie couldn’t hold a job or really take care of himself. He was as crazy as a loon.
“Thar’s somethin wrong with me,” Eddie would say. “People say I’m teched in the head. I got all kinds o problems.”
“Eddie. What do you think is wrong with you?” “I don know. I jes cain’t seem ta do nuthin right cept sing. I’m gonna cut a record down on Sixteenth Avenue, ya know.”
“Yeah, Eddie. But what about your problems?”
“What problems?”
“You know. All those problems of yours we’ve been talking about.”
“What you wanna know?”
“What do you think your problem is, Eddie?”
“I just cain’t do nuthin right cept sing. I tries ta do things but I jus gits mixed uh, uh, up an nuthin works out an I half ta go back in the hospital and I don’t not like it thar since they take maw guitar away an I fine it hard ta carry a tune cept in a bucket, har, har, git it, in a bucket, yak, but it’s bad thar cause thar’s all kinds o crazy people thar and they’s screams a lot an throws up on the floor and pisses theirselves.”
Ron Klenk, the twenty-three year old “elder” at the Twenty Third Psalm, was listening in. Ron was a medium-sized guy, clean-shaven with sharp features, who constantly sported a Jimmy Carter grin. He was what you would call motivated. Ron had been a Christian for about a year and had founded this house, so he was the “elder,” or leader, of the house. God had “called” him up from Atlanta to come to Nashville because he had heard that the newly saved hippies of Nashville needed, or at least wanted, a place to grow up.
Ron had grown up with his parents in a small town in Florida that was a lodestone of sorts for spiritualists and other crazies in the south. His parents had gotten saved and had been influential in his salvation. His mother sang in tongues constantly at the top of her lungs and claimed to physically see and smell the Lord. Ron had dabbled in drugs and had once owned a car wash. He was very spiritual, functioned in all the nine gifts of the Spirit, and knew all about demon possession.
“Eddie,” Ron declared. “I know what your problem is.”
“Y’all do?”
“Sure. You’ve got a demon.”
“Inside of you.”
“Inside o me? How you can tell thet?”
“Eddie, I have the gift of discernment, and a person with that gift just knows these things.”
“Wow!” said Eddie.
“Wow!” said Ken. “What are we going to do?”
“We’re going to cast it out,” said Ron. “These demons are a tricky lot, very tricky. It sometimes takes lots of prayer and fasting.”
“Y’all gone to pray an fast fer me?”
“We’re going to pray for you. You’re going to fast,” Ron answered.
“What?” said Eddie.
John Shergur, an old, twenty-one-year-old, dope-smoking acid freak that we had picked up hitch-hiking and had led to the Lord about a month earlier, walked up. He had spent the most time with Eddie and really loved him.
“We gonna chase the Devil out of Eddie?” John asked.
Eddie eyed us all suspiciously.
“Sure are,” said Ron. “Eddie, why don’t you go get a bite to eat out in the kitchen.”
Eddie wandered out.
“Listen,” Ron said quietly. “I’ve seen a lot of this sort of thing. Eddie’s definitely got a demon. I look into his beady little eyes and I can see a demon staring out. It’s that dull expressionless look that’s a dead giveaway. And the drool. Yep, he’s got a demon all right.”
We listened raptly as Ron continued. “Once down in Atlanta at the House of Judah I heard that there was this woman just like Eddie. What the elders David Hoyt and them did was to take her and lock her in a closet on a seven-day forced fast. They kept a prayer watch outside the closet around the clock, and the demons made the woman howl and scream and pound on the door for six days. And on the seventh day, the demons left and she came out of that closet a changed woman, just as normal as me. That’s what I want to do for Eddie. John, I want you to talk him into it. He trusts you and will listen to you.”
“That’s a great idea, Ron,” John declared.
“Makes perfect sense to me,” I asserted.
We all agreed that it was a wonderful idea–there were about nine brothers and six sisters in our house–and we all determined that, by the power of God, Eddie would be healed. After all, hadn’t we all been delivered from drugs and having to work at car washes and all the hellacious things that had gripped us in drug madness?
After John talked to Eddie for a bit, Eddie, for some bizarre reason, agreed to our plan to get rid of the demons. He said that he knew that something was wrong with him and that if anyone could help him, it was us.
That afternoon, we picked a closet out for Eddie. Upstairs in the front room of our big sandstone house, it was about four feet deep by six feet wide, just big enough for Eddie to stretch out in. We cleaned the closet out, removed the clothes bar, and fixed Eddie a pallet to sleep on.
Before he entered the closet, we all prayed with Eddie that God would deliver him. We all hugged him, and he entered the closet with just his clothes, a small lamp, and a plastic bucket to urinate in.
For the first fifteen or twenty hours Eddie was fairly quiet. We took four hour shifts to pray for him and talked to him through the door about the Bible, Jesus, the Spirit, and God. We opened the door every so often to give him water and to take his urine bucket to be emptied. But the novelty of Eddie’s new experience was wearing off fast, and he began to want out.
The first morning of Eddie’s deliverance dawned clear and warm. We were all very optimistic, except for Eddie.
“Please lemme out o this hayr closet, I wont play maw guitar no mo.”
“Eddie,” I’d say, “I can’t let you out. We have got to get those demons out of you. It sure is a pretty day out today.”
“Lemme out so’s I kin see thet purdy day.”
“No Eddie. You know I can’t.”
BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM “Lemme out. I caint breath in hayr.”
“Come OUT, DEMON, In the Name of JESUS, I COMMAND You.”
“Please open the door so’s thet demon will have some way ta git out. I don want him in hayr with me.” BAM-BAM-BAM- BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM
“Come OUT, DEMON…”
“Please open this hayr door. I haint got no demon, honest.”
“In The Name Of JEEEEESUS…”
Ya know what, I jes felt that ol demon go right out o me. I’m freeeeeeeeeeeeee, that old demon don runned off. Now will y’all open this hayr door.” BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM
“Quit kicking the walls in there, Eddie. You’ll just hurt yourself.”
John came in to relieve me at that point. “Just listen to those demons screaming out of Eddie,” John shouted in my ear.
“What did you say?” I hollered over the demons that possessed Eddie. “I’ll take over now,” John screamed.
This went on for about three straight days.
On the third day Pat Boone’s mother came by. She’s the grandmotherly type complete with wire-rim bifocals and gray hair done up in a bun. Since she was familiar with our work and donated frequently, she liked to keep up with what we were up to. Ron told her what we were doing for Eddie explaining how demons were hollering out of him and that the demon was just about to be starved out. Mrs. Boone said that she thought it was a wonderful thing what we were doing and blessed us for it. She left secure in the knowledge that we were doing God’s work, and Eddie kept on yelling.
By the fourth day we were frazzled. Every time we opened the door to give Eddie water and get his urine bucket to empty, he’d make a break for it. He looked horrible. He was dirty, greasy, his hair was in knots with tufts sticking out here and there, and his clothes looked like a dog had slept on them for a week. The inside of the closet was covered with scuff marks and cracks where he had been kicking the walls, and it stank of stale sweat and urine. We were all aging fast.
The next day was when Eddie became desperate. I was walking across the yard on this fifth day of deliverance and all of a sudden John, who was on Eddie watch, slammed the window open on the second floor that was in the room where Eddie’s closet was. He started beating his chest and coughing violently, then turned and disappeared from the window. I then heard sounds of a struggle with screams of “Get back in there” mixed in with “Please lemme out.” I heard Danny come in and start hollering. There was a lot of banging suddenly, so I went into the house to see what was up.
I cautiously went up the steps and peered down the hall to the closet in the front room. Across the door of Eddie’s closet was nailed a four foot length of fir two-by-four secured on each end by several bent and many properly driven forty-penny nails. John was hanging out the window again and I stuck my head out and asked him what had happened.
“Eddie–hack, gasp–had a–cough–tear gas pen–gasp–that he fired off in my face–hack–when I opened the door to get his–wheeze–urine bucket.”
There was a terrible racket coming from inside the closet as the door bowed out with each of Eddie’s efforts to get up enough speed in four feet to break the door down.
“Eddie had a tear gas pen?” I asked.
“Yeah,” John answered. “Who would’ve thought to search him for weapons. And I just got the nicest letter from Eddie’s father thanking us for all we were doing for him. Of course, he doesn’t know anything about what we’ve been going through lately.”
Next day, the sixth day of Eddie’s deliverance, we decided to let Eddie out of the closet. We figured that if he hadn’t been delivered of demons by now he never would be. Anyway, he was certainly more assertive about his rights than before he went into the closet.
Several of us went up to pry the board from Eddie’s door. He was very quiet, but at the instant the door was unlocked, Eddie slammed the door open and bolted screaming into our arms, flailing us with his tiny fists. We wrestled him to the floor and assured him that we were not going to put him back in the closet. He then went totally limp with relief and we helped him to his feet. He walked out of the room and went straight downstairs to the refrigerator.
When Eddie had finished gaining ten pounds in fifteen minutes we let him take a shower while we washed his clothes. We pulled the nails out of the door facing and made plans to repair and paint the closet. The room was to become the sister’s room, and they didn’t like all those spooky scuff marks and scratches on the walls and door of the closet.

Eddie left the next day and we never saw him again. His father wrote John another letter threatening legal action, but nothing ever came of it. John heard that Eddie was back at Central State and went out to see him, but Eddie wasn’t very talkative except to say that Central State wasn’t all that bad.
While visiting Eddie, a lunatic inmate accosted John and screamed at him, “I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE. YOU’RE A CHRISTIAN. HAH! BUT YOU’LL NEVER GET ME,” and ran off laughing maniacally.
Late in 1972, a friend of mine that had lived at the Twenty Third Psalm picked up the April issue of Esquire magazine that featured an interview with Pat Boone titled “The Gospel According To Pat Boone” by Tom Burke. He was questioned extensively about his charismatic faith and when deliverance from demons came up, he told them a story that his mother had related to him:

My parents told me about a wonderful thing that happened in my home town recently. There’s a young Christian group there called the Twenty-Third Psalm Ministry, and they try to get people off drugs through Jesus. There was a local kid whose mind was so blown by LSD that doctors thought he’d become a permanent schizophrenic, but the Twenty-Third Psalm people asked him to come to them for a few days. Now, what they did was, they put him in a dark closet and locked the door, and twenty-four hours a day somebody stood outside the closet and prayed and read the scriptures to him and commanded the demon to leave this boy. In a day or so, he was beating on the door and screaming in a very strange voice and begging them to please let him go, he screamed that he’d never bother them again if they’d just let him out. But they didn’t give up, they fasted, prayed and focused the power of God on his demon; the third day, he wept and wept. Then they let him out. He was very quiet, the crazy, abnormal side of him had disappeared. The last I heard, he was a changed, restored guy.