We weren’t going to Disney World, that’s for sure. We weren’t going to Hersheypark, Mt. Rushmore, Graceland, or that weird Flintstones village in South Dakota. We weren’t even going to the nearest Stuckey’s. There would be no road tripping. My father was agoraphobic, and travel was considered too dangerous or, at the very least, upsetting to the nervous system. There would be strange parking lots he had never negotiated before and unfamiliar financial rituals with people he didn’t recognize from church. There could be accents unfamiliar, accidental detours into the “bad part of town,” and many disorienting decisions requiring road maps and travel guides.
Valentine’s Day, 1995. The wife and I were dining in an upscale restaurant in downtown Savannah. It was the sort of place that intimidated regular drive-thru consumers like us by presenting a variety of long-stemmed glasses on the table, subliminally suggesting that we purchase wine. We decided on the most expensive bottle so as not to look like the uncultured cretins we were. At this early stage of our lives, we were unaccustomed to food establishments that didn’t serve their poultry in nugget form. We had actually eaten at Wendy’s on our wedding day the previous year. It had been a happily lowbrow romance. But this was Valentine’s Day, after all, so splurging on the finer things was in order. What’s a little more crippling credit card debt when celebrating true love?
My brother was a man of vision, a man with a plan. Before his untimely demise, David Holt had announced new get-rich-quick schemes on a weekly basis, and almost all of them involved t-shirts. This made sense, seeing as he was a graphics guy. What made even more sense for Dave was to coerce his younger brother into creating the actual t-shirt designs, seeing as I was also a graphics guy and much smaller and weaker than him. In David’s view, the t-shirt was the most dependable bait when looking to lure cash from the general public’s wallets. Sports graphics, Christmas gags, event souvenirs, or just a sly double-entendre in Futura Bold, my brother knew whatever the public found amusing or inspiring, they wanted printed on a t-shirt. It was difficult to argue with this conclusion, but, tired of being muscled into his shirt-selling schemes, I tried anyway.
I knew a girl in high school who worked a variety of mall jobs. First she worked in a chain store called The Petite Sophisticate (known in mall-shopper parlance as “The Little Bitch”), then she worked in the Spencer Gifts next door, and finally wound up down the hall at the Peanut Shack. She and I began to refer to this career maneuver as “moving left in the world.”