Heaven, Hell, and starting rumors for Merle Haggard

If you’ve read the comments sections of this blog as of yet, you’ll see where my good friend and erstwhile co-blogger, Steve, sort of gave me the impetus for a book that is, for all points and purposes–already written.

It never occurred to me that the idea of interspersing the back stories as to what, thoughts, motivations, or subpoenas might have been what drove me to write letters to people as varied as Charles Manson and Mother Theresa might actually be the thing that sets it apart from a couple other books that have made the rounds in the last 30 years. None of those really explain anything, and as my friend Tim said, it’s a “joke without a punchline.”

This is especially true with regards to the deep, pathologically-disturbing issues I must have in order to actually make a three-point argument to Manson as to why he continually loses the parole-board.

I got a letter back, but I have to admit, unlike the nature of a writer shopping a manuscript, the more vociferous of return volleys were what made the day.

The San Diego Zoo’s soft refusal to rent me a Bengal Tiger was just that. Disneyland was so disgusted by my “Waco Incident” ride proposal that they mailed me back the original letter, not “wanting to retain it in their files.” They did hedge a bit saying that they have a secret sect of creators already–but I know they thought I was a crank.

General Mills wanted nothing to do with my “lower abdominal region-flavored” dog food–inspired by a rommmate’s dog, Boris–who was perhaps outfitted with the most horrifyingly disgusting skill set I’ve ever witnessed. They at least told me the chances of them arriving at these ideas prior to my letters was extremely high.

I started writing these in 1993-94. I flurried through a ton of them. Turns out I may have sown in the nineties what I might just reap in the right-about-now.

None of this, however time-consuming, kept me from trolling my local paper’s editorial department, who’d never think to vet my informational tribute to free it of the Black Sabbath lyrics I attributed to Merle Haggard:


I see Merle every few years (He lives here). Last time I saw him, I meant to show him this. But I was too busy trying to explain a rumor I started.

I was performing magic for the crowd prior to doors opening for The Cascade Theater’s 1-year restoration gala. I had carte blanche permission from Merle to photograph the show, and I wound up backstage, taking various green-room shots. My shirt and tie made me look all “usher like“ and as I came back out through the curtain to the auditorium, this poor, wavering unhygenic enthusiast in a severe alcoholic haze tried to walk past me.

Mumbling through the dysphonic shroud of beer-on-tap, he blustered,

“Can I go back there and see Merle Hag–”

I instinctively pulled my LG flip phone from my pocket and put my finger up in the classic indication that “I”M getting a call–be with you in minute.” I flipped open the phone, and began to talk to my implicatory mirage.

“Yes. Okay. That’s fine. Hey, why dont we bring Willie in on the other side to prevent him getting caught up for autographs before the show.” I hung up.

“WILLIE NELSON’S HERE?” he asked, nearly falling over.

“Don’t you say a WORD,” I admonished the poor man with his 18 and half minutes of blank, hemispheric analog tape.

Ten minutes later, I’m in the lobby. Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow had done her damage. The entire place had now osmotically absorbed Captain Morgan’s grand extrapolation.

After the concert, I’m standing with Merle. I handed his wife my camera. Merle looks at me and says,

“Somehow, people thought Willie was supposed to be here. I wonder how they got that idea?”

“Ahh, you know how that stuff goes, “ I said. “Seems it only takes one person to get these things going.”

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2 Responses to Heaven, Hell, and starting rumors for Merle Haggard

  1. Steve says:

    II think it will work. As you said, it’s mostly done except for the back stories.

    Some sort of ordering would probably be helpful – maybe by categories, or maybe in chronological order, or maybe something else. I think it will come together as you play around with it a bit. I think selection will be important, as it sounds like you have more material than you could reasonably use in a book. Of course, a good editor is helpful.

    I’m still chuckling over the “Trojan Trout.” The picture was great, too!

  2. Pam says:

    Ahh, the picture is beginning to come into focus . . . . and it’s a really big one. Wait. Whoa, hold on there, imaginations. (Emphasis on the plural.) Ron, you have us all reeling with your possibilities. Something huge is daily unfolding in you, and there are no limits to it. No actual place in your head where you can see a destination. There are no destinations, it’s all about the journey. How do you control/direct the driving messages? How you can concentrate on any one inspiration long enough to feel done with it, is beyond me. Does your mind ever actually dip down into REM sleep? Or does all that caffeine-induced energy keep driving you all through the night? Well, it’s o.k. with us if it does. Personally, I love sitting in the shadows of giants. It’s cool there. Thanks.


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