Monday, January 25, 2016


I omitted this story from my memoir because I am unsure of when it happened and because it is such a strange story it's difficult to believe.  That said, I've been encouraged to write about all the interesting stuff. This qualifies.  Hitchhiking often brings about unusual convergences.  A normal person rarely hitchhikes and normal people rarely pick up hitchhikers.  I've covered many miles with my thumb so I have several interesting stories about hitchhiking.  I also have a few interesting stories from picking up hitchhikers.
My best guess is this happened in July of 1974, the day after I escaped from the Navy SP's at the Naval Training Center in Orlando.  I was seventeen years old.  Though unsure of the events leading up to this event, I am sure it was early in the day and I was hitchhiking on Interstate 95 North, outside of Daytona Beach Florida.  I was on the run (either from that first escape or something else) without ID, nervous about standing on the interstate with my thumb out.  This was one of those rare times when someone stopped after a few minutes.  The car was a Porsche.  I can't remember the model, but it wasn't a 911.  This one was small and boxy looking.  Both the front and rear of the car were snub-nosed.  It lacked the sleek lines Porsche is known for.  I believe the car was only produced for a few years, but I'm not sure about this.  It was a new car, so it would have been a 1973 or 1974 model.
The Porsche had South Carolina plates and was driven by a young guy, about twenty-one.  The car was new, still had it's new car smell.  We did the normal hitchhiker pickup small talk and got along fine.  He was a college student playing in Florida for a few months and was now headed to his home in Columbia South Carolina.  Columbia worked for me so he agreed to take me the entire way.  The car fascinated me, I mean I was seventeen and it was a Porsche, and a model I'd never seen nor heard of, so I asked questions.  He answered my questions but his answers lacked both detail and enthusiasm.  It didn't make me suspicious of him.  I figured he was just a rich kid who didn't think owning a new Porsche was a big deal.
After our initial chit chat died off I began to study the car.  It really was new.  Brand new.  It was more than the new car smell.  Everything else about the car indicated it hadn't been driven far.  Out of curiosity I looked at the odometer.  The car had less than 300 miles on it.  The guy said he'd been in Miami for two months. I'd also noticed a Miami car dealer's decal on the back before I got in.  I might have believed he'd bought the car in Miami a few days before going home were it not for the South Carolina plates.  With less than 300 miles this car had never been to South Carolina.
The guy was observant himself.  He saw me looking at the instrument panel then saw me doing the math in my head.  "You figured it out," he said.  "The car's stolen," I replied.  "You bothered by that," he asked. "Only if you can't drive fast if needed."  The guy laughed and relaxed.  I shared my story and he shared his. He was a college student and had went to Miami for the summer.  He was poor and went south to work a construction job with an uncle.  A week ago his old pickup truck died for good.  Without the truck he couldn't work, so decided to go home and get ready for school in the fall.  After pricing airline tickets he decided to steal the car.  He'd visited the Porsche dealer near a job site once and had noticed where they kept their keys, so that's where he went.  He added the plates from his truck and off he went.
Further down the road he devised a plan.  He really did live in Columbia so he'd rather not dump the stolen car there, so asked if I would be willing to drive it further for him.  It worked for me except I was broke. Didn't have a single coin in my pocket.  He got around this by filling the tank outside of Columbia and give me $20.  We stole a fresh set of plates so he could remove the ones registered to him. He didn't want me to know where he lived so I left him at a truck stop and drove away in the stolen Porsche.
I'm surprised I can't remember any other detail of this event.  Nine days after my escape in Orlando I turned myself in at Ft. Gordon Army base in Augusta Georgia.  I have a vague memory of asking my grandfather (Jack) to drive me to the base from his home in Aiken, South Carolina. I also have an even vaguer memory of leaving the Porsche at a bank parking lot in downtown Aiken. The more I think about it the more I think this was the case, but I'm not sure.  If so, I either I spent a week driving the Porsche around then went to my Grandparents home, or I went straight there and waited a week to turn myself in.  Whatever it was, it was the strangest thing to happen to me while hitchhiking.

You can read about more of Clayton's adventures in his autobiography "A Life Wasted." 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Third Time Drunk

The third time I got drunk was when I worked at the Pizza Hut part-time while stationed at Coast Guard search and rescue station Taylor's Island Maryland.  The event was the store's 1974 Christmas party.  The manager and I were the only guys who worked there, so the only guys at the private party.  The rest were young women, all attractive.  I'm eighteen years old so attracted to most women.  I started the party by telling everyone I didn't drink, which they thought was cute.  I stood my ground for an hour before I submitted to the pretty girl wanting me to suck salt off her hand.  Her name was Walda Kalowski.  She was twenty-two, a second grade teacher when she wasn't working at the Pizza Hut.  I ended up liking her so much I took her home to meet my mother.  This was the first time I'd licked salt off her hand and I liked it.

She passed me a shot glass and filled it with tequila.  I'd not tasted tequila before so the first shot was a shock.  I coughed and choked, sucked the lemon then licked salt off Walda's hand.  The bottle and glass passed around the circle and when it reached me again we repeated the process.  When it was my turn the third time Walda pulled her shirt back and poured salt on her neck.  This was a little too much for my rather puritan nature.  My reaction was to reach behind me and grab a twelve ounce beer glass.  This I filled with tequila.  To the cheers of my coworkers I turned the glass up.  I leaned back as I drank and was conscious of emptying the glass before I fell back into a shelf full of clean beer glasses.  I was instantly crap face drunk.
I woke the next morning in the Pizza Hut's girls restroom.  I had my arm around a toilet filled with my vomit.
My head hurt more than it ever had.  Eventually I got up and made it into the restaurant.  The doors were locked and no one else was there.  I saw my car in the parking lot but couldn't find my car keys nor the store's door key.  It was 9:30 am, which was a problem since I was suppose to be on the base for duty at 8:00.  At a search and rescue station when one guy didn't show up his opposite couldn't leave.  The guy I was suppose to relieve was going home for Christmas and anxious to get going.  I knew he was going to be upset so I started looking for my keys.  What I found was a note on the register saying that my keys were in the safe.  Even stupid drunk I knew I needed to get to the base to relieve my opposite so he could go home, so I kept trying to leave.  My coworkers knew not to let me drive, so they took my car keys and locked them in the safe.  Their logic was that once I was able to remember the safe's four position combination I should be sober enough to drive.  It was a pretty clever plan.  It was an hour before I got the safe open.  By that point I'd drank a quart of water and two cups of coffee.  I was still drunk, but able to drive back to the base.  The guy waiting for me never forgave me for being so late.
I swore I'd never drink again.  For the most part, I didn't.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Second Time Drunk

My promise lasted four months.  In "A Life Wasted" I wrote about getting locked up in Reykjavik after a pub fight.  It started when an Icelander insulted my country and spit on me.  All over President Nixon and Watergate.  After my ship's XO bailed me and my buddies out of jail we weren't allowed to mingle with Iceland's civilized, but socialist citizens.  After that I had a little incident with a Russian ship.  They took exception over my sneaking onto their ship and stealing their flag.  (Also covered in the book.)  What I didn't cover was what happened when we returned to Iceland after two months on the ice cap.  Since the Icelandic police wouldn't allow me back on their soil, the XO figured I'd be safe on the NATO base, which technically wasn't Icelandic soil.
A US Military bus took a load of us from the Coast Guard Ice Breaker to the large NATO base.  It was dark (its mostly dark in Iceland in the winter) so I didn't see much of the base.  What I did see was a large complex that housed their main bar.  A huge bar.  A Swedish rock band played on the stage, a large half moon bar near the back, and perhaps 800 small tables with several thousand military personal sitting or standing around the place.  The only women in the bar were behind the bar pouring drinks and the band's lead singer.  The rest were soldiers or sailors from many nations, all far from home, all focused on either the pretty Swedish lead singer or their drink.
The half round bar was six deep with men lined up waiting to order drinks.  There was no table service and no other place to buy mixed drinks.  I was with the guys that were arrested with me in Reykjavik a few months earlier.  Between that and the Russian flag we decided to be on our best behavior the rest of our time in Iceland.  Something our XO suggested would be wise.  So rather than fight the crowd for hard liquor we opted for a beer out of the line of vending machines against the wall.  Drop a quarter in the slot and a Budweiser dropped out like it was a Coke.  Pretty cool.

We searched for a place to sit which seemed impossible until one of our guys spotted an open table.  When we reached the table we saw a guy sitting there alone.  One of my buddies shook his head indicating he didn't want to bother the guy, but I wanted to sit down so I stepped forward and asked if we could join him. He looked us over then nodded and said, "Sure Mate,"  He was British Military.  If he told me which branch I don't recall.  What I do remember is that he looked like some one I didn't want to cross.  I only realized he looked dangerous after we sat down.  Something my buddy noticed when we first saw him.
He was alone but had a serving tray on his table with small glasses filled with dark liquor.  He drank one in a single swallow and offered us a glass.  My buddies all accepted, but I declined.  He said, "I insist.  Bad manners to snub a man's liquor."  Seemed wise not to show bad manners to this fellow so I accepted a glass and took a small sip.  The drink was a Black Russian, which was funny given our recent history with the Russians.  The guy didn't appreciate my delicate sip of his liquor or my smirk so he said, "Something funny." The way he said it sounded menacing.   For something to say I told him about the Russian spy ship and stealing their flag and how they tried to ram us and how a Soviet nuclear bomber made several runs at us in the ice cap.  He liked our story so much that he told some of his own.  His stories were of gun fights in Africa.  They were far more interesting than our little nuclear bomber threat.  Though he never said as much, we all believed the Brit to be special forces.
When his drinks were nearly gone I volunteered to go for more.  Mainly I wanted to get away from the table before I was forced to drink another.  I'd had two Black Russians which felt like a good stopping point.  It took a while to work my way up to the bar and by the time I did I was sure I didn't want to make the trip again.  I ordered Black Russians and told the girl to fill up one of those trays.  I don't recall how many there were, but at .50 cents each it cost $20 with tip.  As I turned away from the bar another British soldier stopped me and warned me to be careful of the chap we were sitting with.  He said the guy lost a mate in combat recently and was in a foul mood.
When I reached our table my table mates cheered at the tray full of drinks and I forgot about the warning.  I lost count of how many Black Russians I'd drank, but it was far too much liquor.  Everyone was drunk by this point.  At this point a guy from our ship got on the stage to kiss the pretty Swedish singer.  The Brit at my table stood up and shouted at my ship mate on the stage.  He made a derogatory reference towards Americans I didn't appreciate so I stood up suddenly.  When I stood my knee hit the small table which dumped the remainder of our drinks into the Brit's legs.  I remember looking down at the mess on his leg, then seeing his leg move.  I followed his foot with my eyes until it hit me in the side of the head.
When I woke up I was in sick bay back on the boat.  My drinking companions had their own beds.  I was the only one without broken parts.  I was lucky to be knocked out with the first kick.  I felt the ship under way.  I asked my buddies what happened.  They began to explain when the XO entered the room. Knowing he'd interrupted the story the XO picked it up.  The guy I assaulted kicked me then moved on to my friends. After that moved on to the next table, which was the spark that caused the entire place to erupt in fights. They wrecked the bar.  The XO was pissed.  He'd heard I had started the fight by hitting the crazy Brit so nothing I could say would convince him otherwise.  He knew it was over defending my shipmate so he didn't bring me up on charges.  I wasn't sure if he was serious, but he told me Iceland had prohibited my return and I was never allowed on a NATO base again.  Smart mouth that I am I said I'd been kicked out of better countries, to which he said he didn't doubt it.
I was sick for two days.  Being at sea didn't help.  My face was bruised and sore for weeks.  I swore I'd never drink again.

You can read more of Clayton's biography, including the time he stole a flag off of a Russian Spy Ship, on Wattpad. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

First Time Drunk

I grew up around serious drinkers, responsible drinkers, but sincere ones.  By all rights I should have grown up to become a drinker, but it wasn't to be.  The first time I drank more than a few sips from my parents glass was during Coast Guard boot camp.  It was 1973, I was 17 years old.  Towards the end of boot camp, in late November, we were given weekend liberty.  Boot camp was in Cape May, New Jersey.  One of the guys was from New Jersey so knew something about the area.  He said there was nothing going on in Cape May.  There were two larger towns to the north: Wildwood and Atlantic City.  Atlantic City was a decade away from having casino gambling, so it was as dead as everything else in the winter.  Wildwood was also dead, but closer.
This guy had a sister a few years older.  He'd arranged for her and a few of her friends to meet us in Wildwood.  Four of us took a cab to Wildwood where the sister and five of her girlfriends had already rented several motel rooms.  The girls brought liquor, something I'd never heard of: Southern Comfort.  My memories of the two day of liberty are a little sketchy.  I remember drinking Southern Comfort and nearly choking on it.  I remember the girls laughing at me.  I remember kissing a few of the girls.  I remember waking up in the bath tub with vomit on my shirt.  Everything else was a blur.
After being drunk for two days we returned to the base.  Still drunk.  The sister gave us a ride to the gate, where we attempted to hold each other up to walk through the gate.  The SP's at the gate called our Drill Instructor who picked us up and delivered us to the barracks.  Our Drill Instructor was less than sympathetic.  The weekend had been pain and misery and a few kisses.  The next few days were living hell without the kisses.  I swore to myself then that I would never drink again.

Read more of Clayton's biography here. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Miss America

I've never been any good at reading women or figuring them out.  In this respect I figure I'm an average guy.  It wasn't until writing this chapter that two things occurred to me: One, Dorothy had to have been the one to ask me out.  I don't remember either way, but it had to be her initiating this date.

There is just no way I would ask any woman out on a date when I was so crazy over Mary, but especially not a CBN guest, which would be inappropriate, and double especially not someone so far out of my league as the current Miss America.  I am sure she asked me out.  Thinking it though, I'm surprised I was confident enough to accept.  The second thing I now realize is that it's likely Dorothy asked me out to help me out with Mary.  On the ride from the airport to her hotel that first night all I talked about was Mary.  I doubt Dorothy meets many guys who spend their time with her talking about another woman.  She had to figure I was crazy about this gal.  I think she thought of it over that night, then asked me out the next morning when I picked her up for The 700 Club.  I am confident that she worked it out and figured the best thing she could do to help me was to make Mary jealous. It is the only thing that makes sense.
Since this only just occurred to me I've never asked Mary if she was jealous of my date with Miss America.  She didn't act like she was jealous, though she did soften up her resistance towards me after that date.  Nor do I know if Mary and Dorothy ever met.  They were both in the building at the same time during the telethon and both knew who the other was so there was plenty of opportunity for them to meet.  I know I didn't introduce them to each other, but someone else could have.  How about it Wife of mine.  Did that date with Dorothy make you jealous?  Did it have any impact on your softening up towards me?  And did you and Dorothy meet each other during the telethon.  Answer it here, Please, so everyone else will know the answer too.  :-)

The story of Clayton's date with Miss America is in his book, A Life Wasted, currently being written and posted on Wattpad for free. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bike Chase

In the summer of 1973 I attended a school mate's birthday party. He lived in the downtown area of Winter Part, near Rollins College. During the party several guys had been riding his off-road motorcycle up and down the street, not taking it far as it wasn't street legal.  I didn't care to ride the dirt bike until the birthday boy's older sister asked me to give her a ride.  All the girls in my 9th grade class were fourteen, but since I had failed 2nd and 7th grades I was sixteen.  All the fourteen year old girls were fine with having a sixteen year-old boy friend, but it didn't seem right to me so I avoided them.  Birthday boy's sister was sixteen and I liked her just fine so agreed to give her a ride on the dirt bike.

Being too mature to ride up and down the street, I pointed towards the Rollins College campus.  It didn't take long for a city cop to try to pull me over, which I declined to cooperate with.  The bike was not very powerful and my passenger made maneuvering difficult, so losing the cop was difficult. Looking for obstacles he couldn't go through I mistakenly put us in a closed ally that deadened into a parking garage.  With no where else to go I climbed to the top floor.  The cop must have known I was trapped in the garage because he took his time driving up the ramp's turns.  It was late Saturday afternoon so the bank's parking lot was mostly empty with a few cars sprinkled in.  On the top floor there was only one car parked, but there was no way to hide behind it.  As I took in the surroundings, looking for a way out, a movement caught my eye.
What I hadn't noticed until the doors opened was the elevator.  The elevator doors opened and a guy stepped off.  Before the doors could close again I had my front wheel in far enough to block them. The doors opened again and I drove all the way in.  Without being told to do so the girl jumped off and hit the button for the ground floor.  As the doors closed we saw the cop slowly pull into position to block the ramp.  As the elevator descended the girl kissed me.
I often modify my real-life events when I write fiction novels.  This is one of those that I want to use but haven't been able to work in yet.

Read more real life stories from Clayton Waagner in his autobiography: A Life Wasted. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Florida Ass Whipping

If you think I was crazy to taunt this upset state trooper under these circumstances I am incline to agree with you.  To fully paint this picture, two other state troopers had delivered me to him on a deserted back dirt road with nothing in sight but deep woods.  The guy who showed up was big and muscular, wearing a sweat stained t-shirt and his personal gun.  I knew it was his personal gun because I had lived in Florida and knew the state cops could only carry revolvers.  He was also driving his own car, so he appeared to be off duty.  From the moment I saw his face and read his body language I knew he was upset with me.  Before he punched me in the stomach I was terrified.Even though I had already lived an eventful life, I was only eighteen years old.  I was still a kid.  A very scared kid.

So why would I respond to his first punch by insulting the trooper's shooting skills?  The simple answer is that I am, and have always been a smart ass with a quick wit.  Earlier that day this guy had tried very hard to shoot me in the back because I ran from him.  He came so close to hitting me that I felt two of his bullets pass.  One of his bullets barely missed my head.  He tried to kill me earlier and I believed he was about to finish the job now.  So now I was mad at him and fought back the only way I could.  With a clever insult.  At least I thought it was clever until he beat me into unconsciousness.

Responding with a slashing comment is something I do without thinking.  I've always responded in anger with sharp words.  My wife loves me, but hates this part of me.  Few people like this part of me.  It often gets me into trouble.  This cop's plan was to beat me, which is why he had me delivered to such an isolated place, so the circumstances were bad no matter what I said.  I might have gotten less of a beating had I kept my mouth shut, and perhaps none at all had I acted like the scared kid that I was.  But through the majority of my life I used words as a weapon.

As I've aged I've learned to moderate my tongue and even hold it.  I've even learned to loose arguments, or at least not to win them all.  Experience and an aging body have afforded me some wisdom and even control of my tongue.  But on this day, at eighteen years old, I was far from learning that lesson.

I have always respected law enforcement officers and have never taken it personal when they arrest me.  With the exception of the Florida State Trooper mentioned here, I have not had what I would call a bad experience with a cop.  They were all respectful and professional.  Other than this event, no cop has mistreated me.  Even with this officer I believe it likely he was having a bad day.  I can see how he would be upset after such a dangerous high-speed chase.  If he really had driven over 200 miles per hour, then he had risked his life to catch me.  He had a right to be angry.  He didn't have a right to beat me, but I understand his rage.

Read Clay's Autobiography here.