in which mr. john wrestles with credibility issues
Throughout my life, I have had some issues with credibility. With my lifestyle and the crazy situations, I found/find myself in my stories are so fantastic, so random, so unlikely that some people have difficulty believing me.
Stories like The Pink Shirt are OK if a person has a few such incidents during a lifetime. When there are 100 or more? The “Stink Eye” often makes an appearance.
Let’s Hear From A Couple of our Main Cast
If I didn’t witness half of them for myself, I would think most of your stories were bullshit.
— Will Laroche
Near the entrance to the Seminole reservation in Hollywood, Florida, there is a large wooden sculpture of a Seminole man wrestling a bowlegged, bucktoothed alligator. Laroche told me once that his father had been the model for the Seminole wrestler. I found this improbable since the Laroche’s have no Indian blood at all, but Laroche explained that the sculptor had been a friend of his father’s and had asked him to pose because he thought the elder Laroche possessed a quintessential Seminole build. I still found the story improbable, so I asked Laroche about it several other times, including once when we were on the phone and I knew his father was in the room with him. I had counted on his father to act as a sort of lie detector, but instead, the two of them launched into a discussion of whether the carved Seminole was life-size or larger than life-size, and whether it had a penis, and what the scale of the penis implied about Laroche’s father’s penis. This was not what I was hoping would happen, so I dropped the topic and never brought it up again.
—Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief
Susan had the “Stink Eye.”
The Original Crazy White Man
When Will Laroche came to Florida in the late ’50s, a sculptor approached him. The man needed a tall model with a decent bod and large hands to pose with a plaster alligator. Money for just standing around was too much of a temptation for an ex Northeastern Crabber/Fisherman learning the ropes of High rise Construction. All he needed to persuade him was the promise that his face would be changed. Immortality, of sorts, would be his.
The result rested in all its bizarre glory at the Indian Village for years. Every damn time we drove past it, I would hear the story — Every. Damn. Time. They even made a postcard out of the damn thing.
The statue was his “15 minutes” and in the eyes of a child, “a giant man kicking an alligators ass” was what a Dad should be.
When interviewing for The Orchid Thief, Susan would often give me “that look.” I was sure it was code for; “This guy is so full of shit,” which is what we shall call “The Stink Eye.” Frankly, I was amused. In this particular instance, I saw that she had dug her heels in, convinced that it was a manufactured story and brought it up several times, in an effort, I presume, to trip me up and prove the “lie.”
Chatting with the old man one day, I mentioned that Susan thought the statue story was bullshit, which pissed him off to no end. It was apparently “OK” for her to call me a liar, but to question him, that was unforgivable. I, honestly, begged him not to go on Orlean.
“Just let it go Pop.”
Letting go was not a real thing in my house, and the old guy gave me that “hold my beer” look and launched into it. I played color to his commentary, and the conversation ended as written by Orlean. In case of anyone wondering, we estimated the statue’s penis at some 15 inches.
The Book Published
My old man had his penis in a book. Virtually, but still, it was his dick.
At first, he wasn’t amused. Throwing gas on the fire, I suggested that he send Susan a Polaroid of the actual member. Looking back on it, I think I might have invented the “Dick Pic.” (Sorry.) In the end, he came around and during a recital of the tale, ended it with pride that his dick was in a bestselling novel.
Years later, as he was dying, we talked about my life and what I had done and seen and reminiscing, he reminded me that there was something he had accomplished that I never had; Yep, someone wrote about his penis in a bestselling novel.
The point is that this is all true. Everything happened.
I know you don’t want to hear me crying An I know you don’t want to hear me deny That your satisfaction lies in your illusions But your delusions are yours an not mine We take for granted that we know the whole story We judge a book by it’s cover and read what we want Between selected lines.
—Axl Rose, Slash and Dave Lank
Old Axl and friends pretty much sum up what I feel when folks doubt or hate on my stories. Furthermore, they are spot on here:
Don’t damn me when I speak a piece of my mind ‘Cause silence isn’t golden When I’m holding it inside ‘Cause I’ve been where I have been An I’ve seen what I have seen I put the pen to the paper ‘Cause it’s all a part of me
—Axl Rose, Slash and Dave Lank
There are so many things about my life that I hate, that disgust me, and when out of context, make me look like some Hellspawn. This said I wouldn’t change a single moment of my life because every tragedy and every triumph I have had in my life has brought me to now. I have the best wife a man could imagine and two brilliant children who have the brains and intelligence to change the world if they choose.
Listen, Learn, Make a Choice.
I realize I am a dinosaur, and my relevance to a 21st Century born is minimal. The world of most of these stories is dead and gone (which for the most part is a good thing).
As you read these posts, I hope they make you think and perhaps see things from a different perspective. See what I have done to cope with a life many are not blessed (or cursed) to have. I hope my choices help steer you in how you deal with tragedy or triumph. My way wasn’t always the right way; it’s just what happened. A mistake isn’t a mistake if you learn from it.