TRUCKIN’ by Johanna McCloy

Truckin'

It was the fall of 1984 and I was a sophomore at Duke University. My boyfriend Mark had just graduated and was uncertain about what he wanted to pursue as a career, so he extended his summer job as a driver and mover for a local moving company while he pondered his path and his future.

The moving company that he worked for was founded by a couple of Deadheads, Doug and Toni. Besides them, the staff comprised of Mark, Mark’s brother, and about five other employees, so it was small and had the feel of a large family. The name of the company was Truckin’ Movers and their logo was the same famous Grateful Dead boot that is seen on the cover of the band’s live Europe ’72 album. (I was told that Doug ardently pursued and happily received the band’s permission to use the name and logo.)

In addition to being Deadheads, Doug and Toni were also Krishna devotees, so Doug sometimes wore traditional Indian clothes to the office and donned a tilak (ash mark) on his forehead. In their Durham warehouse, incense smoke wafted in the air and shoes were stashed at the front door. Tapes of the Dead played all day with occasional interludes of Krishna chanting. We knew to be quiet upon entering the warehouse whenever chanting was heard.

While I made my way from Philosophy to Japanese to Geology classes at Duke, my beau mastered the art of loading and driving an 18-wheeler. The large truck had just been added to their fleet of smaller vehicles and Mark was the first employee to get a big rig driver’s license. It wasn’t easy. Maneuvering such a large truck was one thing, but there were also 12 gears and a very specific approach to braking. (If you’ve ever seen runaway truck ramps, that’s what they’re for, braking problems.) Mark had to know about the truck’s mechanics and followed a regimented checklist before each trip, just as a pilot does with a plane before taking off. He also had to know what to expect at highway weigh stations and how to address any issues that might arise there.

When Mark drove long distances over holidays, school breaks or weekends, he’d sometimes take me along, picking me up at the house where I lived off campus. Everyone knew he was coming for blocks before he arrived, because you could hear the truck’s rattling diesel engine and the hissing and squealing of its brakes. Large rigs weren’t supposed to drive through smaller neighborhoods, so as soon as I heard his truck approaching, I’d run outside and wait at the curb. He’d drive up and I’d open the passenger door, take the three large steps up into the cab, plop into the large rotating seat awaiting me, and throw my duffel bag into the sleeper area behind us while the truck barely idled. Then, he’d get the truck out of there before the police could arrive to hand us a ticket. (Doug and Toni weren’t always informed that I joined him.)

Truckin TrailerThe truck’s CB created another world on the freeways, an audio salon covering about a five-mile radius. Over the CB, truckers talked to each other about their jobs, the roads, their trucks, or the area around them. The most common use of the CB was to announce “Smokey” (highway patrol officer) sightings, which allowed truckers approaching the area enough time to slow down and avoid a possible speed trap. In Mark’s case, he received a lot of questions regarding the relatively new crate and tarp system that was being used on his 18-wheel trailer. After explaining how it worked several times, Mark suggested that I take the next query. I happily consented and we decided to make my CB “handle“ Tokyo Rose, based on my years of living in Tokyo as a teenager. It wasn’t typical for a female voice to be heard on the CB and the actress in me loved it. I’d use any excuse to start a conversation. “What’s the weather like in Bammy [Alabama]? Over.”

Truckers also used the CB to comment on motorists, looking down from their high perches into neighboring car windows and taking note of what they saw. Approaching truckers would be told to watch out for the chick in the blue skirt in the brown Toyota, for example. They’d look into the car as they passed, commenting to everyone with a “woohoo,” or “let’s see more of those legs, darlin’.” Little did that poor girl know that all the truckers in the vicinity were talking about her. Moving freely to her tunes, she was likely feeling invisible inside her boxed enclosure.

I learned about runaway ramps located off steep inclines for trucks whose brakes were failing. I learned about the frequency of torn tires and the need for replacements. I also learned the silent ways that truckers communicate by blinking their lights once to tell a truck behind them to go ahead and pass, and blinking twice as a way to say thank you after getting in front, if you were the truck that did so.

When we went to truck stops, we always used North Carolina accents so we could blend in and converse without calling attention to ourselves. When we pulled into weigh stations along the freeways, we’d hear the universal request from the officials awaiting us, arms outstretched with a palm open toward the driver’s window, their words jumbled together as one: “drivuhzlicenserestrationlawoogbuuk!” (driver’s license, registration, log book.)

A trucker’s log book identifies the drivers, the truck owner, the type of truck and the commodities being shipped in its trailer. It also tracks the location and miles for every 15 minute interval of time, whether on or off duty, and throughout every 24 hour period. (This is because there are strict laws regulating how much time a trucker can drive between rests. A faulty log book can result in harsh fines and even prosecution.) After the officials checked the documents and found them to be okay, which was most of the time, Mark would drive onto the designated scale markers on the ground. Each axle would be weighed to ensure compliance with state law maximums and a red or green light would indicate whether we’d need to pull over for further inspection or were free to move on.

When Mark first started driving for Truckin’ Movers, they only owned small trucks, so we were accustomed to riding together on those long vinyl seats that ran across the cabs and rattled along with the truck engines. When he graduated to the 18-wheeler, it felt like we’d become freeway royalty, bouncing with soft air suspension above everyone, in big comfortable easy chair thrones. The first couple of times we rode in those trucks, we’d inevitably break into British accents, pretend waving as if on a parade, “greetings to the minions.” When I rode along with him on multi-day trips, we generally stayed in motels overnight, but when he was alone with the big rig, he’d park at the large truck stops and sleep in the sleeper section of the cab, occasionally awoken by truck stop prostitutes knocking on the cab door to see if he might need anything.

One time, we were hit by a horrible storm in Alabama. I usually helped him by tracking inventory of the items being moved, but that day, I helped him load the truck as well. He was solo and the weather made the work even more grueling. The shipper couldn’t have been nicer and didn’t balk about the trucker’s girlfriend helping him load. After we finished loading, it was after dark and we were frozen to the core. We drove to a motel, took long hot baths and buried ourselves under the blankets, our bodies aching from head to toe. Another time, we unloaded a truck in San Francisco, where Glen, Mark’s “humper” (that’s the actual job title used for the person who assists the main driver/loader in the moving business), literally humped the client in her bedroom as we inventoried and unloaded her furniture on the floor below. She came downstairs with a wide grin on her face and when we were done, she took us all out for pizza.

Mark and I enjoyed all the adventure and independence that came with life on the road. We enjoyed it so much, in fact, that we seriously pondered buying our own truck and taking a year to live and work on the road as independent owner/operators after I graduated from college. That didn’t come to pass, but it remained a dream for some time.

When I’m on road trips and I pass big trucks on the highway or on long country roads, I consider my brief sojourn into that world and smile. Sometimes, I blink my lights to offer a trucker the chance to pass me, or as a way to say thank you for letting me do the same.

Tokyo Rose says hi. Over.

Johanna McCloy is editor of the Dare to be Fabulous website and the book, Dare to be Fabulous: Follow the journeys of daring women on the path to finding their true north. She also edited her mother’s memoir, Six Car Lengths Behind an Elephant:Undercover and Overwhelmed as a CIA Wife and Mother by Lillian McCloy.

2015 GRAMMY nods to two DTBF contributors

Congratulations go out (again!) to two of our DTBF story contributors, Terri Lyne Carrington (“Full Circle”) and Dianne Reeves (“Talking to the Devil”), for receiving a 2015 GRAMMY nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album, Beautiful Life.

Here’s the notification we received this morning:

Produced by Terri Lyne Carrington, Beautiful Life features an all-star cast that includes bassists Esperanza Spalding and Richard Bona, vocalists Gregory Porter and Lalah Hathaway, pianists Robert Glasper and Gerald Clayton, Raul Midón, Sean Jones ​and Reeves’ cousin and frequent long-time collaborator, George Duke.

Nominated for the 2015 GRAMMY for Best Jazz Vocal Album, “Beautiful Life” showcases Dianne’’s sublime gifts in what is a melding of R&B, Latin and pop elements within the framework of 21st Century jazz. “”At its essence,”” says Reeves, ““Life is beautiful, and I wanted to celebrate that which is too often overlooked.””

“Beautiful Life” features singularly memorable covers of Bob Marley’’s “”Waiting in Vain”,” Fleetwood Mac’’s “”Dreams”,” Marvin Gaye’’s ““I Want You”” and Ani DiFranco’’s self-empowering “”32 Flavors.”” The rest of the twelve tracks cover a spectrum from jazz to soul, along with two new songs, ““Cold”” and “”Satiated””, which are emotionally volcanic.

Here’s to Terri Lyne, Dianne and all these fabulous jazz artists.

DTBF!

Female characters in films today

Did you know that the ratio of male-to-female characters in film today has remained the same since 1946? Yes, you read that correctly: the same since 1946. This comes from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media, which recently released the results of a study titled Gender Bias Without Borders, investigating female characters in 120 popular films across the world. There are more statistics to go with that, none of which should be surprising if we pay close attention when we watch movies, but here are some:

  • crowd scenes contained approximately 17% female characters
  • only 30.9% of all speaking characters went to women and girls
  • ratio of men to women playing attorneys and judges were 13:1, and professors 16:1
  • females were over two times as likely as males to be shown in sexually revealing clothing, partially or fully naked, thin, and five times as likely to be referenced as attractive

Here’s a three minute interview with Geena Davis from CBS News:

Geena Davis suggested two easy steps that Hollywood and others can take to make their films less sexist:

The first step was for writers and producers to sift through the projects they’re already working on, and immediately switch several of the male characters to female ones. “With one stroke you’ve created some colorful unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they’ve had a gender switch,” Davis contended. If this exercise was practiced across the industry, this would acclimate audiences to seeing significantly more females in traditionally male roles such as plumbers, taxi drivers, politicians, scientists, techs and engineering experts. Davis argued that by exposing young girls to shows depicting more females holding such jobs, the result would be more girls growing up to pursue these jobs in the future.

The second step Davis advocated was for writers to specify in the script that the story’s crowd gatherings include “half female” gatherers. “That may seem weird, but I promise you, somehow or other on the set that day the crowd will turn out to be 17 percent female otherwise,” Davis insisted.

-excerpted from Casting Frontier

The Geena Davis Institute’s motto is “if she can see it, she can be it.” We couldn’t agree more.

DTBF!

Johanna

Renel Announces the World Series (Again)

It’s October and Renel Brooks-Moon will once again announce World Series games at the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park. Dare to be Fabulous is highlighting her DTBF story, “Finding My Voice” in honor of the occasion.

Renel Brooks-Moon

Renel Brooks-Moon at her announcing booth

“My first day of announcing was a totally out of body experience! Last week, I heard my voice announcing the Yankees line up and I was beside myself.” – Renel Brooks-Moon (excerpted from her DTBF story)

In wine there is truth

Ginny Lambrix is a DTBF contributor who has made a name for herself in the wine industry. . . literally! VML Winery, established in 2011 in the Russian River Valley, was named after her. Today, she oversees winemaking for this winery and for all the brands of Truett-Hurst.

Ginny’s DTBF story is about her path to sustainable viticulture and her love of wine.

Read “In Vino Veritas” by Ginny Lambrix

Ginny DTBF tee

Ginny wearing a DTBF tee in the vineyard (2009)

I raise my glass and offer a toast. . . to living one’s truth!

Also, we just announced the discovery of a stash of DTBF tees. If you’d like to purchase our tees (short and long-sleeve available), check out our re-uploaded boutique and inventory sale.

DTBF!
Johanna

 

Maya Angelou’s daring

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“Angelou was little known outside the theatrical community until “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which might not have happened if writer James Baldwin hadn’t persuaded Angelou, still grieving over King’s death, to attend a party at the home of Jules Feiffer, a cartoonist and writer. Feiffer was so taken by Angelou that he mentioned her to Random House editor Bob Loomis, who persuaded her to write a book by daring her into it, saying that it was “nearly impossible to write autobiography as literature.”

“Well, maybe I will try it,” Angelou responded. “I don’t know how it will turn out. But I can try.”  (Excerpt from an A.P. article)

And the rest, as they say, is history. Aren’t we lucky that she dared to try?

What a book title, too.  “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Beautiful, powerful, resonant. As she was.

“She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace,” said her son, Guy Johnson.

She dared to sing her song, and out of the cage she flew.

 

From the Summit of Everest

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Happy 2014! Here’s to new beginnings and daring adventures!

Our new DTBF story comes from Alison Levine, a history-making adventurer, explorer and mountaineer. Levine has climbed the highest peak on every continent, served as the team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, and skied across the Arctic Circle to the geographic North Pole. This, and a lot more.

Read about what it was like to reach the Summit of Mount Everest in her DTBF story, “On the Edge with Alison.”

DTBF!