ALABAMA BLUE by Toni K. Pacini
Today’s VIGALAND PODCAST features a reading by author Toni Pacini of the opening chapter of her brilliant memoir, ALABAMA BLUE. Alabama Blue is a southern Gothic Memoir that is both chilling and inspiring as it tells the story of Toni’s journey to happiness after a life of struggles that began with being born to an alcoholic mother. You will never forget ALABAMA BLUE. You can read my review of this memoir at this link in the book review section of MEMOIRABILIA. You can also listen to a podcast of a short chapter about Pepperell Lake which Toni describes later in the book under
As today’s podcast is a long one, we cannot include the entire transcript here so we hope you will listen. If not, slip over to Amazon to PREVIEW Today’s VIGALAND PODCAST is brought to you by author, book reviewer and memoir writing facilitator, Viga Boland. Your shares to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and otherwise would be most appreciated. Thank you.
Natural Born Actress—1960
Momma created chaos and breathed insanity, like a twisted composer creating a maddening tune. The tune might be awful and hard to listen to, but at some level, you respected the composer’s ability to create it. Momma wasn’t just crazy, she was a carrier. She spread the disorder wherever she went. It was my birth gift. Momma had a way of driving men crazy, too, but not in a good way. I mean out of their minds and out of control insane. Momma would flirt, tease, do and say whatever was necessary to get a man to buy her a bottle, and then she’d dump him.
On this occasion, as on so many others, Momma’s grand master plan backfired on her. Earlier in the evening when she called for a cab to take her to the liquor store, she knew she only had enough money for her vodka and not enough to pay for the cab. Clever as always, Momma had the cab-driver pick us up one block over from our house in the mill village. She made me go along ‘cause it always looked better to have a kid in tow. The cab driver parked the cab, and he and I waited in the parking lot of the state-run liquor store– they were called package stores back then– with me fidgeting nervously in the back seat while Momma went in to get her medicine.
As soon as my momma was out of sight, he turned so he could hang over the front seat and look me straight in the eyes when he said, “You gonna be a looker like yo’ momma. I bet you already got boys sniffin’ ’round you like a pack of dogs.” I cringed and jerked away when his hairy hand reached out and touched my bare leg, up near the cuff of my shorts. He laughed. When he caught sight of Momma heading our way, he turned back to his steering wheel. I wished I could open the door and run and run, but I knew, even then, there would be nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide.
Once back in the cab, Momma opened her pint of vodka and slid its neck out of the brown paper bag just enough to get her lips around it before we even pulled out of the parking lot. After desperately sucking a gulp, Momma began to talk-up the cab driver. Momma was always goin’ on about how she could talk just about anyone into just about anything, given enough time.
When the driver parked on the street where he had originally picked us up, in front of the house he reasonably assumed to be our home, Momma pretended to be ever so surprised to discover that she didn’t have enough money in her purse to pay him. She assured him that she had more money in the house, and if he’d sit tight for a minute, she’d be right back. My momma was always an extraordinary actress.
Momma got out of the cab and strolled ever so casually, with my hand in hers, around the side of the house as if she intended to go in the back door. As soon as we were out of his range of vision, she ran. I ran, too, not wanting to be left alone in the neighbor’s yard when the cab driver man came looking for us. We ran across the back yards to our house. Momma burst through our door and erupted into laughter at the stupidity of the driver. If she’d been sober, she would have been afraid, but Momma feared nothin’ and no one, after a couple of drinks.
My momma, Genell Lois Aldridge, was a natural born actress. She’d honed the art through trial and error over the many years of her ongoing performances. On that particular night though, she ticked off the wrong audience. We had been home for an hour or so when the noise began. Momma had drunk most of her beloved bottle and passed out on the couch, holding her bottle lovingly to her chest. I don’t know how he found us, but the cab driver screamed obscenities while he banged his fist against our flimsy front door. I cannot remember if we’d left the door unlocked, or if he kicked it in. I just know that he got in.
I ran into the bedroom as soon as the crazy began, and when he burst through the front door, I scooted under the bed. But I couldn’t stay there while he yelled at momma, so I crawled out quiet as a wish on a shooting star. The door was almost closed, but ajar just enough for me to peek through the crack.
There, hidden behind the door, I watched, afraid to see what was going on, yet terrified not to know. (Podcast continues beyond this point.)
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