CHRISTMAS VACATION: CONFESSIONS OF A CONFUSED DOUCHE
SECTION THREE: NEW CASTLE, IN
Chapter XVIII: PeeDee Phelps
Unfortunately, one of the reasons I cherish the fond image of past New Castle has a negative connotation. I have always desired to make a movie about an incident that happened near my home when I was too young to fully understand everything. As I got older and thought about the incident from a more intellectual perspective, and did so quite often, I was disgusted with the whole ordeal. In order to make this film, it would require recreating New Castle to how it was as a child. That aspect of the film would be enjoyable—simply bringing back the old stores such as Murphy’s Mart, Hook’s Drugs, Thall’s Drive-In, Mac's Steak House, and Becker Brothers Grocery Store would have an enticing amount of nostalgia to satisfy a lot of people who grew up in small towns during this period. However, my controversial take on this matter would appeal to those now living in cities—albeit possibly anger many others.
The true story involves a man named PeeDee Phelps.
First, allow me to briefly describe New Castle. The town has a population around 17,000 (back then it was about 20,000). It is a mostly white town with one black section—The West End, 5th and 6th Streets. I grew up in the black part, 6th Street to be exact.
Anyhow, PeeDee Phelps also lived on 6th Street and was one of the few people in the neighborhood that I did not particularly like. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I hated him, we were kids, and looking back, he simply wasn’t a kid person. The kids in the neighborhood simply avoided him because we all thought he was an asshole; most kids today probably regard me as an asshole.
He was somewhat the neighborhood drunk, if our neighborhood had such a thing. It wasn’t as if he was drunk at all times—not like Da Mayor from Do the Right Thing. PeeDee was in his 30’s, had a job, and enjoyed a few beers after work. On occasion, he would get sloppy drunk, become rambunctious, and talk bullshit to everybody—he was considered a belligerent drunk.
On two occasions, I saw him get into scuffles with other people from the neighborhood. One came during one of the block parties that we used to have and the other came courtesy of my next-door neighbor (mentor) Satch Bassett. Satch was pretty much the coolest person on Earth and ranks just behind my mom, dad, and Aunt Gin for influential development—people that taught me the most important skills I needed when growing up. At the time, Satch was in his 60’s. However, he was not one to fuck with—he was a drill sergeant, fought in Korea, and was a black belt in both Judo and Karate. He also had numerous survival skills and was the type of person you’d want to be with should you ever get lost in the forest or the jungle. Comparison wise, I’d say he was an older version of a cross between Rambo and Kirby from Dead Presidents.
Needless to say, Satch kicked PeeDee’s ass relatively easily. Furthermore, Satch did not get along with PeeDee Phelps that well either and that may have further tarnished my then-perception of him.
PeeDee Phelps was put in jail for stabbing somebody. Word spread quickly through the neighborhood and I assumed that PeeDee was drunk and started a fight with somebody—although nobody knew the perpetrator. The newspaper insisted that PeeDee was in fact drunk and police testimonies confirmed that he acted belligerent and attacked an innocent person. I always thought PeeDee was sort of a dick and this did not surprise me.
What did surprise was when Tommy Fox came to the door trying to collect bail money for PeeDee. Tommy was the father of one of my best friends, Darnell, so he was somebody I trusted. I was curious as to why he would be even remotely concerned for PeeDee who some felt was in his proper home, the jail cell. I was like, “so, he stabbed somebody. Why would you try to bail him out?” Mind you, I was but 10 years old at the time.
Tommy witnessed the whole incident firsthand for it took place right across the street from his house. He claimed that PeeDee was walking home by himself minding his own business. An intruder from outside the neighborhood approached him recklessly, called him a nigger, and tried to run him over. They drove their car up and over the curb, through somebody’s yard, then got out of the vehicle and assaulted PeeDee; that PeeDee Phelps had acted in self-defense. That sounded rather crazy to me, and I wasn’t sure that I believed it.
Later that same evening, I was walking around the neighborhood and saw the evidence. There was a skid mark in the road, there was the tire tracks in the yard, and Darnell confirmed it by showing me, “look, this is where that car tried to run over PeeDee.” He didn’t see it though, and I didn’t think too much about it at the time for I was fairly young back then.
PeeDee was found guilty and sentenced to prison; his life forever altered.
That was an extreme case of racial injustice and it took place right in my own neighborhood. I have thought about that incident frequently over the years and it downright sickens me. Everything from knowing that rednecks do exist, people attempt to kill one another based on his skin color, all the way to how the police and newspaper falsified the article which played in intricate role in determining a guilty verdict, and all those who automatically assumed guilty without even knowing the facts (they simply went by what they read in the newspaper.) That one incident has forever changed my whole perspective on the world on a whole and particularly how I refuse to be influenced by the media.
Index: Chapter List
Chapter 18 Soundtrack Listing:
"Notorious Lightning" 5:58
"Flag of Hate" 3:56
Flag of Hate
3. Cannibal Ox
"Iron Galaxy" 5:57
The Cold Vein
5. Smokey Robinson
"Let Me Be The Clock" 5:17
"Paisley Park" 4:33
Around the World in a Day
7. MF Doom
"Arrow Root" 3:46
9. Belle and Sebastian
"Mornington Crescent" 5:40
The Life Pursuit
Further Adventuers Of Lord Quasimoto
11. The Dream Academy
"Life in a Northern Town" 4:19
The Dream Academy
12. Isaac Hayes
"Walk on By" 12:03
Hot Buttered Soul
All Sections Written, Designed, and Music Compiled by Tony J. Neal
Dead Presidents reference written by Albert and Allen Hughes
Bottom images of Hook's by wikipedia and Murphy's Mart by Tube City Online.
"Do the Right Thing" reference written and directed by Spike Lee