As Common as a Tramp Stamp in a Trailer Park

Working in and around prisons for years tends to change your outlook on things – and people.  And, usually for good reason.

5 Bldg. Folsom Prison from the Folsom Prison Museum

5 Bldg. Folsom Prison from the Folsom Prison Museum

Couple that little tidbit of learned behavior with the sick and twisted brain wave patterns of a mystery writer and all bets are off.  Any snippet of a conversation overheard in a coffee shop, or a quick glance at a person walking down the street and a story starts to unfold.

On a break from the keyboard, we (Wifey, the Corgis and me) drove down to the Monterey Peninsula, on the central California Coast.  After a few weeks of burning the candle at both ends, including forgetting that I had already written the dreaded synopsis of my latest novel, I needed some time away.  Some peace and quiet.


Monterey and Carmel are perfect for a recharge.  The mild climate, the ocean and walks on the beach.

The place does have more than a full share of colorful characters.  Characters.  Characters were something I was trying to avoid.  But, here they were, all over the place.  Stop the madness.

courtesy of

courtesy of

While out for a relaxing dinner in Carmel, we sat out on a patio with the Corgis and, my hand to God, witnessed a display of local color that illustrated the downside of marrying your cousin.  Oh.  My.  God.  Now, before you get all judgey-judgey on me; I’m not a snob.  Honest, I’m not.  I’m generally tolerant of fools, cretans and children (on leash).  But this reinforced my prison outlook on things once again…

Picture two couples, out for a cold beer after work.  Then another and another, followed by a change of pace to Long Island Ice Tea’s (for those of you who aren’t familiar with the beverage, a Long Island Ice Tea is a noxious blend of vodka, tequila, gin and rum combined for the purpose of getting your drunk on).  Then the language changes, a bit louder and punctuated by descriptions of sexual congress with one’s mother, in every other sentence.  This “Mother” gets around and apparently she’s quite amorous.

flickr commons via Jason St. Peter

flickr commons via Jason St. Peter

Turns out, these “gentle folk” don’t care none to much for the “Coasties,” who they blame for all their woes. There is a culture war going on between the people who live in the pricey confines of Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove and Carmel, versus the people who work there.  I get that.  Sure, the old “The Rich Get Richer” deal.

flickr commons via Louish Pixel

flickr commons via Louish Pixel

But at some point, your ability to get a job (and keep it for more than a couple of days) may have something to do with your perpetual hangover from Long Island Iced Teas, the torn off sleeves of your beer stained T-shirt, and your conversational prowess featuring your aforementioned Mother.

Listening to the genetically deficient conversation, I start thinking of putting these characters in my next book. This is too rich to ignore.  The backwards ball cap, the roach-throated drunk cackle from the girlfriend and the prerequisite tramp stamp.  The cast of Swamp People in a double wide.  The problem is that the whole thing seems contrived, too stereotypical trailer park trash.  Who’d believe that?

flickr commons via Matthew Hester

flickr commons via Matthew Hester

Nobody.  But the thread of the relationship between those who have and those who don’t, could be pretty compelling in the right story.  The struggle to make ends meet in the shadow of outlandish wealth.  Lots of possibilities there.  Sometimes the character doesn’t have to pop off the page.  Sometimes, the character can exist in the rich background of the story.  And, it’s more than a tramp stamp in the trailer park.


  1. Love how you introduced them as a “display of local color that illustrated the downside of marrying your cousin”. As I continued to read, my smile widened in recognition of some “genetically deficient conversations” I’ve overheard in the past. Who would believe it if they made it into one of your books? Unfortunately, a few too many of us who have witnessed these real-life stereotypes as society continues to dumb it’s way down. The way you write, you could make it work!

    1. Thanks Diane! There does seem to be a global dumbing down happening around us. Personally, I think the heat loss from the faulty, misfiring brain cells is the real cause of climate change. But that’s just my opinion. Now, excuse me while I go watch a new episode of – The Real Housewives of Someplace Nobody Cares About. Thanks again Diane…

  2. Hah! I too have heard a few too many “genetically deficient conversations”. More often than not they came from the mouths of teenagers. Perhaps these kids were merely going for the shock factor? All the same, if they had been mine to deal with they would be hiccuping bubbles from all the dish soap in their mouths. I wouldn’t call myself a prude, but sheesh!

    Just thinking about long island iced tea makes me smile. There was one winter evening when all my sisters and I went out to dinner. Kassy ordered a long island iced tea and only managed to drink half of it. Didn’t matter. On the way home she insisted I stop at a park. The moment the car was parked she tumbled out of the car (without her coat on) and proceeded to make a series of snow angels. It took the combined effort of my other two sisters to chase her down and get her bundled back into the car. Half a long island iced tea, with a full Mexican meal did that to her! We still tease her about it. 🙂

    1. I love the very idea of stopping the car to go make snow angels! That is priceless and every time I think about Long Island Ice Teas, I will picture that too.

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