Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

New studies show that having a dog as an inside companion can lengthen your life by as much as 24%.

Do you believe in signs? As in those times when it seemed that someone, somewhere was trying to tell you something? I didn’t for most of my life. However, over the last several years things have happened that made me change my mind. What follows are six experiences I or my close friends have had where things pretty much defied explanation.

Back in 1996 I lost my best friend and brother-in-law Jigger. Jigger was a great guy, loved by many, and was involved in education his entire professional career as a teacher, guidance counselor and finally a principal. After his death several strange things happened that caused me to pause and wonder what was happening. One of these instances occurred at his funeral, which was held in his hometown of Bainbridge, Ohio. The casket had been lowered into the ground and we were listening to the preacher give a final prayer. Just after he said the word, “amen” the 3:00 pm dismissal bell rang at the elementary school behind the cemetery. We all just sort of looked at each other with raised eyebrows.

Coincidence? Probably.

But other things can’t be attributed to pure chance. For instance, a couple days after Jigger’s death my sister received some checks he’d ordered in the mail weeks prior. The problem was that the checks had her name on them, not his. That one was a little harder to explain.

In 1999 I lost another good friend, this time it was Tim. Tim is the only person who I ever felt appreciated the Beatles as much as I did. We’d talk for hours about them, arguing about song lyrics or album covers, the relevance of certain songs, who was the most talented Beatle. I was always a Lennon guy, he leaned towards McCartney. We used to argue about which was the greatest Beatles album. He always said it was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and I always argued for Abbey Road.  We could never come to an agreement on that one, debating for hours on end over which was the greatest album.

On the day of Tim’s funeral, after the burial I went down to my basement where I had a bar, my library, and my music collection. I made a drink, sat down on my couch and laid my head back, just trying to unwind after a trying day. When I finally looked up, though, something caught me eye. A CD had fallen from among the hundreds from on my shelves and was on the floor, right in the open, where it had inexplicably landed right in the middle of the room.

The album was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. 

It seems that Tim had gotten the last word.

A couple years ago I lost Andy, another lifelong friend. He lived in Florida, and after his death myself and another mutual friend Tom made the drive down to Florida for his memorial. On the way home we were talking about Andy and a song the three of us used to sing to each other. One of us casually mentioned that it would be just like Andy to cause that song to pop up on the radio. You know, as a sign. Soon after that Tom saw a blown semi-truck tire on the road and said aloud, “You know, I see those blown tires all the time but I’ve never, ever seen it happen in person.” Next thing you know we were passing an 18-wheeler and BOOM, that very thing happened, not 5-feet from us. It seemed like Andy had chosen another way to give us a sign.

Last June my sister Karen passed away pretty suddenly. After her burial I went to a local bar to meet some friends who knew I needed them. It’s a small place, it was early, and I was the first person there. The bartender asked if I wanted some music, I said yes, and she went over to play some tunes.

The first song she played? The Long and Winding Road by The Beatles, one of my big sister’s favorite songs. I asked the bartender why she chose it and she said, “I don’t know. It just came to me.” 

You know, I’m pretty sure it didn’t “just come to her.” I mean, what are the odds?

This last story involves my sister as well. A couple that was very close to Sis, Shelley and Joey, were at the beach on their summer vacation the day of my sister’s memorial. The memorial was to begin at 2:00 pm, and as they sat on the beach talking and thinking about her they decided to have her favorite drink, a Rum & Coke, in my sister’s honor. Neither had any money on them and they wanted to have the drinks at precisely 2:00, so Joey got up to run back to their room to grab some cash to buy the drinks at a nearby Tiki Bar. Then, just as Joey stood, he looked down in the surf. There, floating right up to him, was a $10 bill.

That $10 was exactly what they needed for the drinks.

They just looked at it, then each other, and knew it was a sign.

And these six aren’t the only things that have happened. I have a few other incidents that gave me pause as well and caused me to wonder if there was something other than coincidence was going on, something bigger than all of us.

The Universe? God?

What to you all think about this? Have you been given any signs?

Interesting.

Lord knows I experienced more than my share of injuries as a kid, some my fault, others not so much. And although I have scars, thankfully there were no permanent damages.

I think.

Anyway, I’ve written several stories over the years regarding my misspent youth and here they are, all combined into one glorious blog. Seriously, it’s a miracle I survived. Enjoy . . .

RUN OVER BY A TRUCK

Yep. This happened.

When I was 11 or 12 my buddies and I got on this kick where we built homemade go-carts. We’d take the wheels off of an old wagon or something and attach them to a 2×4, make axles, and go from there. We’d attach the axles with a bolt down through the middle, and in that way we’d be able to steer with our feet.

Make sense?

Anyway, the go-carts became quite elaborate with sides and roofs (we’d use whatever wood, tin, or anything we could find in our parent’s garages) along with some creative paint jobs. For mine, I found a big rectangle shaped board and nailed it to the bottom of my go-cart. It made it look like it had wings, so I christened it “The Flying Dutchman” because I’m part Dutch and part German. And hey, even at my young age “The Nazi Death Wagon” just didn’t seem appropriate.

If you’ve been reading my “Childhood Injuries” series, you know that we didn’t exactly err on the side of caution when I was a kid, so it probably won’t surprise you to learn that we raced our go-carts right down the hill on Twin Road. Yes, it’s a pretty high traffic area, but I don’t recall that being figured into the equation at the time.

So we’d have these races down the hill, two at a time, winners advancing just like March Madness. This was a different kind of madness, but still. Each cart had a pusher that would give you a start, just like the bobsledders in the Olympics. My pusher was Ted, the same guy who knocked me out with a beer bottle and watched me plummet 20-feet out of a willow tree. In retrospect, Ted wasn’t exactly a lucky charm for me, but at the time that hadn’t occurred to me.

One day we’re having our races, and Ted gives me a helluva shove. I’m leading by a hefty margin, hunched over to reduce wind resistance as The Flying Dutchman hurtled down the hill.

All was well until I saw the truck.

It was pulling out of Keran Street, which ran perpendicular onto Twin Road. The guy driving the truck looked right, then left towards me. He didn’t see me, perhaps because he was looking for a regulation vehicle on a public road and not a small wooden contraption built from garage junk. Then he turned left, directly towards me, and it was too late for me to ditch.

I was going to be hit.

At this point I had few options. The truck was going to run right over me. It was too late to roll off the go-cart, so it looked like the end for young Dave.

Listen, if you’ve never seen a truck grill coming at you at 30-mph from a height of about 2-feet off the road you haven’t lived. Without really thinking, I just reached up and grabbed the truck bumper as it went over my head. Somehow, I stayed in the cart but unfortunately the truck kept going. In the background I could hear my buddies yelling, “STOP! YOU’RE KILLING OUR FRIEND!” or something along those lines. The guy probably only drove a few feet with me dragging under his front bumper but it seemed like, oh I don’t know, 43-miles. This was probably so because every second I held on I expected to lose my grip and be crushed by the undercarriage of a 1968 Ford F100.

But I didn’t, and the driver finally stopped. He jumped out and pulled me from under his truck, genuinely concerned that he may have killed a child. Except not really. He ripped me a new one:

“What the hell do you think you’re doing? You rolled right under my truck you %$#*&%$ IDIOT!!”

Yeah, because it’s all about you, bud. Still, he had a point.

Bottom line I was unhurt, miraculously I might add. And I somehow avoided peeing my pants, which saved me from great ridicule on the mean streets of Bourneville, Ohio.

After some more ass-chewing and the extrication of The Flying Dutchman from under the truck, I pulled my undamaged go-cart back to the top of the hill, where the races continued. After all, life went on, fortunately for me.

And hey, it was just another near-death experience for me. No big deal. Just another day in the life of a southern Ohio kid in the late 60s.

THE HOLEY TONGUE

This was one of the stories in a series about my susceptibility to almost getting killed as a kid. I’ve alluded to this little mishap before, so stop me if you’ve heard it already.

On Halloween when I was, oh, maybe 11 or 12, my buddy Ted and I decided to climb the big willow tree in my front yard and scare the bejesus out of passing children. If you have to ask why you don’t know what fun is, folks.

I was climbing ahead of Ted, at least 20-feet up. He was probably 10-feet off the ground behind me. I reached for a branch, it broke, and next thing I knew I was hurtling downward, backwards, towards the gaping jaws of death. You ever fall from a great height backwards? A lot of stuff goes through your head as you fall all slow-motiony and whatnot through the air, like “I hope mom will be OK without me” or “I sure wish I would’ve kissed Debbie Mirkelson on the playground last Tuesday when I had the chance“, or perhaps, “Oh no, when they clean my room they’re going to find those magazines under my mattress.

Too specific? Never mind.

My point is, you actually experience great insight and retrospection on the way down. I actually think I may have understood The Grand Unification Theory for a second, but sadly it vanished from my brain upon impact. Anywho, as I flew past Ted, and you may find this hard to believe, but he actually yelled, “A-h-h-h-h-h-h-h . . .” imitating a man falling down a hole.

What can I say? I’ve had some really weird friends in my life.

So I hit the ground, landing on my back, and all the air went out of me. Things went black and I thought, “So this is what it’s like to be dead.”

Except I wasn’t, although for a second I’m pretty sure I saw Jesus.

Soon Ted came down and shook me, probably not the preferred method of treatment, and it was only then that I began to feel the pain. My back hurt like hell, but something was seriously wrong with my mouth. I instinctively reached in there to see what was wrong, and to my horror there was a a lot of blood and a substantial sized hole in my tongue. I ran screaming bloody murder into my house, only to be chastised by my parents for interrupting a scintillating episode of “My Three Sons” or something.

Did anyone call 911? Nah. Was I taken to the emergency room? I was not. I got a wet rag, stuck it in my mouth and got on with my life.

Bottom line? Even though I still have a lump in my tongue today, it healed. And my back is fine if you ignore the fact that, on rainy days, it feels like a honey badger is chewing on my lower lumbar vertebrae.

What can I say? ‘Twas a different, and in many ways better, time.

THE FRIED HAND

When I was really young, around three-years old, I was at my grandparent’s farmhouse. They had a woodstove in the kitchen and I was doing what toddlers do, which was toddling. I walked over to the stove and I remember that it looked almost fuzzy, which I know realize indicated that it was red-hot. Being a little kid and not knowing any better, I placed my flat palm on the stove. I don’t remember a lot after that, other than it hurt like a mofo and skin was hanging off my hand like melting plastic.

I have no idea how my burn was treated, but knowing my family at the time grandpa probably killed a chicken and rubbed it’s spleen on me or something (I can’t believe I just typed “Do chickens have spleens?” into The Goggle).

Anyway, it was a serious burn, man. How do I know? Because the scar’s still there, as you can plainly see. On a related note, I used to tell girls I got the scar from pulling an old lady out of a burning car. Hey, whatever works.

Legend has it that my parents had been pretty sure I was left-handed (like dad) up to that point, but I had to go so long using my right hand I became right-handed.

Anyway, it’s weird that I can remember an accident from so long ago, but I think it was so traumatic it’s burned into the banks of my memory. See what I did there? Burned? Never mind.

Note: I just talked to Mom about this. I asked if I was taken to the hospital or the doctor that day and here is her exact quote:

“No, the lady across the road was a nurse or something and she put some kind of salve on it.”

God, that’s just too perfect.

FIRECRACKERS & CLOTHESLINES

That title sounds like a Strawberry Alarm Clock album from the 60’s. Anyway . . .

When I was 16 or 17 I hung around a lot at my sister’s house. She was young and hadn’t been married long, so for a teenager that was the place to go, ya know?

Anywho, one summer night a buddy and I were hanging out there, probably looking for trouble and up to no good. Somehow we got hold of some fireworks and decided to have some fun. First, we went out back and shot bottle rockets at each other, always a guaranteed good time. After a bit, disappointed that nobody was maimed or anyone’s eye was put out, we headed down to the creek to throw M-80s into the water. Lemme tell ya, watching underwater explosions was pure entertainment for a southern Ohio kid in 1973. Probably still is. The fish probably didn’t think so, but hey.

That amused us for awhile, until we began throwing the M-80s at each other, because of course we did. If you don’t know, M-80s are deadly and banned in many parts of the good old USA, basically because they are deadly in the hands of moronic people such as I. How my brother-in-law had possession of these I do not know, but let’s just say he knew a guy. Anyway, in the beginning we at least had the good sense to throw them at each other’s feet, because anyone can spare a toe or two, right?

But of course that didn’t last.

Because at one point I see a lit M-80 coming straight for my face. I instinctively threw my hands up, and as luck would have it the M-80 blew right as it hit my hand.

Good God it hurt. I was certain I’d lost some fingers or worse, but I couldn’t tell because A) It was dark, and B) I couldn’t feel my hand.

The only thing I could do was run to my sister’s house in a panic. I bolted through the darkness of the backyard with my eyes on the light over her backdoor. I was running as fast as I could, holding my hand as I went, certain I was minus some digits. All I wanted was to get to the house and examine the extent of my horrific injuries.

To reiterate – pitch dark, running full-speed through the backyard, focused on porch light. What more could possibly go wrong?

Turns out, a lot – like being clotheslined by a clothesline.

Yep, the one that I forgot was there.

It caught me exactly at throat level, so my feet kept going but my head stayed where it was. I was upended feet first, flew through the air, and eventually landed on my back.

After lying there stunned for a few minutes I got up and staggered into the house and into the bathroom to check out the damages. Turns out my throat had a rope burn across it and looked as if I’d attempted suicide by slitting my throat with a butter knife. Oh, and my back felt as if a railroad spike had been hammered into it.

But on a positive note, I still had all my fingers, and after a couple hours I could actually feel them.

You know, in retrospect I really should have been more cautious as a kid.

Nah, that wouldn’t have been any fun.

HAMMER TIME!

I was in my late teens when this little gem occurred. It was summer and my dad had ordered me to do some work on the gutters of our house. The gutters were loose in places, so I was basically moving a ladder around the house and hammering in those long nails that hold them up where they needed it.

After working about halfway around the house, I decided I needed to take a break and grab a glass of water. I hung the hammer on one of the rungs of the ladder and climbed down.

You see where this is going, don’t you?

It was when I returned to my job that I made what could have been a fatal error in judgment. For some reason (quite possibly because I was an ignoramus) I decided that, as long as I was on the ground, I may as well move the ladder down a few feet. So, I grabbed the ladder and started to move it, and an instant later the world went black.

I think I may have had a brief instant where I thought I’d been attacked from behind with a sledgehammer, but that thought disappeared along with my consciousness.

When I awoke in the grass a few minutes (seconds?) later, all I knew for sure was that I had a massive headache and a knot on my head the size of Verne Troyer’s skull.*

*Search it up on The Goggle.

I looked around, half expecting to see a gang of hoodlums that had inexplicably wandered into Bourneville, Ohio to steal my brand new Stanley Curved Claw Wood Handle Nailing Hammer, except the hammer was right there in the grass beside me.

Wait.

Oh, crap.

I’d forgotten the hammer was lurking at the top, hanging on a ladder rung, waiting to come hurtling down from above the minute I moved the ladder and kill me on impact.

I have no idea how my skull wasn’t crushed. I mean, a hammer falling from 12-feet onto your head? Seriously?

I swear I didn’t even put ice on it. I didn’t even know what being concussed meant back then. I just rubbed it, checked for blood (there was none), and went back to working on the gutters. Hell, if I’d told dad I’d have been rebuked for being stupid, which incidentally would have been 100% correct.

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times. I have no idea how I’m still alive.

OLD SCHOOL REMEDIES, GRANDPA STYLE

My Grandpa Shoemaker was about the toughest old bird you could ever meet. He was once a blacksmith, and a piece of molten iron had broken off and lodged under the skin of his arm decades before I was born. It was never removed, and when I was a little kid he used to let me move it around under his skin. It was weird, you could actually move it up and down his forearm.

Anyway, tough cat my grandpa. He also had hands like vice grips, and when he grabbed you there was no getting away. That said, he was one of the kindest, most gentle men I’ve ever known. As I’ve mentioned before, some of my fondest memories are of when I used to accompany him when he ran his trotlines in Paint Creek. I used to love to listen to him, because he was so wise and his stories were so fascinating to me.

But on to the point of this story. When I was 15 or 16 I went down to his house for one reason or the other. We were sitting on his front porch side-by-side, just talking. At one point he noticed me rubbing the back of my left hand and asked if something was wrong. I told him that a cyst had developed and it was bothering me. It didn’t really hurt but it was about the size of a big marble and was annoying as hell.

I told Grandpa I was going to have it removed soon because it was bothering me, and he just looked at me like I was an idiot. After all, this was a guy who’d had a piece of iron in his arm since 1913.

He then asked how I was going to do that, and I began explaining that it was a minor operation, that they’d just numb my hand and . . .

T-H-H-W-W-A-A-C-K!

Next thing I knew my hand felt like it had been hammered by the heel of a work boot, which is fitting because that’s exactly what had happened. When I wasn’t looking, Grandpa had taken it upon himself to save me some money. He’d slipped his work boot off and popped me a good one. Turns out that in the old days folks got rid of cysts by shattering the living hell out of them, country style.

And you know what? Although it hurt like a sumbitch, it worked. I’d had that cyst for years but after that moment it never came back. I don’t know if he broke it into bits or slammed it so far into my hand you couldn’t see it, but it was gone forever.

Sure, I couldn’t feel my hand for 3-4 hours, but you gotta take the bad with the good I suppose.

Hell, I’m just thankful there wasn’t a hammer nearby at the time.

HOOKED IN THE JAW

When I was a kid my grandfather, my father and I used to go to ponds all over the area to fish. Grandpa Shoemaker used to have trotlines up and down Paint Creek and we’d fish for bait to put on them. If you don’t know, trotlines were fishing lines that were stretched across the creek, attached at both ends to trees or something on the bank. You had bait attached every few feet to the line and it had to be checked once or twice a day to see what you’d caught. Some of my greatest memories are of my grandfather and I checking his trotlines in his row boat.

Sometimes he’d even let me row! Wonderful memories.

Anyway, back to the ponds. Dad was fishing and I was beside him. At some point I had to get a worm to re-bait my hook and was walking behind dad. That’s when he decided to cast his line, either because he didn’t see me or because he was trying to teach me a lesson. I’d say it’s about 50-50 either way.

Next thing I knew I felt the fishing line sort of wrap around my neck and hook just under my jawline. That in itself was painful enough, but before I could scream dad whipped the line back out toward the water while the hook was still lodged in my jaw.

Trust me, then I screamed.

The hook stayed imbedded even after the jerk, it just became more deeply enlodged in my jaw.

Yeah, that’s never good.

After briefly showing annoyance for my rude interrupting of his cast, dad came back and began his attempt at hook removal. As you know, those things are made to go in easy. Coming out is another story, hence the little thing called a barb on the end.

After much pulling and twisting, Dad and Grandpa finally dislodged the offending hook. I’m telling you, that may have been the worst 5-minutes of my life. Not only that, after the hook was out dad splashed some pond water on it to clean it up. Not the preferred method of wound-cleaning I’m sure. Still, I nevertheless avoided a life-threatening blue gill infection when all was said and done.

Was I rushed to the ER? Nah. Did I get chastised for being stupid and walking behind a man who was casting a fishing line? Of course I did.

And did I ever do it again? No way.

BLINDED BY HENDRIX

Almost.

One day back in the idiocy of my youth, my friend Billy and I made the awesome decision to have a 45-record war. For those of you who don’t know what a 45-record was, it was a little record that had music on it. You played it on a turntable, which was a . . . ah, screw it. Search it up on The Goggle.

The point is we built these little forts out of couch cushions and started whipping these little records at each other, which was like throwing Frisbees except they were thinner with much sharper edges. After a bit I peeked over a cushion and caught a 45 right over my left eye. I seem to remember it was “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix. It cut a nasty slice about a quarter inch long right through my left eyebrow, and I proceeded to bleed like a stuck pig.*

*I have no idea if a stuck pig bleeds more than a stuck rabbit or stuck marmoset, but folks seem to stick pigs for some reason.

I was afraid to tell mom because I knew I’d get in trouble for being a jackass (there was some precedent for this), so I stuck a rag on it until it stopped, then found my oldest sister and asked for her help. After being initially aghast at the injury, she poured some mercurochrome** on it, followed by a big band-aid.

**For you youngsters out there, mercurochrome was once used as a cure-all by mothers far and wide for injuries ranging from small cuts to severe head trauma. A few drops of mercurochrome could supposedly cure a shotgun blast to the chest. Unfortunately, in 1998 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared that mercurochrome was “not generally recognized as safe and effective” as an over-the-counter antiseptic and forbade its sale across state lines. Sad, really.

Anyway, had the Hendrix record been an inch lower I’d have undoubtedly lost an eyeball, which is hardly ever a good thing.

Long story short, to this day if I smooth down my eyebrow, there’s a little scar line where hair refuses to grow.

Thanks Billy!

Note: If any of my exes asks about the scar, I got it in a bar fight. Let’s keep this on the downlow.

JUST LIKE THE WESTERNS, BUT NOT REALLY

One time my buddy Ted (yeah, him again) and I found some old beer bottles in a ditch or somewhere. After checking to see if there was any booze left, we got the bright idea to pretend to be cowboys in a saloon fight. Hey, we’d seen the TV westerns where guys were just getting clobbered left and right with bottles that would shatter upon impact. We flipped a coin, and Ted got to go first.

We pretended to fight, then I saw Ted rear back to let me have it. I saw the bottle coming . . . and then everything went black.

Turns out those bottles on TV aren’t real, and it takes a lot of force to actually break a beer bottle over a human’s head, at least in 1967. Hence, the bottle remained intact and I went down like a sack of lug nuts.

At least Ted tried to help. What did he do, you ask? The same thing he saw cowboys do on TV – he ran to the garage, got a bucket, filled it with water and threw it in my face.

Turns out that actually works.

Anywho, I sat up, shook it off, and got on with my life. And we were smart enough not to try it again on Ted, so perhaps we did have a few brain cells in our craniums.

Nah. Probably not.

CROQUET BALL KO

This one also took place at Uncle Myrl’s and Aunt Dorothy’s. One summer day I was up there and we went outside to play some baseball. The problem was, we couldn’t find a baseball. I believe it was cousin Kevin who grabbed a croquet ball from somewhere. We’d been playing awhile, I was pitching, when cousin Mick sent a screaming line drive right back at me. I didn’t get my glove up in time and the croquet ball caught me right between the eyes, knocking me out cold.

And what was the reaction of my loving cousins? They all ran back into the house.

I have no idea how long I was out, but I do remember getting up and staggering back into the house with a goose egg on my head the size of an orange. Incredibly (in retrospect), everyone was casually sitting around watching TV.

Me: “What the hell? Thanks for nothing.

Mick: “Hey, look. He’s alive!”

Kevin, pointing to my head: “Better get some ice on that.”

True story.

THE SLICED FOOT

Once, when I was about 5 or 6 my parents and I were sitting on the front porch and Dad told me to run around the house to see how fast I could go. In retrospect it’s pretty obvious he was just trying to get rid of me for a little bit, but that’s neither here nor there. Any, I was barefoot as usual and when I made it back around and stood there panting, he sort of looked down, pointed, and calmly stated this:

“Hey, looks like you cut your foot there.”

I looked down, and sure enough there was a 3-inch slice of meat hanging off my instep like you would not dream. Blood everywhere too, I might add. But hey, no biggie. Mom just slapped some Mecuricome* on it, added a band-aid or six and I was ready to rock and roll.

*Again, for you younger folk out there, Mecuricome was a wonder antiseptic that was used to prevent and cure all sorts of maladies. And yes, it had mercury in it. I recall it was red and it stung like a mofo. Sadly it was discontinued years ago. Something about causing cancer or some such nonsense. On a related note, I bet mom still has a bottle stashed somewhere.

PS- I’m also 90% sure I broke a kneecap that went untreated when I wrecked my bike as a kid. How do I know this? Because when I get down on that knee today if feels as if I’m kneeling on a live power line. Somehow, I soldier on.

THE BICYCLE WAGON TRAIN WAS A BAD IDEA

I have no idea who first came up with the idea, but if I had to bet I’d say it was Max. All the ideas that got us into trouble seemed to originate with him.

All I know is that it was a bad idea, we were idiots to think we could pull it off, and it could have killed somebody. But let’s start at the beginning . . .

It was the summer of my, oh, let’s say 11th year. I’m guessing because I don’t remember exactly when the incident took place, and that may have something to do with what happened that day.

Because you know, concussions and traumatic events can do that to a kid’s brain.

Anyway, myself and six of my friends were sitting in my dad’s garage, probably discussing Raquel Welch’s breasts or the decline of Willie Mays or something. We were all either sitting on or near our bikes, which were obviously our main forms of transportation back then. As I recall, the bikes ranged from my spiffy little Schwinn with the butterfly handlebars and funky sissy bar to my buddy Scratch’s 1954 era Columbia which his dad had passed down to him. Aside from Scratch and I, the other conspirators involved that fateful day were Mel, Max, Rocky, Ted and Fred. Max, you may remember, was the kid behind the infamous episode in which we almost lost our buddy Harold.

Best to keep that in mind as we continue.

Note: Scratch’s name has an interesting origin. You see, his name was Richard so we originally called him Rich, which we eventually shortened to Itch. However, Itch’s mom hated the name and asked us to stop calling him Itch. Hence the name Scratch. Kids can be cruel.

At some point the TV show Wagon Train came up. For some reason, when I was a kid there were a lot of Westerns on television. I think I’ve seen every episode of The Rifleman (stellar), Gunsmoke (legendary), Bat Masterson (I can still sing the theme song in its entirety), The Big Valley (Audra? Smokin’ hot), Bonanza (loved Hoss), and my personal favorite, Sky King. Sky King was about a cowboy who flew an airplane. Really.
But back to Wagon Train. Talking about the TV show somehow brought us around to actual wagon trains, and this led to somebody suggesting we form our own wagon train.

With our bicycles.

Trust me, at the time, in our strange little still-unfully formed brains, this seemed like a good idea. And then, for some unknown reason, somebody suggested we attach our bikes with ropes. Now that I think about it, in real wagon trains the wagons weren’t attached by anything so I don’t know what the hell we were thinking.

But like I said, unformed brains.

At that point we were amped for the idea though, and there was no stopping us. Wagon Train! Let’s do this! So we rummaged around my garage and came up with a collection of rope, wire, clothesline, an old bike inner tube, and a three-foot length of chain. Somehow, we attached our bikes together. I distinctly recall tying one end of a clothesline around my bike seat post and the other end around the handlebars of Fred’s old beat-up Huffy Cruiser.

Note II: Fred, by the way, was a man ahead of his time. He would later become known as the first guy who dyed his hair at our school. Yep, he changed his hair color at the age of 16. And he changed that color to green. Gutsy move in any era.

Soon we were finished and ready to roll. For some reason yours truly was in the lead, followed by Fred, Scratch, Max, Mel, Rocky, and finally Ted. After some initial struggles we actually made it out of the driveway and up the street a bit, albeit with some herky-jerky movements along the way.

By the way, nobody, and I mean nobody, wore a helmet back then. If somebody would’ve shown up wearing one he would’ve been harassed, shamed, laughed at, teased, spat upon and possibly beaten to a pulp for being a pansy. Hell, I once put one of those tall safety flags on the back of my bike and my friend Ted ended up taking it off and whipping me with it. Bourneville was a tough neighborhood back in the day.

We finally made it to the top of the hill in front of the old Twin School, and then we stopped to regroup before heading down the hill towards Route 50. It seemed the prudent thing to do. Regroup, that is.

Did I mention we were about to head down a hill?

At this point I remember raising my hand and giving the signal to move forward, then actually yelling, “Wagons, HO!”

Seriously. I yelled, “Wagons, HO!”

After a couple of false starts we began our descent, and all was well as we started down the hill. Believe it or not we started to gain a sort of chemistry, becoming a finely-tuned working unit if you will. We were pedaling in unison and gaining speed. In fact, we were rolling so fast I started to contemplate other things, the first and foremost being how in the hell are we going to stop?

As it turned out, however, stopping at the bottom of the hill wasn’t going to figure into the equation. This is because right about then, to my horror, I heard Max yell this:

“I wonder what would happen if I hit my brakes?”

All I got out was “Don’t do it M . . .” before, well, Max did it.

So picture 7-bikes, all tied together, going down a hill really fast, and the guy on the bike right in the middle slams on his breaks.

Carnage.

The three guys in front of Max (me, Fred and Scratch) all went right over our handlebars, headfirst. I actually held on to mine for a second, which caused me to flip completely over and land on the road, on my back. Miraculously though, other than the blacktop burn on my ass I was unscathed.

You know, until .3 seconds later when Fred landed on me, and .1 seconds after that when Scratch landed on Fred.

Yep, that’ll knock the breath right out of you, trust me.

As for the rest of the guys, Mel, Rocky and Ted all crashed into Max of course, flipping his bike head-over-heels and into the three now-unmanned bikes in front of them. Oh, and Mel had teeth marks in his back, and from whence they came was never established.

Like I said, carnage.

When all was said and done we were a pile of skinned knees, flat tires, bent rims, banana seats, handlebars, bike fenders and crushed souls.

But as was our way back then we got up, checked for damages, wiped off our scraped knees, dusted ourselves off and pushed or carried our damaged bikes back home. Nobody cried or yelled for mommy, just a lot of wiping off blood and checking for protruding bones. And we were laughing all the way.

After all, we had a memory we could talk about for years to come, even all the way up to January of 2018, almost 51-years later.

Just another beautiful day in downtown Bourneville, Ohio, circa 1967.

Good times for sure, if you could live through it.

GRUNGY’S REVENGE

Another story from my misspent youth . . .

We had a kid in our neighborhood when I was growing up that was, shall we say, lacking in the looks department. Ah, what the hell, he was the ugliest SOB I’ve ever seen. He had a bulbous nose, elephantine ears, beady eyes, and his complexion was so bad it looked as if his face had caught on fire on somebody’d put it out with a rake.

God, I can be mean. But seriously, this dude’s parents had to tie a steak around his neck to get the dog to play with him. I swear he had to sneak up on a glass of water to get a drink. Hey-O! I could go on forever.

In addition, he was really big for his class at school. Alright, so he’d been held back a couple of times. But he was still big for his age, and not just big-big. Humongously fat-big. Add some long greasy hair to the mix and I think you get the visual.

The guy’s last name was Granderson, and for some unknown reason that only our then-addled minds could understand, we called him Grungy. Grungy Granderson. Hey, it seemed to fit.

Anyway, he hated the nickname. Hated it. If you ever called him that you best be sure that you weren’t within grabbing distance or you were in for a severe ass-whipping. However, since Grungy was lacking in the footspeed department some of us would occasionally get away with actually calling him that to his troll-like face. The fact that Grungy was such a mean and hateful guy somehow made this acceptable in our world.

Wait. Now that I think about it, it’s sort of obvious why he was so angry all the time. The world can be a cruel place, man.

I actually felt a hint of remorse there for a second. Hold on . . . OK, it passed.

That said, one day I was cruising by Twin School on my bike with my buddy Buddy (seriously, his name was Buddy) when we noticed Grungy shooting some hoops on the playground. Buddy, who could be a bit of a jackass, then suggested we ride over and torment Grungy a bit. After all, we were on our bikes and he was not. Seemed like a safe and entertaining way to kill a few minutes. Have I mentioned I was once one helluva punk-ass kid?

Before we rode over there, though, Buddy and I had this conversation:

Buddy: “Hey, why don’t you see how close you can get to him, call him Grungy, and then take off?”

Me: “Why don’t you?”

Because I’m quick like that.

Buddy: “C’mon. I dare you.”

Me: “No way man. That dude would crush my spleen if he caught me.”

Buddy: “You’re a chicken.”

Me: “For once in your life you are correct. I am a chicken.”

Buddy: “C’mon. I double dare you.”

Now, when I was 12-years old you could dare me, you could call me chicken, you could question my manhood. But you could not double dare me. Ever. Double dare me and I would take you up on it. That was the rule of the street in Bourneville, Ohio in the late 60s my friends. I know, it makes no sense, but anyone in my age group knows exactly what I’m talking about.

So . . .

We rode on over and I immediately began circling Grungy on my bike, saying clever things like:

“G-r-u-n-g-y . . .”

“Hey GRUNGY!”

“Grungeman!”

“What’s up Grungy?”

“G-R-U-U-U-U-U-N . . .”

A-n-d I never got that last part out because a basketball had just slammed into the back of my head at approximately the speed of light. I swear it felt like a cannonball had hit me from a distance of 10-feet, thrown by an angry King Kong after 17-Red Bulls and a shot of liquid adrenaline. To this day if you look closely at the back of my head I’m pretty sure you can see the faint outline of the word “Spalding” there, backwards.

Of course I flew off my bike, and when I came to my senses Grungy was towering over me like an enraged Goblin on steroids.

Man, was he pissed.

He then picked me up by the front of my t-shirt and belt of my pants, held me over his head, and threw me like a rag doll into the air. While airborne it felt like I was moving in slow motion. Everything became quiet and it was actually quite peaceful for a few seconds. While up there I believe I actually caught a glimpse of Buddy, my supposed friend, pedaling away at warp-speed while glancing over his shoulder in fear, like a hobo being chased by a guy with a job offer.

Of course all that ended when I landed on the playground blacktop.

I sat up, stunned, looking around wildly for the expected onslaught that was to come. But nothing came. All I saw was Grungy riding away on my little bike, looking like one of those bears in the circus that they’ve taught to ride a bicycle. It would have been funny if I’d had any feeling in my upper torso.

After sitting on the ground for awhile trying to catch my breath and my bearings and feeling around for missing teeth and you know, blood, I got up and walked home.

And there, leaning against a tree in my front yard, was my bike.

Grungy had left it for me.

God knows I deserved what I got and he had every right to roll my bicycle into Paint Creek or something, but for some reason he didn’t.

Grungy moved away soon after that, and I never got the chance to ask him why he left my bike for me. I guess somewhere deep inside that big, mean, ugly body there beat a good heart.

I sort of wish I’d known that sooner.

Things sure have changed in 60-years. Sports, cars, education, fashion, TV, music, everything is so different. And the dynamics between men and women? Oh boy. And there is no better example of this than an article that was published in a 1958 McCall’s entitled “129 Ways to Find a Husband”. Trust me, looking back it’s laugh-out-loud funny. I’ll post the whole list below, but first let’s take a look at some highlights lowlights.

#2. Have your car break down in strategic places. Because being helpless and needing rescued by a big strong man was sexy I guess? Women? Thoughts?

#6. Read the obituaries to find eligible widowers. Boom! Look for dead wives and go in for the kill on their husbands! That’s solid advice right there.

#9. Sit on a park bench and feed the pigeons. I have been to parks. I have seen ladies feeding the pigeons. They are homeless vagabonds. Thanks though.

#11. Get a job in a medical, dental or law school. Don’t actually go there, because that was a ridiculous idea in 1958. But you know, get a job as a secretary or something so you can meet a guy that’s actually capable of being a doctor, dentist or attorney.

#19. Get lost at football games. Wait. What? Like under the bleachers? How do you get lost at a football game?

#26. Don’t room with a girl who is a sad sack and let her pull you down to her level. Absolutely, ladies. Nobody likes a sad sack, whatever that is.

PS- I looked it up. Sad Sack: an inept, blundering person. Well, hell. Turns out they’re right. Whatever you do, ladies, don’t room with sad sacks.

#29. When traveling, stay at small hotels where it is easier to meet strangers. Boom again! Also a great way to meet murderers, rapists and other assorted ne’er do wells.

PS- I just now realized that “ne’re do well” is short for “never do well.” Huh. Live and learn I guess?

#31. Stumble when you walk into a room that he’s in. So apparently guys in 1958 were attracted to uncoordinated klutzes?

PS-  I actually had to search up how to spell the plural of klutz on the Goggle. That’s blogging integrity right there.

#33. Carry a hatbox. Wait. What? Why? Huh?

#35. Make a lot of money. Hey McCall’s, newsflash – this is a good way for anyone to find a partner, whether male or female. Thanks for the deep insight though.

#40. Stand in a corner and cry softly. I swear to God I’m not making this list up, man. Those are actual screenshots below. On a related note, standing in a corner and crying softly is how my relationships usually end, and I’m the one crying softly in the corner.

#42. If you’re at a resort have the bellboy page you. I promise you I have no idea what that means.

#45. Laugh at his jokes. Hells to the yah. They finally got one right.

#55. Take good care of your health. Men don’t like girls who are ill. They’re dead on here. Nothing more unattractive than a diseased-infested woman, am I right McCall’s?

#58. Get a sunburn. Once again they’ve lost me. A nice tan I understand, but a sunburn? Whah?

#60. Go on a diet if you need to. Solid advice. In addition, the sick women will have a head start on this one.

#62. Don’t tell him about your allergies. Listen, if you can’t be ill you certainly can’t have allergies. And no respectable man wants a sneezing, itchy-eyed, runny-nosed, congested woman hanging around. Keep your allergies to yourself, ladies.

#85. Don’t tell him everything about you at the start. I’m down with this. Might wanna explain that Explosive Diarrhea problem at a later date.

#94. Don’t discuss your former boyfriends. Honestly, I think they got this one right. I’ve had more than one woman tell me about that one past man they were truly in love with but it somehow didn’t work out. I’m never sure how to respond. “I’m sorry I’m not that guy?”

#99. Resist the urge to make him over – before marriage that is! This one reminds me of something I once read, and that was “Men marry women thinking they won’t change. Women marry men thinking they can change them.” That one always makes good conversation among couples, believe me.

#111-#129. These are all goofy ideas like “sink at a fashionable beach at high noon” and “stow away on a battleship” which are just dumb. Disregard them.

You can read all 129 “Ways to Find a Husband” in all their glory below. Enjoy!

Note: I guarantee you I’ll get at least one message from someone that doesn’t understand sarcasm. Guarantee it.

 

The story began when a guy named Jamal Hinton received a random text from a woman named Wanda Dench. Seems Wanda had texted him mistakenly. Here’s here initial text:

 

Jamal, perplexed, of course asked who the heck was sending him this text, since he knew no Amanda nor Justin. He was answered, and the following conversation ensued:

Wanda complied:

Of course Jamal couldn’t resist responding, and Wanda did too:

So, this happened:

Long story short, the initial text came in 2016 and Jamal has gone to his second grandma’s house every year since:

I’ve never understood racism and I never will, but in these sensitive times a story of how one kind, simple gesture can lead to a friendship sure makes me feel good.

Happy Holidays everyone.

The following are drawings by an artist named Sergio Ingravalle, and they are guaranteed to make you think. Some will hit you right away, while with others it may take a minute. In either case they are very, very good. Enjoy.

[click to enlarge]

LaDue, MO: A St. Louis mother has filed a federal lawsuit, claiming that a soccer coach’s decision to cut her son from the junior varsity team was age discrimination.

The suit claims the soccer coach told the boy’s mom that he was “right on the bubble” of making the team, but that there were too many kids who had a better soccer skill and soccer IQ than him. The coach also wasn’t willing to put the boy on junior varsity again.

The mother and stepfather complained to the school, but they eventually supported the coach’s decision.  The teen’s mom claims her son will face “irreparable harm” if he’s not put on the team.

A judge is expected to make a decision in the case on Monday.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Age discrimination? For realz? Listen, any coach with a brain in their skull will tell you that if two players are of equal talent the younger one usually plays. That’s just common sense, right? Because you’re going to have them longer and they’ll have more of a chance to develop? Bueller? Bueller? Anybody? And sorry kid, but I guarantee your coach was being kind when he said you were “on the bubble.” Newsflash: You were not on the bubble. You were under the bubble. Perhaps nowhere near the bubble. In fact, there were not only “too many kids with better soccer skills” than you, but they also had better soccer IQs. This means you don’t understand how to soccer, dude.

But you know the worst part of this story? The worst part is that mommy squandered a perfect life lesson for this kid, like, you know, work harder to achieve your goals, rewards are earned and not given, stuff like that. I can’t wait until this kid is passed over for a promotion at work when he’s 27 and mom tries to sue his boss. Good stuff, man. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times – how in the world can a kid learn to deal with adversity if mommy and daddy are going to jump in and save them every time they face it?

UPDATE: The judge threw the case out of court, stomped on it, spat upon it and was seen laughing uncontrollably as he skipped away. Good job, judge.

PS- I can totally name some parents who would do this, but I’ll save it for my upcoming blockbuster blog. Stay tuned.

Aw. Look at Marshmallow.

Wilmette, IL: Just after returning home from a walk around the block with her dog, Marshmallow, an 8-year-old Wilmette girl expected a visit from a playmate. Instead, police officers arrived at the family’s door. An anonymous caller had contacted police after seeing the girl walking the dog alone, said her mother, Corey Widen. The seemingly common activity launched an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigation to see if Widen was neglecting her children. Widen said the girl’s walk around the block — most of which Widen says she can see out her windows — is the only time her daughter is unsupervised. 

Oh for the love of God. When I was a 8-years old I used to get up and leave the house without telling anyone, come home for a can of Vienna sausages at lunch, leave the house, come back at 6:00pm for supper, then Mom would tell me to come back when the street lights came on.  She had no idea what the hell I was doing when I was gone. My only rules were to stay out of Paint Creek, don’t get into a car with a stranger and don’t go into old widow Snodgrass’s house over on North Alley Street. In today’s world an 8-year old can’t even take her dog Marshmallow for a walk. Sadly, the Wussification of America is alive and well.

Note: Sanity prevailed. The Police never pursued charges. 

Note: I know some people don’t understand how I can write about the personal life experiences that are often the subject of my writing. I understand not everyone is comfortable opening up about such things. However, writing and articulating my thoughts is therapeutic for me. It helps me, and I’ve also been told by others that it has helped them on occasion. That said, if it bothers you go ahead and hit that back button up there. Totally your call.

As some of you know I lost my Dad on August 13th. What follows are some memories of one of the most amazing men I’ve ever known . . .

Some of my fondest and earliest memories of my Dad involved sports. Dad was a great athlete who pitched for Ohio University and once outdueled the future major leaguer Harvey Haddix in a game when Dad was just 16-years old. Haddix went on the be a 3-time Major League All-Star who once threw 12 perfect innings in a game that is considered by many to be the best pitching performance in major league history.

So yeah, Dad was good.

I can recall many times where Dad and I were out in the driveway shooting hoops. He even had a light installed, and our house hosted many a late night game with a bunch of local kids participating.

We also played catch in the front yard on a thousand warm summer evenings after dinner. Dad would be the catcher as I pitched, giving me pointers as we threw back and forth. I’ll never forget those evenings.

I recall Dad and Uncle Myrl or Uncle Paul loading up 6 or 7 of their kids and assorted friends in the back of a pickup and driving us to Cincinnati to a Reds baseball game or a Royals basketball game. Somebody would inevitably lose a shoe or hat, and it’s a damn miracle somebody didn’t get shoved over the side of the truck bed on Columbia Parkway. Hell, today a parent would be arrested for transporting kids like that.

Note: You’d be amazed how cold it could get going 70 mph at 1:00am on an August morning in the back of a 1963 Chevy C20.

They’d also take us to Ohio State football and basketball games, and even the old Columbus Checkers hockey games.

Sports was a huge part of my life, all because of Dad. But sports weren’t everything. There was much more.

Back when I was little, Dad was a smoker. It was the winter of ’60 or ’61, maybe even ’59, I don’t really remember. I just recall it was winter because there was a fire in our fireplace. It was in the evening, and I climbed up on Dad’s lap as he sat by the fire burnin’ a Lucky Strike. At one point I reached up and tried to grab his cigarette, because hey, I was a kid. I got my hand slapped, and it was then the following conversation took place:

Dad: “Hey, what are you doing? Stop it.
Me: “I want to try it!”
Dad: “You can’t. You’re too young and besides, cigarettes are bad for you.
Me: “Then why are you smoking one?”

And really, that was all it took. At that point Dad paused, looked at the cigarette in his hand, and flipped it into the fireplace.

And he never smoked another cigarette in his life.

I asked him about this recently, and he too remembered that evening. He told me he just didn’t feel he could justify smoking while at the same time telling me how bad it was for you. So he quit to prove a point, on the spot, for himself but mainly for me. And guess what? Although I’ve had a cigar or two in my day, I never took up smoking.

Dad was one of the toughest people I ever knew. When I was around 14 he was sharpening the lawnmower blades in our driveway as I watched. He had the push mower tilted on its side and was using a wrench to tighten the bolts that held the blades on. As I watched, the wrench slipped and his hand was sliced by the blade. He then grabbed his wrist, held up his hand to have a look, and there was his thumb basically hanging by some skin. You could see the bone and everything. As I stared in horror, Dad calmly said this:

“I probably need this looked at. Nobody else is here so you’re going to have to drive me to the hospital.”

Wait. What? First of all, “probably”? Second of all, I was 14. And the emergency squad was not an option for Dad, man. Couldn’t appear weak to the locals, ya know. Next thing I knew I was driving the old 1967 Buick Sport Wagon at a brisk pace to the ER. Oh, we did have to stop 4 or 5 times so Dad could wring the blood out of the towel that was wrapped around his hand, but somehow we made it safely.

And what did we do after Dad’s thumb was attached back to his hand? We went home and mowed the damn yard, of course.

Dad also had a pretty wicked sense of humor, something that a lot of people didn’t realize. Once he and Mom had installed an electric fence on their property, and I pulled in just as they were finishing up. I was probably 18. Dad was standing by the fence and Mom was doing something a couple hundred feet away. I asked Dad if it was working and he said yes but they hadn’t turned it on yet. At that point I absent-mindedly reached down to touch it and got the living hell shocked out of me. After I screamed like a cat on fire, Dad yelled this:

MOM! It works! I KNEW he’d touch it!”

This was followed by a maniacal laugh.

Yep, Dad had used his only son to see if the electric fence was working, and he thought it was hysterical.

Another time Dad had a friend at his house and they were building something in his workshop. I happened to walk by and the friend asked if I was going to help. Dad said, “Are you kidding me? Dave thinks Manual Labor is the president of Mexico.”

Real funny, Dad.

Dad was really a man ahead of his time in a lot of ways. He was a strong Democrat, albeit a conservative one, but he was pretty liberal for his time regarding civil rights. I remember driving in the south on vacation around 1961 or thereabouts and Dad pointing out to all the kids how terrible it was to have segregated bathrooms. He would often say this loudly, right in front of gas station and restaurant owners. I remember once we’d all gotten out to stretch our legs at a little store and had loaded back up in the car, only to have Dad come back and get me. He took me around back where the words, “WHITES ONLY” was painted on the bathroom door. Beside the door was a sign that said “COLOREDS” with an arrow pointing down a small hill in the woods. Dad took me down a path and showed me a log bench with a hole cut in the middle of it, which was used by African-Americans as a toilet. I was shocked and confused, which was the whole point of him taking me there. My father had followed the arrow, gone down to explore, was disgusted, and thought it was something I needed to see.

And to this day the image is still burned into my mind.

Another time we had an African-American kid move into our school from Detroit, I think around my 3rd or 4th grade year. Bourneville, Ohio wasn’t the most racially diverse area in the world, and I hadn’t heard the n-word in my life. The day this kid walked in my classroom that changed, as I heard some other kids whispering it at recess. Later that evening Dad was sitting in his recliner reading the paper when I casually walked by and informed him that we had a new kid in my class, a ****** from Detroit. In the next instant Dad had risen from his chair, given me a swift kick in the ass, and was looming over me:

“You will NEVER use that word again, do you hear me? It’s a a bad, bad word!

Then, as he pointed to his chest, he said this:

“You judge a person by what’s in HERE, not by their color, whether they’re a man or a woman or anything else.”

Got it, Dad. Crystal clear. And since that day I’ve tried my very best to do just that.

I can still recall the first time I saw Dad cry. I can remember the exact day because it was Friday, November 22nd, 1963. I got home from school, and I can’t remember if Dad had come home from work early or it happened after he got home a little later. Anyway, I’d been outside playing and walked in to see Dad looking at the television. They were talking about the Kennedy assassination a few hours prior and were showing photos of Jackie and the Kennedy children. I saw that Dad’s eyes were watery, and then he wiped them with his shirtsleeve and just got up and walked outside. That made a big impact one me, seeing my father showing (for him) what was a lot of emotion.

I’ve written about my Dad on this site before, including the time he wouldn’t let me quit Cub Scouts and when he taught my very difficult Junior Achievement class at school. Click on those links for some more insight on my father.

My Dad and I didn’t have the best of relationships during my middle years, and it was mainly my fault. I was a rebellious, stupid kid. Oh, I was fine until I was 13-14 years old, but then things went sideways. Dad was a tough, old school parent. We fought over the length of my hair, how I dressed, and a million other things.

This continued for years. It was more often than not an awkward, difficult relationship. I knew he loved me but I never really saw evidence of it. He certainly never told me. There were no hugs, no proclamations of love, none of that soft stuff from Dad. I realized later of course that it was a generational thing. Guys like Dad who grew up during the Great Depression wanted to make their sons tough. This meant being hard on you, and by showering love upon you made you weak. He was trying to prepare me for the future, and it wasn’t until I was older that I realized this.

And I wasn’t the only kid with a father like that. Many young men my age had fathers who were very similar. Not all, but many. For me, all this would change later in life, but trust me when I say that from the age of about 14 to 28 Dad and I could barely be in the same room together.

One day I ran into one of Dad’s friends, one of the guys in a group that Dad met at McDonalds every morning for breakfast. He mentioned that Dad had talked about me one day and I said, “Uh-oh. I bet that was interesting. What did he have to say?” The guy replied, “Are you kidding? He never stops telling us how proud he is of you.”

I was shocked. Dad, proud of me?

It was then I realized how he really felt, but coming from his background he just didn’t vocalize it to me.

As for the grandkids, great grandkids, kids at church or any other kid Dad met in his life, they have absolutely no idea of this side of him. As my son Kip put it, “Growing up, I always heard stories about Pap and his tough love but that was not the man I knew. He was slow to anger and quick to tell you he loved you.

And Kip is absolutely right. For a couple generations removed it was different. And our situation wasn’t unique. Many people my age will recount the exact same experiences between themselves, their parents and their children.

So yes, the truth is that Dad and I had an up-and-down relationship over the years. Those early years were great and full of amazing memories. The middle years were a little tougher, as I was trying to find my way and decide what I wanted to do with my life. Looking back I totally understand why my father was frustrated with me. As a father I’d have felt the same way. Thankfully I figured out what I wanted to do with my life, got at least a little grounded, and things between us improved a lot. We still hadn’t had that breakthrough though, and I was pretty sure I’d have to be content with a friendly, yet not really close relationship.

But as Dad advanced in age and started to slow down, things began to change. Cracks started to develop in those old walls. I think we both sort of realized it wasn’t worth it. Maybe he knew he didn’t have a lot of time left, I’m not sure.

Then at one point about a year ago we were sitting on his front deck, overlooking the lake. I’d began asking him questions about WWII because I was trying to keep his mind sharp and I’d read where stuff like that helped. He was telling a funny story and started laughing, I mean really laughing, and I soon joined in. I suddenly realized that I’d never really laughed with Dad like that, that we’d never opened up together so much before. It seems like such a simple thing but believe me, it was not.

When I left later and fully realized what had happened, it hit me really hard. A wave of emotion came over me, and I rest my head on the steering wheel and cried. We’d just been laughing and talking just like regular guys.

Like friends.

So yeah, in the end we came to an understanding, patched up and healed old wounds, and made up for a lot of lost time.

And on one of his last days, as I said goodbye before leaving his bedside, he told me he loved me.

I guess the point is no matter how hopeless things may seem, how entrenched some behavior may feel, it’s never too late for change, never too late to make things right. Somehow, someway, Dad and I figured it out.

And I’ll be forever grateful that we did.

Check it out, man. That toy gun would put your eye out in a millisecond. Think anybody complained? Hells to the nah. If I would’ve gotten blasted in the eyehole by that thing Dad would’ve yelled at me for not ducking sooner, then punched me in the shoulder so hard my ankles would’ve gone numb. Back in my day men were men and toys could literally kill you.

PS- How did I miss this thing as a kid? I would have struck terror in the hearts of my sisters, man.

Of the 30,000 types of edible plants thought to exist on Earth, just eleven – corn, rice, wheat, potatoes, cassava, sorghum, millet, beans, barley, rye and oats – account for 93% of all that humans eat.

 

 

Oh Lord Jesus. From the website Quartzy:

If being well is simply about feeling good in our bodies and using them as they are designed to be used, then there’s an emerging wellness trend that’s worth checking out, a practice that requires neither aspiration nor great motivation: lying on the ground outside. There’s even a name for it. The “earthing” movement believes that “direct physical contact with the vast supply of electrons on the surface of the Earth” results in positive health outcomes, including reducing inflammation, cortisol levels, and improving sleep patterns. 

Yep, you read that right, kids, the newest emerging wellness trend is going outside and lying on the ground. The New Age folks have made a startling discovery this time, lemme tell ya. Who knew that lying on the ground was so good for you? I’ll tell you who knew. Every freaking kid on earth who grew up in the country. We’ve all lounged on the ground, stared at the skies or stars, and felt engulfed by that warm peacefulness. We just didn’t know it was coming from a vast supply of electrons, man.

PS- Sorry, people who grew up in the city. Pretty sure concrete, litter and human urine blocks the electrons. That’s just science.

Well, some of you. If you’re under 30 perhaps not. Anyway, many of us older folk can remember the way old supermarkets looked, as well as the old country, small town stores. What follows is a look back at a simpler time, 20 photographs along with my comments. Point, click and scroll. Do it man.

Even though I’m w-a-a-a-a-a-y past 35, these are funny.

[click to enlarge and scroll]

Thanks men. I’m proud of every one of you.

A few weeks ago things were great. As a high school basketball coach in Southern Ohio, my team had just completed back-to-back 17-win seasons and consecutive trips to the District Tournament at the Convocation Center in Athens, Ohio, our third and fourth trips there in the last 5-years. We accomplished this with few complaints from anybody. In fact, aside from one meeting during our 2015-2016 season and another in 2012-2013, things had run incredibly smoothly in our basketball program. I was extremely proud of my teams, their families and the Paint Valley administration and community. But let’s go back to the beginning . . .

About 6-years ago I was approached by the Athletic Director at out school and was asked to coach the boys basketball team, a job I’d held 16-years prior. I was apprehensive to say the least, so I asked several people their opinion. I was told that it wasn’t a good job, that we were a small school playing much bigger schools for the most part, there was very little talent in the program, and that the kids lacked the commitment to basketball that was evident in football. I was told that it was a different time, that kids were too busy with social media and online games to come to do the extra work or to open gyms.

I took the job anyway, and a week later we had 40 players at our first open gym. Turns out all you had to do was open the doors and they’d come right in. Who knew?

The interest was there, and it soon became obvious there was some talent in our school too.

That first year we won 8-games with a great group of guys, including 5-seniors who set the tone for the years to come. These guys bought into what we were doing and believed in me from the beginning. Our younger players watched them, saw how hard they worked, and that got us off to a good start. That first year we won those 8-games, including a win in the sectional tournament. The next year we won a Sectional Title and went all the way to the District Championship, and followed that up the next year with 16 wins, another Sectional Title and another District Final appearance. After a down year we bounced back with two straight 17-win seasons and two more Sectional Championships. As I mentioned before, all this with only a couple complaints, both of which were addressed and dealt with.

Or so I thought, which brings me back to a few weeks ago.

Again, I had no idea there was a problem until I was asked to come to a meeting with my Principal and Athletic Director on a Thursday. When I arrived I was told that our school board president had been given a list of “Public Concerns”. Right away the word “public” raised a red flag with me because the word “public” made it seem like the entire community was behind it, which I was sure wasn’t the case.

I was then told that the list was anonymous, rendering the term “public” meaningless, at least in my opinion. Hell, anyone can send in a list of complaints and say they were from the public. They may as well have said “national” complaints for all I cared at that point. To me, an unsigned letter is not a letter at all.

However, I was given a copy of the list, which I’ll happily show you later because I want to be as transparent as possible.

As I read the list, it became clear that a few people sat around a kitchen table somewhere, wracking their brain and trying to recall things they could add to the list. Since a few of the “concerns” involved the same people it’s pretty clear who all was involved. Was it a BOE member who actually created the list so they’d have a reason to vote against my renewal? I’ve been told by credible people that yes, it was.

At the time though, I wasn’t really worried. After all, it was a bunch of petty and trivial complaints that I was sure the board would dismiss for what they were, which was basically nothing. The administrators paid to evaluate me – the superintendent, principal and athletic director – were all going to recommend me to be rehired at the board meeting the following Monday.

To be sure, however, I called and texted all the board members to explain my position and to make sure we were all on the same page.

Of the five, two responded positively, one told me he didn’t feel comfortable talking about it and two refused to respond at all. Uh-oh. It was at this point I began to sense something was wrong.

Because of this I thought it would be a good idea to address the board before the vote. I did, and I went over each complaint, explained what each was about, and basically stated my case. Below are my notes regarding each concern, with the concern in bold and my response following. Click to enlarge:

As you can see, most were trivial, and in any event had been taken care of months, and in some cases even years ago.

Note: The complaint about leaving the players who were late for the bus came from one particular over-protective helicopter parent who just can’t get past it. It happened over 2-years ago.

As I went over my notes, one thing became apparent. Three of the board members didn’t care. They refused to look at me. They sat there, heads down and silent. What I was saying was irrelevant. The decision had clearly been made. When I finished there were no questions and zero discussion. This, after I’d given my heart and soul to the district for 25-years.

I was then non-renewed by a vote of 3-2.

After the meeting one board member, the president, stopped and attempted to explain to people who had gathered there, while the others who voted no walked briskly by with their heads down. I was told by the board president that he had, without further explanation, “followed his heart.”

Huh?

One month later, 2 of the 5 board members stepped down in protest, not just because I was non-renewed but because they felt the Paint Valley Board of Education had acted unethically, and quite possibly even illegally, in making the decision. You see, it’s illegal to have private meetings regarding board decisions prior to the board meeting, and this clearly occurred. And oh by the way, texts, phone calls and emails between 2-3 people is considered a meeting. It’s all spelled out in the Ohio Open Meeting Act and Sunshine Law.

Here is one of the board member’s letter of resignation, posted with his permission:

 

The letter speaks for itself.

I’d never blame any of my players for what their parents have done, and I hope you don’t either. I got along with all my players the past 6-years, and even the ones whose parents caused my non-renewal know I care about them. I know this because they’ve told me privately.

Am I upset about what happened? Of course I am. We’d changed the culture and were successful. We’d built something at Paint Valley I was proud of. We were a family. And as many of you know it takes a long time to build a culture, but it can disappear overnight. And in the end, a few people took away something I loved. Worse, I believed I had the support of the three people who voted against me.

Turns out I was wrong. They didn’t even have the courage or courtesy to come to me man-to-man, face-to-face, and address the issue. They took the coward’s way out. I considered all three friends, and I truly believed one would always have my back. He’d played for me and we’d won Paint Valley’s last league title together. Instead of having my back, however, he stabbed me in it.

The best damn fans anywhere. I love you guys.

And yes, I’ve heard the rumors. The board members who are saying that there’s “more to the story.” This is a common tactic among people when they’re trying to put doubt in people’s minds. Believe me, there’s nothing more. If you hear that, demand to hear the “more to the story.” There are no dark secrets. My coaching staff, players, and the administrators who are paid to evaluate me know this.

In retrospect it’s clear this had been in the making for awhile. I know for a fact at least one board member had talked to possible replacements for me as far back as January, and several people have told me that one board member was upset about his son’s varsity playing time. And believe it or not, there were apparently jealousies over all the attention my 6′-11″, 305-pound center received, the same player who happened to end up being the all-time scoring leader in school, league and county history. He also received a full scholarship to play Division I basketball, so yeah, he got some attention.

Bottom line, the decision to non-renew my contract was decided long before that meeting.

And you know the funny thing? All they had to do was sit me down after the season, look me in the eye and tell me that they wanted to make a change. If they’d had the common decency to do that I would have stepped down willingly. Instead, they chose to take the route they took. Guess it was easier for them.

Hey, you learn from these experiences. Some defend you fiercely and some are outspoken against you. And yes, you can learn a lot about those who remain silent too. Your circle grows smaller but stronger.

I’m also fully aware that, although I loved coaching at Paint Valley, there are worse things that can happen to a person. My family members can attest to that right now, believe me.

That said, I still love Paint Valley. I always will. A few small-minded, little, cowardly people can never change that. I wish nothing but the best for our athletes, and I only hope whoever coaches the basketball team loves the team, the school and the community as much as I do. I’m proud of the work I did there, the success we had, and the relationships I developed with my players, coaches, students and the best damn fans in the SVC.

And nobody can ever take that away.

For all you youngsters out there, what you are about to see may cause you wonderment, confusion and possibly even consternation. For you older folk, it will bring forth a feeling of nostalgia and a possible longing for a simpler time. What I’m talking about is automobiles and what isn’t in them anymore. Hey, it’s been a slow day. Let’s take a gander . . .

BENCH SEATS

What you see below, kids, are what we called bench seats. None of this bucket seat bullshit. Since we never wore seatbelts Dad could take a hard left turn and we’d all go flying into the opposite door. Good times. On a related note, these seats came in handy when taking your girlfriend to the drive-in. I’ll stop right there.

 

TAILFINS

Next we have something you never see anymore, something we called tailfins, and they were spectacular. A side bonus was the fact that you could back into an unsuspecting pedestrian and impale the hell out of his spleen. Seriously though, cars are boring these days compared to these beauties.

 

ASH TRAYS

What you see below, kids, is something that was located on your car’s dashboard, and it was called an ashtray. That little knob on the left was a lighter. See, almost everybody smoked like a fiend back then so of course you needed a handy way to get your cancer stick fired up. We’ll get to all those little buttons and knobs above it shortly.

 

TRUNK SPACE

Seems like everyone drives an SUV these days, but back in the 60s and 70s everyone either drove a regular car or a truck. I had a luxurious Catalina Brougham, and that thing rode like a damn hovercraft. Anywho, most of the cars had enough trunk space to hold a Shetland pony, and I’m pretty sure my friend Cluck snuck 7-people into the Fiesta Drive-In in the trunk of his ’68 Chevy Impala once. Seriously, look at all that space. Now that I think of it, most cars don’t even come with a regular spare tire anymore. Sad really.

 

FLOOR MOUNTED DIMMER SWITCH

This next one is really gonna blow the minds of youngsters far and wide. That little doohickey you see below was on the floor of your car, to the left of the brake and gas pedal. What was it for, you ask? It was your headlight dimmer switch. Not even kidding. And it made a satisfying little click whenever you stepped on it to dim or brighten your headlights.

 

VENT WINDOWS

These were called vent windows and every car had them. You’d open them for a little fresh air, but mainly to flick your ashes out of so they wouldn’t fly back and burn your kid’s eyeballs out like they might if you tried flicking them out your regular window.

 

HORN RINGS

That thing you see on that steering wheel? It was called a horn ring. You simply pressed on it whenever you wanted to frighten a passing child on the sidewalk. On a related note, every car horn sounded like a damn tugboat horn. None of that beep-beep crap back in the day, man.

 

CRANK UP WINDOWS

See that weird looking thing? Young folk, back in the barbaric days of yore people actually had to reach down and roll up their own damn windows. Gasp!

Thought: Why doesn’t every car still come with these as a backup? You know, when you’re automatic windows inevitably stop working?

 

METAL DASHBOARDS

Here’s something else you never see anymore – metal dashboards. None of that wussy padding for the Greatest Generation, man. Hey, if you’d gone to war against the Nazis a few sharp objects on your dashboard didn’t bother you a whole lot. Just sayin’.

 

TAPE PLAYERS

Check it out! Kids, that’s what we called an 8-track tape player! See, you jammed the tape in there and it played the music of your favorite musical artist!

Note: Remember when the music would start dragging and you’d have to stick a matchbook or something under it to get it to play right? Sometimes I long for the old days.

 

CASSETTE PLAYERS

Soon, my children, tapes and the tape player became obsolete and was replaced by cassettes and this little contraption, the cassette player. Sometimes the tape in the cassette would get all tangled up and you’d have to rewind it back up with a pencil. I’m serious. I included a photo below the cassette player pic. That’s what separates me from your average blogger right there, people. I go the extra mile.

 

 

ANTENNAS

What the hell is that, you ask? That, my friends, is an antenna. You could pull that thing down real far and let it whip back and lacerate your friend’s face, just for fun. Gas stations use to give out little antenna toppers that you could stick on the top of it, too. I once had a Union 76 ball that flew off and nearly killed an old lady behind me on the freeway. Fun!

PS – Photo of identical antenna topper included below!

PPS – It has been pointed out to me that some cars still have antennas. Really?

PPPS – Antennas gradually grew shorter and shorter until they disappeared into the windshield. Sad really.

 

REAR FACING SEATS

Check it out, man. Rear facing seats! Andy Anderson and I rode all the way to Boulder, Colorado and back riding in the rear of a 1967 Buick Sport Wagon. It was sort of a weird vibe watching the world go by backwards like that, lemme tell ya. You never knew where you were until you were past it.

 

DIAL RADIOS

Finally, we have the dial radio. Yes, you could either set a station by pushing a button or just roll through the stations manually. Barbaric but effective.

Aaaaaand, that’s all I can think of. Knowing my loyal readers like I do, however, I’m sure somebody will quickly point out something obvious I missed and make me feel stupid. Thanks in advance!

So 76-year old George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic was interviewed by Rolling Stone, and man did this dude bring some things into perspective. He was asked about Cultural Appropriation, that is, whites doing “black music” and stuff. The question seemed a little dated to me anyway, but George responded with a great take:

I’d bite off the Beatles, or anybody else. It’s all one world, one planet and one groove. You’re supposed to learn from each other, blend from each other, and it moves around like that. You see that rocket ship leave yesterday? We can maybe leave this planet. We gonna be dealing with aliens. You think black and white gonna be a problem? Wait till you start running into mother***kers with three or four d**cks! Bug-eyed mother***kers! They could be ready to party, or they could be ready to eat us. We don’t know, but we’ve got to get over this shit of not getting along with each other.”

BOOM! I do not believe I’ve ever heard it stated better.

You know, George would make a great president. Too bad he’s in his 70’s and half crazy, nobody would ever vote for a guy like that. Wait . . .

!!!!!!!!!!

 

Looks peaceful enough.

Note: I’ve no clue if this is going to happen yet. I’ve been asked, but as often happens with these international plans, they sometimes fall through. I’ve literally been in the airport ready to board a plane to Antigua when I got a call saying all was off. Let’s just say there are a lot of moving parts that have to come together to make camps like this happen. But man, when they do it’s ALWAYS worth it . . .

So I’ve been asked to direct a charity basketball camp in the city of Lagos, Nigeria next summer. I’ll be in charge of a large coaching staff from all over the world, and the kids attending will mainly be Nigerians from various Nigerian Provinces. As many of you know I’ve directed camps all at several locales, from the midwest to the Eastern Seaboard to the Caribbean. Still, this one could be special, and by special I have no idea what I mean. I know nothing about Nigeria. I have received several emails over the years from a businessman in Nigeria who claims he has some money for me if I could just wire him my bank account information, but I haven’t got around to doing that yet.

So, nothing.

Bottom line I have absolutely no clue what Lagos is like, but the thought of directing a camp there is intriguing to put it mildly. With all that in mind I figured some research was in order. You know, before I go traipsing off to some country I know nothing about. Seems the prudent thing to do. Here’s what I’ve found so far . . .

  • Lagos is a city of 8-million people. Hey, I’m no expert, but that seems like a big city. Ohio has 10-million people, so there ya go. BIG.
  • Apparently Lagos has quite the music scene. A lot of new sounds are emanating from Lagos. Those of you who know me know that’s a huge draw for me.
  • Hakeem Olajawon is from Lagos! Hakeem the Dream! How bad could it be?

I also got on a few chatboards and actually spoke to some folks who told me the people of Lagos are some of the nicest in the world. They also mentioned, very politely, that I probably shouldn’t go out at night. Wait. What? CAUTION REQUIRED seemed to be a common theme. There was also mention of checkpoints where bribes were required and where other nefarious shenanigans were afoot, and by shenanigans I mean people going missing and stuff.

Oh, and one website rated Lagos the world’s 5th Worst Place to Live.

Yikes. But’s let’s not pre-judge.

What the hell, let’s go to the Foriegn and Commonwealth Office and see what they have to say.

There is a high threat from terrorism in Nigeria. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including government, security and educational institutions, international organisations as well as public venues and areas such as restaurants, bars, markets, hotels, shopping centres, places of worship and other areas frequented by expatriates, foreign tourists and business travellers. A number of attacks have taken place around religious and public holidays. There have been regular attacks on churches in northern Nigeria at times of worship. We cannot therefore rule out further attacks taking place. You should be particularly vigilant at these times and in these locations. You should avoid affected areas in the immediate aftermath of an attack.

Damn, they had to mention bars, didn’t they? Shoot. Well, at least there’s no threat of kidnapping or anything. Wait . . .

There is a threat of kidnapping throughout Nigeria. Foreign nationals have been the target of kidnaps. On 20 December 2012 a French national was kidnapped by armed men in Katsina State in northern Nigeria. On 12 May 2011, a British national was kidnapped alongside an Italian national in Kebbi State. Both hostages were killed in Sokoto on 8 March 2012. We advise British nationals to exercise vigilance and caution.

Well, I’m neither British, Italian or French, but I am a foreign national. I’m so confused. But hey, Hakeem Olajawon is from there!

Let’s read on . . .

Localised outbreaks of civil unrest can occur at short notice. You are advised to avoid large crowds, demonstrations and obvious political gatherings. Trouble on the streets can be spontaneous, and can quickly lead to violence. Violent crime is prevalent in the south of the country, including Lagos.

Well, avoiding large crowds should be easy enough. I mean, look at that picture up there!

So, since doing my research I’ve been putting feelers out for a coaching staff to take with me and I must say my loyal coaching friends have been incredibly cowardly open to the idea. Here are some of the actual responses I’ve received:

“Sorry, I have a young daughter at home.”

“I can’t. I have a dentist appointment that week” (I hadn’t told him the dates yet).

“I can’t fly. I have groinal acne.”

“Sorry, I don’t want to get kidnapped and die.”

“Are you f**cking kidding me?”

Still, all things considered, I’ve told them I’m committed to to the camp. Here’s why:

  • It’s for charity. C’mon, you gotta admit it has the potential to be one helluva rewarding experience, right? Right?
  • I’ve been told by several people in Lagos that if you’re there trying to help the country and not get rich from it the bad guys will leave you alone, even go out of their way to protect you. I’m golden.
  • I tell my students that sometimes in life you gotta take a leap of faith for a good cause. I can’t be a hypocrite, now can I? CAN I?
  • I love the game. Seriously, I love basketball. I’ve seen it change, even save, lives. The idea of teaching it to a bunch of eager-to-learn Nigerian kids is appealing to me.
  • It’s going to be a large camp with some major financial backing. I’m assuming we’ll be in good hands. I’m assuming. Seriously, we will be. I think.
  • Making new coaching friends from all over the world and players from all over Nigeria? You can’t put a price on that.
  • Think of the stories I’ll be able to tell! The possibilities are endless. Blog material for years.
  • When I bring back a 7′-3″ 15-year old to play for Paint Valley everyone will thank me.
  • Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I seriously believe that.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know for certain this camp will happen. Having said that, I’m sure hoping it will. If so, it’s sure to be an exciting, rewarding, fulfilling, maybe a little frightening, but ultimately once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I can’t wait.

PS – Seriously. Lookin’ for coaches!

UPDATE: Not happening, man. They would not guarantee my lodging in advance. First they said I’d be staying with a local family, to which I counter offered that I needed a hotel, preferably with a well-known name like Hilton or Hyatt or something.  Then they said I’d have a hotel but they’d tell me where it was upon arrival. Nope. No way I’m going to Lagos without everything written in stone in advance. To quote the great Terry Bradshaw, I may be dumb but I’m not stupid. Anyway, opportunity lost.

Back on the late 60s and early 70s there was a baseball camp near the town I grew up in. It was Ted Kluszewski’s Baseball Camp, run by the former Cincinnati Reds’ slugger from back in the day. During the days of the Big Red Machine, “Big Klu” was the team’s hitting instructor. Anyway, it was a cool camp with kids attending from all over the world. Players ranging in age from 6- 17 attended the camp, and local baseball teams would go there to play against the campers. Bottom line, I spent a ton of time there, either playing in or watching games.

As I’ve mentioned before I used to spend a copious amount of time at my Uncle Myrl’s house and I basically went wherever they went, which leads to my story.

My Aunt Dorothy had taken my cousin Mick and I to the camp to watch some games, and it being the late 60s and all she just dropped us off and left, telling us she’d be back in a couple hours. Alas, it was a simpler time. Anyway, she returned later to pick us up, and we hopped in the backseat for the ride home.

However, as we were pulling out of the lot a guy waved us to a stop, and as I recall he didn’t look happy. Aunt Dorothy rolled her window down to see what was up, and the following conversation (as I remember it) then took place.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry to stop you but your boys have something that belongs to us.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Your kids stole some of our baseballs. I have people who saw them getting foul balls and sticking them down their pants.”

[Those of you who want to insert a “balls in your pants” joke may do so now.]

What I witnessed next was the most epic ass-ripping my young ears had ever heard, and believe me, I’d heard a lot. But alas, my aunt’s gush of fury and vitriol wasn’t directed at us. Instead, Aunt Dorothy tore into this poor dude in every way imaginable, letting him know in no uncertain terms that she had not raised thieves and there was no way on God’s green earth we would ever stoop to the level of a common criminal.

During all of this Mick and I sat quietly in the backseat, not saying a word.

Turns out there was a reason for this.

I recall the guy backing away with his hands up as he said he was sorry for the mistake and left, presumably to look for the real ball burglars or perhaps a corner in which to weep.

You know, we might have gotten away with it had Aunt Dorothy not had to make a sudden stop on the way home in the little town of Bainbridge when some jackass pulled in front of her. But he did, and that was when all the baseballs we’d pilfered rolled out from under the backseat from where we’d hidden them, onto the front floorboard, and around the feet of the woman who’d just defended us to the ends of the earth to a man who’d had the audacity to call us crooks.

Which, incidentally, we now very clearly were.

Well, I thought the tongue-lashing given to our accuser was bad, but it paled in comparison to what was laid on Mick and I now.  We were yelled at, belittled, shamed, mocked and at one point may or may not have been called assholes.

Which, again, would not have been a false statement.

Note: Understand that the fact I was a nephew wasn’t figured into the equation. When I was with my cousins I was considered one of the immediate family in every sense of the word. This was often a good thing but sometimes not. This time? Decidedly not.

We then had to suffer the indignity of returning to the baseball camp, giving back our stash, and apologizing to the man who had accurately accused us of our larceny in the first place. I believe we had to perform this indignity in front of an entire Pop Warner Little League team who happened to be nearby. The fact that a couple of them were laughing at us only added weight to our collective embarrassment.

And I still remember our accuser’s smirk as he accepted the returned baseballs. Dude was absolutely smug I tell ya.

And Aunt Dorothy must have figured we’d learned our lesson because as far as we ever knew she never told my Uncle Myrl or my father Ralph, and for that we were thankful. If she had a more physical punishment would have undoubtedly been administered, and that would’ve hurt a lot more than an ass-ripping by an aunt, the smug-smirk of a baseball camp employee, or the laughs of a couple 5-year old little league punks.

Alas, we survived, although we may have been blackballed from Ted Kluszewski’s Baseball Camp for a week or two, I cannot recall for certain.

Just another day in the life of a Bourneville kid.

Life Hacks, Part 2

Posted: October 4, 2017 in Humor, Life
Tags:

Here are a couple more Life Hacks for y’all, because my crack staff here at Shoe: Untied is trying to improve life for all of us. You’re welcome.

Want to keep stuff fresh? Here ya go.

Here’s a cool way to include the person taking the photo in the photo.

A girls softball team from Virginia paid a steep price for a lesson about social media: After a victory, think twice about gloating over your opponent on their home turf — especially if the chosen method of gloating is posting a photo on social media of six teammates flipping the bird under the caption, “watch out host.”

The 12-to-14-year-olds who make up the Atlee junior league softball team from Mechanicsville, Va., were disqualified Saturday from the nationally televised championship game at the Junior League World Series in Kirkland, Wash., after one team member posted that photo on her Snapchat account before their game Friday. The team apologized Saturday, even asking for an investigation into the game, but it was too late to repair the damage the image had caused.

Little League spokesman Kevin Fountain called the post “inappropriate” in a statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, explaining that it violated the league’s “policies regarding unsportsmanlike conduct.”

The disqualification didn’t sit well with the Atlee team manager, Scott Currie, who found out about the photo Friday evening after the team’s 1-0 win. Currie immediately reprimanded the players who were involved, before demanding they delete the post and apologize in person to their rivals.
“It’s a travesty for these girls,” Currie told the Times-Dispatch on Saturday. “Yes, they screwed up, but I don’t think the punishment fit the crime.”

Yes, I have an opinion on this “controversy”, and it’s pretty straightforward – I agree with the decision to disqualify this team 100%. I’ve spoken at length about my feelings on running up the score and showing bad sportsmanship, and nothing has changed although it seems I’m becoming more and more in the minority.

If you research this story online, you’ll find that a lot of people upset about it, especially because the entire team was disqualified when only six girls were in the photo. Newsflash: In sports, you are a TEAM. Many times, when even one players makes a mistake, everybody pays for it.

And in its own way, that’s a beautiful thing. It’s a life lesson, something to use forever and hopefully pass on to your own children one day. Don’t simply think about yourself, think about your friends, your family, your team.

Hell, do you now what one of the worst punishments I can hand out as a coach is? It’s when one player makes a mistake, and I make him stand there and watch everybody else run. Is that fair? Perhaps not, but neither is life.

Oh, and again, it just might help you remember that your actions can affect everyone around you.

As anyone who’s ever played for me will tell you, I believe what these girls did was a bush league move. It was classless and wrong. And I don’t care what the other team was doing during the game to possibly provoke them either, that’s irrelevant. So is how many hours they put in or how hard they worked to get there. They threw all that away with one ignorant decision.

And hey, Coach Currie, you shouldn’t be upset. This was largely your fault. Coaching is much more than teaching how to hit, field, tackle or shoot free throws. It’s teaching what’s right and what’s wrong.

Had you done your job your team would’ve known better, and by defending them you’ve made the problem worse.

Coach, listen up. Back when I was in high school I was playing in a basketball game. I’d committed a dumb foul and followed it up by receiving a technical foul. That night after the game I went to my Uncle Myrl’s house, a man I had great respect for, to visit my cousins. As I walked by him in the kitchen where he was sitting reading  the newspaper, we had the following conversation:

“Dave, you know what’s worse than making an ass of yourself?”

“Uh, no.”

“Making an ass out of yourself twice.”

Still true today, coach.

 

NYT – President Trump announced Thursday afternoon that he is withdrawing the United States from the landmark Paris climate agreement, an extraordinary move that dismayed America’s allies and set back the global effort to address the warming planet.

Trump’s decision set off alarms worldwide, drawing swift and sharp condemnation from foreign leaders as well as top environmentalists and corporate titans, who decried the U.S. exit from the Paris accord as an irresponsible abdication of American leadership in the face of irrefutable scientific evidence. Trump has described climate change “a hoax.”

The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement cannot actually be finalized until near the end of Trump’s term because of the accord’s legal structure and language.

The Donald, man. Gotta give him credit to sticking to his guns on this one I guess? Our children and their children and their children can go to hell, man. We’ll all be gone by then anyway, amirite? But hey, at least we have two other stable, level-headed governments who see things the way we do – Nicaragua and Syria. Thank God for that. I guess all us weenies who believe in the climate change “hoax” can take solace in the fact that our withdrawal from the pact can’t take place for a couple years. The odds of Trump surviving that long are about 9%.

PS- One positive about a Trump administration? Endless source of blogging material.

PPS- Another positive? Wildly entertaining messages from Trump supporters.

PPS- For those who care, and I don’t think many do, here’s climate change explained pretty simply (and spare me the climate change is a hoax videos, please).

On a related note, I never thought I’d miss this guy so much:

bush-doing-the-happy-dance

Ever have a relationship that suddenly went awry for a weird reason? Something happened that made you think, “Uh, this isn’t going to work.”

Yeah, me too.

As a matter of fact it’s happened to me more than once. Let us review the sordid details . . .

I once went out with a girl in college that I’d had my eye on for awhile. We finally arranged a date, I picked her up, and things were going well. As always I had my music playing, and at one point I asked her what she thought of a particular Beatles song.

And then it happened, words spilling out of her mouth that were destined to ruin our relationship before it even started:

“I’ve never really cared for The Beatles. I think they’re overrated.”

At that point I spat out my coffee and I wasn’t even drinking any. Then I said something along the lines of, “Whaa . . . you . . smrgffft . . . wait . . . EXCUSE me?”

Listen, I can date somebody who hates sports, who doesn’t like to read books, who doesn’t like to travel, isn’t crazy about kids, hell, I can even date a Republican. But can I date somebody who dislikes The Beatles? I cannot.

Be ambivalent about them? Maybe. Dislike them? Nah.

Let us revert back to a quote from one of my favorite artists, the one and only lead singer of The Eels, Mr. Mark Oliver Everett, better known as E. E said this:

“Kids know what’s going on. They always respond to The Beatles, for instance. Doesn’t matter when they were born, they always seem to respond. Show me a kid who innately doesn’t like The Beatles and I’ll show you a bad seed.” 

Yep.

Listen, you don’t have to love The Beatles, but you certainly have to appreciate them for what they contributed to modern music. After all, virtually every band or artist today has stolen from them on one level or another. To not acknowledge that fact makes you, in my opinion, dumb.

Another time a date went sideways even more quickly. After I picked her up we walked out to my car, she opened the door and then proceeded to get out a handkerchief and wipe the seat before sitting down. Then she continued to look for dog hair on her coat all evening, making sure to hold it up for me every time she found one.

It didn’t take a genius to see that relationship was going very far. I mean, if a little dog hair bothered her that much we were in big trouble, ya know? I mean, if ya can’t make some allowances for The Spark you’re not my kinda girl.

I once dated a girl who I was beginning to really like. We’d gone out a few times and hit it off. She was from a nice family and showed no signs of abnormal behavior. Well, that all ended abruptly one sunny afternoon when she casually uttered a racial slur in the middle of a casual conversation regarding one of my friends. I asked her how in the world she could talk that way, she didn’t see a problem with it, I pointed out that I thought it was ignorant, and from that moment on I couldn’t wait to get her home and get the hell out of there.

It’s amazing how someone so pretty could turn so ugly so fast.

Finally, this last one is a little weird and sounds like something out of a Seinfeld episode. Years ago I was just out of college and seeing a girl that seemed really normal, at least by my standards. Anyway, things were going well until the day we went to a mall in Columbus. At some point we were ready to go up to the second floor and I sort of guided her over to the escalator. Just as we were about to step on she froze in her tracks and we had the following conversation:

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t get on there.”

“Huh? Why?”

“I haven’t told you this yet but I have a fear of escalators. It’s called Escalaphobia.”

“Hahahahahaha! Nice try weirdo.”

“I’m serious. They frighten me. I’m afraid I could get hurt on there.”

“Ooooooh.”

Long story short, she wasn’t kidding. This otherwise nice young lady had a legitimate, actual fear of escalators. Me, being the immature idiot that I was, couldn’t get past it. All I could think of that something must be inherently wrong with this woman, that if she was afraid of escalators what other irrational fears or thoughts might she have? Seriously, all I could think of were conversations I’d be having with people for years to come:

“Sorry, we have to take the stairs. She’s afraid of escalators.”

What can I say? Empathy wasn’t my strong suit then, nor apparently now since I just made myself laugh out loud as I typed that.

Anyway, so there ya go. Four weird things that can ruin a relationship. Well, plus me. I can ruin a relationship. On a related note, let’s not go there.

PS – Listen, I know too much dog hair is a pain and people have irrational fears that the rest of us have trouble comprehending. I get it, so save your complaints (I can hear the Society of Social Anxiety folks organizing as we speak). The racism, on the other hand, I will never get.   

PPS – And yes, I know I’m afraid of clowns, dolls and mannequins. Hey, I didn’t say I was perfect.

PPPS – And puppets, in particular marionnettes. There. I said it.

The nation’s demographics are on a clear trajectory: White people are dying faster than they are being born, which means they are on target to become a minority in the United States in 30-years.

“This is without historical precedent,” said Kenneth Johnson, the senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy. “The minority population is growing, and the non-Hispanic white population is not.”

Whites currently account for 62% of the population but 78% of deaths, according to Johnson’s analysis.

“I don’t think people fully appreciate how much natural increase [more births than deaths] contributes to the nation’s growing diversity,” Johnson said. “If you ask people why is America more diverse, they would say it’s because minorities are being born. What nobody ever thinks about is that a lot more whites are dying.”

Well, well. How the tide has turned. Honestly, I can’t decide if this is good or bad for the White Supremacy crowd. On the one hand, how can they be supreme if they’re a minority? Can’t have that. Somebody might build a wall to keep them out, man. We can’t be getting all diverse and whatnot, that’s un- American!

On the other hand, they may soon be getting all those great privileges they say minorities get, like getting the first shot at jobs and the cute girls and stuff.

The world, man. How dare it change like this on us?

PS- Is it me or does Kenneth Johnson seem a little too happy about all these white people dying?

PPS- I swear to God I’ll get messages from people who don’t recognize sarcasm and think I’m serious. I can’t wait to show them to you.