I was relieved to find that there was some sense left in
the world, somewhere, with last week’s conviction of those three clowns in the
killing of Ahmaud Arbery. For that verdict to have gone any other way would be
to legally sanction anyone (meaning any White person) to chase down people, chosen
with specious reasoning, shoot them, and then avoid charges by claiming
self-defense. This is how the Trayvon Martin verdict should have gone in a case
that was practically the same, save for the semi-automatic rifle and video.
Speaking of the video, I can’t believe there WAS a video
(taken by the killers) that didn’t get deleted that night. Man, he should have
deep-sixed that whole phone and deleted his cellular account. Anything to keep
it from being seen by anybody, ever. (Granted, I’m sure there’s a way to
recover the video from the ISP provider, but only if someone knows it exists in the first place.)
It’s these guys’ confidence in feeling they were in the
right that strikes me as so wrong. And I’m sure a lot of that came from the
cops on the scene letting them go home that night, with instructions on how to
remove the “evidence” (blood, gunpowder residue) from their hands. And then
there was the call to the shooter’s father’s old boss, the DA, who downplayed
the incident and assured the cops (by proxy) that it was a clean shooting in
Thank goodness there were some consequences on that end
too. The ex-DA turned herself in to the cops over the
weekend and was charged with a felony count of violating her oath of office
and a misdemeanor count of obstructing police.
So, in a nutshell, the police and the DA conspire with
three White men to cover up the unprovoked killing of a Black man. And people
wonder why there are BLM protests? This case is the exclamation point on why
Black people feel the need to march in the streets and demand their right to
exist without being hunted like game. That’s basically what happened there and
the nuts and bolts of the legal system itself, i.e. The Good Ole Boy Network, were
instrumental in making it so.
If it wasn’t for the intense pressure of the public, and
most of all, the video, this would
have been one more murder swept under the rug by the American system of “justice.”
This is one we know about. One wonders how many more there have been.
Knee-jerk police apologists (AKA Republicans) found their
cultural diversion from the Arbery case: Vice President Kamala Harris bought a
piece of cookware.
Yep, that’s the big issue and winner of this year’s Tan
Suit Award for the year’s most superfluous scandal. The Veep went into a store
and blatantly, with complete disregard to the American public, bought a piece
of merchandise with her own money. (This is a pot, mind you, not a yacht.)
It’s shit like this that shows how hollow the Republican
party and media have become. This is a nothing burger wrapped in an invisible
bun, sprinkled with bitterness, and covered in petty sauce.
The idea behind it is that they think it was too
expensive for someone who touts income disparity as a problem, to buy for
herself. It’s kind of like a billionaire calling himself a champion of the
people, from his gilded high-rise office building, far removed from the people
This is a common conservative tactic, meant to safeguard
the status quo. If anyone wants to do something about climate change, they get
flack for driving a car. If they want to make the rich pay their fair share of
taxes, they get raked for having a nice house themselves. If someone wants to
feed the poor, they better not get caught in a nice restaurant. Or any
restaurant, because they need to be eating gruel. In Republican rhetoric, if you’re not the living, selfless,
embodiment of the principle you espouse, your point can be disregarded. All the
better to keep the upward flow of dollars moving.
And how do the Republicans hold up under that kind of
It doesn’t matter because it only applies to Democrats.
More Dad Stories
Commentary: If you’re new to why I keep running these stories about my Dad,
it’s because he passed away suddenly in September and this is my way of keeping
his spirit alive a little longer. Besides, he was a
We put up our Christmas tree this weekend, which reminded
me of another story.
My folks had several large plants that lined their
Florida driveway. There were a couple sago palms, a couple of random bushes,
and one large, sturdy plant of unknown origin.
Dad thought this last shrub-like plant had good
structure, so during the holidays, he used to decorate it with lights, like
a Christmas tree.
Later on, while shooting the breeze in the driveway with
a neighbor, Dad asked him if he knew what kind of plant it was.
The neighbor said, “I
don’t know the exact name, but we just call it a weed.”
Thus began the Legend of Dad's Christmas Weed.
But it was a short-lived legend, as he and the neighbor spent
two hours pulling it out that spring.
Commentary: Yes, I’m basically an atheist and yes, I still put up a
Christmas tree. I do this because I’ve always enjoyed the Christmas traditions,
even if I don’t buy into any of the “Christmas Story” nonsense. To me, it’s a
fun time to celebrate with friends and family and reminisce about Christmases
past. My parents always got each of their kids an ornament each year, starting
when we were kids. I still have every one of them and enjoy sharing the
memories with my wife and anyone else who sees the tree.
That’s the good thing about being a heathen. We get to
make our own rules. And I like to have a Christmas tree up during the holidays.
I got to do something last weekend I haven’t done in ages…
go on a football road trip. My brother and I traveled to Columbus OH to see the
Buckeyes play the Michigan State Spartans. Our family has been taking football
road trips since I was a kid; it’s just something we do. The ‘Rona has put the
kibosh on that recently so it was nice to get out again.
Flying is still a pain but masks abounded, both in
airports, planes and at our destination. In Columbus, if not all of Ohio, mask
rules are strict, so we were masked up in any public areas unless we were
It was a great trip and I was glad to spend some quality
time with my brother. Given our proximity, living about 15 minutes from each
other, we don’t hang out as much as we could. Now that we’re both active in
caring for our mom, we’re getting together more often.
I’m not going to get into a bunch of football details,
but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least post the biggest highlight from our
game experience, for which we had a stellar vantage point.
The grandeur of the Ohio State Marching Band’s “Script
Ohio.” The dotting of the “I” comes at 2:50.
In pre-COVID days, our family would take a road trip to
see Pittsburgh Steelers away games every year or two, depending on where they
played. When your family is scattered across several states, it’s a good way to
get together for a fun weekend. On this trip, it reminded me of when we started
all this, back in the late 70s. We lived in Northwest Ohio and would travel to
Cleveland to see the Steelers play the Browns. I posted about it a long time
ago and thought it might be fun to revisit.
(Again, this is about the experience, not actual
football. Fandom not required.)
The first year we went, 1979, it was a small affair. My dad took me and my brother and sister. We drove out, went to the game, then
drove home. This is still the most memorable of the games we attended because
the Steelers won that one 51-35. The game featured 2 long runs, one by Franco Harris and one by Rocky Blier, right into our end zone.
We had such a good time, we decided to make it an annual
event, and hey, why not take some friends?
We started by bringing a couple of the neighbor girls to
the game in 1980. By 1985, Dad was ordering 30 tickets from the Browns ticket
office. He’d phone in his order on the day they went on sale and with a seating
capacity of over 77,000 people in that butthole of a stadium, he never had a
problem getting however many he wanted. It also helped that back then, they
were only about $20 a pop. Granted, the seats were usually lousy… low in the
end zone… but hey, we were in the house.
Now, going to the game was fun, but the Saturday before
became what the weekend was all about.
Black and Gold
The second year we went out, Dad decided we should go on
Saturday and stay at the Marriott on I-71. Nice rooms, nice pool and whirlpool,
and convenient freeway access. What we didn’t know until we got there was that
the Steelers themselves stayed there too. Consequently, the place was jammed
packed with Steelers fans. And remember who was playing for the Steelers back
then… All the legends were there… Lynn Swann, Stallworth, Terry Bradshaw, Franco
Harris, Rocky Blier, Jack Lambert … You couldn’t turn around without running
into a Hall of Famer.
Around Pittsburgh, this might not be a big deal. But this was 1980 and we lived in northwest
Ohio. We never got to see these guys at
places like store openings or around town.
It was a luxury if we could see them on TV. Seeing these guys up close was a very big
deal to us.
Through the years, we got our act down to a science. Our
convoy would roll in Saturday afternoon and we’d check-in, requesting adjoining
rooms where possible. Once in the rooms, the first order of business would be
to ice down the 8-10 cases of beer we’d bring.
We found that the bathtub was best for this. Here’s a tip
if you ever find yourself in such a situation: First, forget about using the tiny
little ice bucket. Grab trash cans. Then raid the ice machines one floor above
and one floor down. That way, you still have ice for screwdrivers at the
tailgate on Sunday morning. You then lay down one layer of beer bottles, then a
layer of ice, another layer of bottles, and so forth until you have this:
Once the beer was iced, we’d get into our swimsuits and
go take over the pool area. The Marriott had a great pool, with big glass
windows dividing it from an entrance hallway. It was so cool, during those
December games, to be in there swimming and looking at the snow blowing
Eventually, the Steelers bus would appear and we could
see them getting their room keys from the pool area. One year, they had the
table set up right in front of the pool window. Each player had a little card
on the table with his room number. Which we could see. Man, we got a lot of
autographs THAT year… And Marriott never set up like that again.
One year, we actually had rooms on the same floors that
the Steelers did. They were restricting access to the players’ floors by then,
but they had to let us in, obviously. I remember my sister took a used fork
from Lynn Swann’s room service tray after he set it outside. She kept it in a
baggie for years after, I think.
So after the Steelers bus arrived, we would all set out
to look for players to get pictures and autographs. I didn’t really autograph
hunt that much… I figured I was too grown for that, but I did take pictures
where I could. Now my brother was the Autograph Master. He’d have a big
stack of Sports Illustrateds and Steelers Digests under his arm and upon
spotting a player, could always pull something out with their picture on the
The elevators were a great place to player-watch. Plus,
if you jumped in the elevator right before the doors closed like my brother did
when a player got on, you’d have a slam dunk autograph opportunity.
Art Rooney Sr. was still around back then and was always
willing to sign for the kids, even to the point of aggravating his son Dan. One
time he was signing for a little group of kids, with Dan Rooney, his wife,
Coach Chuck Noll and his wife waiting for him so they could go have dinner. Dan
called to him to get a move-on, but The Chief wouldn’t budge until he’d signed
No one hurries The Chief.
A Quick Detour
In September of 1981, my Dad took my brother and me out
of school for a couple days to go with him down to Miami. He was there on business, but
there just "happened to be" a Steelers that Thursday night game against the Dolphins.
Again, we stayed in the same hotel as the Steelers. (Amazingly, back then you
could just call the Steelers office and someone would tell you where they were
staying. Try that nowadays…)
For this hotel trip, all the Steelers were there, but
practically no other Steelers fans. We basically had the whole team to
ourselves. The Steelers were just lying around the pool outside, hanging out.
My brother approached one klatch of players, Bennie
Cunningham, John Stallworth, Donnie Shell, and Mel Blount. He asked, “Could I
please take your picture?”
Bennie said, “Knock yourself out, baby.” This is what he got:
L-R Cunningham, Hall of Famers Stallworth, Shell, and Blount.
Sometime that afternoon, we struck up a conversation with
punter Craig Colquitt and rookie kicker Dave Trout. We told them about how much
different the scene in Cleveland was and said we’d see them there.
Back to Cleveland
So that November, there we were in the Cleveland
Marriott, and there was Colquitt and Trout again. My dad finagled an invitation
to come up to their room to hang out, so up we went, about a dozen of us
crammed into the players’ room.
Colquitt standing to the left, Trout in the gold
sweatshirt, with our crew. Love the old Instamatic C110 camera!
Once it got to be evening, we'd all head to the hotel’s
bar. They always had either a DJ and dance floor or a band playing. Dad was
very proficient at getting lots of underage kids into the place too. “This is my daughter too,” he’d say as he
breezed another one through the doors. The youngsters weren’t drinking in there
anyway, (there was more than enough beer in the room), but we and the other
Steelers fans that had taken over the place laughed and chanted and danced the
Dad, cutting up the floor with the kids.
We’d usually have at it until the wee hours and just
before we wore ourselves out, we’d walk next door to the Denny’s beside the
hotel. God, that was just perfect! Nothing like that late-night Grand Slam
breakfast before bed. Then we’d retire to our rooms and collapse in beds, on
floors, couches, pretty much any horizontal surface.
The next morning, always too early, we’d muster to watch
the Steelers get on the bus. It was the last chance to wish our heroes well.
People would line the hallway leading to the side door where the busses were,
pressing forward as the players walked by. Except for Lambert. When Jack Lambert
went by with his game face on, everyone just stayed back and went, “Have a nice
game, Mr. Lambert.” Jack was always pumped up for the Browns game because he was from the area and they didn't draft him.
He was also a stickler for manners. Heaven help the kid
that said to him, “Gimme your autograph,”
or “Hey, sign this.”
Jack would bark, “I
will NOT. Until you ask me politely.”
The kid would stammer, “Could
I have your autograph, please?”
Jack would say, “Yes
you may,” and then sign for him.
That’s my brother getting Jack’s autograph when
we were in Miami, after asking politely.
In the early years, we’d tailgate down at the Stadium
parking lot. And it was always miserable out on Steelers/Browns day. Rain,
sleet, snow, freezing rain… if it wasn’t ugly, it wasn’t Cleveland.
Posing in front of Cleveland Municipal Butthole
In later years, (early 90’s) we started tailgating in the
Marriott parking lot. Was much easier that way, and we’d have that ice handy for
our screwdrivers. Geez, Dad used to make them in these 32 oz. paper cups. That
woke your ass up in a hurry. We’d grill and drink and throw the ball around,
then take the subway down to the stadium.
We usually sat low in the closed end zone. Sometimes we’d
be far enough back to be under the overhang, but other times not. The problem
with sitting so low is that you have no perspective on the action. A play could
gain 2 yards or 15, and you just couldn’t tell until they posted the yard line
on the scoreboard. And remember, this was before the giant replay scoreboards.
All you had to watch was the actual game.
Lambert brings his defense onto the field.
We had seats in the open end zone once, back before it
became the Dawg Pound. It was still pretty rough though, even then. You also
had to be careful not to go into the restrooms alone, wearing Steelers gear.
People got jumped in there or on the concourses all the time.
Even during day games, it was always dark in
Sneaking liquor into the game was always a fun pastime.
For the late-year games, we always brought brandy in little plastic hip flasks.
They searched you coming in, but if you put the flask down the front of your
pants, they never checked there. Dad had the greatest trick of all… his
Bar-Noculars. In other words, it was a 2-sided flask that looked like a pair of
regular binoculars. Each eyepiece screwed off and the booze was inside the
core. He’d walk right up to the security people to be frisked, with the
Bar-Noculars around his neck, put his arms out, and just smile.
One particularly raw day, I killed one of the flasks of
brandy by myself. I tried to share around, but no one else wanted any. I nursed
it all game and never felt the slightest bit drunk. I never had to pee, so I
never moved the whole game. So when it was over and I got up to leave… whoa
Once my blood started moving all that alcohol around, I
was in serious trouble. I barely made it out to the car. I sat there in the
passenger seat, just kind of head bobbing. It was like the world kept flipping
up and up and up. Dad asked me if I was OK. I said I thought my vertical hold
was busted. (Those of you that remember the old TVs will get that reference.) That
was a rough ride home but at least I made it without hurling. But the lesson
was learned no hoggin’ the flask!
I look back on those times now and am just amazed. I
mean, can you imagine something like these trips going on in 2021? Not even
including the contagion issue. Dad was often the only adult on the trip. He
would pay for the tickets and hotel rooms and there would be anywhere from 6 to
30 people, mostly under 18. Could you imagine being 16 or 17 today, and asking
your parents: “Hey, I want to go with my
friends, boys and girls, to a hotel 2 hours away for the weekend to go to a
football game. We’re going to have a bathtub full of beer and tailgate with
vodka screwdrivers in the morning. My friend’s dad will be the only chaperone.
Can I go?
I think that would be a hard sell. But I can say that no
one ever got hurt or in any kind of trouble, and we all had a blast.
Director's DVD Commentary: Just in case you're wondering how a Steelers fan is also an Ohio State Buckeyes fan: Our family is originally from Pittsburgh, but we moved away when I was six, to various other cities across the Midwest, including four years in Columbus. That was during my formative years when I was in 6th through 9th grades. Our mom got her Master's degree there so my brother and I saw our first college games at "The Shoe," and have been Buckeyes ever since. But we also inherited our dad's enthusiasm for Pittsburgh sports, so we have always been Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates fans, wherever we lived.
There’s already been a ton of ink (virtual and otherwise)
used on the Kyle Rittenhouse case, which now seems to be barreling toward the
finish line of acquittal. The Judge isn’t even pretending to appear impartial.
For all the talk about all the angles of the case, I just
can’t get past this one single principle: You shouldn’t be able to go out
aggressively looking for a fight and then claim self-defense. If someone is
worried about suffering bodily harm, their first obligation is not to show up
and fan the flames in places where bodily harm may become imminent.
The kid had no legitimate reason to be there; no
connection to the area and no dog in the fight other than the general worship
of law enforcement. He traveled there specifically for a chance to use a gun on
someone. There’s no other storyline that passes the smell test.
I see it a lot like the Trayvon Martin case. One should not be able to chase someone down on the street, start a confrontation, and then
use lethal force and claim self-defense. That’s really an execution.
And Florida made it a state-sanctioned execution. I
fear that two more are going to be sanctioned in Wisconsin this week.
And that’s all I have to say about that. Like I said, it’s
already been pretty well chewed over. That’s my two cents and I’m out.
More Dad Stories
I was talking with friends a while back and the subject
of the “best beer we ever had” came up.
I didn’t even have to think twice about mine. And the funny thing is; I don’t even know
what kind of beer it was. That wasn’t as
important as the circumstances.
This was back when we were living in the farmland outside
Toledo, Ohio. We didn’t have a huge
parcel of land… it was an acre and a third… but it would have been an awful lot
to mow by hand, so we had a lawn tractor.
Coming from the suburbs, I thought that was the coolest
thing ever, especially because as the oldest son, I was about to inherit primary
ownership of the family grass-cutting chores.
I still had to use a regular lawnmower to “trim,” because the tractor
couldn’t really get into all the nooks and crannies around our several
out-buildings (a garage, two sheds, and our Barn). But it was far better than doing the whole
thing by hand.
Me, earning my keep, the first summer we lived in
NW Ohio. I was about 14, wearing a shirt
from my old junior high in Columbus. (As
well as hideous red pants, but that’s another story.)
It was fun at first, but the novelty quickly wore off,
especially during the dog days of summer.
Cutting the grass was a long, dusty, sweaty, allergy-provoking
endeavor that was most definitely not fun.
But it was my job, so I did what I had to do.
One day, when I was around 16, I was just finishing up
cutting the backyard, on a hot, muggy, dusty summer afternoon. After I finished up one last strip over by
The Barn, I came cutting back across the yard to head over to do the other side
of the garage, when I saw him.
It was my dad, standing out in the yard along my intended
path, with his arm outstretched. As I
drew closer, I could see he had a beer in his hand, holding it out the way the
people hold out cups of water to people running a long-distance race.
Now, I’d grown up on sips of everything, from beer to
whiskey, to gin and tonics, to martinis, or a small glass of wine with dinner
on holidays and birthdays. But I’d never
been given a beer of my own. Until now.
I pulled up beside Dad, accepted the beer, and took a long
pull on it. It was absolutely perfect,
and exactly what I needed right then. I
think I asked to confirm that I could have the whole thing.
Like I said, I don’t know what kind it was; probably
something standard… a Bud or a Miller Lite.
Maybe it was a Hamms, which Dad used to bring back from his business
trips to Chicago. But it didn’t matter
because it was cold, it was beer, and my dad gave it to me. It was one of those father-son moments you
I continued on to finish up the side-yard, beer in hand,
feeling much more mature than my 16 years.
In fact, I felt like a million bucks.
Not only did Dad trust me with a loud, powerful spinning-bladed death
machine, he trusted me to drink a beer and not do anything stupid. I know it sounds risky in retrospect, but
even then, I never copped a buzz from a single beer.
But it set the stage for future such moments. No, they weren’t always hand-delivered out in
the yard, but I knew that when I came in from a long day’s lawn mowing, there
would be a cold beer in store for me, and before long, maybe a gin and tonic
You know, this would have made a really good beer
commercial. Too bad about that pesky
“drinking age” thing. The kids of today
are missing out…
The passage of the Biden Infrastructure bill got me
thinking a couple of things.
First of all, Whoo
Hoo! And it’s about damned time they passed a bill that helps people (who
aren’t already filthy rich).
It also made me think about the campaigns for the 2022
elections. It’s been widely predicted that the Democrats will get their asses
handed to them in the midterms. But it shouldn’t have to be that way if they
campaign correctly. I think they need to hang all those Republican “No” votes
around their necks like anchors.
The Democrats who supported this bill (and maybe other bills too, if someone can kidnap Manchin and Sinema for a few weeks), should be out there
highlighting what it’s going to do for the voting public and making their
opponents explain why they voted “no” or supported the “no” votes.
They need to make their opponents explain how passing the
Trump Tax Cut bill without a thought to the deficit or the economy was proper
yet supporting this bill was not. And if they try to talk about how it was
supposed to stimulate the economy, explain that the “trickle-down” programs
have never worked as advertised. They didn’t work when Reagan did it, didn’t
work under W Bush, and they most certainly didn’t work with the former guy.
And also make them explain why, if they really were
concerned about the middle class, why the middle-class tax cuts were sunsetted
after seven-year, but the tax breaks for the 1% were permanent?
If I were a candidate, I’d hammer this stuff every single
day. It doesn’t even matter who the particular opponent is; just talk about
what the Republicans have done in the last 40 years and hang it around their
necks. If that’s their team, they have to bear the consequences.
Take every extreme Republican policy, no matter where,
and explain that this is what their team wants.
Their team wants:
·Roe vs Wade reversed or made irrelevant.
·To allow the spread of disease by downplaying or
eliminating common-sense steps to fight it, the same kinds of steps this
country took to eliminate polio, smallpox, and the other formerly widespread
·To suppress voting until the only non-suppressed
voting groups are their own. They want to take away YOUR vote!
·The donor class to pay nothing in taxes and have
no limitations on what they can do to make more money, usually at YOUR expense.
·To ignore the obvious, right-there-in-your-face
effects of climate change, so the afore-mentioned 1% can continue with their
current profit margin. (Up until their facilities are underwater, I suppose.)
·To allow our roads and bridges to crumble under
our feet and tires. All those “no” votes on Infrastructure were because
Republican donors did not want to pay for any of it and that’s how they
instructed the congresspeople they paid for to vote. As far as I’m concerned,
they don’t get any say over how tax dollars are used because they contribute so
little to the fund in the first place.
·To keep all wages, not just minimum wage,
suppressed. Payroll costs money. Until they can automate their entire
production process, they want to pay as little in salary as they possibly can.
Whether their employees can make a decent living does not factor into the
Republicans consistently vote against every one of these
items when they’ve been proposed, or more often, prevented from even coming up
for a vote. Mitch McConnell has killed more popular bills in committee than most
Congressmen have ever proposed.
I’m becoming alarmed that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema
are going to become “Democratic Mitches.” McConnell is incapable of being
publically shamed because he has none. He has no reason to care about his
image or national popularity and he just got re-elected in a runaway. He only
has his donors to please like those of Manchin and Sinema, who don’t care about
anything more than not paying for social or environmental programs. Hence the constant focus on
how much the bill costs rather than what it can do.
We need to get to a place where those two votes aren’t
the lynchpin of popular, widely beneficial bills. Granted, the odds are that
the 1% may buy themselves some new
senators, but we’ll have to blow up that bridge when we come to it.
More Dad Stories
Shortly after the Big Tennis Game, (I mentioned in last week’s post, wherein my little 5’9”
Dad and a neighbor lady kicked the crap out of their big, blond, athletic
neighbors in a tennis match,) relations between the houses started to
First off, my golden retriever came up missing. After a
thorough search, we called the pound and yup, there she was. We then learned that our neighbors, the
Blonds, called in a complaint on her, because they said she knocked down one of
Now, anyone that knows golden retrievers knows that
they’re harmless and are rarely aggressive.
Obviously, my dog was much bigger than the little kid so I can see how
she got knocked down. And if it did
happen, I’m sure it was only to lick the crud off her face. But wouldn’t a
phone call to us be a better choice than having the freakin’ dog catcher come
pick her up? They knew whose dog it
was. Still, we didn’t say anything right
Later that week, Dad was out in the backyard and heard
the Blond kids calling the dog over into their yard. That’s when Dad went ballistic. They’re calling the pound when their fucking
kids are calling the dog over??? He
called up Mr. Blond and reamed him a new one, right through his designer
tracksuit. I sat there and listened to the whole thing and man, it was
We didn’t have much to do with them after that. From then on, Dad took every opportunity to
screw with his head.
Most of the opportunities came because of the way our
properties were laid out. Like I said,
our barn ran lengthwise between our houses.
And we had about 3 or 4 feet of property on the other side of the barn. Basically, it was turf that we never really
saw but was right there for them to see every day.
First, there were the lawn cutting wars. As you might imagine, the Blonds were pretty
fussy about their lawn. So Dad would
time it so that he cut his grass 2 or 3 days after the Blonds did so that ours
would look more manicured. Invariably, Mr.
Blond would come out afterward and re-cut the parts that bordered ours, so as not
to look bad in comparison.
Then Dad stopped cutting the strip on the other side of
the barn entirely. Eventually Mr. Blond
ended up cutting it too. It was probably
a better deal for him anyway because, unlike my dad, HE wouldn’t blow the grass
clippings into his garden.
Psychological warfare is fun!
My favorite story is this, and I really have no idea what
even started it.
Dad took a tape measure out to the other side of the barn
one day, (again, out of sight from our house but right beside their house) and
started making some measurements. Almost
immediately, Mr. Blond approached to ask what he was doing.
Dad said, “Well,
I’ve been thinking about raising some pigs and I thought this would be the best
place for the pen.”
Dad said Mr. Blond turned an even whiter shade of white
and just said, “Pigs?”
Dad went on about how they would keep us stocked with
meat and bacon and that Mr. Blond should try to make sure the kids didn’t
bother his pigs. He made some marks and
put a few stakes in the ground, then went back in the house, leaving the big
guy to stew about this new development.
Of course, there were no pigs. Dad was completely screwing with him. But the thing is, he totally would have if he
could have gotten either of his sons to buy in on the plan. He traveled too much to care for the pigs
himself so my brother and I would have had to do most of it. This was one of the few times my brother and
I were on the same page. We told him
there was no way we were taking care of any pigs.
Dad was mildly disappointed. It would have been his crowning glory…
investing in raising thousands of pounds of pig, for no other reason but to
annoy the neighbors.
Let me start by saying that I’m a “keeper,” and by that,
I mean that I tend to keep everything and save it until I’m absolutely sure
there will be no further use for it. It’s like, “When in doubt, put it on the pile.” Then when “The Pile” gets big
enough, I go through it. Usually, there are some things on the bottom of the
pile that I now know I won’t need, so I toss them. An old boss described that
method as “saving something until it becomes trash.” I live in fear of needing
something I just threw away.
This tendency extends in many directions, not least of
which involves keeping old cards and letters. I have a drawer in my desk that
contains correspondence going back to when I was 15. Any time I’d get a card or
letter, I’d toss it in the drawer. Eventually, after 45 years, it became clear
that one day I’d have to go through it all and do some sorting and tossing if
I ever wanted the drawer to open and shut without the use of a hammer or
Last March, I decided it was time and dove in. It took
me a solid couple of days to work on it. The biggest time suck was reading all
the letters, to see if there was anything remarkable and worth keeping. I didn’t
want to chuck everything… I wanted to at least keep a representative sample
from the various people who have written.
The most interesting thing was the oldest pack of letters
I had, which came from an old girlfriend, right after my family left town. Now,
this wasn’t exactly a fully-executed relationship. We had only decided to “go
together” a few weeks before we moved from Columbus OH to Toledo OH (about 150
miles away). I was 14 and she was my brother’s age, or about three years
younger than me. She had been my first kiss (that didn’t involve “Spin the
Bottle” or “Truth or Dare.”)
Anyway, it was all very Romeo and Juliet (only without
the teen suicides.) Two starry-eyed youngsters torn apart by the machinations
of the adults.
So we corresponded regularly for a couple of years before the whole thing dissipated. I did see her one time later… The year after
I’d graduated college, I was living with my fiancée off-campus, when I saw her
name in the student directory. We met up in her dorm room to catch up on old
times. And that was pretty much that.
So, after reading all these achingly heartfelt lovelorn
letters this past Spring, I decided to try to reach out to her and see how
things turned out for her, these 40-some years later. I couldn’t find her on
Facebook but I Googled a White Pages listing for her that showed her in her old
house. So I took a chance and sent a letter, asking how she’s been, telling her
a little about my circuitous journey since Columbus, and assuring her that I
didn’t “want” anything other than to catch up. I included a scan of one of her
letters so she’d know it was really me.
It wasn’t until after I put it in the mail that I Googled
her again and saw some more names for that address, one of which I realized was
her married name. So she was married and had a high-school-aged kid.
I mean, that’s fine with me and all, I just thought it
would reduce the likelihood of her responding. And it very well might have
because I never got a response. I don’t know if she ever saw the letter. So I
let the whole thing drop.
It was interesting going through the rest of the correspondence.
Because right as the college years started, two of the four guys I was closest
with left town, one for the Navy, another for South Georgia. So there was a lot
of letter writing among us. I had letters from relatives young and old, various
friends from jobs I no longer had, lots of Christmas and birthday cards, and,
of course, a ton of letters from my mom and dad.
After reading them all and tossing the non-keepers, I
sorted what was left into piles by author, then tried to stack them in
chronological order, so I could tie them up so they wouldn’t stray. By the end
of the exercise, I could once again close my correspondence drawer, and there
was room for more.
So, you may ask, what did I learn from this laborious
endeavor, the lost art of letter-writing? Here are a few thoughts:
·I really wish I had a letter opener, way back
when, because from the sight of the envelopes, I apparently opened mail like a
rabid badger. So many of the envelopes were all torn up at the top, which
hindered my ability to determine the letter’s date.
·I also wish people would have properly dated their
letters. Writing “September 1st” or “Wednesday the 16th”
is no help to me at all when trying to date letters from decades ago.
·Similarly, people who sign their letters “Me,”
are most unhelpful. If I didn’t have the envelope (or if it looked like it had
gone through a rusty shredder), I had to parse the letter carefully to look for
clues as to the author.
·In 2021, reading handwriting, even nice
handwriting, is exhausting. I am so much more accustomed to reading typed
·People who threw some illustrations into the
letter were much appreciated, if for no other reason but they broke up the mass
·I miss seeing what I wrote back. With email, you
usually end up with a record of the whole conversation. There were a few times
I was dying to know how the hell I answered the questions I was asked. One
time, after learning that I had a new girlfriend, my old Columbus girlfriend
wanted to know, if her family moved up to my town, would I drop my new gf and
go with her? I could see now that my answer called for extreme tact and
delicacy, and I can only hope my 15-year old self knew enough not to go, “WTF, are you nuts?”
·Some compliments can burn in retrospect. Like
the one from my college girlfriend praising me profusely for staying with her
despite a problem we were having. I eventually broke up with her because of
that particular problem. (Her mom absolutely hated me. We had to date in secret
because she was forbidden to see me. You can read the details of that mess right here, if you wish, and in
the post that follows it.)
More Dad Stories
We’re having a memorial celebration in my Dad’s honor
next weekend, one which will feature a lot of storytelling. This is one I may
When we moved up to the farmlands of northwest Ohio, it
was quite unlike our old suburban neighborhood. Houses were interspersed
between fields and much farther apart.
We happened to have one neighbor that was close by, with our barn in
between the houses.
These neighbors were people that seemed better suited for
a gated community than open farmlands.
We knew they were a bit “off” when we first moved in. The first thing they suggested to us is that
we take down the sun porch from the front of the house, and put up pillars.
Fucking pillars! Like it was “Tara” or something. We pegged them as tools pretty quickly.
They were a prototypical WASPy couple. He was a big blond dude, broad shoulders,
about 6’2”. Former athlete. She was his little blond cheerleader. They had one little blond boy and a blond baby
girl. During the big jogging craze of
the 70s, Mrs. Blond decided to jog. She
would put on her best fashionable tracksuit and jog. Up and down the driveway. She could have even jogged the perimeter of
their property and it would have added up pretty well.
But no… up and down the driveway, back and forth, about 30 yards each
A little later, they decided to take up tennis. They got matching tennis outfits, got some
fancy new aluminum rackets, and started taking tennis lessons. I don’t know how it came about, exactly, but
Mr. Blond wanted to know if he and Mom would play them in doubles. Now, Mom was not then, nor has ever been an
athlete. So Dad suggested he team up
with our neighbor across the street, Mrs. Mo.
(“Mo” is short for a very long and very Polish name with more consonants
per square inch than a Warsaw phone book.)
The Mo family were athletes. Mrs. Mo was the only girl in a family of
large brothers, one of whom was an NFL lineman.
Her son was a middle linebacker in high school. I believe she was an athlete as well, but I
don’t know any specifics.
But Dad didn’t even have a proper tennis racket. The only one we had in the house was this old
thing with steel strings that we picked up at a garage sale. Every time you’d hit a ball, it would go “SPROIIIIIIING!”
It looked just like this. Who knew it was an actual ‘antique?’
So my little 5’9” Dad, with his steel-stringed racket,
who hadn’t played tennis in years, and Mrs. Mo took on the Blonds on the tennis
court. I was afraid it would be an
embarrassment and I was right.
Dad and Mrs. Mo kicked their asses all over the court,
beating them 6-0, 6-0. I wasn’t there,
but it must have been something to behold.
Dad said they were just atrocious… could barely get the ball over the
net. It must have been quite a sight to
see the two short, stocky, older players with the “SPROIIIIIIING,” running the young jocks off the court.
More stories involving my dad screwing with The Blonds
will be forthcoming.