Monday, November 29, 2021

Pay No Attention to the White Men with Blood on Their Hands

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 self-defense.

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.

Standing Accused of Shopping

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 he “champions.”

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 scrutiny?

It doesn’t matter because it only applies to Democrats.

More Dad Stories

Director’s DVD 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 real pisser.

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.

Director’s DVD 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.

Monday, November 22, 2021

The Days of Road Trips Past

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 outside.

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 Star Hotel

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 outside.

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 cover.

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 for everyone.

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!

Clubbing

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 night away.

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 Stadium

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 Cleveland. 

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 Nelly…

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.

Monday, November 15, 2021

"Kyle, I Will Kick You in the Nuuuttts!"

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 don’t forget.

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 instead.

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…

Monday, November 8, 2021

Make Them Wear Their Votes

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 infectious diseases.

·        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 equation.

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 deteriorate.

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 their kids.

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 then.

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 brutal. 

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.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Thoughts on a Lost Art

 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 crowbar.

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 fiancĂ©e 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 material.

·        People who threw some illustrations into the letter were much appreciated, if for no other reason but they broke up the mass of words.

·        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 share:

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 way.  Weird.

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.