Saturday, July 30, 2016

Parental Advice

I could write a book about the things my parents never told me - as if life were a mystery. Admittedly, this revelation comes late in life, but it also may be influenced by those memories that have slipped by the wayside of long term importance. Familial advice sometimes has a finite lifetime of necessity. Beyond that, the foretold advice melts into the realm of gained experience and the origins of such advice get confused in memory recesses, I suppose.  In short, I must have forgotten when/where/from whom I learned it.

That said, one thing I do remember is mom telling me to stay away from “flippy-tailed girls”- her words. Being a teen-aged male, I began to focus on the tails of girls to observe which ones flipped and which ones did not. Obviously, the flippy-tailed girls were out of bounds as per mom’s advice. She must know something about those girls that I’m not yet allowed to know, but can be forewarned by diligently following her instructions. It suddenly became and obsession of sorts. I’d see the girls with pretty faces at the Family YMCA swimming pool all summer long - more easily observed in their all-too-colorful two-piece swimsuits behind my Foster Grants and make my studies.

If I liked their faces, I advanced my gaze downward to the "upper deck" area then finally, I looked at their tushy as they passed-by. “Oops, there’s another one that flips." As attractive as she might have otherwise been, that one is out. The more I looked for the non-flippers, the more I noticed that all female tails flipped - just some more than others. I also noticed a curious arousal in my mind and certain body functions. It was a quivering feeling of unknown, but system-wide origin, but it exhibited itself more prominently elsewhere. I was a good feeling, but a bit uncomfortable and awkward, at times. This was something new. It gave me a "rush" that I couldn't explain. I remember kids asking why the tan on my back was darker than the one on my face. I didn't have an answer for them.

It wasn’t until later, in high school Biology Class that I learned the differences allotted to the bone structure differential between a man’s hip bones and a woman’s hip bones were of a natural evolution - to allow for natural childbirth. Science sucks when it spoils illusion and mystique. That knowledge spoiled it for me. Like "magic"; it's no longer amazing when you know how it was done.

Shortly thereafter, I learned that some women can cultivate that “flip” for the benefit of those who like to watch. Socio-anthropologists might call it part of the mating ritual of the species. As time went on, I learned the style or gaits whereby women featured their walk. Some women clearly wanted to be noticed and attractive, while others didn’t care to elaborate beyond motivation to get where they were going. The ultimate was the stalk-walk, or West Coast Strut. It had the look of both a predator from the front view and magnetic attraction of prey from the rear view. The West Coast Strut' - a true poetry in female motion where tall women with shapely legs put that natural hip sway and long strut to maximum effect through rhythmic exaggeration. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen in on any woman in my life except via television, the modeling runway or the movies. - hence the name. From that reference, I suppose I imply that I truly have never lived in that world, but I do appreciate that it exists for some reason.

Some women seem to seemingly glide on air as they walk; some walk like western-saddle horseback riding might have been in order for them, English-saddle riders were more poised and knew they had lovely tushes to look at. Often males in the reviewing stands might be heard to say, “nice seat” - not referring to the brand of saddle, by any means. I remember a girl in my Junior High who bounced a little bit and bobbed her head in rhythm with that bounce. For the record, at her pre-pubescent age, she wasn’t yet a full-fledged tail-flipper - not yet, but I’m sure she later was. The girls in my school with modeling aspirations or dreams of someday dating Elvis Presley tried walking with a textbook on their head. It was a sign of good posture and poise.

I often wondered if mom’s advice was meant to dissuade me from getting involved with women at an age to early in life. I eventually realized that mom’s advice was a reverse psychology technique to motivate me toward the inevitable real mating ritual between men and women that would surely come along, in due time It was her way of judging me intentions. She thought she was steering me in the right direction. I guess my magazine fold-out photos of teen actress Haley Mills, from the Disney Parent Trap movie surrounded by Playboy Centerfolds stolen from her boyfriend’s magazine collection Scotch-taped to the back of my bedroom door didn’t convince her. Who reads their articles anyway? I just didn’t have enough money to actually “date” a real girl. My busy paper route business wasn’t exactly flourishing. I think I worked all summer for a total amount less than minimum wage for three weeks, but with no taxes due. Lucky for me, my Columbia Record Club albums cost less than $5.00 per month.

Eventually, I found a wide-hipped, tail-flipper and married her. We had two children, got divorced seventeen years later. It seems there’s more to life and relationships than whether or not girls have a flippy tail. Clearly, there are other factors which are more important. Where would those warnings come from? Life, itself.

Parents: We love them. They love us and we must always remember they mean well.


Friday, July 29, 2016

Today’s Ka-Yak Attack

Yeah, I know... It’s a trite and overused for a title, but for me, it’s damned appropriate. I haven’t had my 10-foot, Manatee (L.L. Bean) kayak in the water since ............ (I’m remembering) ......... (Takes me some time, I guess) ...... (I finally had to look it up.).. Jeepers! Ocean Springs, Mississippi (November, 2015), when I paddled around Davis Bayou along the Gulf Islands National Seashore. I saw the dolphin (thought it was a shark) and didn’t see the alligator (good thing I didn't). That’s a story for another time - if I haven’t written it already. Needless to say, after carrying this beautiful boat around on my roof rack all last fall, winter and spring - through Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas -  it was about time I got it lake wet, not rain wet. I’m stoked. Today’s that day. (July 16, 2016)

The Weather Channel app on my iPhone says it will be a cool-ish 82-84 by late afternoon, but pleasantly in the 70s for air temperatures most of today, skies clear and winds light for smooth paddling. Of course, I’ve failed to mention, thus far, that I’m camped at Hardin Ridge Recreational Area which is part of the Hoosier National Forest and close to the largest inland lake in the entire state of Indiana. The campsite reservation I chose (Bluegill #101) from on the internet (thru was woefully inaccurate and somewhat misleading. “Tammy”, from the park office, called me one day a week ago and said that the spot I had selected might be uncomfortable for my stay and that I might not be happy there, so we made arrangements to re-assign me a different spot when I got here in order to save me the $10 transfer fee through the website. When I arrived, a simple phone call was made in the office and I’m now in White Oak #145 and I have to say, she was right. Nice spot. Five Star review for customer service, Tammy.

White Oak Site #145. Nice, shady and of good size.
If I were to tell you that Lake Monroe was an inland boater’s paradise, I’d be fairly correct - for Hoosiers, that is. It’s a fantastic weekend getaway for families and their expensive pontoons, ski boats and boats just made to go-fast. Come to think of it, I saw no one skiing. Do they not do that anymore? The sailboats stay in their own section, pretty much. Me? I’ll be hugging the safety of the shoreline. While most boaters get out early, I’m more of a have my coffee and wake-up before I hit the docks kind of guy. Thought I might do something (write this) while I do - edit later. I do get some TV reception here, but Saturday mornings are not the cartoon paradise they used to be when I was a kid or even when my kids were kids.

A nicely created vista along the road toward the beach and boat ramp.
Before I came down here, I began looking at YouTube videos and how these guys make videos while they’re fishing and boating. Who runs the camera? Do they hire a pro, a girlfriend or set-up a tripod in their boat? I found a few solutions - professionally manufactured and some homemade with PVC piping, so between the two methods, I’ll figure something. Of course, I have my iVue sunglasses with the 8-gig digital video camera in the nose bridge that Pam bought for me as a Christmas gift. She is so thoughtful. I also have my HD Drift Ghost video camera that I shot my flight in a 1929 Standard bi-wing airplane when I visited the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in New York state. Batteries are charged in both, but I’m still not ready yet. I don’t know if I’ll fire it up this trip. I need more familiarity in my boat before I become the next “Wild Kingdom” video show host.

Some folks down the lane from my camp site just went by towing their pontoon boat. Gonna be a busy day out on the water.

Time-out. Gotta go paddle.

The boat ramp is out this lane, turn right, then down the road, around the bend and down the hill. Don’t blink or you’ll pass the road that leads to the beach. The beach road isn’t marked .. You just kinda have to sense it with “The Force”. Or, you can do like I did ... turn left and ..  “Let’s see where this road goes.... Ah, the beach.” In a little bit, I’ll get to see the beach from the lake side in my little boat.

The wheels were positioned improperly here, but I learned.
I’m glad I bought that set of wheels. Look how far away the boat ramp is... Once I learned how to strap it to the kayak, it was a cinch to pull it down to the water - it was all downhill from here. Actually, I had all kinds of trouble with where I strapped this thing to the kayak. It’s too far toward the rear and kept sliding off. It works much better nearer the center which I later found out. I would have known that ahead of time if I had read the accompanying instruction sheet. Still, coming back up the hill and tired, would be another matter. Push, Jim, push yourself - adapt, improvise, overcome!

It's a long way from the parking lot to the boat ramp.
Down the hill and to the left from the parking area is the boat ramp. I could just off-load my kayak down there, but guys with pontoon boats, high-powered ski boats and fishing boats seem to have the right of way and no mercy for the novice paddler struggling with his new gear. I found out still more while out of the water. I’ve seen it many times in life. A guy and his wife work their asses off to provide a nice, comfortable lifestyle and they want to enjoy themselves with their family. Trick is, they only have late Friday, all day Saturday and half-day Sunday to pack in a whole week’s worth of recreation, before back to work. So, they load out and run their boats at top speed down the lake toward nowhere in particular, like their hair was on fire - just riding around, no place to go. It’s a lake.

Just after taking out at the boat ramp. It was a nice run, today.
I had not thought about it, but I have seen waterproof cell phone cases with special rigging for earbuds so that listening to your favorite music from your cell phone memory would be possible out on the water. I almost bought one, but I couldn’t get it delivered for this trip. Instead, something interesting happened. I dropped my car keys into the same waterproof envelop I had my cell phone in and slipped it under my life vest. Within a few seconds, some music began to play. Touch screen. I tried to figure out how to shut-off the music without taking the phone back out of the case. Then I asked myself, “Why?” So, I let it play. As I was getting video from the iVue Sunglasses camera, I figured I’d have background music along the way. Why add another audio channel to the video in post-production? I’m usually not one to talk to myself as I paddle, so this seemed the right thing to do. It worked.

As I paddled around, staying close to the shore, I paddled over to the beach area. Not very busy yet, but prime rays were a few hours off. I did see some guys in a $20,000 boat over there, fishing 10 feet from the bank. Go figure. So, I changed direction and paddled around into another semi-quiet inlet, when I saw the cutest thing. I caught it on video, but not clearly and seemingly from a distance since the camera has a wide-angle lens. A young mother was helping her very young baby daughter “hang it over the side” of the ski deck to pee when a big wave rolled in and slapped her right on the butt. Perfect timing. Whoa! What a rush!

Video to follow. (Insert video here)

Paddler’s End: I’m tired and I need a shower -- no kidding. I’m staying down-wind of everybody for a while. I wonder if it’s true what they say that you can smell yourself one or two days before anyone else can. I’m not buying that and I’m not taking that chance.

A Shower, a shower, ... I need a shower.
Thank goodness I got this shot before the flies started buzzing around. I didn’t fall-in, I just perspired a lot under my PFD (life vest) and to top it off, I was in such a hurry, I didn’t remember my Arrid-XX Dry this morning. Hence, a new priority .. Shower up.--

Can you tell that the sunglasses I’m wearing have a little camera with 8-gigs of memory in the nose bridge? I shot almost two hours of POV video. It should take me four hours to edit it .. IF, I can stay awake after I get back to camp, get a nice warm shower and relax a bit. What? A question? Why, yes! That IS a genuine Tilly hat. Love it.

Supposed to be another perfect day tomorrow. I wonder if I can paddle in some area where the water waves are a bit quieter. I’ll ask around. Ask any other boater if it’s worth all the hassle to take their boat out and the answer will always be, “yes”.

Over the course of my 14-day stay, the weather cooperated a few more times which allowed two more trips into the lake with my little boat. Note to self: Go in the morning on a day NOT filled with lots of other boaters. The lake is more calm without wakes and cross-wakes from powerboats. It's a lot easier to paddle and enjoy the quiet calm and the scenery.

Of course, I took video each time I went out. I have over six-hours worth, but I still can't bring myself to edit it down to a few short moments for online sharing. Instead, I'll splice the smaller pieces together and add a mellow soundtrack and create an "I can't get to sleep" video. Surely, for the restless mind it adds some focus, but for the agile mind, it adds nothing and will soon be turned-off.

I don't take photos and videos for other people any more. I take them for me and to document a life lived as I want it to be. I'm retired and that's my plan.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Will You Miss Me After I'm Stuffed Into That Box?

Duh?! I mean, Come .. ON! Of course, this is a rhetorical question, you dolt. What did you expect in coming here for THAT answer? Cosmic Wisdom? Advice from an old Tibetan Sage? Guidance from a seer of the Astrological Star alignments or a combination of numbers assigned to your given name? Advice shared to a select few government officials at Area 51 by alien visitors? The poor unfortunate homeless man with a direct mind-link to God, himself? How far should you stretch your imagination to seek the truth?

The short answer is, if you care enough, you might. If you don't, you won't. From my I.U. Philosophy class in 1968, the answer becomes ... "we are all food for worms" .. until the day that Soylent Green is actually invented and broadly utilized. My conspiracy theory is that certain fast-food restaurants already have the secret formula, but are still calling it something else.

Who were all these people? What did they do? How did they live?
As I slowly cruise through through the final resting places of my beloved ancestors and loved ones, it quickly becomes evident that other people have lived, loved and won or lost have closed their eyes for the final time for various reasons totally unknown to me. What happened after that? There are large funerals and small funerals and while attendance is not mandatory, it seems obligatory nevertheless. "We must pay our respects." 

For Display Only ..
They send expensive flower displays which are unceremoniously dumped a few days later in a hidden compost pile in the back of the cemetery somewhere. Other times, funeral directors call upon a random person to decide which arrangements go with the casket to the grave site while the balance are sent to various churches to decorate their Sunday worship or to old folks homes to remind them that they have outlived another person.

The funeral attendees admire the displays and make assessments about how much was spent in "respect" for the deceased, compared to others .. followed by rationalizations and excuses for those of lesser means and condemnation of those who could afford more but spent less. I've been through enough of these in my life and I can say, with a certain degree of experience, that I've "almost" heard it all.

I've heard touching ceremonies, loving eulogies and thoughtful comments in passing about the beloved dead. As an observer, some folks are just better actors than others. They're all glad the guy in the box isn't them, but they haven't seen or talked with the guy in a long time. Where was all this empathy coming from? It must take some deep digging into one's soulful background to dredge up the sincerity. I never sit in judgement of other folks based upon my observations. I assume everyone is honest in their grief.

I guess I shouldn't concern myself with the minutia of the grief cycle. The fact is, that belongs to others. I'll be long gone along my Celestial Journey to wherever I go next. It's easy to be an Existentialist. It's a very simple philosophy. As my I.U. Professor once wrote in his poem simply called, "Death" .. "Stiff Toes". That was it. I dare you to re-read the poem and not try to bend your toes either IN or OUT of your shoes.

From the Existentialism For Dummies Cheat Sheet, I quote ~ "Existence precedes essence: Sartre's phrase to describe the existential situation humans find themselves in. It refers to the fact that when you're born, you have no meaning, no purpose, no definition. Human beings exist first, and only later define themselves."

What does that have to do with the emotionalism of loss? Not much .. well, nothing, actually. Emotional loss is a human emotional behavior. When there is no emotional attachment associated, the pain of loss is lessened to the level of zero. The reactions of those who take the time, effort and energies to attend the funeral floor show are all relative to that individual level of emotional attachment.

I remember when my grandfather passed away when I was 15. I took it pretty hard. So hard, in fact, I could not witness the effects his death had on anyone else, but grandma and mom. His was also the first time in my life I had experienced death. It was a mystery. It was unknown and it hurt deep inside. I took the church dogma as gospel. His pain was over. He was in a better place.

While it was true his heart pain was over, there can be no better place than being surrounded by those who love you. We were all still here, in this reality. How could this be?

While I've never forgotten my grandfather .. in fact, I used to pray to him in my youth because I believed he could still hear me. I saw him in dreams. I wanted him to come back and be with grandma - where he belonged.

Being absent from family, creates a distance whereby upon my death, the pain of loss will be slight. There will be no negative pulse flowing through "the Force" .. not that anyone could feel, anyway. It still takes hundreds of souls to influence a Jedi, but we all know how quickly that passes.

I don't know why I even spend the time to write these thoughts into a public domain rather than my private journal software. This post may be construed as a desperate call to the Universe for a solution, a reason, a meaning to be. The Universe doesn't speak. It just is .. and so am I.

 That's it.


Friday, July 8, 2016

2015 Nashville - Music City

The lovely Suzen Pope and Andy Jackson at "Tootsies World Famous Orchid Lounge" on Broadway, Nashville.
Sure, my visit in the Nashville realm was last year in July, but as coincidence or good planning would have it, my friends, Andy and Suzen from Bracknell (near London), UK are revisiting the US - currently in Clearwater, Florida area. Since Andy announced that Suzen said, "Yes!", wedding plans are taking shape. Can you imagine TWO weddings? The first and official one will be in the UK this Fall and the American "Beach Party" version will be held around Christmas time in Florida. A lot can happen in a year. Last summer they were "just good friends". LOL

As my planning evolved separately, I'm currently visiting southern Indiana so my English friends and I won't be able to spend time together this trip. It's sad, I know, but at least those nasty, biting "No-see-um" bugs (aka Biting Midge) won't be getting a piece of my legs, feet, arms, neck, face and ass this year. I hate those little buggers.

Not my hand photo, but my legs looked just like this example. The bites are as painful as fire.
I've researched repellents and concocted a home remedy that is a sure-fire recipe. I hope those folks are right, but I haven't been brave enough to re-visit Florida to find out. I wonder .. I'm sure they don't have these bugs in Tennessee .. do they?

I try to always get a shot of my camp sites wherever I go. Two Rivers Campground, Nashville.
Andy and I met online back in 1997 during a random chance visit to a chat room arranged on some old software called, mIRC. Apparently, it is still available for download, but popular social media has made chat, video chat and even Internet phone calls possible. I didn't come here to discuss that. So, "Snaps" requested a private chat with "CameraJim" and the beginnings of an overseas electronic relationship was formed.

At last, .. after some some 17 years of online chats, e-mails and photo/video sharing, we meet.
Through our years of common personal challenges in our respective photography businesses and other issues, we've grown as friends through mutual trust, respect and pride in our own country. When we finally met, I presented him with a gift .. a parchment reprint of the 1783 Treaty Of Paris. I thought it interestingly appropriate that the Treaty ended the War of American Independence ending hostilities between our two countries. Of course, in retrospect, I should have found something else to give him. There was still the War of 1812 to fight historically. I thought it was a friendly gesture.

At our first meeting at the B&B, Suzen snaps a photo of a musician and a "wannabe".
I arrived earlier in the week at Two Rivers Campground on Nashville's east side and reserved a week. Andy and Susen had flown into Florida, rented a car and drove up to Nashville to stay at a Bed & Breakfast in a stately home in a really comfortable part of town. Together, that night - knowing that alcohol will be part of our evening festivities - called an Uber Cab to get us around town. Our first stop was Tootsies and later to visit another famous bar for musicians - Douglas Corner.

Andy has also been working on his song writing for the Country Music market. He had phoned ahead to place his name on "the list" for all singer-songwriters who wanted to share their music on the hopes of being discovered. I brought my guitar with us, Andy tuned it and made ready. Meanwhile, Suzen and I ordered round after round for the three of us as we listened to the music. It seems to me that there is a lot of love gone wrong in country music. After a couple of hours of hearing these sad tales, I told Suzen and Andy that I was ready to slit my wrists and call it a day. We laughed. I felt so sorry for Andy in that with the 40 entertainers on "the list", he never got the opportunity to perform.

Susan and I clown for Andy's iPhone camera at Jimmy Buffet's.
So, as we closed-down that bar and waited outside for our Uber Cab ride back to their B&B where my car was parked and began to make plans for later in the week. I told them that a $10 round-trip shuttle ride from my camp to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Restaurant was a fun and educational ride. So, later in the week we ate a Cheeseburger in Paradise .. literally, then visited B.B. King's Blues Club for a few more beers.

Andy and I during a musician's break at B.B. King's - Nashville.
We passed lots of bars, restaurants and famous country music venues on our downtown walk to B.B. King's. As it was during the week, attendance was a little weak at the club, but the music was good. The headliner for the evening was none other than "B.B. Queen". Mr. B.B. King, himself, approved her use of that stage name. The faster-paced, electrified Blues was just what I needed to be energized. The Blues music is about sad situations between men and women, but it's more about the healing afterward rather than the pain that seems to permeate Country music. As Country fans, Suzen and Andy were just putting up with my tastes, because they are hardcore American Country music fans from England.

Most camps have fire-rings, other camps, you bring your own to burn marshmallows.
Good fun can't last forever, so on their last night in Nashville area, Suzen and Andy took an Uber Cab to come visit me at camp. We built a campfire, toasted marshmallows to make S'mores, had a good visit while I showed them what "camping" in America is like in a commercial campground and Andy tried to tell me about "Caravan" in England.

Snif-f-f-f, toasty!
We talked until the mosquitoes and the humidity got bad, then went inside and turned on the A/C to take a break from the heat. The night would never last long enough and finally, at the pre-appointed time, another Uber Cab driver was waiting at the front gate to take my friends back to their B&B.

"Awww. Let's get one more shot.... c'mon, just one more shot." I said it in a reacting voice just as if the bartender had just turned up the lights and yelled-out "Last call!" Hastily, I set up this timed exposure so that I could get into the picture too. I think it's one of my favorites.

As the Uber Cab honked for "last call", my camera nabbed this last shot.
The next morning, Andy and Suzen would return to Florida and I would return to Indiana a day or two later at the end of my planned stay. You know how I love using the swimming pools in camp.

I have lots more photos, but I couldn't post them all. There was too much to see, too much to show and lots more stuff that, by themselves, wouldn't tell any sort of story other than, "I was there and I had a great time." It was the only time I visited the Hard Rock Cafe and didn't have a burger.

Nashville is an interesting place with lots going on. Along Broadway, every bar has live music, but the entertainers play only for tips donated in a tin bucket, pickle jar or open cloth bag. There is never a cover charge and drinks aren't exorbitant .. all things considered. Moonshine, however, sells for $7.00/shot but it won't match the "good stuff" I've sampled elsewhere, but it was pretty good just the same. Our campground even sponsored a band of musicians to play for campers on Wednesday evenings - also for tips. Here's a little sample video. Bobby Troup, who wrote the song as a jazz number, would be pleased his music is still being appreciated - even in boogie-woogie style.

Update: Andy just sent me this photo from THIS year's visit to America. Seems he's growing a beard. Yeah, he'll fit right in here. Suzen was born in Speedway, Indiana - Home of the Indy 500.

Suzen and Andy visiting her folks in Florida - 2016.
I've never seen Andy happier. It must be love. Pretty girls do that to a guy.



Sunday, July 3, 2016

Three Score and Seven

I don't remember the day, but surely I was in the same hospital room with mom, for a while at least. I never heard the cabbage patch kid story until the dolls were introduced to the toy market in the early 80s, was it? The few and far between photos I've seen of my youth indicate a much different time. Of course, they would be .. wouldn't they? What kind of world is black and white, anyway

The three of us - my brothers and I in an old washtub in the backyard being photographed. It must have been a large tub or we were quite small. Then there was the time mom was taking us downtown shopping before there were any suburban shopping centers. We stood at the bus stop and the cold wind was blowing. My towering mother huddled us close and eventually wrapped her long, woolen coat around us like chicks under hen feathers.

Mom and dad always saw to it that we attended Boys Club Camp each summer. We stayed in nice cabins, ate great food and had lots of activities - planned, scheduled competitions and free time to read comic books, play tether-ball, hike in the woods or go fishing or crawdad hunting in Hinkle Creek with buddies. I learned to start a fire and keep it burning long enough to cook a hot dog using only one match (those were the rules) in order to qualify for "The Order of the Match". Lots of campers made it into the Order. At the final campfire, we were awarded a burnt wooden matchstick tied with lanyard material - something to show mom and dad when you got home along with competition patches if your cabin won in archery, rifles, softball or flag-football. I loved summers there.

School was fun and I never regretted a day except for part of 6th grade. Teachers can make or break children and their minds. Let's just say I eventually got another teacher and the next year in 7th grade, I earned a place at the top of the school's Honor Roll in a tie with Danny Doan. Danny and I got a 5" plastic trophy and our names in the local paper. That was cool. I saved it for along time, but it eventually got broken and tossed out. After that, I had to live it down. Nobody could be a "brain" in my neighborhood without retrobution, but I made it through and graduated 8th grade in a timely manner.

I got lucky on a summer little league baseball team one season because Jimmy McFarland was pitching and hitting. We had a good team. I was so good that I played the "left out" position most of the time, but the league rules said everybody gets to play at least three innings. I didn't deserve it but after winning a game, coach would buy us all ice cream. I tried basketball too. There was an inter-mural organization called, Gray-Y, but I never knew what that meant. We played after school in our gym.

We did everything in that gym - phys. ed. classes, PTA meetings, dances, concerts and the time Dr. Palmer announced he was being called-up by his Army unit to go to Germany o protect American interests and witness the construction of the Berlin Wall by the Soviet Union. That could have been ugly, but a year later, he returned safe and sound. None of us liked the substitute principal while he was gone. When we had "sock hops" in the gym, we had real DJs from WIBC (AM not FM) radio. They played all the hits and reminded us to "keep it clean out there". What does that mean? Hey, I took a bath" but my socks were dusty! I didn't know what 'dirty dancing' was.

When I was in Cub Scouts, we had Pack Meetings there - where I took my Cub Scout Oath on the stage. Mom was a Den Mother and a damned good one. She organized field trips to the Borden Dairy, the Hostess Bakery and the Indianapolis Star and we learned a lot. When we had arts & crafts at our house, the guys always cut-up but we had fun. Afterwards, we would have snacks and a Pepsi. One guy decided to shake up his drink bottle and spewed Pepsi all over the ceiling. That meeting was adjourned particularly early, as I recall.

On Saturdays, mom would give us each a $1.00 and take us to the movies. Our tickets were 50-cents and the rest was for snacks like Necco Wafers. Are they still available? Later, I had a huge crush on Hayley Mills from the movie, "The Parent Trap". I had a huge poster Scotch taped to the back of my bedroom door and her 1:28 minute single record from the movie. Later, in high school, she got replaced by Playboy Centerfolds.

The Lovely Hayley Mills
After elementary school graduation, I got a phone call that summer from our high school saying that due to over-crowding, I would have to share a locker for my high school years. We never had lockers in our elementary school, just wire baskets for our clothes and shower towel while we were exercising in gym class. That reminds me of the jock strap story, but .. not today. Anyway, the lady from the high school said that Steve Kirk had volunteered to locker with me as long as I approved. Of course, that was fine. Steve and I were friends at Public School #73, on the junior high basketball team and hung out together. We've been friends a long time. We still are .. always will be.

High School was a blur, but not for the reasons you might conjure. Lots of classes, extra-curricular activities after school, sports, special interest clubs, dances, parties, mixers and all that goes with the well-rounded educational experience. Some I could attend, others I couldn't. I didn't get my drivers license until April of my Senior year and fortunately, I'd saved some money from my part time jobs to buy a '55 Chevy Bel-Aire, 2-door hardtop, six-cylinder and three on the tree with overdrive. It had a rust hole in the driver's side that my History textbook could fit into, but I didn't care. I was mobile. I graduated in June, 1967. It was a bad year ahead for the Vietnam War, but I was going to college in the fall. We were old enough to kill, but not for voting. Congress fixed that.

Interesting .. (well, to me anyway) .. that I graduated in 1967 - 49 years ago. Today, I'm age 67 and I was born in 1949. I don't think that means anything, but it's just the way the numbers work out. Bound to happen sometime, I guess.

It seems so long ago and far away - childhood. I've seen the photographs and I don't remember being there, but I've heard stories. Stories that today, I would love for mom to tell again surrounded by my loved ones just to embarrass the Hell out of me. Today, however, they would be more entertaining than embarrassing as they were in my teen years. I mean, wouldn't watching a kid just barely walking in diapers draining the last drops of beer from bottles left unattended around the cookout lawn chairs be funny? Just once more, I would like to visit the scrapbooks and shoe boxes full of family photos. Alas, all those opportunities now reside in dusty memories of my own mind. All my folks are gone now and so are those photos - as far as I know.

Yeah, well, today is my birthday. I don't feel as old as I am, but then, I'm not exactly sure how that is supposed to ordinarily feel. Friends say I'm lucky. I'd like to think my parents gave me the best DNA combination they had. Even so, my genes aren't flawless - nobody's is.

So, it's a cool and rainy day here today. I don't know what the weather was like the day I was born, but in July, it's usually hot and humid. We almost always celebrated my birthday on July 4th anyway since everyone got the day off from work. Mom always told me I was almost a firecracker. I miss her smile and her laugh. Dad was the strong, silent type. It was THE day for cookouts and family gatherings everywhere. Sometimes we went to a large park, but mostly due to logistics of all the food, dishes and clean-up afterwards. Grandpa built a charcoal fire in the grill and we had a picnic on the big table he built in the backyard. There were seven of us, so the table had to be bigger than most. Those days are gone now, but I'll always remember they were good times.

Now, what's next?