The long walk home…

CleBusses

 

I used to call my boys “young and stupid” while they were growing up. You see – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  I did a LOT of stupid things when I was a young man.  I attribute a portion of my problems to the time I grew up, which was much more simpler and innocent.  Another factor was my home life.  I lost my mother when I was 10, found out I was adopted at 12, never met my real father and left home by 16.  In other words, I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with parental supervision.

One thing that never wavered throughout my youth was my love for baseball and the Cleveland Indians.  My grandmother used to take me to games and she was patient enough to let me beg for autographs outside the Gate A parking lot after the game. My most prized autograph was Rocky Colavito who signed a 10 cent scorecard for me.

It’s funny how perspective can be cruel.  When I was 12, from my PERPSECTIVE, I couldn’t believe how gigantic the stadium was.  the rampsChiefWahoo taking you from deck to deck seemed to stretch forever.  Even the walkways from the lower to upper deck seemed immense.  I remember well the Fourth of July series with the Yankees, when old Cleveland Municipal Stadium used to sell out. You could feel the old structure waving in the breeze as people banged seats and yelled at the top of their lungs.

I remember making a mess with peanut shells and those glorious hot dogs with stadium mustard.  As I got older, Saturday home games would include a trip up to Prospect Avenue for a visit to Record Rendezvous to pick up the latest WHK Fabulous Fifty Tunedex.  Or a leisurely stroll through Kay’s Books for some comic book bargains.  My limo for these trips was a Cleveland bus – sometimes two.  One trip to Downtown Cleveland when I got a little older turned out to be a very long day.

My friend Don and I decided to go to an Indians game. Now we never had a whole lot of money, but we always managed to save a quarter for the bus home. But on this day we didn’t.  We were older now, and from our PERSPECTIVE, walking home couldn’t be that big of a deal.

Tired feet

Well of course it was.  It took over two hours to walk from Downtown Cleveland to East 55th and Broadway.  It was dark by the time we got home, and I don’t remember being punished as I’m assuming the two hour plus walk was considered time served.  All kinds of bad things could have happened – but they didn’t. I learned my lesson though, I never did that again.  I can’t see my grandsons doing this today.  Not because  of emergency cash, cell phones and social networking but because from their PERSPECTIVE a baseball game wouldn’t be worth leaving the house.  My how times have changed….

 

 

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Bulls Eye!

BullseyeBlog

One particularly hot Cleveland night, my friend Bob invited me out to explore some of the bars on the east side of town that he frequented and played darts at. Having lived on the west side of Cleveland since I got out of the Air Force, I was fairly curious. The first place we went to, wasn’t for darts – it was for music.  It was a bar filled with vinyl albums with the blues blaring at all hours.  I think I had seen the owner at one of many record conventions I had played music at for my friend Steve.  The place was amazing.  He knew where everything was and could play songs on-demand.  Bob knew that Blues wasn’t my thing, so we didn’t spend much time there.

We began to hit different dart bars and began playing “first 25 bulls wins” in earnest.  The object of course is to hit the bullseye (outer ring hits count as 1 – inner ring count as 2) and the first to get to 25 wins the game – loser buys of course.  I believe we were in our third establishment when we hit a bit of a snag.  The air was so still and the night so warm, they had a huge floor fan going to circulate some air.  I’m guessing that we were on our fourth or fifth beer by then, so it was a distraction, but it wasn’t going to stop us.

Now, I don’t know if I was just mellow, or getting used to the airflow (which we had to compensate for while throwing), but I got pretty hot.  I was sitting on 19 and went to the line and threw three double bulls.  At first Bob was pissed, and called me lucky, but he’s an honorable man and when he brought me my beer he said “good shot buddy”.  I had honors for winning the previous game, so I got to start.  I went to the line and one, two, three – I did it again.  I hit three double bulls and was ahead 6-0.  I expected a verbal barrage from Bob, and I got one, but not the one I expected.  Bob began running up to people in the bar (most of which were certainly NOT there to play darts) exclaiming loudly – “did you see that?” “three double bulls – which is hard enough, but my friend just did it twice in a row”.  Despite his enthusiasm, pretty much nobody cared, so Bob came back and took his turn.  I must admit I don’t remember what he scored, but it wasn’t 6, so I was still winning.  I returned to the line, adjusted for the fan and threw my first dart.  Unbelievably, it was another double bull.

At this point, I became painfully aware of the fact that Bob’s antics had attracted some curiosity from the other people in the bar.  It was no longer just me and Bob.  After I threw that first dart, I heard enough in the background to realize they were all looking now.  I don’t know if it was anxiety or fear, but no bulls at all were thrown with darts 2 and 3.  By the time Bob got to the line, once again – nobody cared.  We finished our game and moved on.  Bob knew what I had done, and I knew what I had done.  He didn’t chastise me for a string of misses either.  We both knew 6 bulls in a turn was like bowling a 300 game.  You just didn’t see it that often, and when the airflow from the fan was factored it – it was quite an accomplishment.  And I did it twice.  No trophy, no adulation, just a free beer and the respect of a fellow darter, which was more than enough.

 

 

 

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When I grow up I want to be a…..

CareerBlog

When I was a little boy, I thought I’d like to be a baseball player when I “grew up”.  Poor vision leading me to wear glasses changed my mind.  I discovered music and thought I’d like to be a Disc Jockey. I was even a staff announcer in High School.  Then I grew up a bit and thought that teaching was in my future.  I took “college prep” classes until I realized that I had no money and no family and probably wouldn’t be going to college, so I took Mechanical Drawing thinking I would be a draftsman.  I got a job after high school as a “template maker” for the Elwell Parker company, a Cleveland based manufacturer.

My drawing table was positioned just outside the office of the company mechanical engineer, a gruff older man named Richard who slowly became my friend. We were both positioned on a machine shop floor.  There were very old machines that ran on pulleys ran by craftsmen who created custom parts.  I read blueprints for new orders and drew parts that would eventually be welded together and become a fork lift truck. At lunch I became acquainted with my very first food truck. After making my selections, I’d play pinochle with the workers until the whistle blew to go back to work.

I was proud of my efforts.  I was lucky enough to not be the cause of a lot of scrap metal.  My drawing days ended when I got drafted into the Army.  I sought refuge in the Air Force recruiting office and took tests to determine how I might spend the next four years of my life.  Turns out my mechanical aptitude was my worst score.  The good news?  I was very good at most everything else.

So began my four years in Air Force Intelligence and the end of my drafting aspirations. That assignment led me to another aptitude test – created by IBM for programming.  I aced the test and that coupled with the fact that I took an IBM Basic Assembly class before I got out of the Air Force, got a job with Honeywell as a programming trainee.  Oh did I forget to mention that I took that course (got a B) when I was stationed at the National Security Agency in Ft. Meade Maryland.  Is that the same NSA you ask? Why yes… yes it is.  My career path had been determined.  I entered into the fairly new world of data processing. I couldn’t have guessed how much of an impact computers would have on our lives. I must admit, I still find it a bit bizarre.

 

 

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Baseball Cards #1

Upon honest reflection, I have self diagnosed myself to exhibit Obsessive Compulsive Behavior most of my life.  I am of the “collector” persuasion.  I don’t recall when I got my first comic book, but I was always aware of when the new books came out each week.  Radio turned me on to collecting records. The “high rotation” placements – the “pick hits of the week” if you will – drove me crazy until I had the 45 in my hand.  But my problems really started with little cards with pictures of my favorite baseball players on them…

Five cents for a little slice of heaven.  A pack of baseball cards with FREE bubble gum inside.  The aroma was very distinct.  Nothing like the combination of waxed plastic and bubble gum.  Nothing like that stick of gum either… a calming diversion to the mania of ripping open a fresh pack.  You chewed and chewed while checking to see how many cards you NEEDED to complete the year’s run.  Of course, there were often “doubles” and “triples” along the way, but NEW cards, they were worth the endless flavorless chewing.

Image     I collected cards printed by Topps.  I dabbled in Bowman briefly, but never cared that much for the cards, nor the gum.  Topps released “runs” of cards in series.  Amazingly, despite the fact we didn’t have the Internet, or social media, or 24 hour cable television… no news spread faster through the neighborhood as when a new series at one of our favorite places of purchase was discovered.  Of course, much like a taster to ensure the king didn’t get poisoned, there was the sacrificial nickel to buy just one pack to verify the new series.  Even back then, you couldn’t trust big business.  Owners of small candy stores and groceries would sell out quickly and substitute leftover series boxes to dump them on trusting dimwits.  Much to the chagrin of the store owners, the nickel thieving was stopped cold when Topps began printing the series number on the display box.  This may have been the birth of my consumer awareness…

I’ll discuss specific cards, swapping with my friends and even storage in upcoming posts….

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Here’s the secret to a better life…

Read this carefully, heed my advice, and your enjoyment of life will be lifted exponentially!  An opinionated, unsubstantiated guarantee perhaps, but what have you got to lose? I challenge you to prove me wrong…

The focal point of our collective unhappiness?  Dealing with Mondays.  The seeds of dread begin growing slowly in our subconscious by Thursday.  By  Sunday, the disdain for this abomination of scheduling is at it’s peak.

Many people refer to this malaise as the “Monday-morning blahs”, a feeling of physical uneasiness, general discomfort, and mild depression.  I’m telling you we don’t take it seriously enough!  Succumbing to this feeling will surely guarantee your entire WEEK will be jaded.
Television provides subtle proof of my theory.  Friday night programming is filled with shows that placate the people who are not  out celebrating the end of the week.   Saturdays, TV executives just assume that viewers are acting on the wonderful commercial suggestions of the previous week.  They’re drinking, using erectile assistance products, eating everything and anything, and won’t be watching the tube until the evening’s debauchery has concluded.  So accordingly, those of us who stay at home are left with re-runs and infomercials.
Sunday programming is based on sporting events and specials that we would never watch during the week.  But since they know we’re not looking forward to going to sleep, we’ll watch just about anything.  Then a funny thing happens.  The news is still there, but beyond that, a chasm of emptiness.  No uplifting, comical or topical shows, just useless drivel ad nauseum all seemingly interspersed by the same inane Ford commercial.  This thankless, diabolical industry is forcing us to deal with our own thoughts.
As we turn off the television, the lonely click of the remote is magnified in our minds.  Panic ensues as the potential terrors awaiting us in just 8 short hours begin to unfold one after another.  Lying awake with the cold sweats, we’re never quite sure when sleep finally overtakes us, but like a silent angel it does.
Your alarm braces your conscience for the next few hours of hopelessness and despair.  The token breakfast, zombie like exchanges between loved ones, the drive from hell to get to work and then you arrive.  Like waking from a dream, reality takes over and you stumble through the day with one thought burning in the back of your brain… please, let it be over.
With this kind of start, should we be that surprised that a small blanket of doom has settled on the rest of the week?  Like a day without breakfast, we sleep walk through the week:  famished by Wednesday, ready for a nap by Thursday, and nothing but thoughts of escapism by Friday.  My answer to this malady will not only make your life brighter, but also raise the productivity of the United States workforce!
How do you end this endless cycle of futility?  BE MORE OBJECTIVE!  Blaming Mondays for all the trappings and pitfalls of your life is a result of years and years of mind control.  If you take an objective look back, you’ll find that numbing life disasters have happened to you every day of the week, including Friday, which by default is everyone’s favorite day.
Break free from the shackles of Madison Avenue ad campaigns, slick television programmers and worst of all, listening to family and friends.  Take the first step and admit that your life can be horrible ANY day of the week.  Only then can you objectively say, “Monday is my friend”.
Practice by using self-induced dread on the other weekdays.  Once you accept that the Monday curse isn’t real, you can get on with your life.  Each Sunday night, have a good book or music player handy when you feel you’re slipping.  If that fails, let your amorous nature take it’s course if you are so inclined.  Use that option wisely however, it opens a pandora’s box of it’s own.  The point is, you are in control and can remove the fear of “blahs” on any given day.
Once you have, the pall of your former stigma will be lifted.  Each and every day is now the same, which is another problem for some people with I’ll have address in another post.  You are now free to enjoy a finer life.  Be assertive and break old habits.  Hit the mute button when the commercials come on, it’s truly a freeing experience.  Take alternate routes to work, and keep both middle fingers stationary at all times.  Do these things and I assure you, the “blahs” will be the least of your worries.  No really, all your worries will still be there and perhaps even a bit magnified, but your apprehension toward Monday will be gone, therefore, your life will be better.  You’re welcome…

 

 

 

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Resolutions for my kids…

The older I get, the clearer some things become.  I tried to accept some of these things along the way, some with enthusiasm, some begrudgingly, but they all make sense to me now.  So think about embracing these traits in the coming year..

  • Try not to over-react to ANYTHING.  It’s so hard to do, but will make your life so much easier if you can.  In most cases, your worrying doesn’t help anyway…
  • Try to accept the changes around you.  I started to realize what was going on many years ago, and now I just go with the flow.  My memories will never go away, I will cherish them forever, but life goes on… and change is but one of life’s mysteries we must learn to accept.
  • Give yourself a break… if not every day, at least once a week.  If you’re doing the best you can – THAT’S ALL YOU CAN DO!  You may have to face some disappointments, but all you can do is try a bit harder… please accept the fact that as humans – we all have limitations.
  • CHOOSE to be happy.  It won’t take much soul searching to realize that health, love and helping others when you can will get you through even the darkest days…
  • Accept your kids for who they are… they certainly won’t admit it, and you won’t realize it for awhile, but they truly do carry a LOT of your traits, habits and thought processes.  Encourage and challenge them, reign in the terror when you can, but don’t try to change them…
  • Today’s world is as uncertain as I can remember.  But I have never been more certain that all of you are blessed with the tools to succeed… in this or ANY economy… do NOT second guess yourselves…

I leave you with a list I cut out of a magazine well over 30 years ago and I’ve kept in my wallet ever since… I hope you will see that I’ve tried to embrace these in my life and hope you will think about them as well….

10 Things to Remember

The value of time

The success of perserverance

The pleasure of working

The dignity of simplicity

The worth of character

The power of kindness

The obligation of duty

The influence of example

The wisdom of economy

The virtue of patience

As you all know, I am NOT a religious man… but I already know that my destiny has been fulfilled.  I will live on for generations long after I’ve left this world.  I am in your hearts and through your guidance and love,  in the hearts of your children.  You often tease me about how hard it is to get me presents.  It is NOT hard at all… I get those presents EVERY DAY, as your lives unfold…

Have a great year!

With much love,

Dad

 

 

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Places I’ve visited – Part 1…

During a recent five hour trip in the car, my lovely wife Sue and I passed the time by trying to remember places we have visited or been to.  This is harder than you think when you realize you have to think back almost FIFTY years to remember, but I’ll try.  I’m doing this alphabetically to help jog my memory…

     Alaska – Air Force -1966

Never set foot on soil, but I   did fly over Alaska on my 24 hour flight to the Philippines.  Same flight, landed at Tachikawa AFB to refuel, so I was in Japan, but never set foot on soil.  Same flight, passed over Guam.

Arizona – Sales Meeting for Infinet – February 1985

These meetings are booked at desirable locations but at bad times of the year when the rates are the cheapest.  I got to play golf and volleyball in Scottsdale but the temperature was in the 40’s.  Since I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have played at all under normal desert air conditions (100 degrees) I guess it wasn’t that bad after all

California – Multiple locations

Tymnet was based in Cupertino, so I got to see the “silicon valley” up front and personal – many, many times.  I was struck by the landscape which was mountainous and the trees were SO different than Ohio.  One sales trip for them got me to San Diego.  The good news? The weather there truly is amazing.  The bad news? I was sick as a dog the whole time – went through two bottles of cough syrup and had to listen to a motivational speech by Lou Holtz.  Another trip got me to San Francisco and I ate a meal in China Town and bought chocolate at Godiva Square.  I’ve never set foot in Los Angeles, but that trip mentioned above about Alaska started in Detroit and the second leg was at LAX, but I never got off the plane.

Connecticut – Darien

As a Regional Support Manager, I had eleven people reporting to me, including two supervisors.  One of the sales offices I used to visit was managed by Harry Ruda, a Jewish wildman who was a big Phil Ochs fan.  Harry was a little nuts, but a great salesman.  He lived in Darien of course, which is why the office was there.  We had some accounts there, but most of his damage was done in New York.  This was one of my most frustrating visits, because I would rent a car at LaGuardia  and drive up.  The problem was returning – I always missed my flight and wound up on the last flight out back to Cleveland, which didn’t get me home until after 11:00pm.  Nothing like passing the time at an expensive airport – trying hard not to eat much because it was so expensive and you knew dinner was waiting at home.  Nice area, but I don’t miss it.

  Florida – multiple locations

I was salesman of the year in 1976 for Anacomp and won a trip to the company condo in Sarasota.  I must admit, driving there drove me crazy, it’s true what they say about the old people who drive slow.  And yes Josh, THAT was the trip! One of my friends from the Air Force, Tony Prebil from Chicago took an accounting job in Jacksonville and bought a condo.  We visited him and it was a very nice place.  Unfortunately, he lost his job, couldn’t find another and lost his house.  He wound up living with us in Westlake for over a year just prior to us moving to Hudson.  I haven’t spoken to him since I dropped him off on the Ohio Turnpike in 1988.  His sister was picking him up.  Don’t know what happened to him, but I think I can safely say, we all had enough of him to last a LONG time.  And of course, we took a family vacation to Disney World and Epcot Center.  Jess was terrified of the haunted house ride and I can still hear “It’s A Small World” in the back of my brain.

Georgia

I attended a sales meeting in a suburb of Atlanta while with Infinet.  I can’t remember why we had the meeting, but the trip did have a highlight.  Right next to the hotel we were staying at was a Hardee’s restaurant.  I had never been to one before, and I wound up eating there the three nights I was there.  I quickly grew fond of the Frisco burger, which was the first fast food sandwich I ever had on sourdough bread.  We had one close to the Cuyahoga Falls border, but it closed.  I don’t know why they never made it very well in Northern Ohio, but I think the food is great.  The recent 5 hour trip in the car that prompted me to write this entry included a stop at Hardee’s on the Turnpike – good food, but very expensive.

Hawaii

My first job out of the Air Force was as a Programmer Trainee for Honeywell, manufacturer of Mainframe computers and competitor to IBM which had 73% of the market at the time.  I was assigned to Ford and converted all programs for five of their locations as we replaced their IBM mainframes with ours.  I trained the operators, programmers, and system people.  My efforts got me a Cross pen and pencil set, with my name engraved on it.  It also bought me a “lottery ticket” of sorts and my name went in a hat along with the many others that had distinguished themselves on this year and a half old project.  Luck of all luck, I won a two week trip to Hawaii.  I wasn’t making a lot of money, and when I discovered that hamburgers by the pool were $10, I stuck to the trip plan for meals.  Along with the other winners thanks to the schedule for us, we got to go to a real pig roast, including Don Ho performing.  There was also a tour of the Dole plantation.  The clay is an amazing deep red. I played golf on the same course that the pros play on the PGA tour.  I got a pretty good wind burn, but I think I only went through two sleeves of balls (6) for 18 holes.  We stayed at the Kahala Hilton and the weather was amazing, despite the fact that it rained EVERY day, just not for very long. I was like God was watering his plants.  The rest of the day, the trade winds took over, spreading a cool breeze over everything.  No matter where you went, it was like seeing a postcard.  The other think I remember is how clean the water was.  You could see to the floor of the ocean and watch the fish flow by.  This was 1973, and the original Hawaii 5-0 was still being filmed there.  I thought it was pretty cool until I found out I had to pay the state and local taxes on the trip, which was valued at $2500.00 which was a LOT back then.

CHECK BACK FOR PART TWO

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My four days of KP….

My decision to join the Air Force was a stroke of luck, shaded  with a bit of cowardice.  I beat induction into the Army by one day.  It cost me an extra two years of service, but it kept me alive.  My military career had it’s painful moments, but certainly nothing to complain about.

I took basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.  It gets pretty hot there normally, and  I was there for all of July and the first two weeks of August.  I was in one of the first flights of recruits to occupy brand new, air-conditioned barracks.   It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many days it got over 100 degrees outside.  On those “black flag” days – we got to stay inside to avoid  catching heat stroke outside.  Of course most of of caught colds from the constant swing in the temperature.  We were scheduled for the obstacle course twice, but never made it because it rained the day before and didn’t want us out in the mud.  Mention this to a Marine and he’ll puke on you.

For well over forty years, I have a pain in my right knee that “flares” up when the weather changes and at it’s worst, provides a dull ache that screams for tylenol relief.  How did that happen?  Tripping over a drainage ditch while stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas.  They gave me a weeks supply of Darvon and a set of crutches.  I limped for awhile, but when it stopped hurting and seemed normal again, I had no idea that I would pay so dearly for not watching where I was walking.

While stationed at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, I once spent almost 5 hours on the golf course.  It was a very windy day and due to the raging elements beating down on me, suffered sun poisoning on the back of my neck.  I now have a ringlet of permanent freckles on the back of my neck to remind me.  As a veteran of the Vietnam conflict, obviously, things could have been a lot worse.

My technical school training at Goodfellow was broken into two phases.  We were all in the Air Force Security Service (Intelligence) and primed for overseas deployment.  Phase one was a snap.  An eleven week class that was fairly basic in nature.  The hard part was waiting in casual status until phase two began.  Phase two training would tell us what kind of “spy” we were to become and gave a pretty good indication where we would be stationed.

I didn’t know at that time, but the reason we all languished in mundane occupations while awaiting our future schools was due to the outcome of the security clearance being conducted on each of us by the F.B.I. back home.  My temporary sentence lasted 13 weeks.  I then still had another 12 weeks class to complete before I deployed, so I wound up staying at the smallest Air Force Base in the world for over nine months.  I then had a 30 day leave and was deployed to Clark for a year and a half.

Fresh out of basic training, my arrival prompted some “casual” time before that first week of class began, and I pulled the first KP (kitchen patrol) duty of my young career.  You had to report at 4:00am and we worked 12 hour shifts (longer if you were on cleanup duty).  One morning for almost four hours, all I did was crack eggs.    The afternoon, was on the serving line, and then for another four hours, all I did was peel potatoes.  I was admonished several times for trying to retrieve shells that had fallen into the huge pot I was filling.  The first thing I determined was to never order eggs for breakfast.  The second was to figure out a way to get out of pulling KP two days on and two days off for any length of time.

I was the President of the Marching Band in High School.  I was a pretty good baritone (horn) player and actually played a solo in the final concert of my academic career.  I hadn’t picked up a horn since however, but that didn’t stop me from doing a little research to find the base had a drum and bugle corps.

While still in phase one training, I volunteered to became the assistant to the corps leader and spent Saturdays polishing helmets, and transposing music while everyone else in my training path enjoyed a full weekend.  Immediately upon completion of phase one classes, everyone was assigned to the dreaded KP schedule – two (very long) days on, and two days off until phase two training began.  Everyone but me of course.  I reported each day to the corps  building.  After about a month passed, the leader got his orders and left and I was elevated to become the new corps leader.  I now had full control of my work day.  To say that most of my friends hated me was an understatement.

I was the last one up and out of the barracks each morning.  My morning ritual   included coffee and a doughnut, picking up my three day old copy of the Cleveland Plain Dealer at the post office and then off to the corps building.  I brought my record player there and listened to my PX purchased albums while reading my paper and leisurely finishing my coffee.  Then, before you knew it, it was time for lunch.  After lunch, and a quick stroll back to the corps building (it was usually about 95 degrees at least by then) my afternoon of doing not a whole lot took place until about 2:45 or so when I knocked off and went home.

All I had to do was keep things “in ready” just in case a parade was scheduled.  If so, I had to pick music, arrange for practices and be competent enough to just keep the job.  That was my routine for the 13 weeks it took for my clearance to come in.  Shortly after my phase two training began, I quit the drum and bugle corps. Why muddy up my Saturdays?  It took many months after deployment to Clark for most guys to forget about all the KP they pulled and how little I had suffered compared to them.   Some however, never forgave me and I’m confident if I ran into them today, they would still complain mightily about the injustice.  But I had the courage of my convictions to go against the norm.   I volunteered while in the military and actually came out ahead.

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A Cup Of Joe… Part 2

This is a story I’ve told many times, but here it is for posterity.  I was a “Radio Intercept Analysis Specialist” while at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines.  Everyone in my barracks were Air Force Intelligence, and we were a 24 hour shift group.  Our schedule was 4 days (8-4), 4 mids (4-mid), and then 4 nights (mid-8.  After that, the next 4 days were days off.

Nights held great anticipation.  The good news?  We all knew we would have four days off when we were done.  The bad news?  All nights crews had to perform fairly basic cleanup routines.  Sweep the floors, ashtrays, clean the latrine and my favorite, making coffee for first shift.

I’m being facetious of course… I hated making coffee for the lifers.  They NEVER gave us any credit for anything, and were just jerks about most things.  We knew when we had a good shift, but other than our shift supervisor saying something, forget getting a compliment.  I was the shift supervisor for our group and I knew why.  I could transcribe a live conversation on a manual typewriter, no simple feat I assure you.

After a particularly smug round of looks and comments, I had it.  During my four days off, I was going to figure a way to get even with them.  Didn’t take long, just a little imagination and the guts to do it.

The next night shift, I volunteered to make the coffee every night.  My flight buddies thought I was crazy, but they didn’t know what I had up my sleeve. We were supposed to clean the pot each night with steel wool – carefully rinse the pot and then refresh the grounds and fill the pot with water.  I used the steel wool all right, but I didn’t rinse the pot so carefully.  Then I would carefully scrape half of the old coffee grounds and put fresh coffee on top.  Not only did I not change the filter – those grounds were 24 hours old.

I never made it to the third night.  When the day shift came in the second day, I was asked who made the coffee the previous night and I admitted that I had.  I was TOLD by the day Sgt. in no uncertain terms that I was NEVER to make coffee again.  I never found out if it was the horrible taste or stray strands of steel wool that convinced them to issue that order, but frankly, I didn’t care.

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Batting champs and lefty power…

Summers during my Junior High days were spent on the Mound School playground.  I played “rubber ball against the wall” almost every day.  We loved it so much, we actually started a league.  Chose teams, made up lineups for each game and kept statistics.  I was so angry at the Indians for trading Rocky Colavito, I became the Detroit Tigers.  Not only did I get my revenge on Frank Lane, I wound up with a pretty good team.

We bought balls for .25 cents and took care to “break them in”.  We had to wear off the hard skin off or the ball or they could actually split from a had swing.  We got them good and soft before they were game ready.  You could actually throw a curve ball with these, although when I threw too many of them my arm hurt a lot.

One of the league rules, was that you had to bat the way the ball player in your lineup batted.  So the good news was I got to use Norm Cash every game – the bad news is I had to bat left handed.  I quickly learned why lefties were such sluggers, because I didn’t hit too many pitches – but when I connected – that ball was gone.  I had a more pronounced upper cut swing from the left side and very little, if any, bat control.

We hit against a 20 foot fence and the goal was to hit the fence on a fly for a home run, but very often it would go WAY over the fence.  The corporation that owned the lot had ADT security, so we’d have to scale that fence and get the ball and back onto the playground before they arrived.  Sometimes they would turn off the alarm and come onto the playground to chase us away.

Pitching stats were kept also, but I was only an average pitcher.  I remember oh too well those games when by the 5th inning my arm hurt so bad it felt like it was going to fall off.  But you just played through it, and of course most of the time you got clobbered.  but my batting stats were pretty competitive.

When the game was over, I made a beeline for the candy store on the corner of 55th and Mound and got a cold bottle of RC and either a bag of New Era Potato Chips or a Milky Way.  Before the next game, we all got an updated list of batting average and pitching leaders (just like in the Cleveland Plain Dealer).  Pretty impressive because back then, no calculators or computers, it was all done by hand.

I doubt very seriously that there are kids anywhere in the Cleveland area doing what we did and batting as Grady Sizemore or Carlos Santana.  Too bad… they don’t know the tremendous fun they’re missing…

 

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