Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Personal Rogue's Gallery.

Friends, Family and other malcontents.

We all have them, don't we?
Oh, you know who I am talking about.  It might be Uncle Percy, who collects ear wax and makes religious statues out of it.  It could be the neighbor who borrowed your riding mower and sold it on ebay.  Maybe it is Uncle Wally who has a pet duck that he walks on a leash every day.
They are colorful characters in your personal history.  Some of them are fun, a few weirdos, an equal number of crooks and psychos.

I will start with Uncle Leonard, the low talker.
Uncle Lenny is a small guy.  I am a talking "small".  He makes Barney Fife look tall and beefy.  That may be his problem.  He overcompensates.  He can drink like a man that is 7 feet tall.  Lenny is 5' 1".   He drives a huge truck.
When he drinks he acts like he is 7 feet tall.  He gets belligerent.  He picks fights with big people. Fortunately everyone knows about Lenny, and they act accordingly.  Usually they just put their hand on Lenny's head and he swings wildly until he tires.
If the big guy grows weary of Lenny's swinging, he puts his thumb and index finger together and flick him in the chest, very much in the same style that someone would flick an errant booger from their fingers ... and Uncle Leonard would go flying.

Uncle Lenny had a way of exacting his revenge.  He was a low talker. He was also an accomplished mumbler.  You had to lean very close to him, bend down and say "What"? He could say things to people and they would look at each other and ask, "Did he just insult me?"....Nah!!!  This was when he was sober.  When had a few extra samplings from the brown bottles he talked incomprehensible gibberish.

I heard rumors that he was a faux Navaho code talker during the cold war while he was in the army.  His commanding officers would give him a six pack and then they would write up bogus messages for Lenny to transmit verbally.
Apparently there are sixteen nations still trying to decipher the code, including ours.
My Uncle Lenny.

Then there was my former friend, Quisling Von Heussen.  Even back in the late 50's he was strange.  He was Swiss.  He had relatives in Zurich.  He was always saying nice things about Hitler.  He would say things like Hitler was better looking than Churchill.
He said Hitler could run faster than Roosevelt and Eva Braun was better looking than Eleanor Roosevelt.  He also stated that Hitler could dance better than Joe Stalin.  It really aggravated me because I could not disprove his argument.
I did point out that Hitler did make some major social blunders.  Quis didn't really want to talk about that.  He preferred to say how well Hitler trimmed his mustache an how shiny his boots were.
I grew tired of Quis.  That last time I saw him he was handing out brochures for the Tea party.  He had shiny boots and a little Charlie Chaplin mustache.

Then there is my friend Miguel Heraldo.  He liked cars.  I was a very good friend.  He came to me and ask to borrow $1500 so he could get a car.   I had been burned by him before, but it was a small amount. I said I couldn't do it.  His wife said, "I'll make sure he pays it back if you co-sign for him".  I finally caved in and I cosigned.  He made two payments.  The bank started calling ME!  I went to his house and asked him about the payment.  He said he had paid it late, and not to worry about it.  I should have been suspicious when I saw the U-haul truck in the driveway and the boxes in the living room.
He moved to Georgia the next day.  I was left to pay his bill. I learned a lesson.

A few years passed and he found my email address somehow and he wanted to be my buddy.  I never answered his email.  He went to a mutual friend and asked, "What's the matter with Jonathan Hemlock?  I email him and he never answers".
The mutual friend and I had a conversation and I said I would answer Miguel.  I did. I questioned his honesty and integrity.  He answered that nothing like that ever happened.  I was lying, where is my proof?  He remembers nothing of that. He verbally attacked me to my friends.  He said I was a liar.  I wasn't really surprised.  5 years go by.....I moved on.
Now, He wants to be my Facebook friend. Yikes!!!
What a World. This is the Casey Anthony Era.

Then we have my Cousin Lonnie Hemlock, the collector.
Lonnie is a bright guy.  He is good at fixing things.
A few years ago you could drive your own garbage to the landfill and drop it off.
Lonnie's problem with the landfill was that he would bring home more than he would drop off.  He was actually making more space in the landfill for people like me. While most people, referred to it as "the dump",  Lonnie called it "the Mall".

I went to his house one day to do some type of family business.  I climbed over various car parts, bike parts, old air conditioners, carcasses of various vermin and other sundry products and made my way to the front door from the porch.  I knocked on the door.  The door tilted at an angle and fell into the kitchen.
Cousin Lonnie was in the kitchen.  I think it was the kitchen.  Hard to tell.  I couldn't see a sink.  I did see a refrigerator. Three actually.
"Come in! Come in.  Hmmm! I'll have to fix that one of these days. How about a cup of coffee?"
I looked around the room.
"Thanks anyway, Lonnie, I have to be somewhere else in 10 minutes." (Anywhere else! please!!) "I'll just sit on this beanbag chair since all your other chairs have stuff on them."(Beanbag chair in the kitchen?)
"Oh..that isn't a beanbag chair, that's a bag of garbage."
"Oh?" I was impressed.  He actually had some garbage in bags. I got out of there as quick as possible.
Sadly, a couple  of years later the town burned the house to the ground.  Strangely, it is the second one of his houses they had to burn to the ground.  I am sure many little critters died a fiery death.  I believe they invited the national guard and a reserve unit to shoot the rats as they were fleeing the burning building.

Moving on....

I met my friend Agatha on the beach a few weeks ago.  She just won't give up. She had to vent or spew her opinions once again.
She is always talking about "the blacks". Obama, the black, not Obama the president.  The blacks are taking over the country.  They are ruining it. They have insufficient brain matter to run this country. We are doomed.
She listens to such intellectual heavyweights as Rush Limbaugh, Homer Simpson and Glen Beck.
These are her happiest moment in her life. She is in her element when she is criticizing a democrat, a black, a foreigner (Kenyan?).... Obama.. JACKPOT!!!.. bells and whistles, patriotic music.  Flying spittle and excitement.  I think she just had a political orgasm.
Is that possible? day I just looked at her kind of funny and she said, "What?"
"Your one of us, aren't you?"
Agatha was dumbstruck. "Wha..What too hell are you talking about?
"You're...a black, aren't you? of us."
"You're not black, fool!! You're as white as me."
"I mentioned before that I am Obama's cousin. We are black Irish. Uh..huh..look at your skin. Is that the skin of a white person?"
Agatha sits in the sun every day.  She has a deep tan.  Is that tan all from the sun?

"Don't deny it.  I will not ax you to dance or dunk a basket or spell incarcerated.  You are a black.  Just like me."
I gestured for her to give me a high five.  She ignored it.
"You're crazy!!!" she snorted as she ran off the beach.
I turned to the little French lady and said, "I think we have resolved this issue."
We did the high five.

I have a lot more weird friends.  They are interesting people. But I don't want you to think all my friends are weird, just most of them.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I made it. I survived.

A Tale of Survival

This is a heroic and epic tale of overcoming daunting circumstances and unbelievable danger.
No, it wasn't the holocaust, WWII, the McCarthy era,  hurricane Katrina, September 11th, 2001, the Obama presidency, the Bush presidency.  
None of those.

It was called "growing up in the 50's".  A time fraught with many dangers that people today can't even imagine.  I was reading an article today about the  dangers of growing up in the 50's.  It is nothing short of a miracle that there are any of us left that can reveal what really happened in that era.

Let us start with my birth.  I was not born in a hospital.  I was born in a maternity home in my hometown.  I am not even sure there was a doctor present.  I didn't ask and I didn't really care.  
I weighed 4 pounds 7 ounces which is on the smallish side.  A circumstance of birth that I never overcame in my adulthood.  I was a giant compared to my wife, the little French lady.  She weighed 2 pounds 8 ounces when she was born.   Between the two of us we weighed almost as much as a human being. Almost seven pounds.

We survived the circumstances and the weight of our birth.  One thing that may have affected my weight was the fact that my parents were smokers.  They also didn't mind tipping a few Pabst Blue Ribbons on occasion.  
When I came home from the maternity place I was put in a crib that was painted with lead paint.
Nobody died from it.  Nobody became hyper or mentally challenged because of it.  
Yes, we had some "not too clever" kids in our class, but I assure you, it was inherited.

We were fed terrible food.  Dangerous foods.  Things like peanut butter, bacon and eggs and numerous danger fraught dairy products like milk, cheese, and butter.  Not one kid in my 1st grade class died of a heart attack or an allergic reaction.

I don't remember a child in our class who was autistic.  In fact I can say that about the whole school and the whole town.  NOT ONE CHILD!!! No one was autistic. Hmmm!!?
The most nerve wracking disease for my era was polio.  I knew a few people who got polio.  This was kind of scary.

Now comes the horrific stuff.  
You are familiar with child proof caps. Yeah, the ones that adults can't open. We didn't have any child?proof caps for medicine.  We just had to turn clockwise and the cap came off.  We could chugalug as many aspirins as we felt like.  Oddly, I don't remember any kids ever doing that.
We rode bicycles, played baseball without helmets.  The cars we sat in did not have seat belts, we rode in the back of trucks standing up.  None of my friends had dented heads.  In fact no one I know had a dented heads or twisted limbs. 
Wait a minute!!!! Our cars didn't have airbags either. WOW!!!!

I drank water out of a brook, out of a garden hose, from a container 4 other people had  used before me.  I should have died of amoebic dysentery or typhoid fever at an early age.
We ate huge quantities of cupcakes, refined sugar, kool aid, cake, cookies, potato chips, Pepsi, Coke, Fudge bars and nobody was fat. WHY????
Well, I was really too busy to analyze that one.  I was outdoors from about 8 AM till about 4 PM.  My mother had no idea where I was.  She did not call 911 and report me as missing. No search parties were organized.  She knew I was probably at my friend's house mooching a meal at lunch time between our baseball games.  We didn't have play dates. We had fist fights and wrestling.  We solved our own issues with reason and brutality, whichever worked best for the situation.

If I wasn't home by 4PM for supper...too bad for me.  My mother didn't operate a restaurant or cafeteria.  Either you went without or possibly she would keep it warm in the oven if she was having a really good day.
Then I would go out and play for a couple more hours, especially if I had school that day.
I would not spend a whole lot of time watching television since we didn't have one.  We knew who had televisions.  Their house would be completely dark except for the silver glow of the round television screen as seen by a 10 year old boy who happened to be walking.   Occasionally we would knock on people's door and ask we if we could watch television.  They would let us watch one program and tell us we would have to go after the program was over.  We were very grateful.
It was many years later that I realized it did not always snow during the "Buffalo Bob Show".
I thought it was always bad weather, not bad reception.

This part is going to shock a lot of people.
Our telephones were hooked to a wall.  They weighed about 11 pounds, you could throw them against a wall and they would still work.  They had a  rotary wheel on the front and the wheel had holes in it.  In each hole was a number and three letters. You would put your fingers in the whole and move the wheel in a certain direction until you hit a finger stop, then you would release your finger from the hole and it would return to its original position.  This was referred to as "dialing the phone."  
If you were a little trouble maker like me, you would just dial some numbers and get to talk to people in exotic places like, Yellow Knife in the Yukon, Capetown, South Africa and Belfast in Northern Ireland.

Before the dial phone it was very similar to what you see on "The Andy Griffith Show."
"Sarah, connect me to Emmett's garage."  You just told the operator who you wanted or you gave her a number like 842R or 93J1.
If you had a speech impediment this could become a problem.  Something like "twee, twee," (337R)
Operator: "Huh?"
Phone user: "Opowaito, Ju giz me da wong numba!!!"
Operator: "Huh?"
Then there was the issue with "party lines". This was a really nifty thing if you were a kid. 
A party line was a pretty weird concept.  Your family and someone else's family had the same phone line.  If the phone rang once it was for you.  If it rang twice it is for your neighbor down the road.
The nifty thing was you could listen to your neighbors gossiping if you picked up the telephone from its cradle really gently.  You could listen for a while.  It was really bad form to shout out stuff like, "THAT'S A LIE, YOU PIECE OF CRAP"  or "GET OFF THE PHONE. YOU HAVE BEEN GOSSIPING LONG ENOUGH."  I do apologize for doing it, but I was young.

Another weird thing about the phone system was that there was no call waiting or answering machine or voice mail.  If you called someone and they weren't at home, too bad for you.

School was a place you had to have survival skills.  The teachers had weapons and they were not afraid to use them. Most teachers had big wooden paddles.  They would use them on boys and girls alike.  Mostly boys.  I saw one guy beg for mercy because he had a boil on his ass.  The teacher didn't believe him. He was not spared. I know of some legendary matches among teachers and students in high school.  I only saw one.  The teacher won.  I am talking about physical confrontation.  I think our teachers had to go through some type of boot camp before teaching at our school.
Strangely there were no lawsuits.  The only time there was mention of a lawsuit was in 1951 when a bus was taking a summer outing to a place I went swimming every day. This day I decided not to go.  The bus hit some gravel on the side of the road. The driver lost control and the bus rolled down an embankment and ended upside down.  There were 54 people on the bus.  Only a couple were seriously injured.  Another miracle, really!!!

I survived all this and more.  Did I mention the fallout shelters?  The atomic fire drills?

Ummm!....Please don't tell anyone but......It was a wonderful time to grow up.