Sunday, July 20, 2014

One Giant Leap

July 20th is one of those dates that will always stick in my head. It's like June 6 or December 7. I always stop and reflect a little on these dates. D-Day and Pearl Harbor stuck with me because of my father. These dates were huge with him and there was no way I'd forget them after hearing about his experiences on those days, every year!

I suppose if you live through historic events the dates will stay with you. I'll always remember where I was for November 22, 1963 the same with June 6, 1968. Those tragic dates seem to get seared into everyone's memory banks. July 20, 1969 wasn't like that. That summer day 45 years ago was more of an exciting day for me.

I was always a space nut when I was a kid. Early on, I remember watching the adventures of Captain Midnight and he had a Skyrocket that he named the Silver Dart. He didn't exactly go into space, but that Silver Dart flew pretty high. Then there was Men Into Space. This was a show with astronaut Col. McCauley, played by actor William Lundigan, who's name was close enough that I thought we could be related. Anyway, this show had moon landings and space stations, this was the real deal, my friends. Then, of course, I had to have props. I must have had a dozen different Aurora models of space crafts. I had the Mercury space capsule, the Gemini and Apollo capsules, the Lunar Landing Craft, sometimes different versions of each. I remember trying to talk my parents into letting me buy the 4 ft model of the Saturn V rocket complete with the Apollo spacecraft including Command Module, Service Module and Lunar Landing Module. Hell, what kid wouldn't want that. Of course, I never got it.

Throughout the sixties, I followed what was really happening in the race to space. I would sit in front of the television as Walter Cronkite would explain what was happening. Not to mention he had every plastic model you could ever dream about. But, he would use those models to explain how the astronauts were carrying out their missions. He showed you how they would open the hatch of the Gemini capsule to perform the first space walk. This was fantastic stuff for me.

So, in the summer of 1969, I had to stay glued to the television as Apollo 11 took off on one of mankind's greatest adventures. Unfortunately, my father felt that high school aged kids should be out working for the summer. I did get a job that summer. I worked making sandwiches in a Lena Sub Shop on Western Ave. in Lynn. On July 20th, I was behind the counter working the evening shift.

Now, the way this moon landing worked, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin put the Lunar Module down in the Sea of Tranquility early in the day. Then, they sat there, waiting. What! You're on the moon for cryin' out loud! Open up that damn hatch and get out there. We want to know if there's green cheese there or blood sucking insects or big huge black monoliths. What are we waiting for?

Well, as Walter would tell us, they were to land then go to sleep for a while before taking the moon walks. However, I guess the astronauts were just as excited as the seventeen year old kid making foot long Italians at Lena's. So, I couldn't wait to get home and see this actually happen on television. One little problem for me was, I was the only one working the shop that night and I had to close up.

Now, I think closing time was 10pm, and the place had been very slow since earlier in the evening. I figured Tony Lena wasn't going to mind if I closed up early on such a historic occasion. About twenty past 9, four people walk in and stand there reading the big menu board and thinking and reading. Meanwhile, I'm tapping my foot looking at the clock. Finally, I shout out, "For Christ's sake, make a decision. There's people on the moon!" They walked out. I got home just in time to see that small step for man, which wasn't quite that small.

That was 46 years ago. I am really amazed that we don't have bases on the moon. That is what we were led to believe. It's as though we got there and that's it. Nothing left to do. There are those who believe we should be spending resources here on Earth. Make things better here. Yeah, well, how's that worked out? I believe man's destiny is to push the envelope, to explore the beyond. Somehow, I think ventures like the moon landing bring the human race together. Anyway, I thought it was fun while it lasted.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Gathering

This weekend is the annual golfing/kayaking trip with the guys. I look forward to this trip every year. There's a lot of men out there who have similar excursions. Yes, nothing like a weekend with the guys.

I think of my gathering as a little special, as I'm sure most guys do. You get together with a bunch of friends that you know you can let your hair down and just goof off. Throw back a few beers and make fun of each other's receding hair lines. If, you have any hair left. Yes, we laugh at our golf swings and how utterly graceful we are getting in and out of a kayak.

It's a little hard to explain just how special this particular gathering is. This group has been meeting for over 25 years. Paul is the one guy who has taken it upon himself to keep this thing going. It is safe to say that if he had not done so, it would not have lasted. Paul started this out of personal tragedy, it took on a life of its own but Paul is still the lifeblood of this assemblage. He is the organizer, the planner, the man with the whistle and clipboard.

This group is made up of a lot of guys who have known each other a very long time. The biggest common denominator is high school. Many of us graduated from the same school. Mostly from the classes of '69 and '70. However, there are some of us that go further back. There are a lot of us that went to CYO together, we were in the same Boy Scout Troop. Paul's father was our Scout Master back then. No doubt, Paul gets some of that planning stuff from his old man. There are a few of us, that were even in grade school together. It is quite something that some of this history lives in all of us. We knew each other when we were kids at school, at church, we went off to summer camp together, we shared experiences in our so-called formative years. We played cowboys and soldiers and gladiators together. We discovered rock and roll, grew our hair a little longer and started noticing girls. After high school, a lot of us went in different directions. There was college, the service, jobs, we had lives to live. Somehow, Paul was able to get a bunch of us back together and he has made us stay together once a year for over a quarter century.

As special as our gathering is, this year has a bit more of a special feel to it. Back in the fall, we lost a frequent member of our gang. Kevin was well liked by anyone who had ever met him. In any group there is always a core team. Kevin was part of that team. He knew the efforts that Paul went through to make this weekend happen every year and he made sure we recognized and thanked Paul. Kevin was what we all call a stand up guy.

So, this year, we will meet, we will goof off and make fun of our golf game but, in some way, I'm sure we will pay tribute to our friend Kevin. I'm sure Paul will make that happen. I'm also sure Paul will make sure we gather again next year.  

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

I follow a blog by a guy named Mark Evanier. He writes about movies, comics, TV, Broadway, cartoons and a bunch of other stuff. Mark has been a professional writer for many years. He's written for television and comics. I think I may have mentioned here that I like comics. Anyway, I can't remember how I stumbled upon his blog but I think it was a good find.

You see, the thing is, this guy Evanier is the same age as me. Actually, I think I have a couple of months on him. So, we grew up during the same times. Apparently, we watched the same television shows, went to the same movies on Saturday afternoons and, oh yeah, read the same comics. The only difference is, he grew up on the west coast and I grew up on the east coast.

It is pretty interesting reading his stuff. He writes a lot about the old stars of television like Milton Berle, Phil Silvers, Sid Caesar and a lot about obscure acts like comedian/songwriter Alan Sherman or that guy that would spin plates on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Like I say, being the same age he brings up a lot of the same stuff I remember. He talks about toys he had as a kid and I had some of that same junk. He writes about watching The 3 Stooges, Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello and, yeah, I was watching the same stuff. A favorite TV show of his was The Dick Van Dyke Show, I watched it. He gets into the old Broadway musicals and I remember my mother had some of those soundtracks on vinyl. I listened to those things, not that there's anything wrong with that. He happens to be a huge fan of the movie It's A Mad, Mad, Mad World for some reason. I saw it and it was funny. I wouldn't go out of my way to see any chance I had, but apparently this guy Mark would.

Anyway, I like reading his stuff. You might say there is some sort of connection, same age, some of the same tastes, similar experiences, I told you about comics, right? It's kind of funny, all this shared stuff and we were a whole continent apart. Do you think the country was more of a community years ago? Kids who grew up in the fifties and sixties didn't have too many channels to choose from on the big console TV. Chances are a lot of people were watching the same thing. That doesn't happen much anymore. I wonder if that kind of thing has created more of a fragmented country. We'll see what memories folks will be blogging about in another thirty years.

However, if you came from the early fifties and were into the pop culture of the sixties, you might want to check out Mark Evanier's blog. He calls it News From Me. Here's a link NewsFromMe. Enjoy.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Musings from a Sunday Morning

I really love the Sunday newspaper. I get it delivered to the door or at least within a fifty meter radius from my door. Some mornings I'm reminded of Tony Soprano as I march down my driveway in my bathrobe to pick up the paper. It's almost always worth the trip, though.

Even though the Sunday paper is nowhere near as big as it once was, it's still worth the price. Not only do you have the news and sports from Saturday but you've got expanded sections about business, arts & entertainment, opinions, editorials and did I mention the comics. Yeah, the Sunday funnies aren't what they used to be. I miss The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician and, come on, everyone who can remember has a soft spot for Lil' Abner, right?

A great Sunday morning means a good pot of coffee and a couple of free hours to browse through the contents of the paper. I hope we never go completely digital because I like the feel of the newsprint spread out before me as I jump from story to story. It won't be the same just sliding my finger across my tablet. I'm sure the cat would miss walking through every article I happen to be reading, too.

I read a lot. I read much more than I write, you lucky bastards! Sundays I like reading a lot of the columnists. And, since everyone knows I'm the lefty liberal socialist commie that I am, I read the Sunday Boston Globe. There is a writer in the regional section that I happen to read a lot. Beverly Beckham is more of a lifestyle columnist. She touches on a lot of everyday stuff, a lot of it concerning being a mother and a grandmother. Mostly, she writes about life's little occurrences and how she perceives them. Hey, I happen to like it. What can I say.

Last Sunday, she wrote about another mother and author who happens to have a book coming out. This author, I'm not even remembering her name, started out as a blogger. She, too, wrote of the joys and foibles of motherhood. Her blog wasn't followed so much until she started inserting a few colorful words. Then, as the story goes, her blog took off. Now, I'm not a prude. I use raw language, a great deal actually. A lot of people do. One just needs to smash one's finger with a sledge hammer to find a suitable use for such language. However, this author started invoking these colorful words in describing her kids. Apparently, people loved it and she quickly had many hundreds of followers for her blog. Which brings us to her book, still unpublished it has a 5 rating on Amazon. Someone's gotta tell me how that works. Anyway, her book's title is I Heart My Little A--holes and, yes, she's talking about her kids.

Now, I'm not a parent but over the years as a real uncle and an honorary uncle, I've seen kids try to pull a lot of shit. The little urchins will try to get away with whatever they can. Have I screamed, "You little shit!" at a tot or two? Yeah, no doubt. However, I think compiling moments like that in book length form might be a little much. And, to come out and refer to your children as "My Little A--holes" has got to be crossing some sort of line. Yet, what does it say about readers who gobble this stuff up?

I think Beverly Beckham was making at least a couple of points in her column. She wondered why many readers may be drawn to the type of analogy that labels young children with pretty rough profanity. Maybe because it hits home more than we think, I guess. I certainly hope the swearing is laced with many more hugs and I love you's than you little a--hole. But, she also admonished the author for her lazy writing. She thought the author should have strived to be more creative about the relationship with her kids.

Beckham might be right. It may not be a great thing to put down in print what you're really thinking about the little brats. But, you know, if I found a way to make money writing about bitching at people, that would be tempting. I mean, maybe not like real little kids except that Honey Boo Boo bitch, but as they get older. That would be okay, I think, especially if we're talking like good money. Then, Beverly could write about how lazy she thinks I am and I'd be okay with that.