Tuesday, December 1, 2009
The basic function of the Lair is to provide fun and entertainment. Hopefully that is what it will be for those who may visit. I’m hopeful that we will continue to grow the labyrinth, add more warrens and chambers and maybe some dark recesses as the months go by. I began the excavation and development of the Lair sometime in May 1998 and have spent a lot of time just smoothing out the walls and hanging the pictures and such. Now here in late June I feel the basic chambers and paths have been made fairly structurally sound and safe for passage and going forward I intent to focus more on the content than the facade.
I make no apology for the quality of my writing or defense of my thoughts and ideas. I hope you like my poems and fiction, but it is what it is and much of what we enjoy in the arts is a manner of taste and my taste may be quite different from yours, and that shouldn’t be taken as a snub of either of us. If you don’t agree with some or all of what I may express on these pages, that is your right, just as it is my right to say it. After all, most of what I say boils down to my opinion. You don’t have to agree with me, or even like me, just respect my right to express myself.
I plan to add some interactive stuff in the future that will allow you to feel more a part of the lair, but bear with me for a while. I am still new to making web pages, just learning how to make graphics and animations and so am stumbling along somewhat crudely in some things. I am trying to keep my graphics original, however, rather than taking pictures off of other sites. The graphics in Ms Noelle’s Art Gallery were done by my second daughter, not by me. She originally drew them in Paint when she was about thirteen.
If, by the way, any of my links should fail, would you E-Mail me at msn so I can correct the goof. I’m open to constructive criticism, and especially to nice comments, if your wish to sign my Guestbook in the Guest Alcove.
I did put Amazon.com on my some of my pages, which is one of the few commercial enterprises that Geocities allows. If you feel inclined to order books from them, I would be pleased if you do through the Lair. I do have a Lair Gif and Book Shop where I have featured some of their books as well as provide free gif souvenir’s of the Lair.
Anyway, thanks for stopping by, I hope you find something enjoyable and I hope you’ll pass through the Lair again sometimes to see what’s been added. If you did find something you enjoyed, I would ask you to add my page to any site links on your own page, and if you would like me to link you on my site, sign my guestbook with your URL and I will come visit. (I hope you understand that I will decide what I link on my page and so will always check out the site before I do so.)
I love computers. The personal computer is like a fulfillment of long ago dreams, back when I did my writing on a battered, second-hand Underwood manual typewriter and thought that was slick and sleek. But oh how annoying it was to make any changes, to correct any misspellings (and I am a really adept misspeller) or make carbon copies. I would dream of having some fabulous machine that would take care of all those problems, and lo and behold--the computer.
Yet, it seems you cannot have a dream without it occasionally drifting over into nightmare, and this week it has verged on being nothing but nightmares.
At work (yes, I’m afraid I do have a real world job) our computers are plugged into a network. The network is the “evil empire”. And it was shutting me down without warning. Kapoof! “Ha-ha, you wasted that hour of work. It’s all gone in a blink of the cursor!” And so it went. It’s been a fickle beast all month. Slow to move, slow to process, but quick to pounce and destroy.
And then the Network’s kith and kin, this Internet, this web, played it’s own brand of nasty magic. I had a link on my webpage to another site, but last night when this person opened their site: Yikes! Their home page was a white, blank sheet. All their work had disappeared to who-knows where. Alas, now they have moved to a new site and began to rebuild their neighborhood dwelling hopeful that no more cyber-tornados will come to blow it away. When I get their new address I will put up their link again.
Buying certain books commit you to a lifelong relationship -- that seems to be how some publication houses think. Purchasing their books is a vow of marrage until death doth us part. You want to buy one book for a specific reason and you practically need a divorce lawyer to stop receiving future issues. I don’t even bother buying from certain places anymore because it is such a nuisance to stop them from sending me more than I asked for.
I suppose the first of such bondings began in 1963 when my wife and I purchased an encyclopedia. Oh, it was just such a dandy package. A twenty-four volume set encyclopedia, a ten-volume set of children classics and going forward, ten-years of yearbooks to keep the information fresh; and a bookshelf build to hold it all. The problem is it took 34 years to get the bleeping yearbooks to stop coming, by which time there wasn’t any more room on the bookcase and it was sagging in the middle from the weight of the years piled on top.
Unfortunately I do very well at repeating my mistakes, because about ten years ago I ordered an accounting book, figuring it would help on a project I was involved with at my job. Six months later, I receive an update, a bundle of pages to replace changes made to parts of the original ones. Well, isn’t that nice of them, I thought. Then a couple of weeks later I receive a bill for about ninety bucks for this update. So, I pass the bill on to the boss and the company pays the fee. Six months later a familiar package arrives, and so it went every six months thereafter, following me as I moved here and there in the company, like some ghostly albatross stalking this ancient reader.
I really don’t want these updates anymore. I just received another and I went over the bill closely and found how to end it...maybe. I have to send back the package, which I have done, and now I have to call this place and ask them to cancel the account and I have to do it within a certain amount of time or I have to pay the bill. I hate this kind of stuff. When I order a book, I want just that book at that time. If there are updates, then fine, send me a notice saying there is an update and ask me to return a card if I WANT THE UPDATE. None of this negative response stuff. Don’t give me this, “We’re going to sent this thing to you unless we hear from you in the next ten minutes that you don’t want it”.
I’ll tell you the worst example to prove why this is a scam to unload books on people who don’t want them. Three years ago, I ordered a cookbook from a major credit card firm back when I wouldn’t leave home with out them. After all, my wife had been a subscriber to their cooking magazine and she liked to collect cookbooks. Fine, no problem, the book came, I paid for it. End of story? NOT ON YOUR LIFE.
A year rolled by and a letter came in the mail offering the new year’s version of this cookbook. I asked my wife if she wanted it and she said no she didn’t. So we send back the card saying we didn’t want the new cookbook. A couple of weeks go by and we receive a card from this credit card company telling us they received our refusal card too late to stop shipment of the cookbook, and sure enough a few days later the cookbook arrives. Now, think about it, we sent their card back too late to stop shipment, but they had enough time to get our card and prepare a reply that it was too late and send the reply to us in time to arrive almost a week before the book...BUT THEY DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO STOP THE BOOK SHIPPING! Give me a break!
So I took the book still within its unopened package to the post office and sent it back as refused by the addressee. I then endured receiving a dunning notice each and every month for the remainder of the year trying to collect payment for the cookbook, even though we send back the first such bill saying we had sent back the book. So end of story, right? NOT AT ALL!
This year we receive a letter in the mail notifying us the new revised version of this glorious cookbook was now available and would be sent to us if we didn’t sent back the card saying we didn’t want it. We sent back the card IMMEDIATELY UPON RECEIPT saying we didn’t want it. It came anyway. It is sitting on our coffee table as I type, unopened. It came with a message that they received our refusal too late to stop shipment. They received the refusal too late? What do you have to do? Telegraph your refusal the day BEFORE you receive their offer?
The problem this time is the book has probably sat here too long. We’ve been busy and distracted and I kept forgetting to take it to the post office to return and bills for it have already began to arrive. And like a lot of people, I’ll probably say, “oh well”, pay the bill and stick it on my wife’s cookbook shelf, and this company will have sold another book that wasn’t wanted. And next year I’ll receive the notice to send back the refusal that can’t possibly meet their deadline to prevent shipping.
And I call this a scam, scam, scam.
Illustration: Photo of a set of encyclopedias from familybusinessideas.com
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
I thought it might be well to mention that this site supports free speech. Apparently this kind of statement upsets some folk. I refer anyone upset by the idea that someone supports free speech to the quote at the beginning of this eruption. It is the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and it may just be the most important few words in that document.
For anyone who drifts by here who does get upset when they read that this site supports freedom of speech and begins to conjure an assault upon their tender eyes from a sty of vile language, or perverted sexual images, or manic outlines for reaping violence against people, places and things, be assured one will not find such here. This site would be rated PG at worst.
I would say this site would not contain comments or words that are offensive to anyone except it is impossible for anyone to make that claim. There is always someone, somewhere who is offended by the most innocuous statement or interprets a comment wrongly and takes offense. I can’t prevent this from happening anymore than anyone else can, unless I were to say nothing at all and present blank pages to the world, and if that were to be happening, then we would know there is no more freedom of speech.
If I ever write something that offends, I hope you will take the time to examine why it offends you. I can assure it wasn’t intended to offend. Everything expressed on these pages is opinion, and you can agree, disagree or be indifferent to it, but you shouldn’t take it personally. If something does offend, well frankly you have a right to be offended! If you give up your right to be offended, then the rest of us must give up the right to speak freely, and once that happens the rest of our freedoms will also soon be surrendered.
Remember, when you open someone’s site and you read something that truly offends you...you don’t have to go back there anymore! But you should at least consider what the person is saying, should form some ideas why it offended you, should form some ideas of why you disagree, should form some ideas about why you are right in your thinking and they are wrong. And if you are concerned about the reaction of children to any content, for gosh sake discuss it with your children and make it clear to them what is wrong with it.
There use to be a quote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” This was a paraphrase of a statement written by the Frenchman Voltaire to a M. le Riche: “Monsieur l’Abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.” The truth is once we begin to decide we can put limitations on what can be said, we have destroyed freedom of speech.
I would also say, so what if someone writes a diatribe of invective against a people, a race or a religion? Doesn’t that say more about that speaker then those spoken against? The object must be to cut through the emotional reaction to words and cool them off with logical argument against such ideas. If the ideas expressed are that of my enemy, I would still rather know this is my enemy and this is what she or he thinks, then to have my enemy banned from my view where they are busy planting verbal daggers in my back.
Freedom of speech is our right by the Constitution. It is the way we have to express ideas, good or bad, and place them in open debate. It is the one weapon we all have to protect our other freedoms, and it is the power of such a freedom that makes many groups, and politicians, and others wish to limit speech and dictate what is proper to say. You may hate what someone says, but when someone can speak against you, and you can speak against him or her, then you know for a while you are still free and safe. When you must guard your expressions and avoid certain subjects is when you are in danger.
There is reason to feel in danger today.
I’m still around. This was a whirlwind week, a Jurassic Park of job hunting, full of pitfalls, ambushes and corporate dinosaurs. I wandered through the forest of depression and fell into the bog of despair for the first time since Flipper the Bald-Beguiler escorted me to the first-floor lair of Regina the Terrifying and announced my exile from the Big Bucks Banking Tribe.
I signed with Pretend-We’ve-Got-A-Job-For-YouTemps the other week and after a couple false starts they came across with an interview that they swore was a sure thing, the interview but a formality. They contented that I would be starting the job on Wednesday the 30th. The job sounded ideal. It was coordinating budgets, work I have a great deal of past experience doing. The pay rate was in the range I was seeking and it was located downtown, which is very convenient for me. It was a temp position to fill for a person who was on sick leave, but it was more than expected that this person would not be coming back and the job would turn permanent. The job was for the County Council.
I went to the interview, all spiffed up and spit-shining. I met the council representative and then she and the President of Council and the councilman for the city and the current temp person all interviewed me. The interview seemed to go swimmingly. We talked, we laughed, we bonded. After the interview, the council rep told me she thought the interview went well and that I probably would be offered the job.
But there was something unnerving lurking about the fringes because I was told this was to work on budgets and they kept referring to it as Auditor. Questions led me to believe it was more than originally represented. Still, I waited for word and no word came. By Thursday I grew despondent, because I was getting no information from Pretend-We’ve-Got-A-Job-For-YouTemps good, bad or indifferent, just that they were waiting. I suspected this was going nowhere and I really, really crashed emotionally. I got very depressed. I wasn’t answering any emails from anyone I was so gloomed-out.
Thursday morning, I replied to a couple ads in the local newspaper and on Monster.Com and on Delawareonline.com. One of the newspaper ads had a telephone number to call and another had an email address. I called the one and emailed my resume to the other. The one I called set up an interview for Friday at 11:00. I suspected they were another employment agency rather than an employer, but took the appointment. Then I looked up some employment agencies and headed out in the afternoon to present me credentials and beg for help. Well, I didn’t actually beg.
I had picked four places to go. I had my resumes and my references all ready. I had my newly issued replacement birth certificate and social security card. (I discovered after Big Bucks Banking kicked me out that I didn’t exist in the eyes of the world. I had lost my Social Security Card, which I had had in my wallet since I got it in 1959; and what I always thought was my birth certificate was only a hospital document, with dainty little footprints, but of no legal value. I had to regain the official documents, which is a whole other story.)
I went to the first agency, the one nearest me home. I found it in the Concord Plaza Maze of Confusion only to discover a sign on the door saying “By Appointment Only”. On to the next, one located downtown and ah, no signs, no closed door, but this time a maze through a building. At the end was a live human being, who said: “Oh, you have the wrong office. You want our office elsewhere in another galaxy, lord, lord.” She did take my resume to fax and gave me two names. (I called the next day and was told these names were in a meeting, but they would get back to me. They have never gotten back to me.)
So I sashayed over to the next downtown avenue to a condominium and asked the deskman for the next agency.
“Go down the elevator to the basement of darkness and wandered the crooked passages to the far corner and there they will be.”
And so I wandered the dim corridors and came to the door of my quest, only to find it locked and impenetrable, a dead end in the Forbidden Fields of Frustration.
My last gasp was down in the corporate common across from the fortress where I had formally labored for several years. I wandered another vast building to another office door and much to my surprise this one allowed me entrance. I was confronted here by a woman on the telephone talking like a legal beagle collecting a bone. When she hung up she said, “Yes indeed, she was the service, let her change from her lawyer hat to her agent hat.” She took my portfolio of life. Then she asked if I had tried Manpower. They had just moved in down the hall.
I found a friendly person at Manpower, who took my resume and gave me a brochure and lifted my spirits with her cheeriness.
I came home and late that day, Manpower called with a temp job that allegedly might interest me. It was right across the street from them. I said I was interested, oh yeah. Then I got an email response from another job reply I had emailed asking if they could set up an interview next week. I said go for it.
Manpower called today (Friday) and an interview with this company was set for Tuesday. But first thing this morning, waking me up actually, making me think the alarm clock was jangling, I got a call back from the newspaper ad job I had emailed my resume to. They wanted to know if I could take an interview today. Thus I went out on two interviews today.
As I suspected, the first (at 11:00) was an employment agency. So I signed up anyway. I had to take a couple tests and stuff, so I was there a couple hours.
My other interview was at 3:00. I set off at 2:00 to find the place and managed to get lost. I actually got near the place and stopped in the U-Haul dealership they had given me as a landmark to ask for the exact street I needed. They directed me off in the other direction, back toward me own place. I traveled their way and finally stopped at a gas station to ask further direction. A man, looking like an extra in the film “Deliverance”, directed me another way. Finally I did the smart thing; stopped at a Wawa and called. I had actually been very close at that U-Haul. I only had to go four blocks toward the river to find the place. Despite all this, I actually was there on time.
As you can see I have had an exhausting, often disappointing week of charging windmills.
But…I got the job at that last place I interviewed. I start at 8:00 Wednesday morning. It is an accounting position, but not real heavy. It is also something I have done and can do quite well. The starting salary was in the range I have been seeking. And it is perhaps ten minutes from where I live and easy to get to (once you actually know where it is). It is a printing business and is family owned. The President, who interviewed me, is the fourth generation to run the company. It has 28 employees and is growing, having just purchased another rival press; I am replacing a woman who is retiring after doing this job for the last 19 years. Everyone I met was very nice. It is casual dress and hopefully this is exactly what I want at this point of my life.
Anyway, that is my long story and why I have been hiding all week. I hope all is going well with you. I will certainly keep you up to date.
By the way, I heard a rumor that short little CEO Big Bear was thinking of leaving Big Bucks Banking. Anyone heard anything along this line?
NOTE: This piece was written in early 2002. The job at the printing company lasted a year and a quarter and I was back on the street again. Big Bear didn’t leave Big Bucks Banking until 2010 when it turned into Bleeding Bucks Banking because of bad loans. The question has not been answered yet whether he was forced out or left on his own.
I didn’t know there were alternative means of getting to university other that your parents sending you off and paying the bill. Oh, I was aware of scholarships that paid the way, but although I was getting good marks, my overall GPA wasn’t going to attract attention, nor would my athletic prowess, unless there were awards for clumsy trackmen. The only organized team I was ever on was Track and I didn’t even make the right choices doing that.
The coach ran all fledgling trackies through every event during the first practices and I performed best running the mile. I actually put in a very good time for that event for that era for a teenager, but I never enjoyed running; therefore, I choose shot put and discus. We weight guys almost never had to run. I was probably the least bulky guy in the shot put ring. Standing next to any other contestant waiting to put would be the closest I'd come to being a number ten in the sport. I was lucky my tosses missed my toes.
I was somewhat better with the discus. See, I told you I didn’t like to run. With these two events, I didn’t even have to walk. It was always the same porkers that lined up at the discus circle that had lined up at the shot put pit. but perhaps being lighter than the rest of the field gave me more leverage. I managed to hurl the discus through the air and down the field. Still, having poundage must have added some advantage since most these other fellows could throw it a bit further down the field.
Finally at the last meet of our season, the last meet of my high school career; my last chance at glory, that moment in all films where the scrawny kid hits the winning homer or scores the winning touchdown or kicks the stuffing out of the Karate champ, I out-distanced everyone. Oh, it sailed off into the blue sky so pretty, the gold along its edges glimmering from the sun. “He…might…go…all…the…way!” It curved down in a slick arc and skittered into the green mat of the football field pass all the previous marks.
And I, the mighty thrower, teetered on my toes, contorted about in the follow through, awaiting my applause as I slowly slipped over and fell out of the ring to disqualification.
No, no Olympics in this kid's future, and no big-time college money either.
So I left high school with a hazy goal of finding a job. I had no particular skill I was aware of and certainly had received no direction over my youth. The only advice I ever remember getting from my dad was “Don’t get an F and don’t get a girl in trouble.” I was half successful in following his admonishment. I never got a girl in trouble (and to be honest, when he told me that, I had no idea what he was talking about). I did get an F in ninth grade Latin (.
I did have two ambitions. Everyone around me dismissed them as unrealistic, things in the same childish utterances as , "I want to be a cowboy when I grow up". I wanted to be an artist and/or a writer when I grew up. I didn’t have sky-high goals either. I wanted to be a cartoonist or a horror-story writer; even a hack horror-story writer was fine. This didn’t get a lot of encouragement at home though. This wasn’t real work. This was what came from too-much reading. This wasn’t something one could earn a living doing.
Writing was different. I was always writing and in my senior year I got the first encouragement since junior high school. (During junior high I spent a lot of evenings at the town library. The librarian took an interest in my stories and let me use the library typewriter to type them and she would read them and make positive comments.) Mrs. Mancer was my English teacher’s name and early on she assigned the writing of a short story. I wrote a tale called “Rescue”, about a man trapped on the side of a cliff that had an Alfred Hitchcock Presents little twist at the end. I got an A, but more importantly I got attention. When she found out I wanted to be a writer, she actually set aside a couple of class periods for me to read to the class. I read twenty-six poems and four stories to the class over two periods.
Suddenly for the first time in my life I was "cool" or at least something a few degrees below tempid. Because all the stories I read were horror, I gained a nickname – Frank. This was short for Frankenstein and was used complimentary. I was Frank thereon.
This led to more glory. I was asked to write a comic assembly on Shakespeare’s life. I wrote a narrated play called “Shakespeare and the Theatre”. (Okay, it isn’t a very witty or original title but the play was funny and went over well.) "Wild Bill’ Shakespeare became a catch phrase about the school after the two assembly it was performed. During the first performance, one of the actors took a nasty gash to the hand during a sword fight and had to get stitches, but he finished his role, blood dripping on his tunic, but it would hardly have been a play by “Frank” without a little gore.
I had two friends in my class and they had both acted in “Shakespeare and the Theatre” and we were always together at school. They were both named Ray. Ray Number One and I had a side career going hosting school sock hops. We were the comic DJs, “Gravely and Hearse”. (At that time there was a popular local TV show similar to Bandstand hosted by two radio personalities named Grady and Hurst.)
Then Larry, his friend Ray and his other friend Ray wrote two sketches together for the school variety show: “Barber and the Boy” and “Flea-Spray Ad”. Here is “Flea-Spray Ad in its entirety:
Two men come on stage to dance before the curtain. They spot a sexy French Girl in the aisle with a poodle. One man goes downstage to pet the dog. When he returns he is itchy. The other man starts to help him scratch and then he gets itchy. A Third Man enters with a squirt gun. He sprays at the men and they stop scratching. The Third Man smiles and they thank him and the first two men exit. Then the Third Man gets itchy and falls onto the stage floor scratching. The other two men return and carry him off.
Believe it or not this bit got big laughs.
“Barber and the Boy” was a ten-minute sketch and it was the featured act of the show, the closer. I was the Barber and at the end of the act, I got to do my headfirst fall off the front of the stage into the auditorium aisle where I then lay “dead” until the audience filed out. This show was done three times: once for the Junior High, once for the Senior High and once in the evening for parents and the general public.
Still, high school ended and I was told to forget such nonsense.
I was pass the "I wanna be when I grow up stage". I was grown up and there was no more time for being a cowboy. It was time to find a real job.
I was pass the "I wanna be when I grow up stage". I was grown up and there was no more time for being a cowboy. It was time to find a real job.
In one neighbor a squad of grade school terrorists insisted on trailing in my footsteps bombarding me with dirty jokes. These usually involved innocent words also used to name human body parts that these kids found highly hilarious to say to someone just trying to earn a living.
We went from town to town until we had Mr. Cleaned the area and then the job ended and the Van moved on to the next plateau. However, there was a base crew who traveled with the van and the boss offered me a place in that crew because he liked my “hustle’. I had just turned 18 while on this job and in those days was still considered a child and would need my parents’ permission for such an adventure. I knew they would never sign, so I turned down the offer. I wonder how different my life would have been if I had went a-hanging Mr. Clean from coast-to-coast?
The next month I went off to IBM School in Philly. Now why did my parents agree to this school and not college? Because at this school you learned to run machines and running machines was “real work”. The school advertised it course as the “Job of the Future”. It was TAB Operation and Wiring. We were taught to run IBM equipment from a 024 Keypunch to a 604 Calculator. The next step up would be to those giant computers that only giant corporations had in those days, you know the ones with doors that you would walk inside to change vacuum tubes.
It was not just operating this equipment, it was programming as well. You would be given a business case, like a payroll or accounts receivable function and using paper templates you would figure out how to convert this manual operation so the machines could do it. Next you had to get punch cards designed and produced to carry the data and you had to have a program to make the various equipment understand what the cards said and what they were to do with that information. This programming was then done on control boards by plugging in wires in proper patterns. Some machines took bigger boards than others. The 427 Accounting Machine had the monster boards and the more complicated wiring. Each job process had to have its own separate board.
I made a friend at this school. His name was Tom. (I guess his name is still Tom actually. I lost track of him decades ago.) Here we were both studying the “Job of the Future” and both studying Art through a correspondence school. I was studying with Art Institute, who claimed Charles Schulz on its board. He was studying with the other big name art correspondence school of the day, Famous Artists, who claimed Norman Rockwell on its board. I think Nagy, the TV artist, was also claimed by them. And we both were doing it because we wanted to be cartoonists. Oddly enough, I finished first in the IBM class and Tom finished second.
I never did find a job doing TAB Operation and Wiring. It was always too little experience because I never had a job yet or too much experience because of the schooling I did. The last time I saw a TAB Control Board was a few years back when I took the family for a week in Washington DC. I found control boards displayed in the Smithsonian Institute. Does anything make you feel older than discovering the “Job of the Future” you once trained for is now “The Job of the Past” displayed in a museum.
Thus I remained a high school graduate with no job and no expectations. I wonder what ever became of me?
It is remarkable how alike Retired in Delaware and I are, right down to a shared dislike of seafood apparently. Is this because of our place of upbringing or due to the similarities of our fathers?
Did his father change as he aged? My dad grew mellower in the second half of his life. He certainly acted different toward my children than he did toward me growing up, although that is not totally surprising. He treated other people’s children better than me back then too.
Growing up my father always seemed to attract children. Not in any bad way, in a very positive way in fact. Perhaps there was a certain child-like quality to him that caused this phenomenon. And he seemed to genuinely like children. He could tease them and delight them in ways that he never brought to his relationship with his own son. I think both he and I realize today that we will never have the total relationship bond that should exist between a father and son. He has even on occasion actually apologized for how he treated me as a boy.
Perhaps his own childhood affected him. I think of Johnny Cash’s song, “A Boy Named Sue”, in which the father gives his son a girl’s name so the boy will have to learn to be tough. In that song the father deserts the family right after the boy is born and they only meet many, many years later when the boy is grown and sworn he would kill his father, but is stopped when the father explains his reason. You can see a certain perverse thinking toward this type of thing in the instant when he locked me out to face the snowball bullies.
He never beat me, never even spanked me, and seldom even yelled at me. But he wasn’t there most of the time and he made very caustic and hurtful remarks when he was, remarks that did nothing but hit me in my self-esteem. I never felt I pleased him, never felt I could do anything right around him and he never appreciated my abilities. I might have gained more affection from my dad if I had been a guttersnipe. If I was beating up other boys, engaging in some minor vandalism at Halloween or screwing the girls in the back shed, I think he would have shown some admiration. Instead I was reading and writing, drawing pictures, listening to high falutin’ music and talking about cultural issues. He lit up more when my mother discovered my stash of Playboy magazines hidden in the upper shelf of my closet. “So you’re a real man, after all.”
He only indicated knowledge of my artistic abilities when we were in a garage full of grease monkeys and he told me to draw a naked woman on the door.
My father did not have an easy life and I cannot fault him on his hard work and how he always provided for the family. As a child he had been diagnosis with TB and pulled from school and sent off to isolation until it was discovered the doctor had made a mistake and he didn’t have the disease. He came back to school, but dropped out in Junior High because he got tired of school. He was a tough kid, handsome and strong.
In 1937, his father, Benjamin Franklin M. III, his grandfather, William E. T. and his grand Uncle James Hunter T. all died of pneumonia. I think my father had a closer relationship to the Ts then to his own family and this was a bitter blow. His own father had been a partial invalid even before the year he died. He had injured his back in an accident related to the family’s lumber mill. As a result he was given the job of running the family store. When his father died, my dad went into the Civilian Conservation Corps that Roosevelt had set up for young men during the depression. He helped build the Skyline Drive through Virginia. This was a semi-military organization, so they had uniforms and lived in barracks. Most of their money was sent home to support their families, and he was supporting his mother and two younger brothers. This is also why my father has been a loyal Democrat his whole life, even though he married a girl from a staunch Republican family.
The M.’s apparently owned several businesses in and around Modena. The lumber mill, the general store and my great grandfather William Wilson M. I also owned several rental properties. Modena today is pretty run down. The old steel plant there closed many moon ago and the town has deteriorated. The old store still stands, as do the homes my father lived in as a boy. There is a street that was once called M. Row, but now called M. Plaza or Place or some upscale sounding name, although the street looks like a slum. It seemed to be occupied by Hispanics now, who eyed Noelle and I very suspiciously the last time I visited the spot about a year ago.
William the First also owned several rental properties in West Chester. In 1950, he died in one of these West Chester homes. He was 84 years old. At the reading of the will he basically cut his grandsons out. He left my father the $300 he had loaned him to buy a car and nothing else. This was not for anything my father or his brother’s had done, except for being born. The M.’s held a grudge against them because they believed my father’s mother had seduced his father, that she was a uppity employee of theirs who had lured the owner’s son into sex. Florence T. was twenty-five and pregnant when she married Benjamin Franklin M. III in 1918. Ben was 18 or 19 at the time.
How different would my life had been, I wonder, if any of the M. properties had been handed down to my father? Instead everything went to William the First oldest son, John M. I don’t know if his other child, Ellen, received much of anything. I do not know what my Grand Uncle John M.’s middle name was, but it may have been Miser. This man held on to money so tight, he deflated it. He would squeeze a quarter until it was reduced to a dime. When he came to my wedding, he stopped in a Coatesville Drugstore and bought this cheap, ugly bowl off a shelf as our wedding gift.
(Isn’t it strange how the rich can act as if they are the poorest? My Grand uncle John was that way and on the W. side was my cousin Bob. Bob started as a farmer, but got into real estate. He was very successful at it and then started buying hotels, improving them and reselling them. He once owned the Eagle Tavern and the Swan Hotel as well as others. Yet at my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary he gave us this cheap blanket for a single bed. But I guess that’s how the rich stay rich – they keep it all for themselves.)
Still and all, one would almost think that my father would have thought of how he had been treated by his own family and been better to his own son. But maybe it is a disease of the truck driver. At least Ron and I might have had a support system. Richard W.’s father was also a truck driver, although he drove a dump truck locally and was home every night. Richard was constantly under the gun, but he got it from both his father and mother. His younger brother was always thrown in his face, “Why can’t you be more like Tommy?”
In truth, Tommy was a brat, fat and arrogant, disrespectful, conniving, and as an adult something out of a soap opera, in that he managed to impregnate both a girl and her mother in the same year. Only recently did I begin to wonder something. Richard’s mother had been married before she married his father. She had been married to the Mayor of Pottstown, but they divorced. I have begun to wonder if Richard was the offspring of the first husband and that is why he suffered so much grief. He certainly looked different than his younger brother and younger sister. The two younger siblings bore a striking resemblance, but Richard didn’t.
I grew up with both my mother and grandmother doting on me, and my maternal grandfather was a surrogate father for many years. He and I were pretty close, despite his gruffness and roughness, until after his leg-shattering accident at the iron works afterwhich he drowned himself in alcohol to escape the pain. Ron seemed to have a very nice mother and he had two brothers as well, and though Ron talks of the rivalry, it sounds as if he was close to them.
At any rate, we don’t get to choose our parents and we survived to be what we are, and I don’t think either of us has done badly for it, at least not as persons.
The Kid never dated while living in the town we'll call Wilmillar. Oh, he had chased Michele around the seesaws for a kiss early on (her father was very upset about this, but I don't think his daughter was in much serious danger from an eight-year-old) and he carried a torch for blond-haired Mary Jane and dark-haired Judy in those the wonder years of grade school, and like several other guys felt a lust for buxom Carol in eight grade. Although he had kissed Michele and had puppy love for Mary Jane, by the time Carol became buxom he had grown to shy to do much about it.
Now he had been a close friend with Iva almost all his life, they use to bathe together [in washtubs on the lawn on hot summer days]and he had a number of friends among the girls in Grade School, he never had a "girlfriend" or even considered dating until his family moved further north in the county and he started going to high school in Pottstown.
They moved in spring 1956 when he was in ninth grade at Wilmillar Junior High. His parents didn’t want to make him change schools in mid-year, so he moved in with his grandparents and spent the weekends with his parents. This was a sudden reversal of how things had been in all the prior years when he lived weekdays in whatever home his parents occupied and got dumped at the grandparents on the weekends to let his parents have the time to themselves. (His father was a long-haul trucker, who was away except on weekends.)
The Kid made his first friend (male) at the new home on a weekend before he officially lived there. This was Rich. He was the nearest neighbor The Kid's own age. Their homes were pretty much out in the country and Rich lived a quarter mile up the road. Rich and The Kid became good buddies and went stag to the school dances together. Rich was very aggressive toward girls, but The Kid was shy. Rich would walk in, grab a girl and be dancing all night and probably stealing some kisses along the way. The Kid would hang near the sidelines too shy to ask a girl to dance.
The Kid thought too much about rejection and looking foolish; being hooted at by the other guys. Rich didn’t give such things a thought, he just plowed in and never gave a girl a chance to say no even when she said no. She might be shaking her head, but by that time he had her out on the floor shaking to the music.
Even when The Kid shouldn’t worry about things, he worried. He worried about sexual embarrassment a lot. Let me give an example of what I mean.
Rich threw a party at his house. There was a bunch there. The Kid didn’t have trouble dancing with the girls who came because he knew them all as friends, part of his crowd. And he was considered a good dancer in those days, especially doing the bop and the jitterbug. At these parties, girls wanted to dance with him.
During the evening, Rich led a group away from the house into the garage and inside were chairs arranged in a wide circle. Somebody had come up with a kind of musical chairs without music. The boys sat on these chairs. The girls then walked around in front until at some point someone would turn off the garage light and the girls had to jump on the nearest boy’s lap.
And that was what The Kid sat worrying about.
Because he was an adolescent with raging hormones and this game had him very, very, very...Well, you know, what being a adolescent with raging hormones does to a guy when girls are around being sexy. All he feared was a girl would hop on his lap and discover his condition. See, The Kid was too shy or too dumb to realize THAT was the object of the game. That is why The Kid remained a virgin.
Then one spring there came an important dance at school, a real dress-up affair, an institution of youth called the Junior Prom. Everybody wanted to go and it was strictly couples only. The Kid didn't want to not go so had to conquer shyness enough to ask a girl to what would be his first honest-to-God first date. He was in the eleventh grade, for Pete's sake, it was about time. The question was whom, because most eleventh grade girls had steadies. He sat in Driver’s Ed class one day pondering whom might not have a date already lined up for this spring fling. There was a tall blond seated right next to him. He knew she wasn’t one of the popular girls, but she wasn’t that bad looking either. Her problem was just not having a sense of how to make herself look good. She was a smidge heavier then she should have been, not fat, just kind of puffy and she wore her hair in an unflattering style and glasses. The problem with glasses in those days was the frames were heavy and ugly. They were what The Old Goat’s daughter refers to as “birth-control glasses”.
Her name was Peg and The Kid asked her and she said yes. They were to go steady for many moons after the Prom, until a certain misguided matchmaker named Ronald changed their relationship. Actually, he killed their relationship, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
The problem was he felt no real chemistry with Peg. They went to dances, to horse shows (she was a horsewoman), to many other things. They talked a lot and stayed out all night on some dates, doing nothing wrong you understand. Her parents certainly understood. Her mother adored the Kid. This was a curse he suffered. Girl’s mothers would just love him, but their daughters would care less. However, Peg did seem to care, although she proved to have weird ways of showing it.
On one double dating with Rich and his girl friend Lenore (who The Kid secretly wished was his girlfriend), they went to the Exton Drive-in. At some point Rich and Lenore disappeared from sight in the back seat. See, Rich didn’t give such things a thought, just plunged ahead. But old polite, gentlemanly The Kid simply put his arm around Peg’s shoulder and touched her arm. And she bit his thumb. She BIT his thumb! Ow, she BIT HIS THUMB! They had been going together for months and all he did was put an arm about her and she noshed on his knuckle. What was she hungry? Wasn't the popcorn enough? This wasn't going to bea romance for the ages that's for sure.
Then one day, his long time friend, Ronald said, “Let’s double date.”
“Okay,” said The Kid, “where?”
“There is a dance at Wilmillar High next week”
Well the problem was the Kid didn’t go to Wilmillar High and neither did Peg and there was a school rule that guests could only come to school dances with a student of the opposite sex.
“No problem,” said Ron. “My date will bring you in and I will bring Peg in as our guests, then we’ll simply switch once inside.”
The night of the dance Ron guided The Kid, who was the one who had both a driver's license and a car, to the home of Carmella (a girl who seemed to have two last names and The Kid never did figure out which one was official). They walked in and The Kid saw this dark angel. He thought she was stunning and was envious of Ron.
As they left her house, Carmella slipped her arm about The Kid’s and she jumped in the passenger side of the front seat next to him. Oh, well, he figured she was pretending to be his date until they got into the school.
But when they got into the school, she still clung on his arm and Peggy clung to his other glaring at him. It soon became apparent that Carmella considered herself The Kid’s date and he was so smitten with her beauty that he hung on her every word while Peg fumed behind. The man with two dates wished he had two heads with at least one brain. After he took Peg home that night, a very frosty ride by the way, she never dated him again.
She did have her revenge in a way.
At the tenth reunion of The Kid’s class his wife and he arrived at the Pottstown Moose Hall and found a table. In the adjoining room was a bar and he went in to get drinks. Seated on a stool at the bar was a glorious blond woman. Beautiful and built and sitting with her legs bared high and her shoulders bared low in a short black dress. The Kid ordered drinks and she struck up a conversation. She smiled knowingly and then said, “you don’t know who I am, do you?”
He had to confess he didn’t. “I’m Peg,” she said and you could see she was really saying, “I’m Peg and ain’t you sorry you dumped me now, chump.”
But that was in the future, and we're still dealing with Eleventh Grade. The Kid “dumped” Peg (although actually she dumped him, and he doesn’t blame her, but he didn’t regret it either). He had Carmella.
They were dating steady now and he glowed walking with her, watching guys’ eyes swivel to drink in his date for once. Then The Kid made a fatal mistake. He had to show her off to Rich.
Carmella’s parents were very genteel. Her father had something to do with the Academy of Music in Philadelphia and they were always watching TV shows like the “Voice of Firestone”. In fact, he was the only real live person The Kid ever met who actually sat about home wearing a smoking jacket. One day The Kid was driving about with Rich and asked if he’d like to meet the new girlfriend. Rich agreed and they pulled a surprise visit and what does Rich do but start using course language in front of the parents.
The Kid was no longer allowed to date Carmella.
Now it was The Kid’s turn. That summer his parents rented a place just off the beach in Wildwood NJ for a week of frolic and they took Rich along. The Kid and Rich had a ball together and right off Rich finds some birds. He went for this girl named Jeannette and he thought he had her all locked up, but The Kid was struck by her as well. She had these dimples below her eyes that made her face sparkle. They went to Dick Clark’s Dance at the Starlight Ballroom one night and in the end The Kid had Jeannette. She lived in Langhorne and he near Pottstown, but they wrote everyday to each other for the next year.
Meanwhile, The Kid began dating Pam (Rich’s cousin). Pam had the look of a fashion model. Why she went for The Kid is something of a mustery, because she was one of those chicks who could have had any guy in school with just a toss of her hair.
She was another tall girl, as Peg and Carmella and Jeannette were, but there was another girl The Kid knew and had feeling for who was quite the opposite. She was just under five foot tall and was always laughing and full of fun. Her name was Susie and she had gone steady with a friend of The Kid’s named Jon for years.
Then poof, Sue and Jon broke up over something and she feel into The Kid’s lap so to speak. Now he was dating two girls. Susie was a pilot and they would go flying on weekends out of the Pottstown airport. Here was this guy afraid to climb higher then three rungs up a ladder, who avoided roller coasters and stayed well back of cliff edges sailing off into the sky in a tin-a-lizzy Cessna single prop plane all for a girl. He sat in the backseat (the plane only sat four and was like sitting in a small car), gripping the front of the seat with very white knuckles while she pushed the plane down the runway and up into the sky. Now as a minor, she had to have an adult pilot with her when she flew, to their good fortune.
One weekend they were following route 100 south, flying over nothing much than trees. They had been airborne about a half hour when Susie swung into a 180-degree turn to go back to Pottstown. But she cut too sharply or something and stalled the engine. The single prop just stood there straight up and the plane began dipping down toward all those trees. The Kid could see the speedometer and the altimeter. The speed was climbing and the altitude was dropping. Do you know what trees can do to a thin little plane like that?
But the co-pilot jumped in and somehow got the engine started and pulled up to level flight again.
They landed safely back in Pottstown and the first thing Susie did was throw up all over the tarmac. But they were out flying again the next week.
The Kid faced a scarier dilemma than a plummeting plane, one more painful than bitten thumbs, too, At least emotionally when a guy has two girlfriends. The Senior Prom was looming and The Kid already had made the date with Pam, but Susie wanted him to take her. There was one solution his good pal, Ron. If Ron could get him in trouble with two girls, then he could also get him out of trouble with two girls. Thus The Kid arranged another double date. Ron and Suzy and him and Pam.
However, Ron also had to play his Sousaphone in a band concert that night and it ran late and it seemed they would never get to Pam’s to pick her up. Always seemed to be little twists and turns when Ron and The Kid tried to double date. Still, The Kid wouldn't have missed that pairing, of the nearly six-foot-four Ron with the four-foot-eleven Susie.
After that night The Kid dated Pam and Suzy some more, but Suzy eventually went back to Jon. Sometime after high school Suzy met with tragedy. Always the adventurous one, she took up motorcycles and one day crashed. She lost an eye and was never quite the same after that.
Meanwhile The Kid began dating another girl, a tall redhead. Perhaps it was some kind of strange compensation for a disappointment he had suffered that her name was Louise. The Kid had wanted to date another girl named Louise, but she turned down his efforts, so maybe he turned to one Louise as a substitute for another. Oh, well it was a short fling for after graduation The Kid was to fall hard for a certain blue-eyed blond.
The night The Kid graduated high school, some people he didn’t even know invited him to a party at a restaurant out on Route 422 toward Phoenixville. He barely knew their daughter, whom the party was for, but found himself sitting next to her all evening. At some point she invited him to visit her home during the summer and he said yes out of politeness. Her name was Sonja.
Sonja’s parents and aunt were immigrants from Russia. Her father was much older than The Kid’s parents and the man was very bright. He had an airplane in his backyard that he had built himself. They were interesting people. Her mother sort of reminded The Kid of one of the Gabor sisters and her aunt was very funky, funny and a little kooky. Still, The Kid didn’t really plan to go to her place. He had hardly noticed her in school. They had had no classes together. He recalled she played piano in the variety show that he had performed comedy in and she had written the music to the class song, but that was about it.
Still, he called to thank her for the evening and she invited him again and he said okay. She said bring a bathing suit, for they had a pool. He went.
She lived out in the country. There was a long tree lined lane to her house, which crossed a little stream that had been dammed up to form their pool. As the Kid pulled up to the front of the house (which her father had also single-handily built) he heard classical music playing from a lawn speaker and she was waiting, her golden hair blowing in the summer breeze, wearing a swimsuit. The Kid was at once deep, deep in amour. He walked to her in a trance and she was wearing a perfume and her blue eyes were almost pastel in color and that was all he knew. They swam and had a lunch and talked.
When he parted in the evening, she pressed against him and kissed him, and she was kind of sliding up and down and he went to worrying again because you know why. That old problem had arisen. He was afraid she would feel it and kept trying to back away all the time thinking she doesn’t know what she is doing to me. Some years later, Mr. Naïveté finally realized she knew exactly what she was doing.
When Sonja went off to the big city to study she dropped The Kid for more exciting friends. He was devastated. Even though he shared mutual friends with Sonja and still saw her and longed for her, she was over him and he felt depressed and lost. He wrote a musical play during that period in hopes of impressing her.
At the time, Sonja had introduced The Kid to the son of a sculpturer who lived in Valley Forge named Bob. Bob wrote music and decided to score The Kid’s play. They would get together in the bell tower of the George Washington Chapel at Valley Forge and write the music.
It was an ironic partnership because Bob was a guy Sonja had a thing for, one of those she had dropped The Kid for. However, her yearning for Bob remained unrequited. Bob was Gay.
After Sonja, The Kid began dating a girl similar to Susie is stature, except she had red hair. She was only about five foot tall and was Irish. Her name was Pat. They were getting quite serious and that worried her parents because of religious differences. They stepped in and forbid her to see The Kid anymore. (Of course, that was a relief to his own parents, because Pat was a staunch Roman Catholic. Always remember prejudices run in both directions.)
Pat met The Kid in the hallway where they both worked and told him her parents’ order and then she ran off crying to the ladies room. The Kid turned around and bumped into a tall, slim girl and she said hi.
A little after that The Kid walked this tall, slim girl, a former model, to her subway stop, and just before she stepped through the turnstile, he asked for a date. He figured if she said no, she could slip off to the platform and he to the street above with less embarrassment, but she said yes, and she was another Irish lass, but Protestant. A year later the Kid married her.