Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Monday, March 31, 2014

What, Nudity wasn't among them?

Before I wrote this essay I did a Google search on "American Couple".  Why, you may ask. Because it was one of the 10 top keywords that people searched that brought them to my "Drinking of Elder Men" Blog and I wondered why. I got a lot of pages with that search, but didn't find anything referencing anything I wrote.

One of those mysteries of a writer's life.

Surprisingly the word "Nudity" was not in the top ten. This is wondrous because one of the most popular essays I ever posted was titled "There is Nudity in This Post." In actuality there was no nudity in that post, unless you count some statuary in Phoenix, Arizona and the word nudity itself. It getting the most hits must say something about the public mind.

By the way, there is nudity in this post. It is right there on the left in plain sight - Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase", 1912.

Anyway, have you ever wondered just what drives people to click in and read what you wrote?  Some of the keywords are understandable, some are puzzling such as that "American Couple" and some are downright disturbing. Would "nudity" fall into the category of disturbing or humorous?

I understand "Peg Tube" and "gravity feeding bags". These terms turned up in several posts I did about my mother's struggles after she suffer a stroke two years ago on April 1. I am certain a number of people came up against those terms in similar health issues and were searching for explanations or descriptions of the procedure. I would say this was likewise with "tylenol arthritis" since I have written many times about my arthritis, and also specifically mentioned tylenol on occasion.

"Devils Road in Delaware" and "Cossart Road" were  popular keywords, not un-expectantly, for many are fascinated about this weird and popular urban legend around these parts. Everyone likes a good ghost story, plus I provided film.

It was a nice drizzly gray day when I took that ride, too, which really added atmosphere to my tale of eerie trees and mysteriously appearing pickup trucks.

Harold Bennett made the top ten. I did do a couple posts about the British cast members of "Keeping Up Appearances" and "Are You being Served", but of all the actors in those two shows, why Young Mr. Grace of "Are You being Served?" would be the featured attraction I have no idea.

I suppose searching for him and finding me is at least reasonable, I am not so certain about those who came to me after searching "Happy Tomato", but there it is coming in right before "Harold Bennett" on the list. Sorry, Mr. Grace, but happy Tomato beat you out.

In the section I would call disturbing, and in the upper half of the list, was the term, "Biblical king that poked eyes out". This is a bit nasty, is it not, but I did mention just such a character or two in my reviews of the History Channel's, "The Bible Series".

Finally and at the very bottom of the list, but still in the top ten and a little disturbing nonetheless was "hot men boobs". This is a popular search item and it led people to me? I mean, really!

Hmm, now I wonder if this post will prove popular because I used the word nudity in the title. We shall see.


Mutterings Mighty, Minor and Mini Mincing Much of Matters Minimal

On a recent visit to Lewes, Delaware, I met in person a friend of my friend Ron, whose name is Pat. In the photo on the left the two look-a-likes to my right are Pat and Ron. I realize they could easily pass for brothers, but they aren't. Pat is from Canada and planning to move down to Sussex County sometime this year.

There are several interesting things about Pat, but one that has brought him some notice and fame up in Toronto is his house.

He has been written up in articles; in fact, has written an article to two himself, concerning this structure. He has even been featured on a TV show about unique homes. Click here for the TV visit. Pat's home follows one made of straw.

Unique looking it certainly is. It has this ski-jump little roof and those three elongated windows down the front. It is certainly far from the many McMansions that appeared all over the landscape around my parts during the former housing boom. It is compact, simple, yet pleasing and has a fashionably slim figure.

But it isn't really the look of the building that is the story here. It is the stuff inside or lack thereof.
Here is Pat's entry, Living, dining and kitchen area. This must be a somewhat older photograph because it is far less cluttered than when visited by the host of that TV show I mentioned. That bulking desk is gone. Now there is a sort of fold out desk built into the side wall, looking a bit like the deposit and withdrawal slip containers by a bank entrance. It slides open to reveal his trusty laptop computer and other useful tools.

The kitchen, which you see on the right, contains an oven/range, sink and refrigerator. The stove and sink each disappear under cover to become simply a long counter, the faucet sliding down flush. The refrigerator is also under the counter and about the size of the frat-boy beer cooler I have in my office here. (No beer, I fear, just chocolate milk, ice tea and a variety of "sody-pop". I guess one simplification in my life is being a teetotaler.)

His bedroom is basically a balcony up an open staircase. And yes, the bed folds out of sight into the wall. The footprint of this home if 566 square feet.

You see among other things, Pat is a minimalist. (He is also a Vegan, but no one is perfect.)

My middle child, daughter Number 2, is also a minimalist and probably pretty good competition. (She is a Vegetarian.) This is her apartment pictured on the right. It would not be so full of stuff if not for the toys and things for her two cats.

So what is a minimalist? Is it someone suffering from claustrophobia?

Well, one definition is "one who favors restricting the functions and powers of a political organization or government."  By that definition I am a minimalist. 

Another definition is "a person who favors a moderate approach to the achievement of a set of goals or who holds minimal expectations for the success of a program." I am not that and I know my daughter isn't and I doubt Pat is either. I favor a realistic approach to achievement, but I hold optimistic expectations of high success. I think it is better to sometimes fall a bit short than to start out with a goal of underachievement.

The applicable term for minimalist here is restricting our possessions to what is necessary. What we might feel is necessary to a pleasant life might vary, of course. I am, to tell the truth, a minimalist at heart. I would not go so far to say I would like to pack all my belongings into a backpack like Andrew
Hyde, but I have been working to reduce the clutter of my life.

"Yeah," you say, " it don't look so empty behind you in those photos that pop up now and again!"

True, but what is in this little 9 x 11 room is most of what are my personal belongings, and some of them may go. I'd be rid of the racks of CDs since I have all my music in iTunes now, except my wife prefers the CDs. Yes, there are other rooms and they have furniture and pictures on the walls and knickknacks and stuff, but remember I'm not a singular man. My wife and daughter live with me and they aren't necessarily of a minimalist mind. Most of what is in this place I consider theirs. I have tossed most of what was mine away.

What you see mostly in this room are books. Maybe one of these days I'll donate these to the library, as I did many of my other books. A few years ago my personal library contained over 5,000 volumes and the downstairs was lined along every wall with shelves to hold them.  Those shelves and the contents are all gone now along with most everything that was in the area with them.

My bed isn't in here, but it could be if my wife and I ever choose not to sleep in the same room. She has the real bed, I sleep on a futon, which folds up.

You can see I minimized my hair.

I donated most of my clothes a couple years ago as well. I don't have much of a wardrobe. I wear these gray workout pants most the winter. They are nice and warm. My other winter wear consists of a couple of sweatshirts, a couple hoodies and a couple coats. I have a pair of black jeans, a pair of kakis and a pair of black slacks. I have a number of T-shirts, which I wear all year. In summer I trade the workout pants for shorts. I don't own a suit anymore and very few shoes. (Left, with Pat in Rehoboth.) Oh, I do own a hat because I can't see outside in sunlight without it because of an eye condition.

I saw in 2012 that life was not things when I had to clean out my parents home. Ninety plus years of gathering objects and in the end you know what was left of their possessions? Nothing but the photographs.

I have in this room what I use, my computer, my Bibles, my little refrigerator and those records we all must keep. The white binders in the background of my photograph are the books I've written over time, though I still have a dozen more to bind up. I'll keep those.

 I agree, Pat, things are shackles on our freedom and living. I really am of a minimalist mind.

But I ain't goin' Vegan!





Sunday, March 30, 2014

Rising of the Irish

After high school it appeared for a while that I would never find a job. I was hardly equipped for much, but the other options were not available to me, or at least I had been led to believe by my parents, these being college or the military. My own desire was to be a writer, but the wise counselors of the Pennsylvania Educational System had informed me I didn't have the vocabulary for such a pursuit. They found me suited to running a machine. Nonetheless, I did finally gain full and lawful employment near the end of November 1959; my first day was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so I had my first day working and then my first paid holiday all in a row. The place setting pictured here has nothing to do with Turkey Day, but much to do with the coming and going of my next romance with a girl I met at Atlantic Refining Company in early 1960.

Her name was Pat (Patricia) and she was Irish through-an'-through. She was a wee slip of a lass and cute as a button, as the cliche goes. Like Suzy, another cute girl, she was short, less than five foot tall and at the peak of her head was the loveliest red hair.

We first went together to a party that mutual acquaintances at Atlantic threw and while there made a second date to visit Willow Grove Amusement Park on a double date. This was not with Ronald and Ginny because by then Ronald was in the Army and gone from the area.

By the late spring, several dates together, we were getting very serious about our relationship. It reached that point where the girl invites the boy home to meet the family, and in this case, practically here whole family.

It was quite the shindig, a word her family probably never used, and I even had to wear a suit and tie for the occasion. As if I wasn't nervous enough just meeting ma and pa I was positively petrified when the whole gaggle of us sat down to eat. You see, I come from plain folks, working class people, who often suffered from lack of funds. When we sat down to a meal there was a dish, a knife, a fork and possibly a spoon. I would have a glass of whatever I was drinking and the "adults" would all have a coffee cup behind the plate, not necessarily on a saucer. Except for our more elaborate Sunday dinner, there was often no tablecloth and napkins were of the folded paper variety held in a plastic thing-a-ma-bob on one edge of the table by the salt, pepper and ketchup.

Now I sat down facing a bowl upon a platter and a saucer and cup and another tiny bow-like dish, a glass on a tall pedestal (crystal stemware) and a platoon of silver. There were knives and forks of varied sizes flanking the plate and bowl as well as a couple of spoons and then another spoon and smaller fork parallel behind the plate. The napkin was cloth and in a ring. There was most certainly a tablecloth and to protect the brocade of this cloth, placemats. This was confusing enough, but what worried me most was a small bowl beside each setting filled with a clear liquid. I had heard about finger bowls in my readings or in the films, but was that what this was? I certainly didn't want to dip my fingers into some fancy broth or something. And of course I also wasn't certain what utensil to pick up first, so I didn't make a move until I saw what the other diners did. I actually don't think I ever did learn what that mysterious little bowl of liquid was.

I survived that night, but I didn't survive something else, which had never even crossed my mind as a potential problem. Her parents did realize that we were very serious about each other. One morning that summer I came to work to find Pat waiting in the hallway for me.

"I have to talk to you," she said very solemnly, as if their had been a death, which there was about to be.

We went around the corner to a bit more private section and she said, "I can't go out with you anymore."

"Why," I asked, "what'd I do?"

" My parents have forbidden me to date you," she said in almost a whisper. "You're not Catholic…"

"I don't care," and I was getting angry. "That's not your parents' business…"

But she was crying now and we men don't handle women's tear well. She turned and ran into the ladies room that was only a few feet away from where we stood.

I stood there in shock, when this tall Irish lass came out of the restroom and up to me. She worked

on the same floor in the same department as Pat. I worked in a different section. We often passed in the hall and she always said hello to me and I always answered her back, but in my shyness toward strangers and my low way of talking prevented her hearing my response. Despite the fact she thought I was rudest guy around because she never heard me, she continued to say her hellos.

This time she didn't say hello, she said instead, "What's wrong with Pat. She's in there crying her eyes out."

I told her and she tried to comfort me and gave me a smile and then we went to our separate work areas.

I don't know if it was that night or the next, but we did happen to ride down the elevator together and when we reached the front door we walked along next to each. We started a conversation about something or other and I accompanied her to her subway stop. I rode the train and had a few more blocks to the rail station. As she started through the turnstile I asked her out the coming Saturday. I waited to the last minute figuring if she said no then she'd go through the gate and I'd go my way without any awkward moments. She said yes.

We had that date and we went to a mvid, then to a diner and ate and back to her place where we sat in the kitchen and talked to daybreak. (Why her dad didn't throw me out somewhere about midnight I do not know.) I do know that we not only began dating regularly, we also began seeing each other everyday, walking between that subway stop and work, and having lunch at Lew Tender's on Broad Street.

Three weeks after that first date I looked across my Blue Plate Special there at Lew Tender's one lunchtime and said, "You know I'm going to marry you someday."

That wasn't a proposal, just a statement. We continued through the summer constantly seeing or wishing to see each other, when who should appear one day from nowhere but the Russian.

Yes, Sonja who had somewhat flippantly tossed me aside when
she drew attention from the big city boys the year before came around with flirty eyes. Apparently the bog city boys had lost their desire for the pretty country girl somewhere along the line and she was back looking for the local talent.  Lois, that tall Irish lass who had soothed my hurts when Pat delivered her bombshell, did not take kindly to Sonja's reappearance, especially when she kept popping up. It was too late for Sonja. Sonja had been infatuation, a dazzling display that played into the teenage boys fantasies, but Lois was the real deal and as beautiful as any.

I did that fall propose to Lois in Valley Forge Park and a year later we married and that was nearly 53 years ago as this is written and that one is still here beside me. As to the others I do not know where they all went. Helen and Joan were early dates and more just passing diversions. Jeannette and I drifted apart after a year of correspondence as distance will do to summer romances and she found a steady boyfriend near home.  Peggy became a stunning beauty as an adult, became a teacher, married with three children and seemly has lived happily ever after. I haven't a clue about Carmella or of Pamela. Suzy, the pilot, ever the adventuress suffered a very bad motorcycle accident in her twenties which left some mental and physical scars, but she is married with four children and four grandchildren to date. Louise married and has three children. Pat also married, but I've lost track of her. Sonja never married. She lived at her parents home for a long time.

Just a final note: Lois is partly Irish, but twice as much German on her material side, while a quarter Native American (her paternal grandmother. She began a new chapter, in fact several, in my life, fodder for future essays.








Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Russian Is Coming; The Russian Is Coming!

Blond to blond, one of the odd coincidences that sometime happen, my past and future pictured together. The once and future queens of my romantic teens. Peggy had come and went, but the Russian was coming.

After Suzy and Jon reconciled I continued dating Pamela. In May of 1959 freedom came, not from girls, but from school; I graduated. After the ceremony there was an explosion of chaos: relief, excitement, and a sense of what do we do now. Classmates and family were mingling en masse and the air was full of babble. Someone grabbed my arm and asked if i'd like to go to a post-graduation celebration. I don't even remember who it was and maybe I ended up in a car with some other party. There is a fog of memory when so many years have passed.

Anyway, next thing I know I am entering Silver Lake Inn, which back then was a pretty nice restaurant somewhere along Route 422 east of Pottstown (if I remember that correctly). I do recall being swept in with this pocket of people and sitting somewhere about the middle of this long table. Next to me was the blond gal and it turned out it was her parents and aunt throwing this little dinner party for her and her friends among the graduates.

Now, I knew the name of this blond gal, and I knew she played the piano because she had performed
in the same variety show I had with my little trio of fellow nuts, but beyond that I knew her not. I certainly wasn't a friend. I mean, I wasn't an enemy or nothing like that, but neither could I call my self a friend. Beyond the fact we were in the same graduating class, she was basically a stranger, so I'm not sure why I got hauled in on this activity, but I've never looked a free meal in the eye.

And besides, the blond and I had a nice chat the whole evening. At the end of the affair, she wrote her telephone number on a napkin and told me to give her a call sometime and that they had a pool and maybe I'd like to come over and swim.

I really consider this the end of it. School was over for us and our paths weren't going to cross again, unless I did take the step of calling her, which I really wasn't planning to do. But a couple weeks went by and it was a hot June, so one day I did call and inquire about this swimming thing. I did like to go swimming when the chance arose. She told me to come over that Saturday in my bathing suit.

So came the weekend and I drove out into the country near Spring City and found her place. There wasn't a lot about the area then. Homes have been built up since and the other year I tried to find her place and couldn't, but on that bright sunny Saturday I could. I drove down their long, tree-lined lane, cross a little bridge over a creek and pulled up in a parking area before her house. I stepped out.

There was music filing the air, a classical piece, "Swan Lake" I believe. It was coming from a large, I would say huge, speaker on the patio. As I started toward the house she stepped out of the front door wearing a one piece blue swimsuit.  Okay, think those cartoons where the wolf spied the sexy girl and his eyes popped out on springs, that was how I felt.

Yeah, I was gone, I was in instant love. I stepped closer and the air smelled so sweet. I think I was able to talk. I stayed that afternoon and we swam and her aunt brought out iced tea and her mother fed us and I floated home and couldn't wait to see her again -- foolish young man I be.

She was exactly Russian. She was Latvian, but in those days Latvia was part of the USSR, and Latvia is tense these days after what happened in Crimea that those days could return. Her parents and aunt had migrated to the United States to escape communism. Her father was some kind of scientist, I think. He was very quiet, but very smart and he had built their house himself as well as a small airplane tarped behind the building.

All the family history was probably pretty amazing, but I was interested in the present creation in the family that being Sonja. It sorta became apparent that I was her first boyfriend, a fact that should have been a cautionary warning sign, but I wasn't seeing much in that summer but this golden girl.

It was kind of funny, I guess, because I had a crush at one time on Sonja Henie, a former Olympic skating metal winner that had gone on to have a movie star career. Granted, Sonja Henie was old enough to be my mother (or let's face it, old enough to be my grandmother), but here was a young replica of that fantasy love. They not even spelled their name the same, Sonja, but bore a physical resemblance, this is Sonja Henie on the right and my Sonja on the left.

Early on Sonja threw a party. Several boys and girls were invited. Her mother and aunt served alcohol at this get together. I didn't drink. I didn't drink or smoke or even curse in my teens (and I was also a virgin), which had earned me the sobriquet"Holy Joe" from my friend Richard and his brother. It had nothing with being holy, it was I had chosen not to do these things. Richard thought I was missing out, but this had its advantages. The boys at the party all got drunk and sick and spent most of the evening laying about or staggering off to the bathroom. This left me the lone sober boy and I'll tell you, you always win in a game of spin the bottle with all girls.

Well, I wasn't technically the only boy that remained sober. Ronald was
at the party as well and he didn't drink either. He had been invited to be the stag boy for Sonja's friend Ginny. Ronald and I began a series of double dating over the months ahead. I considered myself kind of shy around girls, but I came to believe Ron was the shyest guy I'd ever seen. He was very awkward around Ginny, stiffly putting an arm around and never seeming certain of where his hands should be.

There was more to this than just shyness, but it wasn't something I was to learn until several years later.

I wasn't too concerned about Ronald and what he and Ginny were doing. I was just doing everything to be around Sonja. I knew she was very big on music, so I wrote a musical play in an attempt to impress her.

We went to a lot dances at the Sunnybrook Ballroom in Pottstown and even attended the Sesquicentennial Ball in Downingtown.
Now back in high school, Sonja wore glasses, but in her senior year she got these new fangled things called contact lens. These little clear discs did have a habit of sometimes popping out of place and during our whirling about the dance floor one went flying, forcing us to our hands and knees to weave between the dancers legs as we ran our palms across the wood trying to feel where the truant lens was lying.

Didn't matter, if this was embarrassing, I was willing to be so humiliated to be with this gal. I also felt the sophisticate in this relationship. I had girlfriends before she accidentally came into my life, but from what I could gather I was the first boyfriend in her own. That may have been a bit flattering, considering how stunning Sonja could look, but if I had really been this man of the world I would have recognized the danger in this.

Things went swimmingly that summer. There was to be no thumb biting. She did not stiffen if I put an arm around her shoulders at the drive-in, not at all. She would simply lean her head into my shoulder and snuggle close. There was no reticence on her part, but there was a good deal of country boy naiveté in me. One evening after another gorgeous day of swimming at her place, after her parents served us a nice dinner, we walked out to my car to say goodnight.

Now I am assuming we are all adults here as I relate what happened next and you will understand what I am speaking of without getting too graphic about it.

We began kissing and the kiss went on and on. As we kissed she pressed into me and began to rub her body up and down against mine. Well, I was just turned 18 years old and this had the expected effect on my anatomy. Teen boys can't help it, but I was very aware of this sudden situation and I didn't want her to notice my condition, so I kept kind of pulling my hips back and away from her, but she just kept stepping into me more. I remember thinking, "Please stop, you don't know what you are doing to me", but years later I realized she knew exactly what she was doing.

That fall she went off to school in Philadelphia and there she met big city boys. She wanted to be friends, but I wanted to be a bit more than that, which was not going to happened. She broke my heart. I didn't know how I would get over her. My life was over. I didn't know she would become a different kind of haunt.



I went back to dating Pamela and another young lady named Louise (pictured right).








Ronald still continued dating Ginny and we were back at Sunnybrook and other places on double dates.

That is Ginny, Pamela and me on the left and Ginny, me and Louise on the right.

I had fun, but I just couldn't get my mind off the Russian Blond.

I didn't know the Irish were about to arise.







Sunday, March 23, 2014

Recklessly Reelin' Through the Romance Roughs Retarded by Richard and Ronald. (Today's Letter is 'R', Boys and Girls.)


I had my first date with Peggy (pictured left) for the Junior Prom on April 25, 1958. We had dated all summer into the fall of our senior year. Peggy was a horsewoman and I had been to horseshows with her. We had bowled, played miniature golf, danced, been to the movies, and through all that time I had only kissed her good night. Our relationship jumped the shark on a double date with Richard Wilson at the Exton Drive-in, when like a shark, she attempted to bite off my thumb.

I was stunned by that action. Even though Peg and I had dated steadily for months I knew there was no magic, at least for me. I really don't know what she felt for me, but considering what was going to happen her feelings may have run deeper than my own. At any rate, shallow, selfish seventeen year old me wanted a way out, but I didn't quite know how to break it off gently and so we just kept on dating.

My friend from Downingtown, Ronald Tipton (right) unknowingly provided the solution.
It happened there was to be a dance at Downingtown High school and I got a phone call from Ron.
“I think we should double date,” he said.
“We can’t,” I said. “Downingtown doesn’t allow students from other schools in.”
“It does if they are dates of the opposite sex.”
“So?”
“So,” says Ronald, “I take Peggy in as my guest and my date takes you in as a guest and we switch inside.”
That would work, so we made the date.
Peggy and I pick Ronald up on the night of the dance. He directs me to his date’s home in Downingtown. We walk up and knock on the door. Her father lets us in. He is wearing a smoking jacket. The house is rather ornately furnished. There is a piano in the living room. Her mother rises from a chair. She has on a flower print dress. Their daughter enters the room and Ronald introduces her as Carmella. After some chitchat with the parents, we leave. As we head to my car (yes Ronald didn't drive either, so I chauffeured him just as I did Richard) Peggy takes my one elbow and Carmella takes my other.
At the car, Carmella jumps into the front seat first. I shrug. Ronald and Peggy slip in to the back and then I get in the Driver’s Side. We park at the high school and get out. I pull Ron aside and ask what’s going on. He says it is all right, I should walk with Carmella and he with Peggy and after we get in we’ll switch around as planned.
Only inside the switch doesn’t happen. Peggy sits down next to me and so does Carmella on the other side. I quickly understand that for what ever reason Carmella thinks I am her date. I am about to do another bad thing.
Carmella is quite a contrast to Peggy. She is dark to Peggy’s light. Peggy is a blond with pale skin and blue eyes. Carmella’s skin is very tan, her hair almost black and her eyes brown. This girl captivated me. I pay more attention to her than Peggy. I do nothing to convince her she is Ronald’s date. I dance with her more and I talk to her more and I barely notice Peggy sitting behind us.

It is not a fun drive from Downingtown to Bucktown that night. Peggy doesn’t speak. She leans against the passenger door looking angrily straight ahead. She runs from the car into her house when I drop her off. My dating of Peggy has ended.
My dating of Carmella Cressman or Carmella Baxter has begun. She was a girl with two names and I never did figure out which was the right one. I assume she was the daughter of her mother and another man. Her mother probably remarried, but did she marry Cressman or Baxter first? You can see some resemblance between the daughter and mother. The Philadelphia Orchestra or the Academy of Music employs Her father in some capacity. There is usually classical music playing in the home when I pick her up. They are very formal and genteel.
Carmella is warm to Peggy’s ice. I like her very much. I find her beautiful. I think this will last longer and with more fire than my time with Peggy. It might have if I had not made a fatal mistake or perhaps it was simply karma. I decided to show her off to Richard.
No, Richard did not steal her away.
I was cruising around with Richard (right). I am not sure anymore why we had come all the way to Downingtown, but since we were in the area I asked if he wanted to meet Carmella. I drove to her house and we went to the door. Her dad welcomed us inside. I introduced Richard and we were standing about chatting when Richard used some course language. I didn’t think it appropriate, but didn’t give it a lot of notice at that moment.
I gave it a lot of notice the next time I called up Carmella to ask if she wanted to go out. She wouldn’t be seeing me anymore I was told. Well, thank you, Richard!
I don’t know if he felt bad about what happened or not. It may have been his way to make it up
to me when he arranged a date with his cousin.  Pamela was a girl boys turned around to look at. She was beautiful. Not only did she look like a model, she had the grace of one. She was younger than me, but sophisticated. She had a sense of humor and she was fun to be around.
During this same period I was carrying on a correspondence with two girls whose address I got from Ronald Tipton, Dotti Juris in Philadelphia and Linda Wood in Canada. Never met them personally, but thought I'd throw it in to show I had a lot of lines out for a guy who didn't think he could get girls.
I began dating Pam steadily and would do so the rest of the year, but in the spring of 1959 it got complicated. Suzy entered my life.
I had known Suzy for a while. She was dating one of my friends, Jon. He was short and she
was short, so they got that cutest couple tag (right). They had been going steady since Tenth Grade. In the spring of 1959 something went sour between them. She was crying and I was sitting nearby and next thing you knew she was crying on my shoulder. In no time I was dating both Pam and Suzy.
There are people you like and there are people you really like. I liked Pam and she was very pretty, but Suzy touched something deeper in me. Pam was tall; Suzy was short. Pam was beautiful; Suzy was cute. Suzy was always smiling and she was adventurous.
Suzy was a pilot. She had a license and flew a Cessna out of Pottstown Airport. We went flying on Saturday mornings. Since she was only 17 she had to have an adult pilot with her when she flew. There were always three of us in the plane.
I wasn’t sure about this aspect of our going out. I was afraid of height, now I was on a runway in this tiny plane about to go higher than I had ever been. I was in the rear set. I could see the prop spinning as the plane gained speed down the runway. It was like a wavy yellow line. The plane rose and I gripped the edge of my seat tightly. I peeked out the side window and I could see the wheel below hanging over nothing. It made me feel the fear in my stomach. I found if I stared ahead I lost that terror. I stared straight ahead.
After the initial flight I came to relax more, although not totally. Still, I liked being in the air with her, even if we weren’t completely alone. It is a good thing we weren’t. One Saturday she flew south. She was following the Pottstown Pike. We were past the area of Pughtown and there was nothing below us now but trees. Suzy took the plane into a 180 bank. She took it too sharp or something. The engine conked out. Now we were simply coasting on a slight downward path over all those far away trees, which were getting less far away by the minute. Suzy was bouncing about throwing switches and so was the co-pilot. They got the engine started again and we flew directly back to the airport. Suzy stepped off the plane and threw up on the tarmac. Next Saturday we were flying again.
The Senior Prom was on the horizon. I had all ready asked Pamela, but now Suzy wanted to go
as well. I decided Ronald Tipton owed me for that mix up with Carmella and Peggy. I called him and asked if he would take Suzy to my Prom. He agreed, but explained he had a school band concert the same night. He played the Sousaphone. He said the concert would be over by eight thirty and since the Prom didn’t start until nine it shouldn’t be a problem. I figured we could make it from Downingtown to Owen J. in a half hour.
I went to Downingtown to pick up Ronald. Eight thirty came and the band played on. I was pacing the floor. We were going to be late. It was nine o’clock and finally the band finished up and Ron came out. He had to put his horn away and
change into his tux. We got that out of the way and I rushed him out the door. We had to pick up Suzy and then Pam. I was frantic. They were going to think we stood them up on prom night. As it was we were over an hour late getting to the dance, but everybody seemed to have a good time, maybe all except Ron. He was a little uncomfortable dancing cheek to belly button. Ron was six foot four and Suzy was four foot eleven.
There was a post prom party we attended and when that ended we joined some others from my class and went bowling in Reading. There we were in the wee hours of the morning with the girls bowling in their gowns. It was after dawn when we got the girls home. I didn’t get back from dropping Ronald off until 7:00 AM.
I guess it was that Jon and Suzy did make the cutest couple. She and he made up and she went back to being his steady before the year ended. I continued dating Pamela well into the summer after graduation.
Suzy and Jon did not get married. By the fifth reunion he was single and at helicopter school. She was married to someone else with two children.  Her adventurous spirit continued into adulthood. She took up motorcycles. One day she hit something on a ride that flipped her Harley and she suffered several serious injuries, including some damage to her nerves.

In 2001, I combined Suzy’s flying and motorcycle accident, Jon pilot career and Lane Keene’s hunting accident in to a story called, “Pour Out My Life at the Old German Tavern”.
Even though I enjoyed going with Suzy and Pamela there was still not that feeling of anything beyond having a fun time together. I wasn't really sure what kind of feeling I was expecting.
Then came the Russian.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Shallow and Shy Sixteen Year Old Scores Sometimes (Sort of)

In the summer of 1957 (sounds like a song title) I had a brush with romance aided by the salt-sea air of Wildwood, NJ and a dimpled-eyed girl named Jeannette (pictured left). My friend, Richard Wilson, plucked her and her sister out of the sand, but Jeannette liked me and for a week it was wonderful.

Although I kept in touch with her by weekly letters for the next year, distance dissolved away our relationship through inconvenience and she found a local boy to flutter those lashes at.

And I sank into a-broodin' my inability to get a girlfriend. My mother kept assuring me I wasn't the loser I claimed and that I would get a girl. Mothers must say things like that, it's a law of motherhood, but I held onto my teenage angst. I still wasn't getting any partners at the school dances, while Richard waltzed away at will. (This is an expression, you understand. I'm not that old. They weren't playing waltzes at those Spring Flings and Fall Fantasies; at least I'm pretty sure "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" wasn't a waltz.)


I was a good dancer actually. Richard and other friends through parties now and again and I danced a lot with a girl named Joan Bodor (pictured right). That is us jitterbugging on the left at one of those parties. I was a regular Fred Astaire of The Bop. Joan was one of the regulars in our circle and she did join Richard and I and a couple others in various activities, but for some reason in never crossed my mind to actually ask her out on a date with just me.

But by the Spring of 1958 pressure was building that would force
me to muster up some courage. Poster's were up advertising "An Evening in Shangri-La", the Junior Prom. The Junior Prom frankly was a big deal. I don't know why, but the Junior Prom carried more status than the Senior Prom. I really wanted to go to the Junior Prom, but unlike the other school dances you could not go stag to the Proms. If I were to go I had to bring a date.

But who?

Now forgive me, but I was a 16 year old teenage boy. There are few more shallow than 16 year old boys, even shy ones. It didn't matter how much of a loser I might have viewed myself, whatever girl I went with couldn't be a loser, too. Now I knew the cream of
teenage boy fancies, the homecoming queens and cheerleader types, were above reach, so they were out. If you fear rejection there is no reason to guarantee it. Besides They all had steady boyfriends, guys on the football team who could twist me into a pretzel if I set eyes on their gal. I had to find a girl who probably didn't have a date yet, but wasn't quite a "dog". (Hey, yeah that's cold, but I'm being realistic here. That was the term of the times and I was no saint, even if I was no prize myself.)

Sitting across the aisle from me in Drivers' Ed was this tall blond. She wore glasses (as did I, of course) and she was not as slim as some of the others. She wasn't fat, but she was a bit puffy. I figured she hadn't been asked to the Prom and so I asked and she said yes and we went.

When I picked her up I was rocked back a bit by the dress she wore. Funny thing about time, looking at the picture today the dress looks like a dress, but believe it or not, at that time that was a radical outfit. It was a new style
that no living person ever saw being sported in the Pottstown region. It was called a "Trapeze Dress". And I feared the reaction of our fellow schoolmates to this skinny nerd and his date's circus dress.

I, who regularly wore orange Flag Flyers (pictured left) was worried about someone else's taste in clothes?

We went to the Prom and we stayed for the post-Prom party, a device created to keep us wild 1950s
teenagers pretending we were in a crepe paperValley of the Blue Moon in Shangri-La until the local bars closed at 2:00 AM.

And after 2:00 AM several of us headed to Reading to engage at a nefarious late night activity in an all-night bowling alley.

Peggy, that was her name, and I had a great time and first thing I knew in the bleary haze of daybreak I had asked her out on another date. This second date led to a third and so forth and before we knew it we were "going steady".

We spent a lot of time together. It was only the Prom that saw us spend the night together. Getting home after the sun came up was almost a habit, but there was no "Sparkin'", "Petting", "Tomfollery" in those nights, just talk. Her mother and father trusted me, I think her mother liked me more than Peggy did. My own parent set no curfews. We went to dances, we went bowling, we went to the drive-in movies, but it was a strange romance.

All those months and hardly a kiss!

And then one summer eve at the Exton Drive-in the strangest thing happened. It was a double date with Richard and his steady of the moment, Barb. They were somewhere in the backseat, prone as it were and fairly active. This was not the strange thing. This was a quite common thing with Richard.

Peg and I were seated in the front seat, quite upright, staring at the big screen across the lot. I slipped my arm across the back of the seat and then I let my hand fall upon her far shoulder and…

…and she bit my thumb. I mean, she BIT MY THUMB! It was no
little love nip, it was a chomp. It hurt, man. I wasn't going to go no further than put my hand upon her shoulder and she bit my thumb after all those dates over all those month!

Beyond that night I wondered what future we had. I did not want to lose my digits one by one, but I was thinking I need lose one girlfriend, really my one and only girlfriend.

But how? I needed have fretted, waiting in the wings was my best friend Ronald and what would soon come resolved the issue and proved me even more shallow.

[By the way at the fifth year reunion of high school I chanced to meet Peggy sitting at the bar. I did not know it was her. I just saw this beautiful blond lady in a tiny dress that did not hide her charms. She struck up a conversation and after a while asked, "You don't know who I am, do you?" No, I did not. "I'm Peggy," she said and what she really said without saying it was, "Aren't you sorry now?"

The incident did inspire a short-short story published several decades later in Creative Writers, Joe Potasche, editor.

MODESTY


She entered. To her left were round tables covered with white cloths lining both walls. A man and two women greeted arrivals and handed out name tags at the door. Up front was a stage where a DJ puttered, preparing records for the evening. Most of the floor was open for dancing.

She went through a wide doorway to her right into the bar and climbed onto one of the stools. Her dress rode high on her thighs as she sat. The bartender ambled over, drying his hands on a small towel. He looked her over. Finally he raised his eyes to her face.

“What’ll it be, Lady?” His gaze slipped down again.

“A cosmopolitan,” she said.

He nodded and backed away, managed to unlock his stare and went to mix the cocktail.

She couldn’t really blame him, could she? She chose to wear the black dress that barely covered the two and a half feet between cleavage and knees. It was not what mother would have picked for her reunion. Her mother often told her: “If a woman displays modesty, men will show respect.”

The men certainty kept a respectful distance in high school. She was puffy then; not exactly fat, but her legs and arms had the look of a blow-up doll. Her hips were wider then her chest and she wore “birth-control” glasses. She was born-blond, but her mother had always clipped her hair short and straight, giving her the look of the boy on the Dutch Cleanser can.

The drink arrived. She swiveled around to see the people in the ballroom. She recognized Brock approaching with two empty glasses in hand. He didn’t look a bit different from when they dated. She had been amazed when he asked her out and more so when he continued to. Then Stella came along and he dropped her for that swiveled-hipped girl with the jet-black hair and dark eyes. She was lonesome before Brock. After Brock she was not just lonesome, she was miserable.

Still, he had changed her life. After Brock she exercised her body to what it was today. After Brock she got contact lens. After Brock she let her hair grow long and lustrous and curl like sunbeams around her face.

 He came to the bar. He stopped next to her and motioned for refills. One glance her way and his face simmered with lust. He peeked down at the roundness peeking from the bodice of her dress, then at the long smooth thighs more than peeking from the hem.

“Well, hello,” he said.

“You don’t know me, do you?”

He shook his head.

“I’m Dotty.”

He froze. The fresh drinks in his hands splashed dark spots across his tie. He walked away in a slump of defeat and embarrassment.

Her mother said if a woman displayed modesty men would show respect. She displayed what modesty hid and the men showed regret.

And that was so much more satisfying.






Friday, March 21, 2014

And the Shy Guy Dreams He was Don Juan

I sit here in the middle of this group. Whether I was willing to share the attentions of these young ladies with Billy (on my right) or Tim (on my left), I don't know. But these were elementary school days were just prettier boys who wore dresses; that is, they were friends and playmates, but kissing Michele aside, there was nothing smacking of S-E-X in these relationships.

A funny thing happened at puberty when I suddenly recognized I got feelings around girls I never got around boys; I turned shy.

I found it difficult to talk to girls.

Of course I also had a pretty low self-image of myself, which didn't do anything to boost my confidence. I was tall, certainly a plus, but with a slight stoop and I was bony - skinny, and to make matters worse it was at this time I began wearing glasses. I had a crush on Mary Jane, who wore glasses, but I saw only her beauty. I saw no beauty in myself. My adolescence transformation was caught somewhere between Dr, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

I never dated in Junior High. I didn't even go to the Junior High dances.

Midway through 1955 I escaped Downingtown, but that makes for a different story. My parents bought their first and only owned house. It was just on the edge of a small village called Bucktown. It was basically in the country. My parents purchased the home from a man named Sox, who they had some previous friendship with and sometimes went to auto races together.

On November 4, 1956 I went on my first date ever with Sox's daughter Helen Mae. Whose birthday and where are lost to history. I know I went to Boyertown with my parents on the previous Saturday and purchased a sport coat. For some reason, also lost to history, I came home from Boyertown with Richard Wilson's family instead of my parents. (Richard Wilson had become one of my best friends after the move to Bucktown.) Things must have worked out aright at the party because I began dating Helen fairly steady for a few months.

I don't know what happened, perhaps it just petered out as such things sometimes do or maybe she met another guy, but she disappeared out of my life before Spring of 1957. For the next year or so I was somewhat adrift and bereft from female companionship. It wasn't that I didn't wish to have a girlfriend; I was just too shy to approach them and ask for a date. I couldn't even go up to girls at dances and ask them to dance.

You might ask, why did I go to the dances, then, and I went to many. The reason was simple, my friend, Richard (pictured right) wanted to go to the dances and I had a car and he didn't. He had no problem getting girls, so once there he would disappear onto the floor with a string of partners and I would lean against a wall or hang about the refreshment table.

There was one respite during that long and lonely year. In August 1957 my parent decided to go to Wildwood, NJ for a week. They took me along, which was unusual because I cannot remember any other of their vacation trips that they ever took me. Perhaps to keep me out of their hair on this trip, they also invited Richard along.

Richard and I certainly did leave them alone. We were swimming all day and out carousing the
Boardwalk until it closed at night. I barely saw my parents at all. 

Then on the first full day there, Richard comes back from a refreshment stand with two girls on his arms, Jeannette and Marilyn. They were sisters. Jeannette was the same age as us, while Marilyn was a couple years younger. 

Richard was interested in Jeannette, but sometimes things are fair and she preferred the gentler gentleman, me! The rest of the time in Wildwood the four of us were together constantly. This included dancing at a Dick Clark Hop at the Starlight ballroom on the boardwalk, where Jeannette and I almost won the spotlight dance.

I liked Jeannette very much. She had these dimples beneath her eyes and a nice smile. Unfortunately, even though she also lived in Pennsylvania, it was a fair distance from my country home on the Northeast of Philadelphia in Langhorne. I visited her home a couple times, but for the most part it was a letter writing romance. 

Meanwhile, at home, I found myself becoming depressed about my abilities to attract the opposite sex, constantly moaning and groaning to my mother that I would never have a girlfriend. I wouldn't either for nearly a year and then things got complicated and interesting.