THE TALE OF MOBY PICK PART FOUR

A v shaped wake followed me out into the deep end of the lake. I knew it was Moby Pick.   I sized up the situation and my chances. I figured it was a good idea to hook him with the lure. That way he couldn’t get away. Plus, it would be a great story to tell granddad if I came home and said I hooked a fish so big that it stole my pole. He’d love a story like that one, especially if it was true. I stopped rowing and hauled in the oars and dropped anchor. I figured that might tire Moby Pick out a bit sooner. The anchor never hit bottom. I was in deep water. Moby Pick would have a lot of room to gain speed and momentum for his dreaded leaps.

I sat in the front of the boat. I remembered that from Moby Dick. That’s where all the harpoonists are stationed. From that point, if the fish starts to pull, the boat has less of a chance to swamp.   I cast the spoon lure out off the port bow about ten yards. I let it sink a bit and then proceeded to slowly wind it in and back to the boat. I held the pole as hard as my ten year old arms could manage. I was wondering if at days end that I’d even have arms or even a throat. I wouldn’t have long to wait. A row of bubbles surfaced and told me that something was going to where I figured the lure should be. The line suddenly went tight. It actually buzzed.   Spray bounced off it and onto my face. The fight was on.

I hollered and held on tight. The bow of the boat turned to starboard or, was it to port. I don’t remember. All I knew was that I’d never seen a fish move a boat before and I’ve never had since. Moby Pick actually moved the boat about ten feet to the west south west and then he dove. The end of granddads pole went into the water right up to the handle. My arms were in the water up to my elbows when the tension just stopped. The line went limp.

At first, I thought that the tug of war between us had just broken the line. Then, another thought came my way. There was a much more sinister reality coming to my mind. What if Moby Pick wasn’t hooked at all? What if he was just tugging on the lure without being hooked? He’d lure my hands into the water and then wait a second or two and then, Pow! I pulled my two hands out of the lake just in time to see Moby Pick come out of the depths jaws open wide.   My hands hit the surface and continued to rise and part away from each other. The fish breeched right between them. He couldn’t decide which hand to bite so, he missed them both.   For my part, the momentum of moving my hands apart and to safety kept me from catching this fish from hell.   We were both within grasp of each other but, we missed our chance. The first round was a draw.   Moby went into the dark depths. I grabbed my pole.

I sat back on the oarsman seat to catch my breath. The net sortie could come from any direction. I just kept revolving my head like a lighthouse beacon. I figured the next wave would come from port or starboard. I was wrong. Without any warning and from the stern, I heard his evil hiss and that gaping mouth open wide as he literally flew over the helmsman seat and back into the water off the port oarlock. What was he up to just then I wondered. He didn’t have a chance of getting me by the throat just then.   Then it hit me. That wasn’t an attack at all. That was just a look around. He was down below thinking and sorting out what he saw.

It was just a minute or less when I could hear those bubbles again and that hiss. He was coming towards the stern again. But, this time he came straight up from mid stern and didn’t jump that hard. I thought maybe he was getting tired but no, he was getting smarter. The weaker jump put him right on the deck of the rowboat just in front of my feet, my bare feet. He flopped closer to me and chomped on my left big toe. Then he took a hunk out of the pinky toe on my right foot. As I was holding my feet he flopped back into the water. This was one smart fish is all I can say. I had to think harder or it was curtains for me. That first time was just my toes. The next time would be my juggler vein. If that happened I’d be invited to a fish dinner on the wrong side of the frying pan. I had to think of something. But, what? Then it hit me.

THE TALE OF MOBY PICK PART THREE

THE TALE OF MOBY PICK   PART THREE

I sat at the oarsman seat when the behemoth Moby Pick flew past my head as if the boat and I weren’t much more than a lily pad.   I think he meant to taunt me. That one jump he did at first just to eyeball me still sticks in my memory to this day. He was sizing me up I’m certain. Then, when I tried to cast but got the spoon lure stuck on the oar handle, he knew he had a target of opportunity. That’s when his first lunge came. That’s when I saw his gaping mouth that could swallow a kids arm right up to the armpit.   Those teeth of his could snap my arm off as if it were a penny pretzel down at old man Shapiro’s candy store. I thanked God I wasn’t already wounded and trying to row out of there with just one arm left and bleeding all over granddads rowboat.

Moby Pick breeched again. This time he came up from between some lily pads. Frogs were jumping for their lives, but he wasn’t after frogs this time. He was after me. He made about a four foot leap out of the water and just eyeballed me again. I didn’t know fish could sneer but, he was sneering. He disappeared below the lily pads and all was still. The frogs were hopping along the pads heading for shallow water or better yet, dry land.   I don’t think the frogs had much to worry about just then but, I sure did. I think that fish wanted me on a platter.

I had awful visions of Moby Picks wife Martha serving me for Sunday dinner. There I’d be in their little underwater home, on a platter with maybe some oregano sprinkled on me. I could see their little green kids smacking their lips and begging for their favorite cuts.   The oldest hatchling was asking if he could have my toes, little sis wanted my ears dipped in butter, and big brother wanted a drumstick. There was this baked potato in my mouth. I really wanted to get out of there.

It’s funny the things that go through your mind as you face certain doom. Part of me wanted to leave right away and never again have anything to do with Lake Lenape.   Fishing was out of the question of course. Hikes near the dam were out too. Moby Pick could leap out of the deep water near the dam and shove me right into the spillway. I’d be carried off by the current and wouldn’t be able to get free. My bones would probably wash ashore down along the Deleware near New Hope. Some decorator would probably take my bones and make a lamp. That or they’d think my carcass was from an old indian burial ground and I’d spend eternity at the State Museum in Trenton. Kids would be writing stuff on my skull when no one was looking. Once that fish had my scent, I could never again go even wading at the beach. He’d know in an instant that I was there and he’d probably sneak up to me and snatch my swim trunks. Why was I even born? I grabbed one oar and then the other. It was time to get out of Dodge. Bugler sound retreat. Feet’s do your stuff.

I just had to get the second oar in to the oarlock. This was the oar that had the chrome and green spoon lure stuck on it. I took a moment and stared at the lure. I got to thinking. The Patrick Henry side of me started to stir from within.   How was I going to tell Granddad that I ran away from a fish? What was I going to do when all my cousins wanted to swimming? How could I go fishing with the grownups and always be looking over my shoulder searching for a v shaped wake approaching the boat. What would they say when I ducked my head into my kapok life vest and screamed that I wanted to go home?

Sometimes even a kid knows when it’s time to take a stand and this was one of those times. My blood quickened its pace through my veins. My breathing grew faster. Soon I was standing amid ships with the oar in my hands. I held it in one hand and raised it as best I could to the sky. The oar was pretty heavy so I couldn’t lift it all the way. But, I lifted it enough and, I hollered too. At the top of my little lungs, I screamed an oath that on this day, only one of us would be alive to see the sunset on this day of glory. This world and the lake was only big enough for one of us, Moby Pick or me!   A lady sunning herself on a nearby float told me to quit hollering. She was trying to take a nap. Much like Admiral Dewy, I rowed off to destiny.  But first I pulled the chrome and green spoon lure out of the oar with my teeth.

THE TALE OF MOBY PICK PART TWO

All was still on the lake as I started to put two and two together. I remembered one evening not that long ago as we all sat around the campfire.  Granddad blew the fire off his marshmallow and looked over his shoulder just to make sure the women folk weren’t around. He was making sure they weren’t within earshot. Then, he got all hunched over and as the firelight glowed on his face and erie shadows played across his face, he told us the saga of Lake Lenape’s underwater monster, Moby Pick.

Moby was the oldest and meanest pickerel that ever lived in Lake Lenape. To this day, he’s never been taken dead or alive. He’s the scourge of the lake. Granddad said how he was wading near the beach eating a cheeseburger when all of a sudden he looked out at the lake and saw this wake coming his way at top speed. All granddad could remember was seeing this huge fish sail right out of the water and fly right by him. The fish landed five feet up on the beach and with one huge flop did a flip right back into the water. Granddad didn’t notice it at first, but he soon realized that his cheeseburger was gone. Only the onion was left hanging from his pinky.

Moby then swam out to the swimming float. He kept circling the float so, no one could jump in and get back to the beach. Some of those folks got horrible sunburns as a result. A few people had to really visit the bathroom too but, they couldn’t risk the swim back to shore with Moby around. They just had to squirm on the raft and beg to be saved. The lifeguards were powerless. It was one of the worst days in the entire history of the Lake.

My kid brother Ed was tried to wipe charred marshmallow goo off his face. The goo wouldn’t come off. It would soon be bath time. Ed asked Granddad about the one legged doll stuck to Moby Picks side. He wanted to know what happened.

Granddad popped yet another marshmallow into his mouth and continued. He said that about twenty years ago two brothers were teasing their sister down at the beach. Moby Pick was young then himself. Still, he was a fish to reckon with and had grown to almost full size. The brothers wanted to be the ones to capture Moby but first, they needed some bait.   The two of them hatched an evil plan. They went and kidnapped their sisters favorite doll. They also stole some fishing line from their dads tackle box.   Then they took it all down to the swimming dock at the beach.

On the dock, they tied the fishing line to the dolls waist and lowered her helpless into the drink. Granddad seemed to be getting madder at those two brothers as he continued.   He said how the boys dangled the doll just inches above the waterline and sometimes let her fall into the water. They leaned out over the docks edge with tennis rackets in their hands waiting for Moby Pick to come and eat their poor sisters doll. Sometimes the older brother would hit the doll with his tennis racket to get it to holler “Mama.” Granddad said how it was a miracle that those two bad kids didn’t get sent to reform school.

Suddenly, the water got deathly still. The boys saw a wake forming and approaching from about thirty feet away. It had to be Moby Pick. He sped up as he went into a wide counter clockwise turn. He was going faster by the second. Instead of ramming into the swimming dock, Moby was going to make a wide turn and run parallel to the dock with his jaws wide open. He smacked his fish lips and hit ramming speed as he opened his gapping jaws.

The two brothers weren’t ready for Moby’s approach. They had to switch position. One brother still had the doll on the string. He tried to lift her a bit. The older brother tried to swing the tennis racket but, he swung too early. With that, he lost his footing and fell off the dock. The kid brother lifted the doll just as Moby Pick broke out of the surface of the water. The doll went flying in the air as Moby flew by with his mouth wide open and bit the brother on the dock on the finger. The kid brother screamed and lost his footing and started to fall into the lake too. He had to let go of the string. Soon, the doll, Moby, and the two brothers were in this awful swirling whirlpool of fins, feet, tennis rackets, cries for mama, sharp teeth, screams, splashing, and gurgling.

In time, Granddad said that it all got sorted out. Moby Pick got away but, the doll was stuck to his side from then on. The fishing line just got too tangled. The two brothers got spankings and sent to bed without supper. The only one who made out fairly well was the little sister. Her Daddy got her a new doll and took it out of the brothers allowance.

My brother asked if one of those brothers was our father, and was the younger brother Uncle Don?

Ed also wanted to know if the little sister was maybe Aunt Jean? Granddad was silent for a moment and then sadly shook his head yes.   He said it was all he could do to keep his two sons out of reform school. Doll napping was a pretty serious crime back in those days.   Plus hitting a fish with a tennis racket was pretty serious stuff too. We all had one more toasted marshmallow and then it was time to hit the hay. Ed had to get in the shower first.

 

 

 

 

THE TALE OF MOBY PICK PART ONE

THE TALE OF MOBY PICK PART ONE

About the closest I ever came to living like Huck Finn was my summer days at Lake Lenape. It’s this small lake up in north Jersey. My grandparents had an old log cabin there overlooking the water and the mountain across the way. Shoes were frowned upon at the lake. Barefoot was considered high fashion. I think my uncle Don even got me a straw hat. I wore it a lot, especially when I went fishing. Most of Granddads old fishing poles were made of bamboo and the bait of choice was worms.

Granddad and I had a secret worm patch out in the woods. It was a few yards off the road along one of the creeks that fed the lake. It was a small patch of topsoil all stirred up with coffee grounds and dead leaves. We’d sneak over there with a tin can and a small weeding fork in hand. Two minutes later we’d have a can full of night crawlers ready to rumble. Granddad would stick some more coffee grounds in the soil and I’d cover the patch with leaves. We’d then sneak out of the woods unseen by worm poachers and hop in the car and drive off. It was a secret patch. I still know where it is but, I’m sworn to secrecy. I took an oath to never reveal its location.   The worms now live in peace there. It’s only right.

Granddad had a big wooden row boat. It was just a foot or two smaller than the Titanic. Every spring, before we’d put it in the water, we’d turn it upside down on saw horses. Then, we’d caulk the seams and scrape the paint till the sides were smooth. We’d dab on a new coat of Navy Grey boat paint and, she was ready for sea duty. We’d flip her right side up and grease the oar locks. My Uncle Don would break an empty beer bottle on the bow and, she’d slip into the lake ready for yet another summer at sea.

Kapok swim vests were standard issue to all kids under fourteen. I was the oldest at ten years old so, that meant all kids wore vests. These were the ones that had those awful straps that dug into your crotch. After a bit the pain would shift from your crotch to your fanny crack and then your armpits. The floating pads scraped at your chest and waist something awful especially if you had a bad sunburn. I guess it was better than drowning. I guess.

Granddad said it was ok for me to go out fishing by myself. I had passed all the required seamanship tests. I could steer forward and reverse. I had dead stop down pat. I knew my port from my starboard so, I was cleared for solo in the twelve foot craft.   I also knew to stay clear of the dam if water was going over the spillway. I got to say, I loved having Granddads trust. He loved that boat with all his heart and yet, it was ok with him for me to go out in it. Boy, that was cool of Granddad.

So, one day I’m out in the lake about fifty yards off shore in water depth of two fathoms. I was trying my hand at spin casting and getting some pretty good throws. I believe I was using a green and chrome small spoon lure. I had the pole with the heavy pound rating filament line. I figured that I had caught enough sunfish. The worms needed a break and, so the lure would do. The game fish were jumping. It was going to be them against me.   Funny, but I thought I saw a fish out of the corner of my eye do a wild jump.   It happened so fast but, I thought it seemed to hang in the air and actually look around at the scene above the water line. On the second jump, I think it actually made eye contact with me. It sure was a big fish.  I didn’t see any more leaps but, there was a kind of funny feel to the lake all of a sudden.

I sat there thinking. Gee wouldn’t Granddad go nuts if I brought home a fish like that. He’d probably get the head stuffed and we’d eat the rest for breakfast all month. Wow! There I’d be in the family photo album grabbing this huge fish by the gills. There’d be no other photos on that page. It’d be just me and that fish. Grinning at the camera.

The bottom of the rowboat felt warm on my bare feet as I rechecked the knot on my lure. Everything checked out. I thought I saw a large v shaped slow moving wake of the starboard stern. That big one was circling the boat. I hit the cast button on my reel and prepared for my best shot. I whipped the rod just as hard as I could aiming for a few feet ahead of the wake. This was going to be tricky.

The lure hit the oar handle and got stuck. “Crud”, I muttered under my breath.   I reached for the oar handle. Boy, that hook was stuck. I reached for my needle nose pliers. I didn’t see the wake approaching from behind at ramming speed.

Remember that scene in Twenty Thousand Leauges Under the Sea? You know, where Captain Nemo is ramming that dynamite ship. Well, that’s sort of what I saw coming my way. There was this approaching wake with a dorsal fin in the middle, off the port bow aiming to hit right at the port oar lock.   The water parted about ten feet off port and, all I saw was teeth and fish sailing out form the deep and breeching into the air. I found myself looking down the mouth of a green stripped three foot pickerel. It hissed at me just before its evil head dove into the water. It seemed to take at least an hour for its whole body to loop back into the depths. I think there was a one legged doll stuck to its side. It looked like the doll was tangled up in fishing line and stuck to the behemoths flank. The doll gurgled “Mama!”

ROXY’S BIG VACATION

ROXY’S BIG VACATION

 

Sandy and I walked along the trail that ran next to a small creek. Roxy our first basset hound was with us. We were at the Natural Bridge Park in the mountains of Virginia. Across the stream from us was a pretty tall cliff. Sandy and I were looking at the initials, GW carved into the wall of rock. I read the walking guide and it said that George Washington carved his initials on the wall something like 250 years ago. The guide book also said that it was ok for George to have done it but, present day travelers better watch their step.   It went on to warn the reader to not even think about messing up the cliff. The initials were about twelve feet up the side of the cliff from the creek surface. Someone must have given George a boost. No one else seems to have tried their hand at initial carving there. Maybe the wall is under twenty four hour video watch. They didn’t have to watch me. I would have really been ashamed of myself to have messed up the wall. I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe someone named Ginny Winderblatt might have messed with the wall back in 1923. Who knows? I’m thinking it was George.   Either way, true or false, it makes for a great tale.

We continued on with our heads in the guide book. We stopped a minute or two and looked at the Natural Bridge in front of us as it loomed up into the sky. There’s a legend that George Washington threw a rock from the valley floor that went entirely over the top of the bridge. I don’t think I’m going for that one. If George truly did that, he would have been one heck of an outfielder. The guide book also mentioned that it would be good to not try that trick either as a busy highway runs over the top of the stone arch. We continued on. There weren’t many good throwing rocks right there on the valley floor anyway.

We went under the arch. Roxy sniffed the pathway for just the right spot to piddle. She didn’t take too long. I think she was just marking the trail. Piddling to a dog is like carving your initials on a wall is to a human.   Like George, Roxy wanted to let the world know she’d been to the bridge.   I guess she was doing a kind of canine guest book.

For Roxy the trip was not all sweetness and light. She never liked riding in a vehicle. It made her nervous for some reason. Plus, when we were on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the high elevation made her ears hurt. To make a long story short, she wined and fretted most of the way. She also was exhausted from pacing back and forth in the back seat of the car. Even on the flat trail going under the Natural Bridge seemed to be a chore for her. I’m sure she was happy to be out of the car and sniffing but, still it was a tiring trip from her point of view.

We continued on our trek. For May in Virginia, it was a pretty chilly day. There were clouds and a very light drizzle. I like to say that we were all having a sinus headache kind of day. All of a sudden we smelled wood smoke.   It was drifting out of a kind of rawhide hut just a hundred yards or so up the trail. We walked that way to see what was up. Oddly Roxy led the way.  She was tugging on her leash for the first time on the whole trip. In her own way, she was making a kind of crooked bee line for the hut.

The hut turned out to be a replica of an old local indian lodge. I think it was made out of wooden poles, hides, bark, and straw. You know, all stuff you could get in the forest. I didn’t see any storm windows, brass door knockers, or mailboxes. There wasn’t one thing there from Home Depot. Smoke was coming out of a flap on the top of the roof.

There was a sign out front that said it was ok to go inside. Roxy must have read it as she was determined to head in. By now, she was in the equivalent of basset hound low gear. Her belly was about one inch off the ground. Her shoulders were hunched over and, that nose of hers was leading the way. She was on a roll heading right through the lodge door. We had to follow.

Roxy could get through standing up. She’s a low rider. Sandy and I had to crawl through the hole in the wall on a straw mat. The mat, if I remember right, was about as muddy as the surrounding dirt but, no big deal. We all got inside. A guide was there and said hello. He was an actual indian and, a descendant or member of the tribe that once lived in the forests here. He was dressed in old fashioned leather clothes that looked handmade. He started to invite us to sit with him at the council fire which was burning in the center of the room.

Roxy, didn’t wait for an invite. She tugged me up to our host. I told him that she was friendly. He said that he could see that. She sniffed him and let him do a quick pat on the head and then she made a bee line to what she came in for, the campfire. Roxy turned in place right near the fire side. She then let out a big happy sigh and plopped herself down right in front of the fire. I think she fell asleep in about four tenths of a second. Soon, I could hear the rumbling of a deep hollow snore welling up from deep within. The lodge walls trembled with each consecutive bellow.

Our host couldn’t help himself. Us too. We all just started laughing.  There, after such a long journey and many trials, Roxy had found the basset hound version of Disney Land. As she snored away, we had a nice long talk with our indian guide. Turns out that he worked in computers mostly but, liked coming to the lodge to tell of his people. We had a great talk. Roxy had a great nap. The guide gave her some beef jerky when it was time to go. It might have been a slim jim.   When we got back to the car and, started driving she didn’t wine anywhere near as loud as she had earlier that day. I think she was starting to enjoy this vacation stuff.

 

 

 

THE KID WITH THE GREEN HEAD

THE KID WITH THE GREEN HEAD

 

The other night at The Chatterbox it was time to play our National Anthem. This has happened every Saturday at six for at least the past two and a half years. Back then, when all this started, I was afraid that we’d get a bad reaction but, after time I found to my joy, that this song has many fans. In fact now, I’d be more afraid of not playing the song. I think things could get ugly if I somehow forgot. I don’t even want to think about it.

Back then, I was afraid that someone would be disrespectful during the Anthem. I worried about the possibility that no one would stand up and salute. Once, long ago, someone called me a Nazi for asking people to pray for our soldiers. Of course, that didn’t stop me but still, it did kind of hurt. Once, some lady who was very drunk sang the song way too loud and horribly off key. I kind of let that go because the actual Star Spangled Banner melody was at first a bawdy old English tavern song. I’ve heard that there were some pretty wild old English lyrics that were added and sung back in the day.   I guess the different taverns would try to outdo each other in terms of bawdiness. Some of the versions were a bit ripe to say the least. Somehow, even though I don’t drink, I like the idea that our anthem has its roots in a fun bar tune. With that in mind, I cut the drunk lady some slack. At least she used the lyrics we all know and love.

Francis Scott Keyes lyrics describe the desperate battle for Baltimore during the War of 1812. The British had just burned and ransacked Washington. Baltimore was next. If they nailed us in Baltimore, we would have been divided and, isolated. That might have been that. That particular British force wasn’t known for possessing large quantities of the milk of human kindness. They weren’t The Beatles by any stretch of the imagination. Luckily, with the help of a regular American Army and volunteers from the streets of Baltimore, we sent them packing. The British navy ran very low on powder trying to destroy Fort Mc Henry. After that, I guess their powers that be figured it might be a good idea to head for home before we got really mad. I figure playing our National Anthem is the least we can do once a week.

So, there it was, Six PM on July Forth at The Chatterbox. I stood up and did my usual fumbled introduction of the National Anthem and invited all to join in as The Wanderers, The Staff of the Chatterbox, and I honor our great nation America. Dan, our manager, turned up the volume and I hit the play button. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir knew their cue. The song started to play.

It usually takes a little bit of time for everyone to realize what we’re up to. They’re so busy talking to one another to pay strict attention to whatever I might be saying. Soon, though, most everyone is up and saluting each in their own way. This evening though, everyone was up at the first note with their hands over their hearts. I guess you could call it holiday spirit.

A family right across from me and sitting directly under the indoor flag were one of the first to rise. They had a son who looked to be about eight years old or so. They must have been to an outdoor event earlier in the day and found a face painting booth. The kid had a green head. I think he may have been made up to look like the Incredible Hulk. The Hulk would have been proud. The kid stood directly under the flag. He crossed his heart and bent his head up to view the colors. He planted his feet at strict attention and sang at the top of his lungs. He meant every word. The fingers on the hand at his side were held straight and ready as if for a salute. From the neck up, his hair was dark brown, his mouth bright red, and the rest of him was green with black trim. That green head of his seemed to float in the center of all the surrounding activity. In a way, it floated in the middle of a huge swirling vortex. I looked at the swirling mass of people.

There were a lot of people in the dining room. Near the kid, stood an elderly couple. They were both way overweight and it was probably hard for them to stand on short notice. Still, they were up and singing. The husband had one of those army vet ball caps. I figured that his wife was a great cook. I looked over at the soda counter. A biker was there standing straight. His arms were at his side and he was singing hard with his fists clenched. I think he had a Confederate flag patch on his shirt. The biker was flanked by others at the counter. Every race of mankind had a spot at the counter. You name it, and it was represented on the spinning stools.  They were up with their hands over their hearts too. I looked around the room. The waiters and waitresses were all at attention. The bussers and servers all were standing dead still in their tracks holding either serving trays of food or basins of dirty dishes. I saw families who probably had to save for weeks to afford the little bit of money it takes for a visit to The Chatterbox. I saw other folks who could have probably bought the place with one checkbook tied behind their back. There were people obviously from the Middle East, Mexico, and Myrtle Beach. I saw teens with green hair, guys wearing pony tails, bald women and every tattoo known to man on every body part known to medical science. The Wanderers were there also. They were up as well.   When the Anthem was over, they’d get back to their Saturday feast of friendship. There appeared to be people who were in good enough shape to have ridden bicycles to the Chatterbox from Texas. There were also people who were confined to wheel chairs. I saw new born babies and, folks that looked like they were at their last Forth of July ever. Everyone was up, each in their own way as best as possible, singing or saluting. I looked out the windows and saw that for as far as sound reached, the same thing was happening outside too. In the middle of all this swirling, was the kid with the green head singing his heart out.

The anthem ended. A cheer went up. People went back to their chili dogs and fried macaroni and cheese wedges. I made a note to myself to remember this moment and write it down for all to read. For one short moment, the Chatterbox was America just as it should be.
 

 

 

THE WEIRDEST DREAM EVER

THE WEIRDEST DREAM EVER.

 

Last night, I just couldn’t get to sleep. Maybe it was that seventh cup of coffee. I don’t know. Usually, coffee makes me drowsy. But, last night it didn’t work. Actually, I haven’t written a blurp in a while. If I don’t do that, I start getting a bit too negative. Worry and focusing on the negative is a real sleep stopper. Counting blessings instead of sheep is a great way to knock yourself out till morning. In fact there’s a song about that very subject. Bing Crosby sang it in White Christmas. After that, almost everyone back in the day had a go at it. It’s a great song. Shame I didn’t think about it last night.

I had all the symptoms of being very tired. I put my pajamas on backwards. I couldn’t find my pillow no matter how hard I tried. Turns out that all I had to do was to put my head up to the top side of the bed.   I wondered why my feet were way too comfortable. I couldn’t get my blankets to work till I realized that it’s best to be under them instead of on top. You get the idea. I was in for a rough night.

As I feared, the night was a long one. The second the lights were out, my eyes opened wide. Every worry on Earth paraded in one ear and out the other banging on my eardrums. The pillow may as well have been stuffed with shards of broken glass. I turned the radio on to listen to overnight radio. A constant stream of alien attacks, and financial collapse lulled me into an even higher state of alarm. Speaking of alarms, every two minutes I’d sneak a look at the dial and cringe at how I just lost even more moments of precious sleep and how I was now even closer to the moment when that stupid alarm would sound and I have to get up sleepless and head off to work exhausted. That darn clock has this awful ticking sound. At that time of the night, it’s like hearing my life’s blood drip away one precious drop at a time. Pillows wrapped around my head didn’t help. That ticking sound got through and wouldn’t stop.

I’d get just maybe a bit comfortable and almost off to dreamland and pow, my bladder would send a note up to my brain. Most guys know the message. Well, the last thing I wanted to do way make the journey all the way to the can. So, I’d lay there and figure the sensation would just go away and let me sleep. That ate up yet another half hour of the night. Eventually, I erupted out from under the covers and stumbled into the bathroom.   Business done, I got back into bed and squirmed into the covers. I shut my eyes and tried to relax. Wouldn’t you know it, ten minutes later, the guys down in the bladder deprtment sent another message of dire warning up to my jangled nerve center. Soon, I’m slugging the pillow. I’m starting to itch all over. My nose is clogged. My left eye is twitching. It won’t shut. There’s two geese having a fight out along the river. I think I just felt a tick crawl into my ear. I got gas pains. Now, I’m hungry. Real hungry.   Millie the Hound just came in whining to go out. I can’t find my slippers. I think I feel poison ivy starting on my elbow. Oh God!!!! Will this night ever end? I want to Sleep.   SLEEP! SLEEP!!! I must have SLEEP!!!   That ticking!!! Make it STOP!!!

Suddenly I heard this strange sound. It was kind of peaceful and serene. It was my alarm clock gently sounding its clarion call to welcome the bright new day. I opened my eyes and looked around. All was well and calm. I was under the covers with my head gently resting on a very soft pillow. It turns out that my bout with insomnia and all that squirming and pain, was just a dream. Only a dream.

SANDWICHES FOR SALE RIGHT HERE MISTER

SANDWICHES FOR SALE RIGHT HERE MISTER

 

My friend Steve and I decided to make a few bucks one day back in 1955. All’s we needed was a plan. I guess we were both about nine years old. It was pretty hard to come up with a good idea. In the summer a kid could always put up a Kool Aid stand. A pack of Kool Aid was only a nickel. A cup of sugar out of moms cupboard, a few glasses, and a card board box for a counter was about all you needed to turn a handsome profit.   The trouble with that idea was that it was Fall now and getting chilly outside. Our fledgling marketing minds figured that a refreshing iced drink just wouldn’t fly on a chilly Autumn day. We had to come up with some other scheme. There had to be another idea.

We were sitting on the curb when the idea started to form. I think we were getting hungry after kicking rocks up and down the street.   We were trying to decide whose Mom we could hit up to make us both a sandwich. I think I said that we didn’t really need either mom and, that I could make a sandwich easy. We headed for my house.

I told Steve as I went to the breadbox on the counter that sandwiches aren’t hard to make at all. All’s you need is two slices of bread and something to stick between them. That’s when it hit us. We’ll have a sandwich stand. It would be a perfect idea on a chilly day. We spent a moment or two punching each other in the arm for good luck and then, got to work.

We had the bread. Mom had plenty. Steve drew up a sign that read SANDWICHES HERE…..CHEAP! While he was doing that, I went through the refrigerator. There wasn’t much to choose from. I saw only a slice or two of American cheese, a little Swiss, and some old sliced salami. Man, if I took it any of that my father wouldn’t have enough for lunch. That could be trouble. I searched further and saw that we had plenty of condiments. There was Heinz 57 sauce, brown mustard, olives, and those little cocktail onions. Perfect.

Except for the onions, I loved all of those things separately. I was certain they’d taste great together. Why wouldn’t they? Steve and I were going to try a half a sandwich but, decided that would cut into profits. No sense wasting money when an extra ten cents meant twenty extra sticks of red licorice. We made about four sandwiches. Mom once showed me how to wrap sandwiches so, I gave it a whirl. After three quarters of a roll I got the sandwiches wrapped ok I guess. The kitchen wasn’t too messy as we headed out the door.

We needed a location and decided that the old dirt road next to the railroad tracks would be a good spot. That way, we could look at trains while we waited for customers. Also, Steves dad worked for the railroad. Maybe he’d come by on a freight train and they’d stop for lunch. You never know. Also, it was hunting season and we figured that if we set up right on the edge of the woods, perhaps a hungry hunter might drop by. We could almost taste that red licorice now.

An hour later, things were looking pretty glum. We were getting real hungry but, didn’t want to kill our profits. We checked to see if our sign was spelled right. We tried to sit up straighter. Then Steve tried something pretty cool. When a car drove by, he’d yell. “Sandwiches Here!!!” We noticed that people looked our way when he did that. It was my first glimpse at the power of radio advertising. Before you know it, we were both screaming at the cars. Soon, a car actually stopped.

Two guys got out of the car and headed our way. They were hunters. It didn’t look like they had much luck hunting so, we figured we had a sale as they saddled up to the booth.

“You kids got coffee?” The biggest guy asked.

We said. “No Sir. Just sandwiches! They’re only ten cents. Made fresh today.”

Steve asked for the sale. “Would you like one sir? How about you too mister?” Steve would become a master salesman someday with a technique that powerful.

The guys went for it. I told them they had a choice of onions or olives. They both went for onions. I proudly handed them my culinary masterpieces. Steve and I were smiling proudly at each other as we contemplated our new found wealth.  The hunters were unwrapping their new found meal. I couldn’t wait for the review.

Soon, one of the hunters was trying to speak. He seemed to be having a hard time talking. He finally choked out something like. “Hey kid! What the heck did you put in this sandwich?” The other guy was coughing pretty hard. As I told them of my secret ingredients he doubled up even more and started crawling towards his car.

The other fellow took another bite. He chewed it a bit and just kind of got pale. He pulled out one of the cocktail onions and said something about swearing off martinis. I think on that very day, at that very spot, he decided to quit drinking. I felt it was a win win situation.  He staggered off aimlessly to their car and they drove off. Steve was upset that we didn’t get a tip.

Well, when you sell fifty percent of your inventory in one fell swoop, it’s time to celebrate. Steve and I packed up our gear and headed off to Old Man Shapiros candy store. We left the sandwiches unwrapped along the side of the road for the vultures and crows. Funny but a day or two later on our way to school, we went by the old location. The sandwiches were still there.

TEE SHIRTS, LOGOS, AND, ONE OF LIFE’S GREAT EQUATIONS

TEE SHIRTS, LOGOS, AND, ONE OF LIFES GREAT EQUATIONS

 

Some people collect ties. Some people collect belt buckles or socks. My wife Sandy collects sneakers. Imelda Marcos has nothing on my sweetie when it comes to pairs of shoes lying in heaps around the house. Me, of course I collect recorded music. That goes without saying. Mounds of records rivaling the stature of the Great Pyramids of Giza are in every corner of our humble home.  But, I’m also a fanatic pullover shirt fan. In winter, it’s sweat shirts. During the warmer months, I stash the sweat shirts away in a pile under the bed next to Sandy’s sneakers and, start hunting for the ultimate tee shirt.

For instance, I’m wearing right now, a dark brown tee shirt with the large head of a smiling pig on the front. The nice thing is that the pigs head glows in the dark too. Friends from the Wanderers car club got this for me when they were down in the Carolinas. The pig has a wide smile on his face and is wearing a grocery store clerks paper hat cocked to one side of his head. Folks in the know realize that this pig is the symbol of the great Piggly Wiggly super market chain. Their markets are scattered all over the Carolinas and other southern states.

I know that when I was a member of the Wilson Rescue Squad decades ago, if we went to the Piggly Wiggly to get fat back and dried navy beans for our Sunday soup, our money was no good. We might have had to pay if we were after filet mignon, or fish cheeks but, most anything else we wanted was gratis. So, I wear this tee shirt proudly and love to plug the chain.

Once, down in the Carolinas, I found a wild tee shirt in a thrift shop. It was just a plain bright red short-sleeve tee shirt with a big white molar on the front. God, I loved that one. It sure was a super conversation starter. People would ask about it and I’d tell them I was in a punk band called the Whole Tooth. Folks would ask where the gig was that night. I’m guessing some dentist gave these out to kids for a good checkup. That, or maybe he made his staff wear them to work.

I’ve always got my eyes peeled for the ultimate tee or sweat shirt logo. I’m always reading them where ever I find them. Just one word of caution. If a well-endowed young lady is wearing a shirt of interest, it’s best to ask permission to eyeball the shirt before you start gawking. That can get awkward especially if her boyfriend is near at hand reading a muscle magazine and she herself happens to be a kickboxing champ.  In cases like this, it’s best to perhaps let the opportunity pass you by. It’s awful hard to enjoy future tee shirt sightings through swollen and, perhaps well-deserved black eyes.

Imagine my glee as I was getting ready to play at The Chatterbox the other day when I spotted yet another great tee shirt logo. Even better, this shirt was on a middle aged guy so, gawking was not an issue. This fellow was sitting on a stool at the counter. He was waiting for a burger and sipping a coffee while he waited. I was setting up my show coffee and I had a moment or two before air time. I had to compliment his shirt.

His shirt design depicted a kind of mathematical equation using symbols instead of numbers. The first symbol depicted a campfire burning followed to the right by a plus sign. Next, right after the plus sign, was a man sitting on a log with a cup of coffee in his hand followed by yet another plus sign. To the right of that plus sign was a kind of simple cartoon rendering of a sitting dog. Below that row of symbols and simple pictures, was an equal sign followed by the words…..ALL YOU REALLY NEED.

I spoke with the guy and said how that shirt made a lot of sense. He agreed and said that this was his favorite shirt. We talked about dogs. His dog of ten years had just passed away not very long ago. He figured that he was going to wait another month or so and get past vacation before he got another pal. I was going to mention that he should try 11th Hour Rescue. He said that’s exactly where he was going to go when the time came. Turns out that he’s gotten all his dogs there over the years.

I wished him well and his cheeseburger came. The waiter poured him some more coffee. He sat there munching away and after a while left to get on with his day. I’ll bet the next time he visits The Chatterbox, he’ll be out on the patio wearing his shirt, with the final piece of his equation. Ain’t math great?

 

IT AIN’T THAT EASY SOMETIMES

IT AIN’T THAT EASY SOMETIMES

 

I was doing a show a while back. I was set up outside under the cover of a big old shade tree. I had a fair amount of folks listening to my broadcast and there were all sorts of people walking by giving me a thumbs up for each song they heard me choose. Some folks even found themselves a seat and rested everything but their ears.

Around midafternoon, an older lady came by and nicely asked for anything from Peter Paul and Mary. She even bought one of my books and had me autograph it for her. She then found a nearby seat to rest a bit. I hunted for a good Peter Paul and Mary tune to play just for her. She was busy digging whatever song I had on at the moment. Me, I was bent over my record boxes trying to find her song.

A guy came out of the wandering stream of passersby. He walked right over to me like he knew me. He had an odd way of talking too fast and gravel like. He was one of those people who somehow, can talk without taking a breath.  He also spoke at least twice as fast as normal and a pause was not in his game plan. He wore combat boots, and a red tee shirt that had some kind of military logo on it. I think he wore camogreen parachute pants with lots of pockets. His ball cap was a kind of veterans hat. It may have been camo too. He had a beard. He was very thin and wiry. He would not stop talking. Even if I was on the microphone, it made no difference. Luckily, my mike is very directional.   I think he was about my age.

He talked about Vietnam and being in helicopter gunships.  He said how his unit, when they attacked would play rock and roll music real loud as they descended onto a battlefield. I think that I was playing a Jefferson Airplane song just then. He said he had served multiple tours of duty and showed me where he got shot in the elbow. Mostly, though he talked gibberish and didn’t hear a word I said in reply. I tried to speak with him but, it was no use. I had no idea what to do so, I ignored him and got back to the show. Besides, it was time to play that Peter Paul and Mary song I had found. Without making eye contact with my new friend, I introduced the song and offered it to that lady sitting nearby.

Giving up on me, the guy saw who I was talking about and walked over to her and sat down. He started talking a mile a minute to her just like he did with me.   The song was Blowin’ in the Wind. Maybe that was a bad choice. I tried to get him to come back over to me but, he had a new target. The lady tried to be nice but, she really wanted to hear the song. She eventually had to just turn to him and, nicely say that he was bothering her. I think she made one of those fingers to your lip gestures that librarians are so good at. I also heard her say that she wanted to hear the song.

With that, he just got up and left. He didn’t stop at my table. He didn’t talk to anyone else nearby. He whipped out a cell phone and started speed talking to whoever it was that picked up on the other end. He just hobbled away and melted into the passing crowd.   Soon, he just disappeared almost like a small storm passing behind the trees.

I’m certain that the lady was glad he was gone and I don’t blame her. But, as for me, I didn’t feel right about what just happened.   There was something wrong with that guy. He may or may not have been a veteran. Who knows? That did look like a real bullet wound on his elbow but, who’s to say? There was something mental going on for sure. I felt like I should have kept him close by and maybe got an officer to join us for a minute. I wondered if he maybe lived in the woods behind the festival grounds. Was he eating on a regular basis? Was he just talking to an imaginary friend on that cell phone? It looked kind of broken.   Was he sleeping in a sewer drain? A quote from the scriptures came to mind. It goes something like, “As you treat the least of persons, that’s how you are treating God.” I felt like a big fat rat.

Just minutes later a wild thunder storm hit suddenly.  Tell you the truth, I felt like I brought it on with my behavior. I figured I was going to get clobbered by a bolt of lightning at any second. Even if God instead of frying me, took pity on me and just let my amp get wet, I still felt that I was a creep to that guy. I should have gotten him to help. In times like these, with me, God, doesn’t have to do a thing. I think He installed a supersized guilt trip ego into me as standard equipment. He probably figured that would keep me in line. It does.

The next day, after a night of fitful guilt ridden dreams, I called some folks who I knew would know about this guy. From my description, they thought they knew him and, that though he’s a bit of a pill at times, he’s no harm to anyone even himself. I gathered that he’s cared for OK and that all in all, his life is running about as good as can be. The folks I spoke to thanked me for being so kind.

After the call, I decided to take a nap and slept pretty good. Funny, but just before that awful storm hit, I got my amp safely into the van just as the rain started to pour.