Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Last night I received the following email message from my friend Paul (Loopy):

Thank you, Kagnew Vets.
Thanks for serving this country and this flag.
Thanks for the difficulties that you who went to Viet Nam faced and endured.
Thanks for being part of a brotherhood that still endures today.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise in dealing with the VA.
Thanks for caring still in your elder years about where this country is going.
Thanks for disagreeing with a modicum of dignity when your brother rants and raves about our government’s direction.
Thanks for agreeing to disagree while still paying respect to the other's viewpoint.
Thanks for all the memories we share of everything that Kagnew represented.
Thanks for welcoming me into this group that has become such an important part of my life in retirement.
Thanks for your friendship.
Thanks for being my brothers.

May each of you have a safe and happy Veteran's Day tomorrow.

I would also like to say thanks to all the Kagnew Vets, especially those who made living in Africa bearable. Long lasting friendships were formed that still exist more than 40 years later.

Thanks to all Vets for sacrificing a part of their life to serve their country.

Thanks to all active military personnel who are now sacrificing, and may or may not become future Vets. I salute all of you.

Finally, a big thanks to Applebees’ Restaurants for serving a free meal to all active military personnel as well as Vets this Veteran’s Day.

The Beach Bum

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Semper Fi

Today is my youngest daughters’ birthday. She is now Jack Benny’s perpetual age. How time flies.

We usually have a few drinks together to celebrate, but this year she is 1000 miles away. I’ll just have to have a few extra cocktails tonight. She is in Maryland because her Great-Aunt had hip surgery yesterday. The surgery was successful and soon she’ll be walking around like a normal 85 year old.

Today is also the United States Marine Corps birthday, therefore the title of this Blog. My cousin was a Marine and served two tours of duty in Viet Nam. I have several friends that proudly served in the US Marine Corps; most of them spent at least one tour in Viet Nam. Two guys that I knew in High School died there.

Semper Fi is a shortened version of the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fidelis, the Latin for always faithful. They are faithful to the Corps, their fellow Marines, and most of all to our country. They do a job that few of us would consider doing and they do it well. Some die and others are injured for life; both physically and mentally.

Before I started to write this Blog, I stood at attention and rendered a hand salute to all present and past members of the Marine Corps. And then I said Semper Fi plus a prayer for them.

Mister President, please bring our troops home!

The Beach Bum

Labels: ,

Friday, October 23, 2009

Chestnut Brown Canary

A few days ago (or maybe it was a few weeks ago) I received an email from a friend that mentioned the names of several Folk Music groups from the 1950’s and 1960’s. He was in the process of transcribing his vinyl collection onto a more current media.

I went through this process about 4 or 5 years ago, but selected cuts from various albums rather than copying the entire album. I made two CD’s, one loaded with MP3’s and the other containing some favorites on a .wav format.

One of the Folk Music group mentioned in the email was the Chad Mitchell Trio. The Chad Mitchell Trio was the very first group that I saw in a live performance. It was in late 1959 or early 1960 (snow was on the ground – so it might have even been early spring 1960) at the Chicago Historical Society (if you ever go to Chicago, this is a place that you want to visit).

The group was performing nightly at a club (bar) a few blocks away at North Ave. and Wells St. (in Olde Town) and took the time out to do a gratis set on a Saturday afternoon at the Historical Society.

Fortunately I was there, with a few of my fellow students, attending a lecture about Chicago history.

After the lecture we were asked not to leave the auditorium, because we were in for a special treat. We would have a musical interlude, so to speak. Not one of the 40 or so people left the room.

Enters the Chad Mitchell Trio!

The first song that they performed (and the only song that I can remember by name) was “No Irish Need Apply”, and I was overwhelmed when hearing the live music. It sounded so different from listening to music on the radio or on the Hi-Fi.

I’ll never forget that day!

Now, here is how my neural processors (RAM) work!

I read the email, I think of the Chad Mitchell Trio, I think of the Historical Society, I think of my old friends, I think of a guy named Joe (who was at this mini concert with me) and then I feel compelled to speak to Joe about the “good old days”.

So I call him!

After the usual salutations, talking about the weather and our ailments, I switch the conversation to Folk Music.

Joe and I (as well as a few others) went to “Mother Blues” in Olde Town Chicago to see Joan Baez (with guest performer Bob Dylan – fairly unknown at that time) and we also went to a Peter, Paul and Mary concert (I believe it was at the Goodman Theater behind the Chicago Art Institute) in 1961.

Joe recalled the PP&M concert and asked me “Didn’t you have a crush on Mary Travers?” I answered by saying that I had a crush on “every thing in a skirt”. "Don't you remember our High School Art Teacher, Connie?” “I was like a puppy in Connie’s class, I would fetch for her and do anything that she wanted, just to be close to her.”

He remembered and he laughed!

As the conversation continued we spoke of other Folk Music artists. Joe brought up the fact that many of the 1960’s Rock Artists had a Folk Music background. I brought up the fact that some Folk singers never went over to “the other side”, they were purist. Sure, Dylan electrified his band, but he did continue to write Folk, not Rock.

I mentioned that one of Bob Dylan’s most covered songs is “Knockin’ on Heavens Door” which has been covered by many major rock groups throughout the years. But they’re not like the original version; they lack the compassion in Dylan’s voice.

Then he brought up Judy Collins (who did some Dylan). I had purchased her album “Wildflowers”, at the PX, while stationed at Kagnew Station in Africa, after hearing the song about “Clouds” (Both Sides Now) on the radio. I had a crush on Judy, but this time I was seemingly an adult. I still had the crush (I’m sure that this has to do with high testosterone levels in a young male viewing an attractive female on an album cover).

Joe then brings up Crosby, Stills and Nash. This was one of my all time favorite groups from the late sixties and seventies.

Joe then asks me it I knew the origins of the CSN song “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”.

I say no!

Joe then informs me that is was Steven Stills tribute to Judy Collins. Unknown to me, Stills had dated (was sleeping with her) Collins when he was with Buffalo Springfield. My friend Joe knew all of this information; and I think I know music trivia – silly me.

Two days later I get an email from Joe with a link to Youtube. It’s a video of CSN doing Suite: Judy Blue Eyes with Judy Collins.

Now, I can’t get this song out of my head: Every time that I hear a bird in the back yard warble I hear “Chestnut brown canary, Ruby throated sparrow” rushing through the canyons of my mind.

Thanks a lot Joe!

The Beach Bum

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The other night I was speaking to my friend Loopy and I told him of this Blog that I was planning to write. It’s been taking me three or four day to write a Blog. Mainly because of my pains, I can only write when I am pleasantly anesthetized with alcohol. Usually by that point in time, I do not really feel like writing anything.

Back several decades ago I took a 200 Level English course. The main reasons that I took the course were that it had one of the shortest sign-up lines and all in the line were young ladies. Although it can become a distraction, a classroom full of young ladies is a good experience for a young male with high testosterone levels. It allows you to daydream if the class is boring.

There are many reasons that there are short sign-up lines for certain elective classes. The three predominant factors are listed below:

1) The class is highly specialized and usually boring. The people in the sign-up line more than likely need this class as a pre-requisite for another highly specialized and equally boring class.
2) The Bad Professor syndrome. Either you don’t understand what they are trying to teach you or they are very hard with their grading (I found this to be a major factor when signing up for a class with an East Indian teacher). Except for the gifted few, most students don’t learn a damn thing and inevitably drop out (take an incomplete) or get bad grades.
3) The class is scheduled at an inconvenient time or coincides with a mandatory class.

It was a good course, not too boring and a hot babe sat next to me (let me rephrase that last statement – I intentionally sat next to the hot babe). The subject of the course was Etymology, which would seemingly be boring, but fortunately we had a Good Professor.

But I have strayed, as usual, from the topic of my Blog; Politicians. But before I get to the point of this Blog, I must say something about my friend Loopy (Paul).

As I did, Paul took 4 years of Latin, but he also took two years of Classical Greek. He therefore knows a lot about the origins of words (Etymology) in this thing that we refer to as the English language.

In our conversation I mentioned the word Politicians and asked if he knew the Etymology of the word. Unsurprisingly we both came to the same conclusion; great minds think alike.

The Etymology of the word Politics according to Webster’s:
Greek politika, from neuter plural of politikos political.

However we, Paul and I, had a different take on the word Politicians. Let’s break it down.

Poli - (no Y’s in either the Greek or Roman Latin Alphabet) so this is the same as Poly, which is a prefix meaning many.
tic – (no C’s in the Greek alphabet) so let’s add K to give it the right sound. This turns it into tick. As we all should know, a Tick is a small blood sucking insect that bores under your skin and causes pestilence.
ians – a suffix from the Latin word “anus” (I kid you not) meaning “from, related to, or like.

Therefore the true meaning of the word Politicians is: Related to many small blood sucking insects that get under your skin, cause disease and expel feces.

The Beach Bum

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Perfect Martini

For the past 13 days I have been enjoying one of the simple pleasures of life. The Martini! Only one per day; that’s what I had promised my daughter if she would be so kind to procure a bottle of Gordon’s Gin for me.

My daughter doesn’t really like me drinking Gin; she says that I get strange, at least stranger than my normal strangeness. Plus she mentions that I have the tendency to fall when trying to rise from a chair when I drink a Gin Martini. This phenomenon has only happened to me twice in the past 9 years; but unfortunately she was present at both times.

Some say that Gin is an acquired taste (as is any liquor or malt beverage coming from the British Isles), but I liked it the first time that I drank it, with tonic, when I was stationed in Africa. The Eritrean Bartender at the Service Club said that it was good for me; the quinine in the tonic water helped to prevent malaria. He explained, therefore the more that I drank the better it was for me; it would be good for my health. I bought into his theory because I wanted to drink more gin and tonics. Besides it was a plausible explanation.

I drank my first Martini at the Officers Club on Fort Meade, Maryland in 1969. I wanted to appear sophisticated and everyone who drank a Martini in the movies was stylish and sophisticated. I was at the club on my first date with a charming young lady that I had met the week before.

I ordered a Martini and she ordered a rum and coke. The bartender asked if I wanted it up or on the rocks, shaken or stirred and if I wanted an Olive or a Twist. I remember that James Bond drank his shaken and served up, so I ordered it shaken and up with both an Olive and Twist.

The first sip that I took nearly gagged me; how could anyone drink this concoction? My date asked if she could take a sip, I, of course, said yes and she took a sip. The look on her face was what I was feeling inside but afraid to show openly. I asked her if anything was wrong and she replied “How can you drink that horrible thing?” Nine months later she married me anyway; probably because I had switched back to gin and tonic.

In 1976 I went to a bar with my friend Les, who was a regular patron at this particular bar. Les' drink of choice was a martini, on the rocks with a twist. He didn’t have to order his drink because the bartender knew exactly what he wanted.

I watched the bartender prepare his Martini. First he put the Vermouth into the glass and swirled it around and then dumped it out. Next he rimmed the glass with a lemon twist, dropped it into the glass and iced the glass. Then he filled the iced glass with Beefeater Gin.

On the next round I ordered a Martini telling the bartender “The same as you made for Les, but make mine up and with both an Olive and a twist.” This time I enjoyed my Martini. Les told me that the key to a good Martini was to use as little Vermouth as possible. He was right!

Two years later, my favorite bartender, Bob and I created what I called the Perfect Martini (he called it George’s Special). 2 and ½ ounces of Gin (Gordon’s) and ½ oz of Vodka (Smirnoff) chilled on ice in a glass shaker (until the shaker frosted over) and then gently stirred. A splash of Noillly Prat Dry Vermouth and a dash of Bols Orange Curacao were poured into an up glass. Then ice was placed into the glass to chill it. The ice and liquid were then disposed of and the Gin was then poured into the glass (using a Julep strainer) and was garnished with both an Olive (Queen Size sans pimento) and a twist of lemon (the zest flavored the rim of the glass).

About 6 years ago, with a young (23 or 24) enchanting female friend, I went to a Martini and Cigar Bar in Tampa, Florida. This place had a list of more than 30 different Martinis with only 3 or 4 made with Gin. Prices ranged from $9 to $24 for a Martini. The crowd was young; in fact the guy sitting next to me was in his late 30’s and probably the second oldest person in the Bar.

My companion ordered a Stoli Cosmopolitan with Grand Marnier instead of Cointreau.
(Aside: this drink was invented in an Annapolis, Maryland Bar and Restaurant named McGarvey’s, by a bartender named Bill, for McGarvey’s owner Mike Ashford and his good friend and sailing buddy Walter Cronkite).

Then I explained to the bartender how I wanted my Martini prepared. I was going to play the stump the young blonde bartender game. She smiled and said that the bar only carried top shelve Gins (I chose Bombay Sapphire), and only had Marie Brizard Curacao, they did however carry my Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth (as well as several other brands). I was impressed (with her knowledge and her cleavage) as I watched her make the second best Martini that I have ever had in my life. It was close to perfect.

Our check for two drinks was $32 (and this is in Florida, not New York City). I left the young lady bartender a $20 tip and thanked her for making my day.

The Beach Bum

Labels: , ,

Friday, October 02, 2009

My Friend (Not My Cousin) Vinny

In 1981, while in self exile from my marriage and my family in Maryland, I live in Cicero, Illinois. At times, these were the best of times and at others they were the worst of times. I really missed being with my children, yet I cherished my freedom from my wife’s domineering family.

I first met my friend Vince while walking to a Cicero ballpark to play softball. I was playing in a Bar-League softball game and carrying a bat (an old Jackie Jensen model Louisville Slugger with a thick barrel – I had it since High School). Vinnie was also carrying a bat and was walking a few paces in front of me.

I caught up with him and asked him if he was playing in the 2 o’clock game. He looked at me as if I were crazy; then he answered and said “No, I gotta break someone’s kneecap.” I thought that he was being facetious and laughed. The look on his face told me that he was dead serious.

The next time that I saw him, about two months later, was in an up scale Italian Restaurant and Bar (and there weren’t many in Cicero at that time); I didn’t recognize him because this time he wasn’t carrying a bat. He yelled across the bar and asked me “Did you win?” I was amazed that he remembered me; we had had a very brief encounter a month or two before. I yelled back that I didn’t remember.

He got off of his bar stool and walked over to me and sat in the stool next to me. In a soft voice he told me that it was impolite to yell in a Restaurant. I was going to say that he yelled first; but I wisely bit my tongue. He introduced himself and I did the same. Little did I know that this was a start of a beautiful long lasting friendship.

In our bar conversation I learned that Vinnie worked for a Dutchman nicknamed “The Weasel”; although others called him BO Billy (but not to his face). The Weasel was the biggest bookmaker in the western suburbs of Chicago. His bank was Vince’s father-in-law.

Vince is a White Sox fan and loves the game of baseball with the same passion that I do. I’ve gone to several Sox games with him (usually the best seats in the house). I’ve taken him to several Cubs games over the course of the years; he always complained that we were in the cheap seats (Bleachers or Upper Deck).

Vinnie now works for the largest Construction Company in Chicago and it’s probably one of the top 20 in the US. I think, but I am not sure, that his father-in-law bankrolled their expansion some years back. Instead of a bat, Vinnie now carries a pen.

For the past 6 months Vinnie has been hounding me (via email) for the $19 that I owe him from last year. Now this is a guy that makes a two comma annual income. He lives in what my Dad would have called a mansion in the far western Chicago suburb of Naperville (5 bedrooms, swimming pool, 3 car garage and a circular driveway – all this on 1 ½ acres).

Vinnie and I have a standing annual wager. He bets $20 that the Cubs do not go to the World Series (he calls it a sure thing) and I bet a dollar that the White Sox won’t go (there is a reason for this that I may or may not explain later). I can’t recall how many $19 checks that I have written over the course of the years.

Last April, I did not send him his usual check. When he didn’t get the check in July he began to harass me; calling me a piker. Last night I called him to say that the check (sincerely) was in the mail but that it was written for $38 to include my 2009 losses (as I may not be around to pay up in April).

We spoke for more than an hour and he said “You know why I talked to you at the Restaurant that night, years ago.” I said “No.” “Because you seemed to be a good guy and I didn’t know too many good guys at that time.” He also said that I always made him laugh; that I was a funny guy who always faced adversity with a smile.

We talked about my health and physical problems. I told him that he didn’t need a bat because my knees were already shot. He laughed. I told him that a good day for me was when I only vomited once in the morning and didn’t crap in my pants. He laughed and then he cried!

The Beach Bum

Labels: , , ,

Friday, September 11, 2009

Good Fortune - I Doubt It

On July 3, 1981 the crew of the Valiant sailed out of Burnham Park Harbor (Chicago) with a destination of Michigan City, Indiana.

We had slept on board the night before so that we could get an early morning start. The Captain had set the departure time at 7am (give or take 15 seconds – the Captain has always believed in punctuality). We didn’t want to be standing on the dock at 7:02 waving farewell to the crew as they headed toward the mouth of the harbor and onto Lake Michigan (as I’d seen this happen before).

At first I didn’t understand why we were going to Michigan City for the Fourth of July; Chicago had a far better fireworks display. I had found, in the past, that it was unwise to question the Captain about matters such as this. Later that day I found out from my cousin (The Admiral) that the Captain (who would turn 40 years old on the Fourth) feared a surprise party and wanted to get out of town.

The Captain plotted (manually with a chart) and then set the course for Michigan City. There was a moderate breeze from the Northwest and it was predicted that we would get there in about 7 hours.

About half way there (mid-lake) the wind died and we were just moving with the waves. It was like being in the doldrums of the Sargasso Sea, but without the seaweed. The Captain said that we would wait a while before turning on the engines and that it was a good time to have lunch. As we ate, a swarm of flies descended on us. This was the middle of the lake, where did they come from? It seems that they had been on a board that was floating in the water near the boat.

The flies were not going for our food, they were going for us. We only had two fly swatters and by the time you would zap one fly; two more would take its place. The Captain turned on the engine (this was a drastic measure, as the Captain did not like to waste fuel)! These flies were biting us like the abominable Wisconsin Deer Fly (People from Chicago call them Kamikaze Flies; they have a 5 inch wingspan and dive right at you).

In a short time we had left the Sargasso Sea, the wind picked up and we were able to kill or get most of the flies off of the boat. It was smooth sailing for the rest of the trip to Michigan City and a good time was had by all. End of story.

But, it’s not the end of this Blog.

During my life I have been attacked by about every flying insect that is known to mankind (I believe the tsetse fly is the exception). I think that these insects innately know that if they come near me, I will attempt to kill them. So like the Kamikaze Deer Flies of Wisconsin, they will tempt the fates by attacking me first.

Although it has been a rainy spring and summer, I have yet to see a mosquito. The avian population and the small reptiles that inhabit our yard must be performing their primary function; insect elimination. I can put up with the squawking birds, croaking frogs and chirping lizards as long as they do their jobs by ridding me of the flying insect population.

Earlier this summer we were besieged by sand flies; these are sneaky little (about a sixteenth of an inch long) blood suckers that you do not see landing on you and biting you. They will leave a welt the size of a mosquito bite that itches like hell.

Next came the invasion of the Gnats. I don’t believe that they bite, but they do have a tendency to fly up your nose and into your eyes (and mouth, if open). This lasted for about a week; the birds and reptile probably finally heard me cursing them for not ridding me of the plague.

Last week, while my daughter was in Maryland, it was my assigned task to take care of the dogs (they need to be walked several times per day). On one of my care giving journeys I noticed a rather large group of flying insects attacking a flower bearing shrub in the back yard. They were butterflies. As far as I know butterflies do not bite humans.

As I neared the shrub, one of them flew directly at me and landed on the left sleeve of my shirt. I was walking one of the dogs at the time and therefore moving. This was of no concern to the butterfly. In fact he moved to my chest about an inch above my hearth. Don’t think for one minute that I didn’t consider smashing the thing before he moved on; I did. It shortly left to join the others in his group, which probably saved his life.

After walking the dogs I called a friend who has a large butterfly collection adorning the walls of his Rec-room. I told him the story and described the butterfly and he said that he had one of those things on his wall. I then asked him what its name is. He sez “How the hell should I know, I just buy them for decoration purposes.” Then he tells me that in some cultures, a butterfly landing on you is considered to be the harbinger of good fortune. These must be the same cultures that believe a bird defecating on you is good luck.

We’ll see!

The Beach Bum

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, September 04, 2009

Potato Chips?

In my last conversation with my friend Slow Eddie, about his tour of the old neighborhood, he mentioned that the old Pizzeria where we hung out on Fridays and Saturdays was still there and still doing business. He had thought about taking the grand kids into the restaurant, but after seeing the patrons he decided that it was not a good idea and decided to stop at the Home Run Inn on 31st Street instead.

The name of the restaurant was the Del Campo Pizzeria and it is located on the corner of Cermak (22nd Street) and Troy. It was about 6 blocks from our high school and less than three blocks away from Eddie’s childhood home and about 6 blocks away from mine.

We would go there after a Friday afternoon Football or Baseball games and for Saturday night get-togethers. The pizza was very good but did not compare with the Home Run Inn’s pizza. But the Home Run Inn was more than a mile and a half away from my house and an even farther distance for most of my other High School friends.

My Dad would get our pizzas (and pizza was never considered to be a dinner food – although I would argue that it contained all five essential food groups) from a Pizzeria two blocks away from our home. It was a thin New York style pizza but it didn’t have the cracker crust which I preferred.

It was owned by two brothers that had emigrated from Italy to New York City in the early 1940’s. They lived in Brooklyn and both went to work for a local Pizzeria; one as a busboy and the other as a kitchen clean-up man. The younger brother was the busboy.

This Pizzeria had no wait staff; you would get a number when you ordered your pizza and they would call the number when your pizza was ready.

Although his job was only to clean the tables and the floor (and restrooms), the younger brother took the initiative to get the pizzas for the customers. He'd say something like “don’t interrupt your conversation; I will bring your pizza to you”. His fetching the pizzas did not interfere with his job and the owners of the Pizzeria appreciated his extra effort. Plus he would usually find nickels or dimes on the tables when he went to clean them. Soon the nickels and dimes turned into quarters and although he was making less money per hour than his brother; he was bringing home a lot more.

I transferred into Cyrus McCormick Elementary School (Chicago) in the third grade. I knew absolutely no one in my class and they didn’t exactly welcome me with open arms. Most of my neighborhood friends, (which I had just met that summer) went to Catholic Schools.

The next fall when I entered the fourth grade there was a new transfer student. Now I was no longer the new kid on the block.

By this time I had become friends with several of my classmates. I was such an affable character that they couldn’t resist my pleasing personality, besides I was bigger and stronger than most of them and I knew how to throw a punch. A fifth grader was picking on one of my new found friends and I decked him (actually it was a sucker punch that was taught to me by my older cousin Bob). I gained the immediate respect from my fellow male classmates (however, my mom was summoned to the school to explain my inexplicable behavior). Fortunately this turned out to be a good move on my part because my friend’s parents owned the candy store across the street from the school and I didn’t get severely disciplined by my parents.

The new student’s name was Giuseppe. On the first day of class our teacher called on him and asked him to introduce himself to his fellow classmates. He said “Ma’am, I go by the name of Joey, I’m Italian but I was born in America.” A harsh silence fell over the classroom; both Joey and our teacher sat down. More silence.

I decided that I liked this kid, so after class I introduced myself to him and we shook hands. He lived about a half block away from the school and I lived two blocks away. When I walked to school in the morning he would be sitting on his stoop waiting for me and we’d walk the last 100 yards to school, every morning, together. After school I would often stop at his house and we would do our homework together. His Mom baked some of the best cookies that I have ever eaten.

One day Joey came to my house after school and one of the local kids, from my block, yelled “Hey George, who is that grease ball that you’re with.” That was the last day that Joey came to my home. Kids can be cruel. But one must consider the fact that I grew up in an extremely bigoted Bohemian/Polish Chicago neighborhood.

One day Joey and I were walking home from school and he continued to walk past his house. I asked him if he was coming to my house. He told me “No, I’m going to see my father at work.” I thought that it must be nice to have your Dad working so close to home.

The next day, at recess, I asked him where his Dad worked. He told me that his Dad and his Uncle ran a Pizza Parlor. He also said that his Dad worked 14 hours a day and he hardly got to see him. He asked me if I would like to meet his Dad and I said sure. He said that we could go there for lunch. I told him “not today” because my Mom would be worried if I didn’t come home for lunch.

After clearing it with my Mom, the next day Joey and I had pizza for lunch. I met his Dad and his Uncle Carlo. After that day Joey and I would go to the Pizzeria for lunch one day per week.

The next year I was invited to their home for the Feast of Saint Joseph (March 19th). It was on a School day so I went home to clean up and change clothes first. I arrived at about 4:30 in the afternoon. When Joey opened the door to let me in I received a blast of some of the most fragrant aromas that I had ever encountered. Joey said that his Mom had been preparing food for 3 days.

Joey’s Dad and Uncle were sitting at the dining room table (which looked like the worlds largest antipasto platter) drinking wine and speaking in Italian. The greeted me in English and welcomed me to their home (Uncle Carlo lived on the second floor of the two-flat house). The sideboard next too the table was covered with an assortment of cookies, cakes and tortes. Uncle Carlo saw the look on my face and said go on and take one. I reached for a round cookie that was full of holes and had powder sugar on top. Carlo said no no those are only for after dinner; try the Pignoli or the Biscotti. I chose the Pignoli.

Joey and I, his two cousins and his brother and sister went into the living room to watch television. I notice Joey’s Mom clearing the food from the table. I said “Mrs. *******, I haven’t eaten yet.”, she laughed and told me that I would eat soon.

I couldn’t believe the amount and varieties of food Joey’s Mother and Aunt brought out of the kitchen, it truly was a feast. There were so many types of pasta including Ravioli and Lasagna, three different sauces (they called them gravies), several meat dishes and one vegetable (actually a mixture of several vegetables).

Uncle Carlo sat at the head of the table (he was the oldest member of the family – the Patrono) and gave the benediction, said a prayer and the talked about family members for 2 or 3 minutes. I didn’t understand a word he said because he was speaking in Italian. Then he sat down and said Mangiare, I knew what that meant.

Joey’s Mother fixed me a basket of food and cookies to take home with me when I left that night. She said “Bringa back the basket.”

After Elementary school Joey and I rarely saw each other. His parents sent him to a Catholic school and I went to a Public High School. But on every March 19th I was there at his house to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day.

Now after this extremely long missive, I suppose you are wondering what this story has to do with the title of this Blog – Potato Chips.

On August 3rd I wrote a blog about snack foods and Potato Chips in particular. Somewhere in that Blog I wrote about Joey’s Dad’s Pizzeria having the best Spumoni that I have ever eaten. Writing that Blog reminded me of my old friend Joey.

The Beach Bum

Labels: , , ,

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Pleasant Waste of Time - Sometimes

In late June I wrote a blog about my signing up for Facebook. Against my better judgment, I signed up to please my daughters. They had signed on a week before at the urgings of one of the former “loves of my life”.

I have 22 Facebook friends (my younger daughter has more that 100); 6 of them are family members, 2 are former “loves of my life”, 3 are former roommates (they were really friends, because anyone who had the forbearance to live with me, had to be a friend) and 2 are former co-workers. The rest are childhood friends of my two daughters, who probably remember me only as “that crabby old man” who would go searching for his daughters when they were out past curfew.

Last week, a friend and former roommate tagged me. A tag is like a meme. I don’t participate in memes and I usually ignore tags (not that I get that many). But the topic of this tag fascinated me.

Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen movies you've seen that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me because I'm interested in seeing what movies my friends choose.

He then listed his 15 movies.

I’ve been known to occasionally bend the rules; almost to the point of cheating (if I knew I could get away with it). So I grab a piece of loose leaf paper and put it on a clip board. Within ten minutes I had a list of more than 30 movies.

It’s funny how the mind works. The first movie that I wrote down reminded me of other movies featuring one of the actors (actress) in that movie. Then your mind leads you to a director. My hand was writing faster than a speeding bullet. I write a lot faster than I can type; and I don’t have to constantly use a backspace key.

I sat back and looked at my list and decided that some of the movies on the lower end of the list should have been closer to the top of the list. It was a hopeless cause (where is St. Jude when you need him?). So I decided to give up on this tag game and not participate.

After speaking to a friend (Richard Feder) yesterday, I decided to bend the rules and edit my selections. But I would not put the results on Facebook; instead I would write this Blog. The first movie listed is still the first movie that popped into my mind. It was the first non-animated movie that I had seen in color. The second was also second on my original list.

The List:

1. The African Queen
2. Casablanca
3. On the Waterfront
4. Star Wars
5. Forrest Gump
6. M*A*S*H
7. Animal House
8. Blazing Saddles
9. Goodfellows
10. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
11. 2001: A Space Odyssey
12. The Godfather
13. North by Northwest
14. Alien
15. Raiders of the Lost Ark

Five movies that just missed the final cut were:

1. Caddyshack
2. The Maltese Falcon
3. Donovan’s Reef
4. The Terminator
5. Charade

The problem with these tag games is that the list requirements are either too long or too short.

The Beach Bum

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You Can't Go Back To The Past

I received telephone calls from concerned friends on both Saturday and Sunday.

The Saturday call was from my old Chicago friend Slow Eddie. After the traditional Howya doin’ conversation:
He sez “Howya doin’?”
I sez “Ok, howya doin’?”
He sez “Ok”.
We both lied!
He said that he called because I haven’t written a Blog in over three weeks and that he was concerned. Basically he was just checking to see if I was still among the living.

We then talked about Baseball. He a White Sox fan and I am a Cubs fan. He was boasting that he has watched more than 100 Sox games this year and even some Cubs games. He retired last spring so, like me, he has a lot of time to watch Baseball.

I boasted back saying that I have seen more than 250 games this year (predominately the Tampa Bay Rays). Plus I have seen every MLB Team play this year.

He also asked me why I was a Cub and not a White Sox fan, after all I did grow up on the south side. I told him that I had told him the story nearly 50 years ago and maybe I would blog about it in the near future.

After about 15 minutes of talking Baseball, he switched the topic to our High School days and the old neighborhood. A week ago Slow decided to show his grandchildren our old neighborhood and what once was Harrison High School. A big mistake says Slow, since he hadn’t been there for about 25 years. Slow has lived in Berwyn of more than 30 years.

His grandchildren live in a northwestern suburb named Schaumburg and except for going to the Lake or the Downtown/Grant Park area they have never seen the real city up close. Both of his sons will come to visit him in Berwyn and bring their children to see Grandpa. He told me the route that he took and I cringed. It was very similar to the route that my cousin, the Admiral, took to show my daughters our old neighborhood in 1996 (I remember him saying to “make sure the doors are locked and the windows are closed”).

Slow Eddie was surprised to see all the changes on 26th Street (South). He said there was a sign in one store window that said English Spoken Here. He said that it must had been a joke because he didn’t a single white person on the streets that he traveled (Eddie considers Spanish speaking people to be non-white – it has something to do with the Moors invading the Iberian Peninsula).

The kids couldn’t wait until the tour was over and neither could Eddie. He took 31st Street back home and stopped at the “Home Run Inn” to get a pizza for lunch. He decided to take it home because “except for some of the staff there wasn’t a white person in the place”.

After the story about the trip to the old neighborhood, he decided that he is considering moving from Berwyn to Schaumburg, He would sell his house and buy a condo outright. I asked him if it was to be closer to his children and grandchildren. He said that and the fact that some Salvadorians had moved in across the street from him and that they do not speak English. Besides he was tired of mowing the lawn and shoveling the snow.

So I sez “how do you know that they are Salvadorians?” He sez “the Mexicans that live three doors down told me.”

Slow Eddie closes the conversation with “I’ll really miss the neighborhood Bars, all that they have in Schaumburg is high class yuppie places.”

The Beach Bum

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 03, 2009

A Pip of a Chip

I don’t eat a lot of snack foods. Not that I don’t like them and the hollow calories that they provide (if my body craves hollow calories, I usually drink a beer), but it is a habit (one of the very few good habits that I have) that I developed as a child.

My parents didn’t keep snack foods (except for potato chips, which were only to be eaten with lunch) in the house. My Mom would always tell us that these foods would ruin our appetites for supper. Snacks were only eaten after supper. And most of the time we were too full to eat them before nine at night.

The snack foods that my Dad ate were pickled herring, sardines in mustard sauce and occasionally popcorn. Needless to say, as a child and a teen the popcorn was the only one of these snacks that appealed to me.

We also always had Ice Cream on hand, but Ice Cream was considered to be a dessert and not a snack; the only time we ate it was after supper, as a part of our dinner. My favorite was Spumoni which we would get from a nearby Italian Pizzeria (more about this in my next Blog).

As usual I have digressed from the main topic of this Blog; which is Potato Chips.

When I was a kid my parents would buy a Potato Chip Brand named Jays (not to be confused with Lays); these were Chicago’s most popular potato chip, at that time. Their slogan was “A Pip of a Chip”. They came in one and a quarter ounce bags (I believe that there were also family size bags available). My Mom said that this was the prefect portion to accompany a lunchtime sandwich. If we bought the larger bag we would tend to eat more than we should and therefore ruin our appetites. She also monitored the bag count daily to make sure that no one was cheating on their potato chip intake.

I have always enjoyed eating potato chips with a sandwich.

The other day I ate a sliced chicken breast sandwich, and of course, I wanted potato chips to accompany this sandwich. My daughter had purchased a box of (fifty count) one ounce bags (vending size) of Lays Potato Chips at Sam’s Club. When I buy chips, I usually buy the 12 and ½ ounce to 14 ounce bags (ounce for ounce it is less expensive – especially when they are on sale – but is it really less expensive?).

Here is what I found in the one ounce bag. There were 85% whole chips, 15% broken chips and no crumbs. In the big family size bags you are lucky if you get 60% whole chips, 25% broken chips, 12% bits and pieces (not worth eating) and another 3% crumbs (also not worth eating). You end up feeding 15% of your purchase to the birds and insects, or worse yet putting it into the trash.

I used to attribute this to the grocery store’s mishandling of the bags when stocking the shelves, but now I’m beginning to wonder. Does Frito-Lay put their scraps in the larger bags so that they can put them on sale more often? Also, why aren’t potato chips packaged in clear bags as Doritos are?

I want to know!

The Beach Bum

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Perfect 9

In modern day Major League Baseball it is rare to see a pitcher throw a complete game. Rarer yet is seeing a no hitter pitched. Before yesterday I had seen six no hitters and one of those in person. But the rarest pitching feat in baseball is the perfect game.

In my lifetime, I would estimate that I have seen more than 7000 MLB games. Two of those have been Perfect games. Actually two and a half (I was able to watch the last four innings of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series – I’ll never forget Yogi Berra jumping on Larsen after the last pitch).

The first perfect game that I watched was on our new 17 inch color television. I believe that my Dad (who would always say “color television hasn’t been perfected yet.”) had bought it so he could watch Baseball games in color. It sat on top of our old 27 inch B&W on which he would watch almost everything else.

This game was the Cubs versus the LA Dodgers in Los Angeles. Sandy Kofax was pitching for the Dodgers. Although we were both die hard Cubs fans we found ourselves cheering for Sandy during the 9th inning. My Dad had never seen a perfect game.

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to watch my second perfect game. It was an afternoon game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Chicago White Sox. Mark Buehrle was the White Sox pitcher. It was shown in the local market by Fox Sports Florida. The announcers were Dwayne Staats and Brian Anderson (I would have much preferred to hear Steve Stone and Hawk Harrelson call the game but it wasn’t on WGN America).

During the eight inning, Staats spoke about the possibility of Buerhle getting his second no hitter in the last three seasons. Shortly after that statement Pat Burrell slapped a ball up the left field line. Fortunately it went foul and Burrell lined out to third base on three pitches later to end the inning.

At the beginning of the top half of the ninth inning both Staats and Anderson intimated that Buerhle was flirting with a perfect game as well as a no hitter: mentioning that the Chicago fans had not seen a no hitter in their ballpark for a long time. This is usually the “kiss of death” as players as well as fans tend to be superstitious. In the old days it was an unwritten rule that broadcasters did not mention these possibilities.

At this time Sox manager Ozzie Guillen made a defensive move placing Dewayne Wise in center field.

The first Rays batter in the ninth inning was Gabe Kapler. After a two and two count Kapler whacked a pitch to center field; it was heading for the center field stands and would surely be a Home Run (Gabe, Mark and I knew that "crack of the bat" sound well). This would end the perfect game, the no hitter and the shutout for Buerhle.

But center fielder Wise timed his move perfectly, jumped high and caught the ball just before it went into the stands. The look of amazement on Buerhle's face was an awesome sight to see. Now, for me, that’s baseball excitement!

Two outs later Buerhle was swamped by his fellow players; he had pitched a perfect game. I cried, thinking about the time that my Dad and I watched Kofax’s perfect game.

The Beach Bum


Thursday, July 16, 2009

My Evil, Evil Ways

During the past 9 days I have started to write 5 different Blogs. They sit here in a folder waiting to be completed along with 8 others from the past 6 months.

It’s not because I do not have the time or inspiration to complete them; but for the reason that I have become easily distracted lately.

I’ll begin to write and then get an hour long telephone call from a friend or sometimes the pain that I suffer within my body becomes too intense for me to bear.

Talking to my friends and family is very important to me because I have no social life where I am now living. I’ll receive two or three calls a week and make another three to four calls. The average length of these calls is usually over an hour long.

One of my shortest recent calls was from my friend Lurch, who lives in the hoity-toity Brentwood area of Los Angeles. He called to get my address (which he already had, but couldn’t find) and we were on the phone for about 30 minutes. Lurch is really a character and a half; in California they call him Dr. Demento.

As for the pain and suffering; most of it has been self inflicted over the course of the past 50 years. What were just aches 20 years ago, have now become major pains. I never took care of myself when I was younger; feeling that I was indestructible.

I don’t take prescription medicines; although they have prescribed them for me at the VA. The Doctors there plan to do a major psych evaluation on me because I refuse to take pain killers; to ease my pain. I refuse to go back there because I feel they are going to lock me up and throw away the key. Of course, they say, that it would be for my own well being.

I medicate with natural supplements, alcohol (a natural pain killer) and nicotine. The Doctors (and some of my friends) think that I am crazy for this course of action. But then again, back in the spring of 2004, the Doctors gave me 2 to 3 years to live if I continued my evil, evil ways. I, of course, ignored them. I, like Dr. Demento, enjoy doing evil things. And five years later I am still amongst the living.

I’ll catch up on my Blogging soon.

The Beach Bum

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, July 06, 2009

For My Good Friend Raymond

My very good friend and brother in arms, from Texas, Raymond, recently left a comment (well, actually two separate comments) on my Blogs from last week

I first met Raymond at Kagnew Station in Africa in 1967. He was a quiet person that didn’t hang out with the people in my coterie. We worked on the same shift (Trick) and saw one another on a daily basis. I found his Texas drawl and the colloquialisms that he used to be very amusing. I was a city boy from the North and was amused very easily with the language that southerners used.

Raymond was what we called a “ditty bopper” (Morse Intercept Operator) and I worked as a Non-Morse Communications Analyst. He spent seven eights of each work day listening to the high pitch sounds of Morse Code (He did the same while stationed in Viet Nam), I, on the other hand, wore headsets for about two hours per shift.

I have a little impaired hearing in my left ear. Raymond is on VA Disability with total hearing loss in his left ear and has to wear a hearing aid in his right ear. Others from our unit suffer the same problems, but to a lesser extent.

One of Raymond’s comments was “NOW this is the ZAZZ I love to read.”

For years Raymond has lived vicariously through some of my emails about the former loves of my life. Most of these stories are not exaggerated or embellished (maybe slightly to make my physical prowess look better than it actually was).

Therefore I will relate a story (on this Blog), for Raymond, that I have not previously told to anyone living or dead.

The Story!

It was in the spring of 1969 that I met a lovely young lady who worked for the Central Intelligence Agency at a party in a neighbor’s apartment in Laurel, Maryland. I was still serving in the Army at this time.

This girl, Nancy, was a Columbia graduate and had been recruited by the CIA in her senior year of college. She wanted to become a field agent but instead was put into an administrative position. She was not a happy camper! But the CIA kept leading her on and she continued to work for them.

She was from Glen Cove, Long Island but lived with her grandmother, just off New York Avenue, on 1st Street NW in Washington DC. Not one of nicest neighborhoods in DC.

Nancy and a few others of her female co-workers (as well as several young ladies that worked for the FBI and No Such Agency) would travel to Laurel, Maryland on the weekends to attend the bacchanalian parties that were held at a place simply referred to as T-2 (the apartment number). They came to drink, dance and find male companionship.

As I recall, there were usually more female guests at the party than male guests – this was good odds for me.

The night in question I was chasing after a blond named Dewey who worked for the FBI and lived in Arlington VA. The farther the distance from the party the better chance that you had with the young ladies spending the night. Plying them with alcoholic beverages also helped.

After drastically failing with my pursuit of Dewey, I moved on to Nancy. We danced and we drank. She was a nice girl and I was a bad guy. Opposites tend to attract.

At roughly one in the morning, I suggested that we adjourn to my apartment a short block away. She agreed.

When we arrived, we immediately headed for the bedroom (which I shared with a roommate - Marty). Much to my chagrin, Marty was laying planks with Dewey. I grabbed my pillows and a blanket and headed onto the living room floor with Nancy.

We made love for several hours (not an exaggeration), and then exhaustedly passed out. We lied naked on top of the blanket.

At the un-Godly hour of 9 in the morning there was a knock at the door. It was our upstairs neighbor, who also served in the same Army unit as I did. We never locked our door, so after a brief knock, he entered to find me and Nancy lying buck naked on the floor of the living room.

The funny thing was that he was more embarrassed than we were; we just laughed and covered up with the blanket.

Nancy went back to Glen Cove in early July; tired of the CIA feeding her Bullshit. We had three good months together; a lot of love making and mad passionate sex.

The Beach Bum

Labels: , , ,