Sunday, February 15, 2009

Doing the Right Thing

I have an old Army buddy that we (in our group of miscreants) call Cazzo. The name Cazzo is a shortened version of the Italian phrase testa di Cazzo. He has also been called Cazzopiccolino, a more endearing appellation.

When we served together in Africa his nickname was Mister Clean. Not only because he shaved his balding head, but also because he took at least 3 showers a day (even during the drought year of 1968) and had a locker full of bars of Ivory Soap.

I call him the King of Email Forwarding. I get at least 25 Forwarded (FW:) emails from him per week. I read some of them, especially if the Subject line intrigues me. To top things off, he never Snopes the info that he is passing on. The ones that I automatically delete are the double Forwarded emails (two morons, instead of only one, passing on disinformation).

Only twice in the past 5 years have a passed on one of his forwarded emails (and I had copied and pasted them with a new subject line).

However, on occasion, he does send out something good.

Last week Cazzo sent one about reactions to various scenarios 50 years ago, compared with today’s consequence. Most of these scenarios applied to teens and High School students. The one that struck home with me was:

Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car
and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.
1957 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal,
goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.
2007 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse.
Billy removed to foster care and joins a gang.
The State psychologist tells Billy's sister that she remembers
being abused herself and their dad goes to prison.
Billy's mom has affair with psychologist.

My story, relating to the above, takes place in either 1961 or 1962. I attempted to pinpoint the year, but others that I spoke to, weren’t exactly sure of the year either.

Back then we used to play a game (and I don’t remember the name) of softball in the streets. We used a 16 inch softball called a Clincher; this was a real soft ball, you didn’t need a glove. The older it was the softer it got.

We usually played with four man teams; pitcher, catcher, middle fielder and outfielder. You had to hit the ball, in the air, passed the pitcher. If the ball touched the ground before it reached the pitcher it was an out. Any ball caught by a fielder was an out. Parked cars were foul territory any foul ball was also an out. Usually if you hit a car it would do no damage (it was a very soft ball and cars were built like tanks back then).

You had about a 12 foot wide window and the best way to get a hit was hitting the ball between the pitcher and middle fielder (a single) or between the middle fielder and outfielder (a double), Home Runs were next to impossible. We were allowed four swings at the ball and no balls or strikes were called; so you could wait for your pitch.

The day in question was in mid June (we were out of school for the summer). We were playing 3 man teams and the last batter was catching. My team had men on second and third (you didn’t actually take a base; it was assumed that you were there) and I was up to bat. I noticed that the outfielder had taken several steps in towards midfield after the first pitch. He did it again after the second pitch, wanting to prevent a two run scoring double.

Here was a great opportunity for a rare Home Run. I’d be the talk of the neighborhood. I let two more pitches go past. Then I saw one coming into my sweet zone. I swung with all the force that I could muster. Unfortunately I swung a bit too early and put it into the windshield of a parked car. It was an out. It also shattered the windshield.

It wasn’t just any windshield; the car belonged to the meanest man neighborhood, who hated children, especially teens. He would yell at us for sitting on his stairs or his car. Even worse yet, if we walked on his lawn or if we had gone into his yard to retrieve an item that had errantly fallen into it; he would blow his top. Therefore we grabbed our bats and ran like hell.

When I got home, I told my Mom and Dad the story. All my Dad said was “Are you going to do the right thing?” To me the right thing was to lay low for a while. Ten minutes later I was knocking at Mister W’s door. I told him what I had done and there was a fiery look on his face. He didn’t yell at me, he just walked down the steps to examine the damage to his car.

He sternly told me to come back on Monday evening and he would tell me how much I owed him for the damages. It was $50.

At the time I was working part-time for the A&P and netting about $22 per week. I told him that I would be able to pay him within three weeks. He made a counter offer. He said that if I would mow his lawn (hand mower), pull weeds and trim the bushes for eight weeks; that he would call it an even trade off. We shook hands and I called it a deal.

Many years later, his son (who is a very good friend and five years older than me) told me that his Dad once said that I was the best kid in the neighborhood. This coming from Mister W was truly an accolade.

The Beach Bum

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The name of the game was'line out'. (I think?)
Mr. W. told me that I was the 'best kid' because I cut his grass. Doing so allowed me to play in his yard with his son, :)

admiral jimmy

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