A Drift

Quiet.

5:30 AM.   Still.  Calm.

My dog, Mrs. Wilson, has to pee.  Relieved, she joins me in the study.  A mug of Keurig dark roast, Columbian, 100%, fair trade, robust, in hand, I hesitate to touch the reading lamp at that first sip.

The room, a shade of black coffee, is bathed in light…..Mini versions.  Red and green spots indicate a satellite on duty, yellow for an always warm Sony HDTV awaiting the trigger, in the corner, a vertical device, its multi-hues flashing; power, broadband, mobile, under an ATT worldly logo ready to re-ignite the tiny blue of an aged, ca. 2015, HP printer.

DSCN5938

One foot away a dozen cords, tangled, plugged, recharging lithium ion molecules. A reminder that the best use of lithium was treating bipolarity.

Black spaghetti.

For a moment, as if the faceless subject of Edward Hopper, an original sketch, the dim light at a lonely intersection, below draped windows

nighthawks-sketch

1942

I turn on the 3/way lamp.  The second stop, 70W.

Reflecting on a recent reunion, sixty leathered, weathered years in the making, drew me toward the bookshelf; Drift, a college annual, 1958 version.  Sophomore year.

DSCN5940

30+, fraternal brothers and loved ones for dinner, in a gilded age mansion, reminiscent of the house we shared, pre-VietNam.  The private club restaurant, an Indianapolis landmark on tony N. Delaware St. long ago, was a proper venue.  Less proper, yet realistic, the ‘hood is a fast growth urban fungus; boarded windows, abandoned buildings, wandering nighthawks, dim streetlamps, pot-holed street, traffic, oppositioned by a 24 hr C-Store incandescence.  Pouring rain.  For hours.

The dinner, delicious, the companionship without peer, the crowning achievement…my wife  having a wonderful time. After a necrology briefing (one revered member, our house treasurer passed away, less than a week before), trips to the bar, and exchange of the secret grip, we embraced time travel for three hours.

Conversation brushed on old memories, most quite accurate, interspersed with aortic stents, PSA levels, titanium joints, HDL, A1C, the big C…..acceptable as we recognize the inexorable decline to the final checkout lane.  The last scan.

How and why we, octogenarians all, were chosen to survive, baffles this writer.  Many of us spent a childhood in northern Indiana’s Lake County.  The cinematic triumvirate, “west side story”, “grease”, “happy days” surely owe us royalties, so help me Maria, Travolta, and The Fonz.

TV, 3 stations, rarely viewed, turned off at midnight, the prayer to Saint Francis of Asissi, and a stoic Indian chief looking reverently skyward in the glow of cathode rays.  With no flouride in the water, most of us had early cavities, filled with mercury amalgam fillings.  Thanks to Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, and Bit -o-Honey.  We had never heard of bottled water.  Drank from any tap, delivered magically through unseen pipes.  Lead, wrapped in asbestos to conserve heat  inside.  In homes  painted with Sear’s Best, or Sherwin Williams, lead based rainbows to “cover the earth”.

Catfish caught in nearby Wolf Lake or the Calumet Sag Canal came off the hook with anomalies: two heads, vestigal tails, or crooked spines.  On warm summer days the aroma of  rendered pig fat drifted south off the Lake Michigan breeze, a wisp of frying bacon, courtesy of Lever Brothers.   Mom bought P&G’s Rinso White, and Ivory, a soap that floats.

Ivory_old_1954

Airborne soot from Inland, Youngstown, USSteel, omnipresent, turned every neighborhood into a chest x-ray; black, white and shades of grey. Whiting Beach closed due to a Sinclair refinery oil spill. The word ecology had yet to make an appearance in Webster’s collegiate, but we had 29¢/gal. leaded gas for the 1952 Nash Statesman.  A uniform attendant pumped, while multi-tasking, cleaning the dirty windshield, adding PSI pressure to bias-plied tires.

We ate PB&J on chemically bleached white bread.   Our mother insisted that the PB brand was named after my older brother’s nickname, Skip.  There was no warning caution : this product made in a facility where traces of wheat, peanut, soy, milk may be found.

foodallergenlabel2

 

Like our sports heroes, we ate gluten, 100%, straight, covered with 3.5% milk and called it the Breakfast of Champions.  Stan Musial returned a stare, a cardboard smile, over a worn linoleum topped table.

Other brothers arrived from mythical towns, those on wrinkled Shell station maps of Indiana; Evansville, Poseyville, Stewartsville, with names like, Dick, George, Joe Don, and Red.

Smoking…?….almost everyone did.  The RJ Reynolds sales rep passed out free Salems every week in the Campus Club.  Packs of 4.  Take all you want.  Here, have a free lighter…..filled with volatile organic compounds.  Yet, six decades later, no one in this room lights up.

DSCN5943

We view grainy b/w photos, Kodak Instamatic or Polaroid, relishing our unique history, a blink in time, lamenting brothers passed, and best friends unable to attend.  Attempts to revisit our vocal skill, fraternal anthems, once enhanced by Schlitz, Falstaff, Blatz, were rather lame.  Even when provided with crib notes, Songbooks.  Our fresh 1959 vocal cords were much better, contending 1st place in the annual “Spring Sing”. We had tonsils.

940 W. 42nd St., Indianapolis

DSCN5946

Bottom l-r; Lathouse, Mitchell, Generalli, Bevis, Lilves, Anthony, Elliot

Top l-r; Schuetz, Dorsey, Secor, Smego, Siurek, Stevens

Lynn and I were among the first to arrive, and the very last to leave.  Married for 28 years she knew little of her husband’s past life.  We exit the darkened parking lot, drizzling rain, wipers at the 3rd notch.  Driving at night, no longer a welcome task, as I glance past her cheerie smile, merging into the too fast traffic.

“Honey, that was so enjoyable.  I hope the boys plan to do this again next year.”

*****************************

It’s 7:11 AM, EST, the civil sunrise, and Wilson is restless after her morning nap.  She delivers an anxious stare.  She wants her breakfast, our daily walk, a bowel movement, so get the leash.   Now.  

In dogspeak, ‘Chas, you’re no Stan Musial.’

Nostalgia is contemporary.

These, too, are the good old days.

 

Very special thanks to Walt Hap and his wife, partner, and date for 50+ years, Rita (nee Taylor) Hap

♥️ ♥️

Insightout © 2019

 

Journey….destination, a gentle breeze

                               DeTour Village, MI (pop 375)
DSCN8429

Three months of summer, at the end of a 40 mile cul-de-sac, with neither crime, pollution, nor traffic is inadequate preparation for a destination road trip. The agony of 600 miles through urban torture, Chicago, road rage-in-waiting, 60 y/o car, manual shift, no A/C, no cruise control, no power windows, no power steering, no cupholders, during late afternoon commuter traffic; a breeze in 85°F, top down.

Grew up here.   Left.   Never came back.

Still a Cub fan.

Once described by my own children, an assumed term of endearment,”the Direction God”, I have no GPS, no I-phone (by choice). An innate internal compass, the singular guide, has served me well.

I’ve left home without my dog-eared 2002 Rand-McNally Road Atlas.

Large print version.

On my own, I escape the IL tollways to drift through northern Illinois farm country, mostly county roads. Idyllic; corn on the left, soy beans to the right, 4-H, silos, holsteins, farmers struggling with commodity prices, I become thirsty.  Hershey® thirsty.

For a glass of chocolate milk.

Cow_female_black_white

Passing through Harvard, IL, childhood home to my college roommate’s wife, her family tenant farmers, a lovely woman, Polly excelled as a pianist…lost her younger sister, one of the ‘five peppers’; to cancer.  Lung cancer.  She had never smoked.

We are all dealt a deck of cards.  Connie’s was missing the ace of hearts.

Day dreaming in the land of no wrong turns, at 40 mph, the roadster begins to message me, ‘yo, we’re crunching gravel’.
268430_0026 (1)

**

So, I am lost.

Okay ?

Having found a farmer, roadside, to ask for directions…he admires my 300SL, I lust over his John Deere, S790. The combine has a capacity of 400 bushels vs. my trunk; one spare tire, two pcs. soft luggage and three cans of cold Heineken.

He’s using a hand held I-Mac testing the beanfield moisture levels, electronically. I offer an even trade, your 790 for my 300, he hesitates to check values on his phone, then ” Nope, no thanks, not without A/C ”
X2R7EYGKC4I6TFQVR4NDFFROAQ
He gave me precise directions to WI, then laughed, “you got no GPS, hell, my lawn tractor has one, and A/C !”

combine-harvester-s-790-john-deere

S790   72 rows of soybeans bite the dust

I’ve reached my goal, the Abbey, an upscale, yet aging, resort. First stop, registration, where two lovely volunteers supply credentials in a large tote bag, which I had weighed ~ 22 lbs (10Kg). Contains name tag, route maps, trinkets, candy, souvenirs, a tiger-eye maple cutting board, and, heavy metal;  12″ dagger!

First thought, for attendees flying home, ‘could you bypass the body tickle TSA checkpoint ?’
DSCN5869

Wüsthof…translated to German, murder weapon ?

DSCN5838 (1)

Entry door nearest my room

And tote bags. We’re a nation of excess, measured by the number of  accumulated totes. I once attempted to dump ~ 25 of them, back door at the Goodwill, get my $200 deduction slip, and drive away with a grin. No dice.

Sorry, sir, “we don’t accept tote bags, take them to the landfill, but they’ll make you pay to dump.”

i_pooped_today_tote_bag-rbcb1cfe25d344f54b12a1be9f835f240_v9w6h_8byvr_522

                                                                                                                   OUT

 

I’m off to the opening salvo, a serial hugfest…let’s get acquainted hour. First stop, the open bar.

“Good evening, sir, what can I get you ?”

I’ll have a Cocoa Corona.

“I’m sorry, what was that ?”

Easy kid, ½ chocolate milk,  ½ Corona lager, & 3 drops of Tabasco®.

“We don’t have Corona, but we do have Coors Light”

Ok, make it a Cocoa Coors Light.

“Huh ?”

**********************

Fontana, WI, westernmost edge of Lake Geneva, a resort where medicaid and supplemental social security are a myth. Here, summer residents, the multi-generational wealth of Windy City moguls, have mastered leisure splendor.   Anyone above the poverty line is welcome for a ‘look-see’, however, for a long term stay, leave your credit score at the door.

DSCN5818

A small portion of the Wrigley compound, pieced together with Doublemint®, Spearmint®, Juicy Fruit® and the tears of a million Cub fans

This promises to be a fun-filled 96 hours.
↓ Day one, my new BFF, Katie, the ship’s stewardess ↓
DSCN5759 (1)

“Something wrong here, choppy, whoa, this lake is covered in water. Completely. I’d feel safer if you sat on my lap”

 

If you want to read about the drive home, maybe next year.
Bring a quart of chocolate milk.

 

**  courtesy DKPhotography, all rights reserved

©insightout2019

Dial (800) 439-2466

Everyday, the seven deadly sins lead to unhappiness.

The dark side.

Life noir.

Imagine a hard-boiled cynic in a bleak sleazy setting.

Not being a Bible reader, in spite of its popularity, my day ends with the bridge column.  Too, as a practicing non-Catholic, sidestepping the altar of misbids and poor defense, is a free pass from purgatory.  Where the high priest of Hail Marys issues a thousand yarboroughs, hands in bridge or whist containing no ace and no card higher than a nine.

….the Church of the Painful Truth.

th
The sin list, (7 ?), I plead guilty to wrath and lust, i.e., getting very snotty when being dismissed by attractive ♀♀.

The costliest sin, please, bear witness as I enter the confessional; GREED.

Late winter, 1969, reviving a Mom&Pop drugstore from imminent failure, business began an upward tangent.  The regional expansion, visiting physician offices during the few off hours, I learned that many offices resisted calling any pharmacy “long distance”.  Recalling, phone in prescriptions incurred a 25¢ charge …. a 5% expense, when an office visit with a patient then, $5.

A popular Niles, MI doctor, John Bruni MD, complained that calling patient prescriptions to us had cost him $1.75 in a single month, the = of two BigMacs and a supersize order of fries.

846-02796915 © ClassicStock / Masterfile Model Release: Yes Property Release: No 1950s 1960s MOTHER DAUGHTER COUNTER PHARMACY PHARMACIST BEHIND COUNTER SHELVES STOCKED ASPIRIN PRODUCTS MEDICINE

MOTHER-DAUGHTER; PHARMACIST BEHIND COUNTER

Willing to absorb the cost, I requested the newest strategy, a 1-800 toll free line from ATT, the sole monopoly. Offered a choice of numbers, I chose 1-800-439-2466. Why…?…because the last seven digits spelled HEXAGON.  Readers might recognize that as the six sided benzene ring, core of all organic chemistry, the pride of pharmacy students and vegetarians.chemistry-2938901__480  What could be better, easy to advertise and remember, for a failed English major, I felt quite clever. Plus, I turned down 800-244-5375 which translated to (800) BIGJERK.

images-1It worked.  That 4th line started slowly but soon rang, sometimes off-the-hook.  Yes, regional medical offices galore, but often insurance salesmen, stockbrokers, sweepstakes, roofing, siding, and the sheriff’s auxilary extorting donations.  Or else.

Guilt by benevolence must be in the Bible.

Somewhere.

The formula depicted above, adrenaline, the active component in the now infamous Epi-Pen®, a timely need if you encounter an anaphylactic reaction to nuts.  If you already knew that, stop, become a Jeopardy® contestant.  Now.

Possessing a 1-800 number became the fashion.  As the numbers available began to diminish, the value increased. Historical footnote : prefixes 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, 833 had not yet been imagined. Now we were the cat’s meow.  Today equal to the cutting edge.

A vanity plate in the world of commerce.

Then, a call, Oct. 21, during the 1st Reagan administration, a Wednesday, late, after closing,screw-1924174__480

“Hello, I’m Bill, calling from Cleveland OH, are you the owner ?

“…yes.”

“Just a chat. I’m president of Hexagon Industries, manufacturer of hex bolts.  I’m intrigued by your telephone number, as it could really benefit our business.  Would you be willing to relinquish 4392466?”

” Umm, hem, uh haw, it’s really quite an asset, we’ve spent years promoting it, at great personal cost, eight dollars a month, effort, huge effort, yada yada, priceless, yada, blah, blah”

” I fully understand, but if, say, $5000 is enough to change your mind, could you call me back ?”

” Yeah, yeah, sure, but not likely…thanks for calling”

That night, my 1st wife’s 39th birthday, I hadn’t even brought home an outdated Whitman Sampler®. 302211719898_1

Money was tight.  But greedy me, I’m walking on air. I’ve got this chump by the testicles…if he’d offer a lousy $5K, why not $10K ?

Let him hang in the wind, like a palm tree swaying in a typhoon, wait a year or two, glued to his phone, anticipating a positive response from this pharmacist, self-supposed pillar in his community, a member of the most trusted profession……ahaaa..!…not a chance, I’ll go for the gullet, $10K or no dice.

Yes, greed, like all sins, has hindsight. It taught me that class and humility mean far more than money or possession. Class would have been to offer the number, for nothing, an extension of good will, and invite him to visit South Bend if he ever headed west.  That would be a remembrance, forever, and I wouldn’t be writing this column.

I did call, a year later, and he was delighted.  Good news.  The government antitrust case against ATT was moving forward and he was offered the same number, at no charge, with an (888) prefix. “My sincere thanks that you didn’t take the bait”.

It was too late, too hollow, too late, too shallow to offer now. Too late to turn a wrong into a right….I’ve regretted it ever since.

My ex, a lovely woman, will turn 78 on October 21, 2019. She remarried.  Her second husband,  much better than the 1st.

Stay tuned…it gets worse.

Out of curiousity, tonight I dialed the number (800) Hexagon.

A recording asked if I was over 50 y/o; press 1 for yes, or 2 for no.

I pressed 2, so add lying to that list of sins.

 

insightout©2019