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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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)
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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.

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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’.
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**

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 ”
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He gave me precise directions to WI, then laughed, “you got no GPS, hell, my lawn tractor has one, and A/C !”

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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 ?’
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Wüsthof…translated to German, murder weapon ?

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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.”

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                                                                                                                   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.

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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 ↓
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“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

Choosing Gym Shoes

 

As youngsters, we often referred to tennis shoes as ‘sneakers’, characterized by rubber soles, faded black cloth uppers, and the aroma of the 7thgrade boys locker room.

 

For 30 years I wore a cheap pair in honor of Fred Perry, the last British player to win a men’s singles Grand Slam title, Wimbleton 1936.  Until my children, in their early teens, began mocking my fashion sense. Apparently, shoe branding equated to social standing.

Fred_Perry_01 Fred Perry was also a table tennis champion.

Sooo…May 20, 1987, a Wednesday, I opted for an upgrade to an adult grade leather casual, Bass Boaters®.  I recall this, not from memory, but a curious habit of always dating each pair of shoes when purchased.

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Stylish to me, although never having owned a boat, I learned too late they were a second tier brand….admonished because the best, most desirable, with patented non-slip soles for walking a damp teak deck on your cabin cruiser, were Sperry TopSiders®, the choice of eastern elite Ivy leaguers.

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Now,  31 years later, I still wear the boaters, walking my dog, down to the DeTour marina to look at other people’s boats.  And their shoes.  Posing as the ancient mariner.  A patina of ‘previously owned’, the soles have the Firestone tread depth of a 1941 Studebaker Champion headed to Kaminski Salvage on South Bend’s west side. DSCN4999

There are more cracks on the perimeter than my ladyfriend (Judy Starbucks) in Patagonia.

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These shoes, like Keds®and Uniroyal’s Red Dots®were among the last made in the U.S.A. Now, all manufactured in Asia, decades after Don McLean’s, the day the music died, Feb.3, 1959.Unknown

 

 

Once, only briefly, I considered an eBay purchase, used,  from the legendary NBA Bull, so I could walk the ‘hood in Chicago’s Bridgeport…or MoTown, Watts, Harlem, Ferguson, but the potential for a hospital bill and trying to get on a CTA bus, barefooted, without a token, and not having $556 dampened the enthusiasm.  And a lot of other ‘asms’, for a honkey clown with size 9½ wearing a pair of size 13 EEE.143547-17792cce22a44fef8909f94fc4a68e16.mpo

Jordan 1 Retro Bred “Banned” (2016) $556 pair

Convinced that I’ll never be able to touch the rim, hampered by a four (4) inch vertical leap, nor ever own a boat, should I even consider a replacement  in the future.DSCN8228 DSCN3017

Not likely, as this writer, these Boaters and my pal Starbucks are barely broken in.

 

©insightout2018