Missing and presumed oblivious

Both my dad and my big brother Homer retired from the Coast Guard.  During their careers the two probably rescued thousands. Dad spent years saving souls off the graveyard of the Atlantic.  Every time a foolhardy captain made the decision to leave harbor during bad weather like hurricanes and nor’ easters and ran into trouble, the Coast Guard, and my father, was there to jump in the ocean and save their reckless, irresponsible kiesters.

On the opposite coast, Homer had tours in both Kodiak and Sitka, Alaska.  And Alaska don’t play.  The weather could get so bad on Kodiak Island that both ships and planes were grounded.  And more than one year Halloween was canceled due to “Kodiak bear activity”.

Wait, wait!  I just want your Reese’s cup…

Honest.

One summer, my folks and The Kid went to visit Homer.  My bro and my child both possess a fair amount of goofy, and really enjoy each other’s company.  I think a lot of my own humor comes from sitting around the dinner table as a child, listening to Homer’s hilarious stories, and trying not to choke on my meatloaf, or blow Kool-Aid out of my nose.

Dinner time!  Oh my God…who gave that woman a knife?  Uh, Joan, how ’bout we put the knife down okay?

Before returning home, Homer gifted The Kid with one of the funniest t-shirts I’ve ever seen.

It had the illustration of both a Coast Guard cutter and helicopter.  Very large letters spelled out the source of my mirth.  It said:

“Support Coast Guard Search and Rescue—Get Lost.”

To me, it was as funny as a pie in the face; but maybe you had to be raised as a ‘Coastie Kid’…The state of being lost brings us to this week’s tale.

When I was 8 or 9, we were living in Elizabeth City.  One of my friends lived just down the street.  Her house was laid out unlike any house I’ve ever seen.  On the second floor, only the front half was finished.  The unfinished back, from the roof line down, was used as an attic.

That’s also where she kept her large Barbie collection, and all the stuff that went with it: house cars, furniture, clothes and accessories.  That’s where we played with them, as well.One afternoon we were playing with her Barbies and decided it was time for the dolls to go to sleep.  So we put our heads down too and closed our eyes for a minute to while our ten-inch friends slept.

The next thing we knew, it was much later in the day.  We had actually fallen asleep.  It was one of those little kid things where the sleep overtakes them like they’ve been hit with a tranquilizer dart.  Deep and instantaneous.

I decided to head home, and my friend stayed home to wait for her mom.   Curiously, her house was completely empty.  The ever-present adult supervision was nowhere to be found.  The streets were empty, as well.As I was walking down the street, I ran into Homer.  He was furious.  Evidently, we had been asleep for quite a while, and every adult in the neighborhood was searching for us.  I told him where I’d been, and what had happened.

He didn’t believe me!  And to this day, he still thinks I was doing something much more exciting than sleeping off an epic Barbie session.

It’s Sleeping Beauty Barbie, and it’s CAKE!!!

The weirdest thing about this tale of lost-ness is the fact that when Petey was a kid, pretty much the same thing happened to him.

Only his story had some bikes, a playmate with a sprained ankle, and a South Carolina forest on a military base.And, instead of all the neighborhood moms looking for him and his buddies, it was the US Army.

Thanks for your time.

Transfer Negotiation

Ladies and Gents…welcome to 1973.1973 video

Cathy Ange and I were in love.

It was the spring of 1973, we were in the third grade, and over the moon.

For Donny Osmond.Santa had brought us his album, Crazy Horses.  At the Ange’s house,  Cathy would place the album onto her turntable in a pain-staking ritual that would have us both nearly in tears of impatient frustration.

Then Donny would sing.  Cathy and I rolled around on her bed shrieking like lunatics.  It resembled some type of possession and makes me wonder if the children in Salem were less affected by witchcraft and more by the dulcet tones of that purple-socked Osmond brother.

I couldn’t wait until Marie was my sister-in-law.

Strangely, we never had any jealousy.  If Donny had shown up to take us away from home, family, and Central Elementary School, we’d have shared him.

He’s a Mormon you know—just sayin’.

In the days before the internets, the only ways to be close to one’s idol were infrequent television appearances and print media, aka fan magazines.

There were titles like Tiger Beat, Spec, and my favorite, 16.  That year 16 had a story about Donny which was printed in installments.  Like the 19th century serializations of Charles Dickens’ novels in monthly publications, only with more teeth and less literary value.As school ended for the year I was in clover.  My best friend and potential sister wife, Cathy lived five houses down.  I was once again on my championship softball team, ‘The Stripers’.  I had the run of the neighborhood on my groovy pink Schwinn, and later in the summer, I was going to a sleepaway girl scout summer camp.

Life was good.

Then my parents and the President of the United States ruined it all.  My father had received transfer orders and by early fall we would be living in Puerto Rico.Puerto Rico!  My knowledge of that Caribbean island began and ended at having maybe heard the name, maybe.  It might have been Venus as far as I was concerned.

And the last time we’d moved I had only been five.  I’d loved our home in Mobile, but my world had been much, much smaller there.  This time I was old enough, and integrated enough into my community to know how much I’d miss it.

But there was a much bigger problem.  I would not be able to go.

At the time of the move I would be about seven months in on that eleven-part Donny Osmond magazine serial.  And unless I had an official, notarized guarantee of an uninterrupted flow of 16 Magazines, I was going nowhere.My mom sorted it.  She marched me across the street to her best friend, Miss Judy’s house.  I explained the situation and told her I’d bring her the cost of the mags, along with money to mail them to me.  She agreed.

Crisis averted; move assured.

The move to Puerto Rico was probably my hardest childhood move.  But once we got there I realized how lucky I was.  It was like three years in summer camp.  We hiked and swam in both pools and ocean.  We had our own horses, and rode in horse shows.  And, I discovered, to my delight and my parents’ horror that I am a bit of a risk-taking daredevil.

survival beach for print

That’s me and my little brother Bud, at Survival Beach, which was across the street from our house, and then just a hike down a sheer, slippery coral cliff.  I’ll bet you can’t guess why it was called “Survival”.

I learned about a new culture and discovered Puerto Rican cuisine which is about the best food ever.  We lived on a tiny base, and knew every single person, like Mayberry with palm trees.

So the move I didn’t want to make turned out to be my favorite posting.

But, I’m still waiting for that visit from Donny.Thanks for your time.

Twinkle In His Eye

The Kid is convinced that there’s nothing he can’t do.

yellow lantern

Uh oh.

The Kid is wrong.  But hey, Superman has kryptonite and Green lantern has the color yellow (For realsies—yellow.  So you could beat him to death with a number 2 Ticonderoga.).

Sometimes though, it seems like my dad can do anything.

The man knows his way around a sketch pad.  I don’t think he’s ever had art lessons, but he has a real drawing skill.  I’ve always envied the way he can, with a pencil, faithfully depict pretty much anything.  When we were little my brother and I would sit at the kitchen table for hours, directing Dad to draw a horse, or a couch, or any other item that popped into our heads.

And he always did, long past the point where I, as an adult, would’ve faked an aneurism to put down the darn pencil and have a stiff drink.

…or two.

But he possesses endless patience with children, because he loves kids.  He’s the guy who can soothe the sobbing baby, entertain the cranky toddler, and communicate with the sullen teenager.  If I had Warren Buffet money, I couldn’t have bought him a better gift than his grandchild The Kid.

No matter what tiresome, irritating phase my child was traversing, my dad was never on the list of lame adults who were dismissed with an eye roll and melodramatic sigh.  I actually asked, and unlike every other adult on the planet at some point, The Kid cannot ever remember being mad at Grampa—not even once.

20130721_064325

You can almost hear the sigh, can’t you?

Maybe it’s because he does a killer Donald Duck impression.

Or maybe it’s because of what I’ve always told The Grandkid; that my father is a superhero.  And it’s not hyperbole.  This man spent over 30 years in the Coast Guard; but not on boats, in planes and helicopters.

He was the guy who jumped out of the sky into turbulent oceans to rescue hapless boaters.  Even mathematicians couldn’t calculate the number of lives he’s saved.  His main job in the Coast Guard was basically blacksmithing.  He welded together C130’s (airplanes) and H-3’s and H-60’s (helicopters).  He eventually ran the school which taught neophytes the fine art of metal and fire.Back in the Cretaceous period, Dad was running the Coast Guard metalsmith school (known as A.M. school) in Elizabeth City; he was known as “Boss Ross”.  I was working at a clothing store in town.

One evening three young men came into the store.  Right off, because of their haircuts and overall vibe, I pegged them as young Coasties who were probably at one of the schools on base.  I didn’t know if they were in A.M. school, but regardless, I knew that they, like everybody at the base were familiar with my 6’4” dad with the booming voice.

As I was helping them pick out some new duds, they started talking smack, and throwing shade at a woman in the mall.  I wasn’t having it.“If you guys aren’t nice, I’m telling my dad.”

They were unmoved, “Oh yeah? Who’s he and what’s he gonna do?”

“Have you ever heard of Boss Ross?”

The change in their demeanor was as hilarious as it was instantaneous.  “Oh, hey, wait!  We were just joking!  Really!  We’ll stop; you don’t need to bother your dad with this!”

Dad and Riker

Check out the expression of pure doggy bliss on Riker.

The funniest part of this story is my large imposing dad is a huge softy who chokes up at the slightest sentimental provocation.  I, and by extension, The Kid, got our love of pooches from him.  He’s like Dr. Doolittle.  He adores canines, and they love him right back.  I honestly think every dog I’ve ever owned loved him more than Petey or me, but probably not The Kid, who is also beloved by all dogs and most hermit crabs.His big heart doesn’t stop at quadrupeds.  When I turned 16 and got my driver’s license, he and Mom bought me a 1971 Dodge Dart Swinger for the princely sum of $500.  My car, which I named Lancelot, had an AM radio which picked up most stations within a ten block radius but not much else.  I yearned for a fancy AM/FM car stereo with a cassette deck.

Growing up, we never went without, but there wasn’t a lot of extra money laying around.  I didn’t have a job yet.  And my folks had just shelled out cash for my beloved Lancelot.  They were tapped out for extras.

My dad, who at this time was still doing difficult and dangerous work in the Coast Guard plus volunteering as a first responder on an ambulance, went out and got a part-time job at the Carvel ice cream store for the money to buy tunes for my car.  I got the stereo.Most people with a somewhat public position would be embarrassed to scoop frozen treats and peddle Fudgie the Whale.  I’m ashamed to admit this, but I would be.  But my father has never seen any shame or reason for embarrassment in honest labor.  He simply can’t fathom that kind of attitude.

Dad invented a part for motorcycles, and shin guards for barrel racing.  He’s survived more than one plane crash.  He beat cancer.  In over thirty years I’ve never stumped him when I’ve called with questions about home or car maintenance, or anything else for that matter.  Just to amuse us he does this hilarious, shambling jig that we call the scarecrow dance; which once seen, is never forgotten.  He’s a fun-loving goofball.  Look into his eyes and you’ll see more than a little mischief. As I said though, Dad’s not perfect.

The man couldn’t carry a tune with a forklift on the moon.  And, he snores like a grizzly bear with a head cold.  He’s also less than graceful.  Once when cutting down a tree, he missed and buried an ax into his tibia.

So that’s my dad, the superhero.

He just happens to be a superhero whose kryptonite is old photos and long distance commercials.FullSizeRenderHappy Father’s Day, and to all a good night.

Thanks for your time.