Friday, January 25, 2019

Not so HAPPY TRAILS



We often hear the term, “the end of an era” used when someone dies or a television show ends or something like that happens. Recently, not only did an era end, but it passed away into private homes and museums forever.  An icon for many Baby Boomers, Roy Rogers, died several years ago but his legacy lived, and lives on with movies and old black and white re-runs of his television series.  Now his museum in Branson, Missouri has closed and all of the items associated with him, Dale Evans, Trigger, Bullet and even Nellie Bell have gone on the auction block.

How popular was he?  A pair of his boots sold for $11,000.  A shirt with an embroidered Trigger went for $8,000.  Trigger?  Stuffed and sold for $266,000.  Need his saddle?  You could have gotten it for $386,000. Want ‘ol Bullet to run alongside Trigger?  He went for $35,000.  Even Nellie Bell’s tab was $116,000.  Obviously, “gone but not forgotten” is true for Roy.

I met him twice.  Once at a reception in Los Angeles where I have a photo of me, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Tony Curtis (don’t ask) and a strange lady I never did identify. I also have a nice photo of me with Jimmy Stewart at the same reception.  I happened to catch him coming back from the bar and he has a drink in both hands.

The best story about Roy is one I heard at the reception.  All his career, Roy had worn cowboy boots and didn’t even own a pair of regular shoes. Dale wanted to surprise him for his birthday one year so she bought him a pair of custom made alligator leather shoes. They were not just ordinary ones but were designer specials with inlays of pearl and all sorts of other things to make them unique to Roy.

The first time he wore them on their ranch in Victorville, CA, Roy saddled up Trigger, got Bullet and headed for a ride in the nearby mountains.  Once he got to the foothills of the mountains, Trigger began to act funny and Roy sensed danger.  It was soon revealed that a mountain lion was following him and his animals.

When the big cat got close enough to spook Trigger, the animal reared up and threw Roy off the saddle and onto the ground. Without Roy to control him, Trigger ran away from the danger and headed back to the ranch.  With a mountain lion on the hunt, no horse or dog and too far from home to make it back before dark, Roy sought refuge in an indentation in the rocks.  He was able to slip almost all of his body in but his feet were exposed.

During the night, the mountain lion tried to pull Roy from his hiding place and in the process destroyed his new shoes.  The next morning a rescue party found Roy, safe, but barefooted walking back to the ranch. He was picked up, checked out by a doctor and was fine.

A week later, Roy came riding back into the ranch mounted on Trigger with a massive mountain lion, dead and draped across the back of the horse.

When Dale saw them she said, “Pardon me, Roy.  Is that the cat who chewed your new shoes?”

Friday, January 18, 2019

Eh Braddah, Howzit?!


Eh Braddah, Howzit?!

Here comes Santa Clause…. again
There’s a great commercial on television about how we grow to be our parents.  That’ll never happen to me, I said as I slipped on my Vans and into my yellow button up sweater.  Unfortunately, it’s true in spite of all we can do to prevent it.  We have picked up traits and habits that we didn’t realize until someone points them out.  “You remind me so much of your crazy Uncle Herbert when you do that…” Or you see something and buy it because “my mother had one just like that and she loved it.”  We may not use it or even need it, but we have it.

One of the things my parents did…kids stop reading now….is to hide my Christmas presents all over the house.  Of course, I spent a great deal of time trying to find them and sometimes I actually ran across one or two, but they were very good at it, or I didn’t get many gifts, so I never found them all.

Which brings me to the point of this writing.  Christmas Eve would come and no matter how old I was, I had to wait for Santa to bring the gifts and put them under the tree.  The next morning after a completely sleepless night, I’d come to the tree and find that ‘ol Santa had, in fact come to my house with something other than a bag of coal and a sack of switches.  (If I have to explain ask your grandparents).  I once told my daughters he might do that if they weren’t good and they immediately got nicer for a few minutes and then asked me what “coal” was. It kinda lost its effect after that.

Once all the gifts were unwrapped it was usually my mother who would ask if I had overlooked something. I’d check the discarded paper and boxes and assure her that there was nothing left.  This is where it gets a little strange but hear me out.  She was concerned because she knew she or my dad had bought something that they did not bring out.  Why?  They forgot where it was.

If it was something I had asked for but did not get, she came up with an ingenious idea one year. “You know ‘ol Santa has to deliver all over the world and he usually winds up in some place like Botsa Lumba where he takes a few weeks rest before heading back to the North Pole.  He has a few gifts left over and for good little boys and girls, he’ll drop one off on the way back.”

I believed it and it accomplished two things.  It gave her time to find the thing she had lost, and she got another couple of weeks out of my being good in anticipation of Santa swinging by on his way north.

It worked for me and it worked on my girls and if you do it right, it’ll work for you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go dig through my garage.  There was this power drill I bought for my wife at the hardware store on Christmas Eve that I seem to have misplaced.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Weight…Weight…don’t tell me.



It’s the first of the new year and time to make changes.  Make those New Year’s Resolutions that you never keep.  Start getting all your income tax information together so you can file early this year in January…or March..or at midnight on April 14th.  Plan the summer vacation well in advance so you can get reservations at that place you see advertised on television…free airfare…women in bikinis, men with six-pack abs, all you can drink….sorry.  Sold out two years in advance.

For me, I decided to start an exercise program so I can lose a few pounds, regain the body I had when I was…was…younger…not so old…all of the above.  I have been doing some research to find the best way to accomplish my goals and here’s where it gets a little hairy.

I need a machine so I looked at the Bowflex.  I saw an ad on television about it.  Great looking women, sweaty men, none of them gasping for breath, so I checked it out. I figured if I’m going to go, I’ll go all the way.  Top of the line.  Get one with all the whistles and bells.  It’s only $3,000 and I have to pay shipping.

Maybe I’ll do the old tried and true Nordic Track.  A friend has one and swears by it.  He put it in his bedroom and said he lost five pounds the first two weeks.  The third week he needed a place to hang his jacket when he came home late so he temporarily placed it on the Nordic Track, which by the way, cost him $2,800.00.  By the end of the first month, he found out he had a clothes rack that cost as much as a cruise to the Bahamas.  Swear by it? Now he just swears at it.

I had a great idea. If my excess weight was in the middle of my body, I could have it drop down by buying a Teeter Hang Up and letting gravity take over.  That little idea cost me $500.00.

Enough with the machines. It stands to reason that if you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight.  Just pick the right foods and I’m not good at that or I wouldn’t be looking at things that turn me upside down, so I went for the diet plans.  Found a new one called Golo.  Weight loss in a bottle.  Six month supply for only $60.00 a bottle for each month.  I seriously considered it until I went to the website and saw five pages of instructions and warnings.

Enough of this nonsense. I want to make it happen so I went to Nutrisystem.  If it’s good enough for Marie, it’s gotta be good for everyone.  Only $425.00 per month but I got a week’s worth of “free” shakes.   If I combine that one with the South Beach Diet…I didn’t really consider the diet at $360.00 per month but I really like watching Jessi James Decker on the beach.

All of them advise checking with your doctor before you go on any diet or exercise program.  For once I followed their advice and talked to my doctor.  He had the best advice I have ever gotten.  He said he wanted me to “watch my waistline.”  I am now in complete compliance.  All I have to do is look down and I can see it and watch it anytime I want to.  It’s right there for me to see.  I’m just glad I didn’t go to my podiatrist and he told me to watch my feet.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Black and White Days



If you’ve been paying attention since I’ve been writing this blog, you know a lot about me.  You know I’m married. I’m a published novelist (available on Amazon or B&N), a produced screenwriter and I taught screenwriting at the University of West Florida when I lived in Pensacola.  You also know I’m a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and did two combat tours during Viet Nam.  So, what’s you point, you ask?  I’m getting to that.  You also may recall from other blogs that I don’t sleep a lot at night which means I look at a lot of really bad…I mean REALLY bad television between midnight and six am.

My grandson once asked me if I was born during black and white days.  I wasn’t sure what he was talking about or how to answer until I realized we were watching an old cowboy movie on television and it was in black and white.  I’m just happy the movie had sound, so he didn’t ask if I was born during the silent era, but I digress.

I hadn’t thought about it much until lately.  I love old movies and many of them are from the black and white era.  I can’t imagine Casablanca or some of the early Hitchcock films in color.  We know Rick wore a white dinner jacket in the film and we know the Maltese Falcon was black but do we need to know what color hat Ilsa wore?  The blood was red on the knife in Psycho, but black did the trick when it scared us to death at the time.  No need for color.

I started thinking the other night/early morning.  How many black and white movies or television series are still available to be seen?  A not so quick scan said I could watch an episode of The Lone Ranger from 1949.  No, that’s not a mistake.  I didn’t even know there was television in 1949.  How about an episode of Dragnet from 1951?  Just the facts, Ma’am, just the facts.  Sorry, couldn’t resist. Andy Griffith?  More episodes than you can watch in one night. Whatever your favorite show or the one you have heard your parents, or heaven forbid, your grandparents talk about…”they don’t make ‘em like that anymore”…is on some cable channel someplace.

And now the granddaddy or grandmother of them all:  I Love Lucy. Every episode ever written, filmed or produced is playing someplace right now.  To set the record straight.  I am not a fan of Lucy. It gets even worse.  I think people who commit treason or crimes against small children or ding my car door with theirs in the parking lot should be placed in a room with nothing but a straight back, wooden chair and be forced to watch reruns of old I Love Lucy programs 24/7.

I thought that was the worst punishment a person could undergo until last week.  It was about 3 am and I was flipping channels in a half sleep/half wake mode when I hit stop on my remote.  “This sounds interesting” I said to myself.  I’ve seen a lot in my life, much of it not so good and I don’t like to talk about it, but this one trumped everything I had ever seen. Living color.  Full sound.  No beating around the bush.  It was right out there for everyone to see and she was proud of it.
Doctor Pimple Popper has taken the lead over Lucy and I may never change channels again without being damn sure of what’s on the other side of the remote.


Friday, December 21, 2018

CHRISTMAS CARD, OH, CHRISTMAS CARD



It’s that time of the year again, and I’m ready.  Sorta. Kinda. My tree is up.  My lights are on.  My balls are hung, uh, you know what I mean…my stocking is ready to be filled, the gifts are wrapped and beneath the tree, and there is some Christmassy stuff in the front yard.  All that has been ready for weeks.  The only thing left was the annual mailing of Christmas cards.  Therein lies the problem.

For years when I was growing up and we got Christmas cards at home, my mother very carefully opened them, read every word, saved the envelopes and taped the cards to the doorway leading from the living room to the dining room.  She never questioned the motive behind the card.  It was Christmas.  A card.  From a friend or family member.  Deck the halls…or the door.

But now, all of that has changed.  Back then she went to a store, bought a box of cards, pulled out her address book and the cards from last year to make sure she didn’t miss anyone and she mailed out cards.  Not any more.

Now when we pick out cards we have to be sensitive.  Politically correct.  Conscious of others feelings.  Instead of a box of cards, we have to be aware of the message, the cover, the sentiments and what is wished.  Can’t send a Christian card to a friend who is Jewish.  That I understand and we have some cards that wish the recipient a Happy Holiday so they can pick the one it relates to for them.

After a career in the Army and moves all over the place and more schools for my two daughters than I can remember, and a wife who is from England with relatives all over the world, for years at Christmas time our mailbox looked like a mail drop for the United Nations. The cards had stamps from countries all over the world.  One friend who worked for a government agency known only by their three initials, always had a return address in Washington, DC no matter where they were in the world.

This year when we did our Christmas cards my wife put then into a stack and told me to take them to the post office.  The rest of the directions were lost on me, evidently. I went to the post office, saw a line around the block and decided to just drop them in a nearby post box and go home.  On the way I called home for some unknown reason and my wife asked if I got stamps for the cards going to England, Australia and New Zealand?  Oops…Have you ever gone in a post office at Christmas time, waited in line for an hour, got to the window and asked if they could go empty one of their boxes so I could get my cards and buy stamps for them?  If you do, you will find that the Christmas spirit, like Elvis has left the building.  While they were digging through the box, my wife called and told me I did not pick up the stack needing stamps so I didn’t have to go through the box. Christmas or not, I was told to never come back.

In case you’re in the same quandary with regard to what cards to send to whom, I have a great suggestion.  Do what I do. For my friends who celebrate in ways at times I don’t understand, like my Muslim, Buddhist, Shinto, Cao Dai, Hoa Hoa, and others, I address a very nice envelope, put their name on it with a non-offensive stamp and leave the envelope empty.  Let them figure out what the card would have said if I had sent it.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Remember When…



It seems this time of year is defined by the music we hear. It’s on the radio and television commercials use Christmas songs as background music or as a way to sell the consumer everything from cars and exercise equipment to catheters and incontinence supplies delivered discretely to you home and charged to Medicare.  The songs are supposed to remind us of times past, or friends, or places or something pleasant so we are in the mood to spend money.

That got me to thinking. I don’t sleep much and I’m usually awake around 3am.  I may go back to sleep around the time I need to get up, but from 3 to 6 I do what I call my “creative thinking.”  This is when I remodel my bathroom, tell that guy at the grocery store back in 1973 what he could have done with that cart he thought I hit his car with and important things like that…or…I watch television.  Have you ever watched TV at 3am?  I have every cable channel known to man and the best I can do is fifty channels selling me everything from oil-less fryers, to cosmetics guaranteed to eliminate wrinkles to a course on how to make a million dollars in the stock market. If I don’t watch those, and I’m lucky there is an NPR station showing an old rock and roll review between pitches for a fifteen CD set of all of their music, or a CW series or Celtic or Soul or some other decade of music.  Now to the point of this.  I knew you were waiting.

Those songs immediately bring back memories for me.  I didn’t realize how much of my life was tied to a song.  I hear one and I go back to the memory that song evokes, and I’ll bet it happens for you as well.  What song reminds you of your first love?  How about the one when you realized he/she didn’t love you as much as you thought? My parents were the Great Depression and WWII generation and when they heard an old song on the radio or the Lawrence Welk Show (not me…they watched it, I just suffered through it) they would always comment about “remember when…” and it was usually a pleasant memory unless it was a popular tune during the war and was a favorite of a long lost friend.

What did you listen to in high school?  College? What did you dance to at your first prom?  That song you played on your record player, 8 track, cassette player or CD when you and he/she always…fill in the blank.

For me, and I’ll bet two songs that have a universal meaning for anyone who served in Viet Nam.  They were almost as popular as the National Anthem. It didn’t matter if we heard it on AFVN, on somebody’s cassette player or from a band with singers who could barely pronounce the words, when WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE IF IT’S THE LAST THING WE EVER DO, or I WANNA GO HOME came on we stood, yelled, sang along and generally made fools of ourselves, but we meant every word of it.  Most of us got out of that place, and got home but many didn’t and those songs will always remind me of them.

My good friend Lieutenant Bill….was a Charlie Pride fan and drove us nuts playing his songs all the time. Bill was captured alive one day and when the prisoners came home I looked for him. I scanned the names of those who had died in captivity.  He wasn’t on either list.  Someday, I hope and pray that he gets to GET OUTTA THAT PLACE…

Friday, December 7, 2018

A Christmas Secret


 

For anyone who was ever in the military from 1941 through 1990, one of the highlights of the Christmas season was the possibility to a visit by Bob Hope and his USO troupe to your base.  He started stateside in California in 1941 and from then until his last trip in 1990 he brought a little bit of home to the troops in some of the most desolate places on earth during each war or conflict where they were deployed.

He did shows on aircraft carrier decks, in open fields at army bases and in rear areas.  He was always accompanied by several other entertainers and most important to the thousands of men, (my apologies to any lady who reads this) a couple of beautiful female dancers, singers or perhaps those with no talent who just looked good.  The shows were free, open seating, no pulling rank to get a front seat, however if he was at or near a hospital you could always find a row or two of wheelchair and other medical devices down front.

I never got to see a show in person, but I did hear two of them live on a radio during Viet Nam.  In 1968 I was on a four day patrol and at the designated time, we were just setting up an ambush site when he came on the radio.  I turned our PRC 25 (if you have to ask….) to the right frequency and listened for a few minutes until it got to be too dangerous to have him on the radio and not have it on the right frequency.  My RTO (see above) wanted to listen through a set of headphones but since I was a Lieutenant and he wasn’t, I won.

The next time I got close to a Bob Hope Christmas show was in 1970.  I was in the Mekong Delta in Viet Nam and got called in to our Corps Headquarters for a Top Secret briefing.  I had no idea what it was about.  We’re invading North Viet Nam?  Cambodia?  It’s over? The President was coming to town?  Nothing as mundane as that.  We were required to show our identification cards, secured in a briefing room, and waited for a 2 star general to arrive.  Once he came in, his briefing officer put a slide on the overhead projector (again, see above) and the TS briefing began.  We were being given Bob Hope’s itinerary and travel route.  Five days later, a helicopter flew over our outpost at the end of the world in the Delta and the pilot informed me that he had Bob Hope on board.  Hope had a call sign which I can’t remember now, but he did not use his name for security purposes.

Years later, I had to pleasure of meeting him in Los Angeles and he was a genuine gentleman in every sense of the word.  The reason for this trip down amnesia lane?  Today was an incredibly powerful day as President George H.W. Bush was laid to rest.  I not only met but I worked for 41 in Washington, DC.  As I watched the funeral, it was hard not to get emotional and I thought of the Bob Hope show.  He always ended his show with Silent Night. To this day I can’t hear that song without a tear in my eye.

No joke.  No cute ending here.  Just a fond memory and a fond farewell to two icons. 

Not so HAPPY TRAILS

We often hear the term, “the end of an era” used when someone dies or a television show ends or something like that happens. Recently...