23 November 2017

My Favorite Thanksgiving Day Story

I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area and decided to fly home for Thanksgiving. I didn’t want to drive to the airport and none of my friends was available to take me, so I decided to take the bus.

I called the bus scheduling number and got all the information I needed to take the express bus on Wednesday to the airport. I figured out what time I would need to catch the bus to arrive an hour before the flight.

So, I get to the bus stop on time with my single carry-on bag, check to make sure the bus number is correct and confirm with the driver that he is going to airport. Check, check and check.

You probably know an express bus goes from here to there with no or minimal stops. So, we’re cruising along and stopping at EVERY SINGLE BUS STOP between here and there. I’m kinda panicking. I’m looking at my watch. Time is ticking away.

I finally say to the driver: “I thought this was the express to the airport, but you’re stopping at all the stops.”

His reply: “This is only the express on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

Of course, I have visions of the plane leaving without me, that teary-eyed phone call home explaining that I missed my flight, my teary-eyes parents sad that I’m not coming in, etc.

We pull up to the airport -- less than five minutes until my flight. I dart off the bus and, yelling “excuse me, excuse me,” pull an O.J. Simpson and make a mad dash through the airport, up the escalator, from the front of the airport to literally the very last gate at the farthest point away from where I started. They were just starting to close the door to the gangway when I ran up.

I apologized for being late and got on the plane, everyone looking at me, wondering WTF?

14 November 2017

I Was a Disappointment to My Father

No, really. I know it for a fact.

Here’s the background: my mother and father had relationships and children before they met, married and had me. I’m an only child -- with a handful of half-siblings. My father was probably pinning on me all of his hopes for the perfect son. Well, sorry.

I was a late baby (ten months, my mother always said), then sickly from the start (allergies and asthma). I couldn’t breast feed (milk allergy) so she fed me Jell-O water. I had a lot of food restrictions even back then -- many of which I carry with me today.

So, I was sickly, I missed a lot of school, I couldn’t play outside or in the grass. Do you sense where this is going? I was not athletically inclined -- at all. I preferred to stay inside and read.

You wanna know what’s worse? As I grew older, I got into theater and then when I was 20 and living in San Francisco, I -- horror -- realized I was gay. I think that was probably the final straw.

To his credit, my father never rode me for not being into sports or girls, for being the smartest kid in my class, for being a theater nerd. But he did drink -- to excess. I’ve always wondered whether those things were related.

As I grew older, I moved into a career in journalism -- both print and broadcast. I was published around the country, I started winning awards, my dad could pick up the afternoon paper and read something I wrote. But he was never noticeably proud of those achievements. No matter how successful I became, I think he would have been most happy if I could have just learned to throw a ball.

31 October 2017

Constructing A Revelation

The following is not going to matter to any other person in the world but me.

Walt Disney Concert Hall. Ick!
For a long time, I’ve disliked the work of architect Frank Gehry -- he of Walt Disney Concert Hall fame (pictured), among others. His curves and sweeps and angles always made me uncomfortable. It bothered me that I hated his work so much while everyone called his designs the greatest things since the invention of pop-up toasters.

This morning, lying awake in bed, it finally occurred to me why I don’t like his work: his designs are not symmetrical.

I love symmetry. I love the International and Streamline Moderne styles of buildings that became big in the middle of the last century. Floors in buildings were even, buildings had 90-degree angles, these buildings were -- in short -- gorgeous. So, now I know.

Below are some of my favorite buildings.

29 August 2017

My Childhood Toys

When I was a child in the 1960s, I had some really cool toys: things that would later be the objects of desire of collectors young and old. I would usually get them at xmas (that was our big gift-receiving time each year; birthdays being low key). Playing with the new toys would be the most exciting thing -- fantasizing about army soldiers, undersea creatures, race cars. Over time, the appeal of these toys would fade and new toys would come along to take their place. I never thought about it at the time, but the old toys would disappear and I would never see them again.

As I got older, I began to miss some of those toys. I did what I imagine others do: began hunting in vintage stores and online looking to replace the toys I once enjoyed so much. Over the years, I managed to find samples of most of the toys I remember as being important to me.

Last week, I was visiting a friend’s house. He proudly showed me a display case of toys from his childhood. He surprised me by pointing out that these were the exact toys he played with as a child. “Your mother saved your toys?” I asked, surprised. I didn’t know that was possible. My mother saved none of my toys -- not one. I don’t know this for a fact, but I think she took them (when she sensed I was bored with them) and gave them to our relatives or to thrift stores. (I certainly hope she didn’t just throw them away!) I couldn’t believe a mother would have been considerate enough to save them until much later.

I decided to look back at the toys I spent years finding, to replace (as much as possible) the toys I played with fifty years ago. Looking for them was fun, but now I’m sad that my mother didn’t think to keep them. 

[Click image to make it larger.]

Nabisco Rice Honeys Sea Creatures Started out as a sea creature in each box of cereal, circa 1968. They then had an offer where you could get the entire set of 12 sea creatures AND a deep sea boat for only $1. I wrote about this in more detail in a 2008 blog post. These came out at a time when I was very seriously considering being an oceanographer. I love sea animals (all animals, actually) so this really piqued my interest.

Hot Wheels I was not into cars when I was a teenager, but I was when I was in grade school. Can’t explain why these fascinated me. They just did.

Hasbro’s GI Joe Honestly, I think I was in love with my Joe and that’s why I wanted one. The Joe pictured is not like the one I had as a kid; mine had the plastic hair; but they’re much too expensive now so I settled for one of these later ones. I distinctly remember having the Deep Sea Diver outfit probably because of my love of the ocean.

ARCO Ark and Toy Animals My love of animals continued with these free premiums available at ARCO stations when you purchased a certain amount of gas. I never got the ark; I was just interested in the animals.

Miscellany: Thing Maker and Chemtoy Film Strip Viewer Again, unable to explain my interest in the Thing Maker; I just remember hours spent on the patio making all kinds of weird bugs, animals and skeletons. I enjoyed this for a long time; I think my parents bought me several of the different add-ons over time. The Film Strip Viewer I remember only vaguely. I can’t even remember what film strips I had. They were like Viewmasters (which I also had) but you could see a whole story, not just individual pictures.

On the plus side, one thing my mother did keep were the comic paperback books I used to buy with my allowance (rather than actual comic books).

I can’t tell you why I favored these paperbacks -- except for Peanuts because I loved Snoopy; but I would always get the new volumes when they came out each month.

13 August 2017

How Much is that Ring in the Window?

I was a wee lad when the scary television series “Dark Shadows” made its debut 51 years ago. I loved the creaky, creepy quality of the show and the cheesy acting.

In 1967, the character of Barnabas Collins was introduced. He wore a really cool ring. I was so fascinated by the ring that I got something similar for my mother (see photograph) for xmas that year at a local five and dime. As you can see, it doesn’t look anything like the proper ring, but I gave it to her and told her it was like the TV ring. Sadly, she never wore it. My mother never even pretended to like the presents I gave her, but she did keep it and now (fifty years later) I have it back.