Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Family Treasures

                   I've heard a picture can be worth a thousand words or more

                  That day I wasn't sure just what I would be looking for

                   I thought it might be riches, but it wasn't what I planned

                   The treasure was a picture I was holding in my hands.



When Jane and I wrote Mr. Joe, I wanted to be honest and share my experiences with anyone who was interested enough to read my story. This memory comes from the time that Jane and I spent in her loft writing that story.

I still remember the first time that I went up to the loft. There were so many pictures that I hadn't seen in fifty years. I was amazed that she still had them. Amazed and grateful that she had been the one chosen to have custody of all of these memories. I could never have kept them together for nearly five decades. I had moved and lost everything more times than I care to remember.

All of those pictures brought back memories, but not all were necessarily good ones for me. The picture that I was the most happy to see had been taken at Hawk's Nest State Park. I was probably two or three years old and I was standing on the steps leading to the picnic area. It was my favorite picture ever taken of me and I was thrilled that it had survived.

My grandmother had  hung it at the top of the stairs near the linen closet. I remember how good it made me feel to see it. I had very little sense of self worth and that made a difference on more than one occasion. In my eyes it somehow seemed to validate me.

One morning after our writing session I asked Jane if I could take the picture to show my sons. I felt that I could be trusted with it for a few days, but felt comfortable having it in Jane's loft the rest of the time.

After I showed it to my sons I asked Jane if she would scan it and post it on facebook. I wanted to share my favorite picture. All I needed to do was take the picture out of the frame that had held it for so many years. I remember thinking that there might be a treasure hidden behind the picture. Maybe shares of stock or bonds that might have made us rich beyond our dreams.

I removed the backing from the frame and started to pull the picture out. That's when I saw that there was something else, but I had no idea what. I took a few minutes to think about whether I would soon see something that would change my life. I have to say that what I found truly was a treasure and exceeded any expectations that I might have had.

Behind the picture was another picture that I never knew existed. I was looking at a baby picture of myself. I was over sixty years old and had never seen a baby picture of myself. After looking at it for a moment, I noticed something in the bottom corner.

The picture had been taken by Sonny Glenn. When I read that, I started to cry. When I was growing up, he was the best. He was the gold standard. I never knew that he had photographed me and then had only found out by chance.

I started wondering why I had never seen this. I wondered why it had been hidden behind another picture for over half a century. I wondered if my parents even knew about it or had it been something that my grandparents had done in secrecy. It was a precious  memory that had been saved by Sonny.

In that one instant my self esteem soared. I was walking on air. There are many kinds of treasures and few of them have a dollar value. Knowing that people care about you means much more than money to me.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Father's Day

                   I don't always need a new tie and my shirts are fine for me

                   Maybe spending time with you is where I want to be

                   The best gifts that we will receive never will be bought

                   It's all about the love that's given and your loving thoughts.

I thought that I might help those last minute shoppers for Father's Day gifts. I also thought that salesclerks should not have to be asked if they liked a certain tie . They will not be wearing it in the immediate future.

I remember delivering papers in Glen Ferris in the late fifties. I delivered the Montgomery Herald once a week on Thursdays. I didn't have many customers, but it was a responsibility that I took seriously. After all, you can't let people down, can you?

Now, I probably should get back on track with this story. The first gift that I remember ever receiving from a customer was a flashlight. I must assume that they thought that I might need it in order to get their paper to them before dawn. Not the most thoughtful gift of my life, but I give the Stewart's points for trying.

Now, let's cut to the chase. Mothers don't always want flowers and fathers don't always want ties. Sometimes they simply want time with their kids or grand kids. Sometimes they only ask to be included. Other times they might have outside interests.

I once gave a very dear friend a gift certificate for a massage. I gave another friend a gift certificate for groceries at their local Kroger. I even offered to drive another friend to every destination for that day. Sometimes giving your time is the most cherished gift.

I'm getting older and I am reminded of this daily. Every time I have to include my age on some website, it seems like I am scrolling forever. When it takes a while to get to your age on a life insurance ad, you know that you have been around the block more than once. But, that is alright because it comes with the territory,

I might have just gone on a rant, but to be honest, I can't remember. As Dylan once said; "The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind". There are times when each of us has to tell how we feel. I guess this was one of mine.

Gifts should not be rated on a dollar scale. They also should not be given out of obligation. Gifts are a way of showing our love for someone. You really can't put a price on that. The gift is the fact that you took the time to remember.

Friday, June 5, 2015

And They're Off!


                   I've heard it's not where you begin, but where you make it to

                   I know that I was lucky to be able to meet you

                   I thank you for the memory and I always wish you well
                   Who will win tomorrow? Only time will tell.

 I remembered another story today and I think it is one worth sharing. This is also one that I forgot while we were writing Mr. Joe. I can imagine Jane's reaction when she reads this. Normally, she rolls her eyes and asks where the story was when we were writing the book. I figure that after six plus decades of life, I can be forgiven for forgetting a few moments here and there. The story is about horse racing so it seemed appropriate.

It was the mid seventies and I was just learning how to handicap horse races. I loved the math that was involved and also the attention to detail that was required to be successful. I noticed things that the average bettor  overlooked. That would give me an edge.

There was a young jockey who had just started riding at River Downs Racetrack. Steve was only around eighteen, but he really seemed to know what he was doing. He always got the most effort out of his mounts. Later, someone told me that one of the reasons he was so successful was because he could judge the pace of his horse. They said that he could tell within two fifths of a second how fast the horse was running in each race. They said that he had a clock inside his head.

I remember being at the track  the day Steve rode his first winner. The horse's name was Red Pipe and if I remember correctly, the horse paid $9.20 for a $2.00 bet. It's odd how some things stick in your mind.But, my mind seems to remember numbers more than anything else.

I walked to the winner's circle after the race was over. I wanted to congratulate Steve on his first win. He thanked me and said, "Yeah, we got the money today". It's funny how I am able to remember his exact words after forty years.

Steve went on to greater things and that is why I decided to write this blog. Steve's last name is Cauthen and he is the last jockey to win the Triple Crown. He was the rider aboard Affirmed in 1978. He started at a small track just outside of Cincinnati and rode into the history books.

Monday, June 1, 2015

"You've Got Some Splaining to Do"

        I have memories of a redhead and memories of a wall

        I've told stories of my lifetime, but I can't remember all

       You need to have some patience since my memory is flawed

       Just give me enough time and I promise to tell all.

We can't always choose the times when we remember parts of our lives. This morning is no exception to that rule. I woke up thinking about something that happened nearly fifty years ago. This is a story that should have been included in Mr. Joe, but it's difficult to remember everything in your life while you are writing. Especially, when remembering a life like mine.

It was the late 60's and one of my best friends had moved to California. Bub had lived three doors from me while growing up in Glen Ferris. He was the friend that I helped with his homework in junior high. Jane and I wrote about him in Mr. Joe.

Bub had called and asked me to come out to California. At that time there was nothing to keep me in West Virginia. I was on the next flight west.

The easiest way for me to tell this story is to just jump into the middle of it. I think it should be shared so I don't want to save it for another day.

Bub had promised me that he would take me on a tour of Beverly Hills. He wanted to "show me around". That day we left the apartment before the sun had come up. He thought it would be easier and have less traffic at that time of the morning.

I'm not sure if he knew where any of the stars lived, but he did know where the expensive homes were. That seemed good enough for me.

We had been driving around for maybe half an hour and Bub had an idea. Now, his ideas weren't always the best, but they normally showed good intentions. Well, maybe not always.
Bub and I had delivered papers together in junior high. We had delivered the Charleston Gazette to nearly seventy families in Glen Ferris on a daily basis.

The time came and he pulled the car over to the curb. He decided that we should take a newspaper as a souvenir. He thought I should have a movie star's paper.

I could see the newspaper on the lawn. All I had to do was climb the wall, run across the yard like a Ninja and grab it. Moments later I had it in my hand and I was running toward the gate. That was when I heard some lady screaming at me to give her paper back.

I turned around and Lucille Ball was standing there with her hand out waiting for the paper. Standing there in a bath robe screaming at me at roughly six in the morning on her property in Beverly Hills.

Times were different then. About ten years earlier I had meet John Kennedy at Falls View Grade School in West Virginia. I even got to shake his hand when he got off the bus. Everything wasn't as complicated as it is now. Everyone wasn't as paranoid. Times seemed to be much simpler.

I don't remember all of the details, but I do know that no police were there. I remember getting yelled at by some crazy redhead in Beverly Hills at dawn. I will end this story by telling you that she kept her paper and let me go. That was good enough for me!.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Day at the Races

                  I guess I was mistaken when I said he cannot lose.

                  Why do these things keep happening to horses that I choose?

                  I liked a horse last Friday and I chose to make a bet.
                 The problem is its Wednesday and he hasn't finished yet.

The first time I saw live horse racing was in 1970. I had just moved from West Virginia to Cincinnati, Ohio. A good friend invited me to go to the local race track with him. I had only seen races on television so I was excited about the opportunity.

My friend had been a fan of  racing for years and loved to bet on the horses. He showed me his Racing Form and began explaining the correct way to pick a winner. After several trips to the betting window and no trips to the cashier's window, I realized that my friend knew much less about handicapping than he would admit.

As soon as I looked at my first Racing Form I was hooked. I didn't need to bet on the horses as much as I needed to see if my calculations would find the winner. I wanted to know if someone could actually pick winning horses on a consistent basis. I would buy many Racing Forms and spend many days at the track without ever wagering a dime. I loved math and I was good at it. It seemed to be a match made in Heaven.

I gradually started betting on my best picks of the day. Many times I would sit in the grandstand watching eight races, only to bet on the ninth. There is an old saying that you can beat a race, but you can't beat the races. That means that if you are good enough you can pick a winner on occasion. You can't pick them all and that's where most horse players mess up. They tend to wager on every race of the day.

I have also learned another very important lesson. I've learned that nothing is certain and sometimes things happen that can't be accounted for in any system. I was reminded of that fact this past weekend.

I watched as the horse that I bet on left the starting gate. I was anxious to see if I was right about my pick. Unfortunately, the race was over as quickly as it had started for my entry. Another horse veered over and knocked mine into next week and sent  the jockey tumbling to the ground.

The horse that I had bet did not look good in the program. In fact, the horse had only raced one time before, ran last by a total of 32 lengths and went off at odds of 44-1. So, you might ask what was the big attraction? It was the same feeling that I had gotten over thirty years ago.

I dedicated a chapter of Mr.Joe  to my love of handicapping horses. I also talked about times when I could sense that a horse was going to win. There were times when I could not understand it myself, but most of the  times I was right.

I thought it might be fun to give you a chance to follow this horse with me. To give you a chance to see if there is anything to this latest hunch. The horses' name is "How High" and it normally races at Mountaineer Raceway in West Virginia. This horse  has run in two races and came in last in both by a total of 76 lengths.

Since it is getting close to Kentucky Derby Day, my mind is on the races. I will keep you posted concerning my "hot pick". As my sister always tells me; "You never know."







Friday, March 6, 2015

Retirement Day

I stopped by to visit  a good friend today. He was also my supervisor during my years working as a school custodian. He showed me something that he had posted on his office wall. It was a poem I had given him the day I retired. I talked about the things that I dealt with during an average day and what all the teachers would ask for. I hadn't seen it since 2010, but I thought you might enjoy it.

          I can't do the work I used to do, my body's way too slow
          I seem to get much slower every day
          I'm quitting  while I'm able, gonna' turn my ID in
          I can't seem to cut the mustard any way

         Some friends have been insisting, to know things I won't be missing
         So I thought I'd try to mention one or two
         The running in the halls and graffiti on the walls
         The codes that ranged from green to navy blue

          I'm sick and tired of toilets overflowing
          Because a roll of toilet paper's crammed inside
          They can't seem to make them stop it
          So they call me up to mop it
          And stand there till the floor's completely dry

          Please come and dump our trash once more,
          It's starting to run over on the floor
          And would you try to sort it, just so people won't report it
          We're starting to go green once more.

          We need some copy paper if you please
          We're really not concerned about the trees
          And while you're bringing more, would you please unlock a door
          There's a teacher who's forgotten all her keys

          There's something that I really need to tell you
          Sorry, but it's something I forgot
          Please set up a hundred chairs and twenty tables
          The guests are starting to pull in the parking lot

          I guess we should have told you sooner
          Since we knew about it several weeks ago
          But, we never seem to let up, giving you another setup
          Most times we never even let you know

          A student's gotten sick in our classroom
          Could you come and bring your mop and bring your broom
          Would you hurry up and clean it, before more kids have seen it
          My next class is supposed to start at noon

         I have ants all across my floor
         I don't remember having them before
         I know that we don't need them
         They're just here because we feed them
         Cakes and chips and juice and so much more.