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The December flight to LA

Posted by anadyr Dec 16, 2017

Winter, Christmas coming. a last minute business trip from Monterey to LA and then a change of planes, LA to DC, Dulles, for only one day. It was nineteen eighty-something, and the call from the boys back east was curt, and nasty. NO arguments, just get here.  Last minute booking, I ended up with just carry on and a ticket, an boarded the United flight. My ticket showed a middle seat but the gate agent changed that to First Class, the Shakespeare Seat, 2B (or not to be). I was the only person in the forward cabin, and watched a steady stream of coach fliers pass by with a look of envy ot disgust or both on their haggard faces. I had never had a chance to practice the F.C. stare that real payers for the seat have.

 

The door was closing and I was there alone in the relative calm of the four row space of First on the plane, A bored flight attendant had the mic to her lips ready to give the cross-check word.  Suddenly the door stopped and was opened again.

 

DH.jpgIn walked Clint Eastwood, in the flesh, and of course, he sat down in seat 2A, nest to me, for some reason. I was looking ahead when he said, as if he were Harry Callahan and in sotto voce, "don't talk to me!" The flight attendant also heard that; she never approached us, even to check on our seat belts or drink orders, as if we had one.

 

The flight attendant sat down in her jump seat and studied her fingernails for takeoff. The flight lasted just over an hour. We taxied to a stop, and Clint stood, and walked past me to the door, turned And said, "thanks for not talking to me!" and left the plane. I got up, hauled my coat and bag and walked into the terminal thanking my luckiest star that he had not pulled a Magnum on me during the flight, asking me if I felt lucky!

 

Several years later I ran into him at the Pebble Beach's Beach and Tennis Club. We shook hands and he said, "you know, I was just kiddin' right?"

 

I resisted trying out a Dirty Harry retort, (Go ahead, make my day, or whatever) but I was glad he remembered our chance encounter at Monterey airport that winter day. I've seen him age (yeah, like I have not!) around town, met his former wife, eaten at Mission Ranch and seen him there, and he's never repeated that "don't talk to me" line.

 

I got it the first time, thanks.

anadyr

Christmas by the shore

Posted by anadyr Dec 16, 2017

tree.jpgMonterey California was founded by Saint Junipero Serra a couple centuries ago, in 1770, but was visited by Spanish explorers in 1520.  Native people were here for thousands of years before that. It's been our home for 30 years, and while we've seen a lot of changes, not all for the better here, it remains a place that we like, if not love. After decades in overcrowded Washington DC, we loved the chance to throttle back and enjoy the peace and quiet, sea lions barking notwithstanding.

 

Walking the shore in the early morning is a great tonic for anything.  Watching the American Avocets comb the shore for food puts the world in prospective.

 

In many ways, Monterey remains a small fishing village with a tourist problem.  Plenty of commercial fishermen still work from the docks here, and the distinct Sicilian accents are hard to miss, even their loud, expletive-filled arguments.  The town has resisted change for changes sake. Old historic Adobes were saved from the wrecking ball in the 1960's, including the place that Robert Louis Stevenson stayed writing Treasure Island.  John Steinbeck, once reviled as a professional writer by the 'Montereyans,' is now sanctified, and listed among the greatest residents in this little town of 30,000 people.

 

Cannery Row, which he immortalized, remains "a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and ***** houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses...."

 

Here's to John  and to Monterey this holiday season. It's not so bad after all.

anadyr

Twelve Perfect Innings

Posted by anadyr Dec 14, 2017

He was a pitcher for the 1959 Pittsburgh Pirates, a man named Harvey Haddix. One May evening he pitched 12 perfect innings, perhaps the most perfect of perfect games ever pitched.  And I heard it on my Westinghouse transistor radio.

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anadyr

Sunset at Clint's Place

Posted by anadyr Dec 9, 2017

At the Mission Ranch in Carmel on a nice December evening.

 

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anadyr

Coloring Opinions

Posted by anadyr Dec 8, 2017

The world changes; the world stays the same. On a business trip long ago to meet with the Defense Ministry of West Germany, in Hardthöhe, the headquarters of the Bundesministerium der Verteidigung. Lots of meetings, some gatherings with officials, mostly military and a scattering of civilians. I was on my own.

 

Germany was in a perpetual state of cold and damp weather, almost bone chilling, but getting used to it took time and effort. Cold weather gear outside, overheated buildings inside. It was never comfortable.

 

My escort was a young man who worked in the Defense Attaché’s office in the US Embassy, Mike. We waited together for embassy cars to pick us up, for the now routine need to show our official ids, and the bomb checks of the vehicle. We got to know each other, even chatted about how we got here and where we’d been. It made the time pass more quickly. Mike was fluent in German, making my feeble attempt to speak the language irrelevant.

 

Mike became a good friend, and I wished I could have met him earlier, after college.  He went in the Navy, got stationed in Germany, and spent time assigned to the US Embassy in Bonn. 

 

After a day of meetings, we decided that we’d do local things: drink good German beer and perhaps eat some Rouladen. He and I walked into a local Bier Haus, and while he wore his dark dress blue woolen Navy uniform. In dim light that uniform looks black.  He wore the rank of Ensign, two bars, “railroad tracks” we called them on each point of his collar.  Mike’s closely cropped blonde hair finished the look—the look that made most of the middle-aged men in the German bar stop and stare.  Some daubed at their eyes, offered to buy Mike a beer.

 

He thanked them, said no, we turned and left.  Mike is a Jew, A Czech Jew who together with his parents survived the camps, and then worked through the resettlement camps, finally to this country, on their way out of the hell that was post-war Europe. 

 

He found no pleasure in their confusion, or in his ability to be something, someone else.

 

He’s a hero in my eyes.

anadyr

Paying it Forward

Posted by anadyr Dec 8, 2017

Every one of has been to outdoor markets both here and abroad. Maybe you recall as I do, strolling after midnight along the Seine perusing food stalls and passing trinket sellers, practicing haggling skills as interior monologues. Was there ever a gooey grilled cheese sandwich as good, or fattening?  Or, like me, maybe you see yourself surrounded by agitated sellers on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, wishing my Catalan language skills were better than zero. Name a third world country and think of that market, of the dirt, the smells, and the prices.

 

But I digress, as is my usual technique. AS we know, life can be tense around the Christmas holidays, and sadly, there is no one else to blame.  We’d been rushing here and there, getting everything ready for visitors and parties.  No sooner had we gotten back from an errand when we discovered some forgotten item, and with that look of “what-else-can-go-wrong?” on our faces, headed back to the car, and off to the market—again. It was a running joke in our family.  Our almost never used cell minutes burned away as we called with last minute needs at the market.

 

          We’ve got another kind of market, but not the third world type.  No haggling allowed, you just need a lot of patience. You enter the small parking lot with trepidation, hoping that the person in front of you will, in fact, turn in the direction their turn signal blinker is pointing, and then make it quickly.  The trick is to find a legal space among the diagonally parked, outside the lines hordes.

 

          It was in such a marketplace that my wife, on one of those many holiday errands found true peace and understanding.  I’d just come back from the grocery store, so it was her turn. We needed just a few things, and Trader Joe’s, or “T.J.s” as the cognoscenti call it, was the place to go.  This store, now owned by a German firm, was then just good old T.J.s.

 

She returned within a half hour. “I had an interesting experience at T.J.s,” she said unloading the three or four items that she’d bought.

 

          “And….” I asked, concentrating on something else.

 

          “I found a parking space, amazingly, and not too far from the door, and made it back with no near misses.” She smiled, waiting for my congratulations. “Well, there was a line with only three people ahead of me, and…”

 

          “And,” I interrupted, “they all moved out of the way so you could be the one to pay first?”

 

          “Hardly, but let me explain.”  She wasn’t smiling. Time to listen and learn, I thought to myself.

 

          “I’ve got the mental picture in my head so tell me what happened?”  I wiped my flour-covered hands on my stylish, manly cooking apron, dropping most of the white powder on the kitchen floor. A Pillsbury weather event.

          “Well, you know how the T.J.s cashier takes your items and removes them from the cart, and once you’re standing at the credit card thingy, he swipes and scans your stuff and totals it up?”

 

          “With you so far,” I said, losing interest in this conversation and worried that my cream cheese was getting too soft. I resisted touching it.

 

          “Well, there was an older woman in front of me with a large order, she had a full cart. I noticed that the checker kept scanning my stuff as if it was with her order—my stuff—so I told him to stop.”

 

          Now she had my attention and I was interested—hot cream cheese be damned! “And?”

 

          “The cashier said to me, ‘That lady in front of you asked me to add your items to her order, and told me that she’d pay for it.  Didn’t give a reason--just asked me to do it.”

 

          “And, so did you speak with this lady? Did you know her?”  I stooped to pick up some flour.

 

          “Yes. I walked over to her and thanked her, she was a nice person, not rich, not poor, just average, kinda like us.”

 

          “Wow,” I said.  “What did she say?”

 

          “She just told me that she liked to do nice things for people, and this was one way to help a total stranger.”

 

          “Amazing,” I said. “Did you get her name?”

 

          “No, I didn’t but she did say that she hoped that I’d do the same for someone else.”

 

          “That’s sweet,” I answered. “So, I guess you paid for the person standing behind you in line?  Keep the pay-it-forward thing going and all that?”

 

          “Are you kidding?” My wife almost shouted. “That guy had a full cart of stuff!”

 

          Like I said, life can be tense around the holidays.

 

anadyr

Sacred Places

Posted by anadyr Dec 8, 2017

A late fall morning, the kind where you can see your breath, where you need a scarf and a hat. Breakfast at the Hertie Department Store in Munich was beer, bread and a wurst—very Bavarian.  Lots of shoppers heading here and there, watching for cars and the strassenbahn downtown.  Nearing Christmas, and the holiday spirit was in the air.  Germany—they invented Christmas as we know it (or so they said)

My wife and I wanted to see something new, do something different.  I wanted to avoid another day of shopping; she wanted to avoid sightseeing at medieval churches where we needed to climb unsafe stairs to the top of a tower.

We settled on a spot to visit, a place we’d never been.  It was hard to find—the people we asked looked at us as if we’d be better off anywhere else.  But, seeing that we were determined to do this, we finally found someone who, with our Michelin guidebook and map, showed us a route.

Driving through fields dotted with cows wearing huge cowbells, we wound further into the hinterlands of southern Germany; stopping occasionally to check our bearings, look for a sign that might indicate where we were headed.  The normally obsessive-compulsive German sign makers must have taken a day off for this place, since there appeared to be no location bearing the name.

Finally, in a small suburb we found someone of the age who might know where the place was.  She took us to the curb, pointed, counted the number of streets with us, and sent us on our way.

It was not well marked.  There was a marker there, and a small one at that.  Not a place that folks wanted to be reminded of, I guess, especially these folks.  Only a single barracks stood there, the first of what was row upon row of places built back then.  The iron gate, the one with the rusted sign was still there, testament to the place and the minds that created it.

Inside the wooden building there were a few bunks, but mostly enlarged black and white photographs taken at the place, the facility, as they called it.  The chatter of the few visitors stopped as we entered the small building, the silence deepened as we looked at the photos, understood their meaning.  Many looked away, some cried softly, no one laughed.

We walked slowly, reading the small notations under each of the pictures.  Most of them needed no words, we lingered at each.  A guide told us that the local government and some of the citizens wanted to make the place go away—they did not want to be reminded of it and what happened here.  From the back window we could see the cinder filled outlines of the rest of the barracks that once stood in this camp.  There were plans to rebuild some of them, but didn’t happen.

My wife and I stood hand in hand at the back door to the wooden barracks, but no words came.  I looked at the ground where those buildings were, the ovens in the distance, the rusted sign over the entrance, Arbeit Mach Frei, “Work Sets you Free.”  What supreme arrogance, what supreme evil.

This was a sacred place; more sacred than any I’d visited. It is the concentration camp at Dachau, and if it were torn down it would still be a place where evil lived, where men lost their humanity, but still sacred ground.

anadyr

Nature's Symmetry

Posted by anadyr Dec 7, 2017

In a lowly pine coneDSCN8164.JPG

anadyr

Serendipity

Posted by anadyr Dec 3, 2017

1963-Ford-Galaxie-muscle-and-pony-cars--Car-100925395-ae5e7e284ea2f3b9b7c5b95fd5a11880.jpgMy car’s radiator exploded, steam covered everything. The right front bumper crumpled, the heavy steel hood folding like tissue paper.  I’d just rear-ended a 53-foot long semi tractor-trailer that had pulled out in my lane but going only a third of my speed.  I was waiting for the engine block, the big, cast iron V-8, to come through the firewall and end my life. 

The truck driver, seeing that I’d hit him, gunned his engine so that the inertial force would be less.  I rammed the steering wheel hard, so hard that I flattened it.  I sat there stunned; knowing that my car would go up in flames, unable to move.  The truck driver pulled off the road, me connected to his massive rear bumper, a steel I-beam that showed no damage.

“You OK?” he asked.  “Didn’t you see me?”

I found it hard to speak, my chest hurt a lot.  I nodded, and then slowly climbed out of the crumpled convertible. “I saw you pull out, no signal,” I said my back hurting.

“Car’s totaled,” he said. 

I didn’t look back. 

“You wait for the cops, I’ll see if I can raise them on the radio.”  He returned to his cab, started his engine and with two tugs, disengaged my car from the truck.  I thought he might leave, and I’m sure he would have if a State Trooper had not been traveling the other direction, made a U-turn and come back with lights on.  He pulled in front of the semi, blocking his exit.  Got out of the car, told the truck driver to stay in the cab, then walked up to me.  I was leaning against my car, dazed.

“Hey, Roger, remember me?” he asked.  It was somebody that I’d gone to college with a couple years before.

“Yeah I do,” was the best I could do as an answer.  I leaned against my wrecked car.

“Let me handle this,” he said.  “Get in.”  He led me to his patrol car, and then put the truck driver in the back seat and we sped off to see the Justice of the Peace.  The driver admitted guilt, posted bond, and left with another patrolman.  My friend took me to the bus station, called my folks, and paid for my bus ticket back to Pittsburgh.

I spent a couple weeks at home in back injury rehab.  The United States Marine Corps, to which I had promised my military life, got wind of the accident and I flunked a physical at Bethesda Naval Hospital a month later.  Now discharged from the Marine Reserves the Army took me. In about six months I got a large cash settlement from the trucker’s insurance carrier.  Sudden wealth meant new friends and I was a minor celebrity at work.

One of them was a co-worker, Jane, who had never spoken to me for any length of time. She poked her head to get details about the accident, and then asked if I’d give her a hand.  Normally, that meant lifting or moving something, but I stood unsteadily and asked what.

“Blind date,” Jane said. John,, a fast-talking Navy Lieutenant in the office, had asked her out.  She felt he was too fast for her to go with him alone, but if I’d go along with her roommate as a foursome it might be OK.

“Where?” I asked.

El Bodegon, the Tavern, a Spanish restaurant on 21st Street Northwest in DC.

“OK,” I said with feigned enthusiasm. “As a favor, can John drive?” 

El Bodegon was fun, the kind of place where they pour wine in your mouth directly from the narrow spout of a kidney-shaped bottle. Until you choke. It was a good time, but not a great time.  At the end of the date we shook hands, my blind date and I.

Two years passed, and we saw each other twice, once by accident.  Another night we tried to spend some of my insurance windfall, but that didn’t work well.  I left for Fort Benning, the army, had orders to Vietnam.  She went on to other things including a boyfriend. 

Top-8.bmp.jpgThree years later in July, 1970 we stood at the ornate soaring altar of the Washington National Cathedral, her in a bright white Priscilla of Boston dress, me in a rented gray morning coat. I felt that old twinge from that accident.  She put her hand on my lower back and said, “It’s time.”  The pain went away.

anadyr

Details

Posted by anadyr Dec 3, 2017

Sometimes you feel it’s hopeless.  No, I’m not talking about that kind of despair that makes you think of ending it all, but the bleakness of life in general:  the negative news that fills the air, the sickness and death of good friends and total strangers, even the shortness of a cold winter day.

Life can be exhilarating, it can be dull.  It’s the dullness that makes you introspective, I think; when you’re busy and creative you don’t have time to meander down those dark roads.

The sameness of days leads to bleakness of nights.  It is Christmas, but not a very merry one.  I avoid television news as much as I can. I read the ads, not the front page in the newspaper.  I go to holiday events designed to lift the spirit, but there is something bothering me.  Christmas and then New Year’s parties are canceled because the hosts have come down with the flu. A single cow slaughtered in Washington State makes headlines, and I look carefully at every piece of beef in the meat case, buying none.

A friend discovers that he has cancer--the rapidly growing type.  I see him sitting up in the hospital and he speaks calmly of his faith, that God has given him a good and long life, and he’s prepared.  It makes him smile, and I guess I return that smile.  He’s only a few years older.  I make the comparisons.

Another person tells me about the sadness in his life, the lingering illness, and the pall that hangs over him.  We’re eating lunch and he struggles to hold then move his almost useless arm, the one disabled from a stroke. He needs time to walk up steps, resting when he does.  We talk about his golf game, the trouble he has playing, his rehabilitation, slow and painful. He too is just a few years older. 

A young friend needs a kidney transplant. He’s not much older than our daughter.  His mom tells us his brother is the donor.  It’s set for early February.  He’s still lead singer in his rock band, but he gets tired easily.  We pray that it will go well, for both of them.

A relative, a second cousin, is getting divorced.  Two young kids are involved; there are financial issues to solve.  Other than saying that I am sorry I feel that hopelessness we all feel when we get this kind of news.  Not the stuff that people put in the Christmas letters.

Christmas day here on the California coast is cold, and it rains.  I wonder if the outside lights will short out; if a tree will fall.  They don’t, it doesn’t. Sleep comes with difficulty, the morning too soon. 

This morning, like most, I’m walking along the beach in Carmel.  My jacket collar is turned up against the unforgiving wind, hat pulled low against my forehead.  Coming toward me is a determined man with two crutches, his leg amputated, moving as fast as he can, almost running on his other leg.  He says “good morning.”  I agree, tell him that it is. I stop by a bench, fight back tears, and walk again.

My little friends are waiting for me at home.  Nasty, obnoxious, but they are always there, watching me.  I open the plastic jar, the flurry of feathers and squeaks begin. Pushing open the sliding glass door to the deck, I reach in and pull out three peanuts, placing them in my outstretched hand.. 

The bravest one, a puffy Scrub Jay, flies to me, but instead of just grabbing the nut, stays perched on my outstretched hand, looking at me, turning his head from side to side.  I see his cerulean blue feathers outlined in a delicate dove gray; his eyes are ringed in a delicate white.  There is a white delicate eyebrow painted by a master. The Jay stays there at least thirty seconds, then flies away, peanut in his beak, squawking as he leaves.

CaliforniaScrub-Jay.jpgMiles van der Rohe, the gifted architect, was right, I guess, when he said that God is in the details.


anadyr

The Interview

Posted by anadyr Dec 3, 2017

“Wait here, she said curtly.  “He may not be able to see you today.”  She returned to her perfectly organized, highly polished desk, looking everywhere but in my direction.  She tapped a few keys on the typewriter, looked at the paper, apparently admiring her work, then began typing again rapid-fire, machine gunning another paragraph or two.

I noticed that every hair was in place, nails done, blouse ironed and sharply creased, the quintessential secretary, in the days when they were called secretaries.  She seemed to fit the spacious office, the one with the windows, and filled it with her presence.

I was here for an interview, subject to be determined.  The man was a legend, we’d met a few times, he’d nodded and that was it.  For the most part he was a name on the Agency’s organization chart, no more, to me.

The intercom buzzed, and allowing a few seconds, she leaned forward and said in a whisper, “yes, sir?”  The voice on the machine was slightly garbled and I could barely hear what he was saying.  She, on the other hand, was practiced at listening to her boss and recognizing even the most obscure speech.

As quickly as she let her manicured finger slip from the intercom button she stood and again recognizing that I was in the room looking smaller and smaller, said, “Mr. Hughes can see you now.” It was a scolding tone, one that personal secretaries to famous men used with lowly types to make sure that decorum was maintained in the outer and in the inner office. 

She pressed a hidden switch as I stood and I heard a loud click, signaling my entrance into John Hughes’s office here on the third, the executive floor.  I walked in and approaching his desk, offered to shake hands.  John suffered by debilitating arthritis but with every ounce of effort he could muster, stood and shook my hand.  He was under 50 but looked 70, frail and pale, bowed, walking with a limp.

His office was devoid of the “me” pictures that people of his stature seemed to collect and display: photos with kings, queens, presidents, citations and the like.  Just a few World War II captured German oils dotted the walls, the kind of paintings that the allies tried to give back to the new Germany but they demurred, wanting to forget the Third Reich and its artists.

John Hughes motioned for me to sit down at a long Mahogany table near his desk.  I noticed that he carried a small yellow pencil and a notepad, unlined in his right hand. He placed both on the table as he spoke.  “Roger, I want to offer you a chance to work with me on a special and important project.”  Not pausing he continued, “You come highly recommended by a number of people whom I trust, and I am sure you know, and that is good enough for me.”

“Mr. Hughes,” I stammered, “thank you for this opportunity. I won’t disappoint you.”

He looked at me above his tortoise shell colored glasses.  “Do you have a family, Roger, if I may ask?”

“Yes sir, I do. A wife and a baby daughter, sir.”

“Remember that they come first, Roger.  The work we do is important but they are more important.  Please remember that.”

“I will,” I said softly folding my hands on his polished table then lifting them to see if I’d left a mark.

“Go home and see them, tell them that you’re going to do something that might keep you at work a little late sometimes, but tell them that you care for them, and that you’ll be back soon.”  He struggled to get up, unsteadily grasping the arm of his chair.  For a minute I thought he was going to fall.  I heard my heart and his ticking clock measure the beats. 

“Thank you Mr. Hughes,” I said, again shaking his hand. “I appreciate your confidence in me.”

I remembered his words when for the next 18 months I was a slave to the project, working nights, weekends, through Christmas Eve and into Christmas morning, only calling my family to wish them a Merry Christmas. 

I stood proudly with him as he and I received the Agency’s and the Department’s highest honor for our work. In his remarks he took none of the credit, offering thanks to everyone else.

The John Hughes for whom I worked was the man who in October 1962 briefed President John F. Kennedy about the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.  A young analyst, he was chosen to stand in front of a large image of the island, annotated with the location of the missiles.  Later, he would conduct the same briefing for a nationally televised broadcast. Like most men who have changed history, John Hughes was, at heart, a man who believed in family, and in the home above all else.  His sense of duty, that calling that makes men and women work incredibly hard for a cause, was passed to me during that interview.  I told his widow at his funeral that I appreciated his kindness and his devotion to her.  She nodded, knowing that it was so.

anadyr

Laundromat

Posted by anadyr Dec 2, 2017

 

It was a day for laundry, and I got the task. Not familiar with the place, the Monte Vista Laundry, I met by a kindly older Korean lady, she must have been the owner, a woman of short stature but piercing eyes and a no-nonsense attitude. She asked me what I wanted to wash and I showed her my two large king size down comforters.

 

“You use Harry,” she said with no trace of a smile.

 

“Harry,” I asked.

 

“Yes, there are three big ones here for washing really big things. They are called Tom, Dick and of course Harry."  She pointed toward a set of three large stainless steel machines, each with a round window in the front. The machines bore their names in Sharpie wide black letters. I noticed that they seemed to have had the most use of any machine, just based on the nicks on their doors and surfaces.

 

I walked to Harry, noticed that it took only quarters, and felt a tap on my shoulder.

 

“Maybe now you need these,” the owner asked with a handful of quarters tightly held in her fist, her other hand opened to accept the dollar bills I needed to give her.

 

“Sure,” I said sheepishly. “My first time for this. ”

 

She smiled, that kind of grin that tells me that she had seen it all before, heard it all before, and was just making a living in spite of it.

 

I handed over my quarters, and pushed the feathery comforters into the stainless drum. Again, she tapped me on the shoulder.

 

“Quarters here, soap here, bleach here,” she said with a practiced chant.

 

“Thanks, and I appreciate the…”

 

“You want coffee? I made earlier, pretty strong, but keep you awake better,” she said with a smile.

 

“Sure,” I answered, pushing the door closed on the items and hoping it would really lock.

 

I took a irregularly shaped paper cup from the stack and poured the motor oil consistency coffee into the cup. It was very cold and very strong, at least based on the smell. I was tempted to tell the lady about it but she was occupied watching something on one of the 24 inch flat screen televisions bolted to each of the four walls.

I walked to a round table in the front of the room, and spied a pile of magazines, all older than a year, weeklies like People, and other photo magazines. Must have been discards from the supermarket check outlines, I guessed.

 

images.jpgI was about to sit down when I heard a flutter of wings and a green medium sized parrot flew in and landed on my table. He turned his head left and right to eye me and was about to make some comment when his owner walked in, carrying a paper bag of clothing. He was tall, dressed casually, snowy white hair neatly trimmed and handsome. I made him to be about 45 or so.

 

“Hector, please leave the man alone,” he said scooping the bird up and placing him on his right shoulder. The parrot immediately pecked at the man’s diamond stud earning. The man rubbed the bird’s head and he settled into finding a washer and putting his clothes in.

 

I stared out the window. This space had been a restaurant in former years, a hangout we went to once a week. Jerry the owner, was a gay former Marine, not easy to be in those days. Together with his partner, Dennis, the chef, they served inexpensive quality food. Jerry had a weakness for Thai food; the hotter the better. I recall eating very spicy food there many times and paying for it later with antacids. Jerry’s weakness was alcohol and by mid-meal he was soused, forgetting to take the check, or pouring alcohol into our water glasses. We always paid.

 

I was remembering those good times when the parrot again landed on my table, skidding to a stop at the edge of my table. Pushing his feathers together, he again eyed me. I reached out carefully and he jumped on my hand, his head bobbing up and down.

 

Quarters were being dropped in one of the washers, and then I heard the sound of a money being pushed into a washer. The parrot’s owner approached. “He is a nuisance and gets really feisty sometimes. Just push him away. After a few times he gets the message and goes off to some other place. ”

 

“He’s not bothering me,” I said stroking the bird’s head. “In fact we have a little love fest going at the moment. Maybe he’ll fall asleep.”

 

“That’d be a first, at least for Hector. He keeps me company but he never seems to sleep. ”

 

I motioned for the man to sit down. From his shirt pocket he picked out a couple kernels of corn and laid them on the table. Hector glanced over and ignored them, preferring my deep tissue massage.

 

“Watch out, Hector is fickle, you might have to take him home.”

 

“Have to discuss this with my wife,” I said. “She took a couple years to admit that we could have the cat inside the house. Allergies, asthma and all that. ”

 

“Know what you mean, man. I had a dog but the damn thing was a shedder and I sneezed most of the year. Had to give him up. ”

 

“The pound,” I asked.

 

“Nah, a friend took him, I see the mutt from time to time, but there’s a good distance between me and him, the dog I mean, so I don’t need that inhaler all the time."

 

He finished and folded his laundry, took Hector, and left. The owner of the laundromat told me he was a regular and a homeless guy, one who worked the corner near the freeway. I've looked for him since, but he and Hector hopefully are safe somewhere. I keep looking,

 

anadyr

At the Airport

Posted by anadyr Dec 2, 2017

 

PGH.jpgI guess it’s an artifact of both my age and living in the last century that I still stand in wonder of an airport.  I loved the mystery of Greater Pittsburgh Airport; a concrete bunker-style building located in what had been a cow pasture.  It was a 15-mile drive outside the city.  I first flew out of the airport when I was in high school, feeling that grime of a place near where oil was discovered (Oil City) and where it was used to keep those lumbering planes in the air.  Every wall and ceiling was made of a shiny kind of Formica, large panels that seemed to hold the hand prints of generations.

 

Greater Pitt had a restaurant and nightclub on the second floor of the terminal.  In the words of my family, it was a special occasion kind of place, not one that you’d go to after Church, but only when someone else was paying.  A place where people dined in coats, ties and fancy dresses there, often going just to go and not for a flight.  Of course, flying was something that only businessmen did then, and you dressed for business.

 

That was the case this time:  a friend of my dad’s, Dave Johns, was picking up the tab. Dave was the neighborhood guy people whispered about:  seemed to be flush with cash, had three individual phones and phone lines, a large house, a nice family and a new Cadillac sedan every year.  They said he was a bookie, and I know that he slept till noon most days.  One time we went with him to a baseball game at Forbes Field to see the Pittsburgh Pirates play.  Dave did not wait for a parking space, just stopped in front of the gates, told us to get out, then threw the keys to a bored-looking Pittsburgh cop with the admonition to bring the car back when the game was over.  He did, and money changed hands, right there in front of us all.

 

I was just out of tenth grade in high school, working my way through Junior Year, keeping my head down and grades up. One day I told my family, sheepishly, that I really liked Joanie Summers, a female singer I’d been hearing on the radio.  My dad, ever the arranger, mentioned this to Dave Johns, the real super arranger. I forgot to mention that Dave previously pulled off a miracle, having Tony Bennett come to our high school for a benefit concert when he was appearing at that same airport nightclub.  Kids didn’t care much for the music but parents did.

 

Joanie_summers_132084.jpgOff we whisked to the airport one school night.  It was after normal dinner, but Dave, of course, was ready for anything.  We parked right in front of the entrance to the airport, just under the No Parking sign. Dave left the Cadillac’s engine running.  He handed out a series of bills, fives I guess, to anyone he met as we entered the building and took the elevator to the nightclub.  We got the best table right next to the stage and settled in for dinner.  It was a steak sandwich, a huge hunk of beef on a small slice of toast.  I picked at it, drank my Coke, and waited for the show to start. 

 

Joanie Summers was wonderful, stood right next to us, performed well with a trio.  After Dave Johns motioned for her to come over, putting his arm around her.  To me, she was unbelievably beautiful, even more than I had imagined she was.  He whispered something in her ear, and she looked directly at me, took me by the shoulders and kissed me full on the mouth.  I was weak, embarrassed, excited and overwhelmed.  She turned away, took one of the small place cards that were on the table and wrote on the back, “All my Love, Joanie.”

 

We left about midnight, after her second show.  I don’t remember much of the ride home, just the afterglow of that kiss.  I folded my note carefully, deciding if I’d ever mention the encounter with Joanie Summers to anyone, any time.  These things had a way of being a liability in high school, so I mostly kept it to myself.

 

I found out she’s only three years older than I am. But we had our chance encounter at the airport in 1961. Thanks to Dave Johns, the neighborhood bookie.

anadyr

Campus

Posted by anadyr Dec 1, 2017

bbb.jpgI remember with trepidation my first courses at a government intelligence school, one located in Anacostia, a then seedy section of Washington DC.

 

It might have been a secure location but the look was government 101, windows blacked out and covered in wire mesh, guards looking angry at the gates, and a scattering of pigeons on the roof, most of whom might have been enemy agents! I worked at another government intelligence facility, a world war two wooden edifice, with all the charm of a prison camp. Inside resembled a fishing cabin in the woods--we actually had coat hangers that were from the 1940's!  Asbestos, we never asked, better not to know.  Air conditioning was intermittent as was the heat, and we relied on wall mounted fans, as shown below for cooling, since the windows never opened. We wondered if those heavy safes could be supported by the aging floorboards.

 

 

ahs.jpg

Other schools followed and were housed in similarly depressing buildings at odd locations around the world.

 

Now the new ICC, Intelligence Community Campus, is being built near the Potomac River in Washington. According to this article the place will be anything but spooky, actually having windows, and a real campus feel.

 

Guess that I was born a half century too late!