Saturday, January 26, 2013

Another Candle

Another candle on the cake of life.

Turned 54 years old today. Stuck, for a year, with the same number as Brian Urlacher. Yuck.

1967. 8th birthday
If you're a geezer like me, we "celebrated" birthdays when we were younger. Now, it's a yearly "reminder" that we're getting older. Still, it beats the alternative. And, based on my facebook wall this morning, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have so many friends who care. I've also got my health. 54, with the spirit of a 24 year old.

Most of the time.

Never mature. Always responsible.

I'll celebrate by making pictures at the Knox College International Fair. Maybe a Guinness later. There's work to do tomorrow. Don't look for me to be crawling on the sidewalks tonight. I'll probably be in bed by 11 p.m.

Who knows what today will bring, besides what's planned? Things could change. But, in no particular order, here are some memories from birthdays past.

1. There was a broom closet by the back door of the house. Mounted on the wall of the closet was a pencil sharpener. The wall became a magnet for graffiti as I'd go to sharpen a pencil while doing homework. "Today, I'm 11." I wrote on that wall in 1970. I wonder if it's still there?

2. Mom was a good cook. Not fancy, but good. But for two consecutive years, she had problems with birthday cakes. One year, the icing was as hard as concrete. My neighbor buddy, Mark Guthrie, and I, had to almost chisel our way to the cake. It made for a laugh. Mom must have overcompensated the next year. The icing ran off the cake, and off the cake container, on to the table. It also made for a laugh.

3. I spent one birthday in Des Moines, Iowa. Sent there as a staffer with The National Sports Daily, with a co-worker, John McGrath. Would have been my 32nd birthday, 1991. Frank DeFord, the big boss in New York, hand selected John and I to go out and cover the WWF, or whatever wrestling organization was big at the time. DeFord was upset that the organization was, in his view, exploiting the Gulf War by using a couple of characters, Sgt. Slaughter and The Sheik, I think, to stereotype and create tension and hatred. McGrath and I got little access and retired to the hotel bar.

4. My good friend Rick Alspaugh and his parents invited me a long with them to the Tan-Tar-A resort in the Lake of the Ozarks. Rick and I are the same age. (his birthday is April 26th). We were probably around 11-12 years old. We woke up one morning and hit the ground running. Bowling, playing air hockey, ice skating.... Mid-afternoon, Rick suggests we better head back to the A-frame we were all staying in. After we walked through the door, I happened to be standing under a balcony. Confetti rained down, dropped by Marty Neibur and Betsy Sloan (part of the group), and "Happy Birthday" was sung to me. It was three o' clock in the afternoon before I realized it was my birthday. I had been having too much fun with Rick! We then had birthday cake. Sue Alspaugh had had the resort kitchen bake a cake for me.

5. Rick figures into this one too. He calls on my birthday (a Sunday, I think), and suggests I come over to shoot pool at his house. My dad was still alive. I'm guessing this may have been my 13th. Mom and Dad both offered to drive me across town to Alspaughs. It was unusually cold. I told Rick, "No thanks, I'm in and warm and watching football." About 20 minutes later, the phone rings again. Rick, with the same offer. Again, I decline, even though my parents were saying I should do it, it would be fun. On Rick's THIRD call, soon after the second, Rick says, "Look asshole. We're trying to throw a surprise birthday party for you, over here. Why don't you come over and join us?" I did. It was fun.

Other birthdays of note:
1. 16 (drivers license)
2. 18 (legal at last)
3. 19 AND 21 (legal to drink) Illinois was 19 to drink. They changed the law to 21 on January 1st, 1980. The state did not grandfather clause those who were previously legal. I was "under aged" for 25 days. I got to celebrate the legal drinking age TWICE in my life!

And one last one. My 14th, in 1973. Convincing mom and dad that, if I had a weight set to work out with, it would be the springboard to playing for the Dallas Cowboys someday, they relented, and got me the barbells for my birthday. As dad brought the weights from the hardware store station wagon into the house, he seemed a bit more tired than usual. A little more winded. Mom noted it. Bad news for dad was just around the corner.
Rick Alspaugh, left, and my dad, at my 14th birthday

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Here We Go

Look out. With 10 digits and a keyboard, the danger is real now.

I'm gonna start blogging.

Sporadically. Spontaneously. When the mood strikes, or the idea pops up. If someone asks or suggests a subject. If an event happens. To stir the pot. To make us think. To make us laugh.

I enjoy writing. Though the camera is the weapon of choice, writing is an outlet. Especially if it's something of interest.

So. You'll likely read of photography, travel, friends, family, music, and life events, both past and present.

Why? Why not? Though I'm no one special. Not a celebrity. No better than anyone else. Insignificant in the overall scheme.

But life is interesting. I've been very fortunate to have been part of some incredible happenings, big and small, with incredible friends and family. I'll just share some thoughts or stories.

I think of the lyrics of John Prine. "How the hell can a person, go to work in the morning, and come home in the evening, and have nothing to say?"

And there's Bob Dylan. "If my thought dreams, could be seen... they'd probably put my head, in a guillotine."

You have to understand my sense of humor. Wry, sardonic, twisted, dark... It beats crying.

That's where my blog title comes from. "Ramblings of a Madman." My buddy Ted, assigned that moniker a couple of years back, to a blog that never got off the ground. I liked the title. Appropriate. A madman with a big heart. Crazy "in a good way."

My friend Rob helped set me up this time. Just in time for some major blogging in the coming weeks. A project 40 years old, and never seen by anyone else.

Overall, the subject matter will vary. I will be honest with anyone reading, and with myself, when I blog. The language will be real if I'm quoting. Please don't be offended.

I have a great memory. If nothing else, this is just a vehicle to "get some stuff in writing." If you would like to follow along because you find it interesting, that would be great. And I'd be honored.