#TBTMemory 66: Then And Now

Lauren tells us that she’s "going through a crazy time" in her life right now, but still managed to get us questions for today…

This week’s rerun prompt is: That Was Then And This Is Now

These are apparently different questions that go with a previously-used theme. I don’t remember the theme, so they’ll be new to me.

When you were a kid, what were your creative outlets? As an adult, what have you created that you are most proud of? My creative outlets when I was a kid were drawing, playing the guitar, and some creative writing. As an adult, I would say this blog was my main creative effort, because the stroke left me incapable of drawing or playing the guitar. And I’m pretty proud of this blog.

Kind of like this, but with only my left hand

Have you ever saved someone’s life? Did you ever witness someone’s life being saved? Did someone save your life? Mary probably saved my life by getting me to the hospital quickly on the night I had a stroke, allowing the doctors to get to work on me quickly (they had something to do with my survival and recovery, too). I’ve never saved anyone’s life as far as I know, nor watched a lifesaving operation.

Did you ever get lost as a child? How did you handle it? Do you get easily lost now? I don’t remember ever getting lost as a child, so I can’t say how I handled it. As an adult who used to spend lots of time on the road, I got lost all the time, and for many years had no cellphone to call, meaning I’d get more lost driving around looking for a payphone. When we first moved to Georgia, we’d get lost all the time, and after driving around like the Flying Dutchman for half an hour (or more) suddenly find what we were looking for, and we’d be like "ugh, look what we find!"

I never get lost, people always tell me where to go…

Did you search out presents your parents hid from you? Did you get caught? Do you hide presents from family members as an adult? Are they ever found? I was never that curious about what I was getting for Christmas or my birthday, so I never went looking for anything. Likewise, I haven’t had any occasion to hide anything from anyone. This was the most curious I ever got.

Do you have a special song that was sung to you by either of your parents? Did you sing to your children? (or pets) Care to share the tunes? The only song I can vaguely remember was sung to me not by my parents but by my Aunt Bitsy, who isn’t that much older than I.

What’s something you were afraid of as a child? What is something you are afraid of as an adult? As a kid, everything, and I’ve talked about a lot of it here on the blog. One of them was Emergency Broadcast System tests…

That’s a particularly spooky one… As an adult? I dunno… Poverty? Nuclear war? Starving to death?

What do you wish you would have learned more about in school? Career planning, particularly how to write a resumé.

Is there something outside of school you were so interested in you taught yourself about it as an adult? Jazz harmony, for a start…

What made you laugh most when you were a child? What makes you laugh out loud now? Same answer: The Three Stooges!

What’s something from your childhood that helped to shape your outlook on life? My father’s death. It showed me how really little time ny of us has, and how things can change in a real hurryl

Time to blow this Popsicle stand!

#TBTMemory 64: Spaces and Places

Maggie is handling hostess chores for this week’s Throwback Thursday, which she has titled “Spaces and Places.” She asks us to “[t]hink about the place you most consider home, or answer for all of them.” In my case, that would be this place…

6459 N. Glenwood, Chicago IL 60626. Picture from Google Maps

I talk about it in some detail here. Most of my childhood memories were made here. Here we go…

Did you grow up in an urban or a rural environment? How would you describe the geographic area where you lived? Was it mostly buildings or mostly trees? Four seasons, or always warm or cold? We lived in a very urban environment in Rogers Park, the furthest north part of the city, along the lake. It was mostly buildings, with businesses along Sheridan Road (about four blocks east of us), Devon Avenue (a block south), Clark Street (about four blocks west), and Morse Avenue (almost a mile north). We had a long, cold winter, a brief spring, a hot summer, and a brief fall.

What about the place in which you resided? Was it a house, an apartment, a mobile home, a boat, or something else? Did you like it and do you miss it now? We lived on the second floor of the apartment building pictured above. It was a great apartment, and there are times I think I would like to go back there.

What about the bedroom you had in the home? Did you share it with someone or did you have it all to yourself? If you shared, with whom? How was the space decorated? I had my own room, which was the only bedroom that had a view. I went through a period where I was obsessed with liquor bottles, which I discuss here, and considered my room my “bachelor pad.” My godmother, Fabulous Auntie Jill, gave me a bunch of posters that said things like “War is not healthy for children and other living things” and I hung those up after the liquor ads came down. Most of the time, though, it was a mess…

When you did family activities at home, in what room did you spend your time? What did you do together? TV? Cards? Board Games? Reading? Most of our together time was spent on the back porch, which was more a den with knotty-pine paneling. The TV was there. To do things like play games and cards and the like, our activities spilled out into the dining room. When we had company, we’d spend time in the living room. That was also where the stereo was, so if I had a hankering to listen to the Beatles or Allan Sherman, that’s where I’d go. The stereo was in the sun parlor, which was surrounded by windows on three sides and had the stereo and my father’s big red leather chair and hassock.

Did your friends’ living situation seem similar to your own? Did you prefer to be at your friend’s home or did you prefer your own? Did your friends like to hang out at your house? Pretty much, though the physical layout was different. One friend lived in what might be called a “shotgun” apartment, while several, who had bigger families, lived in houses. I generally liked being at home, and my friends liked coming over, though I really didn’t have that many visitors.

What kind of school did you attend? Large or small? Religious or secular? Public or private? I went to St. Ignatius School, a fairly big school (about 500 kids when I was there). It was two buildings joined together by a bridge, plus a theater-gym complex that was built such that we could get into the theater or the gym from the school. There were several public schools in the neighborhood that were about the same size.

Did you attend church, synagogue, temple, or some other religious facility? If so was it large and ornate, or small and homey? Did you feel comfortable there? Yes, we did: we were exactly one block south of St. Ignatius Church. It was large and ornate, yet I felt at home there. In grammar school, I was an altar boy, and in freshman year of high school, I worked at the rectory, so it was almost a home away from home.

Did you have a hang out spot? Skating rink? Mall? Burger joint? Bowling alley? Friend’s house? About the only place we used to “hang out” was in the alley between the east side of Glenwood and the west side of Wayne. When the weather was good, all the kids in the neighborhood were out there.

Where did you typically go on dates (if you dated)? Movies? Out to a restaurant? At home watching tv? Library? Gym? Dances? Clubs? Mall? I’m not sure how to read this, so I’m going to interpret it my way (Heaven help us all…) I really didn’t date until I was in college. As for the other places…

  • Movies: There were several theaters in the neighborhood, but the only two I went to were The Granada, an old-fashioned movie palace, and the 400, a smaller theater that showed more artsy movies. Both were on Sheridan Road, about six blocks apart.
  • Out to a restaurant: There were two places we would meet Grandma and Florence: the Town & Country, which was on Ridge Road, slightly out of the neighborhood, and The Brown Bear, a German restaurant on Clark Street. We generally dressed up to go to either one of those places. The Town & Country was kind of a posh place (velvet wallpaper, thick carpets, nice tablecloths and heavy cutlery), while The Brown Bear provided lots of gemütlichkeit. They did a show every Sunday night where all the waitstaff (all from Germany) would show off their various talents. The night we went, our waiter, who was from Bavaria, put on quite a demonstration of schuhplattler, i.e. slap dancing. For less formal occasions, there was The Branding Iron (I think that was the name) that served steaks. And, there was a restaurant called Cindy Sue’s that we used to order from a lot: pizza, fried chicken, and hamburgers. I’m sure there were other places, but my memory is hazy on them…
  • Library: There was the school library, of course, but the public library was about a mile hike from our house, so we didn’t go there very often.
  • Dances: There was a girl’s high school, Sacred Heart Academy, that had fairly regular dances on Friday nights. It was kind of a distance, but worth the walk, and that’s all I need to say about that…
  • The other places: Didn’t really do those…

What kind of place did you live in when you first moved away from home? Was it a big adjustment or were you ready to strike out on your own? Describe your first place. We moved from the apartment in Rogers Park to a small house in the suburbs after my freshman year of high school, I lived there until I got married, at which time I moved into a flat in Mary’s family’s building (with her, obviously). It was a nice place: a bit small, and not the best neighborhood, but there were worse in Chicago. It was enough for us, and that’s the important thing…

And that’s it for this week!

#TBTMemory 63: Then And Now

Maggie‘s running the show this week. This week, we’re to think of ourselves as kids and answer the questions.

Were you more of an introvert or an extrovert? An introvert. For a long time I thought I was an extrovert, because I was friendly and outgoing, but after a while I’d get people’d out and have to get away from everyone and everything.

Did you have a boisterous or a more reserved personality? More reserved, although I had my boisterous moments (or should I say boysterous?)

Were you more confident or did you tend to be insecure? Definitely more insecure.

Were you social or were you more of a loner? A loner with my social moments.

Were you a good listener or a good talker? A better talker. Inside my head it’s too noisy.

Did you like school or dread it? Generally liked it, but there were times when I dreaded it.

Did you like the outdoors or did you prefer staying inside? I preferred being inside, but I was also good at wandering around the neighborhood.

Did you have deep thoughts about the world, the universe, etc., or did you only see as far as where you lived? I was a dreamer and spent a lot of time in my own little world, because I knew everyone there.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Lots of things: a cab driver, a policeman, a weatherman, a musician, a cartoonist, a priest, an actor, a radio DJ…

Looking back, how did you fare as an adult? Are you still that same person or have you changed? If you changed, was it a dramatic shift or just slight changes? Did you end up in the profession you thought you would? I did all right as an adult. Never did any of the things I dreamt of, of course, because I followed my mother’s advice ("be practical" — what a mistake that was), but I did all right for myself. I never really changed, if you can believe that. I’m still kind of a dreamer who lives in his own world, in which world I still know everybody…

And that’s all for this week!

#TBTMemory 62: Champagne and Reefer

Lauren is the queen of Throwback Thursday this week, and she has chosen as her theme "Suds, Buds, and Vino"…

Depending on when and where you grew up, the common consumption of beer, marijuana, and wine may or may not have been a part of your teen life. I was in high school in the late 60s and early 70s. Marijuana and beer were a common factor in most high schooler’s lives. For the majority of people I knew, it didn’t become a problem. For a few, it negatively altered their lives.

Everyone knows, the marijuana of the 70s was far less potent than what is available today. Yet today, in many parts of my country, it is legal. Times change how people feel about controlled substances.

Did you grow up in a family that had beer or wine at family meals? Were either beverages part of your parent’s “relaxation” time? Beer, no, wine, sometimes. We would have a cocktail hour where (primarily) Manhattans (2 oz. bourbon, 1 oz. sweet vermouth, dash Angoustura bitters, on the rocks with a Maraschino cherry) were consumed.

Was wine consumed as part of religious or family celebrations? If so, when? We’re Catholics, and believe that bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ during the Mass. We then receive the bread and wine during Communion.

We typically would have wine on special holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter). Cash (Mom’s aunt) was a clerk at a high school, and one of the janitors, Tony, made wine around Thanksgiving, keeping most of it for himself and selling the rest of it. Cash would get a bottle of it, which we would then have with dinner on Thanksgiving. I hear it was rather strong…

Were you allowed to have a “sip” of the adult beverages? I would imagine that we could if we asked, we just never did…

When you were a teenager did it bother you that your parents had one set of behaviors, yet you were expected to have another? No.

When you were in high school, did you or your friends drink alcohol? If you were underaged, how did you acquire the booze? I didn’t, and neither did my friends.

Were you offered marijuana or other drugs while in high school? If you chose to partake, did it get you into trouble, or were you never caught? Only once that I can remember: I smoked some dope with a couple of friends after blowing it on a physics exam (actually, I did all right; I just wasn’t sure after I finished). If my mother could tell, she never said anything.

Did you ever get too drunk or too high to function? How did your body react to that? In high school? No.

Have your opinions about taking drugs and drinking alcohol changed over time? I drank pretty heavily at one time, and quit completely when I learned I had enough blood pressure for two people. I look back at those days and wonder sometimes how I survived. I’ve learned that they’re called "adult beverages" for a reason. Are you more conservative or more liberal than you were in your youth? Much more conservative.

If applicable, did you raise your children with the same beliefs that you grew up with? Not applicable!

If you had any input over alcohol or marijuana laws would you change them? No. There are too many laws, and, as Frank Zappa said, they’re poorly written and randomly enforced.

Tally-ho and away we go!
See you next week with a brand new show!

#TBTMemory 61: Trick Or Treat!

Maggie is our hostess this week, and asks us about Halloween and costumes and stuff.

Let me preface all this by saying that Halloween was not exactly my favorite "holiday" …

Did you celebrate Halloween? If so, what was your most memorable costume? When I was in grammar school (grades 1-8) I did. The costumes I wore in grades 6, 7, and 8 are the ones I remember best:

  • in sixth grade, I was determined not to go trick-or-treating, and was in a generally shitty mood. Mom, not wanting to deal with her oldest son, handed me $5 and told me to go buy a costume and get out of the house and go trick-or-treating. The drug store at the end of Glenwood was the only place open, and all they had left were Snow White and Satan, so I bought Satan, brought it home and put it on. The costume consisted of a cape and a plastic mask. Since it was the end of October in Chicago and colder than a penguin’s ass, I had to wear my winter coat under it. About halfway down the block when I ran into a friend of mine, dressed (as he had since 1964) as Paul McCartney. He said "What the hell are you supposed to be?" I decided I had enough and went home, knowing that I was supposed to be at home.

  • In seventh grade, one of my brothers talked me into going. I put on a pair of blue jeans, an undershirt on which I had written "NUTS TO YOU" in glow-in-the-dark paint, my gym shoes, and the lining from my trench coat (which I had removed and couldn’t figure out how to put it back). I don’t know what I was, but October 31 was about 75 degrees (roughly 50 degrees warmer than it had been the previous year) and I was in a better mood.

  • In eighth grade, I was going with a bunch of friends of mine. I didn’t have time to buy a costume, so I went to the local trick shop and bought myself the worst-looking rubber mask I could find, and that was my costume.

When was the last time you dressed in a costume? What was the reason? At work, we decided to have a "Christmas in July" contest, and they chose me to play Santa, because I’m built like him. I made several phone calls to the contestants (the idea was to get them to sell training classes and services to our unsuspecting client base), which was fun, because I got to write them (my crowning achievement was the line "Santa’s got to see a man about a reindeer"). My manager knew they were having a meeting in Atlanta, and asked me to attend, dressed as Santa, to introduce the idea. I had to rent a Santa suit on the hottest day of the year and do five minutes of standup while I told them what to do.

Too bad they didn’t have ne do it now. I can supply my own hair and beard…

A week later, they were having this big celebration for one of the executives, and my boss, who was in Dallas, called on me to deliver the present from Customer Education, once again wearing the Santa suit. I might as well have bought the damn thing…

As a child, did you like pretending you were someone else? Did you create costumes with things around the house? Yes, I enjoyed pretending I was someone else, and still do, but costumes weren’t involved.

Did you ever attend Mardi Gras, Carnival or any other festival with masks or costumes? Did you wear a mask or costume? No to the first, and if I had I wouldn’t have worn a costume.

Were you ever in a play (school or otherwise) that required a costume? If so, who were you? Nobody got out of St. Ignatius School without being part of the Christmas play in December or the operetta in the spring. I tell the story of my Tony-award winning performance as Balthazar in the Christmas play here.

As I explain in the Christmas post, even-numbered grades did the Christmas play, odd-numbered grades did the operetta. If you didn’t have a starring role in the operetta, you were generally relegated to some goofy dance choreographed by Mrs. Wolff, a superannuated former chorus girl who had been doing this since my aunts were in grammar school. In fifth grade, we were to do a "firefly" dance, where we would run around on a darkened stage lit with black lights, wearing black sweatshirts with phosphorescent tape on them and flashing little penlights. This was just after Dad had died, and I didn’t have the patience needed to do the stupid dance, so I tried to get out of it. And I did, for one week, then decided they needed me too much, so I relented.

Do you participate in cosplay or go to Comic Conventions?

Ya’ll liked this so much the last time…

What character from movies, comics, or plays has the best costume? All the villains in the Batman TV series had great costumes. My personal favorite, of course, was Julie Newmar in her Catwoman catsuit (which I understand she had a hand in designing).

This was the hottest scene in the whole show. Too bad they couldn’t do the same with Eartha Kitt…

Think of scary or horror movies. Which character’s costume and/or make up was the most frightening? Was it the costume alone, or the movie itself which made it frightening? Buffalo Bill, in The Silence Of The Lambs, wearing a suit made of women’s flesh. AAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Have you ever visited historic places where the staff wears period costumes? If so, where was it? Can’t say that I have. The closest I got to something like that was at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, where the docents wear these unusual robes and hats…

Have you ever attended a Broadway or Off Broadway or Community Theatre production with great costumes? Leave a clip or photo here of your favorite. Can’t say as I have… sorry…

That’s all for this week. Time for me to blow this popsicle stand…

Tally-ho and away we go!
See you next week with a brand new show!