Friday, May 31, 2013

Flashback Friday - Toy Story

Babysitters worth their salt will be well versed with all of the Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks cartoon movies that kids like to watch.  By kids, I include big old senior kids like myself.    Ask me my reviews of Rio, Brave, Ice Age, Happy Feet, Up, or Tangled. One of my, uh, Norah's favorites is Toy Story III, and the other two which form a pretty nifty trio of Pixar animated magic.  The over-arching premise is that eventually kids give up their toys, they stop being kids and grow up.  The toy angst is to be abandoned by their kids.  In the end Woody, Buzz and their buddies do lose their kid Andy, but find someone else who needs the comfort and joy of toys.

Today's flashback is to show you guys that this big old kid never gave up all of his toys.  Sure, I don't have either one of the electronic football games we got for Christmas, or the pinball machine that got ruined in the Great Flood.  Gone is the panda teddy bear that I just had to have one Christmas.  One summer our grandparents who lived in Quincy brought us up toys useful for the sandbox we had next to the house.  I still remember it being a type of wheeled augur with buckets perfect for sand.  They are all long gone except for these.

As a 10 or 11 year old I slipped out to the garage once and started practising my driving.  I opened the garage door got into the driver's seat and decided to work on my reverse skills.  I started the car, slowly put the car in gear and gently touched the accelerator and moved the car a bit outside.  Then I would put the car in "D" and slowly bring it back in.  I'm not sure which time it happened but I must have attempted to reverse but my foot slipped and the car went back far too fast.  I was able to brake in time but, trouble was, I forgot to close the door.  It got jammed on something alongside the garage and tore it up pretty good.  It had to go into the shop for repairs.  My ass was dinged up a little too, when Dad got home.

The Mercedes has a little suspension problem, and the old Model T truck some rust, but they were good reliable toys that I had as a little kid and treasure for the time they gave me and their durability.  They aren't worth much, none is a Tonka which I understand bring good prices in auctions.  None are in their original box which brings more.  No, these were take home and play with objects, probably ripped out of their boxes in the back seat of the car and run up my Wombie's arm and face to check out the friction plate rear tires.

Through all the moves and one major flood, I kept these guys.  I figure if they can stay loyal to me for 50 years then I can hang on just as long.  I find it a bit interesting that they are all in the automotive area.  In what was a bit of foreshadowing these guys paved the way for this writer to become an avid old car fan and collector.   The question to ponder, then, is did these toys ingrain in me this future personal compulsion, or was the seed already there, and manifested in the toys I enjoyed?  The answer of course is and will remain a mystery.  How can we know?

What toys have you kept?


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Foggy Morning - Part 2

Back again for a few more pictures of an early morning trek on the bike downtown.  Yesterday the sun had yet to come up, but by now, we have light and fog.  

One of the city's many homeless, navigating his worldly belongings from wherever he took shelter during the night and heading over to William's Park, haven for the dispossessed during the day.

A stately old theater on Central Avenue.  Nice ornate art deco exterior with cool gold eagle emblems.

Remember Sealtest Ice Cream?  At one point it may have been about the only one available out in the sticks of Seaton and Aledo.  

Sandburg was wrong.  Fog may come in quietly, but cat's feet are most assuredly not stealth-like.

Central Avenue comes to life.  Every town has a Central.  For Galesburg, Seminary Street is equivalent.  Artsy, good restaurants, shops that sell things you won't find anywhere else, and young people out to impress, or better yet, not.  Fun street.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Foggy Morning - Part 1

On another early morning trip downtown I took these pictures.  I won't comment because I'm too lazy and because I think they speak for themselves.  Whatever they say to you, I hope you enjoy them. 

Come back tomorrow for a few more.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Flashback Friday

This is the conference room at the Mary Davis Home where I was Program Coordinator.  The Counseling staff and I are about to have a meeting to determine the progress of kids in the rehab program.  We did this weekly and depending on the behavior we would progress them higher or lower on the 6 levels. 

The Counselors aways did a great job of adding up all the good and bad to properly place in a phased program a kid where they needed to be.  Every once in a while I'd have to put on the brakes if I thought a kid was getting out too soon, but more often than not, they were spot-on with their votes.  

The joviality of the group is probably because this is one of the last, if not the last, staffing I would conduct.  I had to keep these things moving along or I'd get a call from a lonely supervisor asking to speed it up so they could get their staff back so they themselves could wander back to the kitchen to sample the lunch fare.  

I don't much miss the management side, but I do miss the connectedness, the staff and the kids.  Good solid folks doing their part to make a young persons life mean something more than handcuffs and fingerprints.  I told the Counselors as often as I could, that our work was lasting work, that these kids may not always remember our individual sessions but they'll remember our names, just like we remember our teachers.  And what better calling can people have than to meaningfully effect, in a lasting way, the lives of young people. 

There is easier work, better schedules, and certainly jobs that pay more.  But day in and day out, if you can say you have helped people grow and think and live better lives, then you have the best job possible.  And we did.  And I did.  

From Left to Right:  Shelby, David, Me, Troy, Holly, and Jerome.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Seeing Them Off

Sometimes you can't avoid Tampa, or The Dark City.  When your grandkids are hopping on a bus that in three days will send them to the land of Canucks and Eskimos, you make every effort to bid them farewell.  It could be a long time till we see them again.

There are rules regarding bus stations:  they are always in a less than reputable place in town, they are usually dark, old, lonely and cold places.  The cold refers not only to the temperature but the feeling of the place itself on your soul.  It is a place of departure, of anxiety, of nervousness, of feelings of dread, or hope, or joy, depending on where you are going and why.  But generally joy seems to be one of the rare feelings in bus stations.  

Today I see my boy, my baby I spent so much time with in G-Burg, leave for Canada.  Of course, he left me long ago, really.  He moved away once before, started growing up and began to forget what fun we had.  Now that was joy!  Perhaps the happiest time in my life was when Michael and I moved as one around G-Burg back when he was 3 and 4 years old.  He's 10 now, so he has forgotten.  But I haven't.  Someday I'll have to tell you of my bus trip to Petersburg Virginia to pick up Michael and bring him back to G-Burg when he was still in diapers.  Now that was a trip.

Here he is listening to his mother gives instructions.  I've seen that slack-jawed, glazed, I'm-really-not-listening-mom look dozens of times and never tire of seeing it.  

Let's face it.  If you had the money you wouldn't take a bus.  There I said it.  You'd fly.  Or if you had your own wheels you'd drive.  But lots of people have neither so the bus becomes a means to an end.  Usually a bottom-feeding means to an end.

One final game before you get on that bus and make three transfers and in three days you move from Mid-Florida to southern Canada.  Farewell kids.  I hope you love it in Canada again.  

I hate bus stations. Trains stations can be sad, too.  I had a sad one year's ago when I had to hop on a train to head back for another semester of school in Denver.  I didn't want o go and my Dad sensed it.  I think if he'd said to "bag it" and let's go home I would have.  But we commit to things and we never surrender.  Tonight's trip was another sad one.    

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fast Eddie and Michael

The two gentlemen above met me at a local brewery the other day.  The young man on the right is Eddie Johnson, a great high school friend who, sadly closed his eyes when the the camera flashed.  The younger man on the left is his son, Michael, who lives in Wesley Chapel, about 25 minutes from Tampa.  The elder Johnson was visiting from Peoria.  I had not seen them since 2002.  Eddie is a bit of a recluse by choice and stay-at-home-babysitter just like me.

Eddie and I used to cruise around back in school often heading to the Quad Cities to visit irreputable stripper joints if we could get in.  One such place was Pete's Midwest which didn't seem too worried about ages or who ordered their beer.  It was a sort of peek into the adult world for us both and I'm glad I did it with Eddie, because along with Eddie was a great sense of humor.

He drove a cool '62 Chevy and I guess my memory created something out of nothing because I thought it was white, but Eddie assured me it was Robin's Egg blue.  He began dating Pam and I was kicked to the curb, figuratively, and found other laughs and activities to fill the weekends.  But for awhile is was me and Fast Eddie.

He lived with his mom out in Sugar Grove, a small enclave about three miles North of Aledo.  Marguerite was the sweetest lady and when I'd arrive I wanted to spend a little time with her; it seemed like we were always rushing off.  I always thought Marguerite was one of those wonderfully cheerful people who had far too much sorrow in her life.  She lost her husband at a young age, and then her oldest son died in a semi-accident.

Eddie went on to serve in the National Guard, and graduated as a civil engineer from the Morrison Institute of Technology.  From there he was hired by the City of Peoria and worked there till he retired in 2004.  He married and had three kids.

Michael is one of them and, yes, Eddie and Deb named him after me.  Why?  I have no idea.  Anyway, my namesake is as funny and charming as his Dad.  He coaches football and teaches English up there in Wesley Chapel, and also has a boat that he has been instructed by Pops to take me for a ride someday.  He talks a mile a minute and one of those guys who makes sense and commands attention.  I suspect he'll be pretty good at coaching.

I invited Brendan to join us and the symmetry was amazing - 2 dads, 2 sons.  Both Dads palled around when they were but teens, themselves.  Anyway, we decided to meet for a beer or two at 3:00 and ended up leaving the place at 9:30.  We rehashed some stories from the past:  In going through some old boxes I recently found an old driver's license.  It was the one Eddie and I doctored for purposes of obtaining illegal adult beverages, and it worked a few times, but then Zeke got onto us and we had to use it in out-of-town shops.  We listened to Elvin Bishop and his one-hit wonder which back then was a song we both sang to while cruising, and thanks Brendan for finding it on the jukebox.  We talked of old times.

It was nice to see him again and to jostle memories.  There are some people we know who were there at the beginning.  When we were just on the cusp of that point in life where we can't blame our mistakes on youth.  That magical time when you have no bills to pay, no familial responsibilities, no job to seek, no reputations to lose.  It was a place where we hopped into a car and drove all night, sometimes with beer, looking for fun and learning the art of friendship.

And then that time is lost forever - where we have to take all the slings and arrows that comes with adulthood.  Eddie was with me at that point, that quick moment in memory, and then you go head over heels into that abyss of life when all the joys and sorrows start to cling fast; the baggage we carry with us to the end.

(If interested, I wrote a previous post about Eddie on January 31, 2012.  It contained a pretty fascinating story about how he found his Dad's wrecker in a junkyard and had the door restored.  Use the side dates to find the post. )  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013