A Day in the Life: A Fond Memoir

A Day in the Life: A Fond Memoir

To fully appreciate this tale you’re going to have to know a few things. English would be nice. Although Para Español oprime número dos. If you’d like this story to entertain you, blink once. If you’d like this story to inform you, blink twice. If you blinked at all, please seek psychiatric care immediately and then just read the damn story OK.

Sign of the times: Unemployed pick up moves back in with parent.

I’ll set the stage. The year was 1976 and as a 15 year old hormone factory living in frigid Syracuse, NY I was privileged to work on the most mega-ginormous off road equipment ever built. I use the non-word mega-ginormous to convey my sense of adolescent shock and awe at the sheer enormity of these machines. I’m talking monumental dump trucks, massive front end loaders and colossal excavators. My route to this “It’s a Large World” Disneyland of construction equipment was through my family’s glass and mirror business. Whenever I wasn’t in school I was immediately and profitably absorbed into the work force doing anything from cutting glass (actually scoring glass, then exploiting the fault line) to slapping up mirrors in cookie cutter tract homes. Great work if you can get it, or are fortunate enough to be born into a family that has it. In any event, one of our heavy industry accounts was LB Smith. LB Smith was a General Motors dealer, but not in the traditional sense. They were a dealership in GM’s steroidal Terex division. This division didn’t manufacture Impalas or Corvettes, instead they produced the world’s largest collection of outrageously gargantuan off road equipment the universe had ever seen. Bigger even, than a Dolly Parton wig.

A Quick Lesson in Trickle-Down Economics.

Alaskan Oil Pipeline: Not actual size.

In the bicentennial year of 1976 our country was employed mightily in building the 800 mile Alaskan oil pipeline which stretched from Prudhoe Bay above the Arctic Circle to the port of Valdez on the Gulf of Alaska. It has since pumped 16 billion gallons (give or take a million) of crude oil. Its construction was propelled by the Arab oil embargo of 1973 which produced gas rationing and gas lines. Bear in mind, at this time in Alaska, Eskimo Pies were little gifts Eskimos left on the frozen tundra when they were away hunting. Now our friends at LB Smith sold and serviced some of the equipment the oil companies used in reshaping the forsaken Alaskan tundra to accommodate this infrastructure, and our mom and pop Eastwood Glass Shop serviced all the broken glass in LB Smith’s equipment. So by the time the torrent of money unleashed on the project seeped down to us it was literally a trickle, but provided enough moisture to keep our family comfortably damp for years (I really need to work on this last sentence).

Whenever I worked at their equipment yard, it was truly awesome experiencing the wondrous joy of beholding something greater than myself; as in this case a 57-ton Terex TS-14B Twin-engine Articulated Scraper. And during my impressionable adolescence only puberty had a greater impact on me. LB Smith’s yard abutted a railroad siding and every so often a murder of massive front end loaders (that’s what you call a collection of front end loaders – a murder) would rumble in from Alaska on a freight train. And there they’d sit; inelegantly perched on a flatbed rail car. Their massive hulk chained hard to the flat car like an crazed sideshow monster. Their bruising metallic hulks menacingly etched against the blue gray sky so common to Central NY.

Once liberated from their chains the fulminating demons were slowly and expertly off loaded down an earthen ramp while still being safely tethered to other equipment – like King Kong being introduced into polite society. Or at least that’s how it appeared through the activated eyes of a teenager who had access to more marijuana than his divorced and distracted parents realized. And as the beast was carefully brought to heel in LB Smith’s equipment yard, Eastwood Glass was at the ready to fix any broken safety glass in the operator’s cab. After all, that was part of their contract with the oil consortium (Alyeska) who used these Truckasauruses to build their pipeline in the Alaskan wilds. LB Smith might replace a 15 yard capacity scooper on a 57 ton front end loader, but they couldn’t be bothered with the repair of trifling safety glass. And that’s when I went to work. I’m Joe Friday. I carry a badge.

Let the Games Begin

The call might come in to our shop that LB Smith had 8 earth movers with busted glass in the operator’s cabs and it devolved upon Eastwood Glass to remove and replace it all in 3 days when they were to be returned to vital duties in our 49th state. Now these were the bad old unregulated mid-70s when an uninsured, off the books, 15 year old ectomorph could enter a dangerously unsecured crucible of Heavy Industry and with hardly more than a “So which trucks are they?” And in no time I was brachiating like a gibbon all over these unforgiving beasts.

LB Smith’s Mega-truck Kingdom and hard core mechanics playland was heavy metal porno for the 2nd chakra. There were tires 12 feet in diameter, dump trucks heavier than Orson Welles and industrial mechanics overalls so sturdy they could stop small caliber bullets – talk about the original “Hurt Locker.” The mechanics were an ultra-gruff and coarse lot. I’m not sure they even were mechanics. I mean I never saw them leave at night. I think a couple of them were branded. They might have been inmates or livestock; corralled and led down into the oil pit where they were watered and fed before lights out.

Even in my ganja-induced haze I knew these uber blue collar jobs provided the Holy Grail of an economically advanced civilized society – high paying jobs for under educated people. How else do you build a responsible middle class willing to pay $650 for a patio set at Sears and Roebuck’s you can only use for 2 months a year in temperately challenged Syracuse? So what if only about half the mechanics could blink their eyes in unison. So what if they averaged 9 fingers per mechanic. That was up from 8 the year before. These were the generous knuckle-draggers who would dine at “Ham That Am Ham” restaurant in Chittenango and drop $100 on a family dinner then tip the waitress $20 who in turn would get her puffy bouffant hair done at Lena Tarson’s home based hair salon; who’d in turn would run out to Karch’s Beauty Supply on Erie Blvd for Dippity-Doo. Revered Yale economist Irving Fisher would refer to this rapid turnover of economic activity as “The Velocity of Exchange.” I call it good for the hood.  

Chuck Norris’s pick up.

It’s a Large World After All

These were big dump trucks. As a comparison I use this example:

Ford pickup is to F-150 as Terex is to F-150,000.

These larger than life Tonka toys evoked astonishment and swear words. These 57 ton brutes weren’t exactly fuel efficient. They got 0 miles per gallon and had to be fueled directly from the pipeline just to keep them running. They were like Transformers that had already been transformed into small moving continents.

As mentioned LB Smith had an equipment yard the size of an airport to move these ample game pieces about. They had a mechanics garage able to swallow a 747 and an enclosed painting bay suitable for an aviary. There wasn’t a crescent wrench or screw driver less than 2 feet long and you could have these machines in any color you wanted as long as it they were painted Terex Green.  

A Glorious Day in the Life

So let’s examine that Friday, November 19, 1976, on a bleak and blustery composite day in Syracuse, NY where all the Halloween pumpkins have long since been smashed and the bare trees augur a bone chilling winter. Gerald Ford is in the White House, though not for long having lost the election to upstart Jimmy Carter. Burt Reynolds and Dinah Shore are kaput, and Loni Anderson hasn’t even auditioned for “WKRP in Cincinnati” yet. This is a time when, despite my best efforts, the Beatles are still broken up. And somewhere a young Richard Simmons is prancing around in an attic sweatin’ to the oldies. Yours truly is all of a gangly 15 years old and having purchased shaving cream and a razor, I hoped to actually shave something with whiskers on it one day. My soon to be iconic poster of Farrah Fawcett is all wrinkled at the top from holding it up with one hand. You get the picture?

On this glorious Friday there’s a half day of school due to a Teacher’s Workshop (where I presume they made bird feeders or something) and, as I was in my TGIF jaunty mood, I wore my favorite green plaid flannel shirt. A favorable portent if ever there was one. Eastwood Jr. High School combined the social engineering of desegregation with the divine engineering of puberty. And against this backdrop I think there may have been some vague notion about education mixed in. I couldn’t tell. Things were skewed in Jr. High. Our lunch period began at 9:50 am. That’s the only way they could rotate us all through the cafeteria. On weekends 9:50 was known as Deep REM sleep and breakfast was known as lunch. Anyway on this ½ day Friday our basketball team had practice. At 6’2” 134lbs I menaced the court with the swagger of a white chess piece – a pawn. That is I could move in a straight line OK, but anything requiring diagonal motion and I became a Rook. Coach Rizzi worked us pretty hard and we bonded into a decent team in the pit of a gym we called home court. The black kids were brazenly cool. The white kids were destined to make more money. As long as you’re doing the same thing (box and 1 defense, suicide sprints) ethnic differences don’t mean much.

I knew the rhythms of my school. Its structure, the teachers and the staff. I knew how to get from Mr. Miller’s (no birth records of any kind) shop class in the basement to Miss Patrick’s (closet human) Algebra class on the 2nd floor in less than the allotted 3 minutes (2 minutes green light, 1 minute red light). I knew the janitors kept sandwiches and snacks from the cafeteria in their break room refrigerator. And after practice I “gained entry” to their break room and relieved them of their refrigerated burdens. As in this case by removing some of the sandwiches and placing them in my stomach so as to be ready for my duties at Eastwood Glass (everything in my narrow world was named Eastwood then). Home, a 900 square foot frame house easily mistaken for a double-wide, was only 3 blocks from school and with its tract home sensibility, epitomized middle class pretensions. Upon arriving there I’d call my father who doubled as owner/operator of Eastwood Glass (the dynamic was actually much more complicated, but we’ll leave it at that pending how my biographer decides to embellish this portion of my life) and he’d pick me up in the corporate vehicle – a rust colored 1974 Ford Torino wagon. My father liked the color because when it began to rust, you couldn’t really tell.

Although our mom and pop shoestring business had a brick and mortar location, the entire mobile operation was run from the unassuming confines of this mid-sized Ford product. Dad did not do things on the cheap however, he simply did things as a minimalist. He aspired to nothing beyond his own metabolism and only played the game of life because of the one ray of God’s refracted love that shone on his bleak soul and stimulated his pineal gland into something approximating meaningful activity. Why else did he live in the back of the glass shop where he slept on a cot with a shotgun resting against a stand of plywood and 2X4s known as his dresser? No one told him this wasn’t Dodge City in 1869. Life was just something he wanted to get over with. He had no idea how to care for me and evinced little familial ardor (whatever that is), but I knew he loved me deeply. Maybe it was the convoluted way he used to invite me to go with him to the New York State Fair (something his deft intellect regularly deprecated as corny and outmoded):

Me: (Bleary eyed son arriving for work at the ungodly hour of 9:00 am.)

Dad: Y’know, you go through life. <pause> The Fair comes once a year. <pause> You go about every 2, maybe 3 years.

Son: Ah sure dad. I’d love to go to the Fair with you. Again. This year. For the 10th year in a row.

Anyway, on the short ride down to the glass shop dad and I would discuss safe unemotional topics. For whatever reason I was keenly attuned to and highly solicitous of his unexpressed emotions and in my own sacrificial way sought to blunt and repurpose the rough edges of existence for my father – the enabler of my physical existence. A 15 year old should be more concerned with girls, but for a time I saw myself as his lifeline and I didn’t want my daddy compromised. As a news hound of great renown Bill’s (his name, although I’ve changed it from William) favorite event was to surprise you by being the first to inform you of a newsworthy event, particularly the death of a celebrity:

Dad: Guess who died?

Me: (puckish rejoinder) Lassie?

Dad: Nope. Bing Crosby.

Me: (Although I could care less, I’d counter with an impromptu and strained corollary from his time period) Really? The great crooner no more. That reminds me. Do you know what Clara Bow’s epitaph read?

Dad: No.

Me: That’s “It Girl!” [Google it.]

Dad smiled in appreciation of my heroic effort. He betrayed no amazement on how wonderfully byzantine it was that his callow 15 year old son was able to reach into the Andromeda Galaxy and spontaneously pluck out such an apropos witticism – from the 1930s no less.

Dad (Bill as I called him in front of customers) didn’t want any unpleasant waves or reminders of just how murderously ugly earth can be and we were both masters at narcotizing the moment. “Today,” he announced, “you and Gary (my high functioning and reasonably idolized older brother) have got a big job at LB Smith.” My pulse quickened. “They’ve got 8 pieces of equipment that need to go out on Monday so you’ve got to remove and label all the glass today and then replace it all by Monday.” Yippe-ki-ya I shouted internally betraying no genuine enthusiasm to a man who avoided such nonsense because it invariably brought with it the unbearable low of unmet expectation.

Having changed into work jeans, but still sporting the feel good green flannel shirt of my autumnal collection, Gary and I loaded up the Starsky and Hutch wagon and headed over to the industrial park near Carrier Circle where LB Smith (the Happiest Place on Earth Movers) was located. He drove right through the unguarded gate and parked the minuscule Torino which was dwarfed by the immensity of the Terex fleet. We proceeded through the cacophony of the clamorous garage and into the hushed white collar world of the front office. There we received our vehicular schedule and purchase orders before we went out into the yard and commenced our work.

A Company of Coarse Men

Utilitarian was the watchword in describing this outsized landscape. This institutional cinder block building was done up in Early San Quentin, but without the gaiety. The Spartan cafeteria looked like a prison execution room minus the gas chamber. LB Smith’s cafeteria was a cement bunker whose walls were painted no color – like flavorless gum. There was one sign reading “No Artisanal Cheeses. Velveeta or aerosol cheese OK.” Alright that anecdote wasn’t true but it might as well be. Or as I used to say in 1976, “It’s not true but it Marcus Welby.” I had the most fun back then homonymically trailblazing my way to unprecedented heights.  I was a smart enough kid, but I was beginning to worry my sexual fantasies now involved back hoes and front end loaders. It isn’t easy being impressionable and these massive structures spoke to me.

Sometimes I’d overhear snatches of conversation amongst the inmates, I mean mechanics.  They say there are two things you should never see made: laws and sausages. While let me hasten to add a third one to that – conversation in the LB Smith cafeteria. To wit:

Floyd: Ain’t that about some bullsh*t. Only a 3% raise and with gas at 50¢ a gallon how am I supposed to make ends meet. Brenda is so pissed off at OPEC. I think we should just invade those Arabs and take the oil. What can those A-rabs ever do to us?

This is the same pissed off mama who had a tattoo on her ass reading: “Caution: Not a Step.”

Norbert: Damn right. You mark my words, Purvis. Bill Wyman is the most likely Stone to quit the band.

Purvis: No way Norbert. Wyman’s a lifer. So I was watching that movie Ben Hur last night and I’m thinkin it’s in Egypt right? So I says to Brenda, “How come everybody’s talkin’ in these upper class English accents?” That’s some sh*t right?

Floyd (over hearing Purvis): Hey Purvis. What was Brenda doing at your house last night?

Purvis: Ahhh different Brenda. This one doesn’t have a tattoo on her ass.

Floyd: How’d you know about the tattoo?

These Neanderthals were more like livestock and less like men. Rumor had it, when they took an after dinner walk, their wives bring along a little pooper scooper bag just in case.  

Ready to Rumble

Armed with the proper paperwork Gary and I proceed out into the vast acreage of LB Smith’s equipment yard. Masters of all we surveyed (or so we thought), we were like Socrates and Plato toiling in the olive groves of ancient Greece. Out of our more cerebral element, but playing the part momentarily intended for us, we methodically identify which pieces of equipment require repair and I commence to clambering all over these behemoths with an ardor usually reserved for sex; which was then known to me as masturbation. Perched 15 feet high in the sanctity and rarefied nerve center of the operator’s cab, I assume a power over nature I’ve never felt before. This is not man vs. machine. This is man makes love to machine and merges to become manasaurus. For a few moments on this bleak and blustery day in Central NY I’ve become one with General Motors and come to realize that’s what’s good for General Motors is good for me and if you’ve ever made love to a 32 ton back hoe you’ll know what I’m talkin ‘bout. As my brother shakes me back to consciousness he says, “What are you doing up here? You’ve been drooling for 3 minutes?” I come too, mutter something about some really sour Sweet Tarts Dawn DeFuria gave me in 3rd period and begin removing and labeling the broken laminated safety glass.

Channeling Jeb McCoy

But while I was catatonic in the driver’s seat, those 3 minutes were an eternity. Paraphrasing the words of John Lennon from A Day in the Life; “He blew his mind out in a Terex 32-ton back hoe.” My mind wandered and I wondered what the driver operating this behemoth in the forsaken Alaskan tundra might be thinking as he marauded the surface with feral gusto. I penetrated his being and channeled this phantom cab operator – Jeb McCoy from Wheeling WV. I imagine it got lonely up there where few amenities or creature comforts could soothe one’s soul. The utilitarian cab was really a steel reinforced cage able to withstand a meteor. The driver’s only friend on these 20 hour days of sunlight was the unassuming little 6” diameter fan in the upper reaches of the cab. Such an extravagance in these parts. OSHA be damned. Its metal blades weren’t even protected. In fact they were sharpened. And even though it might be -13° outside he’d turn to his only companion for soothing comfort – the reassuring elfin fan would begin whirring like god’s halo. Although this coarse hulk of a man from Wheeling, WV had been working 12 hour days alone in this desolate frontier and making an unheard of $50 an hour in 1976 dollars, it was the tiny little fan that became his boon companion and friend for life. He’d finally bonded with something not named McCoy. This was a considerable improvement for a guy who, when courting a second cousin, was criticized for dating outside the family.

So Jeb McCoy bonded with a machine; its size and function in diametric opposition to the belching beast underfoot. With 20 or more hours of available sunlight, you could accomplish a lot. In these pre-Red Bull days, diet pills were the stimulant of choice. On these days Jeb could move more earth than James Taylor ever did for Carole King. Although the term “Mad skills” wasn’t known then, Jeb McCoy was so proficient as to exhibit mad skills that his supervisor Ryan Hatfield noticed. The forged a friendship that soon degenerated and they’d argue like their last names.

I probe more deeply into the recesses of Jeb’s mind and see he dismisses the entire “no 2 snowflakes are the same” controversy and instead believes no two Sugar Frosted Flakes are identical. It’s an interesting distinction generating more involuntary drool on my part. I’m beginning to see many things from his vantage point now. In fact I can see Russia from his cab. I wend my way through his unforgiving binary mind totally lacking in ubiquitous assimilation. I witness his admiration of George Wallace, his affinity to that hoochy koochy girl Charo! and his ravenous anticipation of tonight’s Swanson’s Hungry Man Dinner back in his trailer. In fact he’s such a Hungry Man he eats them tray and all – frozen. After dinner a Farrah Fawcett poster may be unfurled.

Much of the earth Jeb exposed hadn’t seen the light of day in geologic epochs. Some of it even older – from before Barbra Walters was born. And without any thought of UV protection on these 20 hour days he dies of skin cancer within 20 years leaving his sister and wife $32,000. She gets all of it because being a McCoy she’s the same person. The thing of it is is, over time overtime had enriched him. Finally I wonder if Jeb was thinking at all about the sensitive spindly kid who installed his non-tinted windshield. And as the drool pooled in my parka, I realized Pol Pot was right: “The world is a circle without a beginning and nobody knows where it really ends.” 

So many cross currents at play in my active mind that glorious day in November as I created new neural pathways and opportunity for neuroses. And you thought I was just installing glass.

Flaw in the Ointment

On this day, which was fast becoming twilight, I witnessed a rare manly rite of fraternal   passage when 2 of the grease gorillas (monkeys were too small to work at LB Smith) were changing the oil in one of these land masses. One was on the ground superintending the 20 gallon drum of drained oil while the other more experienced silver back was 12 feet atop and athwart the engine ensuring filters and drainage systems were in good order. Each was bedecked in their company provided prison gray jump suits stained with a day’s worth of steroidal wrenching on these behemoths. I actually witnessed the following conversation as the alpha bestowed upon his brethren the beautifully bruised brand of male bonding so common to the blue collar:

Joe: Is the oil still dripping from the drain plug?

Mac: Nah. It’s done.

Joe: Does it got any metal in it?

Mac: I dunno. How can ya tell?

Joe: Ya gotta taste it?

Mac: What?

Joe: Yeah. Ya gotta taste it.

Mac: Pausing for only a pico second so as not to appear squeamish, Mac dutifully stuck his right index finger into the warm, inky slime, removed it, then involuntarily shuddered as he licked the length of his finger.

Joe: Well?

Mac: (Face contorted like someone who just licked clean a freshly used colonoscope) Yeah, I guess so.

Joe: Good, we’ll need to flush her before we refill it.

This anecdote has the added value of being true. My much older brother and I glanced at each other with our laugh suppression system in full force so as not to offend the sensibilities of our brutish counterparts and wind up as so much debris in the bed of a dump truck. We finished part one of our job; removing the broken windshield and returning to the relative safety of our properly scaled mom and pop glass shop where, on a carpeted bench while listening to Top 40 AM radio ( Afternoon Delight, Dream Weaver) we’d use the old windshield as a template to produce the new windshield. Since it was laminated safety glass (a sheet of clear plastic laminate sandwiched between two pieces of glass) we had to cut both sides, including the radiused corners, and grind it smooth on a wet belt sander. And in no time we’d reload and reenter Jurassic Terex land, clamber up the truckasaurus and replace the laminated safety glass windshield with alacrity and considerable panache, in flagrant opposition to our Philistine mechanics who completed their work with barbarous competency. Not once in my years at Eastwood Glass was I asked to lick the glass to see if it was sharp. Two different worlds separated by more insight than was really needed to replace a windshield destined for the Alaskan wilds. Even today I experience an LB Smith hangover. Sometimes I’ll look at an oil stain on the road and say,” I wonder if that oil has any metal in it.” So self-absorbed as an adolescent, I wondered if the Alaskan caribou would even notice my work.

It’s Getting Better All the Time

But this magical mystery day wasn’t over. Not by a long shot. After ruggedly participating in the work force at the highest economic levels, dad slipped me a fiver and took my brother and I to feast at Grimaldi’s Italian Restaurant on Erie Blvd (so named because the Erie Canal once graced its pathway). The owner, Fred Grimaldi, decided to include the word “Italian” in his restaurant name in case you weren’t clued in from “Grimaldi’s” that perhaps it was an Italian restaurant. On its red checkered tablecloth and amidst the pleasant banter of my elders, I devoured an appetizer, soup, salad, entree and dessert thereby causing me to weigh in at the full 138 lbs. I’d get dropped off home alone (It gets complicated here: parents divorced [thank God!], brother lived on his own, dad lived in the back of the glass shop sleeping on aforementioned cot, mom worked nights) where I met my life long buddy and neighbor Gary DeBaise whose name I instinctively recognized as Italian. Gary (back then all men were Gary, all places were Eastwood) and I had the pleasant task of shopping for the next day’s tailgate party prior to Saturday’s Syracuse-WVU college football game. Dad usually underwrote the party to the tune of $40, and Gary and I set off in his 1973 3-speed Chevy Nova to Peter’s IGA or Chicago Market for victuals.

After shopping and happily organizing everything in his trunk for the game we might smoke a joint and then, after about an hour break into his trunk and help ourselves to some food. Sometimes we’d watch Johnny Carson (actually The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson – after all it was and still is NBC’s franchise) at 11:30. On this happenin’ Friday night Johnny’s guest was Burt Reynolds who deposited enough whipped cream down Johnny’s pants to choke Dom DeLuise. We’d laugh and laugh and laugh whether the TV was on or not. A doobie will do that. Life was good with a capitol F.

Good Morning, Good Morning

Just knowing I could sleep in on Saturday, when any time before 11:30 required an alarm clock, was cause for celebration. How I ever got up for school at 7:30 am I’ll never know because I didn’t get up till 8:00 for last bell (light actually) at 8:15. I didn’t like the mandatory attendance aspect of school. I was often late for school. I just couldn’t justify school intruding on my lustfully precious sleep, sleep, sleep. Anyway I read a lot in my free time and felt I home had home schooled myself and didn’t require assembly line education. These were my first thoughts of entitlement. One warm day when walking to school, late as usual, I saw an unencumbered dog frolicking – just plain being a dog – and I thought about what absolute liberation that dog feels. Completely in the moment just waiting for the next great idea. No taxes, not self-conscious and, how do I say this, able to masturbate without using his paws. I was absolutely envious, but consigned to this body and this set of circumstances. And this insight was without benefit of mood enhancers.

I Feel Fine

Syracuse University Orangemen vs. The #19 Mountaineers of West Virginia

This Saturday, after the alarm went off at 10:00, Gary D and I got together and drove his 3-speed chariot to Thornden Park (named after former mayor Gary Thornden), where, in freezing cold weather, we lavishly tailgated with friends.  Even though we were citizens of the United States, we were too stupid to realize warmer climates existed within the United States. As a teenager cold weather is a minor inconvenience and merely something old people complain about. After a football tossing and chicken barbecuing we trudged up to the game while playfully breaking off icicles that had formed on our noses. SU won thrillingly 20-19 by stuffing West Virginia halfback and future Baltimore Colt (Yes COLT) Ron Lee twice at the 1 yard line. After the game we went to Jamesville Reservoir (named after James Eastwood) and didn’t smoke pot causing us to take off our shirts and blast the heat while we drove around naked from the waist up. Finally succumbing to our ravenous hunger we stopped the car at a gorgeous vista, got out, opened the trunk and began setting up the remainder of our tailgate party. Passerbys marveled at our thermal capacities because we had spaced it and forgot to put our shirts back on. As I said we were impervious to cold as teenagers but not to marijuana. When you’re in that condition (high as a kite) certain things that seemed hilarious then are barely amusing now. For example, I might say to Gary, “Hey, you know where they make satis?” And he’d say, “No.” And I’d say, “At a satis factory.” He’d look at me and say, “You feeling OK?” And I’d say, “Satisfactory.” And we’d laugh till it hurt. Brilliant – then. Stupid – now.

Those were the days when you could just look at a woman and get her pregnant. In fact it was the only way to get them pregnant back then because they sure as hell weren’t having sex with us. What a terrific day this was. Prior to the coming of women, this was a peak experience day (again I need to work on that last sentence).   

A Day in the Life Reprise

This is normally where the conclusion portion of a memoir would reside. But these memories never conclude. Rather they persist, stay with you and become a part of your story. And even if they may be a little revisionist, they’re far less mythic than other stories we hold dear. As I recall my youth I realize performing skilled glass work at LB Smith developed in me both a sense of accomplishment (providing material value at a really cool economic stratum) and gratitude (so thankful I never had to wear bullet proof jump suits when I worked). Being privy to such a mechanically steroidal world informed me in ways that may account for my unique interpretation of Shakespeare’s immortal line:

–       Parting is such sweet sorrow      –

That may be true, but it really depends on what it is you’re parting.



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