“There was a whole magnificent soul burning brightly under her shy demeanor.”
My Date with Marcia Brady
Everyone knew that Maureen McCormick, aka Marcia Brady, went to our high school. Maureen was a year behind me, and I sat next to her every day at lunch. She was just as cute in person as she was on TV, often dressed in a hot pink or green mini-skirt. But you have to understand the culture of the time to really follow what comes next.
The Brady Bunch was one of the top shows on television for those under twenty. The show was on Friday nights on ABC, and everyone watched it, including the majority of kids in our school.
No one wanted to admit that fact, because it wasn’t cool to watch The Brady Bunch in the era of The Who, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.
So, we all pretended not to like the show, though, secretly, every girl wanted to be Marcia Brady and every boy wanted to date her.
The funny thing is that, though Maureen and I sat next to each other, each of us had three friends on either side that sort of blocked us from the rest of the school crowd. And our friends didn’t intermingle.
Maureen was really very quiet, I guess because she was so well known to every kid in school she felt shy about interacting with them. I really saw myself as her protector, though I have no memory of anyone ever bothering her. I believe she appreciated my presence.
I was shy with her too. We were in fact so shy that we never actually spoke with each other, though we may have made eye contact once, or perhaps twice. And so, without the actual interaction of speech, I never had that date with Marcia Brady, or Maureen.
But I did watch her show on TV, every Friday night.
“The trick is growing up without growing old.”
The Last Buzzcut
This is one of the last photos of me with a buzz cut, or what was known back then as a butch. We were up at my aunt and uncle’s cabin, and my cousins Stephen and Rory and I went into Reno for haircuts with Uncle Gordon. I don’t know how Rory missed out. That’s him pictured on the right. As we were coming back up the mountain, we made a detour off the highway to meet up with my aunt and cousin Lynne who were on horseback. We got stuck in the mud and were using the winch on the front of the Travelall to pull ourselves out.
All the boys in our family got a buzz cut at the start of summer, given the expectation that boys of a certain age get dirty. We got filthy, and it was certainly cooler and easier in the summer heat to have a buzz. But the older we got, the more we resisted the seasonal mowing. We realized having a buzz made us look like kids, and that’s the last thing any self-respecting boy wanted to look like, especially in front of a girl.
My mom had one of those haircut kits they advertised on TV, which she used on me during the school year. Mom was wonderful to me and a very talented gardener who could prune a bush like nobody’s business, and our yard was the pride of the neighborhood. So, I guess she figured she could cut hair as well. She cut mine from birth ‘till I was about nine.
I was making some progress by half-talking my mother into letting me go to the barber shop like the rest of the guys. But she wanted someone who measured up to her standards, and the barber shop didn’t. Instead, she chose Leo, a nice Italian guy across the street who had his own shop. As I got into Leo’s chair, the first thing he asked me was, “Who’s been hacking on you?” My mother pleaded guilty, but she loved to tell that story over the years.
Leo was alright, but the name of his shop caused me great embarrassment. It was called The Merry Go Round, but it might as well have been called The Little Kids Haircut Shop. That’s how I felt going in there. I worried that my friends would see me. Luckily, they had a back entrance.
I wanted so badly to get my haircut at the barber shop almost directly across the street, yet Mom was unrelenting. She thought they would do a hack job, ahem, and I guess she wanted her yard, and my head, to be well trimmed.
The photo above was taken just about an hour after my very last buzz cut. When Fall arrived, however, the twelve-year-old me had enough pull to talk Mom into letting me get my hair cut at the barber shop, like the rest of the guys…at last.
Photo credit: Janice MacLean
“It ain’t over till it’s over.”
Lost in the Woods
Mr. Black received the land, nearly eight hundred acres, as partial payment on a real estate deal he made in the thirties. I thought he must not have been too happy about it at the time, as it was just mountains and forest miles from anywhere, with no services whatsoever. Over time, this land would become my favorite place on earth.
It was breathtakingly beautiful, and Mr. Black hit upon a great idea to dam up the stream to make a lake he could fill with rainbow trout. He then went back East and sold shares to rich guys he knew, so they would have a private place to retreat to with their other rich guy pals. It must have worked, because Mr. Black built a clubhouse and decorated it with panel after panel of enlarged photos of parties of the big boys who stayed there over the years.
The clubhouse, caretaker’s cottage and boathouse were the only structures on the land for years, until another couple of cabins were built, one of which was bought by my uncle, who happened to be at the right place at the right time.
The photo above was taken fifteen years later in front of my uncle’s cabin. That’s my cousin Stephen, at about eight, in the white shirt leaning on the rear fender, and that’s me next to him at about seven in the tan shirt. Nearly everyone else is our brother, sister or cousin. And that’s how Stephen and I, now fourteen and thirteen respectively, happened to be driving up the mile-and-a-half dirt road from the lake to the highway late one summer afternoon in the Model A.
As we climbed through the Aspens speckled with pines, we were pretty far along when we saw a midnight blue Cadillac coming towards us. We and the other car slowed to a stop facing each other, our bumpers not twenty feet apart.
The driver of the Cadillac lowered his electric window and waved impatiently for us to back up. We couldn’t see his face through the afternoon glare on his windshield. But we knew it was Earl, the caretaker, and we also knew that he was driving Mr. Black. Everyone knew the rules of this one-lane dirt road, and every other road in America, for that matter.
When two cars meet on a single-lane road, the car going downhill is supposed to back up. But this was Mr. Black and Earl, on the road Mr. Black had built, so I knew we would be backing up.
Stephen rolled down his window, and I assumed he was going to look back and proceed to back up. Instead, he waved his hand for Earl to back up. Shocked, I said, “Let’s just back up,” as Earl waved again, more vehemently. But Stephen waived right back with equal energy.
I began to plead with him just to back up, as all six-foot-five of Earl got out of the Cadillac and came towards Stephen’s side of the Mode A.
Not one to waste words, Earl yelled at Stephen, “You back this damn thing up!” To which Stephen replied forcefully, “You back up!”
Earl snapped, “You back this truck up right now!” And Stephen, perhaps assuming Earl hadn’t heard him the first time, expanded his message, saying, “You back up, you’re the one going downhill!”
Earl glared as he pointed at the Cadillac, demanding, “Do you know who I have in that car?” Stephen replied that he did.
Once more, Earl insisted that Stephen back up–to which my fourteen-year-old cousin replied by reaching down, in full view of Earl, set the hand-operated emergency brake on the Model A and rolled up the window. Grimly, Earl trudged back to the Cadillac to give Mr. Black the news through the now open rear window.
The rear window rolled back up, and as Earl got back in the car, the rear door of the Cadillac opened, and Mr. Black got out and stomped in our direction. When he got to the side of the car, I was sure there was steam coming out of his ears, but maybe it was only the dust from the road.
Mr. Black rapped hard on the closed window with his ring. Stephen rolled it down, and Mr. Black lost no time in asking Stephen, “Do you know who I am?”
Personally, I thought we had covered this point thoroughly in our exchange with Earl, but Stephen confirmed once again that he did know who Mr. Black was.
Mr. Black said, “Then, you damn well back this truck up right now!”
Stephen replied, “You back up, we have the right-of-way.” Mr. Black fumbled in his coat pocket and pulled out the biggest gold and silver badge I had ever seen. Holding it up to Stephen’s face, he asked, “Do you see this badge?” Of course, Stephen could not deny that he did indeed see it. We were making a little progress.
Mr. Black said threateningly, “Then you back this truck up right now!” He left out the obviously implied, “Or else!” Stephen put his hand on the ignition key, and I breathed a sigh of relief that at last he was going to give in and we could get out of there.
Instead, Stephen looked Mr. Black square in the eye, pulled the key out of the ignition, opened his hand and let the key drop through the air to land with impressive clatter on the wooden floor boards.
Mr. Black stared at Stephen for a second with murder in his eyes, made some unintelligible sound, his bluff called, and trudged back to his midnight blue Cadillac, as Earl hopped out to open the rear door for him. They both got in, and, after a moment, they backed up.
Photo Credit: Janice MacLean
“Good decisions come from experience
and experience comes from making bad decisions.”
Staying out of Trouble
If the quotation above is not one of the great truisms, I don’t know what is. This is so in nearly every aspect of life and, particularly, in personal relationships and in the game of golf.
My deeper understanding of this truth began one afternoon as I was walking down the fairway with Bill Greene, a keen observer of life and a true gentleman from Virginia. Looking back, I’m inclined to think he had been observing me for a while as he began to tell me this story.
Bill played a round with an old friend and asked him what his best round was so far. His friend told him his score, which I have forgotten. Then Bill asked, “How would you like to beat that score by three strokes?” His friend replied that he sure would. Bill said, “In our next round, let me tell you which club to play and where to hit it, and you will.” They agreed on a date, and when his friend did what Bill asked, he had his new best round by three strokes.
I immediately told Bill I wanted to do the same thing with him, which I think was Bill’s intention all along. He asked me my best score, which I told him, though I needn’t mention it here. So we played another round, and I too had my best round, by more than three strokes.
So how did that happen?
Bill is a master of course management, which I wasn’t. He told me which club to hit and where to hit it. If I chose a six iron, he told me to hit a seven. If I was hoping to fly the bunker, Bill had me hit shorter and to the side to take the bunker completely out of play. And this went on in every shot on every hole, even in putting.
Bill anticipated the result before making the shot and simply avoided trouble, and with his expert guidance so did I. Now you might think that from that moment on, I played every round that way.
So, why is this so simple to understand and yet so hard to do? I think it’s the same reason we get into silly arguments with others, even though we know better, not that that ever happens to me. Yet when I have patience and presence of mind, my golf game and my life go much better.
So for my next round, I plan to have fun, keep it in play, and stay out of trouble. Might as well try that in my conversations too.
Thanks, Bill, a little shared wisdom has gone a long way.
“The jello’s jiggling.”
A Chick Hearn Moment
Over the last several years, I have watched a lot of volleyball. Both my daughters play in school and on club teams. The games are wonderful to watch, are great for them and for us as a family. We and our girls have made many new friends through this experience.
So, what does this have to do with basketball announcing legend, Chick Hearn? Just this, many times I have witnessed parents sweating it out on the sidelines when we are ahead by, say, 22-13. I guess in an effort to calm them, and perhaps myself as well, I say, “This is a Chick Hearn moment.”
Generally, they look at me blankly for a moment, and then I see the light go on when I recite Chick’s famous words, “This game’s in the refrigerator, the door’s closed, the light’s out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard, and the jello’s jiggling.” Nobody could call a basketball game like Chick, and those of us privileged to have heard him still miss him.
Of course, if the volleyball game score is 13-22 instead, I yell just as loud any other parent, “You can do it girls!”
“Success means having the courage, the determination and the will
to become the person you believe you were meant to be.”
George A. Sheehan
On one of our many Model A trips, we went to Monument Valley in Arizona, as described previously in the post, The Leap. Goulding’s Lodge is perched fairly high on the western slope, with a stunning view of all of Monument Valley.
The best feature of Goulding’s is that each room opens onto a common balcony overlooking the valley, a great place to sit and gaze at one of the most beautiful sights on earth and reminisce about the day’s events.
So my cousins, friends and I, all in our late teens, were sitting out on that balcony taking in the view, while our parents were in the lodge having dinner. The sun was down, but there was still enough light to see well. We noticed a very small airport about a mile down the hill, with a single dirt runway and a small square terminal building.
My cousin Mike and friend Scott were trying to guess how long it would take to run down to the airport and back up the hill to where we were sitting on the balcony. Yes, this is the same Mike and Scott from Snipe Hunting and The Haunted House.
Compared to Scott’s estimate, Mike thought the airport was farther away, and with very few other structures in sight, it was hard to tell. Mike bet Scott twenty bucks that he couldn’t run down to the airport and back in fifteen minutes. Scott, always up for a challenge, agreed. But as it was getting dark, they began to wonder how Scott would prove that he had actually reached the airport. The solution: Scott would carry a flashlight with him and shine it on the building to prove he was there.
So twenty or so of us, including some total strangers we had gathered, adjourned to the top of the long, straight road down the hill to the airport. By the time Mike yelled go, it was long past sunset and off went Scott at a fast lope into the darkness.
We resumed our position on the balcony to wait and observe, but to no avail, as even the airport had disappeared. Mike kept his eye on his watch.
Suddenly, there was a short burst of frantic light all over the small terminal building and a lot of laughter from the balcony.
Then we waited some more, and again there was no sight or sound of Scott in his mad dash with destiny. Mike was hoping the fifteen minutes would pass more quickly.
We read journed with our growing pack of enthusiastic strangers to the top of the road. Soon, we heard Scott, gasping his way back up the steep hill in the dark.
When he began to come into view, still a hundred yards or so down the hill, Mike began to call out, “Fourteen minutes and thirty-two seconds, fourteen minutes and thirty-three seconds, thirty-four,” and so on, which caused Scott to yell out in distress, as there was no chance he could cover the ground in twenty-six more uphill seconds.
Actually, Scott had plenty of time, as it was only twelve minutes and ten seconds at the time of Mike’s first announcement. Nobody told Scott, and I guess Mike figured, if he was going to lose twenty bucks, he was going to have a little extra fun doing it.
To his credit, Scott kept coming full force even though he knew, or at least thought he knew, that all was lost. He crossed the line to great cheering from the crowd, as he found out he had actually won!
Mike paid him the twenty bucks alright, thought it took him a few days to actually cough it up.
I’m sure Scott’s record still stands–or who knows, maybe it’s broken each year by young men who love hardly anything more than to compete with each other and shout joyfully into the night.
“If there be any truer measure of a man than by what he does,
it must be by what he gives.”
A Favor for a Friend
One of our neighbors, when I was a kid was Henry Silva, above right with fellow Rat Packers, Sammy, Frank, Dean and Peter in the original Ocean’s 11. Henry made several movies with these guys and had a successful film career playing the bad guy in dozens more.
I remember being a little bit afraid the first time I met him, because he looked every bit the villain he so convincingly played in the movies. But as we got to know him, he and his wife Ruth became good friends of my parents and the kids on our street grew to like him a lot.
You could always hear Henry coming home from work. He drove a white-on-black 1967 Porsche 911s. Making the turn onto our street in low gear created the high rpm sound of a Porsche’s that could be heard all through the neighborhood.
So, when I was about nineteen, I decided I ought to do Henry a favor as he always had been so kind to me. I suggested to him that, when he was out of town filming, his car’s battery might run low and the fluids might become a little sluggish. And I offered to take his car out occasionally, to “exercise” it and wash it weekly.
Henry said yes!
I was so ecstatic I could hardly see straight. And when Henry was gone on his next shoot, I was gone down the road in that beautiful 911s. Not quite like Ferris Bueller in the Ferrari…but close.
I have often thought back to those days and that great favor from a great friend and Henry’s faith in allowing me the privilege of driving his awesome 911s.