The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“If there be any truer measure of a man than by what he does,
it must be by what he gives.”

Robert South

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.

Oh man!

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.

To see more photos of Henry click here.
To see photos of a 1967 911 like his, click here.

The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“When you are the only pea in the pod, your parents
are likely to get you confused with the Hope diamond.”
Russell Baker

She’s got my Baby!

When our firstborn John was seven-months old, I won a ten-day trip to Paris and Monaco based on my production as a life insurance agent. Unfortunately, the trip was a use-it or lose-it opportunity, and we decided not to go.

We couldn’t imagine taking our new baby on such a long trip when we had barely taken him to the grocery store. And we certainly weren’t going to leave him home with anyone else who could not possibly measure up to the gold standard of 24/7 care and security that we had created for our first child. Yes, we were pretty obsessed.

But after a week or so of wailing and gnashing our teeth over this lost opportunity, we decided to go, after all. Others have done such daring deeds, so why not us? And we would be with him the whole time to continue monitoring his every movement, and I do mean movement, so why not?

We planned our trip, which, for the most part, meant signing up and confirming the highest level of qualified babysitters we could find in Paris and Monaco. We knew there would be the occasional required dinner at which our hosts might not enjoy our boy’s company as much as we would. Oh, and there were the clothes and unexpected supplies we bought in seemingly endless trips to Baby’s “R” Us and other such places where doting first-time parents frequent.

All went well on the Atlantic crossing, and we had a wonderful time sauntering through Paris in the springtime with our son. He enjoyed the view from his stroller, when occasionally awake, through the Louvre and Notre Dame, up to Montmartre and down the Champs-Elysees.

On our last day in Paris, we went with a group of old friends to lunch at the Eifel Tower, intending to go to the top to enjoy the view of the city before carrying on to Monaco.

Liz carried John as we approached the elevator with our friends. Diane, a qualified mother of four asked if she could hold John, and Liz, with just a hint of hesitation, handed him over. As it became our turn to enter the elevator, Diane was a foot or two in front of us in line as she stepped into the lift with John in her arms. The elevator doors immediately slammed shut behind her, and the newly installed high-speed elevator rocketed, or so it seemed to us, to the top of the Eifel Tower with our baby, and without us!

Shocked, we could do nothing but wait for the next coach, which seemed an eternity in arriving. We jumped in, sans John, and raced after him. We knew logically that he was safe with Diane, wasn’t he? But we didn’t know exactly where, and it was pretty disconcerting for about fifteen minutes.

At last, mother and child were joyfully reunited, as shown in the photo above, and we took in the breezy and expansive view from the top of the still tallest structure in Paris.

As John got older, he began to ask when we might go to Europe, and I reminded him that he had already been to Paris and even to the top of the Eifel Tower. And eventually, the opportunity did occur to return to Paris and to the site of his first great adventure, or so it seemed as such to us.

The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“Anytime you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world
and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.”
Roberto Clemente

A Man For Others

I don’t recall seeing Roberto Clemente play baseball but probably have because I have been a baseball fan all my life. But it’s the quotation above that caught my attention and made me curious about the man behind it.

I knew Roberto was a Pirate and died in a plane crash taking emergency supplies to victims of the Nicaraguan earthquake in 1972.

But there’s a lot more to know:

Roberto played eighteen seasons and was the first Latin American Caribbean player to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

He was a golden glove winner twelve times, a feat equaled only by one other outfielder, a guy named Willie Mays. Vin Scully said, “Clemente could field the ball in New York and throw out a guy in Pennsylvania.”

Roberto was an All-Star for twelve consecutive seasons, with a batting average over .300.

He won two World Series with the Pirates over the Yankees and the Giants (I like that!) He was named World Series MVP against the Giants and batted .414 in that series.

His career high batting average was .357 in the 1967 season, in which he hit 23 home runs with 110 RBI’s.

He hit the only walk-off inside-the-park grand slam in baseball history.

And he got his 3,000th hit in his last official-at bat as a player. At the time he was only the twelfth player to do so and the only one ever to do it in his last at-bat, almost as if God planned it that way.

Only four baseball players have been honored on U.S. postage stamps: Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Roberto Clemente and Lou Gehrig. Clemente also served for six years in the Unites States Marine Corps Reserve.

Never forgetting his own humble beginnings, he spent nearly every off-season of his career doing charitable work for the less fortunate.

When the Nicaraguan earthquake hit, Roberto organized three planes of relief supplies, food and medicine to be flow in. All three were diverted by corrupt officials. So he decided that if he were on the flight, the aid might stand a better chance of getting to those in need. The overloaded fourth plane crashed shortly after takeoff.

Roberto Clemente had been quoted as saying, “I want to be remembered as a ballplayer who gave all he had to give.”

He gave all he had to give in more ways than one and is remembered for living a life in service to others. And his life is still an example to millions, including me.

You know, I always assumed that Nicaragua was his home country. But in fact, Roberto Clemente was from Puerto Rico.

The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.”
David Mamet

Snipe Hunting

My aunt and uncle’s log cabin in Nevada was at eight thousand three hundred feet and surrounded by national forest. There was no one or anything for miles around but what God put there.

My cousins and I often played flashlight tag outside after dinner, often in a group of eight to ten. We had a wild time chasing each other through the trees and burning off a lot of energy, likely to our parent’s delight.

So, it was not unusual when one evening my oldest cousin, Mike, suggested that we go out snipe hunting. He said we would have to get our parents’ permission first, but they readily agreed.

Mike gave each of us a gunny sack, essentially a burlap bag roughly the size of today’s larger trash bags. He said we would also need a flashlight, warm clothes and patience.

Off we went into the darkness with our hopes high. Mike explained that we had to spread out and hide in the willows down by the creek, with flashlights turned off. And we were to make no sounds at all.

Mike said he would go and hunt the snipe, a small flightless bird that looked and acted somewhat like a quail. Once he found them, he’d chase them past where we were hiding. When we heard him coming, we were to jump out with our gunny sacks and flashlights. “Shine your lights in their faces,” he told us, “and they will be stunned and freeze. Then quickly grab them up and toss them in your sack. And that’s it, you will have caught a whole bunch of snipe.”

But he warned us that we must be very patient and quiet or the snipe would stay hidden and remain impossible to find.

So, into the bushes all of us younger ones went, spreading out and staying as quiet as possible. And we sat and waited in great anticipation for Mike to chase a covey of snipe past our hiding places.

Nothing happened for quite a while, but I figured that Mike would come running any moment. So I waited some more, and Mike still didn’t come. I waited longer, wondering how big snipe were anyway and did they bite? Mike didn’t come, but I remember he told us we must be patient.

Finally, I decided something must have gone wrong, or that Mike had gotten lost and that this was pretty boring anyway. Quietly, I came out of my hiding place and, alone, began to trudge back up to the cabin. I kept looking over my shoulder, hoping to see Mike running my way behind a flock or gaggle or herd, or whatever a bunch of snipe were called. But he never appeared.

Into the cabin I went and headed to the living room, where I knew a warm fire was roaring. And there was Mike with several of my older cousins enjoying hot chocolate among the grownups–and no sign of my younger cousins.

I’m sharing this little adventure of snipe hunting so that you, or some young person you know, might enjoy it too, but once is definitely enough.

The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
Sir Edmund Hillary

A Giving Nature

Early on in our marriage, my wife, Liz, and I took a trip to Carmel, California, one of the most romantic places ever. There is something in the air, or water or trees in Carmel that just makes me feel good to be there, that all things are possible.

On our trip, we drove along the magnificent seventeen-mile drive among some of the greatest golf courses and vistas in the world. The salty air and ocean view, peppered with dozens of deer and the relentlessly barking of sea lions is restorative to life lived in the big city.

At the end of the day, we stopped at The Pebble Beach Lodge and meandered around the shops in their beautiful common area. We enjoyed a drink in the Lodge overlooking the eighteenth green and the surf beyond, a truly idyllic view to a golfer if ever there was one.

We talked about our plans and dreams for our life together. Liz briefly stepped away and came back with a gift-wrapped box. Surprised, I opened it and found a small elegant mantle clock, with a black frame and brass trimmings and face.

I didn’t know quite what to make of it until she said, “There wasn’t room on the front, so I had them engrave it on the back.” I turned the clock over and saw the two-word engraving of our inside joke, “Hankster International.”

Now, I realize that might not mean much to you but it meant a lot to me. Liz believed in me and in my dreams of what I could do. And that has made all the difference to me in my life.

It’s funny how such a little thing can mean so much, knowing that someone believes in you. I try to pass that gift along, of believing in others and in their dreams, and I know that gift is significant to the people I share it with too.

That little clock keeps me company at my desk, as I work towards achieving my dreams.

Thank you Honey, for the gift of believing in me.

The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“Everything begins with an idea.”
Earl Nightingale

Tiger Woods

My friend John Lewis is an accountant by training, and, by all appearances, he looks and acts like a normal C.P.A. But he is really a pop-culture trendsetter.

I discovered this one day when we met for lunch at The Parkside Grill in Pasadena. When the waitress came over to greet us at our table, she asked in the usual manner, “May I start you off with some beverages?”

John stated resolutely, “I’ll have a Tiger Woods.”

The waitress said, with not a little conviction, “You mean an Arnold Palmer.”

To which John replied, “No, I’ll have a Tiger Woods.” Our server flushed slightly, realizing she had missed a new wrinkle in beverage trending. She looked as if some inward scolding was going on and gushed, “Oh, I am sorry, sir. I haven’t heard of that, what’s in it?”

John replied confidently, “It’s cranberry juice and iced tea.” “Very good,” replied our waitperson, happy to be in the know at last.

She turned to me and asked, “What would you like, sir?” Not wanting to miss out on the fun, I replied, “I’ll have a Phil Mickelson.” She assumed an “I’ve been pranked” demeanor and asked, a bit curtly, “What is that?”

“A tall drink of water,” I said.

So, off she went to fill our order, and I asked John to tell me about The Tiger Woods, which I hadn’t heard of either.

And this is when I realized that John is a pop-cultural beverage trend setter. He said, happy as can be, “Oh, there is no such drink. I have several friends across the country, and we wanted to see if we can introduce a new drink into the popular consciousness merely by ordering it in restaurants in as many cities as we can cover.”

So now when John and I are out to lunch, I watch closely and enjoy the twinkle in his eye when the waiter comes over to inquire about our beverages. For I know that what’s coming is history in the making. So, if you like, you may join him, there is no charge for membership, and it may just work.

Or you can join my revolution, for I have decided to become a pop-culture beverage trend setter too. And there are some great advantages to mine, it’s sugar and caffeine free, organic and non-GMO too.

And it works in every restaurant, even those who don’t serve cranberry juice.

The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“Good things happen when you meet strangers.”
Yo-Yo Ma

The Haunted House

When Aunt Janice and Uncle Gordon married and moved from Los Angeles to Tarzana, my grandmother and my family followed along. We lived a mile away, and my Aunt and Uncle’s house was like a wonderland for kids. I spent nearly as much time there as I did at my own house.

The Big House, as my mom always called it, was on seven acres with a barn, horses and pasture, and lots of room to roam. And there was a haunted house next door, the Zimmerman place, which had stood empty for thirty years.

The rumors were that old man Zimmerman had gone crazy and used to ride his horse through the livingroom. No one over twelve ever confirmed that story, but we all believed it. The property was on a hill with a creek running through it and was massively overgown. A pack of wild afghan guard dogs seemed to be the only residents.

The large front gate was heavily chained and padlocked. We occasionally tried to enter the property through the densely wooded creekbed adjoining the two properties. But we always turned back at the sight of the dog pack, just on the other side of the property line.

One Halloween night, the gates stood open, and we worked up the nerve to creep down the driveway to see where it lead. I remember my mom and aunt were with us and just as scared as we were. Suddenly, moving lights shown through the trees. We ran for our lives only to realize later that the lights were from cars driving by on the street. We laughed ourselves silly, but we didn’t go back in.

On another fall afternoon, we were surprised to see the front gates thrown open again and moving trucks heading up the driveway. We couldn’t help but follow and shyly met the new neighbors, the McNatts. They had a son, Scott, around my age who quickly became one of our tribe. Now we had two big properties to roam.

Scott and I became great friends. Later, he joined our family obsession and bought a Model A, like the rest of us boys. He and his family went with us on our summer Model A trips.

Funny how one thing leads to another…

Scott was the best man at my wedding and is still one of my closest friends. And to think it all began with our endless fascination with the haunted house on the hill next door.

The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“I been in the right place but it must have been the wrong time.”
Dr. John

Do the Math

Mr. Price was likeable and distinguished looking, an older gentleman who generally made his appearance in a dark suit and tie. His mustache, riding shotgun over his upper lip, might have given him just a touch of authority, but unfortunately it didn’t. And as a seventh-grade math teacher, he was in way over his head.

The problem grew from his Tai Chi like deliberation in turning towards and away from the blackboard. A complete iteration could last thirty seconds, which left plenty of time for all hell to silently break loose behind him.

And it did, every time he began his turn towards the board.

The far and away favorite method of the more raucous among us was to throw paper balls. The moment Mr. Price would begin his turn, the balls would fly, and the moment before he turned back, they would cease from flying.

This nearly silent system seemed to work well for everyone. Those who wished to study and learn could do so with minimal distraction. Those whose aim was to perfect their pitching style and reflect on the aerodynamics of spherically crumpled paper were free to do so. And Mr. Price could work on Tai Chi and contemplate mathematics in relative solitude–that is, until a small bit of copper intervened.

A penny, rather than a paper ball, came screaming through the air and hit me hard in the ear. Now I don’t know if you’ve experienced this sensation, but it gets your attention quickly.

Observing the unspoken rule of silence in our classroom, I picked up the penny and went into a full major league pitch towards its original owner.

Bullseye!

But I guess it takes longer to complete a full wind up with a penny that it does to toss a paper ball from a seated position. When I regained my chair, I noticed that Mr. Price had surprisingly completed his turn, and was glaring straight at me.

He called me to his desk and quickly pulled out a pre-printed pink pad. Scrawling across it with his pen, he sternly ordered me to go see Mr. Jones, the Assistant Principal.

I went, accompanied by a keen sense of dread and distress that a thoughtlessly thrown penny had disturbed the delicate harmonic balance of our classroom.

Mr. Jones wasn’t in, and as I sat there alone on the Group W bench, another of my classmates soon joined me. Things must be worsening back in math class.

Mr. Jones came in and chewed out the other guy in familiar terms. I gathered that this was not their first visit together.

Mr. Jones next rapped his knuckles harshly, in time, on my chest, saying,
“I-don’t- ever-want-to-see-you-in-here-again!”

And he didn’t, I made sure of that.

But I can’t help but think that Mr. Price revealed more than he wanted to about himself and me in what he wrote on the summons. It read:

“When I turn my back, the class throws paper balls. It turns out that Hank is the King of the paper ball throwers.”

Well, it really was a very humiliating experience, but looking on the bright side, clearly Mr. Price seemed to see some leadership potential in me.