Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

From one pilot to another

November 11, 2020

Harold Joseph O’Grady, from the 1941 edition of the Seminole yearbook.

Behold The Colonel, before he was a colonel, or even a pilot.

Harold Joseph O’Grady of Foley, Florida, was a freshman at the University of Florida in 1941. By February of ’42, he was a private in the U.S. Army Air Corps, having enlisted at MacDill Field “for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.”

He stayed on a little longer than that. The old man retired as a full bird in 1972, when I was a freshman at Adams State College in Alamosa, getting grades that were even worse than his had been. And mind you, I was taking stoner classes, not elementary physics, organic chemistry, and motorized artillery.

I didn’t last long in college, either, but not because I was going to war to save the world from fascism. I was going to be a push-broom pilot, saving banks from stanks.

Oh, well. As Will Rogers observed, “We can’t all be heroes, because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.”

R.I.P., Sean Connery

October 31, 2020

James Bond finally retires for good.

For those of us of a certain age, there was only one James Bond.

Sean Connery has gone west after being unwell for some time, according to his family. He passed in his sleep, in the Bahamas, but no doubt Scotland was on his mind and in his heart; he had long been a staunch supporter of Scottish independence.

As a squirt in Texas I read every Ian Fleming Bond novel there was, and I always pictured Connery as 007. Everybody else was just play-acting.

Connery won his only Oscar for playing a Mick cop in the Kevin Costner-headlined remake of “The Untouchables.” But then he turned up in a lot of interesting places, as King Agamemnon and a fireman in Terry Gilliam’s “Time Bandits,” and as Daniel Dravot, an ex-soldier likewise bound for a crown in “The Man Who Would Be King,” a John Huston film based on a Rudyard Kipling story.

No matter who he was playing, or in what, you just knew he was having a whole lot more fun than you. Enjoy your work and the paychecks will keep coming, he seemed to say.

And it goes without saying that he was an inspiration to the rest of us handsome and charismatic bald fellas.

So fill to Sean the parting glass, and drink a health whate’er befalls. …

• Addendum: Here’s The New York Times obit, the one I always think of as official. Talk about your rags-to-riches story:

He was born Thomas Sean Connery on Aug. 25, 1930, and his crib was the bottom drawer of a dresser in a cold-water flat next door to a brewery. The two toilets in the hall were shared with three other families. His father, Joe, earned two pounds a week in a rubber factory. His mother, Effie, occasionally got work as a cleaning woman.

It’s a wash

October 7, 2020

The Granite Face on the Whitewash Trail is no place for an elderly fella with a dodgy ankle. But I’ll probably hike up the sonofabitch anyway.

Once I saw a young man yell “look” in the lobby and let his prick hang out; he closed his overcoat then and tried to run out the door, rather swirled clumsily in the revolving door. One woman screamed but most people shrugged.  Depressing. He needed help. A lock on his zipper for beginners. — Jim Harrison, “Wolf.”

Faced with the ceaseless weenie-wagging that constitutes our national politics it’s easy to forget that the world remains a remarkable place.

Yesterday during a brief hike in the Sandia foothills my iPhone hooted. It was a text from Apple advising me that it had received my MacBook Pro, shipped the previous day, and that the agreed-upon repairs would commence directly.

It was not that long ago that I would have had to wait until I got home and checked the answering machine to see whether the typewriter repairman had gotten around to my Royal manual yet.

Of course, my hip pocket was a quieter place back then, what with no mobile phone and a wallet that bordered on the anorexic; no matter how I stuffed it with money it always vomited it up somewhere.

And if I’d wanted to snap any photos during the hikes I was mostly not taking I would’ve had to pack along the Pentax MX camera I had acquired in a trade with an iffy acquaintance. I got the camera, some cash, and a bit of the old nose whiskey, and he got my S&W .41 Magnum (I was slightly overgunned at the time).

Later this gent would draw a short stretch at Club Fed in Texas, not far from where Apple is resolving the shortcomings of my MacBook. Not for anything involving the .41 Mag, or me, happily. Last I heard he had become a respectable citizen and taxpayer, a credit to society, just like Your Humble Narrator.

Time passes, and things change. For instance, it was probably fortunate for me that I shipped my MacBook in when I did. Just this morning MacRumors noted that this mid-2014 edition of the venerable 15-inch laptop will be added to Apple’s list of vintage and obsolete products come Halloween.

The 13-inch model I’m using to create this post is already on the list, as are all the other Macs in the house, save the iPhones and iPads. The 2014 MacBook Pros are supposed to remain eligible for service indefinitely, says MacRumors … “subject to parts availability.”

Boo. …

‘Make a joke and I will sigh. …’

September 18, 2020

By Cthulhu’s slimy tentacles! Can Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” really be 50 years old today?

This was one of the albums I used to drive my parents insane, along with Iron Butterfly’s “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida” and Led Zeppelin’s and Steppenwolf’s respective self-titled debuts. I’m surprised the family Telefunken stereo hi-fi console survived the prolonged and vicious beating I gave it.

Later, of course, I mellowed into the quiet flower child you’ve all come to know and love.

Sometimes I have a great notion

September 12, 2020

No, I’m not snorting a line. Not right at that moment, anyway. …
Photo 1981 by Tom Warren | Corvallis Gazette-Times

Somehow I never thought of Oregon as a place that would burn.

I never thought it could burn.

In my mind Oregon remains a damp, dreary place where I spent a lot of time indoors, either working, hammered, or both. The only place I never owned a bicycle. Occasionally I walked, but only if I was too drunk to drive.

All my people were back in Colorado or in California, where I spent some months trapped in a Simon and Garfunkel song:

Asking only workman’s wages I come looking for a job

But I get no offers

When an offer finally came the job was in Corvallis, in Oregon’s Mid-Willamette Valley. It was good to be working again instead of sponging off friends and family, but the baggage I brought with me held more than T-shirts and jeans.

I made some friends, most of them on the job, your typical newsdog. And we had some laughs, catching Andy Irvine and Paul Brady in concert at a tiny venue downtown, or motoring to Portland to hear Johnny and the Distractions.

Occasionally I’d meet my old buddy Merrill in Seattle, a change of scenery for us both. He was trapped at a newspaper in eastern Washington, which was another sort of hell altogether.

But I spent a lot more time slouched in Squirrel’s Tavern or in my tiny apartment, huddled with my dogs next to the wood stove, or taking aimless solo drives out to the coast, places like Newport or Depoe Bay.

Mostly I remember rain, damp, the kind of cold that a Colorado winter doesn’t prepare you for, the sort that settles right down into your bones and makes itself at home. I got fat in self-defense, trying to make my bones harder to find.

If you’d told me the place would burn I’d have laughed out loud and poured another one. But I don’t drink anymore, and I’m not laughing, either.

• From Oregon Public Broadcasting: How you can help.

Doing time

April 1, 2020

Miss Mia knows how to be jailin’.

In his loosely autobiographical novel “Homeboy,” ex-con Seth Morgan had a character offer some advice for a new fish worried about doing time.

“The time does itself,” schooled Smoothbore. “You jist got to live with it.”

A few pages closer to the penitentiary, the narrator elaborated:

Jailin’ was an art form and lifestyle both. The style was walkin’ slow, drinkin’ plenty of water, and doin’ your own time; the art was lightin’ cigarets from wall sockets, playin’ the dozens, cuttin’ up dream jackpots, and slowin’ your metabolism to a crawl, sleepin’ twenty hours a day. Forget the streets you won’t see for years. Lettin’ your heart beat the bricks with your body behind bars was hard time. Acceptin’ the jailhouse as the only reality was easy time. Jailin’.

Staying at home, social distancing — these aren’t jailin’, but they’re not exactly freedom, either. Sure, the cell is a little bigger, the guards a little less visible, and the food better. Still, you’d rather be out on the street.

But listen to Smoothbore. Let the time do itself. Live with it.

With any luck at all, you have a short stretch and an agreeable cellmate. You know — someone who doesn’t mind doing the laundry while you stretch out on your bunk and listen to the latest thrilling episode of Radio Free Dogpatch!

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: The bargain-basement broadcasting continues. I used the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mic,recording directly to the MacBook Pro using Rogue Amoeba’s nifty little app Piezo. Editing was as usual, in GarageBand. Once again the background music is by Your Humble Narrator, assembled from bits and pieces in the Mac and iOS versions of GarageBand. Other sonic adornments come from the iMovie and GarageBand sound libraries.

Dear diary

January 7, 2020

Dear diary, what a day it’s been. …

I never know where this blog is going to wander.

Some days it wakes up late, isn’t where it should have been. On others, it strolls about, looking at the shops. It rarely buys anything, but occasionally posts a letter on its way home.

On still others, it examines the news, roots through a pile of old journals and training logs, hears an old tune in its head, thinks it’s made some tenuous, possibly spurious connection, shambles into the studio, and cranks out a podcast.

Yes, yes, yes, it’s time for a literary edition of Radio Free Dogpatch, the first of 2020.

 

P L A Y    R A D I O   F R E E   D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with an Shure SM58 microphone and a Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. I edited the audio using Apple’s GarageBand on the 13-inch 2014 MacBook Pro. The background music is “As Time Passes,” from Zapsplat.com, which also supplied the sound of a pen scribbling furiously on paper. Yeah, I know, I could’ve handled that myself, but I was on the threshold of a dream. Speaking of which, The Moody Blues supplied bits from “Dear Diary,” from “On the Threshold of a Dream.” Finally, “Remember, thou art mortal” was lifted from “History of the World, Part I,” by Mel Brooks.

R.I.P., Gahan Wilson

November 23, 2019

My lone Gahan Wilson collection.

Gahan Wilson, whose surreal cartoons regularly appeared in National Lampoon, Playboy, and other top-shelf mags, has stepped away from the drawing board.

He died Thursday in Scottsdale, Ariz. Complications of dementia, they say. He was 89.

This guy was funny. Bleak, weird, the owner and operator of left field, he kept you off balance like some psychotic judo master. There was nobody else like him working Back in the Day®, and if he has a successor, I’ve not seen him or her yet.

One of my faves? An overstuffed chair absorbing a reader. Eyeglasses and book lie on the floor. All you can see as the reader vanishes is a pair of hands, protruding from the seat.

Another depicts a gardener who has unearthed a skeleton. His employer, a stately, dessicated husk of a woman, says, “I think you would be advised to locate the new delphinium bed elsewhere, Hobbs.”

Yet another shows a soldier covered in gore, muck and God knows what all, knife in one hand and assault rifle in the other. He stands alone in a smoking hellscape that makes the “Terminator” future look like Disneyland. His eyes pop out of the murk like cue balls. And he smiles. “I think I won!” he says.

Dracula with a vampire hand puppet. Dracula with a salt shaker. (Dude liked Dracula, what can I tell you?) A woman who has stuffed her husband into the trash can outside her apartment door (“You don’t get rid of him that easy, Mrs. Jacowsky,” says a man who may be the building superintendent). A writer for “The National Confidential Weekly” who, stuck for a lively bit of the old Fake News®, finally leaves his typewriter for a while and returns to tap out, “It isn’t easy cutting the heart out of a woman with a dull knife. And it takes time. It takes a good fifteen minutes.”

Oh, Gahan Wilson was one of the greats. I hope he and Charles Addams are hoisting a tall cold one in the Beyond.

Veterans Day

November 11, 2019

This one goes out to every aging child who, come Veterans Day, misses the old man (or old lady, for that matter).

Or maybe you just miss Steve Goodman.

Quaddammit

February 16, 2019

The 36th Mount Taylor Winter Quadradthlon is today.

Don’t look for me in results — it’s been years since I raced the Quad, but I was pretty OK at it a time or two. The bike and run legs, anyway.

Hal’s wife, Mary, and I used to race it as a mixed pair, and we won in 1990, 1992 and 1993.

I was usually in decent shape, being tanned, rested and ready following a long cyclocross season. And Mary was always tip-top, living at altitude up Weirdcliffe way and running around with jackasses, some of them four-legged (ho, ho).

Quadware included Nambé medals and platters.

Hal, of course, did the whole thing solo, which always looked a bit too much like work to me. I was only so-so on snowshoes and an outright hazard on cross-country skis.

This was and remains a toy-heavy pasatiempo, and Hal’s truck would be stuffed to the topper with bikes, wheels, tires, skis, shoes, snowshoes and a ridiculous amount of clothing suited to any and all weather conditions.

Running shoes were augmented with sheet-metal screws in the soles for traction, in case there was ice on the run leg (there usually was).

Clip-on aero bars? Sometimes. Once I used a set of Scott Rakes to good effect, aero bars giving me The Fear on the descent back to Grants.

The bike was usually standard road. In 1990 I was rocking an aluminum Trek 1500 with 53/39 rings and a 13-24 freewheel.

I know I’ve written about the Quad before, but whatever I cranked out is squirreled away on a Zip disk somewhere or in an actual magazine, and I don’t feel like diving down those rabbit holes this morning.

However, I did find a reference to my first Quad in my 1990 training diary, and that reads as follows:

“Big-time pain. I don’t think I’ve felt this bad since I got the shit kicked out of me at Alamogordo last year. Bike leg was slower than I’d hoped for … and my uphill run was fucking awful. Downhill run was better — but not much — and the downhill bike was spiked by the Headwind from Hell.”

Yeah, good times. The Quad will never be the new golf.

• Editor’s note: Hal “Mr. Awesome” Walter notes that I lifted his faux curse “Quadammit” from one of his own works. This explains why a Spotlight search failed to turn it up on any of my hard drives; that, and an admittedly casual approach to petty theft. Give it a read.