Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Happy Man

"I'm a Happy Man." Howard Roberts

At O'Hare Airport for a flight to Philadelphia, I sailed through TSA security and landed in the "City of Brotherly Love" 20 minutes ahead of schedule.  At Budget Rent-a-Car, however, I waited in line for an hour before obtaining a VW Jetta that I didn't know how to start.  Instead of inserting a key, one needs to push a button and simultaneously put a foot on the brake.

At Giuseppi's in Ambler I had met a dozen Upper Dublin classmates, including still ruggedly handsome  John Jacobson and young-looking Leslie Boone, about whom Mike Grasso crudely quipped, "You were skinny as a board in high school with no tits or ass."  Still, I had a teen crush on her and was sorry she and her husband have stopped camping at Dunes State Park near our condo, having sold their camper.  She and Eleanor Smith Bruno had both been legal secretaries and knew of Pepper, Hamilton and Sheetz, the law firm where both Toni and I worked.  Connie Heard still tends donkeys and chickens.

Saturday my brother and I took our mother's ashes to a cemetery plot next to Vic's in Bensalem, PA.  Attending a brief ceremony and then lunch at an Italian restaurant were more than a dozen relatives of stepfather Howard Roberts (who was married to Midge longer than my dad, who died at age 50).  I read excerpts from my journal about visiting Midge in California the final year of her life, including the eulogy I gave at Mirage Inn, adding several "Howie" anecdotes.  One was singing "Sixteen Tons" at Midge and Howard's wedding reception. I talked about a waitress in Tarpon Springs calling him a "stud" and his playing singles tennis against me at age 87.  Unlike Vic, he loved to travel and took Midge all over the world.  His mantra, especially if some health issue relating to old age intruded, was "I'm a happy man."  Like Midge, he lived to 99 and aged gracefully.

Later that day Terry and Gayle Jenkins arrived at the Hilton Gardens in Fort Washington (just blocks from where I grew up) with stuffed mushrooms, wine, and Yuengling.  For hours we reminisced and caught up on family doings.  Their granddaughter is on a championship high school ultimate frisbee team.  Terry and Rich chortled when I described my Archives "cage" as a place that allowed me to be away from the volunteers.  What was obvious to both of them was that, being an unpaid co-director,  I am technically a volunteer as well.  Terry had read Anne Baley's "Steel Closets" on kindle after reading about the book in Steel Shavings, and I mentioned its role in convincing the steelworkers international to take a firm stand against harassment of LGBT members.  The Lane and Jenkins families spent several summers renting cabins in the Poconos, and Terry recalled the year we discovered that Lake Minneola had dried up and the pavilion had burned down.
Muhammad Ali's death was all over the news.  Every time I saw a clip of the Greatest holding the 1996 Olympic torch in Atlanta I teared up.  When a senior at Bucknell I saw the then Cassius Clay win the heavyweight crown against Sonny Liston on cable TV in Williamsport, and I paid 20 bucks at a Hammond theater to watch the "Rumble in the Jungle" when Ali used the rope-a-dope strategy to defeat George Foreman.
Cristin selfie with Jimbo
above, Jimbo with Kyle DeLeon's family; below, Tom, Lucas, Bijou, Cristin, Jimbo, Chad, Brianna
On Sunday a dozen of Toni's relatives met me for lunch at Friendly's Diner, including four adorable young 'uns - goddaughter Cristin's Bijou, nephew Chad's Brianna, and nephew Kyle's two kids, Serena and Lucas.  Cristin's job has involved traveling extensively, including to India and Egypt, but she was envious of Alissa's recent trip to Tanzania.  After seven weeks of training, Kyle's wife Palma is dealing blackjack at a casino in Bensalem and mentioned how the crowds are often loud and rude and that there is pressure on her from management to speed up.  One time a guy holding a Jack-three went bust when he drew a ten and claimed he'd made a hand motion at the last moment indicating he's changed his mind and hadn't asked for the card.  When tape indicated that may have been true, the guy on his left then argued that his card would have been different and he deserved compensation as well.   When Kyle noted that his sister Kelsey was in Hawaii with the marines, Toni's brother Tommy, a navy vet, mentioned that he landed in Honolulu two weeks after Toni and I left following my graduation with a masters degree.  Tommy, who still sports a 195 bowling average and has the chest of a marine drill sergeant, brought up Vic's T-Bird, the only used (preowned) car my normally conservative father ever bought.  After a long drive it sometimes balked at going into reverse.  Spotting me pulling into Almond Street in North Philly on my first date with Toni, Tommy taunted me when I couldn't back into a parking space.

In the motel library was Vance Bourjaily's "The Man Who Knew Kennedy," about two friends who knew JFK during WW II and swap wives during a Caribbean cruise. From a book of Kurt Vonnegut's letters I knew about Bourjaily organizing a relief mission to starving Africans in Zaire.  Bourjaily got the idea for the novel's title from Sinclair Lewis' "The Man Who Knew Coolidge."  Bourjaily used this Sinclair Lewis quote about "Silent Cal": "Maybe he isn't what my daughter would call 'ritzy' . . . . He may not shoot off fireworks, but you know what he is, HE'S SAFE." Hopefully Republicans will come to the same conclusion about Hillary Clinton, who won the New Jersey and California primaries handily.  Viva Hillary!
Donald Trump's latest unpardonable sin: disparaging Gonzalo Curiel (above), presiding judge in a lawsuit against Trump University.  The presumptive Republican nominee claims Curiel cannot render a fair ruling because of his Mexican heritage.  Born at St. Catherine's Hospital in East Chicago, Indiana, Judge Curiel grew up in Indiana Harbor with immigrants from dozens of nationalities and graduated from Bishop Noll High School.  His father was a steelworker whose four sons all pursued professional careers made possible by the patriarch's hard work and insistence they go to college.  Curiel graduated from IU Law School and was its 2014 commencement speaker.  As a U.S. Attorney he received death threats for going after a drug cartel.  Roy Dominguez, who knew him from the Lake County Hispanic Bar Association, said, "He has strong values and certainly wouldn't let [Trump's views on building a wall] affect his judicial decision in the case."  Virtually all Republicans, including even repulsive Newt Gingrich, have slammed Trump - except Indiana's troglodyte governor Mike Pence.

I left for Philadelphia airport in plenty of time, so traffic jams on the Pennsylvania turnpike and Route 476 weren't a cause of worry other than bladder concerns.  I would have competed the USA Today crossword puzzle except for the clue "Mae West, e.g."  Unbelievably I was stumped despite having all but the first two letters - "ashblond."  The answer - Toni solved it for me - was "brash blond.

IUN held a retirement ceremony for CFO Marianne Milich, a former student.  Forty years ago she was working part-time at registration when the bursar convinced her to start taking courses.  After claiming she'd be 40 before she finished, the bursar said it wouldn't matter if it took till she was 60.  Graduating with honors, she had a productive career.  Anna Rominger also was slated to retire but instead was appointed acting Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs.  Like Marianne she's had a good run after a career as an attorney and then as a Business professor.  When I see her, I'll employ a line IU's Jim Madison used on me, that she's failed at retirement.  Running into Marianne at IUN's Thrill of the Grill, I expressed the hope to see her back on campus from time to time.  She's planning to spend more time with her ill mother.  She has a good heart.

No comments:

Post a Comment