Friday, October 29, 2010

Calling the Hogs For Aunt Shorty

Aunt Shorty fell walking her dog night before last and broke her leg.  She’s having surgery this morning, as I type this.  She’s 91.

Shorty (Arline Jones Peeler; her actual first name is "Velda" but call her that at your own peril) started me on the road to rack and ruin; i.e., it was Shorty who infected me with Razorbackmania. 

Everybody else kept growing, Arline stopped at 4'9" (she claims; I think that's generous), hence the nickname.  She married badly during WWII (drunken asshole with fists), had a son out of it; divorced him (gasp) and was a divorcee living in Waco, Texas (where they wound up at the time of the divorce).  She was a secretary (and a damn good one) at the VA Hospital there.  She needed "out" (I can relate to needing "out" of Waco...) and put in for a job as secretary to the CO, Dyess AFB.  She got the job and moved with her young son to Abilene.

At Dyess, the top ranked pilot was a young-middle-aged, divorced pilot (hotshot), also short, by the name of Calvin Peeler (native of Corona, California).  He thought she was hot stuff; she wouldn't give him the time of day.  Eventually he worked his way into her affections and they married in 1958.  One of Cal's buddies was in the US Army Corps of Engineers.  They were having beers and the guy said, "Hey, isn't that new wife of yours from Arkansas?  We're getting ready to build a huge new lake up there; you ought to buy some property and have a lake house."

They thought retiring at a lake in the mountains sounded like a good idea, so they made a few trips up the tortuous, winding roads, through the tiny college hamlet of Fayetteville, and found a worn-out farm with a shotgun shack on it that was going to be half taken by the Corps for the lake.  They scraped together the money to buy it ($8,000!!!) and bought it.

As soon as the USAF told him his eyesight was not good enough to fly fighters and grounded him, Cal was -out-.  They moved to Fayetteville and Cal finished his Masters in Math, then became an instructor at the UofA.  Shorty was always a big fan of the Razorbacks, and Cal quickly adapted (he graduated from California Berkeley, "Cal from Cal"). Arline got a job as secretary to the Chief of Surgery at the Fayetteville VA hospital, William J. Fink, MD.  The Peelers bought themselves a Cadillac to go to games, and started following the team.  They got to be a little crazy about it, going to all games, home and away.  This was especially interesting for them in the 1964 Arkansas football season...

They stayed at our house to attend the Cotton Bowl, in which Arkansas beat Nebraska (we were in Dallas).  Their 7 year old nephew was hopping up and down on one foot begging to go to a game.  The next season, they took that by-then-8 year old to a game---Texas was visiting Fayetteville, ranked #1 again, wanting revenge for their defeat the previous year in Austin.  It was getting dark in a stadium with no lights.  Texas had the game won, 24-20; Arkansas was out of times out and Broyles was pretty much out of options; 1:21 left to go in the game.  Brittenum to Crockett, Brittenum to Crockett, Brittenum to Crockett, TOUCHDOWN, ARKANSAS!!! (as time expired)  Arkansas 27, Texas 24.

That was the day I found out it's possible to scream until no sound will come out.
On the way out of the stadium, there was enough voice left (the mute part would come the next day) for the nephew to beg Cal for a souvenir.  Never big on such folderol, Cal bought the SMALLEST pennant to shut the kid up.  It's hanging on my den wall as I type this.

Cal passed away in 1989 (if you smoke enough Pall Malls, that can happen).  At about the same time, Bill Fink's wife died, in the same hospital, of the same ailment (Marlboros).  Having then known each other for decades, being close friends, Arline and Bill started hanging out together, and then wound up marrying.  Bill was universally known among his family members as "Pop", and that's what I called him as well.

When I moved back to Arkansas, I started going to all the games, taking Dad with me in Little Rock and Fayetteville, and when we went to Fayetteville, we'd stay with Shorty and Pop.  It was my privilege to take Shorty and Dad (sister and brother) to the Fayetteville games, where they had a ball.  Pop couldn't go because the arthritis had already gotten bad, although he did make it to a few baseball games at Baum (he was much more of a baseball fanatic than a football fan).

Shorty loved the tailgate parties and met many of my friends in WebHogs.  She could cocktail and Call Hogs with the best of them and saw no reason whatsoever why she couldn't do all that at 85.  She had a ball. 

We sat on the west side for years.  The lady we sat next to, Donna, was a young chick of 75 to Shorty's 85, and they had been to many of the same games. My buddy Don came and sat with us one time, and at a particularly egregious point in the game, let fly (at top volume) with a "colorful expression".  (He sat to my left, then me, then Shorty, then Donna.) He was aghast that he had cussed in front of Aunt Shorty and Donna.  This was particularly amusing to me (I had let fly with a slightly less colorful expression), as Shorty and Donna didn't hear him.  They had been too busy cussing at the top of their lungs to hear what we were saying....

She sat with me in the South Endzone Outdoor Club the last couple of years, but had gotten to where it was too hard to lug up the Hill to get to the stadium, and the walk back to the car in the crowd down Razorback Rd. was too much.  

So that's who she is.  She's made us all promise that, when she goes (at say, 130 or 140 years of age) that we will Call the Hogs for her. 

I hope that's not any time soon.

Scan10011 (2)

Jimmy, me, Aunt Shorty, and Dad, Calling ‘em before heading off to a game in Fayetteville

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Random thoughts on “Back To The Future”

Nathan’s wife Pam was out of town tonight, so he came over and we planned dinner and a movie.

Dinner consisted of Long John Silver’s.  I swear, Yum Foods would go out of business without my patronage.  What can I say, I like their food.  It’s reasonably priced, fast, decent, and did I mention cheap?

We had many movie choices, but settled on an old favourite:  The AMC Studio 30 is having two special 25th Anniversary screenings of “Back to the Future”.

Once again tonight on the Big Screen, Marty McFly leaped into Doc Brown’s tricked out DeLorean and went back to 1955, managing to screw everything up but somehow coming out all right.  Of course, we know that there were two more movies (which were filmed simultaneously, and the franchise “jumped the shark” in the third movie wherein Doc falls in love and stays in the past).

I first saw this movie at the wonderful, gone-but-not-forgotten General Cinema NorthPark I in Dallas.  At 1050 seats, it was bigger than anything out there now.  It was one of the first three theaters in the country to get THX sound, with the THX inventors personally supervising the installation.  The sound at that theater was astounding.  George Lucas famously said it was his favorite place to show (and watch) his movies.  No “theater seating”, it had big red plush velvet seats that reclined, offered acres of leg room, and swept down to that huge 70 mm screen.

I had not seen much press on “Back to the Future”; I was in the mood for a movie and just went to the theater to see what was playing.  “Hmmm,” I thought, “Spielberg sci-fi movie?  I liked Michael J. Fox in “Family Ties”; he’s in a movie?”  So I went in.

The first thing that hit me was the THX splash screen.  It was introduced in 1983 with “Star Wars—Return of the Jedi” but our crappy theater in Little Rock didn’t have the technology.  The first time I ever saw this was at that screening of “Back to the Future”.

I loved the movie, and my enjoyment of it has not dimmed with the years.   It is one of my all-time favourites.


Nathan, of course, was born in 1984.  He didn’t see “Back to the Future” in the theater, ever.  He grew up with the movie in the background, like everybody of his generation, but it was no big deal to them.

So, it was kind of fun to see it together.


At the time (1985) we all thought it was great, looking back into 1955.  If you didn’t experience life in the 50’s (which officially ended November 22, 1963), it’s impossible to understand it.  It was just a much different country, and the people were different.

Now, the fun is in looking at BTTF as a time capsule—of the now-simpler, more manageable 1985.  In 1985, there was no “terrorist” situation; we didn’t have a “Threat Level” or “Full-Body screening” at airports (everybody was still pissed we had to “endure” the simple little x-ray machine at the door); the Twin Towers still stood tall in New York, and nobody had the image of them burning, then crashing down seared in their memories.  Jobs were plentiful; it was the “Go-Go” 80’s, baby!  No “Great Recession” hanging over everything, where people at parties ask, “Where’s Joe?” and the hushed answer is, “He was laid off and they had to move.”  “Foreclosure” was something that happened very rarely, a throwback to the bad old days of the Great Depression.

BTTF was so “modern” then. 

-The Mall figures prominently in the story.  80’s kids hung out a lot at the Mall.  When was the last time you even WENT to a Mall?  (Ok, these days I can’t think of the Mall without thinking of “Robin SparklesWinking smile

-Marty uses a WIRELESS phone—a huge clunky thing with a little retractable antenna.

-We ALL had one of those “flip” alarm clocks---every minute, a little “flip” as the “digital” display changed.  Mine was a Panasonic, just like Marty’s.

-Jennifer and Marty are sitting in the park, but after the “Save the Clock Tower” lady interrupts their kiss, they are stymied by the arrival of her Dad (in an AMC Eagle…anyone born after 1980, did you know there once was a “Big FOUR” in Detroit, the fourth car company being American Motors (AMC), producer of the Eagle and Jeep lines?).  Jennifer is going to be spending the evening at her Grandma’s---so she has to rush back to give Marty the telephone number.  He can’t just call her on her cell, because there are no cells.

-There aren’t any computers, either, nor references to the internet.  Nobody buys anything on eBay, or watches a video on YouTube.  Nobody Google's anything.

-Marty orders a “Pepsi Free”.  They stopped making it in 1987.

-Speaking of Pepsi, this is the first movie I remember where product placement was so very prominently featured (it may not be the first ever, but it sure was “in your face”).  Pepsi, Texaco, Toyota, all prominently featured (to their best advantage).  Cleverest, to me:  When Marty is onstage performing “Earth Angel” with Marvin Berry, the amp is sitting on an upside-down Pepsi case.

-Nathan didn’t know this:  the “teacher” in the gym, who passes judgment on Marty and his band (“I’m sorry, kids, you’re just too darn loud”) was Huey Lewis, who had a huge hit with “The Power of Love”, the theme song of the movie.

This led Nathan to wonder what happened to Huey Lewis and the News.  I told him they’re still around, still performing, but there’s no Top 40 any more.  Ahh, yes, I mused, “Top 40”, as in “A-merican…Top FOR-TY!” with Casey Kasem.  I told Nathan that, when I was a teenager, my friends and I would all listen to ATF every week (Saturday morning), to see where our favourite songs were going.  We’d keep a list of the songs on spiral notebooks.  He thought this quite the funniest thing he’d ever heard, accused me of making it up, and couldn’t BELIEVE that we would do such a thing.  I told him well, we might want to buy the single, or even the album, before it left the charts.  This brought more gales of laughter.  I further told him, when I moved to Houston in 1979, the city featured KRBE, the number 1 FM Top 40 station, and KLOL, the “Head” “Metal” station, plus a couple of country stations, and that was –it-.  The rest was AM, which still ruled but was waning.  My car had an AM radio; I slung one of those little FM converters under the dash.  That’s how I made the switch from KULF, Houston (“Houston…first word spoken from the moon!  and KULF IS Houston!”), the Mighty 1090, KAAY in Little Rock, KTSA in San Antonio, and KFJZ in Dallas, to KRBE FM Houston, KLAZ, “Z-98.5” in Little Rock, KTFM in San Antonio, and KVIL in Dallas.  Again, shock and incomprehension.

But back to the movie:

-Marty wears Nike’s in the movie.  The swoosh was everywhere then.  Nobody cared where they were made, or by whom.

-Suspenders:  Marty wears ‘em the whole movie. I had at least 12 pairs, probably more.  All kinds of colours and designs.  All the pants came fitted with suspender buttons, but if they didn’t, I had a variety of “clip on” suspenders.  I guess you can still buy them now, but why would you want to do so?

-Jennifer (the first one, who was far better than the second) sure had some big-ol honking 80’s hair on her, didn’t she?  Farrah-hair.  Very chic.  Lots of curlers and lots of hairspray to achieve that look.

-When Marty comes back to a re-arranged future, the living room is a stunning white—with mauve-and-teal accents, brass fixtures, and a glass dining table.  Very 80’s-chic.

-Plot hole:  Marty comes back to a rearranged future---but there’s still only one car?  (admit it’s a BMW, but if Dave is successful now, where’s HIS car?  Where’s MOM’s car?  Where’s the sister’s car?  They ain’t THAT successful if they’re all riding around in Dad’s BMW).

-Plot hole:  At the beginning of the movie, Marty revs the DeLorean up to 88 in the parking lot at the Mall.  When he’s in 1955, he has to go way, way down the street to accomplish the same thing, and lumbers 0-60 in about 2 minutes.

-Plot hole:  Marty appears not to know his own grandparents, aunts, and uncles?  He’s never been to their house and doesn’t recognize them?  They live in the same town!

-Biggest error on the part of the directors:  leaving out the rest of the scene where “Darth Vader” comes down from the planet Vulcan to convince George to take Lorraine to the dance (starts at 3:34 in the clip).


All in all, a fun visit to an old friend.

One more thing:  At the end, Doc Brown finally succeeds, traveling himself into the future.  30 years into the future, to be precise:  October 21…2015.

I STILL want my flying car!!!  I was promised a flying car!!!  Where is it?

I want my flying car!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Coincidences continue from the New England trip

As you can see from the previous blog entries, Dad and I enjoyed a vacation in New England a couple of weeks ago.

Yesterday, I got an email from an old friend; we were at Trinity together back in the day.  He now lives in Houston as well, and we never see each other, but that doesn’t diminish the friendship (it’s a shame we don’t make time).

Anyway, Jerry wrote me the other day:


     I stopped by  Malvie's Musings  today and was so excited to read about your trip!
Polly and I were in Maine at the same time!  Like you, we left on Saturday, Oct 2
and flew into Boston.  Our US Airways flight arrived about 4:15, so I guess you were
out of the airport by then.  We drove up to Boothbay Harbor, Maine and spent the week.
Tuesday we went to Wiscasset and ate at Sarah's Twin Schooner Pub that you have a
picture of.  Then we went on to Augusta to tour the capital.  You, apparently, were in
Rockland on Thursday.  We drove through Rockland that morning on our way to Bangor.
Polly had to see Stephen King's house!  Then we drove back through Rockland that afternoon.
I might have been one of those cars you were dodging as you crossed the street!
We drove back to Boston Saturday, Oct 9 for our flight home about 1:00.
     Both our great minds just knew it was a great time to go to that part of the country!
I just can't believe we were crossing each other's paths and didn't know it.....


Ok, so we live about 30 miles apart and we fly all the way across the country at the same time and are in the same place at the same time.

As we said back in the day, “That’s…bizarre!”

Jerry, let’s get together soon.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dad n Me in Boston, Day 7

Well, here we are in the hotel in Boston, repacking, going to bed early so we can catch our flight back to Texas in the morning.

It’s been a wonderful 7 days, and I’ll be glad of it till my dying day (which may come soon enough if this cold doesn’t get better; or maybe I just WANT to die and the rhinovirus is toying with me, saying, “Oh, no, you’re gonna LIVE through ME, buddy!”).

We took our time this morning leaving Brunswick, and drove down I-95 to Boston.  We’re staying in one of the suburbs.  Boston traffic is---Boston traffic.  It astonishes me that anyone would ever complain about Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, or even Austin when there are examples of traffic anarchy like Boston available. 

Drove to the “Wonderland” T station and hopped the Blue Line for downtown.  Walked around Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, then a quick cab to the wharf to see an old friend.

Ya gotta love Legal Seafood.  Yes, it’s the tourist trap, but they really do have excellent food.  One martini later, I felt alive again.  I’m allergic to shellfish, so I had the tuna sashimi style with seaweed salad and mashed potatoes.  Dad had----a cheeseburger.  I tried to get him to try any of the sensations on the menu, but he was sticking with the tried and true, and I didn’t argue.

We were tired, worn, and I’m not feeling well, so we just came back to the hotel for the night.

Tomorrow:  Houston.














Boston Harbor

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dad n Me in Maine, on the Train, Day 6


I love trains.  Always have, ever since Dad brought me my first one (well, Santa brought it.  Mother and I went to the store for some milk on Christmas Eve so Santa could have milk and cookies; when we got home, that debbil Santa had come and gone!  He was early (Dallas was apparently one of his first stops, and Santa probably wanted to get done early so as to get at least a little sleep).  In any event, I loved that train.  Later, Dad got HIS train from HIS Dad’s, and I had both. 

My grandmother Forthmon (“Grannie”), who lived with us, would take the train back to Malvern to visit her relatives, and I’d go along too.  It was always grand.  We went on “Ol Bluie” (Texas and Pacific, and later Missouri Pacific’s engines were all navy blue with gray trim; I didn’t realize at that age that there were DIFFERENT engines, they all looked like “Ol Bluie” to me).


Yes, planes get you there faster.  I used to love plane travel.  Now, I’d be just as happy never to get on one again.  Trains, now that was when travel was more leisurely, more glamorous. 

In any event, today Dad and I boarded the Maine Eastern Railroad and took off on a journey of 50 miles to Rockland, Maine (it took 3 hours, which might explain why people abandoned the train).  Still, it afforded some great vistas and we had a marvelous time.

In Rockland, it was raining a bit.  We found a used bookstore (always a plus), made purchases (you thought we’d go into a used bookstore and come out empty?), and found a great lunch place to have drinks and lunch quietly, in a great atmosphere, as the rain fell gently outside.

When the rain stopped and we were suitably refreshed, we went back toward the depot, and went to the Maine Lighthouse Museum (Kathy Beaumont, where are you when I need you?).  Had a great time; our guide was fascinating and just boiling over with facts and figures about lighthouses.  I honestly knew nothing about them other than they were cool and had big lights.  I learned that the US Lighthouse Service operated before the Coast Guard, and that many of the lighthouse keepers were women.  Quite a few performed amazing acts of heroism, saving lives.  One of them, Ida Lewis, had a pennant with 18 stars, one for each life she’d saved.  A fascinating glimpse into a life I knew nothing about.

I think some of today’s were among the best photos of the trip:


“Ol’ Greenie?”




Not exactly the boarding platforms at Grand Central Station….


“The Magnolia” was spiffy in green.



Maine WORKS.  This is where many of our current US Navy ships are built.  There’s a huge Naval Air Station in Brunswick.





I loved it!  They were all clustered along ONE of the rails (not the other!).


Wiscasset from the rails.


The gulls’ friends the pigeons were clustered on this house….


I wanted to go.


Note the widow’s walk on top of the house.






Rockland harbor.


Rockland, Maine.


It’s all you need.



View from our table at lunch.



The Rockland Light (center of picture, on the peninsula).



Port Arthur, Texas, baby!


Back on the train; this time, we rode the “Alexander Hamilton”.

The following are my favorite pictures of the trip.  Salt marshes and mud flats.  Lobstermen checking their pots.  I LOVED this part of the trip.









When exactly did I turn into Orson Welles? 





















^^^Probably my favorite.


Remember Microsoft “Bliss”?


Maine Eastern

Tomorrow:  Boston!