Picture the scene, 'BoomerNation, I was sitting here chillin' with an icepack to my knee, a glass of wine, and a couple of ibuprofen when I remembered I've been tagged by Dave Gibb to list 7 Random Things About Myself. Check out his well written blog titled, Tri4Freedom.
Hey, I'm game, so here goes:
1. I was named "Amateur Sportsman of 1979" by the Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Patriot News for bowling a perfect 300 in a sanctioned league game. I started bowling when I was eight years old as something to do on Saturday mornings with my neighborhood pals. By the time I was 18 I was bowling with some of the best in the sport and considered turning professional. Instead I put down the bowling ball, picked up the books, enrolled in college, and never competed again.
2. I have jumped out of a plane onto every continent, except Antarctica. After college I was commissioned an officer in the Army. I served as an Ranger qualified paratrooper specializing in directing the fire of aircraft, field artillery and naval ships.
3. I was a child model in an international barber skills contest. Can you believe it? With this mug and shiny dome of 47 years? But it wasn’t always like this. Once the hair was thick and wavy. My 11 year old freckled face had that Bobby-of-the-Brady-Bunch thing going on. The barber paid for my mom and I to travel with him to the contest in New York City. Despite the barber’s best efforts, we didn’t podium. The next year I was too old for the Child Division and puberty struck early. The freckles were replaced with pimples and Bobby Brady morphed into "Brian from da Hood." All gangly, shaggy to the shoulders, and brooding. Definitely not "look at me and I’ll sell your product" material. The modeling career was short but way fun for me and my mom.
That was the first of many cool trips to Gotham but none are as special as my last visit. I’ll return to her bright lights and stand in a park to build a dream on. Time bridges past, present, and future.
4. I am fluent in sign language. When I was in grade school I met a family that was new to my city. A divorced mom, and two kids; a boy and a girl. The boy’s name was Ricky and he was hearing and vocally impaired. He couldn’t hear or speak a word. The rest of the family was hearing and vocally capable. Not many people in our neighborhood took to Ricky because he was different from the rest of us. But, I saw him as lonely and a nice enough kid. So, one afternoon I found the sign language alphabet in a dictionary and began to memorize the movements. By the next day I knew how to spell the words to ask him the more advanced signs. Within weeks he and I were signing and waving and having a good laugh at the inside jokes we could make without anyone around us knowing the difference. We became good friends.
When he turned 15 he was sent to a state funded high school for the hearing impaired near Philadelphia. While there he was introduced to heroin.
We didn’t have much contact after that. Every now and then I would see him waiting for a bus downtown. That’s what I thought he was doing… waiting for a bus. But, years later I ran into his sister and she told me he had been living on the streets and would pan handle at the bus stops.
Ricky died when he was 18.
Now, when I see somebody signing I think back to grade school and my friend.
5. I am the first on both sides of the family to graduate college. My grandparents didn’t finish primary school. My father earned his Graduate Equivalent Diploma after dropping out of school and serving in the Navy. My mother is a high school graduate. She battled rheumatic fever as a child and, despite many missed weeks of every school year, she worked hard and graduated with her class. She may not know it, but I’m proud of her accomplishment. (With that written; I will call her today and tell her so.) I graduated from a small state college with financial help from the government and academic scholarships. Next month, my first born will graduate from a prestigious private university. So there you have it: from grade school drop out to private university grad, my clan is living the American promise.
6. My first car was a 1960 Volkswagen Beetle. It cost me $100. The very first thing I did to it was install a $400 stereo system. I had the car for two weeks until the breaks failed. I removed the stereo, slapped a "For Sale" sign on it and sold the car for $125.
7. I have shaken hands with Presidents Regan, Bush and Bush. In December 1985 a plane carrying 259 members of the 101st Airborne Division crashed in Gander, Newfoundland. They were returning from six months duty as United Nations Peace Keepers in the Sinai. I lost a handful of good friends on that day. A memorial service was held for the dead and my unit was assigned to the honor guard for President Regan’s arrival. After the ceremony he shook the hands of each of us in the honor guard.
I met George HW Bush (the elder President) at a Texas Ranger’s baseball game. Some know that Dubyah was once a minority owner of the team. On a summer’s night in 1996 I took in a game and scored seats about five rows behind the former President. During the 7th inning stretch he walked up the steps to exit and shook hundreds of hands including mine. I was wearing a Penn State football t-shirt and he stopped and said, "Glad to see you but, wrong sport and wrong team!" I was dumbfounded and couldn’t say a word.
In 1999 the current President gave a speech in Dallas. I stood waaaaaaaaaay in the back of the hotel ballroom and I couldn’t see him very well. When he was leaving he shook the hands of just about everybody there. It took him nearly half an hour to get close enough for me to reach out and get combination high-five and handshake.
It's at this point where, normally, the tagged blogger would pick others to answer the same tag questions. But instead of me doing the choosing I'd like for YOU in the 'BoomerNation to tell me who to tag next. Leave a comment with the names and I'll send them the tag.