Just click your heels

Deposit toilet paper in wastebasket.

“Wait! I have to go to the bathroom!” my son Adam shouted when we entered our room at the Days Inn Motel in Laredo, Texas. He pushed Alex and me aside and then ran to the bathroom. He immediately called us into the bathroom. “Watch,” he said as he dropped one sheet of toilet paper into the toilet and flushed it down. We watched it spiral downward until it vanished with a roar into the underworld of sewers.

My sons were glad to be back in the U.S. after spending two whole weeks in Mexico without all of the creature comforts to which they are accustomed here in Chicago. I explained that we would lack some of these American luxuries to them, but they were still unprepared mentally for what was in store for them in Mexico.

For example, I told them that in Mexico they only served Mexican food. They were surprised that even the McDonald’s and Burger King food tasted a little Mexican. I think going to the bathroom was activity that most struck home with them. They didn’t like the idea of putting the used toilet paper in the wastebasket next to the toilet instead of just flushing it down the way we do here.

Overall, I think they adapted well, but I don’t think they ever want to go to Mexico again!

Fourth of July

U.S. of A.

Independence Day has to be the most patriotic of all American holidays. For as long as I can remember, we celebrated the day by going on picnics, pigging out, playing soccer, volleyball, baseball, or badminton at a state park, city park, or at the beach on Chicago’s lakefront. My favorite part was always the fireworks. The last few years, everyone has been more conscious about protecting our environment. So we try not to litter and not to pollute the air. However, the Fourth of July is the one day that it’s permissable to set off illegal fireworks in Chicago. The streets are literally littered by the remains of fireworks and the air quality is clearly polluted for a day or two. Indendendence Day is a day when hardly anyone thinks green. Some people in Chicago even shoot off guns on this day. You don’t really want to be driving around while all the fireworks are in progress. It’s just too dangerous in Chicago. On the news you hear reports of people getting shot and/or getting injured by fireworks. There are also accidental fires caused by fireworks. But that’s how we celebrate in Chicago. I find it hard to believe that no one I knew was ever injured by fireworks.

Growing up in Back of the Yards, everyone had illegal fireworks. We knew all about how to handle fireworks safely, but we used to do everything possible that would place ourselves in the most possible danger. Only adults were supposed to handle fireworks. But my friends and I were lighting firecrackers since we were nine. You were supposed to set firecrackers on the ground and then light them, but we used to light them in our hands and then throw them at each other. Timing was very important. You also had to watch the others as they lit their firecrackers in order to be able to dodge any and all firecrackers that came your way AND not letting your firecracker blow of in your hand. Yes, I’m still truly amazed that no one was ever even slightly injured!

One summer, one of my friends got the idea of letting a firecracker blow up in our hand. We all thought he was crazy. But then he held his open hand palm up and let a firecracker blow up in his hand. We just stared at him in amazement. Then, he dared us to do the same thing. We all hesitated, but none of us wanted to be called chicken the rest of the summer so we all did it once. I must admit that it was rather scary watching the wick burn down until the firecracker blew up. It was loud because it was rather close to my ear and my had did stng a lot from the explosion, but I didn’t get burned or anything.

One summer, on the fifth of July, I woke up early and I walked all through the neighborhood picking all the dud firecrackers that I could find. I carefully collected all the gunpowder from them and put it in a lead pipe about four inches long. I put a cap on one end of the pipe and a firecracker on the other. I wasn’t even sure if this thing would blow up. But if it did, I knew it would be a huge blast. All my friends wanted to see the explosion, but I told them that they had to hide until after the explosion was over.

We had a clubhouse in our back yard at our house at 4405 S. Wood Street. I set the pipe down by the clubhouse. My plan was to light the firecracker in the pipe and hide behind the clubhouse. I only had to take two steps to duck for cover. I made sure everyone was hiding before I even thought about lighting it. Well, I lit it, I turned to run, and I took only two steps when the pipe blew up. I barely made it behind the clubhouse for cover. That is, most of me had made it, save for my left foot. I felt the blast on my foot and at first I thought I had blown off my foot. About a second later, I heard some of the shredded pipe pieces falling on the concrete in the alley. When the smoke cleared, I looked at my foot. I was wearing low-cut gym shoes and the blast had blown off the part of my sock that covered my ankle. But I was uninjured! By sheer luck!

Now, every Fourth of July, I keep a wary eye on my sons lest they injure themselves with fireworks. Of course, I never tell them any of the things we used to do with fireworks when we were boys. I don’t want to give them any ideas!


When I joined the Marines, I had to spend the night at a hotel on Michigan Avenue near Roosevelt Road the night before we went to AFEES (Armed Forces Entrance and Examination Station) on Michigan and Balbo. I was so nervous about joining the Marines that I didn’t sleep much the night before. The next day, we had to take intelligence tests and physical exams all day long. From there, we went to O’Hare Airport where we flew to San Diego for boot camp. An interesting thing happened to me while boarding the plane. As I waited in line to get on the plane, I joked about being afraid to fly with a female whom I thought was part of the flight crew. She laughed and we talked a little. When I sat down, I noticed that she had followed me to my seat and had sat down next to me. She was very pretty in a plain sort of way. She had long, light-brown hair and hazel eyes. And she had such perfect teeth. Very white, but not unnaturally white, and all perfectly aligned. We were probably about the same age. “You don’t mind if I sit with you, do you?” she asked, even though she was already sitting next to me. She caught me off guard, so I took a moment to respond. “N-Not at all.” She held my hand and said, “This is to comfort you since you’re afraid of flying.” I couldn’t believe this was happening to me! Oh, yes, and she had this–I couldn’t quite place it–sexy, non-Chicago accent. I loved listening to her speak! Well, I told her that I was on my way to Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego and she told me that her father was a colonel in the Marines. What a coincidence! And I was afraid that she would stop liking me if she discovered that I would soon be a jarhead. She actually took a liking to me and we talked and talked. We had quite a few things in common. This was a three-and-a-half hour flight and I was tired from not sleeping well the night before. Well, I nodded off while I was looking out the window. I had forgotten all about Amy. When I later woke up. not only was Amy still holding my hand, but she had also fallen asleep with her head on my shoulder. I guess she was very comfortable with me as a person and also as a pillow. I liked watching her sleep like that. She eventually even got more comfortable as she turned her body towards me and put her free arm around my waist. Later, she actually drooled on my shoulder a little. When she finally woke up, I felt as if I we had known each other for ages. She gave me her address in Quantico, Virginia, and told me to write to her. Her full name was Amy Trostle Barnes. She was so interesting and I had met her at exactly the right moment when I needed a shoulder to lean on. Well, I wrote to her while I was in boot camp and for about a year after that. But we never met in person again.

Hi! I'm Amy! Don't be afraid of the flight! I'll take care of you.

More coincidences

Seagulls of my reader's imagination

Hello, Gentle Reader. I’ve noticed something interesting occurring on my blog lately. I tend to occasionally write about someone who comes to mind because I remember him or her well. I have no agenda or ulterior motives. I never announced to anyone that I write a blog entry about him or her. I just relish recalling the good old days and I focus about all the positive things that I remember about this person. Occasionally, the subject of my blog entry discovers my blog and he or she e-mails me and/or comments about the blog entry. If I write it, they will come. If you look at the comments in the right margin you’ll see what I mean. This got me to thinking. How can you, Gentle Reader, be sure that all these commentators are real people? You have no way of knowing if these people really exist. I mean, I could just be making them up. After all, I do have a disclaimer at the bottom of the page stating that I may be stretching the truth a little. If you wrote a comment, you know for a fact that you yourself exist. Right? But what about all the rest of the commentators? How can you be sure that I didn’t invent them so it looks like I have many more readers than just you? Let’s go one further: What if you don’t exist? Yes, that’s right. You don’t exist outside of this blog! I made you up! You only exist because you read this blog and I let you write comments. Now that’s something to think about! Or, perhaps I have already created some memorable stories in my past so that interesting people will come to life and brighten up my life. You know, like in an old episode of Twilight Zone. If only life were that easy!

You do not exist. You are the sole creation of this bogger!

Rock, paper, scissors

Rock, Paper, Scissors

You may think that rock, paper, scissors is only a child’s game, but they actually have a world championship in which contestants from all over the world compete. Well, that got me to thinking about the game. This is a game for all ages. The entire family can play. There’s no equipment to buy. The rules are simple and cheating is impossible. Chances are no one will get hurt while playing, unless college students play it as a drinking game. The game is easy to play. Everyone forms a circle and makes a fist that is raised and lowered three times. On the third downward stroke, the hand must form one of three things: Rock (fist), Paper (hand held open with palm down), or Scissors (index and middle fingers mimicking a pair of scissors). Rock breaks Scissors. Paper covers Rock. Scissors cut Paper. The beauty of this game is that no one player has an unfair advantage. Size doesn’t matter. Neither does gender or speed. Not even skill or luck! Everyone has a shot at winning. Each item, is a potential winner or loser. Beauty, eh? It’s a great game for choosing who goes first for another game.

Well, we are like each of those items. We, too, possess this duality that coincides beautifully with the yin and yang symbol. We are a rock in that sometimes we must be strong and forceful, but that won’t always work for us because someone who becomes paper will defeat us. So we have to choose what we become carefully. Unlike the game in which chance plays a huge part because we don’t know what the other player(s) will show, in real life we can adapt to the situation and use the appropriate object. We must constantly change accordingly. Anyone who consistently uses one object will surely fail. We must constantly evaluate our surroundings and adapt. Rock, paper, scissors is the perfect metaphor for life.

Rock! No, wait! I meant paper. No, I mean scissors!