Boomer Twilight

Mostly Humorous Observations of Most Anything, with a Boomer Slant

Posts Tagged ‘History

1968 – Forty Years Ago; 20 Per Eye

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In 1968 I was a skinny, pimple-faced High School Senior. My biggest challenges were refraining from squeezing my zits and soiling my undies in my sleep. Worrying about economics, paying bills, who was in charge of the world, or any of those things took a back seat to fantasizing about my Business teacher, Miss Hopkins, and her Tabu perfume, and selling shoes at Bakers in Iverson Mall. But, the whole country was going crazy; I just didn’t think about it.

It has been argued that 1968 was the year that changed everything. Lyndon Johnson grew frustrated with the war in Vietnam and decided not to seek reelection. He had become President upon the death of John Kennedy, and then won election by beating a lame opponent, Barry Goldwater. But, now he wanted out. The country was being torn apart by opposition to a war that was none of our business. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. After the death of MLK, the cities erupted in riots. Whole city blocks were burned to the ground.  Richard Nixon was elected to his first term as President, only to resign the office amid scandal five years later.  O. J. Simpson won the Heisman Trophy.

It’s easy to say today that everyone was just out of their minds back then, but unless you were there you can’t know. I was there, but oblivious, so how can anyone not subjected to it really understand? There are news accounts and historical records, but the atmosphere is not in the records. It was surreal. I remember my mother waking me by yelling upstairs to my attic apartment that Bobby Kennedy had been killed. All that went through my mind was that one day five years before, where the only thing on television was the funeral of John Kennedy. Was I going to miss Mayberry R.F.D.? Seriously though, it was shocking. How could I understand what was happening? My graduation was in just a couple of days, and that was heavy on my mind.

The Tet Offensive had just taken place in January. We watched the television reports, while my parents worried I would be drafted. I worried, too. Everyone was expected to wave a flag and declare love for America, but the young people could not figure out why we were in Souteast Asia. We were being thrown to the dogs for the sake of stopping Communist aggression. Or, so the story went. No one wanted to call it a Civil War.

But, that’s all in the past. We made a mistake and lost a lot of lives as a result. I just didn’t want to be one of them. John Prine wrote a great song, “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.” It was written in 1971, but I always loved the picture it painted. Honestly, I don’t really care what your feeling may be for that period of time, but while I was there, that’s how I felt. When the media was hammering Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for avoiding the draft, I sat back and held my tongue, because I understood. No one really wanted to go.

It’s easy to go to war when you can do it by proxy. Your life is safe if someone else is doing the fighting. Soldiers lose an arm, a leg, an eye, a life, a family, but it’s all OK, if it is them and not us. Politicians wave their arms high and scream “bloody murder,” but it is not them who are suffering. They don’t walk around with a limp, or an eye patch, or scooting around in a wheel chair. Yeah, they send their kids, but they send their kids. Not them. They’re safe. You can label me Liberal or whatever, but the fact of the matter is, war kills. It isn’t good for anyone. Everyone suffers.

As a society, we have to find a way to avoid war. If we are attacked, we have to react. Afghanistan made sense because that was the haven of Al-Qaeda, and they struck first. Iraq was vengeance; getting even for the past. We are there now, and have to tough it out. In the future we have to think a little more about jumping in the fray.

If forty years of history taught us anything, I would be surprised. We never seem to learn. When it comes to economic gains over death, we accept death as a consequence. As long as it’s not our death. Throw a soldier into the heat, and he’ll take it. But, we’re running out of soldiers. In 1968 we had the draft, which meant the soldier had no choice. He had to go. Today, there is no draft, and with what is occurring at the present time, fewer men and women are opting to join. They don’t want to die any more than the politicians who have chosen their fate.

With that being said (ha ha), we need to change the future.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

P.S. Check out the videos for 1968

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November 8, 2008 at 9:14 pm

Today’s Gladiators – Professional Football Players

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I love the NFL. There’s nothing more exciting to me. After the Super Bowl, I count the days until the Draft, followed by off-season training sessions, then pre-season and the new season. I fear dying before I get enough. It is the coolest and most anticipated thing in my life. When the season starts I am in 7th Heaven. “Lord, I thank you for the NFL.” Give me football on my death bed.

Millions of Americans and people all over the world love the sport. Players sacrifice their bodies and minds for our enjoyment. Billions of dollars are at stake. Players undergo sugeries we have to research on the Internet to understand. A lateral this and a medial lateral that is music to our ears. Living beyond fifty-years-old for an offensive lineman is a luxury, but who cares? We have our sport. Today’s Gladiators provide our entertainment and milk our weaknesses by proxy.

The NFL is a mutli-billion dollar industry. Our stadiums are like the Roman Coliseums. The players are shoved out on the field and we hope to catch a violent hit or two. We are just missing the lions and other beasts tearing flesh from the fighters. If it wasn’t moralistically-challenged, the creatures would play a part. Like the Gladiators, football players are shown the exit door once they have suffered enough injuries or grown too old to be of use to a team (although a Gladiator’s death ended their careers). Winning is everything, and job security is short-lived.

In virtually every sport there is the hope of tragedy. With Nascar, we are waiting for the fiery crash. In hockey we love the fight, where a couple of teeth are knocked out. A knockout in boxing brings with it a cheer from the fans, and tears from the loser’s family. Baseball brawls, with the dugouts emptying on the field are particularly exciting; the more players involved, the more newsworthy the event. An NBA player entering the stands to punch a fan in the mouth gives us goose bumps. Soccer hooligans are damned-near idols in some countries; tearing down fences and trampling spectators. A near-death collision in the NFL is spectacular. We thrive on the violence. Am I wrong?

Every year the NFL winner comes down to which team is the healthiest. When key players are hurt, the whole complexion of a team changes. How many of you relish the thought of your team’s biggest rival losing a player who makes a difference? I’m happy that Tony Romo is hurt, or T. O. is going through a meltdown. It helps the Redskins’ chances. And you are thinking the same thing with regard to the opponent of whichever team you cherish. The most anticipated statistics on Friday are the injury reports.

I’m not apologizing. At times I feel sort of bad hearing the news someone has broken a limb or suffered a season-ending injury that can help my team. But, I don’t feel that bad. If they don’t die, my conscience is off the hook.

We are already finished with half of the season. It will be over soon, and I have to begin the cycle again. Drool is running out the side of my mouth. I only have a couple of months left apologizing to my wife for ignoring her and letting the grass grow too long because it rained on Saturday. Sunday is my domain.

I always justify my love of the NFL by narrowing it down to the fact it is only 16 games, 3 hours each, which really only involves 48 hours. Two days out of 365; unless the Redskins make the playoffs. The math is what it is. Some wives don’t really get it, unless they are into the sport, too. I guess it’s because I watch the other games that can affect the Redskins’ season; crossing my fingers with the hope someone gets hurt.

Hail to the Redskins!!

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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October 28, 2008 at 2:11 pm

If You Met God, What Would You Say?

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I’m not a particularly devout person. I do believe there is a purity everyone seeks in whatever religious vehicle they may travel. All beliefs seem to have a “Golden Rule” which basically states the same thing in their language, and it always seems to come down to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” translated for convenience.

For the sake of this post, let’s assume everyone reading has a belief in a Supreme Being of your choosing, and that deity determines how you will spend the after-life. The fantasy of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates will be used as the scenario for entry into the everlasting existence.

So, you have died, and are waiting outside the gates wanting to meet with God, and the Doorman, St. Peter, encounters you to show your identity to check against the guest list and his/her question is, “Tell me why you deserve an audience with God?” How would you answer? What qualifies us to be considered pure? Wars are fought in the name of promoting religion, which seems to me hypocritical. I would think that someone leading a good pious life is honest, peaceful, caring, sharing, etc. Not destroying people so they can convince them to go in the right direction. Once “sinners” have been eliminated, how can they learn? They’re dead.

I’m not trying to pick on any one religion for using violence to push their views. Throughout history every organized belief has been guilty. The social mores of the era dictated what was acceptable punishment. How many people were killed because they did not believe a particular teaching? It’s not just war (The Crusades and 9-11), but torture (The Inquisition or Salem Witch Trials) and the Spanish Conquest of the New World (aka the American Holocaust), which probably qualifies as both war and torture in the cruelest demonstration of soul saving. I’m not sure anyone can give the right answer at the Pearly Gates. It depends on the interpretation of what is good.

Your answer to St. Peter the Bouncer could be, “I’ve been good.” That might allow you to cross the rope. Then you meet God and he/she looks you in the eye and asks, “What is good?” You stumble for an answer and mutter something like, “I’ve done unto others as I would have them do unto me.”

What does that mean? Did you give a dollar to a beggar? Did you help an old lady across the street? Did you give honest answers on your tax return with regard to charitable giving? Did you wave with a kind, rather than obscene, gesture at a person in a vehicle who cut you off? Did you give back the $5.00 the bank teller accidentally gave you over what you requested? Did you alert the clerk at the grocery store you had a twelve pack of sodas in the under bottom of the cart he/she overlooked? What is good? I’m asking you because I don’t know.

Is the answer in the “Good Book?” Which book is the “Good Book?” Every religion has one, and they all consider theirs to be the right one. I have never met a Gideon, but they have been to every hotel in the USA. You would think I would have met a Gideon at some point. Maybe they’re like the Tooth Fairy, sneaking into hotel rooms just before or after the cleaning people to stick the “Good Book” in a drawer.

Is being “good” going to your House of Worship on a regular basis? Is it confessing your sins? Michael Corleone in Godfather 3 confessed to having his brother killed, but it seems to me confessing did not make the act a “good” thing. I just don’t think professional Hit Men get through the gates just because they “got it out of their system” by telling the Priest. Maybe it is OK if it’s just one or two killings, as long as there is a long period of time between the deaths and the killer’s demise, but I can’t be sure because I’m not up on the rules. My guess is God would be somewhat less forgiving for such a blatant violation of one of the Commandments.

It’s puzzling because so many people have been killed in the name of religion that perhaps it is alright, if done properly. If the killing is organized and sanctioned, then it must be “good.” The “eye for an eye” thing seems reasonable to me. I support the death penalty. Am I wrong for doing so?

Of course, there is no right or wrong answer to the question of “What is good?” I’m sure God has a chart of correct responses that allow us to pass into eternity. My concern is under pressure I may not give the right one.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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October 20, 2008 at 10:14 pm

3:10 to Yuma – A Movie Review

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Being born in 1950 has at least one benefit. Many of you reading this think “that’s a long time ago, and what could be good about being that old?” Well, it gave me an appreciation of the western movie.

In 1950 the Wild West had only been tamed for about 35 years. The last stage robbery took place in 1916 and Wyatt Earp died in 1929. Forty years ago from this year, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated, so thirty-five years in perspective doesn’t seem so long ago.

Some of the best TV shows in the 50s and 60s were Westerns. We had Wyatt Earp, Cheyenne, The Rebel, Bonanza, Rifleman, Sugarfoot, Zorro, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, The Texan, Bat Masterson, Maverick, The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Have Gun Will Travel, Big Valley, High Chaparral, Wagon Train, Death Valley Days, The Virginian, Wanted Dead or Alive, etc. I think you get my point; there were a lot of shows devoted to Cowboys. Go to this website for an extensive listing.

In 3:10 to Yuma the cast gets my attention. I have enjoyed monitoring the career of Christian Bale. He was the kid in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, and now he’s the newest Batman. If you had the pleasure of seeing his performance in The New World, you will most likely agree he is very good. He’s “movin’ on up” and it’s based on talent. In this movie he is great as Dan Evans, a rancher who is down on his luck. An Oscar for some performance is probably in his future.

Of course, Russell Crowe is terrific as the bad guy, Ben Wade. Mr. Crowe gets a lot of flack from the press for his “bad boy” ways, but his performance in virtually every movie he makes appears Oscar worthy. Throwing telephones at hotel employees is a bit much, but artists are often somewhat crazed (at least he didn’t cut off one of his ears). By the way, he was born in New Zealand, not Australia.

In my opinion (this is my review) the standout actor in 3:10 to Yuma is Ben Foster. You may have seen him in Boston Public as Max Warner or in the awesome HBO series Six Feet Under as Russell Corwin. In this movie he plays a really creepy, but slick killer, Charlie Prince, and he wears it so well.

Those of you who are familiar with Easy Rider know Peter Fonda, who is in this, too. He’s the son of Henry Fonda and brother of Jane, and even though he has a long career in films, most of which I have enjoyed, I think his greatest accomplishment is the fathering of Bridget. During the 90s she was the “It Girl” in my mind, and her greatest performances for me were in Point of No Return and Singles.

What I liked most about 3:10 to Yuma is the respect Russell Crowe shows for Christian Bale. Russell sees a father trying to impress his son, and willing to take on a job that can only lead to unfortunate circumstances. Bale is part of a group bringing Crowe to the town of Contention on behalf of the railroad he has been robbing, to be transported on the 3:10 train to Yuma for his trial. Bale is paid $200 to risk his life. All along the trail, Crowe’s gang, led by Ben Foster is creating havoc for the group, but Bale is committed to the task, regardless.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t spoil it for you by revealing what happens. This was my second viewing, and I won’t hesitate to watch it again. If you like westerns, lots of action and very good acting, check it out. Our library has it on the shelf for free. Yours might, too.

“Saddle up, Pardner.”

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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October 12, 2008 at 12:40 am

With That Being Said . . . .

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OK, I have a bone to pick with a current trend in the English language. When did “That being said,” “With that said,” “Having said that,” “That said,” “With that being said,” and so on become so common? I don’t remember them being used several years ago. Now everyone is saying them, writing them, belching them, rapping them, and pissing me off by using them (but, not quite as much as Grief Counselors). Maybe they’re proper, but I don‘t care. They don’t really mean anything. It’s kind of like saying, “Hey moron, did you get that? I said it, and I’ll tell you I said it just in case you don’t know I said it. So, listen up and let me tell you I said it because I like to repeat myself.”

On ESPN Sean Salisbury used them about every third sentence. Fortunately he’s no longer working on ESPN. He stunk, anyway. All of his time was spent screaming at John Clayton and calling him a Nerd in thirty different ways (I think he had a problem with the idea John didn’t play football). Another abuser is Stephen A. Smith, whose ridiculous rants are particularly annoying, with or without “That being said.” He still does some discussion of the NBA, but I don’t care about the NBA, and can avoid his nonsense. Every time I watch a FOX NFL game, featuring Troy Aikman, I notice he uses “Having said that” quite a lot. I like Troy, but the use of the phrase has to go. He always gets the NFC Game of the Week, so it’s hard to avoid Troy if you like football.

Perhaps it is correct English; I’m really not sure. What bothers me is how they have become so vogue. They are certainly overused by the media. Enough that it really gets on my nerves. The use of “For sure” was the same way a couple of decades ago. Eventually it went away. I’m concerned “With that being said” is so ingrained it may take a century or two to become archaic.

If you use “That being said” quite a lot, all I can say is you are a follower. You’ve heard it so much you are regurgitating it without even knowing. I forgive you, because society has pummeled you so much “With that being said,” you probably don’t even realize you’re a phrase junkie. Maybe there is something in our drinking water forcing our lemming behavior.

I like the evolution of language. The writings of Chaucer and Shakespeare seem very strange to us today. We need an interpreter to understand the English that was contemporary during their time. College courses and entire curriculums are devoted to studying their words, with ongoing debates about their meaning. At the time those words were written they were understood by the lowliest of peasants as well as the upper crust of society. The Intelligentsia of today cannot come to terms with what exactly was meant back then. When was the last time you watched a Shakespeare movie or play and did not scratch your head just a few times during the performance?

I watch a lot of movies; history, action, drama, comedy, westerns, sci-fi, whatever. I don’t recall in any of them, regardless of the time period being depicted, “With that being said,” “That said,” “Having said that,” “With that said,” or “That being said,” ever uttered by any of the characters. It seems writers of dialogue don’t feel a need for the meaningless words among the thousands in their screenplays (they’re just a little busy picking the proper profanities for the scenes). The overuse seems to be a staple of today’s media, commentators and politicians.

Yeah, I like the evolution of our language. But, the ride on the “With that being said,” train is becoming a bit much. Eventually the phrase will grow old and lose its glamour. Society will replace it with something else that will be spewed over and over and over to ad nauseum. That’s what we do. We run things into the ground, causing idiots like me to moan and groan about it. I just hope it goes away before I die. It will probably take too long, so my gravestone will convey my displeasure.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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October 4, 2008 at 7:11 am

O Phineas, Phineas, Wherefore Art Thou Phineas?

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I’m probably going to Hell, be struck by lightning, or meet a horrible end for this post, but the subject is too freakish for me to avoid. I just can’t help myself.

It would have been interesting to know Phineas Taylor Barnum. Probably every birthday party he gave for his kids included clowns, dwarf piñatas, lots of celebration, and just a damned good time. He was involved in a few nefarious activities, including running numbers, hoaxes and displaying odd humans, referred to as “Freaks, ” and he was considered by many people of his time to be a scoundrel. If you’ve ever attended the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, you are guilty of being an enabler. Phineas started it, and you bought tickets. I took my kids when they were young, but they spent the whole show counting the number of times the elephants pooped. We didn’t have a chance to see Freaks.

Some of you may be thinking you are “Holier than Thou” and that you look the other way when you see an unusually-figured person (mimes don’t count), but don’t kid yourself and don’t kid me. We all like to see strange things. We pretend not to notice, but the corner of our eye gets stretched as far as possible and at any opportunity, we peek. When was the last time you were stuck in traffic, and the only reason for the delay was rubber-necking? I know you looked. Don’t be ashamed. It’s acceptable to gaze. That’s how Barnum grew rich. He was the first Millionaire Showman. And if it makes you feel any better, the people who were displaying their oddities and/or deformities referred to themselves as “Freaks.” So, you’re off the hook for the curiosity or use of the word.

When I was a kid, my favorite school field trip was to the Medical Museum where we saw fetuses in jars, photos of disfigurements, skeletons, and the Elephantiasis leg (there was a rumor about John Dillinger’s wee wee, but I never saw it). Little did I know at the time that Elephantiasis is caused by a parasitic worm (again with the parasites, Bake) and it demonstrates how vulnerable we are to nature’s invasive activities that cause unwarranted agony.

I recently became aware of the Treeman of Indonesia, aka Dede. This story has been circulating for some time, but it just caught my attention about a month ago (maybe I’ve been “living in a tree or under a log”). Wow! This guy is messed up. And from a human papillomavirus (HPV). He grows these wood-like warts all over his body. His hands and feet resemble tree branches and he has a morbid fear of termites, beavers, woodpeckers and squirrels. The sad thing is his wife left him and he was fired from his job. I assume he was sacked because he couldn’t use his hands or feet and it was impossible to perform any normal task (I suppose they don’t have ADA protection in Indonesia). His wife was probably worried about splinters. Yet, he likes to smoke cigarettes. If I were him, no open flames would get anywhere near me.

There is a fellow in Indonesia, Hani Suwanto (their P. T. Barnum), who along with his assistant, Boy, display Dede and several other people with physical deformities known as the Sadaluk Clan. The Clan includes Dede, Bubble Man and Nose Man as featured performers. Hani thinks of himself more as Walt Disney, with a goal of 100 of these people under one roof. In his mind he is providing a social service for the “performers” who have no other opportunity for income. Before you feel aghast at the exploitation, be aware Dede is OK with it. It’s the only way he can make a living. The Welfare System in Indonesia is not quite as generous as here, so Dede has to work somehow to feed himself and his children, and the circus is the only willing employer. If Barnum was alive today, Dede would be his featured act and he would probably have Huang Chuancai open the show for him.

Alright, I’ve gotten my cheap laughs and perhaps freaked you out just a bit with the pictures displayed here. Click on some of the links (especially Freaks) and feed your amazement. But, the purpose is not really for amusement. I’m fascinated by how unforgiving nature can be. The more we mess around with it the nastier it can get.

The next time you see an abnormal human, think about the suffering they must be experiencing and how fortunate you are to be spared the misery. Working in a circus might pay the bills, but I’m sure it’s not the occupation they had in mind.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Who’s on the Marlow, the Marlow?

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In August of 1973 I began attending Prince George’s Community College, while living in Imperial Gardens Apartments in Suitland, MD. After being discharged from the Air Force in February, I had been through an attempt to sell pots and pans and one season of driving a Good Humor truck. Now it was time to start working on an education. After several months of growing my hair and beard, my Hippie Wannabe look was beginning to take form. You may recall in my Good Humor post I mentioned how several of the Ice Cream Men drove a taxi in the off season. I was glad they directed me to this particular occupation. Since I was also attending summer classes, there would be no further Ice Cream Man duties. Hacking was my immediate future until graduation.

Cab driving proved to be rather lucrative. The Government paid me $388 a month on the G. I. Bill to be a full-time student, and I rented a cab on the weekends from the Bluebird/Yellow/Suburban Cab Company in Marlow Heights, netting between $150 – $200. Working on New Year’s Eve was usually worth an additional $100 – $150 for the night. I was averaging over $1,000 a month, tax free (please don’t tell Uncle Sam), which was a tidy sum back then. It was enough to support my wife and two tots (aged 1 and almost 3), and allowed for the occasional bottle of Boone’s Farm, Bali Hai, Ripple, or a six pack of Black Label. Whenever school was closed for a holiday or snow emergency, I rented a hack and spent the day driving, and studying on the cab stand during slow periods. It was the ultimate temporary profession.

Most of you probably have in your mind the stereotype of the taxi drivers in most cities, who can’t speak English, or feign misunderstanding to drive you out of the way, and run up the meter. In 1973, the drivers were primarily American who spoke and understood English. But, in defense of today’s cabbies, we weren’t getting constantly mugged and ripped off by passengers, as seems to be so prevalent now. Sure, there was the occasional robbery and the passenger who jumped out without paying, but not to the extent it is today. Those most desperate for work tend to gravitate toward the danger and hassle, because no one else will do it. Cut the drivers a break when criticizing their lack of language skills, if you don’t mind. You’re lucky they are there when you need the ride.

“Who’s on the Marlow, the Marlow?” That’s the call from the dispatcher over the two-way radio putting out a job in the Marlow Heights section. How it worked was the first cab in line sitting on the Marlow Heights stand, located in front of the Giant Food/Steak in a Sack in the Marlow Heights Shopping Center, was given the job. Why the phrase was uttered twice, I’ll never know. Maybe it was to be sure we heard him. If there was no cab on the stand, the dispatcher called “Marlow 1st,” and any driver who was empty in section could bid on the job. The one closest to the fare would get it. “Marlow 2nd” was the next call if no one was empty in section. In this case, the taxi had to be in Marlow, dropping someone off or out of section empty. The closest to the location of the passenger won. Then if it went to “Marlow, Marlow,” which was the final call, and the first driver to bid got the fare.

Recently I met with some folks who grew up in Marlow Heights. The website in the highlighted link is run by Chuck Fraley. He organizes get-togethers of people who were youngsters in the area during the 60s and 70s. I discovered Chuck’s site while doing research for my Blog, and I’m glad I did. The group met at the Steak in a Sack for a terrific meal that brought back memories of the many sandwiches (basically a steak and cheese in a pita) I ate during my tenure as a cabbie from 1973 – 1976. Chuck was all “retroed-out” in his Banlon shirt, Macs and Chucks with the colored shoe laces. He really works to “Keep the Memories Alive!”

We had several taxi stands in the area. There was the one at the Prince George’s Motel, called “The PG,” which was across the street from Iverson Mall, where I sold shoes at Baker’s in 1967. We had a stand in Suitland at the Scot’s gas station (I forget what it was called). In Temple Hills we were on a dirt lot at the corner of Brinkley and Temple Hills Road, called (now stick with me on this), “The Dirt.” Those clever guys. Then there was the stand outside Andrews Air Force Base at the Ramada Inn called (sing in unison), “The Ramada.” By far the busiest stand was The Marlow. After moving to Greenbelt in 1975, I worked out of the Hyattsville office, and my favorite stand was at the Little Tavern on Route 1, right outside the University of Maryland campus (I was a Maryland student at this point). The reason I liked that location so much was not just because of the great little burgers, but its name. It was called “The Ritz.” Someone had a sense of humor in naming that one.

Most people these days are moaning and groaning about the price of gasoline; how it’s cutting into their budgets, and causing them to forego the extra Starbucks coffee or chocolate bar, just to keep their heads above water. Try having no gas when you are driving for a living. On October 17, 1973, just a couple of months after I started hacking, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to get even with the Western world for their support of Israel. Their plan to use oil as a weapon, by making it difficult to obtain, was secretly negotiated in August, in preparation of Egypt and Syria’s united assault of Israel. Both countries launched their attack on October 6th (Yom Kippur), and it was the beginning of the fourth Arab-Israeli war.

Fine and dandy for them, but my family had to eat and the Oil Embargo was not a welcome addition to my lifestyle. Sitting in line waiting for gas, and running out of gas while waiting, was not a particular thrill. It was irritating. In one instance, I was lucky enough to get a big fare going to Glen Burnie. The good news was I got a lot of cash for the trip. The bad news was I ended up hitchhiking, holding an empty Clorox container (it was in the trunk in case of an emergency), to get to a station and wait in line, so I could fill up the jug and get back to my taxi, with just enough gas to find another line that I could join and eventually fill up the car. Hitching a ride with long hair and a beard (two more months of growth), wearing jeans, Chuck Taylor’s, and my old Air Force fatigue jacket, isn’t a particularly appealing look to passers by. The addition of the Clorox bottle to my ensemble gave some people the impression I was a bum. My Hippie Wannabe look was transformed into Hobo Chique. It was a killer look, and I don’t mean in the sense of hot and sexy, I mean killer in the sense of homicidal. Fortunately a real Hippie stopped in his VW bus and drove me around to get the bottle filled and back to my cab. Kindred Spirits. “Peace, Brother. Groovy.”

One result of the Oil Embargo was the proliferation of self-service islands at gas stations. Although the first self-service station was opened in 1947 by George Urich, they didn’t really catch on. In fact many states banned them due to concerns about the elimination of jobs, and distrust of the inexperienced motorist spraying the ground (and possibly other customers) with petrol or driving away and ripping a hose off the pump. After the crisis that occurred in ’73, and the subsequent spike in gas prices that resulted, stations began offering the choice of full-service at one price and self-service at a lower cost. Still, many states didn’t allow self-service stations, but as we all know, today they are prevalent everywhere except New Jersey and Oregon. Additionally, the many incarnations of forced increased mileage legislation grew out of the Embargo.

Aside from the gas crisis, I enjoyed driving a cab, usually working the night shift because there were fewer drivers to compete with, and fewer old ladies with eight bags of groceries to be lugged to their sixth floor apartment, who only took the cab a few blocks, which meant a low fare, small tip, a lot of time spent, and losing my place in line at the stand. If I did work during the day, I avoided The Marlow, opting to drive around on the edge of several sections at once so I could “stretch my hood” when a job came out. If there was no cab on the stand of a particular section and it went to 1st call, I would make up a location in that section, hoping no other cab could see me. Any time a driver got caught fibbing he was cut off the air for an hour. If I was lucky enough there was no other cab closer to the job, I would get it, which meant I had to hurry, so as not to be discovered. A long delay in picking up a passenger, when I was supposedly nearby, was a dead giveaway. But, we could always use the excuse we had a bathroom emergency on the way.

Marlow Heights is fairly close to Andrews Air Force Base. Andrews is where Air Force One, the plane used by the President, is housed. There was always a “Press” plane as part of the entourage whenever the President went on trips. Although there were several reporters privileged enough to accompany the President on Air Force One, most of them flew on the Press plane. And, many of them ordered taxi service to get them into Washington and Northern Virginia once their plane landed. Our dispatcher would give us notification that several cabs would be needed in the Andrews section, so those who wanted the fares would go and sit on The Ramada at the appropriate time in anticipation of a pretty decent trip. The passengers were usually interesting, talkative (after drinking on the plane) and tipped well. I had the pleasure of carrying Connie Chung, Pierre Salinger and Garry Trudeau on separate occasions.

But, the best part of driving a hack was practicing my “Chicken Call.” There was a driver whose last name was Abel. I forget his first name because they always just called him Abel. He was a full-time cabbie who worked during the morning hours to make enough money to go to the racetrack in the afternoon and bet on the horses. There were several guys who drove to bet. Then after the races were over, if they lost they’d come back out on the street and work several hours, or if they won they wold take the rest of the day off. Abel was kind of a cut-up and the dispatchers liked him. My task was to cackle like a chicken over the radio, and I am very good. What was so much fun about the “Chicken Call” was the dispatcher always blamed Abel. My original intention was just to cluck for fun, but when they started yelling at Abel, it became a pretty good game. Sometimes I would continue on until the dispatcher was irritated to the point of threatening to cut Abel off the air. And Abel wasn’t even working. We had different dispatchers at different times, and they always blamed Abel. I got a real chuckle out of it, and it beat studying while sitting on a stand.

I often think about what it would be like to drive a cab today, but I’m sure it would not be as entertaining as then. I’m not even sure Abel is still alive, but if I were ever to cross his path again, I’d confess to the “Chicken Call,” just to see his expression.

“Who’s on the Coop, the Coop?”

With Love,

Bake My Fish