Delightful Weekend

February 8, 2010

I’m not a regular New Orleans Saints’ fan. However, whenever my Steelers fail to make it to the championship game, I like to root for the teams that have never been to the Super Bowl, or have been there but never won it.

Thus, the Saints were my team last night… and they done good!

Saturday night was a different story. I was surrounded by a team of grandchildren.

Emma, Dominic, and Anna

Emma, Dominic, and Anna spent the day with Grandma making cookies and candy for Valentines Day. Then it was Grandpa’s turn. Fortunately, the children enjoy Bob the tomato and Larry the cucumber as much as I do.

After reading three or four Veggie Tales books to them, they were off to bed.

My other weekend activity took place at Dogwood Forest – an assisted living home in Gainesville. Our band, Nostalgia had a Saturday afternoon gig and the residents seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. Since I and the other band members simply love what we’re doing, it’s an added bonus when the audience enjoys the music as well.

It’s Monday and I’ve already added a post to my blog. Maybe I’ll be more consistent this week.

Why Richard Chamberlain on February 3rd?

February 3, 2009

Once again I’ve discovered something of interest on the History Channel’s web site.

Fifty years ago today, a plane crash in Iowa might have gone unnoticed were it not for the fame of the passengers who died. Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and the “Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson were on their way to a concert in Minnesota.

Although it wasn’t widely acclaimed as such, many of us believed that the theme from Dr. Kildaire, “Three Stars will Shine Tonight” was a tribute to those three rock and roll stars. That song was released just three years after the plane crash. (Hopefully, the people in that video brought back a few memories for some of my readers. I enjoyed recognizing the likes of Marcus Welby, MD.)

I’m sure I’d heard the story before, but the History Channel’s web site refreshed my memory. The plane was chartered by Buddy Holly for himself and his band, the Crickets, after their tour bus broke down. Evidently, the other two singers were on the same bus and began bargaining with the Crickets to get seats on the plane.

The Big Bopper was suffering from the flu and managed to get one of the Crickets to feel sorry for him. Richie Valens managed to convince another band member to flip a coin for the seat. It’s rather ironic that the guy who lost the coin toss didn’t lose his life.

By the way, the Cricket who gave up his seat to the Big Bopper was none other than Waylon Jennings.

In 1959 I was a mere lad of fifteen, which means I was heavily into rock and roll. My radio was usually tuned to KQV in Pittsburgh and I often listened to those three recording artists. As I recall, my brother had bought a few 45 rpm records of Buddy Holly and the Crickets – “That’ll be the Day” and “Peggy Sue” were two of our favorites.

We all loved to sing along when the Big Bopper began his hit with, “Hello Baby!” And we loved to dance when Ritchie Valens crooned, “Oh, Donna.” So it was a big blow when we lost all three.

While the theme from Dr. Kildaire was only a quasi-tribute to the teen idols, Don McLean’s song, “American Pie” was immediately seen as a open tribute. I tried to find a video with McLean singing the song as we remember it, I had no luck. I’m still not sure why certain recording artists feel the need to try to ‘improve’ upon the original, but, in my opinion, McLean should’ve left well enough alone. In any case, here is what I found.

I never specifically stated why Richard Chamberlain should be connected with February 3rd. But that’s O.K. I never mentioned that the Pittsburgh Steelers won another Super Bowl either.


Since I first wrote this post I remembered another song that was definitely a tribute to the three teen idols. Here it is…

Cheesy Light Fixtures

February 1, 2009
Standard Manufactured Home Fixture

Standard Manufactured Home Fixture


You must admit that is one cheesy light fixture. I’m convinced the manufactured home builders of America got such a great deal on these things that they’ll continue to put them in their homes for the next hundred years.

For the newbies to my blog, I was divorced from my first wife in 1993. I then purchased an acre of land and a single-wide trailer. The land was probably worth more than the trailer, but I loved the location.

I had been living in an apartment, which I hated, and always wanted to live in a rural area. The purchase of the trailer solved both problems. However, I soon discovered there was a litany of things I didn’t like about a trailer.

For example, my single-wide had metal siding. Not being able to afford cable television, I was limited to what my set could receive using rabbit ears. The metal siding limited my selection to zero. Thus, I had to find a simple, inexpensive solution.

I bought a length of antenna wire and some duct tape. I taped the rabbit ears to the railing of my front porch and used the wire to connect the gizmo to my TV. All of a sudden, I was picking up all the Atlanta channels as well as a channel from Rome, Georgia and one from Chattanooga. The pictures weren’t crystal clear and I had to go outside when I switched channels, but it worked reasonably well.

Aside from my television problems, the two things I hated most about my single-wide were the light fixtures and the strips between the wall panels.

Cheaper than mud

Cheaper than mud

Every room of the single-wide had those strips. When we purchased our new home, we were able to eliminate them in most rooms by paying extra for dry wall (‘sheet rock’ in the south).

We had a choice of dining room chandeliers, but otherwise we’d get the cheesy fixtures in every room. We avoided that to some extent by getting ceiling fans in most rooms.

The only cheesy fixtures left were the ones in the bathrooms, one in the kitchen, and one in the hallway.

Here’s what we put in the bathrooms – although I would’ve never given a thought to replacing any of them had we not been in Home Depot and Lowes looking at kitchen cabinets and flooring.

Nicer and brighter

Nicer and brighter

Don’t it always seem that one thing easily leads to another. That’s how I ended up having to repair the dish washer. But that’s a story for another time.


Did I mention that I’m a Steelers fan living in the Steelers Nation that covers most of the U.S. and many other countries?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go paint my face and start waving my Terrible Towel.

Giddy it is!

January 19, 2009
Creativity - Pittsburgh Style

Creativity - Pittsburgh Style

Believe it or not, a friend sent me the above photo last Wednesday. I wasn’t as confident as the person who created that computer enhanced image. In fact, my confidence didn’t surface until Roethlisberger took a knee to end the game.

I vaguely remember the first time the Steelers earned a berth in the Super Bowl. I know I had to have been far more excited. I think it’s human nature to get really excited the first time we experience anything good. After that, it’s still enjoyable, just not quite the same.

The only thing that makes this year’s success more meaningful is the fact that all the football experts agreed at the beginning of the season that Pittsburgh had the toughest schedule in the league. When you look at the teams in the playoffs, there were only a few that Pittsburgh did not face during the regular season.

The Arizona Cardinals are one of those teams. However, during the next two weeks the sports channels will be filled with stories outlining the connections between the two teams.

I’ve been pulling for the Cardinals ever since they drafted Larry Fitzgerald out of the University of Pittsburgh. I’ve also wanted to see Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm do well.  Whisenhunt played his college ball at Georgia Tech and Grimm was another Pitt player.

While I have lots of reasons to want to see the Cardinals do well, they are out-weighed by my loyalty to the city of my birth… the City of Bridges… Old Smokey… Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

On February 1st, I’ll be pulling for Mike Tomlin, Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Willie Parker, Troy Polamalu, and the rest of the crew.

You can take the boy out of Western Pennsylvania, but you can’t take Western Pennsylvania out of the boy… even if he is a senior citizen.

Here we go Steelers

January 18, 2009

Not much to say today. I’m a bit nervous. If my Steelers can beat Baltimore for the third time this year, they’ll return to the Super Bowl.

Thus, tomorrow’s post will be either a giddy celebration or a tear-filled lament.

Roller Coaster Weekend

January 12, 2009

I should be overjoyed; my beloved Steelers won yesterday and will be playing for the AFC championship next week. One more victory and they’ll be playing in the Super Bowl again.

Unfortunately, on Saturday I received word that one of my high school classmates recently passed away. Jim Mazurek was a good friend… and I’ve owed him a visit for several years. That’s a debt I’ll not be able to repay during this lifetime.

Jim and I met at Langley High School in Pittsburgh. Our homes were several miles apart, so until we both had our driver’s licenses, our friendship was confined to school activities.

Graduation Day 1962

Graduation Day 1962

We had many mutual friends. One, in particular, reminds me of what a wild and crazy guy Maz was. Stanley Swartz was one of the first in our class to get his driver’s license. His father let him drive a rather large station wagon, and we usually managed to get him to drive us home after school.

Stanley lived within blocks of me, so he’d usually drop Maz and a couple of other guys off before heading toward our homes.

The route between the school and Windgap – the area where Maz lived – included a long hill with a couple of turns. As many foolish teenagers are wont to do, anyone driving down that hill was challenged to put the transmission in neutral and let gravity do its thing. The test of the driver’s ‘manhood’ was based on how long he could avoid hitting the brake pedal.

Stanley usually did pretty well, but one day Maz decided to add a degree of difficulty to the feat. He found a pair of vice-grips on the floor of the back seat and promptly clamped them to Stanley’s ear lobe. Everyone but Stanley thought it was hilarious. I’m not sure which made him angrier – the pain or the need to hit the brakes before he was ready to slow down.

After graduation, Jim Mazurek was off to Penn State and I went off to Edinboro. Whenever we were home, we’d get together to play basketball or go bowling, or something. Then, during the summer following our freshman year, he decided to join the Army. He and Steve Kozak had signed up for the ‘buddy’ plan. I think they were together for a day or two before the Army decided their paths needed to go in different directions.

At some point I got word that Jim was sent to Vietnam. After that, I heard nothing. Eventually, I came to believe that Jim Mazurek had given his life for his country. Little did I know!

At our twenty-fifth class reunion, I was chatting with an old classmate when I noticed Maz walking into the room. That may have been the first time I ever hugged a man other than my father. I was elated that he was alive. I insisted he fill me in on what he’d been doing for the last twenty something years.

His story: he served a tour of duty in Vietnam and was sent to a base in the Carolinas to await his discharge. Shortly after arriving back in the states, he and a buddy (who had fought in Vietnam with him) went out to get a beer. Jim was informed by the bartender that his friend could not be served in the ‘whites only’ establishment.

Jim got so angry at the injustice that he signed up for another tour of duty in Vietnam.

When he finally returned to the U.S., his parents had moved to Maryland and he decided to head out west. He wound up in Las Vegas and opened a garage that specialized in repairing Mazdas.

About a year or so after the reunion I had a business trip to Los Angeles. I stopped in Vegas on the way back to Georgia and spent a few days with Jim and his wife, Yvonne.

A year or so later, he repaid the visit. In a couple of more years, he and Yvonne came to see us again. That’s why I’ve owed him a visit!

If I’m not mistaken, Jim is the twenty-seventh member of our class who has passed away. I’m still having trouble accepting the fact that he’s gone. I keep hoping that I’ll get an email from him quoting Mark Twain who once said, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Once more I’m reminded that life is a terminal illness. More importantly, I’m reminded that I shouldn’t put things off figuring I have lots of time.

I know I’ve included a Billy Dean song in a previous post, but his “Only Here for a Little While” is as apropos now as ever.