Freak Zone

Now into some twisty fifty mile an hour curves, the traffic breaks up. Semis in the slow lane Jake braking and a few hot shots zipping by- way over the speed limit- then cutting into slack spots before doing the same move again. It’s the law in Colorado. Fast lane is only to pass. Also, if a vehicle is obviously stopped on the side of the road, State law says you have to get over to the left. Mile after mile of smoothed out, red-streaked rock formations everywhere since the road drops you two thousand feet in about five miles. Coming out of a tunnel into bright sunlight, Rick spots the red sportscar that had the truck from hell on its ass. In a long sweeping left banked curve, I too see her. She’s tucked in between two semis like a chick between a hen and a rooster.

I pass, on the right is our former enemy. We look down from way higher in Tegan’s Dumptruck. She just looks straight ahead. The psycho with the twin flat beds is nowhere in sight. This gal wasn’t chancing it. She was staying right where she was, thank you very much. After a few miles we forget all about her.

Every one worth a damn in Colorado drives a Dodge pickup of some sort. New ones- or close to it. Flat beds, set up for towing fifth wheel horse and stock trailers, service bodies. The big grills and frame make the three quarter tons look like three ton jobs. I’m a Dodge man to the core, but these new Dodges are half tons on steroids. Pull any new pickup into a materials yard and start loading scoops of gravel with a short bucket loader. On any of them a real ton of material will have it looking just like a great Dane looks hunched bent over taking a dump on a lawn. Driving said loader for Jessie, first owner of the Acton hardware, I witnessed many a sad faced owner frantically shoveling sand or gravel out of his bed to get the shocks off the overloads.

I’m at the Boulder DMV with my son-in-law and Scout, my four year old granddaughter. She’s a big deal. A six grandson streak was finally broken. As Jason, Scout’s dad, waits his turn the man about four people ahead of him is heard to say, “I’ll be back in two minutes!” I’m sitting down in one of two dozen wood chairs that line one wall. Scout and I watch the man go past a bunch of busy windows then past the security guard and out the double glass doors. As soon as the doors closed everyone had something to say about what had just gone down. This buzz-headed, inked up bozo in his late twenties, has just slunk out in his low slung shorts and flip flops leaving a kid in a removable car seat on the DMV desk. Hey, it’s Boulder. The license gals have wooden desks you sit down in front of. Pretty laid back. Not this laid back though. You leave your kid? An infant? It was pretty damn funny what everyone in line had to say about it.

This chubby black gal next to us about three chairs over breaks the ice. “You have to be kidding me. Is this dude a friend of yours?” Directed at the fifty or so Latin looking woman wearing a nice shirt and sweater circa 1980’s. Looking dazed at the front doors then scanning everyone staring at her from the closest lines and chairs behind them she pops right out of her daze to defend herself. To anyone who wanted to listen, CLERK: “I’ve a good mind to have the man arrested. I’ve never seen such behavior in 21 years of working here!” OK, she’s now off the hook. The outrage pours out in machine gun burst from all over the room. Even the clerks on each side of her and the people being helped get some shots in.

This cowboy had a couple of good ones. Since he was about six four and three hundred pounds, he could say any damn thing he wanted. In this atmosphere, he had a lot of latitude anyhow. COWBOY: “Were all thinkin’ it. Poor white trash has now reached a new low point!” Now two women approach the baby. One spins the car seat around and tilts it. A cute little white trash baby is asleep. It has a tiny, too-small shirt on that barely covers the top of its chubby tummy. Someone had written. WHITE POWER on its tummy with a felt pen mimicking a tattoo. Swell. Many more comments poured out, then the father was spotted coming back into the double doors. He’s smiling and sort of strolling. His flip flops clapping on the linoleum floor as he comes back to his desk and clerk.

He smiles and starts to say something and gets his legs cut off at the knees by a now enraged clerk. CLERK: “I don’t want to hear anything from that mouth of yours except goodbye. If I hear anything different I will not hesitate to have security arrest you!” All said straightforward and well modulated. This zero made the mistake of looking back for some support. No way. Stone cold silence and frozen glares. I glance down at Scout and see she looks concerned. I whisper, “Don’t worry, the guy’s an idiot being taught a lesson!” She smiles and nods her head. Picking up the car seat, he puts on his sunglasses in defiance and leaves the premises.

Our next stop was GREAT! A really old, really big used book store and vinyl record warehouse. My first stop on the Freak express. I buy my grand kid Simon a six foot backed cut out of Boba Fett, the bounty hunter from Star Wars. Simon is the thoughtful insightful sort. Rare for a Fahey spawn. He says a dejected, “Too bad he died in the Pit of unspeakable horror!” Huh? What bullshit is this? As I fork over ten bucks for the original but beat up display I fill Simon in. Boba Fett kicked in his back pack thrusters, dropped two sonic grenades and was blown free about three minutes after Jabba the hut was choked out by Leia!” No wonder our country is falling apart. Kids don’t know any of the important things that bind us as a society. He perked up at this bit of news. Also, Boba built a ‘Slave Two’, intergalactic bounty hunter ship, but, another time.

If you think I’m off base ask any kid fourteen or younger who John Wayne is. They have no idea what you’re talking about. I have an old movie that has John Wayne asking for war bond donations. He was dressed in his cowboy gear sitting with a high back chair backwards. A lit smoke in one hand. His Stetson was pushed back as he wrinkled that broad forehead of his and said, “I don’t need to tell you who I am, so, lets get down to what I’m on screen for!” Sorry Duke, not any more. I once fixed the phone jack on his ship at the Balboa Island Marina pier off his house while working for Pac Bell. It really was a ship. It had formerly been a U.S. Navy minesweeper. About sixty five foot long with all steel frame and hull, quite a ride to hit the ocean on. It was called, ‘The Grey Goose’. I wish I could have gone on it. Alas, I fixed the phone problem at the pier jack connection. As soon as I replaced a green pitted connection, the phone started ringing on board.

While Simon took the six foot board out to the truck, I watched him through the storefront glass to make sure he got back OK. With all the displays, it was hard to keep an eye on him. As he came back inside, another kid he knew from school comes in right behind him. Night and day. Simon, hippie throwback followed by a pierced Goth in torn black everything. They seem to like each other. As they say adios, one of the owners of the store says, “Hey, Judas!”, while he comes down a crowded book aisle towards us. For some reason he thought I was with the pierced kid. I smile and nod. The owner looks like a young Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead, 1970’s. He accepts me as a friend and says, “You going to the battle of the bands tonight!” I shrug my shoulders and ask Simon if he’s going. Simon says no and heads for the record side of the split building. I go for small talk. “So, kid, did it hurt getting all those pins and studs put in?” He looks bored but gives me a monotone ‘humor the old guy’ spiel. Then I notice the ink peeking out of his shirt collar. I’m stunned. He had to be fifteen if that. The store man is his uncle, it turns out. His uncle says, “Hey, show him how much you’ve gotten done!”

The black hair, streaked with red hair, is exposed as the kid takes off his multicolored Jamaican flop cap and lifts his zombie apocalypse t-shirt over his head. Half of his upper back had a Friday the 13th Jason in an almost colored-in red stripe shirt, stabbing some other gore guy with his scissor fingers up through the stomach. This other undertaker looking guy is coming down with a machete into Jason’s skull in about one second. Muscles bulging with the power he’s putting into the blade’s downward blow. Hey, some lucky gal might marry into this work of art. It can only go up in value. I shake my head up and down and say nothing. My input wasn’t needed for once. The kid puts his shirt down and heads down a book filled isle with his uncle. Not a word said.

Heading back to Tegan’s, I tell Simon and Scout about the special needs kids I talk to all the time at the Tehachapi show and the second hand shop I’m doing my Community Service at. Simon wanted to know what Community Service was. I gave him the short version. “They can’t shoot you after court on compliance codes so they make you clean toilets and scrape gum off the floors with razor blades!” He gave me the thumbs up. Scout once again looked upset. I tell her I also get first shot at all the toys and books that come in from my pickups. This makes her real happy. Back to the special ed kids. Most aren’t kids. Some are in their fifties. All are just like me though. Stuck at sixteen years old mentally. If that. I click with them. On some weekdays, the local theater has half prices. Not only the usual one dollar hot dogs, but breaks on tickets and pop corn.

I go to this four plex all the time. Especially when about twenty of these ‘kids’ have show day. The theaters are really small. Fifty people, max, in each one. I’ve been in it plenty of times sitting all by my self. The last time I went and the kids were there, the new Marvel flick was out teaming up Iron Man, Thor, some kung fu chick, a bow and arrow guy, Captain America, and, the HULK. The doors open late all the time so we were jammed up all in a bunch just like cattle after a stampede. About five groups back all the families are normal with normal kids. Behind them, apart a few paces, are the special kids with their escorts. They just walk down the street from their home at the top of the avenue.

Everyone is well behaved and really excited. In the front of the conga line are two pals I’ve smiled and said ‘Hi’ to before. One is really stocky and looks like a cross eyed, fifty year old Charlie Brown. He’s wearing a HULK sweatshirt that has HULK flying through the air on one of his leaps. His pal is black as black can be and stone cold blind. He has a cane and those rolled back eyes that let you know this kid is really handicapped. The blind kid is attached to his buddy like glue. Arms locked. A matron is right behind them but relaxed. Everyone wants in so the lines start to bunch together. A normal teenager from the front of the line has just broken Charlie Brown’s heart with a statement to his friend in line with him.

It was innocuous enough but a hard blow to hear for the special kid. “You know, the HULK is way over rated. Iron man or Thor could beat him, no problem!” As some vomit came up out of my stomach, I had to put a stop to this kind of blasphemy instantly. I spin and go into attack mode. “First of all, the HULK doesn’t even need these other losers. I heard they forced him to join. Second, the HULK has already bounced Superman like a basketball when they met, running him out of his own town; he destroyed The Thing in three pages of that comic after the fight started; Thor and Iron Man double teaming HULK would just make it easier for HULK to waste them instead of having to hunt them down one at a time. After they’re toast, what is Captain America, some karate gal and Robin hood idiot going to do against a now really pissed guy that gets bigger and stronger the more you beat on him?”

The doors open and in we all go. As I go for popcorn, I pass Charlie Brown and his pal waiting for their tickets. I put up my hand, Charlie Brown high fives me then pulls me over for a huge bear hug. I sat a couple of rows behind them and made comments all through the movie on how HULK was doing all the real fighting, etc, etc. It was fun.

Back home, just last Saturday night, we had bizarre lightening-like flashes coming over the tops of the five thousand foot hills that separate us from the Mojave Desert. Since we heard on ‘Coast to Coast’ that a big solar flare was to be hitting us, we figured that might be the source. We call everyone we can think of in the Antelope Valley and surrounding areas to go outside and report back to us. Except for my sons, no one cared. I was Chicken Little and the sky was falling. Pretty sad. Hey, if the S.H.T.F, we know one thing. We’re calling family and that’s all. Everyone else that thinks the way we do, off grid, own water, self reliant. They won’t need a call. So, we too are pretty much looked on as Freaks. So be it. Queue Hendrix’s anthem for the fade out and let your Freak flag fly.

Oh, while at a Boulder Café, around ten thousand foot up on the mountain behind Coal Creek, I share my table with three Chinese tourists. Only one spoke English fluently. The others nodded their heads a lot. They looked like Chinese Ozzie and Harriet kids. Very polite. Maybe in their early twenties. The other two are male and a thin, intense looking female with tightly pulled back hair. She smiles at me then ignores me. I notice her quiet companion is missing the ends of two fingers on his left hand. Zeng, the only name I can remember of the more fluent of the group sees me looking at the nubs and says a pleasant, “A panda bit them off!” What? A fuzzy little chubby fur ball did that? I tell him that I had just read a book on Wolverines and could see him losing fingers to one of them, but a panda? The man missing the ends of his digits speaks Chinese to his companion. They have a spirted back and forth them I’m filled in. All three are now looking right at me as their companion speaks.

“He says he once thought the same thing. He was shocked to find out their fur is a hard and sharp as a pigs bristles. They also fight off leopards and kill small animals for food. When he was studying them in Bejing, a man went into an enclosure to hug one and have his picture taken. He had his testicles torn off and almost died on the way to emergency!” Gee. Who would have guessed?

One last thing. On those Wolverines. They have fantastic, life-long connections with mates and offspring. From being studied by radio transmitters, fathers years later will hook up with mates, daughters and sons and spend weeks hunting and playing together. If a male shacks up with a pregnant female, when the usually two or less pure white offspring are born, the male will raise them as if his own. Cool! Pound for pound the Wolverine is the most powerful mammal on earth. Only about five hundred or so left in the continental United States. More in Canada, and some colonies still exist in the colder areas of Europe and the Norwegian areas…

When in Rome

It’s one of the oldest sayings around. Good advice, too, say if you were sitting next to a Roman Emperor such as the great Augustus. If at the arena? Cheer when they cheer and shout encouragement when they stand and shout. If you want to stay in favor. It’s the same as today. Now, if you were sitting next to Caligula, double so.

First of all, he was stone cold nuts. Most likely from all the lead in his food preparation bowls and dinner ware. Wine really brought out the lead in the big goblets wealthy Romans favored. Archeologists have know this for a long time. I just read about it in an old National Geographic I bought at Goodwill. Well, back to Caligula.

This guy did a lot of weird sexual stuff, but, you can read up on that, my story is about how Caligula wanted to get public support back the fast and easy way. A real big gladiatorial event at the Coliseum. To make sure it went off as planned, he enlisted the help of his favorite drinking companion, Publeus Maxima. The top ‘Beastiary’ in all the corners of Rome.

Now, Maxima was just about the best darn killer of any type animal you could ever want to see. The bigger and meaner, the better. Also, in the later stage of his career, he had his animal assistants drug the animals he was to face, just to ‘make sure’ he would always come out on top. There was a trick to it. You had to keep the animal at bay until you saw the tiger’s eyes glaze, or the elephant’s trunk dip a bit, then, in you went with spear or sword, and the crowd roared. Business as usual.

Oh, almost forgot. Maxima loved to torture his foes, every chance he got. He and Caligula were as two peas in a pod.

Since there could be 210 days of games in a year, the crowd was pretty jaded. Some ‘advisors’ in the Emperor’s crowd, came up with some ‘extras’ to really make the crowd love the day’s events. A day to beat all fights in the arena before it. They had so many games and so many various arenas and stadiums, it was a tall order. Taking in animals from poorer conquests, completely wiped out entire species for fodder for the games. If that wasn’t your cup of tea that day, why, travel to the stadium for the chariot races. A charioteer was the big Kahuna in those days. He could sway an election, just by sitting next to the person needing votes. Next were the gladiators that had won their freedom by various means, yet still fought. It was in their blood. They would retire all the time, but, the roar of the crowd and a boring life always brought them back, ‘for one last match’. Usually for huge bets from both sides in the event. Sometimes cities were exchanged over the outcomes. Last on the scale of all these were the Beastiaries. Well trained. Many tricks. The animals never really stood any sort of a chance against a good one. Maxima was ‘The best’. At the top of his game. He was even being talked about in the same sentences mentioning swordsmen and trident net men. A big honor. He might be a transition. Bring his mates respectable, so to speak.

Well aware of this fact, plus, backed by the Emperor’s wallet, and Pretorian guard, Maxima made sure he had all the best of the animals flowing into Rome daily. A special area was set up for the animal merchants to show their latest acquisitions. Maximus always had first selection. He especially looked for large, impressive looking specimens. They made for a better kill, but even more important, well fed, made for a slow, ponderous opponent. Who wants lean and quick. On one such procuring trip, Maximus spotted a magnificent beast. An older elephant, but quite impressive.

It towered over the other elephants it was herded with in a large plaza. He pointed it out to one of the Mahars. The report was good. “A fine beast. Well mannered. Unusual for an African elephant. Also, it had exceptional scarring. Would look great for a dramatic finish. Maximus bought it, plus all the other elephants. They were big and people deemed them quite dangerous. A bit drugged and against seasoned killers, they stood no chance at all. Comparable to some of the wrestling extravaganzas we have now a days. The animal men had everything under control. The hardest part was to make it seem dangerous and difficult. Not only were they trained killers, they were also excellent actors. Two day before the event, Maximus strolled through his row after row of grist for the mill. Also a showman, Maximus planned to end the day’s events as the last act. It would be him and the ‘Old Man’.

That’s the name all the feeders and handlers had given the old elephant. Coming up to the well-chained beast, Maximus spoke to the animal quietly. Letting him know who he would be facing. The next time they met, the Old Man would be in one of the large cages at an end of the arena. Awaiting their fates. The Old Man would eat well this night. And all the water he could hold. It would make him even slower. At least sixty years old, it might be a tough sell. Maximus knew how to fix that problem.

The games begin. The first event was really starting to piss Caligula off. A huge fake mountain on hidden wooden wheels, had been rolled out into the arena, blocking the view of many in the almost capacity crowd. Hey, even if the arena wasn’t your cup of tea, you had better attend for at least part of them. Tongues would wag. Not today. Posters and criers paid by the Emperors flunkies had promised a game to remember. The crowd was noisy taking its seats. A good sign. The booths for the painted prostitutes did record business. Rows of them filled every spare twist and turn on every level. It was a different world then. Food vendors and fan wavers were for rent. Anything you so desired could be bought, or rented.

Watching this mountain roll in was making the crowd quiet. The Emperor was not pleased. Once the fake mountain stopped, a doorway opened near the top and a Greek poet stepped out, blinking his eyes in the bright sun shining down into the center of the arena. The wealthy had large shade covers pulled down to give them relief. Not so the Greek. Starting to strum his lyre, the Greek started slow, then, feeling a love of his words turning the fickle crowd in his favor, he raised his voice, gaining strength from the response. In reality, the crowd was waiting for the punch line to this fiasco. They had not long to wait.

As Caligula himself rose to say something, more doors opened in the middle of the mountain. From them emanated lions. Also hit in the eyes by the bright sun, and, intimidated by the vast crowd moving all around them, they did what was only natural, they climbed to higher ground. Unaware of his new guests on the mountain, the Greek in a new burst of vigor, suddenly feels something rub his leg. Looking down, his scream of terror brought down the house. The Emperor sat back down, a contented look on his face. The Greek was soon torn to pieces and eaten by the starved lions. It had been a big hit! The day started off perfect!

The day picked up. After an intermission and some heavy drinking, the crowd settled in for the end of the show. Now a bit cooler and their blood lust abated, they were ready for the chaser act, then, off to home and twenty slaves to tend every need. As Maximus entered the arena, the crowd roared its approval. He always gave a good show. The crowd was well aware of his opponent. The Old Man was the last elephant alive. As each of his pen mates went to their doom, the Old Man watched with interest how they met their fate. Now, it was to be his turn.

As Maximus gave the sign, the gate swung up, and the Old Man was goaded from behind by heated metal spikes. Smoke came off of his hide as he trumpeted and tried to spin in the tight confines of his corral. Nope, it was forward or more red hot burns. Time to die. Trotting out into the center of the arena, the Old Man blinked his eyes in the bright sun, then stood still, awaiting his fate. Maximus knew his craft. Trotting around the elephant in tighter and tighter circles, he would then switch direction and run in the opposite direction. His two swords glinting in the fading afternoon sunlight. Like a hundred times before, he made his move. First, hamstring the beast, then, play to the crowd before the thrust into the throat area. A fast, clean kill.

The Old man timed him. In the blink of an eye, it was all over. Maximus was grabbed, then crushed by a rolling forehead, mashing him into a pulpy unrecognizable mass. The Old Man wasn’t just any old elephant. He was a former War elephant. Bred and trained for decades by the Romans’ old foes, the Carthaginians, the old man had waited for his moment, then, spinning on one foot in the loose sand of the arena, caught Maximus cold. Unfazed by the crowd, or the smell of the blood seeping out of the raked sand, the Old Man now stood and swayed, seemingly content. At sight of his friend being smashed to death, Caligula ordered five lions to be set loose on the beast. NOW! Rolling in the five most starved lions in steel cages, their trap doors were raised and the animals goaded out. Spotting the elephant, two of the lions raced towards him, then, slowed as a team to stalk. The Old Man backed up against the arena wall, then started swinging his trunk from side to side. The lions sprang at the same time. As the two leaped on his back, the other lions came in on the exposed sides of the great beast. Sinking in their sharp claws and fangs, they suddenly found themselves being crushed to death. Slamming his one side into the cement of the arena, the Old Man then rolled completely over, crushing two more of his tormenters. As the surviving lions backed away, the old man, leaking blood in rivers, and having only one eye, then did something unbelievable.

Ignoring the hesitating lions, the old torn beast, turned, faced the Emperor, trumpeted, then BOWED. The crowd went BERSERK. Caligula was crazy, but not that crazy. Waving for the lions to be driven off the sand, he then tossed down a garland. A special wreath signifying the Emperors favor. From that day forth, no elephant was ever killed in the Coliseum again.

A Perfect Life… Almost…

His name was Gene Tunney. At one time the Heavyweight champ of the entire world. He wasn’t like John L. Sullivan, who would walk into a bar, take off his coat and proclaim, “I can lick any man in the house!” No, Tunney wanted to be known as the thinking man’s fighter. He always carried a book to read between training sessions. In the early 1920’s, he was chosen as the first, “Fighter of the Year,” by Ring magazine. He’s also in the World Boxing Hall of Fame, and the United States Marine Corps Hall of Fame. One of his fights is legendary because of the, ‘Long Count’. In this title fight, Jack Dempsey was trying to get his title back. Dempsey had lost a decision to Tunney and wasn’t too happy about it. Dempsey had been told of the new boxing rule on going to a neutral corner if your opponent is knocked down. Old Jack loved to stand over a fallen foe, then nail him as he got up. Couldn’t do that anymore… During the fight, Dempsey knocks Gene down. Gene went down pretty badly hurt. Dempsey wouldn’t go to a neutral corner. The referee yelled and shoved Dempsey, not starting the count to ten until Jack complied. This gave Gene the time to clear his head, thus saving him the title… I’m fifteen and in the big office of Gene Tunneys son, John V. Tunney. He was a Senator or something. I was with thirty other kids on a four week bus tour of the U.S. We had all won a seat on the bus for raising money for the Y.W.C.A.’s, but, thats another story. Anyhow, Mr. Tunney, being a Senator and all, was quite busy. He was gracious, but curt. He gave us the bums rush tour of his office, pointed out some photos of him with Presidents and famous people, then offered to sign some autographs and stand for a group picture. I could never show that photo without big money paid to me I look so pathetic in my red blazer. As he’s signing for the other kids, I see a framed photo of his dad in boxing trunks, holding a boxing pose. He notices me looking at it and says a smug, “That’s my father, Heavyweight Champ of the World. He retired undefeated, never beaten in the ring!” Now, I know zip about sports. Except boxing. My Uncles took me to many an arena and boxing venue as I grew up. Also, I knew Tunney was full of baloney. Sure, his pop was undefeated as the Marine Corps champ. Married into a wealthy socialite’s family and retired undefeated as Heavyweight Champ, spending the rest of his days popular and wealthy. He had the perfect life. Except for one thing. A guy named Harry Greb. Greb also happened to be my favorite fighter of all time, so, the Senator really ticked me off with his statement. Tunney the fighter, was suppossed to fight some other boxer, but it fell through. Since they had already sold out a bunch of tickets, they needed a quick replacement. This is where my guy, Greb comes into the story. Harry Greb was a Middleweight. He never weighed over 156 pounds. He also never trained. He stayed in shape by being a sparring partner. Meaning, he boxed other pros to get them in shape. He had one law he followed. Never fight for free. If you want a look at him, check out who won the title of “World’s Dirtiest Fighter” in a survey Ring magazine took, a few years ago. Short and stocky, with slicked back hair, Greb would fight anyone, anytime. Just put the dough on the table. Since Tunney was in a fix, his manager put out some frantic phone calls to keep the venue from going broke. One of Tunney’s trainers suggested Greb. Tunney scoffed the idea off. “He’s too small. I need someone with more stature!” This trainer had just watched Greb spar with Dempsey a few weeks prior. Greb had made a monkey out of Dempsey. Dempsey was so enraged, he demanded his trainer, Kearns, to put Greb in for just one more training round so he could knock his block off. Greb made him look even worse. Since no one else could be acquired in such short time, Greb it was. Tunney knew zip about Greb. Him being a Middleweight sort of made the fight a joke. Tunney figured he would take it easy on Greb to sell the mismatch, then take him out after the fans had their moneys worth… It’s fight night. Both men are in the center of the ring getting instructions. Tunney towers over Greb. As they touch gloves, Tunney screws the pooch. He does the one thing no one would ever do to Greb if they knew the guy. Never mess up his hair. Tunney reached over playfully and mussed Grebs hair up… “DING!” It’s the start of the first round. Tunney advances and a human windmill is in his face. In the first sixty seconds of the fight, Greb breaks Tunneys nose with ten shots to the face, backs Gene into the ropes, then laces his face in the clinch while stepping on his feet. As Gene tried to break free, Greb land a tremendous shot to Gene’s balls. As Greb explained to the reporters later, “Why not, they always give you a warning!” Spinning Tunney by his elbow, Greb then took him to fist city all over the ring. By the middle rounds, Tunney was a wreck. Eyes were closing and blood streaming from his mouth, ears and the cuts all over his face. Greb wasn’t called the “Human Windmill,” for nothing. At the end of the fight, Tunney went to the hospital, Greb took his wife out for dinner and dancing. He didn’t have a mark on him… Back to the Senator. I mention the name Harry Greb and the Senator gives the signal for us to be moved along…

Medal of Honor

Usually the word, ‘Posthumously’, goes hand in hand with it. This means the recipient didn’t make it back alive. I held a medal of honor once. A Navajo code talker let me hold his at the ceremony the Marines held near the Sepulveda basin Marine base for the surviving talkers. It was really something. President Truman, when he gave out the award, would lean forward and whisper to the man receiving it, “I would rather have such an honor then be President!” He meant it too. He fought in WW1 as an artillery man. Truman knew what war was really like…My Uncle Curly told me this story, so, it’s from him to me. I wasn’t close to being in the same league as these men, but, I hate seeing the battles they fought and the courage they showed doing their duties just fade away. This particular story of a Medal of Honor winner is about one Naval Captain, part Cherokee, part Creek, all American, named Ernest E. Evans…My Uncle met him at the ceremony where he took over the command of the D.E. Johnson. He was its only skipper. D.E. means in Naval terms, DESTROYER ESCORT. Not as big as a regular Destroyer, it had one five inch gun, .40 Bofers, .50 cal machine guns, and, its best weapons, torpedos. Tubes mounted on the fore deck. Not much in the way of armor. Its main defense was speed and maneuverability. Prior to its last fight, the Captain and crew had already received numerous battle awards. I can’t remember them all, but a plaque I saw once in a book had a long list. The Johnson’s last fight was really something. I’ll try and do my Uncle Curly’s telling of its last action justice. He was a real Navy man. I’ve only read about such things. I heard this story while sitting in the shade of the sixteen inch guns of the Battleship New Jersey as it underwent refit, prior to its last action off the coast of Viet Nam…”It was during the largest Naval action in the history of the world. The ‘Battle of Leyte Gulf’. The Japanese Imperial Navy vs The U.S. Navy. This battle was actually over three fronts, but I’m telling you about Evans and the crew of the U.S.S. Johnston and what went down with task unit, Taffy 3. There were other ships in the battle, sure, but Evans and his boys showed the Japs what a small ship could do when the chips were down and it was time to do or die. Now, the enemy had illegal sized Battleships, way larger then ours. Not only in size, but also in armament. 18 inch main guns vs our largest at 16. Longer, wider, and faster, dreadnoughts to contend with. Too bad Taffy 3 didn’t have ONE to protect her. Just four D.E.’s to protect six escort carriers. Smaller then full sized carriers, they were called, ‘Kaiser coffins’, by the men who served on them. Against Taffy 3? Several Japanese Battleships, Heavy Cruisers, Light Cruisers and ten full sized Destroyers. Their mission was to wipe out the landing crafts of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, then, retreat to help out the other actions happening at the same time in other areas off the Phillipines. As the Jap fleet hove into sight, Evans and his crew hit 35 knots, right for the entire fleet. (NOTE: I have a book written by a commanding Japanese officer on this battle. Quite illuminating) Launching a spread of torpedos at the closest Heavy Cruiser, the Johnston then went so close to one of the Battleships, they were UNDER its big guns. So small, the guns couldn’t depress that low. The gun crews of the Johnston pumped five inch fire point blank into the superstructure, along with every gun they had, killing officers and gun crews the entire length of the giant ship, then, healing right, they punched it at maximum power away, laying a smoke screen for the small carriers it was their duty to protect. Now the big guns of the Jap battleship roared for some payback. Splashes from near misses went over a hundred foot high bracketing the Johnston, making it disappear from the cascading waterfalls of water. The Johnston came out of the water curtain, firing back with its single five incher, barking defiance. Then its luck ran out. Shells slamed into the small ship, knocking it around like a puppy hit by a Mack truck. Half the crew died at their posts instantly. Evans shirt and some of his fingers were blown off. He stayed at the helm. Coming around as the other D.E.’s took up the fight, the captain of the U.S.S. Hoel, said Evans nodded at him, then followed them back in. His ship in ruins and only able to make fifteen knots, Evans and his boys did the only thing they could do, take point blank enemy fire away from the other ships, still able to fight. And take it they did. The captain was blown off the bridge, along with everyone else next to him, cartwheeling through the air. Some of the men were vaporized instantly. Now, dead in the water, sinking by its bow, a Japanese Destroyer swept in to finish the smoking hulk off. Unbelievably, the gun crew of the five incher, were still game. Firing back, then reloading so fast the Jap commanders thought we had some new type five inch auto loader, the crew pumped shells into its attacker, hitting it point blank from its bow to its stern. Then the over heated gun blew its crew apart. As another Jap Cruiser swept by, the ships captain, looking down on the carnage as the little ship washed its dead crew with water before going down, ordered his crew to hold their fire and to stand at attention and salute the brave enemy. Something almost unheard of in that war!”…That’s the story my Uncle told me. So that’s how I retell it…

Squaw Man

He was just under forty. Five five tall, but broad shouldered with banty legs. From all the years on Indian ponies. His mother was Pawnee. His father, French Canadian. He was trailing some Cheyenne who had stolen his string of pack animals with an entire seasons’ pelts on them. His Shoshone wife along with them. His name. Jaque Lebec. Coming down past the Canadian border had been a huge risk. He wasn’t that familiar with the local dialects, plus, he didn’t know the lay out of the land. But that’s why he had come. To see new mountains and breathe new air. Now, he was in a real fix. He was on foot, in enemy lands. An enemy that was no one to be captured by. He never gave it a thought. He could get more pelts and plenty of horses. He couldn’t get another Two Crows. She got that name because of her hair. It was said to be blacker then black. Two times black. She was small, but tough…Her face was horribly pock marked from a white mans’ disease. That, along with her odd hobble from a broken leg that never healed right, might keep the Cheyenne off of her. Indians had odd beliefs. Seeing as the great spirit had already touched her, and she was still alive, made many shy of her. As he followed the easy to follow trail, that worried him. They seemed not to care who came across them. Jaque trailed them for six days. All the way to the Platte River. That’s where his luck ran out. It had rained the night before and his powder was damp in his flashpan. In 1835, dry powder was a real big deal. No easy reload bullets then. It was shot and powder. A brave with a good bow, could put six or seven arrows into you by the time you could reload a black powder rifle. Sad, but true. On top of that, a knife to his squaw’s neck, was the kicker. He tossed down his rifle, tomahawk and knife, and awaited what was to come…Stripping Jaque naked, three of the Cheyenne dragged him over to a slab outcropping of granite. Winter hadn’t hit yet. But it was on its way. The cold wind was the least of Jaques problems. Holding his arms, one brave forced Jaques left hand onto the black slab of rock. Suddenly lurching free, Jaque threw them off. Before an arrow could hit him, Jaque stepped forward, and put his hand back onto the rock, all on his own. He then looked the one who seemed to be the leader in the eye and signed with his right hand, ‘Dirt’. The Cheyenne all smiled and nodded at each other. He was a squaw man, but he was very brave. They would soon see just how brave. As the leader, ‘Runs his horses’, placed his knife on Lebec’s pinky, he smiled, then cut it off with a quick chop of the sharp skinning blade. Lebec said nothing. He kept his hand on the rock. Nodding his head in respect, ‘Runs his horses’, then pulled Lebec’s left ear away from his head, and slashed that off too, just to see Lebec’s response to upping the ante. Lebec spit in his face. The Cheyenne were impressed. As a couple of braves watched him, the rest had a pow wow. Lebec’s wife tried to help him but was beaten away with horse quirts. Lebec gave her a look. Two Crows sat down and began a low death song. The Cheyenne ignored her and went back to Lebec. They had made up their minds. One such as this would, ‘Run the Arrow’. Dragging Lebec out onto the plains away from the river. Some of the braves mounted their ponies. Lebec knew what he was to do. Provide sport, then die. Shivering from the wind, its only blessing was to deaden the sting of his injuries, Lebec watched as an arrow arched off a fully frawn bow, off into the rolling plains, then, over a small hill. ‘Runs his horses’, let out a loud, “WHOOP!” Lebec took off like a shot. As he went out of their view, a brave gave heels to his mount and was after him. First to count coup. To hit an enemy had for more honor then even killing him. Lebec, stopping as soon as he was out of their sight, crawled as fast as he could through the tall grass, then grabbed a stone. As the brave rode over the crest, Lebec leaped behind him, rocked his head, then heeled the horse to the right as the brave fell off, unconcious. All the braves now came for him. The fox headed his pony for the foothills, about five miles away. The Cheyenne spread out in a wide line. He wasn’t going to escape. They knew for sure as they let him stay ahead of them, hanging back just far enough to make him think he had a chance. He was going up into a dead end canyon. As his horse gave out, Lebec started to climb. He ended up on a ledge, just as the Cheyenne figured he would. It was a straight drop into a forest canopy. An easy two hundred feet. Now grinning, the Cheyenne came at him in a half circle. Lebec shouted a curse at them, then sprang off the cliff. His enemies heard him hit the tree branches, then, sprinted to the cliff edge, to see what had become of him. Just a canopy of green. Lebec dislocated his shoulder, but he reset that himself with the fork of a tree. Cuts, and scrapes from the branchs that broke his fall, but, all in all, he was lucky to be alive…Two years go by. Lebec has a new squaw. He’s leading four pack mules into a Mountain Man/Indian festival. All tribes. No fighting. For ten days, trade and music. Maybe some drinking. Break the peace, you die. As Lebec rides into the many tepees and camps spread out around the traders fort, shouts and whoops come from his left. It was the Cheyenne camp. Lebec was soon surounded by crazed braves, shouting his name. Lebec was stunned as reins were being pressed into his hands. All were giving him their best pony. He was now a legend, and had no idea. Adopted by the Cheyenne, he traded his new wife for ‘Two Crows’, plus, ten ponies. Hell, he had fifty now, he could afford it…This is a true story. Cornell Wilde made it into, ‘The Naked Prey,’ and put the story in Africa so he could star himself. Did a good job. I like the original a lot better…


Yep, the very same guy they named the long, twisty road after that runs across the mountains above L.A., Hollywood, and Beverly Hills. At its very end, it becomes a dirt road, just before the Pacific Ocean. In my Facebook photo spot, there’s a picture of me standing in front of my 1946, 22 ton, twelve wheel drive, UNIT, crane. The one I’ve been ripping my hair out trying to move for the last two months. It turns out, not only is it the last one of its kind in the world, it was also bought, brand new, by William Mulholland, to do some work on the Hollywood reservoir. Afterwards, Mulholland donated it to the city of Los Angeles. The city used it for twenty five years, then sold it at auction. My pal George Sack bought it, then, after fifteen years of me pestering him about it, I traded him my one-fiftieth steel truck collection, with a mini building to house them. A friend of mine did all the research. I finally read it all…Since most of the research didn’t have that much to do with me, naturally, I blew it off. Something about a phone switchboard caught my eye while I was looking for more stuff on me, the important one. Being a phone man, I knew I had to be part of the story. Nope. It wasn’t about me at all. It was about a tiny, nameless semi-retired woman who was ten times the person I’ve ever been…Seems Mulholland built the entire water networking system that brings water from the water rich Northern part of California, down to the parched, arid, semi-desert, Southern part of the state. Mainly, Los Angeles. He tapped into the Colorado River, the Owens Valley and the Sacramento River delta to obtain the water needed for the soon to be millions of people coming into the L.A. region. He built thousands of miles of concrete aquaducts, plus, reservoirs to hold the water as it traveled south. One such dam was in a canyon called San Fransisquito. Mulholland screwed up on this one. It had a broken off rock base he wasn’t aware of. Once it was completed and full of water, it started to leak. It was dirt ram construction with a cement shell. Not good. Now, under the shadow of this dam was an entire comunity of ranches, farms, small businesses, and, hundreds of tents for all the workers still in place who had built the giant project. Also, one old woman who ran the local phone switchboard from the living room of her tiny farm house. A small, 551 switchboard. The type with the cord pairs you see in the old movies with the gal wearing the 1920’s headsets that cover your entire head. She did it as a favor, plus, it gave her a sense of being part of the community. Along with her dog and cats, she also had a small burro for a pet. It was in the middle of the night when the dam broke. The entire contents of the vast dam, headed for the Pacific Ocean, miles away, in a thirty foot wall of water. Nothing was going to stop it. A rancher who lived just above the dam heard the sound of its collapse. He called and woke up his friend the switchboard gal to warn her. Being a few miles away, she had plenty of time to get out of harms way. That water would travel at about twenty five to thirty miles an hour. She was saved…No, saving herself wasn’t in this gal’s makeup. Staying at her switchboard, she calmly called everyone she could past her to warn them, right up until the wave of water crushed her into oblivion. Like the hundreds of others in the cascade of water, her body was never found…It’s people like her her that make me appreciate just how fine the human spirit can be…


Back in the late forties, most rail road switches had to be operated manually. It was pretty much the same, all over the world. India has the most rail layed of all countries. They still use steam for propultion in some areas. Since all those, ‘out of the middle of nowhere’ switches needed to be switched, men lived next to those switches. Some, if lucky, had a telegraph to keep in touch. Others, went by strict schedules. Rain or shine. Those switches had to go exactly on time or people would die. Hundreds of miles from a city, in South Africa, lived such a switch man. He had worked that switch all through World War 2. All alone. His only source of contact left by the hanging mail pouch the train would hook on its’ way past. His mail and the surrounding villages’ mail was tossed out the mail car’s open doors as the train flew past. He would get a break in the beggining for one week in Johanesburg. That had long gone away…Now, the old man was worried about losing his job, and his home. Slowly but surely, all the railroad switches were becoming automated. Plus, the old man wasn’t getting any younger. Out on the fringe of a huge African desert, winds blowing at a hundred miles an hour, wild life coming past at night, villagers and tribesmen angry at the railroad threatening him at times. It was a tough, lonely existence, but it was all he had. One morning, the old man hears an odd sound emanating from a dry gully, just past the long emergency rail siding past his shack. He uses his cane to make his way over to investigate. The sounds were being made from a tiny, barely alive, baboon. The old man put him inside his worn, ragged coat pocket, then went about is switching duties. Thus began a friendship and a working partnership that few could equal. As the old man’s health deteriorated, the baboon would help him into an old pull cart, then, take the old man to the switches. Being ten times stronger then the man once it reached maturity at around 80lbs, the monkey also took over the manual switching part of the job. Sure, they had their spats. But besides being a good trainman, the monkey was also loyal. Many a passing troop of baboons would call out to him over the years, tempting him to join. Nope, the only troop he acknowledged was the old man…One morning, a train track repair crew on a short bob engine pull into the siding to await the passing of the main line train, while in the middle of a track inspection run. Sitting in their idling train, the repair crew watch an odd event transpire. A large baboon, wearing a tattered engineer’s cap, scampered over to the switches, puts his ear on the tracks, then, hearing what he wants to hear, WORKS THE SWITCHES. Hiding in the brush as the train blows on past, tossing the mail and supplies, the baboon then picked up the articles, and went back to the shack. He then returned, and reset the switch. The train men were astounded. Once back at the train yard, the story spread. A train representative was sent to investigate. He found the old man so crippled, he couldn’t leave his bed. His friend had to be tranquilized for them to get near the sick old man. Not long after, the switch was automated. The company wrote off the old shack. The incident was forgotten…by the big shots. Not the train men. Every day, for years, the train men tossed off food and a small bag for the switchman’s shack. Fuck corporate; they wouldn’t turn their backs on a fellow trainman. He was a real pal…

Uncommon Valor

I used to take Leo into North Hollywood every Saturday for his Russian language school. Before our adoption of him was completed, we had to jump through hoops and over all these hurdles placed before us to make it official. It went from no one wanting him, to, ‘You’re too old’, or, “He needs his culture!” Huh? A culture of starvation and hospital stays in unheated homes? O.K., if they said so, we did as told…Now, at this ‘school’, I did meet an interesting fellow. A former Soviet Nuclear Sub commander. He had one of those screwy eyes that worked just fine, but, seemed to be looking off to the right. Also, his eye brows looked like he brushed them. A very bright fellow though. I played him about fifty games of chess and never came close to beating the guy. Not that I’m any sort of great chess player. I’m a Scrabble man. He told me a couple of interesting stories…When the Soviet Union collapsed after Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ broke their backs financially, he told me he didn’t eat fresh bread for almost a year. All the formerly ‘Friendly’ states, were right back in the 1800’s as far as getting along was concerned. Long suppressed hatreds and fueds that had been simmering but hidden, popped out everywhere. He said it was like you lived in Burbank, but you had to go to downtown L.A. then up the coast, then, over to Newhall, then, down to Sylmar, just to get past the goons in Burbank wanting to shoot and rob you. It was like this everywhere…The worst thing of all, was the stealing of equipment and black market moving of radioactive cannisters and handling gear. No one was getting paid and it was all the officers could do to not get shot themselves once in port and docked. It was everyman for himself…Now, he also told me another story of a Russian sub accident. I can’t remember the Captain’s name, but, I remember the gist of what happened. Oh, it was a sub with just a number. K-19? Look it up, it has to be on the internet somewhere. Anynow, this sub was captained by a former class mate of his, so, he heard the lowdown from the cat’s mouth so to speak…His story: “There had been a fire in the cooling system section of the sub. No cooling, you have a good shot at a nuclear event. All subs are sectoned off in case of such emergencies to the crew members in these portions of the vessel. The Captain himself went to the section experiencing the ‘accident’. It was bad. Way worse then anyone would ever know past the propaganda machine writers’ lies and untruths. What they never told, was when the Captain asked the fifty or so odd men in the section for volunteers to go into the nuclear spill area to shut down some valves and reroute the cooling system, ALL STEPPED FORWARD. It was a death sentence to go inside that room. All were young men. Each man that went in, staggered out after doing as much as he could, then, another man took over, until he too collapsed. Seven died within days, twenty more died in less then two years. All horrible, painful deaths!”…He broke down in tears and sobbed so hard, his daughter came over to take him into the bathroom…

Pearl Harbor

It was a big event in my family. We’re either Circus, or U.S. Navy. I talked to a blind man who lived in the guest house of Orson Welles. He was Welles’s best friend. He was also a total drunk. It took me a couple of repair visits to realize he smashed his phone up, just to get me out to argue with him while I repaired it. If dispatch sent someone else, he had a fit. He was on the medical ship across from his ship, the U.S.S. Arizona, getting over a hernia operation, when the Japanese first wave came in. He wanted to get out of his bed when they heard the bombs hitting and all the firing started, but was unable to unhook all his tubes. He told me it was a good thing, since everyone that was able to make it to the windows were blown backwards, killed instantly by shards of glass when a string of bombs from the Jap planes hit a mine sweeper at anchor right next to them, sending part of their blasts right towards the medical ship…Now, a lot of people blame Admiral Yamamoto for the attack. Sure, he planned it and gave it the go ahead, but he was under orders. When they asked him his opinion of his own plan, he told them flat out they would have about a year to kick our asses completely, or it would be the end of them. His superiors looked at us as lazy clowns who made movies and good home appliances. They were sort of right. Yamamato knew different. He spent a lot of time in the U.S. as a young man attending our universities. He was blown away at how large our country was and our assembly line production of machinery. Especially the Ford plant. He was also a big time gambler. He would come back on board ship after leaves and his men would wonder if he had won or lost. If he had lost, he would do a handstand on a guardrail, showing he had no money left to fall out of his pockets. He had to stay on the Yamato battleship for over a year, hiding from the assasins of the Japanese Army. Killing off rival military rivals was quite acceptable in Japanese society. Just like in John Carter of Mars by Burroughs. For a surprise attack, it was really successful. Too bad they didn’t make a second sortie. They missed the MILLIONS of gallons of aviation and oil tanks sitting right out in the open. Also, they missed their primary targets. It’s the reason they pulled out and didn’t put in that second string. Our carriers were not at anchor. One of the Japanese spies had made a radio message that they were indeed there. He lied to save face. He had been out drinking and just made it up. Halsey, our carrier chief, had kept all our carriers out on a phony search for a downed flier story because he smelled a rat. One of our destroyers had fired on a submarine trying to slip into Pearl in between a tug boat and its target bouy it was towing behind it from some firing exercises. Sure, they killed over two thousand of our boys, most still in their racks. One bomb went right down the forestack of the Arizona, detonating in its’ 12 inch gun armory. It blew the entire Battleship, clear of the water, before putting it down for good. Concussion killed most of the men. They all went instantly. I guess its as good a way to go as any. Going out with your mates in a millisecond…More people were killed on the islands by spent ammo then from the bombs. The first attack was made by dive bombers. When the second wave came in, it was torpedo bombers, coming in low since Pearl was a known shallow harbor. The dive bombers had a field day. Not so the torpedo crews. They reported back on landing that the flak and return fire was so thick, you could climb out and walk on it. Doris, a black cook, and heavywight champ of the Pacific fleet, shot down two Jap planes in his underwear from a twin fifty with a dead crew laying all around it…Years later, while at Orson Welles’s house, I noticed a new person sunning themselves off the pool near the guest house. Welles informed me his navy buddy had died. He also told me one other thing. His buddy was cremated, then buried with his buddies on the U.S.S. Arizona…We don’t have those big battle wagons anymore. Most of our big ships are nuclear. All the old ships are docked as museums or scrapped long ago. Oh, we do have one left. Its still carried as an acitve ship on the line, ready for duty if needed. It’s name? The ARIZONA. It’s NEVER BEEN RETIRED!!!


Huh? What’s Tarawa? I asked ten people today and that’s the response I received back. It was a small island in the Pacific. The Japanese in WW2 were really proud of it. They said it couldn’t be taken in twenty years. And why shouldn’t they say such a thing. Concrete
pillboxes, ninety percent underground, minimum six feet apart. Point blank suppressing fire on EVERY beach. The highest point was seventy five foot. Reefs surrounded it…I was told I was a ‘hero’ for fighting the County. What Horseshit. My friend, Clem, the world’s worst
mechanic, a drunk of exceptional magnitude. He really was a hero. Sure, he lived in a dump. A tiny house off Sierra Hwy that sat right in the epicenter of Dozer tracks piled ten foot high, old back hoe buckets by the dozen, sheets of aluminum gathered over sixty years. Stuff like that. He could care less. He was within walking distance of his favorite VFW…Last year, in his nineties, the County killed him. Yep. They red tagged his old house and locked him out. He crept into an old step van in the wash that had no wheels on it, tried to keep his small dogs and his old bones warm. Burned to death in the back of it. The County leaped into action. They brought in a ‘Cleansing crew’ that stripped his place down to the DIRT. They then placed a $22,000 dollar bill on his estate. Since he was in his nineties. Who would that even be? The new college across the street going in couldn’t have anything to do with it, could they? Then, here’s the kicker. The County received over TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS for all the scrap metal on his property. Pure steel, titanium, copper, aluminum, tin. So what, you might say. If you said it in my presence, I’d smash your fucking face in. Clem was in the first wave that hit the beach on
Tarawa. He was a kid. If you ever asked him about it, he would just stare at you and turn away…I learned one thing about REAL vets. They will not talk about the war. Sure, phonies who are into glory tales will yak it up. That’s because THEY WEREN’T THERE. Clem was there for the three days it took to break the Japs backs. It was do or die. No prisoners in the Pacific. You put your hands up against the Japanese and bullets would walk across your chest. After the Marines realized this, they showed the enemy how to really take the gloves off…Out of one hundred guys around Clem that came off the track driven boats,
six made it fifty foot inland…Guys like Clem are our real heroes. Guys like me just write about them…