Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween, 1973

It wasn’t that long ago, really.

Halloween was a much anticipated free-for-all when I was a kid.

There were pillowcases that needed filling with candy and treats in the course of several trips in and out of the surrounding neighborhoods.

There was the goopy make-up that got in your eyes and stuck there throughout the next day when you went to school, no matter how hard you tried to scrub it off.

There was the toilet paper.

There were the pumpkin guts tossed in the middle of the street we slipped on when we crossed from house to house.

There were the dark, foreboding pathways leading up to houses, lit by little more than a single, ominous red or blue light bulb.

The dogs scaring the bejeebers out of us when we approached a house.

Thoroughly creepy music emanating from the background somewhere.

Dank, moldy figures sitting on porches, waiting to make us leap screaming as they suddenly “came alive” and lurched menacingly at us.

Those were the days.

The picture above is of (left to right) Doug Anderson (hobo), myself (hunchback ..... and yeah ... hunchbacks wore jeans; what's it to ya!?) and Doug Schlaufman (weird old lady), complete with my father’s hideously bright orange ‘68 VW in the background. It was 1973 and I was twelve years old. What a motley looking crew we were.

I remember that particular night vividly. We ran wild in the streets for hours, collecting as much as we could. I recall we came back with pillowcases full of stuff (no kidding!), our loot practically giving beneath its weight. We’d dump it all on the kitchen table for Mom to go thorough, snag a piece or two for the road and then we were out the door for more.

We were unstoppable.

There was a house about a block away. It was transformed into a Halloween haunt during the season. We never had the guts to go into it before, but this was the year. I remember we saved that place for last. We wanted to go in, but we didn’t want to go in, if you know what I mean.

Toward the end of the night -- feet tired, arms weary from lugging pounds and pounds of tooth-decaying treats -- we ventured to the haunted house of doom.

We were greeted by an ominous voice inviting us to enter at our own risk. We were genuinely frightened out of our wits, but none of us backed down. We were going to go through with it. Mom knew where we were, even if she didn’t know who these people were. It was all good.

We carefully tip-toed inside. Just past the front door, ripped shreds of material hung. We had to make our way through them. Some were sticky. With what we hadn’t a clue.

A left turn took us into our first room of terror. We stopped dead in our tracks: a surgeon came into sight just around a wall. He had a mask on his face, scalpel in hand. We couldn’t see who he was “working” on but he beckoned us toward him. We tentatively took steps forward and, as we did, an operating table came into view. A balding man was atop it, mouth in a grimace, reaching out toward us and moaning. We could see his naked belly, a belly spilling out spaghetti entrails and red ooze.

Our hair was standing on end. The patient moaned louder and reached for us, but we backed away, right into a couple of hideous ghouls who had snuck up from behind us. We started and yelped and saw yet another figure closing the door we'd come through. This one had a scythe in one hand and what looked like intestines in the other. I felt a hand on my shoulder and screamed.

One of us bolted for the door, grabbed and opened it. The gruesome troop came at us and we dashed out of the room, back down the hall, through the front door and out into the street at a pace I would never again run.

We ran all the way back to my house, terrified half the way there, laughing at our scared selves the remainder of the way. One of my friends suggested we return and go through the rest of the place; the other blurted “No way!”

We made it back to my house with nary a scratch. Halloween, again, was the blast we’d remembered it to be.

Inside the kitchen, my mother asked how the haunted house was. We all agreed it was thoroughly creepy, but fun. Something caught her eye as she looked at me ..... and a look of utter disgust came across her face.

“What in the world is on your shoulder?!?” she half yelled. She grabbed a dish towel from the kitchen and came at me. I stood frozen still. My friends were looking at me wide-eyed, no laughter left on their faces.

My mother reached over and took whatever it was from my left should. She showed it to me.

It was a huge piece of raw calf’s liver, a real one, obviously used as one of the props in the haunted house. That hand on my shoulder had left it there for me as “a parting gift.” It left a livery, wet stain.

That’s the kind of Halloween I remember as a kid.

Good times. Good times, indeed .....


...................................... Ruprecht ( STOP )



Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Imagination





Yes.

You may add your own caption.

Winner gets a prize .....

........................................ Ruprecht ( STOP )


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Doing The Best With What You've Got



This is my internet friend, PG. He has graciously accepted my offer to mock him.

Recently, he documented his goatee growth.

You'd think with all the fatherly duties and film purchasing and photo downloading and beer brewing (ad nauseum) the dude has going on, there wouldn't be time to recount the history of his facial hair. But, he did.

Go figure. To each his own.

Boredom can come in many forms - mine is illustrated below .....




"Yeah ... black and white probably woulda been better ..."


"Hold them lips tight, you can almost make out an effort ..."


"Extra goofy? Hey ... I got that look down pat!"


"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea afterall ..."


"Grrrrrr! Urrrrrr!
Grrrrrr! Where're me Lucky Charms ... ?!?"


"All I gotta say is: I'm bringin' sexy back ..."


"And what can brown do for you today, my good sir?"


"Just a tad more practice
and I'll have this 'deer caught in headlights' look nailed flat ..."



"Hair? Spiked. Tie? Knotted. Game face? On.
Bring those four hours of management meetings, baby ..."



"Hmmmmm ... I wonder:
How many days can I get away with wearin' this gray shirt
a'fore anyone notices?"



"With goofy look ............ or without this morning?
That is the question ..."



"Mom's makin' me wear orange again.
She knows I'm not a 'summer' ..."



"There are days the camera works with me
... and there are days it doesn't ..."



"... word to the 'A' ..."

"And then, the guy with the hook says to the aardvark ..."


"Why, yes.
As a matter of fact, I did just passed the Grey Poupon ..."



"If I could just frame my face
in facial hair from the eyebrows down.
Wow ... that'd be stylin' ..."



"And they say only gangstas and catchers
wear their hats backward.
I pull it off just fine ..."



............................... Ruprecht ( STOP )


Monday, October 13, 2008

Apparently, Not The "Best" Stuff .....




“And the world will be better for this

That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star ...”

- exerpt from "The Impossible Dream"


This afternoon, when Rupe got to work, Rupe’s boss’s wife was there.

She’s the actress.

She was dressed in jeans and scrubs.

It looked as if she had been to an audition or somesuch. And Rupe was correct in his assessment.

“I was in a new Snapple commercial”, she explained to Rupe.

“New?” Rupe queried.

There was something new from
Snapple? Whatever could it be?

“My line was
Snapple is now new and improved!’” Rupe’s boss’s wife revealed.

“Oh, no, no, no!” Rupe countered. “You see, Rupe happens to know
Snapple is made from the best stuff on Earth. There can be no ‘new and improved’. That’s absolutely contradictory to what Snapple stands for! This fact has been rote since Wendy The Snapple Lady told us Snapple is ‘Made from the best stuff on Earth®’ back in the ‘70's. The! Best! Stuff! There's no 'new and improved' when you have 'The Best Stuff'!”

She looked at Rupe and shrugged her shoulders.

Rupe stood there for a moment, thinking. “So, now what’s Rupe ‘posed to do? Forget gravity exists, too ... ?!?!?”

Rupe is surrounded by quixotical oxymorons wherever he goes ..... and there’s nothing to do but except it.

........................... ( STOP saying "The Best Stuff On Earth" )

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wordsmithery



My daughter. My seven year old daughter.

She’s in 3rd grade .... and 3rd grade is a heckuva big leap from 2nd grade, let me tell you.

There’s already been frustration, tears, doubt and anger over assignments. There’s been questions galore over why there’s “so much homework!” in 3rd grade. There’s been astonishment at the fact the “times tables” need to be learned. (However, when I showed her a trick about the “9's”, her eyes lit up like a Times Square on a Saturday night.)

Over the course of a month of weeks, mathematics has become simultaneously harder and easier. We’ve seen jaw-dropping progress in her reading and comprehension. And her ability to "step it up" is coming in leaps and bounds.

Rupe’s proudest moment thus far, however, is her English.

Rupe shares some of his daughter's sentences pieced together from vocabulary word assignments garnered over the course of the last few weeks. Rupe’s picked out some that he's particularly enjoyed when they've been read aloud - by Rupe's daughter, no less.

Awed and jealous at the same time, Rupe wishes he could write this well. The fact these example sentences are put together in such unique and expressive ways is testament to Rupe’s youngest daughter being - indeed and in fact - of his loins. (Yes, I know. My “proud parentage” is showing. Deal with it.)

And now, without further ado, please enjoy:

    - There was a small town law.

    - I had to save a life and escape.

    - There was a note formed like a cube.

    - On Third Street, there was a hard tornado.

    - I had luck on the hunt because I won.

    - I smell something unusual.

    - There was a giant statue in the morning.

    - The directions say north, then I got into a situation.

    - Her giant, dark work hurt her hand.


And Rupe's favorite:

    - She turned, it was dark, then it was clear.


............................ Ruprecht ( STOP )




Monday, October 6, 2008

School Of Tradition

I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to baseball tryouts as a kid by my father one sunny, Saturday afternoon. I didn’t want to go, I couldn’t be made to go and I let my father know this through tears and a tantrum or two ... unconvincingly of course.

“You are going to try out and you are going to like it,” I remember my father saying. (In all actuality, I’m not so certain these were the words he emphatically stated. But through my tears and panic and fear of being made a fool of on the tryout field, this is what I remember.)

My father, you see, was a wise man. At least, in retrospect he was. He was teaching me a life lesson, but I didn’t realize it at the time. I don’t think he realized it, either.

Thankfully, the experience didn’t damage me.

Matter of fact, it was the beginning of a life-long love affair I was to have with one of the greatest games on Earth: Baseball.

Without my father forcing me to tryout for little league, I never would have been subject to the finer points of the game. I wouldn’t have learned the patience I now have. I never would have seen the acrobatics of Garvey, Russell, Lopes and Cey. I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the thrill of Manny Mota coming out to pinch hit and save the day. No Fernando. No Reuss. No Howe, Scioscia or Gibson. No Piazza. No Mondesi. I never would have experienced the sounds Helen Dell coaxed out of the stadium organ. I wouldn’t have such fond memories of Vin Scully deftly describing the action on the field and analyzing it afterward. I would have far, far fewer smiles courtesy of Nancy Bea Hefley and her sly renditions between innings at Dodger Stadium.

You see, it’s not old school ... it’s not The School Of Rock or anything like that. It’s the School Of Tradition.

The game of baseball wouldn’t be as sweet without these integral people.

I remember being introduced to professional baseball in the ‘70's with numerous trips to Chavez Ravine, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers. I don’t know when it was I became enamored with the organ playing of Helen Dell, but I figure it was sometime in the late ‘70's.

I thrilled to the ever rising “dunt-dunt-dunt, dunt-dunt-dunt, dunt-dunt-dunt” crowd pleaser that called to all of us in the stands, demanding we clap thunderously for our team. I fondly recall her seventh inning stretch on the organ, beautiful music coming out the speakers all over the stadium, beckoning us to shout out our best “Take Me Out To The Ballgame”. The between innings change of teams was made all the quicker with her spunky tunes and abbreviated quips.

And then, the ‘80's appeared and Helen was replaced by Nancy Bea Hefley. The transition was seamless. Nancy continued Helen’s tradition and more so. To this day, Nancy’s organ still accompanies the crowd’s “... buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack!”. More recently, her “Saturday In The Park” by Chicago graced the confines of the stadium as the Dodgers downed the Chicago Cubs in a three game sweep. It’s always been a pleasure to hear what she was playing. She usually peppered her tunes with humor - a “Three Blind Mice” when an ump made a questionable call, for example. I even remember her chasing Giants pitchers off the mound to "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" Over the years, Nancy’s playful jibes have been grossly curtailed, but she’s still there, every home game, entertaining the crowd and filling our ears with gaiety that can only be found when you’re present at the ballpark.

Then, there’s Vin Scully. Vinny is a personal hero of mine. He tells it like it is. He gives commentary like no other baseball announcer I’ve ever heard. He is the voice of the Dodgers and a Dodger institution in and of himself.

I remember as if it were yesterday Game One of the ‘88 World Series, Dodgers and the A’s. In the bottom of the ninth inning, pinch-hitter Mike Davis had been awarded first base on a two-out walk and Vinny said: “... and look who's coming up ... you talk about a roll of the dice ... this is it.” Kirk Gibson had come out of the dugout to bat. Gibby’s walk out to the plate to pinch hit was made all the more magic with Vinny’s commentary.

Later, with two strikes on him, Gibson hit the ball and painfully gimped to first base, the ball going foul. Vinny proclaimed of Gibson “... it had to be an effort to run that far.”

Later still, on a 3 and 2 count, Kirk Gibson belted a “high fly ball into right field ..... she i-i-i-is ..... gone!” Vinny screamed.

Vinny had always believed - and still believes to this day - the crowd tells the story at the ballpark. Vinny didn’t speak for more than a minute before finally announcing “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

That’s pure, classic Vin Scully announcing right there. And it still sends chills down my spine. To this very day, I still get a thrill hearing Vin call the play-by-play.

And he’s still doing it. Almost 60 years behind the microphone and he’s still plugging away jauntily. The youngest broadcaster ever to announce a World Series game (still a record today), Vinny is a national treasure.

And I’m glad to have had - and continue to have - the opportunity to listen to him during Dodger broadcasts. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It's a ritual of mine: if there’s a Dodger telecast on the tube not being broadcast on the local channel where Vinny’s calling the shots, I will mute the television audio, drag in the portable clock radio and tune into Vinny on the a.m. channel rather than listen to some Bozo call the action. That’s just the way it is. Anything else is substandard as far as I’m concerned.

These are some of my baseball heroes. These are a few of the memories I hold dear. These people are tradition to me.

So ... it’s was a pleasure, a mighty fine pleasure, to hear Nancy plinking out a tune in the background and Vinny calling that final out in the Cubs loss Saturday evening by the Dodgers to take a step closer to yet another World Series celebration. If it happens, Nancy and Vin will be right there with me.

Here’s a tip of my hat to a few of my heroes: Helen and Nancy and Vinny.

Keep’em comin’, thank you very much ..... keep’em comin’ .....



........................ Ruprecht ( STOP )