I was really confused on what day of the week it was today after a busy week. Our Sunday night Lunar New Year Party went well with 34 guests, but it seemed like more of a Friday or Saturday night affair. Confucious or Confusion? Monday was a traditional “Matinee” day, but we went to the movie “Plane” a bit earlier to get home for another party of neighbors planning a cruise, so dinner wasn’t even “Meatless.” Tuesday, I went to my first chair yoga class and stretched a few rarely used muscles. Temperatures have been cold, and therefore swimming has been more sporadic than normal, disrupting that routine. We had also strayed from the habit of having the kids over for Tuesday Eve dinner, getting that family tradition back on track.
Wednesday night, I watched I.U. men’s basketball barely edge Minnesota, but usually they play mid-week Thursdays, so that threw me off a bit. I was also up late for the game, fueled by adrenaline after a late tip-off. My wife and I ended up going chair shopping in Sarasota yesterday, our second visit there in the past week. We also gorged ourselves on Amish cooking at Der Dutchman and had no need for dinner, another unusual twist to the week. The night ended with an I.U. women’s basketball victory over #2 Ohio State.
In the middle of my run today, I suddenly realized it was Friday already. Jogging has at least been a consistent habit for me. That hasn’t changed in the last fourteen years, as “The Streak” now stands at 5,143 consecutive days. I also did not vary from my 3.1-mile course and was not rushed into a shorter distance. In addition, I’ve done a lot of writing this week, adding to the chapters in my Storyworth ramblings. Nothing much is planned for the weekend when traditional partying is done. We got it out of the way early this week, and that was the beginning of my retirement confusion.
We had most of our Islandwalk neighbors over last night to celebrate the Lunar New Year. It was a well-behaved group of about 34, but getting everyone drinks was a bit overwhelming when they all showed up at the same time. This is one of the drawbacks of having all the attendees living so close and the tendency to walk down in groups. I’m sure there were a few folks that we left out in the process of texting invitations. We’ve met so many people in the short time we’ve lived here, so it’s difficult trying to decide who to include. My wife also has taken on the responsibility of organizing neighborhood meet-and-greets at the nearby clubhouse, and at these everyone is invited. We have one in a few weeks, as she continues to thrive on party planning.
Tsingtao beer was probably the hit of the evening to wash down the shrimp fried noodles, crab Rangoon, pork tenderloin sliders, egg rolls, egg drop soup shooters, pot stickers, and other Chinese treats. There were also many sweets like Nazook pastry, chocolate covered strawberries, Hershey chocolate kisses, and fortune cookies. Most of the guests brought a dish, hostess gifts, or a bottle of wine to add to the festivities. Everyone got a red envelope parting gift, loaded with more luck than money.
“A red envelope (hongbao in Mandarin, lai see in Cantonese, and ang pow in Hokkien) is a gift of money inserted into an ornate red pocket of paper. They are given on some important occasions, such as Chinese New Year, birthdays, and weddings in China and some other Asian countries as a way to send good wishes.
The color red symbolizes energy, happiness, and good luck in Chinese cultures. Traditional red envelopes are often decorated with beautiful Chinese calligraphy and symbols.”
My wife loves to host parties, while I find them to be an exhausting hassle, considering my voice and hearing issues. I only pick up about half of what people say to me anymore, especially in a large group setting. In this neighborhood, someone is always having a dinner gathering or celebration, and in our case a Sunday night blast was a true indicator that most of our friends are retired, no longer worried about Monday morning work issues. We have another one to attend tonight, just a few houses down, to talk about a potential Mediterranean cruise. Any excuse for a party on any given night!
Our guests last night seemed to have a good time, with too many silly references to “Looney” rather than “Lunar.” It was, after all, a celebration to bring in the “Year of the Rabbit,” so some of our decorations reflected this theme. I immediately thought of the Looney Tunes cartoons that I watched as a child and the Bugs Bunny rabbit character. What’s Up Doc!
I’m not exactly sure when my dining tastes changed from TV dinners to hoity-toity affairs. Growing up in
Elkhart, Indiana the closest thing we had to fine dining was Minelli’s Steakhouse, owned by our next-door neighbor. It was probably my first encounter with linen tablecloths and tuxedo-wearing servers. Otherwise, away from home, it was fancy bars like Michael’s, Flytrap’s, and Nicky-D’s or the McDonald’s drive-thru.
My wife and I have certainly enjoyed our share of fine dining throughout the years. Major dollars have gone into trying some of the finest restaurants around the world. One of the priciest was a dinner at Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier, France where my wife’s daughter was studying. There were four of us and the check was over $800 U.S. dollars without a lot of expensive wine consumption. I didn’t understand that the tip was included and added a generous amount to bring the total to a tidy grand, since the service was over the top. This was over twenty-years ago, so I can’t imagine what the bill would be today.
Several meals for two have exceeded $600 with drinks and tip. Alinea in Chicago was memorable because one course was a bite of wagyu beef skewered to the tip of a nail and another involved a fragrant pouch of flowers and herbs to enhance the senses. The first impression while entering through a dark hallway were automatic doors suddenly opening to reveal the massive kitchen and the staff greeting us with waves behind the floor-to-ceiling glass pane. It wasn’t enough to serve good food, you also had to perform some magic.
One guaranteed way to boost the bill was to add caviar, oysters, seafood towers, truffles, or pricey liquors. We’ve experienced it all through the hundreds of business meals we’re enjoyed. In this case, we had to make the favorable impression, but the damage was ultimately paid by the company. Then, you sometimes had to justify the expense to your bosses. Fortunately, we had a leader who thrived on over-the-top meals topped with Chateau D’Yquem wine at $500 a bottle. TRU in Chicago was known for their plexiglass stairway of caviar, served as an appetizer. Speaking of big checks from world-renowned chefs, Per Se in NYC was an intimate, romantic setting overlooking Columbus Circle where we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary, Joel Robuchon in Vegas will always be remembered for their elaborate bread cart, French Laundry was a special treat because it was seemingly impossible to get a reservation, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee in Paris was very French for beaucoup bucks, and Emeril’s Delmonico Steakhouse was the site of our wedding dinner 22-years ago. We also spent an evening with Rick Bayless at his Chicago Frontera Grill and dined in New Orleans at John Besh’s flagship restaurant, August.
My wife has a collection of autographed cookbooks from these famous restaurants and hundreds more. Joe’s Stone Crab is one of her favorites, after many visits to their various locations in Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, and Washington D.C. On our many trips to the Big Apple, many places come to mind including Peter Lugar, Carnigie Deli, China Grill, Aureole, Il Mulino, Steria Del Circo, Daniel’s, Capital Grill, Tropica, Café Bolud, Four Seasons, Abboccato, Il Nido, Mandarin Oriental, Palm, 21 Club, Ruby Foo’s, and Nobu. Each of these have made big dents in our wallet, although some of these meals were company reimbursed.
One of my first gourmet business meetings took place at The Glass Chimney in Indianapolis. St. Elmo’s then became a dining preference because of their spicy shrimp cocktails. I was once elaborately wined and dined by a boss on an expense account at King Cole, a fancy French restaurant on Monument Circle when I first went to work at the Middlebury Independent. When traveling to Chicago, the restaurant names that come to mind are Bice, Smith & Wolinsky, Shaw’s, Ben Pao, Catch 35, Chicago Cut, and Harry Caray’s. Each visit involved a stop at Garrett’s Popcorn for the ultimate dessert. Just outside of the Windy City in Valparaiso was another of my wife’s favorites, although not fancy, The Strongbow Turkey Inn. She also craved her hometown Dick’s Drive-In where she once worked in high school. They don’t have a cookbook or apparently even shared their recipes.
Another dining mecca, that included some business meals, was flashy Las Vegas. Popular fine dining spots in Sin City that I haven’t already mentioned are Trevi, Emeril’s, Bouchon, Michael’s, Chinois, and Hugo’s Cellar. When we were living in central Illinois our taste buds often led us to Bizou or Montgomery’s. We also loved to go to New Orleans for Bananas Foster at Brenner’s for brunch, or dinners at Nola and Galatoire’s also in the French Quarter. When in D.C. to visit family or Chamber of Commerce trips, we’d dine at L’Enfant, Old Ebbitt’s, Kinkead’s, and Beuchert’s, among others.
When I was first learning the basics of gourmet dining, my wife once made fun of me for asking if squab was hamburger at Tommy Toys in San Francisco. She always seems disgusted with my table manners. We also ate at Alan Wong’s where the appetizer was a delicious, toasted cheese with tomato soup – my kind of gourmet dish. Alan Wong’s is not to be confused with Johnny Wong’s near Warsaw, Indiana, my mother-in-law’s favorite, although they are both serve Chinese fare. Other Golden Gate area dining happened at Kokkari Estiatorio, Farmstead, Tarantino’s, Arguallo, City View, and The Waterbar as I recall.
Just outside of Ft. Wayne, Indiana was an upscale restaurant named Joseph Duquis where we once had a great meal. When I lived and worked there, WMEE Radio issued me a Don Pedro’s credit card, hardly Diners Club, but essentially a limitless supply of Mexican food and drink to share with clients and family. We ate there all the time and sometimes both lunch and dinner. It was a welcome break from all this expensive dining.
Then my wife discovered Outstanding in the Field, a traveling gourmet extravaganza that further stretched our budget. It’s now over $300 bucks a person to attend these events where the white tablecloth stretches as far as the eye can see in an outdoor setting and local celebrity chefs prepare farm-to-table meals. Green Gate Farms near Austin, Big Table outside of Portland, Jacobson Salt on the Pacific Coast, Portland’s Archery Summit, and Brighton Park & Beach in Vancouver, B.C. hosted us for wine and dinner.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention Roy’s, a chain owned by James Beard Foundation award winner Roy Yamaguchi, as one of our best-loved dining treasures, whether in Florida or Hawaii. Misoyaki Butterfish is always my choice with the Chocolate Lava Cake for dessert. Our most recent stop was in Orlando where we’ve also eaten at Victoria & Albert’s for my 50th birthday. I don’t remember what I had, but my wife will surely remember. She never forgets a fine dining moment. All I recall was the harp player’s odd rendition of “Margaritaville.” Il Mulino recently opened a Disney-area outlet that we tried last year with family after that great experience in NYC.
It’s difficult to recognize all of our numerous fine-dining experiences, but thanks to my diary I’ve listed a pretty wide range. While in Bangkok, we researched choices and selected Wat Phra and Thanying. Viking Cruises and the Marriott Vacation Club have taken us to some distant places. On-board meals at Manfredi’s, Mamsen’s, The World Cafe, The Restaurant, and the Chef’s Table have been outstanding without the burden of picking up a hefty check.
Our marriage has followed a trail of food from Indiana through Illinois, Texas, Oregon, and Florida. We both had a life of fine food long before we met, otherwise this post would be twice as long as it is. Austin was all about BBQ, having sampled Franklin, Salt Lick, Black’s, Rudy’s, County Line, Stubbs, and Lockhart. Congress Restaurant downtown was a pricey choice for my 55th birthday, followed by a more affordable Magnolia Cafe for breakfast with Tinker, who would have preferred to be at her picnic spot behind Rudy’s.
We then moved to Portland, Oregon where Castagna, Aviary, Le Pigeon, Farm Spirit, Cocquine, Pardner’s, Firehouse Pizza, Blue Hour, Ava Gene’s, Dukahbee, Nonna Emelia, Roe, Laurelhurst, Hairy Lobster, Mingo, and Holdfast became her local favorites, along with Mucca Osteria where her daughter’s wedding reception took place. We left them all behind to retire in Florida, where dining is much more casual. The fanciest establishments here so far have been Sarasota’s Michaels on East, where my son once bought me dinner, and popular Prime Steakhouse. We both now agree that we’ve pretty much seen it all when it comes to extraordinary fine dining. It’s probably not worth the money anymore. Cracker Barrel here we come!
I picked my grandson, Gavyn, up from school yesterday afternoon. It’s less than two weeks before his 16th birthday. Most teens live for this birthday because they can start driving, but this is not the case with him. I guess he expects all of us to chauffeur him around town until all cars learn to drive themselves. Getting my driver’s license was a big deal, and I’d already gotten my learner’s permit before my sweet sixteenth. It was a proud badge of independence, but it also led to me first accident when I spun out in my dad’s 1965 Mustang on a rain-slickened road and took out a mailbox. I realized quickly what a huge responsibility it was to share the road. Fortunately, I’ve had few accidents since and none of them have been serious.
I’m sure it was a big worry for my parents when I took off by myself during those high school years. Gavyn just might be saving my son Adam from that stressful aspect of child raising. At the very least, he won’t follow in my footsteps and take the car to California or loan it to a friend for an impromptu daytrip to Toledo. Adam was never this reckless behind the wheel, that I know of, when he got his license. However, he never had a sports car to drive like I did as a teen.
Gavyn and I talked about pizza on our long drive back to North Port together. He was surprised that I like to think of myself as a pizza connoisseur, and so I shared some of my experiences with him. My favorite is from Greg’s Volcano Pizza in my hometown of Elkhart, Indiana. Most people naturally gravitate back to their familiar eating places when comparing. My wife relished Nubiano’s or Bruno’s Pizza that she grew up eating. One explanation for this homey appeal, that I believe to be true, is that we get hooked on the local water that’s used to drink and cook. I also had my share of frozen pizzas growing up since delivery was rare in those days. Our neighbor and a high school friend owned the Elkhart Noble Roman’s franchise, and I wanted to help support their business. It was entertaining to watch them throw the dough to stretch it into a round shape. Big John’s tavern once served a memorable pizza bread. Recently, we made a stop in Johnsonville, Tennessee at the sister Greg’s Volcano restaurant, proving that I will definitely go out of my way for this pizza.
The other hometown favorite was Shakey’s Pizza Parlor known for their all-you-can-eat buffet. They also had these mojo potatoes that I craved. When we moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Jimmy’s Pizza had a similar offering. Pizza Hut also served an unlimited spread. On Fridays, the gang from work would get together to gorge ourselves at one place or the other. Chuck E Cheese was a client of ours, and their mascot cheered for our WMEE basketball team. The animated entertainment was the main appeal, not necessarily the food.
When we’d travel into Chicago, deep dish pizza was the craze. Pizzeria Uno and Giordano’s were popular back then and still around to this day. In New York City, Ray’s Pizza is on practically every corner. It was usually our go-to dinner before a Broadway Show. On one occasion we went to Amore for a quick slice after watching Bombay Dreams. There was also an Amore Pizzeria in Indy and seems to be a common name in the business. “Like a Big Pizza Pie…that’s Amore.” The next time in the Big Apple, we ate at Angelo’s Pizza between showings of The Color Purple and Putnam County Spelling Bee. In D.C., it was Pizzeria Paradiso for lunch or Matchbox, two of our daughters’ favs when they were studying at American and George Washington, then lived in our Nation’s Capital.
Indianapolis was our next career stop, and Bazbeaux Pizza was a steady favorite. We also began to take advantage of the delivery services for Pizza Hut, Dominos, Papa John’s, and Little Ceasars, among others. Papa Murphy’s was available to take-out and be heated in your home oven. Later, it was on grocery store shelves. Before we were married, my wife lived in the Broad Ripple area, so Some Guys was usually her #1 pick. Pucino’s and Donato’s were also Indy pizza destinations.
Decatur had Monical’s Pizza, Del Carmen’s, and Jupiter when we craved a slice. We went into St. Louis on several occasions, including the Jersey Boys performance and ate at Pizzeria Due with friends. My wife and I ate in the finer restaurants in Vegas, where we were married and had numerous business events, so the only pizza stop I could find was at Bonanno’s for lunch near the Tropicana. Dinner was at Joe’s Stone Crab.
I once bought a book about the 100 top pizza places in America and started a quest to visit them all. The book somehow got lost on a trip to Hilton Head and I didn’t give it much credit because Volcano wasn’t mentioned. Guisseppi’s was credited in the book, so we had stopped there for a bite. The #1 pick at that time was New York City’s Una Pizza Napoletana and it has become legendary. I still remember the long-lasting flavor in my mouth from the Margherita-style, wood-fired, flatbread that I wanted to savor forever, to the point that I actually passed-up my traditional NYC treat, a black-and-white-cookie. I kept the resource book nearby whenever we traveled and tried to visit as many as possible, crossing them off the list, before it mysteriously disappeared. The pictures in the book looked good enough to eat, so maybe someone did!
In Austin, it was more BBQ than pizza. The original Home Style Pizza on Congress Street was an institution that has since expanded to other locations in Texas. We also tried Yaghi’s, Pizza Nizza, Hog Island Deli, Rounders, Frank & Angie’s, Hotlips, East Side Pies, Villa, Double Dave’s, Tony’s Coal Fired, Buffalina, Pieous, Salvation, and Farmhouse during our years in the city. Sadly, most of the homeless in Austin seemed to be talented guitarists that played on the streets, hoping for a break. The local joke was knowing the difference between a pizza and a musician. The answer is that a pizza can feed a family of eight. I never tried a BBQ pizza pie, my preference was always sausage, and once again there was none better than Elkhart’s Volcano. I got one every time I returned home to northern Indiana.
The career path then took us to Portland, Oregon. The city was known for its food trucks to an even greater degree than Austin. Apizza Scholls, Lovely Fifty-Fifty, Ken’s Artisan Pizza, Sizzle Pie, and Oven & Shaker were some of our regular haunts. We also tried Pizzacato, Jerry’s, Lucky House, Brick Oven, and Firehouse, according to my diary notes. During the pandemic, we frequently got take-out pies from Seratto, next door to our apartment building, or walked down the block to Escape from New York for less pricy carry-out. Tally was not allowed to go inside but the pizza-makers would occasionally offer her a taste through an open window. We also lived next door to a sausage plant, so both of us would enjoy the neighborhood smells.
Round the world travels took us to Venice, Italy and genuine Italian pizza at Girani Cage, then to Rome at da Luigi after visiting the Vatican, Sorrento’s Pizzeria Aurora, and finally by ferry to Positano for an Il Fornino pie. While in Paris, we had pizza and wine at Mornay. In British Columbia, we shared our pizza dinner at Megabite with stroller-bound Tinker and Tally after the ferry delivered us to Butchart Gardens. Before our recent Alaska/Hawaii cruise, we enjoyed Pacifico pizza in Vancouver. On various trips to California, we enjoyed Ghiradelli pizza in San Francisco, as much as their chocolate, and devoured Arthur Mac’s when visiting my stepdaughter’s home in Oakland. Early in her career she lived in Oklahoma City and took us to Hideaway for a pizza treat.
Finally, we officially retired in Venice, Florida, and have yet to try all the local fare. The closest pizza place is Bocca Lupo while Big Mike’s is our favorite with LI Guys close behind. It’s been many years since we’ve had pizza delivered, so I’ve lost touch with that outlet for my favorite dish. In a gated community, it’s easier to just go pick it up. Gavyn probably joined us for pizza at Mamma Lilla’s, Pioneer’s, Marco’s, and Fratelli’s near his hometown of North Port. He was not with us, nor was Adam, when Eliza, Maddux, and Nora shared a pie with us at Bobarino’s in nearby Englewood. Probably, our most memorable pizza moment was in South Beach, Miami where my wife tried to improvise and bake a frozen pizza slice in the toaster. Fire alarms went off! In her defense, when in a real kitchen, she makes the best pizza we’ve had down here in Florida.
I remember as a kid the forts I would build in the house, draping blankets and towels over chairs and tables. I don’t remember printing signs that said, “Keep Out,” but I valued my privacy in these often-dark places. I built them near a television in the basement of our Carolyn Avenue home, so I could watch Captain Kangaroo or Romper Room without interruption. Sometimes, I would share this space with my sister Judy. It was the indoor camping that I have always preferred over being in the wild.
One might think that I would have loved being in a tent outdoors or even a small camper, but that never appealed to me for some reason. I will say that I am still intrigued with tiny homes. I made such a mess of my room as even a young adult, so the smaller the space, the less the clutter. For this reason, when we moved to 1565 North Bay Drive, I chose the smaller bedroom with a single window, and let my sister have the bigger, corner, bedroom with two windows. My parents had the other corner bedroom, finally a private space of their own after having sacrificed for years by sleeping on a fold-out couch in the living room. This way, Judy and I had our own rooms, as required by the adoption agreements.
The new house had much more space. It was a split-level with the bedrooms on the top floor, a short flight of stairs down led to the living room, kitchen, and front entry. A second stairway down took you into the family, laundry, and utility rooms, while a sliding glass door opened to an outdoor patio. A third stairway down led to the basement where I spent most of my time. I liked to think of it as my private fort, with a pool table that doubled as ping pong and the radio that played my favorite tunes. The walls were decorated with jig-saw puzzles that my mom had covered with the same clear shellac that she used for her hobby of decoupage. Any important document, newspaper article, or picture was permanently enshrined on a piece of wood under numerous coats of shellac. They were our family trophies, proudly displayed throughout the house. The puzzles were relegated to the basement.
I really thought that the basement was all mine, but apparently Judy spent a lot of time down there, especially when I went off to college. Years later, after our parents passed on, she somehow claimed the upright radio that I always thought would be mine. I wonder if she ever knew about my secret hiding spot that was the ultimate fort? The plumbers had cut an opening in the ceiling to access some pipes behind the laundry room. I found that I could squeeze through that hole and hide between the walls. It was about 3-feet wide and 10 feet long, a secret, dark cavity where I had that same feeling of privacy that I found under the blankets of the forts that I built in the basement of our first house.
Skiing was always another father-son bonding tradition. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened for some time. I do have my 70+ Ski Club patch but haven’t been on the slopes since Portland and year-69. It was only an hour drive from our home to Mount Hood, so a few times each year I would make the drive with friends. We never got Adam’s family of five to visit us there, the 3,000-mile distance too far to navigate, but before he was married, we did ski together at Mount Bachelor in Bend, Oregon. My good Elkhart and I.U. friends, who lived in Portland, joined us on the mountain that year. It might have been the last time that father and son skied together.
Adam learned to ski at the same time I did, but at an age when he had no fear. I worked at a radio station in Fort Wayne, Indiana (WMEE), and Timber Ridge Ski Resort near Kalamazoo, Michigan was a client. They convinced me to try the sport when I was nearing the ripe old age of thirty. I really struggled the first few times but stuck with it for several more visits. We enjoyed it as a family and bought equipment instead of renting. I then arranged for a week-long trip to Monarch Resort in Colorado, a big step up in degree of difficulty. A few weeks before we planned to leave, we did one last tune-up at Timber Ridge. Adam ended up in the Emergency Room after twisting his knee, so we nearly canceled the Colorado trip after watching him limp around the house for a week. A few days later, he seemed back to normal, so we proceeded with our vacation plans.
We flew into Denver and rented a car. As we neared Breckenridge on our way to Monarch and saw the mountain peaks filled with skiers, I got the urge to buy some afternoon passes so that Adam and I could enjoy the sun and blue skies. We got on the lift and his eyes got big as he noted the massive size of these runs when compared to Michigan where he learned. As we got off the lift, he began to awkwardly gimp, hesitant to ski. I stopped and pointed out that he was limping on the opposite leg from what he injured. He was obviously faking, and I didn’t fall for it. He had much less trouble getting down the slopes than I did, and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon, along with the week of skiing at Monarch that followed. We were all hooked by the time we left Colorado, ready for future adventures.
We tried other resorts over the next few years, like Cannonsburg, Crystal Mountain with the White’s, and less-challenging Swiss Valley that was closer to home. Next, we made the long drive into Northern Michigan to ski Boyne Mountain. We also joined the Clark family on a trip to Steamboat Colorado, where Adam took daily lessons with ski instructors as part of their Polar Bears program.
When we moved to Indianapolis, too far for regular excursions into Michigan, I went on to ski with friends in Utah, Montana, and Vancouver without him. We did venture down to Paoli Peaks before the two of us made the journey to Mount Bachelor. We also went back to Steamboat, but the last few times that I’ve been there in recent years, my wife and I stayed with friends that we met in Decatur. Her brother also owned a home at Breckenridge, so I skied with him, returning to the slopes that were so intimidating to Adam the first time he saw them.
The song, “Another one bites the dust,” by Queen came on the radio this morning and it made me think of several stories involving my son Adam as he was growing up. He once insisted that it was “another one bites the duster,” hearing the little grunt that Freddy Mercury added for effect after “dust.” I remember the argument we had over this like it was yesterday, as he stubbornly fought to be correct. It wasn’t the last time we butted heads over silly things, as we always tried to prove each other wrong. He also firmly believed that Michael Jackson was not black and pointed to the album cover to prove it. I’ve always seen this as a turning point in racial relations, where the younger generation did not see the difference between black and white. A good thing but also another point of contention between us.
One of the funnier confrontations we had was when he pulled out a cassette tape (that should tell you how long ago this was) from my glove compartment and pronounced the group name on the label as “Line-Rad-Skein-Rad.” I had to convince him that it was actually Leonard Skynard. I’ve given him a hard time about this for years now. These are fond memories of being a father.
I took him to his first concert, The Beach Boys, when he was probably 10-years old. I was working for WMEE Radio in Fort Wayne, Indiana at the time and had access to great seats. Adam stood on his chair the whole show. His favorite group was always KISS, so a few years later they performed at the Allen County War Memorial, at that time known as the Fort Wayne Coliseum. We got to go backstage and meet Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss, all remarkably alive today, although only Gene and Paul still remain with the band. I think that Adam still has the autographs we collected, and I remember a conversation we had that night with Gene Simmons about him once being a teacher. I can’t recall how many KISS concerts we attended together, but each was a bonding experience. I do know that he has seen the band numerous times without me.
Another memorable father-son concert was ZZ Topp at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. Once again, I secured the tickets through the radio station that I worked for, WIBC. I was a bit embarrassed at the time of the buzz cut that Adam was proudly sporting. It might even have been a mohawk, as part of being on the swim team. However, I think it earned him a role as team barber for the basketball team, as well. I referred to this in a previous Storyworth chapter where our bathroom at home was the scene of this crime, left hairy and bloody.
The coolest thing about the ZZ Topp concert was that the band performed on a walking sidewalk that whisked them effortlessly from one end of the stage to the other. In this manner, they could compete with acts like the Rolling Stones and Mick Jagger, who ruled the stage with his energetic strutting. The long-bearded boys were never in that kind of tip-top shape. My wife and I had dinner next to them on the rooftop at Fleetwood’s on Front Street on Maui a few years ago. Bassist Dusty Hill died just last year.
Denise got us tickets to the Daytona 500 in 2017 through the FOX affiliate she worked for in Portland. However, she had to work, so I made the trip to Florida and took Adam, Eliza, Gavyn, and Maddux to the race and surrounding activities. They made me a memory box that includes a ticket autographed by Clint Bowyer. Part of the festivities included a concert by Lady Antebellum, while Jordin Sparks sang the anthem. It was the kids’ first live stage show, as I pass down the tradition of father-son-grandchildren musical performances from one generation to the next. My parents never took me to a show, but then again, they didn’t work in the media and have access to tickets!
I have a neighborhood friend who is into cars, something that never appealed to me. However, despite my aversion to machines themselves, I’ve managed to find a marketing interest in auto racing. It started when I was working for WTRC Radio in Elkhart, Indiana, one of many network affiliates for the broadcast of the Indianapolis 500. I sold advertising in the race, but more importantly got my first tickets to the event from the General Manager of the station. I drove with my son and his mother, along with some good friends to Indianapolis, a three-hour drive. The race started at 11a.m., so we must have been on the road very, very early.
We had four tickets in the main grandstand and bought two inexpensive infield admission tickets, thinking we would switch seats several times during the course of the race. None of us had any idea how big the place was that housed the world’s largest sporting event. It rained all the way down but miraculously cleared just as we arrived, so we somehow found a parking spot in a muddy field, across from the track, owned by the Coca-Cola Bottling Company. The six of us aimlessly wandered into the infield and spread a picnic blanket. After the fried chicken was gone, the wives then took the two kids up to the safer, reserved seats, while my buddy and I roamed through the ruckus crowd on the inside of the track.
I mention all is because my son went into the massive Speedway through one gate, through a tunnel into the infield, and out to the seats through another. We had insisted that he hold on to our hands. I have no sense of direction, so it was easy for me to get lost, let alone a little kid. Plus, the adults rotated seats four times during the race since you’d be lucky to see any track action from the infield seats – just drunken debauchery!
We managed to get everyone back together under the main grandstand after the race was over, but my son got mad and ran off by himself. We spent well over an hour trying to find him in that packed crowd and reluctantly headed back to the car desperately empty-handed. I thought for sure my young son had been abducted or injured trying to find us. All kinds of horrible scenarios naturally raced through my mind. I notified the police and security officials, as I frantically circled the two-and-a-half-mile oval, but he was nowhere to be found.
When we got back to the car, there he was, thankfully! He was under the protection of an inebriated fan wearing a cape, claiming to be “Mud Man.” Regardless, he was a superhero to me in reuniting us with our son. Then, he went back to sliding in the mud puddles with his friends. Fortunately, my son did not inherit my directionally- challenged gene, and easily found the car and some “capable” help. At that point, I was more gratefully relieved than angry at his foolish antics.
This was my very first encounter with the Indy 500, with many more to write about. See Post #1333. Within the past year, my auto-crazed neighbor drove us to the St. Petersburg Indycar race last year, along with a road rally at a nearby airport course. He drives a Mazda Miata and is taking me to Sebring this weekend, home of the 12-hour endurance race won in 1990 and 1991 by my friend Derek Daly. He was the driver expert we hired at WISH-TV, another chapter in my unlikely but rewarding involvement with auto racing throughout the years.