Today's thoughts

Category: Storyworth (Page 1 of 7)

Retirement is not without Hassles: Got Gas? #2439

We’ve cut back on auto usage this year, after buying a used golf cart. We just have to carefully check each other’s schedule in operating with only one car. The 2005 Lexus Sc 430 convertible has about 117,000 miles on it, needing a tune-up, boot replacement, and rear struts. Granddaughter Nora calls it the “sweaty car,” stuck in the small back seat where the air conditioning is marginal. To her, the golf cart is the “go cart.” We sold the Toyota Solara convertible, knowing that it needed major work after the long drive from Portland. We will need to rent, borrow my son’s car, or buy a new one before we can carry 3 or 4 full-sized passengers or travel long distances. At least the golf cart holds four adults comfortably and one spoiled dog. 

According to AARP, American Association of Retired People, like me, the national average cost of a gallon of gas today is about $3.88, but it varies, depending on where you live. When I was a kid in the 50s the average price of this basic expense was apparently about 18 cents! I got a 25-cent-per-gallon discount through Circle K and pumped a tank-full of Mid-Grade at $3.23, the lowest I’ve paid this year, even at Costco. The golf cart is plug and go, and we may have it licensed to utilize outside our neighborhood. 

Other cost of living statistics from my childhood (1962) provided by Seek Publishing included average income at $5,556 per year, a new house going for $12, 550, new car $2,924, average rent $110 per month, tuition to Harvard University $1,520 per year, movie ticket for a buck, and a postage stamp for 4-cents. A gallon of milk sold for $1.04 per gallon while bread was 21-cents per loaf, while today bread in the state of Florida averages $3.62. Got Milk? A gallon now sells for $3.97, ten cents more than an equal amount of gasoline and 35-cents more than a loaf of bread. 

We own an all-electric home but use propane for the outdoor kitchen. My wife prefers cooking with gas and was disappointed to find out that our only option here in Islandwalk was to bury a tank. Ironically, she used to handle the media buying for Citizen’s Gas in Indianapolis. She also worked with Coca-Cola that can result in a different kind of gas, if only it too could be bottled. We have a back-up supply, that can be very valuable after a storm. For example, a neighbor was stuck here in Hurricane Ian, while we were safely evacuated on a luxury cruise ship in Alaska. He frantically searched our snowbird-vacant homes for extra tanks to provide generator power and cooking needs during the lengthy power outage that we experienced. We sadly lost most of our freezer food while traveling.

We’ve somehow managed to miss both hurricanes since moving to Florida. During the most recent, Idalia, we were on our way back from Indiana after attending a wedding and funeral. We spent an extra night in Huntsville, Alabama as the storm hit Tallahassee. There were no damage issues with our house.  Before we decided to move here, my son and his family, who lives nearby, evacuated their home for Irma in 2017. They spent a few uncomfortable nights at a nearby schoolhouse, while we worried for their safety back in Portland.

While traveling in Alaska, we visited the site of the Exxon Valdez disaster, spilling 11-million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound and the surrounding cities. That was back in 1989, 25-years ago and 14-years after the first section of pipe was laid. Alaska oil production peaked in 1988 at 738 million barrels, providing about 25 percent of U.S. oil production. However, when you see the current state of Valdez, you can’t help but see that this led to severe consequences, while the pipeline has been the subject of years of controversy ever since. More than half the cost of filling-up a car is influenced by the price of crude oil. Oil and gas affect every aspect of our lives, like it or not. Got Gas?


Retirement is not without Hassles: The Photographers #2438

There is a tarnished gold trophy that stands about 8 inches high on my office shelf that was a prized possession of my grandfather Hancher. It was once proudly displayed in a glass case in his Elwood, Indiana home that now stands in my son’s living room. The trophy is fairly heavy in weight, unlike today’s awards. It was manufactured by Dodge, Inc. with offices in L.A., Chicago, Newark and Miami as inscribed on the inside of the base. There is one exactly like it on E-Bay for $30. This one was awarded by the Elwood Camera Club in Dec. 1956 for Best of Show Monochrome to Ross A. Hancher.

When I recently mentioned this item to my sister, she immediately asked if she could have it? I might trade her for one of my Grandma’s Emmett Kelly paintings. (See Post #1778). After all, this artwork belongs here in Florida, near where my grandparents had their mobile home in Englewood and near the area where this famous clown once performed. I had my eye on this trophy since I was a kid as an unwilling victim of my grandfather’s beloved hobby. I would spend hours in their Indiana basement where he had a studio set- up. I wore costumes, popped out of a laundry basket like a Jack-in-the-Box, and tried my best to sit still. My only reward is a series of baseball cards prints showing me in a Yankees cap poised with a bat. The rest of the photos he took, I’m not sure what to do with, some flat out embarrassing. 

Back in those days, photography required a great deal of patience handling cumbersome equipment and dangerous chemicals. It needed a willing subject, a steady hand, and hours spent in a dark development room. His basement was actually kind of scary with an old wringer washer, tiny windows, bright lights on stanchions, and a massive furnace that looked haunted. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, but there was always one more photo to take. My grandfather was a man of few words and endless patience, leading to hours of boring silence, much like going fishing with him. 

I would like to think that I was the subject of this award-winning photo. I’m sure I have it in my album collection, but I’m not quite sure which one it is. I’m surprised that my mom did not leave a note as to its whereabouts. She also caught the photo fever to further torment me, transitioning into video. I was apparently very photogenic at least in their eyes, while I became photophobic. She was seemingly never without a camera, recording everything from sunsets and food buffets. It eventually became a retirement business, The Calico Cottage, miniaturizing and framing personal photos for doll houses. Between father and daughter, I never wanted to see another camera my entire life. Then, came the I-Phone.

I have so many family photos in numerous formats, many of which are duplicates. They are in albums, on hard drives, on VHS tapes, CDs, and photo sticks. Now, they are also on my phone, as I have become more photo friendly. No more setup, processing, or storage problems – just point and click. Instant gratification instead of waiting for weeks to see if you got a good shot. In today’s world, we’re all expert photographers. 


Retirement is not without Hassles: Moving #2437

I’ve made a lot of moves in life, thirty-two as noted in “My Life by the Numbers Part Two” (Post #2434). The first such move was changing neighborhoods between 5th and 6th grade. I already had been moved, with few belongings, from the adoption home to the Elkhart Indiana, Carolyn Avenue address, but this next action would take me away from my childhood friends, grade school, and familiar surroundings where I grew up. I was about to become a Beardsley Bomber instead of a Rice Krispie. 

I don’t remember a truck coming to pick up our things, or even a sadness about leaving. Many of our familiar neighbors had already moved to “nicer” neighborhood and ours was just across town. I got to pick my room, while my parents finally had a bedroom of their own after sacrificing their comfort on the fold-out couch in the living room. We really needed more space as a family of four. I let my sister have the bigger, corner room with two windows, while I for some reason preferred a smaller space. Maybe it was because I kept a messy room, so it was that much less to pick-up. 

I had to take the bus to school, so I met the new neighbor kids at the stop near our new house. A couple of them were older and bullies, so it wasn’t always pleasant to board. I was used to either walking or being dropped off by my parents. I was also pretty shy, short, and skinny with ears that I had yet to grow into. Everyone at the new school seemed bigger and stronger, and I was in fact too small to play basketball, whereas I had made the team at Rice the years before. I don’t remember ever talking to a girl, now separated from my first crush, Mary Lee Herzberg. I did, however, meet Tim Steffen who has become a lifelong friend. He was more confident and scrappier even with braces on his teeth. My parents were concerned about his fragile stature, a misnomer they would laugh about for years to come. 

Since I was destined to move a lot in the future, this major life change was probably a necessary learning experience. I had some newfound independence from my parents, learned to make friends or tolerate teasing, and somehow adapted to the new school, surroundings, and teachers. I would only be there for a year before moving on to yet another school and Northside Junior High. Finally, it was on to Elkhart High where I would be reunited with the friendships I made at Rice as well a those from Beardsley

I wouldn’t move again until it was time to go to Albion College four years later. I settled in Seton Hall East and then the Sigma Chi Fraternity before transferring to Indiana University midway through my sophomore year. Once again, I packed my bags, left friends behind and moved into Cottage Grove apartments with high school classmate, Alan Harper. We both moved back to Elkhart for the summer, adding more roommates the next year at Colonial Crest – Buzz, J.D., and Murph. Eventually, my wife to be moved in and life became a blur. Marriage and a child were soon to come, along with more moves from apartment-to-apartment, and eventually into the Eagle Lake House, then on to Coverdale Lake. New jobs, friends, and responsibilities soon came to pass. 

The next thing I knew I was in Fort Wayne, living with my mother-in-law in Woodcrest, before my wife at the time and I rented another apartment of our own at Winchester Woods next door to the Clarks. A year or so later, I had accumulated enough trade dollars to afford a nicer place at Candlelight. Without letting the grass grow under my feet, our next transition was to Indianapolis and related moves from the Signature Inn, followed by Pickwick Farms, and ultimately Christiana Lane, while working for WIBC Radio.

Divorce followed next and a new phase of life began with the promotion to a WISH-TV marketing position. Next door with a view from my new office was the former site of the Suemma Coleman Adoption Agency, my first home before these first 17 moves. However, I was only half-way there in terms of relocating. We had just bought a condo at the Jamaica Royale on Siesta Key with a retirement plan in mind, but our separation changed all those dreams. My ex-wife got both the condo and house in the settlement, while I happily arranged for Marriott hotels, apartments at River Run, that smelled like tacos, and Lantern Woods before moving in with my fiancé at her home on Linden Court in Fishers. 

We bought our first home together in Zionsville after eloping to the Bellagio in Las Vegas, compromising on my commute to Lafayette’s WLFI-TV and hers to WISH-TV. It was my first station to manage, while she continued her responsibilities in National and Local Sales. Soon, we would be partners in running WAND-TV in Decatur, Illinois, yet another need for a moving truck. Like previous transitions and more soon to come, we were in temporary corporate housing at both another Signature Inn and Twin Oaks prior to buying #1 Kenwood on Lake Decatur. This turned out to be a mistake as the Illinois real estate market collapsed, the station was sold, and I found myself without a job. More moves!

We traveled the long road from Austin to Portland, following my wife’s job promotions, and eventually to Florida retirement, but not until after making double house payments, selling the Decatur home for much less than we paid, staying in four more apartments, multiple hotels, struggling with moving companies and storage needs, until now finally settled where we are today in Venice. Was #32 the last move? Probably not, but I’ve come a long way, encompassing life in six different states, from Elkhart, Indiana’s Carolyn Avenue to our current Islandwalk Florida neighborhood. Along the way, I’ve made many friends/acquaintances that might not have been possible without that first childhood moving experience. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Life by the Numbers – Part Two #2434

I Love keeping lists and have kept a diary for the last 25-years, so it’s hard to argue the accuracy of my life data. This history is admittedly all about bragging rights, but a good way to summarize my amazing life at age 72. Hopefully, I can add to my list as time goes on. It is impossible to account for all the fine dining establishments I’ve frequented or all the movies and books that I’ve read. The countdown from a million to zero starts here:

Done at least 1,000,000 lifetime pushups. 

Countless Marriott Points used.

Logged over 16,000 lifetime running miles.

Achieved 5,500+ consecutive running days.

Written over 1000 poems.

Attended over 350 Sporting events.

Purchased 340 Limoges Boxes.

Saw over 300 Concerts.

Own 245 Sherm Lollar related collectables.

Watched over 200 Broadway Musicals.

Weigh 195 pounds. 

Have 190 Shohei Ohtani Topps baseball cards for sale. 

Own more than 150 pairs of cuff links.

Visited over 125 wineries and a couple distilleries.

100-Plus Toastmaster Speeches given to earn DTM.

Enjoyed 72 years of life and still counting.

49 States traveled, so far.

37 Baseball Stadiums (including Minor League).

35 Countries*

Moved 32 times.

Snow Skied at 26 Resorts.

26 visits to Disney/Universal.

Over 20 Racetracks.

15 times to Vegas.

11 times to Hawaii.

Sold ads on 10 different radio stations and 4 print publications.

Attended 9 Final Fours and 2 Maui Classics.

Only 9 cars owned, plus a snowmobile and golf cart.

Bought 8 different homes in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Texas, Oregon, and Florida.

7 Cruises (5 Ocean 2 River).

Played in 6 different organized sports but not well.

6 Continents*

6 Dogs.

5 times to Italy and France.

4 Cats.

Worked at 3 TV Stations (ran 2)

Wrote 3 Unpublished Novels.

Studied at 3 Colleges to earn Marketing B.S.

3 Grandchildren nearby.

2 Marriages.

2 Marathons.

2 Grade schools.

2 Stepdaughters.

2 Cubs World Series games.

2 White Sox World Series games.

1 College World Series

Pledged 1 Fraternity (Sigma Chi)

1 Son.

0 Super Bowls.


*includes 2024 Cross-Atlantic Cruise.




Retirement is not without Hassles: The Growing-Up Path #2430

It’s hard to believe that someday my grandchildren could be my age or that I was once their age. I can barely remember being five but there are memories of a coat room in my kindergarten class where we would go collect our blankets for naptime. At thirteen, I was at Northside Junior High trying out for the track team as a hurdler because it was the shortest distance you could run. I hated running and they had eliminated the 60-yard dash that I excelled at in grade school. I had a quick, speedy start, so short distances were ideal, but I could not finish strong in the 100-yard dash. I also wasn’t flexible enough to be a hurdler and as a result didn’t make the track team. 

Probably the most monumental occasion of growing up came in high school, I had just gotten my learner’s permit at 16 and began to drive.  Later that year I would earn my license, completing the transition from trike, to bike, to car. It was the beginning of independence in that slow transition to manhood. Grades were my sole responsibility as I began to think about college and dating. At the same time, I couldn’t imagine any girl that might want to marry me – the kid with big ears, skinny legs, and glasses. 

Do I miss these moments of my childhood? I certainly wouldn’t want to go through it again. These were awkward times for me, troubled with insecurity, lack of confidence, immaturity, and low self-esteem. In my mind, I was always just slightly above average in all the things that mattered back then – popularity, sports, and looks, wanting to be smarter, more athletic, stronger, and irresistibly handsome. I envied those who excelled around me, while enduring some bullying, name-calling, and cruelty. As I look back, I actually was in the top 10% of my class, well-liked, and somewhat good-looking, but didn’t know it at the time. It was just never good enough and maybe still isn’t!

Has my life been different than imagined? There were three unstated expectations that my parents had for me. First, was to go to college (graduated from IUSB in 1973). Second, to get married (1973 and 2001). Third, to have and hold a career (too many to mention).  My folks were all about loyalty – one college, one marriage, and one workplace, a straight path to retirement. However, times had changed, and I never anticipated changing schools, wives, or jobs. Three schools, a child, two wives, and numerous jobs was much different from what I expected. I don’t regret that I strayed from the path of my parent’s initial guidance. With each fork in the road, I found a new side of me. I could have gone on and got more degrees, found a different career, and never married. Would I be happier? – probably not. It’s just that none of you would have existed to read my stories. 


Retirement is not without Hassles: Bikes #2416

I can’t remember the last time I actually rode a bike, probably on a trip to Martha’s Vineyard, over 20-years ago, where we rented them for the day. I can also recall a time, more than 25-years ago, when our travel group to France used bikes to explore the Burgundy wine district. We would navigate from steeple to steeple, stopping to sample wines along the way. Back, even longer ago, when living in Ft. Wayne, there were bike bar rallies for charity that I would join on a Saturday afternoon, weaving our way through town after a few too many.  

My wife bought a bike years ago that we moved from place to place, this being the most use it ever got. Portland was too hilly for safe use and here in Florida it (and its rider) became the victim of a minor crash. I hopped on it once and rode it a block to the neighbor’s house to borrow a wrench to adjust the seat. This was just after we had it repaired for Ben and Miranda’s last trip to Portland to see us. As an avid biker, he had used it on their previous visit but found one of the petals to be stripped. It now sits in our garage waiting for my wife’s confidence to be restored.

I rode a bike in college as part of training for the Little 500 but never enjoyed it or the accompanying hemorrhoids. I think it was loaned to me by the Fraternity house team, so I would have to go back to my teenage years for a time when I actually owned a bike. It was a blue Schwinn 3-speed that got little use, except for a few long weekend jaunts and races that a friend of mine, Dave Geiger, organized. They were usually 50 to 100 miles in length on the Indiana backroads, and we were not allowed to use the gear mechanism. I don’t have fond memories of the backbreaking effort of pedaling, so what inspired me to compete in the even more grueling Little 500 is a mystery. It probably had to do with a free trip to Florida for training workouts. 

As a child, I found my very first Schwinn bicycle under the Christmas tree. I was so excited that I insisted on sleeping next to it that first night. I rode it everywhere, ringing the bell and enjoying that first sense of freedom. My mom once sent me to the store for a loaf of bread that I unthinkingly stuffed under the seat to secure it from falling off my bike. It was probably the last time she trusted me for an errand, after thoroughly smashing the Wonder out of the bread. I decorated the bike for parades, and “motorized” it by pinning baseball cards to the spokes. In the process, I ruined several now priceless Mickey Mantles, among other stars of the 50s and 60s.  Unlike other kids, I never rode my bike to school, probably since there was a busy street to cross, and my parents were overly cautious in protecting me. There were no helmets or knee pads back then, that are standard precautions these days. 

That first shiny, new bike was a big step-up from the previous 3-wheeled trike that I rode, plus it naturally had training wheels. I can barely remember my mom and other neighbors helping me eventually balance it on my own. Learning to ride a two-wheeler without help was that first great sense of accomplishment, although I don’t remember at what age that happened. I never was very daring and had no interest in a truly motorized bike, especially after my neighbor, Jim Kreider, lost a leg riding his motorcycle. My tom-boy sister, of course, moved quickly from bicycle to motorcycle. She was much braver than I ever was and fortunately never had a serious accident.

I did spend a lot of money on bicycles and titanium parts when my son took an interest in BMX racing. Many hours were spent at the local dirt track cheering him on. As a father, it was probably one of the few times that I took an active interest in his participation, outside of little league baseball. I could at least relate to bicycle racing, unlike swimming, soccer, and rugby that I never took part in as a child. I still enjoy watching the Tour de France every year, but that’s as close I get to a bicycle anymore. 



Retirement is not without Hassles: The Ten Commandments #2415

Although I’m not a religious man, I was brought up believing in the Ten Commandments, more specifically the last six. References to “Gods,” “Idols,” “Lord,” “Holy,” and “Sabbath” have very little meaning to me. I’m not sure that there is a God or more than one God that really cares about what day is holy or if they are selfish enough to worry about idols or the misuse of their name. Although, that particular commandment of name misuse kept me from swearing for many years, unfortunately it hasn’t stuck. 

The Ten Commandments:

1. You shall have no other gods.
2. You shall not make idols.
3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord.
4. Remember the Sabbath, keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not lie.
10. You shall not covet.

Perhaps, all of us have made mistakes in honoring each of these ten rules of life. I certainly have and getting forgiveness, as many believe, will not change what I’ve done. I have to live with these misjudgments, most of them insignificant. However, these last six commandments are all about being selfish and thoughtless at the expense of our fellow humans. I’ve tried to lead a life where I put others first and certainly wouldn’t do anything that I wouldn’t want done to myself. This includes lying, cheating, coveting, taking a life, or dishonoring anyone, especially those that gave me life and raised me. To me, getting along with others is simple, but sadly we live in a world where it’s not. 

After a great deal of thought on how I was raised and taught, my life’s MOTTO would really be a simple abbreviation (M.O.T.T.O.):






It’s worth trying. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Favorite Songs #2414

Prior to high school I was part of the Presbyterian Church choir, while the esteemed leader, Mr. Gowdy, was also head of my high school choir, so he encouraged me to join his class. It was a group where I forged my friendships, some of which still exist after 55-years, like Roger Miller and Alan Harper. My prom date for my senior year was a choir member, Leslie Sackett, a relationship that continued into our first year of college and started at Choir Camp. 

I was not much of a musician, although I did take both piano and voice lessons, but could never read music and was more of a follower than leader. While others made the exclusive Double Ten touring group, I never tried out because a solo was required, and I was too shy to perform in front of the class. In fact, Mr. Gowdy was very accommodating when I nervously went through the qualifying steps to be in the Concert Choir. I did like to sing, but mostly in the privacy of the shower or car. My voice was also in the process of changing, along with my hormones, from a tenor to baritone, but I was caught awkwardly somewhere between the two ranges. Convinced that I did have a good voice with a bit of a bravado, the group did eventually convince me to reluctantly participate in the state vocal competition, where I was able to earn a couple of silver metals singing an Italian operettic tune called Caro Mio Ben, popularized by Luciano Pavarotti. I was hardly worthy of his rendition but will never forget the effort to emulate his performances. I did not make the Albion College choir, despite continuing with vocal lessons.

I have only done karaoke on a couple of occasions, mostly after a few drinks and considerable coaxing. I could also never remember the words to songs, a skill where my wife continues to amaze everyone. Even with a teleprompter, I was never comfortable with my voice, especially after the problems with my vocal cords in later life. I now sound gravely and weak when I try to join her in song. My favorite sing-alongs in college were “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” by Peter, Paul, and Mary and “Brandy” by Looking Glass. If I had to pick an all-time-favorite, it would have to be the Bill Withers’ rendition of “Ain’t No Sunshine.” I love Grace Slick’s voice, “The Best of Bread,” and live performances by the group Humble Pie with Peter Frampton and Steve Marriott; “Thirty Days in the Hole” has become my theme song. I’ve also become a country music fan, especially the humorous lyrics. 

I like to laugh, and have great memories of the song, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” by Aretha Franklin with good friends Mike Emerson and Doug Clark after a night at the Four Aces Tavern. My wife and I are partial to the song, “Happy Together” by the Turtles after seeing them at the Indiana Roof. A family gift of these lyrics is proudly displayed on not just one but two wall hangings in our house. I also like hearing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” that I never hesitate singing along with at a game, especially the Harry Carey version. I’m sure there are lots of other songs that can easily make my day, but these are a few of my favorites.




Old Sport Shorts: Pick ‘Em Poorly #2403

We choose our teams from the area where we live, the schools we attended, and outside influencers that cross our paths. I grew up in the Chicago area (northern Indiana) with a father that was a Detroit sports fan and neighbors that were Bears and White Sox supporters. My folks graduated from Indiana University and even baby pictures showed me in I.U. gear. They were able to win for many years with even me as part of their fan base but have fallen on hard times over the past 35-years of my life. 

The Elkhart High School Blue Blazers were my hometown favorite. The only Indiana professional sports franchise was the Pacers, until the Colts showed up in the middle of the night. Nowadays, there are women’s teams and minor league teams, but the state is still primarily influenced by Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati teams. Hockey and soccer were not of interest to me until later in life, while I began to follow the Cubs since my dad and son were big fans. With my record of losers, I’m sure I’ve done them no favors in climbing on the bandwagon.

As a kid, I was drawn to players like Johnny Unitas of the then Baltimore Colts, Sherm Lollar of the Chicago White Sox, and Mike Ditka of the Bears. These attractions were likely due to the influence of television. For Lollar, it was the 1959 World Series against the Dodgers. Unitas joined the Colts in 1959 and Ditka the Bears in 1961, all in my vulnerable pre-teen years when I established initial fandom. “Johnny U” was the only one on a team outside my geographic circle. Ironically, the team moved to Indianapolis, as Peyton Manning eventually took his place in my heart, wearing that classic white helmet with the blue horseshoe. My dad talked me out of being a Yankees fan, despite my love of Mickey Mantle. They wouldn’t have probably won as many rings if I had stayed on board. 

Of all my teams, Indiana University basketball under Bob Knight is undoubtedly my most successful sports allegiance, witnessing three national titles, the most memorable in the stands when Keith Smart hit the winner. If I had chosen Notre Dame or Purdue, I would have seen personal glory in other sports, particularly football. I’ve tried to root for these teams, but negative childhood vibes have gotten in the way. It’s odd, because I’ve worked near both campuses and have had personal ties, so I should naturally be more supportive. My cousin played for the Irish and his father was an assistant coach, so it was the first stadium I ever visited, one of my treasured memories of going to games with my dad. I also interacted with Purdue coaches, like 
Tiller and Keady, and players such as Drew Brees, but my dad hated both schools, so I loyally followed along. 

As we moved from place to place, I adopted the local teams, but only rarely was it productive. The Illini were much less successful than the Hoosiers. While living in Austin, I did watch the Texas Longhorns win a College World Series title on TV and then saw live and in person the Oregon State Beavers equal that baseball achievement in Omaha, while working in Portland. I also followed the Portland Timbers when they won the MLS championship in 2015. The Oregon Ducks had their moments in football and basketball, but never won all the marbles. I even favored the Mariners in nearby Seattle, but they remain the only MLB franchise to have never played in a World Series – my kind of team. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2013 but have been unable to repeat since I became their adoptive fan. 

Most all my favorite memories of my father are around attending sporting events, including the infamous “Hamburger” outburst. We went to high school games, ND Stadium, Comiskey Park, Riverfront, and Wrigley Field together. Saw “The Monster” explode with fireworks, celebrated those NCAA Championships of our IU Alma Mater, had lunch with Jim Coker of the Phillies, watched an angry Lou Pinella throw first base at an umpire, and witnessed Sammy Sosa top Babe Ruth’s HR record. Outside of sports, I remember carving our YMCA Indian Guides totem pole, along with a related overnight campout and our pinewood derby entry. We also traveled to Akron as a family to watch my good friend Tim Steffen compete in the Soap Box Derby nationals. Who could ever forget our lengthy station wagon journeys to Yellowstone, Wall Drugs, Mackinac Island, The Wisconsin Dells/Locks, Mt, Rushmore, Englewood, FL, and Gulf Shores. 

I never had success in the fantasy leagues or on betting in general, too often choosing players that ended up injured or performed poorly. I tried to stay out of my son’s selections, even though he invited me to be part of his team, a mistake he will learn to regret. We’re off to a bad start. Unfortunately, like father – like son. 

As far as professional sports, I have only gotten small doses of victory, otherwise it has been a miserable relationship. The Pacers have never won an NBA title, but the Colts did win a Super Bowl in 2007. Unfortunately, it was against my Bears, so it was a game of mixed emotions. The Bears won it all in 1986 and I reacted with my own “Super Bowl Shuffle.” The White Sox finally won rings in 2005 and the Cubs did it in 2016, games I was able to attend. That’s only 3 Chicago titles in 60 years of following these teams. That’s 171 losing seasons, including this year. The Bears are already 0-3, while the Cubs have dropped their last four as a potential playoff contender, and the long ago eliminated White Sox have only won four of their last ten. I logically should have been an obnoxious Bulls fan, but I spared them the “Johnston Jinx.” I really know how to pick ’em, don’t I? 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Little Pink Houses #2400

John Cougar Mellencamp is a fellow Hoosier, from Seymour, Indiana, where my 90-year-old birth mother just passed. I never met her but talked with him at an I.U. basketball game. He wrote these lyrics that always reminds me of our pink Coverdale Lake home (See Post # 2399):

“Aw, but ain’t that America for you and me
Ain’t that America somethin’ to see, baby
Ain’t that America home of the free, yeah
Little pink houses for you and me
Oh yeah, for you and me.”

My parents bought it for themselves, but it ended up in my hands, then my sister’s, before we sold it. One of the first goals was to repaint it and eliminate the pink tiles in the master bathroom. For that matter, it could have been Barbie’s house! I bought gallons of gray paint and rented both a pressure washer and sprayer. The rest of our family taped-off windows, doors, around fixtures, and grabbed paint brushes. We were ready to start the de-pinking process. 

I set up the sprayer just outside the garage and filled it with paint before starting it up. A gasket apparently failed and the machine began to spew paint all over the garage, cars, pavement, and me. It was a total disaster before I finally was able to shut it down. I then quickly grabbed the power washer to rinse-off all the areas covered in the gray paint that was supposed to do away with the pink. Ultimately, it took hours of time and gallons of pressurized water to clean up the mess, while the rest of the family began to paint by hand. Fortunately, nothing was ruined except for my ego, that had devised this quick-fix plan.  By the time I had cleaned-up the mess, returned the faulty sprayer, and took the time to buy more paint, it was no longer an economical or efficient idea. They were nearly done by the time I got back. Painting has never been one of my strengths.

Other improvements that we made to the house, included a wood-burning stove in the basement. A friend built the concrete block flute, and a window opening was adapted to serve as a pass-through for wood. I spent most of my time working on the limestone retaining walls that framed the stairways down to the lake. I would no sooner get one re-built before it once again crumbled from erosion. Friends would come over on weekends, but I was always busy fixing these troublesome walls, enviously watching them play in the water. They would also drink all my beer until I stopped buying brand names and switched to generic BEER. They eventually got the hint and began to bring their own. Lake life was never as I dreamed!

We had several big parties at the house. One was a Halloween party where I built a cardboard chute down the basement stairs as an entrance to the haunted house below. The other was a softball series between the two Federated Media radio stations where I worked. The Ft. Wayne stations, WMEE & WQHK, against my original employer WTRC in Elkhart. Players arrived in motorhomes filled with kegs of beer and camped at the end of our dead-end drive after an afternoon of competitive softball. We roasted a pig and borrowed a pontoon boat that nearly sunk; then got stuck in the narrow, muddy, channel between the lakes. It was a wild scene out of the Jungle Queen!

I worked at a Styrofoam factory, FORMEX, for many years, so I had a fleet of sailboat and catamaran seconds, along with paddleboards, floating lounge chairs, and kick boards. I also had a pinball machine in the basement, plus ping pong and pool tables, so it was the ideal party palace, certainly not what my parents envisioned when they originally bought it. Multiple balconies looked out over the lake and the pier was ideal for sunbathing. No wonder it was a popular weekend retreat for my friends once it was no longer pink. 


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