OGF2 - The Missing Years
ONLY GOLDEN
FINGERS COULD PLAY
SO HEAVY
----THE MISSING YEARS
Roger D. Linder
Copyright © 2014 Roger D. Linder
All rights reserved.
RoCeMaBra Publishing
This is dedicated to all the musical artists whose song titles
throughout the years have inspired this story.
1985 - MONEY FOR NOTHING
Retirement had treated I Mall very well. With royalties
from continuing album sales and music publication, as
well as his invested assets, his annual income was sufficient
to build a nice nest egg to support Angela and him for
many years to come. He supplemented his income by
producing a few records for some friends, but it wasn’t
necessarily a new career choice. It was just a way of
keeping at least one foot in the music business.
They moved into a new home, which I liked to call the
“Mall Hall,” and it was a bit of a status symbol. While not
exactly a hermit, I and Angela did not entertain much,
but enjoyed immensely their own company. As they began
to settle into their life of comfort, children became the
topic for frequent discussion.
“I’m not getting any younger, you know,” said Angela.
“My biological clock is ticking up a storm. It won’t be long
before I’m thirty. I should have had a couple of kids by
now. All my friends are starting families. What about us?”
I agreed, “Back in the ‘70s I wouldn’t have wanted to
bring any children into the world, but these days, after the
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world reform movement, I think we best do our part to
provide for the continuation of the species.”
“Does it always have to be so clinical and exact with
you?” Angela chided. “Can’t you just think about a family
from a family point of view? Don’t you think having little
ones about will be a great thing?”
“Of course, I do,” I returned. “The thought of sleepless
nights, 3 AM feedings, changing diapers, cleaning up
vomit and emptying their litter boxes is something I’m
really looking forward to.”
Angela’s tone turned hostile. “Oh, yeah, you’re really
committed to this idea, aren’t you?”
“I’m just joking,” I replied. “I think it’s a great idea to
get a family started. Want to go upstairs?”
“Now you’re just being silly. It’s not something you
schedule, it’s just going to happen when it happens. I’m
going off the pill today. When the time is right, they will
come.”
Weeks went by, and nothing more was said about
having children, but when Angela began to wake up sick
in the morning, I knew that something was up.
“Morning sickness, hmm?” he inquired.
“Oh, just a little too much to eat last night, I guess,”
Angela defended. She burped, then declared. “There. All
better.”
“Yeah, I suppose pickles and ice cream will not always
be an agreeable meal,” I countered.
“You got me there,” she said, followed by her joyful
admission: “I visited the doctor the other day. I’m
pregnant!”
“Oh, no, not again!”
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Angela adopted a puzzled expression. “What do you
mean by that? I haven’t been pregnant before!”
“Oh, that’s right. I guess I was just overreacting like
those folks I sometimes see on TV. Actually, it’s great news!
A boy or a girl?”
“I don’t know, it’s too early to even tell. But my heart
tells me it’s a girl. We’ll know in another seven months. I
remember only a little when my mother was pregnant
with me. Well, not actually remember, but what she told
me about it. Time went by for her like a gazelle. It’s like
dad and her just met, and then there were the four of us.”
“We need to relish every moment, keep photos, maybe
even do some filming. We have that Video Cassette
Recorder and camera that we can start to document our
journey. Maybe we’ll be famous filmmakers someday!”
“We can film some, but I’m going to draw the line at
certain things. There’s only so much that I want seen
about this whole thing.”
“Then what are we waiting for? We should be filming
this as well. It’s all part of the process.”
“This isn’t the exciting time. Wait until I start to show,
at least. Or maybe we can surprise our parents with the
announcement. Yours will be very pleased, it’ll be their
first grandchild.”
“Yeah, Spike and Emily beat us to punch with their
little one. But now he’ll have a cousin to play with.”
The following weeks saw more changes. Clothes no
longer fit. Moods were testy. Diets changed. Some food
didn’t taste good for Angela; some she craved. She
especially like roasted chicken. A lot of 3AM trips on
roasted chicken quests. It didn’t matter that there were no
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places open at that hour, she insisted they drive around
“just in case.”
I finally found a place that served up a good roasted
chicken, and made it a habit of picking up a few extra
meals. When the 3AM craving came about, the dinner
was popped into the microwave and “Voila!” Craving
satisfied!
Soon, however, the cravings switched to lemon pie, and
roasted chicken did not even get a second glance. Seven
meals stocked into the freezer went uneaten for several
months, until they finally had to throw them away. They
even got a letter from the local restaurant asking if
everything was OK. They were concerned because they
hadn’t been seen there in some time.
But the local pie shop was the fortunate beneficiary of
Angela’s new cravings, and she was eating a whole pie
every two days. That particular phase lasted for two
months, before she decided that only dark fudge chocolate
chip cookies would satisfy her every need.
Angela looked in the mirror. I commented, “Are you
sure we’re not having twins?” Angela had gained eighty
pounds, and it was pretty certain it wasn’t all baby.
“How could I have let myself go like that,” she fell
sobbing into I’s arms. Then, almost inexplicably, began
beating him about the head.
“It’s all your fault! You shouldn’t have kept feeding me.
Look where it’s gotten me! It will take years for this to go
away. I hate you!”
“Now, now. Settle down. We’ll work though this
together.” I tried to calm Angela down. She wept,
inconsolably. “Let’s start with a healthy alternative. Try
some salad.”
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“That’s rabbit food! I’m not an animal!” she screamed.
“Give me a cookie!”
I grasped her firmly by the arms, and stared into her
eyes. “OK, then how about an apple? You like apples,
don’t you?”
I’s calm in the face of her hysterics was enough to stop
the water works. “I guess so,” she sniffed. “An apple a
day…” she giggled a bit.
Angela’s weight stabilized with a healthier diet, but
didn’t go down. She struggled to move about as her due
date approached. I called her his little hippo, in a
affectionate manner, but Angela didn’t really appreciate
his affection.
I became her chauffeur as she needed to make her
“little trips” as she liked to call them, just to get out of the
house for a while. But one “little trip” was a bit different.
As they were out and about, a sudden pang hit her in the
stomach. She screamed, nearly sending I off the road.
“She’s coming! We need to go to the hospital now!”
Angela still had herself convinced that the baby was going
to be a girl.
I turned around and headed in the direction of the
hospital and stepped on the gas. “Slow down, it’s not
going to happen that fast. I’d rather arrive late, than not at
all,” Angela warned.
I pulled up to the hospital doors and helped Angela out
of the car. A nearby wheelchair was commandeered, and
he wheeled her into the registration area. The nurse took
one look at her and said “I’ll take it from here.” I stopped
and began filling out paperwork.
“That’ll be $100,” the receptionist said. “That’s the
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standard fee for hospital admittance with your plan.”
I paid the $100 in cash, and went to the delivery ward.
The nurse was examining Angela, taking vitals, scanning
for stress on the baby.
“Everything looks fine, she said, but she’s not quite
ready yet. It’s false labor. Take her home, and let her have
some rest. It’s going to be a couple of days still.”
They left without a baby in tow; the excitement had
faded to disappointment. “Money for nothing,” I
complained, grousing about the $100 fee. “We should
have at least got a refund.”
“We can afford it,” Angela offered. “I’m down, too. But
she’s coming soon. I know it. It’s only a matter of time
now. Soon. Soon…” Exhausted, she drifted into slumber.
As if on schedule, two days later, they were headed back
to the hospital. This time, however, they were better
prepared. Angela had packed an overnight bag and kept it
handy. I comforted her through more false labor pains, but
when the real ones arrived, they knew the time was near.
When her water broke, it was into the car and off to the
hospital. She was in pain, but knowing it was soon to end,
the trip was much less hurried and anxious.
At registration, the receptionist noted that they had
already paid the admittance fee, and both moved quickly
into the labor room.
“You’re going to be fine,” I tenderly told Angela. “It’s
all going to be fine.”
Angela let out another scream, “She’s coming!”
I popped his head out and called for the nurse. “I think
it’s time!”
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Holding Angela’s hand, I accompanied her to the
delivery room, and thirty minutes later, Christine Elaine
Mall, 7 pounds, 8 ounces, 19 inches long, came into the
world.
Chrissy was a delight for her mother and father, and
Henry and Juliette Mall and Buddy and Annette Jones
couldn’t be prouder as new grandparents. Henry had
become a bit more worldly since the birth of his son; he
no longer had to ask how old the baby was when it was
born. Juliette looked longingly at her granddaughter,
wondering what it would have been like if she’d had a
daughter in addition to I. Buddy and Annette welcomed
their first granddaughter with joyful tears.
It was December 3, 1985, I’s 32nd birthday, and he was
a father for the first time. He could not have asked for a
better birthday present.
7
1986 - YOUR WILDEST DREAMS
“I’m going to write a book.”
Angela looked at I as if he were crazy. “A book,” she
sighed resignedly. “What could you possibly write a book
about?” She shook her head.
“I have a full life of experiences that I can draw upon,”
I defended himself.
“A full life,” she countered. “You’re only thirty-two
years old. How is that possibly a ‘full life’?”
“All my life I’ve been so meek and mildly mannered,”, he sang.
“There’s the first line already!”
“So you’re going to release the lyrics of your songs as a
book?” she inquired.
“No,” he said. “I’m just going to pepper the text with a
few poignant lyrics throughout.”
“So what’s this book going to be called?”
“‘Your Wildest Dreams.’ It’s a rags to riches story of my
success, downfall and resurgence.”
“That’s already been done dozens of times. How will
yours be any different?”
“No one knows the story better than me.” He puffed up
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his chest a bit. “I’m an expert on the subject matter.
Besides, I need a legacy to pass down to Chrissy. Someday,
she’ll have children of her own, and will want them to
know all about their famous grandfather.”
Angela was getting a bit worried that I was beginning to
suffer once again from delusions of grandeur and a return
to intense egoism.
“I hope you’re not going to go down that dark road
again. It nearly destroyed you.”
“And you saved me. As I figure it, that will be Chapter
17. It has the making of high drama and pathos.”
“Ok, you just get out your typewriter and start typing
away. Let’s see how far you can get.”
“You have no faith in me,” I complained. “You don’t
think I can do it.”
“Faith is not the problem. Action is the problem. Take a
look at all the unfinished projects you’ve got laying about.
The ‘picnic area’ in the back, the ‘Roman fountain’ on the
side. Our so-called ‘Library’. A bunch of books in boxes
does not constitute a library.”
“Those are all physical pursuits. This is a pursuit of the
mind. Pen to Paper. Typewriter key to Paper. Quill to
Parchment. Even talking about it is poetic!”
“So now it’s a book of poems?”
“No, but the art of writing is poetic as well as cathartic.
See, I even get to use words that I would never use in
ordinary speech.”
“You know, you’re more like your father than you think.
He’s always been one for hair-brained schemes as well,
and this sounds just like another.”
“Oh come on,” I protested. “Give it a chance. I’m
retired. I’m not making music. I need a way to channel my
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creativity.”
“Why don’t you try writing a novel instead? That’s
creative. Writing about yourself is hardly creative. As you
said, you’re already an expert on the subject. How will you
sell yourself to an audience who’s already heard
everything about you through the press, TV, radio and fan
magazines? If you ask me, it’s just a waste of time. Leave
it up to someone else to tell your story. Maybe after a few
years have passed. By that time, people will see you as a
historical figure, and maybe gain a new fan base on top of
the fans of yesterday.”
“The book must be written!” I declared.
“Yes, there is truth in that. Just not now. It’s not the
right time. Trust me on this.”
I hung his head, dejected. He looked up at Angela with
puppy dog eyes.
“Don’t give me that look,” she said. “Just think about it.
You know I’m right. Now how about channeling some of
that ‘creative energy’ into the Roman fountain. I’d really
like to see that working before springtime.”
I abandoned his wildest dream, the story of his life, at
least for a little while. “Perhaps I’ll take on a collaborator,” he
thought. “Someone who will tell my story, the way I want it told.
Someday. Someday…”
Carpentry and construction were not among I’s
passions, but he did appreciate design and invention, traits
that he likely inherited from his father. His father, Henry
Mall, had gained some notoriety as a successful inventor
over the years, and held a number of patents, providing a
nice steady income stream. I called Henry.
“Dad,” he began. “I need some help in completing
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some of these projects around here. Angela complains
that I start one, then abandon it to pursue another. I can’t
say that she’s wrong about that. Can you help?”
Henry replied, “I’ll get Buddy and come over to take a
look. He’s been itching for a project lately as well.” Buddy
Jones was Angela’s father, I’s father-in-law. “How’s
tomorrow?”
“That’ll be great,” I replied. “I want to finish our picnic
area, then move on to some of the other projects. Looking
forward to it!”
Henry and Buddy arrived early the next morning, with
a truckload of tools to tackle some of the biggest jobs.
“I don’t think you’ll need all of that for a job as simple
as that,” I declared. “I thought more like a couple of rakes
and shovels and we’d be on our way.”
“This job is bigger than rakes and shovels, son,” Henry
said. “We’re going to make this a first class destination,
even if the only ones heading for it are the two of you and
the baby. Years from now, you’ll really thank me.”
“So,” I asked. “What’s the plan? We going for a
roadside rest theme here?”
“Nothing quite that big,” Buddy added. “But it will be
enough for small as well as large gatherings. They’ll be
plenty of those, once this is done.”
The three of them began the work in earnest. First was
grading the ground to provide a level surface for the picnic
tables. An area of 20 feet x 30 feet was lined out with
chalk, then they thought better of it and increased it by
ten feet in each dimension.
“We need to clear out the grass in this area, put up
some forms, and get ready to pour concrete.” Henry was
taking charge.
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“That seems a bit sterile for a backyard picnic area,” I
complained. “Don’t you think less concrete and more
natural materials will make a better area for relaxation?”
“Of course we’re not going to pour the whole area in
concrete. Just some pads for the table and barbecue area.
You’ll appreciate the hard surface where the tables are
going to be, and we need support for the outdoor kitchen.
Remember, this will be an area to be proud of !”
Henry’s grandiose plans, for some strange reason,
always had a way of working out.
Two months later, the extended family, I, Angela,
Chrissy, Henry and Juliette, Buddy and Annette, as well as
Angela’s brother Spike, his wife Emily and young Adrian
Jr. all gathered to christen the new structure. And what a
grand structure and picnic area it was! Within the massive
30 foot by 40 foot area were six 6 foot by 8 foot table pads,
complete with custom-built redwood tables and benches, a
12 foot by 18 foot outdoor kitchen pad, with two built-in
barbecues, sink, prep area and storage, two three-level
fountains, and the entire structure was covered with a
massive overhead shade, with motorized retractable
awnings (with remote control, of course.) Multiple shade
trees were planted around the area, and a gravel path
wound around the tables, making every aspect of it as
accessible as a walk through the park. Drop down
temporary walls allowed for entertaining and enjoyment
year round, when portable heaters could be brought in to
take the chill off a wintry day, or a cool autumn evening.
“I love it!” was the common reaction of everyone, and
before long, a grand feast was underway. Burgers, ribs,
chicken, even a whole turkey was turning on the spit.
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Salads of every type: potato, macaroni, pasta, green,
caesar, fruit. Plus loaves of bread, a few cases of beer,
several bottles of wine, chips, dips, desserts. The
celebration was both a family event as well as an
exposition of gluttony. By the time everyone had eaten
their fill, there was still enough leftovers to feed them all a
second time.
“What will we do with all this leftover food?” Angela
wondered.
“Let’s invite the neighbors!” I cried out, a bit drunkenly.
“We live on an isolated estate, at least a mile from
anyone else. What neighbors are you inviting?”
But I had drifted off to sleep. While everyone else
continued the conversation, I drifted into a dream. He
discovered himself fifty feet in the air, overlooking the new
picnic area. A sense of calm overcame him as he floated
above, seeing everyone still partying below. The thought
of inviting the neighbors entered into his dream state, and
he saw lines forming outside the gate, where everyone was
waiting to be admitted, hoping for a meal. I looked and
saw even more lined up behind them, and realized that
these weren’t just neighbors, but all the needy, who,
compared with all his excesses, could barely afford to feed
their own families. I shook himself awake, and
remembering the dream, saw it as a vision.
“I must do something about world hunger,” he said
aloud.
The others turned to him curiously, and collectively said
“Huh?”
“I had a dream, and I saw many waiting to be fed,
while we were inside the gates partying. It’s a message. It’s
time once again to explore humanitarian options. I
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thought my World Reform movement in the 70s was an
end to it, but there’s more, there’s always more.”
“Even in my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined
entering into an effort like this again. But this is very
important. It’s something I must do.”
Within three months, the I and Angela Mall Foundation
to Eradicate World Hunger was established, and was
beginning to make a real difference in the world.
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1987 - I STILL HAVEN’T FOUND WHAT
I’M LOOKING FOR
As an organization, the “I and Angela Mall Foundation to
Eradicate World Hunger,” (I AM FEW Hunger, as it was
popularly known, despite not making a lot of grammatical
sense) basically ran without a need for oversight by I or
Angela. Their initial infusion of money to get things going
was a great boost, but it was the people who ran the dayto-day operations who were the real stars of the show. I’s
vision, and he truly felt that’s what his dream was, was
fulfilled, if not in the manner he dreamed (no one was
lined up at the gate to get fed). However, he still did not
feel fulfilled.
“I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” he
complained to Angela one day. “I thought the foundation
was going to be the answer to my longing, but now that it’s
going on its own, I feel like we are back to just sitting idle;
nothing to do.”
“The picnic area is available year-round,” Angela
prompted.
“Well, I don’t mean there’s literally nothing to do. Of
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course, I love spending time with you and Chrissy, and I
think that now that she’s 18 months old, perhaps we can
consider doing some traveling.”
“I’m afraid she’ll be a handful at her age,” Angela
mused. “She’s never traveled any significant distance.
What do you have in mind?”
“Well, frankly, I’m thinking about a Mediterranean
cruise.” Angela looked at him quizzically, if not with total
incredulity.
“I’ve seen that look before,” I noted. “But hear me out.”
He paused, for a bit, then continued. “A cruise is just a
hotel on water, in fact, more like its own little town on
water. Every need is taken care of, and you barely have to
lift a finger. They even provide babysitting services, if we
want to partake in some more ‘adult’ activities.”
Angela’s skepticism began to fade. “You mean we might
have a little time to ourselves?” She was warming to the
idea.
“Within reason, of course,” I continued. “We certainly
don’t want to abandon Chrissy to a stranger for the whole
trip.”
“I like the idea of a cruise,” Angela agreed, “but I think
it’s better to get some time alone to ourselves. Mom and
Dad will certainly look after Chrissy, if we ask them, and
your parents would certainly help out, too.”
“OK, then, let’s start planning for that trip!” I was
excited to finally have a goal.
Angela and I visited the nearest travel agent and got a
number of brochures describing all of the wonderful
Mediterranean cruises available. They chose the finest line
at the time, La Voyage Princesa, a French-Italian
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company that had a reputation as the best overall. The
cuisine was exquisite, according to the reviews, the service
impeccable, the staff without flaw. They booked a package
with a flight to New York, then non-stop to Naples, Italy,
where the departure was scheduled. Stops included
Monaco, Marseilles, Barcelona, Tangiers, Palermo and
back to Naples for the flight back home.
“This is going to be the trip of a lifetime!” I was clearly
exuberant. “This will be so much better than when the
band did our world tour. We spent more time on a bus
than anywhere else.”
When the day of departure finally arrived, suitcases
lined the hallway leading to the home entrance.
“What’s all this?” I asked Angela.
“My clothes, and other things that I think I’ll need on
the trip,” she countered.
“We’re only going to be gone for two weeks,” I cried.
“This looks like we’re moving to another part of the
world.”
“Well, in fact, we sort of are,” Angela offered. “I don’t
want to be lacking for anything while we’re gone.”
“But the stateroom is only so big, with all this, we won’t
have room for ourselves!”
“That’s OK, I made sure that we will have two
staterooms, one for most of the luggage, and one for us.
And if we have a fight, we still each have a place to stay,”
she teased.
“That’s sounds excessive, but I guess it will have to do,”
I accepted, “At least we won’t be needing anything else on
this trip. What’s in these two large bags?”
“Those are my shoes. A girl can’t have too many shoes,
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can she?”
“Two suitcases with nothing but shoes? How many
pairs?”
“I’ve got twenty-five pairs in each case.”
“Twenty-five! Fifty? That’s four pairs for every day
we’re gone! How in the world can you possible wear all
those?” I was clearly getting upset.
“It’s not so much ‘How in the world?’ but ‘Where in the
world?’ You never know where I might need a fashion
change, and I’ve got to be ready at all times.”
“So, which one of these bags is mine?” I asked,
indicating the vast array.
“Yours aren’t packed, yet. I’ve laid out a couple of pairs
of slacks for you upstairs, and your tuxedo is hanging in
the hall.”
“Do I at least get a suitcase to hold them in?” I asked
sarcastically.
“There’s a carry-on garment bag hanging in the closet.
That should be fine.”
I popped his hand against his forehead. “I should have
had a V8,” he complained.
When the cab to the airport turned up, the driver spied
the numbers of bags and nearly fainted. “There’s no way I
can possible fit all these into my cab. I’m going to need a
bigger vehicle!” He radioed into HQ and asked for them
to send over a stretch limo. “That’s about all I can do,
unless you want to call for a city bus!”
The limo arrived about thirty minutes later and
everything was packed in, leaving only a small amount of
room for the two passengers. Even I’s garment bag had to
find a space in the front seat beside the driver.
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“Is the moving van far behind?” he asked. “Should I
wait?”
“No, this is it, thankfully,” I returned. “To the airport,
and step on it. We’re going to be late!”
With the extra weight, the limo was slow on
accelerating, but finally managed to hit the freeway and
arrived at the airport about an hour before the flight was
to leave. The driver unloaded the bags while Angela went
into the terminal to check in.
“What did I tell you,” he said. “Plenty of time, you
probably even have a while to relax at the bar before you
board your flight.”
“I’ll need a drink after that wild ride!” I noted. “I just
hope I have enough cash to enjoy the rest of the cruise. I
just about went broke tipping the skycaps!”
I reached into his wallet to grab cash for the limo driver,
only to find it bare. “What did I tell you, wiped out!”
The driver glared at him. “The fare is $150! You’re not
going to stick me with that!”
“Calm down, good fellow,” I adopted a faux British
accent. In times of tension, he felt it offered a calming
influence. “I have a check right here.”
“No checks, cash only!” The driver insisted.
“Do you take a credit card?” holding out his American
Express.
“Cash only!”
I was in a pickle. He decided to play the trump card.
“Do you know who I am?” He took off the sunglasses he
was wearing, to make sure the driver got a good look.
The driver continued to glare. “Yeah, you’re the guy
who owes me a hundred and fifty dollars! Cash!” No hint
of recognition.
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“Ok, ok, calm down. Here’s comes my wife. She’ll have
the cash. I hope.“ I was beginning to get worried.
“Honey,” I began as Angela arrived. “Can you pay the
nice man? I used all my cash in tips for your suitcases.”
Angela reached into her purse. “Here’s twenty, keep the
change.”
“ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS!” The
driver began to turn a shade of purple.
“One hundred and fifty dollars,” I stated to Angela, a
bit more calmly.
Angela looked at I, then to the queue of bags waiting to
be sent into the terminal, then to the driver.
“Oh!” as she came to the realization of the situation.
Reaching into her purse once again, she pulled out two
crisp hundred dollar bills. “Yes, please keep the change,”
she repeated.
As an aside, I whispered to Angela, “And don’t even
consider asking for the twenty back!”
He noted the driver’s color returning to normal. “Sorry
for the mix-up,” I declared to him. “All’s well?”
The driver stuffed the $220 into his pocket, turned his
back to get into the limo, but not before tossing off a
parting remark. “You rock stars only look out for
yourselves. Never think of the little guy.”
As the driver pulled away, I stared back at him in
disbelief. Apparently he had recognized him, but also
apparently, was unaware of I’s humanitarian efforts.
“Don’t let it get to you, I” Angela consoled him. “Some
people can only see one side of the coin. Let’s cruise!”
The flight to New York was without incident, but for
the long flight time. When they arrived at the departure
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Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
port, after yet another limo ride (this time, they made sure
that plenty of cash was available,) they boarded the ship.
As recognition dawned on some of the passengers, the
couple were mobbed and requests for autographs and
pictures were honored for the next hour. I addressed the
assembled crowd.
“I’m pleased that you are excited to be here with us, but
please note: we are on vacation as well, and would really
appreciate some privacy while we are cruising. I’ll talk to
the cruise director, and if it can be arranged, and if they
can get together a small combo, perhaps I’ll play a private
concert for you, my faithful fans, sometime during the
cruise.”
A cheer from the crowd went up, and attracting the eye
of yet more passengers, the autograph session went on for
another hour. Without looking, I had found what he was
looking for.
21
1988 - SWEET CHILD O’ MINE
“Where’s that sweet child o’ mine?” I asked as he was
playing Hide and Seek with Chrissy. Chrissy shrieked as
her father found her hiding behind the curtain. At two
and a half years old, Chrissy was a real handful, but for I
and Angela, she was their world.
“Daddy, no!” Chrissy shrieked again, as I began to
tickle her. “Stop!” I stopped. “Again!” Her laughter filled
the room.
Chrissy knew only a few words, but she loved using
them as often as possible. Game time was perfect for
increasing her vocabulary.
“Ok, then, you asked for it! Up in the air!” I grabbed
Chrissy at the waist and tossed her into the air about two
feet above his head. He then let her drop about three feet
before reaching down and catching her again by the waist.
She screamed once again, delightedly, “Up! Up!” I
threw her up again. Then Chrissy threw up, and this time
it wasn’t so pretty. The vomit streamed down from the
heights and landed directly in the middle of I’s face, as he
was looking up to catch Chrissy. Missing her on the way
22
Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
down, she hit hard, and a distinct SNAP! indicated that
there were to be consequences of his failure.
Chrissy sat stunned for a moment, until she realized the
pain in her arm was not going to go away, and she began
to scream in earnest, this time from the pain.
I looked down and also realized the horror of the
situation. Chrissy had broken her arm in the fall.
Scooping her up quickly, he rushed to call for Angela.
“Angela! Angela!” He panicked a bit as there was no
immediate response. “Angela!” Chrissy screamed even
louder.
Angela rushed down the stairs screaming herself,
“WHAT IS IT?! WHAT’S HAPPENED?!” She arrived at
the bottom of the stairs and quickly surveyed the situation:
I covered in vomit, Chrissy screaming and holding her
arm.
She tried to calm herself, “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“I think Chrissy’s arm is broken. We were playing, and I
dropped her on the ground. I heard a snap!” I admitted,
leaving out some of the details.
“Then we need to get to the hospital emergency right
away. Just calm down and let me have her. I’ll try to calm
her down as you clean yourself up.”
I left the room to wash his face, while Angela took a
look at the arm. Though the bone was not exposed, it was
clear there was something wrong, and a kiss from mommy
to make it better was not going to succeed. Surprisingly,
Angela was able to remain calm in the light of Chrissy’s
wailing and I’s panic.
I returned, ready to hit the road. He stopped to speak to
Chrissy. “I’m so sorry, my sweet child. I’m so sorry.” The
attention she was getting from her mother and father
23
Roger D. Linder
helped to distract her from the pain, and Angela held her
tightly, mindful of the injured arm and said, “Let’s go!”
“I can’t buckle her in,” Angela declared. “I need to hold
her. She needs her mother. Please be careful.”
The hospital was a twenty minute drive away,
alternating between cries of pain and whimpering sobs as
the pain from the broken arm rose and subsided.
“We should have called first,” Angela stated. “Maybe
they could have told us what we could do for her in the
meantime.”
“If we’d called, we would have waited on the phone for
longer that it would take for us to drive there,” I noted.
“You just keep her settled down, so I can concentrate on
the road. I am not getting into an accident from being
careless and distracted.” I realized that what he said
perfectly matched the situation which started this whole
scenario in the first place.
They arrived at the hospital and I pulled up to the
emergency room doors. Angela carefully got out of the
vehicle, ensuring that Chrissy’s injury was not further
impacted by carelessness. She rushed into the waiting area
and observed a short line awaiting services. Chrissy chose
that moment to begin to scream loudly. The members in
the line turned as one, and a nurse rushed to Chrissy’s
side. “What is the problem?” she inquired.
Angela quickly summed up the situation. “I think she’s
broken her arm. Her father and she were playing, and she
fell. She’s in a lot of pain.”
The nurse tried to pry Chrissy from Angela’s arms, but
Chrissy held on even tighter. The nurse adopted a gentle
tone.
24
Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
“Come on darling, we need to take a look at your arm.
What’s your name, dear?”
Chrissy looked at her, tears welling, but, for the
moment, the screams had stopped. But she didn’t respond.
After a moment, her mother offered, “Her name is
Christine. We call her Chrissy.”
“All right, Chrissy, let’s get a good look at your arm.”
The nurse touched her injury, only to send her into fits of
wailing again.
“I know, I know,” the nurse cooed. “This isn’t going to
be easy. But you’re going to be a good girl, aren’t you. You
want to make it stop hurting, don’t you?”
To Angela, she remarked, “There’s no doubt about it,
the arm is broken. I’m afraid there’s going to be more
pain before it gets better. We have to set it, and that’s
always a painful operation. You just need to keep her calm
while we get a room ready for her. Gentle talking and
soothing speech will go a long way to distract her.”
At that moment, I rushed in and his frantic arrival got
Chrissy going once again. Angela quickly turned to I.
“Shh. It’s going to be fine, but she needs to calm down.
You need to calm down. The doctor is going to see her as
soon as the room is ready.”
I caught his breath, and it was clear he’d been crying.
He sniffed, “I’m just so sorry. It was an accident! I wasn’t
thinking!”
With two panicky children at her arms, Angela was
nearly worn out herself. “I don’t have time to take care of
you and keep Chrissy calm,” she warned. “You need to
get a hold of yourself and calm down. It’s important for
Chrissy to see you as strong and supportive. She’s reacting
as much to you as the injury. Perhaps, even more. You’ve
25
Roger D. Linder
got to be strong for what’s to come.”
I looked at her quizzically. “What’s to come? What do
you mean?”
“The doctor is going to have to set the bone. That is
going to be painful, but once done, the pain is going to
virtually vanish.”
“I’ve never had a broken bone, I can’t understand what
she’s going through,” I commiserated.
“Just imagine great pain, and the panic that sets in from
the unknown. Most of it is the panic, the initial pain has
probably subsided. The body works well that way. But her
being calm is going to go a long way to easing the overall
situation.”
A few moments later, the nurse called them in to the
treatment room. “Please bring Chrissy in here now, Mrs.
Mall.” Angela hadn’t really noticed, but when called by
name, she was surprised. She hadn’t given anyone that
information upon arriving. “You know me?” she stated.
“Of course I do. I’ve been a fan of your husband’s
music for years. I was a very active member of the Golden
Fingers fan club in its heyday.” She almost looked proud.
Chrissy, distracted by the conversation, allowed the nurse
to remove her from her mother’s arms.
As they stepped into the treatment room, Angela turned
around and cast a glance back into the waiting room. She
began to notice secretive glances towards her and I. She
really hadn’t experienced a lot of notoriety and celebrity
status during I’s days with the band, so she was surprised
at the recognition.
“It’s not that I’m unhappy, but I am rather surprised to
be recognized. I’m not used to it, nor do I understand it.”
Now that Angela was distracted, the Doctor gently
26
Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
began to examine Chrissy, while Chrissy was still attentive
on Angela’s conversation with the nurse.
“You’re famous in your own right,” she explained. “I
AM FEW Hunger has made you a star, whether you know
it or not.”
I, also distracted by the conversation, wasn’t quite
prepared when Chrissy let out another scream. Both I and
Angela turned quickly to see what had happened, and the
doctor looked guiltily their way. “I’ve just set the bone. It’s
best to do it while everyone is distracted by something else.
You can help her calm down now, the pain is going to start
to subside, and this shot here will also help.” The doctor
quickly injected a syringe into Chrissy’s arm, and Chrissy
barely made a reaction. “She’ll be a little numb in a bit,
and that will help us as we begin to apply the cast.”
Angela reach out to Chrissy, wiped her tears with a
tissue and stroked her hair. “It’s going to be alright. The
hurt is going away. The doctor is going to help you some
more.”
The doctor began applying a cast. “The break won’t
require us to place a cast beyond her elbow, so she still be
able to move her arms freely, though it will be a while
before she can pick up anything with her hand, as that will
be restricted. In a few weeks, we’ll be able to change it for
even a smaller cast, and in about three months, it will all
be healed.”
“You’ll have to keep the cast dry, so when she bathes
wrap it in plastic, or try your best to keep it out of the
water,” the nurse offered. “It’s going to be a lot of work
for you, but she’ll be fine, and at her age, she’ll forget this
whole episode in time.”
As final paperwork began to wrap up, I confessed to
27
Roger D. Linder
Angela. “I will never throw her up like that again. She’s
too fragile and I don’t want to break her any more. I just
want her to stay that sweet child o’ mine.”
28
1989 - SHE DRIVES ME CRAZY
“She drives me crazy!” I complained, as he watched
Chrissy run in the yard. “That girl has no fear, it seems!”
It had been nearly a year since Chrissy’s cast had come
off, and the injury, at least to her, was a distant memory, as
the emergency room nurse had predicted. But I’s nerves,
as he continued to watch her, were always on edge, fearful
of yet another injury, or worse.
“I can’t help being concerned for her, it’s all I can do to
keep up, to catch her when she falls, to nurse a scrape.
Can’t she just settle down once in a while?”
Despite her so-called “dangerous” activity of just being
a kid, I admitted to himself that he was happy to see her
happy once again. The months of caring for the break
and the cast were wearing on all three of them.
“I’m just glad she’s all I have to look out for. Can you
imagine having another one to watch over. It would be a
madhouse.” I, was nearly out of breath as he ran to scoop
her up from some imagined danger. “I’m not a young
man, anymore, I’m thirty-five years old, and it’s nearly all
I can do to keep up!”
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Roger D. Linder
Angela, strangely silent though I’s complaints, slowly
began to turn a bit red, and a guilty look crossed quickly
over her face. I failed to pick up on it, but Angela began.
“Uh, I…” them trailed off.
I cast her a quick glance, then refocused his attention
upon Chrissy. “What is it?” he asked distractedly.
“About being able to keep up,” she said. “You might
want to think about taking better care of yourself, eating
right, maybe exercising regularly. It will help…” She
trailed off again.
“Fitness! It’s overrated. I’m doing fine. Sure, I’ve put on
a few pounds. What, maybe twenty from where I was back
when we got married, but I’m still fit as a fiddle. I can
keep up with her. She’s not going to wear me out just yet.”
“I think you’re going to need it when the next one
comes along.” Angela sneaked it into the conversation.
“Next one? And when will that be?” I eyed her
suspiciously.
“Remember when I went to the doctor the other day?
Well, it wasn’t just an upset stomach I had. I found out
that I’m six weeks pregnant. We’re going to have another
early next year.”
I sputtered, “Another? We’ve got a handful right here!”
Angela’s countenance was crestfallen. She thought I
would be as excited as she was. “I thought you’d be
happy.”
“Oh, I am! It was a bit unexpected. We hadn’t even
talked about another one just yet.” I tried to look a little
bit more excited.
“You’re the one who is saying how ‘old’ you’re getting.
Well, I’m not pushing middle age just yet, but now that
I’m in my thirties, it’s a good time to get ready for a
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Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
playmate for Chrissy. Maybe that will take some of the
effort off of you.” Angela’s attempt at a reward for I took
a bit of edge off the surprise announcement.
“Of course, of course, I’m delighted, ecstatic,
overwhelmed with emotion.” I wasn’t making this any
easier on Angela. Again, the crestfallen look. I moved to
her side.
“I don’t know what I was thinking, allowing myself to
get pregnant.” Angela cried. “I thought you would
welcome the news.”
“It’s not that I don’t welcome it. I’m just surprised we
didn’t talk about it beforehand. We’ve always shared
important decisions like this. I didn’t even know you
stopped taking the pill.”
Angela sat silent, tears forming.
I continued, “Of course I’m happy. I just wasn’t
prepared for the news. See, I’m smiling now.” He put on a
big grin. If not quite sincere, he did show a lot of teeth.
“Does that make you feel better?”
Angela wasn’t totally convinced of I’s conviction of
acceptance to becoming a father for the second time, but
she laughed at the silliness of it all. I had begun to
overcome her doubt.
“Have you told your parents yet?” he asked.
“No, besides the doctor and now you, no one else
knows.”
“Then let’s get on the phone, spread the good news!” I’s
enthusiasm began to thaw Angela’s pain of betrayal at I’s
initial reaction.
“I’m happy, I’m really happy,” I explained. “It just took
me a minute to get over the shock. Maybe we’ll have a
boy! A son! A son!” I’s turn of mood came as a bit of
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Roger D. Linder
shock to Angela.
“You’re truly happy?” She still had her doubts.
“Yes, it’s the right time. I should never have doubted
you. We are going to be parents again. And my parents,
and I’m sure yours, will be delighted as ever to the
prospect of another grandchild to spoil. Let’s the bells ring
out! There’s a boy child comin’. He’s gonna be a son-of-agun.”
Angela laughed, “There’s no guarantee it’s going to be
a boy. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment,” she
warned.
“Oh, I know it, deep down in my heart. I’m going to be
a Dad!”
“You already are a ‘dad’,” indicating Chrissy. “Or have
you forgotten?”
“To Chrissy, I’m a ‘daddy’,” I explained, “and no
matter how old she gets, I’ll be her ‘daddy’ and she’ll be
my little girl. But a boy changes everything. To a boy, I’ll
be ‘Dad’ and we’ll play baseball and football and soccer
and basketball and fish and camp and hike and do ‘guy’
stuff !”
“You don’t do any of that now. Why all of a sudden all
this enthusiasm towards the outdoor life?”
“Like you said, I’m going to have to get in shape to
keep up with my little quarterback! Gotta get me some
weights, a rowing machine. Heck, I’ll set up a whole gym
in one of the garages. We don’t use the space for anything
else. It will do the both of us good!”
Angela thought I was going a little too overboard in his
new-found enthusiasm, but if it helped to temper the
shock of the moment, then all was good.
***
32
Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
Five months later, Angela was visibly pregnant, and the
biggest surprise of the past months was the discovery that
she was going to have twins. I was even more ecstatic
upon the discovery. “Two boys? Even better! We’ll be able
to have our own team! Just imagine one behind the plate,
another on the mound, and me swinging away, hitting
those home runs!”
“Just because there are two of them, there’s still no
guarantee that they’ll be boys. There’s just as much
possibility that it’ll be two girls. How will your team shake
out then?” Angela laughed.
“Boys. Girls. I doesn’t matter. It’s the team. It’s always
been about the team.” I’s exercising regimen seemed to
have released some sort of chemical and gotten him all
worked up. He spent nearly every afternoon working out
in the gym his father helped him build, and a decidedly
enhanced physique made Angela look at him a little closer
than she had in the past.
“My big strong man is happy to be a papa,” she cooed
in baby talk. “Your ‘team’ will be here soon enough.” As if
on cue, one of the babies kicked her and her reaction was
a quick “Oh!”
“See, a football player if I ever saw one! Gonna kick
from one end of the field through the goalposts on the
other. You just wait and see!” I drifted off in his
imagination.
Angela considered what it was going to be like with five
instead of just the two of them and Chrissy. Would she be
able to keep up? How was she going to take on the extra
burden of two little babies?
“I’m going to have to spend some time in your gym
myself,” she told I. “Not only am I going to have to drop
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Roger D. Linder
this baby weight, but I’m going to need extra stamina
when the twins arrive.”
“Is it safe?” I was concerned. “What does the doctor say
about that?”
“There are a number of exercises that will be good for
me and the babies. You won’t see me out there playing
tackle football, or throwing hoops, but some simple
walking on the treadmill will go a long way to get me fit as
well.”
“Then let’s do it together! We’ll share the whole
experience.” I was true to his word, and worked out with
Angela daily.
I’s thirty-sixth birthday arrived without a lot of fanfare
in the Mall household. Almost completely forgotten were
the I-Day celebrations of old. I, a bit self-conscious about
their origin, persuaded some of his acquaintances within
the political machine to take a second look at the fifties-era
holiday and in the twenty-some years since the last major
public celebration, it had become merely a footnote in
history, not even being printed on calendars anymore. I
was fine with that outcome, in fact, few even really
remembered those celebrations in the fifties, which began
to wane in the mid-sixties, only to resurface slightly during
Golden Fingers’ heyday. But now with the lore associated
with the holiday draped in historical cover cloths, the real
celebration could now focus on the other birthday in the
house: Chrissy’s fourth.
A big party was planned, and a number of children
were treated to clowns, animals to ride, amusement park
rides, balloons and many colorful decorations.
“This is going to be a big celebration,” I predicted,
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Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
“because by this time next year, the twins will be here, and
Chrissy may feel like a second-class citizen. We can’t let
her think she’s not that sweet child that’s been the apple of
my eye all these years.”
I ran with the children as if he was one of them. His
new fitness quest had allowed him able to keep up with
the children, and he knew he was ready for the adding of
two more to the mix in the next year.
Chrissy ran up to him and gave him a big hug. “Daddy,
this is the best party ever!” A better birthday present for
him was not to be had. “She may drive me crazy, sometimes, but
she’ll always be my little girl” he mused contentedly.
35
1990 - I GO TO EXTREMES
When the twins were born, I was delighted with the
outcome. Not only did he have his son, Tyler Nathan
Mall, but now another daughter, Meredith Susanna Mall.
They probably wouldn’t bond together as the sports team
I had imagined, but he was happy nonetheless. When the
twins arrived on March 10, I was so excited he rented an
airplane to fly a banner over the city, announcing their
birth. While the world wasn’t exactly watching, I still had
enough notoriety to pull off such a stunt.
“Sometimes I go to extremes,” he admitted, when asked
about the event on a local TV newscast. “But I can’t help
it. My family is now complete. Every significant event in
my life has been a celebration, and I won’t let this one pass
without notice either.”
The airplane stunt was not the only effort perpetrated
by I at the birth of the twins. I had also taken out a full
two-page spread, one for each of the twins, marking the
event in Rolling Stone and even a few UK and European
music magazines as well. One would think he was trying a
comeback in the music press. “Oh, no. I’m out of the
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Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
music business for good,” he insisted to another reporter.
“This is just another big event in the life of I Mall. Once
upon a time, I didn’t have to go to such extremes to get
notice, notice followed me. But these days, my family and
I live a quiet life, and for the most part, like to keep to
ourselves. I’m just very excited, and felt that I needed to
tell the world. Perhaps someday, my kids will be as famous
as I once was; perhaps I still am,” he winked.
Angela took I’s renewed notoriety in stride. She had
seen him undergo these sudden transformations from
mega-star to simple family man many a time over the
course of their marriage. I was a widely swinging
pendulum that never sat still and explored many of the
opportunities that he was able to imagine. “At least he’s
not doing drugs,” she confided to her sister-in-law Emily.
“That was his darkest moment, and it wasn’t even
intentional. He was beside himself with grief,
embarrassment and had reached the bottom of the pit.
He just didn’t know what he was doing.” She was referring
to the infamous “suicide incident” in which it was widely
reported that I had taken his own life. “With my help, he
pulled himself out of the doldrums and has been a good
man ever since. Yes, he does go a bit overboard
sometimes,” indicating the airplane and magazine ads,
“but he means well. What’s wrong with spreading joy?”
Emily agreed, “I only wish Spike was as joyful as I. His
stint in ‘the joint’ (as he calls it) during his teens is still
eating at him, even though it produced a good outcome.
He learned to play drums from that experience. And that
led to him being pretty famous on his own, as well. I’m
afraid that the public eye was not the spotlight he sought,
though. His time at the juvenile hall was a great
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Roger D. Linder
embarrassment to him, and he lives under the constant
fear of it being revealed, even though it was years ago.”
“Even I doesn’t know about it,” Angela admitted. “To
this day, he just thought Spike was living at his
grandmother’s house for two years. I’s a smart guy, but
sometimes the obvious passes him by.” Angela and Emily
both giggled.
“Spike took a long hiatus from music, as you know, but
I’ll bet you didn’t know that he’s working on a solo album,
did you?” Emily revealed.
“That is news!” declared Angela. “Drums and what?”
“Drums are the focus, but he’s exploring all kinds of
rhythm instruments as part of the project. He’s calling it
Spike that Rim Shot. I truly hope he comes up with a better
name. That one is just awful!” The ladies enjoyed another
round of laughter.
The laughter woke Tyler, and soon Meredith was
joining in the ruckus. “They just have to do everything
together, it seems,” complained Angela, lightly. “You
would think they were joined at the hip. Even their poop
schedules seem to be in sync. I helps out sometimes, but
he draws the line at diaper duty. Can’t really handle the
smell.”
“One thing I’ll say,” Angela continued. “He’s not into
roughhousing with them just yet. Of course, they’re only
six weeks old, but with Chrissy’s broken arm a couple of
years ago, I don’t think he wants to takes any chances. I’ll
bet that changes once they are old enough to start playing
some sports. I was really excited to be able to do that with
them someday. Chrissy’s been quite a helpful one, though.
She loves playing the big sister role, and she doesn’t mind
the messy diapers. She can’t quite fasten the pins, but she
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Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
loves to rinse them out and watch the ‘poopie’ go down
with the flush.”
Both of them enjoyed a good laugh at that one, while
they together changed the twins’ diapers.
Six months later, I was restless and troubled. “The twins
are crawling all over the place, and even making some
attempts to stand up. Before long, they’re going to be
walking, running, sprinting everywhere. I’ve got to babyproof the whole house again, before it’s too late!”
I’s knack for exaggeration often motivated him to do
good things. His heart was in the right place, even if a
review of the situation did not call for such extreme
action.
“First up, I’m going to built a six foot fence completely
around the property. That way, they won’t get out into the
road and get hit by a passing car.”
Angela noted wryly, “They’re not dogs, you know. They
don’t just dash wherever they want. Even when they are
old enough to run and play, and that’s going to be a
couple of years at least, they are built in with some
common sense. Unless, of course, they inherited the lack
thereof from their father.”
“Very funny, ha, ha. I’m just saying you can’t be too
careful. OK, maybe a six foot fence is a bit extreme, but
we can go with a nice brick and stone wall. It’ll be
decorative and functional at the same time.”
“And, who, pray tell, will see this project to
completion?” Angela asked.
“I’ll do the job, you just watch!” I stated, firmly.
Three months later, as the Christmas holidays were
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Roger D. Linder
approaching, the half-completed fence was not providing
any protection from the wild masses, nor protecting the
near-toddlers from the ravages of rushing traffic. Angela
complained, “You promised you’d see this one through,
and I’m not seeing any progress. Should I call in the Dads
again to save your bacon?”
I hung his head. “I guess I do need help. I’m lucky our
dads like to do this kind of stuff. I have the enthusiasm for
the job at the outset, but can’t seem to make my way
through the finished product. Give them a call.”
A few days later, the “crew” was at it, shoveling a new
trench for the cement base, building the pillars and setting
the stones between. In a matter of three days, the fence
project was completed. Henry added some of his own
ideas to it, including electrical outlets so that a string of
Christmas lights could be lit up during the holidays.
Henry had also designed an area where a Christmas tree
could be mounted at each end of the fence. It was simply
a round chamber, sized to fit a tree trunk up to a
reasonable size, and of course, electrical outlets to support
the Christmas lights. Henry had long ago learned his
lesson about electrical issues and made sure the entire
setup was up to code, and hidden from view and
tampering. He was proud of his achievement.
“This will last you for years, long after the youngsters
are grown. And, it can be used for other decorations yearround,” Henry stated.
“Other decorations?” I inquired. “I don’t see anybody
putting up anything else during the year, except for a flag
on the holidays.”
“Oh, I’ve got a place for the flag as well,” Henry
explained as he pointed out the location. “But I’m
40
Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
thinking you could observe the other holidays in much the
same way as you decorate for Christmas. Put up colored
lights at Easter, red, white and blue lights for the Fourth of
July, orange and black lights for Halloween. Maybe even
some decorative flags to indicate the season. You never
know. It might catch on.”
I was a bit wary. “The neighbors would run us out of
town on a rail. Even I hate to see it when someone still has
their Christmas lights up in the middle of January.”
“Go ahead, try it and see. Right now, Christmas is the
obvious choice, but when St. Patrick’s rolls around next
year, put up some green lights for a couple of days. It will
be festive. You can even invite the neighbors over for some
corned beef and cabbage. That will win them over. Use
that picnic area we built. The weather will be nice, and it’s
designed to be used year round.”
“A picnic in March? That seems a little extreme. How
about nice party indoors?”
“No believe me, a picnic in March would be perfect.
You can’t always count on the weather, but I’d say there’s
better than a 50/50 chance that it’ll be right. ‘March
comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb.’ We’ll be
sure to catch the lamb part. Hey, maybe a nice little lamb
roast to go with that corned beef. Mmm. Sounds tasty!”
I had his doubts, but also knew his father’s extreme
visions had something to offer each time he’s had them.
41
1991 - UNBELIEVABLE
“Unbelievable!” I complained. “Simply unbelievable!”
I was thumbing through the latest Rolling Stone
magazine when he happened upon the following news
blurb.
“Isaac Daly, former lead guitarist of the mega-famous Golden
Fingers, has announced a series of special concert dates. While the
original musicians are not reuniting, Daly will bring together a set of
musicians that will create what he calls ‘The Golden Fingers
Experience.’ Dates are set for this spring and early summer across
various locations through the United States. Tickets are expected to be
budget-priced, and will sell out quickly, he predicted.
“Unbelievable!” I stated, yet once again, reddening.
“What’s the problem?” Angela inquired. “I haven’t seen
you so upset in a long time.”
“It’s that Isaac. He’s planning on going out on the road
again using the Golden Fingers name, and presumably
using my songs to boot. It’s bad enough that I have to read
about it as a fait accompli, no less.”
“Can he do that?” Angela asked.
“Not really without my permission,” I considered. “Or
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Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
at least I don’t think so. But, then again, if he worked a
deal with the record label, then I might have lost control
altogether. Those guys don’t have anybody’s interests at
heart but themselves. Technically, they own the rights. I
get my royalties, and they are generous, but they
negotiated away some of the ownership of my songs in
the process. We were young; we didn’t think it 100%
through.”
“Let’s get Spike on the phone, and see what he has to
say about it,” Angela offered. “And we might as well touch
bases with Ozzie as well. All of you should have a say in
this endeavor.”
Angela dialed up Spike and Emily answered. “Hi,
Emily. I need to talk to my brother. Is he home?”
Emily’s answer caused a frown to appear on Angela’s
face. “What?!” was her surprised reply. “Could you say
that again?”
I’s curiosity was aroused, and he picked up the
extension to listen in.
“… going over to see Isaac about doing a few dates this
spring. Something about an ‘experience’.” Emily’s voice
did not betray any sense of guile or revelation.
“I read about Isaac’s plans in Rolling Stone, and he’s a bit
upset about it,” Angela stated. “He’s not sure that what
Isaac is doing is even legal, under the contact they had
with the record company. Do you know any more about it
than we do?”
“Spike didn’t give a lot of details, but he didn’t seem to
think it was a big deal. I heard him say things like ‘Sounds
like fun!’ and ‘Let’s do it!’ It really appeared he was
looking forward to whatever Isaac had in mind.”
I was getting even more visibly upset. “Et tu, Brute?” he
43
Roger D. Linder
subvocalized, considering his own brother-in-law’s
betrayal. Finally, he spoke up, remaining calm, but with an
edge to his voice.
“Don’t you think Spike could have checked with me
before committing to such a project?” he said.
Emily, a bit surprised to hear I’s voice, stammered a bit
before responding, recognizing I’s tone.
“I, I, I... don’t think he really had any thought about it
affecting you in any way. All he indicated was that it might
be fun.”
Angela shot I a quick glance and mouthed the words,
“Be nice, it’s not her fault” to I, but not being a lip reader,
he couldn’t understand what she meant.
“What?” he nearly shouted into the phone.
Emily, surprised at this new outburst began to cry, and
Angela firmly told I to get off the phone. She covered the
receiver and said, “Hang up now. Look what you’ve
caused!”
I slammed down the phone and left the room, causing
Emily to cry even harder. Angela tried to calm her down.
“Emily, please, it’s all a misunderstanding. I was on edge,
and didn’t mean to take it out on you. If anything, he’s
mad at my brother.”
Angela paused a moment as Emily responded. “Yes,
he’s out of the room now. He’s convinced now that Spike
and Isaac are plotting this tour of Golden Fingers material
behind his back.”
Angela paused again as Emily responded. “Well, that
makes a bit of sense. Not sure if I will believe it given his
current state of mind. Maybe we’ll sit down when he
calms down a bit and work through the details. I think a
call to Isaac is in order.”
44
Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
“I’m sorry that we upset you, Emily, it certainly wasn’t
what I thought this call would turn into. Anyway, please
forgive us and I’ll talk to you later, OK? Bye!”
Angela hung up. I, still fuming, reentered the room.
Angela spoke out, “I, sit down. You’ve gone off the deep
end for no good reason. I spoke to Emily a bit more, and
got a better explanation of what the situation is. It’d be
best if you just kept quiet while I explained.”
I took a seat and Angela resumed. “In the first place,
Isaac is not going to be touring Golden Fingers material.
He’s getting ready to release his first solo album, and a
tour is being set up. He asked Spike to drum for him. He’s
not trying to capitalize on the Golden Fingers name, or
pretend that the band is Golden Fingers. In fact, the
Rolling Stone article contains a misquote about the new
show. What he actually told them was ‘It’s going to be like
a Golden Fingers experience, but new all the same.’ You
can see how they may have twisted his words. His plan is
to brings some of the spectacle of a Golden Fingers show
from the ‘70s into a ‘90s context. New music, new
musicians. He’s hoping for some of the old fans. They are
still following the band, even after all these years of
inactivity.”
I had to admit that the misinterpretation was an easily,
perhaps innocently, perhaps maliciously, misconstrued
alteration of the facts., “The music press has always done
that, reporting on rumors and innuendo, rather than
finding out the true story behind the story,” I complained.
“If they would only check their sources, today’s events
would not have played out the way they did.”
A few days later, I touched bases with both Isaac and
Spike and got to the bottom of the real story.
45
Roger D. Linder
Isaac, having been clean and sober for fifteen years, was
celebrating the fact with a new set of songs, co-written
with his wife, Dawn. With the both of them sober for
fifteen years, they decided on their first official
collaboration. Dawn had a brief career as a folk singer
and even had a minor regional hit “When the Wind
Winds about the Breeze” back in 1973. Her career was
shuttled by drug abuse and a failed marriage, leaving her a
shell of a woman. She spent three years in rehab, coming
out clean, and left behind her budding career to seek out a
child she had given up for adoption in 1969, at the age of
14. Her pursuit brought her to California, nearly
penniless, but eager to find gainful employment. Taking a
job as a waitress, she encountered Isaac as he came to dine
one evening. Hitting it off, he returned often, and in the
course of their conversations, their sordid past lives were
revealed. In support of each other, they decided to join a
twelve-step group together, and romance continued to
blossom.
Isaac joined with her in the quest to reunite with her
abandoned child, and ten years into their relationship,
they found success and rediscovered Hannah Jolene
Erikson, the daughter she had given up, seventeen years
earlier. The initial meeting of mother and child was not
the story book ending she had hoped for. Hannah, despite
being adopted by a fine family, was rebellious, and could
not focus. She often ran away, took up with the wrong
crowds, and herself had become pregnant. She was
currently mulling over the possibility of an abortion when
Dawn contacted her.
Dawn was able to convince her otherwise, and in a few
months, Hannah gave birth to a son, Roland Harold
46
Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
Erikson. Born a bit premature, and saddled with the stain
of his mother’s addictions, he only weighed four pounds at
birth. Despite heroic efforts, Roland survived only four
months. Hannah, Dawn and especially Isaac, who had
taken to young Roland as would a grandfather, were hard
hit, and simultaneously reached a new low. Hannah,
without the strength of experience, could not contain her
addictions, and fell once again into the low society pits
from which she had crawled. In two months, she also was
dead. Dawn having only a brief reunification with her
daughter, was beside herself, yet on the strength of
support from the twelve-step group, and the love of Isaac,
was able to avoid falling back into the same pit herself. In
mid-1987 their long-term romance finally blossomed into
a wedding. The chose to remain childless.
During the next four years, they composed nearly one
hundred songs of hope and healing together, some
recounting the despair they had experienced, but always
pointing to a greater light ahead. Isaac’s and Dawn’s wish
was to bring the best of these out as Isaac’s solo album,
and to tour the country, passing on some of that light to
all who attended their concerts. Isaac had recruited some
of the cream of the current crop of country, rock, folk and
R&B musicians to come together as a sort of supergroup.
All of them had agreed to donate their time, and fifty
dates were scheduled. The beneficiary of the proceeds? I
AM FEW Hunger.
“Unbelievable!” was I’s stunned reaction to Isaac’s gift
to humanity. Without a second thought, I pulled out his
checkbook and made the first donation, $1,000,000. And
on the second thought, gave his blessing to the entire
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Roger D. Linder
venture, including providing permission to perform any
and all of Golden Fingers’ many hits, without restriction.
Unbelievable.
48
1992 - TEARS IN HEAVEN
The day began like any other. The sun came up, glorious
as it lit up the earth from the night’s slumbers, bringing
the life-giving heat to all who fell in its path across the sky.
Only a few clouds interrupted its passage, as it seemed to
crawl across the sky. Everywhere on earth, there was
peace, as it surveyed the tiny humans below, going about
their business as if there were not a care in the world, and
for many, there weren’t. Occasionally, across the globe,
one might find a raindrop, or two, or thousands, but
giving it up for the earth’s bounty, thankfully, as if they
were tears in heaven, saying “I’m here to serve you.” A
wind might blow gently, or strongly, or with hurricane
force. Or it might not move at all. Somewhere, in the high
peaks, a snowflake would waft in that wind, making its
way to a new, temporary home on earth. Sometimes its
brothers and sisters would also fall, in rapid succession,
until they would make a city, a region, a nation, populated
by a blanket of fresh whiteness. In another part of the
world, the wind would whip up sand from the ground,
giving flight to many who had only known the darkness of
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Roger D. Linder
being buried deep in the earth, visiting sunlight for the
first time ever.
The oceans would pick up that wind, and create waves,
some gentle, some tortuously violent, crashing into yet
another rock face, creating more sand that may some day
turn up in the desert, or washed forever to the depths of
the sea, perhaps never to experience the sun’s ray again.
Then, as suddenly as the wind came up, it would die
down, providing an unexpected calm, belying the forceful
violence that preceded it.
Sandy Daly awoke on that bright sunny morning as on
any other. Sometimes challenged by the struggles of her
previous life, sometimes without a care in the world, ready
to face the day ahead with cheerfulness and thoughts of
unexplored opportunities. Today was a dark day for her. It
had been exactly fifty years since her father, Col. William
Thompson, had been killed in a mission during World
War II. Although she was just a young teen at the time,
the experience had taken its toll on her, as well as her
entire family. She turned to abusive habits, mostly alcohol
and cigarettes, and raised their use to excessive. Gifted
with naturally good looks, her alcohol-induced low morals
made her very popular among the men of her generation,
and she gained quite a reputation. A not-quite-unexpected
pregnancy sent her out of state for a few years, and when
she came back to her home town several years later, she
was responsible, in a loose way, for the well-being of two
children: her love child from her late-forties dalliance, Eric
Thompson, and her son Isaac by Robert Daly, now her
former husband.
When Sandy and Robert met, Sandy was the young
unwed mother of Eric, and had not yet completely fallen
50
Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
on hard times. The future for the two of them seemed to
be bright, and Sandy’s wild days almost became a thing of
the past. When, again not so unexpectedly, Sandy turned
up pregnant, Robert was quick to marry her, and provide
her first full family experience since her father’s death.
Although struggling financially with a new wife and her
child, as well as the child on the way, Robert still
attempted to provide for the new family as best he could.
When Isaac was born, overwhelming expenses made them
seek out public assistance to help cover the bills. Although
it helped some, they were not enjoying the American
dream of two cars in the garage, and a chicken in every
pot. Young Isaac was brought up, lacking complete
nourishment, and often was ill, and did not grow as
quickly as other children his age.
On the rare occasion that Sandy took him to a doctor,
the doctor would express concern about his development,
and insist that Sandy and Robert provide a better
environment for their child. Sandy, never being one to
listen to criticism, responded by refusing to return to the
doctor, even when Isaac was stricken by many of the
childhood diseases that plagued children of the fifties and
sixties. As Isaac’s general health deteriorated, one might
wonder if he was going to survive childhood at all.
Sandy’s own recovery from her wild times was also
affected, and tension between her and Robert increased.
Shortly before Isaac’s seventh birthday, Robert filed for
divorce, and moved out of town. Sandy fell deeper into
the pit.
Six months later, Sandy arrived back at her hometown
with the two kids in tow, and tried to resume her former
life, but drinking, smoking and some drug abuse followed
51
Roger D. Linder
along with her. Enrolling the kids in school, Sandy briefly
reconnected with Henry Mall, whom she had slightly
known during her teens as “the chicken guy”, discovering
that his son and Isaac we going to be classmates.
Encouraging a friendship between the two, she managed
to find a bright spot in her existence and began the slow
road to recovery. Over the years, she had left the drugs
behind, but continued to drink, often in secret, ending
each day in a stupor, and greeting each morning as a new
opportunity to open yet another bottle. Her public
assistance money was barely enough to keep her and the
kids off the streets. Some relief came when Eric, turning
16, decided to move in with his father, who now lived in
Oklahoma. Despite the fact that his parents never
married, he did manage to have developed a sort of
relationship with him, and knew that it would be better all
around if he just “disappeared.” Sandy was publicly
adamant about him leaving, but secretly relieved that
another mouth to feed was out of the home.
By the time Isaac turned 18, Sandy had been through a
succession of boyfriends, who had helped to support
Isaac, but also fought demons of their own. Some pulled
in income from shady operations, either fencing stolen
merchandise, stealing cars and operating a chop shop, or
dealing drugs. Sandy could never get completely away
from this lower-class environment, and Isaac even
succumbed to some of these illegal activities as well.
Isaac’s brief high-school romance with I’s cousin, Betty,
did not last much beyond their graduation, and the two
drifted apart. Eventually, Betty and her family moved to
Nevada, and Isaac soon nearly forgot about her.
As Isaac’s involvement with Golden Fingers began to
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Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
emerge, and as the income from their successes began to
mount, Isaac was able to finally help his mother. He
moved her into a new home, provided her a monthly
stipend, and for the first time in many years, no longer
needed the help of public assistance to live from day to
day. A path to recovery was finally firmly established, and
her excessive drinking began to taper off. When in
attendance at I and Angela’s wedding, she arrived sober,
but could not help in taking to the liquid refreshment
following the ceremony.
With Isaac’s continued help, she finally was able to
suppress the addiction of alcohol, and admitting she had a
problem went a long way to keeping her sober. Now with
fifteen years of sobriety behind her, she found herself once
again facing the challenge as she mourned on the
anniversary of her father’s death. “One drink to honor his
memory won’t hurt,” she thought to herself. She climbed into
the driver’s seat and drove to the liquor store, picking up a
bottle of scotch. Upon returning home, she poured out a
shot, raised the glass in the air, and toasted aloud, to the
empty room “Daddy, this one’s for you, wherever you
are!” She knocked it back, savoring the heat of the
alcohol, and suddenly rushing with desire for another. She
poured another shot, and gulped that one down as well.
Drink after drink, she soon discovered that the bottle was
empty, but that her need for the liquid was not abated.
Climbing once again into her car, she set out on the road.
Swerving around other vehicles, it was very clear that she
was no longer in control, and when she swerved too
widely, she ran off the road, striking a tree head on.
When paramedics arrived at the scene a few minutes
later, it was clear that she had not survived, and was
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Roger D. Linder
pronounced dead at the hospital about an hour later.
The days following her death were filled with activity,
Isaac and Dawn made arrangements for the funeral, Eric
Thompson and Robert Daly flew in to give their last
respects, and I, as a surrogate nephew, was asked to give
the eulogy at the funeral.
“Sandy was a longtime friend of the family, and had
experienced both the lowest lows and the highest highs
that life had to offer. She was taken from us tragically this
week, and though time may forget her to all but a close
few, she will be held in our hearts forever from this day.
I’m sure there are tears in heaven today at her memory
and passing, and tears, like the gentle raindrops we see
today, on earth to mark it as well. Go, Sandy, find your
peace now, perhaps a better peace that you ever found in
this life, and we will all rejoice together when me meet
again.”
Sandy Thompson Daly, aged 64, was laid to rest
alongside Dawn’s daughter and grandson, whom Sandy
had befriended in their brief time together. Isaac, at the
graveside with Dawn, shed another tear as they lowered
her body into the ground. Holding onto Dawn for
comfort, together they were able to battle their own
personal demons, stretched to the breaking point by two
successive years of tragedy. Their forbearance in the face
of pain was an inspiration to all who knew them. They
were going to be OK.
54
1993 - ORDINARY WORLD
I looked back on the past several years and noted that
despite his former world-wide fame, he was becoming an
ordinary citizen, living in an ordinary world. His day to
day activities included meals with the family, playtime
with his young children: Chrissy, his oldest daughter, now
eight, and the twins, Tyler and Merry, now three. Chrissy
was enjoying her time in school as a second grade student,
but intensely disliked her teacher, Miss Tree. Miss Tree
was adored by all of her other students, but Chrissy had
had an “incident” with Miss Tree that colored her opinion
of the popular teacher. Chrissy had brought a dot-to-dot
book, given to her for her birthday, to class to play with
during recess break. Miss Tree noticed her connecting the
dots, and thought that maybe some of the other children
might like to share as well. Miss Tree asked if she could
“borrow” the book to make games from it for some of the
other children. Chrissy hesitated, but reluctantly gave up
the book to her teacher. Miss Tree set it aside and the day
went on without the activity Chrissy had planned for
herself. By the end of the week, it was apparent that Miss
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Roger D. Linder
Tree had forgotten about the activity and when Chrissy
asked to have her book back, Miss Tree indicated that she
had returned it, leaving it on her desk for Chrissy to pick
up. The book was never returned to Chrissy, and her
birthday gift was lost. Miss Tree was at fault, and Chrissy
was not about to forgive her.
When it came to assignments and homework, Chrissy
“conveniently” forgot to pick them up, and although she
failed to use the classic “my dog ate my homework excuse”
it was clear she was not doing it. Miss Tree contacted I
and Angela by telephone. Angela picked up on the second
ring.
“Mrs. Mall? This is Miss Tree, Chrissy’s teacher at the
school. We have a problem.”
Angela’s face flushed, and her heartbeat began to rise,
fearful for her daughter’s well-being. “What is it?” she
asked in a panic.
“Oh, no,” Miss Tree responded, “there’s no problem
with Chrissy herself, she’s fine. “ Angela was relieved, but
still concerned.
“I’m glad to hear it, but why have you called?” Angela
asked.
“Well,” Miss Tree continued, “Chrissy is not turning in
her homework, and I’m afraid her grade report is not
going to be favorable if that continues.”
Angela was perplexed, “I don’t understand, I work with
her on her homework almost every night. We’ve gone
through her math book almost from cover to cover. She’s
very diligent.”
It was Miss Tree’s turned to be puzzled, “The fact is,
she hasn’t turned in a homework assignment for three
weeks. Do you ever see any of the worksheets I send home
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Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
with her?”
“No,” Angela admitted. “We only work out of the
book. I’d say we haven’t seen an assignment sheet for
about three weeks. Hmm. That’s curious.”
“That would explain the lack of turned in assignments.
I’d like to meet with you, Chrissy and your husband to try
to get to the bottom of this.” They worked out an
appointment for the following day after school.
On hanging up, Angela called Chrissy into the room. “I
just spoke with Miss Tree, and she says you’re not turning
in your homework. I know we work together on it, so what
is happening to it?”
“I throw it away. I don’t want to give it to her, because
she’s mean. I hate her!” Chrissy’s eyes began to well up
with tears.
“Mean? I’ve only heard good things about Miss Tree.
What has she done?” Angela was a bit concerned.
“She steals my stuff, and doesn’t give it back!” Chrissy
was now in full tears mode.
“‘Steals your stuff ’?” Angela prompted, “What do you
mean?”
“My dot-to-to book that I got for my birthday. She stole
it and won’t give it back. I miss it.” Chrissy sniffed.
“I’m sure she didn’t steal it,” Angela suggested. “We
will talk to her about it tomorrow. She wants to see us after
school.”
“I don’t want to see her after school. I’m going to get in
trouble.“ Chrissy began to cry again.
“You’re not going to get into trouble,” I tried to calm
her down. “We will find out the real problem.”
The next day, Angela and I met with Miss Tree after
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Roger D. Linder
school. Angel explained about the dot-to-dot book.
Miss Tree responded, ”Yes, Chrissy loaned me her
book, but I returned it to her. I left it on her desk about
three weeks ago.” Miss Tree paused. “Oh, no, I hadn’t
‘connected the dots’,“ she paused to giggle. “Chrissy’s
book and her homework are obviously tied together.”
She turned to Chrissy, “Is that what this is all about? Is
there a problem with your book?”
Chrissy replied, accusingly, “You stole it! My book. You
stole!”
Miss Tree defended herself, “I didn’t steal your book,
Chrissy. I returned it on your desk after school that same
day. You should have picked it up the next day.”
“It wasn’t there,” Chrissy accused. “It wasn’t there.”
“Then I’m afraid that someone else may have picked it
up,” Miss Tree suggested. Maybe the school custodian
knows something about it. She would have cleaned the
room that night. How about I check with her, and we’ll
get to the bottom of this mystery.”
Chrissy sniffed, and replied with a simple “‘K”.
The next day, Miss Tree spoke with the custodian
before class began. “Emma, do you recall, about three
weeks ago, seeing a dot-to-dot book in the classroom?”
Emma responded, “Yes, ma’am, I found one on the
floor. I picked it up and put it on the shelf over there,”
indicating the bookshelf against the wall. “I thought that
maybe one of the students dropped it, so I put it in a safe
place until it could be returned. I forgot about it and
didn’t let you know what had happened.” Emma walked
over to the shelf and picked it up, hidden in plain sight.
“See, here it is!”
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Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
Miss Tree was tottering between anger and relief, and
opted to go the relief route. “Thank you, Emma, you’ve
solved a big mystery, and maybe even saved a little girls’
academic career in the process.”
Seeing Emma’s puzzled expression, Miss Tree
explained how Chrissy had been neglecting her
homework, and how she was failing in the class. The
return of the dot-to-dot book would certainly help to set
her back on the correct path.
When Chrissy arrived, Miss Tree called her up to the
desk. Chrissy, a bit wary, approached it with some
trepidation. When Miss Tree revealed the lost dot-to-dot
book, Chrissy’s eyes lit up. “You found it!” she exclaimed.
The other students arriving looked up to see what the
ruckus was, and Miss Tree asked Chrissy to calm down a
bit, as she handed her the book. “Best to take that home
today, so that it doesn’t get lost again,” she suggested.
“Miss Tree,” Chrissy exclaimed, “You’re the best
teacher ever!”
Chrissy’s behavior in class returned to that of a model
student and her grades began to improve. Because of the
misunderstanding, Miss Tree only required her to make
up half of the required work assigned during the past
three weeks. Both I and Angela worked with Chrissy to
complete her assignments, and I gave her little quizzes to
make sure she understood the material.
I spoke with Chrissy about the incident and
misunderstanding. “If something like this happens to you
again, I hope you come to us to tell us,” he explained. “We
were able to solve the problem in time, before it became a
bigger issue. It’s never a good idea to throw away your
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Roger D. Linder
homework, and with the effort you put into it, you don’t
want to be wasting your time.”
Chrissy, seemingly wise beyond her years, agreed.
I sat down with Angela after dinner that night. “We
survived our first ‘school crisis’, though I don’t think it’s
going to be our last,” he said. “By the time the twins are in
school, I can imagine all sorts of problems with them as
well. At least, since they are a boy and a girl, they won’t be
able to pull the classic switcheroo and attend each other’s
classes,” I mused, “but I can see them getting into some
kind of trouble if they choose to gang up and create
mischief together.” I laughed quietly.
“Yes, of that I’m sure,” Angela agreed. “But we’ve got a
few years ahead before we have to worry about them. But
come to think of it, now that they are in pre-school, how
do we know they aren’t already scheming?” Angela
laughed out loud as well.
“Can you imagine them in their teens?” I wondered
aloud. “They are going to be a real handful, then. And
when they start dating, we’re going to have to deal with
twice as many issues as we do now. It’s going to be some
interesting times!”
“Oh, I just imagine what it will be like for them as they
go to their prom,” Angela said. “What’ll that be, 2008?
2009? I just imagine that by then, maybe they won’t even
have proms. The world is really going to change. People
will be living on the moon, we’ll have flying cars. Maybe
the kids will attend school on Mars, for all we know. A lot
can happen in fifteen years, I would think.”
“I’m going to try to not imagine them in outer space,” I
mused. “I really don’t think things are going to advance
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that quickly. Look at what we’ve got today, our TV is
going to be a central part of our way to communicate
with people all over. The cable TV system is going to
bring us all closer together, you just wait and see.”
I and Angela lived in an ordinary world, but their
dreams for an extraordinary future were as big as ever.
61
1994 - MR. JONES
Adrian Alan “Spike” Jones, Sr. It was a mouthful, and
Spike preferred his simple, masculine nickname over the
full moniker. Spike and Emily had been married for nearly
eleven years, and their ten year old son, Adrian Jr., was
following his father’s early penchant for troublemaking,
despite the efforts of his parents to quell the innate
violence that appeared to be part of his genetic
inheritance. Despite the fact that he was only in fifth
grade, he was called into the principal’s office on nearly a
weekly basis.
“Mr. Jones,” Principal Harlan Desmond would always
begin, “what is it this time?”
With his many visits, Adrian was used to the
questioning, and it barely registered that it was a
punishment to be sent to the principal’s office.
“Mr, Jones, are you listening to me?” Principal
Desmond continued.
“Yeah, I’m here. “ Adrian answered the question with a
nonsensical answer, it was obvious that he wasn’t listening.
“Mr. Jones,” began the Principal a third time. “Would
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Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
you mind telling me why you’ve been sent to me this
time.”
Adrian responded, “It’s that punk kid in my class. I
can’t stand him.”
“And which student would that be?” the Principal
urged.
“I don’t know his name. He’s that punk kid in my class.
That’s all I know about him.”
“So what is your problem with this ‘punk kid’?”
“He’s a punk, that’s what.”
“And just what does that mean?”
“He doesn’t respect my space.”
“And what is your space?”
“He sits behind me and kicks my chair. That’s my
space.”
“And this is a problem because…?”
“It’s my space. I don’t like my chair being kicked!”
“So what did you do to defend ‘your space’?”
“I smacked him. That’s what I did.”
“You struck a fellow student? You know that’s against
the rules, don’t you?”
“He didn’t respect my space!”
It was clear that a reasoned discourse was not going to
work with young Mr. Jones.
“Mr. Jones,” the Principal continued, “this is completely
unacceptable behavior, and there will be consequences.”
“What are cons’quences?” Adrian asked.
“Consequences are the resulting punishment for your
continued bad behavior. I am going to have to meet with
your parents to discuss this. For now, you need to go back
to class, and you must be on your best behavior. I’ll ask
Ms. Wilson to seat you away from your punk kid nemesis
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for the remainder of the class. No more trouble today, you
hear?”
“Yeah, OK.”
Adrian returned to class, and upon returning, the kids
in the class snickered. Adrian glared at them, but was
directed to a new seat by Ms. Wilson before trouble could
start.
The next day, Spike and Emily were called into the
office to have a discussion with Principal Desmond.
“Your son is becoming a troublemaker, and is sent to
my office weekly,” he began. “We are limited in what
punishment we can inflict, other than talking with the
parents. In my days as a student, if we got out of line,
then the paddle was the answer. And as an answer it was
pretty effective.” He paused and stared wistfully out the
window, then resumed. “But that’s no longer an option in
this day and age. We must use other means. I’m afraid
those other means are suspension, or if the bad behavior
continues, complete expulsion from the school. Our hands
are tied in this situation. Adrian’s behavior is at least
annoying and at the worst, dangerous to the well-being of
the other students.”
Spike and Emily were is a state of shock. They knew
Adrian was rambunctious, and sometimes played roughly
with his friends, but they had no idea that he was fighting
other kids at school, if that’s what the principal was
inferring. Emily expressed their concerns, “How long has
this been going on? Why haven’t we been told before
now?”
“Adrian has been in my office three times in the last
month, and last month twice. His classroom behavior is
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Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
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becoming disruptive, and the fact that he hasn’t been
punished is beginning to influence some of the other
students whose behavior isn’t exactly model either.”
Emily held her hand up to her mouth in shock. Spike
continued, “What can we do?”
“We’ve tried reasoning with him, trying to draw upon
his better nature, but it appears that he has none,” the
Principal suggested.
Spike took offense, “You’re out of line there, sir. Our
son is not a criminal. I think there is something else at play
here.”
“I’m not implying that he’s born to be bad,” the
Principal tried a bit of levity to defuse the heat in the
room. “But there is something outside of the school
environment that is causing him to act up. Perhaps you
can work with the school psychologist to try to get to the
bottom of it. May I make a referral for you?”
Spike agreed that that course of action had merit, and
an appointment was scheduled for the following week.
“If Adrian is sent here once more before your visit with
the psychologist, then I have no other choice that to
suspend him until then. Please talk with him and explain
the severity of these consequences.”
The drive home was held in relative silence as the
parents considered their options.
Spike broke the silence, “Have we gone too easy on
Adrian?” he asked Emily. “Are we unfit parents?”
“I don’t think we’re unfit,” Emily offered, “but maybe
we have been lax in the punishment department. As an
only child, I’m afraid he gets away with a lot more than he
should.”
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“Timeouts apparently weren’t enough for him when he
was younger. And the last thing I want to do is spank him.
He’s too old for that anyway, it can’t possibly do any
good.”
“I’m absolutely without any ideas, either,” Emily said.
“It’s going to be a long few days before the psychologist
visit if he chooses to act up in between.”
Adrian managed to keep his calm on the day of his
parent’s visit with the principal, and Ms. Wilson decided
that the new classroom location might just become a
permanent assignment. When class was dismissed at the
end of the day, Adrian walked alone towards home until
Carol, another student caught up with him.
“Why do you have to be so mean, Adrian?” she asked.
With an uncharacteristic melancholy, Adrian shrugged
and simply said “Don’t know.”
“Mr. Desmond is gonna get you in a lot of trouble if
you don’t shape up,” she continued. “He kicked Sam out
of school. You don’t want that to happen to you, huh?”
“Getting kicked out of school wouldn’t be the worst
thing,” Adrian considered. “I’m bored in school. It’s too
easy and we never do anything interestin’. I want to play
on computers like the kids at the high school do. Why
don’t we have computers?”
“Computers are too hard,” Carol complained. “I tried
one once, and all I could make it do is go beep.”
“Computers aren’t that hard,” Adrian suggested. “I
played with one at the store and it was easy. We even had
one at home when I was five, and I could play games and
everything. My parents won’t let me play with the one at
home now, because it’s where my mom does the bills. But
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----The Missing Years
I bet if I had one, I could make it do all sorts of cool
things.”
“I gotta turn here to go home,” Carol said, indicating
the next corner. “Maybe your parents will buy you your
own computer, huh?”
“I don’t think so,” Adrian complained. “I think instead
I’m going to be grounded after they had their talk with
Desmond today. Hmm. Maybe I’ll be so far grounded that
I’ll be able to skip school next week. I’d like that!”
Adrian walked in the front door to meet his parents,
waiting at the table for him. “Sit down, Adrian Alan Jones,
Jr.” Uh, oh, full name was trouble.
“What?” was his simple reaction as he took the
proffered seat.
“You know we visited with Principal Desmond today,”
Spike began.
“Yeah, I know. He told me he was going to call you.”
“You’ve been getting in a lot of trouble at school lately,”
Emily continued the conversation. “Why?”
“I’m bored. School’s boring.” Adrian continued,
reiterating portions of his conversation with classmate
Carol. His final conclusive statement was “I want a
computer.”
“You have your game system, and you hardly play
that,” Spike complained. “What could you possibly do
with a computer?”
“I heard one of the kids in my class talking about how
they had the internet at their house. He said there was lots
of cool things that he found to do. He said there was a
spiderweb thing that he goes on.”
“The World Wide Web” Spike confirmed. “Yeah, I’ve
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heard about it. But it’s just something for college kids. You
can’t tell me that a fifth grader can get anything out of
something like that.”
“That kid is on all the time and finds games to play and
everything. The games I have are boring. I want the
internet games.”
“We’ll think about it, but you have to behave.”
At the meeting with the school psychologist the
following week, Spike and Emily raised their concerns
about Adrian’s lack of interest in typical school material.
The psychologist pulled Adrian’s file and looked at recent
testing results.
“It appears that we’ve underestimated young Mr.
Jones,” as she pored over the scores. “It seems he has a
very high aptitude for applied math and languages, Our
typical curriculum at his grade level emphasizes very basic
skills, but it seems he’s actually capable of a level
exceeding those taught, perhaps by several grade levels.
It’s no wonder he acts up in class, it’s an outlet for him,
even as a negative one. But if we channel his energy and
intellect into something more productive, perhaps
computers, his behavior problems just might go away.”
Spike and Angela bought Adrian his first Macintosh
computer the very next day.
68
1995 - ANTS MARCHING
“Ants!” screamed Merry, “there are ants marching on my
bed!”
I ran into his youngest daughter’s room to check out the
situation.
“Look at this!” he scolded Merry, “There’s a sucker in
your bed. What have I told you about eating candy in
bed!” Merry flinched as I’s temper was rising, and he
caught himself before he completely blew up.
“But daddy,” Merry explained, “it wasn’t me. I didn’t
eat any candy.”
“And you think the candy just got there all by itself ?”
“Tyler did it. He wants me to get in trouble. Tyler’s
mean to me.”
“And why would Tyler want you to get into trouble?”
“Tyler’s mad at me because I told on him. He was
eating candy before dinner and mommy said not to.
Mommy got real mad at him.”
“Well, you were right to tell your mother. Tyler needs to
follow the rules, and if he put the candy on your bed, then
he is the one who is going to get into trouble.”
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“But don’t tell Tyler what I said. He’s going to be mean
to me again.”
“Don’t worry, Tyler will not know it’s you. But there is
trouble waiting for him.” I left the room and went to
Tyler’s room.
Upon hearing Merry’s scream, Tyler knew that his
father was going to pay him a visit. In order to prevent the
impending punishment, Tyler closed the door to his room,
and sat down with his back to the door.
I reached for the handle, and sensing resistance on the
other side, pounded his fist against the door. “Tyler! You
open up right now!” He pounded again.
Tyler feigned absence. “Nobody in here!”
I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit at Tyler’s attempt at
safety, but kept his warning tone. “You’d better come out
right now, Mr., or there will be trouble.”
Tyler meekly opened the door, and I held out the ant
covered sucker for Tyler to see. “What is the meaning of
this?” he asked. “Your sister’s bed is covered with ants as a
result of your prank.”
“I’m sorry daddy. I didn’t mean to.”
“You didn’t mean to. That’s about the lamest excuse
that I’ve ever heard. Well, now you are going to help us
clean up the mess. Come with me.” He grabbed Tyler’s
hand and dragged him, protesting, to Merry’s room.
“See what a mess you’ve caused?” indicating the
marching ants. “It’s going to take some time to get rid of
this mess. Now help me take this bedding off, so we can
get it cleaned up.”
I grabbed a corner and pulled the bedding off in one
pull, careful to fold the ants inside the bundle so as to not
allow them to escape.
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----The Missing Years
“We’re going to have to get this outside and shake them
off before we try to clean the sheets.
They went outside and shook the sheet, freeing the ants
from their sweet prison, and then quickly returned inside
to stuff the bedding into the laundry basket. He returned
his attention to Tyler.
“Now let’s go into your sister’s room and clean up the
rest of the ants. I’m sure they didn’t just start there. The
candy attracted them but there’s sure to be a few
stragglers left behind.”
When they returned to the room, I traced a line of ants
back to the window sill, where they disappeared into a
crack below the sill. “Here’s where they are coming in,” he
claimed. “If we don’t take care of this now, they are going
to turn up in other parts of the house. See what trouble
your mischief has caused?”
Tyler hung his head in shame. “Daddy, I’m sorry.” He
started again. “Don’t be mad.” He turned up eyes of
innocence that cracked I’s icy stare. I relented and
brushed his hand over Tyler’s head.
“Ah, I can’t stay mad at you. But no more of these
shenanigans, I tell you. Now help me clean up these ants.”
I and Tyler worked together to clean up the ants.
“Normally, if this were outside, I’d use some ant spray and
that would be it,” I instructed Tyler. “But since it’s in your
sister’s room, I don’t like the idea of poison all over.”
I continued, “First, we’ll patch the hole under the
window where they came in.” He used some spackle to fill
in the hole, then took a putty knife and smoothed it over.
He let Tyler touch the wet spackle, and play with a little
bead. Tyler began to take some up to his mouth, and I
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Roger D. Linder
quickly stopped him.
“I don’t think that will hurt you,” he said, “but I
wouldn’t recommend eating it. It’s not going to taste very
good.”
Despite his warning, Tyler continued the spackle’s
journey and put it into his mouth. “It looks like gum!”
Tyler said, but the look on his face soon belied that fact.
“Ooh, ick,” as he spit it out. “That’s yucky!” He continued
to spit out the foul substance.
“See, I told you. You really ought to listen to your old
man,” I warned.
After cleaning up the minor mess that Tyler’s
experimentation had caused, I moved on to cleaning up
the remaining ants that still climbed on the wall. “Here’s
something safe that will stop the ants marching for the
time being.” He sprayed a little blue glass cleaner and the
ants stopped dead in their tracks. He handed it over to
Tyler, who looked curiously at the blue liquid, wondering
whether or not to taste it as well. I stared him down and
told him, “Remember what I said about the spackle. This
will be ten times worse. And, it will hurt you as well.”
Tyler turned the bottle on the remaining ants and gave
it a spray. “This is more fun,” he said. “I can watch them
stop when they try to drink the blue stuff.” He sprayed
again for good measure.
“I think that’s enough for now,” I indicated. “Now we
have to clean up the mess.”
They grabbed some towels and started wiping away the
spray and the ants. A few stragglers still survived, and
Tyler took up the spray bottle one last time, making sure
they were gone for good.
“Good job, buddy,” I said. “You killed ‘em real good!”
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----The Missing Years
Once the inside mess was taken care of, the two decided
to deal with the ants marching on the outside wall as well.
“This one’s going to take a bit more ammunition,” I
said. “We’re going to have to go for the real stuff this
time.” He held out the can of ant spray and took out a
line of them climbing the wall. He continued all the way
down to the ground, and tracked them back to a small hill
they had opened in the yard.
“I’ll spray inside here, and that should be the end of
that. Now whatever you do,” he said, as he turned to
Tyler. “Don’t touch anything out here. This stuff will
make you real sick.”
Tyler, watching the ants struggling and expiring, had no
choice but to agree.
Inside the house, despite their efforts, the job was not
complete. Although Merry’s room was ant free, the
problem had been transferred to the laundry, where some
ants still wrapped up inside the bedding had escaped and
were climbing the walls around the washer and dryer.
“This is going to take the full ammo approach as well,”
he aid to himself, and he grabbed the ant spray and gave
every inch of ant-covered trails a good soaking. Before
long, fumes were beginning to rise, and I began to feel a
little sick. He quickly opened the door to vent out the
room. A rush of air from the outside only serve to blow
the ant spray fumes back into the house, where the mist
began pervading all of the living area.
“Abandon ship!” I cried, as he perceived the danger to
his family. “Everybody outside. It’s going to blow!”
Angela rushed in to see what the problem was, and
chided I. “You’re exaggerating a bit, I think. It’s going to
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Roger D. Linder
smell for a bit, but I hardly think it’s that dangerous. I’ll
open a window, and it will blow out. In the meantime, I
think you’d better take some time to wipe up the mess
you’re made in this room. And while you’re at it, how
about stuffing those sheets and blanket into the washer.
They are going to need a long hot bath before I’m about
to put them back on Merry’s bed.” Pouring in a cup of
soap, I started the wash cycle.
Once everything got cleaned up, I breathed a sigh of
relief. His family was safe from harm, safe from the
advance of the marching ants. And the war against the
ants seemed to be over.
The next day, yet another trail of marching ants was
crawling along the kitchen counter, oblivious to the events
and battles of the day before. I was at the end of his rope,
and did not want to keep spraying ant spray everywhere
the ants would materialize. He finally gave in, grabbed the
yellow pages and looked up exterminators. The ad read
“Ants marching. We’ll take care of them, under the table
or wherever you find them. Dream easy tonight. Call
Matthews’ Exterminators for the solution to your
problem. Don’t let another ant spoil your day. Wasps,
mosquitos, termites, spiders and all sort of creepy crawly
pests are our speciality. Call today!”
I wasted no time calling them. By mid-afternoon, the
exterminators had arrived and the ants were history. What
began as a simple prank had turned into a major fiasco,
with expenses running over fifty dollars, and the whole
house having to be evacuated while extermination was in
progress. I made sure that Tyler did not forget the lesson
he had learned this day. “Don’t put candy in your sister’s
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----The Missing Years
bed. Understand?”
75
1996 - STANDING OUTSIDE A BROKEN
PHONE BOOTH WITH MONEY IN MY
HAND
A passerby noted the man standing at the booth, obviously in distress
and asked his problem.
“I’m standing outside a broken phone booth with money in my
hand,” Clark opined. “there are people in dire peril and I have
nowhere to change!”
“You need change?” the passerby asked. “I think I can help you
out.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful. “Here you
go,” he said as he held out his hand. “I’m always ready to help out a
fellow in need.”
Clark looked down at the man’s hand in disbelief. Not only did he
not need change, he was in rather a hurry and did not have time to
stand here debating the need for coinage. Despite the stranger’s
helpfulness, Clark had to turn him down.
“Sorry, pal,” he began. “You seem to have misunderstood. I’ve got
plenty of change. The problem is the phone booth itself. It’s broken. I
can’t get the door open without ripping it off from its hinges. I’m
afraid the local police would have a problem with that.”
“Then your problem is solved!” the man declared triumphantly.
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----The Missing Years
“You can use my cell phone. I have plenty of spare minutes. Here you
go.” He proffered the device.
Clark looked down at the man’s hand and shook his head. “Again
you misunderstand. I am not in need of a phone. I just need to use the
phone booth.” He paused uncomfortably. “It’s a bit hard to explain.”
The man looked curiously at Clark, then offered another bit of
help. “There’s another booth around the corner.”
With a flash and whoosh of air, Clark seemed to disappear in
front of the man’s eyes. “That was odd,” he noted silently as he
walked away, shaking his head.
Angela looked over the manuscript I had provided to
her. “This is what you’ve been working on? This is your
‘Great American Novel’?”.
“Yeah! What do you think?” I was eager to hear the
answer.
“Frankly, it’s crap. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything
so bad.”
I was crushed. “But I’ve thought this story out to the
end. Anyway, it’s just a first draft. They’re always a bit
rough.”
“Sandpaper is rough. This is atrocious. Stick to writing
music. You’re good at that, and not so good at writing a
novel. Stick with what you know.”
“I must respectfully disagree,” I took on a haughty
attitude. “This is my baby. This is what I was born to do.
You just wait, the story will emerge, and I predict it will be
a bestseller!”
“O.K., have your fun. But I don’t think your dad is
going to be able to get you out of this one. He can
complete your projects, but this one is beyond
redemption.”
“My dad is not an Author. I am,” I insisted.
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“Right, right. An Author. You just go ahead. When it
hits the bestseller list, I’ll read it.”
I ignored her jibe and continued writing.
Clark discovered the working phone booth around the corner, just
as the stranger had indicated. The door was operational, and the
street itself was fairly deserted.
“This will do,” he stated to no one in particular. “This will do
nicely.”
Clark removed his hat, and placed it carefully on the shelf just
below the telephone. He removed his glasses, and placed them in his
pocket. He picked up the phone book, thumbed to the “R” listings,
and ran his finger down the page until he encountered “Raven.”
“Here it is, ‘Raven, John L. - 2877 Santiago Blvd. #3’”, Clark
took out a notepad and wrote down the address. He picked up his hat,
replaced his glasses and stepped outside the booth. Looking up and
down the street, the lack of activity on the street was now a problem.
Seeking to hail a taxi, Clark returned once again to the busier street at
which he began his quest.
“Taxi” he hailed, as he spotted the yellow vehicle down the street.
“Taxi!” The vehicle slowed, as Clark stepped into the back seat. He
glanced at his notepad, “2877 Santiago Blvd.” he told the driver.
And there’s an extra twenty in it for you if you can get me there in
under ten minutes.”
“You got it!” the driver indicated, as he stepped on the gas.
Eight minutes later, the driver pulled to the curb in front of the
Santiago address.
I stopped typing and read over his previous scene. “It’s
perfect! The suspense is building nicely!”
Clark paid the fare, and added the promised twenty and stepped
out of the car. He surveyed the building in front of him, and caught
his breath. “This is going to be dangerous, I fear,” he sub-vocalized.
“But there’s no other choice but to go out and do it!”
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----The Missing Years
He approached the door warily, grabbed the handle, entered and
spoke to the person inside. “Dr. Raven, I presume?”
The woman looked up and indicated the sign on the wall, “Yes,
this is Dr. Raven’s office. Do you have an appointment?”
Clark looked to the right and to the left, as if afraid that someone
might overhear their conversation. “No, I do not,” he simply said.
“Well, let’s look at the book.” She scanned and turned the page.
“We’ve got nothing open today, but it looks like a 9 AM slot is
available tomorrow. Would you care to return in the morning?”
Clark’s newfound bravado poured out of him, as syrup from a jar,
slowly returning to the anxiety of earlier in the day. “There’s nothing
available right now?” he asked. “Can you check again, please?”
“No, I’m sorry sir, tomorrow is the earliest we can fit you in.”
Clark sighed. “That will have to do. Put me down for 9 AM.”
The receptionist looked down to pencil him in. “Your name, sir?”
There was no reply. Looking up, again she said “Sir?”
But Clark was nowhere to be found.
“That seems as good a place to end this chapter,” I said
aloud to no one in particular. “The character is
developing nicely, the situation remains mysterious. I think
the Pulitzer Prize is practically in my pocket!”
I pushed back the chair as he stretched his arms about
his head. “It’s time for some inspiration!”
I stepped into the kitchen and grabbed a piece of hard
candy and popped it into his mouth. Biting down, he felt a
piece of his tooth chip off. “Ow!” he cried out. “My
tooth!”
Angela heard his cry for help and ran into the room.
“What’s the problem?”
“I think I broke my tooth when I bit on this piece of
candy,” he reached into his mouth and pulled out the
candy, and a bit of the tooth. “I’m going to have to go to
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the dentist,” he said. “Can you make me an appointment,
please?”
Angela got on the phone. I could hear her speaking to
the dentist’s office “Tomorrow at 9 AM? Nothing earlier?
OK, we’ll take it. See you in the morning!”
“Tomorrow?” I complained, “My tooth is hurting
now!”
“I’m afraid that’s the best we can do. Dr. Santiago is all
booked for today. If something opens up today, Ms. Clark
will give us a call. Why don’t you get back to your
‘writing’. It may take your mind of the pain. Plus, you can
take a couple of aspirin as well.”
I returned to his desk after downing the aspirin, and
tried to concentrate on the manuscript.
Clark fidgeted as he awaited his 9 AM appointment. A visit to
Dr. Raven was always nerve-wracking for him. It’s not that he was
afraid, but the thought of the initial pain belied the fact that even the
hope of relief could not compensate.
“The doctor will see you now.” Clark was led into the
examination room.
“Please remove your shirt, and Dr. Raven will be right in.”
Clark was nervous, but awaited the doctor’s arrival. He looked at
the wall. The doctor’s degrees were displayed there, and the charts
and diagrams were a pleasant distraction from the anxiety he was
feeling.
Dr. Raven knocked and entered the room. “Please lie down, and
we’ll get started.” He began pressing upon his spine, gently kneading
the vertebrae, until a distinct “pop” was heard. “There! Does that
feel better now?”
Clark sat up, raised his arms above his head, and declared, “No
pain! You’re a miracle worker, Doc!”
Clark jumped up off the table, shook the doctor’s hand and said
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“Thank you!”
“Just check in with the receptionist on your way out, and you’re
good to go.”
Clark paid his bill, left the office and felt ready to face the world
once again.
Angela looked over I’s work the next morning and
shook her head. “This is about the least interesting piece
of crap I’ve read, possible ever. I don’t think you’re going
to find a second career as an Author, despite your efforts.
I’m sorry,” she repeated, “it’s just horrible.”
“My tooth pain is throwing me off my game,” I
claimed. “Once we’ve been to the dentist, I’m sure I can
make some revisions.”
The two of them got into the car and headed to the
dentist’s office. Pulling into the lot, they noted a broken
phone booth on the corner.
“Looks like someone hit it with their car,” Angela
noted. “I’m glad we don’t have to make any calls this
morning. That’s going to be out of commission for some
time, I fear.”
“You’re trying to distract me from visiting the dentist,” I
accused. “You don’t have to do that. I don’t fear the
dentist. I’m a big boy.”
He boldly stepped out of the car. “I’ll walk right up to
that door, turn the handle, and enter without a care in the
world!”
He reached the door, grabbed and turned the handle
and got ready to enter. The doorknob failed to turn. It was
locked. He looked at his watch, and it read 8:55 AM. The
office was still closed. He would have to wait out the five
minutes.
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1997 - I BELIEVE I CAN FLY
“It’s been six months,” Angela chided, “and you’ve yet to
sit down and finish that so-called super-hero novel of
yours.”
“Super-hero novel?” I raised his eyebrow quizzically. “I
never tried to write a super-hero novel.”
“And just what do you call the novel with ‘Clark’, a
phone booth, and the ability to fly?”
“Fly? There was nothing about flying in my novel.
Where do you get a silly idea like that?” I seemed a bit
confused about Angela’s line of questioning.
“Oh, come on. Are you totally dense, or something?
You don’t remember writing about Superman?”
“I never wrote anything about Superman, that’s for
sure. I had a character named Clark, that’s for certain, but
there the similarity ends. You seem to think I have him
saying something like ‘I believe I can fly’ and then just
take off ? That’s just ridiculous. It’s not believable. I’ve
never bought into Superman as a figure to be celebrated
or emulated. An alien from outer space comes to Earth
and saves the human race. Totally ridiculous.”
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----The Missing Years
“Still, Clark. Phone booth. Hat. Glasses. That screams
Superman,” Angela insisted.
“It really never crossed my mind. ‘Clark’ is Clark
Wilson, and he suffers from chronic back pain. When a
sudden pang comes upon him, he does everything he can
to find the nearest chiropractor to relive the pain.”
“And you find that compelling literature? Sounds pretty
pedestrian and drab to me,” Angela complained. “And
how long was this novel to be?”
“I was planning on about 300 pages for the first volume.
The sequel would probably be about the same, maybe
350.”
“A sequel? On what material? Visits to the dentist?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. I was inspired to write the
sequel based on my experiences with the broken tooth.
There’s a great story there!”
“Oh I’m sure there is,” Angela replied with sarcasm. “A
real page turner.”
“Yes, I really think so. I’m glad we’re on the same
page.” I was oblivious.
“So, when is it coming out?” Angela decided to play
along.
“I’ve set it aside for now. I’ll probably work on it again
in the Fall.”
“As I suspected. You never finish anything,” Angela
accused.
I became defensive. “I finish everything… in my own
time. It takes a while, but I have all the time in the world!”
“All the time in the world? You could be hit by a bus
tomorrow! What good will time do for you then?”
“There’s no bus, no accident, no illness that will strike
me down. I’ve seen it!”
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Roger D. Linder
“Seen what?”
“I have seen my future. And it is bright!”
“Your future? And just how is that?”
“A dream. I dreamed of me at an old age, and you were
there beside me. Celebrating.”
“And you believe in this dream.”
“I do. I think it runs in the family. My mother had
dreams, and they came true as well.”
“So what was your dream?”
“We were together, celebrating my birthday. The 113th!
Yes, I was a teenager once again!”
“113? And how well do you think you’ll be at 113,
should you even make it to that?”
“Fit as a fiddle, I’m sure. You and I were dancing and
everything. And I know the future will be bright, because
of the special sign.”
“Special sign?”
“My cake had 113 candles. That lit the place up!”
“So tell me more about this dream. I suppose your
parents were there?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, they’d be over 130 years old. No
one lives to be that age!”
“I dare say that no one lives to be 113 either. At least,
very, very few. Why would you be among them?”
“I saw it in the dream!”
“All right. Go ahead and believe it. You may as well
believe you can fly, as well.”
“Once again, it’s you being ridiculous. You don’t have
faith in my predictive dreams? What if I told you I
dreamed we won a million dollars in the lottery?”
“You dreamed that?”
“Well, no. And since we haven’t, the fact that I didn’t
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----The Missing Years
dream it proves my point!”
“I really don’t think it works that way.”
“Don’t get all scientific on me. You just wait and see. If
I don’t reach 113, it’ll be over my dead body!”
“Now that’s a statement I can believe in.”
Discourse like the one earlier in the week troubled
Angela. She was sure that I was losing it. That all of his
mental faculties weren’t present. That he wasn’t firing on
all cylinders, to use a common expression. She confided
her concerns to Emily. “I is not all there sometimes. I
would blame it on all those drugs in the sixties and
seventies, but I was there. He did not partake. There’s no
other excuse but a descent into mental illness.”
Emily disagreed, ”Mental illness? I really don’t think so.
I is exuberant and childlike, sometimes, but that’s just the
way he is. You’ve known him for more than thirty years.
You should have recognized that by now.”
“That’s true, I suppose,” Angela admitted. “But
sometimes he is just so over the top, I can’t figure him
out.”
“Maybe he’s just trying to engage your own
imagination. Maybe you should stop being so serious and
concerned, when there’s clearly nothing wrong, and seek
out your inner child as well. What do you do for fun?”
“I like to sit and watch the TV, read my books, spend
time in the garden. I find it relaxing.”
“I find it boring, if you ask me. You need to get out,
find adventure. Do something together. I is probably
feeling tied down to a homebody existence and wants to
go out and experience life, and I think you would benefit
from it as well.”
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“We went on that Mediterranean cruise.” Angela
offered.
“And that was what, ten years ago? You’ve barely
stepped foot out of the house, much less taken any major
trips, since.”
“We go out. To the mall, out to eat.”
“Slow my heart, girl. Let me off this crazy ride!” Emily
patted her forehead as if wiping away sweat.
“So, what’s your idea of a good time?”
“Why not go out and have an outdoor adventure?
Hiking, horseback riding, surfing. Your kids are getting old
enough to enjoy some of those activities, and if they’re too
much for them, you can always leave them with us and go
off and do some things, just the two of you. Be a kid
again!”
“A kid again? I never did those things when I was a kid
in the first place. I’m not sure if I even remember how to
ride a bike, much less if I can ride on a horse. It sounds
too dangerous.”
“Danger is only in your mind. Oh, sure, there are
activities that are truly dangerous. Jumping from a plane
without a parachute hoping to land in a pile of hay comes
to mind. Juggling a dozen knives set on fire. That I would
not recommend. But you want to know what the real
danger is? Not living life to the fullest! You’re in danger of
wasting away, never having accomplished anything. Tell
me, when you look back at 70, 80, 90, what will you have
to look back on?”
“I claims that I’ll be there at 110. In a dream.”
“So then, what will you look back on at 110? A life filled
with TV shows, books and the garden? You’ve got to live a
little. No, I take that back. You’ve got to live a lot!”
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----The Missing Years
“So, what, you think I need to take a class?”
“A class isn’t go to do it for you. You need to grab life by
the tail, and hold on!”
“You seem to have everything planned out for me, don’t
you? I don’t get a say in this?”
“With your track record, I should think not.”
“OK, show me something. What should I do to add
excitement to my life?”
“Give me a day or two, and I’ll come up with
something.”
Emily was true to her word, and visited Angela once
again a couple of days later. “I’ve got the perfect thing. It’s
exciting, a little bit dangerous, and it will get the
adrenaline rushing through you.You won’t be the same
afterwards!” She was clearly excited about the idea. “You
won’t be satisfied to just sit around and read anymore!”
Angela was intrigued, if not a bit wary. “What is it?
What have you got cooked up?”
“I’m not telling. You’re just going to have to trust me on
this. Get into some comfortable clothes, and we’ll be on
our way.”
Angela decided to take the bait. “After all,” she thought,
“What if I’s right, and I’m healthy enough to see 100 and beyond?
Might as well live life the the fullest.”
She changed her clothes, and together Angela and
Emily went out to the car. “Where are we going?” Angela
asked again.
“You’ll see,” Emily winked conspiratorially.
They drove about an hour before turning into a private
airfield. “We’re taking a flight? To where?”
“You’ll see,” was all the response she could get. “Trust
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me.”
“The two of them entered the small plane, and the pilot
greeted them. “Welcome aboard, ladies. We’ll be off the
ground in no time, but first, let’s get your ‘chutes on. Don’t
want to jump out without them,” he chuckled.
“‘Chutes as in parachutes?” Angela’s eyes grew wide.
“You’re going to try to get me to jump out of a plane? I
think not!”
“It’s fine, I’ve done it seven times now. Spike and I have
made it a hobby, and we love it. You will too.”
“Spike has never told me he jumps out of planes. I’m
his sister, don’t you think I should know something about
that?”
“He didn’t want you to worry. You know how you get
sometimes. Now get the parachute on, and let’s take off !”
The pilot/instructor showed Angela how to put on the
parachute, and also explained how she would not be going
down alone. They would be going on a tandem jump. A
professional will accompany her at all times.
Wary as always, Angela reluctantly agreed to the
experience. Boarded, the plane took off and settled into a
10,000 foot altitude. Angela was secured to the
professional, and after a quick count of three, was
airborne. The exhilaration set in immediately.
“I believe I can fly!” she screamed with delight as every
part of her body tingled with the excitement of this new
adventure.
88
1998 - ONE WEEK
Sunday
I and Angela awoke at 4 AM and couldn’t fall back to
sleep.
“Sunday is the one day each week that I can sleep in,” I
complained. “Why can’t I have just this one?”
Angela disagreed. “You can sleep any day of the week,
silly, there’s nothing different about Sunday than any other
day.”
“Yeah, I know, this life of leisure can make one a bit
lazy, I suppose. But come to think if it, Sunday is a bit
different. Any other day of the week we’ve got to get up to
either take the kids to school or to some Saturday morning
event. Sunday, to me, is sleep day”
“You know,” began Angela, “we could always go to
church. We haven’t done that for a long time.”
“Church? I’m afraid the walls would fall down once we
entered the building. At the very least, the minister would
probably pass out on the floor as soon as he saw our
faces.”
“You know, we used to go regularly. Now we don’t even
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attempt to make a token visit on Christmas or Easter.”
“And what good is it to start going now? You think my
soul needs saving? Remember, I’ve seen it, I’ll be around
until I’m 113. What’s going to church going to do for
me?”
“How do you know it’s not because we go to church
that you’ll reach that ripe old age?”
“Tell you what. Give me one week and if anything bad
happens then we’ll start going to church next Sunday. One
week.”
Monday
At 4 AM, I woke covered in sweat, heart beating rapidly
and mind racing. Angela, disturbed from her slumber
asked, “What’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I think I have. It was just a dream. No, a nightmare.
My grandfather was haunting me, telling me I’ve got to
change my ways or spend an eternity in Hell to atone. I
barely knew my grandfather, he died while I was still
young. Why would I dream about him?”
“Could be that sign you were seeking about going to
church. Why else? Was there anything there to indicate
that’s what he was suggesting?”
“Dreams don’t work that way. They are never explicit.
They’re wrapped up in mystery, and full of symbology.
I’m sure it was just a dream. Nothing more. You got me all
worked up yesterday and this is what manifested. It’s
nothing. Go back to sleep, it’s still dark. We’ve got three
good hours of sleep ahead of us.”
I lay there for another hour before he could fall back to
sleep, pondering the dream. Did it really mean he should
go to church? Was his grandfather’s dire warning going to
come true? Was his life of leisure going to get him in the
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Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
end?
“It was just a dream,” he told himself. “Nothing but a
silly memory that worked its way into my slumbers.”
But if he could disregard this one, could he continue to
believe his 113 prediction?
Tuesday
I woke at 4 AM on Tuesday, as well, but there was no
dream, no sweats, no rapid heart beat. Just a feeling of
calm and solace. This began to worry him. “What now?”
he thought suspiciously. “Is this some sort of mind trick?”
Setting it aside, he fell back asleep quickly, and woke at
his normal time of 7 AM. He felt refreshed, as if the
interruption of sleep at 4 AM hadn’t even happened. “Did
I dream that as well?” he wondered. But the feeling had been
so vivid, he knew it had to be reality.
As was his usual custom, he visited each of his
children’s rooms and woke them to get ready for school.
Each one greeted him with a smile and a hug, and I felt a
warm sensation flow through him. “This isn’t how it usually
goes,” he thought. “There’s usually some level of complaint. At
least one of them feigns sickness. What is going on?”
As the day progressed, events unfolded as without
effort, every step he took felt like he was walking on thin
cushions, not enough to feel clumsy, but just enough to
take away the cares of the day. The taste of food was a
little sharper and pleasant, the drinks crisper and more
refreshing. Even water tasted better than he had ever
experienced.
When he finally retired at his usual bedtime, the
complete sense of calm once again enveloped him, and his
last thought as he drifted off to sleep was “Is this Heaven?”
Wednesday
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Roger D. Linder
I woke on Wednesday at 7 AM, fully rested and ready
to face the day ahead. He was not quite ready to get out
of bed, just yet, as he vividly recalled yet another dream
during the night. His grandfather appeared again, kindly
addressing him this time, as opposed to the fire and
brimstone speech of his dream two nights before.
“Yesterday was my gift to you,” he heard him say. “This is
the kind of peace you can expect, if you only believe.”
His grandfather’s words were mysterious, nearly
incomprehensible. “Believe? Believe what?”
“Believe…” and grandfather faded away.
As I arose from bed, he stubbed his toe on the bedpost,
and the kids were being rambunctious and not willing to
cooperate about going to school. In other words, pretty
much a normal awakening. “Was yesterday just another
dream?” he wondered. “It seemed so vivid, so but unreal at the
same time.”
The rest of the day had him feeling uneasy again,
wondering what was around the corner at every step. Was
danger lurking? Was injury imminent? He couldn’t place a
source for his anxiety. Nothing was really going horribly
wrong. It was in general, just a normal day, but he couldn’t
shake the feeling that something was different. He felt as if
his head was in a cloud. Interactions with others did not
have the same feel, and he wasted no time finding his bed,
ready to shake off the day and try again tomorrow.
Thursday
I woke at 4 AM, once again in a sweat, and with a
pounding headache. He got up to take an aspirin, and
found the bottle empty. The room temperature was like a
refrigerator, and the sweat chilled him to the bone. Angela
lay asleep, undisturbed, and he couldn’t bear the thought
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----The Missing Years
to try and wake her up to ask what she might be
experiencing.
He slipped on his robe and slippers and went
downstairs. Opening the refrigerator, he pulled out a
carton of milk, so that he might sip the comfort of a
warm glass. He poured into a glass, only to discover that
the milk was curdled, plopping into the glass, and
splashing over onto the countertop. The smell was putrid,
and he quickly poured it down the drain, flicking on the
garbage disposal to rid himself of the foul liquid. The
switch failed to engage the disposal, so he only was able to
flush it down with water from the tap. “At least that’s
working,” he thought, “I’ll have to call the repairman later this
morning.”
He looked over at the phone and noticed it was off the
hook. Picking it up, he listened to hear only silence. “I must
have forgotten to hang up after the last call.” But he couldn’t
recall a call coming in, or making a call. “Maybe someone else
did it. I’ll have to get after the kids for not taking care of things
properly.” He hung up, waited a few moments and picked
up again, but the line was dead. “Great. I’ll have to use the
neighbor’s phone to call the disposal repairman and the phone
repairman.” As he stepped out to leave the room, he slipped
on some of the spilled milk, and hit his head on the
counter on the way down. He fell, unconscious, to the
floor.
Friday
I awoke the next morning, once again at 4 AM, in bed
with no idea how he got there. Angela lay beside him, as if
she hadn’t moved. He touched his head when it had
impacted the countertop, but felt no injury, not even a
slight bump. He got up, looked into the mirror and could
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see no evidence of his unfortunate fall. He’d lost a
complete day. Had he been in the hospital? Was he
suffering from amnesia induced by the fall? He once again
went downstairs into the kitchen and checked the
refrigerator. The carton of milk was still there. He gingerly
open the top and took a sniff. Perfectly fine. He poured a
glass, and it came out smoothly. Placing the glass in the
microwave oven, he heated it to a perfect 120 degrees,
warm enough to comfort, and not too hot to burn his
mouth. He decided to add a dash of chocolate to it, and
popped in a couple of small marshmallows as well. It went
down with satisfaction and relaxation.
I returned to the bedroom. Angela hadn’t stirred and he
was fine with that. He had not wished to disturb her in his
night cravings for comfort food. As he lay down and his
head hit the pillow, he fell asleep in a matter of seconds.
Saturday
4 AM arrived, and the alarm went off. I quickly
silenced it to not disturb Angela, and it appeared as if he
had succeeded, as she did not stir. “It must be my curse to
wake at 4 AM, but I’m not tired, so maybe I’ll just accept it and
watch a bit of TV. Maybe that will help me fall asleep and wake at
a more normal hour.”
I headed downstairs once again, and sat down in his
easy chair. He picked up the remote and wondered what
might even be on TV at this ungodly hour. As the image
begin to emerge on the screen, it revealed itself as his
grandfather. “I’m not dreaming this,” he mumbled to
himself. “But I don’t understand what’s happening. Maybe
I’ve seen this show before, and the man I’m seeing was
appearing in my dreams, and I just assumed it was my
grandfather.”
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----The Missing Years
The image addressed him directly, and I was taken by
surprise. “It’s been one week, and you’ve seen what life
can offer, both good and bad. Choose wisely, my son.
Choose wisely.”
Sunday
I looked over at the alarm clock and it read 7 AM.
Turning over, he saw Angela laying there, looking at him.
“I’m glad we were able to fall back asleep, I needed those
few hours.”
“What’s today?” he asked her.
“Still Sunday, just like it was three hours ago when we
woke up. Why?”
“Oh, nothing,” as a calm of peace once again overcame
him. “Let’s get ready for church.”
95
1999 - YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE
I checked his watch. Time had frozen and he shook his
wrist as if that would make the digital device begin ticking
again.
“There’s nothing wrong with your watch,” Angela said.
“Time is moving on just like normal. You get what you
give, and when you give your time, time will return to
you.”
“But it’s so boring, standing here waiting for the people
to arrive. I know once they get here, then the time will
move again. It’s just this interminable waiting. I’m anxious
to get on with the project.”
As if responding to his complaint, the doors opened
and crowds waiting outside began to file in.
“Happy Thanksgiving!” was the call as the hungry folks
began to take their place at the long tables.
“Everyone take a seat and we will serve you. In the
meantime, take this opportunity to visit with your
neighbor. They could be an angel in disguise.”
Every one of the volunteers took their station, some
ready to serve at the tables, some, like I and Angela,
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----The Missing Years
serving food to the servers to distribute at the tables. Every
one of the thirty volunteers had a job and everyone was
eager to do it.
“OK people, let’s go!” shouted the main organizer.
“This is it!”
I’s job was to ladle soup, while Angela tossed the salad
bowl and scooped it up into individual bowls.
Four servers at a time approached the soup station and
I hustled to keep up. Soup splashed on the table and
Angela warned “Slow down, there’s plenty of time and
everyone will be served.”
Angela carefully placed a salad into each bowl, ensuring
that each one had a piece of tomato to add color and
flavor.
By the time everyone had been served, two hours had
passed. I looked at his watch and noted that it had in fact
been working and was amazed that the time had passed so
quickly.
“What did I tell you?” said Angela. “You gave your
time, and it came back to you.”
“Wouldn’t you think we’d just lost two hours of our
lives? We barely remember it passing by.”
“The time is lost only if it’s wasted. You can’t say that
we’ve wasted any here. Look how many have been helped
today with everyone pitching in.”
“Well, now do we have time to eat?”
They ate their fill as they sat among the remaining
assembled guests.
The table conversation covered many subjects, but the
inevitable happened, and one of the guests began to ask
questions of I about his experience as a big rock star.
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Roger D. Linder
“What was it like to be so famous, once upon a time?”
Remembering his days of intense fame, he responded,
“Well, it’s not like I’m not still famous. I try to keep a
lower profile, but there’s still a lot of recognition when I’m
out in public.”
“It’s been more than twenty years since you last toured.
I remember seeing the ‘Playin’ Heavy’ tour in 1977 at the
Memorial Auditorium, and what a wild time it was!” His
eyes glazed slightly as he silently reminisced. “After you
stopped altogether, music wasn’t the same. We ended up
with junk like Simply Fortescue and Plastic Chase, and so
many other groups that, thankfully, have been mostly
forgotten.”
They sat silently for a time, continuing to reflect on the
decline of music in the ‘90s.
“I actually liked the music of Simply Fortescue,” offered
I, “although Plastic Chase was really just out there chasing
trends and not really developing their own unique style.
While the style of Simply Fortescue did not appeal to the
masses, I found them a refreshing change from the dance
rhythms that perpetuated in the late ’70s and throughout
the ‘80s. Their exploration of atonal dissonance on their
Playing the Role of Your Butler release was both controversial
and inspirational. It was also very reminiscent of the
music of Reginald Von Happenstein. I’m sure they found
some influence in him as well.”
“Um, thanks for dinner,” was the only response as the
guest rose to leave. He didn’t expect the casual
conversation to turn into a lecture on musical styles of the
‘90s, and figured a quick exit was the only way to divorce
himself from a topic that he found personally distasteful.
***
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Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy
----The Missing Years
A few days later, a news item ran on the TV:
A few of the hardcore fans of the ‘70s supergroup Golden Fingers
have banded together to suggest, if not demand, that the group get
back together. Calling themselves ‘The December 3rd Coalition,’ after
the now-forgotten observance of I-Day, they’ve created the web site ’A
Most Amazing Man’ and have started an online petition to reunite
the group. Many are saying that now is the time for what could be an
historic return to the heavy days of the 1970s. More on this story as
it develops.
I logged into his computer and brought up the
AltaVista search engine, looking for the “A Most Amazing
Man” web site. The petition had already gathered over
100,000 signatures, and the site boasted that they expected
to get over a million by year’s end.
I was not ready to step into the spotlight again, and the
rest of the band had their own lives and interests to see to.
As he continued to peruse the site, he noted that the
primary author was someone named Roger Linder.
Further AltaVista searches revealed very little about him,
but the site offered an email address, so I decided to send
him a message:
Roger,
While I am honored and a little surprised to see such a
renewed and fervent interest in reviving the seventies
popularity of my former band, I must admit that this is no
longer a passion of mine, and I don’t wish to influence any
further speculation as to the success of your campaign.
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***
I do believe, however, that I have a unique story to be
told, and if you’re interested, perhaps we can work on
some sort of collaboration in the future.
-I Mall, Golden Fingers founder
IMall@OnlyGoldenFingers.com
He hit “Send” and was surprised when a responding
email came back within a few minutes.
Mr. Mall,
How excited I was to receive a message from you! I
briefly considered it to be a hoax, but am certain that your
message was the real thing.
It is I who is honored to be able to rally Golden Fingers
fans around the world in support of of a reunion, but it
appears that my zeal may go unrewarded at the present
time.
I am, however, very interested in a possible
collaboration on some biographical material. Fans, and I
definitely include myself in perhaps the number one
position, have been clamoring to get some insight into
your life, especially in the period after your
“disappearance” if I might be so bold as to call it that. In
the years from 1978 to 1983 there are virtually no
references to your whereabouts, your hobbies, passions,
whatever it was that kept you busy until your all too brief
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----The Missing Years
reappearance in 1984.
Feel free to continue this conversation, and if I may be
so bold to suggest, I’d like to get a chance to meet and
work with you in person. I’d like to document this process
on the “A Most Amazing Man” web site, and I’m sure that
fans the world over will flock to the site to read your
continuing story.
-The number one Golden Fingers fan better known as
Roger Linder
roger@rocemabra.com
Second thoughts began to surface, as he considered the
possibilities of some deranged fan, possibly dangerous,
getting too close and endangering the well being of his
own person, or that of Angela or the children, whom he
had kept from the limelight for many years. He brought
her into the conversation.
“I’m not sure what I’ve just gotten myself into,” he told
her. “Read this.” She showed her the email.
Her eyes widened at the mention of a personal meeting.
Their life over the past twenty years had been one of
mostly solitude, and inviting the frenzy of former fans into
their home was a sobering thought. “You know, ‘fan’ is
short for ‘fanatic’ and I’m not just a little bit concerned in
what this could turn into. What do you know about this
‘Roger Linder’ fellow?”
***
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“I tried to search for information on him, but there isn’t
much to be found. I suspect that he really is just a fan,
perhaps a little over the top, but that his intentions are
fully honorable. The web site that he runs has actually
been around for a few years, and he doesn’t appear to be
hiding any sinister purpose in it. He even has open forums
for other fans to discuss their devotion to the band, despite
that there is little chance that it will once again be a going
concern.”
I collected his thoughts for a few seconds, then declared
“I’m going to go for it. Maybe this is the chance for
collaboration that I was looking for back in 1986. After all,
‘you get what you give,’ isn’t that a philosophy that you’ve
espoused in recent times? If I give my fans what they want
to hear, maybe I’ll get a little closure to the Golden
Fingers saga. It will be a fine way to end the millennium.”
I turned once again to his computer, and composed
another email:
Roger,
I’ve given the matter some thought, and in consultation
with my wife Angela, we’ve decided to arrange for a
meeting, and fill you in on these “missing years” that
you’re so curious about. I’m not certain that our simple
lives will be of great interest, but perhaps there is more to
discover that even I suspect.
We will welcome you to the “Mall Hall” in a few days.
Please get back to me with your telephone number, and
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we’ll come to a mutually-agreed date and time to begin
our adventure.
-I Mall, Golden Fingers Founder and future
Biographical Collaborator
IMall@OnlyGoldenFingers.com
With only a slight hesitation, he hit “Send” once again.
103
1978 - TOO MUCH, TOO LITTLE, TOO
LATE
“1978 began several years of exploration for us,” I told
Roger. “Our whirlwind romance and subsequent marriage
left our own heads reeling, and the success of the World
Reform campaign drove us to seek out a much quieter
existence. It was Too Much, Too Little, Too Late: too
much to do, too little time to do it, and we decided to drop
out of sight before it was too late.”
After the success of the World Reform movement, I and
Angela tried to settle into a newlywed pattern. They
enjoyed nice quiet dinners at home and took in an
occasional movie. The problem was that I was too
recognizable, and fans would constantly interrupt a tender
moment asking for autographs or, perhaps thinking they
were the Next Big Thing, provide a cassette of their
musical output, hoping that I’s influence in the industry
might finally catapult them into the superstardom they
thought they most richly deserved. Every once in a great
while, a real talent would come along, someone like
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Reginald Von Happenstein. Reginald had built up a loyal
local fan base and recorded a solo demo that he was
shopping around. He happened upon I and Angela at a
restaurant and introduced himself, making sure to be
courteous and not interrupt a tender moment. Despite his
efforts, the initial meeting did not go well.
“Happenstance?”
“No, sir, it’s Happenstein. Von Happenstein, to be
exact.”
“I know what you said, and I know what I meant. I
meant, did you just come here by happenstance, or have
you been stalking me?”
Sir! No, sir! I was eating my dinner when you came in,
and I waited until an appropriate time before I
interrupted your night out.
I’s demeanor softened and he sensed the genuine
concern for privacy from the slightly younger man.
“So, what can I do for you? You must know that I no
longer sign autographs. I will, though, allow a picture.”
“That’s very gracious of you, sir, but what I’d really like
is for you is to take this recording of some of my music
and listen to it at your leisure. And if you’re so inclined,
perhaps give me your opinion.”
“And why do you think that I, a member of the greatest
group ever known and a now retired musician, would have
any interest in doing that? Do you know how many
requests I get in just one week for this very same thing?
Hundreds, I tell you. Tapes come in from all over the
world, and there’s not enough time in the day to even
consider a fraction of them. What makes yours any
different?”
“I suppose that there isn’t any particular reason why
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you would consider mine over any other. I was just hoping
you might consider it.”
“So, how would you characterize your music? More
disco? What makes it interesting?”
“To tell you the truth, I do have quite a local following
here in town. My music is a bit eclectic, and can’t really be
pinned down into a particular genre. But folks tell me they
like it.”
“Well,” I paused in thought. “You’re persistent, and
seem to be sincere, so I’ll take a listen. No guarantees, and
there’s a good chance our paths won’t even cross again.”
Reginald thanked I, and went on his way.
Angela noted, “You seemed a little harsh with him, I.
Remember, the fans made you who you are, and without
them, you may have been nobody. It could even be
possible that Reginald here might really have something to
offer, so give him more that just a passing chance. Maybe
there is something unique there.”
I slipped the cassette into his jacket pocket, and
promptly forgot about it.
Several months later, Angela and I were walking
downtown, when I spotted a poster advertising a concert
by Reginald Von Happenstein at a local club. Intrigued,
he noted the date and time, and decided that he might just
check out this potential new talent. He also recalled that
he had never even given the promised listen to the cassette
that Reginald had presented him. Upon returning home,
he sought it out, finding it still in the pocket of his jacket.
He put it into the tape player.
The sounds that came out were mesmerizing, mystical,
and magical. I had rarely experienced anything like this,
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including his own material. It evoked deep happiness,
followed by deep sorrow, utter joy, complete terror. Never
had music brought such vivid emotions. It was too much,
and he had to stop the player to bring him back to earth
for just a bit. He sat in silence, contemplating the sounds
he had just heard, wondering how it was even humanly
possible to create such a work. He turned the tape back
on, but too little time had passed. He couldn’t handle the
intensity of what he was hearing. He waited a full hour
before resuming. Then, steeling himself, listened to the
remainder through the final, critical moments. Stunned,
openly weeping, he realized that his delay may have
jeopardized any possibility of working with this
extraordinary talent. Was it too late?
When the date of Reginald’s concert came, I was there,
seated next to the stage, to hear the live renditions of
songs that, through repeated listening, had already burned
themselves into his mind. The same raw emotions welled
up in him as upon the first listen, and at the break, he
approached Reginald.
“Sir, if I may so bold as to address you that way, your
music has touched me as no other in recent memory. I’m
not sure what I can do for you, because it’s already perfect
in every way.”
Reginald was stunned at I’s reaction. He knew that his
offerings were unique, and though the local fans had
expressed interest, no one had even approached the level
of interest that I had expressed.
“How can you play this music without completely
breaking down yourself ?” I asked. “It takes me every
effort I can make just to get through the recording in a
single session. Where will you take it next?”
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“I play it here for just a percentage of the door. There’s
very little available for me to do anything at all with it
besides bringing it to the local devotees. They are few, but
fervent fans. But I can barely imagine taking it to a larger
audience. It touches some, but I don’t know if it has wide
appeal.”
“I will make it my mission to get this out there,” I
offered. “I still have a number of contacts in the industry,
and this deserves exposure. Let me see what I can do.”
I began visiting his former producers, label executives,
even his friend and former manager Rod Manger. To his
utter dismay, little interest was found among the collective
group, and I could not convince anyone that this talent
was one to be explored.
“There’s too much dissonance in the music and too
little melody,” Rod remarked. “I just don’t hear any
potential in it. It’s never too late to find some other
protege, because I don’t think Reginald Von Happenstein
is happensteining.” He chuckled a little at the even littler
joke.
I was persistent in his search for support, but none was
coming from any avenue. Doggedly, he pursued all leads
and was about to give up when he visited a small label
called Eclectic Fry Records. Max Fry, the label’s owner
and chief producer, dealt exclusively in records that defied
the mainstream, and Reginald’s music had a similar affect
on Max as it had had on I.
“Sales on my label are small, but the taste of the music
buyers is impeccable,” Max stated. “While Reginald will
likely never be a superstar, I think I can guarantee a
significant return from the fiercely loyal aficionados. The
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key is a wide distribution to the markets where his type of
music will really be appreciated. That’s our expertise here
at Eclectic Fry, and it would boost sales even more with
your endorsement. That could potentially increase the
audience by association to your own set of fans.”
I weighed the options. One one hand, he believed in
Reginald, and wanted to see him succeed. On the other,
he did not want to get dragged back into the music
business again. He was retired, and living comfortably
enough. It was a dilemma, but his support and respect for
Reginald led him to lend his full support and name to the
project. Max worked up the contract, and I presented it
the Reginald that evening.
Reginald was overwhelmed at the prospect. “I can’t
believe that our chance meeting at that restaurant would
have resulted in something this big in my life. I believed in
myself, even when few others did. But you did, too, and
you have proven yourself once again as a valuable friend,
too much for me to even contemplate. Anything I do for
you in return would prove to be too little, and now it’s too
late to get this contract back to Max Fry this evening, but
first thing tomorrow, this new adventure begins!”
Reginald’s demo tape was rough, by commercial
recording standards, but it laid the groundwork for setting
up his first professional recording session at Eclectic Fry
Records. Max had outfitted the studio with as many of the
instruments that he could identify in the recording. There
were three synthesizers, an electric guitar, two twelve
strings guitars, one electric and one acoustic, a hammond
organ, complete with Leslie speakers, a full drum kit and
enough percussion instruments to keep an entire
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elementary classroom enchanted during their music
lessons. But the coup d’état was the arrival of I’s original
bass guitar, supplied by I himself.
“That instrument has more stories than you would care
to hear,” remarked I to Reginald. “And some of them are
better off unheard.” He silently reflected for a few
moments. “But it’s yours to play and use as you see fit.”
Reginald lifted up the revered instrument and placed
the strap behind his neck. The history that the instrument
carried seemed to give it more weight than its size would
betray, yet it was only an illusion. When he picked the first
few notes, the golden sound was released, and notes could
be nearly seen floating in the air before them. I recognized
the strains for “Ethereal Rafting Upon the Solar Sphere,”
one of his favorites from Reginald’s demo, and he urged
Max to begin recording right away. There was magic
happening right before them, and everything had to be
captured. By the time the first bass track for the six minute
piece had been captured in full, Reginald, I and Max all
were all drenched in sweat, an involuntary reaction to the
energy being released by just that single instrument.
Building upon that initial take, a drum track was added.
The complex rhythms were like no other, combining
efforts that Starr, Moon, Watts and even Jones could only
have hoped to discover in their careers. When the guitars
were plugged in, and the effects adjusted, the energy and
complexity of the piece only increased exponentially.
Reginald finished the final solo and collapsed to his knees,
spent from the exertion. Max and I sat in silence, mouths
agape, as they tried to comprehend the experience they
had just witnessed.
Gaining back a portion of their senses, I rushed into the
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recording booth and assisted Reginald back to his feet.
Dazed, Reginald accepted the guidance to a chair, and
sipped upon a glass of water brought in by Max.
“Are you OK? Can you continue?” asked Max.
Reginald took a bigger gulp, and savored the
refreshment. “I’ll be fine. I’m not sure what came over me.
When I recorded the demos, and even in my live
performances, this has never happened, but I don’t think
that I’ve ever created such a performance as this before,
either. There is truly magic in these walls, because I don’t
think it all came from me.”
“We need to take a break, because I don’t think you can
continue today. I know I can’t,” Max indicated. “Let’s take
it up again tomorrow.”
The next day, everyone was refreshed and they
continued with the interrupted sessions from the day
before. Reginald added the synths and some percussion,
and although the final product was exquisite, the
experience of the previous day was not duplicated.
“I’m not sure whether to be disappointed or relieved,” I
quipped. “I supposed relief in getting through the session
is the most welcome. I’m not sure I could bear the
constant affront of raw emotions for too long a time.”
The sessions continued throughout the week, and while
none of them hit the intensity of that initial day, there
were moments throughout that recalled the feelings each
had experienced. In some cases, the individual tracks were
laid down to no apparent physical effect, but it was the
overall combination of tracks after being mixed that
proved that the whole was so much better that the
individual parts. In some cases, Max’s own direction
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added a new element that did not appear in the original
demos. Such was the case with the session for “Plaintive
Meanderings.”
Max suggested that I and Reginald perform together,
rather than record separate tracks, and went further to
explain that I’s presence on the recording would add an
additional note of legitimacy to the entire project.
Reginald and I agreed.
Reginald sat down at one of the synths, and started
developing an atmospheric layer. I joined in with the bass,
playing in the upper register of the instrument. Max
adjusted the filters, until the bass itself was barely
recognizable and Reginald’s synth lines seemed to come
out of every corner of the room. They could not be
directly located, no matter what vantage point was taken.
It was a totally immersive experience, and the two
musicians began feeding off of each other. I’s own fingers
played over the fretboard without effort, in a manner he
had never before done, and Reginald began inserting
colors, that although only visible in the mind, were so
realistic that one would swear afterwards they they had
made an actual visual appearance. When Max began
feeding the earlier part of the session directly into the live
mix, it created a unique whole that brought both
musicians to tears. By the time it was all over, twenty-seven
minutes and thirty-four seconds of “meanderings” had
been recorded. The track became the whole of side two
of Reginald’s first studio release.
Despite I’s support, mentoring and direct involvement
in the whole process, the resulting record “Reflections on
the Meaning of Space and Time” did not sell well, and
failed to make the charts. But I knew that given time, it
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would be discovered someday, and that the world would
know that the musician Reginald Von Happenstein was a
force that could not be ignored. Reginald continued for
years with his small cult following, but did not find the
mainstream success that his talent certainly deserved.
113
1979 - BAD GIRLS
Marilynn Spencer and Marie Jordon had called
themselves the “M” girls in the Golden Fingers fan club,
which they themselves had organized in 1974. They had
met at a Golden Fingers concert in 1973 and became fast
friends during the band’s heyday. They also had been
befriended by Angela and I, even to the extent that they
were invited to be bridesmaids at the wedding. Within the
fan club, they answered correspondence, spoke with fans
on the telephone and together published a fan newsletter,
which they called True Gold. Despite the band’s breakup,
they continued to follow the solo careers of the four
members, and even delved into reporting side interests
and activities. While never a great money-making effort,
newsletter subscriptions and fan club dues were enough to
keep the correspondence flowing and pay postage and
long-distance charges.
Outside the circle of “true fans” their past activities had
been considered by many to be bordering on “groupie”
behavior. Whenever the band had been in town, they were
invited backstage, and even partied with the band on more
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than one occasion. Their reputation began to be seen as
“bad girls” and despite efforts to dissuade that opinion, the
label stuck. While enamored with each of the individual
members of Golden Fingers, they had been particularly
attracted to I. Though really no more than a teenage
crush, the music press did little to portray the relationships
as they really were, and constantly described them in the
most salacious terms.
By 1975, I and the band had distanced themselves from
the “M” girls and their efforts, but non-plussed, the girls
continued to keep up correspondence with fans, and their
reporting and story ideas never really wavered from the
positive portrayals of the band, and exhibited true
devotion to the band’s ideals.
Because of their continued devotion, I and Angela
reestablished the relationship in 1976, and found the two
to be as genuine as they appeared. Angela’s initial
hesitation and concern moved easily into trust and
friendship. The three friends would get together for
shopping excursions and other girl’s-day-out activities, and
Angela would be their confidante and advisor whenever a
question came up that they couldn’t answer.
But by late 1978, in an effort to regain the long-sought
privacy that had evaded I and Angela for the past couple
of years, the relationship began to move more into the
background, and fewer and fewer face-to-face encounters
happened. Without Angela’s mutual friendship, Marie and
Marilynn’s relationship also begin to erode, especially after
Marie began dating Jordan Spencer, another fan that had
been active in the Golden Fingers scene. Though they
shared the same last name, Jordan was not related to
Marilynn, and the similarity of the combined names to
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their own was initially a point for great amusement.
But as Jordan and Marie’s relationship began to
blossom, Marilynn felt excluded, and she secretly plotted
to interfere and if possible, destroy the couple’s happiness.
It began seemingly innocent enough, with Marilynn
flirting with Jordan, even suggesting that they hang out on
some evenings when Marie was otherwise engaged in
other activities.
Their infrequent meetings, however, began to establish
a basis for increasing the relationship, and before long, the
two Spencers were the couple and Marie was on the outs.
As word got out about the new couple, Marie began
spreading rumors that Marilynn and Jordan were in fact
cousins, and that their continued dalliance was incestuous
and demeaning.
The final straw was Marie’s revelation and public
accusation in the pages of True Gold, which escalated to
the point of a split publication, and a new newsletter,
Golden Tales, being established under Marilynn’s sole
editorship. The now public exchange of accusations split
the fans, and reestablished the “bad girls” moniker that
the two had earlier unjustly earned.
By the middle of 1979, the exchange had become so
ugly that Angela felt she had to step in. Not only was the
reputation of the two former friends sullied, but the gossip
and hearsay was now being directed at members of the
band, and imagined relationships that may or may not
have occurred was even putting a strain on Angela and I’s
own marriage.
“We have to do something about this feud between the
‘M’ girls,” she mentioned to I, as she perused the latest
copy of True Gold. “Not only is it splitting the fan base, but
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the rumors are now starting that I was the spoiler in the
affair that you and Marie supposedly had in 1975. She
was only 16, then! What did happen?”
“You know there was nothing going on between Marie
and me, or Marilynn either for that matter. Sure, they
liked to flirt, and maybe liked to brag to their other friends
about their time with the band, but believe me, nothing
happened.”
“But public perception can become the truth in matters
like this. What if this whole thing backfires, and we are
dragged into it against our better judgement? We need to
take charge of this, and get the truth back on the right
track.”
I consulted with Rod Manger, asking for him to seek out
some legal advice. If there were accusations of a sexual
relationship with an underage girl, that could only mean
trouble, and I was very intent on distancing himself from
any such accusations.
“You’ve always had my back, Rod, and I have got to
find a way out of this mess that we are finding ourselves
in.”
Rod began to look a little uncomfortable, sweat forming
on his brow, and his face reddening.
“What is it, Rod? What is going on?”
Rod looked to the floor, as if to find support there, and
after a few moments of reflection, looked up to meet I’s
gaze. “Remember that night in 1975 when the girls
surprised us on the road in Omaha? We got snowed in,
and we had to spend an extra day.”
“Yeah, I remember,” I remembered.
“Well, Marie and I sort of hooked up that night. It
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began innocently enough, but soon enough the liquor
started flowing, and before we knew it, we were sharing a
bed at the hotel. A one night stand, but a night that has
haunted me ever since. You see, she got pregnant, and I
didn’t find about it until we returned from the tour a
couple months later.”
“Pregnant? We saw her often during those times, and I
don’t remember anything about that!”
“When she confronted me, I knew that there was no
easy way out. There could be no public revelation, or I
would be facing jail time. She didn’t tell her parents, but
began to suspect after getting sick, and started to put on
some weight. After a visit to the free clinic, the truth was
revealed.”
Rod once again returned his eyes to the floor, as if
trying to read from there what to say next. I’s own eyes
remained fixed upon him, waiting for more of the truth to
be revealed. Rod moved to the window, looking out,
gathering his next thoughts and facing the revelation he
was about to admit.
“We terminated the pregnancy, and never told anyone.”
I stood there, unable to comprehend this new
revelation. First, a statutory rape, then an abortion. It was
too much for him to take on at the moment, and he left
Rod standing there in silence.
When upon relating the newly uncovered facts to
Angela, she indicated “We can’t just sit on this. If it ever
comes out that we knew about it, or even if anyone
suspects we knew about it, and thinks we tried to cover it
up, it could go very badly.”
“Rod has been one of my closest friends, and he made
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a mistake, a very bad mistake. He needs to come clean
himself, and we need to be there to support him. And
Marie has also suffered silently all these years. She needs
to find closure, and the recent events cannot be helping
the matter at all.”
Marie and Marilynn’s continued elevation of words and
accusations caused the mainstream music press to take up
the story on a national and even international level.
Headlines such as “Bad Girls even Badder” and “I was I’s
Love Child” only spurred additional rumors that were
ever increasing about additional liaisons within the band.
Just as public discussion quelled the rumors of the 17year-old love child just on the basis of their relative ages (I
would have only been nine years old when she was born),
one women even purported that her three year old
adopted infant was the love child of I, the result of his
supposed illicit affair with Marie. While that was also
easily debunked, it did cause wonderment among fans
about any possible truth behind any of these stories. The
truth must be in there somewhere, and had to be exposed.
Angela and I couldn’t even leave their home without be
accosted by reporters, photographers and outraged fans
who felt that they had been betrayed by their idol. Daily,
outside the gates of their private residence, the crowds
would gather, some accusing, some continuing to worship
and revere and offering support, some there just out of
curiosity at the continued spectacle.
It came to a head when one deranged fan
outmaneuvered the security constraints that had been in
place, and found his way into the private residence. Police
were called, and the situation quickly defused, but the
encounter had rattled I to the extent that he felt that the
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truth of the matter really did need to be revealed. He
contacted Rod, and insisted that he come clean, if only to
clear his conscience, but also to counter all of the negative
publicity that was now occurring.
Local TV, newspapers and radio were contacted for an
impromptu press conference, and when the parties we
gathered, I stepped forward to address the waiting crowd.
“While we are sickened by the amount of
misinformation being distributed by rumor mongers and
even to be found in the legitimate press, we feel that it is
only appropriate to address these issues in this very public
manner. I would like to bring to the microphone my
personal friend and former manager, Rod Manger, to
address you.”
Rod approached the microphones, but tried to avoid
directly looking at the cameras. He read his previously
prepared admission: “In 1975, during a brief affair with
one of our fans, I was responsible for causing her
pregnancy, and actively sought out and supported the
termination of that pregnancy at eight weeks. Because she
was a minor at the time, I did not come forward, for fear
of the legal consequences, but am now making full
admission of my guilt in the initial act, and in failing to
reveal it in the subsequent years. I publicly apologize for
my actions, and will immediately turn myself over to the
authorities to face any charges.”
Rod turned away from the mikes and cameras as the
inevitable questions began to surface. “Who was it?”
“Were there others?” “Who knew?” “Why now?”
Rod simply left the area and waited for law
enforcement to come to arrest him.
***
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Rod’s trial was set, but because the victim had been a
minor, Marie’s name was not publicly revealed. Despite
the arrest, it did nothing to quell the continued rumors
about I and Marie. If anything, Rod’s affair only
strengthened the opinion that there were more revelations
to come, that the unknown stories were even more
insidious and demeaning to female members of the fan
base. Significant drug use, binge drinking, prostitution and
forced sexual activities with female and male fans, even
reports of involvement with organized crime were all ideas
that were bandied about. The seemingly pale reality of
Isaac’s minor drug use was elevated into a serious
addiction, and rumors of his period of absence with the
band was due to a drug rehabilitation program.
Everything was getting out of hand.
Angela and I were at wit’s end, and Angela accused I of
not doing enough to distance himself from the situation.
Feeling helpless and without any direction to turn, she had
to make a change, to get away from the bad publicity, the
daily hounding, the ever-present questioning. Her decision
to separate and move back in with her parents came as a
shock to I, who felt that they could weather this situation,
and thought he saw an end in sight. But she was steadfast
in her determination, packed a few belongings and
arranged for a private exit to not add any more fuel for
the fire. When she arrived at the Jones’ home, she found a
level of calm that had been absent for several weeks, and
her mother and father took her in.
“Are the stories true? Her mother, Annette, asked. “Was
I really involved in all of that? Is he still involved?”
“Mother, you know that isn’t true. I is, and has always
been faithful to me, and he is not involved in any way with
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any of the activities that they are saying. Spike, Ozzie and
Isaac are also far removed from any of the rumors, though
they certainly are under the same suspicion and
speculation. It just seems that one cannot be in the public
eye and not have dirt dished onto them, despite their
innocence.”
Buddy chimed in, “I’ve know I since he was a little
child, and despite his reputation as a bad boy during the
Golden Fingers days, I personally know that he was never
involved in any of those activities. In fact, there were a
number of times when his father and I were together with
him at the very time that he is accused of such heinous
acts. Maybe it would help if we came forward in his
defense.”
“I wouldn’t want to drag you into this. You don’t know
the kind of scrutiny and negative publicity you would have
to endure. That’s why I had to get out from under it, for a
bit of respite. I desperately love I, and already am missing
him. Coming here was a quick reaction, but I don’t think
it’s going to solve any problems in the long run, and a
separation is going to only fuel speculation that something
bad really is afoot.”
Angela paused, and wiped a tear from her eye. “I have
to be strong, and I have to be at I’s side. Thinking that
coming here would ease the situation was a mistake, and
I’m sorry to have troubled you.”
“Dear, you know it’s no trouble,” Annette consoled,
“and you and I are always welcome, no matter what the
situation. Do what you think is best. You have our full
support.”
Angela hugged her parents, and returning to her own
home, hugged I and apologized for her rash actions. “We
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are in this together, and whether it gets worse or better, we
will continue to be in it together.”
123
1980 - (JUST LIKE) STARTING OVER
Rod’s trial had begun, and it appeared to be an open and
shut case. Since he had made a full confession, it basically
became a matter of formally proving the charges, and
then awaiting whatever sentence was to be carried out.
Through the elevating war of words between Marie
and Marilynn, Jordan Spencer remained relatively
obscure. While he was still with Marilynn, her continued
behavior and public demeanor had put a real strain on
their relationship. And, just under the surface, he realized
that he still had feelings for Marie as well, and was torn by
the situation between the former friends. When he visited
Marie, the old feelings came to the surface, and he
admitted them to her.
“I hate to see what’s become of you and Marilynn.
What should have been a solid friendship between the
three of us got out of hand and it feels like we can never
return to a normal state of things as they were.”
Marie agreed, “Now that Rod Manger’s trial is under
way, I hope that the publicity and anger can be redirected.
I really am sorry for what has happened, I miss my
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friendship with Marilynn, and regret what this has caused.
Golden Fingers’ name as a band and as a collection of
individuals has been sullied. Fans have lost faith in the
band, and True Gold and Golden Tales have both just
degenerated into gossip magazines, with very little truth to
either. Subscriptions have fallen off to less than ten
percent of what they used to be, and financially, there’s
little chance they will continue beyond another issue, if
even that.”
Marie hesitated and collected her thoughts. “I haven’t
been exactly straight with Marilynn or you, or anyone else
for that matter. The teenage fan that Rod was involved
with was me. I wasn’t in control, I’d been drinking, and we
ended up together in Omaha. I got pregnant, and kept it
hidden from everyone until I revealed it to Rod. Together,
we made the decision to end it, and he helped out
financially. I’ve always regretted it, and don’t know what I
would have done if I had decided to keep the baby. The
abortion was anonymous, and as far as I know, only Rod
was ever aware of it.”
Jordan whitened with shock, then reddened with rage.
He did this to you? He raped you, and left you on your
own?”
“No, it wasn’t like that. Yes, I wasn’t in full control, but I
remember everything, and don’t regret the affair. It was a
mistake, and perhaps we should have taken better
precautions. It really was just a one night stand. There was
never any desire to continue.”
“But he was an adult, and you were just an innocent
teenager! He must pay for what he did!”
“He is paying; he’s on trial. Justice will be served.”
“But there’s no amount of justice that will erase the
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hurt you’ve suffered. The pain you’ve endured.”
“No one knows my pain but myself. I’ve accepted my
part of the blame, and Rod has apparently accepted his.
There’s nothing further to be done.”
“It’s unacceptable, I tell you! Sure, he’ll get his fair trial,
and maybe a slap on the wrist. If any time is served, it will
be short, and then he’ll be back on the street to take
advantage of yet another young girl. It’s always the same
with those types, there’s never any rehabilitation.”
“Rod is a good guy, don’t paint him as a criminal. He’s
remorseful, and has publicly stated so. He’s protected my
identity, and I appreciate that.”
Jordan’s rage was only fueled higher by Marie’s seeming
submission. “I will see to it that it never happens again,”
he stated defiantly as he stormed away.
As the sentencing phase of Rod’s trial was proceeding,
Jordan was in the gallery, waiting for the inevitable
moment of a lenient sentence. When the judge
pronounced “Five years, with time served.” Jordan knew
that he would be out in less than two. Rarely did they keep
a prisoner for the full term. He stood and shouted “No!”
and pulled the gun that he had secretly brought into the
courtroom, and fired a single shot, piercing Rod’s head
and striking a bailiff as well. Another officer of the court
advanced on Jordan, but he turned the gun on himself
and fell dead before he could be restrained. The trial was
over, but the headlines were only beginning.
“Murder/Suicide in Teenage Rape Case” the headlines read,
and detailed the full story. Local news began looking into
the background of the gunman, and it inevitably led back
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to Marilynn and Marie. Marilynn was inconsolable and
could think of no reason why Jordan would perform such
a rash action. Marie was also questioned, and under the
stress of the situation, admitted her own involvement in
the weird triangle that had developed. There was no sense
in hiding the truth, knowing that the truth would reveal
itself eventually. While the headlines grabbed the day, it
did serve to ease the tension as Marie and Marilynn
decided to talk things through, and began to patch up
their relationship. They joined together to create one final,
apologetic issue of True Gold, and mailed it to the full,
former subscription base. In it, they exonerated all of
Golden Fingers, and apologized for the division that their
very public quarrel had engendered.
Angela and I were deeply affected by Rod’s death, but
also secretly relieved that the whole sordid affair was
coming to an end. “We need to get out of the spotlight,
and try to rebuild the quiet life that we had before this all
came to pass,” Angela advised.
“I was thinking the same thing,” indicated I. “But how
do public figures such as we’ve become ever escape?
Witness Protection Program?”
“I don’t think it works that way” offered Angela. “The
Government is not going to help us disappear.”
“But we can disappear, if we want to. We can just go
incognito and relocate for a while. Let’s put this place on
the market, and see what we can do.”
They contacted an agent, and before long, their home
for the past few years was up for sale.
“I think we can just let the market take its course, and
we can find ourselves elsewhere. I’ve always wanted to
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spend some time in Australia. I think we can disappear
there for a while. It will be just like starting over.”
Simon Elderjohn, a British expatriate, had been the
European publicity manager for Golden Fingers and now
lived in Sydney. When I contacted him and explained the
current situation, Simon indicated that he, like many
others, had been following it in the press, and wasn’t
surprised that they wanted to keep a lower profile. He
suggested a temporary name change, purchase of a small
property and arranged for private transportation in
relocating. The Malls decided that the smaller suburb of
Rockdale was not only appropriate, but close enough the
the larger city to be convenient. They chose the
pseudonyms of Arthur and Hilda Potsworth, and
registered for official documents under that name. They
acquired a flat as a temporary space while they sought out
property to build a new home.
Angela had never been out of the United States, so a
Southern Hemisphere adventure was an overwhelming
delight. While their new home was being built, they
traveled to many exotic locales within the island continent.
While the climate was similar to their native California,
the opposite seasons and odd juxtaposition of traditional
American holidays was a common source of confusion.
The initial shock of the Winter season beginning when
summer was expected took its toll on the couple. As snow
covered the ground in some areas from the middle of May
and extended into September, they longed for time spent
at the seaside. They were beside themselves on how to
behave. Traditional cold-weather activities, typically tied
into the November-December holiday season, had no
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place in the May-June calendar. They missed the
traditional Memorial Day barbecues and though they
knew to expect it, when the 4th of July came and went
without any hint of celebration or fireworks, the idea
began to sink in that things were going to be very different
here. Of course, as holidays unique to America, they had
no place in Australian culture. Still, they missed the
traditional summer celebrations. Although Labour Day
was celebrated in October, none of the familiar trappings
of family barbecues and swim parties to close out the
summer season were present. It was nice, at least for them,
to see that the Spring season was coming in, and the
weather improving.
The next confusing event occurred for Halloween. The
celebration of Halloween in Australia was not particularly
widespread, both because it was considered an American
tradition, and the traditional Autumn trappings were nonexistent. Nowhere to be found were jack o’ lanterns,
scarecrows and other devices that reflected the ancient
Celtic origins of the celebration. Not exactly knowing
what to expect, they bought candy for Trick or Treaters,
but as the evening wore on, none were to be found. I, who
had always enjoyed Halloween as a child, and was
continuing to appreciate it as an adult, was particularly
disappointed.
Dressed in his now-traditional Hobo costume, he
complained “These Australians do not know how to have
fun. Were we back in California, we would have been
invited to no fewer than twenty celebrations. Of course,
we would have turned them all down, but it was always
nice to be considered. Here, zilch!”
Angela offered, “It looks like there is something coming
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up in Adelaide in a week, a Christmas Pageant. We can fly
there in a few hours, or maybe drive there in about three
days. Could be interesting.”
“Road trip!” I enthused.
Angela and I packed up their rented Datsun 280ZX. I
had always wanted a sports car, and admired the Datsun’s
sporty accoutrements, and despite the limited passenger
space, it was plenty for just the two of them. Time wasn’t
an issue for them, but the pageant was scheduled to take
place on Saturday, November 8, so little time could be
wasted. Setting out on the road on Tuesday the 4th, their
first day’s destination was Canberra, slightly off the direct
route, but only a three hour drive. I couldn’t help but
break out in song, “Lord I was born a Ramblin’ Man.
Rolling down Highway 31.”
“Isn’t it supposed to be “Highway 41?” Angela asked.
“Look at the sign,” as they passed the highway sign
indicating Federal Highway 31. “When in Australia, as
they say.”
“They never say that, I don’t think,” was Angela’s only
reply.
They were passing Lake George, and I seemed deep in
thought. He pondered the days on the road. “We never
came through this way when we were on tour, but I’ll bet
this would have been a great place for an outdoor show.
The season is great and it would have been close enough
for some pretty good crowds to gather. I’ll bet Dylan even
gave it some thought. He once again began to sing: ‘I
think it can be very easily done. We’ll just put some
bleachers out in the sun. And have it on Highway 31.’”
He chuckled and indicated, “I can probably joke about
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this all day.”
Angela only replied, “I wish you wouldn’t. Besides, we
left Highway 31 behind some time ago.”
They arrived in Canberra in mid-afternoon and sought
out a hotel to stay for the night. They found an older
building that seemed to offer some elegant splendor and
checked in for the night. “Arthur and Hilda Potsworth,” I
indicated, offering their credentials. “Just one night. We’re
taking a leisurely drive to Adelaide for the Pageant.”
The desk clerk eyed I with a hint of suspicion. “Arthur
Potsworth, hmm?”
“Yes, that’s right,” indicating his ID papers, “and
Hilda,” indicating Angela.
“OK, sir, if you wish. Your room is on the 14th floor,
number 1459. The bellhop will assist you with your bags.”
“There’s no need, we only have the one. Thank you.”
As they left for the elevator, I could hear the desk clerk
humming “Music Will Be My Life.”
After settling in, they decided to seek out dinner, and
descended the elevator to the lobby. When the door
opened, they noticed that a large crowd had gathered.
“There he is!” “Golden Fingers are heavy, man!” “Sing
a song!” were only a few of the shouts coming from the
throng of fans that had gathered.
I looked over to the hotel desk and gave the clerk the
evil eye, but conceded to the crowd and spent the next two
hours signing autographs and having his picture taken.
“Ok, folks, thanks, but we’ve really got to get going.
We’re very hungry, and it’s getting late.” The sun was
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beginning to set, and even in the capital city, some places
were shut down early during the mid-week. Hotel security
assisted in getting them outside without a lot of
interruption, though a few fans tried to break through the
minimal security constraints, the Malls were more or less
able to enjoy some private moments.
“Looks like we will have to start over once again. I guess
there just isn’t much anywhere that we can hide, at least
not if people are going to recognize us,” I observed.
“Maybe we can change our appearance,” Angela
mentioned. “Shorter hair, different color. Maybe you can
grow a beard. What about glasses?”
“I can barely grow a beard in a month, and am
certainly not going to get one in a day. I can get my hair
cut, though.” I still wore the long hairstyle that he sported
during Golden Fingers and his solo career.
Grabbing a quick sandwich, the only fare that seemed
to be available at this late hour, they made their way back
to the hotel and slipped into bed for the night.
Arising early, they sought out the bell captain and
indicated the need for a haircut and Angela’s hair to be
colored. The hotel had a salon, and they were ushered in
through the private entrance.
Minutes later, I was a transformed man, barely
recognizable as the rock star he had been. Angela’s
transformation took longer, but her new look was also a
stunning change from before.
Donning a more conservative suit and tie, he tested the
recognition factor by taking a quick stroll in the
surrounding the hotel grounds. Few even looked up to
him, as he tended to blend into the crowds along with
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others in the Government District, looking like another
businessman or government official.
“This could work,” he told Angela as he returned to the
salon. “No one even gave me a second look. It will be just
like starting over.”
They hit the road again, this time heading south, taking
the scenic route to Melbourne. Before long, the city gave
way to open road, kilometers (they had to go native, since
the signs were all in metric) without even seeing another
vehicle. It reminded them of the rural areas in their native
California. By the time they reached Lind National Park,
nearly four hours had passed, but it seemed like little time
at all, as they enjoyed the simple but beautiful splendor
that the Australian countryside had to offer.
After taking a quick tour on the Euchre Valley Nature
Drive, they continued another half hour west of the park
to the small town of Orbost and stayed in the
Commonwealth Hotel. Despite their attempts to be
incognito, and unknown to them, they were recognized.
However, unlike the situation in Canberra, their attempts
at privacy were honored, and the only evidence remaining
of their stay was a sign that still may be there reading “I
Mall slept here.”
Thursday morning had them on the road again towards
Melbourne, and the trip was just 4 hours. Looking ahead,
they realized they still had nearly a full day’s drive to get to
Adelaide, if they wanted to see the Pageant, the main
purpose of their trip. Bypassing the big city, they chose to
continue on, and settled into The Ansonia in Ballarat.
After their stay in Ballarat, they hit the final day of the
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road trip West and arrived in Adelaide late Friday
afternoon. Preparations for the next day’s event were well
under way, and it was difficult finding lodging. They ended
up in the basement apartment of a small hotel, not quite
the accommodations they had experienced in Canberra,
and lacking the quaint charm of the hotels in Orbost and
Ballarat, but choices were limited. A light rain was falling
and the local news expressed concern how it might affect
the Pageant.
Saturday morning the rains cleared up, and the crowds
gathered to see the Christmas Pageant, with Angela and I,
as the “Potsworths”, successfully remaining unrecognized.
They had succeeded in starting over.
134
1981 - ARTHUR’S THEME
Angela and I were really beginning to settle into their new
lives as “Arthur and Hilda Potsworth,” and were finally
getting acclimated to the Australian culture. The small
community of Rockdale had become their home, and
their quest for anonymity seemed to have succeeded
beyond their expectations. There had been a number of
slips and close calls into revealing their actual identities,
and together they decided to fully immerse themselves
into the new environment as best as possible. To that end,
they began to refer to themselves by their pseudonyms.
One might say that Arthur’s theme was depicting that
of a suave, distinguished and sophisticated gentleman,
quite a contrary appearance to the I Mall rock god image.
Arthur even had tinted his hair on the sides to present
himself as someone approaching middle age as opposed to
this true age of 27. Hilda had also taken to wearing heavy
makeup to help in her disguise as well. She had attempted
to color her hair blonde, but discovered that red appeared
more natural. She adopted a different clothing style, more
in line with the contemporary Australian culture, which,
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while similar to American tastes, still had some distinct
differences.
Their new home in Rockdale was nearing completion.
While not ostentatious, it did not abandon comfort and
convenience, but also exhibited its own sophisticated air.
With just the two of them, the size was not excessive, but
spacious at 300 square meters on a lot with plenty of
room for landscaping and other benefits of their lifestyle.
However, knowing that their time spent their was likely to
be limited (they did miss their native California), they
chose to keep things intentionally simple. They figured
that someone would come along in the future to purchase
it, and would appreciate that it was a fine estate in its own
right.
“I believe that you should always strive to do the best
that you can do, no matter what the circumstances,”
Arthur would be known to say. “We will be here for a
while, at least until things settle down back home, so we
may as well be comfortable in the meantime.”
Hilda suggested a musical theme for many of the
furnishing and decorations, and it became Arthur’s as
well. One room was set aside specifically as the music
room, and it was to be outfitted with several large
speakers, a generous stereo system, and a large screen
projection television, one of the largest available in its
class at nearly one and a half meters.
“Why do you want a TV in the music room?” Hilda
asked when Arthur first brought up the possibility.
“I think TV will continue to be a very important part of
music, and by hooking it up to a nice sound system, we
can truly enjoy it for our leisure time. We certainly will
have plenty of it. Look what happening back in the US,
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and even what’s happening closer in New Zealand. Music
is really moving toward a more visual medium. Sure, we
had a significant presence of live performances, but this
new medium of short videos will be a big thing, I expect.”
As moving day arrived, Arthur and Hilda stood outside
the entrance to their new home. Unlocking the door, they
were shocked to see how empty it all appeared. “I thought
the movers would have been here by now. The plan was
that everything would be in place when we arrived,”
Arthur complained.
As they stepped across the threshold, it was apparent
that something was wrong. It wasn’t as if their possessions
hadn’t arrived, but that they were missing. Only a few
scraps of evidence suggested that something had been
brought in, but that it had also been brought out.
“We’ve been robbed!” Hilda shrieked.
As Hilda ran frantically from room to room, Arthur
maintained a calm demeanor. Finally, he could hold it in
no longer, and restrained Hilda on her third pass through
the room trying to find the missing items.
“Don’t keep looking for something that’s not going to
be found,” he advised. “The movers did come, and were
instructed to remove it all again while some last minute
improvements are being made.”
“You didn’t consult me on this?” she accused.
“No, because I wanted it to be a surprise,” Arthur
added in defense. “The stuff from the old flat is junk,
bought without much thought to theme or
appropriateness to these new surroundings. I’m treating
you to a shopping spree!”
“Ooh, yay,” Hilda offered without much enthusiasm. “I
fully expected that we would be able to step right in and
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settle in, and you’re saying we need to go out and buy it
now? Just what happened to our old stuff ?”
“I had it brought back to the old place. While we are
waiting to get everything in place here, we still need
someplace to live. I know, I should have kept you
informed. I guess I was just too excited to offer this
additional adventure, and assumed you would be as happy
as I imagined. I was wrong.”
Hilda was hesitant to give in to Arthur, but she finally
gave in and their shopping adventure was set to begin.
“Which room do we want to outfit first?” Arthur asked.
“If I had my choice, I think we should start with the
Music room. I’ve already laid out the specifics, so it’s just a
matter of just getting what we need. A huge stereo, the
TV, big speakers. All with entertainment in mind. We
might even think of it as our own personal theater!”
Arthur was obvious very excited about the prospect, so
Hilda acquiesced and they started shopping for the desired
components. By the time they had completed their
shopping, a large truck was filled and on its way to the
new home. It also included theater style seating, and even
a popcorn machine, added for authenticity. Hilda drew
the line when it came to adding a full snack bar with hot
dog cookers and soda vending. “You can just go to the
kitchen if you want anything like that.”
“Speaking of the kitchen, let’s do that next!” Arthur’s
enthusiasm failed to wane, even under Hilda’s withering
glare. “New range, oven, microwave, refrigerator, table,
chairs, dishwasher, dishes, cups, food. We need it all!”
So they went to the appliance store and bought
everything they needed, the best quality that they could
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find.
“No food, just yet, until the appliances are delivered
and set up,” Hilda advised. “Otherwise everything is going
to spoil.”
“Ok, then. The bedroom!”
So off they went to buy a bed frame, headboard,
mattress and box spring, two dressers, a stand up
wardrobe, area rugs and curtains for the windows. They
even found a nice chandelier to add some elegance.
“We need a fireplace for those cold evenings.” So a
portable unit was added.
“And how about a sound system to sleep by?”
It was purchased.
“And a bed for the dog.”
“We don’t have a dog!”
“Then a dog!”
“No dog.”
“Why not? I always wanted one when I was a kid, but
never had one. My dad never got over the fact that he’d
lost his best friend Greta, and we never had another.”
“No dog.”
“A cat?”
“Maybe a cat. But not in the bedroom.”
“OK, not in the bedroom. But maybe?”
“Maybe.”
A similar frenzy followed the furnishing of each room,
and the process took nearly two weeks to complete. Before
long, several dozen delivery trucks had come and gone,
and the parade was continuous: furniture for the living
room: sofas, end tables, coffee tables, lamps, draperies,
carpeting, artwork, pottery, coffee table books. Then
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followed the bathroom, little bureaus for storage, towels,
and various other sundries. Tools for yard maintenance.
Bookcases, books, record cases, records. Everything to
make a living space a space for really living. The house
was now finally ready to move into.
The refrigerator was packed, the pantry full, even an
auxiliary pantry was well-stocked.
“Why do we need all this food?” Hilda asked. “There’s
only two of us, and there’s enough here to feed an army.”
“Well, how about a party? Maybe a theme of excess?
Roman Orgy, perhaps?”
“And what about our intent to keep a low profile? I
don’t think so.”
Arthur looked down, despondently. “Just a little one?”
“Consider this,” Hilda replied. “We have kept to
ourselves these past few months, and have done little to
bring attention to us and our situation. We’ve not nurtured
any relationships, and don’t have any close friends. Who
are we going to invite? The store clerks and salesmen from
the places we’ve shopped? The delivery drivers? Face it,
I”, Angela accidentally slipped out of her new identity, “I
mean, Arthur. It’s not going to happen.”
Arthur looked around quickly to see if anyone had
caught her faux pas, and the reality of the situation is that
there was no one about to catch it or care about it,
reinforcing Hilda’s point.
“We need to get some friends, then,” Arthur declared.
“It would be even more suspicious if we didn’t have any.”
Finding a balance in anonymity and trying to maintain
a social life, meeting new people, making friends and
getting invited to their homes, was not an easy prospect.
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On one hand, they had never been a particularly social
couple, due to the desire for privacy following the
extremely public former existence. On the other hand,
they also missed that interaction.
“We may have to admit that our experiment in privacy
and anonymity is not all we expected it to be,” Arthur
admitted. “While it has allowed us to move about freely,
there is still the need to keep others at a distance, lest they
become too close and, putting the pieces of the familiarity
puzzle together, discover our true identities. It may be
time that we stepped back into who we really are, and
destroy the charade.”
Hilda was hesitant. “But I’m enjoying the time we
spend together, and don’t want to destroy that. Can’t there
be a middle ground somewhere?”
“There is no middle ground, that’s the price of fame.
We’ve lost our right to be ourselves and maintain any
semblance of privacy. We have to pick one or the other.”
Hilda conceded, “Then keeping up the facade of these
fake identities cannot be the choice. There is too much
pressure to protect ourselves, and until we return to who
we really are, there will be no true peace, no matter how
hard we try. Look at us, and what we’ve become: living out
our lives, always hiding who we are, trying to buy
happiness, but never achieving it. It’s time to end it.”
“But how do we do that?”
“Why not go on that new program, Sunday, that is just
starting up?” Hilda suggested. “They cover emerging
topics, and it would likely be a coup for them to uncover
our ‘conspiracy’.”
Arthur agreed and made a call to Simon Elderjohn,
who was the only one who shared their secret. “Simon, it’s
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Arthur Potsworth.” He paused. “Oh screw it,” he said
exasperatingly. “It’s I Mall. We’ve decided to end our
secret identities and come out publicly as new Australian
residents I and Angela Mall. Can you help us get on
Sunday to make our official announcement?”
Simon considered I’s proposal and countered “Are you
sure you really want to do this? Everything you’ve worked
for for the last year and a half would be wasted. You’d be
mobbed and have to start being a public figure again.”
“Yes, we have discussed it extensively, and believe that
the time is right for us to make this move. We plan to stay
where we are for a while, but eventually, will go back to
California. Besides, we don’t consider it a waste. We’ve
had some wonderful times, we’ve seen a lot of the country,
we have a great new home. But we miss the social
interaction. Basically, we are tired of being destined to be
loners.”
I and Angela Mall had their guest spot on Sunday, and
the whole story came out. But contrary to their
expectations of either accusations of betrayal, or being
mobbed by adoring fans, the story raised no sense of
sensation, and was only briefly reported in the local press.
Golden Fingers mania had apparently subsided, at least in
Australia, probably relegated to the back pages of the
current slate of music magazine and the Malls were able
to begin building their lives of a formerly very public, but
now semi-private residents of their newly adopted
country.
Their first public outing was celebrating the Christmas
season at the seashore, such a unique experience for the
native Californians. To see fully lit trees set up on the
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beach, and temperatures climbing into the low 30s, the
thought of a white Christmas was inconceivable. Instead,
they were regaled with activities such as the big Yacht
Race, throngs of crowds at the local beaches, camping
and all of the traditional summertime activities one would
expect, despite what the calendar says. While it took some
getting used to, they managed to enjoy the season, and
began meeting folks and building a new social life. Gone
was the stigma of isolation, of having to protect their true
identities. They finally had the opportunity to be
themselves. Back at their home, they threw their first
Christmas party, inviting some of their new friends. The
fully-stocked pantry was opened, and the excess food was
finally getting some use. They hired a cook and his staff to
make this a most memorable occasion. Out came elegant
cakes, and haute cuisine of a caliber that had not been
seen in the area for some time. However, missing their
own remembered experience of Christmas, they decided
to “Americanize” it. They rented a snow making machine
and filled the yard with a fresh layer of powder, bringing
alive the White Christmas of their memories.
“Don’t you just miss this?” Angela inquired. “Isn’t it
wonderful?”
“We lived In California. We didn’t have white
Christmases there either.”
“Well not at home, silly, but those days growing up
when our families went up into the mountains, played in
the real snow, made our Christmas angels. I miss those
times.” She paused to reflect. “I’m still a California girl at
heart. I miss home, I miss my parents, I miss my brother.
Maybe a visit back home?”
“I miss it, too,” I admitted. “Life here has been
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wonderful, but I think we’ve always known it would be
temporary. Perhaps it is time to return home, and really
begin the life we envisioned there.”
In their private reverie, they failed to notice that their
efforts to have a white Christmas were failing miserable.
The 35 degree temperatures were causing the newly
manufactured snow to melt incredibly fast, and instead of
being a field of fresh powder, it turned to slush, and then
to mud.
“Yep, it’s not the same. Let’s go home.”
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1982 - KIDS IN AMERICA
Angela and I’s triumphant return to America was
anything but. There was no fanfare, not even a mention in
the national music news magazines. Golden Fingers fever
had waned, and the days of crowds, autograph seekers
and stalkers had been left behind. Two years of seeming
anonymity had done the trick, and although relieved, I
was also a little bit disappointed.
“It’s like there never was a Golden Fingers, or that I
never was famous at all,” he mused. “What hath we
wrought? We’re just another couple of kids in America.”
“But isn’t this what you’ve been after for the past few
years?” Angela countered. “We can finally begin to live
the life we dreamed. We are set financially, and we can go
just about anywhere we want, without even gaining a hint
of recognition.”
“Nonetheless, it hurts a little. Fans are so fickle.”
The first order of business was where to live. They had
sold their former home, and the home in Australia, and
were, in effect, homeless. Despite the fact that everything
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they owned and had purchased in Australia was brand
new, it was too much trouble to bring it around to the
other side of the world, so they returned what they could,
and sold the remainder at a substantial loss.
“It’s only money,” I mused. “We went though a lot of it,
but there’s more where that came from.”
“How much more?” Angela asked.
“Plenty,” and I left it at that.
Turning his thoughts to establishing a new home back
in America, I offered the suggestion: “Let’s do a tour of
the country, and maybe decide on where we want to settle
down. There’s nothing else pressing to do, and we are free
to be anywhere we want.”
“Road trip!” Angela fired back, only slightly mocking I’s
enthusiasm for the short Australian tour of the Southeast
Coast. Never having traveled much as a child, she was
actually was looking forward to it.
“More than just a road trip,” I said. “It will be the
adventure of a lifetime!”
January
January’s chill was still a shock after the reversal of
seasons in the land down under.
“First order of business is to warm up. Let’s join the
snow birds in Arizona and see what that is all about,” I
suggested.
“It’s just a bunch of old folks, I suppose. We’re still
practically kids, so what will we have in common with any
of them?”
“It’s not like we will be hanging out together,” I
countered. “It’s just that a lot of folks spend their winters
down there.”
“So how will we get around? Where are we staying
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along the way?”
“I’ve got it all figured out. We’ll get an RV. It will be a
real road trip. We’ll drive on the road, live on the road, eat
on the road.”
“I’m not going to spend all my time in a bus!” Angela
cried.
“We’ll tow a vehicle as well, for the shorter trips. We’ll
spend some time in lots of different places. If we plan it
out well enough, we can see the whole country, and use
the whole year to do it. If our life was a book, this could
be its longest chapter.”
“We’ll need a map. We’ll need lots of maps.”
“We’ll get a map.”
Arizona
Despite the fact that Arizona was a bordering state to
California, from the north state the drive was nearly two
days, unless one wanted to spend the entire day behind
the wheel. Setting out on a cool January morning, I noted
“We don’t need to break any speed records on this trip.
There’s no destination other than home, and no timetable
except December 31.”
With their new RV and a new car in tow, they enjoyed
the leisurely pace down the Great Central Valley, stopping
in many of the small towns along the way that, while life
was in the way, they never really had a chance to visit.
Town after town offered up its touristy friendliness and
unique aspects, until finally, the road gave way to
seemingly endless deserts and lack of population.
As they crossed into the Imperial Valley of California,
passing the Salton Sea, they finally came to the extreme
southern end of the state. As they looked around in all
directions, seeing nothing but desert, I declared, “This
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could be center of the world, for all we know. After all,
why not?”
“I would think the center would be full of lava.”
“Point taken.”
Turning east, their direction was set: Arizona.
Entering through Yuma, they stopped at an old former
prison, The Yuma Territorial Prison. I remarked “Good
thing we haven’t done anything bad, yet. We could have
ended up here.” The place was in shambles, and hadn’t
housed a prisoner in years. “However, as we have ended
up here, we might as well explore a bit.”
They toured the prison grounds, and learned more
about the fascinating history of the town. Altogether they
spent a couple of days.
“It’s time to hit the road,” I stated, feeling restless
already. ”Next stop: Phoenix!”
However, only a couple of hours down the road, they
noted the turnoff for the Painted Rocks State Park. “This
could be interesting,” indicated I, as he took the turn.
They marveled at the ancient inscriptions, and fell to
temptation to add their own, a simple inscription of a bass
guitar with “1982” beneath it.
After spending a couple of hours, they returned to the
Interstate and continued on the road to Phoenix.
“Let’s park the RV and do a couple days of exploring
here.” I ticked off a mark on the side of the RV. “We’ll
keep track of the states right here.”
Their first stop was the Desert Botanical Garden, where
they enjoyed the immense variety of diversity to be found
in the desert landscape. They followed that with a tour of
the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, taking a few short hikes
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to fill out the day.
The next day, they were off to the mountain area
outside of the city, taking in splendid views and enjoying
the crisp, yet comfortable Arizonan weather. A trip to the
Capitol building rounded out their stay.
Finally, as they left the Phoenix area, they drove the few
miles north to Flagstaff, and again, abandoning their RV,
drove the remainder of the way to the Grand Canyon.
Renting some camping equipment, they took some mules
down to the bottom of the canyon and spent a couple of
very chilly nights in the great outdoors.
“Maybe we won’t do too many more nights like that.”
“Maybe not.”
Their week in Arizona was coming to a close, and they
continued to head east towards New Mexico, taking a
short stop in the Petrified Forest National Park to explore
some of that ancient beauty.
New Mexico
They almost failed to notice while crossing the line into
New Mexico, since the sole “Welcome to New Mexico”
sign had fallen down. They stopped, propped it up, and
took a picture of each other by the decrepit sign. A
friendly traveler also stopped and took a picture of the two
of them together.
They continued until the turnoff for El Malpais
National Monument, temporarily ditching the RV in
nearby Grants. Another day of hiking, picture taking and
general relaxation kept the couple busy.
Tired, but happy, then spent the night in Grants. “This
has been nice, maybe we should retire here.”
“You’re already retired.”
In the morning, they continued on the way to
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Albuquerque. Again, parking the RV, they took a tour of
the city, finding many enjoyable attractions, including the
zoo and aquarium and various parks. However, it was a
day trip out of town to Las Vegas that held the most
potential excitement.
They boarded a train, which had a direct connection to
Las Vegas. Filling his pocket with quarters, I indicated to
Angela, “I’m feeling lucky, and I think that we will come
away big winners.”
The three hour ride through the desert was
enchantingly pleasant. Seeking out the details among the
barrenness proved to be an enjoyable pastime, and helped
the time to pass quickly.
Upon arriving in Las Vegas, I was confused. “Where
are the big hotels and casinos?” There was no building
higher than a couple of floors, and nary a slot machine
was to be seen. “Did we step into a time machine, and
arrive before Vegas became what it was?” The town
appeared to be no more than a typical western town, right
out of the movies. Despite appearances, townsfolk
appeared in modern dress, but still, no marquees, no
bright lights, and the main drag did not resemble the Strip
of his memory.
Out of curiosity, they stopped in a visitor information
center and inquired about the changes they’d seen.
The bemused information officer informed them that
they were not in the famous Las Vegas, Nevada, but Las
Vegas, New Mexico. The town has its own charms, but if
they were expecting the big city, they were more likely to
encounter disappointment. Since their trip was one of
discovery, this mistake turned out to be a great discovery
after all.
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Returning the next day to Albuquerque, they continued
the exploration of the larger city, and ended up spending
a week, including a day trip to visit the state capital in
Santa Fe.
Texas
Hooking up the car to the RV, they returned to the road
and headed east on I-40, destination Amarillo, Texas.
After a half-day’s drive through the desert, and
encountering a sudden thunderstorm, they were a bit
concerned with flash floods, but their fears were
groundless on this particular day.
Arriving in Amarillo in early afternoon, they were
relieved to see evidence of civilization after their drive
through the desert. They enjoyed tours of local museums
and various sites celebrating the cowboys and their lore in
the old west.
After exploring the area for a couple of days, they
headed south to Lubbock. Turning onto highway 289,
they drove for miles before discovering that they were in
fact going in circles, a loop around the city. Returning to
the Interstate, they continued south to Midland, and once
again headed west to connect with I-20. They pulled the
RV into Balmorhea State Park. They particularly enjoyed
the large pool and the relaxed atmosphere, even though
the weather was a bit too cold for actual swimming.
Despite that, the scenery and potential was something
they thought might warrant a return trip some day.
After a couple of days, they once again hit the road,
heading to San Antonio. Stopping briefly for a meal in
Fort Stockton, and welcoming a break in the desert
monotony with a short stop in Ozona, they decided to
leave the Interstate and head up to San Angelo. Finding
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that the area had a lot to offer, they spent a few days at the
state park, and enjoyed some recreation at the nearby lake.
Once again vowing to return to fully partake of the
outdoors activities that were limited because of the
calendar, they once again headed south toward San
Antonio.
Arriving in the city, they consulted their map before
making the same mistake of looping the city on I-410.
They first visited Mission San Juan Capistrano because
Angela wanted to see the swallows. Discovering too late
that the famous swallows were not only not there, but it
was the wrong Mission San Juan Capistrano, they
nonetheless enjoyed touring the ancient architecture. They
suspected that the place name confusion was something
they would continue to experience throughout their trip.
They also discovered that there were several other
missions in the area, and thoroughly explored each of the
others.
Heading up to the state capital of Austin, they enjoyed
viewing the government buildings and toured the Capitol
grounds. After a couple of days in the capital, they once
again hit the road, heading towards Houston.
Houston was a refreshing change of pace from the
small towns along the highway and the vast stretches of
desert between them. Parking the RV outside of the city,
they took to the road in the car instead. Also, they decided
to take a few days residence in a local hotel, rather than
return daily to the RV. As they visited Pasadena, they
knew not to look for the Rose Parade, but were
momentarily confused upon encountering Yellowstone
Park. The lack of geysers and other geologic features was
a dead giveaway.
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A day trip to Galveston was enjoyable, but the winter
weather on the Gulf made them vow once again to return
during a more appropriate time.
Finally, they headed north to Dallas and Fort Worth to
begin wrapping up their whirlwind tour of Texas.
“There’s so much more to be seen, it just can’t be done in
a couple of weeks,” I noted. “But I think we’ve gotten a
good taste of what Texas has to offer.”
Driving around the Dallas-Forth Worth area, they
discovered that it was a much larger area than they
expected, and a lot of cultural activities were available to
see. They visited the site of Kennedy’s assassination, and I
speculated on the various conspiracy theories that had
been advanced in the years since. “It’s never going to
rest,” he noted. “They will still be debating this for many
years to come.”
As the month came to an end, they began making their
way to Oklahoma.
February
Oklahoma
Entering Oklahoma in early February, they headed
north towards Oklahoma City. Seeing a highway sign for
Buffalo/Springfield, I wondered aloud “I wonder if Neil’s
in town.”
They noted that the nights were chilly, but that the
daytime temperatures were generally mild. Although a few
clouds floated overhead, there was no threat of any
impending precipitation. They discovered a Botanical
Gardens and toured that, enjoying a taste of the local
flora. They visited the State Capitol and several museums.
Following a couple of days in the capital, they moved
East and spent a couple of days exploring the Lake Eufala
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area before heading North to Tulsa.
While in Tulsa, they encountered the legendary Route
66. “Maybe we should follow this. Could be fun.”
“If we wanted to follow it, we should have started back
in California. We’re right in the middle. Besides, it’s not
heading the way we need to be going.”
Arkansas
After a couple of days exploring Tulsa, they moved into
northern Arkansas, and discovered the beauty of the
Ozarks and Eureka Springs. They were particularly
moved by the Christ of the Ozarks statue, and enjoyed the
old town atmosphere of Eureka Springs itself. “This is
another place I’d like to return to in the future,” Angela
indicated.
They continued south to the capital of Little Rock,
enjoying the Capitol grounds and visiting the Hot Springs
area for a relaxing time. I was tempted to dip a toe into
the water, but upon discovering that it was a hundred and
forty seven degrees, thought better of it. Instead, they
found a local site that used the water, but at a more
comfortable temperature, and they enjoyed a relaxing spa
vacation. After a few days, they continued to Texarkana,
straddling the two state lines. “I guess we returned to
Texas earlier than we had expected.”
They headed south to Louisiana.
Louisiana
Their first stop was in Shreveport. They spent some
time exploring the Red River area and then continued to
the lower part of the state, stopping overnight in Lake
Charles. They visited museums and art galleries, before
embarking to Baton Rouge, the state’s capital. They
enjoyed the relatively mild temperatures and they took
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part in some more indoor and some outdoor activities.
Arriving a week before Mardi Gras in New Orleans,
they were sure to establish themselves before the crowds
started to come in. There was no sufficient space for the
RV in the city proper, so they housed it outside of town,
and checked into a local hotel. As they toured the preMardi Gras city, the crowds were noticeably growing
larger, and they were glad they got into town when they
did. By the time the celebration was in full swing, they
were fully immersed in the local culture, and even found
themselves participating in one of the parades.
The scene on Bourbon Street hit a little too close to
home reminding them of the days of frenzy during
Golden Fingers touring days, and they decided to return
to a less public profile before perhaps being recognized
and mobbed.
With Mardi Gras over, the city began to calm down,
and they enjoyed a more leisurely pace, visiting the Bayou
area and generally enjoying the comfortable weather.
Mississippi
A sudden storm greeted their arrival in Mississippi as
they headed to Jackson. They visited the Capitol building,
currently under renovation, and vowed to return once the
renovation was complete. A botanical garden at the edge
of town aroused their interest, and they stopped at a local
drive-in for lunch.
Heading north to Tupelo, they noted along the way
signs pointing to Philadelphia, Louisville, West Point,
Macon, and Houston. “We could knock off practically the
whole country right here in Mississippi!”
“Doesn’t count.”
They visited the birthplace of Elvis Presley in Tupelo.
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Even though it had been nearly five years since his death,
a steady stream of curious visitors were making their
pilgrimages, before, presumably, heading on to Memphis.
Angela and I, however, headed east.
March
Alabama
Continuing into Birmingham, they visited the Botanical
Gardens, the Birmingham Museum of Art and enjoyed
viewing and learning about the history of the famous
Vulcan Statue.
They continued on to Montgomery, the state capital,
and visited the various government complexes there.
While in town, they also took in art museums and the
Montgomery Zoo.
Continuing to head south, they stopped for a couple of
days in Mobile. “Stuck inside of Mobile with the
Memphis blues again.”
“We’ll get to Memphis. Be patient.”
After exploring Mobile they headed east to explore
Florida.
Florida
The drive across the north state led them to Panama
City, and once again found them confused at not finding
the canal, despite searching for a full day. Tallahassee was
next, visiting the Capitol, and a side trip to Natural Bridge
Battlefield State Park. Finally, they arrived at Jacksonville
and their first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean. They
decided to spend a couple of days at Jacksonville Beach
before exploring the southern part of the state.
Departing for Miami, they once again parked their RV
and climbed into the car for an exploration of the Florida
Keys.
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Moving to the gulf side of the state, they spent time in
Tampa before returning to the central state and visiting
Orlando for a few days with trips to Disney World and
Epcot.
Georgia
Departing for Georgia from Orlando, their first stop in
the Peach State was the Stephen C. Foster State Park.
They enjoyed the gateway to the Okefenokee Swamp, and
the refuge from the urban locations so recently visited.
The night sky was magnificent, and they could see the
Milky Way in all its glory.
They returned to the coast and made their way to
Savannah, and marveled at the particularly rugged coast
that Georgia had to offer.
Finally, they went inland to visit the State Capitol at
Augusta.
South Carolina
Crossing into South Carolina, they continued to
Columbia, visiting the South Carolina State House. Eager
to see the ocean again, they ventured to Myrtle Beach.
While the temperature remained cool, and on a couple of
days it rained, they enjoyed time on the beach. The water
itself was too cold for swimming, but with the right
clothing, it could be comfortable. They enjoyed watching
a sunrise over the ocean, in stark contrast to the ocean
sunsets that they had always experienced. “Even though
we toured on the Atlantic coast, I never got up early
enough to see the sun come up,” I noted.
Continuing to the state capital of Columbia, they
enjoyed many of the cultural and historical sites the city
had to offer. A simple night out had them enjoying
Deathtrap at the movies, and the comedy nearly brought
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them to tears.
North Carolina
Another half-day’s drive and they found themselves in
Raleigh, North Carolina. They enjoyed the site of its
many Oak Trees and the classic construction of its State
Capitol building. The Arboretum was particularly
pleasurable.
They continued westward to Charlotte, enjoying the
metropolitan feel of North Carolina’s largest city. They
were surprised to hear that Charlotte enjoyed a status as a
significant financial center, second only the New York City.
They enjoyed the zoo, aquarium and even took in a show
at one of the area theaters.
Westward, they spend their final night in March in
Asheville.
April
Tennessee
The April Fools’ day drive across the Great Smoky
Mountains was, at times, challenging for the RV, but the
scenery was beautiful and worth the slightly nervewracking route. They took in the Great Smoky Mountain
National Park and enjoyed a couple of days there
exploring its endless wonder.
Continuing on to Knoxville, they once again enjoyed
open and relatively straight driving conditions. They were
disappointed to learn that they were too early to enjoy the
World’s Fair, which was to open in May, but the sight of
the new construction and the massive Sunsphere was still
a sight to behold.
The drive to Nashville was only slightly marred by a
spring storm, but they enjoyed seeing this hub of Country
music. “My dad would love this place,” I remarked.
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The State Capitol seemed to take a back seat to
everything else the city had to offer.
“No trip would be complete without visiting
Graceland,” I remarked as they were en route to
Memphis. “The King would be proud to see how he is
honored today.”
Kentucky
Choosing to not cover ground they had so recently trod,
they headed north on a minor highway to enter Kentucky.
“Enough of the big city, for now,” I stated. “We’ll stop
here in this town of Princeton.” I was surprised to see that
the city had no bars, and that in fact, no alcohol sales were
permitted at all. “That’s odd,” he remarked.
After a delightful couple of days in Princeton, they
continued on to Louisville. “We seem to be always arriving
early,” I noted. “The Kentucky Derby is still three weeks
away, so I guess we won’t be going to that. Would have
been nice, though.” Despite the fact the the Derby itself
wouldn’t be run until early May, preparations were
already underway for the Festival.
“Can’t we just stay here a few days and enjoy that?”
Angela inquired.
“I don’t see why not,” I answered. “We’ve been on the
road for so long, and it only seems right that we take a
break and thoroughly enjoy ourselves.”
Leaving the RV at a local park, they continued to see
the sights of the city by car, and enjoyed the Louisville
Slugger museum. They also took a day trip to Lexington,
and toured the Capitol grounds.
Missouri
After enjoying the first few days of the Festival, they
packed up again and headed to St. Louis, briefly passing
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through lower Illinois. “We’ll be back!” as they failed to
stop.
There were greeted by the Gateway Arch as they
entered the city. “Let’s go to the top!”
“We certainly aren’t going to drive up it!”
“No, we’ll park. There’s an elevator.”
The view from the top of the arch was amazing. “I’m
glad we stopped here, I can’t believe what we’re seeing!”
After the tour, they discussed the remainder of the
week, “We can now go back to Illinois, or explore
Missouri some.”
“Let’s explore!”
The continued westward until they got to the capital
city, Jefferson City and spent a couple of days. Then down
south to Springfield and a visit to the Nathan Boone
Homestead. Turning north, they reached the other end of
the state, stopping over in Kansas City.
“Can we make it to Illinois in one day?”
“I don’t see why not, it’s only a four hour drive.”
They did not. They decided to stop over in Florida
along the way. Florida, Missouri, the site of Mark Twain’s
birth.
Illinois
The drive to Springfield, Illinois was pleasant, but
confusing. “Weren’t we just here a few days ago?”
“That was Springfield, Missouri.”
“Oh.” They visited the State Capitol building,
marveling at how it dwarfed the other buildings in the
area.
They continued north to Peoria, staying overnight in an
industrial area outside of town. “Nothing to write home
about.”
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“I’m sure it has something else to offer.”
They didn’t discover it.
Continuing on to Bloomington, they passed through
and continued to Champaign. “How about some
bubbly?”
“That would be Champagne.”
Despite the fact there would be no bubbly, they spent
their last night of April just outside of town.
May
Indiana
May Day greeted them with bright sunshine and a trip
to Indianapolis, where they visited the State Capitol as
well.
“We’ll have an opportunity to visit the northern state
later, I suppose, so let’s head south, and see what’s down
there.”
Confusion set in once again as they passed through
Bloomington. “No imagination?” I remarked. “Certainly
there must be plenty of names to go around without
having to duplicate so many.”
Southern Indiana was a pleasant surprise for them, as
they discovered the sparse population and vast farmland.
The small towns were quaint, and offered their own
unique charm. They passed through Bedford, Mitchell
and visited Paoli and Orleans, wondering if it was New or
Old.
With the distraction at the rural nature of the area, I
failed to notice that he was moving along the rural
highway at a significant number beyond the local speed
limit, and the inevitable flashing lights of an Indiana State
Trooper forced him to pull over.
“License and registration.”
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I pulled out his wallet and passed it on to the officer.
The photograph was pre-haircut, and clearly showed the
former rock god’s famous locks. The name was also a
dead giveaway.
“Thank you, sir,” said the officer. “I’m a big fan. Your
autograph, please?”
I signed the ticket, reluctantly.
Returning to Bedford for their overnight stay, they
encountered US 50. “Hey, I bet we could take this all the
way home,” I noted.
“There’s a lot more to see the other way,” Angela
directed.
US 50 East, was their new direction.
Ohio
They entered into Ohio, meandering along the scenic
Ohio River, and finally into Cincinnati. “Sin City! Weren’t
we already here too?”
“No, that was Las Vegas, and not even the right one.”
“Well, then. On to the capital!”
They headed to Columbus. While there, they of course
visited the Capitol grounds, but also were taken in by the
beauty of the Columbus Park of Roses.
“We’ll be back to Ohio before long, I suppose.”
Rejoining their beloved US 50 at Athens (“Where’s the
Coliseum? Or at least R.E.M.?”), they crossed into West
Virginia.
West Virginia
“What’s that smell?” I asked. “Oh, it’s only the B&O.”
He enjoyed and laughed at his little joke.
Angela didn’t.
They headed south, the winding road making the
couple slightly carsick, and arrived in the capital of
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Charleston at mid-day. An overnight stay put them back
on the road, through even more mountainous terrain,
heading east to their next destination: Virginia.
Virginia
The transition from West Virginia to Virginia was
barely noticeable, but for the “Welcome to Virginia” sign
that greeted them. The terrain remained rugged and
mountainous, but eventually gave way to a more rural,
farming environment. After several hours of rough travel,
they decided to stop in Waynesboro, a small town along
the way. Enjoying the small town feel, but also enjoying
some conveniences, they decided to stop over for the
night. They visited some nearby Civil War landmarks and
the nearby Shenandoah National Park.
Continuing the next day, they stopped over in
Richmond and toured the Capitol.
Washington D.C.
Departing early the next morning, they headed north to
the Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C.
Rather than try to stay in the Capital itself, they
continued on to Cherry Hill, Maryland to leave their RV
and proceed back into the city via automobile.
While in Washington they toured the Capitol Building
itself, the Smithsonian and its many museums and walked
the distance from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial
and back. At just under three miles, and with so many
attractions to see along the way, the effort seemed
minimal. They were a little surprised to see active baseball
games being played along the National Mall. “That would
never go over well at home,” I stated.
A small side trip from the Washington Monument had
them at the White House. Not wanting to disturb the
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occupants (and partly because of a disagreement with
their politics) they made no attempt at getting in.
“The road has been fun, but I’m ready for some
pampering. How about we just check into a hotel, and
take some time out?” Angela asked.
“Better yet, how about we do the ultimate pampering,
and take a cruise?”
“And what cruise lines sail the Potomac?,” Angela
inquired.
“Well, there are some, but not exactly what I had in
mind. I’m thinking of something a bit more spectacular:
Alaska!”
June
Maryland
After a return trip to Cherry Hill to pack a week’s
worth of luggage for the cruise, they discovered the
particular lack of formal clothing and accessories.
“I guess we didn’t plan for this eventuality, so we’re
going to have to do some shopping.”
They found nearly everything they needed in Baltimore.
I considered renting a tuxedo, but gave in and purchased
one instead. “I will probably have another opportunity to
wear it before long.”
Angela had difficulty finding the right shoes to match
her outfit, and they decided to venture to Annapolis to see
if they would have better luck. To her delight, she found
exactly what they were looking for, and as long as they
were there, they toured the State Capitol.
Alaska
Returning to D.C., they booked their flight to Seattle,
the departure point for the Alaskan Cruise. “Washington
to Washington. It’s like we never left.” The airport shuttle
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took them straight to the port to board their ship.
On board, they were greeted by the pure luxury they
had been missing for the past several months. Their
spacious cabin afforded them a chance to stretch out
beyond the confines of their RV, and venturing beyond,
they had the entire ship to explore. The meals were
sumptuous, and I was particularly intrigued by the on
board gambling. “It’s Vegas all over again!” he cried. “We
can even see a show!”
Several ports were on the itinerary, including the
capital, Juneau, as well as some smaller inland passage
tours for Ketchikan and Skagway. The trip into the fjords
was particularly magnificent, but a little cold.
“I’m glad we had some heavy coats along with us.
Stepping from late spring temperatures back into freezing
cold is an adjustment I couldn’t make without some help.”
Their table mates at meals were oblivious to their
identities, having come from an older generation, and had
never been caught up in the frenzy of the Golden Fingers
days.
“What do you do?” was the inevitable question.
I evaded a direct answer, “I’m between jobs right now.
We’re touring the US for a year. Just a couple of kids in
America.”
“You youngsters don’t know responsibility, frittering
away your time while everyone else is working,” one of
their companions complained.
“Oh, no sir, it’s not anything like that. It’s just we built
up a bit of a nest egg and are enjoying some time while
we’re still young. We look forward to raising a family
someday and settling down. This will be an adventure that
we’ll tell to our kids and grandkids. Maybe even repeat it
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when they are older.”
The conversation gradually drifted to more nonconfrontational issues, and the remainder of the week
allowed the couple to fully relax.
Returning to Seattle and the end of their cruise, they
boarded the flight back to D.C. “Washington to
Washington. It’s like we never left.”
“I’ve heard that before.”
Another shuttle took them back to their RV in Cherry
Hill, and strapping in, they were ready to hit the road
again. This time their destination was Dover, Delaware,
the state capitol.
Delaware
It was a short two hour drive, and when they arrived,
they took to obligatory tour of the Capitol. “Didn’t
George Carlin offer an all-expenses paid trip here just last
year?”
“I think that was meant as a joke.”
“Well, we’re here anyway.”
They set out to explore the state, and were surprised
when they were back by the late afternoon. “I guess we
could have spent more time at the coast.”
“We were there two hours. Besides, it was a bit cold. We
even took that side trip down to Ocean City, Maryland.”
“Yeah, I was curious to see the end of US 50. We could
have turned onto it and traveled all the way back home.”
“We’re not ready for that, yet.”
After taking time out for a bite to eat, they headed up to
Wilmington, and found a couple of state parks that, sadly,
were day use only, and closed early in the evening.
However, they decided to park their RV and visit them on
the following day. They thoroughly enjoyed Brandywine
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Creek park, with its lush beauty and serene atmosphere. It
left them wanting to spend another night, but it wasn’t an
option. “I guess it’s on to New Jersey, then.”
New Jersey
“How do you get off this thing?” I declared, after they
had been on the Turnpike for an hour. “There’s nothing
but cars and it’s costing me a fortune paying all those
tolls.”
“It’s not that bad,” Angela advised. “Look, right there
up ahead is an exit that will get us over to the coast. See
that sign for Asbury Park? Maybe we can visit with Bruce
while we’re there.” Bruce had opened for Golden Fingers
back in 1976, and that exposure was often credited with
his subsequent success.
“He’s probably out on tour. This is the peak of the
summer concert season.”
Their side trip allowed them the relief of another early
arrival, and a pleasant afternoon at the beach.
The following day, they ventured an even shorter
distance to Trenton, visiting the Capitol and then on to
Elizabeth, where they enjoyed a meal at a intimate, local
Italian family restaurant. Ditching the RV once again,
they began planning their time to be spent in New York
City.
New York
They began their first day in the Big Apple with a visit
to Battery Park. They took the ferry to Liberty Island, and
enjoyed the visit to that national monument.
After returning they headed up Broadway, passing Wall
Street. “I guess I should see how my investments are
doing.”
“Let’s not.”
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I couldn’t help but sing “Blaming it all on the nights on
Broadway!”
“It’s daytime,” was Angela only response.
But the lights suddenly came on when they discovered
they were driving the wrong way on the one way
Broadway.
“Oops.”
“Maybe we should park and just walk it instead.”
They continued walking up Broadway until they
reached Union Square.
“What now?”
“I guess you just go around.”
Rejoining Broadway on the other side, they continued
until they encountered Herald Square.
“Give my regards to Broadway, remember me to
Herald Square,” I sang out, loudly enough for some
passersby to hear. With some, a hint of recognition, but
they moved on before it was too late.
As they arrived in Times Square, Broadway gave way to
oblivion. “I guess that’s it.”
“No, it’s just pedestrian walkways right here.” They
continued on towards Central Park. Entering the park,
they began to explore the many paths it had to offer.
Upon arriving at the 86th street station, they decided
that there had been enough walking and took the subway
back to Battery Park.
“Well, we’ve seen it all!”
“Hardly.”
They spent another week, but chose the subway and
cabs for their primary transportation. Even after a week,
they had hardly scratched the surface as to everything they
would have liked to do. “I guess this will have to be a
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destination on its own the next time. But we have a
schedule to keep, or we’ll never get home.”
“I’ll be back,” I stated. Passing nearby, Arnold shrugged
off the recognition he thought he felt, but remembered
the words.
Returning to Elizabeth to retrieve their abandoned RV,
they moved on with their venture into Connecticut.
“Hey, here we are on Manhattan again. I said I’d be
back, and here I am.”
“Just drive.”
They continued on, and when passing through New
Rochelle, I asked “Do you think we should stop in and see
Rob and Laura?”
“They don’t exist.”
July
Connecticut
They continued along the coastline of Long Island
Sound after entering Connecticut and continued until
they reached New Haven. Turning north, they stopped
short of the capital city when I spotted Dinosaur State
Park.
“Dinosaurs in Connecticut?” he asked. “I have a hard
time believing that.”
They stopped to take a look, but all they found were
tracks. “I guess they were just passing through, like us.”
They put up for the night after the long exhausting
three hour drive in Hartford. “Might as well see the
Capitol while we’re here,” I quipped, the next morning, as
if they hadn’t seen it everywhere else. Then suddenly
realizing they failed to see the Capitol while in New York
City, he exclaimed, “We have to go back, we didn’t see the
Capitol in New York City!”
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“New York is not the capital of New York.”
“Oh, right.”
Checking the map, I noted “We can be in Boston well
before the sun goes down.”
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Angela pointed out,
as she pointed out the small state to the east. “We haven’t
yet been to Rhode Island.”
Rhode Island
As they crossed over into Rhode Island, I couldn’t help
but notice how quickly they got to the other side.
Despite his misgivings, they found Providence to be a
delightful city, and found the Rhode Island State House to
be an impressive structure, and quite beautifully lit at
night.
Intrigued by the fact that Rhode Island was not actually
an island, I desired to see an island in Rhode Island, so
they planned a trip to Prudence Island, an actual island
which had no apparent way of getting there. As it turned
out, a ferry ran from Bristol to Prudence Island, so they
took it. Discovering that the population of the island was
fewer than 100, they surmised that those that did live
there were trying to get away from the surprising heavily
populated area of the capital.
They also discovered that there were several islands that
could be visited in the Bay, and one island, Conanicut,
had the town of Jamestown, which could be driven to by
car.
“I guess there’s more to Rhode Island than I originally
thought,” I stated.
After exploring Jamestown, they stayed the night in
Portsmouth before heading out the next day to Boston.
Massachusetts
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“These drives are so short, one might think we’d be
better off walking.”
“It’s over sixty miles. How good are your shoes?”
They chose to drive.
Arriving in Boston early, they secured a location for the
RV, and drove into the downtown area. They discovered
the start of the Freedom Trail and walked its length to
Old Ironsides, where they enjoyed a tour and ended the
day visiting the State House, and relaxing at the end of a
long day at a local pub.
“Cheers!” as they raised a glass and the Independence
Day fireworks shot off overhead.
“This state is a bit larger that the ones we’ve just been
though,” I remarked, “and everything is not just here in
Boston. Let’s stretch our metaphorical legs and do some
more exploring.”
Heading west, their first stop was Springfield. “Haven’t
we been here before? Is nobody original anymore?”
But I was silent when he discovered that this was the
first Springfield. “I guess the rest just copied this one.”
They explored Skinner State Park, but found much of it
to be in disarray, and suspected the place was not long for
this world. “D’oh” was I’s only articulation.
They had better luck at Mount Sugarloaf, though they
had to continue without the RV to be able to maneuver
the winding road to the summit. But the spectacular view
of the Connecticut River and the surrounding valley
made the effort worthwhile.
Returning to Springfield for another night, then
ventured out the next morning to head towards Worcester.
“Sure would like some sauce,” I unnecessarily articulated.
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Electing to take the road less traveled, they headed
north on US 202, around the Quabbin Reservoir and left
US 202 in Templeton. Deciding that was far enough for
one day (they were getting used to these short trips) they
parked their RV and checked into a small hotel, and
enjoyed the small town atmosphere.
The next day they were in Worcester in less than an
hour. ”This is the way to explore,” I stated.
“But we never even get a chance to unpack,” Angela
complained.
“What’s to unpack? Everything we need is already in
the RV.”
“That’s true.”
Arriving in Worcester, I noted the location of the
Stone’s recent surprise concert there. “We used to do that
with Golden Fingers,” I stated. “We would drop in,
unannounced, at some small venue, and blow the roof off
the place. They didn’t always appreciate it. Especially the
night we really did blow it off. Of course, the tornado
could have had something to do with that.”
Finally, their tour of Massachusetts ended up in
Manchester, once again on the coast, another quaint,
small town. They spent two days.
New Hampshire
As they entered New Hampshire, I noted a sign that
read “Portsmouth - 18 miles.”
“That’s on the Maine border. That hardly seems worth
it to count as an adventure.”
“Let’s make it worth it.”
They took a look at the map, and noted a group of
islands a few miles off the coast. “I wonder what’s out
there?”
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“The map says they are the Isles of Shoals. Maybe we
can get a charter to check them out.”
They discovered that there was a ferry service to Star
Island and booked a trip. Once docked, they disembarked
and began to explore the island. They found it only took a
short time to hike completely across the island, and they
even ventured onto the breakwater to hike over to Cedar
Island and Smuttynose Island. However, they didn’t find
much of interest on the two remote islands. Returning to
the Star Island, they took another ride over to Appledore
Island. Despite its larger size, there was even less
development, and all they discovered was a marine
laboratory.
“I guess the heyday of these islands is long passed,” I
mused.
Returning to the coast town of Portsmouth, they
headed down the New Hampshire coast. They found that
Hampton Beach offered RV camping, and decided to pull
in and settle in for a few days off the road.
Maine
“Did you know we already have been in Maine?” I
asked.
“I don’t recall ever being here before. When was that?”
“You don’t remember? We walked there last week.”
It was Angela’s time to be confused. “Walked?”
“Yes, three of the islands are actually part of Maine.
Only Star was part of New Hampshire.
“Imagine that.”
The short drive from Hampton Beach to Portland,
Maine was pleasant, but otherwise uneventful.
“I’m hungry,” I stated. “Let’s see if we can find
someplace to eat.”
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As they drove through the city, they noticed several
restaurants on every block. “Is that all these folks do?”
“There are too many to choose from!”
“How about pizza!” The street they were on featured
three pizza restaurants. “Pick one.”
They did, and it was delicious.
“We might as well hole up here for a few days.”
“In the pizza shack?”
“No, just in this town. We can get some variety of food,
more that we typically carry with us.”
“I’d like some of the famous Maine lobster.”
“I’m sure we’ll be able to find it.”
As they walked the streets of Portland, they discovered
a farmer’s market, said to be one of the oldest in the area.
“We may as well stock up on some fresh stuff, our wares
are beginning to wane.”
As they continued to explore Portland, they also
discovered an active set of island communities out in
Casco Bay, with regular ferry service out to many of them.
And this time they could take their car with them. “Let’s
explore!”
They first visited Peaks Island, and found that much of
it could be visited by car. They enjoyed the long
meandering seashore road that presented magnificent
views of the bay and some of the other islands.
They had to return to the mainland to catch a different
ferry to get to some of the other islands, but discovered
that the ferry to Little Diamond continued on to several
other islands, so it became an island hopping experience
for them, including Great Diamond, Long Island,
Chebeague Island and finally Cliff Island. While the day’s
exploration took several hours, much of it waiting for the
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next ferry, the return trip, in which they chose not to drive
off the ferry, took much less time. Yet, it was getting dark
as they returned to shore.
Finding that the late hour did not diminish the dining
experience, Angela found her lobster meal.
Packing up the following morning, they headed north to
Augusta, the capital. As they arrived, it began to rain.
“This seems a pretty small town for a state capital,” I
remarked.
After visiting the Capitol grounds, and a short tour of
the Blaine House, they headed further north.
Stopping briefly in Bangor to gas up, they continued on
the Interstate until it ended at Houlton.
“The edge of the US!”
“Actually, not,” Angela noted. “Look at the map, there’s
still some easternmost land to explore.”
“Let’s explore!”
They drove down the coast to Quoddy Head State
Park, and found a space for the RV. They began their
exploration at the West Quoddy Head Light, and climbed
to the top for its spectacular view of the area. Despite the
clouds, they still could see miles out into the Bay of Fundy,
and could view the land mass of the Nova Scotia
peninsula. As I leaned over the rail of the lighthouse, he
yelled out “I’m the king of the world!”
“No, you’re not.”
Heading north, they continued on US 1, following it
along the Canadian border to the northernmost town in
New England, Madawaska, until it ended at Fort Kent.
Despite the end of the official highway, they continued on
the road, which eventually gave out. When they got to the
end, they discovered there was no way to turn around.
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Putting the RV in reverse, they drove backwards for about
a mile before they were finally able to turn around and
begin their trip back into civilization. After an exhausting
day of driving and discovery, they laid over in Fort Kent.
The next morning, they headed south on Highway 11,
and rejoining the Interstate, found their way back into
New Hampshire.
August
New Hampshire, revisited
After a long day of driving, they decided to hole up in a
state park near the capital of Concord, and arrived at
Bear Brook State Park, only about a half hour’s drive from
the city. They decided to relax for a couple of days before
continuing on their explorations.
Their stop at the State House provided them another
historical tidbit: The nation’s oldest state house in which
the legislature still occupies its original chambers.
Afterwards, they headed north, crossing into Vermont
after passing through the little town of Littleton.
Vermont
Continuing north, they ventured as far as the Canadian
border, ending up in Derby Line. They found a place to
park the RV, and walked the town, crossing, without
realizing into the Canadian side of Rock Island. When
they noticed a few signs in French, they realized their
mistake and hurried back to the U.S. Pas de problème. “I
guess we just made this an international trip,” I stated.
The drive to Montpelier was relatively short, compared
to the day’s previous marathon drive, and they visited the
State House. They were rather surprised to see that such a
small city would be a state capital. Despite its size,
however, they discovered that the city had a charm all its
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own.
The following day, they continued upstate to St. Albans,
and after some experimentation, found they could cross
Lake Champlain a little to the north, making their way
back into New York.
New York, New York
“I said I’d be back,” I said as he was back.
“Yes, you are.”
“New York, New York, the city that never sleeps!”
“We’re nowhere near the city. We’re in Champlain.”
“Bubbly, my dear?”
They headed south on the Interstate through the
Adirondacks, and headed toward the state capital.
“Finally, we get to see New York’s capital. I was
confused.”
“You’re always confused.”
The narrow roads of the city of Albany weren’t quite
right for the RV, so they parked it outside of town and
drove into town in the car. The state capitol building was
quite a bit different than any of the others they had
visited. There was no traditional dome, and the whole
thing looked more like a palace. After spending a night in
a hotel in the city overlooking the Capitol, they retrieved
their RV and continued to Syracuse. Deferring to another
night in a city, they traveled on to Liverpool. “Maybe we’ll
see a Beatle.”
“Maybe not.”
Having seen no Beatles during the overnight hours,
they left the next morning to go to Niagara Falls. Finding
that there was accommodation for the RV, the drove
directly to Goat Island, parked and spent several hours
enjoying the falls. “I wonder where they sell the barrels?”
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“They don’t.”
After spending the night in the area, they followed the
Lake Erie shoreline, entering into Pennsylvania after a
drive of a couple of hours.
Pennsylvania
Their first stop was in Asbury Park in Erie, where they
bought a postcard to send back home. “Greetings from
Asbury Park” was all they wrote.
They continued south until they hit Interstate 80. “Hey,
we can take this all the way back home.”
“Let’s not.”
Turning east instead, they traveled until the road turned
north to explore some of the mountainous area north of
the highway. They found a wealth of camping
opportunities, and finally chose to stake out a place for a
couple of days in Sinnemahoning State Park. Continuing
north, they encountered US 6 and headed east. Though
the winding road was sometimes a challenge for the RV
and car combination, they traveled for half a day and
came to Scranton in the early afternoon. They arrived in
time to take a short tour of the Scranton Iron Furnaces.
Heading south the next day, they arrived in Philadelphia,
and spent a couple of days visiting the many landmarks of
historical significance that the City of Brotherly Love had
to offer. Finally, turning east, they ventured to Harrisburg,
visiting the Capitol, and wondering if the nighttime glow
was a little bit radioactive.
Finally, they concluded their loop drive around
Pennsylvania with a trek to Pittsburgh, where they
explored the city, seemingly crossing a bridge every few
blocks.
“Sure are a lot of ‘em,” I noted.
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“Sure are.”
September
Oiho
After their night’s stay in Pittsburgh, they headed west
and crossed over in Ohio.
“Oh, Hi, again”
“Oh. We’ve been here before.”
“Yes, but going the other way.”
They stopped over in Akron for a bite to eat, then
continued on to Cleveland for the overnight stay.
Following along the shoreline drive of Lake Erie, they
decided it was too much for the RV, and returned to the
Interstate, continuing to Toledo.
“Holy Toledo, we just passed through Oregon.”
“Doesn’t count.”
Michigan
They entered Michigan shortly before noon, and
continued north around the lake until they arrived in
Detroit. Looking for a good Italian meal, they stopped in
the Roma Cafe, thoroughly enjoying their repast. They
explored the city and surrounding area, then found a hotel
to stay for the night.
Continuing the next day through Flint and Saginaw
they made their way to Wilderness State Park, at the
northernmost part of the state, just in time to celebrate
the Labor Day holiday. The distance and serenity from all
things industrial was an attraction, and they decided to
extend their stay for a full week. During that time, they
spent cool afternoons at the lakeshore, and even ventured
a few times out on the lake itself by boat.
Rested, they returned south to go to Lansing and visited
the Capitol and surrounding area. Following their
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overnight stay in Lansing, they headed east to Grand
Rapids.
“If we turn here, we can go to Wyoming.”
“Let’s not.”
They continued towards Ludington, and arranged to
take the S.S. Badger ferry across Lake Michigan to
Wisconsin. Arriving too late for the last ferry, they stayed
overnight in nearby Ludington State Park.
In the morning, they drove onto the ferry, and parked
the RV and car in its spacious parking area.
“This is just like Alaska without the glaciers.”
“Not really.”
The lack of slots machines was a jarring revelation for
I. “When do we get to Vegas?”
“Not for a while. Keep your quarters.”
But they did enjoy the four hour cruise.
“I would have been nervous if it had been a three hour
cruise.”
“Set your watch, it’s a new time zone.”
“So it was a three hour cruise, after all.”
Wisconsin
Upon arriving in Manitowoc, they had to wait for about
an hour before they were able to fully disembark. They
briefly explored the city, and discovered the site where
Sputnik 4 crashed in 1962. They continued on north and
spent the night in Green Bay. They decided to visit a few
local bars to explore the music scene, and were
particularly impressed by one small combo, focussing on
the percussionist. “He can really bang the drum,” I
remarked.
After the show, he went up to the young man and
confided in him his identity, but asked him to be discrete.
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“I’m really impressed with your skills, and would like to
consider working with you in the future. Please let me
know how to contact you, and I’ll get back to you next
year after we return to California.”
The following day, they continued east to Wausau,
hoping to camp at Rib Mountain State Park, only to
discover that it was only open during the day. Despite their
initial disappointment, they discovered a great many
things of interest. Heading north afterwards, they camped
overnight at Council Grounds State Park instead.
Following their night in the woods, they noted that
evening chills were beginning to set in. “Summer’s almost
over.”
They drove the next day to Madison, and toured the
capitol and spent the night.
Iowa
Heading out early the next day, they arrived in
Dubuque, Iowa, crossing back over the Mississippi, which
they had last seen in St. Louis. They continued on to
Cedar Rapids, where they spent the night. The short two
hour drive to the capital, Des Moines, found them
checking in at Walnut Woods State Park. Back in town,
they toured the Capitol, then returning to the state park,
decided to do some canoeing on the Racoon River. They
enjoyed a few days in the park while autumn set in.
October
Minnesota
Heading north, they stopped in Bloomington to see the
former home of the Twins and Vikings. “My dad
considered the Twins his home team, since his family in
North Dakota like to root for them in the 60’s. The place
sure has run down since then. They should probably just
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tear the whole thing down, and build something else in its
place.”
They attended a Twins game in the new Metrodome,
but the team was having a bad season, and the game was
lost.
The next day, they went to St. Paul, and visited the
Capitol, spending another night. In the morning, they
made their way to Duluth and explored the region
surrounding the tip of Lake Superior.
On the way to Bemidji, they passed through Grand
Rapids. “Weren’t we,” I began.
Angela cut him off, mid-sentence with a simple “No.”
In Bemidji, they stopped to visit the Paul Bunyan and
Babe statues, and heard about the fictional character’s
exploits. After a two hour drive they spent the night in
International Falls.
“Brr.”
Still, they wanted the experience of the northernmost
point in the continuous states, and drove the long drive on
the next day to Penasse. Looking at the map, I wondered
aloud “Why can’t we take this road right across the lake?
It could shave off an hour.”
“That’s the border. There’s no road.”
They followed the highway, briefly entering Canada
and parking the RV at the Young’s Bay Resort. A boat ride
took them to Penasse.
“OK, we’ve been there. It’s cold. Let’s go back.”
Setting out the next morning, they once again passed
into Canada en route to Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Looking at the map, I exclaimed, “No way are we
taking that route.”
“That’s the Red River, not a road.”
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North Dakota
They crossed the winding Red River at Drayton and
stopped in the tiny town for a bite to eat before continuing
to Grand Forks, where they spent the night. Continuing
on the next day, they visited the International Peace
Gardens on the Canadian border. They found a place to
stay in Dunseith.
“We keep coming back to Canada,” I noted.
“Eh?”
The next day they arrived at the state capital, Bismarck,
at midday and toured the Capitol building, unique and
modern compared to many other state houses.
Following the overnight stay in Bismarck, they headed
to the west, to the small town of Dickinson, the longtime
home of his father’s family. While most of the family had
moved to California, I’s uncle, Ed Mall, still lived on the
family farm with his wife, Mary, and their teenage
granddaughters, Samantha and Sarah. Dropping in,
unannounced, was quite a surprise for the family, and at
first they didn’t recognize the couple, who had changed so
much since they last saw them. Once identified, however,
they were welcomed into the family’s home.
“I’ve never been to the old homestead,” I told his uncle,
“though my dad often spoke about it.”
Ed sighed, “Life is slower out here than you’ve had all
your life, but it’s been a good one. But things are changing.
The crops just aren’t doing as well as they used to, and
raising livestock has become so commercialized that we
can’t really turn a great profit anymore. We scrape by, but
it’s been difficult.”
I sympathized with his uncle. “How can I help?”
“We’re not looking for a handout, I,” he paused in
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thought. “But it wouldn’t hurt either. I’m afraid that we
might lose the farm in a few years if things don’t change.”
“I’m not in a position to help while we’re on the road,
but do you think you can hold out until next year, at least?
I may be able to come up with something.”
“That would be wonderful!” Ed’s demeanor brightened
considerably. “But enough depressing talk, why don’t you
come out and see some of the old things we still have
around.”
Ed took them out to the barn, where a number of
ancient farm implements were stored. “You dad and I
used to drive these out in the fields long before we were
able to drive legally. We had a lot of fun, back then.”
“Do they still work?”
“I’ve kept one of them in working order, for old times
sake. Care to take a spin?”
I enjoyed his ride around the farm.
After a few days exploring the region, and appreciating
the slow pace of the rural life, it was time for them to say
their goodbyes, and continue on their journey. They
headed south again to Pierre, South Dakota.
South Dakota
Pierre offered another unique persecutive in small town
capitals, but the visit to the Capitol building revealed
beautiful interiors, reminiscent of the classical structures
in some of the other states. They also visited the southern
tip of Lake Oahe, having seen the Missouri River at
Bismarck, they were amazed to discover the size of the
resulting lake dammed near Pierre.
After their stay in Pierre, they continued westward to
Rapid City and enjoyed viewing the Mt. Rushmore
Memorial and ventured further northwest to Lead and
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Deadwood, the legendary old west towns.
After exploring the region for a couple of days, they
returned east, stopping briefly in Wall to see the famous
Wall Drug Store, then continuing into the Badlands,
staying in the National Park.
After a couple of days of additional exploration, the
return to the eastbound interstate and visited the Corn
Palace in Mitchell, and ended up at the Eastern part of
the state in Sioux Falls.
Their overnight stay left them refreshed and ready to
hit the road for the next destination state: Nebraska.
Nebraska
The highway south took them briefly back into Iowa at
Sioux City, but they didn’t stop and headed instead on US
75 South.
Coming into Omaha, I got excited “Maybe we’ll see
Marlin Perkins”
“Maybe we’ll not.”
Instead, in honor of the former Blackstone Hotel, I and
Angela ordered Reuben sandwiches and butter brickle ice
cream for lunch.
After lunch, they visited Boy’s Town before returning to
Omaha for a night’s stay.
The short drive to Lincoln incorporated the obligatory
trip to the Capitol building, yet another unique structure.
Continuing along Interstate 80, they headed for Grand
Island.
“I was expecting a more tropical clime.” Disappointed,
I decided to continue to North Platte instead. But first
they visited Tornado Hill, which was created in the
previous year from tornado debris.
In North Platte they visit Buffalo Bill’s Ranch and the
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Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center. The long day
over, they spent the night.
November
Kansas
Sleeping late the next day, they hit the road later than
usual, and heading south decided to stop in small Oakley,
Kansas.
“It’s still several hours to Topeka, so I think we’ll stay
here.” They found an RV park in town called the Kansas
Kountry Inn and stayed there for the night. In the
morning they left for Topeka, stopping for lunch and a
tour of the Capitol, and then on to the Kansas side of
Kansas City. “Hey, if we had a time machine, we could
wave to ourselves across the street,” I said, as they peered
across the border into the more famous half.
The next day found them in Wichita, where they opted
to stop for lunch en route to their eventual destination of
Dodge City.
“Hey, isn’t Batman from here.”
“That’s Bat Masterson.”
After an afternoon and evening of exploring the town,
they turned in. In the morning I exclaimed, “We better
get out of Dodge!”
Colorado
Taking US 50, they entered Colorado after a two hour
drive and continued to Pueblo, where they stayed for the
night. I sought out and they toured the Federal Consumer
Information Center. He had always seen the Public
Service Announcements about information that they
distributed, and was curious as to what such a facility
might be like. He’d always envisioned a throng of people
answering the phone, opening letters, stuffing envelopes,
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with pallets of brochures waiting to be distributed to the
information-hungry American masses, eager for free
goods from the government. The reality was far from his
expectations. The pallets of material were there, but the
pace was a little more relaxed. The phones weren’t
continually ringing, but there were a large number of staff
handling the ones that were. Rather than call or write, I
opted to pick up a few pamphlets and brochures before
heading out.
Continuing up Interstate 25 on to Denver, they visited
the state capitol, then ventured on to Golden, where they
toured the Coors brewery. Refreshed after a cold beer and
a night’s stay, they continued their trek to the west. They
marveled at the Eisenhower Tunnel, at both hits elevation
and length. Angela was concerned that the RV might not
meet the maximum height requirements, but it turned out
to not be an issue. They stopped over in Vail and although
they didn’t ski, they enjoyed some snow play and warmed
themselves with hot chocolate by a fire in one of the ski
lodges, where they also spent the night.
As they drove through the Glenwood Canyon, they
encountered a snow storm that left them stranded for a
few hours. Despite the weather, they bundled up and
ventured outside to see the rare beauty that the canyon
had to offer. Once the road was clear, they enjoyed the
remainder of the trip into Grand Junction. Exhausted, but
happy, they turned in for the night. Upon arising, they
headed south, and continued south to Durango and then
headed to Four Corners, where Colorado, Utah, New
Mexico and Arizona meet. I straddled himself at the
monument so that he could simultaneously occupy all four
states. Angela, though she thought it silly, was coerced to
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do the same.
Utah
Continuing in Utah, they headed north to see the
splendor of the various National Parks, including Natural
Bridges and Arches before heading west on Interstate 70
and south on interstate 15 to Zion National Park. They
also descended once again into Arizona to view the Grand
Canyon from its North Rim before heading north toward
Salt Lake City and the capitol. I noted on the map the
location of Thousand Lake Mountain.
“Let’s go count them!”
“Let’s not.”
In the capital they explored the various historical
buildings and learned all about why Utah was called the
Beehive state. They drove around the southern edge of
Salt Lake, and I was tempted to try floating, but the water
was too cold. Instead, I wanted to test the limits of the RV
by racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats, but cooler heads
prevailed and they headed east instead and into Wyoming.
Wyoming
They followed Interstate 80 to Rock Springs, hoping to
find a nice venue for some Rock Music. Unfortunately,
Country was the local flavor. An overnight stay let them
break up the trip across the wide state, and they arrived in
Cheyenne the following afternoon, and visited the capitol.
With time to spare, they continued on Interstate 25 up to
Casper.
“I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.”
“He’s friendly anyway.”
Finding no hauntings overnight, they headed north to
Buffalo, where they saw a few, and then on to Sheridan,
where they spent the night.
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Heading East, they stopped in Cody, and visited the
Buffalo Bill Cody museum. Although there was an RV
park just out of town, they decided to stop over at the
Uptown Motel, which was managed by a nice couple
originally from California. The following day they
continued into Yellowstone National Park. Light snow
covered the ground throughout the park, except for the
thermal features, and they were excited to see the eruption
of Old Faithful, which was being cantankerous, and made
them wait 30 minutes past its expected time. They headed
south to Grand Teton National Park, and spent the night
at a nice resort, enjoying the morning view of the snow
covered valley below and the mountains beyond on the
exceptionally clear day. Returning to Yellowstone, they
continued northwards of Old Faithful, and took the
Grand Loop road until they encountered the NE Entrance
road. It continued briefly into Montana and the small
town of Cooke City, where they ate lunch, then descended
once again briefly into Yellowstone and Wyoming. They
continued into Montana.
Montana
That too was brief, and they continued on to Billings. A
side trip took them down Interstate 90 to the Little
Bighorn Battlefield, then they backtracked a bit and
headed towards Bozeman. They stopped at Prairie Dog
Town and were surprised to find it open so late in the year,
although they had to enter on foot. Despite the snow
cover, there was still plenty to see. Passing through
Bozeman, they continued on to Helena and visited the
capitol. They also marveled at the beauty of the St.
Helena Cathedral, although parts were under renovation,
with its tall twin spires reaching high into the big sky.
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Setting out the next morning they visited Glacier National
Park, and briefly consider continuing northwards to Banff
in Canada, but checking the weather and an impending
storm, felt it best to return southward to Missoula, and on
to Butte. The following day they left for Idaho.
Idaho
Entering Idaho without any significant fanfare, they
continued to Idaho Falls. With the weather becoming
colder, they opted to find a hotel for the night, then
explored the Snake River and Greenbelt area of the city.
The following day they passed through Pocatello en route
through Twin Falls and the capital of Boise. Spending the
night, they visited the capital and decided to explore the
surrounding area. They enjoyed visiting the communities
of Nampa and Caldwell, and were warned away by a
friendly night watchman in Kuna who advised them that
they couldn’t park their RV overnight on the street. The
long day trip the following day had them arriving in
Moscow. Despite their initial reaction and concern that it
would be overrun by Communists, they found the college
town to be delightful. A short drive the next day to Coeur
D’Alene opened the gateway to Sandpoint further north,
but weather kept them from proceeding any further, and
they returned to Coeur D’Alene and drove west into
Washington.
December
Washington
It was quite apparent that upon entering Washington
and December simultaneously, that things were going to
be a bit cold.
“Why didn’t we plan this better?” Angela complained,
brushing some snow off of her shoulder as they entered
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the hotel where they planned to stay the night.
“We can weather it,” I quipped. “It’s only a little snow.
Would you prefer hot and humid?”
“Right now, hot sounds pretty good,” as she shivered,
taking off her heavy coat. “It’s nice in here, though.” A
fire was burning in the lobby’s fireplace and she went up
to it to warm her hands while I checked in.
“Room for two, please.”
“Do you have a reservation?”
“No, we just assumed that at this time of year there
would be plenty of rooms available.”
“Well, there is a convention in town, and rooms are
limited. May I have your name, please?”
“I Mall, and my wife Angela,” indicating Angela by the
fireplace.
“The I Mall?” The clerk gazed suspiciously at him as if
he was trying to stage some elaborate hoax.
“Yes, I am. Didn’t know there was more than one.”
“I would have expected you to look a little different.
Where’s your famous long hair? And the outrageous
outfits?”
“That’s long gone, over a year ago, and the outfits were
only a phase. I’m just a normal person now, just trying to
lead a normal life.”
“We do get an occasional celebrity here. Did you know
Bing Crosby lived nearby here when he was a boy? We
have a suite named in his honor, which we reserve for
special guests. I can book it for you, if you’d like.”
“That will be great, we’re anxious to get off the road a
bit and warm up. Two nights?”
“You got it!”
After a restful two days, the once again ventured out
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into the chilly state, heading to Seattle.
In Seattle, they explored the Pike Place Market, and
purchased some coffee from a place called Starbucks. It
helped to warmed them, but I wanted more.
“I’m not a big fan of coffee,” I stated. “Too bad they
didn’t offer tea as well.”
After a day of exploring Pike Place Market, and nearly
getting hit by an airborne fish, they settled into their hotel,
and looked at the few remaining days ahead of their year
long trip.
“It’s coming to an end. We should be home by
Christmas.”
The next day, on the way south, they stopped in
Olympia and toured the Capitol. A side trip to Tumwater
had them searching for Artesians, but they failed to find
any. Heading south, they took a side trip to see the
devastation of the Mount St. Helens area, and then on to
Oregon.
Oregon
Crossing over the Columbia, they headed east to
Multnomah Falls. Wanting to climb to the top, they
stopped at the lower footbridge, as the coldness of the day
finally got to them. Returning to Portland, they visited the
International Rose Test Garden, which had been cut back
for the winter. However, they managed to find one strong
plant that still had a bloom. Resisting the temptation to
take the final flower, I merely stopped to smell the roses.
They also visited the Crystal Springs Rhododendron
Garden, which had a few more blooms that the Rose
Garden did.
After a night’s stay, they ventured south to Eugene and
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visited the Capitol, and then backtracked and took the
road to Bend and spent the night. Catching US 20 the
next day they intersected US 95 and made their way into
Nevada.
Nevada
Their first stop was the border town of McDermitt.
“Finally, big time gambling!” I declared. He dropped in
twenty dollars worth of quarters and came out with five
dollars. “I guess I won’t be retiring on this!”
“You’re already retired.”
They continued to Winnemucca where they spent the
night, parking in a run down trailer park and
encountering some real characters. The next day, they
headed east to Elko, stopping briefly to lose a few more
quarters. “I’ll lose my fortune if this keeps up!” I
complained. They continued to Wells and thought about
ascending the mountain road up to Angel Lake, but it was
impassable for both the RV and the car, due to wintry
conditions.
After their overnight stay, they continued south to Ely,
stopped for a bite to eat at the Hotel Nevada, and
continued southward to Las Vegas.
“Are we sure this is the right Las Vegas, this time?”
“Look around, isn’t it obvious?”
Dusk was setting in, and the strip was starting to light
up. They parked the RV at a park on the edge of town,
and drove into the city. I converted one hundred dollars
into quarters and started hitting the machines. After losing
fifty, they moved on to another casino, where their luck
improved. I cashed out with three hundred dollars, and
Angela netted another hundred. “First money I’ve made
all year.”
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“Almost enough to fill the gas tank.”
After their night in Sin City, they hit the road, heading
north to Carson City, where they visited the capitol, and
then on to Reno, the Biggest Little City in the World, and
lost another hundred dollars.
“Easy come, Easy go. Well, we should be home
tomorrow.”
“Don’t count on it. California is a big state.”
California
Their return to California came via US 395, which they
continued south through the Mono Lake area. Their
desire to see the old ghost town of Bodie was thwarted
when they discovered that the dirt road to the town was
unplowed. However, the blanket of fresh fallen snow gave
rise to thoughts of a white Christmas, which was only a
few days away. They stopped overnight in the Mammoth
Lakes area and enjoyed the snow and decorations of the
holiday season.
The drive into the Los Angeles Basin was interrupted
with some rain storms, but the snow had given way to
clear roads. Stopping for a couple of nights in Anaheim,
they enjoyed a day in Disneyland. Driving up the coast on
US 101, they enjoyed the occasional glimpses of the
Pacific until returning inland and heading to San
Francisco. After their final overnight stay on the road, they
headed homeward. A final swing past the Capitol Building
in Sacramento greeted them with the traditional Capitol
Christmas Tree.
“Beautiful!”
“Aren’t we going to stop for a tour?”
“We’ve been there before.”
“Merry Christmas.”
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“Merry Christmas.”
Hawaii
I looked at the hash marks on the side of the RV and
counted them off. “5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50.
Well, we’ve done it. We’ve been to every state, and did it
all in a year. I think we can finally celebrate Christmas
with all the traditional trappings. While it’s never a white
Christmas around here, a least we can have one without
going too far.”
“Aren’t you forgetting something? Have you actually
counted the states? Yes, you might say there are 50 marks
on the side of the RV, but that’s counting Washington,
D.C., and that’s not a state.”
I thought for a minute before he realized “Hawaii! And
it’s no wonder, since we can’t drive there.”
“We didn’t drive to Alaska, but still we managed that.”
“Looks like it will have to be up in the air again.”
They flew to Honolulu, where they saw the state house,
then took island hops to the Big Island, Maui, Kauai and
a short trip to Molokai and Lanai. They attempted a visit
to Niihau, but were turned away. “Maybe in a few years.”
Celebrating the week after Christmas in the temperate
climate was no different that what they had experienced
the previous year in Australia, although it was a bit cooler.
“Maybe next year.”
“Maybe next year.”
The kids in America arrived home in time to see in the
New Year.
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1983 - OUR HOUSE
The road trip completed, focus needed to be turned
toward creating their new home. After having spent a year
on the road, it didn’t really feel foreign coming home to
nothing, but they knew that inevitably, they would want a
family and a place to raise them, and living in an RV
would no longer be an option.
“This is what I envision for our house.” I showed
Angela some sketches he had quickly made. “I want it to
be a grand home, as we will be living there for a long time.
I’m through with traveling for now.”
“I’d like to see us incorporate some of our memories
from the road trip. Perhaps something like ‘the best the
USA has to offer.’”
“What stands out in your memory?”
“Well, there’s the White House.”
“That would be a little excessive.”
“How about all the state Capitols we saw. Surely there
must be some inspiration there?”
“Again, too excessive. We saw ranch homes, famous
landmarks, but we didn’t really look that hard how the
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normal people live.”
“You think we’re normal?”
“It might be time to try to be a little more normal, so to
speak. But I don’t want to want for anything either.”
They reviewed I’s sketches, and found that some spoke
to their mutual sensibilities, and finally agreed on a
direction they wanted to take. They considered a number
of custom home contractors, and finally settled on one
company whose other work they enjoyed.
“We’ll give them our ideas, then let them fly with it and
see what they come up with.”
With that out of the way, I had not forgotten the
promises he had made during the year on the road. The
first order of business was to contact his uncle Ed in North
Dakota and see how things were going there.
“Well, it’s pretty quiet here right now. There’s snow on
the ground still, and we really don’t have anything else to
do until the spring thaw. We’re used to it, though, and that
shouldn’t concern you any.”
“My plan was to make an investment in the family
farm, and if we can turn some profits in the future, that
will benefit you all. We can modernize some of the
equipment, and maybe even expand it a bit. What do you
consider your first priority?”
“Well…” he paused as if in thought, but I ran with it.
“A well? You need a water supply?”
“Well, I guess yes, a well. We have one, but it needs to
be deeper, a better source. Maybe that’s where we should
start.”
“When can we start?”
“Right now wouldn’t be good, because the ground is
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frozen. But once we get the thaw, then that would be a
good time to start.”
“OK. I’ll keep in touch, then, and when the time is
right, we’ll get started.”
I’s next order of business was to contact the young
musician he met in Green Bay. He dialed him up, but got
the answering machine. “Hi, this is I Mall. We spoke in
Green Bay last year, and I’d really like to work out
something with you regarding your music. Please call me
back, and let’s see what we could do.” He left his contact
information and hoped for a call back soon.
“That’s strike two for today.”
Angela corrected him, “You didn’t get any strikes, you
set the path for some future projects. Don’t let the thought
of no immediate action get you down.”
“It’s just that I’m ready to get back into some things.
After constant moving for a year, I don’t feel that I can
slow down right now.”
“You don’t have to stop everything, just take it easy for a
bit. Life will catch up to you.”
“Maybe it’s time I did some more music. I feel like that
is one thing that I did leave behind, and never really
looked back.”
“Your old instruments are still at your parents’ place,
and you only used the old studio a few times once it was
rebuilt after the fire. It’s been sitting idle for some time.
Maybe it’s time to check it out.”
I called up his father, “Hey, dad, I want to fire up the
old studio and make some magic. Care to help me?”
“Sure, why not? Everything’s the way you left it the last
time it was used. Come on by and we’ll check it out
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together.”
I met his father at the studio. Through a few years of
disuse, it was evident that there would be some work to be
done before music was going to be made. First thing up,
the exterior needed a coat of paint, after a wash down to
remove the accumulated dirt. Secondly, the interior was
covered in dust. Fortunately, the sensitive electronic
equipment and instruments were covered, and safe from
the elements, so after a few sneezes and runny noses and
itchy eyes, the place was cleaned up and ready to go.
“I remember the first time we tried to fire up everything
all at once. We blew so many fuses that we should have
bought stock.”
“That’s an issue of the past, now,” Henry said.
“Everything was brought up to meet the needs of the full
band. For what you want to do, I don’t think it will an an
issue at all.”
“The guys and I sure spent a lot of time together while
we we’re working up to be the band we became. It was
almost as if this was our house. We even ended up
sleeping on the floor sometime. And having that
refrigerator there wasn’t a bad thing either. Hmm,” I
paused, thinking deeply. “With just a little work, Angela
and I could move in here while we’re waiting for the new
place to new built!”
Henry and I started making the grand plans for
conversion of the studio to a full-fledged living space, and
soon had a design that could be implemented quickly to
turn it into a decent home.
“It’s not quite the palatial estate we envisioned,” I
mused, “but I think it’s going to be a good spot to relax
and wait until the new one. And maybe I’ll even be able to
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record my next hit album!”
With the RV parked right outside, Angela and I began
to make their new space into a home.
“It’s nice to be settled down, at least for a while, and to
have a solid foundation under our feet.”
“Dad made this place to last,” I noted, “and it’s good to
be able to make some use of it again.”
They worked together to domesticate the studio. First
order of business was to outfit the room with the
refrigerator into a full-fledged kitchen. While there wasn’t
really enough space to put in everything they needed, a
small oven, a microwave and a table were added. Some
cabinets were also added, and in time, the store from the
RV had been transferred.
“I don’t think we need to work on a music room so
much. The place is pretty much all set up for that.”
Henry had already been at work adding on a room that
would be of use as a bedroom, and the bathroom and
shower had already been a part of the original design.
Before long, they occupied about 800 square feet, and
decided that would be enough for now.
“It’s only temporary,” they agreed. “Our new house will
be ready in six months.”
The time spent modernizing the studio into a studio
apartment quickly moved into the Spring, and I once
again contacted his uncle Ed about the work they had
planned together.
“The ground is workable, now,” Ed told I, “and we can
start to work on the well anytime.”
“I will make some contacts from here, then, to get the
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process started. They will work to your specifications, but
refer any expenses to me.”
“Will do.”
The crew started the work in a few days, but when they
got to the depth where they thought the might be able to
hit a pocket of water, all they got was a black sludge.
Moving elsewhere on the farm, they discovered the same
thing. Ed contacted I.
“It’s no use, all we are getting is black sludge, and we
haven’t been able to find any decent water source. It’s a
bust!”
“Black sludge? Let me have someone come out and do
some analysis. I have an inkling that it might just turn out
to be OK after all.”
After an inspection of the black sludge, it was
discovered that there was a lot of oil below the surface,
and much greater interest was suddenly made in that than
in trying to find more water. By the time all was analyzed,
the Mall farm was discovered to be worth a lot more that
just farming would provide, and that it was probably best
to abandon farming altogether. A new oil boom was about
to begin, and the Ed and Mary Mall family had nothing
to worry about financially from that point on.
I was concerned that he had not heard back from the
young musician in Green Bay, and attempted contact
again, only to still receive an answering machine. Again
leaving a message, he implored the musician to contact
him. He wrote a letter and within a couple of weeks got it
back, with the imprint “No Forwarding Address.”
I was beside himself, and wondered about the lost
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opportunity that did not materialize. His hope of finding
yet another new talent that he felt had as much potential
as Reginald Von Happenstance was going to remain an
unrealized dream.
Instead, I turned to the studio, and found some solace
in composing new music. With no distribution deal, and
without a great incentive to make it heard, it instead sat
on the shelf, unheard except for a few close friends.
Finally, the new home was ready, and moving day had
arrived. I and Angela bid farewell to their small home,
and started to fill out the much, much larger space with
the possessions they had in storage, as well as new items
they had purchased.
In a little private ceremony, I smashed a bottle of
champagne against the column at the front entry and
declared “I dub thee, our house, Mall Hall!” Looking at
the damage caused by the bottle, he also declared “We’ll
have to fix that…”
202
2000 - MUSIC
I’s tale of the “missing years” as told to Roger took several
weeks, and there were many details that I had glossed
over, or had deemed as “not important.” Despite the facts,
the supplementary material was a delight to fans who had
missed out on the subtle references occasionally seen
during those years, and mostly regaled to the back pages
of any publications. There was even talk of reviving the
old fan publications, and one attempt managed to get off
the ground, only to fall flat after an emphatic “No” in
once again trying to seek a Golden Fingers reunion.
“That part of my life is over,” I declared, “and it will be
a long time before I seek that road again.”
However, the weeks in reviewing events from more than
twenty years earlier gave pause to some unfinished
business. I’s demos that he recorded in 1983 had never
been distributed, and as a token of appreciation, he
turned a few of them over to Roger for a premiere on his
web site. When they had been recorded, the ability to
make them available to fans was limited, especially
without a distribution deal. With the advent of the web,
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providing music directly to the fans over an internet
connection became a reality. Although the quality was
limited, due to the slow nature of network connections,
fans would accept the wait for what was, to them, new
music. By recording some of the original demos to CD, I
was able to mail them to Roger, who in turn was able to
convert them to a lower-fidelity recording, but one that
fans would enjoy anyway. The occasional fan would ask
for a better version, and though it wasn’t a public practice,
Roger made CD copies and sent them to a few of his most
ardent supporters.
A side effect of the new music was that many fans
began looking at their own collections, and several
discovered recordings of the band during their 1970s
popularity, as well as solo concerts that I himself had
performed. The exchange of bootleg material though the
fan bulletin board on the “A Most Amazing Man” web site
began to worry Roger as to the legality of the practice.
With a blessing from I, the practice continued, but before
long, a “cease and desist” notice arrived in Roger’s e-mail
from a law firm that represented the interests of Osgood
Martin and Isaac Daly.
Roger contacted I, and I indicated that he had not
heard from either of them for several years, but that Isaac
had himself had a semi-successful solo career. He was a
bit surprised that legal action would be the recourse. Had
they fallen on hard times?
While Isaac’s recent successes were well known, I
realized that he had not heard anything from Ozzie in an
even longer period of time than he had considered.
Thinking back, he could not recall a single encounter
since the band broke up. He mentioned it to Angela.
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“Where’s your memory? He came to our wedding, and
we went to his, what was that, ten years ago? Come to
think of it, he wasn’t at Sandy’s funeral, though, nor have
I heard anything about him in all the years since.”
“He married that girl from the record company, that’s
about all I remember. I wonder if she’s somehow behind
this cease and desist order concerning the bootleg material
from the band?”
“The record company still holds some rights to material
released during that time, so maybe they are behind it. I
have a hard time thinking that Ozzie would be involved in
it. The last I heard, he was living well off of investments
that he made during the band’s period of productivity.
What would be the incentive?”
“Money is always an incentive, if that’s what he’s after.”
“Don’t be so quick to paint a guilty picture, we need to
check this out a little further.”
When a formal letter outlying the charges was
delivered, not only was it received by Roger, but another
copy was also sent to I, naming him as a co-defendant. A
suit was being brought forth to return control of any and
all materials that had been illegally recorded at Golden
Fingers concerts to the record company. Senior partner at
the law firm was Candace Martin, Ozzie’s wife. “He is
behind this! He should have known that making a legal
issue is not the best way to deal with it, why didn’t he just
come to us directly with his concerns? We keep a low
profile, but we’re not exactly hermits! He could have
contacted us at any time.”
I fumed about the possibility of betrayal by his old
friend. I decided to take some action of his own. The law
firm kept offices in Los Angeles, so he made the call and
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demanded to speak to Candace. “Martin and Martin,”
said the receptionist as she answered the phone. “How
may I direct your call?”
“I need to speak to Candace Martin directly, this is I
Mall.”
“Ms. Martin is not available to take your call. Would
you like to speak to her partner, Mr. Martin?”
I’s countenance reddened as he thought of what he
would say to Ozzie once he got on the phone, trying to
suppress his anger, he indicated through his gritted teeth,
“Yes, I’ll speak with him.”
The line went dead for a few seconds while I was placed
on hold. Finally, a click and some background noise
indicated someone was coming back on the line. I’s rage
got the better of him.
“Ozzie, what the hell are you trying to pull with this
lawsuit? What are you and your lawyer scum friends up
to?” he yelled into the phone.
“Pardon me, sir?” It was the receptionist back on the
line. “Mr. Martin is delayed for a minute, I just wanted to
let you know the wait would be a little longer.” She placed
the call back on hold. I continued to fume, and began
pacing. “That scum has put me on hold again,” he told
Angela. “It’s obvious he doesn’t want to talk!” I slammed
the phone on the hook, and complained “I’m not going to
be kept on hold for the likes of that twit. I have half a
mind to pay them a visit in person!”
“Why don’t you? That actually sounds like a good idea.
T h e re ’s a lw ay s s o m a ny o p p o r t u n i t i e s fo r
misunderstandings that a personal meeting could
eliminate. It will give you a chance to calm down, and
cooler heads will prevail. We’ll get to the bottom of this,
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----The Missing Years
and see that something mutually beneficial comes out of
it. Go ahead and book a flight.”
The flight to Los Angeles wasn’t until the morning, and
although I was tempted to call back and yell some more,
he decided that Angela was right. He booked the flight
and a return flight for that evening. “I’ll have this all
wrapped up in a couple of hours, so there’s no sense in
just getting a one-way ticket.”
The next day, I boarded the plane and touched down in
Los Angeles an hour later. A taxi ride to the law firm of
Martin and Martin took another hour, but finally he was
at the entrance. “Calm yourself,” he told himself. “You
can make more friends with honey than vinegar.” He took
a deep breath as he opened the door and stepped in. The
receptionist looked up as he entered. “May I help you?”
I steeled himself, and controlled his anger. “I’m here’s to
see the Martins. Tell them it’s I Mall.”
“Are you expected, sir? We weren’t successful in getting
back to you yesterday after we were cut off. I hope you
weren’t inconvenienced.”
“Inconvenienced? This whole cease and desist lawsuit is
an inconvenience!” His calm demeanor had broken once
again.
“Yes, sir, I understand. Ms. Martin or her brother will
be able to meet with you in a few minutes.”
“Her brother?” Now it was I’s turn to be confused, he
didn’t recall that Ozzie had a sister.
“Yes, Mr. Charles Martin, he is the other partner in this
firm.”
The wheels began to turn a little bit, as I realized that
Mr. Martin was not Ozzie after all, but still was confused.
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She buzzed the office. “Ms. Martin? A Mr. I Mall is
here to see you.” A pause. “Yes ma’am, I’ll send him in.”
She hung up and indicated the door.
I opened it and tentatively stepped in. “Mr. Mall?
Pleased to meet you, I’m Candace Martin.” She held out
her hand to shake.
I ignored it and got to the matter directly. “What are
you and Ozzie doing? How has this come to a lawsuit,
without any attempt at prior communication?”
Now it was Candace’s turn to be confused. “I’m sure I
don’t know who this ‘Ozzie’ is that you speak of.”
“Ozzie! Osgood Martin! Your husband?”
“Sir, I am not married, nor have I ever met anyone
named Osgood Martin.” She paused in thought for a
moment and suddenly her eyes opened in surprise. “You
don’t mean that Osgood Martin! Of course, you’re I Mall!
How could I not have known?”
Again, confusion set in. “This lawsuit,” as he proffered
the papers, “indicates otherwise. It clearly states that you
are representing Isaac Daly and Osgood Martin in seeking
to block release of fan-made materials of Golden Fingers
live recordings. How do you explain that?”
Candace took the papers and gave them a once over.
“Sir, I believe you have been the victim of a hoax. This is
not our letterhead, and this is certainly not my signature.
There is no lawsuit, and as far as I know, no injunction
against your fans offering up their material for sale or
trade. We don’t even represent the music industry. Our
cases here are strictly in the real estate area. I’m afraid
your concern with us is unjustified. Prior to yesterday, we
have never made any attempt to contact you.”
I sat down, confused as ever as to who would try to run
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such an elaborate and believable hoax. And to what
purpose?
Candace broke his reverie. “If I may be so bold as to
ask, sir. May I have your autograph?”
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2001 - FAMILY AFFAIR
Chrissy Mall was turning 16 at the end of the year, and I
wanted to give her the biggest Sweet Sixteen party the
world had ever known. At least that was I’s statement
before Angela brought him down to earth.
“I think she would be more inclined to keep it a small
family affair, with a few of Chrissy’s close friends. The last
thing a teenager needs is to get lost in one of your
imaginary extravaganzas.”
“One can dream, can’t they? I just want the best for my
little girl!”
“Your little girl is becoming a young lady, and it won’t
be long before she is behind the wheel of a car. That’s
when your real troubles will begin,” Angela warned. “And
the twins aren’t that far behind. Before you know it, they’ll
be teenagers, and we’ll have double the trouble.”
“Still, Chrissy needs to have a nice party. Who should
be invited, then? Family, of course, that’ll be my parents,
your parents, Spike, Emily and their kids. Uncle Arthur
and Aunt Jenny. Maybe even Betty can come in from
Oregon. We haven’t see her for several years.”
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“A few of Chrissy’s friends from school would probably
like to come as well. See, we can still keep it small, yet
have a good time. No need to alert the media.”
”Then there’s dad’s side of the family.” I began
counting the aunts and uncles, and all of the cousins and
their kids. “Hmm,” he was lost in thought and looked
absently to the ceiling, “and carry the two. Yikes, I don’t
think I can count that high!”
“That’s the problem with planning an event like this.
We can’t leave anybody out, or they will be offended. I
guess our little family affair will be an extravaganza after
all. Congratulations on your victory,” she added
sarcastically.
“I can’t help it that my dad came from such a large
family! And it’s not like he’s at fault. After all, I’m their
only child. It’s probably because he came from such a
large family that he only wanted one.”
“Well, we better make a list, then” and she began
writing. Nelly and Ricky, David and Jennifer, Faith and
Michael, Lee and Joe, Craig and Faith, Will and Mandy,
Lenny and Gwen. “I think that’s all the aunts and uncles.
Fourteen. Then we add your cousins, Nelly had four,
didn’t she?”
I nodded, “Three of them are married, and two of
them have two kids each.”
Angela did a quick calculation, OK, four plus three plus
four more. That’s eleven. Plus the fourteen. That’s twentyfive.”
“Uncle David only has two kids, but they’re both
married. Steven has five from six to seventeen and Joel has
three.” He counted on his fingers, two cousins plus two
wives, plus eight kids between them. “I ran out of fingers,
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but I think that’s twelve.”
“OK, we’re up to thirty-seven. Your aunt Faith only has
the one, and she’s still a teenager herself. Thankfully, that’s
only one.”
“Thirty-eight.”
“Aunt Lee has two with Joe, plus the two she had before
her divorce from Bill.” Angela counted silently, “with all
the kids, that’s another fifteen.”
“You forget the great-grandson.”
“Sixteen.”
“Fifty-four. Craig and Faith didn’t have any kids, but
they do have a dog.”
“No dogs. And didn’t we already count Faith?”
“That was the other Faith.”
“Here’s the bank breaker. Will and Mandy were a baby
factory. They’ve got seven. I think we need a pad of paper
for that one.”
I ticked off seven. “Cousin Abigail had two from her
first husband, three from the second and two from the
third.” He ticked off seven more. “At least she’s not
married now.”
“I heard she’s pregnant again, so maybe we should
include one more as a maybe in case she marries that
guy.”
“Abby’s oldest has a husband and daughter as well.”
Two more ticks.
“Bonnie has two, plus her husband. That’s three.”
“Charlie and Charlene have three.” Four more.
“David is divorced, and Cynthia has custody of the two
kids, but we better count them, just in case.” I added two.
“Elaine and Harry have two.” Three.
“Frank and Joanne have three.” Four more ticks.
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“And finally, Gail. But she’s not married.”
“Nothing to add, then.” I counted up the ticks in
groups of five. “Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five,
thirty, thirty-three!”
“OK, we’re up to eighty-seven. That’s going to be some
guest list!”
“You forgot about Lenny and Gwen. They only have
Gerald.”
“OK. Eighty-eight. One for every key on the piano.
Nice number.”
“But we didn’t include our immediate family in the
count. We named them, but didn’t count them.”
“Ok, adding eleven. Is that it?”
“I think so.” Angela added the two figures. “Ninetynine! Still, I can’t help thinking we’re leaving someone
out.”
“Did you count the five of us?”
“Well, that’s a given. We don’t need to send out
invitation for ourselves. But it does make the potential
head count one hundred and four.”
“We haven’t made any room from Chrissy’s friends.
That’s just family.”
“Oh! That’s right. Better add another twenty. One
hundred twenty four.”
“We better write them down by family group, and see if
we have everyone’s current address.”
They wrote out the long list, double checking the count,
but Angela had the nagging feeling that someone was still
missing. They reviewed the list a third time before she
exclaimed “How could we forget your Uncle Ed?” Angela
added Ed, Mary, Samantha and Sarah to the list. “That’s
one hundred twenty-eight.”
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As they prepared the invitations, they began to group
the names for individual addresses. By the time they were
through, they had compiled more than fifty individual
addresses.
“That’s over a hundred eighty dollars in postage alone!”
I exclaimed.
“Check your decimal point. We’re only talking eighteen
dollars.”
“Enough to keep the Post Office running for another
year, I suppose.”
“Just wait until we have to do our Christmas cards! We
can add a few dozen more to that list.”
“Can’t we just put the Christmas card in with the
invitation and save some postage?”
“Saving pennies while spending many dollars elsewhere
doesn’t make a lot of sense. Besides, it’s tacky.”
I conceded the point, frugality was not his strong trait.
“So, where are we going to put all these people if they
all show up? Most of them are local, so it’s not unlikely.
We only have space in the picnic pavilion for forty-eight. I
guess we didn’t plan ahead.”
“Picnic seating for forty-eight is plenty. It sits empty
most of the time. But we can add some temporary tables.
The space allows for at least ten. That should be plenty.
We can rent what we need, ten tables, eighty chairs.”
“OK, what about food?”
“Emily is a caterer, silly. I think she can handle that.”
“But she’s a guest. Now who’s talking tacky?”
“She has staff that can handle the details. I’m sure she
won’t mind. She loves big events.”
With the guest list coming together as the RSVPs
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----The Missing Years
started to pour in, the event was shaping up to be the
major event that I originally wanted, and not just a simple
family affair. Although the November weather was still
mild, they knew that early December could be cold and
stormy, and without adequate protection, the whole affair
could turn into a miserable mess. Henry and Buddy
worked together to construct a connecting temporary
passageway between the house and the pavilion. Although
they were both in their 70s, it didn’t slow them down, and
with a deadline to meet, they made sure that all the bases
were covered.
Angela and Emily worked together on the menu, and
decided that simpler was better. Rather than a formal sitdown meal, they agreed to prepare a buffet, with a variety
of foods to meet the tastes and preferences of their many
guests. Juliette and Annette offered their support as well.
I and Spike handled the musical entertainment, and
arranged for one of their favorite groups from the ’70s to
make a special appearance.
With everyone so busy, Chrissy felt a little pushed to the
background. “Dad,” she complained to I, “whose party is
this anyway? Yours or mine?”
“It’s all for you, my sweet child, all for you.”
“Then why are we having your favorite band here?
What about my choices?”
I realized that he had gotten carried away again, and
did not consider Chrissy’s own preferences.
“OK, you’re right. Who would you want instead?”
“’N Sync would be nice. You would do that for me,
wouldn’t you?”
I gulped a little at the thought. “I’m not quite sure they
play birthday parties,” I advised.
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“O-Town? Ricky Martin?”
All of these acts were surely booked for months to
come.
“Tell you what, let me pull in some favors, and I’ll see
what I can do. I won’t disappoint you.”
I started the next day making contacts with his friends
in the music business, and although he couldn’t come up
with a major act, he was able to pull together a
supergroup of sorts consisting of various members of
some of the top acts. As publicists’ press releases and fan
rumors began to grow, the anticipation and word of this
unique event began to spread, and when a few of the
national magazines picked it up, and even MTV reported
on it, I knew that the monster had gotten out of hand.
It was evident that the accommodations for the family
affair of just over one hundred were no longer going to be
adequate. “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”
“Emily’s catering business is not going to be able to
handle a crowd like that,” Angela stated, after hearing of
the guesstimates of the potential numbers that could be
arriving. “We are going to have to scramble to feed
thousands.”
“We don’t have to feed anybody but the invited guests,”
I declared. “But we will need to arrange for something
bigger than our pavilion to accommodate the crowds.”
After a newer, larger temporary pavilion structure was
acquired, space was available for a couple thousand. In
the week after Thanksgiving, fans started to gather and
temporary campsites were established. Despite a small
rainstorm, fans remained steadfast, and an overflow crowd
for the one off concert was accommodated, although
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----The Missing Years
space was at a premium. Chrissy’s Sweet Sixteen party
ended up being one of the major events of the year.
217
2002 - NOT A GIRL, NOT YET A WOMAN
Chrissy Mall was sixteen, and while she had many friends,
not one boy stood above any other that would qualify as a
boyfriend. Angela and I weren’t particularly encouraged
about her starting to date, but she continually dropped
hints about getting out a bit. She had taken her driver’s
test, and failed, only to reschedule and finally pass it on
the second try. An ever doting father, I purchased her first
vehicle, but avoided the glamour of a sports car, and
settled on a simple Corolla.
“Dad, I can’t be seen in that,” Chrissy complained.
“It’s transportation.” I countered, “and a lot more than
other kids your age have.”
“Billy Woldson has a Mustang,” she offered. “A blue
one.”
“You’re not Billy Woldson. You have a green Corolla.”
Billy Woldson was eighteen, and a senior at the high
school. His classic good looks were an attraction to a
number of the girls at the school, and Chrissy was no
exception. She admired his blue Mustang, and him as
well. He played on the football team, and though it was
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----The Missing Years
the off season, was still popular among his classmates. He
was currently the student council president, and it
appeared that a football scholarship would send him off to
a college in another state.
The legend of Chrissy’s party had spread throughout
the school, and though many of her classmates had
crashed it, Billy had not. As it happened, Billy had noticed
Chrissy, but in what might be a surprise to many, he was
too shy to ask her out.
He confided in a friend who had crashed the party, and
tried to extract some information from him.
“So what did you think of that big party last year? See a
lot of action?”
“The place was overrun by girls, that’s for sure. And a
surprising number of older women, as well.”
“Older women?”
“Well, older than us, anyway. Twenty-somethings.
Nice.” He stared dreamily into the unfocused distance.
The conversation descended into the typical sex talk
that ultimately occurs when young men start to talk about
girls, and Billy sought a change in direction.
“What’s up with that Chrissy Mall, anyway? She sure
has got to be stuck up, throwing herself a big party like
that. I even heard some of her friends ended up getting a
little drunk, and ended up getting kicked out of school for
a bit.”
“That’s just a rumor. Actually, the whole thing was sorta
lame. Once they cleared out the place after the concert, all
there really was to eat was cake, ice cream and punch. I
left pretty early. But then, I hadn’t been invited.”
“But, Chrissy, how did she look?”
“She was OK, but…” he paused at looked quizzically
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at Billy, “You got a thing for her?”
“No…” Billy was defensive. “Just curious. She’s cute,
though.”
“You got a thing for her,” he stated decisively. “You
should ask her out.”
“I’m sure she gets that all the time. Supposedly her dad
was someone big at one time. She’s probably got guys
lined up for the next year.”
“Look, all I know is that she was just having fun with
her friends at the party, and they were all girls. I don’t
think she even has a boyfriend. Give it a try.”
Billy, secretly relieved that the competition was limited,
still was nervous. With his hesitation, however,
competition stepped in, in the guise of Craig Lopez.
Craig was a junior at the High School, and was one of
the few boys in Chrissy’s circle of friends. Since he didn’t
have a car, he sometimes relied on Chrissy to provide
transportation to different school events. After spending a
lot of time together, she began to visit him at his job at a
local grocery store. Their chats turned into more serious
conversations, and the visits increased in frequency. When
his birthday arrived in March, she surprised him with a
kiss on the cheek. He in turn countered with a request for
a date. They made plans to go to a movie, Catch Me If You
Can, and enjoyed it. But it was Craig’s surprisingly forward
moves that turned Chrissy against him, “I’m not a girl, but
not yet a woman, and I’m not ready to take that step, yet.”
“Yet? Soon?”
“No, not soon.”
The incident soured their relationship, and soon she
stopped stopping by the grocery store, going out of her
way to find somewhere else to be.
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----The Missing Years
Craig was so sure of himself that he wasn’t ready to
accept defeat. Rather, he started spreading the story that
he and Chrissy did the deed, but he found her lacking in
finesses, and dropped her. The stories rapidly spread
through the school, getting back to her, and she was
devastated.
Billy was devastated as well when he heard the stories.
He had always considered that Chrissy was one of the
“nice” girls. Not one to succumb to peer pressure. Not one
to be the school slut, as she was now painted to be. But
when elements of Craig’s tale began to fall apart, it also
became apparent that Chrissy was truly the injured party,
and Billy took this opportunity to assure her that she had
his support.
Chrissy appreciated the new friendship that Billy was
offering, and they started to hang out together. Word
spread around school that she was now shopping her
reputation, and hitting on the popular football star. Both
of them were upset to hear the new set of rumors that
were going around, and Billy redoubled his efforts to clear
her good name.
Chrissy, in turn, turned to Billy for more emotional
support, and they became more of a genuine couple.
When it came to asking someone to the Spring Senior
Prom, Billy was ready to pop the question.
“Of course I’ll go with you,” was Chrissy’s answer. “It
will be fun!”
Chrissy couldn’t wait to tell her parents the news, but
Angela was skeptical. “What do we really know about
Billy? What are his parents like? What part of town is he
from?”
Chrissy assured both of them that Billy was a complete
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gentleman, and would treat her as a lady.
“He’s already eighteen,” I noted. “When I was
eighteen, I already had a reputation as a bad boy.” The
facts were anything but.
“He’s not going to be you, dad. He’s smart, athletic,
and…”, she paused with a smile on her face. “He has a
Mustang.”
“So Mustang boy has what in mind? I know what
happens after the Prom. I’ve heard the stories.”
“There’s nothing to worry about, dad. You can trust
me.”
“But you’re still my little girl, right?”
“I’m not a girl anymore, dad.”
“You’ll always be my girl, Chrissy.”
The time for Prom arrived, and Chrissy shopped with
her mother for a nice gown. “Nothing too revealing, you
don’t want to tempt your beau.”
“Mom! Please trust me, nothing’s going to happen.”
“I know, but you can never be too careful.”
“Are you saying that you did something after your
Prom? Did you even know dad then?”
“Of course I knew your father; we grew up together.
And no, I didn’t even go to Prom.”
“Then how can you know what’s going to happen?”
“I’ve seen TV. I’ve read the books.”
“Mom. That stuff doesn’t happen. It’s all just fiction.”
“Well, we trust you to make the right choices.”
“I will,” Chrissy assured her mother.
The big night finally came, and when Billy arrived in
his Mustang, I invited him in for the “interrogation.”
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----The Missing Years
“You know how much I adore my little girl, don’t you,
son?”
“Yes, of course, sir. And I know how much she adores
you. I’ve heard her tell plenty of tales about your
exploits.”
It was I’s turn to be defensive. “She knows very little
about my days with the band and on the road.”
“That’s not what I mean,” Billy said. “She told me
about her birthday party, about breaking her arm when
she was little, and a lot of the things that you did while she
was growing up.” He paused for a moment, then said
“Did you say you were in the band? I played trumpet
before I got into football. Did you march in many
parades?”
I was surprised that Billy didn’t know more about him,
and was a little crestfallen. But he decided to not fill him
in with the glorious past. “As a matter of fact, I was in the
band. I played clarinet. We got first place in a number of
parades. I remember one time…” He got lost in thought
when he recalled his pursuit of what turned out to be his
cousin Betty, but then further considered it to be an
inappropriate story to relate to the young man about to
date his daughter. He quickly changed the subject. “I
remember one time,” recovering, “when we did a very
complicated formation during half-time, and I ran smack
into the person marching in front of me. It took a while
for me to live that one down.”
They laughed together at the remembrance of other
fumbles on the field. Billy related, “I had a similar
experience one time on the field. I wasn’t watching well
enough and ran into one of our own linebackers. That
play cost us the game.”
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During their conversation, Chrissy made her grand
entrance. The gown highlighted curves that neither I nor
Billy had noticed before. I eyed them warily, but Billy was
beaming. When he approached her at the bottom of the
staircase, the iridescent shimmer almost made her glow,
and the glow extended to her face. She knew she was
being noticed.
Billy stammered a bit when he offered the corsage that
he had brought to accent her already beautiful image.
When he went to pin it on her, I could barely hold himself
back, his concern mounting about Billy making a move on
his little girl. But Billy was a gentleman, and delicately
pinned the delicate flower onto her gown’s strap.
As they drove off in Billy’s Mustang, I noted to Angela.
“Not a girl, not yet a woman. But certainly a lovely young
lady.”
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2003 - CRAZY IN LOVE
Chrissy and Billy had been dating for over a year, and one
might say they were crazy in love. Although Billy had been
awarded a couple of college scholarships out of state,
because of Chrissy, he elected to stay local. He still played
football, but the exposure of a prestige university might
elude him if he chose to pursue it as a career.
Chrissy, now seventeen, worked part-time during her
senior year of high school in a local office as an afternoon
receptionist. While she didn’t need the money, as Angela
and I provided her a hefty allowance and doted on her
every need, she felt the need to at least be partially selfsupporting, if only to avoid the label of being a spoiled
brat, as some of her more distant acquaintances were
wont to say. She paid for her own gasoline and car
insurance, and Billy and she split on dates and dinners.
Because of college and especially during the football
season, Billy did not have a steady income, and Chrissy’s
end of the split held the greater percentage, which was a
source of irritation to I.
“Is that freeloader mooching off you again?” I would
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say, when she went out to the movies.
“Dad, Billy’s not a freeloader. You know how hard he
works on his studies, and he’s doing very well on the
college team as well. You remember the award he won last
year?” I acknowledged with a nod. “If he was a lazy
freeloader, he never would have earned that,” she stated
decisively.
“I’m well aware of Billy’s accomplishments, and I am as
proud of them as you are. Just trying to protect my little
girl.”
“Dad, I’ve told you before, I’m not a little girl. I’ll be
eighteen in just a few months.”
“I know, I just can’t envision you all grown up.”
“Better start envisioning, because it’s happening fast.”
I recalled his own courtship of Angela, they were crazy
in love as well. Angela had only been nineteen when they
married, and had a pre-teen crush on I which I had totally
failed to recognize until many years later. In fact, he had
virtually ignored Angela as “Spike’s little brat sister” but
couldn’t imagine her not being in his life now.
With Chrissy’s Sweet Sixteen extravaganza having
gotten out of control, I and Angela had chosen to ignore a
public celebration of their twenty-fifth wedding
anniversary in the previous year. Still, I felt that he owed
Angela the honor of celebration as their twenty-sixth
approached. Angela was not too keen on the idea.
“Even without the throngs that came to Chrissy’s party,
we still would have to do the same thing all over again and
invite the whole Mall gang again. What was it, eightyeight?”
“It was one hundred and twenty-eight. It’s up to a
hundred and thirty-five now. Abby had her baby, but
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----The Missing Years
married another guy. Samantha got married. Steven’s wife
had another baby.”
“That’s six!”
“Yeah, six, and I don’t think they’re finished yet.” I
started recalling new relationships in his head. “David remarried Cynthia.”
“I wonder how long that will last?”
“Charlie’s son Bert got married, and they had a baby
last year.”
“Craig and Faith got another dog.”
“No dogs!”
“OK, then. A hundred and thirty-four.”
“Well, we’re never having another party where we invite
over a hundred relatives again. It’s just too much.”
“But I still would like to celebrate. Twenty-five years is a
significant achievement, and twenty-six is one more. It’s
got to be bigger.”
“Bigger is not an option for me, right now. I want
simple.”
“What about renewing our vows? We can invite just
those who had been at our wedding.”
“We’re not even in touch with many of them. Besides,
we already know how much we are in love.” Despite her
admission, Angela was clearly not the romantic one.
Suggestion after suggestion was offered, each of them
rejected for various reasons of impracticality or
displeasure with a possible outcome, that I finally reached
the limit of what he could propose. “I can’t think of a
single thing that would appeal to you!” he stated in
exasperation.
“How about just a quiet dinner at home? Just the two
of us. Chrissy will probably want to go out with Billy
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anyway, and Tyler and Merry can be shipped off to the
grandparents for an evening, right?”
“Can I at least bring in a celebrity chef ?”
“Just the two of us. No celebrity chef. But you can pick
the menu. We’ll work together to make it.”
“OK, how does Prime Rib sound?”
“Prime Rib sounds good.”
“At last, we agree on something!”
I started working out the menu. Prime rib was the main
course, but it needed to be accompanied by some sort of
vegetable. He chose asparagus, with a hollandaise sauce.
“You know I’m not fond of asparagus. It makes my pee
smell funny.”
“Ok, no asparagus,” I pouted. “Let’s think about an
appetizer.”
“I like Brie.”
“OK, Brie with crackers. Maybe some fruit?”
“Raspberries? Yum.”
“We’ll just have that while we sit together and stare into
each other’s eyes.”
“That might make eating difficult.”
“We can look away, occasionally. Then we’ll move on to
the second course. We’ll serve that at the table.”
“And what will that be?”
I considered carefully, then suggested “Shrimp
cocktail?”
“Is shrimp in season?”
“Anything can be in season.”
“Third course?”
I was deep in thought again. “Caesar Salad?”
“Caesar Salad sounds good. Adds a nice Roman touch.
A little bit of Italy.”
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----The Missing Years
“Caesar Salad was created in Mexico.”
“Ok, so it adds some Mexican flavor, then.”
“Not really.”
“Fourth course?”
“Something to cleanse the palate, I would think. A
Grapefruit Star Anise Granita!” he said with authority.
“You just thought that up yourself ?”
“No, I looked it up online,” I admitted.
“Sounds good, though.”
“It does, doesn’t it?”
“Are we ever going to get to the prime rib? I’m getting
full already.”
“It’s the very next course. With a side of Yorkshire
Pudding.”
“A dessert in the middle of the meal?”
“It’s not a dessert, just a pastry.”
“You looked that up too, didn’t you?”
“I did.”
“Next course?”
“We’re not finished with the fifth course, yet!”
“But I’m already full. What else?”
“Asiago and sage scalloped potatoes.”
“Sounds... interesting.”
“Interesting? Sounds fantastic!”
“Are we done?”
“Done? We’re just getting started!”
“How long can this meal go on?”
“OK, two more… make that three more courses.”
“Are you going to be buying me a new wardrobe as
well? Because I surely won’t be able to fit into my current
one after this meal!”
“Sixth course: dessert!”
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“There’s always room for Jello, I guess.”
“Nope, cherries jubilee flambé!”
“You’ll set the house on fire…”
“Maybe just a little. We’ll have the fire department on
standby.”
“Two more?”
“Seventh course: cheese platter.”
“We had cheese already.”
“Well this rounds it out.”
“And finally?”
“And finally…” I held the anticipation to a maximum.
“Yes?”
“Latte!”
“Latte.”
“Yes, something to relax by.”
“So we finally get something to drink, after all of that.”
“It’s not just a drink. It’s something to savor.”
“Still, I’m going to be thirsty.”
“Well, there is the vast selection of wine and aperitifs as
well.”
“And you’ve thought this all out as well. Do you even
know what an aperitif is?”
“Not as much, but maybe a little glass of the bubbly to
go with the brie?”
“Does that go?”
“Sounds like it might. A red for the main course, I
would think.”
“Sounds like you really know your wines.”
“Er, not as much. Red meat, red wine. White meat,
white wine. Makes sense, right?”
“Maybe just a glass of water to be safe, OK?”
“I’ll work it out, trust me.”
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----The Missing Years
I was true to his word, and studied up on wines and
other drinks that would be appropriate at various parts of
the meal, and when the time for the anniversary dinner
arrived, the two of them began working out the logistics
of the preparation of the meal, without involving anyone
else.
“So can we put this together without a lot of trouble?”
“We can try. And if it doesn’t work out, we’ll practice
and try it again next year.”
“Maybe we should go out to eat like we always do.”
“Nope. This will work.”
First order of business was shopping. I prepared the list
of all the ingredients they would need to make this
sumptuous feast. Angela reviewed it.
“You know you’re only cooking for two, here? There’s
enough quantity to practically feed an army. A very
hungry army at that.”
“Maybe we can adjust the quantities to a more
appropriate level. Is a five pound roast OK?”
“Two pounds would be better.”
“But five pounds would give us leftovers. And it would
cook better.”
“If you say so. Do we have room for all these leftovers?
And will we ever eat them?”
“I can imagine myself having prime rib hash for
breakfast. Or a sandwich. Or we could give some to the
dog.”
“No dogs!”
“No dog?”
“OK, five pounds.”
“How about a big bag of shrimp? That’s five pounds,
too.”
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“One pound.”
“One pound.”
“Cocktail sauce, and then there are the cheeses. One
pound each?”
“One pound total.”
“We need a half pound of asiago.”
“Ok, one and a half pounds total.”
“OK. Lettuce, raspberries, potatoes, grapefruit, star
anise. Cherries?”
“Not in season. But you need a can, not fresh.”
“Can of cherries.” I looked over the list. “I think we
have everything we need. Some of this we already have at
home. Let’s shop!”
They worked together as a team, and with careful
planning and preparation, put together a feast that would
please a king and queen.
“You are my queen, my dear,” as I served up the first
course, carefully slicing the Brie, placing it on a cracker
and gently placing it in Angela’s mouth. He poured two
glasses of Champagne, and served the two of them. “To
26 years! May we have 26 more!”
“And 26 more beyond that,” Angela added. They were
just two kids, crazy in love.
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2004 - 1985
“I think it’s time to revisit the ‘no dogs’ policy,” I stated
resolutely. “We haven’t had a dog since 1985. You know
how much I’ve always wanted another. Fido was my best
friend.”
“Fido also bit our new baby daughter,” Angela accused.
“Or have you forgotten? She spent two days in the
hospital at Christmas, and that’s why we have a ‘no dogs’
policy.”
”But there are no babies in the house anymore,
Chrissy’s 18, the twins are 14. You know how Tyler has
always kept asking. He needs a best friend, just like my
dad had with Greta, just like I had with Fido.”
“You had Fido for two years. How could he have been
your best friend?”
“Two years is fourteen dog years. Do you know how
many best friends I had in fourteen years?”
“As I recall, none.”
I, stung, countered “That’s what dogs are for!”
“No…”, she began firmly, then relented. “OK, we’ll
think about getting another dog.”
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“I’m glad to hear you say that, because I have a big
surprise. Tyler!”
Tyler entered the room, carrying a puppy.
“You already have the dog? I thought we were going to
think about it? You didn’t even consult me?”
“Look into his eyes, how can you say no to that?”
Angela had to admit she was touched by the large sad
eyes of the puppy, and it melted her heart on the spot. She
reached out a hand to pet him, and the puppy took a
small nip.
“Did he just bite me? What did I tell you?”
“That wasn’t a bite, that was a playful nip. That’s what
puppies do.”
“Well, we will want to ‘nip’ that in the bud. I do not
want that to develop into a habit.”
“Bud! That’s a great name. Hey, Bud! What do you
think?” He patted Bud on the head.
“Wouldn’t Nipper make more sense?”
“It’s Bud.”
“Bud? Buddy’s my dad’s name. Why do you want to
name him after my dad?”
“It’s Bud, not Buddy. Big difference.”
Tyler put Bud down on the ground, and he started
scampering around on the slick floor. As he slid into the
table leg and came to a sudden stop, he whimpered a bit,
and then squatted, leaving a puddle on the ground.
“Oh, no!” Angela cried. “Are we going to have to deal
with that as well?”
“That’s part of having a puppy. He’ll get housebroken.”
I grabbed a section of newspaper, and laid it out on the
floor, then placed Bud squarely in the middle. “That’s
where you do your business, boy.”
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“I will not have him ‘do his business’ in the middle of
the kitchen! Find someplace other to train him.”
With the mild weather, a corner of the garage was
cleared to be the puppy’s own area. I set up a small barrier
so that Bud wouldn’t have free roam, laid some newspaper
in the corner for him to do his business, and bought a dog
bed and some extra blankets to make him comfortable. A
water and food bowl, and it was the perfect environment
to raise a puppy.
The first night was rough. Bud yipped and cried all
night, and no one in the house was able to sleep very well.
I was up several times in the night to try to calm him, and
once he was quieted and I returned to bed, he started up
again.
“We need to bring him in, he’s lonely out there”
“No dogs in the house!” Angela still wanted to fight her
fight.
Bleary-eyed in the morning, the family dragged
themselves out of bed. The puppy had finally fallen
asleep. “Why couldn’t he have done that hours ago?”
Angela complained. “It’s all your fault!”
“My fault! What did I do?”
“You brought him home.”
I conceded the point. “It will pass in a couple of days,
I’m sure.”
The “couple of days” stretched to a week, and the
family’s patience was stretched to the breaking point. Even
I was having second thoughts.
“Maybe there is something wrong with him. I’m going
to take him to the vet to have him checked out.”
I made an appointment and brought the puppy in. The
vet checked him over. “There’s nothing wrong with him,
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but he does need to get his shots.”
While Bud took the first one in stride, the second made
him wince with pain, and he nipped at the vet. “Bad dog!”
I cried.
“It’s OK, that’s a normal reaction. That particular shot
stings a bit.”
The vet continued to examine Bud, looking in his ears,
taking a stool sample, checking his tiny teeth. “Everything
checks out, though he probably will need some worm
medicine. It common for all dogs.”
“Is that what’s keeping him crying all night?”
“No, he wouldn’t even notice it. What he needs is a
companion. He’s lonely.”
“Lonely? The kids play with him all day long. He gets
plenty of attention.”
“You say he only cries at night, right?”
“Yes.”
“And he’s all alone?”
“Yes.”
“Lonely. You may want to get a second dog.”
“Another dog? I had a hard time selling my wife on the
one.”
“Tell her that it will actually be easier on all of you. It’s
not double the effort, the dogs will keep each other
entertained, and you will get some rest.”
“Rest would be nice.”
Angela was surprisingly receptive to the idea of getting
another dog, and Merry was ecstatic as well. “I want a girl
dog!” she stated.
“A female might be a calming influence on Bud,”
Angela mentioned. “Let’s go to the shelter and see what
we can do.”
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----The Missing Years
***
At the shelter, they were many dogs to choose from, but
very few cute puppies. The best they could do was a one
year old female who had been dubbed Pandora.
“Sounds ominous.”
The folks at the shelter ensured them that Pandora was
gentle, and a very friendly dog. An older female would
have a positive effect on Bud, and everybody’s life would
be easier. Pandora joined the Mall household.
Bud and Pandora got along famously, and they enjoyed
running in the yard, Tyler and Merry enjoyed having their
own pets, and occasionally remembered their duties to
feed, brush and clean up after them. When they did
forget, Angela and I picked up the slack, and Angela grew
to love the two animals. In 1985, Fido had been I’s dog,
and Angela really didn’t want anything to do with him.
But in 2004, Bud and Pandora were truly family dogs.
They took them to obedience classes, where they learned
to heel, perform some tricks, and become well-behaved
members of the family. Angela had even mentioned that
the dogs were better behaved than the children had been.
Occasionally, the dogs would bark at night, but a quick
rebuke would calm them down quickly, and usually they
would quiet down on their own accord, without any
intervention. One night, however, the dogs started making
a racket and showed no signs of letting up. It was
Chrissy’s turn to get them to settle, so she went outside
and saw them coupled together, with Pandora wincing as
if in pain. Trying to separate them to no avail, Chrissy
realized what was happening. “Oh, gross!” she cried and
ran into the house. “The dogs are doing it!” she
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exclaimed, crudely.
Tyler and Merry ran outside to see, and watched in
fascination. “What are they doing?” Tyler asked, before
realizing himself what he had already learned about in
school. “Cool!” was his only reaction.
As Pandora’s pregnancy progressed over the next few
weeks, she became more complacent, and tended to lay
around lazily throughout the day. Bud, still practically a
puppy himself, tried to engage her in activities, but she
would rather just take it easy and be waited on. To keep
her comfortable, I asked Henry to help him built her a
private shelter, in which she could escape Bud’s attention,
and she even learned to pull the door closed to ensure her
privacy. Though Bud would often bark to get her to pay
attention to him, he gradually gave up, and found some
other activity to entertain himself.
One morning the family heard more than just Bud’s
barking, but a distinct set of crying, not unlike a baby’s
cry. Going outside, they opened Pandora’s box and found
six new little lives, connected to their mother, savoring
their first meal.
Merry and Tyler got the naming job for the new pups.
Tyler was first. “This one is Samson, because he has
such long hair.”
“This one is Princess, because she’s so pretty,” Merry
offered.
“This one is Teddy, because he looks like a little Teddy
bear.” Tyler named him, but Merry approved with an
“Aww…”
“This little girl is Pepper, because she’s sprinkled with
black.” As if confirming and accepting, the puppy
sneezed.
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----The Missing Years
“This one is Shadow, because he’s all black.” Tyler
looked thoughtful, then said “Maybe he should be Ninja.”
He thought some more. “No, Shadow,” he stated
decisively.
“And this one is Morgan,” Merry stated.
“Morgan?”
“Yes, Morgan. She looks like a Morgan.”
“More like a Gorgon. I think I’ll call her Gorgon,
instead.”
“I get to name her. You got your three.”
“OK. Morgan,” then he snickered under his breath
“Gorgon.”
The new family of eight continued to grow, and all of
the problems of raising a puppy nine months earlier
returned, but with mom and dad taking charge, the
puppies were kept a little more obedient and less
disruptive than their father had been. When they had
reached six weeks old, the reality had to be faced: finding
homes for them. “We went from no dogs to eight dogs,
and we just can’t keep up with them all,” Angela advised.
“I know it’s going to be tough, but we are going to have to
send them out to some other families for them to enjoy.”
“Even Morgan?” a sad Merry cried. Morgan had
become her favorite.
“Even Morgan. If we keep Morgan, then we have to
keep Shadow as well. And four dogs is still more than two
dogs. Two dogs is the limit.”
No matter the complaints coming from the twins,
homes were found for each of them, with Morgan finding
one with one of Merry’s friends. “See, you’ll be able to
visit her often,” Angela offered as she wiped away Merry’s
tear. “It will be like she never left.”
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Despite Merry’s attachment to Morgan, Chrissy was
even more despondent, given to fits of crying, anger and
shifting moods more often than she changed clothes.
Angela confronted her. “We still have Bud and Pandora,
it’s not like were losing all of them.”
“It’s not the dogs, mom,” Chrissy started to cry. “I’m
pregnant.”
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2005 - AN HONEST MISTAKE
Angela’s first reaction to Chrissy’s admission had been one
of shock. ”How could this have happened?”
“Uh, the usual way. You know, the birds and the bees
and all that.”
“We raised you to be a good girl, and now you’ve gotten
yourself into trouble. What will your father say?”
“Mom, how many times have I told you I’m not a girl.
I’m nineteen, I am a woman now. And this just proves the
point.”
“Is that what you wanted, to prove a point?”
“No, this wasn’t my goal. But Billy and I made a
mistake, an honest mistake.”
“It’s more than a mistake, it’s a disaster.” Despite all of
her experience over the last thirty or more years, this was
one she never had expected, or at least, had convinced
herself to never expect it.
“So now you’re expecting.”
“Yes.”
“Does Billy know?”
“No. I haven’t talked to him about it. But he may
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suspect something.”
“He needs to know, and soon.” Angela paused. “You’ll
have to get married.”
“We already plan to do that. We’ve talked about it for a
long time. We we’re just waiting for the right time.”
“Well, you didn’t apparently wait this time, and now
look at the mess you’re in. Pregnant! Your father will be
devastated!”
“He doesn’t have to know, does he? Can’t we just take
care of it quietly?”
“Take care of it? You mean an abortion? I’d never go
for that. Your father would never go for that, and you
should never go for that.”
“No, not that way, I mean give it up for adoption.”
“And how do you expect to keep this from your father?
You live under the same roof, he sees you every morning,
throughout the day, and every evening before you go to
bed. I’m sure he will notice.”
“There are ways to keep it hidden. Loose clothes,
carrying something, standing behind furniture. I see it on
TV all the time.”
“That is not going to fly, and we are not going to keep
your father out of this!”
Despite her indications otherwise, Angela did not
immediately inform I and he was blissfully unaware of his
daughter’s delicate condition throughout the holidays and
into the new year. When he woke up on January 1, he was
as excited as a little kid, running around the house. “It’s
the new year! Happy New Year! Happy 2005!”
Angela tried to calm him down, but knowing that his
mood would turn immediately sour once he finally got the
news, tried to find a way of easing into the admission.
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----The Missing Years
“Honey, 2005 is not such an eventful year. Consider
2001, now that was a big one. Even 2000, the new
millennium!”
“The new millennium was 2001. 2000 was a mistake on
the calendar. A Y2K bug.”
“But 2005, nothing big there. No major events. The
twins turn 15, Chrissy will be 20. No major events.”
“No Quinceañera for Merry?” I was dejected. He liked
a good party.
“We’re not Hispanic. We’ll do a Sweet Sixteen party for
her next year. But not with thousands of people.” The
memory of the events a little over three years earlier were
still a bit of a sore spot.
Angela grew strangely quiet and I anxiously anticipated
her next words.
“Maybe a wedding.”
“You want to repeat our vows? I thought you were
against that.”
“It wouldn’t be a wedding for us. It would be for
Chrissy.”
I looked puzzled, “Billy proposed? This is how I find
out? But that would be wonderful,” he said, brightening.
“My little girl, married!”
But then realization set in, “These things take time.
Some brides wait over a year to get every detail perfect. I
don’t see that happening until next year, at the earliest.”
“It won’t take a lot of time and planning. They want a
simple ceremony, with only immediate family. None of
your uncles, aunts, cousins and their kids. No masses of
hundreds. Just something simple.”
“But... but… but…” I was beside himself. “I like a good
party.”
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“It will be low key. No sense drawing attention, just a
simple ceremony. That’s all they want.”
“But my little girl draws attention in everything she
does. She’s a rock star’s daughter. It will be the wedding of
the century!”
“The century is not even five years old, so that’s not
shooting very high.”
“Still, I won’t allow it to be anything but the biggest
event of the year, then.”
“Believe me, you’ll want it to be subdued. Maybe even
just a justice of the peace.”
“I don’t understand. We’ve always celebrated big. Why
not?”
Angela steeled herself for the admission. “She’s
pregnant.”
I’s face whitened. “Pregnant? How? When?”
“How? The usual way, the same way we were. When? It
happened last year around Thanksgiving. According to
schedule, she’s due in August.”
“My little girl… pregnant?” He was strangely silent for
a long time as Angela let him gather his thoughts and
come to terms with his emotions.
“I’m going to be a grandfather!” he shouted. “I’m going
to be a grandfather!”
Plans for a March wedding progressed, and
arrangements were kept simple. Henry and Juliet, Buddy
and Annette, Spike and Emily, and their children Adrian
and Priscilla, and Billy’s parents, Joe and Emma, were the
sole guests. Merry was the maid of honor, and Tyler was
Billy’s best man. Simple, quiet, in fifteen minutes the
ceremony was over.
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----The Missing Years
“A letdown, not at all what I wanted to see for Chrissy,”
I complained afterward to Angela. “The only bright side is
that I will get to be a grandfather.”
“Billy is a good man. He is there to support Chrissy,
and will make a good father.”
“I like Billy fine, and we will support them however and
if ever they need it. We’ll be there.”
Chrissy’s paunch was becoming visible and it was no
secret to those gathered for the reason of the occasion.
Yet, there was little talk of the eventual outcome. That
could wait for later. Today they were celebrating a happy
occasion.
Chrissy and Billy opted to skip a honeymoon, to
concentrate on preparations for the new child. Although
they had visited briefly with the doctor, they had not
followed up with all of the needed appointments, and
Angela insisted that they go for an extensive pre-natal
checkup. “You need to be more responsible now, you are a
woman, no longer a little girl, and you and your husband
will be bringing a new life into this world. See your
doctor.”
Chrissy made an appointment for a full checkup the
next week. As the days ticked off toward the appointment
all the symptoms were exhibiting their full force. She was
sick daily, she could even feel kicks, and her abdomen was
becoming even more swollen. On the day of the
appointment, Angela accompanied her for support with
Billy also providing the support he could offer in this new
and intimidating adventure. They hoped to find out if it
was a boy or a girl, which was I’s ever present question:
“When are we going to find out?” They were hoping this
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would be the day.
The doctor began the examination with blood tests,
urine test, general health check, listening with a
stethoscope in hopes of hearing the baby’s heartbeat.
Puzzled, he prepared for an ultrasound, spreading the
lubricant across Chrissy’s belly, and moving the transducer
around seeking an image of the fetus.
Angela tapped into the doctor’s puzzlement. ”Is there
something wrong?” she asked fearfully.
The doctor looked again at the screen, trying from as
many angles as each could perform. Finally, he stated
“You’re not pregnant.”
“Not pregnant? Do I look like a woman who is not
pregnant?”
“The images don’t lie. You are not pregnant, and as far
as I can tell, you never have been. The blood tests will
confirm it, but there is no evidence. You’re not pregnant.”
“I don’t understand. I’m sick all the time, my body
aches, my stomach is getting bigger. I even felt him kick!”
“It’s a condition called pseudocyesis.”
“Pseudocywhatsis?”
“Pseudocyesis. False pregnancy. It’s rare, but many of
the symptoms simulate pregnancy.”
“Are you sure I didn’t lose the baby?”
“There never was a baby. You’re not pregnant.” The
doctor hoped repeated statements of the fact would finally
hit home.
“No boy? No girl?”
“No boy. No girl. No baby.”
Chrissy reached out for her mother, breaking down.
“There’s no baby. It was all for nothing!”
Angela quietly calmed her, and Billy gave her additional
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emotional support.
“I was so sure. Now what?” as she began to recover to
face reality.
The doctor advised, “We can arrange for counseling,
therapy as needed. A vitamin and exercise program will
help to get your body back to normal.”
Chrissy sniffled, and tried to compose herself.
“It may take a few weeks, but you will be fine,” the
doctor advised.
Working through the shock of discovering there was
never a pregnancy wore on the new couple, but they
weathered this first crisis of their marriage, and came out
of it wiser, but cautious. Their delayed honeymoon was
finally scheduled, and they took a week long Caribbean
cruise, enjoying themselves and their own company fully
for the first time in their young marriage. When they
returned and began their new life together in earnest, they
were happy, and knew that their decision to marry, for any
reason, was not an honest mistake, but a true life choice
that was the best one they had ever made.
When Chrissy became sick after returning from the
cruise, they credited it to some bug picked up in the
islands, but it continued well beyond the time they should
have expected. They visited the doctor, and he failed to
diagnose any illness, and ran through another battery of
tests. Nothing seemed to make sense, but he decided to
perform one more test, just to be sure. He looked at the
results, and offered a simple statement to the two of them.
“You’re pregnant.”
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2006 - YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL
“I’m fat!” Chrissy complained.
“You’re beautiful,” Billy stated. ”You glow.”
“I’m still fat. Look at me.” She observed herself
sideways in the mirror. “I stick out to forever.”
“Twins will do that to you.” The ultrasound had
revealed twins, and now in her third trimester, there was
no doubt she was really pregnant at this time. A boy and a
girl.
“Damn these genes, anyway.” Chrissy complained. “I
blame my mother.”
“And who does she blame? Her mother only had one,
and there are no other twins going back at least three
generations that we know of. Or on the other side, either.
You’re just lucky, I guess.”
“Lucky? Luck wins you the lottery, or a jackpot in
Vegas.”
“You can’t gamble, you’re only twenty. And you can’t
drink either. You’re pregnant.”
“Do you have to constantly remind me? I wake up
every morning and have to shift this big body around
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during the day. And the heat doesn’t help, either.”
“You’re still beautiful,” Billy assured her.
“Hah!” and Chrissy left it at that.
Angela and I couldn’t wait for the arrival of their first
grandchildren. After the disappointment of the false
pregnancy, the fact of a sudden pregnancy so soon
afterwards was overwhelming. When they found out there
would be both a boy and a girl, they were beside
themselves. Angela rushed out to start buying baby
clothes, and all the trappings that come with a newborn.
There were cribs, car seats, high chairs, bibs, pacifiers,
stuffed animals, easy reader books, the list went on and on,
and everything in double quantities. Chrissy’s old room
was converted into a temporary storage area, and the
danger of even exceeding that space became very real.
“How much do two little babies need?” I inquired.
“Only the best for our grandchildren! When I was
pregnant with Chrissy, and later with the twins, I didn’t
get to enjoy any of this. I had to bear the children, but I
didn’t get to have any of the fun. I’m sure Chrissy is just as
miserable as I often was. But I wouldn’t have traded it for
all the world.” She didn’t want to appear ungrateful.
“We have good kids, and Chrissy’s will be good too.”
I set to work on assembling a crib.
“Tell me again why we have four of these?”
“Two we will give to Chrissy and Billy. Two we’ll keep
here at home for baby sleepovers.”
I was already beginning to regret his enthusiasm for
grandchildren. “And how often will that be?”
“As often as we can. I wouldn’t mind if they lived here
all the time!”
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“We’ve been through that, years ago. You really relish
the 3 AM feedings, changing diapers, staying up with
them while they’re sick, getting peed on, getting thrown
up on?” I continued his litany as if it was crazy that
anyone wanted children at all. “I thought you got tired of
that with all the puppies. They’re just like little kids, too.”
“Puppies are cute. Puppies are adorable. Puppies can be
given away. But grandchildren are beyond all that.
Grandchildren touch your heart like no other can, even
your own children.”
“My philosophy is spoil ‘em rotten, then send them
back to mom and dad to deal with. That’s what I’m
looking forward to.”
I returned to the assembly of the crib.
“You are so wrong about that. You’ll see after they’re
born. They will melt your heart. There won’t be a single
moment that you’ll want to be separated.”
I doubted that that would be the case, and returned
once again to the assembly of the crib. When he finished,
he gave it a good shake to check for soundness. One end
fell off, and then the whole structure collapsed. He looked
around, and noticed some extras parts. “Maybe these have
something to do with that,” as he pointed out the disaster.
He picked up the instructions, reviewed and
determined that not only were the missing parts essential,
that they needed to be used at the beginning of the
assembly. Everything had to come apart.
“Are these even the right instructions? These
instructions are no good!” he exclaimed. “That’s why I
like to hire professionals. I’m no good at this!”
He started from scratch, and finally got to the end with
a stable, and apparently safely constructed piece of fine
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furniture. “There we are. Done!” he stated with a sense of
real accomplishment.
“Done with one, that is. There are three more,” Angela
pointed out.
I looked dejectedly at the three unopened boxes. “Oh.”
He set to work on each in turn, and after three hours,
had completed two of them. “At least they didn’t fall
apart,” he said wearily, but also proudly.
Taking a break before tackling the final one, he heard
the phone ring. Angela answered, and the tone of her
excited conversation indicated that something was afoot.
Hanging up, she cried up the stairs to I. “The babies are
coming early. They’re on the way to the hospital.”
Angela and I jumped into the car and headed to the
hospital themselves, eager to await the birth of the new
twins, but anxious that there were still three weeks to go
before the due date.
“It’s not unusual to be early for twins,” I assured her.
“Still, it’s not the best of circumstances,” she said
worriedly.
Their fears were allayed when Liam I Woldson and Mia
Angelica Woldson were born at 3:45 that afternoon,
weighing in a just over five pounds each. The Malls were
grandparents.
All vitals were fine, despite their smaller size, and the
new g randparents each picked up their new
grandchildren. I held Mia in his arms, gently caressing her
silky hair. She barely could open her eyes, and her little
cries almost sounded like a new puppy. Liam was as bald
as a cue ball, but Angela didn’t mind.
I looked with love at Mia. “I think she just became my
favorite granddaughter.”
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He looked over at Angela, holding Liam, “You’re
beautiful, grandma.” He told her. “Your glow is radiant,
you’ve never been lovelier.”
He laid his granddaughter into the bassinet and leaned
toward Angela to give her a kiss.
“I’ve never been happier in my life,” he told her.
“I’m pregnant.”
252
2007 - PARTY LIKE A ROCKSTAR
I’s initial reaction to Angela’s revelation had been one of
total and utter shock. He had been able to accept the
pregnancy of Pandora. He had been able to accept the
pregnancy of Chrissy, even despite the fact that he never
wanted to see her grow up. He had been able to accept
the two pregnancies that Angela had before. But this one
made no sense at all. Angela was nearly fifty years old, she
was a grandmother, he was a grandfather, little Chrissy
was a mother herself. The news left him speechless,
senseless, without any sense of time or place. He fell into a
faint and his dreams took over.
He dreamed of his former life where he would party
like a rockstar, he dreamed of a future life, where his
golden years would be filled with changing diapers, where
babies were everywhere, and there was no option this time
to give them away to good families to take care of until
they could take care of themselves. He dreamed of a
current life where his wife had just revealed that she was
pregnant, and the cycle would start again. There was no
escape.
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Angela had tried valiantly to revive him, concerned that
the sudden faint and fall had somehow caused injury. She
took a wet washcloth, rubbed his face with it, wished she
had some smelling salts, as if anyone kept a supply of
them on hand.
Finally I came to. The room was swirling, Angela’s face
was looming up close. I couldn’t even recognize his
surroundings.
He could hear Angela say “I, I was kidding. I’m not
pregnant. It was a joke. I didn’t know you would react so
badly. Please forgive me.”
I couldn’t tell if what he was hearing was reality or the
reality of what he wanted to hear. He passed again into
unconsciousness and the dreams took over again. He
found himself again revisiting and revising the past,
creating events in his mind that never happened. He
found himself backstage after a show, imbibing in liters of
liquor, dozens of pills, cadres of women. Trips within trips
within trips. He found himself at the edge of a tall
building, ready to fly. He took the leap and soared over the
city. He looked down to the city below. He recognized the
lights of Las Vegas, the hotels and casinos, he flew over
the Eiffel Tower, over New York City. He found the city
transformed and suddenly he was over New York City. He
recognized the World Trade Center restored. He saw
Central Park. He saw the lights of Broadway. He saw
throngs of people in Times Square on New Year’s Eve
and he saw it suddenly transform to the Macy’s
Thanksgiving Day Parade. He transformed into a balloon
himself, tethered to dozens of people trying to pull him
down to earth. As he reached the ground, he ran. He
crossed rivers and bridges, he crossed wide expanses of
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open fields, he climbed mountains. He suffered snow and
rainstorms and heat waves and dense fog. He covered
deserts and fought thirst and fever and fatigue and he
woke up in a sweat, still uncertain of his surroundings and
its reality.
Angela’s voice returned to his hearing. “I, I, wake up!
Are you ok?”
The room was coming into focus. It was his own
bedroom. It was his own bed. His wife was at his side,
shaking him awake.
“Where am I?” he asked. “What day is it?”
“You’re at home. It’s Tuesday. You’re having a bad
dream.”
“Tuesday the what?”
“Tuesday the thirteenth.”
“Tuesday the thirteenth of what?”
“Tuesday the thirteenth of March.”
“Tuesday the thirteenth of March of what?”
Angela, finally exasperated, grabbed the calendar from
the wall and threw it at him. “It’s 2007. What year are you
living in?”
I took a moment to reorient and come to his senses. “I
had that dream again. The one where you told me you
were pregnant.”
“You know I was kidding. If I’d known this would visit
you over and over again, I wouldn’t have done it. Would
you get over it already?”
“I’ve been trying to shake it off for months. I just can’t
seem to.”
“You’re having a mid life crisis then. You’re not able
face the fact that you’re a grandfather.”
“I’m well beyond the age where I would have a midlife
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Roger D. Linder
crisis,” I said in defense. “That happens in the forties,
right?”
“Mid life is middle of life. You always said you’d live to
be 113. You’re 53 now, so you’re in the middle of your
life.”
“By that account, I still have a few years before I arrive.
I’m still young then. Crisis averted.”
This new revelation seemed to give I a second wind.
“Whatever,” was Angela’s only reply.
I’s realization that he had yet to reach mid life was a
relief to him, and a recognition that he still had a life to
live. His own philosophy to not be the type of rockstar
that flamed out and burned out and dropped out caused
him to wonder if he had missed out on the type of life
that he should have had. The one that his position
dictated that he should have had. Had he made a mistake?
The first order of business was to dress like the rockstar
he used to be. He still held on to the costumes that he had
worn in concert. Tyler had asked him about them, had
wanted to try them on, but they were off limits. I hadn’t
even tried them on since 1978, nearly 30 years ago. The
first thing that he tried were the stage pants, skin tight and
bulge revealing. Slipping into the first leg, then into the
second, he was able to pull them almost to mid thigh.
Taking a deep breath, he pulled them up higher and
managed to get the waist band up to his middle section.
The material was made to stretch, but even it had its
limits. Trying the zipper proved to be an impossible task,
even after he sucked in as much breath into his chest. The
final insult was the sound of fabric ripping, shredding
down the thighs and splitting in the back. The pants
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ruined, he peeled them off and examined them. Useless,
even as a museum piece.
“Certainly the shirt will fit. Those were always roomy,”
he told himself. He slipped it over his head and took a look
in the mirror. What he saw was not a pretty sight.
Although roomy, almost blousy, in the past, it tightened up
where it didn’t do so before. But the real problem was that
not only was it thirty years out of style, it also looked plain
ridiculous on a fifty-three year old man, rockstar or not.
He didn’t even bother with the fringed leather vest. He
already knew that it looked ridiculous, even in the
seventies. He tossed it on the pile with the rest.
The old platform shoes still fit, and added three more
inches to his six foot frame, but when he tried to take a
step, he nearly tripped on his own feet. When he did gain
his balance, they thundered for every step taken. Off they
came.
The pièce de resistance was the signature feathered hat.
It had been the accessory that came to be the most single
recognizable aspect of I Mall’s personality. It fit, too, but
the feather hadn’t weathered well, and bits of it got stuck
up his nose and sent him into a fit of sneezing.
Wiping his nose afterward, he decided that the rockstar
look was no longer feasible. Certainly, however, he still had
the chops to lay out the best sounds possible. His show
bass and amp had been sequestered in a closet since the
last time he had tried to play. The result back then had not
been his best, but he figured he now knew what his
mistakes had been, and made sure to avoid them.
Practicing for a couple of hours in silence before plugging
the amp in had him ready, and the first notes out were as
bad as they could possibly be. Trying to tune the strings,
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Roger D. Linder
he could not find any setting that made it sound good.
Giving a final twist, one of the strings broke lashing across
his face.
“Being a rockstar is a lot harder that I remembered it to
be,” he complained. “And look at my hands. I’ve got
blisters on my fingers!”
I had to face the facts. It appeared that his days
partying like a rockstar were well behind him, despite the
fact that he had not yet even reached middle age.
258
2008 - TEARDROPS ON MY GUITAR
With two grandchildren growing like weeds, and entering
their terrible twos, I had his hands full as an active
grandfather. Whenever the twins came to visit, everything
else dropped and their full attention was devoted to the
well-being and entertainment of the children. The house
was not exactly baby-proofed, and often I and Angela
found themselves scrambling to keep one or the other
from getting into a dangerous situation.
When the twins were born, there was some mention of
it in the local press, and references that the great I Mall
was now grandfather, but the publicity died down after a
few weeks, and life returned to normal for the couple. I
took the time between grandchild visits to hone up his
musical skills, which he had found a bit lacking and
evident when he had tried to revive his rockstar days in
the previous year.
His first order of business was to get his bass guitar
refurbished. In addition to new strings, the finish of the
body needed a bit of touching up as well. “Look at these
sweat marks, one might think there were teardrops on my
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guitar,” he complained to Angela. “They have ruined the
finish. I suppose I could consider them battle scars, but I’d
rather see this unique instrument restored to its former
glory.”
He took it into a local music shop, and requested that it
be restored. The best new strings, adjustments to the
bridge, some correction to a slight warp in the neck, and
of course the finish.
“For a job like that, we’ll have to send it out,” the guitar
tech told him. “This one deserves special treatment, and
we can’t do it locally. We’ll have to keep it a few days.”
“That’s fine,” I told him. “I’m not in a hurry.” He left
the guitar.
Two weeks later, he called and checked on the repair,
and it still had not been completed.
“These things take awhile,” he was told.
Another two weeks, and still no guitar.
“It’s almost done,” he was told again.
Finally, he made a personal visit to the store, and was
shocked to discover the guitar, still in the condition he left
it, on display in the window with a large sign that said
“Win this guitar, originally owned by I Mall!”
He stormed into the shop, and demanded to the
manager the return of his guitar. “I trusted you to repair
it, and instead, you are trying to give it away!”
“Mr. Mall, you are mistaken, your guitar is in the back,
getting its finishing touches. We just got it back yesterday,
and are putting on the new strings as we speak.”
“Then how do you explain my guitar on display in the
window?”
“That’s not your guitar.”
“The sign says ‘Win this guitar, originally owned by I
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----The Missing Years
Mall!’ I’d say that pretty much identifies it as mine.”
“The sign says ‘just like the one originally owned by I
Mall.’ It’s a copy, lovingly copied to exact detail, including
the teardrop shaped stains. We couldn’t bear to see your
original disappear completely, so we had this one made.
We’re raffling it off, with the proceeds going to the charity
of your choice. I must admit that the words ‘just like the
one’ are a bit small. That’s to generate more interest.”
”And you didn’t think to consult me first?” I accused.
“What makes you think that I would approve this?”
“You’re well known for your continuing philanthropy,”
the manager indicated. “We thought you’d be honored.
It’s a bit devious, perhaps, but our heart was in the right
place, wouldn’t you agree?”
I did have to agree, and gave his consent to continue
with the raffle. However, when the final results came in,
the take was only a thousand dollars, and the guitar had
cost five hundreds dollars to reproduce, so the proceeds
netted a measly five hundred.
The raffle had one unexpected consequence, and that
was raising the awareness of a man named Cory Heart,
the same one that I had befriended in 1982 and vowed to
make a star. Cory had been playing in a small bar in
Green Bay, Wisconsin, when I had “discovered” him.
Efforts to contact him had been unsuccessful, and Cory’s
career never materialized. Now, more than 25 years later,
Cory set his mind upon I again.
It wasn’t the first time that Cory had tried to get I’s
attention. He could never understand why I had never
tried to fulfill his promise. He had expected a quick
contact after their encounter, but months passed, and no
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word. Cory thought about giving up his dream of making
it big, but decided instead that he need to pursue it. He
sold everything, and relocated to California, hoping to be
discovered by someone else that would follow through and
make him a star.
For more than fifteen years he toiled and worked small
gigs to get attention. He recorded demo tapes and
shopped them around to industry insiders, but couldn’t get
a chance to hit the big time. He had to support himself
with odd jobs, ones that kept him from ever finding any
type of stable income. Finally, he decided to target I Mall
a second time, but this time was not for a career, it was for
revenge. He studied I’s moves, he followed what little there
was to be said in the music press. He frequented the web
sites that pined for new music, for reunions, for any news
that could be found about the former rock star.
Every opportunity to know the location of I was noted,
and he became a mysterious stalker, never quite revealing
himself, inserting himself into innocuous situations, ones
where he wouldn’t be recognized.
His first real successful effort was to initiate a lawsuit,
hoping to defame I and possibly to gain some financial
compensation in return. He discovered there was a law
firm of Martin and Martin in Los Angeles, the heart of
the entertainment industry. The lead partner even had the
same name as the woman married to a former member of
Golden Fingers. He created a phony letterhead, and
concocted an elaborate “cease and desist” case, suing for
damages, hoping that I’s reaction would be to attempt to
settle. However, I took it upon himself to uncover the
deception and no followup action was ever realized.
His effort failed, he tried to insinuate himself into a
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more personal arena. When word came that the Malls
were sponsoring a major gathering at their home, under
the guise of a “Sweet Sixteen” party, he was one of the
gate crashers. But the crowds were so overwhelming that
he couldn’t get close to I and the family.
He befriended a high school student from Chrissy’s
Mall’s school hoping to cause him to seduce her, possibly
impregnate her and cause a scandal that would not only
shame her family, but lead directly to the shame of I Mall.
He didn’t count on Chrissy seeing through the ruse, and
falling into the arms of another man she would end up
marrying.
He even came face to face with I Mall when I was
shopping for dinner items. Cory was working behind the
butcher counter, and sold him a five pound prime rib,
supposedly for some special occasion. He even engaged
him in conversation, but I did not recognize him, nor did
he find an opportunity to lash out. He briefly considered
providing him a bad cut of meat, but was unable to
arrange for it on this chance meeting.
He encountered him once again while working a stint at
the local animal shelter, and directed him to one of the
unwanted older dogs, figuring that it would be nothing but
trouble to someone who was more interested in a new
puppy.
He watched closely Chrissy’s scandalous pregnancy,
waiting for the opportunity to expose the entire family for
the corrupted excesses it was now expelling. When her
pregnancy was unsubstantiated, his plan went
unconceived.
He encountered I again while working at a baby
furniture store, and switched incorrect instructions into
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the boxes, hoping to frustrate him. He never knew if it
had made any difference. He was desperately running out
of ideas.
He schemed and evaluated and developed and
withdrew and concocted and assembled and mulled over
plans for two years, finally coming up with something that
would achieve the ends he so desperately sought: the
complete ruin of I Mall.
His final attempt to ruin I was his most elaborate. He
would go under deep cover, get I Mall into a
compromising situation, make sure the media was there to
capture the whole incident, and watch his former
potential mentor go up in eternal flames. He first set out
on a personal transformation. He shaved his entire body,
from head to toe, and took it upon himself to establish
himself as the “it” party girl, Cory Heart. He didn’t even
have to change his name. That would even make it more
perfect when he took I down.
He bought a wig, makeup, and a complete wardrobe.
He inserted himself into the night life of the town, making
a name for himself, or herself, as he needed to be fully
convincing. He adopted the new personality so thoroughly
that he even started to create his own following. She was
the popular girl to be seen with, despite her early forties
appearance, she exuded a youthful vigor that made her
the talk of the town. The final scene of the takedown was
to be one of the biggest social events of the year, and she
arranged for Angela and I to be on the guest list, to help
in the charity fundraiser that would ensure that media and
crowds were present. Her plan was to publicly encounter
I, make every attempt to seduce him, then reveal herself
for whom she really was, scandalizing I and his family and
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----The Missing Years
generations to follow.
The night of the social event arrived, and the crowd
started to gather. Or what should have been a crowd
started to gather. The event had hardly made a blip on
anyone’s social calendar, and though Angela and I were
attending, and I made a personal $25,000 donation to the
cause, the event was deemed a dismal failure. Cory’s plan
to embarrass I fell flat, and he left, tears in his eyes,
teardrops falling on the bass guitar that he had won earlier
in the year, now being used as a publicity gimmick.
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2009 - HEARTLESS
Cory’s attempts at revenge had failed miserably, and he
had given up his quest. He realized that the dark path he
had chosen had not achieved the ends he had envisioned,
that the devious attempts to gain I’s attention and ruin
him in a spectacular public manner were all prone to
failure. He decided that he would try a more positive,
direct approach. He would write him a letter.
Dear I Mall,
I hope this finds you well. You may not remember me, but I first
met you back in 1982, when you and your wife stopped in a small
bar in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I was playing drums, and my style not
only intrigued you, but you offered to help me start a career. I must
admit that your lack of response left me heartless, and full of anger
for many years. I would like to hope that this method of direct
communication might possibly open up again the possibility that we
may work together, that those wounds that have so deeply affected me
all this time may finally be healed.
Please consider contacting me, and I wait for your reply.
Signed, Cory Heart.
Cory sealed the envelope, and put it in the mail. It was
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----The Missing Years
his last, final attempt to seek out the recognition he
thought he so deserved.
When I received the mail from Cory, he too was
surprised. He had tried for some time to make contact,
and could not understand why there had never been a
response. He was also surprised that Cory’s return address
was nearby. He had always assumed that Cory had
remained in Wisconsin. Rather than write him back, he
contacted him by telephone.
“Cory, this is I Mall. It’s so good to hear from you after
all these years.”
“I was afraid you’d forgotten about me, I waited for
your contact, but never got anything.”
“I tried over and over again to contact you, but my
letters kept coming back. I had given up, then saw how
successful you’d become, and figured that you no longer
needed any assistance from me. I read about your
meteoric rise, and was very happy for you. I did send my
congratulations, but that came back as well.”
“My meteoric rise? How do you mean? After I left
Wisconsin, I had no end of rejection. I barely was able to
support myself, no thanks to you. As much as I tried,
nothing. I only wanted some advice, but you couldn’t even
give that.” Cory abruptly hung up the phone.
I was stunned. “What a heartless response. I guess
failure can do that to you.” I remembered his own
struggles with fame and decided to be the better man and
give the kid a second chance. “Kid?” he thought to
himself. “He’s got to be in his forties by now.”
Rather than risk another hang up, he decided a
personal visit was in order. He looked up the address on
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the letter he received and punched it into his GPS. It was
in the next town, but in an area with which he wasn’t
familiar. A thirty minute drive and he was knocking at the
door.
It opened, and a bedraggled figure, barely recognizable
as the young man he had once encouraged looked out at
him.
“What are you doing here?”
“Our call was disconnected, so I thought a personal
visit would be in order. Let’s start this conversation again.”
“I have nothing to say to you.” The door slammed.
I pounded on the door, relentlessly until Cory gave in
and answered.
“Haven’t you done enough damage? Can’t you just
leave me alone?”
I couldn’t believe this was the same person. The letter
he had received sounded sincere and courteous. The door
appeared to be open to continue the conversation from
many years before.
“Hear me out. I followed your career. I applauded your
success. I was thankful that, despite my being unable to
contact you, you had the big breakthrough with
‘Sunglasses at Night’. I thought that it was a clever
reference to our meeting in that bar, where you never
removed your sunglasses. I didn’t know that it was a
gimmick.”
It was Cory’s turn to be stunned. I had thrown out so
much inaccurate information at him that he stood there
speechless for a full minute. Finally, he spoke.
“Your think I’m Corey Hart?”
“Of course I do. That’s what you told me back in 1982.
‘Just send me a letter care of this bar to Corey Hart.’
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That’s what I did. It came back.”
“I am Cory Heart. H-E-A-R-T. And no ‘e’ in Cory. I
thought I got past that years ago, and here you bring that
up again.”
Once again, it was I’s turn to be confused. “You’re not
the Corey Hart that sang ’Sunglasses at Night?’ A
successful recording career and great popularity especially
in Canada and internationally as well?”
“No, I’ve never been to Canada. I tried making it in a
world where Corey Hart became popular, but my attempts
were always in vain. I was always told, ”There’s already a
Corey Hart. We don’t need another. Maybe you should
change your name.’ That was never an option for me, I
was born long before him.”
“When were you born?”
“I was born in January of 1962. He was born in May.”
“Long before?”
“Long enough.”
“Well, Cory, I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. I had
no way of knowing. You never spelled your name for me,
you never took off your sunglasses. How was I to know?
No wonder the letters kept coming back. I was sending
them to the wrong person!”
I looked thoughtfully at the ground, then continued,
“Are you still interested in pursuing a music career? I’m
not that active anymore myself, but I can do what I can to
help you get started.”
“That was a dream of mine for many years, but the
dream faded. I’ve learned to accept my fate, my lot in life.
It’s not what I would have chosen, but it’s what I got.”
“What you got was the shaft, I’d say. You deserved
better. I believed in you, and I think that you had the
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talent to go far. Think you still do?”
“I haven’t played drums for over ten years. I’ve lost
touch with the instrument. I’ve moved on.”
“Then what can I do to make it up to you? Name it,
and it’s yours.”
“If I asked for a million dollars, would you give it?”
“If I offered a million dollars would you take it?”
Cory considered the question for a moment. “Actually, I
guess not. I’d rather have earned it on my own. I’m proud
to be Cory Heart. I’m proud to have survived, if not
thrived. I wouldn’t take your million dollars.”
“But would you take a job where earning a million
dollars could be a possibility?”
“Of course I’d take that job. Do you have one?”
“No, not at the moment, but I know where a talent like
yours could come in very handy, working in the studio,
backing up other musicians. In time, I bet you could even
find your own voice again and make the mark you have
sought.”
“I told you, I’ve lost touch with the instrument. I can’t
play.”
“Can’t, or won’t? It’s like riding a bicycle, once you’ve
learned, you don’t unlearn. Can you come to my home
studio for a tryout? Do you know where I live?”
I was hesitant to admit that he’d been there before. “I
have a general idea.”
I wrote down the directions and passed them to Cory.
“Come by tomorrow, and we’ll jam.”
The next day, Cory arrived as promised, and I led him
into the home studio. Cory sat behind the drum kit, and I
plugged in his bass. Cory started with a steady beat, and I
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added some bass lines. Cory began responding with some
alterations of his own, and I began adding his melodic
runs that he had become famous for. Cory started making
magic, and the two of them discovered that music made
together was a new magical, mystical experience.
“What did I tell you? You haven’t lost it at all, you’ve
just buried it. All it took was the will to let it reveal itself.
We can make this happen.”
I took Cory to the Eclectic Fry studios, and introduced
him to Max Fry. Max was now into his sixties, but still
actively pursuing new talent and finding the unfindable.
Explaining Cory’s untapped talent, I convinced Max to
allow them to recreate what they had done in I’s home.
Impressed, Max agreed to put Cory on as a studio
musician, ready to sit in with whomever wanted to record.
Cory’s ship had finally come in, and I had finally found his
protégé, one who would finally find success.
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2010 - TEENAGE DREAM
“I’m going to write a Rock Opera,” I stated decisively.
“A rock opera.”
“Yes, a Rock Opera.”
Angela looked at the calendar. “It says 2010, but I guess
it must be 1972.”
“There are contemporary Rock Operas.”
“Name one.”
“American Idiot, for one.”
“OK, I’ll grant you that.”
“There are works by Savatage and Trans-Siberian
Orchestra.”
Angela had seen Trans-Siberian Orchestra. “OK, that’s
a big one.”
“I’m going to write a Rock Opera. It was one of my
teenage dreams.”
“Ok, I’ll bite. A rock opera about what?”
“About me. I already have the title picked out. Only
Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy.”
“You already wrote that song, and it already tells your
story. Why visit the same topic over and over?”
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“It’s what I know. It’s easiest to write from what you
know, right?”
“But it takes imagination and engenders surprise when
you find something no one else has done. Try working on
that instead.”
“I’m going to write a Rock Opera!”
“OK, you’re going to write a rock opera. Big deal.”
“Where’s the encouragement? Where’s the words of
kindness?”
“OK. You go, boy. Write your heart out. But you need a
better idea.”
I gave it some consideration. “Aha, I’ll make my novel
into a Rock Opera!” He started humming a tune.
“There’s the first one!”
“Your novel. When did you ever write a novel?”
“You remember, A Life Without Pain. Remember?” He
hoped she remembered.
“I don’t remember.”
“The tragic story of Clark Wilson, and his search for a
comfortable existence.”
“That old thing? You haven’t touched that for more
than ten years. I even told you you’d never finish it.”
“But the story has to be told! The world needs to hear!
The world needs relief !”
“I could use some relief right now,” Angela mumbled as
she left the room.
I set to work on his magnum opus by beginning with
the central theme.
A life without pain
It’s all that I seek
It’s been unbearable
For more than a week
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I hunt for relief
I search for a cure
The pain is unbearable
If only it weren’t
I stopped and reread his words. “Gold!” He continued.
A life without pain
To once again have joy
To live life pain free
As when I was a boy
To get up out of bed
Without having to scream
To float through the world
As was my own teenage dream
“Heading for number one!” He needed a bridge.
People tell me I’ll never feel relief
People tell me to turn over a new leaf.
People tell me to live with the pain.
All I can tell them is I never will again.
I could just imagine the pure emotion that the right
singer could bring to this song.
Life without pain
It’s all that I seek
The world may turn
The bones they may creak
The pain free existence
Is more than a dream
The doctor and I
Will make a great team
He sat down at the piano in his private studio, and
started putting a melody to it. “A Life without pain,” he sang
as Tyler walked into the studio. He stopped.
“What is it son? Daddy’s working.”
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“Daddy? Geez, dad, I’m twenty. You haven’t been
`daddy` for fifteen years.”
“I’m just trying to get a mind set for a few years ago.
I’m writing a Rock Opera.”
“So I heard from mom.”
“It’s about a world free from pain, told from the
perspective of its protagonist, Clark Wilson.”
“Sounds compelling.” Tyler left the room.
He continued working on the melody, arriving at just
the perfect match of music and lyric. “It has to have a
joyful feel. No darkness here,” he told himself.
After working out the basic melody, he started up the
recording software to lay out the basic tracks. He began
with the basic piano track, a lilting, almost danceable little
jig. He followed with some drum patterns that were built
in. “I’ll have Cory lay those down later. These are just for
reference.”
Adding only a little guitar and then the bass, the
underlying track was done, at least in demo form. He
readied himself to record the vocal track.
“A life without pain,” he began when Mia walked in.
“Dad, you’ve been at it for hours. Can’t you take a
break? I have finals tomorrow. They’re important to me. I
can’t study with all this racket.”
“I’m writing a Rock Opera!”
“Yes, we all know you’re writing a rock opera.”
“Not just a rock opera. A Rock Opera!”
“OK, yeah. Well, please take a break.”
I looked up at the clock. It had been hours. He was
surprised at how much time had passed. He was in his
element. Time for a break.
He emerged from the seclusion of the studio and back
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into the real world of his family. Chrissy, Billy, Liam and
Mia were visiting. “I didn’t hear you come in. What’s the
occasion?”
“Just a visit. We hadn’t been over for a few days.”
“I’m writing a Rock Opera!”
“So I’ve been told. Whoopee!” her lack of enthusiasm
no way dulled I’s.
“This is serious stuff,” I proclaimed. “The world will
not know what hit them when it is released.”
Angela offered her comment, “I could use a world
without pain. I’ve got a headache.”
I was oblivious to Angela’s subtlety. “See, that’s what
I’m talking about. Everybody suffers pain, everybody seeks
relief. This will be the prescription!”
I hurried back to the studio, also oblivious to the rest of
the family.
“I’m on a roll, and not about to quit now,” he
exclaimed. He thought for a bit, then declared. “Dear
Doctor!” He began to write.
Dear Doctor, I need you to see
The grief of pain that’s bothering me
The months and years that I’ve suffered along.
I hope you will prescribe something strong.
Dear Doctor, I know you’re seeing someone
Else at the moment, but soon you’ll be done.
I await the expertise you advise
I’ll know when I see it in you eyes.
Dear Doctor, please tell me you’ll come by a cure
A magical potion, of that I am sure
The moments of agony awaiting your call
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It’s torture, but gratitude, you’ll have it all.
“Another masterpiece!” he declared. “I can’t wait to
hear it in its fully realized form.”
Again, he set the recording software to supply a drum
track: simple, understated, plaintive.
“I think this needs that music that imitates a cry for
help. Not quite the blues, not quite a death knell.”
He took out the acoustic guitar, and added some simple
chords, and sang a melody, emerging from his throat at as
if being born. Notes that the world had never heard
before.
Adding the bass track, he varied from his signature
sound, and just laid a very simple upper register line,
almost a wolf ’s call. He played the resulting track back,
and tears came into his eyes. “That’s what I’m looking for.
Deep sadness, pleading for relief.”
Moving to the keyboards, he laid down a barely audible
track, subtle, tender, pleading. Tears continued to flow,
soaking his shirt.
“It needs strings.” He switched registers and add a
violin solo that would make angels cry. Exhausted, he
looked to the clock and discovered it had become the next
day. He needed sleep.
Waking at 6 AM the next morning, he was refreshed
and ready to hit it again. “I’m writing a Rock Opera!” It
had become his mantra.
“Wake me when you’re done,” was Angela’s response.
I mulled over what his next song should be. He
considered other forms of bodily pain. He considered
toothaches, headaches, broken bones, stubbed toes,
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gastroenteritis, sore throat, earache. All seemed ripe for its
own exploration. But then, he considered as he looked
inward, “What about emotional pain? It’s as real as any
other.”
He recalled his father mentioning a song called “My
Boots are Covered in Manure,” that was a regional hit for
Angela’s father’s band way back in the forties. “That
sound like it would be a painful experience, it would cause
heartache. I could make my own version, my own
interpretation.” He started writing.
The boss told me, “Bob,
If you’re keeping this job
You must go to the field
and bring in the cattle.”
I told him I would
Or at least that I could
If it wasn’t for one thing
keeping me out of the saddle.
It’s the lady I seek
I’ve only known her a week
She won’t look my way
But I’ll try again today
She told me for sure
It’s a curse I endure
For you see, these boots
are covered with manure
It’s the part I hate most
I would normally boast
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But I’m a cowboy whose boots
are covered in manure.
My sweetie I’ve lost
And oh what a cost
She cannot see past
The smell that is cast
The boots, the boots
are covered in manure
The boots, the boots
are covered in manure
I’d quit in a flash
If I didn’t need the cash
My needs are so few
If I only could get her
The pay is OK
But for the rest of the day
It stinks, it stinks
And I know I’ll never get her
‘Cause these boots are covered,
so covered, they’re covered
In the stench of manure, from cattle and chickens.
Did I forget to tell you about the chickens?
He liked that last little line about the chickens. It would
give just the little bit of hope, that ray of sunshine, that
hope that relief may be just around the corner.
“It must be Country song, no doubt about it.”
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I had never written a Country song, but figured it
wouldn’t be too hard. Simple beat, three chords, guitar
accompaniment. Not much else to it. He laid down the
track.
After it was done, he sent a copy to his father and then
called him on the phone. “Take a listen, dad. Tell me what
you think.”
Henry retrieved the file and listened on the spot. “It
doesn’t sound like the same song. The words are different
and the melody isn’t at all like the original.”
“That’s the point dad, it’s a new take on a old concept.
I think it will be a hit.”
Surprisingly enough, the song did gain some airplay,
released under his “Arthur Potsworth” pseudonym that he
had last used nearly thirty years earlier. No one ever knew
it was really I Mall.
The Rock Opera did not get finished, and did not get
released. The teenage dream was unfulfilled.
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2011 - WHAT’S MY NAME?
I’s failure to complete his Rock Opera left him, the eternal
optimist, in a dark funk. “I was the greatest of all time! I
ruled the charts. I was instantly recognizable. Now I
wonder to myself ‘What’s my name? Who am I?’” Angela
had not seen him this way since before they were married.
“It’s just some songs. You’ll pick it up again someday.
Maybe with a different premise.”
“A different premise? That was my dream, my gift to
the world. To show them how to combat the pain in their
lives, to turn it around, to live life with full relief ! Now all I
have is the pain of failure. Everything is worse!” He hung
his head in shame.
“I’m fifty-seven years old. My life is officially half over.
I’ve reached my peak, and the rest is downhill from here. I
can’t take it anymore.”
“You’re overreacting a bit, don’t you think? Life is not
over. You’ve got fifty-six years to continue to make a
difference. Look what you’ve accomplished in the first
half. Number one, you had a holiday declared in your
honor for the day you were born, by the President of the
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United States, no less. You were visited by a renowned
scientist and a musician that set you on the road to a
career that no other musician has matched. You have two
loving parents that supported you through your early
years, you have me who supported you through other dark
times. You have fans that have documented your life, you
have three wonderful children, two wonderful
grandchildren. You have two dogs you adore. You’ve set
up charities, and given away more money than a normal
person would ever hope to earn. You’ve seen the country,
you seen most of the world. You’ve earned your privacy
and the right to be just an ordinary citizen. That’s a life
worth celebrating.”
I considered the good points, but continued his own
litany “Friends have died, scandal followed us, I was
sued…”
“That was a hoax.”
“I was sued as a hoax, but never found the perpetrator.
I broke my daughter’s arm. I had to hide from the world. I
failed in my first production attempt. What’s my name?
Nobody McNobody, that’s who.”
“You’re only focusing on the bad things. Everybody has
a little bad luck in their lives, many more than any you’ve
had. It’s only temporary, nothing that has happened left
you any worse. They were just bumps in the road.”
“But I’ve reached the peak, and it’s all downhill from
here.”
“Ok, I’ll agree with you. It is downhill. But look at it in
a different way.”
“How? Down is down. There’s nothing but the bottom.
And once you get there, where do you go?”
“No where else but up. See? There a positive waiting
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for you there.”
“At the bottom is the end. There’s no up. It’s just
oblivion for the rest of my non-life.”
“You don’t expect to be in Heaven?”
“What will Heaven ever get me but more heartache?”
“Most would disagree with you on that. Consider this.”
I waited for a positive sign, but Angela fell silent.
“Consider what?”
“Consider this. Look at your life as a journey by car,
around the state, across the country, throughout the world.
You don’t just drive to where you’re going. You experience
the trip for all it offers. You climb a hill, you struggle, you
get to the top and you see the view and all that the world
has to offer. You smell the fresh air, you see beautiful
sunrises and sunsets. You feel accomplishment in your
little victory. Then you head downhill. But downhill is only
another direction. It’s not a state of life. You come off that
peak, and see the whole world below, all that it offers, the
vast array of possibilities. You’re coasting, you’re
accelerating. You’re getting great gas mileage. Downhill is
the thrill of a lifetime. It’s like the roller coaster. Up the
hill is the anticipation, but down the hill is what you’ve
been anticipating. It’s the most thrilling part.”
I considered her words. “I like roller coasters,” he
admitted. His mood brightened. “I love roller coasters!
We’re building a roller coaster!”
Angela did not expect this change in direction, but was
relieved to see I’s mood improve. For her, though, another
bump in the road.
I’s desire to build a roller coaster was not short lived like
some of his other ideas. He really knew that he wanted to
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succeed on this one.
“Not only a roller coaster. I’m going to build our own
private amusement park!”
As usual, he solicited the help of his father and fatherin-law. Both were now over eighty, but both also had great
insights and ideas when it came to seeing a job though.
They might not be able to swing a hammer with as much
intensity as when they were young, but they still had a lot
to offer.
Together they considered the layout of the park.
Looking at the area where the impromptu concert for
Chrissy’s sixteenth birthday had taken place, they agreed
that it was an ideal location.
Angela’s concern, however, continued to mount. “To
what end will this park be? Are we going to run a
business?”
“No business here. This will be a labor of love.” Which
to Angela only meant he hadn’t really thought this one
through.
For weeks they drew up plans, met with contractors,
laid out physical boundaries on the actual grounds. “I
want the roller coaster to be the central piece. But I also
don’t want it to be the only piece. There will be a fun
house, a drop zone, even a merry-go-round for the little
ones.” The twins were nearing their fifth birthday.
Angela couldn’t help herself, feeding from I’s own
excitement. “I like bumper cars.”
“Then we’ll add bumper cars as well. It will teach the
kids to drive.”
“The kids are in their twenties. They already drive. And
I certainly wouldn’t want to get behind the wheel of
anyone whose sole experience is in a bumper car.”
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----The Missing Years
“We’ll put in a shooting gallery, a ring toss, even some
refreshment stands. It will be a real fair!”
“Can’t we just go to the fair instead? Wouldn’t that be
easier?”
“This will be better!”
Angela was beginning to regret giving I the pep talk.
Construction began, and crews of workers were
brought in to create I’s new dream. The basic
infrastructure of electrical work, water supply, sanitary
facilities, all went in first. Then the gaming area, then the
food concessions, finally the rides. The fun house was the
first to be erected. I’s preference was to have everything
built to his own specifications, but not being an engineer,
cooler heads prevailed, and most of the amusements were
purchased as completed units, ready for assembly. It
proved to be a much faster way of establishing the festive
atmosphere and in a short time, the park was taking
shape. The roller coaster was the biggest project, and it
had to be one of the best, in I’s opinion. He called in a
local expert on roller coasters, someone who had ridden
many throughout the world, and who had personally
designed them as a hobby. I’s grand vision of the world’s
largest roller coaster was a bit extreme, even in the eyes of
the expert, and he was able to talk him into a more
manageable model. He assured him that although it
wouldn’t be the biggest, it would provide just as many
thrills.
The time for the grand opening was nearing, and a
vital, final detail had yet to be determined. “What’s my
name?” I pondered allowed.
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Angela told him, “You’re I Mall. Builder of dreams!”
“I know who I am. I was asking on behalf of the park.
A good park needs a good name. I think I’ll call it
Mallywood!”
“Mallywood?”
“Mallywood!”
“Sounds stupid. Let run it past the kids, first. You want
to attract the younger generation, don’t you. Find
something that appeals to them.”
I thought a bit more, “Mall World?” he asked
tentatively.
“Better, but not great.”
“Mall of America?”
“They already have one.”
“Mall Zone?”
“Must everything have your name attached? Explore
the possibilities, make it a name for the ages. Something
simple. Something direct. Something without confusion.
Like ‘The Park’.”
“The Park?”
“The Park. Simple. To the point. When people ask,
‘Where are you going?’’ they will say ‘To The Park’ and
everyone will know. It will be an institution.”
“The Park…. The Park… I continued to let the words
roll off his tongue. The Park…”
“Don’t wear it out before we even open.”
“OK, park, what’s your name? The Park!”
Opening day arrived, and thousands were lined up for
entry. But this time, it was expected.
“I never thought we would be doing this type of thing
all over again,” Angela said. “But I think this will be a
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----The Missing Years
great adventure. And look,” she said as she indicated the
crowd. “Very little is your own family.”
I had arranged for bands to be playing throughout The
Park. He asked Reginald Von Happenstein to perform a
set, and surprisingly, his music from thirty years earlier
sounded more contemporary in today’s music scene.
Reginald handled most of the instruments, Cory took care
of the drums, and I even sat in on bass for a few songs. In
a crowded, festive atmosphere, the music did not engender
the raw emotions that it once did in more intimate
surroundings, but it did captivate the audience, and many
that day signed up for downloads of the albums originally
released in the late seventies. Reginald had finally
discovered a new fan base, and his life was re-energized as
a result.
The roller coaster was ready for its premiere. The
bright lights were visible even in the day’s sunshine, and I
and Angela took the first car. It climbed to the top of the
first hill, and at the peak, I caught a glimpse of the entire
park. Still, they had not yet reached the final peak. The
thrill of the short ride down was interrupted by a sudden
upward swing again, only to be followed by another down.
Then, suddenly, they were pinned to the back of the car as
the coaster headed uphill at a seventy degree angle.
Higher and higher they climbed; I wondered how high it
could go. Was the air getting thinner, was that deep space
he was seeing? Finally, the peak arrived, and the car
stopped momentarily, as if taking a rest. The view from
there was magnificent, they could see the crowds already
in The Park. The crowds waiting to come in. The crowds
enjoying food, games, rides, music. “This it it! We’ve
arrived!” The remainder of the coaster pulled up behind
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at the lead car headed over the top, heading downhill. It
picked up speed, the air rushed past their faces. Just as
they thought it could not get more intense, it moved into a
loop, and the world spun, seemingly out of control.
Coming out of the loop, the coaster began to slow, and
came to a rest.
“Downhill is the best part,” I exclaimed. “Let’s do it
again.”
288
2012 - A THOUSAND YEARS
“A thousand years. What will our lives be like in a
thousand years?” I wondered aloud.
“We’ll be dead,” Angela stated matter of factly. “We’ve
got fifty, tops.”
I did a quick calculation. “Fifty-five, at least. But I
didn’t mean us, specifically. I meant us as human beings.
What will we be like?”
“We’ll be lucky if there is a place for humans. Look at
the earth. Global warming, corrupt politicians. Economic
collapse. Failed relationships. Overpopulation. Air
pollution. A TV season that sucks.”
“Bright and cheery this morning, eh? But I’m serious,
what will humanity be like in a thousand years? What
does 3012 hold for us?”
“It depends on your outlook. Will there be a steady
decline for everything that has happened, or will there be
greater heights to achieve? I’m thinking decline.”
“It seems to me that not long ago you felt the very
opposite. Yes, there are declines, but there’s always
something brighter ahead. What happened to the
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attitude?”
“I guess I watch the news too much. It gets you down.”
“Then hope for a better future means turning around
the hopes of everybody else. Don’t listen to the news. It’s
all just sensationalist hogwash. It’s what they want us to
hear, but not what’s really happening. Look at history, how
often have we heard about doomsday being just around
the corner, yet here we still are. Some are better off, some
are worse off, but it all balances out, and the world
continues. And it will for another thousand years as well,
I’m sure.”
“Do you think people in 1012 asked the same question?
What will 2012 be like?”
“Do you think they even thought like that?”
“I’m sure some did. Why else would they have set up
institutions that were meant to be perennial? Churches,
governments. Some fell, some rose to prominence. Look,
even some of the structures from thousands of years
earlier still exist. It’s a cycle.”
“Who will see that we do last another thousand years?
The Government? I don’t think so.”
“The solution to the future might be to look to the past.
Did they consider that everything was doomed? Was there
hope? Was there anticipation? What if our ancestors gave
up all hope, abandoned their desire for a family? We
would never have been born!”
I paused in thought. “I wonder who our ancestors even
were. Do you think there is somebody famous somewhere
along the line?”
Angela pondered a bit, “I never knew of anybody
before my grandparents. I mean, I knew there were, but
we never really talked about them. It would be nice to
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know more. I don’t really have any clue at all about the
Samson side of the family at all. When my grandfather
died, nobody ever really talked about it.”
“Then it’s time we found out about them,” I stated.
“We will find your roots.”
Together they got onto the computer and Googled the
Samson name. “Over sixteen million results. This might
take awhile.”
“Where were your grandparents from?”
Angela tried to recall the rare story she heard as a child.
“I think they came from Indiana, or maybe Illinois. One
of those ‘I’ states.”
“You’ll have to be more precise than that.”
Angela thought some more. “Indiana, definitely
Indiana. Somewhere near the Kentucky border, I think.”
I Googled “samson indiana.” “That barely pared it
down a bit. If fact, it’s even more. It will be a thousand
years to get through all that.”
Try “Samson and Barrett together. I think that was my
grandmother’s maiden name.”
“Here’s something about someone named Samson that
killed someone named Barrett. In indiana.”
“That would not make a happy marriage. We’ll skip
that one. Beside, that happened only a few years ago. Not
relevant.”
“Ok. We’ll look for something in the early 1900s.” He
Googled “samson barrett indiana 1900.”
“Only two hits! Payday!”
They looked through the census records that came up,
but there was no combination of Samson and Barrett to
be found.
“Are you sure they were from Indiana?”
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“I know they lived there at one time, but try Kentucky
instead.”
Again, only two hits, but one of them was the same
census document. “This other one looks promising.”
They scanned through it, and though it seemed to have
a number of family members and their pictures from the
earlier century and even before, nothing indicated that
any of them had a relationship to their own family.
“There has to be a key to finding something about your
family. They didn’t just get dropped off by an advanced
civilization from the stars, now, did they?“
“I was thinking the same thing. Maybe so.” But both
decided to dismiss that idea as ridiculous.
I took out the 1900 restriction. Millions again.
“The name ‘Sampson’ keeps coming up. Maybe the
family changed it?”
“The only story that I’ve ever heard was that we were
descended from Samson in the Bible. I doubt that’s true.”
“Well, let’s make the assumption that ‘Sampson’ is also
a family name and see where that takes us.”
Googling “Sampson Barrett Kentucky.”
“Here’s a Sampson that married a Barrett!” the
excitement of discovery began to rise, until they
discovered that it happened in 1965.
“Unless my grandparents were time travelers, I don’t
think that would be them.”
“Oh, but what if ? The stories they could tell.”
“They’re dead.”
“Maybe they traveled a thousand years in the future,
maybe they knew where humanity was going. Maybe they
set the course of history themselves!”
“They weren’t time travelers.”
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“OK, let’s try 1890.“
“They weren’t even born yet. Try 1920. That would be
more in the right range.”
The search paid off, and they found a Marriage Index
covering the correct dates. They scanned through the
dozens of pages, and finally found the key entry. The
marriage of Edward Samson and Hillary Barrett was
recorded in New Albany, Indiana on January 18, 1924.
“Success!”
Angela was so excited, she couldn’t wait to call her
mother Annette. “Mom, we found online records
indicating that grandma and grandpa were married in
Indiana in 1924!”
“Of course they were married in 1924,” Annette
replied. “We celebrated their wedding anniversary for
many years. We have pictures of their wedding. What’s
with the excitement?”
Angela’s excitement waned, “You mean we’ve been
online for hours, only to find that you had this information
all along? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Well, dear, I didn’t know you were asking. What else
do you need to know?”
“What about grandma’s parents? What do you know
about the Barretts?”
“My grandma Barrett died when I was a teenager, but
grandpa Barrett lived to be eighty. Let me think. I believe
that was 1965. You were about eight years old.”
“I don’t remember him at all.”
“Well, he didn’t live here. He still lived in Indiana. His
health declined after grandma died, and he never traveled
much. You never got a chance to meet him. But I have a
lots of fond memories of the two of them.”
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“What about before them? Your great-grandparents?”
“Well, let’s see. Grandma Barrett’s mother was born in
1869 and her father was born in 1863. And his father
before him was born in 1835. He fought in the Civil War.”
“How come I’ve never heard any of this? Didn’t you
think it was important? A Civil War hero as an ancestor?”
“I wouldn’t go so far as to declare him a hero. Sure, he
fought valiantly, and our side won. But there was such a
cost. He had a brother that didn’t make it.”
“Is there more?”
“On the Samson side we can trace it back to the
Revolutionary War. Before that, into England. Some lines
suggest that we go all the way back to Charlemagne. I
guess that’s why your father always called you his little
princess.”
Angela was stunned to learn there was so much family
history that she had never discovered. Charlemagne
traced back more than a thousand years before. She never
knew that she had such a deep history.
When she told I of the discoveries that she had made, it
was I’s turn to be a little forlorn. “My roots go back four
generations at best. I have heard of my greatgrandparents coming in from Europe back in the late
1800s. That’s as far back as anyone knows. Why was I
cursed to be an immigrant?”
“You were born in this country. But everyone is a
immigrant to a certain extent.”
“I’m an American, but can hardly prove it. Third
generation. Impressive. You go back dozens. And
hundreds before that, probably.”
“Look at it this way. We are here now. We are here to
stay. We have three children, two grandchildren, probably
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----The Missing Years
more on the way. The family will grow. Only a few years
from now you’ll be a great-grandfather yourself, then a
great-great-grandfather. At one hundred thirteen, I think
you might even be a great-great-great grandfather. Those
children will look back seven generations, and then many
of mine as their heritage. You may even discover more
about your ancestors in Europe. Look at a thousand years
out. That’s fifty generations. By the time 3012 rolls
around, you’ll have been responsible for thousands of
descendants. Each one with a little I Mall blood running
through their veins. Each one carrying a little bit of music.
Who knows? Perhaps future world leaders. Perhaps great
scientists. Perhaps a musician that will even outdo you.
Perhaps a builder of greater amusement parks that you
could even imagine. Perhaps explorers in space, the first to
set foot on a distant planet. Maybe time travelers. Maybe
they’re already here. Maybe you’ve encountered them in
your life. Maybe they helped you be what you’ve become.“
I pondered the possibilities of what the next thousand
years would become. Where his legacy might lead the
world. Where everything depended on him and his
success. But then the reality set in, but it was not harsh.
“We are all in this together. For us to see another
thousand years and beyond is the responsibility of
everyone alive today. Everyone must do their part to make
this a better world.”
“That’s the idea,” Angela agreed.
295
2013 - THE WIRE
“We are getting down to the wire.” I stated.
“What wire would that be?” Angela asked.
“My sixtieth birthday. It’s coming up in just a few
months.”
“And why is that any different that any other?”
“I will officially be an Old Man.” He spoke as if the
Capital Letters were the most important part.
“Look at yourself in the mirror. You’re already an old
man.”
“Fifty-nine is not old. But sixty is ancient. Why I
remember… “ as he chomped his gums.
“You have your teeth, there’s no reason to pretend
otherwise.”
“I have most of my teeth. I did have the wisdom teeth
pulled out.”
“So that’s what happened.”
“Older, yet wiser. Isn’t that what they say?”
“OK, I’ll accept the older. Otherwise you’re still a kid.
I’m not sure you’ve ever grown up. What grown man
owns his own amusement park, and runs around as if he’s
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a teenager?”
“That not youth, that’s retirement. It’s fun. You should
try it sometime.”
A great portion of their time over the past few months
had them bantering like this, an aging couple, still in love,
still happy despite some pitfalls, but generally still in the
prime of their lives.
“What do you want to still do in your life?” Angela
asked. “You’ve pretty much done it all.”
“I haven’t done it all. Not by a long shot. I haven’t
hunted elephants.”
“I didn’t know you wanted to hunt elephants.”
“I don’t. It’s barbaric. But I haven’t done it.”
“Do you want to, now?”
“No.”
“Take it off your list.”
“How do you know I had a list?”
“Everybody has a list. You can take off elephant
hunting.”
“It was never on the list.”
“So you’re saying there’s a list after all?”
“Maybe.”
“Well, saying there is, what else is on it?”
“I want to be a rock and roll star.”
“You’ve already done it.”
“I didn’t say the list was only things I haven’t done. It’s
an old list. I started it when I was ten.”
“Did you check that one off ?”
“Yes.”
“What else?”
“I want to finish my book.”
“Are we going to deal with that again? I thought you
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gave that up.”
“It’s still on the list.”
“Take it off.”
“Not until it’s finished.”
“And when will that be?”
“Maybe by the time I’m seventy. I don’t need to finish
the list this year. Gotta pace myself.”
“Might as well add your Rock Opera as well, you never
finished that as well.”
“It’s on the list. I think I’ll finish that before the novel.”
“The Rock Opera is based on the novel. How is that
going to work out?”
“It’s been done. I can do it. Give me thirty days, and I
can finish them both.”
“Think you can find thirty days sometime in the next
ten years?”
“It can happen.”
“Thirty days to write a Rock Opera and finish a book.
I’ll believe it when I see it.”
“Give me thirty days each and I’ll have them done
before I turn sixty.”
“That’s only three months from now. You need to get
cracking.”
“I’ve got a month, then. Time enough to work on my
list.”
“What else is on your list?”
“We need to go Christmas shopping.”
“That’s four months away. And why is it on your bucket
list?”
“It’s not a bucket list. It’s a to do list.”
“You’ve kept a to do list for fifty years?”
“Yes. Doesn’t everyone?”
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----The Missing Years
“No.”
“So, Christmas shopping?”
“We’ll get to it in a couple of months.”
“In a couple of months I’ll be deep in my novel. Or
maybe the Rock Opera. Gotta decide. Are you trying to
set me up for failure?”
“No. Are you going to be working on those twenty-four
hours a day? I’m sure you’ll find time for Christmas
shopping.”
“Christmas comes three weeks after my birthday. Can’t
we do it then?”
“We’ll see. What else?”
“A trip to Antarctica.”
“Antarctica. The South Pole?”
“Yes, Antarctica. We’ll go for Christmas. It’ll be warm
then. I read that on Christmas two years ago it got all the
way up to ten degrees.”
“Ooh. Balmy. Make sure to pack your swim suit.”
“Don’t be silly, there’s no lake at the South Pole.”
“OK. Antarctica. Not this year. Too busy.”
I seemed dejected. “That was a bucket list item. Before
sixty.”
“Can’t do it all. We’ll go to the zoo and see the
penguins. What else? Maybe something not so extreme.”
I searched the list. “Hmm. OK, how about this? North
Pole?”
“No North Pole either. You can visit the polar bear
exhibit as well.”
“Well, that’s it. That’s my list.”
“You’ve kept a list for fifty years, and are down to the
last two items?”
“Three. You forgot Christmas shopping.”
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“OK, three items. Let me see that list.” I handed it over.
Angela scanned the list, and hundreds of items were on
it, and hundreds had been lined through. Every significant
thing they had done had been on the list and crossed off.
Some had stars by them.
“What do the stars mean?”
“It’s my ranking system. One star means I might do it
again, if I’m forced to and there’s time. Five stars means a
must do again.”
“And no stars means ‘never again’?”
“No. No stars means I just haven’t ranked it. Maybe I
should add that to the list. Number two thousand, nine
hundred and ninety nine. Rank unranked items.”
“Two thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine? One
more and you’ll have three thousand?”
“I guess so. I haven’t been keeping track.”
Angela looked at the list again. “I think you have.
Where do you find the time?”
“I’m retired.”
“I’m tired, too. Of this stupid list.” She went to tear it
up.
I mortified, shouted “NO!”
“I’m just kidding, I can see what this means to you. But
let’s look at reality straight in the face for once. A trip to
the North Pole or the South Pole is not going to happen
this year. We will go Christmas shopping. So why not
come up with just two more things, something you’ve
never done, something you can say you’ve accomplished
before your sixtieth birthday.”
I thought long and hard. “Give me a couple of days.
This is a big decision.”
***
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A week passed before they resumed their conversation
on the to do list. “Well, any ideas?”
“How about ‘Eat kangaroo meat?’”
“We did that when we lived in Australia. And wasn’t
that already on your list?”
“Oh, yeah.”
“How about you unplug for forty-eight hours? No
phone, no computer, no TV.”
“No. Not something I want to do. That would be a
negative stars activity.”
“Make wine?”
“We’ve done that.”
“From grapes you stomped yourself.”
I considered it. “That could be fun. Put it on the list.”
“Learn Esperanto?”
“Mi jam faris ĝin. Kvin cent.”
“What?”
“I’ve already done that. Five hundred.”
“It’s checked off, but there are no stars.”
“Some things only need to be done once. The ranking
system’s not perfect.”
“Learn to work the saxophone.”
“How do you work the saxophone?”
“Just playing around with the old song lyric. Learn to
play the saxophone?”
“I played clarinet. Same thing.”
“No, it’s not. Playing the saxophone is a whole different
skill. You can build from playing clarinet, but there’s a lot
more to learn beyond that.”
I thought about all the instruments he’d played over his
lifetime. Of course the standard rock instruments were all
in his repertoire, and many of the band instruments and
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strings he had mastered. But as he came to consider it,
saxophone was never among them. Although saxophone
had been a featured instrument in many of his recorded
songs and in live performance, he had always hired the gig
out to a notable player, or used the synthesizer as a
substitute. He did not know how to play the saxophone.
“OK. Put that on the list. Is that it?”
“Unless you want to go for the even three thousand.”
“OK. One more. How about something kinky?”
“Kinky?”
“Yeah, on the edge. Something we’d never think about
doing, then do it.”
“What would be your idea of kinky?” Angela was a
little apprehensive.
“Something naked.”
“You’re naked every day. Each time you step into the
shower.”
“But not outside?”
“In public?”
“Doesn’t have to be in public. We have a big place, we
have an amusement park. How about a roller coaster ride
in the buff ? Just you and I.”
“No way I’m doing that. That is too kinky.”
“Think about it. We shut off all the lights. No one will
be around. We’ll drink a bottle of the wine we’ll be
making. We’ll slip outside with nothing but towels on,
climb into the front car, strip off the towel, and engage the
remote control. It will be fun. I’ll bring the saxophone and
serenade you with a sweet tune.”
“Well… We’ll see.”
Angela considered all the crazy things they had done,
and looked again at I’s list. There were some things on
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there a lot more extreme than a couple of old fools baring
it all on a roller coaster. She decided it wouldn’t be the
worst thing in the world to be impulsive and act like a
crazy fool.
“When?”
“I’ve got to learn to play saxophone first. And stomp
some grapes. Give it a month.”
I worked the saxophone daily, and found he was able to
adapt his knowledge of the clarinet somewhat, but also
discovered the other skills necessary to be more that just a
mediocre player. When he wasn’t practicing, he studied
the art of wine making, bought a big barrel and some
prime grapes, and stomped until the product was ready for
the wine making process. Together they went though all
the steps and finally delivered a couple of bottles of their
homemade wine. One would be used to initiate their
naked ride, the other would age until it was fully ready.
“We are really down to the wire now,” I declared. “I’ve
no more time before I have to continue on my Rock
Opera and book, and get that Christmas shopping out of
the way. It’s tonight or never!”
“Is never still a possibility?”
“No, it’s not.”
Angela and I both stripped off their clothes, and each
wrapped a towel around themselves. I took out the
saxophone, and begin playing a lovely romantic ballad
that he had found the time to write. They poured
themselves a glass of wine, and stepped outside in the chill
night air and headed for the roller coaster. The lights were
brightly lit, and I made sure to hit the switch, so that they
would have their privacy. Taking a seat in the first car, they
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clinked their glasses and cheered their exploit. Sipping the
wine, they both immediately spit it out. ”That’s awful,”
they both said simultaneously and spit it out, “That’s quite
possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted.” They
laughed as they poured out the remainder over the side,
then allowed the glasses to crash below.
They stripped off their towels, took a deep breath, hit
the remote control and the coaster made its rise.
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2014 - STORY OF MY LIFE
“I’ve done it all. My to do list is complete, my novel is
written, my Rock Opera is completed, recorded, and
ready to hit the world by storm. Three thousand items,
fi n i s h e d b e f o r e I t u r n e d s i x t y. M y g r e a t e s t
accomplishment!”
“After me, of course?” Angela inquired.
“After you, of course,” I quickly corrected. “You were
on the list, remember?”
“And the kids?”
“And the kids. They were on the list.”
“And the grandkids?”
“All three of them. And counting.”
“On the list?”
“No,” I admitted. “I didn’t think of them when I was
making it.”
“But you added stuff all the time. If you had added
them, we wouldn’t have had to get on the roller coaster
naked. The seats were cold!”
“I apologize for that.”
“And the great grandkids?”
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Roger D. Linder
“OK. There aren’t any yet. Give it twenty years.”
“And Christmas shopping?”
“That’s always on the list.”
“And the dogs?”
“Dogs do not rank ahead of completing the list. But
they were on the list.”
“Dogs were on the list, but not your grandchildren?”
“I started it when I was a kid. I wanted a dog.”
“So, your fourth greatest accomplishment.”
I held up the glass of properly aged wine in a toast “My
fourth greatest accomplishment!” Together they sipped,
and this time, the experience was much more pleasant.
“Not the finest, but good nonetheless. And the purple
stains are nearly faded from my feet as well.” He
reconsidered his toast, and continued. “And of course, to
my greatest accomplishment, my second greatest
accomplishment and my third greatest accomplishment as
well!” They took another sip.
“What will you do with your life now?” Angela asked,
“It seems you’ve done everything. What else can there
be?”
“There are my five star items. Maybe even some of the
four star items. OK, even three and two. But don’t make
me do any one star. Once was enough. We can revisit the
others again. I don’t think we spent enough time in
Helena, for example, and we never actually got to Banff. It
wasn’t on my list. We can start a new one.”
“We don’t need to make a list. We can just do, and see
what life has to offer.”
“That’s been the story of my life. Impulsive. Ready to
take on whatever life offers us. Being adventurous. Within
reason, of course.”
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----The Missing Years
“Of course.”
“You notice there were no extreme activities on my list?
No parachuting, no bungee jumping. No bear wrestling.
No being shot out of a cannon”
“I distinctly remember you being shot out of a cannon
on your 1976 tour. Night after night.”
“Oh, that’s right. But it was a small cannon, and not
real at that. There were wires.”
”And all this time I thought it was real. Faker.”
“You do what you gotta do.”
“You do what you gotta do,” Angela agreed.
“What I gotta do is get some real food. How about we
hit that new place in town?”
“Is it on your list?”
“There is no list. I’m done. One thing I’m sure of, I’ll
never hit the road again. Leave it to the younger
generation. I’m retired. Story of my life.”
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