Monday, April 16, 2018

Summer of '69: Moon Landing, Chappaquiddick and the Cubs

 The recent opening of the movie Chappaquiddick brought moviegoers back to a glorious time -- the summer of 1969. Although just a young guy at the time, I remember that summer being very memorable -- especially July.

During summers, it was a family tradition of sorts for me or one or more of my siblings to spend a week or a few weeks at our grandmother's house in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It was a great place to burn some summer weeks. Lake Michigan was a short walk away, there was a creek right outside the yard, and all sort of fun critters like snakes and chipmunks were about.

That particular summer, thundering36 and I were staying out at Grandma 36's place. One of the most exciting events that summer was the upcoming moon landing. I remember being at Joey Jackson's house on July 20, 1969 and watching the Apollo 11 astronauts make those first steps on the moon. President Kennedy's dream had been fulfilled: we got to the moon by the end of the 1060's:

 "We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too."

However, right before the moon landing, there was another national story that was all over the news: the Ted Kennedy Chappaquiddick accident that happened the night of July 18. It would be difficult to imagine the burden placed upon Ted Kennedy, having his three older brothers all dead and being the last realistic hope for a Kennedy presidency. But even more difficult to fathom would be Kennedy's actions that fateful night -- leaving a young woman in his car to die while he escaped and failed to notify officials immediately, sealing his chances to become president.

Of course, there was rampant news speculation that Kennedy was heading somewhere with this young hottie and things went wrong. Alcohol just had to be involved at the party they left. I don't remember the exact circumstances that prompted this remark -- maybe thundering36 does -- , but there was talk that there was no alcohol in Kennedy's system. Of course, if any check was made, it was made many hours after his drinking stopped. My grandmothers famous quote (including incorrect grammar): "Well, by that time it might evaporated." This quote became one of several "grandmaisms" that still live on among the lightning36 clan today.

As for the Cubs ... well, the Cubbies were clearly the most exciting story of that summer. They had the best team in baseball, including the "Million Dollar Infield" Of Ron Santo, Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert, Ernie Banks and Randy Hundley. The outfielders included Billy Williams and Jim Hickman. The pitching staff included Ferguson Jenkins, Ken Holtzman and Bill Hands. After Willie Smith began the season with a walk off extra innings home run, the Cubs sialed through the first part of the schedule and built a nice lead going into the end of summer. However, the really memorable game in July was actually one the Cubs lost to the New York Mets. On  July 9 in Shea Stadium, Tom Seaver had a perfect game going into the ninth inning. Cubs extra Jim Qualls got a single with one out in the ninth, ending Seaver's bid for a perfect game. Even when the Cubs lost, they seemed to win. As the summer of '69 was nearing completion, it was pretty evident that the Cubs would be in their first World Series since 1945. The only thing between them and the World Series would likely be the dastardly St. Louis Cardinals.


There were several more moonwalks after Apollo 11. They went on through the end of 1972. We have not been back to the moon since.

Ted Kennedy bid for the presidency in 1980 fell short. He had a long, distinguished run as a senator from Massachusetts until his death in 2009.

The Chicago Cubs quest for the World Series was halted by the Amazin' Mets of 1969, who went on to win the division, the National League pennant and the World Series. The Cubs did not go back to the World Series until their appearance and win in 2016.

Grandma36 passed away in the 1970's. She is fondly remembered by her grandchildren for the many funky things she said.

thundering36 left the United States to teach in Australia in 1975, returned in 2000, and moved back to Australia in 2017. He currently resides there.

lightning36 made it through his teen and adult years, spent his professional years in higher education,  and hopes to retire in May 2020. He resides in central Illinois and occasionally posts to this blog which is now in its 12th year.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Return of Juan: Pornos, Beers and the Hospital

People who follow my Twitter account know that I like to use the hashtag #CleanLiving. But, in all fairness, even those of us just this side of being a boy scout sometimes have those "incidents" from when we were younger. I recently reconnected with an old college/young adult friend on a social media site. He will be in town in about several weeks, and hopefully he and his wife will be able to come over to my house for dinner with me and my wife. I have not seen my friend Juan for many years, but one incident we were involved in is so fresh in my mind that it is as if it happened a few weeks ago.

I was in my first professional job after completing graduate school and was living in Springfield, Illinois. Much to my surprise, an old fraternity buddy of mine, Juan, was living in town. We connected and did a few social things together. I was about 24 years old at the time and he was a year or two older.

One afternoon when we had nothing to do, Juan asked me "Hey -- let's go to the theater and watch a porno movie like we used to in the old frat days." Well, 24 years old and single (but with a girlfriend), I thought, what the heck, why not? So Juan and I went to the dirty movie theater on the south side of town.

We got in the theater and were scoping out where to sit -- you know, not wanting to sit anywhere near any other guys who might be in there. We're standing in front of the last row of seats when Juan, who was kind of short and very athletic, decided to grab one of the chairs and swing his legs over the back. The only problem was that in doing so, he kicked me right in the back of the head. Ouch!

I can't say that I remember anything at all about the movie (like there was much of a plot anyway!), and afterward Juan and I headed to a local drinking establishment. We were sitting at the bar and having quite a few drinks, thus a great time. We started telling stories from the college fraternity days, and I was reliving an afternoon when a rather tall guy in the frat saw a some of us lifting weights and said "Hey guys - this looks like fun!" He grabbed a bar weighing about 100 pounds and jerked it to the ceiling in one motion with one hand. I, in my rather inebriated state, replicated his motion. Unfortunately, there was a decorative beer light directly above me. I hit it with such force that it came down directly on me, hitting me in my eyebrow, slicing the skin there and drawing blood. The waitress at the bar attempted to help, handing me a beer-soaked rag to stop the bleeding. It was quite a mess -- beer and blood seemed to be everywhere. I needed to go to the emergency room of the hospital to get stitches, and both Juan and I were really plastered. Juan had to drive me to the hospital, and our drunken logic had us scared. I remember Juan saying "Oh no! They'll ask us where we were. We'll have to tell them we were at a bar ... and were at the porno movie before that!"

We got to the hospital emergency room, and while waiting to be seen, I remembered that I was going to have dinner that evening at my girlfriend's house ... with her parents! I called her and apparently said something like "I am at the hospital. I had an accident." Fearing the worst, my girlfriend (now Mrs. lightning) rushed to the hospital, thinking I had been involved in a serious car accident. She got to the emergency room (I don't remember if I had been stitched up or not yet) and was pissed to find that I had not been in a car accident (not that she wanted that, but she thought I might be a goner!), but had been drunk and as a result, had the stupid light fall on me. And of course, you must know that Mrs. lightning was the original #CleanLiving woman! So yeah - I heard it from her on many different levels.

This all happened many, many moons ago, yet it was one of those things where many of the details were etched in my brain despite my drunken state.

Juan moved out of town sometime afterward and we did not reconnect until recently. I haven't seen him in probably 35 years. I look forward to meeting back up with him in June, and I'm sure that the two of us and our wives will be reliving the porno/drunk/hospital story. Just to be on the safe side, though, I think we will not drink to excess nor watch any porno movies that night.

NOTE: I took a close look at my eyebrow. The hair in a small spot never did grow back!

Thanks for reading!