Marvelous Meadowlark

Meadowlark

“My leg, my leg!”

Poor Meadowlark Lemon would hold his leg and wail in agony.

So loud that everybody in the huge basketball arena could hear him.

And, somehow, as his teammates helped him limp around the court, in comedic agony, the magic would happen.

The Globies would introduce the basketball that would not bounce.

Or the lopsided ball that would roll down the court like a drunk.

Or the water bucket filled with confetti that Meadowlark would use to douse a fan.

There was nobody like the Harlem Globetrotters or Meadowlark, the “Clown Prince” of basketball.

Listening to Sweet Georgia Brown still makes me smile.

Meadowlark played in more than 16,000 games for the Globetrotters and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.

And I got to see him play in the mid-sixties, thanks to my best friend Steve Madden.

His Dad, Sam, took us all the way to Oklahoma City to see the Globies, and we laughed and laughed and laughed.  We never forgot Meadowlark.

He’s the reason Steve and I spent every Saturday morning of the world in Building 92 on the South Base, shooting thousands of half-court hook shots (and the occasional kick), trying to be like Meadowlark.

When I grew up, I discovered there was only one degree of separation between me and Meadowlark.

Back in 1979 or so, I was a student journalist at the University of Texas at Arlington. My first assignment for the student newspaper was to interview the great Wilt Chamberlain.

Wilt played with Meadowlark in the 50’s and 60’s.

He said, “Meadowlark was the most sensational, awesome, incredible basketball player I’ve ever seen. People would say it would be Dr. J or even Michael Jordan. For me, it would be Meadowlark Lemon.”

For me, too.  He was the best.

 


An Attitude of Gratitude at Christmas

gratitude-journal-745x395

We are sitting here wearing our NHS 30th Anniversary t-shirt and our once-were-nice-until-we-got-yard-chemicals-on-them camo shorts, while drinking a $9 bottle of Heineken.

This means that: we have totally down-tooled for Christmas; we are as per always waiting for the Missus at the mall; and we’re getting gouged by this flashy new restaurant.

We have two hours up our sleeve while the Missus gets “just-a-few-things”, so we shall spend it writing this blog on GRATITUDE, because this is not something that comes naturally to Hogs but is a good think to think about.  Here goes:

We are grateful for:

  • Junior kicking ass and taking names this year musically, including his five-month, world-cruise gig on Crystal Serenity, writing some bodaciously awesome new tunes, gigging with some pretty awesome Kiwi muzos, and even scoping out the studio he wants to record in;

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Get Mad at that Damn Deck!

Westbrook angry

I just realized that I paint the front deck like Russell Westbrook goes to the rim.

Russ hates that damn rim.

And I hate that damn deck.

Russ and I have the very same DNA of RAGE.

And when we tap into it, Missy, you best get out of the way.

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Duck Med

Duck Med

Pretty much for the last month, I’d say 99% of my discussions with the Missus have been duck related.

Most of the conversations begin with her walking into the living room and saying, “They are just so INTERESTING”.

At which point I might as well turn off the TV or close my book because, for up to an hour, the Missus will explain how each duck walks and talks and eats and swims and quacks.

And how this particular duck has a dirty face and that duck has a funny walk.

As you might guess, watching the Missus explain all this is far more entertaining than watching Richard Attenborough doing one of his nature shows.

Because he only talks about stuff.

The Singaporean Missus acts out her duck stories, complete with “zooooooming” (duck chases), “peck-peck-pecking” (self-explanatory), and “splashy-splashy-quacking” (see photo above).

In our initial DUCKDATE, we explained a lot about the Missus and her ducks.

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Mother Nature Always Wins, And Here’s the Itch

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Stupid, evil tree of itch

This blog has mentioned before that men are creatures of action.

Sure, we spend 99% of the time in our recliners. But that other 1%? When we are in the yard and armed with cutting devices? We are  creatures of action.

And once we get a head of steam? There is no stopping us.

We will cut and saw and slash and burn the greenery until the cows come home. And then we will cut and saw and slash and burn the cattle.  It’s what men do.

Men think greenery should be trimmed to within an inch of its life.  That way you don’t have to trim it again until next year. Or maybe never, if you do a really good trimming job and it dies.

Tragically, this angers women folk — namely, the Missus and, even worse, Mother Nature.

Women folk believe trimming trees should be done as carefully as brain surgery.  And they grow certain kinds of plants designed to keep me away.

These plants and bushes and trees usually explode into a wondrous range of reds and yellows and general prettiness once a year.

It makes the women folk all misty eyed.  It makes men want to trim.

stupid tree 2

Stupid Evil Tree of Itch

Case in point, we give you the Rhus tree (toxicodendron).  We assume the name translates to “will turn a man’s body into an oozing, itching red rash of great pain”.

Oozing Tree

A few days ago, we decided to get out of our recliner (read “get away from the Missus”), and go out into the yard.

We honestly had no intention of actually cutting anything.  But we live in the west Auckland suburb of “Titirangi”, which is Maori for “The Fringe of Heaven”.

In Titirangi, Mother Nature insists that everything grows quickly.  So if you don’t stay on top of it, you will find yourself living inside a tree, because greenery will come in through your windows as you sleep.

At first, we sere content to get the small hedge trimmer and do only a little bit of trimming.

But, of course, one thing led to another.  And the vine trimming session turned into our annual Jihad Against Mother Nature.

tree cutter

We hauled out the 12-foot-long, spring loaded, two section, rope driven Secatur of Death that will cut through steel.

And we decided to trim the hated Rhus tree that has been covering our camper van with leaves and sap and blocks our bedroom’s sun.

And by “trim” we really mean “kill the bastard”.

So despite our bad neck, for the next hour we looked upwards and cut the absolute crap out of the stupid sappy, bee-attracting Rhus tree.

We did not mind the fact that limbs would frequently fall straight down, scratching our face and arms, and occasionally stabbing into our brain.

Manly men do not care about minor flesh wounds when we are in a cutting rut.  Nor do we mind a little itching as we gather up armfuls of branches and leaves.

But we do mind, about an hour later, when we have to put down our beer and go into the bathroom to see why we feel like napalm was dropped on us.

On this occasion, there were super itchy bumps covering about three-quarters of our body including, and there is no way to say this delicately, the Johnson Region.  

It itched so bad you had to scratch, and scratching made it itch even worse.

After three miserable days, we still had not found the right combination of creams and pills and vinegars to make the angry red bumps and blotchy rashes go away.

The Missus, still angry about the wee trimming of her favorite tree, decided that it was not enough to quietly enjoy my misery.

She needed to rub it in by reminding me that I am way allergic to this tree, a fact she claims to gave mentioned every year.

She then decided to read to me from her big fat gardening book:

Allergy: Toxicodendron species  contasin oleoresins known collectively as urushiol. In susceptible individuals, these compounds trigger a type IV delayed hypersensitivity reaction:  a “bullous allergic contact dermatitis.

Especially to some men’s Johnson Zone, turns out.

Bugger.

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Go HERE for other stories about men being stupid out in the yard.

My Buddy Dallas — The Baddest Bull in the Ring Ever

I went to Cleveland Elementary School, and we won Norman’s unofficial  city championship in 1967 when I was in sixth grade.

We had some great players, including a kid named Dallas.  Appropriately enough, he wore a beat up old Dallas Cowboy’s helmet.

It looked like somebody had beaten it with different colored baseball bats and then run over it with a truck. 

The rest of us wore shiny new white helmets, with a black stripe down the middle, custom-made with electrical tape by our coach.

But Dallas insisted on wearing his Cowboys helmet. 

In pregame warm-ups, the other teams would usually smart off at him.

“Did you get that helmet at the the dump or the Salvation Army, hahahahahaha?”

Big mistake. 

See, Dallas was the most easy-going kid you ever wanted to met, but he loved that helmet.

So, on the first play of most games, especially if we started the game on defense, you’d hear a horrible KABOOM.

Like a bomb had gone off.   

Parents from neighboring fields would come running to see if their children were still alive.

Dallas would be standing over the kid who had smarted off about his helmet, and who he had just smashed. 

He wouldn’t say a word. He’d just smile. Then he’d help the woozy kid up.

Nobody hit like Dallas.  He was legendary in grade school football. But things changed the next year when we went to West Junior High.

The seventh grade coach didn’t know any of us, and he was not very good at spotting talent.

It was easy for me to get noticed because I was fast and had one hand. And maybe a big mouth.

I don’t think Dallas was even on the second team.  I suggested to the coach that we end the first week of practice playing “Bull in the Ring”.

Ever heard of that? 

It’s where you put one kid in the middle, and then everybody forms a circle around him.

The coach yells out a name at random, and that kid rushes toward the kid in the middle, who is the bull.

If you knock the other kid out of the ring, you become the bull. At least, theoretically. 

Because nobody ever beat Dallas.

Remember the cartoon about a big, red bull who smashed every other bull out of the field?  I mean, wayyyy out of the field?  

That was Dallas. 

A lot of young men lost their lives that day at West Junior High.  But Dallas won a starting job, so it was worth it.

And, yes, he was still wearing the beat up old Dallas Cowboys helmet that he so dearly loved. 

Those were great days.

 

Mr. Uhles’ Store

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bazooka-bubble-gum-box

I honestly don’t know how Mr. Uhles put up with us.

He ran the neighborhood store that was exactly 79 steps from my best friend Steve Madden’s house on Nebraska Street.

We went there so often we wore a trail along Berry Road.

We loved his store, but we hated his asphalt parking lot. It would heat up to about a billion degrees during the Oklahoma summer.

Since we were always barefoot, we’d have to hot-foot it across the “lava”, trying not to get a stubbed toe or cut on the glass from broken pop bottles.

We’d usually go to the store after we’d been playing football or baseball or basketball or kill ball in the brutal Oklahoma sun for a few hours. So we were sweaty, stinky and loud.

Mr. Uhles didn’t seem to mind. But Mrs. Uhles was a different story. And she had “the look” that said straighten up or get out.

So we had to scrape the small stones and tar and glass and goatheads from our bare feet, and restrain ourselves from storming into the store like the  Marines.

At least 900 times every single summer day. 

I’m pretty sure that Bazooka bubblegum, Sour Grapes and the long, thin Tootsie-Rolls were just a penny.

Tootsie Roll Pops were two cents.

tootsie roll pops

Pixie Stix (straws filled with fruit-flavored sugar) were maybe two cents.

Baseball cards, packed with bad bubble gum, and the big Tootsie Rolls were a whole  nickel.

tootsie

We had to be rolling in the dough to afford banana popsicles, 7 cents, and Cokes, a whole dime! 

Steve and I made our summer money by collecting Coke bottles that had been chucked out of cars driving down Berry Road.

coke_21

I think Mr. Uhles gave us two cents credit per bottle!

We found a LOT of bottles, so it wasn’t that hard to keep a good sugar high going most of the summer.

Another revenue stream presented itself when my big sister was in high school.

Her boyfriend was absolutely thrilled to give me a quarter if I’d get out of the house and let them study.

Man, armed with a quarter, Steve and I would blast up to Uhles on our bikes, throw them down in the parking lot, and battle each other to be first in the door.

And then we’d be marched right back out if Mrs. Uhles was there.

We’d only be allowed back in when the bikes had been parked over by the ice machine and we behaved like actual human beings.

Having 25 cents meant Steve and I could really get all sugared up on Sweat Tarts and Sugar Babies and Dr Peppers and Fudgecycles and Pixie Sticks and Salt Water Taffy and big ol’ Bubble Gum ceegars and Candy Cigarettes.

bubblegum cigars

It’s a wonder we didn’t come down with juvenile diabetes. 

Those were the days.

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