Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What's A Boy To Do?

To this day, my family teases me about my incredible memory of my early years growing up in The Rust Belt Suburbia of Youngstown. Don't ask me what I had for dinner last night, but I remember a rat running across Shady Run Rd. when I was 4 years old. My family uses this example to explain how incredibly weird I am when it comes to recollection.

I grew up in Struthers, a block from the high school, 3 blocks from the elementary school, and 6 blocks from two great city parks, Fifth St.and Yellow Creek. These areas were pretty much my boundaries as a pre-schooler. Can you imagine a little kid traveling that far today, let alone out of a parent's sight?

Both my parents worked. Mom, all day until 5 P.M. and Dad was gone from 7 P.M. until 4 A.M., often not waking until Noon. My two older sisters were either at school or with friends elsewhere. I was usually on my own most of the day. that's where boredom often over took me. As a pre-schooler, 1 or 2 years difference is quite a deal. Younger kids' moms didn't want a corrupt 5 year old playing with Precious and older kids didn't want a Brat hangin' with them.

As a 5 year old, I went into The Bank one day with my Dad. Must have been pay day at the Steel Mills, the lines snaked to the door. Pop grabbed me by the shoulder and stood me in front of a support pillar saying his famous line,"Move and you're Dead." I dutifully stood at rapt attention, looking straight ahead. After a few minutes, a man walked by, stopped in front of me and said," You Poor Boy, how sad that you're Blind at such a young age." He then pressed a dime into my hand and left. Apparently, he mistook my staring off into space day dreaming as someone who was blind and not focusing on anything! Eureka! I think I was on to something! Money!

I couldn't wait to get home! I immediately ran next door to 4 year old Mary's house. I about dragged her down the street telling her what happened at the bank and how we can make a lot of money. All she had to do was act as my guide person and we would go door-to-door asking for money for me, since I was Blind. Brillant, eh? Of course, I promised Mary a 50/50 split.(yeah, right.)

We put our plan into action a few blocks away. Even a 5 year old knows you don't pull off a scam in your own neighborhood! We went to the first two or three houses and pulled it off without a hitch! Woo hoo! Money for penny candy and Freeze Pops at Papalia's Corner Grocery! Then the Jig was up. At about our fifth house, a lady said she was sorry she didn't have any money, but she would ask her Son for some change. As luck would have it, her Son was a classmate of my Sister. "I know him, Mom. He's not Blind!", he said upon coming to the door. That's all I needed to hear. I was yanking on Mary's arm as we High- Tailed it down the street to the safety of our neighborhood. My Crime Spree was over and I prayed I'd never do something like that again if my parents didn't find out. They never knew and I lead my life 'On the Straight and Narrow".

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Uncle Roy and The Steel Mills

My Great-Uncle Roy came to live with us in Struthers, Ohio, not long after his wife died in the early 70's. He was a kind, jovial old guy with a beer gut apparently earned over the years in one of the many steel mill bars. He retired from a supervision position after 40 years in the steel mill. I was fasinated as a teenager listening to his many stories about how steel mills worked and the crazy things he had to do from time to time to keep things rolling.

I would sometimes complain about the air quality, which sometimes was like a black fog rolling through the city or the fine black granules that were a by-product of the mill furnaces that would cover my beloved GTO sitting in the driveway. 'Don't know what your going on about, Son," Roy would say," That grit and stink put food on most people's tables around here. You sound like those government do-gooders that want to shut the mills down." I knew better than to argue with him, even if I did wear Earth Shoes and put Earth Day Stickers on our front door. Afterall, who else would lend me 20 bucks until payday.

Uncle Roy loved to tell stories about life in the mills. He said a Blast Furnace was the closest thing to being just like a human body. Product in, product out. Tempermental at times. Every now and than, it would need an enema.(an Oxygen Lance to loosen up the slag.) In the Winter, he said he'd have his crews unhook the railcars full of Coke(A Cooked Coal product), and let them roll down a hill and bang into each other to unstick the lumps of Coke that had frozen together. The crew on the next shift tried it and derailed several cars. That's the first time I heard the expression, "I'd rather be lucky, than good!"

Uncle Roy and I shared the two upstairs bedrooms, separated by a partition. Every night I heard him talk to Annie, his dear departed wife. He'd tell her how much he missed her and that he would be seeing her soon. I never said anything about it. I figured after 50+ years of wedded bliss, he was entitled to share his day with her.

Roy was great at telling jokes, often with a selected dialect. He could have been the host of The Dean Martin Roasts. I'll leave you with one of Roy's favorites: A very religious couple was consumating their marriage at a motel on their wedding night. The groom was so happy to have married such a pure woman, assured he had found a Virgin. Off go the lights, they undress, and proceed to do what newly-married couples do. Seconds later, the lights go on and the groom is getting dressed. "Why, Sugar, where are you going?", the bride asks. The groom says," Uhn Uhh, I'm a leavin' you! That Up and Down is OK, but that side-to-side is education!"

Monday, September 28, 2009

Starting At The End To Create A New Beginning

"Well, I guess I made it." Those were the first words out of my mouth eight months ago, when I woke up in Intensive Care after a Massive Heart Attack. Little did I know how much life would change for me in the following months and how friggin' bored I would become while chained to the house.

After many doctor visits, specialists, tests, procedures, 2nd opinions, cardio rehab, and medications out the Wazoo,(by the way, anybody know exactly where the wazoo is?), it's been determined I'm not going to get much better than where I'm at right now. I'm considered disabled, due to a weak heart and COPD. So, time to get on with life! No sense in feeling sorry for myself. Humor has gotten me through many a crisis. We all know what to do with those people that can't take a joke!

I've began reading Blogs from people all over the country. Some are hilarious! Some are downright sick! We all have our opinions, I thought I'd share my experiences growing up in The Great Melting Pot of Youngstown, Ohio. I used to be embarassed to tell anyone I was from there. Now, it's like a Badge Of Honor! OMG, you survived? Wasn't that Called Murder Town USA? Does The Mob still run the area? Were you the last one to leave and did you turn out the lights? ...I've heard'em all!

I'd love to hear your opinions and comments. I hope this will be good therapy for me and entertaining reading for you. Until we meet again.