Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dope Dealing Days

Back when I was in college, at Hunter College, one of the real jewels of the City of New York University system, I dealt pot. The college had perhaps 29,000 students in it, and was the best damned university for nursing, education and theater on the east coast. Getting in required about an 88 average in high school and 1,200 on the SATs. Two years before I entered it was an all girl school but was forced to integrate, as were a lot of schools at that time, 1967-1970. So when I entered there were still about 11 women for every man. And within six months of entering my pal Phil and I had found a tenement apartment on 76th street and 2Nd ave for $45 a month. It had a tub in the kitchen, four small rooms, a back yard that was not really something to use, a fireplace which when we did use caused the neighbors to call the fire department because of all the smoke in their apartments, but it was glorious.
And what were we to do to earn our $45 a month? Phil was innocent and has gone on to great scientific things, but I was a pot peddler. Not a big one. Not a good one. I'd buy a quarter pound and sell three of the four ounces so that I'd have one for free.
I also worked making art as a key 'art hanger' at Multiples gallery on Madison and 74th, pulling silk screens for Oldenberg and Warhol and Larry Masters at the Chrysillas gallery and building fantastic art by Rauchenberg, Mirasol, Alexander and so forth for Dave Basanow, the Impossible Man in downtown Manhattan. I also drove a cab, cooked in restaurants, built loft beds and bookshelves, sold essays to fellow students, whatever it took to make the $22.50 monthly rent on the Upper East Side, plus food money, electricity, phone bills and the cigarettes I smoked.
But of all those jobs I liked selling pot the best.
And the neighbors in that old tenement building often called the cops on me.
But when the cops came they'd say something like: "We got a report that someone is smoking pot in here...Is that true?"
And I'd say something like: "Well, officer, at this moment no one is smoking anything..."
And they'd say: "Well, we dont' want to hear that stuff, okay?"
And that was that.
And then the Rockefeller laws were enacted, sending people to prison willy-nilly for mandatory terms that would completely wreak their lives.
And I was not subject to them and I shouldn't have been. I was just a college kid selling a little pot.
But a lot of people were subject to them and they're still rotting in prison.
And now those laws are going to be finally rescinded and I am one of the people cheering. Finally! Hooray!
Jail is not meant for punishment, though many feel it is. It's really for taking people out of the social order who cannot fit into the social order. In other words, bad people. Pot dealers and other drug dealers, whether I like their drugs or not, and mostly I do not, shouldn't be in jail. They should be running stores selling their wares and paying taxes and raising kids and grand kids, just like bar owners and cigarette sellers and doctors and lawyers and the Kennedys and so forth.
Thank god they're getting rid of the Rockefeller laws. It's a subject we could get into and spend time on and I dont' mind that if you all feel differently. But for my money, a kid selling a little pot or whatever should just be told, like I was, to cool it so that the neighbors stopped complaining.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Calling Paul D B

This is an odd little post and a request from a reader. Paul De Boer, where are you? Sergey is trying to reach you and says you've changed your email.
This is not going to become a place where I do a lot of requests, but both these guys are friends of mine and since Sergey has had a baby recently and I love babies, and he and wife and said baby also live in Lithuania, I thought I'd let this one slip through.
And while we are at it, I've been spending mornings this week covering a court case that's got me ragged. Won't go into it because I'll be writing about it as a journalist and need to keep some distance, but mention it because all those telephone solicitors who are trying to sell me new car insurance, health plans, toxic stocks and new roofing haven't been getting a hold of me and probably wonder where I've been. Assuming they're also regular readers of this blog--which they probably are to know so much about the things I absolutely need--this is a general shout out that I simply have not been home to take your calls. But I look forward to talking with all of you real soon.
Have a great day, everybody.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Girls and the Museum

Took Madeleina and Sierra to the Museum of Modern Art here in Fort Worth over the weekend. Madeleina had mentioned that a friend of hers at school had been there and thought that anyone could do that kind of art. "She said it's just like a baby smashing food on a table," said Madeleina. "Do you think so, dad?"
"Not really, kiddo, though I remember being your age and saying that about Picasso to my mom."
"What did your mom say?"
"She said try it."
"And I did and I couldn't."
So I decided to take her. Sierra was included because you can't begin opening minds too young.
The building itself is flat-out gorgeous. Impossibly beautiful architecture. But when Madeleina got to see the Rothko's and the Motherwell's, looking, well, like anybody could do it at first glance, she started to beam. And when we got to a room of Sean Scully's gigantic striped/inserted striped pieces named Catherine, well, she began to sort of beam and lift off her toes. And when we hit Warhol's Self-Portrait, with him in the most florescent green you've ever seen, well, she simply couldn't contain herself. "That is the most amazing color I've ever seen!" she nearly screamed. And the Oldenberg Paint Tube with Contents--a cloth soft-sculpture of a tube of paint with its red paint spilling out onto the floor she said, "Hold me up, dad. I'm gonna feint! This is so freaking fabulous I can't believe it! I can't believe it!!!!!!"
Sierra was less taken by the paintings and sculpture but could not believe the rooms and how much room she had to run and dance and twirl. "Mr. P Garman! Mr. P Garman! Look! I'm spinning! I'm spinning!"
An hour-and-a-half of any museum and I'm about overloaded, but the best was yet to come: Outside the museum there's a huge sculpture--I didn't even look at who made it and am being lazy by not looking it up now--of several iron sheets, about 50 feet high and 12 feet wide. They stand, slightly twisted, in a conical shapt soaring to the sky. At the base are two entrances where the sheets don't mesh, and once inside, an almost elemental feeling of being in an alien space--yet one that's unimaginably and instantly comfortable--despite there being nothing there.
Nothing but an echo, that is. A most marvelous echo. Sierra discovered it when she began stamping her feet. The sound travels up the cone to the open top, then comes rushing back down. Madeleina began shouting. "Now I can let it go!!!!" she screamed, before breaking into song. Sierra began singing as well, "Shake your boot-y, shake your boot-y," and other slightly over the top songs for a 3-year-old to know, and I began drumming with my hands on the iron walls. What a caccphony we made! What a wall of sound we produced! We were gigantic! We were invincible! We were in our alien ship a million miles from nowhere and just letting it all come tumbling, rushing, pouring out until there was nothing left and we were exhausted from spent exhilaration.
Fantastic. Good to have those sometimes.
And when it was all done, Madeleina, simply blown away, noted: "I think my friend is crazy. Nobody can do art like that."
Well said, girl.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

How it Goes Sometimes

So this morning Chepa calls to let me know she's won a grill in a contest and that she'll get it tomorrow, along with a free meal, over at a local Chinese Buffet place. I'm not quite sure how she won it, but when she asked me to call the woman to confirm that we'd be there for the dinner tomorrow to collect the grill and the free eats, well, sure enough, it seems she really did win. Along with about 9 other people.
The woman asked me how many there would be and I said seven: Chepa, myself, Italo, Sarah, Marco and his girl Carly, and Madeleina. Sierra and Alexa would also be there but kids under 5 are free anyway.
"There won't be any children, will there?" the woman, Darlene, asked.
"Well, there will be two, but we'll pay for them," I answered.
"Oh, no, you don't understand. There can't be any children, or anyone under 21 because there will be a fire-safety demonstration of the grill and there will be some small fires made. So that's the law...I'm sorry."
I did some quick figuring. I could stay out with Madeleina, Sierra and Alexa and the others could go. "So then make that five, alright?"
"They will all be carded. And 21 is it."
I did some more figuring, because Italo's girl Sarah, Marco and Carly were eliminated by the threat of carding as well. "Make that two, then," I said.
"Alright. Two for the free meal and to pick up the grill. We'll see you at 5:30 tomorrow then. Goodbye."
So this is how it figures: I could just stay home and cook, but Marco, Carly and Sarah, along with Madeleina and Sierra, are all juiced up to go out to eat. We don't do that much around here and I guess Chepa told them all about her lucky strike and so they're definitely in the mood to go out.
So instead of a free meal, I'm now going to have to take seven of us out to eat while Chepa and Italo munch down on freebies and collect her grill.
So much for a free lunch, eh?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Comings and Goings

Well, damned if I'm not flat as a pancake. Over the last few days I've finished a short news story, my column and wrote the cover story for my local alternative about my friend Bo Keely, former national champ at paddleball, writer of the bible of racquetball and several other books, retired veterinarian, long distance hiker and bycyclist, and inveterate hobo who loves riding the rails. What a wonderful guy and how nice to just get to write a fun story for once. But it was a 6,000 word fun story and that has left me empty empty empty. My editor and I put it to bed Tuesday evening and I still haven't got the energy to do anything, much less come up with cool stories for you guys. I will, but I'll have to recharge a little.
Which doesn't mean it hasn't been wild around here. Chepa's boyfriend left Monday night and so while I didn't get to see Sierra and Alexa for the weekend--along with Madeleina who was spirited away as well--I did get to see them the last couple of days. Which makes my heart whole. Alexa is a mad woman. In just two days she's broken nearly every necklace I have from the Amazon. Just insists on wearing them and then pulls them and pulls them until they break and the beads--mostly seeds--go flying. Madeleina gets upset that I'm letting her do it, but I remind M that in her day she destroyed an earlier generation of Amazon necklaces the same way.
"Sure, dad. If I did what Alexa is doing I would have been grounded for a month."
That from a girl who has never been spanked and was grounded from watching music videos on her computer for all of three days in her life.
I also bought my second stock in my life this week. My first crashed badly several years ago. A friend who was a big shot in a company insisted I invest some money in his company. At the time I had it so I put $6 grand or so into it. Cratered miserably.
This time I'm taking my chances on Ford. Yup. I was reading more on the bailout and made a mental note that Ford hasn't asked for a penny. In a related story I saw that Ford was unloading some business or other that was losing money. Then I read about Ford having come to terms to restructure union contracts. Then I looked into the driveway and saw my two Ford Ranger Pickups, Italo's for-sale Ford car and his 2000 Ford Lincoln. So on a whim I looked up the stock price: about $2 a share. And I called Italo and out of the blue asked: Italo, what if I were to buy a thousand shares of Ford stock?
We talked pros and cons (HA! I mainly said I know nothing about this but the worst we can do is lose $2 grand. But I don't think Ford is going out of business so we might make $8 grand if it goes up to $10 bucks a share) and he said, Go ahead. And give me some of it when we win.
So I did, getting it at $2.19. And now, for the last two and a half days I've been checking the price way too often. And been telling Italo: Italo, look at this! We're up $440 in two, make that $ $390....WHOA! We're up to $460!
This morning it hit $2.78, which put us up near $600 briefly. Not bad for a week when I am too pooped to pop. When I look again it'll be down to half of that. It's a good thing I don't do this stuff: I'd just be staring at the damned prices all day, having little heart attacks.
Marco just walked in, wearing a towel and tried to wrestle me. HA! Normally I'm forced to wrestle: Today I just pulled his towel off. Which made Madeleina shriek with delight. "Oh, my god! Look at Marco's butt! That's the skinniest butt I ever saw!"
Which made Marco run for the shower as he tried to cover up.
And that's all we got going on around these parts.
Hope you're all having a great day, no matter what you're doing.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Few Things

Here's a few things I've been thinking about. First, when I ask you to let me know you're out there, I don't really want a roll call. I appreciate it, but what I'd really like to hear is your response to Swimming 101 or First Time Sex. Those are places where I reveal a lot about myself and hopefully touch a few nerves and so that's where I want the responses. This last week I wrote about abandoning Sierra and have one, I have been dealing with that all week in the deep parts of my soul....nobody else but one thought it worth commenting on or related to that? I find that hard to believe but maybe it's true, given the single response to something that meant/means so much to me.
This week, tonight, Chepa's boyfriend and the father of Sierra and Alexa comes into town for a few days for her birthday and tonight she came over for dinner to let me see the girls before I'm cut off for a couple/several days. We ate a great meal, played, laughed, smoked a couple of cigarettes to make their little lungs stretch and get strong, and then they were gone. I'm sad but satiated. I love those girls. And why shouldn't I? I'm not their dad but they are my kids' sisters and they came from my wife's belly and I once pulled Madeleina from there so I know the space and probably a lot of people would think it strange but I still love them as if they were mine but know they're not.
I've a lot more to say but will keep it short tonight. What I'm trying to get at is please respond to the posts, not just to my silly pleas to let me know who is here...I already know I expose a lot of my soul here...what I would like to know is whether anybody cares about that. Does it help anybody? Does it match what you're going through? Or parallel it? That's what I'm really after.
And tomorrow I will have another post along these lines, if I remember it, that would be too complicated for this moment. This moment is for saluting you and hoping that Chepa and Sierra and Alexa and my Madeleina make it to the airport without a hitch and that the plane carrying T, the father of Sierra and Alexa makes it okay. It's a low ceiling so I'm nervous.
But the kids need their dad so I'm crossing my fingers it'll be a fine fine landing.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Very Very Sad Moment

I was working on a story today that was due two days ago when Italo came into the living room/office. He asked if I felt like bike riding with him. He knows I haven't done anything physical due to this damned broken ankle in the last several weeks since I've been home from Peru and that before that there were the three near death stomach operations, and before that the septic spider bite--which means we haven't done a lot of physical together in more than two years. So I said I'd love to as soon as I finished my story.
I worked with a vengeance and got it done by three in the afternoon, then said I was ready. So we got the bikes and put them in the truck. Both of them needed air so we decided to stop at Chepa's to fill them with her compressor, which meant I also grabbed Madeleina's bike in case she would be interested. I hadn't done anything cool with her in months--we've done some stuff but nothing like going bike riding in a new and strange park in a while--and I thought she'd love to be included as a grownup.
So we went off to Chepa's, and while Italo filled the tires I got Madeleina ready and played with Sierra and Alexa. Chepa showed off some furniture she'd refinished this week--I guess she's going to have a garage sale--and asked what was worth, and Sierra and Alexa climbed all over me. And then we were ready and suddenly Sierra wanted to come.
I told Chepa okay, but Italo frowned on the idea. The bike ride, ostensibly to work on my healing ankle and his knee--which got strained badly when he got kicked in a soccer match last night--was really going to be a chance for him to air some grievances he had. Not with me but with someone close to him. He really just wanted to get me away from the house and talk. Bringing Madeleina was already a crimp, but bringing Sierra and her tricycle would mean he wouldn't have my attention for a moment and so he said: "Dad, we really can't bring her. There are hills, bridges, tunnels....she can't ride her bike on that path and you can't hold her on yours. You haven't ridden much in a couple of years and this is not the kind of path where you can sit her on the bar and hope she's okay."
I got what he meant.
But by that time Chepa had gotten Sierra's sox and sneakers and Sierra, just three last month, was screaming: "Mr. P German! I have my sox and shoes! I'm coming!"
But Italo wouldn't have it. And I had to make a choice. If I brought her he would have asked me to take him home. I knew it. He said it. If I didn't, I was going to have one very unhappy Sierra on my conscience.
But the bike ride was his idea. He needed to talk with me. He needed to work with me. He needed dad.
So I went with him.
And as I was pulling out of the driveway at Chepa's, Sierra was hopping, trying to get her sox on while screaming, "I want to go! I'm almost ready Mr. P German! Wait for me! Wait for me!"
And I'm crying writing this because I was leaving that beautiful girl behind and she didn't and couldn't understand the reasoning and she was just so in love with the idea of being with us and riding a bike in the park and she couldn't understand why we were ditching her--what had she done, anyway? She hadn't done anything wrong...and I had to just keep going and it was killing me to keep going but I made the decision and left with her screaming, "Wait for me! I'm coming Mr. P German! I'm coming! I have my bicycle! Don't leave me!" and I did leave her and I was crying the whole stinking way to the park, but Italo needed me and Madeleina needed to be with us and we couldn't do that with Sierra there.
And the minute I got Italo and Madeleina home--after a nice, easy 5 mile ride--I raced to Chepa's to see Sierra and she was there asking me why I left her. "You didn't take me. I just wanted to go Mr. P German. I almost had my shoes on. Why did you leave me here?"
And I wished I could die, but didn't. I still wish I could disappear. I tried to make it up to her with a good dinner and lots of playing but she was still asking, as she left to go home a few minutes ago why I left her when she wanted to come. And I will never do that again. I am not her dad but I love her like I was and I will never ever never leave her that way again, crying, running after us, hopping along trying to get her shoes on, wondering what is wrong with her that makes us not want her with us...I'm sorry baby. I'm very very sorry. I hope you can forgive me. More, I hope you can forget the day when I left you behind.

Friday, March 06, 2009

First Time Sex

Okay, right up front I have to explain that I was raised Irish-Catholic and was a kid in the 1950s, so a lot of what's talked about today on computers and television didn't get talked about back then. What I'm getting at is, for example, that while I walked around with a perpetually hard male member from ages 14-19, no one explained what masturbation was to me and so I never masturbated until I'd had sex. I had sex at the end of my 18th year, and masturbated about a week later, just after my 19th birthday, when I realized there was a connection.....More than you needed, right? Okay, but I'm just setting the time frame.
So here I was, a freshman in college, still living at home, and this absolutely stunning blond, Darryl, takes a liking to me in a sociology class. We start to hang around and then make a date. I borrowed my mom's old Dodge Dart, picked up Darryl and found a place to park and talk. It was snowing in Queens, New York that night. So we talked with the windows up for a while, the motor running to keep the heat on, then started making out. And it occurred to me that I might actually get some,...well, have sex in the car. Which is what we were moving toward, with me in heaven, when suddenly someone was tapping at Darryl's window. I nearly jumped through the roof. In a moment the knocking came again, this time followed by "Open the window. This is the police."
Well, it took a few moments to get reasonably dressed, then she rolled down the window. "Are you alright, mam?" the officer said? She told him yes, everything was fine.
The second cop in the car came to my window and did the license and registration thing with me, while the first cop got from Darryl that we were just kissing a little and nobody was the worse for it. So they let us go.
I took her home, but we left each other with a pretty passionate embrace that continued my five year streak of always having a hard-on. And which made me determined to find a place to get Darryl alone.
It didn't take long to find one. My friend Naomi, who also went to Hunter College, said we could use her place over on 91st and Amsterdam Ave. She was going out on Friday night and would leave a key in her mailbox in the foyer, which she'd leave open. Excellent. Next was to talk to my friend Bruno Valle, who took from his wallet a Trojan and handed it to me, saying, "That was going to be for me, but you're going to need it," in a solemn sort of way.
I was, shall we say, good to go.
Friday night came and I picked Darryl up after her last class at about a 7 PM. We took a cab to the West Side, picked up some Chinese food and walked the block or two to Naomi's. Only problem? There was no key.
I wasn't going to give up that easily, so we hung around until someone else going into the building came by and went in with them. We made our way up to Naomi's apartment and I looked under the welcome mat. No key. I felt around the door. No key. A couple of neighbors poked their heads out when they heard us talking in the hallway but we looked the right age to be Naomi's friends, so no one said anything or told us to leave.
I was getting pretty desperate. If I could just get to the other side of that door all the treasure of the Arabian Nights would be mine. And the damned door was locked.
Suddenly, my brain sprung into action: Above those old doors in New York City apartments were transoms, little windows that spun on pins on either side, so that people could open them to get a little more air. I had Darryl boost me up and I pushed the thing open, then slithered through and crashed to the ground on the inside. Who cared? I was in! I opened the door and then so was Darryl.
She played coy, asking for Chinese food and so I served her. But it didn't take long to get to a bedroom and down to things. Problem was, I was no good. I didn't even know how to put the condom on. Not unexpected, as I'd never seen one out of its package, but still slightly awkward. And then I knew I should get involved with some oral sex, but I didn't really know what that was, so did my best but I didn't hear Darryl screaming with delight or anything.
And then the ACT. Well, if I didn't know about condoms or oral sex, I sure as hell didn't know exactly where to put that thing and so probably stabbed her a dozen times before she took control. And once there I had no idea how I was supposed to move. I was simply wretched.
So I did the only thing I knew how to do: I told her I was sorry I sucked but that I was a virgin and so.....
I never got to finish that sentence. "You're a virgin? Really? Oh my god! I've been dying to fuck a virgin since I was 14! My god, I can't believe it!!!"
And with that we went from her allowing me to have a little sex to her deciding she was a bucking bronco and I was going to have to hang on for dear life! She bucked, she moaned, she sighed, she nearly bit my ears off. She drew blood tearing into my back with her fingernails; she wrapped her long legs around me and squeezed until I nearly feinted. All of it was good. All of it was very very good.
And then I finished. And man did I scream! Wow!!!!!!!! For the first time in my virgin life, I finished when I wasn't sleeping. Wow!!! So that's what people are talking about when they talk about jerking off, I thought!!! Why hadn't I thought of that???
Shortly after my bliss we got up and went to the bathroom. I knew I wanted some more of that so I took the condom off, washed it out and put it on the sink.
Just then there was a loud bashing at the door. "Police! Open up!"
Darryl and I raced for our clothes, dressed and opened the door. Two huge cops and one 19-year-old girl I'd never seen stepped into the room. "Who are you?" I asked the girl. "I live here. Who are you?"
Naomi hadn't mentioned anything about a roommate, and in the next couple of minutes we learned that she hadn't mentioned anything about promising me I could use the place on Friday night, either. The cops--who had been called when the roommate heard us in the apartment, probably my screaming in delight and amazement--wanted proof that we weren't thieves, considering that we'd somehow broken in. I explained the transom entry and pointed to the Chinese food. I explained why we were there but they weren't necessarily buying it. And then, out of the blue, tearing out of the bathroom came the house cat, condom between her teeth. She raced across the living room and I swear she dropped it right on one of the officers' shoes.
"What the hell is....Oh my god, get that thing off me!" he shouted. I did, but noticed that the damned thing had teeth holes in it, so I wouldn't be getting another chance to use it.
The condom convinced them we were telling the truth, but they still insisted on us leaving with them. On the way out one of the officers leaned over to me and sort of whispered: "You don't reuse them. You just bring more than one."
And then we were out into the winter night.
I spent about a month trying to get Darryl to do a repeat performance but evidently she wasn't impressed enough to go for it. Now that I wasn't a virgin but would still be a lousy lover was a combo that didn't turn her on. She let me neck with her a few times but then even that Peter'd out.
A couple of weeks later, just after I turned 19, I decided to experiment with that masturbation thing...and damn if it didn't work. I was amazed. And I decided that I liked it and had about 5-years of catching up to do.
40-years-later, I'm nearly there.

That Gorman Guy

Alright, enough already. That Gorman guy gets in these moods sometimes where he thinks people ought to kiss his butt a little. So he writes these plaintiff little messages asking for recognition from blog readers. Let's go kick his butt, not kiss it. Who does he think he is, saying he might not write anymore if people don't respond, when the whole damned blog is actually his therapy? Of course he'll keep writing. What else has he got to do?
I think we should all get together and boycott the damned blog. Don't give him any feedback at all. HA! That would put him in a stitch, I'll bet....
Just kidding. Thanks all.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Anybody Out There???

Listen, folks. I have no counter and have been kicked off Yahoo@ adds. So Here I am writing frighteningly secret stuff and I got to know if anyone is reading/listening. If no one cares, I'll stop writing. If there are 10 of you, I need to know. I'm about to write the story of my first sex. Very personal, very vulnerable, very funny. But it no one is reading, why spend a few hours writing it?
So I don't need a cascade of names but I do need to know that at least 10 of you are finding my posts worth reading, otherwise I'm just masturbating---and if that's what I'm doing I'd rather do it in private, thank you.
So give me a hollar and let me know I'm not writing into the wind. And if you do I'll give you a pretty good story about my first sex--which has less to to with sex than it does the NY police...which is why it's a good story.
SAY IT Ain't so, okay?
Peter G

Monday, March 02, 2009

Swim Team 101

In high school I wasn't a great athlete. I was born an okay athlete, but then spent several months in a hospital at 5 1/2-till 6 with rheumatoid arthritis and was a trial patient on cortizone. Which apparently worked but left me weighing 162 pounds as a very fat 6-year-old. I was schooled by Ms. Harper who came to the house twice a week, I think, for about three or four hours. She was a public school teacher who taught kids like me who couldn't be in regular school, and she got me up to half-way through the fourth grade by the time I was old enough to enter second grade at St. Luke's school in Whitestone. I've written about St. Luke's, I think, where classes ranged from 79 to 108 kids with one nun. No wonder they needed the ruler. 108 2nd graders would be too much for anyone to handle, particularly sex-starved virgins--which they were at that time.
In any event, when I went back to school as a cigarette smoking 7-year old (and didn't I get my knuckles rapped for that pretty much daily!!!) who'd gotten a social security card at 6 and was working and earning money as a soda jerk at Louie's candy store on 24th Avenue 8 hours a week, the other kids used to run backwards and beat me in races, particularly my pal Tommy Farrell.
But my father and brother Mike loved sports and wanted me to be an athlete and so me and Mike (Mike and I, for you, Ms. KAOS) practiced football and baseball mercilessly. Or rather, Mike drove me mercilessly to become a regular non-sick kid by being brutal to me. He'd make me run 8 or 9 street football routes daily, 15 times each to the left and right. That was something like 240 passes daily, including the suicidal: "Baldy, 10 steps, cut to the left and dive over the curve. I'll hit you falling onto the sidewalk," play.
But it worked.
I got good at baseball with my brother making me make 50 throws from catcher to second base daily for a couple of years. I'm nearly 60 but still have one hell of an arm. As a kid I became an all star catcher in little league, and later made the high school baseball team, though Tartaglia and Johnson were better catchers--and waya bigger and stronger than me--and so I didn't play a lot.
But there was this thing that President Kennedy made people do. It was a 10 or so event physical test. Some of you will remember it: We had to climb a 25 foot rope, climb a peg board, do pushups for 2 minutes, do sit-ups for two minutes, broad jump, standing, run 100 yard dash, and some other things. When I got to high school, a pushup and sit-up fanatic by that time, I wound up something like number 1137 out of 1240 people as a freshman.
By senior year I was number one in the whole school until the basketball team came back from an away game, at which point I dropped to number 8 or 12. Still, not bad for a kid other kids had beaten running backward just 6 years earlier.
During high school I won a lot of awards for writing so decided I'd be a writer. But I also was good at theatre and was in all the plays, generally in the second role to Bob Herbert, who was very good. I also joined the gymnastics team and the swim team. The gymnastics team was not good. I practiced (as 14th man on something like a 12 man squad) for a week, then went to a tourney. Someone got hurt and I was asked to do a routine on the side-horse. I'd never even gotten up on a side horse so needless to say, I didn't do well.
Swimming was worse. I joined because I wanted to learn to swim. I'd missed that chance when I got sick as a kid and wanted to learn. Coach Hoffman let me join even though I couldn't swim because he was proud of how much I worked at doing pushups and sit-ups (66 old-fashioned situps in two minutes; more than 50 pushups in the same time) and how good I was at the rope and peg-board. He was never impressed with my best time in the 100 yard dash, which was 12.5 if I remember correctly). IN any event he encouraged the swim coach to take me. Which he did.
Now, I couldn't swim. I joined to be taught how to swim. And we had a couple of guys on the team, Billy Warner and another guy, who could fly. They would be in the race for county championships. Wonderful to watch. But not me. I just wanted to stay above water and catch up on what I missed when I was sick and fat.
Then we went to a meet. It was a four-school meet. All catholic schools. Bishop Reilly (my school), against St. John's prep and two other schools. I forget their names because they didn't do anything striking. But St. John's did: They didn't wear swim trunks. They were freaking naked with their balls shaved. Twelve or so St. John's Prep kids walking around this indoor pool with their shlongs hanging out, badmouthing us for wearing trunks. Worse: I didn't have a speed-o. I had regular trunks that I borrowed from my brother Mike, who was 22 to my sophmore 15. Nice plaid trunks that fell to my knees. Didn't matter. I wasn't going to swim. I was last man on the team, second or third away from first 12 and only 8 or so were going to compete.
Until a couple of people came up hurt. And suddenly my name was called. I looked to coach, who waved me to the pool edge. I asked what the heck I was supposed to do. He said just swim two lengths of the 50 meter pool and that was that.
So I climbed to the edge: Everyone else had these wonderful poses. They looked like birds of prey, toes wrapped around pool edge, knees bent, arms forward, backs straight, slightly bent toward the pool. I, on the other hand, stood straight, a couple of inches away from the frighteningly deep pool, my hands together in a position that probably looked more "alter boy praying" than "swim meet ready". Worse, the guys on either side of me were naked and they kept pulling their dicks to make them look bigger. And they had no hair! I'd waited 14-15 years to get hair and these hairless guys were just stretching their dicks! To say I was lost was an understatement.
At some point during my completely-lost-why-are-they-naked reverie, a gun went off and everyone dove into the water. They didn't dive, they dove: some of them looked like they sprung off boards, leaping 10-12 feet straight out into the air and then touching the water and coming up 5 yards ahead of where they touched down. I watched in amazement and then realized I was losing time. So I dove. And I went straight down, as my posture indicated I would. And then, coming up about 2-feet from where I left the pool edge, I realized my swim suit had come off. It was down around my ankles! I was not about to surface without a swim suit, so I reached down and got it and got it back on and by the time I did I realized that everyone had already made the 50 meter turn and was coming back toward me! I was lost. I was beyond redemption even if I was wearing clothes!
So I doggie paddled about 10 yards, till everyone in the meet passed me, then decided I'd better feign drowning and did and made my way to the side of the pool and clambored out, fake huffing the whole way.
Eddie Monaghan, a prick, nailed me.
"Why didn't you finish, Gorman? Chicken? Pussy?" he said, chesting me back toward the pool.
"I was choking. Took water..." I said.
"Bullshit. You fucked this team....I'll kill you."
Enough was enough and I stood my ground. Lying, I said, "I took water. You don't like it go fuck yourself."
Eddie was a tough guy who'd been in the golden gloves. Nobody talked to him like that. Especially quitters like me. So he was stunned.
"You're a punk. I could kill you."
"Do it. Do it."
"You're going back into that pool..."
"No, I'm not. I took water..." I lied.
Somehow, he seemed to believe me or thought I was really ready to fight him and he didn't like that idea. Probably I was just scared and embarrassed enough to have been at the end of my rope. And he knew I'd already backed down in the race and was not going to back down again.
"You suck, Gorman," he said, turning and walking away.
Later that day I discovered that we needed one point to win the match against all the teams, and that win would have put us ahead of St. John's Prep in the city championships and we could have gone on to playoff victory. That point would have been achieved if I had simply finished, no matter whether I'd taken a week to do it. By quitting, I'd lost that point and just tied St. John's Prep, but since they'd beaten us in an earlier meet we didn't get to go to the playoff/championships.
I have hated myself for being a quitter since I found that out. I wish someone would have taken 4 minutes to explain it to me, or explained it to me as I was feigning drowning but before I got out of the pool. No one did. I didn't know how to swim. My fault but I've forgiven myself.
I still never went back to the swim team.
And I have never quit anything again, despite wanting to on a number of occasions.