We have just recently moved homes now that the children have grown and we are down to the last chore, unpacking what was in the old garage into our new smaller garage. When we packed the old garage I swear we sold, threw away or donated 75% of what was in there, which was basically crap. We held a garage sale and sold anything of value like old bikes, sporting equipment, posters, some tools, ski clothing, fishing gear, picture frames, lamps…anything. The prices on each item went from $1.00 to $20.00 for a used bike, but the majority of items went from $2.00-$5.00. It would probably have killed me to have seen what we originally paid for the items. I’m sure the markdown was about 98%. We donated to the Salvation Army what we thought was worthy of being used again and the stuff remaining like old winter clothes, bicycle parts, broken sporting equipment, even the kids past art projects all got the heave-ho. We packed up what we thought was valuable enough to move, mainly pictures of the family growing up and some files with important documents. We soon ran into a small dilemma…what do you do with the trophies 3-children had acquired over their lifetime of youth sports and high school? My wife wanted to just throw them away, seeing no value in them. She was right, most of them were just cheap plastic with few if any memories. Something inside me said we should keep them and I don’t know why. What is our fixation with trophies that we feel should be preserved over time? I mean they now give trophies away for any reason. When a child would participate in a youth sport they used to give-a-way PARTICIPATION ribbons or certificates which were usually lost in the first 24-hours. These ribbons were given out if you just showed up and were meant to make each kid feel rewarded, all it took was the ability to walk. But somewhere along the line they replaced these with a Participation Trophy which again made it harder to throw away. In fact trophies became so popular you would win one for almost any reason…Most Improved, Most Valuable, Best Offensive and Defensive Player, Best Special Teams, Most Inspirational. Even the schools got in to the trophy craze with trophies for Best Attendance, Best Grades, Best in History, Math, English, etc.. It used to be that 2 or 3 kids from a team or a school class would get special awards, now it was 100% getting trophies for participating and 6-8 more getting a second trophy for an individual achievement. I agree with making every kid feel special…but why trophies? What in us makes us love getting a trophy? Do we see the pros on TV holding their championship trophies high in the air and want that rush for ourselves. Is it the little plastic figurine on top that makes it so special? Do we enjoy showing our trophies to others to verify are skills, or do we just enjoy shoving it in another person’s face and saying, “Hey, check this out. I got a trophy and you didn’t. That makes me better than you”. I hope not. My theory is that trophies have gotten so cheap to make out of plastic that we feel we are getting something great for a very cheap price. The best trophies are team trophies for an accomplishment as a team. Seeing the Stanley Cup being hoisted above a NHL player’s head is something special, or the Vince Lombardi Trophy after a Superbowl, The Larry O’Brien Trophy for the NBA Champs and the Commissioner’s Trophy after the World Series. Team trophies mean something…going all the way with one goal in common among all the team members. Everyone feels included. Perhaps the most sought after trophy in the world is the FIFA World Cup Trophy given to the world’s best soccer team every four years…that is something special to not only the players but to the whole country that they represent. In fact with children I think they should put more emphasis on team accomplishments versus individual, everyone wins. Well, we ended up throwing away 90% of the trophies that had no real sentimental value and kept the remaining 10% that were significant. It turns out my children weren’t interested in keeping them anymore anyway so the decision was easy. I think the thrill is in just receiving a trophy, after that they just collect dust. I was happy that the trophies that meant the most to them were the team championship ones like winning a CIF title and even those seemed more important to me than the kids. I think trophies are like pennies, you feel guilty throwing them away even though they are of little value, but it is still US currency and a trophy is still a supposed testament to high achievment . I wonder if kids are so used to getting trophies it has become like a piece of paper to them and finds it’s way to the trash eventually, or are parents keeping every one on display so visitors feel like they are entering Michael Jordan’s room when they come over.
Elvis Presley was and still is referred to as The King and the Beatles are a household name associated with the British invasion. Many believe The Beatles were responsible for dethroning The King. But Elvis’s popularity peaked in the late 50’s and the Beatles came on to the scene in the 1964 leaving a gap that was filled by a new Southern California sound, Surf Rock. Surf Rock began in the early 1960s as instrumentals dominated by electric guitars and rapid picking. The reverb on the guitar was used heavily to emulate the sound of waves and became known as the “wet sound”. Dick Dale and the Del-Tones are credited with launching the surf music craze in 1961 with his hit “Let’s Go Trippin'”. It was a fast, energetic, racy guitar sound that was very unique. I happened to see Dick Dale at a car show some 40-years later in 2011 performing the same same sound and songs and the crowd loved it. Like Dale most early surf bands were formed in Southern California, with Orange County in particular having a strong surf culture. “Wipe Out ” performed by The Surfaris in 1963 became probably the most well known instrumental of the era with it’s drum solo copied by kids everywhere with just two pencils and a table-top. The song has been featured in over 20 films and television shows since 1964. The flip-side of “Wipe Out” was “Surfer Joe” which was also widely popular in the early 60’s. The surf rock sound was still considered regional to So. Cal until two vocal groups came on the scene, Jan & Dean and of course the internationally popular Beach Boys. Jan & Dean had the hugely popular “Surf City” which topped the charts in 1963. Other chart topping hits included “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena” and “Dead Man’s Curve”. The Beach Boys, 5-kids from Hawthorne, CA came on to the scene in 1961 and make surf music popular across the US. They relied more on vocal harmonies and lyrics reflecting a youth culture of surfing, cars, and romance. Early Songs included “Surfin’ USA”,”Surfer Girl”, “Little Deuce Coupe” and “Surfin’ Safari”. Brian Wilson, one of three Wilson brothers in the band, was the creative force and chief songwriter. The Beach Boys were “It” in the early 60’s. Teenagers everywhere blasted their songs while cruisin’ in their suped up hot rods or even their parents borrowed car. The big striped t-shirts that the Beach Boys wore became standard for kids and teens and wanna’ be surfers were the norm. Life was good. The lyrics were catchy and simple to remember. I think any person who grew up in Southern California since the Beach Boys came on the scene could recite the lyrics to half a dozen Beach Boy songs, particularly “California Girls” which has been covered multiple times. In 1966 they released Brian Wilson composed “Good Vibrations” which was a departure from the simplistic surf rock sound but made music critics take notice of how good they really were. The Beach boys have often been called “America’s Band” and have sold over 100 million records worldwide ranking them number 12 on Rolling Stone. Unfortunately two Wilson brothers have died…Dennis Wilson drowned in 1983 and Carl died of lung cancer in 1998. The remaining three founders with additional back-up continue to do periodic tours to sold-out crowds and spreading Good Vibes to a new generation. It’s easy to remember Elvis as being The King and The Beatles as the Fab Four, but there is period of time in the 60’s when surf rock owned the airwaves. The Beach Boys was by far the biggest name to come out of that era, but the lesser known names such as The Surfaris, Dick Dale, and Jan & Dean all were popular names to listen to while driving to the beach with the surfboard on the roof. One fan of this surf rock era is Quentin Tarantino who featured several retro surf songs in his movie Pulp Fiction.
As a kid every Saturday was like a holiday. There was no school and the day was wide open to do whatever you wanted. I remember waking up before my parents, going downstairs in my pajamas, making a bowl of cereal containing a mountain of sugar, turning on the television and watching a couple of hours of cartoons, all before 9am. The rest of the day contained zero plans, just the way I liked it. Sunday was for church and family outings while Saturday remained open always for imagination and fun. It usually included getting on my bicycle and checking out the neighborhood for fellow riders and soon forming a pack. The pack then roamed with no real direction, but with just a little imagination the pack could be a platoon of Army Jeeps in search of the enemy who could be hiding around any corner. Long sticks could be used for guns and shorter ones pistols as you hunted your enemy down. It became popular to pretend to be The Rat Patrol and hunt down General Rommel. As interest in that game began to wane the sticks would turn into swords and our bikes in to horses and we became Robin Hood and his group of merry men. Sword fighting with sticks was part of almost every person’s childhood, it was why sticks fell off the trees in the first place, unless you saw the perfect stick still on a tree and were compelled to rip it off as it was the excalibur of swords. Sword fighting would usually last until someone got hurt or an over protective parent would make you stop because it was too dangerous and someone might get their eye poked out. Not once during childhood do I ever remember myself or anyone I knew having their eye poked out. That is a classic parents line, but it still worked, just imagine your eyeball being stuck to the end of your friend’s sword. It was enough to make us stop…that line has never stopped working. We would then ditch our horses and swords and go to the most basic of all kid’s games…TAG. Nothing needed for this game. One kid is it and they have to tag someone else to make them it.We could play this forever or at least until one of the fatter kids would constantly be tagged it and everyone else could always get away easily. The overweight kid would quit, so we move on to another favorite, hide-and-go-seek. This game required only a tree as home base and the ability to count to ten. It kinda sucked to be the counter and after a fast round of “Not It” the counter was selected. As the game progressed and the same person got tired of counting they would inevitably start to cheat and peak as to where each person was hiding. It became obvious to the others and after some arguing about it the game usually ended there. Anyway it was lunch time now, time to go to home base, have a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, wash it down with Kool-Aid or Tang, and back out the door for more free time…there was plenty of time left on Saturdays. It was time to explore which meant riding your bike to some far off location, or so it seemed, and pretending to be the first people to have ever seen this location before. As the new conquering explorers you could name your land whatever you wanted and control the territory until a group of bigger kids came along and took control of your new land. You leave to explore new lands and come upon a treasure chest of fun…a big cardboard box that once was home to a parent’s new appliance, but was now transformed in to one of the coolest sliders in the world. After flattening it out and finding a small hill you were soon taking turns on toboggan runs that were super fast and bumpy. You would start at the top of the hill with 4-5 riders and end up with just one at the bottom. This game could last as long as the box did. It was now time to take a break, lay down in the grass, and make-up stories of heroism, like the time you caught a home-run ball from Mickey Mantle. When asked to produce the ball, all you could say is that your parents stored it away so no one could steal it. So the stories got bigger as did the made-up lies until you realized that it was time to get up and build a fort. This meant scavenging any materials you could find and creating your own hide-a-way, see the fort made you invisible from anyone who was not in your club, particularly older siblings. You would venture out with your new found swords and protect the castle until you heard those fateful words being yelled in the distance, ” It’s getting dark, time to come home”. That was the way Saturday always ended, having to go home when daylight ended. You had only seen your parents for two short moments that day, once in the morning and once at lunch. You were free to roam the neighborhood at will with no worries. Parents weren’t nervous about their kids being out of sight as they are today, the world seemed safer. It is amazing how wonderful Saturdays could be as a kid and all done with imagination.
I was driving with my dad to the local YMCA on the evening of February 25, 1964 and we were listening to the Cassius Clay (future Muhammed Ali) vs. Sonny Liston boxing match on the car radio. I had become enamored with Cassius Clay. He was young, cocky, talented and most of all …exciting. He would recite poetry about how he was going to demolish his opponents, get in loud arguments with the media because of his brashness, and back up his claims in the ring. Clay was a glib, fast talking 22-year old who enjoyed the spotlight and the majority felt he had no chance against the veteran, Sonny Liston. The brash Clay was disliked by reporters and a good majority of boxing fans because of his cockiness, all the more reason for me to like him. Even though Liston was the heavy favorite, he failed to come out for the 7th round and Clay was the new World Champion. I loved it and the year was just starting. 1964 was a landmark year in many ways and it seems odd to me that 50-years have passed since then. It seems like so many firsts and momentous events happened that year that it is almost overwhelming. I was still a kid and my memories have faded, but those I do hold seem so much closer than 50-years ago. The Beatles came to America to tour for the first time in 1964 and the British invasion was on. The Beatles coming to America was an explosion of excitement and I was at their first concert at the Hollywood Bowl which is an experience I remember vividly and chronicled in one of my earlier blogs (3/11/14). Other British groups were soon to follow including the Rolling Stones and the Animals and together with the American talent of the Supremes and Bob Dylan many say this was one of the greatest years for music. My interest in rock ‘n roll and collecting records sky-rocketed. It was also a year of turmoil with the Vietnam War taking center stage. In ’64 the US authorized war against North Vietnam after years of US intervention and an increasing American death toll. It was called the first war to be watched back home on television and from what I remember seeing it was flat-out ugly. The generations split with the older convinced that the US needed to be at war in Vietnam to stop the spread of communism, while the younger wondered why we were at war half a world away in a country that we had no business being there. The split between generations broke up a lot of families as some older kids rushed out to enlist while others ran north to Canada to avoid it all. At my younger age I just sat back and watched with interest and sadness. It was hard to take sides at such a young age, who to believe, how much was media driven, and would I ever be forced to serve in the future. I had already developed a negative image of the war and had no inclination to enlist. As the war continued my initial feelings were confirmed, this war was not mine or ours to fight. The strife continued at home as well as abroad. After three civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi the President, Lyndon Johnson, signed the Civil Rights act of 1964. I still find it hard to believe that legislation was not approved until my lifetime that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It was a landmark piece of legislation but it did not stop the violence as it continued to increase in many American cities. I remember watching the Nightly News with my parents and it went from scenes of the war in Vietnam to riots in major American cities. The world seemed to be on fire and everyone had their own opinion of what was right or wrong and were willing to be heard. It was not until the next year, 1965, that Watts in Los Angeles blew up in flames bringing current events close to home. In 1964 Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize. We were still a couple years away from the Peace Movement associated with hippies but one can see how the movement came to be with so much turmoil both internationally (Vietnam) and nationally (Civil Rights). I was just a 11-year old kid in 1964 but I do have distinct memories of the events mentioned and it is odd that one year can provide so many. Cassius Clay would soon become Muhammad Ali, The Greatest, and the Beatles would become one of the most loved rock ‘n roll bands ever, Vietnam ended in complete chaos, and the Civil Rights Act had to be forcibly instituted. My memories of 1964.
Last weekend I was standing in a slow line at Home Depot patiently waiting my turn to check out. I had nothing else to stare at and I happened to notice that everyone in front of me was paying their bill with a debit or credit card. About half were able to do it in a timely fashion, the other half had trouble sliding their card in the right way, punching in their password , or trying to figure out how the cash back worked. When it got to be my turn I pulled out my checkbook and could hear a collective sigh from those in line behind me…”Oh,this could be days waiting” I imagined them thinking as I checked out. Was I that far behind the times that it was now a sin to write a check? I guess so. My own son laughed at me on a separate occasion that I used a checkbook to pay for items at a retail store, and I was buying the items for him, Thank You. When it comes to bill paying I had always used checks. It is easier to track and record in my opinion, but that opinion is fast becoming the minority, in fact it already is the minority. With mobile and online options taking hold, traditional checks represent only about 10% of all US payments. 26% of people who responded to a survey wrote several checks a month, compared with 38% who said they never write personal checks. In the past five years, the Federal Reserve reports the use of paper checks in the US has fallen dramatically, from 35% to 15%. Well my technologically advanced wife now has us set up to pay most of our regular monthly bills online while I use the checkbook to pay the remainder. Gone are the days of painstakingly trying to balance the monthly statement, a feat in itself, especially if you tried to balance to the penny. It could take up to 2-hours to check off each check, and double-check your math, before finding out you were still unbalanced by over $200…very frustrating. I gave that up and now just go on-line to get my balance. Not surprising the vast majority of current check writers are 55-years or older, that’s where I fall in. I had always felt I could keep better control of my outgoing cash by writing checks and subtracting from the current balance giving myself a new balance. That turned out to be old world. The younger generation has the same use for checkbooks as they do for land-line telephones…basically zero. Sixty-one percent of people aged 18-24 never write checks. This often pisses me off though that younger people will make purchases of a slurpee and a candy bar and use their debit card. The total could be $1.19 and out comes the debit card. This really slows the line down. My next question would be “Am I the only person who still carries cash on them”. That same 18-24 crowd who never write checks also never carry cash. In my opinion, “Cash is King”…no cards to slide, no writing of checks, and no waiting. Wouldn’t it be nice if people could carry $5, $10, or $20 around with them to make incidental purchases…especially at Starbucks, the debit card capital of the world. Workers (baristas) look shocked when I bring out a $5 bill to pay for my coffee, that means making change, they appear never to have seen paper money before. I can see the problems with time consuming check writing, but when cash is no longer accepted, I’ll cry foul. I can eventually get used to not writing checks but would feel terribly insecure not to have any cash on me for small purchases or God forbid, and emergency requiring payment in cash. Banks used to send all your processed checks back to you in the mail on a monthly basis for tracking purposes, but no longer, that has gone the way of the dinasaur. Now if I become super famous I won’t be able to sell my returned checks on e-bay as authentic signatures. I believe in the future each individual will just carry some device that can be swiped just by touching a screen and the transaction will be complete. Well, I’ve still got a checkbook even though it’s being used a lot less now and cash in my pocket…the next step is to learn how to check-out in those lines without cashiers where your responsible for scanning, bagging, and paying with just a debit/credit card.
Despite spending an estimated $57 billion on airport security improvements since 9/11 a 15-year old from Santa Clara manages to walk on the tarmac at San Jose Airport and stowaway in a planes wheel-well. The fact that anyone would try something so insane amazes me and that he got away with it is even more amazing. The 15-year old it turns out was a refugee from Somalia and wanted to get back home to see his mother. Good intentions but a bad choice on mode of transportation. The wheel-well? Really? My first thought is that when the landing gear went up after take off you would get squished by the incoming wheel and gear. I guess not. The teen spent more than 6-hours on the ground before the flight took off and then another 5 1/2 hours in the air on his trip to Maui, Hawaii. He actually didn’t even know where the plane was headed, but he knew it was going somewhere. The wheel-well is not pressurized and there is no oxygen equipment. The outside air temperature is minus 50-degrees…that is quite a bit to deal with, not to mention it being pitch black dark. I’m still baffled at his intentions and desperation to put yourself in such a life threatening situation, but he survived the ordeal. The boy told authorities that he lost consciousness when the plane took off on it’s 2,350 mile trip over the Pacific Ocean, which turns out that might have helped save his life. The extreme cold and lack of oxygen created a state similar to hibernation slowing down the heart and circulation making it possible to survive the extreme conditions. The kid regains consciousness upon decent and one hour after landing climbs out and walks across the tarmac in Hawaii in seemingly good shape. The story caught my attention immediately as it was one of the most bizarre stories I have seen or heard in a long time. I thought it was just an isolated incident that came out of the blue but as I read on it turns out since 1947, 105 people are known to have attempted to fly inside wheel wells on 94 flights worldwide. Of those, 25 survived, including a 9-year-old – a survival rate of just 24%. Did I miss out on a new trend like playing chicken with cars or laying down on the white line in the middle of the road? Those odds are even bad for Vegas. But my question is what goes through one’s mind to even attempt such a plight. My guess is not much. The fact that he so easily walked up to a plane on the runway and climbed aboard without being noticed just confirms my theory that no matter the security, if someone wants to get access to a plane, it can be done. This person could have been carrying anything on him when he tucked away. Someone in security at the San Jose Airport must have been grilled with a lot of questions after this incident, if that person still has a job. That is really a major snafu in airline security. While we’re taking off our belts and shoes someone is leisurely walking right up to the plane and hiding in the wheel well. Fortunately the teenager had no bad intentions and security experts said they expected the incident to prompt airport security reviews across the nation. My theory is that it was human error which is usually the reason. Perhaps someone took their eyes off security cameras or fell asleep at the wheel. The story stole my attention last week , but thanks to LA Clipper owner Donald Sterling and his racist remarks, I’ve got something new this week to ponder.