If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me,
because I’d like to hear it again.
~~ Groucho Marx ~~
My old friend Al Bello was, to say the least, one-of-a-kind and among my oldest friends. We met in 7th grade dishing out our own brand of trouble to our teachers and others. Al was among my small circle of class clowns, birds of a feather.
“Al” – School Days
In our quest for attention, we were especially brutal to our music teacher, Miss Morgan. I’ve come to realize, the attention we sought was our misguided attempt to make up for other things lacking in our lives. No excuses though. In hindsight I regret how we treated her and by the time I wanted to apologize she was gone. She was a fine, gifted woman and her story deserves a place of its own here in this blog.*
Over a period of 45-years Al and I lived our lives separated by time and distance. He stayed in Maryland while I moved west. We managed from time to time to reconnect, only very occasionally, via phone calls. I had spoken to Al several years ago when I learned he was suffering with COPD. He was the same guy, the same sarcasm and still the jokester I remembered from our times together so long ago. Despite all those years of separation and little contact I remember thinking: losing him would be a bitter pill to swallow.
Once a year go some place you’ve never been before. ~~ Dalai Lama XIV
My life has seen some major changes in the last 2 1/2 years. Not only did I retire early but I moved here to Las Vegas in September of 2015. Strange in a way, as I had no family here and only a few acquaintances. But I wasn’t deterred, as I was assured of sunny, warm weather and I knew there’d be new friends and experiences just ahead.
Seven months after my move I left for an extended road trip in the spring of 2016. I expected to travel around 7,000 miles and to be away for 40-45 days. A long time certainly to be on the road, but I had plans, lots of them.
The Christmas Carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is based on an 1863 poem by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He was the nation’s preeminent poet of his era. The song proclaims the narrator’s despair, as he heard Christmas bells in the distance.
He bows his head, “There is no peace on earth,” [he] said,
“for hate is strong and mocks the song
of peace on earth, good will to men.”
But then the carol inexplicably changes with the bells carrying renewed hope for peace among mankind.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
So why the change and how did the poem come to be?
Today Italy’s Celone airfield has returned to nature and agriculture. One couldn’t know the activities, the machines and the hero’s who once occupied this Italian countryside. Only from the air can be seen the faint scarring of the landscape. Hidden are the fading remnants of taxiways and the 6,000 foot runway that gave pathway to the heavy B-17 bombers, their crews and payloads of America’s 15th Air Force.
The faint runway (center), taxiways and other roads of what used to be Celone Airfield.
One of those crew members came from Salt Lake City, via Canada, then England. His name is Howard Thayne. He is my children’s first cousin, two generations removed. Their maternal grandfather and Howard are first cousins. Born on March 23, 1919 in the coal mining camp of Kenilworth, Utah Howard’s family would move to Salt Lake where he was the typical American boy, sociable and popular among his peers. He graduated from West High School and at the age of 19 served a two-year mission for the LDS Church in Canada. Soon after his return home, with the outbreak of World War II, Howard enlisted in the Army Air Corps.
Tomorrow is the birthday of Baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. Like Mickey Mantle from my youth, Griffey turned me back to baseball as an adult. It came long after I had abandoned the game 20 years earlier.
It began once again with the excitement of my ten-year old daughter Jaime in the summer of 1989. We were at a neighborhood 7-11 when she talked me into buying a few packs of Upper Deck baseball cards. I hadn’t bought a baseball card in years! The last were used to motorize the sound of my bicycle. They were pretty effective, but the clothes pins couldn’t keeping them from flying off! Among those new cards we found “The Kid”s highly sought after rookie card. Jaime couldn’t believe it! It was the most valuable card in the 800-card set!
I’d never heard of him, but Jaime had! Not even yet a major league player, Upper Deck somehow knew, he soon would be. Ken Griffey, Jr. was going places. These baseball cards were like nothing I’d seen before, they were a work of art, pristine, glossy… darn near perfect! His card was beautiful. He was just an 18-year old kid and I was hooked!