Monthly Archives: January 2014

50 shades of gray Allen – Days 7-9

Year six, or as you probably recall it – 1970.

1970

I turned six and moved into the first grade.

I broke my arm this year while playing superman – dressed in a cape (aka dishtowel) and my underwear. When my mom took me to the hospital the doctor asked me about my arm and the other bruises I had. I told him, “Oh, my mom beats me up all the time.”

Now in today’s vernacular, that would result in a platoon of operatives from Child Protective Services descending upon my house and my parents being led away in shackles. But in 1970 it means the doctor looking at her, looking back and me and my adding, “We wrestle all the time.”

He looked at me, at my mom and back at me. And without a word went back to work.

1971

At age seven I finished up first and moved into second grade, meeting two of the singularly most influential people of my life.

Kurt Seaman

Kurt Seaman

The first was Kurt Seaman. We met in Mrs. Urseth’s second grade class, sitting across from each other. My mom had yet to really find her ‘brown bag lunch mojo’ at this time in my life, and so my midday snacks were marginal at best. But Kurt’s mom made these magical mustard and ham sandwiches. I’m not sure how Kurt gained any weight that year, or if even did, as I was regularly haggling with him to get those sandwiches.

As it turned out, we only lived a few blocks apart and so we’d get together and play from time to time. And then one day he introduced me to this new kid, Jeff Johnson.

Jeff and Kurt fed the two sides of the person I’d later become. Kurt was the adventuresome, devil-may-care stuntman that we all wished we could be as a kid. There wasn’t anything on this planet that Kurt wouldn’t try to launch him and his bicycle over.

Jeff Johnson

Jeff Johnson

On the other side, Jeff was the ultimate planner. He created so many things that the rest of us could hardly keep up. He created an arcade-style baseball game in his backyard using baseball cards, a large marble and a ruler. He created a NASCAR racing game using 1/24 scale models, a pair of dice and an action/hazard card deck that he created. And possibly best of all, he created a new brand of croquet that had all us perfecting the shot where we plopped our opponent’s ball into a compost pile.

Sheer brilliance.

1972

This is where the ‘sickness’ began.

In the spring of this year I was at Kurt’s house one day when his mom informed us it was time for him to go to practice.

1972 Red Sox

1972 Red Sox

“What do you have practice for?” I queried.

His reply was one word. One beautiful, action-filled word.

“Baseball”

After several more occurrences of Kurt having to leave for practices, I somehow got invited to go. I don’t recall it if was from Kurt or his parents inviting me or if my parents asked how I could get involved. But somehow I got there.

And from that day to this, baseball has always been the game I truly love.

Football is great and basketball is exciting. But they just aren’t baseball.

I played with Kurt that year on the Red Sox, coached by Richard Dominguez. He was a great guy and taught me all the basics of the game and who became a good friend as I grew into a man.

With a new-found love of the game, my dad made it a point to take me to my first game at Dodger Stadium that summer. My parents had friend named Rudy and Lenore Garza who lived in the Los Angeles area, and they happened to have four season tickets on the first base side of the most beautiful stadium of the day.

Dodger Stadium First Base Side

Dodger Stadium First Base Side

I can remember walking into the stands on the field level and finding our seats, some 15 rows behind first base and right in line with second. It was like we were right on top of the field, so close you could smell the grass and see the actual faces of the players. My temporary addiction for baseball cards would come later, so this was the first time I’d ever seen these guys except for the few times I watched games on TV with my dad. It was surreal.

At the time the big player for the Dodgers was outfielder Willie Davis. Davis was the man then, with the likes of Garvey, Cey, Lopes and Russell not even assembled yet for their historic run of consistency. But all I wanted that night was a foul ball.

Sometime in the second inning that opportunity came. Davis was at the

Willie Davis (1972)

Willie Davis (1972)

plate and flared a foul ball out way, looping toward our seats behind the right field dugout. As the ball neared it became clear that it wasn’t going to make it deep enough to our seats. Rather, it was angling toward this guy and his girlfriend. He sat there with his arm around her and very calmly raised his hand to make the catch … BAREHANDED!

He looked at the ball for a moment and tucked it away in his pocket.

At the time, Dodger Stadium was not sold out every night and the stands were lean for that game as well. Many of the patrons had transistor radios on them to listen to the dulcet tones of Vin Scully as he filled in all of the nooks and cranny’s of the game. But even Scully, a broadcast veteran of some 20 years at that point, took a minute to acknowledge the catch made by this guy.

A few innings later Davis was at bat again. It seemed too much to hope that he’d flare another one our way, but a few pitches in he did just that.

It looked like an instant replay of the one he’d hit earlier, arching high into the night and spiraling down toward Rudy, my dad and I. And just like the previous time, it just didn’t look like it was going to make it quite far enough.

And sadly, it did not.

For the second time in as many tries, the guy with his girlfriend reached up and snagged the ball barehanded … AGAIN! This time I had run up much closer, hoping that he might take pity on me and give me the ball. He looked it over for a moment before slowly reaching over and, with a smile on his face, handing it to his girlfriend.

It was a lot of years later before I recognized the value of a girl, and I certainly didn’t see it in that moment what possible use they could be. I’d learn that a few years later.

This time Scully exploded, immediately recognizing that the same guy had caught the ball a second time. The fans even gave him a small round of applause.

I walked back up to my seat without a ball, but that, as Billy Crystal once said, “Was my best day ever.”

Well, at least to that point in my short eight years of life.

Next time, age 9!

50 shades of gray Allen – Days 5-7

So here we are on the third installment of my march toward half a century in age. At least now things are starting to get interesting.

Well, just a little.

1968

Still not a ton to actually remember here. But it was during this time that I started making friends that I’d have for years to come.

The first was Marine West. Marine was skinny and gangly, pretty much like every other kid at that age. Well, except for me, who always seemed be in the top percentile when it came to growth and size.

Yippee.

But Marine was one of my earliest friends. I can vaguely remember playing at the day care on the naval base and being forced to take naps on these mats that were not very comfortable. I never liked naps. Well, not until I got over 40.

In later years Marine turned out to be very attractive. I think I heard that she became a pilot for some airline.

1969

This is where possibly my second earliest memory occurs. In April of 1969 the United States had surged ahead in the race to the moon, with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins reaching the surface. My mom and dad had one of those huge console televisions back in the day, and while the color was a little wonky, you could see Armstrong making his way down the ladder and eventually to the surface.

I’ve always had this weird sense of history. I see and look at things in a way very different from most folks. And even then I remember thinking just how incredible it was. Something told me that this was big. Even at age five I knew, this was big.

During this time my dad, Edwin Melvin Allen Sr., had become a huge fan of three things. He watched network news every waking minute except for when The Lawrence Welk Show or Star Trek was on.

StarTrekCastMy dad and I would talk about space and he’s always bring up watching Star Trek. And I always remember thinking what a dumb show it was. But about six years later I totally got it, and we’d hash out every episode down to the last detail. I’d draw versions of the Enterprise and I think he’d get excited, thinking I was going to become an engineer just like him.

To this day I still love that show and its various incarnations.

And I still have a weird attachment to champagne music.

As I entered kindergarten I can remember more friends, but n0ne more so than Roxanne Aslanian. Roxanne was kind of one of the guys, a tom boy. But she has become the one friend that I still remain in contact with today, 45 years later. She married one of my best friends in the world, Jeff Johnson, who I met just two years later through my other great friend Kurt Seaman. The three of us have been staying close for some 43 years this year.

Just crazy.

Another person  I met in that class was Jenny Rungo. I can remember sitting in class while Mrs. Osterman read to us. Her dad, Ralph Rungo would come in from his office and sit with us, listening intently and always flashing that huge smile. He later became my dentist (his slogan was the “Tender Tooth Mender”) and was the absolute best at making sure I felt minimal pain – even with 70s technology.

That’s a wrap for now. Next time it starts getting groovy as we head into the 70s!

50 shades of gray Allen – Days 2-4

Onward and upward with our countdown. For the 50 years of Allen’s life, this is Casey Kasem.

I just loved that guy growing up!

So now I’m 46 days away from turning 50, and so a look back and the next three years of my life since number one.

1965

Not a whole here as I was still pretty much clueless about the world around me.

1966

See 1965.

1967

Its in this year that I can say I honestly have my first vivid memory.

It was during the spring of this year that we had some rain storms that really drenched Ridgecrest and the Mojave’s High Desert region. My mom and dad and had purposed to make the backyard a liveable place, and in doing so had planted grass in the center and a number of fruit tree around the perimeter.

But on one rainy day in particular my nephew, Tommy, and I had decided that we wanted to run around the yard in our underwear. Tommy, being my sister Margaret’s first son and just a year younger than me, would pretty much do whatever I suggested at that point. Good thing I was such and angelic child.

Somehow we came up with the idea of turning over one of those plastic wading pools that people buy their kids and holding over our heads while we ran around. Our feet got wet in the grass and from the patio pavement, but we were dry as could be.

I use to tell me mom that I remembered doing that for years and she could never recall the occurrence. And then one day, years later when I was in my teens, she found a picture of my nephew and I holding the pool over our heads as we tried getting in the sliding glass door.

I wish I had that picture now.

And yes, if I had it I’d publish it for your enjoyment.

This was also the year that I sustained my first injury. While “wrestling” with my older brother, Eddie, he rolled over my foot and kind of tweaked it. They took me to the doctor, x-rayed it and found that there was a small chip that was in my ankle. They determined that it was no big deal and did nothing but tell my mom to ice me up and head home.

Year later when I was on the freshman basketball team, under the guidance of one Frank Mazer, I severely sprained my ankle while doing some rebound drills with teammate Mike Campbell. When they looked at the x-rays they said it looked like your typical sprain, except for this bone chip that was floating around and looked out of place.

Ya gotta love 1960’s medical technology.

 

50 shades of gray Allen – Day 1

As of this morning at 12:23 a.m., I’m on a countdown clock to a magical place.

No, I’m not going to Disneyland nor am I heading off to Oz.

50 days from today, I turn 50.

OldometerBirthdays have never really hit me hard in the past. I remember 13 as I found it strange that the youngest of my older siblings, Carol Sue, was then 26 and exactly double my age. And I recall turning 36 as it kicked me into the dreaded 36-50 age bracket on most surveys.

Those were dark times in the land.

50, however, kind of sits there like an enigma.

On one hand it stands as a mile-marker, hailing the fact that I’ve made it a long way.

On the other, it reminds me that the life expectancy estimate for men is 76, which means I’m two-thirds of the way there.

But I’ve decided that this march toward a rather stoic number should be celebrated, not mourned. And so, I am going to attempt to take a look back each day over each year of my life. Of course the early ones will pretty much just be me recounting things that went on in the world and how they may have affected my personal development. Later entries will reflect on some of the people and events that I have been part of or been witness to.

You people who love my old stories will get a real kick out of that, I have no doubt.

And so I will start by relaying a comment from my wife, Dee, that got me thinking about my time here on planet Earth. I was looking in the mirror when I asked her, Is there was any remnant of blonde left in my hair? I mean, tell me the truth. Be honest.”

“Not really,” she replied.

“No shades or even a hint of it, huh?” I asked.

“Well, you’ve got 50 shades of grey. Well, not those 50 shades of grey, but you know what I mean.”

Boy did I ever.

And so, like one of melodic idols Billy Joel, we’re gonna take a look back at history as I knew it and see if I really did start the fire.

1964

JFKOn February 23 Edwin and Cathy Allen brought the fifth of their five children into the world – Timothy Crane Allen. I landed on the planet three months to the day after the assassination of president John F. Kennedy in the small desert community of Ridgecrest, California.

As I was told by my parents, I walking by six months, thanks to my brothers and sisters running me up and down the hall by my hands. Too bad while I was learning to walk and run, that I didn’t a get a great grip on the concept of balance. A trait I’m sure one Frank Mazer could attest to in my high school years.

The Beatles beat me here by just a few weeks, assuming the were all the real members of the band. My nephew Andrew Spooner later did a rather lengthy expose of why the man we know as Paul McCartney is nothing but an imposter. I couldn’t really care, personally, but the whole backwards masking thing on “Revolution 9” was pretty interesting.

Sidewinder Missile AIM-9

Sidewinder Missile AIM-9

My dad was feverishly working on the guidance systems for the Sidewinder Missile back then, a creation that he had earned a U.S. Government Patent for. Until I saw it’s impact in the China Lake Naval Station’s air combat museum a year ago, I never really understood the impact and advantage that this missile had on aerial combat. My dad was a lot cooler than I ever gave him credit for.

Later in life I realized that I had been born in an off-year for the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team I would follow with some enthusiasm as a youth. For a long time I thought was a bad sign. Then Rupert Murdoch bought the team and I knew nothing they did was my fault.

Ernie Davidove 1947-1968)

Ernie Davidove (1947-1968)

Finally, upon entering the world a friend of my brother’s and close to our family, Ernie Davidove, died on Vietnam. I use to play on athletic fields in my hometown named after him, and my mom would tell me stories about how he would feel her stomach while she was pregnant with me just before he left for the war.

Later in life I had the opportunity to take a picture of his name from the war memorial in Washington, D.C. Oddly, almost eerily, my reflection was blurred in the background – him being present and myself in the background, just as it had been before he left.

And so we begin. 50 days from now I’ll hit another milestone. And like an aging NASCAR driver hitting the final turn on a tri-oval track, I’ll be headed for home. Here’s hoping to being able to lengthen the racing schedule for a few more seasons.

When the labelmakers malfunction

Labels are funny things.

They carry a lot of information, but rarely anything we really need or want to know.

I am the son of a man who spent nearly every waking moment of his life assigning labels. A good portion of that was for his work as a mechanical engineer for the United States Navy as he worked on the creation of the Sidewinder Missile. Every drawing had to meticulously described so that they guys on the other end building the thing knew exactly what his intentions were.

graph_equation_lg_whtAt home, those same skills made digging up a simple flower bed for my mother a college-level class in drafting and geometric design. My mom would say, “Can you guys dig up that square in the backyard so I can plant some stuff?” That request hit my dad’s ears and translated into some set of postulates and theorems that even Pythagoras would cringe at.

Never did a woman have such an exactly measured place to go daisies.

But he also dealt in some other labels, ones that I’m fairly sure were left over from his life growing up during the depression and without a father after the age of eight. One that tended to pigeon hole people into little boxes that made him feel better, but that were grossly unfair.

I picked up the habit, but shied away form it later as I became victim of some of those same misplaced labels.

Yeah, I was a bigger kid than most, but I wasn’t as fat as they all made me feel. The litany of names I endured was lengthy and hurtful until one friend, Greg Markarian, hit on one my freshman year. Mixing my size with my affinity for the play of one Ervin ‘Magic’ Johnson he tagged me as Magic Gut. It stung at first, but became something of a badge of pride later.

But that’s for another day…

But I’m addressing labels as I am coming to believe they may be the lynch pin in our problems today. Maybe not all of them, but a darn good many of them.

See, when we place a label on someone, that tends to become our reality. We look at people in that light almost completely irrespective of anything else they might do.

political-partiesPut the issue of people being equally and fairly on the table for discussion, and everyone agrees its a good thing.

But assign parties at the table with religious monikers and its starts to get ugly. Toss in sexual preference and skin color and people start whipping out weapons- verbal and otherwise.

The topic didn’t change, but the perception of the people in the discussion did.

I witnessed this most recently when watching a television show. Being the end of the year the parties on screen were going over some of the various happenings from the year and in this one segment focused on people who got in trouble. They dinged Paula Deen and Phil Robertson to name a few, and cracked wise with one liners on each. At one point someone asked if the room would like to watch another channel, to which one person replied, “Yeah, I’ve had about enough these damned liberal yuppies!”

Now, the first bad assumption here is that the people on the screen were liberals. Yeah, it does seem like Hollywood tips that way on the political scales. But tossing that assumption on the table just muddy the waters. For as soon as that statement was made, Jane Lynch – an outspoken lesbian actress – immediately voiced her support for Duck Dynasty’s elder statesman saying something to the effect of “What did A&E think they were getting? He’s down-home, self-proclaimed redneck who prays at the end of every show. What did they think he was going to say?” (my paraphrase)

JaneLynchWhen I heard that it became apparent that Ms. Lynch and held the exact same viewpoint. And I, in fact, had said almost the exact same thing not a few weeks earlier.

And I’m just guessing here, but I can’t imagine that Lynch is one of Robertson’s biggest fans.

And of course we are all aware of the labels that hinder our political process. Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives, North, South, East and West and whatever tags you want to toss in there make getting anything done a virtual nightmare.

But it seems that, at least politically, people may be willing to start stripping off those titles.

In a January 2012 article, Gallup reported that a record high 40% of voters identified themselves as independents. That means at best that 60% of the remaining voters side with one of the two traditional parties, and we know they don’t all belong to one of them alone.

So during the presidential campaign from that same year when Mitt Romney made his now infamous statement about the 47%, that he ticked off a substantial portion of the voting public. He pigeon-holed a huge voting block with one statement – A statement that likely showed how he viewed what he perceived to be Democrats and that put the people who feel they are part of that crowd on edge against him.

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it — that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. … These are people who pay no income tax. … [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” ~ Mitt Romney

Right, wrong or indifferent, that’s how it played out.

Oh, but don’t think I’m not gonna kick around in my own backyard a bit.

Christians, we’re way guiltier than the politicians. They do it for money, one of the oldest hooks in the book.

Christians? We do it for something far less laudable and far more sinful.

We do it for pride.

Christians place labels on folks all the time, forgetting that Christ told us not to judge each other. We always seem to forget that.

We keep forgetting that when Christ boiled down all of the law and commandments that they could all be summed up in just two. And that if we’d focus on just those two, we’d be in good shape and doing the Father’s will.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~ Matt 22:36-40

We label they as gay, lesbian, drug addicts, alcoholics, pornographers and the like. Yep, that may be what they do. But they are still God’s children and only as lost as any of us were before we came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

By labeling people we put them beneath us, because sure we wouldn’t have any such issues. And if they have issues and we are so superior, we really shouldn’t sully ourselves by talking, eating or (Heaven forbid) actually touching these folks. Its so much easier to legislate our morality and require them to act like us. Just like Jesus did with us, right?

What? He let us make a choice? Well I’m sure we can improve the system and make it easier and more efficient for them to ‘believe’ (aka conform). We’re Christ won’t mind.

We never say that, but that is exactly how we act. And as it dumb as it looks in print, its is a thousand times more offensive to those who have yet to truly consider Christ and make Him their Lord and Savior.

Labels work great on missile drawings, file cabinets and food stuffs.

But apply them to people and they never come out right.

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