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A family trip (and one down Memory Lane)



I’m driving up to Seattle with Gus on Saturday for my grand-niece’s bat mitzvah. I could just fly, but I want to take Gus with me, and he’s not an official service dog, so that means the car.

It will be a slow trip, maybe 150 miles a day, with plenty of stops along the way. I’ll be going up on the inland route—Highway 5—instead of the Interstate 101, along the coast. Reason is, I get cold very easily, following a 2002 incident in which a rowboat I was on overturned in the cold Russian River. My friend and I were trapped in the water for a long time, and I developed hypothermia. Ever since, my body’s thermostat has been haywire, with the result that in the wintertime, in particular, I’m cold pretty much all the time. This past winter, all I could think of was being in the Central Valley this summer, where I could bake to my heart’s content and not be cold.

My route will take me through some pretty hot places, like Redding and Red Bluff. As I type these words (Thursday afternoon), Google tells me it’s currently 110 in Redding. The high tomorrow (Friday) will be 111. That’s pretty hot; in fact, the only other time in my life I experienced 111 degrees was years ago, in Paso Robles, when the heat was so crushing I had to take refuge in the air-conditioned library. I think I’m better prepared to handle the heat now, though. As for Gus, I’ll have to take extra care of him. He doesn’t like the heat, so we’ll walk in the early morning and later at night. And I’ll keep both of us hydrated.

I like going to out-of-the-way places that are off the tourist beaten path: Medford, Roseburg, Salem. It’s fun to explore these towns and small cities, checking out restaurants and bookstores, finding new bars, meeting new people, seeing the sights. Once you get out of the Bay Area and up towards the California-Oregon border, you leave Blue State territory and enter Red land. Siskiyou County went for Trump over Hillary 56.5% to 35.8%. Shasta was even more lopsided, 65.6% to 28.2%. Locals call that part of the country “Jefferson,” and they wouldn’t mind not being part of either California or Oregon. There are also a lot of libertarians. It will be interesting the meet some of the Trumpers, have a few beers or whatever with them, and sound out their feelings about Trump. After all the scandals and lies, are they having second thoughts?

In case you don’t know what a bat mitzvah is, it’s the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony for girls (for boys, it’s a bar mitzvah). It happens at the age of 13. Here’s a picture of me at my bar mitzvah:

Cute, huh!  That was a long time ago. Dwight Eisenhower was president, but JFK was running hard, and I was already attracted to him through the T.V. A year or so later, after he’d gotten the nomination, I read in the New York Journal-American that he would be at a campaign stop at the Concourse Plaza Hotel, which was just a few blocks away from my building in The Bronx. (The Concourse Plaza was where the New York Yankees lived during the season.) I sawed the handle off one of my mother’s brooms, bought a big piece of posterboard and wrote, with a big Magic Marker, “All the Way with JFK!” When I got to the hotel, there were sawhorses set up at the side entrance and only a few cops and spectators. A black car pulled up and JFK got out. He stood, straightened his tie, gave me a little smile with a nod of the head when he saw my sign, and disappeared inside. That was the closest I ever got to a future President of the United States.

Telling that story reminds me of a Mickey Mantle moment. I was a real autograph hound as a kid. The Yankees were easy to find during the season (they’d shop at the local A&P supermarket, buy pastries at G&H Bakery, wait in line for smokes at the drugstore), and you could always spot a Mantle, a Berra, Ford or Kubek on the street, and mostly they’d be happy to sign an autograph book.

But Mantle had a reputation among us kids. He could be super-charming, but if he’d had a bad day (like striking out a lot, which he did), he could be mean. You never knew. (Of course, we now know that he was an alcoholic.) I already had his autograph six times, but when I saw him that day, crossing 161st Street, I wanted #7. I caught up to him at the pedestrian island. “Mick, can I have your autograph?” Evidently, he’d had a bad day, for he shoved me to the ground and walked away.

Can you imagine a professional baseball player physically assaulting a little kid today? Headlines! Lawyers! Big trouble! But those days were different. Actually, I didn’t mind it in the least. I was shoved by Mickey Mantle! Pretty cool!

Have a great weekend. More on Monday.

  1. Bob Rossi says:

    “Can you imagine a professional baseball player physically assaulting a little kid today?”
    That’s easier to imagine than a major professional athlete taking a walk to the grocery store in his neighborhood. I remember reading a story a few years ago about the New York (baseball) Giants and how many of their stars lived in a normal NY neighborhood and interacted with their neighbors on a regular basis. Now, if they interact with their neighbors it’s more like asking for a recommendation for a good pool-cleaning service or landscaper.

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