Monday, April 10, 2006

The Day That Was, The Day That Wasn't And Days It's Hard To Believe What You See

"It's 106 miles to Chicago
We got a full tank of gas
Half a pack of cigarettes
It's dark
And we're wearing sunglasses."
- Ellwood Blues

Photograph by Kilroy_60

As Hines Ward was on television saying he was going to Disney World, and taking The Bus, the telephone rang in my hotel room. It was my old roommate from Park College. The conversation had a familiar ring to it.

"Are you ready?"... "I was wondering how long it was going to take you to call"... "My plane will be in at 9".... "I'll be there"

In the wake of the Steelers Super Bowl championship, the impending anniversary of The Good Doctor's suicide and the absence of my birthday on this year's calendar...There didn't seem to be anything more appropriate to do than set out on a road trip.

When we were rooming together he was a Liberal Arts major, a political junkie and a fanatic when it came to the Steelers. We were in the thick of things when the hometowners won their last two Super Bowls gaining the title as the the 1970's Team of the Decade. I remember looking down into Market Square from our dorm room as the championship parades rolled to a close and the players came out to party with the fans. Another thing that stood out from our first day together was how well versed he was about pharmaceuticals.

Since then he's become a Psychiatrist...AND an Attorney. Talk about learning how to cover your ass! He's also a championship fisherman. Among friends he's known simply as The Master Baiter.

I would soon come to find that Master was well prepared for this trip. We weren't on the highway long when he pulled a paper bag out of his suitcase...from which he took a sealed freezer bag....before revealing a cigar box wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. The fragrance would best be described as the scent of a sweet smelling skunk. The box was filled with joints that were perfectly rolled using cannabis that had come from a friend doing research at the Purdue University "Center For New Crops and Plant Products". He'd also won a Super Bowl bet with one of his colleagues, I'd find out later, scoring two bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

It was a bit after 4 a.m. when we got to Pittsburgh. Again, the feeling was a familiar one as our first stop was Primanti Brothers. There were times when we were at Park College that we'd walk the 17 blocks to Primanti' and from on some nights! Other times we would take a taxi one way or the other. Part of the fun, though, was walking and smoking. In those days Primantis only had one location; it opened at midnight and closed at 3 pm. {I don't ever remember seeing the place when the sun was shining.} There was a small bar area in the corner in the back. The place was ALWAYS packed in the wee hours of the morning. You'd find business people in thousand dollar suits sitting comfortably next to people who looked like they'd begged money for a sandwich. You never knew who would walk in the door; what you did know was the food would be great and all would be welcomed. Today Primanti's is perfectly commercialized. franchised and homogonized. But the sandwiches are still like nothing you find anywhere else.

After Primanti's we checked into the Hilton. Our room looked out over Point State Park. The fountain was lit...beyond that barge traffic traversed the Ohio River. We sat for hours, each smoking joints of our own, talking and laughing.

{The Day That Was}

One of the things we talked about was Hunter S. Thompson. We still laughed remembering our favorite Thompson stories, acts of senseless violence, the time a reporter went for an interview finding that he had to mow the lawn before the discussion could begin. But it wasn't the same type of laughter.

It had been almost a year; but the memory of that day still was all too fresh in my mind. As I do every morning, turning on the news was the first order of business. And there it was, Hunter S. Thompson blew his brains out. Looking at the police report, it all seems so simple...but whether you loved him or hated him --- it was ANYTHING BUT simple.

Thompson's death gained attention across the country and around the world from Canada to The UK to Australia. Whether it was The New York Times, ESPN, Rolling Stone, or any number of blogs everyone made room for Thompson.

And it was at about this time that we headed out into the city.

{The Day That Wasn't}

It's amazing how things change so much...and how things stay so much the same. We walked from one end of The Golden Triangle to the other. At one point we were walking down The Boulevard of the Allies and Master started singing....

"When you're alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go - downtown
When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know - downtown"
Petula Clark, Downtown

It was about that time that we came to The Post Tavern and decided to stop in for breakfast. As would be expected the way the past day had gone it turned out not to be a "conventional" breakfast...Iron City beer and hard boiled eggs with Franks's hot sauce. As it worked out, breakfast wound through lunch - bacon cheeseburgers - and onto dinner. By that time we were ready to head back to the Hilton for a nap.

Part of the reason we stayed at The Post so long was a belated celebration of Master's birthday, which had been a week before, and an early celebration of mine. In fact, we celebrated my birthday two years early. The day that wasn't this year was my birthday, February 29th. We were in this same bar 26 years ago in the same back corner booth when I had my sixth birthday! One of the reasons that was so memorable was a guy took a barstool outside after having an argument with the bartender and threw it back in through the front window. The third "Doobie Brother" Wayne Holmes was with us that day. Wayne used to laugh saying he never knew anyone as interested in "time" as I am who never wore a watch. I suppose that comes from having an "official" birthday only every four years. As I have gotten older instead of celebrating my birthday on February 28th or March 1st I start on February 26th and end on March 3rd. Then, on the seventh day, I rest.

It's about TIME...

{Days It's Hard To Believe What You See}

Notes from the start (first 3 months) of 2006...

<> March 31st

National Debt is over $8 Trillion and is expected to top $10 Trillion. The National Debt Clock in Time Square does not have enough digits to accommodate $10 Trillion.

<> March 29th

Have a note there was a full solar eclipse, but it was not viewable here in The States. The next one to appear in this part of the world, 2017. I have had the good fortune to see one total solar eclipse. I don't have the words to describe how spectacular it strange the colors of everything were.

<> March 28th

Andy Card left as President Bush's Chief of Staff. Replacing Card, Joshua Bolten who was the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. {National Debt $9 Trillion} Stepping in for Bolton as Budget Chief {National Debt $9 Trillion} is Ron Portman who has long-standing ties to the Republican-led Congress. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget {National Debt over $9 Trillion} has authority over every federal agency's spending and operations. Did I mention the last one to have this job is now the President's Chief of Staff?

<> March 26th

There was a new Ron White special that premiered on Comedy Central - You Can't Fix Stupid - that was funny.

<> March 20th

I was writing notes on a restaurant placemat so these aren't perfectly clear

Theree years ago today we kicked in Operation Iraqi Freedom with the Shock and Awe bombing attack. Remember how that was going to put them on their knees, eliminate all resistence and have American's be greeted as liberators. We had Paul Bremmer handling the governmental transition and Tommy Franks managing the more than adequate deployment of troops on the ground.

The notes appear to say something about spending Half a Trillion Dollars in Iraq --- The United States House of Representatives is scheduled to be in session 97 days this year which is the shortest calendar in 50 years --- The Vice President was blaming the press for lack of support among the majority of people at home, The Secretary of Defense was comparing pulling out of Iraq to turning Germany over to the Nazis and Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania was talking about the state of civil war in Iraq.

insurgency and secterian violence rage in Iraq. {But there is no Civil War nor is there anything resembling a Civil War we are assured by Bush's bumbling band. They had begun at this time replacing the phrase The War On Terror with The Long War.

{That phrase, The Long War, may go down in history as a tag for the Presidency of George W. Bush. He came to office with an agenda to go to Iraq and take out Saddam because he had to finsih the work his father started. Bush II has gotten us into something that there is no easy way out of - he has no iea how to get us out nor do any of his staff - and I've heard no explanation by anyone as to how victory is going to be able to be decalred in this "war". Thereis no "enemy" to fight and beat.}

The one good thing I see here say... 30th Anniversary Broadcst - Prarie Home Companion

Finally, there's a note about two invesitgations being conducted related to the United States military murdering civilians in Iraq.

<> February 26th

NBC went out on a limb promoting it's coverage of the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. For weeks leading up to the games the peacock network was crowing about how this was the best United States team EVER! There was Michelle Kwan, posing ever so gracefully. Bode Miller flashed across the screen taking a tight turn flying down the mountain. We're going to Torino...better than EVER!! Apollo Anton Ohno looked to bring home FIVE GOLD MEDALS. He would be one of the brightest stars on our best winter Olympic team EVER!!! There turned out to be one problem; no one told the team. Michelle didn't skate, the biggest news Bode made was talking about how tough it is skiing drunk and the young man with the soul patch didn't bring home as many meals as hoped. In short, our team sawed off the branch on which NBC was sitting. The team scored fewer medals than four years ago and not as many were gold. Not to fret. We're already looking forward to 2010 in Vancouver, it could be the Best United States Olympic Team..... Never mind.

to be continued...

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