Under The Weather? Impossible!

Why do people say they are “under the weather” when they don’t feel well?. If I recall correctly, you need a temperature above 98.6 to have a fever. Considering that most people drop dead when their temperature goes over 103 degrees, it would have to be pretty hot aside to be under the weather.

When I was in third grade at the tender age of eight I used to come up with stomach ailments to try to avoid going to school or at least until a little later in the morning when I felt better. By shortening the school day even a little bit I felt I was cheating “The Man”. Ma didn’t seem to mind since she was from that generation of ladies before the feminist revolution. She stayed at home and did the housekeeping unless she had to go shopping which meant taking out the baby buggy with a kid sister in it and walking three or four blocks to Madison Street in the Austin neighborhood. In 1960, you could park your stroller outside a store front and expect to see it again thirty minutes later.
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The Sweetest Sounds

By Larry Teren
rogers&hammerstein
“The Sweetest Sounds, I’ll ever hear are still inside my head” invokes a special memory for me. It was written for a musical play called “No Strings” which debuted in 1962. It is the opening line to just another in a series of many great songs put together by the team of

Rogers and Hammerstein

.
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Always in the Middle

I am not a middle child but the second of five. I don’t often take the middle ground unless it is to get someone else to compromise toward my way of thinking. I am middle aged, I guess, unless I live to 120, which is possible.

One thing I enjoyed being in the middle of was the streets I lived on as a kid. Between 1955 and ’59, home to me was Jackson Boulevard in the West Garfield Park Chicago neighborhood between Kostner on the right (or east) and Kilbourn, to the left or (west). Situated in the middle of the block gave me an opportunity to roam a little further every year with more confidence in each direction without adult supervision. The moment my feet touched the sidewalk of our block on a return trip from elsewhere I already felt as if I was on the stairs leading to our first floor apartment. The only time I crossed to the other side of the street- the north side- was with my parents when the car was parked there. I was too young to play with a ball on the sidewalk out front so there was not even a chance of me running out onto the roadway to grab an errant throw.
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Prize Worthy

At the age of eight I was old enough to recognize when Spring had sprung. The days were at least a temperature of fifty degrees Fahrenheit and Daylight Savings arrival and made the sun stay out past 8:00pm. That’s also when three different ice cream trucks would make its way at various times of the evening within a few block radius of Quincy Street in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. Each truck driver knew his territory in the fight for a kid’s hard won allowance money and made sure not to bud in on the competition or suffer the consequences.

The compact, white colored Good Humor truck had a picture of an ice cream bar on the side panel. Chiming bells was instant recognition that Good Humor was somewhere in the area. The driver dished out to willing customers with appropriate coinage orange colored creamsicles, various flavored popsicles and sundry ice cream cones.
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Class Action

September of 1960 I turned eight, ready for third grade. The previous autumn I made a fool out of myself the earliest that I could remember when I rushed home to our new apartment in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood a half block from school to proudly tell my mother that I saw a 1964 car. Ma told me that there was no way as it would be four more years before that year’s models would be introduced in the fall. “But”, I insisted, “Perry told me that we both saw a 1964 car pass by”. She then explained to stupid me that my buddy probably meant that the two of us had seen a 1960 Ford car.

Another dumb thing I did that second grade school year was beat up a kid a year older than me during lunch recess. When we returned to class, a student representative from the third grade class was sent to my room to come take me for a dressing down by the ex-nun who taught the eight years old kids. She told me that it was wrong to hit other kids. I tried to reason with her that he started it and that he was a year older than me and should have been able to do a better job defending himself. She didn’t like my answer and had a look on her face that indicated that she couldn’t wait to get a hold of me the following year.
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Baseball Cards

If you were born before the 1970’s then you most likely remember going into a small grocery store usually at the corner on the block where you lived or otherwise pretty close by. Such a store was an old-fashioned, claustrophobic emporium where in order to get something off a very high shelf the clerk used a long stick with a hook at the end. It acted like an artificial hand that magically grabbed a carton or jar without crashing or crushing it. There was also a ladder on rollers which the braver employee used to slide over from one part of an aisle to another to re-stock merchandise.

The Chicago West Garfield Park neighborhood grocery store I went to in the late 1950’s was on Kostner in the middle of the block south from the corner at Jackson. This was where I bought penny candy and fed my growing baseball card habit. My favorite sweet junk was little waxed bottles with a sliver of colored water inside that was good for one quick slurp as well as rolls of paper with sugary dots on them. I ended up eating more paper than candy.
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Dog Gone It

Like all doting mothers, Ma has pictures of my childhood hidden away somewhere in the storage area of her basement. Years ago, I vaguely remember seeing one of me either sitting on or trying to stand next to a Great Dane dog in the empty lot next to the building we lived in on Independence Boulevard. This event probably takes place around 1954 or ’55 when I am about two years old and soon before we move further west and slightly north to the West Garfield Park area of Chicago.

As I recall, at the time I have a look on my face that does not reveal whether the dog and I are buddies. I do know that today I have mixed feelings about these four-legged creatures. It seems that whenever I am within smelling distance of one (notice I didn’t say who does the sniffing) the animal barks in a language they expect me to understand. It as if they are communicating and do not understand why I don’t respond in kind. Are we brothers of a certain band from a previous life?
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It Snow Good

Snow can be either good or bad depending on what you do for a living. If you run a ski slope, snow is fantastic. If you try to get around in your car in order to make a living or shop for food, snow stinks.

A few days ago, the Chicagoland area was inundated with allegedly its third highest snowfall ever recorded with more than 17 inches. Like all the local baby boomers, I think I was around for number one and two as well.
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Mob Action

Noticing that the movie “The Cotton Club” was broadcast on television a week or so ago brought back memories of watching it when it first came out in 1984. Those were the days I still went to the movies a handful of times a year. I especially liked it because it combined two of my favorite film genres- gangster and musical. Like most Americans, I find the so-called world of mafia more than interesting. Of course, I’d prefer it from the outside looking in.

I vaguely remember in the very early 1960’s the murder of Mr. Crispino. He owned a very popular as well as profitable Norge Village on Madison Street in Austin on the far west side of Chicago. Those were the days before fancy washer and dryers were common appliances in the basement of homes and apartment buildings. Norge was the brand name of his equipment. My parents would go there armed with coins to put in the coin-operated machines. They’d take me along either figuring I would help out or keep me out of trouble in fighting with my sisters who were being watched by our grandparents.

So, it was definitely what you would call a very cash oriented business. Apparently Mr. Crispino didn’t properly pass around the cash as one day he was gunned down and stuffed in one of the big dryers. I can’t tell you if the murderer put a quarter in the slot for the spin cycle. But it was the first experience in being made aware of a mob action close to home.
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Chinese President Hu is On First

Chinese leader President Hu Jintao made a historic trip to the United States this week to meet with President Obama and members of Congress. On Wednesday, Obama and Hu held a joint press conference that developed unintentionally into an Abbott and Costello routine. For whatever reason translators were not made available who could provide almost simultaneous translations of both presidents statements as well as answers to reporters questions. One would think that if the United Nations could do it, so could the White House. Instead, President Obama was surprised when after giving an opening statement for what seemed like ten minutes, a Chinese translator gave an equally long harangue to the straight-faced Hu. A couple of minutes into the translator’s talk, Obama cut in and apologized to the newsmen present that he had no idea that this was going to be the protocol.

When Hu spoke, Obama looked askance and tapped his ear, making a motion that he was clueless as to what was being said but to his credit showed patience to wait as did the rest of the audience to finally find out its meaning. And when a reported asked Hu why he seemed to be evading answering a specific question, Hu replied that he didn’t even know it was being asked of him.

I can imagine a reporter in the back of the room turning to another and asking, “Who’s speaking?” and the other fellow replying, “exactly”. Which reminds me of the time I first came face to face with a live Asian when I was a teenager in the mid 1960’s. Until then, the only ones I had noticed were Charley Chan and his number one son in the old movies shown on television as well as Fuji, the cook and erstwhile captive on McHale’s Navy.
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