“Mama, do you have any lint in your belly?”
“Well, you’re not old enough. Daddy is SO OLD that he has lint in his belly.”
* * * * *
“Your name should be what you look like. Mine is! And Sparky’s name should be what she looks like, and Daddy’s name should be what he looks like. Sparky is . . . well, her name is perfect for her because she’s so little. She just -- sometime’s she’s idiotic. Mama, what does idiotic mean?”
* * * * *
“Mama, is Montana a real place? Can I have some candy? WHY CAN’T I EVER HAVE ANY CANDY?! Can I have some really cold water? Why are we whispering?”
This has been an interesting and busy month at work. We got a new client in, of all places, Washington state, and he’s keeping us BUSY. For years this man managed a business in Chico that was and is still our client, so when he moved to Washington and bought a new business, he decided that we should do his advertising for him. So far it’s working out great.
But it’s always the little things you don’t think of that make new situations difficult.
First of all, the business is a car dealership, and they can keep you hopping. They find out about big promotions from their manufacturers sometimes only a matter of days before the promotions start, so all of the media buying, ad copywriting, talent coordination, video and audio taping, and editing are condensed into about, oh, seventeen minutes of work. My job is to log, type, copy, collate, fax and file the media orders, checking math, spelling, dates, times, names, etc. etc. etc. along the way. I can do it in my sleep in the Chico-Redding market, and speaking of sleep, I can hear you snoring out there (I don’t blame you). But now with a brand-new (to me) market of a size comparable to Chico-Redding, I have to learn a whole new batch of names and fax numbers.
I’m sure that sounds small, but it’s been a real headache to stay on top of. We’ve been getting an additional sizeable dollar figure to add to the mix every week -- YEAH BABY -- so those Washington stations are each getting multiple orders. So many budgets to keep track of. I’m only talking about orders, here -- I won’t even frighten you with discussions of traffic (which is the management nightmare of coordinating which ads run on which contracts and stations for how long). Think e-mails. Think Next-Day Air. Think faxes up the wazoo.
In this particular Washington market there are four radio station groups and three cable TV centers. Of the four radio reps, three were named Dave -- for about two weeks. Then one of the Daves got fired, and it’s a bit easier with only two Daves now.
In our market I have to remember only 7-digit phone and fax numbers, but in the Washington market everything is long-distance, 10-digit numbers, so I live and die by a phone sheet. I’m sure this sounds very petty to you, but if I screw up -- like I did yesterday, one time -- then a rep gets hold of his competitor’s order, and he can see
a) how much you’re spending with his competitor
b) how much more budget is available for him to wring his hands over, and
c) what other demographics you are buying which he could cover with his sister station KRAP FM, and havn’t you heard about KRAP FM? It’s hotter than hot! I’m waiting for the sales pitches to start pouring in, dammit.
So I was just hitting my stride with this new market when a stalwart of our local ad sales business (and legend in his own mind) Gus, my goofy buddy for some years now, quit his radio sales job of over a decade to move to a competitor’s radio group. His old group changed hands in December and there was a firing blood bath. While Gus didn’t get fired, he must not have liked his new world, so he left.
CRAP! I now have MORE media phone/fax lists to overhaul.
Yes, this is small, small, petty stuff, but everybody’s job is.
At least I no longer have three out of four radio reps named Dave.
The story of Gene Moore’s life would never have made a good book. Not that he, as a family man and self-made business owner, wasn’t a dynamic and interesting person; it’s just that he was a middle America Everyman who came into adulthood as World War II ended.
That’s probably how Gary Moore, sone of Gene and author of the book Playing With The Enemy, probably would have believed . . . before. Before he found an old letter addressed to his father. Before he wouldn’t take no for an answer, this time, when asking his father about his past life one night over dinner.
That night Gary Moore was able to crack his father’s hard exterior, and the story of Gene’s youth poured out of him. I can only imagine what it must have been like to hear it for the first time, as the son. It’s the stuff movies are made of, and I hear a major motion picture is in the works for Playing With The Enemy.
No matter who they get to play Gene, the two undeniable stars of the story are the game of baseball and World War II. It’s a surprising but unbeatable combination, and when you add in the tantalizing fact of a secret mission, the tale gets even juicier. I won’t spoil the story for you, although if you pick up the book you can learn far more than this just by reading the flaps and reviews. Suffice it to say that Gene was an extremely talented, likeable young man in an extraordinary situation who was tested, who failed, and who ultimately succeeded in human terms.
Gene Moore’s story is compelling because it’s true, and the fact that his son Gary coaxed it out of him 24 hours before Gene died makes it seem very “Hollywood” indeed. But don’t be fooled -- this is not the story of a superhero, so don’t look for that. This is not the ultimate Hollywood underdog story either, although there certainly are elements of that. This is the true story of your retired neighbor who waters his roses every morning in his undershirt. This is the true story of the man down the street who drives to his business every day, long after he needs to work, because it’s his life, his passion, his responsibility. This is your grandfather or great-grandfather’s true story that he never told you; that faraway look he would get in his eyes when the conversation turned to “the old days.” The people who lived through World War II sacrificed in more ways than we can ever know, and this is just one extraordinary tale.
I have a special interest in this book, as our family friend Val Laolagi did the wonderful illustrations that grace the pages. That’s how I learned of Playing With The Enemy. Thanks Val -- I am so glad I read it. Once I got going I read most of it in two days.
I gave Dad the book for Christmas, and if there’s someone you know who appreciates a dramatic story from the World War II era, I recommend Playing With The Enemy.
The call came in just as I was finishing my shift. It was Andy, a young waiter and one of my favorite coworkers and friends at the H.S. Bounty restaurant in Kaanapali, Maui. Jan took the call, and I could tell from her end of the conversation that something was wrong.
Jan was my roommate, my friend from home who had the original idea to take a break from Chico State and live and work in Maui for a year. We worked opposite shifts as cashiers at the Bounty. My shift had just ended, Jan’s shift had just started, and she had handed me the keys to our shared Toyota so I could go home for the evening. I hesitated, though, when I heard Jan’s tone on the phone. She sounded concerned, even frightened, while talking to Andy.
I could tell from Jan’s end of the conversation that Andy had taken something, some kind of drug, and was strung out and having a hard time. This was new territory for all of us. Jan and I barely drank alcohol, and certainly had nothing to do with drugs. Andy, like most of the surfing busboys and waiters of all ages on the island, had smoked his share of pakalolo, but he wasn’t very experienced with other drugs. In his confusion and fear he had called work to talk to someone he trusted, and and he got Jan. While she was easily the smartest person in the place, someone Andy adored, and very level-headed, she was also not someone who could offer any experience-based advice, other than DON’T HANG UP.
Andy was getting sleepy, and was losing interest in the conversation. Jan kept him talking as long as she could, and then her shift started. We really couldn’t keep the restaurant phone tied up that way -- this was in the days before cell phones, 1986 -- so again Jan begged Andy to tell her where he was so we could get him some help. He wouldn’t tell her. The lives of these surf bums were much different from anything Jan and I were used to -- they moved from one buddy’s apartment to another, crashing where they may. Andy officially lived with his teenage girlfriend and her mother in a posh condo up on Pineapple Hill, in the exclusive area of Kapalua. But quite often Andy would crash with all the other guys in a seedy apartment tower in Honokowai. Andy could have been a lot of places.
“Andy, don’t hang up until you tell us where you are,” Jan pleaded. But for some reason he wouldn’t say. Jan did get him to agree to call me on our home phone in ten minutes -- enough time for me to race home. He did call me, and I kept him on the phone for a long time. I couldn’t convince him to tell me what he had taken, where he was, or to allow me to send medical help. Finally, in exhaustion, Andy hung up the phone.
I was so afraid he would die.
Andy lived through the experience, but the spark in his eyes that we loved, the energy and quick-witted comebacks, were missing. He seemed to be filtered, dissipated. Talking with Andy after that night was like talking to someone who was pretty stoned.
I didn’t smoke any pot for another few years, and then only twice, I think. I had put it off so long that I was an adult, and at that age there was no thrill, no sense of getting away with anything. The fuzzy head that came with the weed reminded me of Andy, which was a buzz-kill. I definitely had no interest in any other drugs.
Maybe something good came of the whole sad experience, after all.
Tonight the kids and I were reading on the couch before bed time. Sparky had chosen an alphabet book. I mix it up every time, but tonight I'd point to a picture and say, "Smedley, which G word is this?" etc. Sparky had her knickers in a twist about something, and on her third turn she pronounced the picture a "STUPID CAKE!"
I warned her, because stupid is a no-no in our house. So on her next turn I asked, "Sparky, what is this D word, AND YOU'D BETTER NOT SAY STUPID!!"
Sparky glared at the page and said, "Damn dog! That's a damn dog!"
I think she won.
I had guessed that I’d stay up to greet the new year, and that the rest of my family would be long asleep, and I was right. But I never in a million years would have guessed where I would spend most of New Year’s Eve 2006:
In the emergency room.
After a dinner in the living room -- a rare treat -- of pizza rented from Papa Murphy’s (and peas, just to prove we weren’t completely abdicating our parental judgement), it was bedtime. Sparky, Smedley and I have all gotten sick AGAIN, so there would be no staying up late for the girls, but my 3 1/2 hour nap on the couch pretty much guaranteed that I’d be up until 2007.
I think the words “bed time” had just left my mouth when Sparky stepped onto the white plastic step stool once more, and it flipped. Instead of putting her foot into the center of the stool, she stepped on the edge, and as fast as she was ascending she descended just as fast -- and hard. She hit her head on the coffee table, though I thought she had hit the stool. I checked for blood, broken teeth, crooked nose, and found none, so I was relieved. Chas took her into the bathroom to wash her face and check her over. I heard Chas's yell from the kitchen, and I ran.
Sparky had a hematoma the size of a devilled egg on her forehead, after less than two minutes. It was a brilliant shade of purple.
“Oh, oh,” we said together. “Hospital.”
We dropped Smedley off at Grandma and Grandpa’s, in her jammies, and drove the half hour to Chico. I was worried about fog, drunk drivers, and New Year’s Eve road blocks, but we didn’t meet any of those, thankfully.
Sparky was talkative and not the least bit drowsy, so that was in our favor. The hour that we waited to see a doctor was not unpleasant, and I think Sparky actually enjoyed it. She told the triage nurse all about her new kookaburra toy, and about other toys not present. Sparky checked out fine, we got our instructions, and went home.
Home at last, and the girls dropped right off to sleep. Chas had to get up at 5:00 a.m., so he hit the sack right away, too. Not Mommy. I was too keyed up.
We have now joined the ranks of the parents who have been to the emergency room. I hope the affiliation ends here, sigh.