The Drive In Rookie

With winter around the corner, the drive in movie theater my wife wife works the concessions for, The Foggy Window, will be shutting down soon for the season.  It made me a little nostalgic with regard to my first experience at a drive in theater.

In 1977, I was four years of age when Star Wars hit the big screen. Apparently, I was too small for the big screen, so I was left at home while my older brothers and sisters went to the movie during the holiday season.  I vaguely remember being upset, but my mother made up for it by donating an extra gallon of egg nog to its most worthy organ……my stomach.  Three years later, some of my older siblings returned from working in Alaska for an annual visit.  That was always terrific because they had a load of spending money, and they would be very generous to the youngest siblings still living at home.  Maggie, 8 years my elder, Greg, 6 years ahead of me and Tom only four above.  Two of my sisters returning from Alaska, and I don’t remember which two, would show us some high old times in the city of brotherly tolerance, Spokane, Washington.  There was pizza, Chinese food,  skating at the downtown Pavilion, and of course carnivals.  My older sisters were always pleased to pay for everything even though our old man would kick in  a few bucks each to pay for some of the festivities.  He wanted them to save their hard earned money,  and they wanted to blow it.  Maggie, Greg, Tom and I didn’t give a rat’s constitution.  They were the limo drivers and we were riding first class.

Drive In Movie TheaterOne of my sisters, it could have been Anne, Theresa, or Dorothy, read in the Spokesman Review an advertisement for a drive in movie viewing of Star Wars being shown that night.  She thought it may be fun if we went, even though everyone had already seen it but me.  They all wanted to see it for a second time, and were thrilled to know I’d never seen it.  I was elated.  I can go?   I’m only seven.  My sisters said, “It’s PG, who gives a crap. You’re going, Ben.”  Hell, the movie could have been X rated for all they cared.  Even if the movie was titled, Ben Does Baltimore, they wouldn’t have given a crap.  They weren’t going to watch the movie anyway.  The drive in movie theater is a terrific place to baby sit and drink beer.  So, we loaded up the station wagon (limo) with people, beer and a few sodas from our own refrigerator, and headed to the local theater.

I’d heard tall tales about drive ins such as people hiding  in the trunks of cars getting  in for free.  I wasn’t in for that.  It seemed like we would be crossing a border,  and that was terrifying to me thinking I may never see my mother and father again.   Plus, it was a sin.  However, it would have given me ammunition for confession since I wasn’t much of a sinner in those days.  I still wanted to play for the Team of Jesus, rather than the Satan Slaves I’d heard so much about in church.   We went straight.  No laws had been broken, yet.

Greg, Tom and I hit the concessions like it was an Ali/Frazier rumble.  Popcorn, (extra butter flavoring) licorice,  gum,  soda, (we had already pounded the ones from home on the way to the movie) milk duds, M & Ms and anything else to keep us awake.   We were ready to head to a different galaxy loaded with Jedi Knights, some guy in a bigfoot costume making weird noises, a band of goofy aliens playing disco music, and a dude named Vader.  I’d just hoped it was better than Star Trek, the movie, because that sucked.

Before the speakers were set up properly,  all you could hear was laughter the medieval hand full crunches of popcorn and the opening of beer cans.  I didn’t know if that was legal or not, but I didn’t care.   Let the drivers get loaded.  I wasn’t doing anything wrong.

With the speakers set up, I noticed the sound was similar to the crunching of popcorn.  You could basically hear every third or fourth word of what was being spoken on the screen.  With the lot packed we had no choice but to listen, or not listen to the movie that way.  Looking back with the sounds of my beer drinking sisters’ laughter mixed in with the sheer volume of their normal conversation voices which couldn’t even be measured in decibels, would have drowned out whatever was being said through the speaker.  No chance in even a civilized Hell could I dream of shushing my sisters.  They seemed to be having fun and our bellies were more than satisfied.  That’s when I decided to utilize a talent I had developed during dinner time at the short table during the holidays.  I could read lips.

Always disappointed not being able to sit at the tall table with the adults, I was the oldest and angriest at the short table with my booger eating nephews and nieces.  What a crock.  Trying to ignore the youth at our table, I could always hear belly laughter at the big boy and girl table with several of my brothers telling stories which were apparently hilarious.  After grace was delivered, there was no pious nature at that table, and I wanted desperately to hear what they were saying.  I love to laugh more than I love a terrific stuffing laced with mounds of sensational gravy.  So, I would figure out who was providing the laughter and watch his or her lips to decipher what they were saying.  My nephews and nieces must have thought I was crazy, because I would join in on the laughter.  “What the hell is he laughing at?” they would utter during my fits of heavy chuckling.  It became a gift I would use at the drive in that night.

Unfortunately, I was not able to catch every word, but I could follow the plot, which was dandy for me.  However, my gift would soon turn to the dark side.  Darth Vader, a pretty significant character in the movie, wore a mask.  How the hell do I read lips when someone doesn’t even have lips?  I could only hear muffled breathing through the chunks of speaker remaining after Greg became impatient and gave it a few whacks with an old shalalie he found in the back of the station wagon commonly used as a threat when we’d get unruly in the car.

When the movie ended, I asked a few questions about what I may have missed, but I knew I’d eventually see it again, with sound.  Just being with my siblings, both young and old made me happy.   Camping in a sugar, butter, and booze smelling tavern on wheels was enough for me.  I think Greg drove us home.  He was only 13, but he was sober, and even drove us off road in a local field pretending he was captain of the Millennium Falcon dodging asteroids while my sisters screamed with laughter, begging him to go faster and faster.  Without seatbelts, we were flying around the station wagon like stove top Jiffy Popcorn. It was fantastic.

We made it home safely, and tried to clean the car as best as we could.  My sisters made sure the 24 cans of beer consumed remained at the theater grounds.  Dad wouldn’t have enjoyed seeing them the next morning in the trash.  It was a hell of a night for the Gannons.  No arguing, no bullying, no fighting, no atomic wedgies, no religion, no politics, and no sound other than laughter.  I’ll take that any day or night.

When I told my wife this story, it convinced her to apply for the tech support job opening at Foggy Window Drive In next Spring.  She’s pretty good with that sort of stuff.  I wonder if needs people like her.  I hear they pay pretty well.  We sure could use the extra scratch.

Billionaires and Brains

Never having delivered a commencement speech or even remembering one, I have say I will remember these two even though I wasn’t in attendance.

Billionaire, Robert F Smith’s commencement speech at Morehouse college in Atlanta was highlighted by promising to pay off all of the the students’ loans.  Pretty thoughtful.  Just the other day, we finally paid off my wife’s student loans after graduating from Crab Creek College in Zydeco, Louisiana 20 years ago.  What a relief.  At Crab Creek, she learned how to suck the juice out of hundreds of crawfish while piling up student debt.

Also breaking the airwaves once again was (drum roll for my followers, please) yes, the one and  lonely, Matthew McConaughey!!  This graceful man delivered the commencement speech at his former High School where he never officially graduated after forgetting to pick up his diploma.  His message:  “Never negotiate your heart.”  Clearly, brains and integrity are up for grabs to the highest bidder.

He then zoomed off shortly after the celebration in his 2019 Lincoln with diploma in one hand and a bottle of bourbon in the other.

I have returned from my writing sabbatical, and it took Master McConaughey to inspire me.  Who’d have thunk it?




January 20th, 1980. This is when I lost my first official bet to an adult.  He was our neighbor and friend.  He also knew how to take advantage of a 7 year old.

Bill was a friendly man.  He was also voraciously serious about gambling, fishing and chocolate. We’ll get back to that.

Walking over to his house at the age of seven, I offered him a wager.  I placed money I didn’t have on a Super Bowl game:   The Los Angelas Rams vs. the Pittsburg Steelers. I took the Rams and lost.  Our bet was a candy bar.

Convinced he was past posting,  thinking he’d seen the game before it was televised, I tried to call him on that.  Ultimately, I was wrong, and further, even worse, I was forced to ask my father for a loan.  Their were two options for me.  He could take me behind the chicken coop and give me a whooping or I could clean his room.  My old man wasn’t in favor of butt whooping so he convinced me to clean his room.  I did, and he gave me a dollar.  My old man and I were square, but I still had to travel almost three blocks to purchase the candy bar, which was happily refused but respected by our neighbor.

Fast forward to 2019, February, 3rd. I lost a bet to my brother,Tom.  I bet on the Los Angelas Rams against the Patriots.  Instead of a candy bar, I owe him twenty dollars.  Times are heavy and so is inflation.  The money I owe him will pay his dues for March Madness.

If I didn’t pay him, he’d be going all around Chicago and telling people I was a welch.  I wouldn’t able to get a game of jacks.  (of course, that’s from The Sting)

Suckered at the age of seven and forty seven.  Guilty as charged.  O and two barbecue, I will never bet on the Rams again.

It’s funny a Twix bar comes in a package of two.




It’s time for  March Madness, and more importantly, gambling.

My wife wants my advice regarding the NCAA tournament brackets.  She believes I know more about gambling than the professionals in Las Vegas making a living off of people like me.  I am currently paying off some of their mortgages.

It should be simple, but it is also fun and unpredictable.  The weather in Seattle or the East Coast is far more predictable.

The Seven Year Old Itch

The love of money and Ding Dongs are the root of all evil.

KidNewspaperGambling had consumed my life by the time I was seven years old.  The transition from horse racing to gambling on football was far too smooth.  It should have raised red, white and blue flags for friends and family.  Yet, at age seven, when you are betting candy bars, one dollar bills, one hundred pennies, twenty five nickels, excessive yard work, or even a trade for a better school lunch, it almost seemed both trivial and fun…….which is exactly what is best about gambling.  Unless you are a professional, it better be about the fun.

In 1980, I won a Super Bowl bet with my first chump.  Years before I turned seven, while recognizing I was losing bets against elders, I decided to pick on some of my peers.  It was the first time I made a bet on a team I wasn’t rooting for, but Vegas knew more than me or this other clown only betting on numbers and colors.

The Philadelphia Eagles were playing the sinister Oakland Raiders, with the Raiders being favored by 6 and a half.  I didn’t like the Raiders, but I knew they were better than the Eagles.  My friend, Brian, loved the Eagles and didn’t know they’d probably lose to the Raiders. This is the seven year old’s conundrum.  How do you bet someone with no money at the age of seven?  Our only collateral was food.

Bless my mother’s loving heart, Brian’s mother was always on the cutting edge of sack lunches where as my mother was more interested in a proper lunch withholding dessert. His mother placed items in his lunch making his sack look like a brown bag Frito Lay/Hershey factory. My lunch was white bread, mayo, and processed Buddig chicken, turkey, beef, or whatever kind of Fisher Price meat one could only carve with an exacto knife.  She tossed in some veggies as a chaser.

Never a bully, I wasn’t just going to steal Brian’s lunch, and he wasn’t willing to trade his Ring Dings or Cheetos for celery sticks.  My mother had maintained this strange notion that my lunches should be healthy and the snacks we had at home be reserved for special occasions such as the Super Bowl and other phony holidays.  Therefore, I thought, with a few embellishments, I could score some of his midday delights.  It took gambling to make that work.  Although we did have Ding Dongs at home, and depending on the weather or amount of people coming in and out of our house, it was never a sure bet you’d get one before mom had to make her weekly run to the store.  So, when I told my friend I would give him two ding dongs for his package of Doritos, (something we never had) he needed proof.  He needed to see the Ding Dongs before we solidified the bet.

The Wednesday morning before the Super Bowl, just before receiving a kiss on the cheek from my mother on the way to school, I created a diversion by spotting two chickadees in our backyard.  My mother is a sucker for birds.  On her way to get some seed, I snatched two Ding Dongs before she could wave goodbye.

At school, Brian asked me if I had the goods.  Opening my denim jacket revealing two silvery encased snacks, he was more than satisfied.  The bet was on.  As a good Catholic boy, I didn’t succumb to temptation that day.  The Ding Dongs were properly replaced upon returning home.  Eating them before the bet would have pissed off the gambling Gods.  Bad Karma.

My betting team, the Oakland Raiders, ended up cruising to a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10.  That next Monday morning, my friend was there with the Doritos.  I knew he would be good for it.  He saw me flashing my Ding Dongs around to other cats in our elementary school the week before, and he knew some pencils might be broken if he didn’t pay up.  That’s really when it started.

By the time I was in the fourth grade, Frito Lay was making different brands of chips never available at home.  Still winning, I began doubling down on empty Cool Ranch bags just to display my playground credibility.  Those sandwich sized bags were easy to hide and could be found all over any grocery store littering complex.  I probably could have made more money off of recycling.  A guilty conscience has no room for a successful gambler.  After a four year run of winning Super Bowl bets just to satisfy my savory tooth, I began feeling remorse as they were not in my league.  It was like taking Doritos from babies.  When you describe the point spread to someone knowing nothing about the point spread, it’s just not fair.  I was getting 20 points when my team was favored by 3 and the hook. (The hook is the half point separating the winners from the losers.) I couldn’t lose.

Sometimes, when hobbies lose their luster, you get bored.  Gambling lost its luster when I began playing games competitively.  Win or lose, the scoreboard provided satisfaction after a ballgame.  And, it was always fair, even when we’d come out on the losing side.

Post college, when I began earning my own money, I dabbled in gambling once again.  Winning and losing….(mostly losing)….. I had some fun and ruined some remote controls along the way.  It’s been years since I’ve been to Vegas or Reno, but I have fun betting with a brother or friend, or even playing fantasy foolsball.  I don’t enjoy betting in groups.  It dilutes the party.  One on one gambling is fun, because it usually involves a good lunch.

I’ll be giving points this weekend while rooting for the Atlanta Falcons over The Tom Bradies.  Win or lose, I’ll be eating well somewhere, and it won’t be just a bag of chips.





The Breakfast Blues

Boost, honey, oatmeal, and tea.  These are the elixirs benefiting my 90 year old friend each morning.  For the last week, she has told me the current presidency has upset her stomach, and all the doctors in the world can’t cure her suffering, because they no longer believe in Obama Care.

There is nothing worse than an upset stomach.

We’re not in an IHOP anymore.

Viva La Gambling

One would think, with the Super Bowl more than a week away, gambling may be slow for the remaining eight excruciating days without American football.  This is the only event in America creating thousands of jobs the following Monday when so many don’t report to work after Super Bowl Sunday.

Not so fast.  With the new President stirring things up a bit, I have already won a friendly bet regarding his idea that Mexico would be more than happy to pay for a 14 billion dollar wall separating the alliance with our tequila manufacturing amigos.   While I believed Mexico would be setting up pinatas in the shape of a malignant narcissistic, pouty faced, bullying liar, my friend truly believed Mexico would cower to Trump as though he was a card carrying member of the Magnificent Seven.   Still, it took some persuasive tactics to convince him to take the bet.  I had to provide odds.  So, I told him if Mexico declined on this more than generous olive branch of opportunity, his end of the bargain was treating me to a bowl of Seattle’s finest clam chowder.  If Mexico was drunk enough to say, “ayyeee yeyyy yeeea, yi yi yi, Si!  Build thee wall.  We pay for it all, amigo!  Do you want my wife and daughter as well?  Ahh ha ha ha ha ha ha!”  I told him I’d give him 14 billion dollars. Pretty risky bet, but I felt the odds were still in my favor.

Winning the bet, my friend was less than happy to pay for the chowder when he found out it contained a mysterious spice indigenous only to Mexico, thus costing him an extra dollar for the importation tariff.

Does Bow Know Baseball?

Tim Tebow deciding to play Professional Baseball will thrill minor league players for taking their jobs just to fill seats.  He will be well loved and embraced by those in the clubhouse barely able to pay their rent in the offseason.  For his sake, I hope “his” God teaches him how to hit a 95 mile per hour fast ball which may or may not be directed at his head, or, hopefully, since I am a pacifist, his ribcage.

The Ben Commandment

On the way to church, I stopped by a casino.

This is the worst story ever told.  At the conclusion of Lent, Easter and gambling can be lurking around every corner of the religious universe, much like a sneaky bunny or Jesus,  unifying as one when it comes to sinning.  Gambling should be the 11th commandment of sin and redemption.  Thou shalt not gamble, unless it is on Easter, or the night before, or whatever.   Several days ago, with March Madness diving deep into gamblers’ britches, I preached about how gambling and betting on others is not wrong, but stupid.  It is stupid,  yet, when you can somehow make something positive out of gambling, it can be righted and somewhat shrewd……piously speaking.

One year ago today, alone on Easter Eve, I thought I’d attend church for the first time in years.  Thirty years of my Easters were spent standing behind those who flew in from Hell three times a year just to feel good about themselves.  That aways intrigued me, since I spent every weekend going to church for thirty years, only to feel bad about myself.  Perhaps, this is why this story may be immoral to some, yet redeeming to other scofflaws.

While my wife was away for that Easter weekend, I decided to play………some black jack.  It was right on the way to the Easter Vigil service.  I had fifty bucks in my wallet, and I was, with the good Lord willing, going to turn that fifty dollars into one hundred.  Water into Wine, cash into chips, chips back into cash.  (With the exception of water into wine, that’s gambling lingo.)  I don’t know if God happily intervened on that day, but my card playing certainly became Holy.  It took me ten minutes to turn that fifty dollars into two hundred.  Not that I know much about this stuff, but when a gambler is on a hot streak, it’s not in his or her best interest to leave the table….or so I have read.  This is where God or Jesus stepped between the dealer and me and asked what time it was.  6:45.  Fifteen minutes before mass.  In all my years of attending mass, I don’t remember being late.  Disinterested? Yes.  Tardy.  Negative.  Immediately, I cashed in my bones, (chips) and headed to church.

Waiting one full hour, listening to the same speech, lecture, reading, and ultimately, beautiful story I’d heard annually, I waited impatiently for the basket to sheepishly roam around the congregation awaiting my tithing.  With the exception of the ten dollars I saved for some fish, chowder, chips and a beer for my own dinner, I happily dumped my gambling wins in the basket.  Some say I was playing with “House” money.  That day, I was playing with God’s money, and it made me feel terrific to know someone else would be eating as well as me that evening.  That’s one hell of an Easter.


There are three things I love in life besides anarchy. I love my family, eating and laughing. The anarchists sometimes provide the latter. Disagreeing with all forms of government is fantastic, and I thoroughly enjoy those supporting the concept while, so hilariously, trying to make a point. Both the subject of anarchy and those spreading it around like “I can’t believe it’s not butter” makes me laugh. Justice is never served through ignorance, and protesting corporate greed while wearing masks purchased through the company with which you are protesting qualifies as ignorance.

MaskMarchThe Million “Mask” March was held last week in front of headquarters, and employees of Amazon were properly warned to not wear their badges when exiting their place of work last week. This march was commemorating Guy Fawkes, a poor soul, who designed the infamous Gunpowder Plot in 1605 with hopes of blowing up the House of Lords in London, because he didn’t much care for the bourgeoisie hanging around in England at the time.  I almost find it silly, and a little embarrassing when attempting to describe this less than momentous event. His attempt was an epic failure. Legend has it, even disabled children were laughing at him during the process. I’ve visited London and slept next to Lyndsey Buckingham Palace, and although I didn’t enjoy the pretentious environment, I had no intentions of blowing it up.

This is where the plot weakens.  While protesting the evil empire of, many of the protesters, in a mad rush to make it to the march, purchased their sinister masks from Amazon.  It was a less than shrewd move costing them money while placing their cash directly into Amazon’s hot pockets.