The Every Other Daily Corona: Public Cess Pools

With the reopening of fishing and golfing, I wonder when or if they’ll open up public pools again.  Sadly, for some, I can guess it won’t be anytime soon.  As a child without a pool at our house, we’d frequent these pools regularly during the summertime pissing season.  I wasn’t a huge fan.  Having two public piss stations in our neighborhood, neither of them were too pleasing for me, but wherever my brothers went, well, I was their shadow.

Thinking back, sans the deaths, I would have welcomed the Corona Virus.  With the exception of one pool out of our neighborhood, I always thought of them as a possible death sentence amongst other unnatural disasters.  Having few friends my own age, I glommed on to my brothers and their friends.   They were all four to six years older, and took pretty good care of me, but there were countless times when they may not be present, thus fearing for my life and clothing.  This was after my brother, Greg, witnessed his bicycle being stolen five feet from the fence barricading him between the thief and himself.  Helplessly, he watched his bike and its new owner, bolt cutters in hand, laugh himself off into the distance.

Once, heading nearby to the same Mission Pool just on the next block past the corner of Mischief and Theft St.,  I proudly rode my bike to the pool in my brand new sneakers.  After some swimming and diving into the blue/yellow liquid, making it green, I left after about an hour to find my shoes missing from the locker I had placed them.  Clearly stolen, with no “witnesses”, or confirmed suspects, (all the deviant a-hole thieves working the locker room) holding back the tears, I rode home in my bare feet.  Walking into our house, leaving a bloody trail from the bottoms of my feet, my mother asked where my new shoes were.  It broke my heart to tell her they’d been stolen.  It was the first pair of really nice shoes she’d ever purchased me.  My very own.  No hand me downs.  Tom, my brother, four years older than me, knew some sleaze bag was prancing around with my shoes showing them off to his derelict family.  He saw red.  Enraged, Tom jumped on his ten speed, recklessly riding to the pool hoping to find the culprit.   With a different pair of shoes, I trailed him by a few lengths witnessing, to no avail, him busting into the locker room without asking for permission.  Tom was only around fifteen at the time, but as a varsity wrestler, he could lick most eighteen year olds in the valley.  Although scaring the hell out of each employee, he was forced to leave by adult personnel.  They were ready to call the fuzz.  Knowing nothing good happens when cops enter a scene, he decided to leave without finding my shoes.  If my brother, Greg, or the rest of our neighborhood gang had heard the news, they would have been right there with him.  I never saw those shoes again, but they did lose my business.

On the other side of the valley was an even more sinister pool. This was Park Piss Pool.  It was a piss dispensary.  If the county could have figured out a way to fabricate fuel with this daily yellow mess, the world would be a far more efficient place.  Gallons and gallons of urinary grime and disgust.  However, it wasn’t the contents of the pool I despised the most.  It was a boy, or perhaps man, who was most definitely mentally disturbed and just flat out mean.  He scared any guts I may have had right out of me and countless others.  While trying to drown me or any other child not practicing social distancing with him, he was a menace.  I’m betting he was in his mid twenties.  His name was Glenn B.  He was also unfavorably known as The Park Penis.  Before throwing him out for several counts of attempted murder by drowning, the pencil necked lifeguards would allow us to witness his grand finale.  Looking like a six foot tall bowling pin, he’d make it safely to the diving board, pull down his bathing suit and piss into the deep and now deeper end of the pool.  Then, he’d further amuse himself by doing a whopper of a belly flop directly into the strategic area of his urine, thus creating a tidal wave of yellow terror.   Children would be screaming while pushing each other right and left with fright trying to find a tsunami safety zone.  It was chaos. Before paying to get into the pool area, I’d refuse when I saw he was present. He’d be there most of the time.  I’d stay on the monkey bars most of the time. While utterly baffling to me, they didn’t present him a lifetime ban for his ungentlemanly antics.

My father hated these stories, so on several occasions, weekends only, he’d take us to another public pool on the other side of town……..the West Side.  It was here he introduced us to another world all together.  Since our side of town was predominately white, we hadn’t really interacted with people of color, usually just cheering for them to race for the goal line on Saturdays or Sundays.  Sure, we had a couple of hispanics in our neighborhood gatherings, in fact they were welcomed as a part of our group, but other than that, it was mostly Irish, Italian, German and British white trash.  When we entered the West Side pool, we were outnumbered by blacks.  There was a little staring on both sides, but I never felt anything but welcomed, and not one ounce of threat or violence. I liked this pool far better than the ones in our neighborhood.  Years later, I gave praise to our father helping us not only acknowledge diversity, but embrace it.  It was deliberate. So, I guess sometimes you have to experience ugliness before finding the right pool.  It’s out there.  Just please don’t cough, sneeze, or most vehemently, piss on me when you find it.

***Following the publication of this blog, I was quickly contacted by an actual member of our Spokane Valley community who was disturbed with a memory this blog dragged out of his wet heart which he hoped to be dead and buried.  He had his own tale of Glenn B., A.KA. “The Park Penis”.   Jeremy S. writes, “I’ll never forget him.  He Kicked the living s–t out of me when I was at Park Pool.  I might’ve been in fifth grade.  I don’t remember what I said to him, but it had something to do with him bugging my younger brother, Andrew.  He held me under water and punched me multiple times.  It was frightening!  I remember the lifeguards pulling him off me.  The dude must have been 35 years old at the time of the beat down.  I crawled out of that pool bawling.”

***Yet another Glenn B. story from my brother, Tom.  He writes, “I will never forget that dude.  He would walk up and down the line of everyone waiting to get into the pool and terrorize them.  Shirtless with only tight shorts and cowboy boots, my friends, Joe and Ryan were waiting in line one day and Glenn slapped Joe and Ryan started crying.  True story.  He was a terror for sure.  He also circumnavigated the neighborhood on his custom built low rider Schwinn bike with fake throttle handle grips and long plastic pom pom strings beneath.”

Oh, the wonderful 80’s.



One of my sisters once said camping in a hotel was much better than camping outdoors. My friend, one of the toughest guys I’ve ever met, would agree with my sister.

A terrific comedian, Jim Gaffiigan, did a fabulous bit on the miseries of camping and the possibilities of being eaten by a wild animal.  I can’t steal his humorous thunder, but I can describe the reality, vicariously, through one of my friends.

What you are about to read is shocking. These are text excerpts from a friend currently camping with his wife, family, and some friends.

Day one: “Let the wife do all the shopping for me and packing.  She woke up bubbly this morning, and my goal is to knock the bubbly out of her being.”  (I requested confirmation.)  “I need her to stop being bubbly.  So, I’m going to antagonize her until she is no longer bubbly.  I want her to be as miserable as me.  So, I’m knocking the bubbly out of her being.”  (When not camping, this is a happily married couple of over fifteen years with three wonderful sons.)

Day Two: He just described his wife as a Roman Candle.  She didn’t respond very well after she did all the packing and retrieved all the food. Evidently, she didn’t pack his favorite foods.  He may be sleeping in the car, if there is one near by.

Update: “I was a dick head to my wife at a subconscious level.”

How lovely.  This poor man loves his wife, but hates his weekend life in the woods. I’m not buying that entirely.

Day Three:  “I’m going to cover myself with honey and this expensive huckleberry jam we purchased at the campsite’s convenient store in hopes a bear soon takes me out of my misery.”

I haven’t heard from him since.



Fox Tales (A Kool Ode to Summer)

Prisoners don’t sell Lemon Aid when they’re in jail.  They sell Kool Aid.  Lemon Aid will get you shanked or severely beaten.  Kool Aid will keep you on the safe side of the woods… matter what type of flavor it is.

While roaming the streets the other day, I stopped by an estate sale.  Not interested in purchasing anything, I thought I may find something to buy so I could justify using the inhabitant’s bathroom.  That’s when I stumbled across this picture.  LemonaideStandAs far as I know, people don’t usually sell family pictures at their sales. Clearly, the people promoting their trinkets were also preparing for a trip to a nearby transfer station.  Oddly, this specific picture was the only thing I could imagine buying.  The people working the sale didn’t know these two ruffians, therefore had no issue with me purchasing it. Perhaps, because I didn’t know the two boys selling drinks at this stand, it made the picture seem a little like a piece of serene summer nostalgia.  It resembled more of a painting, or a portrait. Prison cell Norman Rockwell if you will.

After purchasing the picture for less than the two boys were selling their aid, I could only imagine they might be brothers. If you look closely at the well lit cardboard sign, these two young fellows below are selling Kool Aid, and they look as though they are trapped in this makeshift, wooden, and glorious chunk of lumber confinement.  It could be a four by four, or six by six space……no big deal.  One looks pleased and the other looks as if he’d prefer lighting his store on fire, just to collect his allowance insurance. By the way, in the seventies, what kid didn’t light something like a dry field on fire?  Therefore, I believe my theory regarding their pyromaniacal behavior may be spot on.

I also wondered why were they selling Kool-Aid as opposed to Lemon Aid?  I guess they were just ahead of their times.  Taking a look at the background, the atmosphere beyond their faces told the story.  I imagined they were living on a dead end street where no one, with the exception of the mailman, may consider purchasing a beverage.

I’m glad this play pen wasn’t solitary.  It looks similar to what Gilligan and the Skipper might fabricate to gain the attention of Mary Anne and Ginger.  Or, it could have been a father building this solid oak convenient store just to keep them out of their mother’s hair on the inside.

I’ll bet that house behind them was filled with loving parents.  Or, I guess that’s what I wish to imagine.  I’ll also bet those two may have been in trouble for lighting some brush on fire behind their humble house, thus being forced to sell Kool-Aid after their mother had perhaps extinguished the fire.

Looking beyond their eyes and place of business, I imagined them taking breaks after nary a patron was to stroll upon their street, unless running from the law.   I thought of  them running through the foxtails, only to return to a mother telling them to dispose of their fox tailed socks so they didn’t destroy the washing machine.

There are a few things brothers or friends do during the days before you must return to the drags of school.  You play Wiffle Ball, mow the lawn, set fires, and sell beverages only fit for a parched and sympathetic mail man.

What Floor?

“Throw strikes, you ape!”  Vacationing in Seattle, Washington, relatively close to forty years ago, this is what my brother and I remember hearing when watching a Mariner baseball game in the, now deceased, Kingdome.  The inebriated stranger next to us was screaming at the rather large, white, semi talented pitcher, and the drunkard was more entertaining than the game itself.  Back then, Mariner baseball was even more abysmal than it can be these days.

Currently residing in Seattle, I often think about vacationing here as a youth.  Traveling first class in a car is much different than a plane. Even though you are directly behind the pilot of the car, you don’t get free drinks or hot towels.  You do get complimentary second hand smoke and a  “shut the hell up” lecture once you hit Seattle’s city limits.  With three brothers sitting next to one another, it would get a little cramped, but on the positive side, as the youngest, I wasn’t subject to ridicule as much being so close to the captain’s seat.  I’d still get picked on, yet it was quite subtle and delivered with far less profanity.  Whispering, my brother Greg might warn, “Wait’ll we get on that ferry, you little snot nosed towhead.  Don’t get too close to the railing.”  Those threats were futile.  According to our itinerary, I’d get to see a major league baseball game before being tossed off a ferry deck into the Puget Sound.

One of our older sisters was also on the trip, but she was allowed a friend as a carry on, so, for the most part, they stayed clear of us brothers.  This was fortunate for us, because she’d always keep an annoyingly watchful eye on our rascally asses.  Not because she was worried about us being injured or killed, but rather, she loved to rat us out for anything that was even remotely mischievous.  She actually received a tremendous thrill out of us getting a masterful tongue thrashing from our father, the head chief of scolding.  To her benefit, it must have been difficult constantly dealing with three irritating younger brothers.  To my benefit, I wasn’t usually the one on the receiving end of our father’s sharp tongue.

All the seats in the car were accessible to windows so there was plenty to witness on the five hour journey.  You could look through the rear window of the car and say goodbye to the city you never wish to see again. I could envision it vanishing like Atlantis.  (Sadly, that wish didn’t come true until my mid thirties.) You also have a first class view of the Snoqualmie Pass and the Cascade Mountain Range before dropping you off at Downtown Seattle, home of the Space Needle and a seemingly endless supply of elevators.

It was our annual vacation to the Emerald City, because my father’s best friend lived in Seattle.  We loved heading west from Spokane, because we knew we’d be staying at a hotel, eating at some of the finest burger joints, watching a Major League baseball game and even perhaps taking a short trip on a ferry.  But, for me, and my brothers, we loved those up and down roller coasters, also known as “elevators”.   For grown ups, it seemed their pleasures were eating, drinking and smoking.  For us, it was eating, sports, and best of all, elevators.

After arriving in our hotel in Seattle, we had some time to kill before everyone was ready for our first destination. With my sister out of the way, mom and dad gave us permission to roam around the hotel before we were to head to the Seattle Center, just blocks away.  Mom needed to get ready, and dad needed to knock back a smokey pack.  We were given one hour before we were to return to the lobby to meet them.  My two brothers, Tom and Greg and I headed to the elevator where I assumed we were going to drop to the main level and take a look around outside.  Greg, however, wanted first to head to the highest floor, exit the elevator, and find a window with a better view of Seattle.  He could have been doing this because he knew I was afraid of heights, or perhaps he did want a proper view of this magnificent city.  Either way, we managed to find a window, and peer out of it for five or six seconds before returning to the elevator where we could have more fun.  We had all ridden an elevator before, but not one with this caliber of speed intriguing us all.  This elevator was turbo charged.  You didn’t even have time to listen to its classical music before any landing.

Prior to descending to the main level, Greg wanted to hit a few more floors.  We’d shoot down to the second floor, get out and find the next elevator going up, and take it all the way to the top.  Of course, since there were other people staying at the hotel, we had to stop at other floors for them.  This became somewhat entertaining.  Greg, the oldest, and best actor amongst the three of us, when others would enter, he’d say in his best twelve year old stuffy butler accent, “What floor, madame?”  Or, “To which floor today, Sir?”  They’d provide a number and Greg would turn to me, just tall enough where my head would be covering the panel of buttons and give an approving nod, and I would proudly press the proper button as if I was a V.I.E.O. (Very important elevator operator). Tom would stand next to me, eyes peering at the person or people on “our” elevator looking at them as though we just earned some form of tip.  All I remember were some friendly smiles, and even some chuckles.  Upon exiting the elevator, I would hear Tom mumble, “Cheap bastards”.  Greg would also strike up conversations with the people on board.  “Might you be heading to the ball game this evening, sir?”  Awkwardly, the person may respond with more than a “yes” or “no”.  “Actually, I’m just heading to the lobby to find out where we should go for dinner tonight.”  Greg would reply with such grace, “Oh, excellent choice, sir.”  What a goof.

Of course, we’d end up on the main level on numerous occasions, but we’d just stay on the elevator and perform our duties.  Up and down, up and down.  I owned that panel, and for once, played a critical role within this threesome.  I couldn’t have been happier even if I were to catch a fly ball at the game later that night.  This must have gone on for more than an hour, because on our last descent to the main level, after our passengers had exited, our diabolical sister, Maggie, was glaring at us.  “What the hell are you guys doing?  We’ve been waiting for you, and dad is beginning to get pissed.  Dad, they’re right here!  They’ve been riding this stupid elevator for the last hour and a half.  (It couldn’t have been more than an hour fifteen.)  He’s going to send you back to the room and not let you go to the Seattle Center or the game tonight.  Ha!”

Dad only put out his cigarette, (glad he wasn’t trying to give those up at the time) rolled his eyes and told us if we did that anymore, he’d kick our asses up between our shoulder blades.  He added, “Don’t mess around too much at the Seattle Center.”

When entering the food court to meet my father’s friend, the first thing we noticed was the glass elevator smack dab in the middle of the center.  “The Bubbleator”.  You must be joking!  Where were we?  Maggie just shook her head, and while my dad, mom and their friend went to have a beer before lunch, we hopped on “The Bubbleator” like bums on a billfold the second they turned their backs.  Ten minutes later, pointing to the stairs,we were asked by staff to get off and not return.

I can just imagine my first grade teacher asking me what I wished to be when I grow up. Fireman?  No.  Baseball player?  No.  Elevator Operator?  Bingo.


Hocus Jocus (Sayonara @#$%Kickers!)

Middle school students are a delight!  This bodes especially true in mid June…the last remaining days of school before summertime bliss.  Just as true, those little whipper snappers really know how to keep their teachers in line.  I know.  I was one of those teachers for close to fifteen years.  Now, I only live vicariously through my friends still living, breathing and teaching.

The last few days for the middle school community consist of two things: children and childrensitting.  Notice I don’t refer to the middle schoolers as babies, because although their behavior can be recognized as baby like on these days, their ages define them as children.  After taking a final exam one week before the school calendar moves them forward to high school status, a once promising, maturing adolescent digresses for the remaining days of middle school, leaving the parents chuckling at the teachers’ expense.  The students chuckle as well, knowing they have four aces in the hole, and will happily show them to you upon request.  Academically, they have checked out and the teachers smell it.  The teachers are now the ones in survival mode.  How do we keep them busy without anyone getting hurt?  That’s really the only thing a teacher thinks about on these days, other than the closest bar they will all convene seconds after the last school day ends.

Ideally, teachers would place all the students in a sound proof padded room with straight jackets, only armed with their loud mouths.  This way, other than peoples’ feelings, no one gets harmed.  Unfortunately, this is not an option.  Therefore, teachers put their paycheck to use by planning more and preparing more for V Days and P Days.  These are Vacation Days for students and their parents, and Penance Days for the teachers who receive the next two and a half months off.

You reserve these last days for indoor and outdoor activities requiring no brain stimulus whatsoever, only meaningless corralling by means of simple manipulation:  Bribery.  A wise teacher spends part of his or her paycheck buying a few sodas and candy bars, because a large percentage of the students will finish just about any task you provide to bask in chocolate or carbonated glory. Just because a student isn’t required to read, write, add or subtract, they still must remain busy in order to keep the teacher from taking an unpaid leave of absence so close to the very last bell.  Organize those books for a Mountain Dew.  Take down all those phony motivational posters I put up at the beginning of the year for a Snickers bar.  Place all these papers I didn’t grade in that paper shredder and keep your mouth shut for a Milky Way and a Pepsi.  Right there, you’ve wiped out about forty percent of your problems.

Knocking out another forty percent is basic locker clean out, an organized play day featuring softball, volleyball, mud wrestling and racketeering (played by future convicts who have stolen some of the sodas you purchased the night before).  You also have the “Lack of Talent Show” and finally, yearbook signing.  As a teacher, you try to stretch this crap as far as you can by doing a little as you can, yet it still leaves about twenty percent of the remaining students who don’t wish to participate in any of these events.  These are the “I’m bored” students.  They may be the worst kind of breed at this age.  So, as a teacher, you may have  to come up with something special to prevent each and every last school day lawsuit.  Hocus Jocus!

To this day, I’ve never met a person, young or old, tall or short, delightful or miserable, who won’t drop anything when they see the newspaper puzzle “Hocus Focus”.  This puzzle includes two pictures which look alike, yet ten differences are hidden between the two of them and you are challenged to find those differences.  If a person is getting mugged on a city street and the mugger and “muggee” look up and see a billboard displaying two of these pictures challenging them to find the differences, they both immediately stop struggling and won’t resume until they find them.  They may even help one another.  These puzzles are that intriguing.  It is, by far, the most entertaining portion of People magazine.  (When my wife and I travel, we always compete with each other trying to find the extra tooth in Tom Cruise’s electrifying smile.) Middle school students are no exception to this rule.  For some reason, if you place these on the overhead projector, or these days, a “Smart Board”, students’ mouths lock shut like pit bull on a pecan pie until they find each dissimilarity.  It’s magic for about five minutes.  So, once they celebrate finding all the differences, you place an additional one up to kill another five minutes.  Each five minutes of silence replaces that beer the teacher wishes to have in his or her hand as the clock keeps ticking.  After the the third hocus focus, the students will eventually lose focus, and one or two will eventually, and obnoxiously bellow, “These are too easy”.  Twenty minutes still remain before you can legally release the teenage hounds into a world in which you may never see them again unless it’s on the five o’clock news.   Solution?  Even easier.  Place two identical pictures in front of them and watch them silently struggle trying to find ten differences which do not exist.  It’s the most senseless time kill of all eternity, and for a middle school teacher, these twenty minutes of quiet amidst potential bedlam, it’s like a swedish massage…..whatever that is.  Only seconds before the final bell rings will one student stand up and say, “THIS IS BULL@#$%!  THESE PICTURES ARE THE EXACT SAME!”  With an enormous grin on my face, I would listen to the last bell, and say “Have a terrific summer! Sayonara @#$%kickers!”


After the age of about 10, I  finally acknowledged bathing, asking mom for some clothes which weren’t my brothers’ and cutting my hair was a good idea.  It was not just my coming of age, but a roaring boomtown year for the Gannon family.  Our father, Rodney Edward Gannon, was witnessing not only the evolution of Ben, but additionally, the evolution of his wallet.  Finally recognizing he possessed money in it which could be used for more items than just 20 gallons of milk per week and two dollar steaks cooked on Hillbilly High while being burnt to a crisp by my wonderful mother, Margaret, dad bought something enhancing our memories forever.  He and mom, along with my brother in law, Denny, and his wife, my sister Mary, purchased a motorhome, or more appropriately referred to as, with a family of 13 children, “a traveling circus”.

I’ll be honest, not once did all 13 of us gather into this bucket.  Many of my older siblings were married with children and living all over the planet.  However, we did manage to pack in a fair portion of in-laws, nephews, nieces, bitches, A Holes, and ne’er-do-wells.  The last word in the previous sentence was commonly used to describe our family.  At the age of ten, I thought it may be a term of affection, not knowing what the actual definition was.  I could, however, use it in a sentence after hearing it several times, “Oh those Gannons, besides the father and mother, are a bunch of ne’er-do-wells”.  After opening a dictionary for the first time, I discovered the word wasn’t quite so affectionate.  The true definition is as follows: “an idle, worthless person; a person who is ineffectual, unsuccessful, or completely lacking in merit; good for nothing”.  Fortunately, that is not what this story is about, and within this story, I shall prove to you why we really weren’t, and I’d like to confidently say, aren’t ne’er-do-wells.

Traveling to the great rural city of Canada…..oops…Britt just informed me it’s a nation…. we camped for several glorious days one summer.  By we, I should clarify the people, depending on my skewed memory, present on this journey.  I feel as though I should immortalize these people as though we were on the Space Shuttle.  Considering our large family, it was a small gathering of loving siblings: Dad, Mom, Denny, Mary, Maggie, Greg, Tom, Monica, and the most important of us all, my nephew, Thee legendary Chris Hilsabeck.

While setting up camp at a place which may or may not have been called “Sheep Crick”, we realized that although most of us, provided there was a snow storm or hurricane, could possibly survive sleeping in the motorhome.  However, equally recognizing each persons’ personality, we thought it may be prudent to set up some tents for the few willing to sleep on canvas or dirt. Much like the Donner Party, I believe my father understood that if we collectively slept in the motorhome, even with ample supplies, we would still probably eat each other purely out of spite.

The process of setting up camp, tents or a sleeping bag on dirt requires a few important details and strategies:  impatience, the innate ability to argue, and complete disregard for infants and toddlers who may or may not be in the motorhome.

I can’t really confirm or deny which family member discovered this, but someone found my two year old nephew, Chris, stuck in the steering wheel of the motorhome.  While outside debating who would be forced to sleep with dad in a tent (the man snored louder than beagles bark and farted louder than a whale can sing) Chris, even at the age of two, brilliantly, thought the idea of crawling through a steering wheel might possibly be fun, and perhaps draw the attention of these people; aunts, uncles, moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas who were clearly far less mature than him.

When we found him hovering like superman over the dashboard, it was like an Irish Potato Famine Fire Drill in that vehicle.  We simply could not rescue him.  I didn’t really give a crap about his steering wheel incarceration, in fact, I was getting a pretty good kick out of  this situation along with his other aunts and uncles on board.  My thoughts of his father, Denny, driving his two year old son stuck in a steering wheel five hours to Spokane, Washington was just way too funny.  For about a half hour, I was rooting for him to remain in that wheel, just entertaining the notion (in my feeble mind) of this actually occurring.  Now, that would have made a good story.

Sadly, someone found a bucket of the ancient Chinese secret for releasing a child from a steering wheel: Crisco.  Upon applying the lubricant, he was indeed freed from this circular prison, and although mentally scarred for life, he lives happily in Spokane with his beautiful wife, Missy, and their two children who requested to remain anonymous and are not allowed in motorhomes.

Crisco should have created a new and improved advertising campaign for their product reading:  Great for providing excess calories in your fried chicken, AND, your children will never be stuck in a steering wheel again.

I have very few morals, but if there is one to this ridiculously true (I think) story, I’d say Gannons are actually good for something, even if it’s just getting a person out of a steering wheel.


Benjamin J. Gannon

Trick or Treats (Big Gulp and the Bumble)

While maintaining the summertime theme, this title means absolutely zero regarding Halloween.  I’ll save that for my November blog.  Treats are reserved for those desiring Ding Dongs, Zingers, Wang Doodlers, Twinkies, Pong Paks, and Slappy Sams…..hold on……I may be confusing treats with fireworks. On the flip flop side, there are tricks.  Only one should be reserved for ballplayers!  AND IT’S NOT TREATS!

Let me calm down and explain.  My brother, Tom, and I coached a little league ball team one, and only one summer, for the tricks, not the treats. Coerced (manipulated) by Tom, I accepted the job (his son, Quinn, was a member of the team).  It was difficult denying his offer of no pay, jalapeno heat and pissed off parents knowing zippydadooda NOTHING about baseball.

Showing up at the ballpark two hours before the game, Tom, Russ (my pitching coach comrade), and I would prepare the field.  Russ was our non paid residential good person  preparing the mound for pitchers.  Preparing a mound requires far more time than raking and pounding dirt while sweating profusely.  That’s the easy part.  The hard part is keeping kids with dirt bikes trying to do bunny hops off the prepared pitcher’s mound.  We volunteered our time quite gracefully and enjoyed a few moments over those few hot months.  By a few, I think I mean two, or perhaps, what felt like, five. God Bless our souls.

That summer of coaching could best be characterized by the trinity of fans.  We had the Bumble, Big Gulp, and one other genuinely good man, named Earl, sponsoring  one of our players within the “Big Brother Organization”.  As a spectator and father, Big Gulp’s secondary concern was to bitch and moan about our coaching and where his son should be in the batting order or pitching rotation.  His primary concern was to drink an endless supply of Big Gulps during the game, thus increasing 7-11’s stock drastically in the 1990’s.  Luckily for us coaches, it was nice that he could stick something like a straw, 64 ounces of cola or his foot in his mouth, sparing us from additional whining.

Tom, Russ and I were growing weary of this fellow, but when recognizing someone actually has something, mentally, wrong with them, you make a conscience decision not to beat the hell out of them.  One fine day, ruined by having to coach little league baseball, Tom received a phone call from Big Gulp.  Big Gulp (he reads like a comic book hero) gave notice to Tom that he would not be attending the day’s game, but wanted his son to be the starting pitcher.  Diplomatically, Tom said there was a chance his son may start but wished to speak with me, the assistant coach,before making the decision.  None too pleased with Tom’s non guarantee,  Big Gulp provided meaningless statistics in an attempt to solidify his argument.  Without succumbing to persuasion, and out of curiosity, Tom side swiped the conversation by asking Big Gulp why he wouldn’t be in the stands, or grass that day.  Turns out, Big Gulp had an Elvis Presley impersonation gig that day out of town.  We stopped hating him and felt sorry for him and his child from that day forth.  It did explain some things……such as the side burns.  That was one of the enjoyable moments.

Photo courtesy of Washington State Dept of Motor Vehicles and Licensing

Bumbles don’t really bounce.  The gentleman, or sidekick, perhaps band member of Big Gulp was a man we affectionately labeled “The Bumble”.  His son, equally as crappy as Big Gulp’s, also played on the team.  By play, I mean he wore a uniform and carried a bat.  The Bumble, however, was exceptionally nice, but maintained a gift of gabble, or babble.  Though maintaining his kindness and good sportsmanship, he simply never shut up.

Referencing “The Bumble”, only those thirsting for Rudolph, Charlie Brown, Frosty, and countless other 1970’s classics may remember.  The Bumble was introduced as a Yeti slash Sasquatch like creature haunting, in fact terrifying, bedrooms, closets and tinsel town themed animated Christmas neighborhoods.  That poor giant biped turned out to be a cute, cuddly, furry creature who no one really understood…..other than Tom and me…..until we met the real Bumble.

Humor is so medicinal.  Sometimes it comes without words.  It does arrive with hand or feet gestures, or even a smug grin acknowledging the ridiculousness of a situation.  Suffering through these baseball games, Tom, Russ, I and anyone within 100 miles of this ballpark yearned for something more than mere humor.   We sought relief.  Not from the heat or children who hadn’t tossed a ball before 10 years of age, let alone conception, we just wished to find some solace with summer.  The Bumble provided that solace one day when Tom looked at me and said, “Do you know who he looks like?”.  I replied, “Yeah, The Bumble”.  Tom and I both laughed and the summer felt like winter, without the storms, the ice, red noses and frozen fingers.  Once again, I loved baseball.

Coaching anything requires patience, knowledge, persistence, acceptance, sternness, and two or three straight jackets.  Representing the civilized world, Earl was one of the few members of the baseball and athletic community certifying why sports, humanity, and humility can coexist.

As an intimidating figure, one of which upon approaching Tom and me after a game, we collectively said, “Oh boy, here we go again.  How is this guy going to educate us about the sport of baseball?”  This man approached us, presented his hand, and said, in the most kind and genuine of ways, “Thank you… you have done a wonderful job”.  Acknowledging we hadn’t done a wonderful job, we exhaled relief knowing someone cared not just about baseball, but two or three cats taking time out of their schedule to coach the art of baseball.  This man who approached us was working full time and mentoring a young man who has turned out to be a wonderful adult.  I think that’s when we stopped bitching about summer.

Tom and I were speechless.  Simply, we replied, “You’re welcome”.

Formerly, I was going to bitch about the treats required by parents after a game.  Tom and I received a request to provide treats after the last game.  Our reply was, in a Gannonuttshell……”Negative”.

On a sideshow note,  regarding the appreciative and nice intimidating guy approaching Tom and me following the game……well, twelve years later, I married his daughter.  Isn’t baseball miraculous?  What a treat!

Summer here and there

The end of summer is near.  How demoralizing.  Speaking from a teacher’s perspective, this is fabulously crucial to a mind fixated on three special months. Immortalizing summer is quite appropriate for the following posts.   In fact, for those of you who follow this post, I implore you to provide feedback on why summertime is so special.  Sadly, living in Seattle, we haven’t experienced a summer….not like the ones I remember.

Summer School was the primary reason I kept up my grades.  Summer School wasn’t summer cool.  Not being a terrific fan of studies, I continued turning in my papers on time while crossing my eyes and dotting my tees.  That’s the only way I could avoid the despicable thought of spending June, July, and August in a classroom.  It made perfect sense to me.  As dad stated, “If you don’t get the grades, you don’t get the baseball”. That was my motivation for finally learning how to cross my t’s and dot my i’s.

Not being solid enough to make the baseball gig work, I focused on less respectful occupations.  Ultimately, I became a teacher……..Why?:June, July and August.  (those who know me recognize the fact or fiction within this statement)

Camping, fishing, cross country trips, finally being forced to work through some agonizing summer heat….well, my summer memories are embedded in my mind, good, bad, or great, like the Royal Flush you can’t forget.

The following blogs will represent the summers my friends, enemies, neighbors, co-workers, may or may not have forgotten.

Gone Fishin’

Gone Fishin’

Fishing gone wild

The Older Boys Fishing I will refrain from saying these pictures are worth a thousand words,  just a few billion. Initially, I wanted to provide a hocus focus, requiring the viewer to recognize the differences in these two pictures.  I will provide you a hint on one of the secretive details;  our father was in one of them.  It’s hard to spot.  He must have been the photographer for the black and white picture, and why the hell do these guys look so impressive standing at attention in the picture below?  My brothers Greg, Tom and I are in the picture with our father, taken a mere twenty years after the photo of my brothers Mike, Steve and Glenn.   The other brother, Aaron, is living in a place called Driggs, Idaho….we think.  Clearly by the time his thirteenth child (me) was born, our father no longer tried to institute a hygiene code on fishing trips.

Always being embarrassed and picked on with regard to my hair, I now wish to pick on my older brothers, Tom and Greg.  Commonly referred to as “Toe Head”, I was agitated and obviously ignoring a mirror on a daily basis. Notice their smiles which seemed to come out of a garbage can.  Notice the pants which came directly from a patch shop.   Tom, an extremely talented man, wasn’t talented enough to tuck in both sides of his shirt.  Greg, additionally talented, was only capable of zipping up his trousers three quarters of the way. I blame this on my mother.  Zipping up pants is something which can only be taught by a mother, or maybe Greg just became bored and tired after peeing in the woods.  My hair speaks, in fact screams for itself. Finally, notice who has the most fish.

We were fishing at Scookum Lake at the time with our next door neighbors, the Jeffries. They were very nice people.  Dad didn’t have a truck, so Bill Jeffries graciously agreed to cram three sons and one friend into the back of his pickup truck with a canopy.

As you can see, we captured many fish and hadn’t showered before or after the picture.  My older brothers, captured below, caught many fish as well, yet seemed fairly well groomed.  I believe Tom, Greg and I were wearing the same Gannon-me-down pants as my older brothers, Mike, Steve and Glenn were wearing from nineteen fifty something.

This story begins and ends with pictures, yet there is one ignoramus signature story with which I must conclude.  On our journey back home, I was considerably concerned with making it back home to see my mother.  Therefore, when I sensed we were within a mile of our house, I tapped on the glass of the truck beckoning Bill to pull over.  Keep in mind, we were literally next door neighbors.  When he reluctantly, and kindly responded to my request, probably thinking I had to take a pee, I asked him a simple question:  “Can you drop me off at my mom’s place?”  Bill just laughed and said, “Sure.” My brothers still make fun of me to this day.