Easter (The Holiday Trinity)

In the spirit of resurrection, I thought I’d resurrect this piece from Easter 2014.  It only took me five years.  – Ben Gannon


I’m going Holy on my readers’ butts today.  Don’t change that website.  Not to worry, there will be no preaching.  That’s not my style.
As many of you know, this week is considered Holy Week for those believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Looking back upon my Catholic upbringing, believe it or not, I enjoyed this week, concluding with Easter Sunday, more than Christmas. Palm Sunday is where it all begins.  Unlike Christmas when it is traditional for some to unwrap one gift on Christmas Eve, you receive a gift on Sunday, a full week before Easter proper.  The congregation meets outside for a prayer and all parishioners are given a palm representing the greeting Jews provided Jesus when he arrived in Jerusalem.  According to the bible, they waved them like banners at a ballgame, then respectfully laid them on the ground before him like a green carpet while he began his journey to crucification.  Don’t worry, I’ll try not to provide anymore misinformation regarding the bible and I’m certainly not becoming a Catholic Missionary.  These are just fond memories when I actually learned and appreciated the finer points of attending mass.

Faithfully, I showed up and participated for over thirty years without missing a Sunday, even while we were on vacation, and even more miraculous, when I attended college at Washington State University.  This was especially miraculous because my father and mother weren’t there to force me to go.  Prayer and tithing, even if tithing consisted of a two for one Burger King Whopper discount coupon, were the only two reasons I graduated from a University annually placed in the top ten list of the nation’s leading party schools. (Quite a dubious honor.)  One of my roommates was Catholic, so we would attend Saturday evening mass and then proceed to defile ourselves until two or three in the morning.  I digress.  Let’s get back to this Holy Week.

Once you receive your palm, you enter the church and proceed to follow along with the same readings you have heard the last ten years of your life.  However, it was simple to avoid the Sunday Snooze because you held this palm in your hand.  Traditionally, you and your brothers and sisters would spend the next hour in the pew fashioning a cross from the palm’s strips.  It was a fun competition to see who could create the finest cross someone could die upon.  Mine would commonly turn out looking like the letter X draped with seaweed.  Even Jesus would have taken exception to carrying this thing around.  “Uhh, yeah, I don’t mean to complain, that’s really not in my nature to do so, but is it possible I die on something a little more…..well, cross like instead of cross eyed?  Great.  Thanks.”  Those crosses, mangled or not would adorn our mantle for the year.  They would then be burned and used as ashes for Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the same day one is asked to give up something significant, like beer, for forty days.  This made Easter Sunday, the day Lent ends, especially sacred for the adults who tackled this forty day sacrifice. After Palm Sunday Mass, you then began thinking about Easter Sunday and the hunt.

Before Easter Sunday, there is slight speed bump referred to as Good Friday.  This is the day Christians commemorate the passion, or suffering, of His death on the cross.  Didn’t seem so good to me.  As a youngster, I didn’t understand the Holy Day’s name, and I am still a bit confused.  After Good Friday has passed, you picture Easter Eggs so big they’d make ostrich eggs look like gall stones.  One more day of planning your strategic backyard hunting scheme.  This was basically how I could outwit my two older brothers.  Stay as far away from them as possible. That was my only hope.  They were bonafide egg thieves.

I loved the hunt almost as much as the deviled eggs mom would fabricate shortly after.  As for the Easter Bunny, I never believed in that crap.  I didn’t want to.  Since we were coloring the eggs, I figured it out pretty quickly.  Mom and Dad would never let some creepy rabbit in our house to gather our eggs and hide them in our backyard.  If a large bipedal rabbit did enter our house, one of my brothers, having a midnight snack, would grab a shotgun and go Elmer Fudd on that rabbit’s ass.  The only rabbits in our house were made out of chocolate.  For my brother, Tom, those chocolate rabbits had to be solid.  As our resident chocoholic, Tom refused to eat the ones which were hollowed out of bounds.  That was too chocolate ghetto for him. This is also followed by a feast which would include ham, turkey and all the necessary fixings.  We had mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, hot rolls, fruit salad, stuffing, and I need to stop, because I am now feeling Catholic guilt and shame remembering so many other families in our humble neighborhood who didn’t have the means for this.  Crap.  Thanks Catholicism.

Now, if you think about it, to solidify my point, I felt like this was the trinity of holidays.  It wasn’t just the Father, Son, and The Holy Spirit, Amen.  It was Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving all rolled into one.  There were gifts, there was a phony character called the Easter Bunny, there was an enormous feast, there was family, and there was Sunday Mass where Deviled Eggs were dancing in your skull.  Can you want or wish for anything more?  Yes, you can. Once you grow old enough to be the one hiding the eggs, rather than hunting for them (always a proud moment for the youngest in the family), you realize how fun and satisfying it is to hold the hand of the youngest niece or nephew helping them find enough eggs to rival their elders.  We always tried to keep the competition fairly equal to avoid any tears.  There will be NO crying on Easter!  You know why?  BECAUSE THERE’S NO CRYING ON EASTER!  (Thanks, Tom Hanks.) All these children were so wildly happy…..and all just to find a few eggs.

Ultimately, when you grow to investigate the true meaning, or story if you wish, it is as inspirational of a story one can read and disbelieve, read and question, or read and believe.  I choose to believe.  It gives you hope when you are down.  It gives you faith when you have fallen.  It gives you the genuine will necessary when your life seems to have spiraled out of control and you feel lost and thus beaten.  But, then, you ponder this story and think, “For crying out loud, this dude rose from the dead!  I think I can get off this dirty floor before the count of ten and keep fighting for a better life for myself and others.”  Or, you may just find that your head is up your ass for an unusually large amount of time.  If that occurs, think about the Resurrection of Jesus, grab a great big wad of your hair, if you still have some, and pull your head out.  Maybe, just maybe, that’s what Easter is all about.

Happy Easter

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The Gangs of Dishman Mica (Halloween Candy Wars)

October, the month of candy, brought out the worst in all of us on the block.

Roaming the streets of our neighborhood back in the day was crazy “yo” during Halloween.  (That’s my street cred vernacular) This ain’t no G rated story, kids.  This time, Ben’s going third person hardcore: BG 13.

If you can refer to Halloween as a holiday, this one became vicious, not just because of the candy, but how long that candy could last within a square mile of four gangs: one for each block.  For us, Halloween was similar to Hanukkah because the candy lasted, at the most, eight days….if you were lucky.  Our Halloween Hanukkah was not about giving and receiving gifts for eight days or lighting candles, it was about coveting your pillowcase full of candy you received the night of Halloween and protecting it for the following seven days.

October 31st was not the most threatening of these Gangsta days, because you were usually with and protected by your gang.   As the youngest and easiest target for a pillowcase candy raid, I probably required full-time back up from our gang of misfit boys, but I was too young to follow those instructions.  Strolling down those Fall streets when darkness blew in, and when candy was the drug of choice at the age of eight, walking alone wasn’t a settling or intelligent idea.  I could be a rogue during the day, but on that night, I was told to remain with my pack.  Sure, I had my own weapons if our gang was busy kicking in pumpkins when I’d rather be ringing doorbells and collecting the goods at each house.  Some of our members were for tricking before treating.  That’s not the way I rolled.  I was in it for the “stuff”.  Therefore, while my gang was tricking, I’d meander a house or two down the road, which doesn’t sound too dangerous, but in this neighborhood, we had all kinds of predators waiting for the weakest of the tribe risking his candy when going alone. If you’ve ever watched The Discovery Channel or read National Geographic, when the cub leaves its pride, or the goose leaves its gaggle, it’s never a happy ending. The candy…..it’s an addiction, and you are willing to risk all the candy you have just to get more of it.

Traveling as a bindlestiff, or Hobo, I carried the stick to ward off any older boy dressed as a ghost.  Making sure my stick was made by an older brother in a junior high wood shop class, one of them would make certain it was made of either mahogany (one of the heaviest of woods) or rattan.  My choice was rattan. (The same used when fabricating a Singapore caning stick)  Light, smooth, not deadly, but vicious enough letting the teenage ghost draped in his mother’s bed sheet know that even a ghost can have a lacerated ass.   An additional weapon was the bag attached to the cane.  Sugar sharks never saw that one coming.  It wasn’t loaded with what they thought was useless pillow stuffing, (marshmallow placebos) but rather, hard candy.  When ringing the doorbell of any old lady down the street, I provided the proper “Trick or Treat!” as well as “Thank you” and then received the useful ammunition: thirteen year old peppermint bullets to protect myself  from imminent danger.  Quickly, stuffing the peppermint bullets in the bindle, I created a diversion from the good candy in my pillow case.  This bag of hard candy felt  like a bag of rocks when swinging it like a wild hobo.  My predator’s teeth would look like Chicklets in his bag if my aim was accurate. Forceful, and directed at his yellow grill I could easily spot through the soft whiteness of his silky smooth Downy sheet, he would feel pain and shame at the precise moment of impact.  Sadly, for the phony ghost, the flowery scent gave him away; right away.  Those sheets were far too fresh to believe a corpse was hiding beneath.  The last weapons were the two apples in my baggy trousers used to fend off a candy predator.  These must be used with extreme precision.  If you do not get a direct hit, meaning right in the nose, you will be rendered helpless, and your pillowcase full of the good stuff will vanish like an ex wife…..only you aren’t happy about it.  Now, you may be wondering why one may not utilize the pillowcase as a last resort.  Absolutely not. In candy wars, that’s considered a candy war crime.  Have you ever eaten a Milky Way without caramel?  (I guess that’s called a Three Musketeers Bar, and they suck.)  Have you ever eaten a Snickers when all the nuts have fallen out?  Have you ever tried to eat a Twix and there is no cookie crunch……only sandy rubble?  These precious treats must remain intact before you make it to home base.  You can only allow the ghost or candy burglar to pry it from your cold, wet, and freezing fingers.  So, after learning my lesson, I did need a gang.

After a little hazing, my brothers and their friends let me join.  It was harmless.   “Get me a glass of milk. Go out and fetch the Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit edition from the mailbox, and don’t open it until I let you.   Also, there better be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich waiting for me…….and none of that stinkin wheat bread!”

I would oblige, and thus be sworn in as a certified member of The Gannon Gang.  We were also known by some of the neighborhood parents as “The Melting Pot Roasts”.  Although Irish and Catholic, we welcomed others with open fists and bags requiring only loyalty for one another and candy.  The three true Gannons were my brothers, Tom, Greg and myself,  all Irish Catholics who could be forgiven for mostly anything after this night.  We also had a Chavez.  He was Tom’s good friend and also a Catholic.  He played rough.  This Latino could only be forced to go to church when he HAD to be forgiven.  Once, I watched him steal a maple bar from a rival gang member just to throw it in the dumpster before Halloween!  This would get the maple syrup warfare juices flowing, so I understood his tactics.  That’s a waste of sugar. I prayed for him and that maple bar that night.

There were a couple of Lineruds in our gang. (I could only assume they were Scandinavian because of their smell of pickled herring and stench of loyalty.) One was tough, but the other was just crafty.  The latter was so stingy that he’d hide Jolly Ranchers in places of his body where nothing should be jolly; Perhaps crude, but indeed shrewd, none of us would trade candy with that dude.  They both fit in.

We were a group of semi pacifists running around with a white shadow: me.   You couldn’t hide my white afro with a sombrero.  I was a hobo.  I didn’t have money for a haircut or a common hat.  Nothing could hide my locks on that evening.  I was like a Halloween Baby Nuisance.  Because of me, I made our gang an easy target.

The other gangs and unusual suspects:

The Carbones:

Some of the gangs we could only identify by their breath and weak use of the English Language.  There was the notorious “Carbone Clan”.  They ran the local carnivals and were easy to spot, yet difficult to diagnose.  Guilty of crimes such as letting a ride at the carnival go too long or stop too short, they knew we had a weakness for their profession, but we knew they had a weakness as well; They were wildly spooky, because they’d turn on themselves just as soon as they’d turn on us.  Our gang would fight amongst ourselves over the last cracker jack, but we had a code.  At dusk, you stick by your boys. With the Carbones, even at dusk or the carnival, it was every rotten tooth for himself.

Their family did indeed run the carnivals.  And by ran, I mean ran the rides.  When I’d show up to a carnival and a Carbone was running the Sizzler, Hammerhead, or the Zipper, I’d choose the baseball bottle toss.  I’d lose money,  but I’d be safely grounded.  The toughest part about this gang was that they had a Carbone Godfather and Godmother.  If we messed with the Carbones, we were messing with their parents and anyone else working the carny circuit as well.

Since our diet of candy only consisted of a few Ding Dongs a year, we weren’t dependent upon Halloween during those times much like a lion must have a drink in the Serengeti when a drought annually nears.  Luckily, we had potatoes each night to fulfill our starch requirements.  There would never be another Irish Potato Famine in our house. Candy was the Carbones’ staple.  Living in a carnival atmosphere, once you go cotton candy on someone’s ass, you can never go back.  At this time of year, they became sugar zombies, only surviving by eating the flesh of a Mars Bar or Charleston Chew.  Apples for us came in handy with these ruffians.  Pin point precision wasn’t necessary with an apple they looked upon as a nutritious grenade.  Yank that stem out with your mouth and toss the apple up in the air and they’d scatter like a loft of pigeons.   We outsmarted them.  Lord knows, I couldn’t outrun those hyenas dressed as scary clowns.

The Castor Oil Gang:

The Castor Oil gang was different, because they were strangely indifferent.  I guess you might consider them the agnostic gang on our block.  They’d be happy to throw a rock, rotten potato, or grab a wad of milk duds from your stash and throw them at you at point blank range like an automatic beebee gun, but they’d laugh doing it.  So, we were cool with them because we were similar.  There was no hint of danger, just some pain.   Our fights would end with a white flag and a shake of a greasy hand, but they weren’t rough, just tough.  And if we needed anyone on our side, we’d summon the Castors.  They were just as nervous about the Carbones as we were.  Since the Carbones recruited adults from any valley carnival, we were outnumbered.  That’s when the Castor Oils and The Gannons would unite.  We’d always win.  You see, the easy way to beat a Carbone IS on Halloween.  I don’t know much about drugs, but I do about candy.  Have you ever witnessed a guy on crack settling for just a couple beers?  I haven’t, but I’ve seen one try on t.v.. It doesn’t satisfy their desire.  The Carbones were trying to come down from the most sacred of spun sugars, cotton candy, and thinking a mere tootsie roll could relieve them of this sick desire was preposterous.  Apples, Laughy Taffy, Baby Ruths, and if you were lucky, a Mr. Goodbar could be waved at them like it was Carbone kryptonite.  Game over.  To the victor goes the candy.

Latter Day Neighbors (LDN):

Our most formidable foe, the Latter Day Neighbors, were hot on our candy trail.  I take full responsibility for this rivalry and misgivings amongst two gangs who can coexist, just not when you are an eight year old moron like I was, believing the only difference between Latter Day Neighbors and Catholics was a football team.

I didn’t realize this until much later in life, but the Latter Day neighbors’ insatiable desire for candy far outweighed Irish Catholics’ insatiable need for beer.  Forgive me Father, but I was only eight.  The Mormons made the Carbones look like hummingbirds…..harmless.  Scaring the living holy ghost out of me, they had the entire Morman Tabernacle Choir on our ass like we were to be their next wives!  In attempts to steal our candy, Greg, our generally focussed commander would shout, “It’s every Gannon for himself!  Let’s get the hell out of here before they bring Brigham Young himself!  Ben, RUN, you little goofy bastard”, (he used to affectionately call me that even though I did have a father, but he was looking out for me)  I ran like heaven and we all made it back to home base.  Our attackers stopped at our house as though it was some sort of forcefield.  Many of them realized they weren’t wearing their protective pajamas.  Peacefully, they strolled back home.  They were very good people and we made peace.  I once traded one of my dad’s beers for one of their Nestles’s Crunch.  Fair deal.  All was well outside the house, but not within.

The aftermath was more like a sigh of relief, but you had to still take extreme caution for those next seven days where you’d hoard, hide, trade and yes, even steal amongst your own.  It was like smelling napalm the next battle friendly morning.  Nothing was over until the candy decides it is.

You awakened the next morning not with a candy hangover, but feeling as though you conquered a block.  You and your bag had a mission.  You think the mission is accomplished.  It’s candy euphoria, but you also awaken to the most evil, and sinister of vices…..candy paranoia.  Candy can bring out the worst in anyone.  These brothers, friends, and loved ones stared at your bag as thought it was filled with gold.  They didn’t stare at me.  They stared at the bag.  When your own brothers are willing to steal your gold, this is where a hunted mouse like me must fight the food chain with his brain, since he has no braun.  You set traps for the cats.

You begin when all your older brothers and members of the gang are tired from the pumpkin smashing and praising their bags like common popcorn ball pirates.  (I only liked the red ones, and it was my one candy weakness, because I knew they wouldn’t last, and there was only one trustworthy neighbor who distributed them minus the strychnine.)  While eating their popcorn balls like it was a giant sphere of sticky rum, I’d hide my candy in places of our house and outside our house no one wished to venture.  We had closets, an attic, vents and a chicken coop.  Chickens don’t eat packaged candy.  My candy was safe.

The Candy Stones:

The Silverbacks and the Goldsteins beat us all at our game of candy warfare.   Although not related, they figured outsmarting the Gannons, the Castors and the Carbones was the only way to win this battle.   They knew we would exhaust three quarters of our candy before they could snatch the last quarter up.   We called them the Candy Stones. Initially, I didn’t understand the term, but remembering the hard candy rings draped around their fingers, it made sense. They also wore silly hats which didn’t have a bill.   We sometimes referred to them as the Candy Hoes.  It seemed as though they were pimping candy for a profit, not a cavity.  This was a gang who had money and wanted to make more of it.  They wandered down to our side from the North Side only when our legs were weary and our bellies were full of sugar.  The Candy Stones didn’t know how to fight, but they knew how to barter, and more importantly, they knew we could never get enough sugar.  And, that’s exactly what they needed…… desperation.   It was Silverback and Goldsteins Guerrilla candy warfare. When we ran out of candy, they knew we still contained pennies in our pockets, and they wanted all those pennies.  The Candy Stones didn’t fight with their fists, they fought with their brains and their wallets, and could sense the smell of fear and money simultaneously.  Sweet and Low packets they’d permanently borrow from the nearest International House of Pancakes were shrewdly used by them as candy currency.  They would sell packets to us for any penny, nickel, dime or quarter we had left.

After that week of Halloween, and eventually running out of all our sugar as well as our  change, the gangs would unite in a backyard or playground to play baseball or football.  The sugar highs and lows would wear off, and we focussed on using our energy the right way.  It didn’t matter if we were Irish, Latino, Scandinavian, Jewish, Mormon or Carbone, we recognized our differences, ultimately laughing about our differences and embracing them.

Happy Safe Halloween.





Play Fair

The Kentucky Derby is right around the corner and on its home stretch, but I lived another  stretch several times in Spokane, Washington.  The stretch started with confession, followed by lying, and ended at a horse track known as (quite ironically) Playfair.

Probably seven years old at the time, I maintained morals and specific values.  However, (forgive me father) I did sin at that pivotal age.  I was willing to tell a lie, but two of my brothers and my father were not satisfied with my less than adequate fib.  Nor was the Catholic Priest.

You see, at this age, I swear, my only sins were lying in the confessional.  The priest asks you to reveal your sins.

Confess your sins, my son.

Is playing wiffle ball in the backyard a sin?

No, but did you intentionally hit anyone in the face with the bat?

Not intentionally.

Who did you “not intentionally” hit with a bat?

A neighbor.

Was he a good Catholic boy like you?

No.  He was a friendly neighborhood Mormon.

Oh, that’s definitely not a sin!

Father, can you just give me another week.  I’ll try my best to do some sinning?

Yes, my son.  Do you have any plans for the weekend?

My dad’s taking us to the race track right after I get out of here.

Ok.  That’s a great start.  I see great and powerful sinning in your future.  You will have much to talk about in our next meeting.

Perfect.  (off to begin my life of sinning) I promise you… next week this conversation won’t be so BORING!

Good.  Go in peace to love and sin for the Lord.

I did indeed go in peace, but, from my standpoint, committed a sin just hours after my dismissal.

Providing our mother a much needed break from some of her children, dad would take us to the race track for the last two races for two reasons:  free admission and he loved gambling on the horses.  (this was to be my first time to attend)  Yet, there was only one reason my two older siblings, ages eleven and thirteen did not want me tagging along.  I was only seven and to be allowed into one of the dirtiest racetracks in the nation, you must be ten.  What terrific standards they set at the track when a boy must be at least the age of ten before witnessing jockeys, trainers, owners and many of the gamblers cheating.  Seven?  “No, wait until you are ten boy before you witness such heathen like behavior.”  Since only seven at the time, I knew this presented a problem collectively for all of us going to the track.  If I can’t get in, no one gets in.  Not my dad, not my brothers and certainly not me.  Bless my wonderful father, because, much to the dismay of my brothers, he wasn’t going to leave me at home, and he was going to teach me a lesson and provide material for my next confessional visit.

Dad said to me, “Ben, I want to take you with us to the track, but by the looks on your brothers’ faces, they don’t want you to be a part of this, because if you don’t learn how to tell a lie, we can’t get in, and I can’t leave you in the car waiting, even though your brothers wouldn’t mind me doing so, understand?”

“I guess, but what do you mean by lying?  Is this like one of those phony fairy tales you weave before bedtime, or is this going to be a mortal sin?”

Patiently, and almost excitedly, dad said, “no, don’t worry about that mortal sin stuff, this is just a white lie, and it will keep you from getting beaten up by your older brothers who are begging me to leave you at home.”

My first chance at sinning, oh boy!  “What do I have to do?”

“Well, you’re seven, right?” (I don’t think he knew any of his children’s ages, but he guessed right)

“Right, dad.”

“All you have to do, when we are walking by the booth, and some swarthy man is asking for your age, just tell him you are ten.  Then, legally, he can allow your entrance.  And, believe me, he doesn’t care.  He just wants our money once we get in.”

Painfully, I had to think about this for just a few short moments, but this was my first negotiated lie.  “Dad, I’ll tell him I’m nine!” According to me, it was my first lie.

My two older brothers looked at dad and me with disgust, hands in the air and eyes rolling, but my loving father quickly extinguished the flames by saying, “hey guys, how about going to Chico’s Pizza for some pinball and at least two pies?”


Food was much more enticing to our family than gambling.  My brothers never laid a finger on me, and I could admit at my next visit to the priest that I was at least willing to tell a lie.

Today, I don’t have to lie about my age, but when asked for age identification, all I have to do is take off my baseball cap.  I don’t like telling people I’m forty.

Have fun watching the Derby.





Characters and Character: Shayne (the Wing it Master)

This is not an obituary.  At least I hope it’s not.  That would be really embarrassing.  The fine man I’m writing about is, to my infinite knowledge, alive and still kicking peoples’ asses with his boots.

Many fabulous names and characters float through the sky as though they should be fictional.  This is, indeed, non fiction, making it that more special knowing this fabulous character who has fabulous character.

I don’t know how old I was when I met him.  I don’t know how old he was when we crossed paths.  He is the father of two friends of mine, Mike and Tracy.  His name was and still is Shayne.  His last name is Wing.  I often thought, “What story book did this guy appear in and how is he an actual super hero of mine?”

Allow me to describe this character with character.  Shayne Wing is a Viet Nam Veteran.  He served our country with terrific courage, and went further while serving his wonderful wife, Shirley.  He’s been a terrific father, perhaps a good husband, (that’s nobody’s business) a man of valor and quite genuinely, a friend to my brother, Tom, and me.

Shayne Wing stood for many things. He believed in his country and fought in circumstances I can’t even fathom.  He encouraged his sons to be good men.  They are.  He dominated youngsters on the basketball court which he built in their backyard with his own two middle fingers and a pair of cowboy boots.  But, there is one thing Shayne Wing could do which is more amazing than any character I have known or faced.  He was the only man capable of discouraging a young man known as Me from playing basketball.  This guy would work ten hours in cowboy boots, come home, not take off his cowboy boots, and proceed to demoralize the neighborhood boys playing on his court by scoring more points than all of us on that court.

During the offseason of baseball and football, the neigborhoodlams would gather at Shayne and Shirley’s court to play some basketball.  Shayne would eventually arrive and teach us some lessons on the court.  Quite naive, and watching basketball in an era where you witnessed a Bird in Boston, some Magic in Los Angeles, and a Doctor in Philadelphia,   a young man trying to emulate their moves and shots didn’t rise up to the guy in the boots.  That’s why I focussed on some things I was decent at……baseball and football.

Football season is officially over.  Baseball is on the way, but I still love the game of basketball……when it matters.  Shayne Wing made me appreciate what really matters.  It’s when you know a guy will fight for your safety, work an honest day, and provide enough for a family while having the energy to come home and play basketball with the neighborhood gang of misfits.  I hope he still has those cowboy boots, because they were made for shooting.



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!

Marshall Burgers

Grilled burgers are commonly thought of by hundreds, thousands and millions of Americans much like the Sistine Chapel. They are simply worshiped. My terrific friend, Marshall St. John, AKA: Mark, AKA: Macho, AKA: Marshall Mathers (that is Tom’s nickname for him) AKA: Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch opened my eyes, esophagus and lower intestine to these heavenly and addictive burgers. Save the meat and the bun, the Marshall Burger requires three simple ingredients provided later in this segment.

This slap worthy delicacy was accentuated by my brother, Greg. He didn’t begin the Marshall Burger craze by creating the dish, he just slapped you while eating them because he loved them so much. (Our family affection when words do not provide the appropriate complements) “That’s great!” just wasn’t enough of a compliment. A slap across the face by Greg was terrific because it seemed the ultimate form of saying, “That’s damn good”.

The ingredients include, cheese, mayo and onions. Let me rephrase that. THEY INCLUDE CHEESE! MAYO! AND ONIONS! THAT’S IT!

As a college student returning home on a weekend or break, I was usually excited because Marshall, Marshall’s son, my close friend,Trevor, and I would visit a local burger joint. Watching and listening to Marshall order this burger with tremendous zest was abject entertainment.  His ordering prowess could surpass any King or Prince living in Spokane Valley Washington.

Trevor and I would usually convince Marshall to take the drive through route because the notorious fuzziness would provide further humor.  Upon arriving, Trev and my orders were quite simple.  We’d take the common number whatever, but Marshall’s order was far more specific.  His order was actually very simple, but the recipient of the order would try to make it much more complicated.  Thus, making the show proceed.

Burger guy: May I take your order?

Marshall:  I would like a burger with cheese, onions and mayonnaise, please.

Burger guy:  Would you like that with pickles and relish?”

Marshall: (a little agitated) No.  Just a burger with cheese, onions and mayo.

Trevor and Ben:  beginning to laugh at the ensuing onslaught of Marshall’s wrath

Burger guy:  Would you like ketchup and mustard on that?

Marshall:  NOO!! I don’t want any pickles, ketchup, mustard, relish, or tomatoes…..JUST ONIONS MAYO AND CHEESE!

Burger guy: How about bacon?

Marshall:  God Damn it!!  No!

We laughed hysterically and historically because it was commonly an episode of two stooges and an irritable man.

Leaving the last for best, I grew tired of listening to these rants, however entertaining they were.  Therefore, I decided to cook a Marshall burger on my own:  grilling the onions until perfectly caramelized, barbecuing the burgers to substantial agreement while melting the cheese atop, then layering the toasted buns with  MAYO and grilled onions.

Many people have raved about this delicacy.  Brother Mike serves them often to his wife.  Brother Tom cooks them commonly for his son, Quinn.  My wife orders them from me on a weekly basis.  Yet, in a morbidly gratifying fashion, there is never a greater satisfaction than getting slapped by brother Greg when tasting the morsel only Marshall St. John could create.

More Marshall Chronicles to come….

Ben Gannon

Waste Paper Service



This story is not about a picture of two young ganstas deciding to, idiotically, take a photo in a coin operated photo booth.  Rather, it is about a hat and an ice cream man who created the hat.  The WPS displayed on my brother Tom’s hat represented Waste Paper Service, a youth baseball team Tom was playing for and the business we were representing.   I was merely the bat boy for two reasons: one, I was too young to legally play on the team, and two, that name (Waste Paper Service) was just far too embarrassing. We were the Bad News Bears of Spokane, Washington.

Our coach and local Ice Cream Man, Walt Mabe, a Vietnam Veteran, had a passion for baseball and a further passion for arguing with umpires.  Having  utmost respect for any veteran, Coach Mabe was no exception.  This brave man had his left leg removed after stepping on a land mine while fighting in Vietnam.  However, he maintained some idiosyncrasies which must be acknowledged.  First of which being that his ice cream truck was the only one which didn’t play the traditional jingle, “The Entertainer”…he would play “Ride (Flight) of the Valkyries” from “Apocalypse Now”.  Additionally, the baseball games we played would usually last upwards of 17 or 18 hours because he kept a rule book handy in his wooden leg which he would pull out on an inning by inning basis.  As a Catholic, it would create an image of a baseball priest providing a homily after each strike or ball.  Those poor umpires, making about 4 cents an hour with coach Mabe’s rants, are now, hopefully, and deservedly in some sort of baseball heaven.

I’m sure my brothers Tom and Greg will provide additional commentary on Walt’s quirks.  Yet, I will quickly present the most memorable one.  While taking infield practice, (for those of you who despise or know nothing about baseball, this is when the coach hits ground balls and fly balls to the players prior to the first pitch of the game), rather than using a bat, and I kid you negative, coach Mabe would use his wooden leg.  Going to the ballpark was always genuinely interesting being coached by this good man. Bless his baseball soul and his wooden leg.

Just a typical Spokane little league experience.  You play for a team sponsored by and named after toilet paper, coached by a man with a wooden leg who uses it as a bat, and the games would last 16 or 17 hours.  Yet, I still love the game of baseball.

(All is true with exception of the ice cream truck jingles.)

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.