Monday, April 10, 2006

I'm Famous Where?

I wake up this morning, stumble into the den with a cup of coffee, fire up the computer, check to see about the traffic that the weblog generated yesterday, and ... found out I'm being read in Mumbai.



After a 30 second google search, I came to realize that Mumbai is what Bombay, India is now called (if memory serves, the British colonial name was changed because, well, it was British and the Indians still hate the British for what the latter did in the days of the Raj).

It's odd to see one of my weblog postings featured in a newspaper (Mumbai News) half way around the world. But such is life on this planet today. Welcome to the internet.

To all of my new friends in Mumbai: Namaste. Aap kaise ho? Shukriya.

And if you see my good friend, Nagabushanam Jasti, tell him to write. (Hey, it could happen. India only has 1.1 billion people).

For those of you who are interested, here's the link:

My guess is the link won't be good for long.

The world gets smaller every day.

Update April 10 5:33pm: As I expected, the link wasn't good for long. My fifteen minutes of fame (in India) lasted ... well, about 15 minutes.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Persimmon Tree

When we were young, I and my two brothers, Steve and Randy, occupied our time by causing mayhem and looking for adventure. We didn't do it so as to cause our parents anguish or embarrassment or economic ruin. We just wanted to have fun. And sometimes our fun was ... misunderstood.

Like the time we invaded a neighbor's apple orchard and harvested the entire crop of his most delicious Granny Smith apples. It took us several days of climbing and picking and eating but we were thorough in our destruction. By the time we were done, the orchard was devastated. I remember we even took some of the apples home and ran them through our mother's orange squeezer and accumulated a couple of gallons of apple cider - that we let ferment for several months. Was it ever powerful. I attribute the hair on my chest to that batch of devil's brew.

Or the time we all got whippin's for throwing burning newspapers into the crawlspace of a neighbor's home. It was innocent fun - I swear.

I think we all got whippin's too for having bent the metal frame of one of our beds in two by jumping on it - something that could have been categorized as being nothing more than boys doing what boys have done throughout time immemorial - but never got whippin's for.

Then there was the time Steve, who is three years older than me and, at the time, had me by twenty pounds, was chasing me with the intention of inflicting great bodily harm. I ran up to the back gate and, because it was latched and I was hurtling at full speed, I slammed against it and knocked my front tooth out. Off to the dentist we went.

Then there was the time that Randy locked me out of the house. I got mad and ran my fist through the door glass - and sliced my wrist in the process. Off to the doctor's office we went.

And there were the normal "boys will be boys" stuff, like the time we were playing baseball in the side yard and I proceeded to put a smokin' line drive through the neighbor's window (steroids played no part in it either; it was all talent, power, and perfect follow-through). I was going to keep the shattered window a secret (yes, it was in the neighbor's living room so they might have eventually noticed the shards of glass all over the furniture) but Dad made me go over and apologize - a humbling experience. Oh, and I got a whippin'. Oh, and off to the hardware store we went to get a new window pane and spackling.

And there was the time that Randy was slugged just above the eye socket with a baseball bat by a neighbor kid. Randy has been nearly blind in that eye ever since. As I recall, Mom whisked him off to the doctor's office that day too. Worst of all, we lost our best pitcher.

We put the doctor into a six figure income in those days. Steve breaking his arm. Me jumping barefoot on a broken coke bottle. Remember the old metal coffee cans and the key you had to use to unseal them? Remember too how, when opened, the edge of the can became extremely sharp? Yep - another trip to the doctor' office for stitches.

Bee stings. Bike wrecks. Rock fights. Fist fights. Food fights. Frightening the neighbors in the dark of night. Tormenting the bejeebers out of our younger sister Suellen - who has loved and adored us throughout the years, in spite of it - oddly. The usual stuff.

I brought a snake into the house once to show everyone. Grandma let out a scream and she and Mom started squalling for me to get out! Get out! It was a relatively small one really. And it wasn't venomous, as best I could tell. Nice looking little rascal too.

Lots of whippin's were meted out as a result of much of this. Such was the nature of our youth. We arose, ate, got in trouble, got whippin's, ate, and went to bed. Every day for years.

I wouldn't give any one of those days back. They resulted in so many fond memories.

Our parents knew about all these incidents, as best I can recall, and they responded to each in their usual parental way...

But there is one story that we've never revealed. It has to do The Persimmon Tree.

Our grandparents lived along a highway out in the country. Next to their rather long driveway they had this really nice, mature persimmon tree. I was never much for persimmon pie or persimmon pudding or persimmon cake but I always appreciated the persimmon for its throwing attributes. Unlike a tomato that was too mooshy and therefore didn't allow for much distance, or an apple which didn't splatter upon impact, a persimmon, when its at its ripened peak, with its gooey innards and tough outer skin, made for the perfect missile.

One night the family had gone out to visit the grandparents. After being there for a few hours, with Mom and Dad and Suellen inside, Steve and Randy and I went out - to do what boys do. We looked for some innocent fun to occupy our time. When we got down to the persimmon tree, we came up with an idea (actually I think Steve came up with it; he usually dreamt up the schemes that got us in trouble).

We decided to throw persimmons at passing cars.

Now picture the moment. It was pitch black outside. Middle of summer. Nice warm evening. There was to the west a hill over which the cars came, doing about fifty. They'd streak past the house and disappear into the night. We'd see them for no more than fifteen seconds.

We prepared. We gathered up the juiciest, plumpest of the persimmons for ammunition and waited. Now the goal was to hit the windshield. The trick was to do it without getting our asses kicked by angry drivers. So we devised the method of launching the persimmons at such a time and with such a trajectory as to gain maximum hang-time - and time to run and hide.

We began. We could hear the cars approaching before we even saw the headlights. We then saw the twin beams appear over the rise and the three of us, in syncronization the likes of which Hannibal would have appreciated at the Battle of Cannae, threw our persimmons high into the air - and took off running.

It took us a number of practice cars to get the range, timing and trajectory down pat but when we did, the resulting mayhem was something to behold. The sound a persimmon makes when it hits a windshield on a car doing fifty resembles that of a 3 wood hitting a golf ball that's been retrieved from the bottom of a water hazard. A kind of thud sound with a touch of ping.

Because light travels faster than sound, we'd sometimes see the brake lights come on before we heard the splat. But that was only in those instances where we were fast enough to gain our hiding place in time.

What we weren't able to witness was the product of our efforts. The goo on the windshields. The enraged drivers.

We hid. In total darkness. No sound except for the summer nightbugs. Only a person with superhuman hearing could have discerned the faint distant giggles of young boys celebrating their mission accomplished.

All this happened many years ago. Steve and Randy and I have until now kept The Persimmon Tree our secret. It was only a few years later it seems that Steve was off in Vietnam and Randy was in the Air Force and I was chasing Paula around the college campus. We'd all gone our separate ways - forever. Of course there was Suellen, tugging at us all to try to keep the family together as much as was possible.

Dad and Grandpa and Grandma - and the persimmon tree - are long gone now.

What lingers though is a memory of a glorious night together, having fun doing what boys do.