Sunday, February 27, 2011

Midnight Movie and One Particular Guy

As I sit here trying hard not to watch the Oscars (I don't know why I dislike award shows so much), I can't help but wonder what Christian Bale would have been like in the first Batman. And Heath Ledger vs. Jack Nicholson? Regardless, the Dark Knight has been in the can now for several years, but I bring it up because I will always remember the opening of Batman in June of 1989. Not because of the way it was overhyped at Burger King or the fact that Prince somehow got to do a large part of the soundtrack. But because of One Particular Guy.

I honestly don't remember the ride down I-95 and don't want to think about how fast we were going after Pruitt met Karyn, Wayne and myself after we closed Frank's. When we got there, Golden Ring Mall(RIP) was closed but there was a door open that allowed you to get into the mall at the cinema entrance. To our dismay, there was a pretty long line, even for the midnight movie. We got in line and started trying to gauge whether the tickets would extend to our spot in line. That One Particular Guy came in behind us in line, seemed to be alone and was wearing one of the seemingly ubiquitous Batman tees. The only thing I remember him saying was "I think this movie will be great, but they should have gotten Kirk Cameron to play Robin." Pruitt, in that stoic yet often intimidating manner, turned around and said, "Good for you." I laughed, I didn't know why at the time. I wasn't trying to be mean, I just laughed. What made it worse is that turning back a few minutes later, that One Particular Guy was gone. It forever scarred Karyn because she never forgave us saying "he" might have just been lonely and wanted to watch the movie with us.

It didn't dawn on me till years later watching "A Christmas Story" with Laura one Christmas Eve, that the "One Particular Guy" reminded me of the kid wearing an aviator helmet in line with Ralphie and his kid brother Randy as they waited to see Santa in the department store. "I like the Wizard of Oz....I like the Tin Man." Good times.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mary Young's Christmas in April 1988

Sadly there are no pictures of the actual event to document the occasion but rest assured there was Christmas in April on Wilson Street. I used to hangout at Wayne Young's house on Wilson Street quite a bit, Blaine and I were the only people that didn't live within three blocks of the house. Somehow so much seemed to originate from there and Wayne Sr. (Big Wayne pictured above) and Mary Young were extremely patient and cordial parental hosts. I still owe them about 75 dinners, from mooching them them. Another good reason for me to be there was MTV. Up on the hill, at my house, I had to wait patiently for Friday Night Videos each Friday night just to watch Thriller. Amazingly cable still isn't up on Springhill Drive. But I am off topic.

Mary Young decorated for every holiday they made a card for, but Easter was a close second to Christmas for her. Picture ceramic bunnies, plastic easter eggs, a bushel of green plastic grass that some activist today would be afraid ducks would eat and die. More pastel colors than Don Johnson's Miami Vice wardrobe in seasons 1-2... Mary could really Easter-It up. It all looked great.

Wayne, Jerome and I were just watching TV, no one else was in the house and I just thought how funny it would be for Mary to come home and see Christmas decorations up at Easter. I asked, "Wayne, do you know where the Christmas stuff is?" That's how it started. So the three of us found the decorations: garland, stockings, tinsel, Christmas balls, even a Christmas candy dish, the tree.... writing this I realize that we didn't put it back. Worse, Wayne and I went to work at Frank's and left Jerome to explain the prank. We laughed the whole shift, luckily Mary and Wayne Sr. laughed. And now years later, I can never look at fake green Easter basket grass and not think of Mary Young. Bless her, we (I) were (was) a menace.

At one time Frank's Pizza employed all of the Young's, even Mary's mother.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ruminating on a Ski Trip in the Middle of a Snow Storm

I sit and write this while the middle Tennessee area awaits it's second bout of winter. Snow is not greeted well here in Nashville where the real enterprising folks tend to buy a snowplow for their vehicle at Wal-Mart and dig people out of their whole two inches, not claiming it on their taxes either. School may be closed for a week on an inch. But I am getting off topic.
Though not a particularly good skiier, I always enjoyed a good ski trip and there are three that I remember quite well. The first was a church sponsored youth trip to Ski Liberty that brought the Party Crue together and introduced Wayne to Debbie Ehrhart (another time, another story). The second time was a trip to the Poconos with Steve and Frances when they were just friends. Steve broke his thumb on the last run and had to get in the pool at the hotel with his arm wrapped in Saran Wrap. But the third time was on a winter roadtrip to see Jerome Michaut (America's Favorite Foreign Exchange Student, not FES from That '70' s Show) at Frostburg State in winter of 1988. Wayne Young, Karyn Hood and I made the trip in my Dad's Silverado. Somehow no one broke any bones, required crutches or otherwise was left for dead. I remember watching an insane Frenchman look like some stunt double in that John Cusack movie with the dude that played Booger. It started sleeting at Wisp (I think), iced up the lift and I watched Jerome jump about 14 feet away from the drop-off into the snow below. Crazy Frenchman. Somehow we made it down and back to Jerome's apartment.
It remains the one and only time I ever watched an original laser disc system which Jerome had gotten at some yard sale. The only discs that came with it were Tron and Superman I and II. Mind you, everyone was by then into VHS. I wonder if he still has it?! The picture above shows his prized two pellet guns. There is just something about the picture I posted here that makes me question whether we might really have been somewhere in the South. But then again, I look outside and wonder why I ever moved to a warmer climate when we still get all this snow. Damn global warming....or cooling.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Remembering Mr. Coffee (not Joe Dimaggio)

One of the things about working at Frank's Pizza as a teenager, were the constant cast of characters that came in to talk, flirt, pass time and occassionally eat. Among the most interesting, aside from the litany of ER patients that managed to stagger across the street, were patients from Perry Point Veterans Hospital, located just across the Susquehanna in Perryville. I didn't fully come to be interested in military history until well after Frank's became just a place for stirrups without horses. I look back now and wonder what some of those psychiatric patients might have endured during their time in the military.

One of the regulars was simply known as Mr. Coffee, because, well that is what he ordered. All the time. Coffee, black usually the first cup as we unlocked the door. Mr. Coffee usually was awaiting us at the door when we came in, often talking to himself. No, that's not quite right, often carrying on a conversation with himself, telling jokes and laughing in the next breath. You could never understand what he was saying, thereby ensuring the joke remained his and his alone (or whoever was talking with him in his head). He was always polite, cleaned up for himself, but kept to himself and from what we could tell, kept himself amused.

Margie started calling him Bill. Whether he told her that one day or it was a name of her own invention escapes me now, but Bill Coffee seemed to fit. The guy would somehow take a cab from across the bridge, wearing the same clothes regardless of the weather. He had a full beard, weather-beaten face, nicotine-stained fingers and looked like the dude on the Kansas albums. Most people would say he looked homeless, but to me he just looked lost. I see guys that look like him now more and more often. I wonder what their stories are sometimes.

It must have been the Christmas of 1987, Margie Kline asked us what we thought about buying Mr. Coffee a winter coat with our tips. The tip cup was usually pretty full and funded parties, video games and libations. However, that year we unanimously agreed to buy Bill Coffee a coat. When Margie gave it to him, it was the only time I ever saw him smile. He wore that coat pretty much every day I saw him until Frank's closed and time moved on. I can't come off an interstate anymore without giving a good, long look at the guy at the top of the ramp with a sign. I keep hoping I will see Bill Coffee with a sign that says, "Will Work for Coffee."

Monday, December 6, 2010

And Introduction to a Place Where Everybody Knew My Name

This blog has been a long time coming. I kick myself every time I think back to 1986 (that was the year I got hired at Frank's Pizza and Subs in Havre de Grace, MD) and have no video or even a diary. Sure, video cameras were like a million dollars then and ate batteries like Mr. Coffee drank...well coffee, (more on him later), but some actual footage would have been invaluable as proof.

I don't have a specific agenda for this blog. Much of it will be nostalgic for those who may be inclined to read it for enjoyment, after all I plan to get as many of my former co-workers to read this and hopefully contribute.

Let me start by saying that Frank's Pizza was an authentic pizza and sub shop located right across the street from Harford Memorial Hospital. Today it is a medical clinic. Rumors are that stirrups are set up right about the place where I used to cook cheesesteaks on the grille. Somehow that makes me smile even as I write this. But more than anything, it was the place where I had some of the best times of my life or to be more precise, those times usually started or ended with the wonderful cast of characters who made up my youth and became the standard of every friend I have had since. Not everyone I hope to write about in the blog worked at Frank's, but friendships, chance encounters and even some short-lived romances made it a hangout of sorts.

Lynn and Marge were managing partners and I think paid some homage to the actual Frank. Frank DeLorenzo was a quasi-mafia wannabe who bathed in Hi Karate cologne, sported a gold "King of Pizza" chain with matching white chest hair and actually managed to do jail time for cocaine trafficking. I will have to let Wayne get specifics (hopefully I can get him to blog as he is one hell of a storyteller), but I only saw the guy (Frank) twice and the last time it was just after the FBI had run all of his illegal Italians out the back door when they busted his other store in Aberdeen.

There were two specific times, clock-wise, if you closed at Frank's: Movie Time and Soup Store Time. Movie Time was Marge Kline's take on how a movie lasted two hours, so we started cleaning up two hours prior to closing. Soup Store Time was when either Lynn or Marge would take orders for the liquor store for those of us under 21. As a 16-18 year old, this was a pretty big perk. I always wondered what One-Stop Liquors or Post Road thought about those two ladies, then again I have never known a liquor store clerk to lose too much sleep wondering about the personal lifestyles of their bread-n-butter. It's amazing that I never drank, not even beer appealed to me, but as it turned out it was my role to drive everyone else. It's been a lifelong role and one thing that I am pretty good at doing.

I am rambling. It's precisely why I have procrastinated in writing this blog, I just don't know where to start...or stop. So maybe it's my cue to stop, re-read, maybe edit and finally post it. There is much to tell, hopefully some people to catch up with and some things that I hope will make you who read this smile or at least equate to something in your own past. I will close with this, Stephen King wrote in the novella, The Body, "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, did you?" Yeah Steve, I did....I hope I still do. I don't see them much (we might exchange Christmas cards or occasional emails), but it doesn't mean that I don't think about them and hope they are doing well. All that is left to say is, let the stories commence.