Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll notes a few HIDEOUS DISAPPOINTMENTS. She writes:

Baruch Hashem (praise God) I have been an enormously lucky person in my long life, blessed with health, love and awesome friends. Since being yanked prematurely into this world some 3 months early, I have achieved almost everything I ever set out to accomplish. The first goal of “Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive” took some doing. However, most of my goals after that were pretty modest, so meeting those goals is not really saying too much.

“Read three books a week all summer and write a couple book reports to have in hand as needed.” Check! “Bake brownies.” Check! Not exactly “Learn to separate Siamese Twins…” Most importantly, I won the heart of the eccentric and very cute young man I “set my cap for.” (Isn’t THAT a quaint little phrase?)

But into even the luckiest life some rain must fall. A really big disappointment was when I applied to be an AFS Foreign Student my junior year of high school. Seventy kids applied and some committee narrowed it down to 15. To my shock and delight, I was still in the running. Another committee whittled that to The Final Four. I was still in. Holy Cow! Had Sweden specified they were hoping for a nerd? It was determined at that point, to avoid any local bias, to send the four applications and essays to the AFS Office in New York City. One day, an announcement came over the school loudspeaker congratulating the finalist on winning. That person was not me.

I had let my hopes get way too high, and the fall was pretty steep. Not for nothing is one of my favorite songs Merle Haggard’s “I’m Always On A Mountain When I Fall”… I do remember being worried that I would start crying IN SCHOOL (“Please, God, NO!”) and told the School Nurse I felt unwell and went home. Where I cried my eyes out for some time.

But I rallied by suppertime, lest Daddy tell me to stop crying or “he would give me something to cry ABOUT.” When I went to college two years later and was homesick for four excruciating months, I realized that Sweden would have had to send me home early in disgrace because I would have been too lonesome without my family. Sometimes things DO work out for the best even when you think your heart will break.

Perhaps my earliest disappointment, yet a valuable lesson, occurred at age 3 when I was first introduced to Cotton Candy at the Brookings (South Dakota) County Fair. Cotton Candy looked sooo amazing – all fluffy and pink and huge and on a stick. I HAD to have it!

My poor parents – Daddy a Pharmacy student on the G.I. Bill bringin’ down a quick $80/a month — somehow found the nickel to spring for this treat. And I took one big bite, which promptly turned into a half tsp of sickeningly sweet, melted sugar in my mouth, and (I’m told) burst into tears. I have no memory of that, but it sounds like me!

It was as though The Universe had whispered oh so gently: “Ah, remember this, Grasshopper: some things that look really attractive and too good to be true, are just a fizzle. Or in the case of a crypto-crook or a Madoff who made off with your life savings, a life-altering disaster!”

Speaking of making off with things, when I saw the story about Sam Brinton, luggage thief and former nuclear watchdog – who often literally dresses up like a dog — I could not help but smile at the thought of his inadvertently stealing MY luggage. Talk about a hideous disappointment! The only upside would have possibly been that he could have convinced the Court it was all a terrible mistake: “Honestly, Your Honor, would ANYBODY in their right mind have taken THIS STUFF on purpose???”

Okay, first of all, the suitcase itself is a really early vintage small cheap rollerboard that stores nicely in the overhead compartment, so it has rarely appeared on the luggage carousel. And not without reason. It is quite the embarrassment. For one thing, there is a round splotch about the size of a half dollar on it where our male cat sprayed on it before I could grab it away. That was about 35 years ago, so the smell is almost gone now.

Typically, once Mr. Brinton (they, them, The Defendant), opened his purloined treasure, he would have found 3 pairs of jeans that fit someone .2 of an inch shy of five feet. And t-shirts that say things like “Homeland Security, Prescott, Arizona” with a picture of several burly rifle-bearing men on horseback, not a single one wearing lipstick (neither the men nor the horses.) And another one might show a bullseye target with the X in the middle destroyed by 3 discrete raggedy holes in a tight group and the saying, “I shoot like a girl.” There would probably also be a tie-dyed sweatshirt that says “Alexandria, Minnesota”. Represent!

For dress-up there could be a long-sleeved Western style shirt with snaps and RUGER running down one arm in bright red. Socks. Unremarkable undergarments. Two pairs of slip-on Skechers. A notebook marked “Ideas for columns,” most pages blank and a few with notes like “dentist, 1958” with no idea what on God’s green earth that means. A Sudoku book of puzzles most filled out nicely, a couple with somewhat disturbing deep, angry ink scratches through them, from when I got to the very last row and discovered two 8s in the same box.

No makeup – a lipstick and eyebrow pencil in my equally-prized fanny pack. No jewelry except the rings and silver earrings I always wear. No designer dresses or high heels.

A fact: that same suitcase with most of the same contents with the addition of one Little Black Dress and low heels and a leather jacket went on a 10-day trip to Israel and Paris. Beat THAT, ladies! When I used to travel many times a month to perform, I would see women with four suitcases for a long weekend in San Diego.

But back to the theme of bitter disappointments. I was a rabid Minnesota Twins fan when they moved the franchise to Minnesota in 1961. I doubt our family ever missed a game – on the radio or, if we were lucky, on television. We went in person to perhaps two games a year, occupying the nosebleed seats and taking in a school-shopping trip to Dayton’s basement the next day. We all had our favorite players – me: Zoilo Versalles and Camilo Pascual. Mother: Lenny Green and Earl Battey. Daddy: Bob Allison and Jim Lemon. EVERYBODY loved Hammerin’ Harmon Killebrew. Though I probably can’t remember YOUR name on command, I still can tell you the numbers of all that first team.

So here comes 1965, I’m in college and the Twins are already in the World Series! The first thing I noticed was the fact that the national announcers were not the hopelessly pro-Twin “homers” that our announcers were. I once heard one of our guys declare that Jose Valdevioso, an uninspiring backup shortstop, had lost a ground ball “in the sun.”

Long story short, due to the completely unfair pitching advantage of Koufax and Drysdale, the Twins fought valiantly and took it to game seven, but they lost Game 7 2-0. It was a brutal disappointment. But much later I learned a couple of humorous things. Sandy Koufax was a Jew who famously sat out Game One on Yom Kippur. (Very sensitive scheduling, Major League Baseball!) Drysdale started and got knocked around pretty good as the Twins took the opener 8-2. In the postgame news conference, a reporter jokingly said to Dodger manager Walter Alston, “I bet you wish Drysdale was Jewish, too.”

Of course, the way these stories morph, I originally heard it that Drysdale said it himself when Alston took him out of the game. That’s funnier, so I’m going with that! Comics prize “funny” over “true” every day of the week. Just ask my beleaguered editor.

Merry Christmas and Chappy Chanukah, everybody!

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