The Tragedy of Leland Fuerstman or
"The Twenty Eight and a Half  Times I Almost Got Killed" by Leland L. Fuerstman

--An unexpurgated autobiography which includes, sex, drugs, Vietnam and potential death!--
Forward: "Every man is put on earth to die; the time and method of execution is unknown." Rod Serling

Today is Saturday, July 4, 2021. I have already convinced myself that this will, emotionally,  be the most difficult task I will have ever undertaken in my entire life, but I'm up for the challenge! A good author minds his grammar, crosses his "eyes" dots his "tees," and hopes that his content is of merit. His degree of enthusiasm determines whether the clock on the wall is of any value. I learned to lucubrate long ago. Supercilious raconteur that I am, I apparently adopted a superiority attitude as a toddler. (And, No, I don't actually speak that way!) In addition, I have always had an excellent, almost photographic memory. (a trait which may have aided me in recalling my many dangerous incidents and colorful encounters through the years. Thank God, I am still lucid - while so many other older folks these days are not - it must be something in the water) I also know dozens of oddball words, volumes of utterly useless trivia and little pieces of a few foreign languages! - Curiously, it was my best friend Paul Lucas who recommended that I write this book (and, he was murdered... and I think I know who did it!) I believe the title, "The 28 1/2 Times I Almost Got Killed" is appropriate. The final chapter should more clearly explain "The Tragedy of Leland Fuerstman. - Though I am not much of a novel reader, I do consider myself to be erudite. I don't just read chess magazines, manuals and games scores, I also enjoy other political (MoJo), scientific and medical articles of interest. In fact, I have probably read fewer books than most authors who have ever attempted to publish one. Furthermore, I have never read a single book about Vietnam nor even viewed most of the related movies in their entirety!? So, my recollection of Vietnam is completely independent of anyone's previous rendition. (It always irked me to see soldiers in war movies running around out of doors without wearing their headgear (hat)? That is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in all 4 branches of the service and a dead giveaway for their lack of authenticity). Nor, did I share any of my experiences with my wife or 3 sons; nor did they ever inquire! But, I did read Orwell, Huxley, Kerouac, Kafka, Trumbo,Vonnegut, Poe, Sinclair, Einstein, Davies and a couple of others through the years. (A reading freak friend once suggested that "if you read one, you've read them all!"). But, like Einstein lamented, "once I graduated from college, I began my education!" And, I learned these 10 important rules in order to make my creative writing more palatable. 1. Avoid alliteration. Always. 2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with 3. Avoid cliches like the plague. They're old hat 4. Comparisons are as bad as cliches 5. Be more or less specific 6. Writers should never generalize Seven. Be consistent. 8. Don't be redundant. Don't use more words than necessary. It's highly superfluous. 9. Who needs rhetorical questions? 10. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement. (If I knew who wrote those I would give 'em credit! LOL)

This is not an attempt to psychoanalyze myself, (or any other member of my family), nor try to figure out why I had the fears and desires that I did, it is only an exercise designed to entertain the reader with a true account of the most extraordinarily dangerous moments of my life. In addition, I will
recall a few remarkable life experiences which are sure to titillate your imagination! Every incident which I recount will be shared factually to the best of my recollection. Though many occurred over 50 years ago, (and a few over 70 years ago!) I still remember each episode vividly. (I do recall most of the names; but a few, it would probably be inappropriate to share.) Some of these incidents you may doubt, but I promise that each and every one actually occurred. (I'm simply not creative enough to dream them up, otherwise!) I will categorize this book into chapters relating to my early childhood, adolescence, young teenage, high school, college, army, Vietnam, post Vietnam, marriage, fatherhood, later years and present. So, bear with me and allow this septuagenarian to emanate his memories.

I am a product of the "baby boomer" '50's. My parents never got divorced (though, they probably should have), I had 2 brothers and 2 sisters, (only one of each remaining). When I was a young teenager, 13 thru 16 years old, I hated my mother!? (I believe I hated my father, too - but, that's another matter), Yet, at that time, I didn't quite understand why. I just knew that I did. Though we ultimately got along quite well in her later life, it wasn't until the day after she died that it all came back to me. Apparently, God (if there is truly such an entity) has a strange way of shielding people from the bad memories of traumatic episodes which occurred in their lives. Or, at least God did for me. - When I was born Leland Lewis Fuerstman on May 21, 1947, (and, I actually believe that I can remember that very moment!), we lived in a small apartment on Hawthorne Ln. in Charlotte, N.C. - In retrospect, it was obvious that we were dirt poor or, at least, we were from my mother's perspective. We were Jewish. My father had chosen, either by necessity or by choice, to become a traveling salesman. He had apparently adopted this creative idea from my mother's playboy brother, Arthur I. Miller, (not the playwright, however, what a curious coincidence that Arthur Miller, the temporary husband of Marylin Monroe, wrote "Death of a Salesman!! - a story about the troubled relationship between a salesman and his sons and the regrets of wasted potential!), who had already become successful and wealthy doing that very thing. Arthur drove the most expensive cars, (he owned a rare Packard Clipper Convertible!) wore fine clothes and worked for the Ronson Lighter Corporation. As my rich uncle, he also handed out cash and candy to us kids every time he visited! He had astutely realized his scope of freedom which allowed him to travel to any destination and conveniently not return home until he chose to! Being a traveling salesman guaranteed freedom! (BTW he married a beautiful young girl by the name of Ann Porter Miller - not the dancer! She produced 3 children, Cindy, Sandy and a son named Joe.) Naturally, such a lifestyle was perfect for a rich and attractive young Jewish boy from Charlotte who had relocated to Dallas, Texas. It afforded him an opportunity to meet young ladies and create close relationships all over the Southeast!            

However, for my parents, the dichotomy turned out to become a two way street! Apparently, they each had the same point of view when it came to cheating on their spouse! Not only did I have first hand knowledge of my uncle's escapades, I also observed my father in the arms of other woman on more than one occasion. On the other hand, my father, Hilbert E. Fuerstman, represented various watch manufacturers and trekked to jewelry stores in 3 or 4 states. Hence, he would be absent for weeks at a time, as well. Born in Newark, N.J. on May 10, 1921, dad had been an Officer and a Paratrooper in WWII. How he was able to father 3 children while being overseas in Germany still remains a mathematical mystery to me; considering that my oldest sister Joan was sired in early 1943 and born on January 5, 1944, David was born on February 16, 1945 and I May 21, 1947. Mom had 2 more kids: Lenore and Carl for a total of 5. Incidentally, all of my siblings were gifted musicians. Joan earned her Masters Degree in Music, performed in venues in NYC and taught voice to aspiring students all her life, David sang in the Charlotte Boys Choir (like me) and tinkered with the piano, I learned to play the guitar and write, sing, and play cool songs, Lenore continues to supplement her income by performing in NYC venues in choirs and as a principal singer on stage and Carl has become a music icon in the St. Petersburg, Fla area playing at a piano bar and singing "Melancholy Baby!" In addition, the trend continues with my son, Joe, who was the Music Director for "Last Call With Carson Daly" on NBC for 4 years and is now the front man for the "Cordovas" out of Nashville. Our grandfather, Joseph A. Fuerstman, who often served as the Guest Conductor for the Newark Symphony, would have been proud!

All through my youth, my father was rarely available to take walks, throw a ball nor encourage me to do anything. He simply wasn't there. But, I shall not dwell upon that point at this time. At any rate, my mother, Mildred Leona Miller, a young Jewish girl from Charlotte whom he had met at a USO gathering, was smitten by his good looks and charm! After Dad became employed as a traveling salesman, she was left alone for weeks at a time with maybe $25 to feed, clothe and otherwise nourish her 3 young children and herself. (Spoons Ice Cream was just down the street. Ice cream cones cost 5 cents!)
Even at the onset, their relationship was strained due to his long periods of absence. I must admit, that I had little recollection of my older brother David and older sister Joan at that time. My world revolved around my mother and me. Which brings me to the first episode of how I nearly lost my life; or more descriptively, almost got killed!

--Early Childhood:
 
Precocious and stubborn child that I was, when I was hardly more than 2 years old, my mother would allow me (or taught me) to walk around the block by myself!?
At first, she would accompany me until it became apparent that I knew my way. It was easy; I would walk to the corner, turn right, walk to the next corner, turn right, walk to the next corner, turn right and soon I was home. But, you've got to remember, this was the late 40's/early 50's. People would literally leave their front doors unlocked while they slept!!? There was absolutely no fear that anyone would ever attempt to enter your home with malice on their mind, nor kidnap an unescorted little boy walking around the block. At that time, just after the war, there was a curious common sense of security which prevailed and will probably never again be repeated in this country. People had grown tired of war and violence. The country had begun to prosper, industries boomed, everyone was employed and a more friendly and secure atmosphere seemed to have captivated the masses. Leaving your front door unlocked at night was a common occurrence. You rarely, if ever, heard of negative incidents relating to that extraordinary practice (which, of course, would be a ridiculous notion today). Furthermore, we had no "Negro's" nor "Spanish" people living next door, nor down the street, nor 3 or 4 streets over nor within miles of our duplex nor attending our public schools. (as if they were natural troublemakers, which, of course, they weren't...) Like most neighborhoods, ours was strictly segregated. Some residents would promptly call the police if they even observed a Black man walking down the street in front of their home!? (You know, the same way Karen does to this very day!) That's the way it was in North Carolina. Unfortunately, racism and bigotry have reared their ugly heads once again; our decaying sociopolitical system seems to have reverted to the old Jim Crow policies of the early 1900's especially concerning gerrymandering and voting rights suppression. Gentrification notwithstanding, though the wealthiest Blacks have gained access to some of the ritziest neighborhoods in town, Charlotte is still a very segregated city.

It was no paradox that my father was a staunch Liberal!! He had equal regard and respect for every man or woman, regardless of race, color, creed or national origin. He always demonstrated that in the friendly manner by which he related to minorities and the disenfranchised. After all, he was Jewish and had, himself, personally experienced the bitter flavor of racism and hatred. We NEVER said the "N-word" and would have been severely
punished if we ever did! - Dad played tennis every weekend. He founded the Dilworth tennis group and ran it with an iron fist for over 50 years. (He passed the torch to Mat Yamanashi). Men and women from every walk of life or foreign country were welcome to join. He rented the tennis balls out for $.50 to each participant and made the pairings. Every weekend, local residents could hear the echo of quarters dropping into a tennis ball can! (He actually made a tidy profit each week!) When he encountered a situation where a racist type would protest having to play with a Black man or foreigner, he would simply tell them, "If you don't want to play with Mr. Jefferson, you'll have to wait around for a while til I can find somebody who wants to play with you!" (An engraved bronze plaque commemorating Dad is still on display). Like my mother did with her yoga, Dad organized, entertained and touched the hearts of hundreds of tennis players throughout the years. One of his favorite pastimes was to study the latest World Almanac and quiz his minions with arcane questions. He never failed to entertain. BTW Neither of my parents ever smoked nor drank!

As was the common practice back in the 50's, I remember 2 consecutive Black maids: First, Bessie Linton when I was really young, and then Doreather Robinson. They basically raised me as a child and performed  every task imaginable in my mothers absence. They were paid $5 per week!? (or 12.5 cents per hour!!?) I assume that Mom had a job at that time. She would return just in time for Doreather to catch the bus back across town. If she were to miss it, she would have to walk many miles home?? -- The liberal humanitarianism permeated all of the children of our family. Once, when I was maybe 12 years old, my father hired a crew of "colored" workers to do some landscaping in our back yard on Seneca Place. It was hot that day. They were all crowded onto the back of a large flat bed truck. I walked out to the back yard and observed their predicament and offered them some iced tea! There were 3 or 4 young guys and a couple of older ones. They were greatly appreciative of the tea. Then, I asked, "are you guys hungry?!" to which they responded, "Yes Sir!" So, I promptly retreated to the kitchen and prepared a half a dozen sandwiches and chips and other stuff and served it to them for their consumption! They wolfed them down in no time with big smiles on their faces. I felt gratified that I had fed hungry people in need! - A little while later after they left, my mother returned. After observing that there were a number of dirty glasses in the sink, she sought to fix herself a glass of tea, but there was none. Then she began to prepare dinner only to notice that there was no chicken salad left either, nor almost everything else that had been in the refrigerator? Then, she inquisitively asked, "What happened to all of our food?" With a grin, I proudly explained that I had served it to the tired and hungry workers. She responded with, "...that was very kind of you, Son, but what are we supposed to eat?" My bubble had instantly been burst. Consideration for my fellow man had gotten the better of logic on that day. My self aggrandizement had turned into embarrassment. You live, and you learn.

In my father's usual absence, while my mother entertained the "bulging" young fellows who would "visit" with her, (their names were Johnny and Jack, both in either their late teens or early 20's - and yes, though I was only 2 or 3 years old, I distinctly remember their names!), I would be told to take a walk around the block! This would give my mother just enough time to take care of that which needed to be taken care of. She was young, attractive, lonely and extremely horny! In retrospect, in the absence of my father who was "traveling," she could be considered to have been uncommonly promiscuous. (most readers have either blocked out such incidents from their own memories or chosen not to dwell upon, nor share them; but I maintain that my mother and father were hardly any different from most other people - and Freud would certainly agree!). Other incidents which transpired caused me to believe that, as well. Once, when I was 3 years old, we were waiting for the bus at a stop directly in front of Avondale Pharmacy; a small building designed as a pharmacy and general store which still stands. In order to kill some time, my mom took me in to look around. The next thing I knew, she had been accused by the slimy proprietor of stealing a bottle of finger nail polish!? ($0.15). While the grotesque pharmacist began to phone the police, my mother begged him not to call and offered to give him a "blow job" instead! I overheard her whisper, "I'll suck your dick...I'll suck your dick!" (A startling statement for a 2 1/2 year old to hear...) After some debate, he finally relented and hung up the phone. I was directed to go to the other side of the store and look around. But, I could hardly prevent myself from peeking...incidents like that tend to have a significant impression on a young child's life. (Sorta' puzzling how a woman could compromise her principles for 15 cents? But, apparently, she was concerned that the petty theft might cause her to lose custody of her children)  

(1) My mother allowed me to befriend older kids in the neighborhood whom she assumed would keep a watchful eye on me in her absence. (You know, like free babysitters!) On one particular occasion, an older kid, maybe 8 years old, was my playmate. I don't remember his name. He had the idea that if we abruptly jumped out into the street in front of passing cars, they would slam on their breaks and avoid hitting us and we would be unharmed! To him, that was very entertaining and hysterically funny! He grabbed my hand and preformed that very trick with 3 cars in a row. All of them slammed on their brakes! We laughed our butts off! (How utterly insane?) - A few days later, I seemed to have developed my own habit of standing at the street corner where the cars would stop, and just when you could hear the RPM's of the engine increase, briskly rush in front of the car in an attempt to make it to the other side!? The problem was, cars of the early 50's were utterly huge and weighed 5,000 lbs. They all had giant hoods over which smaller drivers had great difficulty seeing. I distinctly remember that an older lady pulled up to the intersection and stopped. And, just as she attempted to drive off, I pulled my insane stunt, which caused her to slam on her brakes. Startled, she began motioning for me to cross the street. Disagreeable smatchet that I was, I shook my head and refused. She hesitated, and again began to accelerate and pull away. And, again, I began to scamper across the road in front of her!? This time, the huge chrome bumper banged against my leg. Screeching on her brakes again, I could see that the lady was becoming very upset and actually crying!? She gesticulated for me to cross in front of her. Again, I refused?! After a moment of hesitation, as she attempted to make the turn, she revved her engine one final time and, yes, I attempted to run in front of her one final time"?!?" This time, she slammed on her brakes, put it into park and got out to upbraid me. I remember both of us crying our eyes out. Apparently, I was very scared and confused. Very confused. The kid who had influenced me with this insane behavior was nowhere to be found. Hearing the commotion from inside of the apartment, my mother finally appeared to rescue me. I remember her getting an earful from the driver and being embarrassed in front of the small crowd which had gathered. But for the grace of God, I could easily have been killed. My mother's negligence was primarily to blame. It was promptly explained to me that when you're dead, you never wake up! A profound revelation for a 2 1/2 year old.

(2) (This is a tough one, but it must be shared). We had moved from the apartment on Hawthorne Ln. to a duplex at 348 Belton St. on Charlotte's south side. (the City Limits were just beyond Greystone Rd. on South Blvd!) I guess I was about 3 years old. At least, I remember that I was still sleeping in my old crib?! It was cold that night. Cold enough for 2 naked conspirators that it become necessary to turn up the heat! At approximately midnight, I vividly remember waking up because my mouth was very dry and my room was very hot?! My mother had apparently closed my door so I couldn't hear what was going on. But, in doing so, the room became a hot box and I became dehydrated?! So, I climbed out of the crib and tiptoed down the hallway to the living room. I slowly opened the door only to be shocked to find my naked mother, legs askew, in a compromised position with a strange naked man. When she discovered me, she screamed in horror!!? The first thing that she said was that her counterpart was a "doctor," which she repeated twice. Startled and scared, I said, "O.K." (though I sorta had the idea that most doctors don't completely disrobe while they are preforming an examination on their patient!) In fact, I knew exactly who the man was. His name was Vickers. He had just moved into a duplex across the street. I remember some conversation that my dad had with another neighbor claiming that he had a Nazi uniform hanging in his front closet. Apparently, my father had sneaked into his "unlocked" duplex one day while he was away and seen it! (In retrospect, I believe the guy was a product of Truman's absurd "Operation Paperclip" when thousands of Nazi, so called scientists, were invited to the U.S. and repatriated as citizens?!) In effect, my mother was sleeping with the enemy! And, she knew that I knew that, as well. -- As a result of her reaction to my observation of their nudity, Vickers jumped up as if he were going to accost me?!? Mom appeared to hold him back and approached me wanting to know why I was even there? Flummoxed, I began to explain that my throat was dry and I needed water. She responded with, "then why didn't you just go into the bathroom and drink from the sink?" To which I responded, "that's not the way we do it!" Meaning that, young children develop a normal routine with their mothers. That is all they know. On any other evening, if I were to wake up in the middle of the night, my mother would instantly come to my aid; providing whatever it was that I needed. And, I would promptly go back to sleep. That normal response would take all of one minute. But, on this occasion, she attempted to breach that routine. Out of character and still naked with her breasts jiggling about, she promptly jerked me by the arm into the kitchen and fixed me a glass of water. Terrified, I attempted to drink the best I could while shaking and crying at the same time. Next, I was promptly led back to my room. I cried myself to sleep. - An hour or so later, I became aware that my mother and Vickers were standing next to my bed whispering. She admitted that the room was way too hot! Then, assuming that I was sound asleep, she said, "I aught to kill the little bastard!?" That prompted me to instantly wake up and burst into tears. (though I may not have know exactly what "bastard" meant, I assumed it wasn't something  good...) I remember cowering in the corner of the crib, very scared! And then, I said the most profound words that any young child could ever say to his mother, "Mama, please don't kill me..." after which I burst out crying again. I was relieved somewhat when I heard my mother chuckle and say, "I'm not going to kill you!" Then, she comforted me and hugged me and patted me back to sleep. (Again, I could not recall that horrible incident until after the day that she died; and then, it all vividly came back to me).

I was concerned that my mother was worried that I might share with my father the details of her salacious engagements, and I was right. She immediately devised a plan to use me as a "whipping boy!?" When my father would return every 2 or 3 weeks, after immediately having sex, the next thing she would do was report to him that I had been a "very bad boy!" Where after she would encourage him to spank me?? My naive father would always accommodate her wishes and proceed to spank the hell out of me? It's hard to tell on your mother when you're screaming your lungs out from pain. The curiosity was, I knew why he was told to spank me, but he didn't; nor would he ever attempt to find out.

A logical question would be, was there any incest in my family? Because, such a circumstance is far more prevalent than you may think. But, naturally, those are the memories which most people block out of their minds; and when they can't, the result is often alcoholism, drug addiction, homosexuality, obesity and or suicide. (The mature ones who overcome the trauma or shame realize that all human beings are frail and imperfect; not just their own parents or relatives). When adults find themselves in private areas with naked children, they are often stimulated by the sight of it, whether it's their child, or not. I do remember one incident when I was 2 or 3 years old where my mother was taking a bath. I could distinctly smell the aroma of the cigarette that her girlfriend was smoking. She was in the bathroom chatting with my mother when I slowly opened the door and asked if I could get in the tub with her? She reluctantly agreed and helped me in. Then, I was immediately attracted to her naked breasts and regressively asked if I might suck on one! (You know, like a baby would do!) At first, she balked, but then she said, "Here, I'll let you suck on my 3rd nipple!? Just then, she lifted her body out of the water, spread her legs and pointed to her clitoris. Without hesitation, I accommodated her request and went down on her with great enthusiasm! I began sucking the way a baby would suck a nipple! (men don't realize how much suction a baby can create in order to make the milk flow, but all women who have breast fed certainly know!) Sensing the pleasure of the pain, she abruptly pulled herself away while her girlfriend chastised her for displaying such kinky behavior?! However, beyond that one incident, I do not recall any others where I was involved - except for the time when I was maybe 12 years old when some female family member crept into our bedroom at night and gave my brother, David, a blow job! It woke me up, but I couldn't identify who it was in the dark. Other than attempting to get a glimpse of my sisters breasts and genitals, there was no incest in my family that I personally know of. (Though my surviving sister may have a completely different take on that, she has never shared the details with me - and, probably never will). Even so, it would hardly be an isolated circumstance for an American family to have committed the "silent sin." Young or old, rich or poor, Black or White, it doesn't make any difference. It is simply one of the frailties of human beings. After all, in some cultures, it's common practice... Thank goodness, I had 3 boys! (And, I have no homosexual proclivities).

However, let me slow down right here. In deference to my loving sister, Lenore, who adored my mother, I shall explain my feelings more succinctly. Though my mother was clearly out of control as a young woman, and said and did things which were extremely detrimental to my psychology (and rear end), she ultimately matured and learned to become a better person. Every time I mention anything negative about mom to my sister, she instantly becomes very emotional (to the point of tears) and immediately comes to her defense. However, she is 5 years younger than I and simply didn't experience the horrors that I did. The "bad seed" shit was in our mother's "Miller" DNA. In fact, I had a young cousin, Minette, who was my age, and utterly out of her mind and out of control. She would scream and yell at her invalid mother who had multiple sclerosis, my Aunt Doris, and disrespectfully assault her in a myriad of ways. She once took off her shirt in our home and displayed her tits when she was 13 or 14 years old because it was "too hot!" It was all my mother could do to get her to put it back on. She did every thing wrong, in order to get attention. Aunt Doris died when Minette was only 15 years old. However, but for the grace of God, somehow she did a 180 degree flip and completely changed to become a loving and caring mother, herself, who goes out of her way to help her family and friends. That proved to me that people can actually change!! And, in my mother's case, that exact same scenario occurred. In early 1942, not only did both her mother (who constantly chastised her for becoming pregnant out of wedlock) and her father pass away 2 weeks apart, (after my grandmother died, my grandfather stopped eating, stopped drinking, became dehydrated, got sick and died - in effect, he died of a "broken heart.") but she married my father, Hilbert, probably because she had become pregnant. (They had to drive to York, S.C. to get married in order to avoid the "shots" which were required in North Carolina!?") There was absolutely no one there to help her and she had little money. One day, she slipped down on the ice outside the apartment and landed on her stomach? She began bleeding and assumed that she would lose her baby. But, thank goodness she recovered and gave birth to my sister Joan on January 5, 1943. Then came David, me, Lenore and Carl. She ultimately became the loving mother of 5 children. But, early on, when I was a young child, she was indeed immature, out of control and very psychologically and physically cruel. Again, it wasn't until she died of cancer at the age of 59, that it all came back to me. --Eighteen years earlier, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and submitted to a double mastectomy. (She made me look at the scars?!) But, she didn't give up. She began exercising, eating nutritiously and even took yoga classes! After researching the subject and becoming a yoga expert, she was awarded the position as Yoga Professor at Central Piedmont Community College!! She taught there successfully for many years. As time went on, I would have one person or another approach me and ask if I were related to "Millie" Fuerstman, the yoga teacher?! They would proceed to reveal to me how much she had helped them in their lives both physically and spiritually. I was always inspired by their friendly and loving comments. So, you see, people can change for the better during their lives. My mother was living proof of that! Furthermore, as time went on and I began to raise my own kids, I learned how to tell her that I loved her...

(3) I was approximately 5 years old. There was a short basement under the duplex on Belton St. A perfect place for little kids to congregate and get into mischief. On this particular day, an older boy brought a box of unwanted baby kittens into the crawl space. I observed them with a big smile on my face, the way anyone would. Just then, he spotted a glass gallon jug which was half full of gasoline for the lawnmower. The kid proceeded to pour gasoline on the baby kittens?
I could not help but smell the gas which had been sloshed all over the basement floor. Then, he struck a match and lit them on fire??? I was confounded! At the moment of ignition, the kittens, jumping and screaming in horror, scurried in all directions. The startled boy was keen enough to realize that they could easily start a fire and burn the duplex down! So, he ran after them. I was standing there watching and trying to take it all in. Then, I noticed that the floor was on fire -- and the jug of gasoline was only a few feet away from where I was standing?? I came to my senses and ran like hell out of the open door! Thank God the jug of gas did not ignite. Furthermore, the cruel boy had contained the kittens and stomped on them to kill them? (an horrifically emotional scene which I shall never forget) The jug of gas could have exploded and I could have easily burned to death! But, again, somehow, I escaped and survived. The incident was very disconcerting to me. It took me a while to get over it. Cruelty to animals and the devilish odor of burning flesh did not settle well with me.

We were allowed to walk freely to the Harris grocery store on South Blvd. even though I was only about 5 or 6 years old. Generally, in the summer, we were all nelipots. We would often walk barefoot through the undeveloped lots where rocks, glass, cans, trash and other debris had collected. I had a habit of always looking down on the ground as I walked; not only to avoid stepping on something sharp, but to hope to find something valuable or cool! On this particular day, I noticed a shiny white trinket sticking out of the dried mud. So, I reached down to pick it up and proceeded to cut a huge gash in the lower part of my thumb on my left hand? The object was a broken shard of a porcelain cup which was razor sharp. My hand began bleeding profusely? The first thing I did was to put it up to my mouth, but I immediately realized that the blood was really gushing out. There was no one around to help me. I was scared and for some reason thought that my mother was going to spank me for having cut myself?! To stop the bleeding, I remember putting my hand in my already bloody tea shirt and pressing down on my thumb with my other hand. (which, according to medical recommendations, was the correct thing to do!) I ambled my way back home. - My mother almost fainted when she saw me. She was not angry. She washed the incision and, though it probably needed stitches (which we couldn't afford) bandaged it the best she could. It hurt and I was badly shaken. But, I don't believe it was life threatening.

I was attending Dilworth Elementary School in the 1st grade. My mother would always pick me up in her old Nash sedan. I knew what our car looked like, and I knew what my mother looked like. All of the kids would wait at the curb for our mothers to drive around the circle and pick us up, one by one. On this day, while I was standing there patiently waiting, a middle aged lady in a brand new Cadillac pulled up and began motioning for me to get in? She was wearing bright red lipstick. I had never seen her before in my life. But, she began saying, "come on; get in, get in!" Again, I stood there confused. Who in the hell was this strange woman and why was she motioning for me to get into her car? I took a couple of steps closer but promptly realized that maybe she was up to no good. She had either confused me for someone else, or was attempting to kidnap me and take me to her home. Then, curiously, I began thinking, what if she's nice to me and very rich and could provide me with lots of new toys and candy and everything else?! But, common sense got the better of me and prevented me from complying. Moments later, I saw my mothers car coming around the circle. The lady with the red lipstick put her car into gear and sped away! I told my mother about it who later called the school. But, who knows what my fate would have been had I gotten into the wrong car? Someone was looking after me. Could I have ended up dead? Maybe worse! ("...there are some things worse than death..." Anon) But, I did not include it on the list.

I was generally smarter than all of the other kids my age. Everyone is born with a special set of genes which determine all physical factors as well as God given artistic skills. Apparently, I was blessed with one which was a bit out of the ordinary. Some very young children are capable of playing the violin or piano at a high level of efficiency which normally baffles all listeners and observers. They refer to them as prodigies. One of my mother's occasional pass times was to look for 4 leaf clovers! She explained that most clovers only have 3 leaves, but the special ones have 4! (and, they would bring you luck! and she was correct!!) She was astounded to observe how quickly I could find them. While she was pouring over a small patch, I was able to instantly find 2 or 3 of them in a matter of seconds! But, I believe that she attributed it more to luck, then skill. What she probably didn't realize was that I may have been blessed with a special talent, or skill. The brain works in mysterious ways. There is a term in psychology referred to as "spacial relationship." Some people are more adept at making use of this skill than others. Unfortunately, we are never tested in school, nor anywhere else to verify our proficiency - which may prevent us from achieving success in sophisticated vocations or other endeavors, such as games! This brings us to the subject of "chess!" Though analyzing a chess board is not exactly like looking for 4 leaf clovers, there is definitely a relationship between the two. When asked, I always claim, tongue in cheek, that "my sister, Joan, taught me the moves at age 5!" (Only because, we both had a sister named Joan and that's what Bobby Fischer always said!) But, actually, my father taught me the moves. I remember how fascinated I was while learning the values and movement of the pieces. But, unfortunately, Dad was not a very good player and rarely ever played. So, the old chess set generally stayed packed high in the closet with the other rarely used junk. However, that initial spark of interest had been ignited. - As time went on, my brother, David, would occasionally pull out the set and play with his friends. I always watched with interest over their shoulders to observe their strategies. I tried my own hand at it, but it was still beyond my level of understanding. Worse, there was simply no one available who was capable of teaching me. So, I just forgot about it for a while. Finally, approximately 15 years later, I had a renewal of interest after I entered the Army. (That will be thoroughly explained in a later chapter). In effect, my degree of "spacial relationship" aptitude had been completely ignored by my parents and teachers. So, who would ever know whether I had any special gifts, or not?! As you will learn, I ultimately achieved the Title of USCF Certified National Master in Nov. 1984 at the very late age of 37. I have always wondered whether I might have achieved the extremely rare Title of International Grandmaster had I been formally tutored at the age of 5?!

Another skill which I acquired from my mother was visual art using pencil and paper. As a child, I tried to copy her artistic efforts after she had drawn a flower, or a tree or an occasional portrait. As time went on, my skills gradually improved. I loved to draw pictures of cars, the styles of which I had dreamed up in my own head. The quality of my drawing became more and more sophisticated and my friends were always impressed. The problem was, I was usually creating these masterpieces in the classroom during school. In lieu of wasting my time listening to lectures on an obviously slanted and distorted version of American history, I would draw a curvy woman or an elaborate automobile which most often resulted in the teacher approaching my desk, snatching up the drawing, crumbling it up in order to embarrass me and tossing it into the garbage can. All of my artistic efforts were good; very good! But, the teacher never gave any consideration to that and publicly scolded me for not paying attention in class. (Once, a fellow student approached me with a crinkled up piece of paper in his hand and asked if he could keep it? It was one of my elaborate masterpieces that he had retrieved from the garbage can! I answered, "Sure!") Unfortunately, as a result of getting into trouble so many times and being threatened with expulsion, my enthusiasm for drawing pictures was stifled. And, it seemingly discouraged my determination to even become an artist. - The point here is, if my teacher were a truly progressive educator, she would have observed the special skill which I possessed and, instead of forcing the remedial bullshit basic education crap on me, allow me to join a class of other blossoming artists! Doesn't that make more sense? Of course, that would be a perfect resolution in a perfect world. But, unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. Thank goodness 2 of my sons, Joe and Sammy, still practice the artistic skills which were transferred into their blood. - I feel confident that there are more than a few readers who have met with similar circumstances in their own lives. ("...I could have been a contender; I could have been somebody..!" Brando, "On the Waterfront")

(4) I guess I was 7 or 8 years old. I was in a Jewish Cub Scout Troop associated with the local Temples. The troop leader was a weirdo by the name of Harold Baum (My dad called him "H Bomb!" - It was the first time I had ever seen a bong! Yet, I didn't quite understand what it was used for) We gathered at Temple Israel with camping necessities in tow and filed into vehicles that would take us to a public campground which had been reserved by our organization. There were small buildings which could accommodate many young kids sleeping on the floor in their sleeping bags. I was proud to show the other kids my father's official Army sleeping bag which he had allowed me use. You could get in and zip up the oversized double-sided zipper to the very top, with just a small 3 or 4 inch hole for air. It was unusually cold that evening; like 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit. Shivering, I remember climbing into the bag, zipping it up to the top, and keeping my hand and mouth next to the breathing hole. I promptly fell asleep. I slept through the night. -- Next thing I remember were my ears ringing very loudly! It startled me awake... but, there was no air; I couldn't breathe?! I tried to sit up but I had apparently entangled myself in the sleeping bag. My ears were screaming, and there was no air. I yelled and tried to stand up, thinking that the other kids were trying to play a trick on me. But, then I remembered that I had zipped the bag to the very top. In the pitch black dark, I pushed my hands to the top, and found the hole; then, I grasped for the zipper and jerked it down. Oxygen rushed in to replace the carbon dioxide!! I could breathe again. Very, very scary. Apparently, my naturally built in fail-safe alarm system worked. When your ears begin loudly ringing, that's a sign that you're suffocating. I was literally seconds away from hypoxia and death.

(5)
I was 9 years old. My mother had enrolled each of us kids into swimming lessons at the Municipal Swimming Pool on Remount Rd. The instructor was Coach George Powell. A few weeks prior to this incident, I had completed the junior swimming course. I was an O.K. swimmer but hardly an aquatic champion. I guess I was almost 4 feet tall at this time. My mother had delivered us to the pool a bit earlier than usual that day. There were few people there. I could see Coach Powell fidgeting around with the chlorine vials and other chemicals that decontaminated the pool. He allowed the pool to fill to the very top so some of the old polluted water could exit through the drains. On any normal day, I could stand up in the center of the pool with my head out of the water. But, on this day, as I moved toward the center, it became necessary for me to bounce on my toes in order to keep my mouth and nose above the water line. Just then, I realized that the water was too deep to touch the bottom anymore?? What I had not realized was that all of that bouncing on my toes for 15 or 20 minutes had completely worn me out! I tried to surface but took in a little water?! Coughing and yelling at the same time, I knew I was in big trouble? I couldn't see anyone around the pool who could help me... just at that moment, I heard Coach Powell yell, "swim, swim!!" I tried to gain a horizontal position but quickly realized that I was way too exhausted to do it? Seconds later, like Superman, Coach Powell dove into the pool and swam to my rescue. Coughing and choking, I had, indeed, taken on some water, but I was none the worse for wear. Had he not been there to rescue and revive me, I would possibly have drowned and died.


We kids loved to go to the pool. If I am remembering correctly, it was maybe, ten cents to get in. Candy and drinks were 5 cents each! My mother would give us a quarter and we would spend the entire day there until she picked us up. What she was doing in our absence was anyone's guess... Diabolical little prankster that I was, I noticed that all patrons would store their valuables in one of a maze of metal wall lockers designed for that purpose. Unfortunately, the "honor" system was not quite as secure as they may have hoped it would be. It was each patron's responsibility to remember his locker number! After changing into your bathing suit, placing in your clothing, valuables and money, you would call out, "Locker Boy!!" and a young trusted agent would approach you with the master key hanging around his neck to lock your locker. When you returned after swimming and enjoying your day, you would again summon the "Locker Boy" who would unlock it and go about his business. I noticed there was little verification during this process. I figured, how does this "Locker Boy" know whether it's my locker, or one assigned to someone else?! So, I hung around until I observed a guy and his kids come in and place his money in the locker for safe keeping. I remembered the number on the locker and left the room. A little while later, I mustered up the courage to walk up the locker and yell, "Locker Boy!" Like clockwork, he immediately appeared and unlocked the door for me and promptly walked away. I looked around and after realizing that no one was watching, grabbed some of the cash! (but, making sure to leave most of it so as not to arouse suspicion!) "Intuitive improvisation; the secret of genius!" But, the extraordinary thrill I derived from the act, itself, was worth the risk! Then, I yelled, "Locker Boy!" where after he returned to locked it. I repeated this petty crime on a number of occasions until, one day, I got greedy and stole a $10 bill! An alert went out, but thank goodness, I did not get cited for the crime. I believe I threw the $10 bill away! I mean, how could I have spent it without my mother catching on? (I was about 9 years old and management naturally assumed that the culprit was a much older person)

It was the late 50's and the forces of integration were stirring. The prevailing policy was total segregation at all of the swimming pools in Charlotte. But, for some reason, the City Council decided to abide by the law and allow Blacks and others to make use of our Municipal Swimming Pool. (A private pool on Wilkinson Blvd called Suttles literally shut down their business for a while so as not to comply!) A verbal warning swept through the ranks of kids who were regularly there to enjoy their afternoons. We were advised that the following day, they intended to allow "niggers" into the pool. That aroused my curiosity. I asked an older kid why "colored people" shouldn't be allowed to swim there like everyone else? His answer was, "because, if you're swimming and you brush up against one of them, the 'black' will rub off onto your skin!" Doubting the veracity of his answer, the following day, I showed up just to find out for myself. There were many folks there that morning, but very few of them were actually in the pool. Then, I noticed a young "colored boy"  about my age dog paddling near the side of the pool. So, I slowly swam over to him and "accidentally" (or, intentionally) rubbed my arm up next to his. I carefully observed my arm only to realize that it was still snow white and began yelling back to the onlooking teenagers, "No, it didn't rub off on me - it didn't rub off!!" (Now, how could I make that shit up?)

--Adolescence:

(6) I was about 10 years old or so. I remember it to be a boy scout outing at Morrow Mountain National Park. The troop leader, Mr. Harvill, was a suspected pedophile. Yet, somehow, he maintained his lofty position with little interference. And, that weekend was no exception; but certainly not with me! On this particular outing, the parents were invited to participate. Few did, but my mother took advantage of the break from her agonizing monotony. Among our elite group of scouts, there were a few genuine troublemakers who should  probably not have been allowed to participate. One was a kid named Harry He was a year or so older than I but somewhat vertically challenged. However, he made up for that with aggressive behavior and dirty tricks. Somehow, (I now believe it was a premeditated act) he ended up with me in the antiquated stone pool which was about 4 feet deep and contained cold mountain water! But, you quickly got used to the cold. In fact, my mother was sitting on the side of the pool in her bathing suit primping and pondering her fate. I was a fairly good swimmer since I had taken lessons at the old Municipal Swimming Pool. But nothing could have prepared me for what was next to come. Harry suggested that we swim under each other's legs! I thought that would be fun and let him go first. He promptly dove and swam under my outstretched legs. Then, he said, "now, swim under mine." I took a deep breath and dove under his legs. Just as I got about half way, he abruptly clamped down very tightly around my head!? He then positioned himself in the water so he would have his head out to breathe while leaving me underwater? It only took me a moment to realize that he was perpetrating a malicious trick. -- I should have known better. The kid was already famous for that kind of bad behavior. (He was apparently abused by his father/mother and/or older siblings. He had developed into a bully who took pride in harming other kids). - As the seconds clicked by, I was quickly running out of breath. Furthermore, he had me in a tight headlock with his legs!? Realizing that he had no intention of letting go, I decided I had to take matters into my own hands, or teeth!! With all my might, I twisted my head around until my mouth was directly over his inner thigh and clamped down with my teeth! He screamed, instantly disengaged me and headed for the ladder. I could literally taste the salty blood! I remember swimming at an angle so he couldn't jump back in on top of me. I finally came to the surface, just in the nick of time and took a breath. It startled my mother who then realized that I had been under for quite a while. With imprinted teeth marks, Harry scampered out of the pool with his leg bleeding and swiftly ran away. I cried to my mother that he "tried to drown me!" We marched to the headquarters tent and lodged our complaint to the drunken and demented scout leader who was too impaired to properly address the issue. Nothing was ever done to punish Harry. However, later that day, in order to dry them, he had placed his very expensive wet dress shoes next to the open fire pit. Somehow, the shoes got "too close" to the fire and burned up! Karma, I guess. (try to drown me and I burn your fucking shoes!)

(7) I was 11 years old. We had all arrived at Tybee Beach in Savannah, Ga where my Uncle Mo lived. Everyone should be so lucky as to have an "Uncle Mo!" He was the typical cigar smoking, pot bellied, fun loving dumpy old Jewish guy with a raspy voice who would pay for everything and slip cash to every kid in sight!! (like $5! which was a fortune back then!) I would walk down to the boardwalk parlor and gamble with the older guys playing the nickle mechanical horse racing machines!! But, I didn't even know how to play?! They had to tell me when I won!? Finally, I caught on and came back to the beach house with a sack full of nickles!! I had become another victim of the goddess of the game of chance! (But, that's another story). On this particular vacation, we had invited my cousin, Minette Billick (the nutty one). We were the same age. Everyone enjoyed the crab feast that awaited us when we arrived. The sand in your toes, the salt in the air, bushels of crabs, people telling jokes, good music, dancing, singing, laughter, light drinking, etc. How much more fun could a family have?-- The following day, we decided to walk down to the beach and take a swim??! We all but ignored the numerous signs posted stating something to the effect of: "Warning, Strong Undertow" -- I mean, what the heck was an undertow? So, my cousin and I slowly moseyed out into the warm ocean water, which seemed to be moving in a horizontal direction? You could feel the tide rushing over your feet and slowly pulling you out to the deeper water. Before we knew it, we had been pulled out a bit too far and were both in great peril. I had become a more competent swimmer and my tomboy cousin was a strong swimmer in her own right, but neither of us could defeat mother nature. We began screaming to my father and brother who were on the shore line. They saw us being pulled out and attempted to come to our rescue. But, they quickly realized that they, too, could be swept away? We were each treading water the best we could. The depth was already over our heads? Very scary. Everybody was freaking out! They kept yelling to us, "don't fight the current" and "keep swimming!" We had no choice. And, after treading water for 10 minutes or so, we were each running out of energy. Just then, we observed a Lifeguard riding a long, mahogany colored wooden surfboard in our direction. He came right up next to us and said, "Grab on!" Just in the nick of time, we both grabbed onto the board as he began maneuvering us back to the shore! He yelled, "kick to help us back in!" We kicked like crazy. We were saved!! Again, very scary. (BTW My cousin, Minette Billick changed her name to Cathy Franklin. Now, it's Minnie Billick again! She married and produced one very cool son named Ben who is a body building and physical health instructor. She retired from DSS. Minnie learned to stump dance or "clog" years ago and became the leader of the local cloggers in the Charlotte area. Her group performs all over the south! Now, at 74, she remains in tip top condition both mentally and physically!)

--Young Teenage:

As a kid, I enjoyed cutting up and doing funny things. Though I wasn't exactly the class clown, (or, maybe I was), I always enjoyed a good joke or clever stunt. As a member of the Jewish community, I was involved in the youth organization called AZA. (Aleph, Zodic, Aleph) It was like the Royal Ambassadors of the Baptist religion. On the day that I was "initiated" into the club, we gathered into a meeting room where the group president, a giant kid by the name of Big John Wallace (yes, the attorney) was conducting the meeting. He was already about 6'4" and over 300 lbs! at maybe 16 years old! Furthermore, he was intelligent and physically intimidating. He lined up the new inductees in front of the audience and pulled a pair of pliers out of his pocket. Then, he picked up a coat hanger and began fashioning one end into the shape of an "A" (apparently to represent AZA). While he was working, he proceeded to explain that all new recruits would be branded with the "A" in order to prove their allegiance to the organization. Most of these kids were 13 or 14 years old. Imagine the wave of fear that swept over us! He didn't even give us a chance to back out. He only suggested that "it will only take a second and it won't hurt that much." Next, he lit a candle and began heating up the "branding iron" until it turned red hot. After a moment, he grabbed the closest "volunteer" and pulled him to the table. (I do not remember the name of the kid: maybe John does). With the assistance of one of his henchmen, he bent him over the table and pulled up the back of his shirt. Apparently, the pledge didn't want to embarrass himself by not following through. And then, unbeknownst to the victim, everyone else watched as Johnny put down the hanger, picked up a cube of ice with a paper towel and proceeded to touch it to his back! The kid jumped up and screamed from pain. Instantly, a huge blister appeared on his back!!! Johnny was freaked out! I absolutely could not believe my eyes. The kid was so sure he had been "branded," that a psychosomatic reaction caused a huge blister to appear! That incident inspired me to ponder the frail psychology of human beings and how their minds can so easily become manipulated.

In order to be entertained, I became friends with a rather disturbed Jewish kid by the name of Johnny Critz. This kid absolutely drove his parents crazy. He persisted on being disrespectful to his huge father while I was visiting his home; but regardless of how violently angry his dad became, he would never raise his hand to him. (an unheard of liberal notion at the time). So, Johnny would intentionally piss him off, and he would scream his head off... over and over. One day, we were playing in the basement of Temple Beth El after Sunday school. There was no one else around. All of a sudden, Johnny yelled out, "Heil Hitler!?" The impropriety of it caused me to burst out laughing! When I regained my composure, I started yelling, "Heil Hitler!" We both laughed hysterically. I could hardly contain myself until, all of a sudden, a very angry older kid named Richard Klein grabbed me by the throat, slammed me to the floor, and began banging my head up against the cinder block wall?! After 3 concussive blows, I gathered myself and pushed him off. He was seething mad. An adult appeared and separated us only to learn the details of the altercation. Paradoxically, he had, himself, been in a Nazi concentration camp. After a moment of recuperation and reflection, I was embarrassed for what I had just done and realized that I probably deserved those 3 knots on my head, even though it was Critz who thought of it first. What an insensitive putz I had become.

Critz and I were around 12 or 13 years old. One day I watched him steal a small item from a retail store?! So, of course, I decided to steal something, as well. And, I got away with it! We joyously celebrated our success. We even devised a system to divert the attention of a clerk while we filled our pockets with loot! After a few weeks of successfully shop lifting from a number of stores, I declared us to be the 2 charter members of the S.O.C. Club! (Stealers of Charlotte) When my mother overheard me mentioning those three initials in a phone conversation with Johnny, she inquired as to what the letters represented. I told her that it was a secret club and that we were sworn never to tell anyone what S.O.C. meant. But, she was overwhelmed with curiosity and demanded that I tell her. What a predicament! I wanted to get along with my mother but I was too embarrassed to tell her what it really meant. She was beside herself with anger and frustration. Regardless, that became the first time that I had ever intentionally defied her. As time went on, another friend of mine named Mark got caught stealing while I was with him. They detained me, as well. It was too scary a situation for me to ever wish to repeat. So my days of petty larceny had ended. (Hmmm, I wonder from where I got such an idea in the first place?)

I was around 14 years old. I remember using a baseball bat as beginner weights while lying in my bed. I had been bullied somewhat by my bigger, older and stronger brother, David, who was ultimately diagnosed with leukemia. (I seriously believe that he contracted it from the X-ray machine in the Buster Brown Shoe Store on Selwyn Ave. You would place your shoes in the holes in the bottom, look through the viewer, see the bones in your feet and your toes wiggle! The problem was, the device was extremely contaminated and oozed radiation. David had inadvertently boiled his own blood? Soon after, the machines were proclaimed to be very dangerous, removed from all stores and destroyed). I decided that I didn't want to be embarrassed anymore in front of the girls. So, my early workouts began.

We had moved to 1136 Seneca Pl. on the south side of Charlotte. My dad had the house built for $21,000! 2,000+ sq.ft., full acre lot! (I now understand that it's worth over $500K!) Moving to that house was a giant ego boost for all of us. David was a good looking guy. He had already enjoyed a number of sexual encounters with willing participants and often shared the details. Like any red blooded American boy I simply wanted to follow in his footsteps. (A few years later, while I was having sex with a girl friend of the notorious Nicky Panos whose name I don't remember, she paused and said, "Oh David, I love the way you fuck me!" I didn't dare spoil the moment and tell her that I was Leland!?)

(8) There were acres of woods directly behind our property! A great place to enjoy nature and explore. One warm, summer's day, without telling anyone where I was going, I decided to take a hike in the back woods alone. I was probably a half a mile away from our home. I noticed a very tall pine tree that looked like something I should challenge! I'd seen other guys climb trees and I knew that I was strong enough to do the same. So, I grabbed a couple of lower branches and hoisted myself up. I was careful to get a good foothold and continue the ascent. I guess I was about 45-50 feet off the ground when I stopped to admire the view! It was marvelous!! You generally don't get to see the world from that perspective. Just then, I reached out for another branch to move up a bit higher. As I shifted my weight on the branch I could hear it, and feel it break simultaneously. Next thing I knew, I was flying through the air, falling toward the ground?!? And, YES, that so-called video tape of your life flashing before your very eyes began to play! - When you're falling, you can't grab onto anything. Calling out for your mother is useless. Having someone below to catch you was a pipe dream. So, the ephemeral resolution is that you're probably going to die or at least become seriously injured!? - This was a tall southern pine tree which naturally emitted gallons of sap directly around it's trunk. In most cases, the acidified surface makes it extremely difficult for grass or anything else to grow very well. There could have been other tree stumps, rocks, limbs, glass or an array of dangerous items which I could have directly fallen upon. In addition, I could simply have landed on my head and broken my neck or back or some other bones; or been paralyzed for the remainder of my life? Needless to say, the trip down was somewhat disconcerting! -- Next thing I knew, I hit the ground with a thud; with my arms stretched out absolutely flat on my back!! onto the thickest patch of green grass I'd ever felt!!! Of course, when I hit the ground, it knocked the breath out of me. I just lay there for a minute contemplating my survival. Now, I'm not much of a believer in divine intervention, but after getting up and brushing myself off, I realized that I was a very, very lucky young boy. And, that my tree climbing days had ended.

--Teenage:

I was 15 years old, and the juices were flowing. All of a sudden, I became very attracted to girls! There was something about the way they were shaped and the way they smelled that seemed to command my attention. Girls have curves! Their hips, thighs and breasts begin to take shape after which a mysterious metamorphosis converts them into very powerful creatures. Even in the earliest historical writings, the tiniest little girl possessed the hypnotic power to completely control the largest and strongest man! The smart ones realize that at and early age and take full advantage of it. In addition, their artistically painted faces, long flowing hair and beckoning breasts seemed to stir the blood, as well. Add sweet breath, perfume and lipstick to that and girls become mysteriously intimidating! You see, young inexperienced boys naturally second guess themselves and will sometimes avoid a potential sexual encounter for fear of failing to perform. In addition, one's anatomy may not have completely developed to it's full potential proportions which could also cause embarrassment. But, for me, the desire to have sex seemed to override all of those minor concerns. One day, while walking to the Fair Lanes bowling alley, a girl named Ginger was sitting out on the curb talking to some effeminate looking guy named Bobby. She stopped me and told me that she had seen me walk by there a few time before and asked my name! We chatted for a while and seemed to hit it off quite well. But, she was already 16 years old and a grade ahead of me; which meant a lot back then. Still, I was not deterred and told her that I would stop by and see her again sometime. A few days later, I did just that. She promptly invited me into her house. No one else was home! We began to embrace and kiss. No girl had ever kissed me like that! I was nervous, scared and completely freaked out by the encounter. She began to disrobe. Being too embarrassed to remove all of my clothing, I unzipped my fly and began to attempt to have sex with her. The awesome sight of a girl spreading her naked legs allowing a man, or boy, to penetrate her was mind boggling. I got my penis caught between my shirt tail and her vagina. LOL and promptly ejaculated all over her bed spread. Of course, my malfunction certainly did not satisfy my partner, but instead of her being critical and proclaiming displeasure, she softly said that it was O.K. and that we would try again soon! Though I exited with my tail between my legs, I had at least tried. When I arrived at the bowling alley, the clerk at the counter, (an older country boy who had just been discharged from the Navy) asked me whether I had just been with the girl I had told him about, because "I sure looked like it!" After I admitted that I had, he asked, "Well, did you get your nuts?!" I looked up inquisitively as he repeated, "Did you get your nuts?!" I thought about it for a moment and rationalized that he was talking about an orgasm and said, "Well, I guess I did!" He laughed out loud and said, "Oh, you would have remembered!"

The very next day, I was back in Ginger's bedroom. This time, I had built up the courage to actually remove all of my clothing!! Wow! How feminine. How scary. But, I had absolutely no clue how to proceed. Was I allowed to use my hands and touch her breasts and vagina? Hell, how would I know? So, I took the liberty to tweak her nipples and proceeded to guide my throbbing pleasure tool directly into her well lubricated love canal where after I was simply unable to contain myself, and instantly "got my nuts!!! Needless to say, it was a very exhilarating experience. And, I was beaming with a great feeling of accomplishment. After a short brake, we repeated the sin. Ginger and I continued to interact on a regular basis. We practiced and got good at it. I finally obtained my driver's license and would pick her up and take her to the other side of town where we borrowed the apartment of a Black guy named "Crow" (John Crowell) whom I had met at the "colored" bowling alley on Statesville Ave. He traded off the use of his bedroom for a six-pack of beer! (The cheap stuff cost $1.79 per six-pack back then); an arrangement that was well worth it. I vividly remember that Ginger and I had become quite sexually compatible to the point where our sweating bodies would literally create suction and stick to each other!!.. a phenomenon which I have never experienced since then. Ginger was a wonderful lover and far more mature than I. But, I still had much to learn. Soon after, she became pregnant by another man; though I had my suspicions. (Present: according to a recent DNA test, it was not mine!)

A few weeks later, I arrived at the bowling alley and looked around to see who was there. My eyes became fixed on a genetic anomaly! So, I asked the clerk to assign me the lane next to hers. Her name was Angel  She was a bit "zoftig" but had a very attractive face. She also had breasts the size of melons!! Very large melons! What an extraordinary sight. How could any man not be attracted to this nymph. She was 17 years old and had a 21 year old boyfriend somewhere. Though I did visit her in her mother's condo, other than fondling those massive appendages, I never actually had sex with her then. But, those tits were simply remarkable! Thirty-five years later, she came to visit her parents who lived next to me on Carmel Forest Dr. We had a wonderful reunion!! (She opted for oral sex; which was fine with me! I later found out that she had died of heart failure...God rest her soul)

Next, while walking through a local park which was near the bowling alley, up walked a young, sexy girl who possessed the most alluring body I had ever seen! Oh, the pulchritude! Her breasts, her thighs, her youthful face naturally enhanced my prurient interests. Her name was Brenda I had already heard about her reputation and though she was barely 15 years old, she already had a lot of experience with other friends and family members!? She lured me into the lair of her bedroom which was not too far away and promptly disrobed. I was utterly intimidated. Her body was that of a buxom pinup girl you might see in a Playboy magazine. Though I had the desire, "Otis" simply wouldn't cooperate. I realized at that moment the awesome power that women have over men! Unfortunately, she was disappointed. But, she knew that I was still young and inexperienced, so she avoided shaming me and even agreed to see me again. Though she was only 15, she had already realized the power of her alluring femininity and sexual superiority. A few day later, I picked her up in my mother's Mercury Comet and brought a blanket with me. We drove to a secluded area, parked under a large oak tree, spread out the blanket, unscrewed the cap from a $2 bottle of wine, drank some and proceeded to interact. This time, I mustered up the courage to perform and "Otis" kindly cooperated. My encounter with her was successful! My level of confidence had improved significantly. I couldn't wait to brag to my buddies the next day in school. I saw her a few more times, as well. But, she seemed to be in great demand - In fact, she had an older irate boyfriend who thought that he was her only lover!? What a moron - but, I certainly wasn't about to tell him otherwise.

High School

(9) I was 16 years old in high school. Because I had been cursed with a terrible case of poison ivy on my feet, I was unable to go out for football. My feet were swollen and I couldn't put on my cleats. (And, back then, if you didn't play one of the sports, you were considered "gay"). Therefore, I decided to recover and join the track team, instead. I learned to throw the shot put! But, my 6' 2" frame had only accumulated about 185 pounds compared to the huge guys who weighed over 300! So, if only for the sake of staying in shape, getting stronger and "lettering," I threw the shot put. One sunny afternoon, while practicing on the field behind South Mecklenburg High School, my girlfriend, a beautiful platinum blonde nymphet named Yvonne, gave me a surprise visit. ("...Lord, she was gentle as a wind blown sigh..." Harry Chapin). Right about that time, another member of the team decided to join me with practice tosses. Apparently, he didn't understand the grid which had been laid out for us and mistakenly set up to throw in the "wrong direction." As I was retreating to speak to my girlfriend, all of a sudden, I was hit squarely on the top right side of my head with a 12 pound "shot" which had been accidentally "put" full force by Mal Wall. Wham!?! It knocked me coo-coo, but I didn't fall to the ground! My head began bleeding profusely. My girlfriend screamed and instantly came to my aid with a handkerchief and then promptly drove me to the hospital where a number of stitches were sewn over the huge hematoma which had risen. I could have died on the field that day just from the concussion. But, again, I was resilient and lucky and soon recovered.

(10) I believe I was a sophomore in high school. One of my friends had gotten a job at the new Bell's Hamburger joint on the corner of Scaleybark and South Blvd. Lots of kids would gather in the parking lot to shoot the breeze and eat cheese burgers and fries. An excited friend approached me and suggested that I take a ride with him in his friend's new Corvair Spider!! I remember the incompetent driver's name to be C.K.M. The car had a 4 in the floor transmission and a strong turbocharged 140 horsepower engine! (the standard Corvair only had 95 hp) He took off in the direction of Woodlawn Rd. There were 4 people in the car. Then, he did a "U" turn and began traveling at a high rate of speed back toward Bell's. Fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety ... everyone began screaming for him to SLOW DOWN!! But, the immature moron wanted to get to 100 mph before slowing down?! All of a sudden, we heard a clank. The turbo charger belt had jumped off the pulley? The car, (which Ralph Nader subsequently caused to be recalled from the market because of dubious aerodynamics and poor handling at high speeds), began to float off of the road. He could not steer anymore. We barely grazed an old car which was parked along the curb. We were completely out of control. And, we were quickly approaching the intersection full of vehicles waiting for the light to change!? He slammed on the brakes and the car began to spin. We hit one obstacle or another and finally crashed into a fire hydrant! Tommy Smart came flying into the back seat where his head collided directly with mine. I was knocked goofy for a few moments as the car came to a rest. The hydrant had been broken in half and was profusely gushing water. Thinking that the water was gasoline, I began yelling for everyone to get the hell out of the car!! We all piled out of the right side. The driver exited the side where the fire hydrant was. As he took his first step, he went straight down into the abyss of an unnatural cavern which the gushing water had created. As his head was going under, he reached up and grabbed the rocker panel at the bottom of the door and held on for dear life until we rescued him - while risking our own lives from being drowned?! Obviously, one or all of us could have been killed. I was happy to be alive. I came to my senses and started to beat the guy's ass, but the cops had already arrived. Suing was unheard of at that time and simply bad manners!
 
(11) I was a senior in high school. Virile lad that I was, in addition to regular girlfriends, I received the attention of other female partners who might wish to have fun. On a weekday, I was invited to a "gang bang" with a mysterious nymphomaniac at her farm property. I suspected it was a prank. (I had actually participated in a "gang bang" a few weeks earlier with a girl named Janie from Myers Park. She did, in fact, interact with maybe 8 guys on that day! She gave me a blow job. I was literally amazed at her insatiable sexual appetite). Regardless, six packs in hand, we drove to the site and gathered with a few other guys on the dirt road next to her home. We were instructed to walk down the road to the edge of the corn field which was about a quarter of a mile away and she would meet us. So, we began walking. A few minutes later, we heard the voice of a person yelling something to the effect of "leave my daughter alone and get the hell out of here before I shoot!" Moments later, I experienced a sound the likes of which I had never heard before. There were live bullets whizzing over my head only a couple of feet away from my left ear!!? (a high pitched zzzing!) I immediately hit the ground and began yelling for them to stop shooting! In fact, it was a prank being pulled off by some of our unruly, drunken football players with a .22 rifle. We all laughed it off, but those bullets came waaay to close to my head. Lucky again, I guess.

Many of my friends had already died in terrible car wrecks. I was a very foolish risk taker. The trend was to buy a six pack of beer (which was pretty easy to do), get drunk, speed as fast as possible, yell and scream with my buddies and often flick on the bright lights while getting into the wrong lane of oncoming traffic. That scared the perplexed drivers as well as all of my passengers. Their reaction was amusing! - Soon after, I borrowed my father's high powered Oldsmobile for the school prom. Yvonne and I double dated with 2 gifted students named Ed Lentz and Jane Jameson. Ed was super smart and a voracious reader. In fact, he had read most of the Ian Flemming novels about a character by the name of James Bond! He often shared exciting excerpts of those books with me. Unfortunately for me, I had still not discovered the wonderment of reading. - On our way to the prom, I was traveling at a high rate of speed before I pulled my crazy act of intentionally drifting into the wrong lane. Ed and Jane were screaming at me to slow down and drive properly. I was drunk as shit and laughing! Finally, I relented and slowed down. Ed demanded that I let him drive. I really don't remember whether I allowed him to, or not. I was too drunk to remember. Though Ed and brother Steve lived directly behind us across the creek, and we went to the same High School, he never spoke another word to me at school. And, to my recollection, still hasn't to this day. In retrospect, what I had done was ridiculously selfish and absolutely insane. I was very immature and excessively stupid. I had absolutely no right to take the lives of those young people into my hands as I did. I will regret that day for the remainder of my life. --  Ed and Jane: Please allow me to apologize for my foolish behavior on that day. (It's never too late to ask for, or receive forgiveness).

(12) Now, for a very scary incident. My brother, David, (who ultimately died of misdiagnosed pneumonia at age 26 - Back then, doctors routinely smoked cigarettes while they examined you), allowed me to borrow his brand new blue Comet Caliente V-8 convertible. I had still not completely overcome my erratic driving behavior. I was heading to my friend, Jerry Lane's party out Nations Ford Rd. I knew there was a rarely used railroad track which crossed the road about a mile ahead. The street rose up at that point and the tracks were a bit higher above the road than normal. Having been influenced by some TV program where a car had jumped into the air, safely landed and proceeded to tear down the road, I decided that I would do just that! So, as I approached the track, I increased my speed in order to make sure that the jump would be successful. Finally, I could see the railroad sign ahead and continued accelerating. No caution lights were blinking. Only seconds away from the crossing, I noticed that my bright lights were aiming to the other side of the tracks underneath a moving train?! And, that a clacking freight train was whizzing by at a high rate of speed!!? I immediately slammed on the brakes and steered the car into the direction that the train was heading. Screeching to high heaven, the car slid forward and completely closed the gap until the hanging metal stairs were zipping by, only inches away from my face. As the car screeched to a stop, I was absolutely scared shitless. Again, I realized that I had cheated death. I have NEVER driven crazy like that since that incident. Furthermore, I always stop, look and listen!

Somehow, I graduated from High School and decided that I would enroll into a couple of East Carolina summer school classes which would determine my acceptance. My girlfriend, Yvonne, also attended. - It would behoove me to share with you the destiny of Yvonne. She was originally from Jonesboro, Georgia. She was 5' 2" with platinum blonde hair, a very pretty face and a soft voice with a strong southern accent. Her mother was killed in a car wreck just months before she relocated to North Carolina. Once, while we were having sex in her dark finished basement, we heard someone slowly descending the stairwell. In the silhouette of the light from above, I could see that it was her big, burly father who had raised his hand to the  light switch. On a clean sheet, I was literally fucking his daughter on the carpet! Yvonne was keen enough to quickly speak up and say, "We're down here, Daddy." He said, "O.K. Honey" and refrained from turning on the light. Whew! Thank God! (But, he knew what we were doing.) He slowly walked back up the stairs and I could breathe again. Would he have actually tried to kill me if he had discovered us naked? I don't think so, but I did have my concerns. He had 2 other daughters, so he was already used to that type of activity. (In fact, my friend Jerry Lane married her sister, Denise!) As for Yvonne, she moved back to Jonesboro, Ga for a number of years. We lost touch for a while until I learned that she has gotten married but never had any children. Then, a terrible fate befell her; she had a massive stroke? It absolutely destroyed her. Her gorgeous feminine countenance was cruelly transformed into a semi-paralyzed, drooling invalid. She had difficulty reasoning and speaking. She had been dealt a devastating blow, but as the years went by, she gradually recovered, after a fashion. In fact, I never failed to call her on her birthday, October 23, every single year after that for the remainder of her life. I always told her that I loved her. She died last year in a nursing home of Covid. She was such a sweet and gentle person. May God rest her soul...

The workload at East Carolina was quite difficult, particularly for a crazy guy who preferred partying almost every night. Money was very tight, and I was barely surviving. But, I was no different from many other students. Once, while walking down the hallway of the dorm, I stopped, frozen in my tracks. I was hearing the alluring sound of a person finger picking on the guitar!! Wow! Folk music was extremely popular at this time and anyone who could finger pick was a major inspiration to me. I peeked in to see who it was. He allowed me to listen for a minute or two. That was the exact moment that I decided I wanted to learn how to play the guitar; more specifically, finger pick! Though I couldn't afford one then, I later purchased a guitar after I joined the Army and began to practice. Finger picking is pretty complicated, but I persevered and finally figured out how to do it by following the 3 golden rules of music: Practice, practice, practice... (Type my name into YouTube - "Ode to Doc!")

One evening, I needed to borrow a typewriter from a friend down the hall of our dormitory. I knocked on the door. No answer. Yet, somehow, I sensed there were people in the room. Finally, the door opened slowly, and the guy (I do not recall his name, though he had one of the most profound effects upon me in my entire life) whispered, "We're having a seance; if I allow you in to join us, you can not say one word." Peeking past him, I could see about 5 or 6 coeds sitting on the floor staring at lit candles. Naturally, I was fascinated and agreed to his terms. I promptly became one of those who were staring into the flame of a candle. - The next thing I knew, I was clucking like a chicken, apparently, because I had become a chicken! Then, I was convinced that the place was burning down because I could feel that the floor was extremely hot! I tried to warn everyone - who were all giggling and didn't seem to be fazed. Finally, I had been instructed to follow a particular upperclassman into the the dormitory bathroom by walking directly behind him and mimicking everything he was doing!? Which I promptly did! After enduring my insane antics, the agitated victim spun around with the determination to punch me! Just at that moment, the guy stepped in and explained to the upperclassman that I had been hypnotized! He said a couple of "code words" to me and I seemed to come out of it. Needless to say, I was very confused and had developed a terrific headache. I made it back to my room and crashed. The next morning, I needed to be in class pretty early but I recall being in a fog. I had a tough time remembering where my classroom was?! The guy approached me again with the "code words." (which, to my amazement, I never could remember) I seemed to come out of the trance at that moment. But, it took days, if not weeks, to recover. By that time, I had already fallen behind in the class and abandoned the idea of making an "A" or a "B." I was not accepted. I returned to Charlotte and enrolled into Central Piedmont Community College for a couple of months. But, there was a war going on and I was becoming restless. So, on November 10, 1965, I joined the U.S. Army. Having been hypnotized may not have been a potentially fatal experience, but it did have a profoundly negative effect on my personality for some time to come. It took years for me to recall the incident in it's entirety. Hypnotism can be a very powerful force of evil. And, mass hypnotism is even worse. (Repugnikkkans drinking Trump's Kool-Aid. Question: What part of an American's body is washed most often? Answer: the brain) "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis

--Army:


That brings me to the subject of military service. Here in the U.S. (as is the case in all other major countries of the world) at the tender age of 5 or 6 years old, boys and girls are encouraged to become members of the Cub Scouts, Brownie Scouts or their equivalent. The underlying purpose is to regiment them at an early age, introduce them to a uniform, show them how to march and work in unison, teach them survival methods and, most importantly, instill hatred of their "communist" enemies! Then you move up the ranks, to the Boy Scouts, ROTC and other organization designed to direct its members to join our military. In effect, "brain washing" our youth in order to encourage them to ultimately "kill" other human beings. Now, you must stop and ask yourself, why is the United States perpetually at war with one country or another? Because the rich repugnikkkan fat cats who control the corporations which produce guns, cannons, ammunition, aircraft of all nature, bombs, rockets, uniforms, boots, vehicles and all of the thousands of other associated items of war CAN GET RICHER! Duh!!! Of course, young, generally Black or poor White and Hispanic kids lose their lives in the process. Not to exclude all of the collateral damage and casualties associated with war. (Vietnam claimed over 58 thousand American lives). We currently have American boots on the ground in almost 75 countries. Yet, our government has no legal right to be the self ordained "imperialists" of the world. Think about it; all of the universities sponsored by the United States Government are "war" colleges. Why don't we have any peace colleges? Here's a profound quip I remember from Vietnam: "We are the unwilling, lead by the unqualified, to do the unnecessary for the ungrateful."

So, here I was in the Army at Fort Jackson, in Columbia, S.C. I had already been apprised as to what a bunch of "mind control" bullshit it was. Therefore, I immediately took advantage of the situation. I decided that I would outdo all of my peers with all of the physical and mental exercises by being faster, stronger, and smarter! In fact, out of our outfit of over 200 soldiers, my 4 months of college certified that I was the 3rd highest educated soldier in the company! So, I was instantly promoted to "Acting Corporal" Squad Leader! When a buck sergeant who was housed in the private room at the end of the barracks was shipped out, I approached the Sergeant and requested that I move into his vacant room (because some soldiers had complained about my snoring!), which he reluctantly authorized. Though it was a violation for new recruits to purchase beer at the PX and bring it back to the barracks, I did just that, and got away with it. We partied almost every night! I loved to gamble, so a buddy of mine named Tane and I devised a system whereby we could play Draw Poker during early morning formations by truck light! We were having too much fun! A couple of weeks later, an "acting sergeant" Company sycophant who had 2 years of Junior College, reported me and I lost the use of the room. Then, I caught a nasty case of strep throat!? I knew I was sick, but I didn't realize how sick. I had been training with an elevated temperature for days. I didn't know that the Army had it's own hospital or "sick bay!" I was coughing up blood and puss. I finally visited the medical facility and thankfully, the antibiotics allowed me to quickly recover which encouraged me to press on and excel even more. - To entertain myself, I would yell behind a slow group of soldiers to pick up the pace saying, "double time, march!" They would take off and never look back to see who was barking out the orders! What fun!! -

I then conjured up a scheme to go to "Finance" and request "early pay" which would supposedly be subtracted from my upcoming paycheck. You see, back in 1965, the Army finance department did not have the convenience of computers. Everything was done by hand. My assumption was that it would be too much trouble to track down all of those records of soldiers who took early pay, and I was correct!! Our basic training had been cut short and compressed into 2 fewer weeks in order to allow everyone to go home for Christmas! In the final days, we were required to run the "obstacle course." Though I was very strong and would have completed it with little difficulty, I malingered to the back of the line and waited. A few minutes later, some of the guys who had already completed the course were returning to the starting line. Their uniforms were completely soiled. They were soaking wet and panting for breath with their hands on their knees. So, I promptly threw myself into a big puddle on the ground. I patted mud in my face and smeared it all over my artificially wet uniform. Then, I bent over and began panting for breath and moving forward with the other finishers!! The sergeants standing around couldn't differentiate me from the others who had completed the course! So, I got away with it!! LOL

Because, I had "joined" the Army for 3 years, instead of being drafted for 2, I was able to choose the MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) that I wished. I chose to go to a "Nike Hercules missile" outfit outside of Miami, Fla! Such installations were located around the entire perimeter of the contiguous United States. This program required OJT which allowed me to eschew the necessity of 6 more weeks of AIT (Advanced Infantry Training) and report directly to my new duty station in Florida! Little did I know that I was considered a special commodity because I could "type!" At first, I was housed in the Headquarters barracks only to find out that the other guys in my room were all awaiting military court-martials for committing felonies!? A couple of them had murdered people? They all had bad attitudes. A couple of weeks later, one detainee decided to get drunk and test my mettle. Though I was quite adept at fist fighting and beating the shit out of assholes, I realized that this guy had absolutely nothing to lose. I figured, if I beat his ass, he would kill me in my sleep. So, I quelled the situation and offered him a beer. Though I believe my life could have been in danger, I do not include this incident as one where I almost got killed.

(13) I was soon transferred to Battery "A" in the "Hole of the Doughnut" (a large quadrant of federal land) in Everglades National Park west of Florida City, Fla. It was about a half an hour drive from highway "US-1" which goes N-S all the way to Key West. Some soldiers didn't care for my aggressive personality. (Probably just a defense mechanism in order to prevent others from bullying me). But, somehow, I got along with a few of them. I remember an incident which occurred with a portable record player I had purchased at a pawn shop for $15. I had clearly let it be known that you had to ask to borrow it before you could use it. A soldier named Baron decided to use it one evening while I was in town. When I returned, I entered our room and noticed that the "needle" was scraping on the record after it had played out and that he had fallen asleep. Already quite drunk, I became so infuriated that I grabbed the metal frame of his bunk and flipped it over onto the linoleum floor with him in it!? Of course, it abruptly woke him, and everybody else in the room. He cursed me but didn't retaliate. (...anybody still wonder why some of the guys didn't like me?)

I maintained an apartment in Homestead ($120 per month!) that had a swimming pool and was a perfect place to party with enough time to commute to the Battery! A lieutenant who also had an apartment questioned how I could live there? I said, "well, I always make it to formation on time, so, what's the problem?" He didn't report me to the Sergeant Major! Cool guy... One evening, upon returning from the Ale House on US 1 across from U of M in Miami, I had stopped at the Burger King to get one of those giant double cheese burgers to go! (They were much bigger back then!) Just as I was opening the door to the apartment, two young girls appeared and followed me in! Uh, who are you? I asked. The buxom one answered, Carla. A Jewish girl! An extremely well endowed young Jewish girl! Apparently, she and her girlfriend had followed me from the Ale House!? I told her that I was hungry and needed to eat that cheeseburger before I did anything else, to which she agreed. -We made small talk while I devoured the burger, munched on fries and gulped down coca-cola. We gazed at each other with great anticipation! Minutes later, we were naked!- [verse 2] "Twelve hours out of Mackinac City, Stopped in a bar to have a brew, Met a girl and we had a few drinks, And I told her what I'd decided to do, She looked out the window a long, long moment, Then she looked into my eyes. She didn't have to say a thing, I knew what she was thinkin'" and, he goes on to say, ..."we never even said a word, We just walked out and got on that thing... And, we rolled clean out of sight!" Bob Seger

(14) A few months later, I had gotten in trouble for being AWOL by an hour or so and received an "Article 15." I learned that the punishment was to join a squad of other soldiers who were ordered to clean the showers in the latrine that weekend. Thank goodness, I had already received a 3 day pass for having completed some important administrative work just prior to a GI inspection. So, the Battery Commander allowed me to proceed on my short vacation and I would be given some other punitive measures when I returned. - When I got back a few days later, all I could see were the solemn faces of my subdued fellow soldiers. There was also an overwhelming odor of a fire which had been extinguished. I asked what happened?? I was shocked to learn that the same squad of soldiers who had been required to clean the shower walls had been given a 3 gallon can of gasoline and instructed by the feloniously incompetent Sergeant to use it as a cleaning agent in order to remove the soap scum from the walls? The soldiers complied without question (remember, "mind control" bullshit?!) and began their duty. While the entire shower area filled with gasoline fumes, another soldier came in to the adjoining room where the washer and dryer were located. He loaded the dryer with damp clothes and pushed the button. The spark caused an immediate explosion which had ignited the fumes and prompted the drum of gas to explode!??? Though they attempted to run out of the showers into the hallway, their bodies were all completely involved and could not be extinguished quickly enough. Four soldiers needlessly lost their lives on that day. I could easily have been one of them... (In effect, my superior clerical skills saved my life!)

Though I got into a fist fight with the toughest Black guy in the battery outside during a hurricane (he and his buddies broke into my locker and stole my bottle of grain alcohol!?) and was threatened by marines who were jealous that my 16 year old 6 ft, 2 in. tall beautiful amazon girlfriend, Vicky was giving me a blow job while cruising down US-1, (Vicky was a wonderful lover and great fun!!) I can not consider those incidents to be life threatening. Nor, when another disgruntled girlfriend named Janet, with whom I was riding, began traveling toward Coral Gables at 80 mph, running every red light in sight in her Volkswagon!? -- A month or so later I negotiated another 3 day pass and jumped onto a Greyhound bus out of Homestead heading for Charlotte. I had called my friend, Jerry Lane, and asked if he would arrange to have a girl waiting for me! He responded with, "Blonde, brunette or redhead?!" I thought for a moment and said, "Red head!" So, a few hours later, the bus was actually traveling north on Highway 21 through South Carolina. I recognized the area (Arrowood Rd) and walked to the front of the bus to ask the driver to "let me off!" I told him that the next intersection was "the very road that "I" lived on!" He reluctantly stopped the bus, opened the side panel, tossed me my bag and I began walking up the starlit street to the party at Jerry's house!! Minutes later, when I arrived, he was elated that he didn't have to pick me up at the bus station! I walked in, put down my suitcase and asked, "Well, where is my redhead?!" Just then, an ultra cute  young buxom 5 ft tall, 16 year old redhead appeared! "I walked on up to her and didn't say a word, but my eyes were talking, and I think she heard..." Harry Chapin - I told her my name and she introduced herself to me as Nancy. We immediately retired into the back bedroom and had wonderful sex!! Yet, we had literally only known each other for seconds! A half hour later, we emerged and joined the party! Ain't life great?! I interacted with her after that on a number of occasions. She was always great fun!! In fact, once while she was a passenger in my red Triumph which my father had purchased for us, I pulled into Skyland Drive-In (at Seneca Pl. and South Blvd back then) and spotted a friend. He walked up to the convertible and greeted us. He looked at Nancy with a big smile after which I said, "Man, you've gotta see this!" Knowing that she was pantyless, I pulled up her skirt just high enough for him to get a glimpse of her extraordinary, almost glowing, AMBER bush!! What a sight to behold... it blew his mind! She didn't care; it was all in fun! She craved the attention, anyway. (Dude, if you happen to read this book, please remind me of who you are!)

A little more about Vicky. Though she was only barely 16 years old, she was quite intelligent. And, she was madly in love with me. I would ride by her home and visit while her mother chaperoned us. Her mom was over six feet tall and her father was 6' 8"! But, he had encountered a rather unfortunate fate one day while changing a tire on the freeway. Seems that a car came by too closely and sideswiped his legs causing a serious injury which paralyzed him for life? Thus, wheelchair bound, he promptly became a serious alcoholic and was generally drunk every time I visited. He had been a star basketball player and a successful businessman owning a local car dealership! But, after his accident, he lost it all. Poor guy. However, Vicky's mom, who was a nurse by trade, was a cool lady! She knew that Vicky was crazy about me and wanted to protect her accordingly. Most of the girls I knew were "young and dumb and full of cum." But, Vicky was different. She would visit me at the lanes
with her mini skirt on where I was bowling in the Army league. (I had the second highest average in the league of 178!) Boy, did she distract everyone! I really liked her. In fact, she lost her virginity to me! But, only told me after the fact. Actually, she had little experience with any men up to that point. I was that special guy. One Saturday evening, she came looking for me in Florida City after I had been playing pool all day and found my car at a cheap hotel room. (I didn't have my apartment, yet) She knocked on the door -- I was thinking, who the hell could that be? I let her in. We immediately proceeded to interact whereby I began manipulating her clitoris! And then, she yelped a curious sound which sorta' scared me. I quickly pulled away and she said, "No, don't stop!!" Apparently, she had achieved her very first orgasm!! She told me that she "didn't even know that a person could do that!" How naive. How wonderful! She immediately encouraged me to do it to her again, which I graciously accommodated. Days later, when I visited her home, her mother began asking a few questions. When she momentarily left the room, her mom asked whether I "loved" Vicky? Boy, that floored me. I fumbled my words and told her that Vicky and I were "just friends." -Because, I still had not learned the meaning of love. And, I certainly didn't want to encumber myself with something like marriage at this stage of my life. Then her mom asked, "Well, why not? You had sex with her, didn't you?!" she continued, "Just tell her you love her, anyway!" (It doesn't make any difference if it's not true; in too many cases, it isn't! People just say it to get along...) I was perplexed. I realized that I had rarely, if ever, told any girl that I loved her? Maybe it was a carryover from my distorted childhood which possibly instilled a certain degree of misogyny. But, it caused me to think about how I would act in the future. I profoundly realized that even if I didn't "really" love the person in question, it was still a very friendly and powerful thing to say, which all women desperately want to her. And, it doesn't cost a thing! (Why do Jews have big noses? Cause, air is free!) So, after that episode, "I love you" became a little easier to say. Each person learns these lessons at his own pace.

My brother, David decided to make up for being such an asshole to me and secretly purchase an almost brand new 289 c.i. V-8 Mustang Fastback!! He called me and told me that if I could pay the monthly notes (about $110) that he would let me use it in Florida! I was floored by his offer and on my next 3 day pass, brought the car back to the battery. For a while, I was the envy of all. Man, a dark blue "Fastback Mustang" was the coolest car around! A couple of months went by before my fellow soldiers began to attempt to "rent" it from me for the evening (for $50!) to show it off to their girlfriends. Unfortunately, a fellow soldier named Thompson rented it one evening and got a bit too drunk before speeding and plowing into a small tree in a field. The car was significantly damaged. Per our agreement, at first, he tried to repair the damage himself with bondo and sandpaper but his work was unprofessional and looked like shit. So, I demanded that he take it to the dealership in order to have the work done professionally. It became necessary for him to come up with the money necessary for the repairs where after, unable to borrow it from his parents, he actually "re-enlisted" just for the bonus money?! The mustang was finally repaired, but my brother demanded it's return. So, my mom allowed me to take her 6 cylinder Comet back to Florida!

One day, while riding down the main drag in Homestead, a gorgeous blonde came twirling out of the corner drug store where after my attention became diverted directly to her. All of a sudden, "BAM!?" I had a low speed collision with the car in front of me? (cars actually had steel bumpers back then!) Of course, I had a cold six pack of beer in the front seat. The occupants of the car were a young couple and their baby who was bounced off the back seat on to the floorboard? (Seat belts and car seats were virtually unheard of back then!?) They were naturally upset with me after I tried to explain why I had been distracted so I apologized and admitted my guilt. Fortunately, the baby was unharmed and they didn't call the police.

But, I still wanted to know who that blonde was! A few days later, after discussing the incident with a fellow soldier, he told me the name of the blonde! (which I don't remember) and even told me where she lived; but warned me that she was very popular and generally didn't waste much time with "poor" soldiers. Then he said, "she has a younger sister named 'Pug' whom I might like!" However, I was not deterred and a few days later
set out to find the blonde and introduce myself. When I arrived at her house, she was not there, but her 15 year old sister was! We immediately made friends. She did have a curious face with a pooched mouth and a cute turned up nose. Thus, the moniker which had been assigned to her was "Pug!" (I actually do not remember either of their names!) But, she was skinny and less than 5 feet tall! I vividly recall having wonderful sex with her in their "new trailer" where she would often exclaim, "God, I love peter!" Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of even meeting her sister... (but, I really don't believe that she could possibly have been a better lover!) 

After 19 months in Florida, I came down on levy to Germany?! I consulted with other soldiers who had been there who cautioned me that because we were in a missile outfit, I would most likely be stationed in a remote location in the "Black Forest" 50 miles from the nearest bar?? By this time, I had already been introduced to hashish which was all you could get in Germany, and it tended to burn my throat. (I didn't smoke cigarettes like so many others did). So, I immediately made the decision to put in a "1049" to Vietnam! I had already been advised as to the quality and potency of Vietnamese marijuana though I had only smoked a tiny amount of pot prior to that. I just had an idea that it would be something I would enjoy!

Vietnam:

I arrived in Cam Ranh Bay on September 20, 1967. I promptly observed a most curious phenomenon! An unsubstantiated rumor had spread wildly among the soldiers bound for Vietnam. The story was, a 19 year old kid from Kansas had safely arrived in Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base in Saigon. As he stepped off the plane, he hesitated and looked around at his new surroundings. At that moment, he was struck in the side of the head with small arms fire and killed!!? Hence, many soldiers who had heard that tale stepped off the plane, ducked and covered their heads with their hands, and scampered down the stairwell as quickly as possible!! Hey, they had just arrived to a war zone and they were scared! I chuckled under my breath.

I was assigned to a Signal outfit in Nha Trang after being referred to as a member of Remington's Raiders! (Remington was the mechanical typewriter of the day) A couple of days later, I had already found a great source for marijuana! The Army was just beginning to deal with the drug problem that had been all but ignored up to that time. After all, so many older Army personnel were hard core alcoholics. They had special ways of dealing with them usually by reassignment or internment into a "halfway" house on the base. There were so many of them. As for marijuana and other drugs, some of the barrack sergeants would conduct surprise inspections and rummage through lockers. Observing their feeble technique, most of the guys who smoked would hide their stash between a couple of sand bags in one of the many bunkers located around the compound. You would count the bags from the left and then from the floor and write down the coordinates. One day, as I was attempting to retrieve my stash, I entered the bunker only to find most of my pot strewn directly on the floor under where I had placed it?! Intertwined with it were bottle caps, cigarette butts, wire, small pieces of paper, and other curious trinkets?! What the hell? And, then I recalled what a guy had told me a few weeks earlier. I had been pilfered by a "pack rat!!" Are you kidding me?! The rat comes across an item that he wants, and replaces it with other objects! Amazing!! But, after chowing down on his prize, that must have been one stoned rat!! Another guy told me that the same thing had happened to him. Go figure!

(15) On one particular starlit night, I decided to scale the water tower (which had large signs boldly stating that it was dangerous and illegal to do so) and climbed the metal stairs to the concrete domed top! The view was absolutely incredible. It was the clearest night you could ever imagine. The celestial display was amazing! I pulled out a joint and attempted to light it with my "Zippo." But, unfortunately, I had neglected to fill it with lighter fluid that evening? I began spinning the thumb powered metal wheel onto the flint, but it wouldn't ignite. It would only "spark!" All I needed to do was light one joint! So, I continued to work the lighter. Every few minutes, I would turn it up side down and shake it and then attempt to make it light, but it wouldn't. It just threw off a spark! Just then, I noticed that another GI had climbed up to the top to join me. He asked me what I was doing - and thinking that he was up there for the same reason, I showed him the pot! But, in fact, he was up there performing an heroic mission to capture or "kill" the culprit who was attempting to send signals to the Viet Cong so they could lob in mortars onto our position!?? Realizing that I had been busted, I quickly tossed the pot into the water! Then, I looked over the side and observed about 2 dozen soldiers aiming their M-14's directly at "me" on top of that water tower. Any one of them could have accidentally pulled the trigger and I would have been a goner. --I was promptly arrested by the M.P.s, carted off to jail and given an Article 15 which I contested later and beat the rap! In fact, the Captain was so impressed with my clerical skills and knowledge of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (a thin book with large print that anyone could read in one day!) that he promptly placed me in an S-1 clerical position. However, on that evening, I had, again, barely escaped death. The moral of that story is, always refill your Zippo with lighter fluid before you go out!

One day, I decided to visit a house of pleasure where young Vietnamese girls were renting their bodies. The fee equaled the equivalent of around $4! So, it was good, wholesome cheap fun! The problem was, if you chose the wrong girl, you were bound to catch a raging case of  "the claps!" or more accurately, gonorrhea. (which I did twice!? A painful shot of penicillin in the ass was the remedy). Subsequently, I was very discreet in my choice of prostitutes. I noticed a young well dressed girl who had just arrived at work. The first thing she did was to find a seat directly in front of a statue of Buddha where an area designated for praying had been fashioned. There were flesh flowers, incense burning and other religious symbols laying about. She bowed her head and prayed for a minute and then retreated to a private cubicle. She had been wearing her traditional conservative outfit when she arrived, but changed into something more "western" and alluring. I chose her to be my temporary partner. I was not disappointed. A week or so later, (not having contracted the claps) I returned and chose her again. I believe her name was Mi; she remembered me and interacted with loving eyes as we again proceeded to intimately enjoy each others company. I paid her double this time and bade her goodby. At about that time, my partner came out of another room and we made our way out to the common area. I was amused to see Mi, dressed in her traditional outfit, praying to Buddha again. Apparently, prostitution is tolerated in the Buddhist religion. Moments later, a 125cc motorcycle rode into the area driven by a very clean cut Vietnamese soldier. His name tag said "Ngo." Mi walked over and pointed to the driver and announced to me in broken English, "this is my husband!" He looked at me and smiled. He was nonchalantly picking his wife up from work! Wow!! The culture shock floored me! He did his job, and she did hers. They were just another young Vietnamese couple trying to make it in the world. - an episode that I shall never forget.

(16) It was easy to move about the city and catch a ride with a 3 wheeled jitney driven by a local or hitch a ride with any military vehicle cruising by. But, on this particular muggy evening, I was returning late and had caught the wrong jitney to the far side of a Marine compound called Camp McGregor. As usual, I was somewhat drunk and totally stoned on pot! As I was walking down the dark and lonely perimeter road, absolutely no vehicles were coming by. So, I looked over and observed a huge airplane hanger with large exterior spot lights and a few Air Force guys milling around. I diverted my route into their direction and a few minutes later I had arrived. I asked if there were a faster route to the other side of the camp. One guy said, "Sure, you could walk across the airfield - It will save you a lot of time!" Though I couldn't see the other side of the huge concrete runway, I decided that it would be my best route. Hence, I lit up a joint and began walking. And walking, and walking. Twenty or so minutes later, I started thinking. Wait a minute. This is a LIVE airfield from which jet planes and other aircraft regularly take off and land!?! Exactly what in the fuck am I doing?? Moments later, I could hear the sound of a jet fighter apparently coming in for a landing!? Oh boy?! In the mean time, I could see a jeep full of AP's
(Air Police or "apes") about a thousand feet away with spot lights patrolling the landing strip in order to prevent sabotage or idiots like me from walking across it. I could visualize myself being mangled by some fighter jet which was attempting to land?! So, I began running as fast as I could in the direction from where I started. I was scared as shit and realized how gullible and stupid I was. I was now sprinting! Fifteen or so minutes later, without incident, I arrived at the hangar. The "apes" didn't see me. Thankfully, I finally caught a ride to my destination. --Could I have died? Sure. The AP's could have detected an interloper and opened fire on me, as they had every right to do or I could have been incinerated and mangled by a jet plane! Sometimes alcohol and pot cause you to believe and do stupid shit...

When I had first arrived in Nha Trang which was my original duty station, I decided to dine at an authentic Vietnamese Restaurant!?? That was a cardinal mistake? Very delicious, but the spicy cuisine was, of course, prepared with "naturally contaminated" Vietnamese water. My frail western digestive system simply couldn't tolerate the new microorganisms which had been introduced into my fragile western belly. I developed the worst case of dysentery a person could possibly enjoy. I literally had the urge to shit about every 5-10 minutes? I couldn't eat and anything that I drank ran straight through me. I was totally out of commission. The next day, after visiting an Army doctor, he gave me some medicine but strongly suggested that I visit an opium den! Really?! He stated that the opium would "slow down my system and get me back to normal." So, I stuffed rags in my boxers and set out to find the opium den, which we did. It was an extraordinary experience. After 2 or 3 bowls, (pipe fulls - a small amount concentrated into a small hole in the bowl of a large wooden pipe with a very thick and long stem. You laid your head down on a wooden block [pillow] and Papasan would spin the stem around to you. Then, you would take a huge toke after which he would encourage you not to cough it out) When I departed, the very air felt like I was walking in a world of clear jello!! I was buzzing! All of my senses were extremely enhanced! The diarrhea urge had completely disappeared and the next day, I was cured!

(17) Some of my fellow soldiers considered me to be somewhat bellicose. (have I already said that?!) And, probably for good reason. I was quick to respond to the aggressive behavior of others and always ready to fight at a moments notice. But, fist fighting pails to rifles and bullets. It was February '68 and Tet had just gotten underway. Many cities across Vietnam had been invaded by a full force of Viet Cong, NVA Regulars and other communist sympathizers. It was all we could do to defend our own positions from their consorted aggression. I was still in NhaTrang. We were on "Red Alert" which meant, "everyone" was on guard duty and NO sleep! I just took it all in stride. When you're stoned, the gravity of the situation fades and you don't seem to give a shit as much. We were perched next to our entrance perimeter behind a wall of sandbags with loaded M-14's and other assorted hand held weapons, waiting for any trace of an enemy soldier to approach us. Then, the boredom set in and I decided to recite a colorful monologue intended to get a rise out of some of the newer troops!? I began with, "Woe, who is that sneaking down the dark side to the street over there?" I continued with, "Uh oh, it looks like 'Charlie' just might be coming to pay us a little visit... And, he's getting closer and closer!" I then raised my weapon as if I were getting ready to fire. There was no sergeant around to tell me to shut up. Apparently, my amusing rhetoric didn't set well with one of the newly arrived troops. After a few more minutes of my creative dialogue, all of a sudden, the soldier turned his M-14 in my direction and began yelling, "Fuerstman, shut your fucking mouth!" Apparently, I had scared the shit out of this guy with my phony Orsen Wells style rhetoric which he didn't seem to appreciate. I immediately apologized and informed him that "Charlie" wasn't there and that I was just "high on pot and talking bullshit." Yet, this very scared soldier was literally on the verge of shooting me in the chest. I then said, "Hey man, sorry, I'll shut my mouth and not say a word" which is precisely what I did for the remainder of the evening. Close call. Very close call. Crow can actually taste pretty good, if you're still alive to eat it...

Among other jobs, I was assigned the responsibility as "courier" where I would strap on a .45 caliber pistol and deliver sensitive documents to locations around the country. I would simply catch a ride to the air force base tower where all of the pilots had gathered for coffee, cribbage and drugs and openly asked who was going to Da Nang or Chu Li or where ever I was heading. A friendly pilot answered, "I'm flying a C-130. There's a jeep in the back that you can sit in!" They would never ask to see my orders! They just trusted that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. On one occasion, on a trip to Danang, I got into a friendly conversation with some soldiers stationed in one of our Signal outfits. After sharing a doobie with them, they encourage me to transfer there - which I subsequently did! I needed to get out of Na Trang anyway. I still had almost 6 months remaining in country. I had just suffered through Tet '68 in Nha Trang. I had the occasion to take a jeep into the city just after we had secured it. I observed very large "mounds" of 100 or so dead enemy bodies - just indiscriminately thrown into a pile. All very young Vietnamese boys partially dressed in black pajamas. Huge piles of dead people. I will never forget that. War made no sense to me. Observing so much  death had become a daunting routine. I didn't sleep well that night...

(18) Soon after, I transferred to Da Nang for a reunion with my new friends: Spock, Gough, Schultheis, the blonde Sp4 with a flat top haircut and a few other guys whose names I can't remember. We formed a group where we would meet in guard towers and get high at night! We would also occasionally go into town during the day to an opium den! One day, we decided to go and smoke a few bowls. They only cost the equivalent of about 50 cents per bowl. So, it was a cheap, yet gratifying high! When we arrived at the den, business seemed to be booming that day. Other GI's were emerging as we were entering. We sat down in an open area in the center of a bunch of very small cubicles which were built out of thin plywood and had a maze of fabric curtains separating various areas for prostitution, drugs, massage, manicure & pedicure, haircuts, etc. Next, we were led into another room by a 6 year old Vietnamese girl and seated on the slat seats on the left side. There were just 2 of us. We each had .45's which were holstered on our sides. As we entered, I noticed 3 "foreign" soldiers sitting across from us on the other side maybe 6 feet away. Their skin was slightly darker than the normal South Vietnamese citizen, they had on weird colored green uniforms with "no patches" and each one needed a haircut!? Even the lowliest Vietnamese soldier wore the ARVN patch. Furthermore, the shade of their uniforms of what we GI's referred to as "communist green" and the shaggy hair were dead giveaways. Then we noticed their weapons. They were each toting AK-47s! The very Czech made weapon used by North Vietnamese Army Regulars and the Viet Cong! I sat there for a moment and pondered that they were probably there for the very reason that we were... to get high! So, I whispered to my partner to keep his hands away from his weapon and fold his arms. The N.V.A. regulars were also whispering among themselves. I then said, "just smile!" which we did. Thank God they smiled back. The seconds were slowly ticking away like hours. This could escalate into a true "Mexican standoff!" Moments later, the little girl came back in and escorted our counterparts out of the room into the area where "Papasan" prepared the bowls of opium for their consumption. My buddy instantly suggested that we "dee-dee!" which in Vietnamese means, get the hell out of there. I responded with, "look, if they intended to shoot us, they would have already done it!" So, we didn't freak out and waited our turn to smoke. In fact, we had unknowingly averted what could have been a deadly firefight in close quarters. A very scary moment indeed! -- A profound reality was revealed to me on that day. I realized that our so called "enemy" was exactly the same as we were. They no more wanted to kill us than we them. Wars are not waged by citizens, but by greedy politicians and munitions brokers.

A few weeks after TET, things began to get back to normal. I was settling down in my new duty station in Da Nang - getting stoned and having fun with my new friends. Because of my knowledge of the UCMJ, I had been tasked with the additional responsibility of Company Legal Clerk. (an E-6 Slot, though, I was only a Specialist 4 - I asked them to promote me - they refused!?). When someone received an Article 15 or a rare Court Martial, I was required to research the evidence, advise the defendant of his rights, prepare and process the paperwork, and decide upon the punishment! (After all, the Captain certainly wanted no part of that. He only signed the order!) In almost every case, the soldier was guilty. No, every case! I would approach them in private and suggest that if they wished to contribute to the "Company Chess Fund," I would make sure that a copy of their orders to reduce their rank and "pay" would not be delivered to the Finance section! Generally, I would collect between $40-60 MPC (or dollars). That way, the soldier would remove his patch, but the paycheck which he was sending home to his wife and kids would not be reduced! A win, win situation! I was also a money lender (or usurist). I would lend out $60 for $100 back on payday. I always got paid back. When I had nothing else to do, I would drive over to finance and take some more of that "early pay," which I had repeated on many occasions. Not one penny was ever taken out of my pay check! I actually had a Chase Manhattan Bank account into which I would deposit my profits. I had accumulated almost $6,000 from lending money and gambling before I departed!

I'm guessing that our compound was between 1.5-2 acres. There was a 8 foot wall surrounding the compound. There were 8-10 guard towers erected at strategic points around the perimeter. Just outside the perimeter were the shanty hutches occupied by Vietnamese locals. They did not have running water, nor sewage disposal. Instead, there were areas with grown up foliage separating their living area from the compound where they would relieve themselves. GI's in guard towers were asked to "look the other way." --- this reminds me of an incident which I observed on my first day "in country!" we were riding down a dirt road in the back of a Deuce and a Half (2 1/2 ton truck) when we were approaching two young women carrying heavy packs. The next thing we saw was their squatting down after pulling up their pajama style pant leg, in order to urinate on the ground. I was amazed that they simply didn't give a damn who might be watching! Made me think about the natural necessity of relieving one's self verses the Victorian tainted correctness that we are taught. Hey, if you've gotta pee, you've gotta pee! (No, I don't believe that American girls should just squat down and pee in public at will - their clothing simply doesn't accommodate it!).

Thinking that I was a good chess player and having been defeated by a Jamaican guy back in Florida, (which for some reason really bothered me a lot) I decided to learn how to play chess the right way by purchasing a book, or two. When I arrived in Vietnam, I virtually played every possible chance I got. Unfortunately, most of my opponents were terrible players and I thrashed them easily. Even the officers would invite me up to their private area to play. They also sucked! I had racked up quite a record which I was very proud of, winning almost every game I played and drawing or losing very few. My job had me sitting behind a typewriter right at the entrance to our building. It was one of my responsibilities to greet all new arrivals and help determine to what job they would be assigned based upon their qualifications and experience. In doing so, I would always ask them where they were from and whether or not they played chess?! Most answered with, "What's chest?" or "I've played a few times, but I'm not very good." Occasionally, a new recruit would answer that he's "real good," but after playing a few games with him, it was obvious that he was full of shit. However, on one particular occasion, a new guy named Wilcox told me that he was from Boston. When I asked whether he played chess, he answered with, "How did you know?!" I then asked whether he had ever played in any organized chess tournaments to which he answered "Yes!" Immediately, I advised him that we were taking a break which flabbergasted him that I had the authority to do so. We marched down to the private area I had set up with board and pieces behind a row of highly stacked sandbags. I couldn't wait! Then the carnage began. This guy sacrificed his Queen for checkmate, forked my pieces with his Pawns, sacked Rooks for Knights and Bishops for Pawns in order to force mate, skewered my King and Queen with his Bishops and basically pulled off every amateur combination that a rank beginner could possibly fall for! I was overwhelmed with envy. After about 30 minutes, he had soundly defeated me every single game! I enthusiastically exclaimed, "You are the strongest chess player I have ever played in my life! - You must be a Master!?" After which he laughed and retorted, "Heck, everybody beats me in the tournaments; I'm just a 1300 player!?" In reality, a 1300 player is a low ranking Class "D" player! Class "E" is the lowest. Above Class "D" is "C," "B," "A," Expert and Master; all 200 points apart. On that day, it was revealed to me how absolutely incompetent a chess player I really was. What a blow to my ego. (But, in effect, it inspired me to become a USCF Certified National Master some 16 years later! - a Title which is sought by many, but achieved by few. In fact, in celebration, Marlene presented me with a sour cream & caviar pie with the master rating of 2203 fashioned on the top!! That was in 1984 when we still sorta liked each other...)
 

The additional position afforded me the opportunity to review the facts of previous accidents and incidents which were classified! Needless to say, I was aghast at some of the gruesome incidents. One day, in DaNang, another extraordinary event occurred. Everyone heard a muffled explosion somewhere on the compound. Minutes later, I could hear the rare sound of sirens coming from a small military fire fighting detachment which was located about a mile away. As the trucks entered the gate, I was advised that the explosion came from a communications van which was occupied by 3 soldiers. These guys were allowed special privileges simply because they were enjoying their MOS working on the razors edge of computer technology. Remember, the Army always gets the new toys first!! But, apparently, this crew lacked common sense. The story goes, a few days earlier, one soldier had brought a hand grenade into the van and began tossing it around. However, he had taken the precaution of unscrewing and removing the primer stem from the lethally explosive device, rendering it harmless. The investigators learned that they tossed it about and rolled it on the floor and enjoyed a moment of diversion from their monotony. Cool. Unfortunately, that evening, another soldier entered the van and noticed the grenade. He then observed the primer sitting in an in-box. So, without thinking, he reassembled the grenade to it's proper working order. (I assume that you already have an idea of what's next) The following day, the original 3 tech guys were on duty again and started their afternoon out with a friendly game of toss the grenade! One guy pulled the pin and slid it across the floor to the end of the van. Another got up to retrieve it. Just as he reached down to pick it up, it exploded!! The perforated van had become a river of blood. Miraculously, they all survived, albeit after having sustained extremely critical injuries. The soldier trying to pick up the grenade had his testicles blown off??? The 2nd soldier was blinded from shrapnel (with a pot metal waffle design on the exterior, the interior of a grenade has a creased copper wire wrapped around a powerful explosive charge. When it explodes, it causes the wire to break into tiny pieces which fly through the air at great velocity). The 3rd soldier was peppered with dozens of pieces of shrapnel. Each one of them completely lost his hearing. Again, they were in critical condition, but they lived. As for the "comm van," many thousands of dollars worth of sophisticated computer hardware had been blown up and rendered useless. Worse, the following day, the Company Commander, LTC Wiegand,  ordered every soldier in our unit to take a tour of the remnants of the gruesome scene. Some soldiers cried, others vomited or passed out. It was a horrible sight that I shall never forget.

I was beginning to get "short," meaning, every soldier who was shipped to Vietnam in the Army stayed there for one year - and, I mean 365 day exactly. No exceptions. When you have 2 or 3 months remaining, you're getting "short!" Lots of civilians back home were a bit confused about what occurred in Vietnam. They had the idea that everyone who arrives there ends up in a jungle somewhere shooting an automatic weapon at everything that moves (old army maxim: If it moves, shoot it. If it doesn't move, paint it!) and eating snake meat over an open fire. (which I understand, is very tasty!) But, that was definitely not the case. When you enter the Army, if you joined, you could chose where you wanted to go and what you wanted to do! (I chose a missile outfit just outside of Miami, Fla!) If you were "drafted" for 2 years and had nothing better than a High School Diploma, you will necessarily be categorized with the MOS of 11B or 11C. These are the "prospective casualties" taken from the lower end of the gene pool in order to engage the enemy on the battlefield or in the jungles. Generally, uneducated Black or Hispanic types or those from inner cities who joined in order to avoid going to trial for misdemeanors or felonies. Judges would often allow young criminals to join the military service instead of sending them off to jail! If you were an 11-B, you would most likely be in a unit that did, in fact, run "search and destroy" missions in the jungles. That was very dangerous. Thus, their chances of survival were significantly diminished. The problem was, tiny Vietnamese men could live in a tunnel or the top of a tree for a week with a bottle of water, a bag of cooked rice and an opium pipe always ready to pick you off as you walked by - or dig pits with strategically placed sharp bamboo stakes tipped with human feces (pungi stakes) which could actually penetrate the souls of your combat boots and cause excruciating life threatening injuries. We weren't quite as good at those tactics. So, we would drop napalm, (a mixture of diesel fuel and liquid soap which acted as a powerful incendiary device) or defoliants like Agent Orange (which ended up giving thousands of our own soldiers cancer). The problem was, not only did it harm the enemy and poison the jungle, it poisoned us, too. The other half or more of the soldiers were stationed in what was referred to as "secured areas" which were generally military compounds and airbases that we constructed after we arrived. I was stationed in 2 different "secured areas." But, that didn't mean that I was not in harm's way. One could often hear bullets or shrapnel hitting the roof of the building where we were working. --

As is the case in most wars where the so called "liberators" occupy the cities, dozens if not hundreds of local Vietnamese civilians were hired to perform a list of low level jobs that we didn't want to do; or couldn't do. They all applied for, and received special clearance passes to allow them to enter our compound every day and do menial jobs like kitchen help, laundry, cleaning and maintenance, seamstresses, tailors, barber shops and other necessary basic functions. In turn, they would be paid in American style money (they were supposed to be paid in "piasters," but they preferred MPC's - military pay certificates) which would naturally bolster their fragile economy. You must remember, we don't fight wars for humanitarian reasons; everything boils down to money and profit. Oh, I forgot to mention the many restaurants, pharmacies (which generally distributed every drug known without a prescription), whore houses, opium dens and other marijuana dispensaries. So, as the war was prosecuted, the country got richer. The paradox was that, as usual, many Vietnamese "businessmen" didn't want the war to end... they were making too much money! One day, I walked in to get a haircut and asked where the barber, Mr. Lee was? Mr. Lee was well educated and spoke excellent broken English. A soldier who was sitting there said, "Didn't you hear? Mr. Lee is a Colonel in the V.C. and was arrested last night lobbing mortars onto the runway!" What? "You mean that same guy who had often held a razor next to my neck was the enemy!?"

(19) A buddy of mine was lucky enough to receive record albums from the states. One evening, while listening to a brand new Rock & Roll artist by the name of Jimi Hendrix, the sirens sounded indicating a Yellow Alert (which signified a possible attack). So, we put aside what we were doing and all promptly reported to the Arms Room in order to check out a weapon. Actually, there were an assortment of possible weapons from which to choose to include the standard M-14, the lighter .30 Caliber, the .45 automatic pistol and a few M-79 Grenade launchers! Generally saved for use in the jungles, the M-79 was a compact hand held weapon with a small wooden stock that fired a single grenade from a shell the size of a tube of Braunschweiger. The rumor was, that it was necessary for the shell to be fired and sent aloft for at least 50 yards before it could arm itself and explode. (that way, if the projectile hit something near your position, it wouldn't explode and kill you!) But, no one was really sure about that, unless he had been in the "field" (or jungle) where you could actually see it in action; and none of us had. So, I grabbed an M-79, jotted the serial number and my signature on the ledger and grabbed 3 rounds. I loaded one shell and closed the breech. After hearing a few explosions a mile or so away, a "red alert" was sounded and our squad retreated into a sandbag bunker; one of many which were located around the compound. The Army had learned from experience that woven plastic bags filled with sand were the perfect material to build a cheap and sturdy structure as protection from enemy fire and explosions. Generally 4 or 5 bags wide, the exterior dimension measured to be about 20 ft X 20 ft with an interior of  about 10 ft X 10 ft. You could barely stand up in it. If necessary, you could squeeze in 10 or 12 rifle bearing soldiers. - So, there we were, cowering in a damp, artificially lighted (large flashlights) bunker with little to do but wait. (one must bear in mind that we didn't have cell phones nor any other hand held electronic devices back then). As the minutes passed, some soldiers were quietly conversing, others were praying and still others were fidgeting around with their weapons. On that particular evening, we didn't have time for a safety officer to check that your weapon was unloaded before entering the bunker. After all, this was a war, and we needed bullets. About a half hour later, the alert was called off and we exited the bunker with no incident. Everyone promptly reported back to the Arms Room in order to return his weapon -- The following evening, the same exact episode occurred. But, this time, it was a "Red" alert. Siren, arms room, squeeze into the bunker and wait. As I was sitting there pondering my fate, I noticed a new arrival sitting directly across from me. I didn't know his name. He was sort of a short and skinny guy. I then noticed that he was goofing around with an M-79 grenade launcher. This time, I had checked out a .30 cal carbine. As I watched, the guy was pulling back the hammer of the M-79 and pressing the trigger while keeping his thumb on the hammer, so as not to allow it to strike the shell with force. Apparently, he had not previously checked the weapon to see if it contained a round??! He was sitting directly in front of me and the M-79 was pointed directly at my chest!? Just then, a cold chill came over me. I had checked out an M-79 the night before - and, in my haste, I may have forgotten to remove the round which I had placed in the weapon?! He continued clicking the hammer back and allowing it to slide forward while controlling it with his thumb. Click, click, click! Instantly, I looked at him and said, "Hey man, I think there's a round in that chamber!!? Still aiming at me, he carefully slid the hammer forward for the final time and depressed the lever which ejected a live round??! Instant chaos?! All dozen or so alarmed men were fighting to crawl out of the 3 foot wide exit at the same time in order to get the hell out before the shell exploded! or so they thought. Men were screaming, kicking and fighting each other to get out. It was virtually impossible for anyone to hear me yell that the shell wouldn't explode. It had been ejected from the weapon, not fired. Outside of the bunker, the members of the squad regrouped and realized that no explosion had taken place, and cursed under their breath. After all, if that new recruit's thumb had slipped, most of us would have either been killed instantly or maimed for life.

(20) Unless you were in the field (or jungle) or a Red or Yellow alert was announced, you generally did NOT carry a loaded weapon around with you. There was basically no need to. They were heavy and cumbersome and much sought after by local thieves. Even on our own compound, only soldiers performing guard duty possessed a loaded weapon. Of course, there were exceptions to that rule, such as in my case, where I was a traveling courier. Therefore, after duty hours, when guys would return to the barracks drunk, stoned and disorderly, there were fewer incidents involving firearms. However, on this particular evening in late June, after performing guard duty, a very drunk homophobe returned to the barracks without having first returned his weapon to the "arms room." It was about 21:00 hours when I overheard a major commotion where this  off duty guard was chiding a suspected gay soldier and making threatening gestures with his cocked and loaded M-14 rifle. He was yelling, "I aught to shoot your ass you fucking fagot." He would then point the rifle directly at the poor guys head?! For logical or illogical reasons, I approached the guy with a couple of other sober soldiers, in order to quell the situation and possibly separate the drunk guy from his weapon. In the shuffle, the deranged guy whirled the rifle around and pointed it directly at me?! The slightest pressure on the trigger would cause that rifle to fire a 7.62mm round directly into my heart. There would only be one result. So, I promptly raised up my hands and said, "Hey man, nobody here wants to get shot. Particularly me... just calm down and lets go smoke a joint!" It appeared to work. For a brief moment, that seemed to divert his attention. He lowered his rifle. About that time, the Officer of the Day along with 2 armed MP's  appeared and promptly liberated him of his weapon and took him off to the "guard house" for processing. The guy was drunk and psychotic and needed to be incarcerated. The gay soldier had literally pissed his fatigues but promptly thanked us for saving his life. Again, I barely survived becoming a corpse. Or, more succinctly, a casualty of "friendly fire." That kind of shit happened in Vietnam every day in dozens of other outfits. War seems to cause men to do bad things that they would normally never do.

(21) I'm not proud of what I'm getting ready to tell you, but one afternoon, I found myself at a small heliport in the center of town where "choppers" commuted. I had dropped off a buddy who was headed to Saigon and then home! As we walked in, I noticed a guitar leaning against an abandoned kiosk. I walked with my friend to the chopper and helped him carry his bags. About 10 minutes later, as I was departing, I realized that the guitar was still there. There was no one around it. Some talented artist had painted a beautiful mural on the top of the body and it looked real cool. But, it had no strings. Again, I looked around but could not see anyone paying any attention to it. So, piece of shit thief that I momentarily was, I walked by the instrument in question and picked it up. I had already plotted my route of escape out of the restricted area back door to the sandy lot in the back where I had parked the jeep. Just as I got to the exit, I heard someone yelling something about a guitar! I picked up my pace and ran to the jeep with booty in hand. As I hopped in and cranked the engine, I could see an irate Marine aiming a weird looking weapon directly at me from about 20 yards. It looked like one of those new M-16's! - surely I was an easy target to hit. I instantly dropped the guitar in the soft sand, put the jeep in gear and ducked as I hightailed it out of there. Thank God the marine didn't fire. -- Upon reflection, I was embarrassed by my behavior and, in fact, I have never related the details of that foolish act to anyone else in my life. The simple lesson learned was: don't try to steal shit from people in war zones who have automatic weapons! Or, better yet, don't try to steal shit from anybody. You might regret it.

(22) I have not mentioned the monsoons which are inherent in most of the countries in southeast Asia during the rainy season. You could be standing outside, when all of a sudden, raindrops the size of golf balls begin to pelt and soak you in seconds. Regardless of how fast you run, you will still be inundated. Everyone there experienced this weather phenomenon and pretty much got used to it. You learned to smell the air for ozone which gave you a few seconds to run for cover. -- I had met a Vietnamese Sergeant Major with whom I would test my primitive Vietnamese. One day, I asked him to get me some "ganja which contained opium." I had apparently used the wrong slang word and the next day, he provided me with marijuana which was permeated with heroin! I had already given up drinking alcohol almost completely deferring to marijuana and thinking of how stupid people were for drinking instead of smoking pot! But, this concoction was overwhelming! Only one toke was enough to feel the shit travel from your lungs, all the way down to your toes, and back!! It was like a body orgasm! It was the most exhilarating feeling I had ever felt in my life! Even more than the opium; even more than having sex. I realized at that moment how people could so easily become addicted to hard drugs... because, it felt so fucking good!! I shared it with my buddies who were equally astounded by its potency. (it was surely easy to make friends that way). However, I had to be careful not to get too stoned in the morning so as to be able to type the daily reports and other correspondence without making too may mistakes and being detected. But, I can assure you that only one toke (puff) would keep me stoned for hours! One day, I had the "pleasure" of pulling guard duty. It allowed one to isolate himself from his superiors. - Unless your pot was pre-rolled as was the killer shit I was purchasing from the Vietnamese Sergeant Major, you generally smoked out of a traditional pipe which you could buy at the PX. They also sold pipe cleaners and freshener which was a chemical substance that smelled like peppermint that you squirted into the pipe when you cleaned it. I was in a tower pulling guard duty. Apparently, I had squirted in a bit too much. Because, after using pipe cleaners for the stem and cleaning out the bowl, I packed it firmly with high potency marijuana and lit it up! Upon taking the first big toke, I began belching and coughing like I had never done before. I momentarily hit the deck of the guard tower and almost passed out?? Seconds later, I attempted to breathe but couldn't. I was overdosing on the shit. I forced myself to breath in order to stay alive. The peppermint additive was simply overwhelming. I coughed and gagged for a minute or 2 until I finally came to my senses. That would be an experiment I would surely never repeat. A more frail individual would have died. Thank God I didn't. Oh, the stupid shit that people will do to try to get high?!


(23)
For the final couple of months, I decided to lay low and avoid trouble. Because, if you still had some legal action pending, they would keep you there until it was resolved? I was very "short" and I wanted to go home. So, I collected all of my outstanding debts and prepared for my departure. On my 365th day, with baggage in hand, I was put on a C-130 and sent to Tan San Hout air force base where I was seated on a revised Boeing 707 bound for Ft. Lewis, Washington! The next day, I was elated to learn that instead of being assigned to a new duty station for less than 2 months before my ETS (estimated time of separation) they decided to "Honorably" discharge me early! A couple of days later, I arrived in Charlotte, N.C.! But, hardly none the worse for wear. In fact, I was a mess! I was gaunt and exhausted. As the days passed, though I was able to find some marijuana, I couldn't seem to get high? I would smoke tons of the stuff, and nothing, while everybody else seemed to be getting pleasantly stoned. What the hell was wrong with me? Then, I remembered. I had been smoking marijuana laced with heroin for the past 4 months, and the shit I was getting here did not contain heroin?! At that moment, I had an epiphany! I was either going to drive to the worst parts of town seeking to purchase hard drugs at a street corner or simply give the habit up. I chose the latter. Otherwise, I never would have survived to have a somewhat normal life with a wife, 3 sons and 6 grandchildren. The fact is, if I had continued to be a drug addict, I would certainly be dead today. And, "No," I do not equate smoking pot to being a drug addict. I'm just a generally lazy, useless piece of shit, pot head. And, there is a difference; we occasionally bathe.


Post Vietnam:

My parents had posted a large "Welcome Home From Vietnam" banner in our front yard. A few days after I had returned, a cute little 16 year old blonde girl pulled into my driveway in a new pink Mustang convertible! I had never seen her in my entire life. She got out of the car, walked up to me and said, "I just wanted to stop by and welcome you home!" to which I responded, "that's so kind of you. Please step into the house with me." She told me that her name was Donna and that I knew her brother, Dicky, who was a "Hardy Rat" like me from our high school days! Without hesitation, we retreated to my bedroom, disrobed and instantly had wonderful sex!! Though my mother seemed a bit miffed, considering the circumstances, she tolerated my salacious activity. I saw Donna a few more times. In fact, I remember hiding a big dufflebag full of pot I had sent back from Nam in her attic; always trying to stay one step ahead of the local Vice Squad.

Soon after, I decided to take advantage of the GI Bill and re-enroll into Central Piedmont Community College. I received a check for $60 per month from the government?! It was late 1968 and inflation was just beginning to take hold of our economy. The moment that I was discharged, I decided not to cut my hair anymore. I immediately dedicated myself to become a hippie as well as a war protester! I still had most of the money I saved from Vietnam. But, instead of purchasing a brand new Jaguar XKE as I had planned to do, I bought a used red Volkswagon convertible! One day, while returning from a class at Central Piedmont CC, I was accosted by a group of 3 guys who began chiding me for being a slightly long-haired hippie. They cornered me next to my car in a parking lot as if they were going to beat my ass. First of all, I don't take shit from anybody. So, at least one of them would have been badly injured. As they approached, I noticed that one guy had on an Army uniform which would have been standard attire in Germany. I yelled, "You're the chicken shit bastard, not me. You were in Germany; I just got back from Vietnam!!" The guy immediately froze in his tracks and held back his buddies. He then asked me questions about the Army and where I was stationed, etc. After I convinced him, he immediately apologized and retreated to his car. Back then, that kind of shit happened all of the time. I may not have been killed in that fist fight, but I can promise you that it would have quickly gotten out of hand. Thank goodness it was averted.

(24) The apartment I leased on East Blvd was owned by 80 year old J.D. Crowder. J.D. was a huge man with giant hands - and, very wise! He knew that I had just returned from Vietnam and overlooked the odor of marijuana every time he entered the building. The rent was $60 per month! But, the building was old with a potbelly fuel oil stove for a heater, paint peeling off the walls and antique electrical wiring. The fuse box had pennies in it! I cleaned up the place, painted the bedroom hippie purple and moved in. There was an old giant lions foot bath tub in the dank bathroom. From the ceiling hung a long frayed electrical cord with a light bulb attached. I noticed that there was a socket on the light where you could plug in another electrical appliance. So, I found an old lamp, plugged in an extension cord and, without much thought, stood it on a small table mounted right next to the tub?! I proceeded to fill up the antiquated tub to the brim. I was amazed at the amount of water it could contain. They didn't make them like that anymore! While I was bathing and relaxing, all of a sudden, I heard a firm knock at the door. I had forgotten that J.D. was coming by to collect the rent. It startled me enough to quickly rise up to jump out. But, in doing so, it upset the balance of the electric lamp and knocked it over?! I watched in slow motion as the lamp bounced about on the ledge of the bath tub - and then fell onto the wet floor breaking the bulb! Of course, if the lamp had fallen into the tub, I would have been electrocuted?? I grabbed a towel, tossed it onto a dry spot on the floor and exited the tub. Apparently, my guardian angels were again watching over me.

Living below me
on East Blvd. was popular drummer, Rob Thorne of the "Spongetones!" (we occasionally traded girlfriends!) In fact, a beautiful 17 year old blonde knocked on my door and said, "Rob sent me up!!" I invited her in to smoke pot. Minutes later, I showed her my purple bedroom where we instantly disrobed and had sex! Her name was Anne. A few weeks later, I relocated to Boulder, Co and brought her with me - with her parents consent, of course! Apparently, they wanted to get her the hell out of their collective hair! Actually, allowing her to accompany me became an unwelcome burden; first, it made it difficult for me to process other relationships with the hundreds of young girls who had relocated to "Hippietown USA" and second, she was very prone to UTI's which often prevented me from having sex with her? It was probably due to my having oral sex. Back then, no one had a clue about Human Pappeloma Virus (nor most any other venereal disease) - One evening while riding around Denver looking for a place to live, we met the most beautiful young lady of color whom I had ever encountered. Gorgeous face, teeth, hair, skin, body, extraordinarily perfect breasts, contortionist and talented singer: Her name was Sherry Harrington - I believe she later became an actress and performer! (
Actually, though I fondled her wonderful breasts, we never actually had sex?!) Ultimately, I sent Anne packing. But, when I finally returned to N.C. a month or so later, Anne promptly accompanied me to Richmond, Va. for a year or so where I sold real estate and played pool at the Triple Triangle! But, that's another story.

While still a resident of Charlotte, I got busted for pot. After receiving probation, I got busted again. Somehow, my attorneys were able to keep me out of jail. But, I was too hard headed to quit smoking pot or using other drugs. I had purchased some mescaline and hidden it out in the back yard so as to keep it out of my apartment. But, an old neighbor's terrier dug it up and presented the plastic vial to him. The next day, out of my window, I watched the cops come out of his front door with the vial in hand? I wasn't about to stay around while they tried to find out where it came from. So, I called a girlfriend who had stayed there with me for a few months before relocating to Atlanta named Pat. I called her Darla! She told me that I could come to Atlanta and stay in her apartment while things cooled down, but that she already had 2 cats and I couldn't bring my black cat Darx?! I was devastated. It was cold outside and I needed to put my shit in the car and get the hell out of there. I assumed that someone in the complex would see Darx outside freezing and take care of him. But, in retrospect, that was a terrible inhumane thing to do. And, when I returned a month or so later, J.D. Crowder let me have it with both barrels. He strongly vituperated me for what I had done and advised me to grow up and change my ways. And, he was absolutely right. By this time, one of the neighbors had taken Darx in, and wouldn't give him back. And, rightfully so. For a while, I really hated myself.

 
(25) When I returned from Vietnam, because I had sent a bunch of pot back in my "hold baggage," I quickly made friends! I befriended a young Spanish dude, maybe 23 years old, by the name of Orlando Interian. He was a professional hairdresser, wore cool "bell bottom pants," had many girlfriends and had a reputation for using hard drugs. Some of his friends were Black. One day, he asked me to drive him "across town" so he could hook up with his dealer!? I was hesitant but ultimately capitulated. When we walked in, I realized that we were the only Brown and White person in the room while everyone else was lounging around firing smack and nodding out. The dealer was probably 16 or 17 years old with pink marbles for eyes!? He was so absolutely stoned that he could barely keep his head up. But, he began negotiating with Olie. He promptly offered both of us a hit of smack! Though I had smoked heroin, I had never fired it. Nor, did I have any desire to use a contaminated needle. I passed on the hit?? Just then, he began inquiring as to why I was even there? He got real paranoid and looked at me with those crazy eyes as if I had come there to bust him. Next, he picked up the nickle plated .32 cal pistol that was sitting on the table. I interrupted and blurted out that I had just returned from Vietnam and was trying to kick the habit. It only angered the guy more. Olie jumped in between us and said, "put the gun away, man. He's my ride. We've been friends for a long time. He's cool!!" The Black guy (we didn't use the word "dude" back then) came to his senses and laid down the gun. I pulled out a joint from my top pocket, lit it up and offered him a hit. He took a toke and handed it back; I smoked directly after him without wiping it off. Ten minutes later, though I was still scared shitless, we were safely out of there. Extremely harrowing event to say the least. A few weeks later, my friend Olie died of an overdose...

After I graduated from CPCC in 1970, I decided to that I would become a graduate student (It's a junior college!) and re-enrolled in order to take the Real Estate Brokers course. Back then, as is in the case today, you were required to work for a RE company for at least a year and then, depending upon the endorsement of your sponsor, you would be allowed to take the Broker's examination. However, if you passed the course at CPCC, you could directly take the national exam. There was a new text book which had just been published called "Questions & Answers for Real Estate" which I had just purchased. In the mean time, at a party, I ran into an old schoolmate named Helen (who always said that I was her first boyfriend in Jr. High) who had now become the divorced young mother of Karen. Helen had a cute face and a very sexy body. I explained to her my dilemma and she volunteered to ride with me to Raleigh the evening before the test, in order to coach me so as to make sure that I passed the exam. In the privacy of our motel room, her curious style of teaching had me lying on my back naked on the bed. Then, while peering through her reading glasses, she studiously sat on top of me naked, holding the book and undulated while asking me real estate questions! If I didn't know the answer, she would read it out of the back of the book. I strongly endorse this stimulating style of instruction which guarantees immediate gratification! I enthusiastically absorbed the information and had wonderful sex, simultaneously! I passed the test with flying colors (2nd highest score in the class!) and became one of the few felons (possession of marijuana; it's been expunged since then) ever to be granted a Broker's License in the state of North Carolina! BTW At a previous hearing of the Real Estate Licensing Board made up of elite "good old boy" millionaires from around the state, members had an opportunity to ask me questions. The first question was, "What does that marijuana do to you?! LOL (Ps. Special thanks to CPCC instructor Hank Oder for sponsoring me to obtain my license)

Years later, my dad had also become a Broker. Though he never went into the business, he would annually call to notify me that he had registered both of us in the required refresher courses. It gave us a chance to schmooze while he generally "snoozed" during class. The instructor gave us a problem and challenged all 250 students with a closing statement test. He provided the pertinent figures on a chalk board. In the 70's, since we didn't have computers, hand held calculators were the devise of the day. Pretty much everyone in the class had a calculator, except for me. However, I did have a sharp pencil and a piece of paper. The teacher made note of the time and challenged us to see who would come up with the correct answer first. I had already participated in a number of successful closings, the math of which, I had always done by hand. While the other students were clicking away on their new Texas Instrument calculators, I marched to the front of the room and placed the first answer into the box. As time went by, other students would present their statements. Finally, after the time had expired, the instructor spent a few minutes to verify the answers. He graciously acknowledged me for having finished first, and having the correct answer to the penny! My dad was elated! Sorta' boosted my ego, too...
 
The months went by. I made new friends, found new girlfriends and began to settle back into civilian life. One young lady comes to mind who brought me great pleasure. Her name was Karen. I really don't remember where I met her, but she found out that I had some good pot and invited me over to her apartment. She was approximately 5' 2," had a nice body and was very pretty in the face. Other than smoking the pot, she only had one other thing on her mind. I made it a habit of calling on her every 2 or 3 days and curiously she would always fit me into her schedule. Because, apparently, I was not her only boyfriend. She prided herself in attracting a proverbial stable of healthy young men to help address her insatiable sexual appetite. On a few occasions, other guys had just left as I arrived. Then, when I would leave, here came a Black friend of mine named Art Lynch slapping my hand as he strolled up the sidewalk! It was rather amusing, but I fully understood that I was just one of her many intimate friends. How extraordinary! I always envied her extremely liberal attitude toward sex and never questioned it. What a free spirited girl! (BTW there was no such thing as venereal disease back then)

(26) There was a new disco night club called the Pterodactyl. I remember it's being located at the intersection of Morehead St. and Freedom Dr. One evening, as I pulled into the crowded rear parking lot, I noticed a tall brunette standing next to the passenger door of my car!? So, I reached over and opened the door and said, "Hop in!" Of course, I had never seen this girl in my life. (I don't remember her name) So, she grabbed a beer from my depleted six pack, popped it open and proceeded to became very friendly with me with her hands and her mouth! I was driving my brother's big, blue Galaxie Ford which was naturally equipped with a big, blue back seat! Moments later, that's where we found ourselves. This girl immediately wanted to have sex - I feel certain that she really didn't care who her partner was. (She muttered something about her husband not being able to satisfy her...) The entire encounter lasted all of 7 or 8 minutes. I was already high and half drunk. She regrouped, hopped out of the car and walked quickly back around to the front entrance.  A few minutes later, I entered the club and walked to the bar to get a beer. Generally, you go into the bar to find the girl that you want to take to the parking lot. So, paradoxically, my mission had already been accomplished! I intermingled with the crowd for a few minutes with a big smile on my face until I encountered this guy who asked me what was so funny?! I said, "Man, I just fucked some guy's wife out in the parking lot!" He said, "You're kidding. Is she in here?" At first, I started looking around. Then, suddenly, I came to my senses. I wondered to myself, could this guy actually be her husband?? Just then, the girl, not looking in our direction, walked across the floor a few feet in front of us as he asked, "Is that her?!" Realizing that our state prisons are occupied by some of the most timid men toting pistols who caught their wives having sex with another man, I quickly spoke up and said, "No, that's not her; she was blonde and shorter..." which turned out to be a timely diversion that may have actually saved my life. Five minutes later, I had left the premises. Lesson learned: Don't kiss and tell; you might get shot.

I had also kicked the heroin habit which surely altered my personality for the better. But, I still smoked pot, of course. Unfortunately, that lead to my being busted by the local vice squad on a few occasions. My dad always came to the rescue with bail money and attorneys fees. In each case, I had been betrayed by my own so called friends, who yielded to the police and implicated me. So, I ultimately ended up taking the rap for the crime of simple possession of marijuana. But, that was a big deal back then. And, many conservative judges tended to make an example out of political criminals such as I! Thank goodness, my attorneys knew which liberal judges to use! So, all I ever received was probation!! --One day, while in between trials, I insanely decided to visit the police station and speak with the officer who arrested me?! I had a strong determination to explain the virtues of marijuana to the guy while picking his brain for information. I wanted to try to get some of my personal property back (a valuable engraved lighter) and also find out who it was who got me busted. When I arrived at the police station, there was a somewhat dissipated young lady sitting at a desk. I later found out that her name was Judy. I asked her where Det. Jack Sloop was? She seemed a bit surprised and said that he was "out on a bust and wouldn't be back for a while." For some crazy reason, I had rolled a joint just before I left home and forgotten that it was in my back pocket. There were only a few cops in the room - none of them paying much attention to me. I waited another few minutes, got up, and safely left the station without incident. --

(27) Among my new friends was a guy named Eddie who was a few years older than I. He had been introduced by a friend named Carter. They each enjoyed smoking my Vietnamese weed! All I knew about Eddie was that he was a petty criminal and had once purchased a car, never made a payment on it and successfully driven it for 3 or 4 years without ever being caught. Otherwise, I had no knowledge of anything illegal that he had ever done. Nor, did I care. But, after finding out from his girlfriend that I was at the police station, he conjured up the idea that, since I had been busted and not gone to jail, I must be a "narc!"- One morning, I received a phone call from Eddie who asked me if I liked shrimp and invited me to a party at his apartment with a few other friends. He knew that I played the guitar and asked me to bring it. Of course, I accepted the invitation and asked for directions. The next day, I arrived at the designated time with guitar case in hand. Eddie greeted me at the door with a large bowl of boiled shrimp in his hands! When I walked into the apartment, I observed that there was a 10' X 10' protective plastic cover over the carpet in the living room. Other than that, there was one couch and a coffee table with a .38 caliber pistol laying on it? The first question I asked was, "what's the plastic cover for?" to which Eddie responded, "Oh, I just had the carpet cleaned for the party but it wasn't completely dry yet." Sorta made sense... Then, I asked, "whose heater?" referring to the pistol. He responded, "I borrowed it from a friend who is coming to pick it up." Which, also, sorta made sense. So, deciding to entertain a couple of girls who had arrived early, I pulled my guitar out of the case and began warming up. Soon after, the room was empty? Moments later, the front door opened and a scary looking older guy whom I did not recognize raised up a pistol and aimed it directly at me?? Assuming that he was looking for someone else, I stopped playing and turned around to look down the hallway for the person he might be targeting. I never thought for a moment to pick up the gun on the coffee table - which was apparently what they wanted me to do. Then, I reflected on the plastic covering on the floor and got a little scared. I yelled, "What the hell is going on?!" Thank goodness that unknown gunman realized that I had no clue why he was there aiming a gun at me. Then, in walked Eddie with his entourage of friends. He promptly pulled open my shirt to see if I was wearing a "wire," which, of course, was ridiculous. Again, I asked what the hell was going on? He promptly summoned Judy to step out of the back room. When she appeared, he asked me if I recognized her? I was somewhat shocked to see the same girl who was the clerk in the police station! Apparently, Eddie had deduced that I was an informer and decided to take matters into his own hands. I admitted that I had seen her at the police station. Eddie began grilling me as to why I had gone there. I began explaining what I had stated before, and that my dad had spent a lot of money bailing me out of jail and paying for attorneys. And, that I was trying to find out 'who got me busted.' I then reminded him that I did not ever get to speak to the cop and left. If I were an undercover agent, wouldn't I simply privately speak to him on the phone instead, as to not blow my cover? I admitted that I was very apprehensive about my situation and had become slightly off my rocker. But, that my visit to the police station had absolutely nothing to do with him. After all, if I were actually a narc, why hadn't he already been arrested? I blatantly told him that he was paranoid and dreaming shit up. He backed off a bit and realized that I meant him no harm. The guy with the gun had vanished. In silence, I put my guitar in the case and promptly walked out the front door to the parking lot, got in my car and left. I was very lucky to be alive. In reality, Eddie was the one who was slightly crazy. The pistol on the table was meant to be used as an excuse for self defense. The plastic material on the floor was meant to roll up my bloody, bullet riddled body so as to leave no evidence. Needless to say, I was very freaked out! But, curiously enough, Eddie apologized a few weeks later and we sorta became friends again, after a fashion. Yet, that remains, in fact, one of the most harrowing incidents of my entire life.

A few months later, I reunited with a hippie type redheaded sign painter named Linde, whom I had met at CPCC. (As V.P. of the Student Government and Chairman of the Activities Committee, I made all of the arrangements to bring the "Iron Butterfly" to Park Center back in 1970!) I instantly became enamored of her. Early on, I realized that she was extremely attracted to me, as well, and wanted to cohabitate. Linde was a gentle girl who had a ravishing body and had grown a sizable pair of ripe peaches! She fashioned an assortment of hippie outfits that were all pastel colors which redheads naturally wore! (In fact, to this day, when I see a coffee cup with those colors for sale in a retail store, I mutter to myself, "there's Linde's cup!") I sorta needed to leave Charlotte and settle down some place else, so we formulated a plan, gathered up her cats and decided to move to Atlanta. We first arrived in Riverdale for a number of months then we relocated to a nice little house in Decatur. I was still a wild and crazy guy. Worse, I was addicted to chess. When not working, I played morning, noon and night. Friends would drop by almost every day after work to smoke pot, drink beer and play chess. I didn't realize how important Linde was to me. I just took her for granted. She smoked pot, as well, and was generally considerate of my chess addiction. She knew that I had the desire to become a Master, but my progress was slow, and seemed to be more of a social exercise than the pursuit of the mastery of a science. To my dismay, I was often verbally cruel to her, occasionally questioning her level of intelligence and curious style of doing things; or accusing her of being responsible for shit that was probably my fault. I was still a self absorbed egomaniac at that time and could hardly come to grips with my own distorted mentality. - On the other hand, our sign painting business was flourishing. I sold the deals, sealed all of the wood, prepared the surfaces, trucked everything to the site and erected the signs. She was an artistic sign painter who worked til the job was done! I had built a large easel in one of the rooms where, surrounded by her cats, listening to the radio and smoking a joint, she would work with a smile on her face! - Back then, there was only one loop around Atlanta. I remember one day, while we were up on an embankment where we were constructing a sign on the interstate, Linde got bored, took a couple of tokes of pot and then decided to remove her blouse and bra in order to brandish her tits to the truck drivers as they whizzed by below! Their big-rig horns were in perfect harmony as the "good buddies" happily got on their CB radios to advise the drivers behind them to get a glimpse! They each honked as they drove by! That was great fun!! We laughed hysterically. And, why not? Momentarily staring at a great pair of tits will brighten up anyone's day!

(28) The loop around Atlanta had become extremely congested. Yet, everyone seemed to be driving 80 miles per hour bumper to bumper. One day, we were driving home in "Coupie," (one of those tiny new orange Honda coupes which had just been introduced to the U.S. with only 79 horsepower). It pretty much topped out at 70 mph. As we were bouncing along, and passing a joint, I noticed a vehicle coming up on us from behind at a high rate of speed, so I tapped my brakes. The car was a large, older Buick with a young Black guy driving with his girlfriend in the front seat. All of a sudden, he tapped the back of "Coupie?" Startled, I realized that, with a tractor trailer in front of me, we were traveling way too fast and there was absolutely no way to stop?! Then, he rode up on the rear bumper again! Each time, it caused the steering to get a bit out of control. I yelled at Linde to put on her seat belt which she did. By this time, she was scared and screaming! I signaled with my hand for the guy to back off, but instead, he bumped us again! There was a trailer truck in front of us and absolutely no room, nor power, to get around him. (It was like that scary Dennis Weaver movie!) So, I steered the car to the right trying to ride on the emergency lane. But, the relentless bastard stayed directly on our bumper and began pushing us faster!? If I had a gun, I would have shot him. Next, I yelled to Linde to hold on and made a daring maneuver to the right in order to disengage our car from his. It worked! But, the next thing we knew, he had slammed on his brakes and pulled over to the emergency lane ahead of us and stopped. I was very pissed off. I jumped out of the car and motioned for him to come back and engage me. But, he realized how angry I was so he only waited there for a few minutes. Finally, he drove off, and we did too. A very harrowing experience, to say the least. Crashing in that little car at 80 miles per hour would have been fatal. - There are 5 counties within the city of Atlanta!? As you traveled on the loop, you passed from one, to another. Tracking this guy down would have been an impossible task. We just considered ourselves to be lucky to be alive.

There were probably dozens of other scary incidents to include excessive speeding, car wrecks, hitting a deer on I-85 and wrecking, being smashed into from behind in my Alfa Romeo by a semi, vicious fist fights, near overdoses, an attempt by one of my own sons to fuck me up, eating habenero peppers at a Mexican restaurant and almost having a coronary ("Por favor, agua andale, mi corazon es no bueno!") and a multitude of other dangerous situations in which I was involved, but most of them were not life threatening. They were just part and parcel of the shit I've had to endure in order to survive this long. --

Marriage:

Like any good sister, Lenore would occasionally introduce me to one or another of her girlfriends. (A few of their names come to mind, but I have chosen not to embarrass them; that would be kiss and tell-- who me?, kiss and tell!!) In 1976, she invited me to visit her at a rehearsal for an upcoming play at CPCC. Upon arrival, she politely introduced me to her seamstress and assistant Marlene Wallace (Kidd). She had the face of an angel. Originally from Shelby, N.C. she was the sexually abused (by her brother, according to one of my sons. But, she never told me) daughter of honest to goodness country folks named Ida & Earl Wallace. She had 7 brothers and sisters. A devout Baptist, she became extremely well versed in both the New and the Old Testaments and won all of the awards available in her church. But, apparently, she became somewhat disillusioned by the hanky panky which she endured as a young congregant and began to rebel. No, she didn't revert to alcohol and drugs, she reverted to Judaism! This was a girl with a plan. - Days later, after she had returned from a weekend vacation at the beach, I invited her to dinner at my home - she dined with me, listened to me play the guitar and sing, spent the night and never returned to her husband!! (Let me 'splain something to ya'; the woman chooses the man! Actually, it's the guys who parade in front of their potential mate hoping to be chosen by displaying their haircuts, muscles, good looks, lucrative professions and valuable possessions. A male bird builds an extravagant nest to attract the female. As is natural in the animal world, the female then chooses her mate from among them). Though she was married to the assistant preacher of her church, she was put off by some weird sexual deviance which she apparently opposed. So, she chose me as an alternative! After all, I was dashing, strong, intelligent, friendly, articulate, relatively educated and Jewish! Little by little, she would stop by her apartment and gather her belongings to bring to my house. But, though she tolerated it at the onset, (even helped roll joints!) she didn't like my smoking pot every day. However, I made up for it by being Jewish! Listen, less than 2 weeks after she moved in, she was trying on maternity clothes! (I swear to God!!) Her plan was simple. Find a guy with the right DNA, get pregnant 3 times, convert to Judaism, finish college and grad school, become a successful opera singer and stage performer and ultimately abandon her husband and children in order to relocate to Israel and become a Cantor - which is precisely what she did. Without any communication of her intentions, one morning I woke up and was notified that she was gone. For a brief moment in time, I actually loved that girl. After all, she bestowed me with the honor of becoming a father of 3 sons and grandfather of 6! (When people ask me if I have ever been married, I always answer with, "Yes, I had 3 1/2 wonderful years of marriage; but I was married for 23 1/2 years!?") - Was I faithful to her? Yes, at first, I was completely faithful. I realized that she had intentionally gotten pregnant. As I stated before, this was a girl with a plan. And, I was almost 30 years old. I had been partying for 9 consecutive years after the day that I returned from Vietnam! I had moved to different cities and maintained numerous relationships. But, none of those girls ever got pregnant. Apparently, they didn't want to, and Marlene did! So, this was my chance to take on a bit of responsibility and become a father. At first, I was somewhat apprehensive. Then, I slowly began to endorse the idea, considering my age and the chronology. I figured, if I didn't proceed with this now, it would probably never happen in my life. Furthermore, I wanted to have children. I just wasn't certain that Marlene should be their mother. In retrospect, I had just lost the love and companionship of Linde who had abruptly moved from our home in Atlanta to California. After a couple of months of being there, she invited me to come and join her. Then, on Christmas eve, she called me back and told me that she had changed her mind. I was overwhelmed with grief. But, she wouldn't reconsider. Every 5 years or so, she would come and visit her folks in Gastonia and call me. I would always meet her for lunch and remind her of how much I loved her. Finally, for whatever reason, she stopped communicating with me. - As for whether Marlene was faithful to me, well, I had my suspicions. Though she put on airs with her false piety, I believe that her polite and conservative display of propriety to others was only a smoke screen. After all, she was very attractive, and very manipulative. Besides, she had sex with me when she was married to someone else, so why should I be surprised that she would do the same after marrying me? (Maybe someday she will admit it).

We didn't have much money and moved into the Morning "Sickness" Apartments. (Morningside Apartments). Mischa was about 2 and a half years old. He was surely a chip off the old block. He had already developed a mind of his own. We were foolish enough to allow him to ride his tricycle, by himself, down the alley to play with his friends in the complex. One morning, after Marlene had left to go to a rehearsal, he walked out of the screen door. I stopped him and asked where he was going. He wouldn't answer me. I picked him up and brought him back, but he kicked, cried, loudly protested and pulled himself away. He was on a mission. As he started walking away, I slowly walked behind him. He turned around and scolded me for following?! I laughed out loud and for some strange reason, I allowed him to leave unaccompanied to his destination. I figured that he wouldn't go too far nor be gone long. So, I walked back in and smoked a joint. By lunch time, he had not returned, so I walked down to the area where he usually played with the other youngsters but couldn't find him. We all began looking for him but he was nowhere to be found. I started to get a bit concerned. By this time, Marlene had returned and we both set out to find him. We called his name, but no answer. A while later, he had already been missing for 4 hours. We just hoped that he would come back on his own. Finally, as the sun was going down, we decided that we should call the police. I had already become extremely apprehensive and began blaming myself for allowing him to slip away. Marlene was absolutely terrified. Every car that rode down the alley caused me to think that he had been kidnapped. All kinds of crazy thoughts went through my head. It was the worst feeling I had ever had. Again, we began walking around the apartments yelling his name, "Mischa, Mischa!" I knew that the cops would probably bust me for pot again, charge me with child negligence and get the DSS involved. Though I am not particularly religious, I was literally praying that he would return. He was the most important thing I had in my life; and he was gone... And then, thank God, minutes before we finally decided to call the police, here he came, tiny footsteps walking up the sidewalk to our unit!!! We were all crying our eyes out. It was the most traumatic circumstance of my life. We comforted him, and gave him something to drink before attempting to find out where he had been all day. It seems as though a couple of mean 5 year old girls who lived in a house next to the apartments had lured him into their antique stone garage and tied him up with string! Then, they just left him there and retreated to their homes. He told me that he "couldn't untie the knots and was stuck!?" Finally, like I had done under water to save my own life, he used his teeth to cut through the string and work himself free. We hugged him with so much love and cried. I swore that I would never let him out of my sight again. All other negative events notwithstanding, it was the most scared and disturbed I had ever been in my life. (how can you live if you lose a child like that?) We ate dinner and said a prayer to thank God for his safe return. It turned out to be both the very worst day, and the very best day of my life! (Of course, a few months later in an arcade at the beach, while we weren't paying attention, he went missing again?! This time, he got lost behind the bowling machines. Again, we were hysterical, but a few minutes later, he simply walked back around like nothing had happened! - People, you've gotta' keep an eye on your kids. Somehow he survived and now Mischa has 5 children of his own!).

Years later, when the kids were still young, a chess friend of mine got a job in a grocery store around the corner from where we lived. One day, while checking out, he slipped a couple of expensive steaks into our bag that someone else had decided not to purchase! When I returned home, Marlene saw the steaks and, realizing how much they cost, asked why I had bought them? I told her that my friend who worked at the store had given them to us as a gift!.. The following day, I opened the refrigerator and the steaks were gone? Moralistically, Marlene had returned them to the grocery store explaining to the manager that they had accidentally been placed in our bag?!? So much for compatibility of principles. Apparently, sewing the seeds of character, she was using this incident to set an example for our children. Honesty is the best policy. If only she, herself, had held true to that principle...

It was the early 80's. I was working in a jewelry store and selling used cars on the side. In addition, I had a monopoly on the chess community! I conducted the Charlotte Chess Club each week and promoted occasional weekend tournaments both of which brought in additional revenues. Prosperity had shined it's happy face on our expanding family. Our third child, Sammy, had just been born and my relationship with Marlene remained stable. My quest to become a Master chess player was still my major goal. My rating had increased to over 2150 and the 2200 mark (required for achieving the title) was in my sights. One Saturday, I was conducting a 3 round event at the Ramada Inn on Kings Dr. (long since been razed and replaced). The second floor private, quiet and well lighted meeting room proved to be a perfect venue for the 40+ players who showed up. Not only was I the Organizer and Director of the event, I was also one of the top competitors. I recall that I was completely engrossed in my game when, from the back of the room, I looked up and observed a very beautiful lady dressed in a formal red dress and wearing alluring red lipstick enter the room with a small baby in her arms. I marveled at how attractive this lady was. My first thought was that she was the wife of one of our better looking, more well to do members who was participating in the tournament. I remember thinking, "wow, what a lucky guy to have such a beautiful lady in his life!" And, then, she quietly began walking toward me. Just then, I came out of my trance and realized that this gorgeous lady was my own wife, Marlene and my newborn son, Sammy! I was the lucky guy!!

Marlene converted to Judaism and we raised our children as Jews. She became thickly involved in the Temple life and had familiarized herself with the traditional music associated with the weekly Friday night services. The congregation fell in love with her and she met wealthy, influential people. She also dedicated herself to stage performances at various colleges that she attended and other amateur and professional  venues. In fact, it finally became apparent to me and her 3 sons that she was spending most of her time elsewhere rehearsing, performing, singing, schmoozing, traveling and doing everything else but attending to us. I had quit my job working in retail jewelry stores (Brownlee's for Al Rousso and Field's for Al Manch) and it became necessary to supplement my income by selling pot! After all, one of us needed to stay home, take care of the kids and make a living. But, she gradually became indifferent to me. She fraternized with Jewish clergymen (who ultimately sponsored her eventual relocation and enrollment), actors, musicians and gay people. I fraternized with drunken and stoned chess players who would invade our home on too many evenings of the week filling the house with smoke, enthusiastically partying and keeping her awake? Finally, she decided to stop having sex with me?? (a piece of shit attorney ex-friend of mine from the chess community assured her that she could). Then, she sued me for custody of the kids?! It had become virtually impossible to communicate with her. So, I didn't contest the legal separation. But, what she failed to share with me nor my kids was her intention to relocate to Israel for one full year and study to become a Cantor (second in command below the Rabbi). By this time, I had helped her gain two college degrees. I also had musical talent which was summarily overshadowed by her desire to sing opera. (She had actually developed a beautiful singing voice- which she has completely lost now; the assumption is that she talked so much after she arrived in Israel that she actually lost her voice... now, because of an exaggerated impediment, it is difficult for me to even listen to her speak?!). So, less than 3 months after she had gained custody of our 3 sons, she abandoned them and left the country. So much for piety. Even her very conservative Christian parents disagreed with what she was doing. (I called Sol Levine, the attorney who represented her, and sarcastically asked him if he would be kind enough to come over and take care of the kids for a few hours, since Marlene had just relocated to Israel! - he was embarrassed and actually apologized). Mischa was 15 years old, Joe 13 and Sammy was 11. Imagine losing your mother at that age. It was like she had gotten killed in a car wreck; since she was not there to care, console nor love them. I was forced to become both their mother and their father. What a selfish bitch she turn out to be. --She remarried and still lives in Jerusalem, Israel to this day visiting our grandchildren about once or twice per year. She became extremely indifferent to me and avoids communicating with me at all cost. I have still not recovered from the trauma of it all, and probably never will. 

I have chosen to omit many incidents where, had circumstances escalated, I could have been killed. A few examples would be, almost being pushed into a deep elevator shaft on the top of my grandmother's apartment in NYC, ducking from an older thug who drove around the corner pointing a snub nose .38 caliber pistol at my head - but not firing!, vicious fistfights, injuries in athletic contests, various other car wrecks, (I was not the driver), excessive speeding while drunk - where I was driving!? and other foolish acts which could have resulted in my death or the death of others. Too many incidents to recount. But, I vividly remember one which could have easily manifested into something very bad after Marlene (she changed the spelling of her name to Marlena) abandoned us. Sensing my loneliness, Jon Pietras' (who owned and operated Infinity's End) second wife, Carol, called me one evening and suggested that I go out with her girlfriend named Macel S. I asked if she were married and Carol said, "Don't worry, her husband is in jail for bank robbery!" So, without investigating any further, I agreed and met them at a local club. (the Holiday Inn on Woodlawn to be exact). We hit it off quite well and later that evening, ended up entangled in each others arms - and legs. She was a striking young red head with a buxom body and difficult for any man to resist! We carried on a relationship for the next few weeks until I found out that her heavily tattooed husband, who just happened to be the President of the Pagans motorcycle gang, was soon to be discharged from prison!? So, I loaded my .25 caliber Raven (a $30 piece of shit Saturday night special) and stuck it in my pocket just to be safe. Unfortunately, you could probably shoot an angry person 3 times with a tiny pea shooter like that and not slow him down. However, it was all I had for protection and I was prepared to use it, if necessary. Later that week, I escorted Macel to that same club. Ten minutes after our arrival, she excused herself to go to the restroom. But, in fact, she had already made arrangement to be with another "John" who had rented a room at the hotel. Apparently, she needed the money. After an hour or so, I left. And, the next day, I was done with her. Probably a good thing since the following weekend, the kids and I went out to Big Mama's house (Marlene's mother) out in the country near Shelby, N.C. I brought the Raven with me. I cocked the tiny automatic and pulled the trigger. Nothing... then, tried it again; nothing. So, I removed the round from the chamber, pulled out the clip, and disassembled the frame only to observe that the firing pin had broken off - rendering the gun useless!!? I considered myself very lucky to be done with that girl and her irate, presumably homicidal husband who had already found out who I was. Sometimes, it's best to simply duck and run...

At this point, I will elaborate upon some of the more personal facts of my life. I was somewhat of a troublemaker as a kid. That's because I was a troubled kid! As I grew up, in spite of the cruel experiences of my confused mother and the severe but totally unfounded beatings at the hands of my maliciously motivated  father, somehow I survived. Not only that, I became athletic, exercised and got strong!! Real strong! I was the champion arm wrestler of my class and a talented street fighter who rarely got punched! And, I took advantage of that all throughout my youth and time in the military. (Ultimately, I was capable of lifting a 100 lb. dumbbell over my head with either hand!) But, girls really don't care much about that. The older they get, other ideas seem to cross their minds. I had no problem finding girlfriends. Many girlfriends!
“The old wanderlust had gotten into his blood, the joy of the unbound life, the joy of seeking, of hoping without limit.” Upton Sinclair - Every episode was always exciting and worth the effort - Many of my male friends seemed to have trouble convincing girls to have sex with them. However, I sang beautiful songs and played the guitar to each and every one of them! In addition, I had charisma and I was very persistent and that in of itself, often times, led to success! -- Pro basketball player Wilt "the Stilt" Chamberlain once claimed that he had sex with over 20,000 women in his life!!? (a daunting physical task! - almost 5 girls per day for 50 straight years without missing a day!? I guess it's possible, but I sincerely doubt it!!) I once had sex with 3 girls on the same day!

That having been said, I had a wonderful girlfriend named (in order to avoid potential litigation, let's just call her) Aidena for almost 15 years with whom I spent upwards of $150,000 on lavish dinners at fine restaurants, frequent vacations and other ridiculous shit. She came into my life after Marlene had abandoned us.
Aidena was a welcome breath of fresh air. Educated as a Nurse, she was an intelligent 5' 1" nymphet, with a beautiful face and a perfectly constructed body!!! But, she was far more conservative than I and certainly did not smoke pot. We thoroughly enjoyed sex and were always gratified after each exciting encounter! (In fact, she said she would marry me after I divorced Marlene, but, she lied). Upon arriving at her apartment for dinner, I would immediately wash my hands and only seconds later, she was having an orgasm! One afternoon, after returning home with groceries, I walked into my home through the garage entrance with my hands full of groceries. I looked out of the glass doors to the right and noticed a beautiful naked girl, with her back to me, wearing high heals outside on the deck bending over the railing next to the pool. What an exotic and alluring presentation! Aidena was a natural exhibitionist of the highest order. And, I thoroughly enjoyed that type of activity! Often, while we were having a private dinner at my home, I would request that she remove her blouse and bra so as to allow me to observe her beautiful breasts while we dined, which she would promptly accommodate. I mean, doesn't everyone do that? Well, if they don't, they should!! It assists the digestion and prepares one with great anticipation for the pleasurable encounter which always followed. How wonderful! 

One weekend, we were invited by my friends, Jim & Adriene, to join some other folks for dinner at a pricey restaurant on Morrison Blvd. called "the Fish Farm!" (that may have been the evening when we spotted "Klink," actor Werner Klemperer, dining in a private room). Aidena was a tiny little thing and could only drink so much before it "affected" her. It was a bit foggy and chilly that night. According to Jim, the very conservative couple whom they had invited reported that, upon departing, they witnessed two people causing a late model blue Lincoln Town Car with fogged up windows to bounce up and down! Jim then inquired, "Don't you own a blue Lincoln?!" What an exhilarating experience that was! 

Aidena was well aware of my many previous sexual encounters through the years. Most with unattached  ladies and a few with the adventure seeking, bored or randy wives of friends. (Some are still alive, so I will politely refrain from mentioning their names...) I guess I was about 45 years old at the time. We would occasionally chuckle about stories of previous relationships. Sex with 3 girls in the same day, indeed!! (Susan, Linda & another girl...) and encounters with younger girls. A beautiful promiscuous 14 year old hippie girl whom I met just after I returned from Vietnam comes to mind (I don't remember her name) - I was 21. Sorry people, but that rare opportunity was impossible to resist! She "compromised my principles." So, I took the chance, and got away with it. I believe I had sex with her 4 times in about 90 minutes! (Look, she had the body and mind of a completely mature woman with a lot of experience. Yet, I never pressed my luck with "jail bate" after that and promptly passed her off to a friend named Barry who ended up getting me busted for pot!?!). 

One day, after a wonderful dinner which I had prepared: special spicy sea food (shrimp, scallops, clams) in red sauce over angel hair, with onions, mushrooms and garlic and other special seasonings complimented with escargot w/garlic, boiled leeks, tomatoes w/mozzarella cheese and fresh basil, sliced avocado with lemon & sea salt, garlic bread, fresh flowers and 2 bottles of Chianti Riserva,
Aidena suggested that I try to reminisce and recall all of the women I had sex with in my entire life!! The question was, how many?! So, I happily agreed, poured another glass of wine, sat back on the couch, lit up a doobie, got comfortable and allowed her to mesmerize me. She walked me back through the very beginnings of my sexual escapades starting with Ginger when I was 15 years old, to the present! With lined tablet and pen in hand, she made notation of every girl at each level of my life to the best of my recollection. Sometimes I would stop and have her include the name of another girl to be added during a particular time frame whom I had just recalled. We proceeded with this for a couple of hours. It was actually very entertaining! Some names I couldn't remember; but, the encounters I could!

Listen up, younger guys: When you find yourself in a private area in the company of a potential participant  and begin to encourage her to have sex via kissing, hugging and attempting to touch her erogenous zones, be prepared to proceed IMMEDIATELY! Even the slightest sexual innuendo may activate the pheromones and cause a woman to become receptive to your intentions. Therefore, you must not hesitate; you've gotta' strike while the iron is hot. If you stall, she will lose interest (after thinking about her vibrator) and your encounter will fail; and you may arrive home with
epididymal hypertension or "blue balls!" 

Now, let's slow down right here. One might assume that the reason that the girls were so attracted to me was because I had such a huge schlong!! (The paradox is that they generally don't find out until after the first encounter has been consummated!) On the contrary, "Otis" should only be considered a "medium," or "medium large" at best! (Depending upon the value that one gives "girth" versus "length!) Though I had a perfectly well proportioned muscular body with a flat belly, my very sanitary circumcised penis, on it's best day, never measured much more than 5 1/2 inches in length?! But, it was round, firm and fully packed (words from an old cigarette jingle!) and a girth about the size of a tube of Braunschweiger. (Uh, have I already used that analogy?!) I also have a huge set of balls; both literally and figuratively! I had learned early that most girls like the experience to last longer, so I made a consorted effort to always forestall ejaculation for as long as possible! After all, if you do everything right, you might get invited back - maybe for dinner!! Furthermore, my magic trick to endear women was to first, brush my teeth and use mouthwash or mints (I can hear some of you saying, "now I know this is bullshit!" LOL), then slowly warm them up with light kisses on the neck and lips intermittently reminding them of how beautiful they are. Next, immediately make an effort to diddle them! (a lost art form which many men often neglect or are simply too incompetent to provide) That would be the natural act of first thoroughly washing your hands, laying down next to your partner, helping her disrobe items of clothing covering her nether region, and slowly inserting one, or two middle fingers from my left hand into her vagina while occasionally sliding my fingers over her clitoris and kissing her on the neck. I had learned at an early age how wonderful that experience could be for both parties. Young, inexperienced girls actually liked that type of activity!
Even if they didn't like me!! (I know, older girls like it, too!) I believe they now refer to that as "foreplay"... go figure. Cunnilingus also works quite well! Furthermore, the alluring sounds and observations of an inexperienced girl's response to sexual arousal immediately prompts the guy to get a hard on! That's the way it's supposed to be. I rarely failed to react in kind. And so, my lifelong journey of chase, capture, conquer and squirt continued. (I am certain that more than a few girls reading this are thinking, "that pot breathed bastard didn't use all of those techniques with me!" That was probably because I had not yet learned to administer those magic pleasures...it takes time for one to develop his skills to perfection!) 

Back to
Aidena and her summation of my encounters. After about an hour, we had covered most of the girls in Jr. and High School, early college, my 19 months stationed in the Miami area, (the 3 or 4 prostitutes in Vietnam don't count), Sue when I went to Hawaii for R&R!, and my immediate return. I had already racked up 40+ names and I wasn't done! By the time we were finished, to the best of my recollection, though I could not exactly remember all of their names, I could vaguely remember the details and time frame of most of the encounters. Though the number of different sex partners fell about 19,935 short of Wilt "the Stilt" Chamberlain's, my total had approached 65!!! And, that was almost 20 years ago! The majority of the encounters were "one night stands," some, a few times, others many times and still others, hundreds of times! Now, considering that according to Google, the average man or woman in the U.S. only has 7.2 sex partners in their entire lifetime, I guess I'm pretty lucky. Like, 10 times luckier than most! However, as the years have passed, so have the opportunities and the frequency; particularly when you stay with the same girlfriend for almost 15 years. Winston Churchill once quoted: "Don't worry about avoiding temptation; the older you get, temptation will avoid you!" Finally, I am proud to brag that I did, indeed, successfully have sex with a 41 year old lady named Lisa on my 70th birthday! I am now 74. Hey, look! Picasso sired children into his 90's! So, what's the big deal?! -

I would be remiss not to mention the circumstances surrounding my relationship with
Aidena. After Marlene and I broke up, I had a brief stint at Lake Norman living with a self made millionaire named Lynne. She ended up purchasing much of the available real estate at the lake making a sizable profit! She had been living in Concord running a company that provided "bus bar" to Duke Power. I brokered the deal for her to purchase a nice home on Lake Norman at the tip end of Meck Neck where the river divided. I actually moved in for a few months just prior to Marlene's leaving the country. Naturally, Lynne flatly rejected any idea of allowing my 3 sons to move into her lake house, so it became necessary to find a new place to live. But, that was, in fact, the final time that I had actually lived with another woman. When Aidena and I were an item, she continued to maintain her residence in a condo in south Charlotte. I would occasionally stay over night, but we never actually moved in together, even after I bought a nice house on Carmel Forest Dr. As I stated before, she promised to marry me after I got a legal divorce from Marlene, but reneged on the deal. Furthermore, after 10 plus years of my shit, she became somewhat indifferent to my shenanigans. Because, her master plan was to marry a man who would bail her out of a significant amount of credit debt which she had amassed through the years. So, instead, she married a gay guy, divorced him, and then, I understand, married him again!

One day, I found myself in CMC suffering from an appendicitis. After the laparoscopic operation where I was recovering that evening,
Aidena had coincidentally dropped by to visit. A few minutes later, because my bladder was full and I couldn't urinate, it was necessary to have a nurse catheterize me. A male group leader in charge of a class of trainees entered my room and asked my permission to have one of his students perform the procedure to which I reluctantly agreed. At first, one girl fumbled around, but was unable to do the job. Then, she passed the baton to another student whom she claimed had more experience. All of a sudden, I felt a horrendous pain in my left testicle? While she was attempting to drive a plastic rod into my urethra without any lubrication, she was stabbing her finger nail into my balls? I began screaming "Stop" as loud as I could scream. The two technicians who were holding my legs down would not let go. Again, I screamed as loud as I could possibly scream. You could hear the echos through the hallways, but still, the assistant nurse continued her assault and no one came to my rescue! I could hear Aidena say, "Stop, stop!" but the bitch continued gouging me and I continued to scream. I was literally being assaulted by a team of amateurs who would not yield to my complaint?! What the hell was going on? Finally, the sadist bitch successfully inserted the plastic rod into my bladder and she let go. I literally felt like I was having a heart attack! But, I only asked whether the urine was filling the bag, which it was! So, already sedated, I basically laid back and passed out. -- Aidena is a nurse. Between the two of us, we had enough dirt on this crew to win a million dollar law suit! But, because she was listed in the Charlotte nurses registry, she feared that if she took part in the suit, she might not ever be able to work for the CMC system again?! So, she chose not to participate?? (She had for some time already been involved in medical administration; what was she gonna do, clean bed pans instead?) If she had, I would probably have been awarded at least 6 figures and surely shared it with her. As it was, I did ultimately find an attorney who took the case and we foolishly settled for only a few thousands of dollars of which the attorney took one third. What a bummer. After that, my relationship with Aidena began to sour. In effect, she betrayed me. Though we saw each other on occasion, things were not the same. She became more and more distant and refused to answer my calls nor respond to my messages. Our loving relationship had ended. And, there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Here I was, 60+ years old without a woman in my life?

From an early age, I always seemed to be attracted to gambling and the fascinating game of pocket billiards. At first, I was no better than anyone else. When I entered the service, I was an O.K. player but had still not developed a high degree of efficiency. When I returned to Charlotte, I began playing at the Independence Pool Hall directly across the street from CPCC where I was enrolled (and next door to the 'Double Door' which my old friends Matthew & Nick Karres owned and operated for a million years). One day, one of the old timers learned that I was a Charlotte native and asked what my grandfather's name was. I told him, "Joe Miller!" With a big smile he said, "Oh, I remember Joe Miller; he was that Jewish man who ran a poker game out of his home on 7th street!" He went on to tell me that on one occasion, "the Feds busted him for gambling and had removed a couple of dozen slot machines from his basement!" I couldn't believe my ears. Apparently, gambling was in my blood! (I still play poker each Thursday evening at my home with my friends).

When I moved to Richmond with Anne, I began playing pool almost every day at the Triple Triangle and improving my level of play. As the months went by, though I would negotiate an occasional real estate deal, I still played 9 ball. Finally, I became a force with whom to be reckoned. Not only had I developed a reputation as one of the best in town, but I actually began making money doing it! (BTW I do not recall ever having sex with another girl while Anne was living with me). When I finally returned to Charlotte, I continued playing at a pool hall, I mean "billiard parlor" on South Blvd called Mothers! (Not the hippie bar that my lifelong friend Roger Grosswald owned on Central Ave where I played the guitar and sang protest songs just after I returned from Vietnam). "Mothers" pool hall, built by "Big" George Dowdy, (and his wife) attracted the best players in the area (including the late, great Ronnie Park! and World Female Snooker
Champion Allison Fisher!) for their weekly tournaments as well as tons of action during the week. There was a time when my kids were growing up that every day, I would arrive at Mother's at about 3 pm and play 9 ball with mediocre players whom I could easily defeat. I would win between $20-100 almost every day and rarely lost. I would routinely leave at 6pm after which I would stop by the grocery store on the way back and purchase all of the food that my kids liked! That was part of our standard routine! My kids NEVER went hungry. - I fondly remember a blonde waitress whom I met at Mother's named Brenda. Though she was marginally educated and had a few shortcomings (she smoked cigarettes), she was actually a very beautiful lady with a voluptuous body! However, she had a curious habit of holding her hand over her own mouth while we were having sex because of something that she had experienced in her youth which always caused her to scream while she was having an orgasm!? How motivating! Regardless, she was a very sexy lady and a wonderful lover. Once, while drunk on wine, I made a few unsavory comments about her that her son overheard which caused an eventual demise of our relationship. But, we both had great fun while it lasted! "I used her, she used me, but neither one cared, we were gettin' our share..." Bob Seger

Bad Breath; Yes, Bad Breath...

While I was still with Marlena, on the rare occasions when we did become intimate, she often complained of my bad breath. My assumption was that it was because I had been smoking marijuana and drinking beer all day and she was averse to the odor. So, I would immediately retreat to the bathroom and brush my teeth and use mouthwash. But, she still complained after that. I also remember a friend of Darla's with whom I was having sex; a little pixie blonde named Mary Ann, who wanted me to approach her from behind because she "didn't want to smell my breath?!" I always thought it was the pot.
Aidena also retreated from my halitosis on certain occasions. Each time, I would brush and gargle. One evening at Brio, 3 girls in a row approached me to supposedly ask me questions about my superstar son, Joe. But, what they were really doing was comparing notes to determine whether my breath was the worst they had ever smelled!? The final girl even told me so! I was very embarrassed and immediately left the premises. Finally it dawned on me. A couple of  months earlier I began brushing my teeth with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. The semi caustic chemical reaction of that combination caused the cavities in my teeth to dissolve the calculus which had formed over 50 years. The result was a disgusting odor which only served to drive those, with whom I was speaking, away. Way far away! (It reminded me of a friend of my dad's who had a similar problem with rotting teeth; dad would walk him over to me to begin a conversation so he could politely excuse himself!) Soon after, I made an appointment with the dentist who probed the remaining teeth and suggested the extraction of a couple of rotten ones. All of them were located on the bottom row. (Because of gravity, this is generally the case; ask any dental person). Actually, after a bit of cosmetic surgery, my upper teeth are quite attractive to look at. But, using real estate terms, there are still a few vacancies on the lower level which have not been occupied. However, finally, I was no longer saprostomous and slowly, but surely, the girls began speaking to me again (without having to hold their noses!) Since then, I have developed a habit of always chewing a breath mint before I communicate with people in close proximity.

Trust and Betrayal

I was so naive for too many years. Particularly when it came to trusting people. In my experiences and travels, I have met hundreds of people, some of whom became my personal friends. I guess I naturally trusted people a bit to quickly. It never dawned on me that a "friend" would steal from me, or do or say things behind my back to intentionally besmirch or defame me. For the longest time, I leaned toward the assumption that my friends could be trusted. But, I was wrong... what I finally discovered was, other than your family members, the people who were closest to you were the ones who are more likely to betray you! Because, often, you have shared your innermost secrets with them. That was certainly the case with old hippie friends who would steal some of my pot when I went to the bathroom, or girlfriends who took advantage, or an old attorney friend who lied about his allegiance to me and intentionally fucked me over behind my back or real estate clients who failed to perform or other friends of the family who tried to trick or swindle me or destroy my reputation. Not to mention the betrayal of my wife and a girlfriend of 15 years. Unfortunately, it took me more than two thirds of my life to figure that out. Recalling the paradoxical adage: "No good deed ever goes unpunished," one finally realizes that the more you give people, the more they expect. And, the more you trust them, the greater the let down when they betray you. So, don't put too much stock into the allegiance of your friends; you may ultimately become very disappointed. -- Don't worry. I still have a few wonderful friends whom I trust implicitly. I haven't completely given up on humanity, but I'm close.

Cats Vs. Dogs 

Some folks have the idea that you can judge a person by whether he has a dog, a cat, some other pet or no pet at all. But, I'm not exactly sure what that judgement actually determines. What I do know is that they are convenient companions for lonely people. If you have an affinity toward your pet, you don't own it, it owns you! We all know someone who happily "rescued" a dog or a cat and ultimately spent $1,200-1,500 on some obscure medical procedure! But, that's part of the deal. When we lived on Seneca Pl., my mother adopted the next door neighbors dog named Tippy - a cute little black Cocker Spaniel (who freaked out every time she heard thunder). But, I have
ailurophilia and have only "cared for" cats since then. I mentioned Darx, but many years later, I kidnapped a neighbor's white Egyptian Siamese male whom she unfortunately had declawed and neutered?? In the afternoon, another condo neighbor would let his Doberman's out for a few minutes to relieve themselves, but they would invariably chase "Freddy" up a convenient tree that, though declawed, he was still able to climb. Ultimately, I began leaving food out for him to munch on in lieu of returning to his incompetent owner. I often played chess on the back porch with my friend Paul Lucas. Though Freddy seemed to be scared of humans, he would sneak up and rub his body on the back of my legs and then quickly run away. But, somehow he knew that I was the one who was feeding him. One day, Aidena brought over a couple of pounds of iffy shrimp that she had intended to discard. So, I created a line of shrimp from my back door to a large (warm) concrete box which housed the electrical junctions where Freddy often perched. Later that day, I saw him walking by licking his mouth, with the most bloated belly on a cat I had ever seen!! The weeks passed as we were preparing to relocate to a nice house which I had purchased on Carmel Forest Dr. In the mean time, my 3 sons had made friends with Freddy and even allowed him to come into the condo. Finally, moving day arrived. After all of the major items had been taken, I needed to make one more final trip to get the brooms and mops and other miscellaneous items. My son, Joe, said, "Where's the cat?" I responded with, "that cat belongs to some fat lady in the condos." To which he responded, "Go get the cat!!" When I arrived at the condo to fetch those final items, I opened the back blinds and Freddy was standing there waiting for me! I opened the glass doors, and he literally jumped up into my arms! (for the very first time!!) So, I carried him to the car, and brought him to his new home!! The kids were ecstatic! Freddy was now a member of our family. As the months and years went by, he would sit patiently with me while we fed dry cat food to the families of raccoons and opossums who would join us on the back deck for dinner. Everybody loved Freddy. After all of my sons had moved on, I sold the house and relocated to one of my rental houses in Mint Hill where Freddy lived out the remainder of his years ultimately passing away on my bed at the age of 21 1/2! (the vets records verified it). I buried him in the back yard. Soon after seeing the announcement of his death on FaceBook, Shannon, one of Joe's girlfriends from 10 years prior who had gotten married and had 2 kids of her own stated, "Are you f...ing kidding me?! That same cat who was always watching us in our bedroom was still alive after all this time!?" 

Realizing my sadness, a friend named Louise (I don't believe we actually ever had sex) suggested that I accompany her to the humane society facility in order to find a new cat friend. There were a couple of dozen kittens who were immediately ready for adoption. Of course, most of the symmetrically patterned ones had already been taken. However, there was a very active female banging her paws up and down on the glass attempting to get my attention. Her obvious imperfection displayed one high rear white sock and one low one. And, though she had the paternal markings of at least 3 different varieties, she is predominantly a Tabby. So, a new member of my family came home with me on that day. I named her "Butt-Butt!" As time went on, I realized how intelligent and perceptive she is. Naturally, she was spayed and neutered so she enjoys the privilege of being an indoor/outdoor cat. Occasionally, after coming in late, I would notice that her cat panties were turned around backward, her cat lipstick was smeared, and she was smoking a cat cigarette! But, hey, she wants to party and have fun, too! She also serves the purpose as a "guard cat!" When a stranger walks up our sidewalk, she growls under her breath to let me know! It is generally the FedEx man or a friend whom she didn't know. She also has a sixth sense like no other animal I've ever seen. She can literally read my mind!! Dude, seriously; she has repeated this a dozen times. Because she spends a lot of time outside and often catches fleas, it occasionally becomes necessary for me to put her in the bathtub. The very moment I start thinking that I intend to bathe her, she runs and hides! - I look for her, whistle and call her name, but she won't come out for hours! Finally, when she does, I snatch her up and carry her into the bathroom. I keep on my underpants, put on an undershirt (she accidentally gouged my scrotum one time and drew blood!)
partially fill the bath with lukewarm water, and gently place her in the tub. At first, like any proper girl, she resists. Then, as I begin shampooing her, she starts thinking that she's the Queen of Sheba where after I rinse her off and towel her down. The fleas vanish and she smells clean! When we play poker on Thursdays, she routinely jumps up onto the table to greet everyone; and then, lays her feline ass down causing us to deal the cards around, or on her!-- I am blessed to have Butt-Butt as my friend. We take good care of each other.

I must admit that as the years have slipped by, so have the number of sexual encounters. Not every girl responds in the same manner. Some begin "dripping" immediately after hearing the slightest sexual innuendo. Others might respond to a simple touch of her hand or raise of your brow. And, still others (like my ex-wife) are more frigid and may require the dexterity necessary to shuck a stubborn clam. (In fairness, she wasn't always like that) The way I see it, there are two types of "crazy!" Ignorant crazy and
intelligent crazy! Ignorant crazy girls can be bribed, sexually placated and controlled. Intelligent crazy girls eschew logic and only act upon emotion. They are the ones of whom you must be cautious.

An old friend of mine had a wife who was significantly out of control. She smoked too much and drank too much. Out of respect for my friend, I had long since decided that I would avoid having sex with her if the circumstance ever presented itself. However, one sunny afternoon at a party a few years ago, I found myself drinking rum and smoking pot. After attempting to avoid her husband by flitting about the palatial property visiting with one party goer or another, she ended up standing in front of me. She was wearing a sleeveless sun dress. Suddenly, a strange spell came over me as I involuntarily slid both of my hands into the openings of the dress underneath her arms and turned them around in order to simultaneously tweak both of her nipples with my fingers and thumbs! At that moment, her eyes got really big as she quietly said under her breath, "I think I just had an orgasm!" Her husband missed observing the encounter by about 20 seconds! It is my understanding that she has since, quit drinking. Good for her. No harm, no foul...
 
The only rewarding thing about serving in the U.S. Army is the VA health care system which is totally FREE for all Vietnam veterans! I have taken advantage of that for years and already saved almost 100K. Approximately 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea. I was issued a bulky CPAP machine which included a mask that I would wear every night in order to breathe better. I also had BPH (benign prostatic hypertrophy) where the common symptoms cause one to wake up 3 or 4 times per night in order to urinate. The machine prevented that and allowed me a good night's sleep. About 5 years later, I was issued a new machine manufactured by the Philips corporation which was a smaller and more efficient model. So, I had used that machine for the past 4 or 5 years. Since I have been using the VA medical facilities, I have been treated for sleep apnea, BPH, appendicitis, severe kidney stones, fatty liver disease, tinnitus, pneumonia and heart disease. In early 2020, I was diagnosed by a cardiologist to have heart disease. After speaking to him for 15 minutes, he strongly recommended that I have open heart surgery 2 weeks later? He indicated that my aorta artery had enlarged itself to 4.5 centimeters, I had a murmur and an aneurysm and that a leaky valve needed to be replaced with one borrowed from a cow! I hesitated for a moment and asked what would happen if I were to put it off. He then brought up the subject of actor John Ritter's condition which was somewhat similar to mine. That if he were downstairs in the lobby of the hospital and had an episode, by the time they got him to the operating room, he would be dead! I said, well, since I really don't have any symptoms, my condition might not be quite as fatal. And, maybe it would be a logical idea to monitor the size of my aorta for a few weeks, or months, before we take such drastic measures. Realizing that I had no intention of proceeding with surgery, he reluctantly agreed to my suggestion. A couple of weeks later, the Covid Virus burst onto the scene. Most of the VA medical facilities were closed to in-person visitation. I was notified that I would have to wait a while until I could be seen again. But, in fact, I did not hear a word from that cardiologist's office for over one year!!? Not even to have an echocardiogram? He had basically abandoned me. Since then, I have switched cardiologists. A few months ago, I finally took another "echo" and the results indicated that my aorta was only 4.1 centimeters wide! And, that my heart was basically operating normally, with a slight murmur. A friend who had that identical operation said that he will NEVER fully recover and that if he had to do it again, he wouldn't. According to him, 4 out of 10 open heart surgery patients end up back on the operating table.

(28 1/2) Now for the real kicker! Back in March of 2021, I complained of swollen glands beneath my right jaw line. After a recommended visit to the Emergency Room, I was next sent to an Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat doctor who immediately observed that I had the symptoms of Non-Keratinizing Squamous Cell Carcinoma or throat cancer?! He diverted me to a technician who would do a biopsy of the swollen glands and make a determination. The biopsy indicated that the glands were full of "P-16" which is a direct indicator of HPV or human papalloma virus. Therefore, I did, in fact, have throat cancer?? After visiting with another oncologist, it was strongly recommended to me that I immediately begin chemo and radiation therapy!? I balked at that. I wanted to know exactly where the original cancer lesion was located? He suggested that it was probably in my right tonsil. So, I submitted to the idea that the tonsil be surgically removed and analyzed. Finally, the day came and I reported to the hospital for surgery. The Doctor successfully removed my right tonsil and performed a few other procedures to observe the back of my tongue with a scope and do biopsies on my uvula, tongue, soft pallet and tonsil. The day after the operation, the pain was excruciating for at least a week?! Finally, the results of the biopsies were revealed to me. All NEGATIVE!! What? Are you kidding? You mean I had to go through all of that pain and suffering just so they could remove an organ which didn't even need to be removed? I then asked, "Doctor, why aren't you jumping up and down and clicking your heels with glee?" He went on to answer, "because we know that you have cancer; we're just not sure where it's located." So, I asked whether it might be a good idea to take another PET Scan. (
positron emission tomography) which could more accurately identify from whence the cancer was emanating. He rejected that idea still recommending that I proceed with chemo and radiation therapy? I hesitated for a moment and said, Doctor, a wise old country farmer once told me, "You don't go duck hunting at night!" (Do you remember Lt. Calley who learned there were 2 Viet Cong holding up in a hooch in a small Vietnamese village where 20 other old men with long white goatees, pregnant women, children and babies were cowering? He and his confederates indiscriminately machine gunned the premises and murdered them all - but he did, in fact, kill the 2 suspected Viet Cong!? I believe they call that collateral damage; for which Calley was Court Martialed and sent to prison). The logical analogy is, I refuse to allow their scrub wearing henchmen to aim the most powerful and destructive "medical" device known to man directly at my neck and throat when they're not exactly sure where they're supposed to be aiming it?! Would you? -- These guys are using remedies which were developed in the 1950's and barely been improved upon. There are 27 extremely negative side effects which are attributed to chemo and radiation therapy. Not to exclude the agonizing pain, necessity of taking opioids daily, nausea, loss of taste and smell, inability to chew and swallow, losing your voice, necessity of installing a feeding tube directly through your belly into your stomach, nausea, loss of 50 pounds in 7 weeks, loss of hair, loss of teeth, change of the bone structure of your face, and 20 or so more horrible side effects which I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Already at the age of 74, I had absolutely NO intention of allowing them to burn me with radiation, poison me with chemo nor even cut me with radical neck surgery when I am simultaneously suffering from heart disease. At least, not until they could identify exactly where the original cancer lesion was located. So, they all seemed to back off and leave me for dead. In the mean time, I have been drinking 2 ounces of Apple Cider vinegar and taking 3 large tablets of Vitamin C with lunch every day. At first, the bumps seemed to be residing. But, then I noticed that they had swollen a bit again. After reading a public service announcement on FaceBook of all places, I learned why!

Present: It seems that in early June, 2021, the Philips Corporation which manufactures CPAP machines, had recalled MILLIONS of devices which they had manufactured and that have been proven to cause THROAT CANCER! I immediately jotted down the make and model number of my device and compared it to the list of defective machines. I had, in fact, been using one of the models in question? Oh boy... So, on the following  Monday morning, I promptly called Charles G. Monette and Associates here in Charlotte. Mr. Philips aligned me with a well established firm in Mount Pleasant, SC who handles such major product liability cases. They added my name to the list! The Philips Corp. had already stipulated that the machines were defective. They all contained a foam plastic filter which would deteriorate in time and cause small particles of its contaminated dust and carcinogenic gasses to be breathed by users. In fact, the recall had been published exactly one month prior to my reading about it on FaceBook? The folks at the VA had no clue about the recall and naturally did not notify me to stop using the device? But, after I called and notified them, they agreed to provide me with a new CPAP machine made by a different manufacturer! Unfuckingbelievable!! Apparently no one there got the message that the previous machine had caused my throat cancer. Nor for one month, had they notified anyone to cease using those defective machines and, in fact, it wasn't until September 20, 2021 (the 53rd anniversary of my departing Vietnam) that I received such a notification? Furthermore, a VA appointed surgeon with whom I had an appointment on October 12, 2021 boldly stated (without having done any research) "there is no possible way that a CPAC machine could give you throat cancer!?" Even though the Philips Corp. has legally stipulated that it does!! This is the kind of shit up with which I must put! (grammar, grammar!)

So, here I am sitting at my desk pounding away at my keyboard. Yet, I am sure to die before I ever collect a nickel of any class action settlement. But, my 3 sons will split the cash and that's O.K. with me. In the mean time, I still do everything that I have always done. Conduct the Charlotte Chess Club and teach my students, play at least one tournament game every week, edit the website as I have done for the past 20+ years (www.charlottechess.com) play poker with and cook for my buddies Bill, Andre, Daryl and others, visit with my grandchildren and watch Nate play baseball, catch my son, Joe's, concerts and socialize with my friends. I also go out on Friday evenings and have a drink at Del Frisco's or stop by The Comet and listen to my old friend Lenny Federal play "I'm Gonna Buy Me a Mercury!" Though I'm not as physically strong as I once was, I can still perform all natural bodily functions, (albeit, dribble, instead of squirt!) In addition, I have played the guitar basically all of my life and still enjoy entertaining! -Back in 1970, I had relocated to Boulder, Colorado with Anne and my guitar in tote. Someone told me about a music contest which was to take place that night at a popular bar on the hill! So, I got there early and signed up. I met a guy named Taj Mahal who introduced me to the African finger piano - a small wooden box with metal tines which made the most extraordinary sound! I was finally called up to the stage to play. I sang a parody of a song called, "Look What They've Done To My Song" re-titled, "Look What They've Done To My 'J'" It brought the house down! Lot's of laughter and huge applause! But, I did not win first prize?! That was awarded to some unknown guy by the name of Don McLean who performed a song called, "Bye Bye American Pie!" which went platinum the following year! My 2nd Place prize was a woven leather belt made in a local shop which I still have to this day! {Check "Ode to Doc" on YouTube! I actually performed on stage a few months ago!}

I feel no pain from any of my maladies. Neither from heart disease, cancer, sleep apnea, fatty liver disease, gout, BPH, tinnitus, peripheral neuropathy nor athletes foot! (A Black chess Expert friend of mine named Keith Eubanks [who defeated diabetes & covid!] said, "man, you can cure all of those other things; except for that damn athletes foot!") My only regret is, all of my previous girlfriends have faded away. Some have died or relocated, others got married and still others simply don't like me anymore! The result is loneliness, the absence of companionship and no love, which at my age, is the worst possible
circumstance that an old man can endure. (Seven or eight years ago, I registered with one of those on-line dating services. Though I did have a few successful "encounters," the quality of the candidates left much to be desired. Most of their images were 20 years old and they routinely underestimated their weight!? Regardless, sexual compatibility, alone, does not guarantee a successful relationship). Yet, I still believe that another wonderful lady will soon enter my life and share my senectitude. So, as for me, until further notice, life goes on. BTW You might wonder why I haven't mentioned anything about a "bucket list?" Dude! I've had 65+ girlfriends, one wife, Marlena, 3 talented and successful sons, Mischa (businessman), Joe (musician) & Sammy (restaurateur), I have 6 grandchildren, Sydney Elizabeth, Nate, Ike, Linus, Bodhi and Seneca, a female cat named Butt-Butt and I've grown the tallest milk thistle in history! (12+ ft!) So, exactly what have I missed out on? Who needs a bucket list? If I want to visit the Grand Canyon, I can observe it for free on YouTube! (You have to take a helicopter to the bottom and in the summer it's 125 degrees during the day!) Besides, who came up with the ridiculous idea of saving money all of your life just to wait til you are almost wheelchair ridden before you take vacations to spend it? Take your vacations when you are younger and physically able to. Rest easy and convalesce when you get old.

Some of the guys reading this may reflect upon their paucity of relationships with the idea that maybe, had they been a bit more aggressive, they might have had more sex with more women in their life. And somehow, that would have made them happier and enhanced their degree of "self actualization." But, what they don't understand is, if they still have a lady (or man) in their life, regardless of how old she is, or even what she looks like now, with whom they dine, sleep, and live, who calls them on the phone, expresses concern for their welfare, wants to know where they are, what they are doing, how they're feeling and sends her love, you have something far more valuable than the bygone memory of fleeting sexual encounters. You have a companion who lives with you, takes care of you and hopefully, loves you.
Hence, if you still have one, don't take her for granted; give her all of your love in return, and realize how fortunately you have been blessed. The only thing lacking for me is that one final love of my life! And, pitiful dreamer that I am, I actually believe that I will yet meet another younger, beautiful lady who will satisfy all of my needs and desires and love me until I take my final breath... or, at least, enjoy another one night stand! Hey, a man can dream, can't he?!

So, there you have it. I'm just hoping that the number of times I almost got killed stops at 28 before I find her! - The radical neck dissection scheduled for October '21 which would have, hopefully, abated my cancer and kept me alive for a little while longer, has been postponed, indefinitely. (the Doctor said that if he removed my uvula with margins I would NEVER be able to swallow again for the remainder of my life?!) An upcoming PET scan will verify the cancer in my uvula. The next resolution would be radiation therapy which I have all, but completely rejected. ...Or, I may die of heart failure first!? --Thus we have the tragedy of the life of Leland Fuerstman

Allow me to leave you with this one final quote: "The golden opportunity you are seeking is in yourself. It is not in your environment; it is not in luck or chance, or the help of others; it is in yourself alone" Orison Swett Marden

 
I wish to thank the following 66 ladies who have shared to make my life a most enjoyable journey! Furthermore, I apologize to those whom I may have forgotten. At least, for a brief moment in time, I loved you all! My hope is that if you read this, and recall the occasion(s), a smile will appear! Love, Leland

Aidena Charlotte

Alice Charlotte
Angel Charlotte
Anne Charlotte
Angie Charlotte
Bar Girl Charlotte
Brenda Charlotte
Brenda Charlotte
Christine Charlotte 
Christine Atlanta
Carla Miami
Carol Charlotte
Carol Charlotte
Cafeteria cashier, Atlanta
Claps girl, Atlanta
CPCC brunette, Charlotte
CPCC nympho, Charlotte
Diane Charlotte
Donna Charlotte
Dorrene Charlotte
Dry slut, Charlotte
Fat girl, Myrtle Beach
Falcon Girl, Charlotte
Ginger Charlotte
Helen Charlotte
Janet Miami
Janie Charlotte
Jewish N.Y. Charlotte
Jewish on-line Charlotte
Karen Charlotte
Linde Charlotte
Lynne Concord
Lisa Charleston
Linda Charlotte
Lenore's friend, Chapel Hill
Lenore's friend, Charlotte
Long Tits, Boulder
Macel Charlotte
Marlene Charlotte
Monnie Charlotte
Meta Charlotte
Mary Ann Charlotte
M's friend Charlotte
Nancy Charlotte
On-line, Charlotte
On-line, Charlotte
On-line, Hickory
On-line, Hickory
Patricia Charlotte
Pat Charlotte
Pat's friend, Charlotte
Panos Girl, Charlotte
Patsy Charlotte
Paula New York
Plain Jane, Atlanta
Pug Miami
Pterodactyl, Charlotte
Sherry Charlotte
Susan Kansas City
Susan Charlotte
Sue Honolulu
Teri Charlotte
Terri Charlotte
Tiny blonde, Charlotte
Vicky Miami
Yvonne Charlotte