Waxing Gibbous Moon
Way back in the late 1950's I lived with my family in the modest little suburb of Chicago, Illinois called Villa Park. We were there from the summer of 1956 to the summer of 1960 while my Dad was earning his wings as a sales manager for a major food distribution company out of Fullerton.
Our rental house was on a corner across the street from a mortuary/funeral home, which at the time did not mean much to me. It was just a building with a sign on it and occasionally a bunch of people came all dressed up nice. It had a huge parking lot, though, and when the snow came, they bulldozed it all into one big pile in the corner to make room for the cars. So naturally, on Saturday mornings, all the kids in the neighborhood bundled up in snow suits and raced over to the snow pile to play King of the Hill.
I was pretty little so mostly what I remember was fighting my way to the top where some big kid would send me sliding back down to the bottom - over and over and over. I was delighted because swooshing down head first, feet first, sideways, on my stomach, or on my backside was more fun than I had ever experienced to that point. I didn't even know why they called it King of the Hill. I was too busy laughing and enjoying myself.
When the snow went away, my friend Ricky and I would ride our giant 20-inch-wheel tricycles around and around the block like maniacs. The corner that was opposite from our house, way around the block and up a little incline, had a pretty tight turn which led into a fun little downhill. At least once a day, either Ricky or I or both of us would crash, racing each other to that turn to be first to haul ass down the hill. We had scabs on both knees every summer from crashing at that corner. Nobody cared too much. Mom would put merthiolate on the scrapes, then she would blow on them to make it stop stinging.
So that was fun, too. But the most fun was playing basketball with my brother in the driveway. Our one-car garage was separate from the house, way back at the back of the great big unfenced backyard. The driveway was two strips of concrete that were about twice as wide as a car tire, split by a long strip of grass and dirt. Dad had nailed the hoop and the backboard up on the front of the garage. I'm not sure if the hoop was exactly ten feet off the ground or if it was ten feet off the concrete strips or if it was ten feet over my head, but it was WAY up there. When I was five and six I could barely heave the ball and hit the rim, so I became extremely useful and even pretty skilled at rebounding the ball, dribbling it mostly on the two concrete strips without losing it, and passing it to my big brother. My big brother in turn became impressively skilled at shooting. There was constant play-by-play chatter, with each of us taking turns pretending to be NBA stars of the day. We knew about them by reading the sports page of the newspaper every day.
Meanwhile, we both started to grow. He became tall and skinny and an even better shooter and played for his school teams. I could actually put the ball in the basket after a couple of years of practice so I could learn to do the fun stuff - give and go, pick and roll, right hand hooks, left hand hooks, bank shots - I learned a lot from my brother before I ever played with or against anybody my own age. And I acquired a love for the game that has lasted my whole life.
When I was 7 or 8 and my brother was 15 or 16, he decided he was tired of being skinny. He wanted to get stronger because he wanted to make the high school varsity. So one day when I was reading a comic book, he looked over my shoulder and asked to see it. Inside the back cover of the comic book was an advertisement for a Charles Atlas bodybuilding program. You could send a small amount of money to the address on the ad and in exchange, Charles Atlas, a famous 1950's bodybuilder/hustler of young kids' allowances, would send you a program to follow to get big muscles like him!
Heck yeah we mailed him our accumulated allowances (10 cents per week if I remember correctly)! I failed to read the fine print of course so for about two weeks I was thinking Charles Atlas was going to send us a set of weights we could lift down in the corner of the spooky, dark basement of our rental house where we played catch and stuff whenever it rained.
When I finally mentioned to my brother that I could hardly wait to start lifting weights and building big muscles, first he stared at me, then he laughed so hard there were tears in his eyes. We weren't going to get any weights for crying out loud, we were just going to get a brochure with exercises to do that would make us stronger (and dead broke) kids. That's when I discovered that eight year olds weren't supposed to lift weights. HA!
That is also when I discovered that there were people in the world who did things that were slightly questionable or underhanded, which led to my discovery of actual real life bad guys and scary tv/movie characters that inspired cop shows and murder mysteries and things. Somewhere in this time period I watched The Twilight Zone for the first time. And The House on Haunted Hill. And holy moley, I found out about The Alfred Hitchcock Show.
Thank goodness for basketball and little growth spurts here and there. That (and my parents, of course) kept me on the straight and narrow for a long, long time. The scary movie/murder mystery thing stayed on the back burner for the most part, but I have always had a little thing for spooky, interesting plots. When the tv show Columbo came out in 1971, I was hooked. This show combined mystery and puzzling human nature with humor and a sense of fair play/justice. Frank Columbo was half clown, half genius with a nose for sniffing out criminals and connecting strings of clues for solving their crimes.
One thing he was especially good at was figuring out the murder weapon that was involved in a caper. There were some really weird ones in some of the episodes. To me, it was riveting to watch and to try to decipher the crime along with Columbo. Despite his clumsy, fake ineptitude and slovenly appearance, he was a smart, great detective. If you never had the opportunity to watch that show, I think you can find parts of some seasons (it lasted from 1971 to 2003) on YouTube.
Peace, Love, Hoops, and Sleuthing,