Monthly Archives: August 2012

My Music; A Sad Memory, but a Good Friend

Likely the last photo taken of an Army buddy, David Lupien. KIA February 24 1968.

Every year at about this time I think about basic training while in the Army in 1966. For many of the men (boys) in my company it was the first time away from home. Certainly it was the first and only time we faced war and the possible effects; not only the loneliness experienced, but possible death and not having a future.

They were indeed bleak days.

Several years ago I did a search of all those in my basic training company to see who didn’t come home. Everybody did, but one. And it happened to be my best buddy. It had been nearly forty years since he was killed in Vietnam and I didn’t know until then.

His name was Dave Lupien. Although outgoing in nature, there was a certain loneliness and sadness about him, but I suppose that could be said about all of us back then. I only found in recent years some of his life was spent as a foster child.

There was a song that resonated with all of us. One night in the barracks it was playing on the radio. Dave said, “Can ya turn that crap off. It’s depressing.” He was right. The song was Coming Home Soldier by Bobby Vinton. The lyrics were about a lonely soldier away from home and Dave never made it home.

Here’s the song;

 

I wrote a poem about him a few years ago, but I suppose it‘s as much about the absurdity and pain of war. Here it is also:

David G. Lupien

By Kenton Lewis

David Lupien was in basic training with me

He never had a chance to live and see

Children and grandchildren upon his knee

To have what I’ve had and happened to be

At the age of twenty he died alone

In a place that is foreign and far from home

For logic and reason he did not know

Brave and naïve he volunteered to go

I looked upon his photo and saw

The boy I once knew and fondly recalled

His name now appears on a granite wall

To be seen and remembered by friends and all

Those who knew him will also pass away

The photo and wall are here to stay

But those who come and silently pray

Never heard his voice or words he did say

Like so many his life was troubled and brief

Future and glory stolen like a thief

Possibilities were quenched also belief

By those who ordered him to the grave beneath

Nobody knows what could have been

Nor do we know who, why, or when

Memories are all we have from within

of boys we once knew and died as men

Many have died for rights to defend

Why did it have to be my friend?

Many have died for the life of another

Why did it have to be my brother?

Many have died to conquer what’s bad

Why did it have to be my dad?

Many have died for the glory of one

Why did it have to be my son?

Many have died for the flight of the dove

Why must it be my own sweet love?

Many have died to reap what is sown

The ones who died are never unknown

In God’s memory they patiently sleep

To be awakened to life that is replete

On God’s new earth to suddenly discover

Laughing and joking with my long lost brother

On God’s new earth when the day is done

I can sit and relax with my long lost son

On God’s new earth once again I’ll depend

On help and support of my long lost friend

On God’s new earth I’ll be the proud lad

The one I hardly knew, my long lost dad

On God’s new earth like hand in glove

I’ll stroll again with my long lost love

Memories, photos, and walls will fade

In God’s memory we are all kept safe

In a land far away he gave his last breath

Without loved ones, passed from life to death

I hope to see my ole barracks buddy again.

And shake the hand of David G. Lupien.

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My Dad; He Did It His Way

Sinatra did it his way; Frankly (pun intended) it’s a philosophy only for selfish people. It usually means there is no plan or nothing guides my decisions, but me.

Dad never told me about the internal conflicts that may have been in his mind when it came to decisions he made early in life. This was an important part of parenthood. A child must see how the parent weighs and evaluates options to see which is best. Those are some of the values that children take with them into adulthood.

Thrift was not one of my Dad’s virtues. If he had a dollar in his pocket there was a time when that meant four beers. In fact if he walked into a bar with three customers that sometimes meant a beer for Dad and beer for the house. I don’t recall my Dad saving a dime from one pay check to the other.

Dad’s psychological makeup was not difficult; he was selfish and wanted people to like him even at the expense of his own family’s welfare. So when it comes to those internal conflicts it must have been which one would bring him immediate gratification.

After a year at Onarga Military School Dad (He was about 19 or 20.) came home for the Summer. He stayed with his closest sister, Reahto. I don’t know what Dad did for Summer work that year. He did mention to me that he once helped lay bricks for the some of the streets in Lima, but I can’t confirm it.

I recall visiting my Aunt Reahto a few years after my Dad’s death. She said Dad was really confused about what to do with his life at one point, go back to school or not. Finally one night he was very frustrated and proclaimed, “I’m not going back to school.” Aunt Rheato said it was an agonizing decision for him. She encouraged him to stay in school.

That conflict was between his heart and mind. The heart was leading him to pursue the present and the mind was logically telling him to go back to school. That decision may have been the first important one of his adult life. It set a pattern for the rest of Dad’s life. I sometimes wonder where that pattern began?

People are often celebrated for having the personal credo of “I did it my way.” That is so misleading. It is selfish. No one ever becomes a success at anything by doing it ‘my way.’ There are rules along the ‘way.’ And even those who say they did it ‘my way’ in reality follow a pattern of rules that make life easier and more successful. Prisons and exits to shopping centers are full of people who did it their ‘way.’

There are rules to life. Dad was always trying to bend them or think they didn’t apply to him.

A person has to find a set of reliable principles by which to lead their life and stick to them even when the heart pulls in another direction.

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A Place Called Serenity; The Oracle of Serenity (Part 1)

Serenity had an aracle every bit as good as the Greek’s Trophonius.

There were times the kids of Serenity gathered in early evening and looked into the skies. They wondered, speculated, and spun strange tales often about god, demons, angels, ghosts, hags, ghouls, and Martians. All were told with conviction and clarity. Details were available on the spot. Seldom, if a question was asked about a tale, did anyone say ‘I don’t know.’ Plausible explanations and answers were supplied as if already known and established fact.

“Why are Martians green?”

“The lack of sunlight.”

“Why can’t we see God?”

“Because he’s on the other side of the Moon.”

“Why do stars twinkle?”

“They are either exploding or sending code messages to aliens already on earth.”

“Why do ghosts come out at night?”

“The sun burns their souls.”

One crisp Fall evening Dickie, Becky, Char, and the Martins gathered in the yard next to Dickie’s home. They were looking through a clearing in the branches into the infinite star lit night. The earth was dark. Shades at the homes were drawn tight and scant light escaped from the minute gaps where the sill and blind met. An occasional lonely set of headlights appeared from the highway in the distance and over the bridge they would go and disappear as if they dropped of the earth. The night time was full of mystery and wondering.

“Sometimes, for no reason at all, holes open in the ground and swallow people up,” Tom Martin said. “It happens at night. It’s the Devils work. He’s lookin’ for people to help him keep the fires of hell burning. A family could be driving along and suddenly the earth opens and they fall straight to hell and never heard of again. It’s happened to trains and ships in the ocean. They just sink to the bottom and it opens and the Devil goes inside to collect the souls.”

“What do you do to keep that from happening? Charlene said.

“As soon as you step out of the house everyday you spit on the ground and say ‘I spit on the Devil.’ That will keep him away from you.

“But I’ve never done that before,” Becky said. “And I’m not about to start.”

“Than I hafta do it for ya,” Tom said. “Cause I don’t want anything to happen to ya.”

Tom Martin had all the stories and explanations for every phenomena. He was the smartest kid in Serenity. He would likely be President someday.

That night he had a captive audience open to his yarns. The night was perfect for such tales.

“Ya never want ta go ta bed with yer shoes on?” Tom said.

“Why? Dickie said.

“Because the dead spirits are looking for the dead at night and they take everyone who wears shoes, because they figure they’re ready ta go. That‘s a fact. We had an ole man down in Kentucky who went ta bed every night with his boots off and one night he was too tired ta take ‘em off and the spirits done got his soul that night. The next morning he was as dead and cold as stone, but his boots were on.”

A sudden cool breeze rustled the leaves on the ground and swept them down a path that led to Doc’s and Chuck’s Cabins.

“Ya’ll know what that was?”

Nobody said anything.

Tom cleared his throat and everybody waited for his explanation.

Continued next week.

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Lance Armstong Stripped of Tour de France Championships; New Champ Crowned!

Well it looks like Lance Armstrong has agreed to stop defending himself and in the eyes of many admit guilt for doping.

The USADA now has improved methods to determine if a masking agent has been used and gone back to test old samples of Armstrong’s blood. They say they have ten former teammates of his that will testify against him. Frankly in the world of competitive cycling you don’t have teammates; you might call them that, but they’re really competitors. Even at that, ten is quite a number.

It is rumored that the French Cycling Federation will strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France championships. I suppose that’s the paramount award of any cyclist, but keep in mind, Ah the French; Inspector Clouseau, the Maginot Line, Peppy LePew, Cannes Film Festival, and Jerry Lewis. It is the land of meaningless awards, personalities, and gestures.

The federation now has a daunting task to find a competitor who finished behind Armstrong who didn’t test positive for drug use. Come on, they all do! But the French have found their winner;

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My Music; A Violent Song of the 50s

The Kingston Trio, they seem friendly.

There are many violent songs today. They are graphic and vulgar. Language is used that in my day one would look to see who was around before using it.

This is not to say that in the 50s there were not songs that were violent. For certain there were and, I might add, as deeply disturbing.

One song that comes to mind is one sung by the Kingston Trio, The Ballad of Tom Dooley. I’m not sure how it was treated by the press or critics of the day, but it became a number one hit.

The song was based on an actual event that took place in 1866. A man named Tom Dula (pronounced Dooley) was hung for the murder of his fiancée.

I suppose because it was titled a “folk song” there was more leeway given.

Few can doubt that the song had a compelling melody and the Kingston Trio’s talent certainly made the song gripping. Nevertheless it is a song about a brutal murder.

Here is The Ballad of Tom Dooley by the Kingston Trio;

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The 1962 New York Sewer Rats; Baseball’s Greatest Story! – The Front Cover

My friend, Jim Becker, dreamed of watching games from the upper deck of riight field at the old Polo Grounds. It actually figures two ways into the novel, The 1962 Sewer Rats: Baseball’s Greatest Story!

More than twenty years ago my friend at work, Jim Becker, and I engaged in endless conversations about baseball. Admittedly he was more versed and skilled in the subject than me. He is without a doubt a historian with extraordinary grasp of baseball history and able to articulate it in a way that is interesting and compelling. It was during those conversations that the idea for my novel, The 1962 New York Sewer Rats; Baseball’s Greatest Story!, was concieved.

As I mentioned before he and I speculated about the 1962 New York Mets and that was the germinating seed for my novel.

While writing the novel I purposely avoided talking to him for fear it might taint my thinking. What I mean by that is that this was a book of fiction written from my perspective. For example, I always refer to Richie Ashburn as ’Richie,’ but Jim would probably correct me and suggest, “You know he was actually called ’Whitey’ by the players.” That’s not a bad thing, but I didn’t want to write with too much doubt. Nevertheless I wanted Jim’s imprint on the story in some way.

Jim once confided a recurring dream he had about watching games from the right field upper deck of the Polo Grounds. I used the perspective on the cover of my book and included the dream as a part of a conversation in the novel.

The setting is Pete Manly (baseball player) walking with Stanley Goldstein (team owner) in the empty upper deck of the Polo Grounds. Here it is;

“I wanted to talk to you for few minutes, Pete,” Stanley said. “You know when I first thought about buying a club I thought I’d take the time to spend with the players, but the players really don’t want the owner around. It’s a different world players live in. I don’t deserve to be in that world. You have to earn it. I’d be foolish to think I could buy my way into the player’s world. I wished I was a baseball player, but I’m not, so I watch and dream.”

They walked a few steps with nothing being said.

“You can jump in here anytime you want to, Pete,” Stanley said.

“Sure,” Pete said. “It’s just that I don’t know where to jump in or if I should. I don’t know why I’m here or what the rules are.”

Stanley chuckled. “Pete, you’re my kind of man. I can talk to you.”

“What do you mean?” Pete said.

“We are the same in a lot of respects,” Stanley said. “Are successes parallel.”

“Certainly not monetarily,” Pete said.

Stanley chuckled again. “There you are, Pete. You speak up. Let me explain. I’m not smart or talented in anything like some might think. I just put things and people together. I have a knack for it. I put them together, stand out of the way, and let them go. I put people in positions where they can grow and aspire. That’s it. That’s all I know. There’s nothing noble about being rich and making money; the law, what you have chosen, that’s noble. To represent a person charged with a crime or a purpose that needs rectified by legal action, what a wonderful concept; representing the rule and spirit of the law; that is grand. Why did you choose the law Pete? What is in your heart and brain? I can’t believe for a minute it’s fame, power, or prominence, not for a moment, because I don’t see it in you. Why Pete? Tell me?”

Pete looked out of the concourse of the Polo Grounds and at the city. “Those words and many more. To me the law and contracts bind society. It is the basis for doing business. Laws and principles are foundations; foundations not to empires, but dignity, character, peace, growth, happiness. I’m seeking …” Pete paused. “To tell you the truth I don’t know what I’m really seeking. I guess it’s purpose.”

Stanley stopped and faced Pete. Pete turned only part way toward Stanley.

“My god, Man!” Stanley said. “We’ve talked for a few minutes and you’ve said all I’ve been thinking all my life. It’s always been the thought just beyond my grasp. Like reaching into murky water to retrieve a gold coin. That‘s what I have been doing all my life; pulling gold coins out of despair.”

“How does that parallel me?” Pete said.

“Don’t trifle with me,” Stanley said. “You knew immediately, as soon as I said it, it flashed!”

Pete and Stanley continued to walk.

“I wouldn’t say a flash,” Pete said. “Kind of like watching two trains collide head on.”

“How do you do it?” Stanley said. “How do you get men to play their best.”

“One day my Dad and I was watching a parade,” Pete said. “I must have been eight or nine. We were standing three or four deep in the crowd. I said, ‘Daddy, I can’t see anything. I ain’t tall enough.’ My Dad looked around, saw a wooden crate, and he held it on my head then he said, ‘There you go Pete; you’re taller now.’ I said, ‘Daddy, that ain’t very smart. I got to stand on the box to be taller.’”

“That’s funny,” Stanley said. “What did it mean?”

“Now, don’t trifle with me,” Pete said.

Stanley grinned coyly.

Pete lowered his eyes and continued. “About six years after that; a week before my Dad disappeared he ask me if I remembered the parade and the wooden crate. I told him I did. He ask me if I knew what it meant. I told him no, but I had always wondered. He said, ‘Good, because I wanted you to wonder. There are many lessons to life, but one of the most important is that you make people taller by standing them on the load rather than placing the load on top of them.”

“What a wise man,” Stanley said.

“Yeah,” Pete said. “He really was. I want people to see beyond; to see beyond the murky law and the gold coin that is absolute justice. I know I can‘t do it on my own, but it’s my purpose. It‘s what fuels me. I read To Kill a Mockingbird last year; I‘m Atticus Finch.”

They had nearly completed the walk around the concourse of the upper deck and were now near right center field.

Stanley turned to the field. “This is the place of my dreams, right center field of the Polo Grounds. When I was away from here as a boy I dreamed of being here. When I went on business trips I dreamed of here. I came here all the time I could, find a seat, and take it in. I got a Mel Ott homer. There was a great player and friend. Look at it Pete.”

“Passion and purpose,” Pete said.

 

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My Dad, Known As a Fighter

Garfieled School in Lima, Ohio, one of the elementary schools my Dad attended and learned to fight.

When we tell stories about ourselves it is normal to put ourselves in the best possible light, giving us the most noble of reasons and motives for our actions. I tend to think that with my Dad’s stories unless I come across untainted corroboration.

One of the elementary schools Dad attended was Garfield in Lima.

He related that they (his family) were so poor that the heels were removed from the shoes of his older sisters and handed down to him to wear as boy‘s shoes. He said his clothes were always used and well-worn.

For some reason one of his grade school teachers thought he smelled badly. He was separated from the class to be certain where the odor was emanating. It was not him. It was another boy. Of course I can’t be certain of the validity of the story. None of my Dad’s other brothers or sisters mentioned extreme poverty. Although in those days many were considered poor. The excesses were not available to them that are to us today. It was unlikely a family had a car, telephone, or even a radio. Those were luxuries beyond the reach of even the middle class.

Dad said that he and a boy from another class would go under a fence in the school yard just to fight each other. And after school they slung their arms around each other as if best of buddies.

This seems strange. My father-in-law, George, who was just a few years younger related a story to me about my Dad.

George said he and his Dad lived in an upstairs apartment with a view of an alley. The first time he recalled seeing my Dad was when he was one of two boys going at it in the alley. It seemed like none was getting the better of the other. The fight went on for several minutes. Finally a mutual truce was called probably because of sheer exhaustion and the boys put their arms around each other and walked away together.

That was my Dad’s world as a kid. As strange as it may seem fighting bonded boys together rather than separate them.

Oil fields near Lima where a man was judged not by the content of his character, but by the speed of his fists.

The Lima area once sat on a rich oil field. Old pictures show that oil derricks were as thick as trees. I heard a taped interview with an old man who worked the fields as a young man. He said it was common for two men just to look at each other and decide who was the better of the two by fighting. When it was all over they were friends. That must have been the environment my Dad was exposed to away from home and pervasive in the Lima area when my Dad was a lad.

Some where able to shake that mentality and civilize themselves, but Dad never did. Anger, fists, and barroom brawls became my Dad’s persona and reputation for years.

I recall years after my Dad’s death talking to an old-timer who knew my Dad. He said, “He was a helluva fighter. Ya didn’t mess with him.”

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