Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Like most kids, I loved parades...still do, really. Back when I was little, Lorain had parades for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Halloween. Later, in the mid-Sixties, the International Festival was started in late summer, with its own parade.

The parades were always on Broadway, so back then, we only had to walk a block; the last one I saw, which was the Memorial Day Parade in '90, I only had to look down from my front window, as the parade was going by below.

My favorite thing when I was little was the floats with the girls tossing candy to the crowd, usually taffys or Tootsie-Rolls. The best parade, though, was the Halloween Parade, with all the people in costumes storebought and homemade, and even more candy.

There were always soldiers and other veterans in the parades, and I remember one, I think for the Fourth, when I got to stand by a flatbed carrying a Snark missile.

My Cub Scout pack, 341, was in the Memorial Day Parade in '64; we marched for what seemed like miles down Broadway, with people clapping and was great.

I dunno if Lorain still has parades...if not, they should. We live in a great country, with rights and freedoms that people in other countries can only dream about. Lorain has lost a lot, but is still a great American town, worthy of a parade or two.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


We had a record player a lot like this one when I was was blue and white, and looked like a suitcase. We had all kinds of music in the house, from the classical lps my Aunt Glenna had left behind to the latest Motown 45s; these we'd get from the older kids down the street, who loved to see my brother Mike dance...they'd buy two of everything (at .50 a crack) and give us a copy.
The record player was one of the few machines in the house we were allowed to operate without adult supervision- I was only eight when the Beatles broke, and I was the oldest. We played everything, and loved it all, classical, rock-n-roll, r&b, even the Disney records I got through the mail. My Aunt Delores left stacks of 45s when she moved out, and we played those a lot-here's a favorite of mine....
I loved this song, dunno why.
I can't recall the last time I carefully clicked a spider (that's what they're called, really) into the hole of a 45 record, but I miss that...I miss the dusty scent of warm tubes and speakers, the fun of playing a record at 78 rpm, or 16, for that matter...CDs and I-Pods just ain't the same.

Monday, June 28, 2010


I was sixteen that summer, and in trouble...I'll not bore you with the details, but I got sent to a home for "troubled youth" in May, there to spend, who knew how long?
The place was on the grounds of a state hospital-in theory, any one of us could be transferred at eighteen from the Adolescent Rehabilitation Program into an adult ward with a stroke of a pen, a fact we were often reminded of. The place did have an upside, was coed, and that's where I met Susan.
She was fifteen, and looked sorta like the picture above. She was there for the same reason as me-incorrigibility-although she had come from a foster rather than a regular home. I didn't know all her details...she didn't tell, and I didn't ask.
At first, we couldn't stand each other, and, to be honest, I dunno exactly what happened, but suddenly, we were a couple, for a brief span of time, my first relationship.
Were we in love? I dunno...I was sixteen, and I'd never felt like this before. Whatever it was, it was wonderful, and I was a mess when it ended.
About a year later, a friend was able to locate the address of her current foster home, and we wrote back and forth for a while. Her foster father was transferred overseas, and she went back into the system, to somewhere unknown to me. Perhaps she preferred it that way.
Still, after all these years, I still raise a glass to her, and I enjoy her memory....peace, Sunshine.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Every tv market in the 50's and 60's had at least one kiddie show, in the morning or afternoon, with some man (or woman) dressed up, showing cartoons, and reminding the little boys and girls to clean their plates, and be nice to everyone.
There were several in the Cleveland market, but the two foremost were Barnaby and Captain Penny.
My personal favorite was Captain Penny, the guy with the kerchief around his neck...he had two daily shows on WEWS, "The Noon Show", and "The Captain's Comedy Clubhouse", which came on at five pm. The Captain ran really cool cartoons, like "Astronut", "Sydney", and "Roger Ramjet", and it was the first place we saw "Astro Boy". He also had Jungle Larry, who'd bring wild animals on his shows, and Pooch Parade, where a lady from the Animal Protective League would bring on puppies and kittens that needed adoption.
Barnaby came on WKYC, at 4:30, and his show ended just as "Comedy Clubhouse" was coming on, which was nifty. He sang, told stories, and had cartoons like "Space Angel", "Casper", and "The Mighty Hercules". He also had an invisible parrot, named Long John.
They've been gone for years, the shows, and the players; thank God for YouTube.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Just like Papa, she's been on my mind lately; she'll have been gone forty-three years this September.

Mary-Ellen was the next-to-oldest in her family, the first to get married, and have children. I remember her as fun, caring, and crush material-to this day, I have a thing for women with dark curly hair.

Mary-Ellen was troubled, cursed with depression, a streak of which runs in our family. In her case, it tended to manifest itself in black moods, where the only recourse was to seek shelter, from everyone. They'd descend upon her like a dark curtain, without warning. I remember being out in the yard with her one summer afternoon, playing catch with her, my brother Mike, and her son Todd, who's three years older than me; at the time, I was eight.

Todd had just tossed the ball to me, and laughing, I tossed it to my aunt, who stood smiling at the ball crossed the yard, I saw her expression change, and darken...the ball struck her in the chest, unheeded, as she turned, and went into the house, and up the stairs to the spare room, where she remained for three days.

Mary-Ellen was in and out of hospitals for her condition, and nothing seemed to help for long.

She and my uncle Cliff had separated several years before, and he had custody of Todd and his older twin sisters, Toni and Andi. When my aunt was well, the kids would spend time with her, often at our house, but the periods of depression got worse over time. By then, she'd moved to Oberlin, a small town near Lorain, where two of her siblings lived.

In September of '67, Mary-Ellen was hospitalized in Oberlin , after a head injury due to a fall.. Somehow, she was able to leave the hospital, and make her way to the town reservior, where she jumped in; her body was found several hours later.

To any family who might read this, I'm not writing this to open wounds, or to expose "family stuff" to outsiders, but because I'm kinda sick of NOT talking about her. I loved her, and I still miss her after all this time, and I never liked the fact that people often acted as if she'd never existed.

I wrestled with depression for years myself, and with a mother who was terrified that her oldest child would wind up like her older sister-it didn't make our relationship any easier.

I'm not blaming anyone, nor do I have any answers, other than perhaps talk to each other, a lot more.

Monday, June 21, 2010


My grandfather bought it for Mike and me when we lived in the projects; we had to share it. Still, StingRays were the coolest way to get around that summer, and we had one of the first; it was dark blue, with a white seat, and I don't think either one of us walked a block if it was our turn on the bike. The older kids taught us how to do wheelies, how to skid on gravel, and how to peel out, necessary skills if you were going to be cool.
We had our share of crashes-I remember smashing into the side of a milk truck, and flying over the handlebars after running headlong into the curb. Mike had the worst...he was riding a wheelie when the entire front wheel came off, and took off down the road ahead of him. He tried to hold it up until he could get to the grass, but no such luck-the front fork came down, slamming into the concrete, and Mike went sailing like a pebble from a slingshot. We never got hurt badly, just scrapes and the like. The most painful bike accident I ever had, I wasn't even on the bike...I was walking south on Leavitt, toward the corner at 21st Street, and my friend Miguel was on his bike, tearing west on 21st...and we met at the corner. I had the wind knocked out of me, bruises on my ribs for weeks, and a road-rashed butt from when I fell.
I've owned I dunno how many bikes over the years, but that StingRay holds a special place in my heart. When we moved, we sold it to the kids next door for ten or fifteen bucks, I forget which...we needed gas in the station wagon.
Gee...when was the last time I popped a wheelie?

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Over the years, I've shared my life with lots of dogs and cats, but there are two that stand out; their careers overlapped during my teen years, and they were my best friends , Blackie and Nipper.

I have no pictures of them, so these are close approximations, particularly of Blackie-the only things missing are the chunk out of his left ear and the scars on his head...the old boy was a brawler, a fifteen pound tom with all the original equipment. I got him for free back in '71, and we shared good times, homemade spaghetti, and the occasional glazed doughnut until his death in late '75-he finally met a dog he couldn't whip.

Nipper was actually my ma's dog, a birthday present as a puppy in '73; he got his name because the first thing he did when I picked him up was to nip my nose. Since I was the one who generally exercized him, we hung around a lot together. Nipper wasn't my dog...he was my buddy.

In late '76, we moved back into the city proper, and I guess it really didn't suit Nip, because he took off-friends who still lived in Campito said they periodically saw him, running with one of the local packs. I asked Ma if she wanted me to fetch him home, and she said, "No."

Friday, June 18, 2010


I invited some friends from a discussion site I frequent to visit "POINTING THE CANNON" recently, and they did. of them responded, "Cool, Alan, but when are you going to explain your squid fetish"?

Actually, I like octopuses better, but I have used this illustration from "20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA"often in posts-it's just cool. I do find octopuses fascinating creatures, and have since childhood.

I've a vague memory of being at a zoo, perhaps Toledo or Detroit, at the Aquarium, standing before a tank, watching this enormous sea beast crawl over the glass, white suction cups against a gray-brown body that showed flashes of other colors, an eye that appeared to be squinting right at me...I was terrified, mesmerized, all at once.

Ever since, I've read about them, watched them in films of fact and fiction, and even eaten one, although octopus isn't high in my list of favorite munchies. I'd like to go to an aquarium where they have one of the larger specimens, and be allowed to feed it, as I've seen on YouTube.

Until then, there's always PBS.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


After my grandfather had another stroke in '65, he was unable to work at all, and we couldn't afford to live in the house we were renting. So, in the spring of '66, we moved into public housing, Leavitt Homes to be exact...the Projects.
I hated it at first...we couldn't have pets, there was a grouchy old lady on the corner who'd keep your ball if it went into her yard, and we were always being reminded of how easily we could be kicked out if we acted up. After a while, it was okay- I learned to ride a bike there, there were woods nearly to play and hang out in, and lots of other kids, white, black, hispanic, and everyone had fun. I went to a new school, Chaleston, where you had to carry your lunch, rather than coming home to eat at noon, which was sorta cool. I liked that I could talk to my next door friend, Junior, through the razor blade slot in the medicine chest. We lived there for about a year, and we did get kicked out 'cause someone said we'd broken her far as I can remember, it didn't least, not THAT window.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Photo c. 1995, Jacobs Field, Cleveland, Ohio
I was on the phone with my brother Mike this morning...that's him on the left- he's a bishop in an Apistolic church in Florida these days- and I got to thinking about the three of us, and how different our lives have been and become over the years. Mike, the middle kid, was a jock in high school; he was on Clearview High School's State Championship basketball team back in '74. I was a student at Clearview at the same time, Class of '74, setting a long-standing record for suspensions.(btw, I'm in the middle, wearing my beloved Vampirella t-shirt.)
Philip (far right) is the youngest, and his thing was music, and getting into almost as much trouble in school as I did.
Now, we're all married, with kids....Phil's gone back to school, I'm a fundamentalist Christian, a conservative, and a registered Republican, and Mike has a church, a food and clothing ministry, and a grandson turning a year old at the end of the week.
I wonder what Ma would say about it all....

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I can't remember the first time I went there-it seemed to be somewhere we always were during the summer. Playing in the waves, eating ice cream, and enjoying the sight of the fountain, especially at night, all illuminated. We tried surfing on an old door we'd found when I was eleven, and dog-paddled in our undies...couldn't afford trunks.
I rarely went there during my teens; indeed, I was nineteen before I began to frequent Lakeview again. My friends and I had discovered girls, music, and recreational drugs, in roughly that order, and Lakeview Park was the place for them at the time.
We'd cruise in, bike in, walk in, to be a part of the throng that turned the park into a strange carnival during the mid to late Seventies. Oddly enough, most regular citizens didn't seem to be bothered by us, although the police chief and the local paper swore we'd turned the place into "Needle Park".
One August evening in '79, the park was raided by the police...they drove through in dozens of cars, arresting everyone they could grab. Some of my friends and I got away, and sat across the street, watching it happen, then went home.
That was the last time I spent more than an hour at a time there, at least while the park was open...during my insomniac biking runs, I'd ride down there, and enjoy the solitude, and the sound of the waves. Occasionally, I'd see a cruiser come through, but they rarely bothered me-in fact, an older officer once admonished his rookie partner about me thus:
"That's Mister'll see him down here a lot after closing. He has trouble sleeping, so he rides his bike or goes for walks around town. He doesn't bother anything or anyone, so we generally leave him alone".
Thank you, good sir.

Monday, June 14, 2010


If you're around my age, you probably grew up watching someone in costume hosting a horror movie show on tv, usually on Friday or Saturday night. In the Cleveland market, which included Lorain, that person was...Ghoulardi.
I included the video clips because Ghoulardi is hard to explain; he was sorta like Craig Ferguson for kids, nearly fifty years earlier, 1963-66. He did a lot more than just run bad movies and bad jokes...he was a cultural phenomenon, just at the time when the culture was about to be turned upside down, from every direction.
I don't think it was planned, but Ghoulardi encouraged us to question the established order, to poke fun at and de-Olympusize the status quo, without being vulgar or mean-spirited.
Ernie Anderson did this for three years, then moved out to the Coast, for greener pastures, becoming one of the highest paid announcers on tv. Still, he left a legacy on the North Coast that still endures, not just in makeup and bad movies, but even in the way we think, and see the world.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Some of my friends had a band, called the Fabulous Techniques, and I sometimes roadied with them, or just hung out at practices and gigs. In the summer of '75, my friend Mike asked a favor of me; they had a gig coming up at an Elks Club function, and one of the songs they were doing was the prog-rock classic, "Utopia", by the band of the same name
and he wanted to know if I'd be willing to write an intro to the song, and do it onstage.
Silly question, nu?
I went straight home, and within an hour, I'd written the intro...after thirty-five years, I still remember it....
"Far away, unbound by the limits of Time and Space lies a world of perfect harmony, a world untouched by hatred, war, disease, and poverty. A paradise beyond your wildest dreams.
"Come with me now! Open your mind...release your soul.
Next stop-UTOPIA!"
( WAS the 70's!)
Anyway, the night of the gig, I'm just offstage, dressed in black, in a long black cloak with a crescent moon collar, pleasantly buzzed. The mike I'm going to use is hooked through the reverb box, checked out, ready to roll.
Micheal cues me, and I leap onstage, taking the mike on my fist. I flick the switch, and blow gently into the mike...nothing. I try again, getting naught but dead air, and an audience staring at me.
The Irish in me, fueled by some excellent Columbian, rushes to the fore...I throw back my head, and blast the crowd with my best mad-scientist laugh, and do the intro in a half-shout,
leaping offstage as I finish with a patented witches' cackle. The band launches into the tune, as I collapse into a chair in a corner, laughing my tuchus off.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


When I was a child, I could look out our back windows, and see fire leap into the night sky, as the stench of sulphur permeated the air. Sometimes, an explosion would rock the area, as superheated slag would come into contact with standing water. Nothing scary...indeed, a sign of security. We lived near the steel mill.
The mill's still there, I dunno what it's called these days-it was U.S. Steel when I was little, and the old folks called it the National Tube. My grandfather worked there at one time, as did my Uncle Eddie, and the fathers of almost everyone I knew. My brother Mike worked there at the end of the Seventies, until the massive layoffs of the Eighties.
The mill seemed an act of nature, as permanent as the lake...most of my friends saw their futures etched in the red dust from the stacks, spending their Thursday nights perched on stools in shot-and-beer bars, bitching about the heat, and the danger, but loving the money...just like Dad.
As I said, it's still there, but a shadow of its former self. At least it's, no one clocks in at Ford Motor, Thew Shovel, Fruehauf, or American Shipbuilding, as they once did.
FTR, I never worked there, and never wanted to. The fire, noise, and big machines were okay at a distance, but there's no way I could've stood it day after day, no matter what the money.
A phantom boilermaker I raise to those who could, and do.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Just before I moved from Lorain, I lived in this building, in an upstairs apartment; mine was the two to the right, without awnings. I couldn't find any pictures of it when it was whole, but it had been there from 1928...I lived there from 1987 to 1991. I'm not certain when it was torn down.
There used to be so many upstairs apartments on Broadway, generally occupied by older folks who'd lived in them for years, paying very low rents. The city bought up many of these buildings in the late Seventies, to make way for the railroad underpass on Broadway. A whole lot of businesses, and living spaces, went away for that.
No, I'm not here to complain about "progress", or bemoan the loss of the buildings, particularly that one; someday, I might write an entry about my stay at 1444 Broadway, but not now. I'm just musing about change in general, I guess.
I figured it up one evening, and in the time I lived in Lorain, I've had about twenty different addresses, most of which have been gone for years. My friend Dave, who's a year older than me, spent most of his life in the same house in Avon Lake...I wonder, which of us had the richer experience?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


This was the magic carpet of my youth, and early adulthood, although I myself have never owned or driven one. They were made in Lorain, and they ceased production on the day I turned fifty.
The Cub Scouts took us on outings in Econolines, as did the kid's clubs sponsored by Youth Services.From Cascade Park to Cedar Point, these homely, rugged vans meant fun, good times, adventure all through the Sixties.
In the Seventies, music was friends were all in bands, and I'd help with equipment, so as to get in the gigs. The main vehicle was a '67, owned by Dave, with the bench seats removed; my favorite place to ride was draped over the engine hump between the front seats. We rode to practice, gigs, and just generally getting around, usually Dave at the wheel, Micheal at shotgun, and me in the center, cruisin' steady with a song in our hearts, and a buzz in our heads.
You so rarely see these wonderful beasts anymore-they stopped making them in '05, on my birthday, closing down another part of the Lorain I knew.
If, going down Route 2 some summer night, you find yourself sitting at the Baumhart Rd. light, and a boxy, light blue phantom pulls up alongside, with a tall, bespectacled Rasputin at the wheel, a chocolate mantis in the passenger seat, and a light skinned, chubby lunatic at the center navagator's post, blow the's just an echo of us.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


He's been on my mind a lot lately, although he's been gone forty years. He was my maternal grandfather, but he was "Papa" to us.
My father didn't stay, so I never knew my other grandparents, and my grandmother died when I was three, so Papa was a big part of my life, my father figure, my mentor, my friend. We watched baseball, the Three Stooges, and the Mercury launches together, and he taught me how to pound a nail straight.
Papa worked as a janitor at a bank...he'd worked in the steel mill, but had to retire in '48 due to a stroke. He had another one when I was ten, and had to be moved to a nursing home, where he died just after I turned thirteen.
I looked in the mirror recently, and got a shock...I look a lot like him. I love you, Papa.

Friday, June 4, 2010


This is me and my brother Mike on the front porch of 1867 Elyria Avenue; most of the pictures I have of it are of this porch, so I won't post any others here.

My mother (on the right, standing) and her siblings grew up in this house, and I lived there until I was nine. We rented it from a man named Ransom, and as I remember, the most we ever paid for rent of this two story, four bedroom house with full basement was $35.00 a month.
We three boys had a room we shared, upstairs, my mother's room was halfway down the hall, and there was another bedroom at the end of the hall, used as a guestroom. My grandfather slept in a room just off the living room.
In memory, everything in the house seems big...when I was little, the walk from the living room to the kitchen (i.e. the refrigerator) seemed to take forever, especially when I was trying to get a bowl of chocolate marshmallow ice ceram before the commercials ended and Ghoulardi came back on. The kitchen ran along the whole back of the house, with a screen door and the basement stairs at one end. The dining room was next, with the bathroom coming off of it, the staircase, then the living room.
We had no front yard, as our house sat behind another house. We did have a side yard, with an apple tree, a swingset, and my grandfather's garden, and a backyard, with an ash tree, and an old-fashioned, cottage style garage.
I loved that house, and could never imagine living anywhere else, so you could imagine my shock when I was told that we had to move...the house had been sold, and was going to be torn down. We moved into the house next door, and lived there for around a year, but eventually, every house on that block was demolished, to make room for a Giant Tiger Discount Store.
(NOTE: In 1974, a strong wind blew the roof off of the store, remamed Gaylord's; I felt, somewhere inside, a sense of justice.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010


When I was in grade school, we lived at the opposite end of town from my friend, Micheal. Sometimes, my ma would take me out to his house, and pick me up after a few hours. I loved going out there...Mike was always a blast to be around, and his people were cool, especially his dad.
This one summer afternoon, back in '66, we're playing out in the yard with one of Mike's birthday presents, a Zero-M Sonic Blaster, which was a really sharp gun that fired air as the missile. We'd been playing for a few minutes, and had already exhausted the possibilities of blowing apart the cardboard targets that came with the gun...we were starting to get bored.
Then, Mike noticed the swarm of muffleheads on the side of the house; that time of year, they were everywhere, sheer clouds of them, like big, but harmless mosquitoes. Mike walked over to the wall, pumping the Blaster as he went, then stuck the muzzle over a bunch of muffleheads, and pulled the trigger.
When he lifted the muzzle away, there was this big red blotch on the wall, like something from a modern art painting. I took the Blaster from him, and tried it myself, producing the same result. We took turns, so wrapped up in what we were doing that we never noticed his Dad pulling into the drive....
"Micheal...Alan....what're you doing"? said that deep, silky voice. We froze, waiting to see how much trouble we both were in-Pop McDowell had my ma's permission to discipline me when I was there.

"Now, you boys get a couple buckets, and some water, and clean my wall," was all he said, or had to say...Pop was cool, but he didn't play around. We hove to, and were scrubbing the wall in a trice.
Over the years, I heard that voice many times, the last time being a couple years after Mike had passed...I couldn't bring myself to come out to the house, it hurt too much, and I told him so.
"Alan....that's okay....I understand", he said, and I knew that he did. Pop himself was gone about a month later.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I found these pictures on our familysite a while ago; obviously, someone's birthday party-not mine (kid with glasses)- too early in the year, or my brothers Mike (kid with open mouth full of cake), or Phillip (kid behind me, first picture) too late. Thing is, outside of them (and myself, o'course), I don't recognize a daggone one of them.

We all seem to be having a good time, and, judging by heights and such, I'd probably say we all went to school together. They look like a fun bunch of kids, but I don't recognize them, or remember the party.
The way I'm standing close to the boy next to me in the first photo, you'd think we were really tight or something, but he doesn't ring a bell.
Nothing deep here...just wondering, is all.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


There are women who leave no impression at all...there are women who grab hold, and stay; I'm blessed enough to be married to one.

Then, there are the ones who didn't stay, didn't quite reach that level where they get called "girlfriend", "lover", or anything like that, but still had an influence...they left a mark.

No pictures, sorry- there's only one whose picture I'd be able to post, and it wouldn't be fair to the others. In fact, she's first.

ANNETTE- If you're a guy around my age, you know who I'm talking about.

LOIS- The first girl I ever dreamed about...I was five.

BARBARA- She of the freckles and the shy voice. The gym teacher made fun of her because she couldn't do a cartwheel, and I wanted to clock him.

SUZY- The most popular girl in junior high, yet you treated everyone like people....had I asked you to the dance, what would've happened?

GLORIA-Long brown hair, big brown eyes, shy...I was scared to talk to you, too.

CHRIS- Slim, blonde, older than me, married, pregnant; you listened to me at the drop-in center, and you really cared.

DEBBIE- THe first girl I ever kissed, and who ever kissed me.

HELEN-Who smelled of cherries, and wore bathing suits to run the projector at the Ohio.

A raised glass, a prayer, and love, to all of you; you helped me get to where I am today, with someone who loves me, gets me, walks with me....thank you.