Cleveland High Jazz 1977

Cleveland Jazz 1977I’ve had the good fortune to today to reconnect with a long-lost friend through Facebook. It’s hard to describe my feelings; he and I were so close and shared so many memories. I’m sure I’ll write more as time goes on after we get a chance to meet up and talk. But, today, he was kind enough to send me this photo. It was 1977 and the Cleveland High Jazz Band had won first place in a jazz competition up in Kirksville MO at the University. (present day Truman Univ.) This photo is back in St. Louis, I think at SLU high. Honestly, that year, our senior year, we were like rock stars. We played out countless times the spring of that year; I’ve lost track of all the places we performed.

So, that’s the two of us in the bottom-right of the photo, both playing French Horns. French Horns you ask? What are two horns doing in a jazz band? Well, it was because my dear friend Don simply wanted to be in the Jazz band. I drooled with envy over the thought, but would have never had the nerve to do anything about it. Don simply asked the band director and then announced to me that he was in. “He” was in, not “we” were in. He was in because he asked. Well, back in those days I was painfully shy and rarely willing to ask for anything. But, now…well, there was no way my best friend was going without me. We were a team. I walked into the director’s office and…asked. The answer was yes.

For any of you band-score aficionados wondering where we got our charts for two horns in a jazz band, our brilliant band leader wrote them all out by hand. He loved the idea of being different. No other high-school jazz band at that competition had a horn, much less two of them.

It was, quite simply, the best times of my life. The camaraderie that we experienced as we traveled around St. Louis, setting up, performing, tearing down, getting out of class…it was indescribable.

Dinner with my 13-year-old self

I had the good fortune of having a nice talk with my 13-year-old self. We met at an abandoned restaurant; the food and the service were terrible.

My young-self ordered pizza, of course; but some kind of strange…pizza…I guess. Cilantro? Provolone? I don’t know what that is. My older, fatter self assured me it would be fine. And, it would have been…had the restaurant not sucked! The mature-me ordered some Black Bean Dip with Tortillas. They were just bad. How do you serve bad tortilla chips?

Anyway, we wanted to talk about church and religion and stuff. Mini-me was really wondering why I should belong to the church. Or, any church for that matter. After all, I mean, you know, evolution, science, not to mention the horrible boredom! The boredom! Save me from the boredom! Big-me didn’t blame him. It can be boring.

So, I had to remember that I did feel that way at one one time and yet here I am now spending all my time and energy on this church. And, I’m asking him to belong? Why? Am I just being selfish? I “need” him to join, so there’ll be a future? No, it’s much more than that; but how to put it into words? Words for the 13-year-old.

Well, the first item was the inevitable: evolution. I guess it can’t be helped. The Theory of Evolution as taught in our schools seems to contradict the story of Creation in Genesis. When young-me said, in response to my general question as to what problems he has with Christianity with, “you know, like evolution…” – well, I smiled a gigantic smile on the inside. I felt like Michael Jordan must feel with 2 seconds on the buzzer and the ball is passed to him.

“I got this.”

I told him of my love for science and evolution in particular. How that love hasn’t waned since I was his age. How, at first, it seemed like a stumbling block to faith in Christ, but turned out not to be. I told him of the story when I prayed that God would “give me the answer.” That’s right, I wanted an answer.

I got one. An answer, however, that mini-me might not appreciate just yet. I felt it sufficient for now that he trusted that I loved both science and Jesus.

The little guy’s brain moved fast. Enough of this evolution stuff, what about Satan and Hell? Yeah, what about that?

“My Mom thinks everyone goes to Heaven,” he said.

“I know,” said I. She’s a good person.

I wanted so bad to tell him that goodness like that is very hard to find out in the world. I knew no better when I was his age. I thought everybody was good. Why not? Why shouldn’t they be? I felt sad. But, I’m sorry, at thirteen, he’s still got some kid years left and I’m not going to despoil them.

Instead I wondered aloud if he’d ever read the Book of Job. He laughed, “Job?” pronouncing it j-o-b, like going to work job. What do kids care about old names? No one is named Job. Anyway, I told him to get a paraphrase Bible and read Job, he’d like it.

He deduced on his own that if there’s no Hell, then Hitler’s in Heaven. He didn’t like that. I don’t either. See, the crack? We can handle, or prefer, that there be no Hell, but not that there’s no Heaven either. Why, that would be atheistic.

After that came the obligatory Buddhist/reincarnation/nirvana/new-age/i’m not really sure what I saying stuff. I know, I know, I get it…God I’m bored with that stuff.

I think I’ll stick with art. He says he likes art. Why did the artists of yesteryear paint people in such “primitive” ways? Well, that’s how they saw the world. Why did we used to think that the sun rose in the east? Because that’s exactly what it looks like. Why did the writers of Genesis write such a primitive story?

I’ll keep you posted….

Death to America; Captain America, that is

You may have heard by now, that Captain America was assassinated the other day. I guess a little surprising to me is all the hoopla that has been made of it. Is it symbolism for something bigger, like the death of some aspect of Americanism? Yeah, sure; but I couldn’t help but to be reminded of a Captain America series from back in the day. Yes, I read and collected Marvel Comics and I followed Captain America and this all took place during the early 1970′s. Let’s see now…what was going on at the time? Hmmm…let’s see; an unpopular war led by an unpopular president. It got me reflecting on that series, which I remember well. At the end the evil genius behind the whole big dastardly plot was none other than the President of the U.S. To be honest, it was a big ho-hum to me. But, of course, I was 15 years old when the last issue was published and, well, let’s just say that an evil president didn’t stack up in my view to the likes of the Red Skull.

But do these stories have any social value? Absolutely, they do. They are (or will be) like mini-history books; no different than the ads in the comic books that harken back to yesteryear. I ran across this commentary from the end of my Captain America from the guy who was writing it at the time, Steve Englehart:

CAPTAIN AMERICA was my third Marvel series. It was being considered for cancellation when I got it, because it had no reason for existence. Stan Lee had written it for years, and it was clearly his least favorite book; the stories had become not only lackluster but repetitive. Gary Friedrich had picked it up a year before and done some interesting stuff, but he hadn’t stayed long; then Gerry Conway did two issues as a stopgap; and then I got it. The problem across the board at Marvel was that this was the 70s – prime anti-war years – and here was a guy with a flag on his chest who was supposed to represent what most people distrusted. No one knew what to do with him.

Me, I had been honorably discharged from the Army two years earlier as a conscientious objector – but I was supposed to also be a writer. So I did something for the first time that marked everything I’ve written since. I said, “Okay, if this guy existed, who would he be?” Not “Who am I?”, but “Who is Captain America?”

Six months later, the wayward book slouching toward cancellation was Marvel’s Number One title, and I seemed to have found my career. I’d also found an artist, Sal Buscema, who could draw exactly what I envisioned, so it was all good.

So I had asked myself “Who is Captain America?”, and had found an answer for the man. Thing was, America was moving from the overarching Vietnam War toward the specific crimes of Watergate.

I was writing a man who believed in America’s highest ideals at a time when America’s President was a crook. I could not ignore that. And so, in the Marvel Universe, which so closely resembled our own, Cap followed a criminal conspiracy into the White House and saw the President commit suicide.

And that was the end of Captain America…

And, just for fun, here’s a scan of an ad from one of my Captain America comic books circa 1970..

Comic Book Ad from 1970

Petula Clark and me

Jones, Dolenz, Boyce & HartThe MonkeesMy earliest memory of wanting to be performing in front of people was listening to Downtown on the phonograph (my sister’s 45). I grabbed the king from the chess board to use as a microphone and sang my heart out. I still get chills when the key-change hits heading into the trumpet break. For a while I think I wanted to acutally be Petula Clark.

Only a few acts came close to Petula in gaining my admiration. Those would be the Monkees and a duo that wrote for them: Boyce & Hart. I could have settled for being one them. When the Cowsills hit I thought there was a chance that my family might go on the road. I would be the star of course.

I’m not your stepping stone
I’m not your stepping stone 

You’re trying to make your mark in society
Using all the tricks that you used on me.
You’re reading all those high fashion magazines
The clothes you’re wearin’ girl are causing public scenes.

I said
I’m not your stepping stone
I’m not your stepping stone

When I first met you girl you didn’t have no shoes
Now you’re walking ’round like you’re front page news.
You’ve been awful careful ’bout the friends you choose
But you won’t find my name in your book of Who’s Who.

I said
I’m not your stepping stone
I’m not your stepping stone

Or how ’bout this one:

If I had told her that I loved her
She would have stayed till who knows when
But I guess she couldn’t understand it
When I said I want to be your friend
Cause a friend would never doubt you
Or ever put you uptight
And now I wonder what she’s doing tonight

Oh yes I wonder
What she’s doing tonight
Ohoh I wonder what she’s doing tonight

We were so close we shouldn’t get closer
And it’s making me feel so sad
But I tell myself I didn’t loose her
Cause you can’t loose a friend you never had (come on now)
Cause a friend won’t say it’s over
And go out just for spite
And now I wonder what she’s doing tonight

(all right Bobby)
Because a friend will always be there
If you’re wrong or if you’re right
And now I wonder what she’s doing tonight



Those were very different days weren’t they?

Full circle

Emily gave me a Mizzou T-shirt for Christmas. I wear it with pride because she is a student there, of course, but also for another reason. In 1977-78, I was a student there. Well, more accurately put, I attended a few classes there.

This was a very sad chapter in my life. Even now it’s hard for me to imagine how I could have found myself in such a tragic, empty place. Oh, wait; that’s right I was 18! And, with a maturity level of probably 14. I was profoundly shy and withdrawn and this was, in the end, what did me in. I simply wouldn’t communicate, to anyone, what I really wanted. I needed permission from others to act, so I would pathologically construct circumstances to somehow gain this permission. After a year of this, well, at least I simply left. And, not finishing college would be a decision that would haunt me for…well, until my daughter gave me a Mizzou T-shirt. Oversimplification? Yes, of course, but I smile big when I put it on.

(Note to young people: this kind of brilliant introspection only comes with time. Listen to your parents and you’ll avoid much trouble.)

Wife of Godfather

Wife of Godfather

I really have no idea what year this is. It struck me while writing these last two posts that dads “are” and moms “do.” I really have no idea who or what she was, I only know what she did.

When I see this picture I see the woman who taught me how to wear those yellow gloves. I was proud to carefully not let the inside of them get wet. And, there a few steps in front of her, was a small, built-in wall cupboard that had her tools in it. Yes, her tools; a hammer, a screwdriver and a pair of pliers. She has one very much like it in her apartment now.

Also, notice that belt she has on. She was mod. Her favorite “group” was Creedence Clearwater Revival. If you get in her car now the radio will be tuned to the oldies station. Oh, how I wish I knew the woman in this photo.

The Godfather

The Godfather …of the Monopoly board that is.

I ran across this picture while assembling an album for my mother. I’m not sure she would appreciate it as much as I, but hey, it is my blog. And, she is in the picture after all there in the right foreground.

When I look at this picture I see the dad of my fantasies. Cigarette in his left hand, drinking a 7 & 7 and waiting to pounce on the blockbuster deal that would leave him with St. James Place, Tennesse Avenue and New York Avenue; and the subsequent win.

This was a typical scene around our house on Friday nights. The gang of friends and family from church would come over (or we to their house) and usually the grown-ups would play cards and the kids would just hang out with each other. This picture is from a bit later, I’m guessing 1975 or so and I may not have even been there.

The Monopoly Board was a rite of passage for the males in our family. Girls were, how shall I say, discouraged from playing. Personally, I hated the game and I never won. Many times I played just to be a part of the grown-up guys. Drinking and cursing were not acceptable in polite company, but at the board, well to quote my uncle Gene, “God-damit Hutz, break out the good stuff!”

The Foosball Story

While attending the aforementioned party at Amy’s, I found myself standing across a foosball table from my soon-to-be-19-year-old daughter. After slamming a few balls past her poor goalie, she remarked, “what? …how? …when?” I wanted to answer, “you mean give you another example of how I wasted away my youth?” But, instead, I told the story. First, remember, if you’re talking to anyone under the age of 25 or 30, it’s incumbent upon you to remind them that during the summers there was no cable TV, no video games, no computers or internet. Sure, we watched our fair share of regular TV, but that was quite limited in comparison. So… There’s a small store-front on the corner of Bates & Colorado across the street from Woodward Elementary School (where four generations of Hudsons attended) that has seen many different incarnations in its day. In my youth it was a small pinball hall run by a old Greek guy. Inside were a few pinball machines and a few foosball tables. Now, the real game was pinball, and early on, we wouldn’t be caught dead playing foosball. I’ll tell the pinball story another time. After a summer or two though, the team aspect of foosball began to call us.

Russ and I have always been inseparable, but during those summers, especially so. We ended up being a team. He played back, I played front. We got pretty good; spent a lot of quarters, but never good enough to compete at the Electric Palace up at 44 & Hampton. That place was for pinball.

One memorable day stands out among the others during the little store-front era: It was a slow day at the corner, nobody there, just Russ and me. It wasn’t unusual to just sit out on the stoop in front and that’s what we were doing this day. In those days, the 1st District Police station was on Colorado & Holly Hills, so cop cars would go up and down Colorado all day long. This time, one stopped in front, the cop got out and told us that we weren’t allowed to sit out there. Loitering, you know. I was incensed. I remember a strong feeling of violation. This was my neighborhood, my school, my street. I can sit out on my street if I want to! So, we uttered an early form of “whatever,” and went inside.

The next day, same situation. We were sitting outside. The same cop pulls up angrily and starts coming towards us. We get up to go inside as if to say, “We’re inside!” Gus, the old Greek guy, bless his heart, who could barely speak English came over to our little crowd saying, “these good boys, these good boys!” But, to no avail. The police officer was…well, he was downright rude. So, after he threatened us with hard time, we left. We sulked around the house for the rest of the afternoon until my Dad came home. We proceeded to tell him the whole story and the cosmic unfairness of it all. Then, he did something that only in hindsight could I appreciate; he called the police headquarters and asked the cop who yelled at us to stop by the house to talk! (We had taken his name from his badge, you know.) Well, anyway, he didn’t let us talk to him. After a private conversation, Dad came back to tell us what they talked about. “Look boys, they’ve had some trouble with kids at that corner, they can’t tell the good kids from the bad kids by looking at them and he’s asked you politely not to loiter in front of the store. So what are you going to do?”


The Boy That Looked Like a Girl

me_and_killer0.jpgFirst off, this is another scan of an old picture. This is me and by beloved Killer shortly after we were married. Me and Annette, that is, not me and Killer; though most times I’m sure Killer believed she was married to me. Annette already had this great apartment in Richmond Heights and I moved in there after the wedding.

This was the shortest my hair had been, well, since just about the time of that last picture. Marty was telling me how much she enjoyed the picture and that Wally couldn’t pick me out of the group and that got me reminiscing about the old days. The good ol’ days of the boy who looked like a girl.

I guess my favorite story is of the time, I’d guess also around the time of that last picture, that me and my dad and his best bud Kim went deer hunting. Now we did this every year for awhile during that era, and this time we’d stopped in a small-town diner for something to eat. I had to go to the bathroom, so when the waitress approached our table, I asked where the restrooms were. She proceeded to tell me where the girls bathroom was. I said thank you very much and did not get up.

The two men across from me were now shaking with jovial bliss. “Go ahead and go to the bathroom…” they said. “Be sure to turn right and not left…”

“No thanks,” I said. I waited until we were done with our meal then I went outside, went into the alley and peed on a wall like a man. I guess because we were carrying high-powered rifles with us, I really didn’t feel emasculated. Actually, I look back in fondness to that moment because I was “with the guys.” I could bear to be the brunt of a joke as long as I was included in the gang. We had many trips like that one, and in case you’re wondering, we never shot a deer. The very first year me and my dad stopped going, Kim got one.

The old gang

thekids.jpgWe needed a new inkjet printer, so I went ahead and bought one that scans too. This is an old picture. My dad has two sisters, Michelle (Mickey) and Beth (now deceased.) These are “the kids” circa 1970. On the couch are Becky, slouching in her lap is Amy. In the middle is Lisa and then Carrie. Seated on the floor, left to right is Scott, Kenny, some hippe kid that everyone thought was a girl but was really a boy, and then my darling little sister Jennifer. I’m happy to say that we all turned out pretty good.