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Nouveau less-riche

 As the story goes, I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, and rich is better.
No, that’s not exactly true.
I’ve never been rich.
I come from a blue-collar, lower-middle-class background.  My parents were teachers, lived in a neighborhood of teachers, they never bought a ‘new’ car.  I paid for my own college, and worked while attending school. 
When I worked for That Major Credit Card Company, I had health insurance, life insurance, dental insurance, sick-time, vacation time.  And a real job, paying less than $40k/year.
Before that job, I held many, mostly lower-wage jobs.
And sometimes, coming up with rent, grocery money and such was a challenge.  A friend reminded me the other day about how I’d shared with him that during those fallow times, I’d walk a mile or so to downtown to Pete’s Fish and Chips.
Now, I’m not a big seafood fan, but Pete’s had (and still has) The Monsterburger!
Back in the day, one could get a Monsterburger with cheese, french fries and a glass (well, a 32 oz. Styrofoam cup) of whole milk for about $1.50!  I lived on these for many days.
Pete’s was a local Valley operation, and one of the cool things about him was he trained his staff to carry handguns, for security.  This was before CCW licensing.  Sadly, Pete hired a security consultant (a local PI!) who ended up killing him and robbing him for a few hundred dollars.
And now, I’ve come full circle.
I get a stipend from Social Security Disabilty, coupled with a small amount from my private insurance carrier.  (Which is going away.)
It’s enough to tell the system I make too much money for assistance for my prescriptions. (Which I can’t afford, anyway.)
And, as of 1 July, I got  Medicare!  WOO-HOO!  They take out a monthly premium from my already tight existence, AND I’ve a deductible to meet.  And, of course co-pays for the few doctors left who accept Medicare.
How’s that public health care working out for ya, Guffaw?
The doctor I went to last Friday (and this morning and next Friday is at a ‘free’ clinic.)
I’m not complaining, but, seriously what are my choices?  Okay, I am whining a little.
Looks like more Monsterburger combos are in my future…
I bet they’re not $1.50, anymore.

h/t Lonnie


Walter is a friend.  And, one may call him a character.
When I reconnected with my childhood friend, David (the Artist, not the Genius Mechanic), David told me he and his brother had a house, and were looking for a roommate.  David’s older brother (and my future landlord) was Walter.
Walter was a night manager of a fast-food emporium, and a member of a local little theater group.
Talented, but quirky.
Thus began two years of college roommates, stealing each other’s food, beer and being generally goofy college-aged doofi (doofuses?)
Walter was (in)famous for sleeping anytime, anywhere.  He’s been found asleep in the bathtub-it’s amazing he never drowned.  Back in those times, one could remain seated in a movie theater, and watch the next showing, then the next.  I remember Walter returning home, ticked-off he’d gone to the movies, only to fall asleep in the middle, and miss the remaining, subsequent showings.  Sleeping.  I think at the time he had apnea issues, but they’ve been resolved.
We were never super-close friends (I was closer with his brother Dave, who was my age) but I found one thing remarkable.
Walter had no guile.  Most people have their moments.  Walter, not so much.
I’d go for years, not having spoken to him, and we’d see each other at a friend’s party, and it was as if I’d seen him yesterday.  And, he was always kind, generous and sometimes hysterically funny.
I think in Walter’s world, if you’re his friend, you’re his friend.  Time, distance, politics, religion, petty disagreements all mean nothing to Walt.
When we were college roommates, I was pretty judgmental.  It took me years to learn Walter’s message.
A couple years ago, when I was doing chemo, a mutual friend mentioned that fact to Walter.  He made a point of reconnecting with me, and checking in on me.  And still does.
And, I’d not seen or spoken with him in some time.
Subsequently, we continue to keep contact via email. 
As I’ve written here before, I have great friends.  Walter is one of them.

Gun in the Doctor’s Office?

I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday.
This was unusual in a couple of areas.
1.  As my insurance was canceled almost two years ago, I’d not been able to afford to see my own physician, and,
2.  As a result, I visited the ‘free’ clinic.
My personal internal health issues aside, I’d another concern.  Google Maps showed the medical office to be in a traditionally bad part of town.  (for a ‘free’ clinic?  Who knew?)
Do I carry?  Do I continue to carry if there’s a sign prohibiting such behavior?
So, I went to Google Street-view.  The large office building seemed to be in a semi-industrial park island, in the middle of the aforementioned bad area.  I decided to decide upon arrival.
Upon walking into the nice-appearing office complex, I noticed a sign.  This wasn’t some 8″x10″ sign one might reasonably say they didn’t see.  This thing was feet x feet!
So, I opted to leave the 442 electroless nickel, the speed strip and the folding knife locked in the car.
Of course, everything took much longer than I’d anticipated.  After all, this is a doctor’s office!
But, what I didn’t expect (never having been to a ‘free’ clinic, before) was the mixture of peoples.
I flashed back to my childhood visit to the airport in Puerto Vallarta.  I live in a largely-Latino area, and this clinic is, as well, so this wasn’t unusual.  The significant number of Somali and North African women and children was, however.  Mogadishu airport?
Eventually, I was seen and examined and given advice and medication.  And, I am to return this Monday for further blood work and next Friday for a follow-up.
I still think I’ll leave everything in the car.  When they did the EKG, they had me remove all metal from my pockets.
If only I had one of those all-plastic Glocks?
PS – I used to have a chiropractor who loved seeing my guns.  But, he moved away.

One of these things is not like the other…but almost.

Model 28

I’ve always liked N-Frame Smith & Wesson revolvers.  From that first moment at Don’s Sport Shop, in Scottsdale (accompanied by Dave-the-mechanic, of course!), actually handling a Model 28, they just felt right.  And the Cadillac version, the Model 27, fuggedaboutit!
Years passed before I could get one, however.  I’d acquired J-Frames and K-Frames along the way, certainly fine firearms in their own right.  But, I lusted for an N-Frame.
So, here I am, in my favorite firearms emporium in Phoenix, window-shopping and drooling as many of us are want to do.
(They should really supply bibs or handy wipes at the door!)
And, there she is!  In the midst of all the run-of-the-mill Smith revolvers.
An N-frame, deep blue, 5 inch barrel, Smith & Wesson .357!   A Model 27!  NO, wait, a pre-Model 27!  Before they had thought to give them numbers!
As I’ve stated about both guns and women, before, she went home with me.  (Many more guns than women).

Model 27

I checked the serial number with the Smith factory – 1937.  Wow.
She was had for a bargain price (probably because her timing was just a hair off) but, I didn’t care.  She was very accurate, in spite of the occasional lead spit when shooting – I didn’t care.  And figured at some point I’d get the timing adjusted.
And soon after, a Model 28, “The Highway Patrolman”.  The econobox version of the 27, with a 4 inch barrel and basic blue.
In the immortal words of Flounder in Animal House, “Oh. boy, is this GREAT!”
The 28 actually had a smoother action than the pre-27.  And the wide, grooved target trigger.
Dreams fulfilled.
If you have read this blog with any regularity, you know the rest.  Burglary.
But, I keep making this pledge:  One day, I’ll own N Frames, again.
They’re just too cool.

My Daughter and Joe Pesci

If you’ve read this blog, you know of my daughter.
We didn’t allow her to watch movies inappropriate for her years.  We just thought that was the right thing to do, as responsible parents.
We also disapproved of foul speech.  Personally, I worked very hard to not ‘cut-loose’ in her presence, as I felt it was a poor example.
And, I know, as kids get older (and in Molly’s case, her parents separated and divorced) having these kind of controls get more difficult. 
At some juncture, I’d found out she’d been visiting friends, and they were allowed to watch most any movie.  And she’d seen some movies of which I disapproved for someone her age.  And she knew that, and also knew I didn’t approve of her using language expressed in those movies.  Lethal Weapon Two, for example, the first one with Joe Pesci.
Fast forward a few months, and we’re driving through the Jack-In-The-Box.  I begin to pull away, and she yells, “Dad, stop!”  So, I step on the brake and ask her what’s wrong.  She explains she’s inventorying our order, to make certain we received as we’d asked.
And then, deadpan, she looks me in the eye and says,“You know what Joe Pesci says.”
Maybe another year went by, and she’d heard me discussing the history of political violence with my friends.
The JFK shooting was a big topic of conversation in my home.  She knew I’d studied many books and visited Dallas, Dealy Plaza specifically
And the subject of the film JFK came up.  She asked me if she could see it.
I gave it some thought and decided okay, but, I prepped her about the seriousness of the subject, while based on fact, it was a fiction movie, and it was filled with graphic violence and language.
We watched the film, together.
There I sat, prepared to answer questions of complex historical import, things of a legal and forensic nature.
And what is my daughter’s comment on the film?  “That Joe Pesci sure has a mouth on him!”

Don’t Pull a Holliman

I’ll never understand why someone would spend $400-500 dollars or more for a concealable handgun, then choose a $15 holster to protect it!
Now, back-in-the-day when I was first carrying a gun, a snub-nosed revolver of quality manufacture (a S&W 49 revolver, for example) sold for around $150.  The standard of concealment holster was about $15.  It consisted of a chamois leather pouch with a spring steel clip to attach it inside the belt or waistband.  There weren’t many choices.  It was flimsy and pretty much one size fits all.  Some guys called it a BVD holster.
Today, forty years later, more than likely, the gun will be a service pistol (as opposed to a revolver) starting at about $400.  Many more choices for concealment holsters are available:  Inside-the-Waistband, Inside-the-Waistband (tuckable), exterior pancake-style, Yaqui slide, S.O.B.  Choices of rake or cant.  Choices of woven nylon, kydex plastic and even traditional leather.  And, if there’s a clip, it may still be steel, or kydex.  And many holsters are form-fitted to the model of firearm, and designed to remain open, for one-handed reholstering, while secure and stationary on the belt.
A vast improvement over the loose chamois BVD pouch.
So, again I ask, why the cheapie holster?
I remember watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson many years ago.  His guest was Earl Holliman, who was then co-starring in Police Woman.  He’d brought a video of out-takes.
One that forever sticks in my brain is he draws his weapon to cover the bad guy, and does.  With the holster attached to the weapon.  Some of us had had that experience with our chamois BVD holsters, and called the embarrassment of doing a presentation with holster still attached, as pulling a Holliman.

Do yourself a favor.  Spend more than $15.00.  Get quality gear to hold your expensive sidearm.  Don’t pull a Holliman.


Jim is one of my oldest friends.  He and I met when my Dad married my Step-Mom, and we moved to Tempe.
I was starting the Third Grade, and he, the First.  So, it’s been a few years.
Considering I came from a somewhat dysfunctional environment, visiting his house and family were a welcome relief.
Now that I think about it, I don’t think I ever heard yelling in their home.  They were the ‘normal’ family on the block.
Jim was always kind of quiet, unless he knew you, then, he was a goofball.  Fun, silly, a good guy to hang out with.
He blew us all away when, at the height of the Vietnam War, he announced he was joining The Marines!  The Marines!  I asked him why, he said, because he wanted to test himself, and the other services weren’t good enough.  Considering his dad was a college professor, and his parents were traditionally liberal, this was quite a shock to everyone.  He was so easy-going, I pleaded with him, don’t let them f**k with your mind!  He said he’d not let them.
First liberty out of boot camp, and here’s Jim, squared-away, solid, beefy, now a combat photographer.  And all he can talk rant about is the f**king squids! (for the uninitiated, squid is a pejorative term used by others to refer to Naval personnel, especially by the Marines).  So much for don’t let them mess with your mind!
Jim survived his tour-of-duty okay, and got over his animus toward Sailors.
Most of the parents on the block had lived through The Great Depression, and because of that experience, were frugal.  Jim’s parents even more so, and, it rubbed off on Jim.
When it came to the daily, small stuff, Jim was so tight he squeaked.  But, when any of us had ‘financial difficulties’, we could always count on him.  Over a couple years, back in the 70s, he loaned me a significant amount of money, over a few hundred dollars.  He never mentioned it, again.  And, years later, when I was flush, for once, I paid him back.  He was shocked, not that I’d paid him, but, that it was so much!  He’d completely forgotten.
This is the same guy who, on a first date, complained the date asked for more tortilla chips (there was an extra charge, and he had coupons to use on the date!)  I know this because I dated the same woman later, and she shared this with me.
But, I’m convinced to a certainty, if I called Jim at 0300, and told him I needed $4000, and couldn’t explain why, he’d be there with the cash as soon as humanly possible.  And, probably not remember or bug me about it.
You’ve read before about my wealth of friends.  I don’t know how, but, the ones I have are amazing.  I’m proud to say Jim is one of mine.

Mail Order History

Back before the magic of the Internet, people would receive catalogs in the mail.  Sears and Roebuck, of course, and Spiegel are famous examples.
One would fill out an order form, mail it in with a check or money order, and eventually, the prize would arrive.
My father was a big mail order guy.  I think to him, the idea of something shipped from far away suddenly appearing on the doorstep was magical.
He passed this gene onto me.
When I was a kid, I developed an interest in Magic.  Sleight-of-Hand, Prestidigitation, Legerdemain.  Magic tricks.
Back in the 60’s there was only one magic shop in town, and that was way across town from where we lived in Tempe.
I didn’t get to go there, much.
So, I relied on mail-order catalogs.  They advertised in the classifieds in the back of magazines like Popular Mechanics I’d read at the barber shop.  Companies in New York, Chicago, San Antonio and even Hollywood had all manner of tricks, props, playing cards, books, you name it.  Along with the requisite novelties – whoopee cushions, joy buzzers, chattering teeth, stink bombs.
Everything a growing boy could want.
And, I’d dutifully sent away for my prizes –  using loose cash – and it seemed forever – and I got stuff back.
One of the catalogs I discovered along the way was from a company called Johnson Smith & Co., Detroit, Michigan.
They didn’t just have magic tricks and books, they had everything you didn’t know you wanted!
Crystal radio sets, 16mm film projectors, books on palmistry, tap-dancing and The Masons!  Chameleons, baby alligators, hunting knives!  And, of course, tricks and novelties.  It was like a circus side-show in a book!
A few years ago, while shopping for furniture, I was looking at some old books in an antique shop.  And there it was, an old Johnson Smith Catalog, perhaps 15-20 years older than the ones I’d collected in the 60’s.
A facsimile of one of the pages is below.  I’d forgotten, before the Gun Control Act of 1968, people sometimes bought firearms and ammunition through the mail!

Johnson Smith - guns

Wouldn’t it be magical to have those prices, now? 
(They sold canned beer and cigarettes, too!  An ATF one-stop-shop)

No Tears for Borders

With all this sadness in the news regarding the passing of Borders Books, I felt I had to say something.
There used to be an independent bookstore at Town & Country Shopping Center (20th St./Camelback).
I don’t recall the name, but the lady who ran it was very cool.  I always tried to purchase the Maltese Falcon replica she had proudly on display.  Turns out she had won it in a murder-mystery dinner theater event, so, she wasn’t selling.
Back in the mid-80’s, she was advised the mall was ending her lease, so they could put in a hotel on the site.
She sold everything she could (keeping the Falcon) and moved on.
Then the mall put in a much larger, chain bookstore!
Just North of Oak on 32nd St. was The Royal Bookstore.  This was yet another independent bookstore.  They catered to a male clientele.  Books and magazines about cars, martial arts, electronics, computers, firearms, working with hand tools, hunting, fishing, politics, philosophy, science-fiction…you name it, they had it, geared toward men.  They even had a small adult section.
The old man who owned it was from Belgium.  He ran it with his son, who was an American citizen and had fought in Vietnam.  He was a gun-guy, and when his father retired, pretty much ran the store, himself.
The best thing about Royal Bookstore was it was small enough, that the guy would remember you, and your interests.  Just as a good retailer should.
I’d maybe not been in for two months, and I’d hit the door, and he’d say,”Hey Guffaw, good to see you.  I just got in these three gun magazines and two books on investigation.”
He also (before they were bought out by the conglomerate and jacked up their prices) had early editions of Shotgun News delivered, usually a couple days before regular mail delivery!  He even flew a Belgian flag outside the shop on the days he had Shotgun News in stock.
But he shut the store down in 2002.  He told me he couldn’t keep up with the big chains and the growing Internet market.  He simply couldn’t compete with Amazon.
And the neighborhood was in decline.
So, no tears from me regarding the passing of Borders.
When Amazon makes disposable Kindles and virtually all literature is E-friendly, then, there will be tears.
(Yes – I remember AMAZON is one of my advertisers!)

PAGEVIEWS, The Sequel…

I began blogging March 5, 2011, with no expectations.  None. 
On May 23, 2011, the blog hit 10,000 pageviews, with 137 posts published.
I was proud and surprised.

TODAY, the blog hit 20,000 pageviews, with 252 posts published (not counting this one).
I remain proud and surprised.
The blogs averages 1.8 post per day, always at least one daily, sometimes two or even three.

I will continue to try to write something someone wants to read.
And to update the beauties and funnies, daily, as well.

Thanks for all your ongoing support.

"Round up the usual suspects."

In Loving Memory…