Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Freak Show

Dad didn't go overboard with tricks.  He didn't steal my nose, and he found a coin behind my ear only once.  Perhaps more tricks would've come out of the box if he'd lived to be a grampa, but maybe not.  It wasn't his thing.  Except for:

The Creepy Eye Thing
Dad had piercing blue eyes that were also really strong.  He'd been a sharpshooter in the Marines, and you could see why.  Until later on when he had to wear reading glasses, he had excellent vision.  (I did not inherit his eyes' strength or color, dag nabbit.)  One day he explained that the secret behind his vision was the eye exercises he did:  He'd cross his eyes, then leaving one eyeball in the center, he'd let the other one go the far opposite direction, then bring it back to the middle.  Next he'd do the reverse.  It looked freakier with blue eyes, and he was the only person know who was able to do this 'exercise' perfectly.  If you want to imagine what it looked like, picture Marty Feldman and you'll be close.

The Fogmaker
If you live in Queens you probably ride the subway a lot.  Though we always had something to talk about, sometimes Dad would decide to be entertaining instead.  So on one ride he demonstrated a way to breathe fog out of your mouth in a non-freezing environment.  He pursed his lips tight and did some kind of pressure breathing inside of his mouth.  Then he exhaled.  It looked like he was blowing smoke!  None of us kids could really replicate the effect.  He could've been a science teacher.

Helium Guy
Okay, a lot of people do the helium voice.  It's funny every time, I don't who you are you're gonna laugh.  The first time I remember Dad doing the helium voice was when I had some balloons that were slowing losing their oomph.  He undid one, took a breath and became one of the munchkins from the Wizard of Oz.

What was better than hearing him do the voice was hearing about the story of his helium adventures while in the 'service' as he called his four years in the Marines.  At one point he was on a ship in the Pacific Ocean, and most of the crew members that were not Marines were Filipino.  His description of them in letters home deemed them "the finest people you can meet in all of Asia & if it wasn't for the fact that I have such a wonderful family to go home to I'd probably spend the rest of my life here [Manila]".  He must have started getting this impression from their reaction to the little joke he and some of the other guys played.  Dad was pretty tall, about 6'2, and most of the Filipino men on the ship were substantially shorter.  So he and some other big buddies inhaled a load of helium, charged up to the Filipinos and gave them the laugh of their life.  It was also one of the few stories of the 'service' that gave Dad joy to recount.  One of the best things about Dad was that he didn't play practical jokes that intended to humiliate others; he really liked getting a good laugh out of people. I hope to continue his legacy, at least in this respect.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Doggie Downers

My Dad loved dogs.  That needs to be said before I get into the story.  Though in later years we had cats, and he learned to bond with them, he had a dog growing up, got along with all the family dogs, and they just adored him too.  My sister's dog Cookie was friendly, but after years of my cringing around her, ( I loved her but I was easily winded by her gymnastics,) she stopped jumping on me and sort of turned to the side tactfully when I approached her.  Not so with Dad.  She'd be airborne, practically jumping over fences as soon as she caught sight of him. 

That being said, like so many, Dad was a light sleeper.  This was fine when he wasn't working: he could sleep in, and none of us would bother him.  On a work night, sleep was crucial.  If he had trouble sleeping, he'd take sleep tablets from Genovese Drugs - those over the counter deals that had similar properties to Benadryl.  They were blue pills, nicknamed "bloops" by Dad, who had to find a name for everything.

He slept not too far from the window facing the backyard.  An old super of our building kept dogs out there, and personally I didn't like that arrangement.  He'd train them in hunting, and there's an incident involving him, a rabbit, and two dogs that still haunts me.  Most of the dogs were pretty docile, though, but they could not keep quiet at night.

A few nights in a row, one dog was particularly vocal, and Dad lost a lot of sleep.  One trait my family shares is the inability to be pleasant on only a few hours of sleep. He was wretched.  The only thing Dad could do was scream at it to shut up.  That only bothered the neighbors.  He had to do something.  Then he had an idea.  He took a hot dog from the fridge and loaded it with a "bloop".  Then he tossed it out the window. 

What do you know?  Silence.  A blissful night sleep for both doggie and Daddy.

---I don't recommend you try this at home - some dogs' systems will not be able to tolerate pills.  This was a big guy, though, and he was still of the living and by the next day, no worse for wear.---

Now, Dad did not make it a practice to drug the backyard dogs, but I believe it gave him peace of mind to know that a solution was possible.  He even had an idea to market dosed hot dogs as "Doggie Downers", with a picture of an unconscious dog on the package, tongue lolling off to the side of  its face.  Somehow I don't think the FDA would have approved.

Even better than the story itself was the pride Dad took in recounting it.  He was not a fan of cameras, particularly video cameras, but one of the few times he was completely relaxed while I was filming was when he was telling this story to some family members and friends at my sister's house.  Cookie didn't seem to mind hearing it either.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Intro to Daddy George

Why am I dedicating an entire blog to my father?  Why not?  He was one of the most interesting people I've ever met - which might have spoiled me for other personalities.  He led an interesting life, at least in his early years, and had a way of making mundane things sound hilarious. 

He was more of a storyteller than a writer.  I urged him to write, whether it was a few notes resembling a memoir, even a fictionalized version of his life.  Something to hold on to.  He didn't care to, and that was that.

When he died, five years ago now, I had to balance genuine mourning with holding on to the past.  I made some hard decisions regarding which of his belongings to keep.  Of course I kept an album my aunt had made, full of pictures of him growing up, some schoolwork, and letters home from the service.  I avoiding talking about him on my main blog, because I try not to be too personal there.  And I won't be here either.  I have friends and family I could talk to for that. 

Here I will relate memories, mostly the fun ones.  I hope to think my sense of humor was inherited from him, and I hope some of it will come through here.