Tomorrow is my birthday. I was born on the day and year Laura Ingalls Wilder died. She was 90. She was the author of the best-selling “Little House” series of children’s novels. A friend who believes in reincarnation says that her soul returned on the day I was born, which is why I became a writer. Unlike Wilder, I am a struggling author of paranormal tales set in fictional Ridgewood, Pennsylvania. If reincarnation is real, I will probably return as a snack food copywriter … or something just as boring. 😀
When I was 13, I met baseball legend Ted Williams. Our town’s boat manufacturer made a line of fishing boats that he endorsed. Whenever he came to inspect the boats, he always made time to visit with the neighborhood kids. And since I was one of those kids, I was fortunate enough to hear him talk about baseball. He gave us kids batting tips that helped me become a better hitter. I even used a Ted Williams autographed bat to hit with.
My father was a licensed disc jockey for my hometown radio station. He worked weekends and taught me enough that I became a licensed Deejay/radio announcer when I was 18. I went to Jacksonville, Florida for the horrible wintry winter of 1975–76 (it even snowed there, too) and met Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd who was with the band and promoting their album Nuthin’ Fancy for their hometown fans. According to Wikipedia, the group “originally formed in 1964 as My Backyard in Jacksonville, Florida[.] [T]he band used various names such as The Noble Five and One Percent, before coming up with Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1969.” I remember Ronnie talking about their beginnings, but it meant nothing to me then. At 18, I had the world ahead of me and I was itching to explore it.
I joined the Navy and moved to Gaeta, Italy when I was 19. The 2 years I lived there, I discovered that there are Great White Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea. Luckily, that discovery was made on land where fishermen displayed their catches. I traveled a lot while I lived in Gaeta, and I almost always traveled to places by train. But my lack of understanding Italian caused me to often board the wrong trains during my first year there. Several times after touring Naples, I boarded the wrong train and ended up in Rome. This wasn’t a big deal since I was traveling alone. But I boarded the wrong train at Rome once while traveling with a group of friends and ended up in Verona instead of Naples. It took me several months to understand the language and to board the right trains. All in all, it made traveling fun and adventurous.
Ted was the first celebrity I met; Ronnie the second. The third was actor George Peppard during a visit to Cannes, France and the French Riviera when I was 20. I’m not sure how tall he was, but he seemed to stand a foot shorter than my 6-feet 2-inches. I was surprised that he looked taller on TV, notably Banacek (1972–74), part of the NBC Mystery Movie series. (This was before The A-Team.) He told me during our meeting that the angle of the cameras made him look taller. He also shared that he was a pilot and a proud veteran of the Marine Corps. Before we parted, he told me to always strive for and do my best, no matter what I did in life. Great advice that I have never forgotten.
My favorite pastime is reading. It began with children’s books and carried over to comic books and eventually novels. My favorite comic book character was Peter Parker and his alter ego, Spider-Man. I once owned Amazing Fantasy, issue #15 of Amazing Adult Fantasy, August 1962, the first comic book that Spider-Man appeared in. My mom threw it away when she redecorated my bedroom while I was in the Navy.
As an avid reader of fantasy and horror—especially vampires (when they were still cool), I discovered the first Stephen King paperbacks when I was 19 and bought ’Salem’s Lot and Carrie. Though he wrote Carrie first, I read ’Salem’s Lot before I read Carrie. SL was and probably will always be my favorite King book, not because of the vampire in it, but because it really painted the small town atmosphere akin to my hometown.
My other favorite pastime is watching baseball games. I played the game a lot when I was a kid, and I went on to play men’s softball when I became an adult. There’s nothing more thrilling than the one-on-one competition between a pitcher and a batter. Though I saw many great pitchers over the years, the fastest pitcher I ever faced was a woman. She struck out every batter on my softball team and pitched a no-hitter game. That was the only year the league I was on allowed women teams to compete in tournaments. Too bad. Those ladies put us to shame. I hope my athletic granddaughter is reading this and will take to heart that girls can do just as well as boys … even better. It just takes work.
My hour allotted to write this blog is over, so I’ll stop reminiscing and try to figure out what I want for my birthday. My family keeps asking me. But I feel I have everything I ever wanted: To have a good and healthy life, and to have fun living it.