Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kissing the Blarney Stone - an update

I wrote this little story a year ago. After reading it, my Aunt Dot told me that since she was the youngest and the smallest, it was her job to crawl under the house and plant the potatoes, and to harvest them when they were ripe. She also told me that Grandpa Pitt was as Irish as they come, a fact that does not surprise me. Now I can say that I inherited a bit of the blarney from both sides of the family. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My Grandson Braden has red hair, just like my brother Jack had when he was the same age. Last night, we took my Dad to Bennigan's. He is eighty-eight and loves children. Since Braden has red hair, just as he and my Brother had, he has taken a particular shine to the lad. Last night, my daughter-in-law Taffy asked if we were Irish. Well, my Dad's grandfather was named O'Rear, about as Irish as you can get. It made me think about my other grandparents and my Grandfather Pittman.

Grandpa Pitt had some Irish blood but was probably more English. Grandma Pitt often made Mulligan Stew for family gatherings. One thing is sure; Grandpa liked potatoes as much as any Irishman did. He and Grandma lived in a tiny wood-framed house that sat about a foot off the ground on cinder blocks. Grandpa Pitt always raised potatoes under the house and never failed to have a good crop. When I was quite young, I asked him how he got under the house to harvest the potatoes.

"Well, boy," he answered in his best deadpan voice. "It's all in how you do it. I plant them all in a straight line, toward the center of the house. When I dig out the first spud, the rest roll into the basket after it."

Grandpa never cracked a smile but even at my very young age, I knew that he was pulling my leg. My Dad's side of the family was definitely Irish. I'm not sure about my Mom's but I can positively say that my Grandpa Pitt must have kissed the Blarney Stone some time during his life because he could tell a story as well as any Irishman I've ever met.

Eric's Website

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lonely Oklahoma Sky - a pic


Here is a pic that I took in Noble County, Oklahoma. The ground is flat there with very few buildings or other structures to block the sky that makes kaleidoscopic changes right before your eyes. I was struck by the single oil well, the only structure for miles in any direction.



Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Eric's Famous 151 Proof Rum Punch

I had a bachelor’s pad just north of Oklahoma City’s Taft Stadium. The little house had two fireplaces, a redwood hot tub and a wet bar. I spent thousands landscaping the hilly front yard with sandstone walkways and retainer walls, courtesy of Jakob, a master stoneworker and Israeli expatriate (another story).
As a bachelor, I always wanted my guests to enjoy themselves and I always helped them along by preparing my famous rum punch. The last time I made rum punch was at a party at my last bachelor pad.
What I had found about my rum punch is that almost no one was too discernible when it came to taste. The ingredients consisted of crushed ice, three or four cans of Hawaiian Punch and copious amounts of 151 proof rum. Hell, after the first cup you had no taste left anyway.
The last time I served my famous rum punch was a night much like tonight - cold and dreary. The guests quickly finished a bowl of punch. By the time I had concocted a second bowl, all the guests had already lost total control of their inhibitions - and their bodily movements.
My good friend Mickey left the party, tumbling headfirst down the hill to his car. Several of my friends left with other guest’s wives and girlfriends. The next day Anne said, “No more. You are never making your famous punch again. You could have gotten someone killed.”
I always listened to Anne. That day, many years ago, was the last time I ever concocted my famous punch. Will I ever make it again? Maybe, but you will have to stay the night.

Eric's Website

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Cruising the Oklahoma City Concourse

In writing about life in downtown Oklahoma City during the last oil boom, I mentioned the Concourse. The Concourse was a tunnel system connecting all the major buildings in downtown OKC, originally created to provide workers with a way of avoiding the city’s weather that is often inclement. It grew into much more than just an underground pathway.

During the oil boom, the city leaders decided there was room for retail development underground. Texas Oil and Gas, the company I worked for, had offices in the Midland Center and you could enter the Concourse from a stairway on the ground floor there.

The tunnel system was simply a dimly lit concrete pathway with a colorful carpet on the floor. The system of tunnels snaked in all directions and it was easy to lose your bearings – especially if you had just visited one of the many clubs and partaken of their liquor-by-the-wink. Purchasing alcohol, at the time, was illegal anywhere except a liquor store.

Retail clothing establishments, a jewelry store, a fast food kiosk, two barbershops and other businesses soon began to thrive. Several combination restaurants occupied space in the Concourse, among them the Bull and the Bear, the Brigadoon, and the most notorious underground establishment of them all, the Depot.

The Depot was a dark saloon masquerading as a restaurant and it is true that the place sold as much booze as it did chicken fries. Its main draw was the gorgeous and friendly waitresses dressed in skimpy outfits. The drinks were strong and at any time of the day or night, half the downtown Oklahoma City oil industry congregated there.

My former business partner, John and I had an engineer. Those days preceded the age of cell phones and we began noticing music and noise in the background when Nick called in a report. We soon realized that he was reporting from his “office” in the Depot rather than one of our oil wells out in the sticks.

The Depot was dark and loud and if I told you that I had witnessed a sex act performed on an adjacent table, I would be lying. I actually saw more than one, and I imagine they were a common occurrence in some of the back corner booths.

During the oil boom of the eighties, Oklahoma City emulated the wildest of any past boomtown, and the Oklahoma City Concourse the very epicenter of wildness.

This past oil boom saw none of the excesses of the eighties oil boom and there was no place, at least to my knowledge, as wild and crazy as the Depot. I am glad that I experienced the boom and all its excesses while it existed, but most of all I am glad that I survived the experience.

Eric's Website

Friday, March 06, 2009

Humping the Boonies

I once posted a list of the ten strangest things I have ever seen and quickly noticed three had occurred in Vietnam. It made me think of something else that happened in Nam that was not so much strange as it was surreal.

I was an infantry machine-gunner in the First Cavalry. I don’t know exactly where I was except that it was somewhere near the Cambodian border. My company was on patrol from either Firebase Betty or Firebase Dragon Fire. I can’t remember which. The terrain was hilly and covered with thick, triple-canopy jungle. I was in Charlie Company, 1/8 Cavalry. The year was 1970.

There were a hundred men in my company and we usually hiked about a kilometer every day. This doesn’t sound like much but the temperature was always well over a hundred degrees and every man carried about a hundred pounds of food, water, ammunition and assorted paraphernalia on his back. We humped single-file, cutting our own trail through the jungle because Charlie’s trail was usually booby-trapped or an ambush waiting to happen.

We usually got an early start and made camp long before dark. The Captain would then send out a patrol or two to check out our surroundings. The day I remember, we got a very late start and were moving slowly because of the jungle’s thickness. It was late, deep shadows beginning to form beneath the green roof of vegetation that kept out most of the light at any time of day. At night, it was black as a cave.

I was walking near the rear of the single-file line. I had already stepped over a dead boa constrictor that the point man had encountered and chopped up with his machete. The man in front of me also pointed out several small green snakes hanging from the vegetation.

"Three step snakes," he said. "They bite you, you take three steps and you’re dead."

It was then I followed the trail around a slight bend and saw perhaps the strangest and most frightening thing I had ever seen. It was a 2000 pound bomb, stuck nose-first into rich jungle loam. A 2000 pound bomb is enormous and oh so deadly. No one could have carried it into the jungle. It had fallen from a plane and failed to detonate.

My heart was already racing from seeing the snakes but the sight of the bomb almost caused it to seize. Every man in the line passed the bomb with reverence, as if it were an angry god – the god of war, probably. Charlie sometimes found such bombs and wired them to explode when soldiers walked past. The thought crossed my mind during the ten minutes it took to pass from its sight.

The power of that image has stuck with me now for many years and reminds me of a scene from the Planet of the Apes series. Apes have taken over the earth, the human survivors of a nuclear holocaust living in caves. During a very surreal religious ceremony, they each reveal their horrible deformities as they worship an unexploded hydrogen bomb. The remaining humans revered the bomb for the awe it imbued. After skirting a smaller but no less frightening explosive weapon in the sweltering heat of a Vietnam jungle, I understand how they felt.