By Richard E. Noble We dubbed my 1946 fluid drive Desoto, the Banana Boat. It was very big and very yellow. It was a beauty. It looked like something out of an old Mafia Prohibition movie. The backseat doors opened from the wrong side. It had a clutch but you didn’t have to use it if you didn’t want to. It had tiny round windows. It was heavy duty and weighed as much as a military tank. Trying to navigate through Methuen Square was perilous – not for me but for everybody else. The windows were like tiny ship portholes. Peripheral vision was not good. I would sneak across Broadway then barrel up that hill leading into Methuen Square. It was a full stop at the top of the hill. But stopping did me no good. I could never see anything. I would simply hit the horn about halfway up the hill, hold my breath and floor it right on through that five way intersection. On occasion I would hear the screeching of breaks and horns blasting. But after a year or so I think everybody recognized the Banana Boat and took appropriate action. I hit a telephone pole with it and did considerable damage to the pole. I couldn’t find anything damaged on the car. The Banana Boat was my first car and my Uncle Ray helped me get it. My Uncle Ray was a very precautionary and meticulous fellow. He had a method for doing everything. He even had a system for shoveling snow. I won’t get into it today. It is a little too complicated for my average reader. It involves some calculus and a good deal of analytic geometry. Uncle Ray instructed me on the multiple and many hazards and responsibilities of car ownership. That the seller only wanted $10 and a ride to the airport for the classic was of minor importance compared to the expenses of proper tire rotation, inspection fees and regular servicing, my Uncle Ray advised. Car ownership was a grave responsibility and Uncle Ray explained it all to me in great detail. As it turned out I drove the Banana Boat for a number of years and never spent a nickel on anything. I tried to get it tuned up once but the mechanic couldn’t get the spark plugs out of it. He said, “I think the plugs are welded to the head. Drive it until it dies, save your money and go buy a real car.” The Banana Boat served us well for a few seasons at both Hampton and Salisbury Beach. It provided many an enjoyable evening at the Den Rock Drive-in Theater. It also got me, Jack Sheehy, Gerry Gurtin and Dick Kansella through our first year at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill. After the spark plug incident the radiator sprung a leak. We carried gallon jugs of water in the trunk. Then the starter developed a bad spot. Wherever we went, the Banana Boat had to be parked on a hill. When the tubes (remember tire tubes?) started popping through the treads, I found a new old tire and threw it on. I got to NECC early every day and parked the Banana Boat at the top of the grade around the corner. When we left each evening we had a cheering section. With the doors all held open, my three passengers would push. When we rounded the corner and started rolling down the hill, I’d pop the clutch and broom we were off. Everybody would run and jump in (like on an Olympic bobsled run) and we would all wave out the windows to our fans as we jerked and stuttered off. I suppose the onlookers found this amusing. I never thought about it and I don’t ever remember any of my passengers bringing it up. We all considered it usual and customary – after all, we were from Lawrence. We considered all the other students waving and laughing as an impromptu fan club of sorts. They obviously admired us for our ingenuity. And why not! When we got back to Lawrence, I would drop Gerry and Rick off at their homes. Me and Jack would park the Banana Boat at the Howard on the hill on Birchwood Road. It would stay parked there all night and every night waiting for its “students” to return in the morning. Each morning, all the way from Lawrence to Haverhill, Gerry Gurtin would keep us entertained relating conversations he had with his mother the previous evening. Gerry had a way with words. He spoke rather coarsely back then. Every third word was the “F” word. I am sure that Gerry is a CFO somewhere today and his speech is much more sophisticated. “So what did your mother say last night Gerry?” “Oh man was she ever F’in pissed! She said, ‘Gerry Gurtin, you little F’in snot, if you waste all my F’in money on this F’in college crap and you don’t become the F’in president of something when you F’in grow up, I’m gonna kick your F’in butt all over this F’in kitchen. You better learn F’in something. I never see you studying any F’in books or writing any F’in crap in any of your F’in notebooks. I looked in one of them F’in notebooks last night and there ain’t one F’in note in the whole F’in thing. Are you doing anything at that F’in college or are you doin’ the same F’in thing you always do … F’in nothing’.’ God was she ever pissed. I’ve got to start F’in studying and get something beside an F’in D or she is going to F’in disown me. It was bad last night man – really F’in bad.” I learned 20, 30 or maybe 40 years later that Butchy Mall and some of his little buddies from the Howard Ass Junior Associates used to jumpstart the Banana Boat parked up at the Howard some nights and go joyriding. I really didn’t mind that but the little buggers could have put a gallon of gas in it every now and then. I thought the gas tank was leaking. I put a pan underneath it each night to catch the gas but there was never a puddle anywhere. I couldn’t figure where to move the damn pan. Those little squirts!
Richard Edward Noble is a freelance writer and columnist. His local column, the Eastpointer, won the first place 2007 humor award from the Florida Press Association. He has published several books. All of his books can be viewed and purchased on Amazon.com. He can be contacted at 1-850-670-8076 or firstname.lastname@example.org for bookstore discounts and volume sales.
By Richard E. Noble There are a bunch of “outsiders” who have showed up here in Franklin County in the last 5 to 15 years. And some of them have organized a group to keep more “strangers” from finding our little paradise. I thought that I would join that group because ever since I arrived here I have been dead against anyone else coming here. But I feel a little hypocritical. How can I join a group of outsiders who, if I had the chance, I would have prevented from settling here in the first place? Now I have to be honest here, Franklin County is not the friendliest place in America. In my adventures Hobo-ing America, I have been to places where total strangers have taken me to their home, fed me and my wife, and let us use their shower. A lady in a Safeway parking lot in California saw our Florida tag. She came up to our van and invited us to park in her driveway. She said she loved “our” Florida orange juice. In Franklin County people aren’t quite that friendly. They are polite but usually if they don’t know you, they don’t speak to you. And sometimes even if they do know you, they don’t speak to you. But that is just the way I like it. When I first arrived here I felt that most of the natives really would have liked me better if I went and settled someplace else. But as for discouraging people from settling permanently here in Franklin County, I organized my own devices. Whenever I met a possible intruder who expressed the notion of settling here, I first brought up the mosquitoes. “Well, you are right. This is a beautiful place to live,” I would say. “But … have you seen the size of the mosquitoes here? Two or three Franklin County mosquitoes, working together, can pick up a small child and carry it to the next county.” “Really?” “Oh yeah, and the roaches here are quite large also. I use a mouse trap baited with a daub of cheese grits myself. The giant army ants can be troubling at times too. The darn things get into your clean underwear draw, or some other place that you don’t go to that often and the next thing you know there’s ten thousand of them in there.” “Oh my god!” “But at least the army ants don’t bite, the fire ants are another thing altogether.” “Fire ants? I’ve never heard of a fire ant.” “Well, you will hear about them if you settle here. Many Eastpointers once walked around without wearing any shoes. Most of them are gone now. They would find a local resident every now and then lying in his front yard looking like a giant whitehead pimple. When the emergency people arrived the first thing they did was bust the pimple. When they did, the stricken individual just disappeared and all that remained was a small, gooey blob. But the fire ants ain’t really as bad as the yellow flies. You got any yellow flies up where you come from?” “I don’t think so. I never heard of a yellow fly. We have horse flies and house flies.” “Yeah, well the Franklin County yellow fly is to the horse fly what the African killer bee is to the domestic honey bee. Many people have died from a yellow fly attack. They suck the blood right out of their victims and leave giant welts all over the dying or dead carcass. I think they are indigenous to Franklin County. I have been all over the United State and I never ran across one anywhere else.” “Wow!” “You plan on building a house?” “Yes.” “Well, you’re lucky. There is a new place over in Carrabelle that will build you one out of steel. I would use steel, aluminum, cast iron, plastic and stuff like that – no wood or anything natural or biodegradable.” “Why’s that.” “Well in the last few years we have had an invasion of wood boring bees. They are the size of a bumble bee and they can eat up your house worse than our local termites can. They’ll turn that sucker into a million little piles of pre-digested sawdust in a couple of seasons.” “Wood boring bees? I can’t believe it!” “Well, build yourself something out of wood here in Franklin County and I guarantee that you will be a believer real quick. And stay away from the beach and don’t eat the fish or shrimp during a red tide and keep yourself posted during hurricane season. It’s not the hurricanes as much as the tornados that bother me. But other than that, it is great here. You will love it.” “I hope so. Where’s the closest Wal-Mart or Publix?”
Richard E. Noble is a freelance writer and has lived in Franklin County for about 30 years. He has published several books. You can find them all on Amazon or by contacting the author at 1-850-670-8076 or email@example.com.
The word out on the "street" is that the world is changing. We have in today's "new" complicated world, concepts that we never had to deal with in the past. Two examples of these "new" developments are - Globalism and Terrorism. We now live in a global economy, we are told, and all the rules have changed. Due to these new rules and new developments we must all now understand that as working class and middle class people we must accept "downsizing" our lives and our children's lives. We must be willing to be retrained as fast as new products can be developed and their technologies shipped over seas where they can be done cheaper by people with comparative skills and training who will work for a hell of a lot less money. This is the way that it must be if we are to continue to live in a "free" country. Because unless rich factory owners and big corporations and super wealthy international conglomerates are allowed to make all the money that they possibly can - America will not be "Free," Communism and Socialism will rise and all the smartest and brightest among us will be forced to harvest sugar cane in central Florida or tend rice paddies in the Louisiana bayou. We must all understand that even if we do not have the capacity we must be able somehow to get a college education. All of us must be able to get through college, whether we have the financial means or the brains because these are the only people who truly deserve to live the American Dream. This must happen even though it has never happened before in the entire history of the human race. Even though in this country, the most "advanced" in the world, we have never had more than 20 to 30 percent college graduates in our history; this must nevertheless happen. It may seem impossible but don't worry you can do it - you are an American! Then on the other hand the poor and lower wage earners in this society must understand that they are lucky to be alive and allowed to live in this great land. They should not gripe because they have to live in a homeless shelter, or under a bridge, or in a sewer main - after all there are better off people who have had to give up shopping at J. C. Penny's and go to K-Mart or Wal-Mart because their stock and bond interest payments have declined. You see we all must suffer equally. This is the land of "equality." We are all created equal. It says that in our Constitution or was it in the Declaration of Independence or was that the Communist Manifesto. Who said that anyway? It wasn't Jesus and I know that it wasn't Buddha. In any case this is all brand new type thinking brought on by Globalism. There has never been such a thing as Globalism before in history. When Marco Polo went to China it was because he had relatives living there. And Christopher Columbus set out to discover America because he had nothing better to do. And when Alexander set out to conquer the known world it was because he wanted to introduce eggplant to all the poor people who had never eaten an eggplant before. And when Britain, France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands Colonized people all over the world it was because they all were interested in "freedom." They wanted to free all those natives from their ignorance and if they wanted to remain ignorant they would just have to be killed. And when the American Colonies revolted against England it wasn't because the British wanted the colonies to buy and sell only to Britain, with Britain determining all the prices and profit, it was because everybody in the Colonies wanted free stamps and wanted to pay high prices for tea. Yes it was "give me higher tea prices or give me death." Globalism is new? I don't think so. What's new is selling out the American people and the American workingman in order that the wealthy can become wealthier. Well, that isn't all that new either. Actually it is a kind of American business and political tradition. Globalism isn't the problem. It's the lack of proper priorities, true patriotism, and national pride. It is the idea that making 20% dividends is more important than the health and wellbeing of the people of your own country, of your own friends and neighbors, of your countrymen. It about valuing economics above human decency, above moral philosophy, above human life. Globalism isn't new. What is new is this callous disregard for anything other than what is economically advantageous. What is new is a total disregard for our own nation and its people. It is disregarding the principles of trading fairly and sensibly and to the country's advantage; of remembering that it's not just a wage that is necessary but a living wage and not forgetting the old adage that "Charity begins at Home". II Terrorism is another "new" and never before seen tactic in human history. Really? Does anybody remember the Khmer Rouge and Cambodia? How about Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust? How about Stalin and his Purges? How about China and the Cultural Revolution? How about Slobodan Milosevic? How about the Romans and the Greeks? How about decimation, ethnic cleansing and genocide? How about the American Indians? How about the Jews against the British in Israel? How about the British infecting the Chinese with heron addiction? How about Japanese Kamikaze Pilots? How about the Samurai? How about the Visigoths and the Huns? How about the Crusades and the Islamic conquests? How about the witch burnings and the Inquisition? How about Nero and his fiddle? How about King Herod and the oldest male child? How about good old guerrilla warfare? How about blowing up passenger trains during World War II? How about Carpet bombing? How about just plain old dropping a bomb indiscriminately from an airplane? How about the Atomic Bomb? How about napalm? How about public execution and beheading, burning at the stake, crucifixions and evisceration? How about chopping off a young girl's breasts in front of her entire village? How about the French Revolution and the guillotine? How about the biblical David and random foreskin hunts? How about gathering scalps, and skulls, and hearts, and eyeballs? How about a God flooding the entire world? How about head hunting and cannibalism? How about human religious sacrifices and eating human hearts of brave warriors for strength and courage? How about poison gas - not just in Iraq but during World War I? How about dragging a "queer" behind a pickup truck? How about turning somebody wife into a pillar of salt? How about lynching niggers? How about castrating IWW activists? How about throwing prisoners of war out of helicopters? How about the My lai Massacre and a million similar incidents? How about poisoning all the jungles in Vietnam with Agent Orange? How about killing all the buffalo and selling the Indians blankets invested with typhoid fever? How about the Czar killing all male Cossacks taller than a wagon wheel? How about the Ludlow Massacre? How about an eternity in Hell? When we were just little kids sitting on a street corner and thinking pissed-off thoughts. I remember saying who couldn't hurt this country if they really wanted to. Look at all the telephone poles and generators, and reservoirs, and railroad bridges, and buses and trains - just look around the neighborhood man. What if we just went around the city removing all the sewer covers? So what keeps a society from being "terrorized" and destroyed? There is only one thing. The population of any country must like their country at least enough not to want to blow it up and kill their own neighbors, friends, relatives and associates. There must be at least enough respect for one's country and its people that random killing is not an option. If you don't have that much feeling and respect, I really don't think that you have a country at all?
Richard Edward Noble is a freelance writer. If you like the idea of the Hobo Philosopher Column and would like to publish it in your newspaper, magazine or whatever, the author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Richard E. Noble Everyone in Lawrence is born knowing how to play the card game 45’s. I figure that must be the case because I can remember learning everything else but not 45’s. Johnny Bolton taught me how to smoke and inhale. Frankie Spires and his mom and dad across the way on Chelmsford St. taught me how to play canasta, gin rummy, and hearts. Bobby Scott taught me how to shoot marbles. The Moffet brothers taught me how to play scalars – a game played by tossing baseball cards up against a wall or somebody’s stoop. My Uncle Ray taught me how to ride a bicycle. The St. John brothers taught me how to steel things from Woolworth Five and Dime on Essex St. I won’t name the individual who introduced me to my first bottle of Black Horse Ale or the Narragansett GIQ but I know who he was. And a girl named Barbara taught me … well, I don’t think I’ll go there just now. But I can’t remember anybody teaching me how to play 45’s. I think that I always knew how. It was just there in the genes. Anyone I ever met in my travels Hobo-ing America or otherwise who confessed to knowing how to play 45’s came from Merrimac Valley – most often Lawrence. Forty-fives was more than a card game though. It was in the skill or craft category. There were numerous rules to the game but more important were the unwritten rules. The unwritten rules all related to what one should have played instead of what one, in his or her ignorance, did end up playing. One of the problems with this book of unwritten rules is that everyone had a different book of unwritten rules. Playing 45’s partners was very popular. But invariably husbands and wives never seemed to have the same book of unwritten rules. Common phrases heard around the 45’s card table were: Honey, it is just common sense; Everybody knows that, sugarplum; Why baby, why?; Can I have a new partner next game? Exchanging mates in a game of 45’s partners was the closest anybody came to wife swapping in Lawrence, Massachusetts in my time. When men played partners, the phrases changed in intensity and style but the intent was the same. In mulling this game over in my mind today, I think the golden rule of the game was: It doesn’t matter how you play the game as long as you argue like hell after each hand and abuse your partner until she leaves the table crying or he challenges you to step outside and settle this like a man. On the corner somebody always had a deck of cards and we played this game hour, after hour, after hour. Me, Jack Sheehy, Frank Duchnowski and a few other close buddies loved this game so much that even as drinking age adults we often opted out of a night on the nightclub circuit to go to the Immaculate Conception Church cellar or the cafeteria at St Rita’s School for a Card Party (that’s Caahhd Paahhdy). There was a small fee to get into the Party. The proceeds went to the missions, the church furnace fund or directly to the Pope in Rome. He had a furnace fund also. The entrance fee didn’t really matter to us guys because we were there to win and advance the reputation of the younger generation and of the Howard Associates (Howard Ass for short). It did not matter how old or feeble the folks were at St. Rita’s cafeteria if they sat at one of our tables, they had best be ready to lose. What I remember most about the St. Rita’s and Immaculate Conception 45’s card parties was that no matter how sweet, friendly or pious looking these old people were, no matter the holy artifacts pinned to their clothing or hanging around their necks, they all cheated. Everyone cheated. Every game ended up 145 to 115. These were the highest possible winning and losing scores. I don’t really remember how they figured out at the end of the night who got the prizes. I think they drew names out of a hat. But I do remember that me and my buddies often won. The first place prize was either a 10 lb Krakus brand, Polish canned ham or a gift certificate for a fresh 20 lb turkey from the Park St. Food Bank (formally Adolph’s Variety) or Catalano’s Market on Common St. Second and third prizes were an entire boxful of donated canned goods – 2 cans of Chef Boyardee Ravioli, 4 cans of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, a large box of LUX soap powder, a box of Ritz Crackers and four 1000 sheet rolls of Scott toilet paper. They often picked me and my buddies out as the winners for two reasons. Letting us win sucked us young blood in for next Monday night’s card party and we always re-donated the prizes. That, of course, meant that next week’s prizes were ready to roll and the Pope got the money for the steam heat at the Vatican without even paying a vigorish. Sure, they all may have cheated but they were good Catholics nevertheless.
Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published five books. Two of them have Lawrence as their setting, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. A Little Something is a book of poetry - parts of it inspired by life in Lawrence. Hobo-ing America is a workingman’s tour of the U.S.A. The Eastpointer is selected pieces from his award winning column about life in a sleepy fishing village in the Florida Panhandle.
By Richard E. Noble I was working as the dishwasher in A New England Oyster House restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Fl. This girl named Carol kept poking her head into my little cubbyhole and saying friendly things. I was not a very friendly young man. As the weeks went by, she casually invited me to meet next door with her and her friends for pizza and beer after work. I was never one to turn down an invitation to drink beer. It was a once a week thing and it grew to be fun. I listened to all the waitresses’ horror stories and the kitchen employees’ sarcasm. I was being indoctrinated into the restaurant underclass. After a few months of working 100 hours a week, I was offered the assistant manager’s job. This, of course, involved a cut in pay and I had to supply my own aprons but it was a great opportunity, I was told. Within six months I was the manager. I finessed my way into this position utilizing techniques I had learned in the old neighborhood in Lawrence, Mass. I bullied all of my coworkers and threatened to kill anybody who hampered my progress in my quest to become king of the mountain. That’s not true. Actually I was a rather nice, quiet guy who worked like a damn fool trying to make everybody happy. The next thing I knew I was offered a bigger job managing a much larger restaurant in North Miami Beach. I was doing well and the store was making progress. I had been in the North Miami store long enough to forget all my ties back at the Sunrise store. I was doing some work in the office when a waitress interrupted and informed me that there was a girl named Carol in the lobby asking to talk with me. I thought it was my sister. Her name was Carol and I was rooming with her at her apartment. When I got to the lobby, I was shocked to see Carol, the Sunrise store waitress, standing there. She looked very attractive. She was nervous and very tentative. I smiled. “What can I do for you, Carol,” I said very manager-to-waitress like. “Oh, I was just in the neighborhood and I thought that I would stop in and say hello.” I thought this was strange. I had sat at the same table with her and her friends eating pizza and drinking beer. She was always kind to me and included me in the group chatter, but … “How nice of you,” I said. We stumbled on for a few more paragraphs. I could feel Carol’s awkwardness. Finally she asked, “I was just wondering if you would like to come over to my place for dinner on your next evening off?” My mind immediately jumped to all those pre-adult, lecherous type notions. This could hardly be the case. This Carol was a sweet, shy, inhibited little thing. She couldn’t be suggesting what I was thinking. She must be having a dinner party with her friends and wanted to include me. “Sure, I have this Wednesday night off. Is that good for you?” “Oh yeah, that’s great,” she stammered, fumbling with her car keys. “That will be just fine. See you about seven o’clock?” “Right, but I don’t know where you live.” “Oh yeah, I didn’t think of that.” She scrambled through her glove compartment and found a pen and paper. She scratched her name, address and phone number onto the scrap of paper. She was very, very nervous. She nearly backed her little MG out into the traffic on Biscayne Blvd. I made her stop. I went out into the road and halted the cars to give her the opportunity to back out safely. When I arrived at her apartment with a couple of bottles of wine and some crusty Italian bread, she expressed great enthusiasm. There was nobody else there. “Where are your friends?” I asked. She looked at me curiously. “My friends?” she questioned. “Ah … this is a nice little apartment you have here.” “It’s reasonable and it is in a safe neighborhood.” “You live here by yourself?” “I’m twenty-seven years old.” “Yeah right. Sorry.” We had baked lasagna for supper. I think all girls are born knowing how to make baked lasagna. But I loved lasagna. We ate and we drank wine and talked and talked. Well, I don’t remember the dialogue but I think that I can safely say that I talked and talked and Carol listened. That is usually my style. We had a very nice evening. It was getting late and Carol was yawning occasionally. I struggled in my mind for a proper exit comment. She was getting tired and I was probably boring her to death. In my mind I prepared a statement. It went like this, “Well, I see you are getting tired. You probably have to be at work early tomorrow. I better get out of here and let you go to bed.” What came out and I still can’t believe I really said it, was, “Do you want to go to bed?” The two statements were basically the same. One was just a little shorter. I suppose there could be some misinterpretation. Carol stared. It was a very long moment. I realized that I didn’t say exactly what I had intended to say. I tried to think of a way to clean it up before she came over and slapped me. But she smiled and said, “There’s the bed. I’ll go in the bathroom and get ready while you ready yourself out here.” That was over thirty years ago. That statement turned out to be one of my better Freudian slips. As the years have passed, I have queried Carol on this subject. I have gotten to know her a little better after all these years and it amazes me to think she had the nerve to make such a proposition. When I asked her how she ever found the chutzpa to show up at the North Miami Beach store and invite me over to her apartment, she said that it was something she had never done before in her life. There was just something about me that relaxed her inhibitions and gave her confidence, she told me. I found that very interesting because I hadn’t relaxed any girl’s inhibitions ever prior to that evening. I savored that statement of Carol’s as one of my best compliments ever until one evening she gave me the topper. We were lying in bed discussing personal self-esteem. Don’t ask me what brought this conversation up. But Carol confessed that she never had very high self-esteem. She never thought of herself as very beautiful she told me. So naturally I said that is impossible. If you had such a low self-esteem how could you ever have propositioned a manly, stud like me – come on, look at me. This body would intimidate any woman never mind the intellectual challenge and embarrassment that I present once any female gets to know me. “That is true,” she said. “But after working with you for over a year in that first restaurant, I knew that you were the kind of man who looked at a person’s inside and not their outside.” Oh wow! Every time I think of that I choke up. I have always considered that the greatest compliment from anybody that I have ever received. The Hallmark Card Company should pay big for that one. I can’t imagine what will top it. I suppose I could win the Nobel Peace Prize. I don’t know if that would do it either.
Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published five books. Two of them have Lawrence as their setting, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. A Little Something is a book of poetry partly inspired by life in Lawrence. Hobo-ing America, is a workingman’s tour of the U.S.A. The Eastpointer is selected pieces from his award winning column about life in a sleepy fishing village in the Florida Panhandle.
By Richard E. Noble This young man stepped up to the counter at Hobo’s in Carrabelle and as I prepared his lunch he began to expound on all the vicissitudes of his life. His first complaint was with “women today.” He was especially displeased with American women. “American women are too materialistic and appearance conscious. Every man looks like a big dollar sign to them. If you don’t have a nice, new car and a good paying job and a bunch of money, or you don’t look like their favorite movie hero, they dump you without a second glance.” [So on top of not being very good looking, I now figured that this guy didn’t have a good job, he was driving an old car and he didn’t have a pot to pee in.] “Yeah, that’s so true. I guess that has always been the case,” I offered. “No, I don’t think so. In the olden days, when you were my age, things were better. Today they are way out of hand.” “Really? The olden days, huh?” “Oh yeah. And the colleges today are really propaganda mills. I mean going to college is just a total waste of time.” [Okay, no car, no job, no money and no college. What else is this guy lacking?] “The girls in Venezuela are much better,” he added. [Oh oh, he has bought a magazine and is sending away for a mail order bride.] “How do you know that?” “Well, I once lived in Venezuela.” “Oh really. Well, why didn’t you marry a girl from Venezuela?” “Who wants to get married? Do I look crazy?” [Yes you do, but my job as the friendly soda jerk is to keep things light and lively. No chasing away the customers - even if they are crazy. So, here is a guy with nothing to offer and he is wondering why nobody is taking him up on it. Maybe I can change the subject.] “What do you do for a living?” “I teach guitar at a music store. It don’t pay much but I like it. What I really want to be is a country songwriter.” “Oh you are a country songwriter. Do you sing too?” “I can sing.” “Oh great, let me hear you sing one of your country songs.” “Well, I haven’t written any yet.” “Why not?” “Well, it takes a lot of time and effort to write a country song, or any type song for that matter. First you have to think up a melody and most of the good melodies have already been taken. Then you have to make up words that go with the melody. That ain’t easy either.” “Yeah, and all the good words have been taken too. But if you have never written a country song how do you know that you can really write one?” “I’ve been playing the guitar since I was six years old. If I can’t write a stupid country song, I had better give up.” “I suppose, but you can’t sell what you don’t have either. You know there are a few country music stars living right in this area.” “Really! Do you think that they would buy a song from me?” “You don’t have any. How could they buy one?” “Well if I knew that somebody famous wanted a song and would pay me to write it, I could get one ready pretty quick.” “I don’t think it works that way. I remember reading about Kris Kristofferson renting a helicopter and landing it in Johnny Cash’s backyard so he could play a song that he wrote for him in the hopes that Johnny might buy it.” “I can’t afford to rent a helicopter. Besides, Johnny Cash is dead.” “Right. No sense in that I guess.” “Do you think that if I found out where one of those country singers lives around here, and I went out to his house, he would hire me to write songs for him?” “Well ahh, it’s possible.” “I think that I am going to try that.” “Yeah, be sure to let me know how that works out.” It has been a number of years now and I think about that kid often. He really wasn’t that young. He was probably in his late 20’s or early 30’s. He was old enough to parent a child, vote in a presidential election, get a driver’s license, and buy a hand gun in the state of Florida. But then again, I participated in this conversation because he had enough money to buy a sandwich in my eatery and I wanted his money. Which one of us was worse off?
“A Little Something” is R.E. Noble’s first book of poetry and it is now on sale at Amazon along with Hobo-ing America, A Summer with Charlie, Honor Thy Farther and Thy Mother and The Eastpointer. Richard Noble is a freelance writer who has lived here in Eastpoint for nearly 30 years.
By Richard E. Noble A Summer with Charlie is a rather short book. It is actually a long short story. While writing it I tried to keep the focus of the book on Charlie and his life situation and not get lost recording the various antics of the infamous Howard Ass - as Ray Dolan had dubbed the old corner gang. Consequently there was more left out of the book about that fateful summer than actually went into the book. Here’s one that didn’t make the cut. After a rather ruckus weekend at Old Town Way and everybody had disappeared back to the city and the real world of 9 to 5, Charlie and I were left to clean up the disaster. Charlie relished this duty. I don’t know why. But he would scurry around in his pork pie hat and bathing suit with broom or mop in hand whistling and humming all morning. I suppose if I didn’t have such a terrible hangover every Monday morning, I would have found this comforting rather than annoying. The first thing that we discovered was that somebody had broken the commode in our unique back porch toilet. The bathroom sat on the back porch of our cottage. Hang a right after exiting the kitchen, take about fifteen paces and there was a door. The average homeowner would probably conclude that the door to this shelter hid a utility room or a storage closet, but it contained the toilet and a bathroom sink. Being rather unhandy, I was under the impression that commodes were another of those mysteries provided by God in his infinite goodness – a divine intervention of sorts. Commodes always were and always would be, thank-you God, amen. That is not the case. Commodes are manmade. Right there in this little hardware store in the town of Salisbury sat a variety of commodes for sale. We installed the new commode and put the old one on the back porch a few paces from the kitchen door. We would take it to the dump with all the empty beer, wine and hard liquor bottles the Monday following this weekend’s fiasco. For this weekend’s agenda we had a new idea – we would concoct a “punch” for the girls. Girls dig punch and we figured that it would add an air of class to the joint. Besides, everybody was drinking up all the Seagram’s 7, Smirnoff Vodka, Bacardi Rum, Beefeater Gin and our prized Kruger beer in the little ugly Kruger bottles. The more we thought about this punch the more involved it got. We wanted to put a large amount of hard liquor in our punch, of course. Girls need a good shot or two before they can loosen up. But girls are also very cautious. They don’t want to get too loose -which means that the potency of the punch has to be disguised in some way or other. Then there was the expense. We always had lots of company and strangers can suck up a good quantity of free punch. We bought several quart bottles of booze that came under the Shamrock logo. Shamrock? It was about a quarter the price of any booze that was for real. It was horrible, but we had a plan. We bought one quart of Shamrock scotch, one quart of Shamrock gin, one quart of Shamrock rum, one quart of Shamrock vodka, and one quart of Shamrock Irish whisky. But now we needed something to make all this booze taste like Kool-aide. We bought two gallons of sweet Cucamonga wine, several large cans of fruit cocktail and various other fruits, a few cans of Dole pineapple rings to float on the top, and six large cans of Hawaiian Punch. I suppose in today’s world this could be construed to be the original date rape drug. We went to a used kitchen supply store and got a bunch of “punch glasses” for about two cents each. They weren’t very dainty. They were all different colors and had nice handles on them but they probably held a full cup of liquid each. We thought one cup per dip of punch was just about right. We couldn’t find the right sized punch bowl though. Then somebody suggested that we use the kitchen sink. It was a good sized, old-fashioned, deep, dishwashing sized sink. What a great idea! Shortly before things got rolling that Saturday night we prepared the sink for the punch. A few of the guys used the sink that morning to shave. Consequently there were a ton of little hairs sticking to the white porcelain bowl. We had nine guys and only one bathroom - some facial hair in the kitchen sink was to be expected. We cleaned it – a little. We bought new sink stoppers and made sure that the sink did not leak. We didn’t want all our efforts washing down the drain. We dumped all the booze into the kitchen sink punch bowl and then gradually added Cucamonga wine, canned fruit and Hawaiian Punch until the taste of the Shamrock liquor was undetectable. That took all the Hawaiian Punch, all the Cucamonga wine, and all the canned fruit. The canned fruit and the floating pineapple rings did add a very nice touch. When the girls started wandering in, it was mandatory that they be escorted by one of the house “chaperones” over to the sink for a try at the punch. [We thought of ourselves more as guardian angels than as chaperones.] All the girls loved the punch. It was so sweet and “yummy.” “Is there much liquor in here?” she would ask, naively. “Noooo, it is mostly fruit and Hawaiian Punch,” one of us cottage angels would advise. Well, I am gonna tell you, the girls loosened up pretty quick after a couple of “tiny” cups of that hobo style Hawaiian Punch. The first cup would only be a quarter full for most girls. But after awhile they wound be stumbling over one another to that sink laughing, giggling and slopping up those cups to the brim. By the fourth or fifth cup of Hobo Punch the girls were bobbing for fruit cocktail cherries and getting pineapple rings caught on their noses. Actually we had over done it. A few hours at our punch bowl and most of the girls weren’t good for anything – even a little idle conversation was difficult. For example, me and Charlie were cooling off out on the back porch having a cigarette. The interior of the cottage was jammed. A girl suddenly came tumbling out the kitchen door. She looked like she could have been a very nice girl before she found the Hobo Punch. She was quite pretty – in a drunken, disheveled sort of way. She had long brown hair and was wearing a pair of tight, butt-hugging jeans. She wobbled there for a minute doing her best to stand erect and remain in one place. “Rough sea tonight, huh sailor?” Charlie commented with a bemused grin. “F’in right it is,” she slurred. “And if I don’t pee pretty quick there’s going to be an ocean of trouble right here in river city.” At that moment she glanced to her right and saw the old commode sitting on the porch. “God,” she exclaimed. “This is a classy joint! But what the hell! When in Rome as they f’in say. Okay boys, back off and spread out!” She stepped up - or backed up - to the commode, unbuttoned her pants, pulled down her draws, sat on the commode and peed with a big sigh of relief. When she finished she looked around desperately. Then beamed up at Charlie and me and said. “Fellas, I can take an f’in joke but where the hell is the toilet paper?” We both looked at her and pointed. “It’s in the bathroom just behind that door,” we chimed. She took a gander down to her right towards the bathroom door, then shook her head and mumbled in frustration. “You have got to be shi----g me!” “Honey please, you are talking to the clean up crew,” Charlie said crushing his Lucky Strike on the deck. “A little pee on the back porch is acceptable but any more than that and you’re cleaning it up yourself, matey.”
Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published five books. Two of them have Lawrence as their setting, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. A Little Something is a book of poetry partly inspired by life in Lawrence. Hobo-ing America, is a workingman’s tour of the U.S.A. The Eastpointer is selected pieces from his award winning column about life in a sleepy fishing village in the Florida Panhandle.
By Richard E. Noble At one point in my tenure here in Franklin County, I made the mistake of getting involved in the local politics. The oystermen were upset about something or maybe I was upset about something and we were going to Tallahassee to tell the Governor and his cabinet all about it. The Governor at the time was Martinez. Leroy Hall, president of the Oystermen’s Association, called me and asked if I would go with him and some other representatives of the oystering community. He wanted me to prepare a speech. So I did. We were on the “agenda.” I didn’t even know what an agenda was. But for those out there who are as apolitical as I, you must be on the agenda. If you are not on the agenda you will not be allowed to speak, you will not pass go and you will not collect your two hundred dollars. We were on the agenda but the agenda was timeless. Everybody on the agenda had to show up at nine o’clock in the morning and sit through the proceedings until their name was called. The Governor sat in the middle and his cabinet fanned out on both sides. There was one woman, a couple of dapper young guys and a few crusty old fogies. There was one old cabinet member who I remember in particular. He was secretary of something. He had a belly that could hardly be contained and the skinny part of his tie extended bellow the thick part. One button on his shirt was undone exposing his T-shirt and he kept falling asleep. His nose was so big and red that I kept waiting for it to change to yellow or green. Whenever Carol sees a fellow that is dressed like this gentleman she says, “Clearly his wife is out of town and he had to dress himself this morning.” My wife is a female chauvinist. She puts up with me as a part of the cross that she feels each woman is forced to bear in order to pass through the gates of heaven. Men are “obstacles.” I think that I have been a great obstacle for over 30 years now. I am proud of my obstacle status. I just don’t want to turn into an obstruction. This funny looking Secretary was there as a part of Southern Heritage and Florida law. It is a law in Florida that on every governor’s cabinet there must be one old Cracker with an outrageous Southern accent to say dumb, stupid things. This is to assure that Florida will get some national news attention. We sat there all morning. They voted on a hundred things and spent several million dollars. My buddy, Mr. Secretary of whatever, only woke up one time. There was a dispute over where the legislators could park their cars. This actually turned out to be the biggest agenda item of the entire day. It must have taken an hour and a half of heated discussion. Naturally our buddy wanted a guaranteed free space close to the entry way. He gave an impassioned plea much in the style that famous Southern orator John C. Calhoon or maybe John “Kingfish” Calhoun of Amos ‘N’ Andy fame. He was great though. We went to lunch. When we returned the governor’s cabinet room was once again packed. It was loaded with reporters. They were the ones with the note pads and constantly aflutter. The people on the agenda were the ones with the long, frustrated, angry faces. Like me they were in attendance not to listen to a debate over free parking spaces but to be heard on some issue crucial to the betterment of their community - or special interest group. As the afternoon drooled on the newspaper reporters began filing out. After each agenda item person spoke, more people evacuated. The crowd got thinner and thinner. Finally everybody was gone except me, Leroy, and four other oystermen - each dressed in their best Sunday T-shirt and a new, bright, white pair of Bill’s discount bargain sneakers. I thought for sure that when I got up to give my speech the Governor and cabinet would get up and leave also - but I guess they can’t. It must be the law. They must listen to any and every dufus who has been smart enough to figure out how to get his name on the agenda. If it was late though, they could have adjourned and left me to come back in the morning. That was not going to happen, I assure you. I gave my speech in an empty room with nobody taking notes. When I finished, the Governor said, “Thank you Mr. Noble.” He and the cabinet then all got up and left. It was clear to me that I did not make a big impression. All the way home my mind wandered. My deepest thought was that if I had skipped the Governor and cabinet meeting and went oystering instead, I could have been a hundred dollars richer. Politics is clearly a rich people’s game.
Richard Noble is a freelance writer who has lived in Franklin County for thirty years. He has published 5 books and they are all for sale on Amazon.com. If you would like to stock any of his books in your store or business contact Richard at email@example.com or call 1-850- 670-8650.
Up until the age of sixteen my folks always tried to get the family off for a week or two “at the beach” every year. At sixteen “the gang” took over. The old gang rented a cottage at the beach every year from the time I was 16 until I reached the age of 27. We had a few guys who were old enough to sign the leases in our early days. But as I remember there were many renters who were not all that particular. If you had the money, you got the cottage.
I think we had 40 guys who chipped in for our first all season rental at Hampton Beach. The cottage was called the Marilyn and it was on Island Path. This particular cottage is notorious in the minds of our original renters to this day.
Every evening the floors were littered with bodies. The beds went to the original seven or eight of us who thought up this timeshare idea. On several weekends even the floors would be filled. The bodies then spilled over into the cars in the tiny parking lot.
I remember coming in late and stepping over people to get to my bedroom. When I stepped on somebody and they voiced their disapproval, my response was rather Reaganesque, “Hey listen you, I’m one of the guys who is paying for this place!” The person lying on the floor would usually apologize. It was often necessary to evict strangers from my bed. For the most part they respected their position and found a new spot on the floor.
The Marilyn was down the end of a road and surrounded by a swamp. The cottage was isolated by the swamp which added a certain amount of privacy and mysteriousness to it. The swamp was kept at bay by a large wooden fence. The cottage was really a shack. It leaned to one side. We didn’t know if it was sinking into the swamp or just falling over.
The Marilyn was well known to the Hampton Beach Police Department. Most of the cops on the force had been to our home away from home so many times, that we actually befriended a number of them. When a cruiser happened to appear outside our little paradise by the sea, someone would go to the window and then announce whether the officers were friend or foe. If the officer was foe, we usually got a warning about the noise or the loud music and were told to calm it down. Kids like us were important to the beach economic community - for a while at least.
Our little villa by the swamp gained a reputation and became a must-go-to place for the junior crowd. We had guests from all walks of society.
On one occasion an overdressed young man came in with his equally over-dressed girlfriend. The young man knew one of our forty renters and just happened to be in the area. They were gawkers and obviously slumming. The young lady was wide-eyed and clearly astounded. The young man was proud as a peacock to be able to show his date this side of life. Their faces beamed and their eyes rolled around wide and astonished. Clearly they had never seen anything like this before in their lives. I imagine to their minds it was much like a trip to New York’s infamous Bowery or skid row.
Things were going well until a cruiser pulled up outside. One of our full-timers peeked out a window. He turned and gave the “no problem” signal. Our uptown guests, unfortunately, were not familiar with our signals. The young man went to the window and took a peek for himself. He exploded, “It’s the police!”
He and his local prom queen began rushing around in every direction. We all sat watching them curiously. Hadn’t they ever seen a police cruiser or a cop before? What was with this couple?
By the time our two buddies from the Hampton Beach Police Department came to the door. Rodney and Penelope (not their real names) had vanished.
We all chatted with the cops. They gave us the usual warning about not letting things get out of hand and then they left.
A short time passed and we all began to wonder where our two well dressed tourists had disappeared to. Someone recalled seeing them scurrying out the back door. We wandered out back. We heard some whimpering. It was coming from the swamp-side of the fence. We hiked one of the boys up to take a peek over the fence. There, waist deep in muck and mire, sat our friends Rodney and Penelope.
We lowered them a rope and somehow pulled them both from the soggy, snake ridden mire. He did not look good. She looked much worse. They went home. They had their fill of skid row and the Bowery Boys.
Our season ended abruptly at the Marilyn when we all returned from the Center one evening and found a sign on our front door. Our cottage had been condemned. We weren’t even allowed back inside to claim our “valuables.” We thought briefly that our rights had been violated and that maybe we could sue somebody. But then on second thought, we decided that we best leave well enough alone.
Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published five books. Two of them have Lawrence as their setting, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. A Little Something is a book of poetry - parts of it inspired by life in Lawrence. Hobo-ing America is a workingman’s tour of the U.S.A and The Eastpointer is selected pieces from his award winning column about life in a sleepy fishing village in the Florida Panhandle.
Why People Oyster By Richard E. Noble I met an old oysterman friend at the Piggly Wiggly the other day. Of course he wasn't all that old when I first met him. He told me that he would be retiring from his prison guard job in the morning. "That's great," I said. "And now what are you going to do to keep busy?" "I think I'm going to get me an oyster boat and do a little oystering." As everyone knows oystering is hard work and no matter what anyone out there says, it really doesn't pay a lot of money and it never did. So why would anyone be excited about returning to a life of hard work and little money in their retirement? Well, I must admit as we talked, I became somewhat envious. We started talking about oyster boat building. He also thought that he might like to build his own boat. Carol and I had bought some plans to build our own skiff many years ago. After I left my old friend, I began thinking about why oystermen liked oystering. I have had a good number of different jobs in my lifetime but very few that I would want to return to. So what is it with oystering? For one thing - you are self-employed. Being self-employed has its advantages - no boss, no pace, no time limits, no production quotas, and no annoying "fellow" employees. It is all up to you. Of course, oystering involves being on a boat and working on the water. Some folks spend a lot of money to go play on the water every weekend. I remember on a hot day diving off the walk rail of my oyster boat and floating around in the water until I cooled down. That was fun. Can't do that in a steel mill! It was a natural, honest and environmentally sound way to earn your keep. Tonging oysters the old fashioned way doesn't damage the beds. It cultivates them. It cleans them up, it spreads the oysters around. You never had to feel bad that what you were doing was harming anything. Like the man on the TV says, oystering ... is a good thing. When you got out to the oyster bar, you could park next to a buddy and shoot the breeze, if you liked. In fact, you could chit-chat all day if you wanted to. There was no office manager or boss or owner to come walking by and give you a dirty look or order you to get busy. You didn't have to compete against anybody. You could catch what you could catch. If somebody caught more bags than you it wasn't because someone gave him the best seat or a greater opportunity, or a better education. It wasn't a matter of opinion or favoritism. If you felt like stopping - you could stop. If you felt like working until the sun went down, you could. You could stop for lunch whenever you felt like it. And if you wanted a few raw oysters for lunch, you had a hole full. I think my wife and I ate at least a dozen oysters every day we worked. Crackers and a bottle of hot sauce were necessary equipment on our boat. In fact, for a number of years we brought a bail bucket full of oysters home with us each evening and while we each took a shower we steamed those oysters - steamed oysters with melted butter every night for an appetizer - umm ummm! You can't get any of those benefits working at the hardware store. We also brought a fishing pole with us every day. My wife would bait the hook with some small crabs she gathered off the cull board and then she would sit on the handle of the pole. When she got her butt tickled she jumped up and set the hook and we had fish for supper that evening. We caught flounder, spotted trout, and bunches of sheepshead. Oystering was physical work - and that's a good thing. At the end of each day you knew that you had done something - your body told you so. By bed time you were always ready - and you slept. There was no bull involved in oystering. As an oysterman you didn't cheat anybody - nobody was lied to. You never had to beat the other guy out of anything. You had nothing to be ashamed of at the end of a week. And you never had to feel guilty when you went to the boss's house or office to pick up your paycheck. The saddest thing about oystering to me was that we were always fighting for our right to go to work. Can you imagine being forced to fight to go to work and do a back breaking job all day? Being "oyster people" was quite an experience for Carol and me. When we finally quit Carol demanded that I sell my boat and motor. "You ain't going to push that thing back in the water ever again," she told me. "We're going to go get ‘real’ jobs." Right! Like being an oysterman wasn't a "real" job.
Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother, Hobo-ing America and A Summer with Charlie are books written by Richard E. Noble who has been a resident of Franklin County for over thirty years. All three books are now available on Amazon.com. If you would like to stock these books in your store or business call 1-850-670-8076 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Richard E. Noble Everyone knows that the poet Robert Frost graduated from Lawrence High School. In reading a biography about Mr. Frost he was quoted as stating that one of his biggest regrets was that he never wrote a history of Lawrence, Massachusetts. At the time that I read this statement I was not familiar with the history of Lawrence and I wondered why a great and famous man like Robert Frost would want to write a history of my rather abused and rundown hometown. Now that I am a little more familiar with the history of Lawrence, I understand his regret. I started reading Robert Frost because he was from Lawrence and over the years I have kept my eye open for other famous people from Lawrence. Leonard Bernstein was in my little apartment living room in Lawrence every Sunday for quite a while. Of course he appeared there via my oval-screened Zenith television set. I think Leonard started coming to my house around the year 1954. He had a series of programs where he explained the roots of music. It was truly a great series. I remember rushing home from King Tut’s - I mean church - every Sunday just to watch Leonard. I’m sure he was trying to get me interested in classical music. He was not successful. He did succeed in getting me interested in Leonard Bernstein and music in general. Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence. His father had a little bookstore on the corner of Amesbury and Essex Street. I bought books at that shop. I remember ordering a copy of Plato’s Symposium. The poor man running the shop at that time (early 1960s) had to purchase 4 copies. I bought one and the other three are probably still sitting there. If you are interested in getting a copy of Plato’s Symposium, they are on the left side of the store on a shelf at about eye level. They have a yellow cover. I was told that the shop is still in business. Ed McMahon was raised in Lowell. He had his first broadcasting job at WLLH. Ed told a story on the Johnny Carson Show about how he used to be the guess-your-weight-guy at Salisbury Beech. I remember him! He had his stand just to the left of the Frolics heading towards the 5 O’clock Club. That was a great game. Ed would agree to guess the year of your car or your mother’s first name or your age or a million other things. If he happened to get it right or within a year, or whatever the caveat was, you got no prize for your dollar or your quarter. But if he guessed wrong you won a prize off the dollar shelf or the quarter shelf or whatever your wager. People often won. But even if you won you lost. If you bet a dollar and picked a prize from the dollar shelf, the prize was probably worth a quarter or less. Everybody realized this but people still played the game. I played it too. A lot of it had to do with the Ed McMahons at the stand and their style. Just think I may have contributed to Ed McMayon’s success. But let me say I had nothing to do with his recent bankruptcy. Ed took my dollar and he blew it. What can I say? Then there is Jay Leno who grew up in Andover. I really don’t know anything about Jay. I don’t think I’ve watched the Johnny Carson show since Johnny retired. I still consider Jay an “upstart.” Robert Goulet was born in Lawrence. I have a friend who says he knew Robert and played with him when they were children. But my friend has been known to lie. He told me that Robert lived in the projects “over the other side” of Essex Street. I love those type expressions. What side is “the other side” of Essex Street? But now here is a story that is true. Billy Quinlan and I were involved in a life and death struggle one night. He was very much alive and I thought I was dead. I was cruising by the Merry Mac Club up on the river road one evening. I didn’t have much money. In fact, I had enough for one drink - no tip for the bartender. I was a “social” drinker at the time. Most of my friends were also “social” drinkers. Many of us today are having a little problem with our livers. I am wondering if this has anything to do with the drinking water in Lawrence. After all, those mixed drinks were 90% Lawrence water. I have been thinking of investigating and possibly starting up a class action suit. I know for a fact that cirrhosis of the liver is prevalent in Lawrence. I would not be surprised if it is disproportional to the rest of the nation. I may look into this after I finish this project. Then again maybe I won’t. So I took up a stool at the bar at the Merry Mac Club. I was sipping my drink and minding my own business when this fellow next to me started a conversation. We chatted. As it turned out he had an interest in classic philosophy - me too. We discussed Plato and Aristotle for awhile and then moved on to St. Thomas Aquinas and then into the Reformation. The night lingered along and every time I came back from the bathroom, there was another drink waiting for me. I figured that this red-headed, Irish fellow I had been talking to was my benefactor. He was most likely fascinated by my intellect. I thanked him each time and we moved on. By the time we got to Bertrand Russell, Jean Paul Sartre and Martin Headegeer, the lights began to flash and the Merry Mac Club was in shutdown mode. I sloshed down my last drink, shook hands with my red-headed philosopher buddy, thanked him for his kindness started for the door. A voice from behind me then bellowed, “Hey you! You’re not going to leave without buying me a drink are you?” I turned and there was Big Bad Billy Quinlan leaning on the bar. Billy was a professional football player from 1957 to 1965. He played for several pro teams - the Cleveland Browns, the Green Bay Packers, Detroit and some others. He had a reputation as the dirtiest, toughest player in professional football. He was born in Lawrence and he had a Lawrence reputation also. After retiring from professional football he bought a barroom on Common St. Everybody liked Billy but if Billy didn’t like you - you could soon be looking for a new body. At the time of this story Billy’s name had been in the Eagle Tribune. He had an altercation with some Mafia gangster types at a Holiday Inn. If I remember the story correctly he threw one of the bad guys through a plate glass window and put a few of the others into the hospital. “Are you talking to me?” I said. I didn’t say the above in Robert De Nero fashion as in Taxi Driver. I would imagine I sounded more like Woody Allen, rather wimpy and terrified. “Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you. I’ve been buying you drinks all damn night and you ain’t bought me one. What’s the story?” The place went quiet. The owner John McGrath was behind the bar. He was a big guy too. I thought he was my buddy. He wasn’t moving. I thought of running. I could run away from a professional football player? I don’t think so. I could fall to the floor and play dead? Or, I could just stand there for a few more minutes and be dead. “Ah, I ah ... Red here has been buying my drinks ...” Red shook his head negatively and confirmed the allegations by Billy. “Well, I ah ... maybe ...” What could I do? I had no money. I shouldn’t have been there and I never should have accepted all those drinks. I stood there stuttering for what seemed to be at least a year, when my buddy Billy Quinlan finally spoke again. “Oh screw you,” he said. Then he turned and headed out the door. So there you go, how I met the infamous Lawrence professional football star Billy Quinlan. Hey Billy, if you are still out there, I have a little more money today than I did in those days. I’d love to buy you a drink. Unfortunately, I have been advised not to drink alcohol by several different physicians. I think it’s the Lawrence water. Are you having any trouble with your liver, Billy? What do you think about the water in Lawrence?
Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published five books. Two of them have Lawrence as their setting, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. A Little Something is a book of poetry partly inspired by life in Lawrence. Hobo-ing America is a workingman’s tour of the U.S.A. The Eastpointer is selected pieces from his award winning column about life in a sleepy fishing village in the Florida Panhandle.
As a child the bulk of my health care came from public entities. I had a few physicals and eye exams that were provided by my grammar school and the Catholic Church. They were provided at no cost to my parents. If there was a charge, I wouldn’t have had them. There were a few health care experiences that I do remember my parents paying. I received some shots at a local doctor’s office and there were at least two occasions where a doctor visited our house because of me. I remember on one of those occasions overhearing the doctor speaking with my mother at the kitchen door. “I don’t have any money right now,” she said. “Don’t worry about it,” said Dr. Kerka. “There are better days coming and you will be able to catch up then.” My mother was embarrassed. She thanked the doctor and I’m sure she felt that one day she would be able to pay the doctor for his services. The second occasion was precipitated by a series of mishaps that I experienced in my first year of grammar school. I came down with chicken pocks, scarlet fever and the whooping cough one after the other. I missed time in school. Dr. Kerka came to the house once or twice. I don’t remember if my mother had money to pay for his services at that time or not. I never went to a dentist or an eye doctor as a small child. I passed all the eye exams in grammar school by memorizing what the kids in front of me said as they read the eye chart. In the eighth grade the nun challenged me to read the blackboard from my usual seat in the last seat in a back row. When I failed this spontaneous pop quiz she moved me to a front seat and contacted my mother. My mother accused me of being jealous of my older brother and sister who both wore eye glasses. Her case was that I flunked the eye test on purpose so that I could also get a pair of glasses. The nun nevertheless insisted, and I got a pair of glasses. I kept them in my shirt pocket until the nun shamed me into wearing them. As a working teenager I continued the family tradition of avoiding doctors. I did go to an eye doctor, though. I always worked as a teenager and I paid for any new glasses that I got. One day in my middle twenties, my big toe swelled and it wouldn’t go away. I went to a local doctor and he put me on gout medicine. From that point on I had to make appointments with doctors in order to get my medicine. That became very challenging but I managed to get my medicine and avoid any and all other doctor suggestions. In my thirties I started feeling peculiar and my wife insisted that I see a general practitioner. My blood pressure was 220 over 120. The doctor put me on blood pressure medicine. Periodically through my thirties and forties I made doctor appointments to renew prescriptions. I refused any other suggested tests or treatments. I never had a job that paid me enough to afford medical insurance. I had one job in management where a program was offered via a sharing of the expense. I wasn’t at that position long enough to get involved. I had no medical insurance my entire life. As a consequence, I had no preventative care. I never got seriously sick. I never went to a hospital. I went to doctors as infrequently as possible. My only health care plan was to stay healthy and avoid any treatment until I reached the age of sixty-five and was then covered by Medicare. I had one close call in my early sixties. My right eye went coo-coo. I was seeing a double image. It was very distracting. It was difficult to read, write, watch TV or drive my car. I went to a doctor at a local walk-in clinic. I was then sent to a specialist. The specialist began scheduling expensive tests. I told him that I had no money and could not afford such tests. He insisted. He said that my symptoms indicated that one possibility was a brain tumor. I could die without these tests he suggested. I told him that if I did have a brain tumor, I was dead anyway because I could not afford any operations or treatments. I asked him to presume that I had no brain tumor and go to the next level of inquiry. He said that he could not do that ethically. He insisted that I have these expensive tests done and fill out forms available for poor and indigent care. I stopped going to see him and I went to the eye doctor where I had been buying my eyeglasses. I explained my situation to the eye doctor. He said that he would work with me but had me sign a paper acknowledging that I was aware that he had no malpractice insurance. I signed the paper. He and another specialist at his office looked me over and made evaluations. They said that they had seen this type condition many times before. I had experienced a very minor stroke. It wasn’t even considered a stroke. A minor blood vessel in my eye had burst. They suggested that I wait and see. Other blood vessels would eventually take over, they suggested. In the weeks that followed, I exercised my eye. I moved it constantly. I put a patch over my good eye and forced myself to read. It slowly got better and then one day it returned to normal. That was it until I reached the age of sixty-five. At sixty-five I went for my free, one-time, full physical exam. I hadn’t had any such exam that I can remember. The doctor performed the prostrate exam (the finger up the butt) and sampled my stool in the office. The stool turned the wrong color indicating blood. I was then scheduled for a colonoscopy. They found a cancerous growth in my colon. I was scheduled for surgery. The growth was removed. I had a million other related tests and scans – all paid for by Medicare and my Blue Cross Medigap supplemental policy. In the hospital after my colon surgery, I had a heart attack. A triple bypass was recommended immediately. I refused. I went for a second opinion. I found an alternative program. It was called External Compression Theory. I have completed this program and I am awaiting a test to confirm any positive results. I feel very good and my wife and I are hoping for the best. Next they found a nodule on my thyroid gland. We are currently waiting for the results from a needle biopsy to find out if I need another operation. My teeth have never been cared for. I have rarely gone to a dentist. In the last few years my teeth have deteriorated rapidly. Many of them have now rotted and broken off. My plan is to have them all pulled and get dentures at Affordable Dentures. My worry is that I am on all these blood thinners and there will be problems. I will, of course, have to find three to four thousand dollars. Teeth are not covered by Medicare. My wife’s health care story is similar to mine. She has just turned sixty-five and is afraid to go for her free Medicare once-in-a-lifetime check-up. She says that she doesn’t want to open that can of worms as I did. She has no symptoms – but neither did I. At present I am doing my best to get her to go and have her check-up. She has promised that she will – when she gets ready. In some ways she is more stubborn than I am. And that is my/our health care story.
Richard Edward Noble is a freelance writer. If you like this Hobo Philosopher column idea and would like to have it appear in your publication please contact me at email@example.com.
By Richard E. Noble
The Girl in the Italian Bakery has very little to do with Italian bakeries or the girls who work in them. It is about Lawrence, Massachusetts. More specifically it is about the life of Kenneth Tingle growing up in Lawrence. Lawrence is and was a tough, hard scrabble, industrial mill town. Its most outstanding quality was and is poverty.
I also grew up in Lawrence and I have also written books about the experience. I feel that Kenny and I are two of a kind. We were both “go along with the crowd” type guys with a lot of sensitivity and a good sense of humor.
Kenny was twenty-five years behind me and though his life story is totally different it is, in another sense, totally the same.
Kenny literally thanks God for his salvation from Lawrence. I am more secular. I thank my older brother who provided me with an airplane ticket to Fort Lauderdale and $300 in cash. My older sister was living in Fort Lauderdale and she needed some help. My brother couldn’t go to assist but he saw that my life in Lawrence was going nowhere but down hill. Like Kenny I got out of Lawrence by the skin of my teeth.
Next, Kenny thanks his good fortune in finding the United States Marine Corps. I thank my lucky stars for my introduction to my wife Carol. We have been partners now for over thirty years. She doesn’t know it and I know she doesn’t think that she did anything special – but she did.
Kenny talks of a bond with Lawrence - a bond that, in some mysterious way, was embedded into his genes. I feel exactly the same. I feel that those redbrick mill buildings and rundown tenement houses are a part of me. Like Kenny, I will not return other than to visit. The first time I went back there for a reunion of the “old street corner gang” I stayed with my uncle and slept in the old tenement house that I was raised in. I was over fifty years old at the time of that visit and I literally cried myself to sleep. My wife and I were sleeping in twin beds and I tried my best to contain myself so that she didn’t hear me. She has never mentioned it. I am still trying to figure out what caused the tears. I haven’t the slightest idea.
I keep my bond with Lawrence alive by studying its history and reading and writing books like Kenny’s.
I've given Kenny's book to my wife to read. I am curious about her reaction. She went with me on one trip to Lawrence. She knows what Lawrence looks like but only what it feels like via my tales and stories. I'm interested to find out her reaction to Kenny's presentation.
Books by Richard Edward Noble. Click on covers below for more info and purchasing instructions.
Classic Tragic Novel
Don't Laugh - This Could Have Been Your Life
Funny stories and some strange characters.
Monkey Dishes and Cocktail Fawks
My Harrowing days in the restaurant business. Great Read.
It's a Long Story
Long Short Fiction - Great stories!
Bloggin' Be My Life
"Bloggin' be My Life" contains a selection of some of my more popular Hobo Philosopher blogs.If you enjoy reading this blog, you should love Bloggin' Be My Life.
It's All About Love
It's All About Love is ... all about love. This is the 2nd book of poetry from The Bard From Chelmsford off Arlington. Every poem in this book comes with a prose introduction. If you enjoy poetry this is a simple choice. Have fun!
A Little Something
Traditional poetry from The Bard From Chelmsford Off Arlington with some poignant prose introductions. If you enjoy any type of poetry, you will enjoy this volume. Thanks.
Talking To Myself
This is my third book of poetry.
Bits and Pieces
The Hobo Philosopher - My first book using the Hobo Philosopher brand. Featuring a variety of writing styles and ideas. Look for the Thoughtful Hobo on the cover.
A Baker's Dozen
The Hobo Philosopher: My Second book of Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction and Short Stories. All varieties of short stories - lots of laughs!
Cat Point - and Them Dang Oyster People
Cat Point is the sequel to "The Eastpointer." Both books contain humorous tales about life in a fishing community on the Florida Panhandle. Lots of laughs.
Won 1st Place award for humor in 2007 from Florida Press Association. More wit, wisdom and humor from the yet to be world famous author, R.E. Noble
A Summer with Charlie - Lawrence
Fiction - Salisbury Beach, Lawrence, Mass. Featured in Merrimack Valley Magazine July /Aug. issue 2010
Travel, Humor, Commentary on migrant farm work and illegal immigration still very pertinent today.
"Just Hangin' Out Ma"
Thank God for the Street Corners of Lawrence, Mass. Anecdotes and humorous escapades about growing up in an industrial mill town in the 40s,50s and 60s.
This is the sequel to "Just Hangin' Out, Ma"
That Old Gang of Mine
This is # 3 in my Lawrence Hometown series. The series is about growing up in the 40's, 50's and 60's in an industrial mill town. Sorta like a Huck Finn goes to vist Uncle Ralph, the bus driver, who lives in a big, rundown city. Lots of fun.
Come On-A My House
This is # 4 in my Lawrence Hometown series.The old homested at 32 Chelmsford ST is pictured on the cover..
Down By The Old Mill Stream
# 5 in the Lawrence My Hometown series.
Standing on the Corner is # 6 in the lawrence My Hometown series.
The old Howard Playstead on Lawrence St.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
# 7 in the Lawrence my Hometown series.
Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother
Classic tragic novel written from child's perspective. Deals with abuse, poverty, unemployment. Pulls no punches.
Noble Notes on Famous Folks
Humorous, satirical notes on everybody from Constantine to Bill Clinton. Inspiration: Willy Cuppy.
America on Strike
History - documented survey of labor strikes in America
Mein Kampf - An Analysis of Book One
Who are the American Nazis - the Liberals or the Conservatives?
MY NAME IS RICHARD EDWARD NOBLE. I AM A FREELANCE WRITER AND I HAVE PUBLISHED 12 BOOKS:"THE EASTPOINTER" - SELECTIONS FROM AWARD WINNING NEWSPAPER COLUMN - "A LITTLE SOMETHING" - POETRY WITH PROSE -"HONOR THY FATHER AND THY MOTHER" - A NOVEL ABOUT GROWING UP IN THE NEW ENGLAND MILL TOWN OF LAWRENCE, MASS, "HOBO-ING AMERICA" - A WORKINGMAN'S TOUR OF THE U.S.A. - "A SUMMER WITH CHARLIE" - THE STORY OF A YOUNG SAILOR'S LAST DAYS AT SALISBURY BEACH, "NOBLE NOTES ON FAMOUS FOLKS" - HUMOROUS ANECDOTES ON FAMOUS FOLKS IN HISTORY,
"AMERICA ON STRIKE" HISTORY BOOK - A SURVEY OF LABOR STRIKES IN AMERICA; "A BAKER'S DOZEN" A BOOK OF HUMOROUS SHORT STORIES; "JUST HANGIN' OUT, MA" - GROWING UP IN THE 40'S, 50'S AND 60'S IN LAWRENCE, MY HOMETOWN, "TENEMENT DWELLERS" - SEQUEL TO JUST HANGIN OUT, MA; MEIN KAMPF - ANALYSIS OF BOOK ONE - HISTORY. CAT POINT - AND THEM DANG OYSTER PEOPLE - SEQUEL TO THE EASTPOINTER
All 12 BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM, BARNES AND NOBLE AND OTHER INTERNET SOURCES OR FROM NOBLE PUBLISHING. ALL 12 OF MY BOOKS ARE NOW ON KINDLE AT BARGAIN PRICES TOO. IF YOU WOULD LIKE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT DISCOUNTS AND SPECIAL OFFERS E-MAIL ME. MY EMAIL IS ON MY PROFILE PAGE.