Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Time I Almost Met Bruce Springsteen

In 1985 I was living in Mammoth Lakes, California.  Bruce Springsteen, at the time, probably my favorite musician, was touring and we managed to get tickets to one of his concerts at the LA coliseum.

Our concert was September 30, 1985.  A few days before this I was talking to a co-worker, Suzanne, and mentioned our trip down to LA and my excitement about the coming concert.

“Oh,” she said, “I’m not a big fan of his, but he just married my college roommate.”

That was kind of interesting. I knew that Springsteen had married an actress that spring.  I had seen her, Julianne Phillips, in a TV movie called Summer Fantasy, about a girl who gets a lifeguard job -- sort of “Baywatch Lite.”

A couple of days later, Suzanne stopped by my house.  “I talked to Jules (Julianne) last night.  They’re having a get together after the concert and they want me to come by.  She said I could bring some friends if I want.  Would you like to go?”

It took me a few seconds to make the connection.  Was she inviting us to a party with The Boss?

“Yeah,” Suzanne said.  “He’ll be there.  Jules wants me to meet him.  There is one problem though.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, I’m not sure I can go.  I’m flying to Hawaii the next morning and if I can’t get everything ready in time I’m going to have to skip it.”

This was well before cellphones, so we made arrangements for Suzanne to call the home of our mutual friend Jim (we were staying at the Canoga Park home of Jim's parents’).

It was a great concert.  So much energy and I do love his music and loved it even more at that point in my life.  Apparently, Springsteen thought it was a good concert too.  In 1986 he released a collection of songs from concerts called Live/1975–85.   There are 40 songs on the album and eight of them are from the night we saw him.

Well, as you can guess, Suzanne wasn’t able to go.  So I never met The Boss.  However, the next night I did met someone interesting.  Click here for that story.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Ancestor Stories

We have some colorful ancestors.  In County Cork they like to tell how the family estate was settled.  In 1601 the Cahalanes were among the cavalry who had come down from the one of the northern Counties with the army of O’Neill and O’Donnell to throw the English out.
The Irish and their Spanish allies attacked the English at Kinsale but were defeated.  The Cahalanes escaped to the west towards Skibbereen.  They were followed and harassed by some English cavalry.  Finally, after many hours, they grew annoyed with by this constant English nuisance.  They turned back towards the English at the brow of a hill about 40 miles from Kinsale and “with one stroke of his mighty sword” the Chief of the Cahalane Clan slew three, four, five (the number varies depending on who is telling the story) of the English and the rest fled.
The brow of the hill where this occurred was a place called Maulatrahane.  The Cahalane clan thought their victory was a good omen and they have lived there since.

Another unusually colorful ancestor is Henry Branch, my Great-great-grandfather.  Harry, as he was known, was the son of Irish immigrants.  They initially came to Canada but moved down to Horseheads, New York where, a few years later, in 1853, Harry was born.
Shortly after the Civil War Harry decided to run away from home to join the circus. And he did.  He worked as a trapeze acrobat for a few years until he fell and seriously injured himself in Greenville, Ohio. He was nursed back to health by the family of Joseph Townsand and then, to repay his debt, he worked for them as a servant.
He planned to eventually rejoin the circus when they returned to the area.  But he met a young Greenville girl named Synthia Walker.  They married and moved to Bradford, Ohio where they raised a family.  Harry worked as a baker in the Ogden House. He eventually started his own bakery.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Learning to Sail

Cowan Lake
The first time I ever went sailing was at Cowan Lake, near Wilmington, Ohio.  I'm not sure exactly when it was, probably the spring of '72 or '73.  A college sailing regatta was being held there. I knew quite a few of the Wright State team's members as there was a large overlap between the Ski Club, which I was very active in, and the Sailing Team.

I'd spent a fair amount of time in boats before this, but it had all been in either powerboats, canoes or rowboats.  I was intrigued by sailing, and hoped I might get a chance to try it, but I had come just to watch the race and visit with friends.  When I arrived I spoke to a few of the people I knew and was introduced to others.

Not long after this Reiner, the Team Captain (also a skier). and another man came over to the WSU contingent.   They were looking for a WSU student to "crew" on one of the boats as one of the scheduled sailors had not shown up.
Wright State Campus
I wasn't paying much attention to these two -- I wasn't a sailor, heck, I wasn't even a member of the Sailing Club.

Then I heard Reiner say, "Hey, there's Tom.  He can do it!"

This really surprised  me.  I explained to them my total lack of experience and non-membership.

"That doesn't matter," Reiner claimed, "you're a WSU student and I can fill out the membership paperwork later.  You can "crew" easily -- you've been in boats a lot and you're a great athlete, the best skier in the Ski Club.*  [Forgot the name of this sailor] will show you what to do.  It'll be fun."

So a few minutes later, there I was, setting in a Flying Junior Sailboat in the middle of the "start melee" trying to take in the instructions the skipper was giving me (1 - move to the high side of the boat. 2 - adjust the "jib sheet" so that the two pieces of yarn on the front sail are both flowing straight back al0ng the sail and not fluttering.)

The first heat was fine, we finished somewhere in the middle of the slow part of the fleet.  Reiner was second as I remember.  The next heat wasn't so good.  We capsized before we got to the first mark.  Looking back on it, I now realize that he wasn't a highly skilled sailor. After the capsize we drifted into some bushes along the shore and he didn't know how to get us upright, off that leeshore and moving again.  A powerboat had to come out and tow us, with a hull-full of water, back to the marina.

Reiner told me later not to feel bad about the events, "I'm sure it wasn't your fault," he said, "[The skipper whose name I can't recall] capsizes just about every time he goes out."

* The only part of this sentence that was true was the part about being in boats a lot.