Wid or Widout – Philly Cheese Steaks

August 22nd, 2016

My upbringing was fairly well-rounded in some ways. Some of my favorite memories with my Dad are Sundays.

He’d go to church, my three older brothers and I to Sunday school. As my brothers got older, they became choir boys. In name only. :-)

Mom would  stay home – communing in much needed peace and quiet.

Often after church, we would stop at Hymie’s, a Jewish deli, get bagels and bialies with lox, capers, and cream cheese, and French style donuts and bring them home to eat with Mom.  With three older brothers, fortunately everyone else liked chocolate and I liked vanilla.

After lunch, Dad would take us for drive.

Sometimes, instead of stopping at the deli, we’d pick up Mom and go to Pat’s for a cheese steak downtown Philly. They were delicious in the 60’s.

And then for the historic drive where we would go see the historic Swedish church or the liberty bell (before they moved it) or Independence Hall or Betsy Ross’ house.

Having extolled its virtues and filled with great memories, I took General  Yeager to the historic Pat’s a few years ago to try a true Philly cheese steak. It had probably been 20 years or more since I had last been to Pat’s which claim to have originated the cheese steak, been around for over 80 years, and call themselves the King of Steaks.

Lots of places serve “Philly cheesesteaks” but none like Pat’s, as I remembered them. Many others serve them with peppers. Not Pat’s. I suppose you could get them, but they weren’t the regular fare.

With excited anticipation of finally a great Philly cheese steak and sharing some of the best of my childhood with Gen  Yeager, I got in line and asked for two cheese steaks.

Server barked, “Wid or widout?”

I was stumped but my Phili language did come back: “Wid or widout what?”

It was such a conveyor belt he didn’t have time for me – just barked, “Next!”

I stepped back and watched, determined to get a cheesesteak.

They now take the roll, put the cheese on the roll, slap the thinly sliced steak on there hoping the hot steak will melt the cheese enough. “Wid or widout” meant onions.

I practiced mentally and then got in line again.

This time I was ready.

“Wid or widout?”

“Wid,” I said.

“”What?” he replied. Guess I lost my Philly accent abilities

“Wid”

“Wid what?”

“Onions.”

“Wid!” he yelled.

“Whiz?”

Oops I missed this one.

l”Whiz what?” (Was “whiz” the new “wid”?)

I winced as I was afraid I’d be kicked out of line again. It was getting embarrassing. But fortunately the line had abated and he had more time for me. Or just took pity.

“Cheese whiz?”

Ewww. “No, thank you.”

“No whiz!” he yelled.

I got and paid for the cheese steaks. General Yeager and I sat down at a table.

As I unwrapped them, the grease from our cheese steaks started pouring off the table. They weren’t too awful but they weren’t like what we had in the ’60’s.

I have never been to Gino’s, the big rival across the street, and rather wished we had gotten  one cheese steak from Gino’s and  one from Pat’s so we could intelligently join the debate as to which was better. (Gino’s looked pretty greasy, too, though.)

With all that grease, Gen Yeager was not impressed.

We then went to see the Swedish church. Still there. Unchanged. Historic. Beautiful. No “whiz”.

I’m going to ask the Boys, (the older brothers/family I choose) as in Joe Bonsall and Richard Sterban. They’ll know the best place to get a great Philly cheese steak.

And I’ll try again with General Yeager

It’s a Philly thing.

c. GCYI

 

Story for our book “So You THINK You Want to be Famous…..”

July 30th, 2016

I answered the phone today: “Hello?”

Caller: I’d like to speak to Chuck Yeager

Me: What’s it regarding?

Caller: My girlfriend.

Me: In what regard?

Caller: She’s a flatearththeorist.

Me: She’s a what?

Caller: She believes the flatearththeory.

Me: She believes in what?

Caller: Flat earth theory.

Me: So…

Caller: Chuck has got to tell me how to handle this.  I gotta get her to see she’s wrong.

Me: Take her to the library. Show her globes, books. Take  her outside – show her the night sky.

Caller: I guess I can but she believes everything she reads on the internet.

Me: Then show her the round earth websites.

Caller: What am I going to do? I gotta nip this in the bud!

Me: How old is she?

Caller: 42. She won’t change! Chuck’s gotta help me! What should I do?

Me: Get a new girlfriend.

Caller: Can I speak to Chuck – I need his help.

Me: No, that’s not something he does.

Caller: Oh. Uh. Okay.

Hangs up.

 

c. GCYI

 

Oak Ridge Boys Celebration Tour

July 4th, 2016

Another fun weekend with the Oak Ridge Boys. We were groupies  – well not very good groupies as we didn’t follow them as they zigzagged to Nevada.IMG_2192

IMG_2190We saw them at the historic Merced Theater. Visited a little before the show. The theater was full and we had the “Royal Box” as we called it. Stage left and a little elevated from the orchestra seats. Good view of the Boys and the Mighty Oaks Band.

The Boys take time throughout the night to spotlight each of the band as each gets to solo during one of the songs. Rex is hilarious though with slides and the clapper interacting with Joe Bonsall. Hard to describe it so you’ll just have to go see a show :-)

We wondered….and then there it was: Duane singing “It Takes a Little Rain” and the Boys joining in. Such great harmony. It was perfection.

I was observing the boys as I danced in my chair and after all these years, I couldn’t believe this was the first time I noticed that Richard, William Lee, and Duane Allen all hold the microphone in their left hands.

Yet, Joe Bonsall holds it in his right hand.

IMG_2186I suppose that would be normal from a staging point of view (pov); opening your body out to the audience more. But I didn’t see Joe change hands when he moved over to stage left.

I checked their wrists which suggested they were all righthanded? (Watches were on left wrists, I think). I wonder.

I made a mental note to check this new observation at the next concert in Visalia.

When Richard sang his part with a solo moment where his rich bass came through beautifully, General Yeager turned to me and said, “He’s good!” (We had figured that out long before but experiencing it anew in person is enthralling).

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Oak Ridge Boys in one of their tableaux

I love their switching it up onstage, changing positions, and especially their tableaux reminiscent of Sondheim’s musical “Sunday in the Park with George” based on George Seurat’s painting entitled “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”.

Next day, General Yeager tweeted the Boys to join us pig hunting. Food goes to the food bank. They tweeted back they were busy: Had a concert with the Beach Boys. Gen Yeager asked them to say hello to Mike Love and the Beach Boys. We had met the Beach Boys when they were inducted into the California Hall of Fame. Very incongruous but Mike was very gracious and Gen Yeager and he got into quite a conversation.

Joe Bonsall had said onstage in Merced that the Oak Ridge Boys would be singing with the Beach Boys – and what happens when bob-bob-bob-bob-bob-bob-bob-Bobbie Sue meets Ba Ba Ba Ba Babara Ann. It’s like the Beach Boys bid 4 ba’s and the Oak Ridge Boys raised them to 8 bob’s – in short, you get a lot of fun.

IMG_2206

Welcome cookie from City of Visalia

In Visalia, we brought friends; two couples and two kids, one of whom was adopted from Ethiopia. These two teenage daughters are so delightful and well-behaved. The older one wants to make singing a career. She is also a pianist. When I did some radio, I was informed to pronounce it pee-ANN-ist, not pee-a-nist. The correct pronunciation, the second way, sounds awful over the radio. Rex Wiseman made it even easier – piano player, he said.. :-) Rex very kindly took time to show the two kids all the instruments he plays. Okay some of the instruments he plays. “All of them” would have taken weeks and weeks. Rex is a seriously talented fellow. And the Boys were very kind in giving the aspiring-to-be-a-professional singer positive advice.

The advice they gave is exactly what the Boys have done and do, which makes them so special.

Darrick Kinslow introduced General Yeager. He told a bit of the history first and it’s special to see the wave of recognition, amazement, disbelief, until Darrick said General Yeager’s name. People jumped to their feet to give him a standing ovation. I stepped behind Gen  Yeager so as not to block anyone’s view. Darrick brought the microphone over to see if General Yeager had anything to say but General Yeager, still humble – trust me, it ain’t an act – was overwhelmed. When he found his voice, he said, “And I’m still flying.” Darrick chimed in with “Yes, and we got to fly with you, too!” Darrick sure did and so did William Lee. We tease William Lee – his hair and beard flowing out of the two-seater plane made it look like a flying squirrel!

At one point, General Yeager turned to me, referring to Roger Eaton, guitar player, and said, “I think he’s the best there is.”

I did my homework. Sure enough, William Lee, Richard, and Duane hold the microphone in their left hands. Although occasionally Duane changed to the right hand – a switch hitter. Joe: left hand.

After about the seventh song all of which the audience (including our friends and us) very much enjoyed, including dancing in their chairs, clapping, whistling and screaming approval after each one: General Yeager whispered to me if I thought they might sing his favorite song again.

Just then, as though he had heard us, Joe Bonsall told the story of being at the Country Music Hall of Fame for the Boys induction, one of the most important nights of their career, looking up and doing a double-, triple-take, seeing the General there in the “Royal Box”. Words cannot express the joy and incredulity (and looks on the Boys faces when they saw us). At the memory, Joe had a speechless moment.  And if you know Joe, that’s something! :-)

Joe continued, “We’ve known the General a long time. Ever since we celebrated General Yeager’s 80th birthday with him, we’ve been celebrating each one. Ninety-three now, right, General?”

JIMG_2195oe then said: “Whenever the General is attending a show, he “requests” us to sing his favorite song, “It Takes a Little Rain”. And  when the General “requests”…..you don’t say no…

Wow. It was amazing. Again. With Ron Fairchild playing keyboard beautifully.

The rest of the evening was rousing. When the Boys sang Elvira, the audience approached the stage and General Yeager, wanting photos, to shake the Boys hand, to dance and sing.

 

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Bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-Bobbie Sue was next. We eventually went backstage where the audience followed. General  Yeager graciously took photos with each and every one who came backstage.

Several had known Korky, General Yeager’s very very good friend from that area, and who had died in 2002. Each had a story to tell about Korky, a real character. I was lucky enough to get to know Korky for a couple years before he died. General Yeager used to participate in a huge BBQ celebration of the end of harvest there with Korky. Korky had been a World War II instructor pilot and a sprayer (spraying seeds or spraying nutrients on fruit trees from the plane). He also was a fruit grower. I had never had a persimmon or seen one until I met Korky.

Each of the Boys came and talked with us while they waited for the band to pack up, get some dinner, and leave; headed for their next stops in Salt Lake City and Deadwood on their way to Wisconsin.

Each of the Boys is looking fantastic. Just looking at them, and William Lee gave me his secret; I’ve been inspired to get in better shape. I was teasing William Lee. I told him: “I finally started exercising – did 40 sit-ups yesterday and my stomach hurts – why don’t I look better?” Our doc friend overheard this, looked stunned and was going to explain to me why when he looked up and saw I was kidding. Sort of.

I didn’t remember to tell William Lee but: William Lee’s niece sent me two books of his mother’s poetry. Wow! Truly special. Talent all around in that family.

I also forgot to tell him that his “Beautiful Bluebird” this evening was the best ever. Just lovely.

Always a fun time with the Oak Ridge Boys. Always worth the drive, plane trip, plane changes….

You see, I never liked country music because it always seemed depressing. Growing up n the Northeast, we used to joke we should play the country songs backwards and then they’d come out positive. I like some Gospel, but some seemed too slow and arduous.

However, with the Oak Ridge Boys, one always walks out of their concerts uplifted, singing a few bars, dancing if not actually, in one’s mind. They’re having great fun and bringing all of the audience in for the ride.

For instance, a most unusual song is Gonna Take a Lot of River – singing about blues in the most uplifting way. At the end of it, one is thinking, even if momentarily, “What blues?”

An Oak Ridge Boys concert is sheer joy. “Loving God, loving each uh-oth-er.”

c. GCYI

Some Chuck Yeager Aviation Advice over the Years

June 28th, 2016

General Yeager was asked: Q: What’s most important quality pilot should possess?

There are so many. Here are some:

A: Intellectual curiosity regarding every aspect of flying.

B. Calm under pressure.

C. If in trouble, concentrate on FIXING the problem, (not being afraid).

D. Know your systems so you can fix the problem.

E. Think ahead so you are ready for next steps

F. Think what can go wrong & fix it before it goes wrong

c. GCYI

Mohammed Ali

June 7th, 2016

By the time I met Mohammed Ali 25 yrs ago at a Hollywood benefit event, he had matured and become, rather than a radical muslim avoiding the draft and against the war, a quiet, respected symbol for excellence, kindness and peace.

He whispered something to me – his Parkinson’s only allowed that volume. I leaned in to this very tall, large man and asked him to repeat what he had said.

He did. “You are prettier than I am and than anyone else here.” (That was something with all the dolled up Hollywood stars and starlets.)

I smiled and said: Well that was worth repeating.

He smiled.

Then I said: I bet you say that to all the girls!

He chuckled.

 

c. GCYI

 

Chuck Yeager-ism – What do you call a sexual intellectual?

May 20th, 2016

An f—ing know-it-all

Chuck Yeager-ism

May 16th, 2016

Never let them name a street after you at Edwards (AFB) and never get so banged up they have to call in a pathologist to identify you.

March 1944 Escaped Nazis – Make it to Spain

April 1st, 2016

I wake from a deep sleep to knocking on the door. I freeze. Where am I? It slowly comes back. It was not a dream- I should be in Spain. I made it over the Pyrenees without getting caught. Who is at the door, though?

I cautiously move toward the door, scanning the room for an escape and a weapon.

Someone with an American accent starts yelling: Yeager! I’m the American consul. Open up.

With a lamp in my hand, I cautiously open the door. There is a man standing there. He tells me he’s rounding up all the airmen and taking us to Lerida.

He shows me some official id.

I go with him.

He takes a group of us to Lerida, then Alhambra de Aragon. It’s a monastery.

I’m just happy to be well fed and a somewhat comfortable bed to sleep in.

Turns out it’s hot springs spa.

What a way to fight a war – hang out at the pool at a spa watching all the pretty Spanish girls.

c. GCYI

 

March 1944 Escaping Germans – a farmhouse in Spain

March 30th, 2016

After catnapping, I dragged and carried the airman for what seemed like hours. We were starving. We came upon a farm and I wondered if we’d be safe. I was sure we were in Spain but the people living on the border might sell us back to the Germans – they paid a good price.

We were so hungry and tired, we chanced it. We slowly approached the farmhouse. I’m sure they were eyeing us the whole way.

As we got closer, I examined the whole area, decided on some escape routes. As we got right up to the door, it swung open, and the woman beckoned us inside and hurry. They fed us a large meal and we slept by the fire as our clothes dried out. Much safer to hang our socks. I still did not go into a deep sleep. I was ready to run. How I would do so carrying the airman, I couldn’t quite work out.

All was well. I haven’t been able to find that Spanish family to thank them again.

Better fed, I got up on a ridge and could see far below, a fairly large town. I carried and mostly slid with the airman down the mountain. I left him on the road for the Guardia Civil, Spanish police, to pick him up and  headed up into the mountains again to get as far south beyond the border as I could.

I finally came down into a town, hopped a bus, held on for dear life and made it to Sort. They put me in the jail, such as it was. I wondered what this meant – were they finding Germans to whom to sell me?

I escaped and went to a hotel where I slept for what felt like a month although I think it was only 24 hours straight. I didn’t care what happened, I needed sleep.

A knock at the door awakened me.

c. GCYI

Jury Duty – Our Civic Duty

March 23rd, 2016

I’ve enjoyed jury duty and wish my friends would not try to avoid it. They need smart, thoughtful, common sense jurors. It’s our civic duty.

I remember an old family friend, a member of Philadelphia society starting in the 20’s – quite the living social history, telling us about his jury duty experience. The Judge was asking each juror in turn if they had an opinion as to whether the defendant was innocent or guilty.

Each juror in turn replied, “No.”

Until our friend.

The Judge asked him: “Do you have an opinion as to whether he is innocent or guilty?”

“Yes,” said this highly intelligent, highly regarded, erudite teacher and librarian.

The Judge did a double take and asked again.

“Yes,” our family friend confirmed

The Judge now very curious, asked, “What is it?”

“Innocent,” pronounced our family friend.

The realization slowly dawned on everyone in the courtroom.

Innocent until proven guilty.

He remained on the jury.

First time I was summoned to jury duty was during the time the O.J. Simpson jury was originally going to be picked. I deliberated with myself – a year or more of my life vs. perhaps a book deal….hmmm. I opted out. Frankly, I figured I would not be picked after voir dire – I was blond then and about the same age as Nicole.

I called the courthouse and asked if I could do my jury duty earlier. They were surprised. They had all sorts of people calling to be in the jury pool. I was the first and only person to call to get out of it. They readily accommodated me – I wasn’t trying to get out of duty, just that duty.

In Los Angeles at that time, you had to show up three days in a row to see if you’d be picked.

The first case to which they sent our group up was a bit scary. I was in the second tier and was called up to the box.  The case was two big scary looking black prisoners had allegedly sodomized a third prisoner with a broom and other things.  I wanted to put my hands over my ears and hum-um-um-um I so did not want to hear any more.

Fortunately, in criminal cases like that, the first people the defense attorneys get rid of are white women. I was excused. I wonder if they saw my revulsion. Someone said to get out of a murder trial just start mimicking making a hanging noose.

Phew.

I’ve seen too many movies where the verdict is read: GUILTY, and the scary defendant points at the jury and says, “I’m going to get you!”

I was summoned to jury duty a year or so ago. It was hard to tell what the case was. They went through several potential jurors. I was almost the last one. The questions seem to center around: What do you think about toilet papering a house?

We’re about to sit through a case about TP-ing a house? When it came to the defendant’s turn to accept the jury or knock someone off, he deliberated at length with his lawyer. Finally, they came to a decision and I was excused. I was wondering why they hadn’t knocked me off asap. Usually white women…. (Turned out the guy, drunk, had threatened his wife and stepdaughter with a loaded gun after the TP-incident. It was not an isolated incident. They threw the book at him.)

The next case in Los Angeles to which I was sent up for their jury pool, was an eminent domain case. We went through voir dire where I told them I had a real estate license in California and an MBA in Finance from Columbia University. They kept me this time.

The jury was quite diverse. We had an elderly white man who was a retired small business owner, an elderly white woman, retired school teacher; a black young man from the ‘hood, an Hispanic woman in her 40’s, a young man in his 30’s, and every type between. I was 35.

The case was as follows: The Hungarian-American society, a group of elderly men who had been born in Hungary and had immigrated here after World War II, owned a building in Los Angeles. Cal Trans needed to use their property to dig under it for five years to build the subway so wanted to move them and their tenants for those years. The society used the upstairs for their club and a bank used the downstairs and paid rent.

The bank moved across the street and the evidence showed their net income increased significantly.

The Hungarian American society’s lawyer had hired an expert witness, a real estate appraiser, who spent three days explaining why he valued the use of the property at well over $500,000 – I think $600,000.

The expert witness about put us all to sleep for 3 days confusing everyone in the jury (but me, frankly). When the lawyer asked how much he was being paid, he said $3500/day to testify. We all realized that’s why he was speaking so slowly. I thought, I am in the wrong business. He was terrible.

The Judge was quite pleasant and affable but even he was getting a little tired of the prolonged testimony.

I was the only one taking full notes.

At lunch, we had vouchers of course.  The first day, I had suggested we all go find a fun place to eat – heck we were in downtown Los Angeles with lots to see. Even during the day, it wasn’t that safe to walk around alone too far. I had to put on my Philadelphia city demeanor. Everyone wanted to discuss the trial of course and what had happened that day. We had been admonished not to do that and not to form an opinion before all the evidence was in. I changed the subject to find out about each person. Heck, we were going to be together for a while especially with that expert witness.

As the trial wore on (it went 7 days), I organized field trips after we ate lunch such as visiting the library downtown – a wonderfully huge building full of all sorts of books and with an exhibit of Norman Rockwell paintings at the time. It made it much easier to not talk about the trial, the elephant in the room.

Finally, at almost the end of the seventh day, it became time to deliberate and we went back to the jury room. First thing we had to do was elect a jury foreperson.

The schoolteacher nominated me. She said I was the only one who understood it all. Everyone was in accord except The black kid nominated the older white guy. The older white guy wanted the job. We had a vote. 10 – 2. I became the foreperson.

I went around the table and asked what each person thought. To a person, none of them understood anything the expert had said.

I kept saying, “There’s a piece missing.”

We asked for his charts. I went through the charts with the jury. How to value real estate? This property here valued as x close by, has all of these features the subject property has but it does not have these features. This other property valued as y sort of close by has other similar features but not all the features. So we had to value each feature and add or subtract.

I asked each person what they thought the value was. We had the expert witness’ general idea but….

I called on the black kid first. He was stunned. He was still awake which was good. I went around the table. Each of them was stunned to see how simple it was and how it took me about 20 minutes to do what the expert witness had taken three days to do.

The day was finished and so we had to come back. The next morning, we discussed it. The older white guy wanted to give tons and tons of money, triple what the rest of us wanted to do.

Most of us wanted to give about $250,000 – that’s what the mean valuation truly showed – plus some extra just for the time and effort to move, bring a lawsuit, etc.

The white guy wanted to give the Hungarian Americans something for their efforts to have to move and bring a lawsuit – about $550,000 or more. I reminded the group that the amount had to reflect that Cal Trans was only borrowing the property for five years and would then get it back all in one piece so it is essentially a mandated 5 year lease.

I asked if anyone had suggestions. So we split the difference and came up with about $400,000; an additional 60% hundred in sympathy. In fact, it was within the limits of a proper valuation so everyone could live with that. Except the older white guy. He wanted his number and that was that.

I said, “It’s almost lunch time. Why don’t we get our last free lunch and do a final vote after lunch?”

All agreed. We actually were sad we were splitting up, probably would never see each other again, and wanted to put off the separation.

After lunch and our last excursion, I think this time to the modern art museum, we headed back to the jury room, did our final vote.

I was still confused – something is missing – and said so.

“Why aren’t they asking about the loss or moving expenses for the bank? Although their income went up. Hmmmm.”  This wasn’t part of the evidence or equation before us so we voted.

I think it was 10 people for $400,000 to two (elderly white guy and another) for $550,000. There was no way anyone could convince anyone else to go to the other’s side. We only needed a majority and we did not need another day and another meal, so we let the Court know we had finished.

We filed back in. The Judge asked who the foreperson was and was not surprised when I stood up. I read the verdict.

The Cal Trans lawyer had his head down, made notes, and had no reaction. I wondered. There was no happiness from the Hungarian Americans or the bank.

The Hungarian Americans’ lawyer asked for a polling.

After this, the Judge said, “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. However, I’m sorry to tell you, we couldn’t tell you before, but there is another piece of this case and you all have to return on Monday to hear evidence and decide that part.”

To a person, each jury member quickly swiveled their head to me and stared. This did not go unnoticed. I smiled. Vindicated.

We all came back on Monday. After we took our seats, the Judge apologized for us having to come back and informed us the bank and Cal Trans had settled. I never did find out for how much but the bank – I think it was Wells Fargo – should not have gotten anything.

After we left the courtroom, the lawyers for the Hungarian Americans, stopped us. By then we had learned we had come in a couple hundred thousand dollars under what Cal Trans had offered. I felt a little bad for the elderly Hungarian Americans who had been sold a bill of goods by these attorneys and “expert witness”.

The lawyer asked: “How did you all come to our decision?”

Frankly, I berated them (but nicely): “Why did you bring this case to trial? That expert witness was so wrong on his estimates. He should be reported to the real estate licensing board. And you all should refund your fees. Ridiculous. You’re the ones who took advantage of these elderly gentlemen, not Cal Trans.”

The lawyer was stunned. I then said, “And why would you keep me on the jury given you knew you should have settled?”

The lawyer replied, “We figured you would be the only person who understood what was going on.”

You got that right. “I did. That’s my point. So why did you keep me on?”

He was stunned but not so stunned that he couldn’t figure out how to use the information. He exclaimed: “We’re going to appeal!”

He immediately asked the black kid: “Did she tell you how to vote?”

He looked at him, a little upset that anyone think some woman would tell him what to do and he would do it, a little upset that I made him participate, and a little proud that I took his opinion seriously, “Hell NO! She called on me to get my opinion… FIRST!”

I smiled. I think I may have changed this kid’s view of leadership and white women. Even just a little.

They desperately asked each of the jurors in turn and each said, “No, she asked us what we thought. She went last. The amount we awarded wasn’t her choice.”  (Okay they didn’t have to tell that part J

The lawyers were truly upset – there went their coercion appeal.

Apparently our cohesiveness was unusual especially given the diversity. It was a fascinating experience.

I wonder what each of the jurors is doing now? And how they are telling this story.

c. GCYI