Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ricky the Raccoon

NOTE: I believe all "editorial" changes have been made and that this version passes the Hambly "Truth in Blogging" assessment... :))

One day my Mom decided that a racoon would make a perfect pet. Off to Sylmar went Mom and Kent. Ricky became a member of the family.

We lived in Sepulveda and we were in high school. We had a tree in one corner of the yard and Kent built a beautiful cage for Ricky.

Ricky was one nasty pet. No matter what you did to be friends, this pet was no friend of yours.
I just remember a lot of teeth and hissing and snarling.

Well, the big Hambly summer Fourth of July party was upon us. My Dad would invite a bunch of people from work to a pool party at our house. The party was in full swing (More about this later) and it turned darkish.

Now the fireworks show starts in the park behind our house! Ricky is going nuts!! Somehow the raccoon gets out of the cage! Kent moved quickly to retrieve Ricky - who had darted up the tree near his cage. The pet was nearly at the top of the tree by this time - and refusing to come down!

Kent came up with a quick plan...remember, this was going on while the backyard was full of my Dad's co-workers in full party mode. He got out the hose and proceeded to train the hose on the top of the tree, above Rocky. In this way he could "walk" the raccoon down. Well, for awhile Ricky was having none of this! He just sat there getting drenched in the water spray.

Eventually Ricky started, ever so slowly, to retreat towards the base of the tree.

When he reached the ground, he made a break for the swimming pool area - where the people were "playing". Kent was in hot pursuit of the pet. He caught him on the backstretch and grabbed whatever of the raccoon he could get his hands on. Unfortunately, the raccoon bit whatever he could get his teeth on!

So there was Kent with a raccoon firmly imbedded between his thumb and forefinger!! The raccoon was literally hanging by his teeth from Kent's hand. What with the claws and tail and other dangerous parts Kent had to deal with all of a sudden... what with all the people who were drunk out of their minds and watching the show... what with the fireworks making the raccoon even crazier (if that was possible)...

Kent is running around the pool (counterclockwise if you are keeping score) and trying to get away from the drunk people.

He makes it to the cage again and double locks Ricky back into his home.

Just another night at the annual Hambly Fourth of July Pool Party!

Eventually we had to depart with Ricky...racoons do not make the greatest pets, as things turned out...

The departure was sad for Kent - he had grown very attached to Ricky. Kent, Ruth and Dave took Ricky to Chatsworth Park to say goodbye. As they released Ricky to the wild, a beautiful movie moment developed - Ricky scurrying toward the bush - another racoon scurrying toward Ricky - their noses touch - they walk together, racoon and racoon, toward the great wild of Chatsworth, only to be met by two other racoons. The sun sets.

We know that life has been good for Ricky!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Seven things you should know about me...

7 Things I plan to do before I die
1. Surf a shoulder high wave again
2. Sky dive from 16,000 feet (With oxygen - just don't tell Sue)
3. Oar paddle the Grand Canyon in the giant rapids
4. See the rest of New Zealand
5. Go to Antarctica
6. Participate in a three day cattle roundup - real, not the dude kind
7. See New England during the fall colors

7 things I do now
1. Organize, organize, organize
2. Enjoy cooking - learning to cook without recipes
3. Own a VW
4. Tell stories - lots of them
5. I am comfortable talking to anyone, anytime, anyplace
6. Remembering numbers for a long numbers, addresses, whatever
7. Love Sue! She is my best friend and has always believed in me!!

7 things I can't do
1. Blow a bubble with bubble gum - no matter how hard I try
2. Sing
3. Drive fast on the freeway - I worry about getting a speeding ticket
4. Run a marathon - I let everyone else do it - I just watch
5. Skiing of any kind - water skiing (can't get up)...snow (can't stop) get the idea
6. Learn how to play cards well
7. Recall everything I read in the scriptures

7 celebrities that I admire
1. Joseph Smith
2. President Hinckley
3. Elder Scott
4. Eddie Edwards
5. Harrison Ford
6. Kent and Gary
7. My kids

7 favorite foods
1. Chili Rellenos (Any mexican food)
2. Macaroni Grill Spaghetti with Meat Sauce and Meatballs (Look up the calories...)
3. Aunt Pat's Casserole
4. Perfect PB Sandwich - Peanut butter, tomato and onion (Sweet, pungent, juicy, sticky)
5. Cottage cheese, avocado, Veg-All, mayonnaise - topped with Seasoned salt (Not any more)
6. T-Bone steak and a great salad
7. A really good omelette

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hallway Bowling

The sport originated in the small add-on bedroom Kent and I shared in Culver City. We had just gotten into bowling big time. We were regulars at Culver Bowl, in the Bantam Divison.

To sharpen our skills when we couldn't be at the bowling alley we made up a game called Hallway Bowling.

The bowling pins consisted of bottles of every shape and description. No glass - just plastic bottles. The were arranged in the traditional bowling configuration, backed by a pillow off the bed. The pillow was very important as it provided protection for the wall or door behind the pins.

The bowling ball was the small, rubbery kind that you buy at the supermarket in the tall wire cages. Did you every notice that they will not roll straight?

Now, very important, you only use a two step approach - not much room there...release the ball with plenty of spin...amazing how much you can get the ball to curve in ten feet...

The pins fly - helped of course by the side walls and the ball coming off the pillow - the pins are attacked in two directions really. Pins fall, oh yes - they fall...

We kept score faithfully, well, I kept score faithfully. Scores were usually pretty tight...typically 287 to 277 - something like that...

At the end of the year, after I don't know how many games, we were averaging around 275 for the season...not bad.

For a longer version of the game we moved to a hallway, when we had a hallway.

Eventually Kent and I considered careers as professional bowlers, based on our enormous success at home.

Somehow the real game at the real bowling alley was harder....

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Open for Business

Santa Monica...Barrington Apartments...middle complex in a row of about 6 apartment buildings...apartment on the bottom level...Right front apartment, I believe...

I am about 8 years old, Kent is about 5...

On the corner of Barrington and something, down the street, is located a grocery store and an adjacent Thrifty Drug Store.

The grocery store became a gold mine for the local kids because of a unique policy for shopping cart returns. For every shopping cart that you brought back to the store you were given a nickel. A nickel was big money at the time. I remember that you could buy a decent candy bar for 5 - 10 cents. The trick was to go to the shopping cart area in the parking lot and then bring the cart into the store as a "returned" shopping cart. The person would ask you if you brought the cart from outside the store lot, and you would look them straight in the eyes and say "Oh, Yes". They would look you over and then give you a nickel. You had to be very sincere - good acting experience. You couldn't do this more than three times in one day. Every once in a while you would actually find a cart on your way to the store and bring that in...much easier than the acting.

This was small potatoes as we graduated to a much more lucrative scheme. The Thrifty Drug Store had a wide variety of model cars, ships and airplances for sale. They were fully stocked. They even had glue and an assortment of paints. I organized the apartment kids into roving bands of shoplifting professionals. The younger ones were tutored by the older, more experienced shop lifters. Lessons were taught in store management observation, product selection, and of course, exit strategies.

You can't just walk into a store, shop lift and then run out of the store. You have to be discreet and not bring any attention to yourself. No looking around before the heist. Just casually inspect the products, maybe pick them up and read the details on the side of the box, and then slip quietly from the scene.

Now mind you this was very organized. When the "products" were procured (Shoplifted) they were taken to the "Store" under our apartment building. To reach the "Store" you had to go down the side of the building to a little rectangle at the ground floor. The "doorway" was a piece of screen which had to be pulled back. You would crawl through the dirt in the foundation of the building for a short while and then to a "room" where the products were displayed. The models were organized by type (Car, Ship, Airplane) in perfect product display order. A "customer" (A local kid) could purchase the model at a greatly reduced price. The glue, paint, etc. was also available. What I don't remember was how the gang was paid. I know money was coming in and business was good. I remember meetings where I would let people know what products were needed as goods were sold - the marching orders.

It didn't take long for the Thrifty Drug people to start to notice that their inventory was shrinking. They were on high alert. Every once in a while someone would get caught. A casualty of doing business.

One day that someone that got caught was me! I thought I had done a good job of making sure the coast was clear! I grabbed a model and was headed out the door, when all of a sudden, the store manager swoops down on me as I exit and grabs me and drags me back into the store. We go to the back room and he interrogates me. What was my name? Where did I live? Had I done this before? Did I know the penalty for shoplifting? Did I want the police to show up? None of these things felt very good.

I was then paraded through the store, with the store manager pushing me along, and as he spotted an employee would tell them that "he caught the ring leader!" They nodded their approval, and I moved along. Eventually he called my parents and they came down to the store. I was very humble and said whatever they wanted me to say - I just wanted to go home. They had no idea about the magnitude of the Shoplifting operation or the "Store" under the apartment building.

There was a final Clearance Sale after that because I was threatened with death if this ever happend again. All items must go! Rock bottom prices!!

Closed for business...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Out for a Stroll

Kent and I lived in the San Fernando Valley, in Mission Hills. Mission Hills in the the northern portion of the valley.

It was another summer day and we were bored. Our parents were at work. I think I was about 10 years old and Kent was 7.

I don't know how we got the idea, but we started walking south. We walked down Haskell Avenue for a good while, then turned westt toward Balboa. Balboa runs the vertical length of the Valley.

I remember that it was very hot out, as usual in the area during the summer. VERY HOT!

Next thing you know - we had walked the entire length of the Valley, to the sourthern end and we could see the Ventura Freeway a short distance off.

We were standing next to one of the holes at the golf course in the Sepulveda Dam Basin. I remember the two of us talking and then we went out on the course. It was so hot that no one was playing at that time of day.

We found some sticks and then we found some beat-up golf balls in the bushes and proceeded out onto the course. I remember the innards of my ball hanging out through the white stuff.

We played one hole completely - hacking at the balls and making large divots in the ground. It's not real easy to play golf with sticks!

We went to tee off at the second hole and were working our way down the fairway when a man in a golf cart spotted us. He came over to us and yelled at us to get off the course and look at what damage we had done to his beautiful golf course!

We were scared...I can't imagine us knowing how to get a ride home from we started back up Balboa north towards our house. How we knew directions at that age I do not know, nor can I comprehend. I wouldn't have believed this, but Kent and I agree we did it!

Somehow we got home late in the afternoon. I think that there was an afternoon babysitter or housekeeper or something. She must have been pretty sharp to not notice we were missing for most of the day.

Anyway, as hazy as the incident was...can you imagine in this day and age having two little guys walk across the San Fernando Valley and not have anyone stop or even question what they wree doing?

When our parents asked us how the day went I am sure that we told them that we had just a normal day...normal for us!

Friday, September 12, 2008

World Land Speed Record

We're living in the San Fernando Valley...Valley surfers!

In our early teens and skateboarding is what we do...mind you, this is not the shaped board, poly wheel, tungsten truck type skateboarding, this is skateboarding in its infancy.

This is the get yourself a piece of wood, any piece of wood - find your old skates (you remember, the ones made of metal with the toe and heel pieces that you put on your shoes and tried to stay upright) and proceed to peel the wheel assembly from the rest of the skates. Good, now you have the wheels and the wood (By the way, don't worry about the shape of the wood, although rectangular would be nice)...

Now, hammer some nails to attach the two and you are ready to go...metal wheels were difficult to master - they tended to slip around a lot - limited your tricks! Rails? Are you kidding?? Jumps? For idiots! You simply tried to stay on the sucker!!!

An attempt had been made while we lived in Culver City, much earlier. Sort of like the Wright Brothers and those that followed...

My Brother Kent was selected to attempt a small hill around the corner from our home...we found the perfect piece of wood, a 2 x 6 seem to be our preference, and attached the metal wheels to the plank. Kent estimates that the wood was probably about 6 feet long - he would have only used about 3 feet of it... :))

Well, Kent was selected to steer our pilot attempt...he took off and rode on his stomach down the hill...gained pretty good speed and then was confronted with the prospect of the intersection in front of him - with no braking mechanism other than throwing your arms and legs to the ground...not much chance when you are little...

Well, he could have tried to grab the street sign pole, but that didn't happen...instead, Kent launched himself into the crosswalk on his stomach, invisible to cars and moving very rapidly...he made it all the way across the street and stopped abruptly against the curb on the other side...painful slivers in his stomach proved that the stop was abrupt!

The point had been made and proven! The skateboard had held up under the trying conditions of Culver Hill...

Well, one afternoon I was reading the latest Surfer Magazine and noticed a small article in the back of the magazine which reported that someone had set a new speed record for skateboards...35 miles per hour!

Only 35 miles per hour??? Nothing!!!!!

My brother and I went to work immediately with our plan...we found ourselves an eight foot length of 2 x 6 wood...perfect! Next we needed all the metal skate wheels that we could get our hands on...scoured the neighborhood and got about 4 pairs of skates...nobody really wanted the things anyway...

We took the wheels off the skates and prepared the World Record Holder Skateboard with skate wheel after skate wheel...the thing looked like a centipede!

The amazing thing is that the board actually rode pretty straight! It was about twice as long as we were, but it was pretty straight...

Now, for the plan to come together...summer day...parents not home...we start carrying the beast to the Land Speed Record location...Woodley Hill...some day they will probably mark the spot with a bronze memorial (On this date the world land speed record for skateboards was broken by the Hambly boys...something like that)....

Woodley Hill, for those of you not familiar with the area, is located across the street from the VA Hospital in Mission Hills/Sepulveda/whatever they call the's a steep hill - and long...perfect for our needs...

We arrive and prepare for the attempt. No helmets in those days! No elbow or knee pads, no protection at all!

Are you ready? Yes, I'm ready!! (Interestingly, no way to record our speed either...that will have to wait until we can get a parent to come home to verify the attempt - after we perfect the technique!)

I push off and start down the hill...slow at first, gentle slope down...

Whoa, gaining speed quickly now...cracks in the sidewalk are starting to make the board jump a bit...faster, faster...

Now at some point I am aware that I am going really fast! The cracks in the sidewalk start to feel like canyons - remember, there are no shock absorbers on this baby! Takes everything I had just to keep the thing on the sidewalk!!

Houses are whizzing by now...I remember a lot of ivy on the right - the whole side of the hill leading up to people's houses...only problem, they have sprinkler heads in the ivy - that could get nasty real fast!

By this time I can see the bottom of the hill...Not many options if I should get that far down the hill...Remembering Kent's splinters and the street crossing...things didn't look good...

Never really had to use any about the time I was making plans - the board is behaving so violently that I am looking at bail-out opportunities was like riding a bucking bronco that wanted to throw me...the metal wheels were sparking furiously and starting to come apart from the intense friction of the sidewalk!!

Abort! abort!...probably going about a 100 miles per hour now (probably 10 miles an hour :))!

Took the ivy option and said goodbye to the World Land Speed Skateboard as I disappeared into the hill of ivy...saw the board heading down the hill and certain death...

I managed to escape with only major cuts and bruises...but alive! The board would need extensive work to repair - and a new rider!

Surfer Magazine would have to wait for someone else to break that stupid record...the Hamblys Skateboard Racing Team was now officially through...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Backyard Olympics

I've been known to be a bit of an organizer in my lifetime... :))

One of my earliest organizing feats was the creation of the Backyard Olympics.

I had just watched the Olympic games on TV and, of course, was quite impressed with the whole show.

Why not put on our own Olympics? Right in the backyard of our home in Culver City? So I went to the drawing board.

We had an area for the sprints, 2 or 3 different lengths, if I recall...

The shotput was a big rock and the discuss was a pie tin...

We had to dig a pit for the long jump, with a board in the ground to mark the spot where you took off...

Long distance races were started in the backyard, but continued down the side yard into the street, one race even going around the block...

The highlight of the events, probably because I was pretty good at this, was the high jump and pole vault area. I found two trees that were close enough together for our purposes and tied some cord across them. It only took me one gigantic rope burn to learn to tie one end of the rope in a slip knot so that it would give way when you missed - I think I still have the scar...

We found an old mattress to land on - twin size, of course.

The pole vault pole turned out to be a challenge - what could we use that was light enough to carry down the approach, yet strong enough to support our weight - all 80 pounds of us???

We found a length of 2 x 2 wood that worked just fine...not much bend in the pole, mind you, but it did the job...

Now for the Games to begin...

Events were announced and the particpants (actually, just Kent and I) went to their marks...

I remember posting the results of each competition on paper on a tree for all to see. Results were carefully recorded for future Backyard Olympics competitions...

It was a day of glory for the Hambly boys...we captured the Gold and Silver in every event...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


For a while we lived in Fontana. We moved there from Arizona so that our Dad could help the struggling family office supply business. Things were tough because his Dad was having health issues related to the heart (Go figure... :)) )

Well, we moved into this really nice house a bit out of town. It had a lot of bedrooms and was on a really big lot. Next door there was nothing built yet and it was a giant dirt lot with Eucalyptus trees lining the property.

We moved in during the summer time, school was out. Both our parents were working, my Mom having found a job working at a construction company in Colton.

It didn't take us very long to use that big dirt area for our "Fort". Only this fort was an underground fort. We found some shovels and started digging. We didn't tell our parents - we were going to surprise them when we got done.

We dug for days. A big, long, straight main entrance and then a perpendicular tunnel meeting the main tunnel. We added rooms at the ends of the T. The whole thing was probably three feet deep - deep enough for two little boys to crawl through...barely.

Now, what to cover the tunnels with? It took days for us to find a pile of abandoned plywood sitting along the tree line. With considerable effort we dragged the plywood over to the tunnel area. We covered the entire tunnel in plywood.

Now it was pretty obvious that the plywood would give away our secret location, so we proceeded to cover the plywood in dirt - plenty of it!

Finally, we had tons (Probably not tons, but when you are little... ) of dirt disguising one of the coolest tunnel systems on the planet.

One problem - the tunnel was very dark. How to solve this problem? Go to the garage and you will find kerosene lanterns!

We drug those lanterns with us into the tunnels and lit them! We were pretty proud of ourselves for that move!!

Well, when the time came to show off our "Fort" to our parents we expected praise like we had never known before. After all, we had worked for days building this beauty!

Our parents came out to the dirt field and didn't exactly react the same way we had anticipated. It seems that they were very concerned about all the dirt that was placed on the flimsy plywood...even more excited when we showed them how we were able to illuminate the tunnels. Saving the most excitement for the fact that the lanterns were sucking the oxygen right out of the rooms at the end where we spent most of our time!

To our parents this was a "DEATH TRAP"!!!! Take that down right now...Norris, help the boys take this apart before someone gets hurt! Don't you ever build something like this without talking to us first!

Parents sure don't have a sense of adventure...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

War is Hell

A final chapter to the Freddie Upchurch story...for now...

Another boring summer day...what to do?

Freddie comes up with another idea.

He had noticed that a variety of airplanes landed at the Hughes Aircraft landing strip nearby our house in ulver City ...

Now Freddie mobilized his troops - just Kent and I - in our fighting uniforms...Freddie was outfitted in a complete soldier outfit, with canteens, knives, compass, etc. - all in camoflage...

Kent and I were outfitted in our fighting uniforms...shorts and a tee's the best we could do... :))

Freddie loaned us BB guns from his arsenal and we were ready!

Freddie had us march down the streets toward Hughes, probably counting cadence for the patrol...

When we got to Hughes we headed straight for the east end of the property - it had a cliff facing to the east and the planes always landed from the east...

We took our position and waited for the first unlucky plane that crossed our path!

Here it comes! Ready!! FIRE!!!

We quickly unloaded our one shot apiece at the approaching aircraft...we couldn't have been more than a quarter of a mile from the intended target...easy range for a Daisy BB gun!!

We all thought we got a piece of the plane - we even heard the BB's bounce off... :))

Couldn't understand what kept that baby in the air, though...

We spent most of the afternoon trying to bring down every kind of plane that came in...they most have had some pretty exotic airframes in those days... BB gun proof, I think...

When we were satisfied that we had defended our position and things were safe for America, it was time to march home - with Freddie barking out orders all the way home.

Wonder whatever happened to that juvenile patriot???

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Shake and Bake

Blame that Freddie Upchurch again!

Another boring summer that I am older (really old) I don't seem to think that Culver City gets that hot...but, when we were kids we believed that the summers got to be about 120 degrees...

What is there to do?

Freddie looks down his driveway and spots an abandoned 1950 Plymouth sedan - two door as I remember it - kind of a grey color. Parked next to the house.

Freddie looks at me and says "How long do you think your brother could survive in the trunk of that car?"

"What do you mean?" I ask. "Well, if we lock him in the trunk, how long do you think he could last?" "I don't know..." Well, let's find out!"

So we go and capture Kent and bring him to the car kicking and screaming. We open up the trunk of the car easily and put Kent inside, making sure to secure the trunk.

We stand across from the car (In the shade of the house, of course) and wait.

At first there is little sound. Then, a muffled yell. Then, a muffled scream. Beating on the trunk lid from the inside. Finally, no more sounds. Sounds like he is done.

We open the trunk and see Kent sitting there, all red faced and sweating like a pig.

I guess we answered the question, how long would he last...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Swing My Brother To and Fro

Blame everything on Freddie Upchurch!

Freddie lived on our block in Culver City. He was an only child and his parents both worked. He was a year older and considerably larger than the rest of us. His parents were able to buy Freddie pretty much whatever he wanted.

War stuff was what Freddie wanted.

He had camo clothing, BB guns, knives and assorted weapons of every description. Basically, what you had here was a walking Army Navy store.

Freddie was fascinated with warfare. He had little GI Joe action figures and battlefield layouts.

We would get pretty bored during the summertime - all of the parents were at work.

Well, not this day! We got the bright idea to try our hand at target practice in the garage of Freddie's house.

I remember putting up some regular targets and shooting at them from the garage door line into the back of the open garage. We were pretty accurate...

After a while that got pretty boring...we needed to liven things up a bit!

What if we shot at something a bit more difficult? Like my brother Kent for instance!

We get Kent to come over...we string up a rope over the rafters of the garage and we tie the rope to Kent's ankles. Now, turn him upside down and pull on the rope so that Kent is above the floor and hanging there. Mind you, this wasn't done easily - he fought pretty hard for a little guy!

Now, to make things more sporting, let's swing him back and forth from the rope.

Ready, aim, fire! See if you can hit him while swinging wildly from the rope. Remember, no head shots - that would really upset our parents! Just some body shots...steady, steady - time your shot to dead center. Got him!

After a while we even got tired of that! Bring him down...his face is really turning red now!

"You OK?" we ask him...he seems to be upset. He's gonna tell Mom and, don't do that!

Don't worry - he'll get over's only been 50 years and he's almost forgotten about it...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Our Smokin' Cool Christmas Gifts

We were living in Culver City in a little house in a modest area of town. I was in a brand new school, Marina del Rey Junior High School, and very involved.

In fact I had been elected Student Body President of the school - running on a platform that included a speech addressing the seagull "poop" that we all had to dodge every day. Very edgy, deep stuff.

The point is - I was a big man on campus - well, not really a big man - but on campus.

Our parents tried hard to provide the necessities of life - but the luxuries were another matter.

Everyone at the school surfed - we even would get on our boards and paddle down Ballona Creek behind the school and paddle right out the channel into the break.

True surfer outfits always included a white T-shirt, levis, white socks, Purcells (the tennis shoes with the black slice in the toe) and PENDLETON shirts.

Well, we did pretty good on most of the stuff - not real levis, off brands on the tennis shoes, white T-shirts - check...

Now for the Pendleton shirt...not so much...too expensive!

Christmas was coming around and expectations were running hight...our parents knew that we really, really wanted Pendleton shirts. Now remember, Christmas gifts were usually purchased on Christmas Eve at KMART (Blue light specials).

Christmas morning rolls around and we see two boxes under the tree that are just the right size for the expected shirts. We open all the other gifts (probably 1-2 max) and then excitedly tear into the wrapping on the "big gift".

When we unwrap the present, we are immediately puzzled. The label said Pendleton alright, but it was a shirt that we had never seen before. It was large - oversized - and had a pocket on the upper chest and two large pockets over the stomach area. We only remember two pockets in the upper area on the shirts we had seen at school.

We proceeded to try them on - Mine a blue plaid and Kent's a brown plaid. We told our parents how great they were and how much we appreciated the gifts. Later we met in the bedroom to try to decifer what the heck these things were.

When school started again I remember going to Home Room and how everyone admired (OK - they stared) at the Pendleton jacket I proudly wore! I remember the first kid who asked me what that thing was! I told him that it was a special Pendleton jacket - no one else at school had one just like it!

Note: Actually the jackets were Smoking Jackets! Our parents got a real deal on these babies because why would teenagers wear a jacket to smoke their pipes in? The upper pocket actually was for the pipe, the lower pockets were where you put your pouch of tobacco and lighting accessories.

Well, word got around pretty fast that the Hambly boys had special Pendleton jackets!

Kids started coming up to me in my first class and wanted to know if he could wear the jacket. I told him that he could - just trade his Pendleton for my Pendleton and we would change back after the class. This went on all day. I got to wear everyone else's Pendleton - and they got the special jacket.

The teachers were especially amused. I think they figured out the purpose of our jackets pretty fast. They made some comments behind my back - but I was too young or naive to get it.

Anyway, the moral to the story. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. These cool jackets took on a life of their own. If the cool guy wears something unusual, odds are that kids will think that it is special.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Flowers, Anyone?

We used to live in an apartment building. It was an apartment building amongst other apartment builders - 6 in a row, I think - along a main street by the old Santa Monica airport.

My Dad worked at the Douglas factory and this building was located very nearby.

I remember picking Dad up after work and watching people leaving the plant. Each person had a badge on and on each badge were colored buttons which signified what level of security they had. There were two green buttons, one green and one yellow, two yellows. My Dad was two yellows - the highest. Never knew what he did - just that he was two yellows. Years later after we had moved to the San Fernando Valley he told me that he would work weekends correcting the work of some idiot with a college degree - that is as close to knowing what he did as I ever got.

Now this apartment building was a gold mine for some enterprising kids.

We started a flower business and went door to door selling these flowers. The gold mine? The flowers were growing down the side of the apartment building - free! The enterprising kids? We bought a can of gold spray paint at the local Thrifty Drug store on the corner and then we painted the flowers with the gold spray. Really kicked them up a notch.

My brother Kent was used for the door approach. Who could turn him down? He was a cute, please buy my flowers kind of kid. We may have even asked for a dollar per flower - outrageous in those days and times.

I just remember making a killing in the complexes.

Eventually our parents found out that their children were basically begging for money selling worthless flowers painted gold and put an abrupt end to the enterprise.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

PB The Hambly Way

Everyone has a favorite sandwich which they love to eat while growing up...

Well, in our family we were made to eat a vile combination sandwich on a regular basis - peanut butter, pickle and mayonnaise...yes, you did read it right!

My Dad would spread out half a loaf of bread on the counter - two rows. He then would take this enormous knife and dip deep into the peanut butter jar and spread the breads from left to right. This was followed by cutting the pickles into thin slices and applying them to the slabs of peanut butter bread. The other side of the bread was then spread with a large amount of mayonnaise.

Assemble and wrap in - not plastic wrap - wax paper. Put 2 - 3 "Little Gem" oatmeal raisenette cookies on top (Very inexpensive - big bag)...

Take this to school in a brown paper sack and wait until lunch time. Try to trade someone at lunch time for some decent food - difficult sales job at best. By lunch time the cookies have now made an impression in the soggy sandwich - presentation is everything....

This probably only went on for 2 - 3 years...or until we complained so loudly that the money was found for us to eat in the school cafeteria...usually not considered a blessing. :))

Monday, September 1, 2008

Bombadier Pants

This is my earliest childhood memory. I must have been about 5 years old, Kent about 2.

I remember being in the living room of the small home in Santa Monica. Somehow I remember a braided rug on wood flooring.

It's Christmas Day and we are both excited. We must have received a new Lionel train for a gift. And Lincoln Logs - those interconnecting pieces of redwood that together built a fine log cabin.

Well, we never really had much money for the finer things in life.

So my earliest memory consisted of a game we created with our new toys...and our "special" underwear it would seem. Somehow our white underwear was a bargain brand - a "second" or flawed pair. The flaw - an extra layer of cloth below the lowest point in the pants - a "shelf" of fabric.

So what do two boys do with their shelf? They load them up with Lincoln Logs, run across the room at the moving Lionel train while it made it's way around the tracks, stop suddenly, and with a thrust of the pelvic area forward - "bomb" the train off the tracks.

I believe that we got really good at this game. Maybe even Junior Championship Bombadier good.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

This May Sting a Little Bit

Wheeere Aaaaam I?

I am coming out of the deepest sleep I have ever experienced in my life...not really aware of anything...Oh yeah, I'm in the hospital.

I look around and see so many tubes coming out of my body. Neck, chest, maybe two chests, breathing, IV, a tube leading from a southern region...all coming out of my body.

I can't figure out what day we are on....seems it's now Thursday - where did Wednesday go?

Sue and others come to visit and everyone tells me I look good...I vaguely remember Gary taking my picture after the surgery - he says he has proof - and that I actually smiled!

I am now in recovery. About once an hour someone comes to take tests. I am in and out and the day passes quickly.

One of the highlights was the removal of the breathing tube. I didn't tell anyone but this was a major concern to me...maybe the most concern to me of all the concerns I could have had. Two people come in my room after a couple of hours. "Please cough" they say - the tube just literally pops out of my mouth! And I was worried about that little thing...(Sue tells me later that when she called during the night on Tuesday - Wednesday the nurses said that I was having a gag reflex issue with the tube...Sue asks what they are doing about that - they say that they simply gave me more drugs and that seems to have taken care of the issue... :))

I am eventually moved to the Fifth floor. Your progress in the hospital is judged by the floor you are assigned to. If you can just get to the Sixth floor you have a good chance to see the outside world.

I got much stronger during my time on the Fifth floor. Everyone remarked about how good I looked. On this floor they start to remove some of the tubes - A sign of progress.

While monitoring my heart, the nurses became concerned about an "irregular heartbeat". They watched me closely, tried some things. Meanwhile, I listened closely to those who had their first tubes removed. A strange mixture of relief, anxiety and quick shouts of pain came from the other, Main room. Curious.

I started to get concerned, Sue was more than concerned. The nurse just kept reassuring us that this was normal, that my heart was "quivering" and we needed more time. I also understood that I was using up Room 570 longer than I was supposed to. Let's spend another night in Room 570 - the hospital would work around that problem... :))

In the morning I awoke and felt better. It seems that during the night my heart decided to "re-program" itself into the correct sinus pattern. The human body is amazing. There was general relief and it seems that we are moving forward.

I just need to get a couple of these tubes out of me to make it to the Sixth Floor - or "heaven" it seemed to me.

The neck tube was next. Don't remember much about it - just a "freeing" feeling. No more nutrition through a straw...

Finally, the catheter from down south. I asked the practitioner if this was going to hurt. She actually told me that "it might sting a little bit"...A quick tug and the combination of unbelievable pain and back pressure swept up from the south to the north in a wave! "Sting a little bit!" I screamed out - "Sting a little bit?" I settled back in the bed to try to gather my thoughts. Remember, you are a man on a mission - the promised land - the Sixth floor.

I am assigned Room 671A...the opening by the door...coveted square footage...two a high school math teacher from Ontario, the other a Hispanic man who couldn't hear much...not to bad considering everything. The math teacher had a bypass and valve replacement at the same time - he had been in that room for some time. He was able to walk on his own whenver he wanted - Wow!

I had the coolest nurse for two days - Mary, from Zaire. She ran a tight ship. We actually had "Quiet Time" from 2 - 4 in the afternoon. Since we weren't getting any sleep during the night and morning broke early - 4:30 AM with a "Mr. Hambly - time for your blood draw" spoken in every form of broken English known to man. Sue got busted the first afternoon when she played a clip of Lennix sent by Shannon - it had sound - the volume piercing the quiet of the room. The Math Teacher's wife actually came over to scold Sue for violating one of the most sacred of times.

Mary said that she came to this country from Zaire through the political refugee system. She continued her education over here and was thankful for all that we had to offer. She wanted to go back - but that would never happen. I was so impressed with the collection of cardiac specialists that worked the hospital - every flavor, every accent you could imagine, but all on the top of their game. The hospital only has cardiac patients - a real advantage to me...

Big steps followed...I was able to start to walk (Three times, not two around the nurses station holding on to a steel wheel device)...good progress...Heh, would you like to clean yourself up? You bet! I was starting to offend myself! The hot water felt sooo good. And everyone said that I looked really good when they visited...Even Kody got to come in and see me...Shannon forgot that I had moved to the Sixth Floor - took Kody to the old Room 570 location and they were shocked to see that Papa was an elderly, bald black man. Better find out where they moved Papa...

Things were going good. The doctor came in each morning at 9:30 AM to ask how I was doing...Great...well, it looks like you are going to be able to leave Monday...Great...

I was beginning to lose it with the hospital food. I made choices from the Diabetic/Cardiac menu provided me. The menus would be marked Saturday/Thursday...but in reality the food rotated every other day. And what food! I alternated between beef tips in gravy and chicken breast in ginger sauce...over and over again. And each meal was loaded with calories! I would eat the stuff, no appetite really, only small portions...and then face the stern look of the nurse after the blood sugar test. Why is your sugar at 280? Not only that, but they asked me to get on a scale and found that I had gained ten pounds since arriving in "the system"...

Monday comes and goes - the doctor in the turban that is between you and the door (Freedom) - pats me on the shoulder and says that Tuesday is a better day to leave. Are you kidding? I am ready to bolt! The nurse immediately starts asking me why I have an attitude change? Are you kidding? Sue calls and I say - please come right now - I can't take anymore of this!

The longest day of my life made better by my best friend who probably spent the most boring day of her life playing cards, Rummy, and whatever else she could think of to pass the time.

The best part...she brings a Subway veggie sub into the hospital for me...she knows that I will never touch the beef tips tonight - or anything past breakfast for that matter! She cleverly has the sandwich loaded with Jalepeno peppers...flavor! flavor at last! After I carefully eat my fill I lay back in the bed, contented and looking forward to life without the word beef tips.

The nurses now are amazed that my blood sugars are down around 110...wonder what caused that?

Tuesday morning and I am up like a shot after mandatory testing...EKG with the Russian woman, blood draw with the Iranian, and the highlight - the Chest XRAY with the metal thing that came out of a drawer on the cart..."Could be cold" I was warned each and every time - that drawer must be a portable refrigerator unit! I clean myself up extra special this morning - I can practically see the door out.

So! You're going home! everyone greets me...I cautiously call Sue and tell her it looks like I made it! Please come as soon as possible!

You know you are out when they remove the chest tubes. The practictioner arrives and we are ready! Secretly, during the prior night, I ask Mary what this is going to feel like. She tells me that it is going to feel like they are pulling my intestines out with a bit of my ribs attached...but it is very quick. I joke with the practitioner that she should have an operation to know what this stuff feels like and she just smiles and says that her goal is to never be a patient in the hospital...funny. She gets ready, tells me to breath in deeply on the count of three - we don't want any nasty old air to get in our chest area - and she pulls. The tubes are actually flex tube, with ribs...I can feel every rib as it passes...I feel this strange sensation of my insides being moved...the tubes are out! A feeling of shock, joy, freedom and shock!

Nothing keeping me from the door now! I have no stinking tubes!

Final paperwork...things to sign...Hey! What does it take to get one of those big red heart-shaped pillows everyone else seems to have? What are those things for? You press them to your abdomen when you have to cough or roll you tell me! Up to now I had to make what seemed like a life-altering decision each time I coughed or rolled over...and these guys had relief all along? Get me the pillow!

I receive my walking papers! No driving for six weeks...shower using the anti-bacterial soap...riding in the car only in the back seat so that the air bags don't cave in my chest during the collision (Wouldn't that be ironic?)

Wheelchair comes...I'm ready!

Nice ride to freedom! I can actually smell the outdoors! Look! People walking on the street! Strange town, LA. We are in Little Thai town...three thousand restaurants - all Thai!

Home never looked so good!!!!!!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Operation

Well, to continue...

I didn't take very long for Kaiser Woodland Hills to determine that I was a heart attack any minute...cancel the nuclear stress test...and call for ambulance transport to Kaiser Sunset...

Sue arrived from Dallas sometime the night before - she doesn't even remember the conversation...but it was brief and emotional - we both knew something serious was about to happen.

The ambulance guys arrive - I'm always amused by the stereotype - the first year with no facial hair and pimples, the more mature 5 year guy with a bit of a gut who is trying to latch on with a fire department somewhere...we have a pleasant conversation on the way over to Sunset. Never been in an ambulance before, kind of shocks, bit of a bouncy ride, or maybe it is jus the driver ... :))

Sue follows and figures out where to park. Oh yeah, when we were getting ready to leave Woodland Hills, MANY of the staff told me to leave all my valuables at home - too many opportunities for me to "lose" my valuables. So off they go in a baggie - back home.

Things get a bit out of order after this...a lot of testing, a lot of needles in arms, fingers, whatever.

Big hospital, a lot of hallways, always light green. I get to a room and get myself "comfortable" - that's a funny word. I am crammed into a small space in the corner, but I have a great privacy drape which stretches all the way across the room. Another patient, Russian, is there in great abundance - fills the room. When Sue finds me she has to wedge her chair between the bed and the wall to get anywhere near me.

I am scheduled for an angiogram on Saturday morning quickly after transport. I am the only patient in the large prep room. I proceed to the angiogram and I am not kidding you - these people are pros! I remember the last one, the one while having a heart attack at the beach - the golf tee that was thrust into my groin, the geyser of blood and the cardiologist who said "Whoa" - why would a cardiologist use that word if there wasn't some sort of problem?

Anyway, it didn't hurt, was over quickly, and thanks to a wonderful tech who manipulated the blood clot area for 25 minutes precisely - no big giant bruise like last time. The young cardiologist is looking at the pictures and painted the most optimistic picture for bypass surgery that Sue and I have ever received. Sure, we could just go right there, bring it in, we have two other areas that need a bypass - should be good to go. You just have to understand - we have spent the last three years with a prognosis of "nothing we can do to bypass you - the clog extends the full length of the right coronary artery - we can give you drugs and cement the plaque down, move it along".

Now someone is actually saying that they can bypass the problems on all three areas. Hope!

Kent visits (When does he work?), Gary visits (We know that he has never worked!), the kids...not much room but welcome to see them all...Get a sweet blessing from Gary and Scott.

Have to wait until the Plavix, blood thinner medicine, runs it's course - usually five days before I can have the surgery. Took the last Plavix on Friday morning before going to work...should be good to go on Wednesday.

Just waiting for the Plavix to exit - they are testing. Kenny and Karl come to the hospital to administer the sacrament. Sweet moment.

Moving along to Monday night - very restless, hard to stay in the hospital and just wait. Well, after everyone leaves - at 8:15 PM I receive a visit from an Indian woman with a name tag with the words "Anethesiologist" on it. "Well. Mr. Hambly, you are on the surgical schedule for tomorrow afternoon." What! I was having the surgery on Wednesday, what do you mean Tuesday afternoon?

Tuesday morning. Kent visits, Sue is there, the kids arrive. Kent and the boys give me a wonderful, personal blessing - one I will always remember. I love blessings where the words and thoughts are exactly the same as the thoughts and concerns you alone are having and no one else could ever guess them. Getting closer to surgery time. I figured out that if you are the first person the surgeon is working on in the morning - you say to yourself - good thing I got him while he was fresh! If you are the second on his schedule - you say to yourself - glad he is warmed up now!

While everyone proceeds to party in my room, I am restricted to no fluids or food. The kids drag out the snacks that Shannon brought and place them over me and the bed. They are kidding each other back and forth. I ask each one if they would be willing to have this operation in my place if I could have the benefit of the results. Only Sue says yes. Figures. Didn't even take them long to think about it. Cowards!

They come in and give me a "Cocktail"...I am officially drunk for the first time in 40 years. Bye Bye!

Wheeled into the operating room. So much equipment, so many people. Everything covered in green sheeting. Look at all the machines.... Hey, there are three lights above me, not just one like in ER! I count eleven people in the room, the surgeons are not even there yet! All for me!!

A warm feeling in my IV line and lights out!

Friday, August 29, 2008

How it all began

You all know by now that I am up for almost any new adventure - any opportunity to experience first hand something that I have never experienced before...but I think I may have taken on a little bit much this time...

Our trip to Costa Rica is well-chronicled by now - the stories are already getting bigger than I remember them...:)) Well, I do remember some fairly strenuous activities that we did...I absolutely loved the canyoneering experience - combining rappeling that I love with the water and waterfalls that have long put a big smile on my face...the need to get your head together to face the first 165 foot drop...the exhiliration as you pushed through the water into the unknown - each drop different for each person as you pushed off and couldn't predict your landing spot...

Well, the part that really hurt was the 1000 foot climb out of the slot canyon...everyone else in the group was in their 20's...Kent, Gary and I have long since seen that age...

I remember several times stopping thinking that I was not going to be able to get my next breath....but if you stopped - the fire ants would light up your legs like the Fourth of I just kept climbing out...

There were numerous times we were doing physical things probably beyond what we should have been expected to do - but you just have to understand the nature of the group I am with - this is not friendly competition necessarily - this is a curiosity and sense of true adventure mixed with the mental aspects of facing challenges...

All that being said, I returned home from Costa Rica exhilirated and full of life...I thought.

Sue was watching me closely and began to observe a repeat of my behavior before the first heart attack three years ago...waking up tired...taking a nap when I came home...a general slowness in the things that I did...she talked to me, begged me to see the doctor, whatever - I think I really scared her this time...

Why not compete in the family 5K, instead of just driving the kids around the course as in past years? Why not climb up to "The Cross" at the west end of Simi Valley when the organizer calls? So what if it hurts a little? You can do it, and that's the important part!

Well, after about a month after returning from our trip a strange thing started to happen to my body. I was out of breath all the started being noticeable at work when I would climb the stairs to go to meetings, etc. I would get to the top of the stairs and my legs would be burning like they didn't have enough oxygen. My heart seemed to race a bit and my breathing would be very labored...but, if I stood there for a minute, things returned to normal. I find it somewhat ironic that the company that I work for, United Technologies, owns Otis elevator company - and yet I work in a building that does not have a working elevator...That, along with the fact that all meetings and working areas of Information Technology is located on the second floors of buildings around the plant. So stair climbing is part of everyday.

Things just got progressively worse with the breathing thing - but I never told anyone...just "monitored the situation"....

Sue goes off to Texas to be with Sharalyn for her birthday. She is really concerned because things are not adding up correctly - even while she is in Texas she has Steven checking in on me - sometimes hourly. On a Thursday night I let her know that I think that "something is not right"...she pleads with me to call my cardiologist...I've never really listened to this pleading before, and I wasn't going to start now! Not that I don't love Sue - I love her with all my heart and more...but sometimes I "just monitor the situation"...

On Friday morning I go to work - all the while seeing what happens when I go up the stairs....Well, things weren't getting better! I barely made it to the top - I knew this was more serious than I first thought...I made plans to leave work right away - put my things in order as fast as I could - appointed someone to act for me while I was gone - put my important papers from work - my things to do list - in my briefcase to work on from home... :))

I said goodbye to everyone and sent out a final email with a reference to a "medical issue" that I had to deal with...I had a feeling inside that I wouldn't be coming back for a while. At Kaiser you can't just walk in to the ER and complain of chest pains or shortness of breath and not be admitted for at least 72 hours - experienced this before...Several caring people wanted to drive me home or call the ambulance for me - but I am a good actor! I faked them out! After my laptop was carried to the car to lighten my load I waved goodbye and then leaned against the car with my chest heaving - after I was sure that they were out of sight...

Now, to just get home and deal with what I was sure was an impendign heart attack!

Sue alerted Shannon to pick me up as soon as I arrived home...She was quick - Thanks, Jared for watching the little one at that moment. Shannon appeared very calm and efficient as we took off for the hospital in Woodland Hills...I don't really remember leaning over and sucking the air conditioning air out of the Hummer vent...Later Shannon mentioned this to me and I wondered what must have been going through her head at that time...When we arrived at the Woodland Hills facility I chose to walk across the entire parking lot - don't know why, but I did...almost made it across - well, maybe made it 2/3 across the lot before I had to stop and catch my breath...again, wonder what that was like for Shannon?

Now we are at the ER entrance and Shannon is explaining the situation to the lady in the glass booth...they don't waste any time with you at this point, and so, we are now on a bed being tested by a Russian woman who explains that it is up to her whether I go back out the front door, or head into the bowels of the hospital to be processed. After a quick EKG she explains that the bowels look like a better option for me ... :))

I think I will pick this up tomorrow - but I sure what to get each wonderful detail down on paper so that I can be reminded that "monitoring the situation" should be left to trained professionals, not ego-driven macho guys who won't give - no matter what!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's About Time

Since we haven't blogged since the great Chicago Marathon (Shake and Bake) over a year ago I thought it might be time to take advantage of the blogger world to record my recent thoughts while I have nothing but time on my hands....

I will be catching up on the latest adventure and then would like to continue with a catalog of stories which might come in handy some day. Any claims of accuracy are subject to review - my brother and I already disagree on many of the finer and coarser points of the topics.

In any case, I will be blogging each day to get things in order.

Looking forward and backward...