Painting ©2018 John Clark III
Had the privilege of speaking on the phone for nearly an hour today with Dan Rice, who was in his car on some backed-up California freeway headed somewhere in his never-ending quest to preserve one of America's great historical landmarks -- Route 66.
I recently completed the 2,400-mile drive along the Main Street of America, from Chicago to the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica, Calif. Rice, 45, owns a souvenir shop on the Santa Monica Pier and that was my last stop before heading back home. Unfortunately, Dan was not there, but one of his employees, a young man named Bryan, assured me he would leave his boss a message and my card.
As we stood there talking, Bryan asked me if I was a Christian. I told him, no, not really. I consider myself more of a seeker.
"Oh, that's cool," Bryan said, smiling. "You are seeking the truth, then?"
I said, yes, and after I bought a couple of Route 66 T-shirts, Bryan asked if he could pray for me before I left. Sure, I said, and he extended his hand across the counter of the small shop. With hundreds, probably thousands, of people bustling back and forth along the famous pier, this guy I'd never met and will likely never see again held my hand and prayed for my blessing and safety.
It was pretty cool.
Dan and I emailed back and forth a couple of times, but never connected until this afternoon. He's a pretty amazing guy -- one of those genius entrepreneur types who was on his way to earning a doctorate in psychology when a terrible car crash nearly killed him. It took him a long time to recover, but now he has built a small and growing empire centered around his love for Route 66, and efforts to preserve what he fears may be a dying part of history.
This guy has driven Route 66 not once, not twice, not 10 times. How about 29 times? He told me that his grandfather, who was from Chicago, showed him the downtown streets where Route 66 begins when he was a little boy, and told him it was a road that traveled all the way across the country to Los Angeles, where Fonzie (remember Happy Days?) lived!
Young Dan was hooked, and several years later, traveled part of the Mother Road for the first time with his father. Now, he is one of the leading experts on Route 66 and its history, and he told me some wonderful stories, including what Route 66 means to him. His comments were personal and heartfelt, and once again, as is always the case when people bare the souls in response to my questions, I was honored.
Dan wrote a book, "End of the Trail," about his experiences on Route 66, along with his eight-year struggle to recover from Traumatic Brain Injury following his car accident.
I'm excited to be able to include my interview with him in my upcoming book about my trip on the historic highway.
Time to get to work ...
Damn, saddened by the news of Ken Stabler's death from "complications associated with colon cancer." I guess that means the treatments are what actually did him in. Best known for his years playing quarterback for the Oakland Raiders under legendary coach John Madden, he was 69 years old.
Gone too soon.
Stabler, an all-American in college at Alabama who was nicknamed "The Snake" in high school for his elusive style of play, was one of the great characters in the NFL, on a Raiders team full of characters, like Ted Hendricks, John Matuszak, Lester Hayes, Dave Casper, Jack Tatum, Gene Upshaw, Phil Villapiano, and who can forget the great wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff. What a team that was, winning Super Bowl XI in 1977.
Always known for his coolness in pressure situations, one of my favorite Stabler stories was the time during an overtime game when a charged-up Madden called his quarterback to the sidelines to talk strategy. With the game on the line and the crowd going wild, Stabler looks up into the stands and says, "These folks are sure gettin' their money's worth, ain't they, coach?"
He was one of the best, and certainly one of the most colorful quarterbacks during one of the NFL's greatest eras. Remember these names?
So long, Snake ...
Had to hustle today to find a story for this Friday's paper after my interview fell through at the last minute.
I'd been down to John's Java House in Copperas Cove a couple of times, and the owner looked like an interesting guy -- tall, friendly, long salt-and-pepper ponytail down his back -- and I had him on my mental list of possible story victims, I mean subjects, so I decided today was the day.
When I got there, he was behind the counter, talking to some dude, and when I explained who I was and what I wanted, he paused for half-a-minute, then kind of smiled and said, "OK, sure, when you want to do this?"
"Right now," I said.
We sat on opposite sides of the corner table and he asked if I wanted a coffee. I probably should have taken him up on the free offer -- never turn down something free -- but I'd already had some coffee at home, and it's all I can do to finish one cup. That first sip in the morning is absolutely glorious, but it's all downhill from there for me. I usually drink about half a cup, and then I'm done for the day.
"Well, I want one," he said, jumping up and heading back for the kitchen. He came back a few minutes later and I turned on my recorder, after snapping a few photos of him sitting there with his cup of coffee.
It was a great conversation, but I'm gonna make you wait until Friday to find out more. Turns out his name is indeed John, and he's from Minnesota by way of California, spent 15-plus years in the U.S. Army and has suffered his fair share of trials and tribulations during his 53 years.
It's always amazing, and one reason why I love writing about people. Everyone has been through "stuff." Some worse than your stuff, and some not-as-bad. But all of us go through hard times, one way or another, suffer pain and setbacks and loss and everything else.
And it affects people differently. Like John said, you can react to it in a negative way or a positive way. Some people become angry, bitter, resentful, depressed, while others respond just the opposite.
Look for the story in Friday's Copperas Cove Banner, available at various locations throughout town. For you out-of-towners, you can go to covebanner.com, click at the top on e-edition, then click on the front page icon, then on current edition. My column runs on p. 5.
Adios, y'all ...
I fully expected the Earth to open up and swallow me on the way home.
After a blissful late sleep until 9 o'clock, a nice cup of coffee and some doodling around on the laptop, the wife and I were off to the Verizon store in Copperas Cove.
A few days ago, I said, 'Let's go Monday to be treated rudely and get new phones.' Unfortunately, I was mostly being serious. My old phone has been on its last legs for a while, and last Thursday, I went down to the aforementioned phone store, spent about 15 minutes being completely ignored, before I finally walked out.
Today was Round 2.
To my surprise and delight, a young lady named Rachel greeted us with a big smile as we walked in the door, and provided the best customer service I've had in ... I don't know how long.
While I was on my Route 66 trip, I reported a grocery store cashier to the manager after the girl ignored my 'How are you?' when I walked up, never said a word or made eye contact, just took my money, practically threw my change at me and turned away. Not a thank you, a screw you, have a nice day, have a rotten day -- not a word, a smile, nothing. Same thing on Sunday when we stopped for breakfast tacos on our way back from Galveston.
So I was ready for more of the same today, but it was a more than pleasant experience. Rachel took care of us with smiles, laughter and a sense of humor, not to mention impeccable professionalism. If you're a Verizon customer and you need anything, ask for Rachel and go when she is working.
After that, we stopped by Arby's for a couple of to-go chicken salad sandwiches -- very good stuff -- and, once again, were greeted with smiles, courtesy and friendliness.
I was sure disaster would strike before we could make it safely home, possibly when we reached that sinking spot on the new bypass between Walmart and 2657. That's where we'd be swallowed whole.
What's the deal with that sinking spot anyway? They were out working on it again.
Anyway, cheers and Happy Trails, y'all ...
Grilled hot dogs and hamburgers; fresh, sweet Hempstead, Texas watermelon; homemade chili con queso and chips; lots of cold drinks and assorted gourmet Jello shots; old friends and new ones playing marathon volleyball games and rounds of redneck golf under partly cloudy skies, with the Gulf of Mexico providing a soothing backdrop throughout the day.
Top it all off with watching fireworks from the hotel room balcony and it couldn't have been a much better 4th of July.
My friend and brother, Bobby, hosted a big holiday shindig at his beautiful beach house on Galveston's west end, and it was an excellent day.
On Friday, we had dinner with another childhood friend, Craig, who lives on the other end of the island. Bobby and I have known each other since at least 1st grade. Craig and I met at track tryouts in 7th grade, and ran together on a helluva good little 220-yard relay team.
We won district in 7th grade, and qualified for the regional championships, at Houston's Delmar Stadium, I think it was. We were naturally excited, and then when they called for our event, we headed over to take our positions on the track, and watched as the other team members lined up, as well. Every one one of them was six-feet tall, with bulging muscles, huge afro hairstyles, sideburns and beards. Craig and I -- who ran first and second legs on the relay team -- looked at them, then at each other, and started laughing.
We slapped each other five, then got ready for the gun.
Sure enough, we got smoked. Never stood a chance. Those other guys took off like greyhounds after a rabbit, and we came in dead last.
Good times. We love telling that story to whoever will listen.
We'll be heading back down to Galveston in a couple-three weeks to do some crabbin' with ol' Craig and his wife, Angie. Talk about fun and good eating. If you've never done it, you gotta try it sometime.
All you need is some kite string, a package of chicken necks or wings, and one of those long-handled nets -- a small net. Not the big, deep nets that are used for hauling in fish. If you use a fishing net, you'll never get the crab out after you catch him.
Just about anywhere along the shores around Galveston Bay -- there are other places, too -- is a good place to catch as many blue crab as you feel like catching. Apparently, nowadays you have to have a fishing license, and the crabs you keep have to be at least 5 inches across. Also, they can't be an expectant mama crab carrying eggs.
Anyway, what you do is, take about 10-feet or so of string and tie a piece of raw chicken to one end. Now, about two feet or so from the chicken, tie a little loop in the string. Anchor or tie the other end to something, and toss the chicken in the water. Put out a half-dozen lines or so and wait. It shouldn't take long, before a line straightens out or starts moving around. When it does, there's probably a crab on the other end.
Grab the net and slowly pull in the string. If the line goes slack, let go. The crab will likely find it again and pick it back up. If it stays taut, keep pulling -- slowly -- until you see the little loop coming up out of the water. Then, keeping the line taut, take the net and reach about two feet or so past the loop, coming in behind the unsuspecting crab, and scoop him up. That's it -- you got one!
Chunk the chicken back out in the water. Dump the crab in a cooler half-full of ice, being careful not to let one of those claws latch onto a finger (I've done it, and it's not fun) -- and you're on your way to an amazing meal.
Along with boiling your catch, cracking open the shells and enjoying some of the finest stuff known to man, here's a great thing to do with crabmeat. Get some fresh mushrooms and break off the stems; fill the upside down caps with crab; top with cheese; bake until browned. Good grief ...
Continued happy summering, y'all ...
When you swing a golf club with effortless smoothness and balance, and connect purely with the ball, sending it high and far and exactly where you wanted it to go, it's one of life's more enjoyable things.
I did that today, quite a few times. Like on no. 14, when I ripped my drive down the middle, a slight draw well past the 150-yard marker and coming to rest about 80 yards from the green. I neatly put my second shot on the putting surface and nearly holed the birdie putt.
Then there was no. 15, with the tees moved up a bit, so hitting a driver might have put the ball in the big lake that sits, I don't know, 280 yards away, the fairway running slightly downhill to the water. So today, it was a 3-wood off the tee, and I nearly whiffed it. The ball squirted out there about 100 yards, and I had to lay up in front of the lake, and then I hit a nice little 6-iron fade right into the drink. Ker-plunk.
That's golf, though. I wound up with 86, and beat my buddy, Bubba, by one shot. Our friend, Gator, wasn't quite with it today, and I'm not sure how he finished.
But, it was a great day. Any day out on the golf course is a great day. Some are greater than others, but still, it beats the heck out of working, I can tell you that.
A few reviews of John's books
The 30-Day Optimism Solution:
“Part memoir, part informative text. You get both when reading 'Depression Blues' by John H. Clark III. Mr. Clark shares his struggles with depression in an honest and real way, and as the book progresses, so does his hope. Woven into the story as jumping off points are bits of information about depression and ways to "conquer" the sadness, loneliness, and despair that comes with it.
Mr. Clark becomes more than an author in this book; he becomes a friend who understands the pain of depression and provides light. I recommend this book to anyone looking for light or to anyone who knows someone with depression and wants to learn more.”
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