Posts Tagged ‘ Adversity ’

CAFE SERVER’S MEANINGFUL VIEW OF THE HUMAN RACE

THE HUMAN RACE

MEET THE BALLERINA OF THE KETTLE COFFEEHOUSE.

     With the grace a ballet dancer, Linda Marie Lauckhardt, balancing heavy plates of food on one arm, glided across the floor side stepping customers, and snake-hipped her way around a maze of tables to deliver her cumbersome cargo.  

     It was a performance that the statuesque green-eyed waitress repeated literally thousands of times during a career that spanned 37 years. It ended rather abruptly after thirteen years of toting culinary freight at The Kettle, a popular 24-hour restaurant/coffee shop in Manhattan Beach, Calif.  

     Linda told me that she had quit the serving profession because she couldn’t keep up with the physical demands of “being the best I can be.

     “I’m the kind of person who runs, not walks,” she said. “My body just couldn’t take the beating.” In many restaurants, she noted, “the attitude of management toward waiters and waitresses seems to be apathetic. The truth is, good waitresses are NOT easy to find.

     “I’ve never been the kind of person who’d just as soon pick up their money and run. When I clear off a table, the last thing I think about is the tip. If they don’t leave a tip, I figure they can’t afford it. When they come back, they get the same care as anyone else. When they run across an exceptional waitress, customers know.”

     Linda, in her late 40s when I interviewed her, had been serving people most of her life. When she was a 4th grader in San Pedro, she dropped out of elementary school to help support her family which included 11 brothers and sisters.

     At the age of ten, her brothers and sisters, many of them parented by different fathers, were split up and Linda began living in a series of foster homes. At 12 years old, she lied about her age to get a job working 10-hour shifts as a “steamer” in a Chinese laundry. When the owner learned she was under age, she was fired.

     From the day she was born to a waitress in a Sweetwater, Texas hotel, adversity was her nemesis. “My mother,” she said, “wasn’t the kind of mommy who’d sit you on her lap and hug you.” So when most little girls were playing house, Linda “was playing mother” in real life trying to keep her family together.

     When other little girls were playing with dolls, Linda made her doll out of a Coca Cola bottle. “We had a lot of mouths to feed and for a time we couldn’t afford the luxury of toys.”

     Perhaps that’s why for more than two decades, her advocation has been making dolls. During that time, she has made and sold more than 150 antique Jumeau French doll replicas and 400 Teddy Bears. Her home in Big Bear, Calif. where she lived with her husband, Rich, who was an avionics technician, was filled with dolls, cats, stray dogs and neighborhood children.

     She and Rich were married when she was 14 and he was 16. They had no children. When she retired, Linda was about turning her avocation into a full-time profession. Authentic Jumeau antique originals at the time, she said, sold for more than $6,000. Her replicas which she made from scratch, took three months to create. She’d pour her own porcelain molds and sew the clothes by hand. Her replicas were selling for as much as $475. Her handmade Teddy Bears were going for $50 to $75.  

     The only fantasy she rememberd as a teenager was wanting to be a singer like Ella Fitzgerald or Kaye Starr. But when there’s “mouths to feed, clothes to buy, and diapers to change, a young girl’s dreams can somehow get lost in reality.”

     Despite the difficult early years of her childhood, the girl from Sweetwater found love rather than bitterness, pride rather than self-effacement, compassion rather than anger with the human race she waited on throughout the years.

     “I loved being a waitress,” she said, then confessed, “I’ve run across my share of hateful customers. They’ve managed to slither out from under a rock somewhere determined to ruin my day. You learn to handle the bad apples. But I’ve been fortunate to have served too many caring people in life to worry about the stinkers.”

     When she approached one “stinker” while working at The Kettle, he snarled, “Get away from here; I’ll let you know when I want you!”   Early in her career as a server, working a graveyard shift at Norm’s, a long established restaurant chain in Los Angeles County, a customer screamed profanities at Linda causing her to break down crying. Then, she recalled, “He predicted: ‘You’ll never make it as a waitress because you can’t take it!'”   

     Of course, the other side of the coin is much brighter. After serving a two-dollar breakfast to a “regular” at Norm’s restaurant in Torrance, Calif., he tipped her with a jar containing $100 worth of Mercury-head dimes.

     At The Kettle, one satisfied woman customer gave her a gold-antique cameo that belonged to her dead mother. A bank president would bring her roses regularly.

     “I believe that every day, if you do something for somebody — on the job or in the streets — you’re doing something for yourself. You can never be too giving or too kind-hearted.”

     — Boots LeBaron

SURVIVING LIFE’S INSURMOUNTABLE ODDS!

 

THE HUMAN RACE

TRUTH BE KNOWN:  THERE’S NO COUPON FOR MIRACLES

It’s the words that meld together

creating thoughts and fears reflecting

every person’s ongoing struggle to find

a semblance of peace of mind in an

over-populated world compacted by greed,

violence, desperate naivety, and a

a message of faith that inexcusably

guarantees the kind of miracles that will

fulfill our hopes, dreams and schemes.

In every conscience, such declarations

scour the most intimate corners of our

mind — not always in an enlightening sense.

To reach Valhalla, we must somehow find

strength as individuals to ignore our

fears and human flaws to reach that final

destination when Odin welcomes us to his great

hall. No matter how painful or debatably

misleading the promises, they are

convincing enough to satisfy any doubts

that linger before Odin’s final embrace.

All we need is a shred of truth

to fulfill our hopes and dreams

and fuel our trip to Valhalla.

Actors as well as other celebrities,

bless their charismatic and

artistic hearts, are members of a talented

gang of theatrical creatures capable of

articulating believable messages

that provoke self-examination.

Even Odin’s disciples must be capable

communicators. Otherwise, these

artists will anger the gods by not

bringing home the bacon.

The precious delivery of descriptive

observations, visual expressions, the

use of metaphors and similes, reach the

mind of those who are open to reason.

No person is honestly content with

what lurks in the dark regions of another

person’s mind. We all come equipped with

guilt as well as joy glands that

need massaging. Bullshit exists

in every member of the human race.

Literary craftspeople, essayists,

poets, TV talking heads or office moguls

who paint glorious promises they never

keep have been known to preach rewards,

then deliver nothing.

That’s their talent. They come armed

with words. And you are the target.

Never lose faith in strangers.

But be skeptical. Purity might be

believable, but is not always

attainable. Despite our self-disparaging

selves, the adventures we experience

en route to Odin’s palace, make life’s

challenges worth the aggravation.

Must we agonize over our questionable

wisdom? Should we ride with the anguish

we are spoon fed with daily doses?  

It’s up to you. Go figure!

 

— Boots LeBaron —

MY DAD BERT LeBARON: A MOVIE STUNTMAN WITHOUT A FACE

THE HUMAN RACE

 

  THIS  STUNTMAN HAD A LOVE AFFAIR WITH HOLLYWOOD

imageStuntman Bert LeBaron, with arms spread in flight,

was about to knock out a machine-gun nest manned

by prison guards in the 1947 Burt Lancaster classic

movie “BRUTE FORCE.” Esquire Magazine ran a full-page

photo of my airborne dad without giving the Hall of

Fame stuntman-actor credit. That’s the way it was

in Hollywood back then. Although today their names

are entombed with crew members in end-credits, stunt

people are still ignored by the motion picture and

television academies. Since more than 50 stuntmen

and women have died for Hollywood over the years,

don’t you think the survivors deserve Academy

recognition? At least for valor? What pisses me off

is to hear actors ooze B.S. (Don’t tell me they don’t!)

taking credit for “gigs” performed by athletes like

my old man. And now, digital animation is replacing

the acts of such stalwart guys and gals. After

35 years of proudly calling himself an actor-

stuntman, Bert LeBaron, who would never qualify as

another Laurence Olivier or Tom Hanks, developed

a heart problem that put him out of action physically

and financially. (His last stunt was doubling actor

William Bendix in a TV sitcom) When the film capital

of the world showed no compassion, he tried selling

encyclopedias. When that failed, he couldn’t even

support himself peddling newspapers on the streets of

Hollywood. Having nowhere to turn, he stepped into a

handball court at the Hollywood YMCA where he was renting

a room for $10 or $15 a week and purposely popped his

heart playing the game he loved more than women. He

died in 1956. I call Bert and his unheralded comrades

“stuntmen without faces.” I loved that womanizing rogue

whom my mother shed twice in divorce courts. My father

had so many ex-wives and girlfriends, they were lost

in the midst of his mind. Nevertheless, stuntmen and

women deserve to step up to the podium and accept a

golden statuette for their sensational athletic feats.

So tell the actors who, for the sake of publicity

or self-aggrandizement, to: Put A Cork In It! Their

crime is they continue to take credit for stuntwork

achieved by filmdom’s “faceless” others. In my book,

that’s a felony punishable by truth.

 

Boots LeBaron

DESPITE WWII BATTLE WOUNDS, U.S. MARINE LIVED FULL LIFE

THE HUMAN RACE

 

WAR NEVER ENDED FOR CHIEF ‘TALL SUN’

     Despite a day of living hell and an adulthood surviving as a wounded World War II veteran with an atrophied right arm and a brace on his right leg, Chief George (Tall Sun) Pierre stood tall and courageously unrelenting against the unmerciful winds of life.

     The fiercely proud full-blooded Okonogan Indian and a longtime friend of mine, died in 2011 (suffering from prostate cancer). He was the hereditary chief of the 11 Colville Confederated Tribes, a 1.5 million-acre reservation on the Columbia River near Spokane, Wash.

     Our last conversation was on the phone. George, 85, told me he had prostate cancer. He was living in a condo in Redondo Beach, Calif. What troubled him more than the thought of death was that because of his disability he feared he would never return to the heavily-timbered reservation where he grew up and for many years visited frequently.

   Like his father Chief Edward Joseph Pierre, the stoic-faced George had always been a warrior at heart. When he was only 16-years-old he enlisted in the Marines. “I wanted to be like my ancestors,” he said, “I wanted to be a hero.”

     On November 23, 1943 (two days after his 17th birthday), he was the youngest member of the U.S. Marine’s 2nd Division assault forces. Against the Japanese-held Tarawa, a heavily fortified atoll in the northern Gilbert Islands in the South Pacific, he was one of thousands of leathernecks that stormed the beach.  

     “For most of us,” he recalled, “it was our first taste of battle. Bombs were exploding everywhere. Heavy machine-gun and rifle fire was tearing us apart. Bullets hitting the sand sounded like a hail storm. We were dangerously bunched together, pinned behind a seawall.”

     As George moved away from the group a bullet ripped through his helmet penetrating his brain. “I fell to the ground, conscious but completely paralyzed. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t even blink my eyes. I could hear my buddies say, ‘Pierre got it!'”

     Had it not been for a Navy corpsman who “noticed tears in my eyes and dragged me to safety,” George would have been left for dead alongside his comrades whose bodies were scattered along the beach and floating in the water.

     “Here I was, a youngster, no different than the men and women fighting in Afghanistan today. A good kid. I hadn’t done anything wrong. Yet, God took away the use of my leg and arm for the rest of my life. It’s very difficult to rationalize.”

     Death on the battlefield, he had told me, “is a tragedy not only for the soldier but for their families. But when you have to live with wounds like this, that calls for a different level of courage.

     He was opposed to the “unjust” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where “our kids were being killed and wounded. “The older I get, the more often I pray for our combat troops. Young people never think about being physically handicapped.

     “Maybe it was God’s will that I was struck in the brain, because I never experienced pain. Even lying there on the beach, I knew something was terribly wrong. So I learned early in life that nobody is invincible.”

     Since that fateful day in 1943, George has faced life like a true “Nez Perce Warrior” (the title of one of several books he has written and self published).

     “I love my country,” he said. “I’m proud to be a wounded veteran of World War II. But life has been painful. When I walk or ride in my wheelchair, sometimes people think I’ve been crippled by a stroke. There have been times when I’d like to wrap my body in an American flag.”

     It has been many years since George had worn his ceremonial war bonnet, ringed with black-tipped eagle feathers, and the white suit of leather stitched by his late mother, Mary Teresa, a medicine woman and tribal matriarch who played melancholy songs on a willow flute.

     Chief Pierre, a former Congressman (1964-67) from the State of Washington, a lawyer with a master’s degree in political science from USC, was never without a battle.

     One war he was constantly waging was against the silent prejudice he is intimately familiar with.

     “Our society has a tendency to discard broken toys,” he said. “Many give money to help the handicapped. Yet those same people find cripples grotesque and have problems coping with the reality.      “If people could look beyond our physical imperfections they might be surprised. Life is tough enough for a person with two hands and legs, let alone, a guy like me,” he said, a faint smile crossing his chiseled lips.      

     “In any war where the enemy is fanatically suicidal, our soldiers are all potential targets. They know they’re facing death or some form of mutilation the minute they step outside of a secure compound. That kind of inner-strength is hard to describe.”

     When Pierre was 12-years-old, he was sent out alone in search of his manhood into the Bonapart Mountain Range, a wilderness in North Central Washington. During the ritual, he was supposed to survive for two days, then return as a man.

     When he failed to return on schedule, his mother and uncle went searching for him. At high noon, they found him sleeping on a branch in a towering tree. Thus, he was given the Indian name Tall Sun.

     With a hint of whimsy, he proudly proclaimed that he was “the last living Native American warrior chief.” His niece, Dr. Tracey Pierre of Seattle, Wash., said that George, who was divorced with no children, was given a military burial on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011, at Arlington National Cemetery.  

     About 25 years  ago made me an “honorary chief” of the Colville tribes and his mother, Mary Teresa, a medicine woman and tribal matriarch blessed me and gave me a tribal name:  Walk in the Clouds.  With pride, I cherish the memory of that day.  The reason I ran this story about my friend is tomorrow is Armed Forces Day.

     — Boots LeBaron —

DESPITE THE ODDS, WOMEN REFUSE TO SURRENDER!

THE HUMAN RACE

HER MESSAGE:  “THE GOOD OLD BOY’S CLUB BE DAMNED!

     It wasn’t God who had women hanged or burned at the stake for witchcraft in the American colonies. It was Man.

     Decades before the 1692 Salem witchcraft trials, Mary Sanford, a 39-year-old mother of five, was condemned to death by colonists in Hartford, Connecticut. Her male prosecutors said she “deserved to die.” Their charge: “Consorting with Satan and using supernatural powers against unnamed others.”

     Unable to argue against God, the Devil and the holy scriptures, the free-spirited Mary was hung for celebrating her individuality as a human being. She was guilty of dancing around the flames of a bonfire and drinking wine. Whoop-de-do!

     Did she waltz with the Devil? Fly on a broomstick? Cast wicked spells on others? Cuss? Refuse to cater to the whims of her spineless hubby? Hell no!

     More than three centuries have past since the American Colonies version of Ye Good Ol’ Boys Club used the name of God laced with hysteria and based on dogmatic biblical babble to squelch the inherent rights of women fighting for their identity in a suppressive society.

     Today’s Mary Sanfords have found courage through independence, strength through sacrifice, wisdom through anguish, and the bond of sisterhood through freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to do what they damn well please.

     Yet women are still seeking equal rights in a world where man dominates in many instances with chauvinistic assertiveness.

                        — Boots LeBaron

LIFE’S MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

THE HUMAN RACE

WHAT IF?

What if the Supreme Being was an abused woman?

What if Charles Darwin had just been kidding about evolution?

What if political campaigns were conducted with integrity?

What if Viagra was a placebo?

What if Armageddon was coming next week?

What if all religious leaders took vows of poverty?

What if intelligent design was scientific fact?

What if St. Peter had to install metal detectors?

What if there was no life after death?

What if God had His own Facebook on the Internet?

What if Shakespeare was a plagiarist?

What if Purgatory wasn’t such a hellhole after all?

What if Man was a failed extraterrestrial test-tube experiment?

What if atheists leased offices in Vatican City?

What if humanity ran out of water?

What if gays outnumbered heterosexuals?

What if Pablo Picasso had decided to be a bail bondsman?

What if euthanasia was a legal alternative to convalescent homes?

What if anti-pollution activists controlled oil-drilling rigs?

What if President Barack Obama was white?

What if political photo-ops were outlawed?

What if sharks could be found only in the sea?

What if all the poverty stricken could dine free at Denny’s?

What if Adam and Eve refused to sample the forbidden fruit?

What if pork-barrel spending was strictly a hog’s nightmare?

What if dock workers didn’t cuss?

What if prescription drugs were cost friendly?

What if Jesus Christ appeared as an anchorman on TV?

What if jurors came void of preconceived notions?

What if Hooter’s was a sanctuary for endangered owls?

What if using religion to win votes was a felony?

What if there was no McDonald’s?

What if pomposity was a crime punishable by water-boarding?

What if lobbyists couldn’t buy votes on Capitol Hill?

What if Babe Ruth or Jackie Robinson were playing baseball today?

What if women earned salaries equal to their male counterparts?

What if there was a pill to cure greed?

What if all racial bigots woke up with black or brown faces?

What if The Pope would help curb overpopulation?

What if 72 virgins was basically a heavenly marketing ploy?

What if terrorism wasn’t empowered by religious extremism?

What if slumlords had to live in their own squalor?

What if Chanel No. 5 was a 99 Cents Only Store item?

                        — Boots LeBaron —

 

 

RUTHIE WAS ONE OF MANY COURAGEOUS U.S.A. WOMEN.

Ruth Shannon celebrates her birthday on April 1st.

 

RUTH CHANNON WAS ONE OF MANY U.S. WOMEN WHO SHOWED

TRUE COURAGE AND INTEGRITY DURING ‘THE BIG WAR.’

 

     Not long after Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler’s attempt to conquer the world, obliterate Judaism, slaughter millions of Jews, invade Poland, Czechoslovakia, occupy Austria, bomb the hell out of Britain using der Furor’s powerful Luftwaffe air force, the Japanese launched its December 7, 1941 sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

     They struck with carrier-based planes sinking or damaging 19 ships, killing or injuring 2,200 American servicemen, and destroying 188 planes with negligible losses to the Japanese.

Not only did that devastating attack on Pearl get the U.S. into World War II, it revealed a dormant spirit within the men and women of our nation. It was a wake-up call that made us realize that now was the time for all good people to come to the aid of their country. It was a time for great sacrifice, a time to fight an enemy that’s threatening the freedom of what we continue to call the land of the free and the home of the brave.

     And for those reasons, I’d like you to meet Ruth Channon who was one thousands of American women to change their lifestyles by giving up their comfortable world as housewives, moms, administrators and clerks to support their nation which must go to war against a well-trained, goose-stepping enemy known as the Axis.

     At that moment in history, hundreds of thousands of men left the workplace and joined the U.S. armed forces. At the same time, millions of women from all walks of life and levels of society, forfeited personal and professional comforts to take over the jobs men  vacated.

     So Ruth Channon, an ambitious young woman, gave up her dreams to become what she whimsically and proudly calls herself, “Ruthie the Riveter.” What makes Ruthie unique is her positive attitude,her sense of being a woman, and the fact that the mother of my late childhood friend, Bumbo, turns 100 years old on Wednesday (April 1, 2015).

     For at least two years, Ruthie worked as a riveter at Hughes Aircraft Co. in Culver City, Calif.  During the war, her mother would baby-sit with Bumbo and his sister Sheila while Ruth riveted away helping build fighter planes and bombers to battle a powerful enemy that would make Darth Vader look like a kindergartener.

     When I asked Ruthie if by chance she worked on a bomber that actor Clark Gable served on as a tail gunner, she had no idea. As the story went, when German field marshal Hermann Goering learned at Gable, a well-known motion picture star, had enlisted in the American Air Corps and was a tail gunner, the notorious field marshal had offered $5,000 to kill him.

     When Gable learned of the price that was put on his head, he was quoted as saying, “Tell Goering that, ‘Frankly, I don’t give a damn!'” Of course, that line was taken from the 1939 Civil War epic, “Gone With the Wind” when Gable as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn!” “Gone With the Wind,” is considered one of the most famous films in Hollywood history.

     But back to Ruth Channon and reality: In their own way, close to 19,000,000 women went to war replacing their male counterparts who became U.S. warriors. In 1942, the original Rosie the Riveter was discovered. Her name was Rosie Ronavita. She was a welder building planes for Convair in San Diego. To land such a riveting job, the government would explain to female applicants, “If you can use an electric mixer, you surely can operate drill.”

     Working for less money than her male replacement, women were proud to become active members of the war effort. When posters showing a sturdy female with the slogan, “We Can Do It!” became quite popular. And the significance of Rosie the Riveter became as popular as the Uncle Sam recruiting poster pointing under the slogan, “We Want You!”

     When I asked Ruthie about her going to work, leaving her two young children at home, she explained that as a single parent, her mother would baby sit with her young son, my childhood pal Bumbo, and her daughter, Sheila.

     Was doing a man’s job difficult? “Not really,” she said. “I was young and strong.” Ruthie was also one of the best looking mothers residing on Crescent Heights Boulevard. She was a young mom, with raven hair, dark brown eyes and Pocahontas cheekbones.

     Was working with a riveting guy on fighter planes and bombers exhausting? “Only when I got home at night. But my kids made everything alright.”

     Near the end of the war, Ruthie married an ex-GI named Saul Channon. Lucky for Bumbo and Sheila, he adopted them.

     Saul Channon looked like an husky leprechaun. Actually, he was a Russian Jew and the son of a rabbi. I can’t remember him without a cigar sticking out the side of his mouth.

     Mr. Channon never talked about the hell he went through as an infantryman with the 45th Armored Division; never mentioned the wounds he suffered during a firefight in Messina, Italy, in 1944. They were severe enough to buy him a ticket home. I loved the guy.

     For a long time after his return to civilian life, he remained traumatized like the combat infantrymen who return from the Middle East today. Ruthie told me, a thump in the night would send the former sergeant diving under the bed. Even action scenes in a movie, like “Return to Bataan” would cause Saul to hit the deck in a movie theatre, taking cover behind rows of seats.

     To get the trembling ex-GI back onto his seat, Ruthie said she would have to remind him that it was only a movie they were watching in a darkened theatre.

     “Most of the time it worked,” she said. “What Saul went through, made me realize how important it was for me and all those other women, to do our duty. Although Saul is dead, I still talk to him. He was a great father and husband. I’ll never stop loving him.”

     Happy birthday, Ruth Channon. Happy one hundred years of adventures in this troubled world.

   — Boots LeBaron —

        4-01-2015

 

http://www.amazon.com/The-Human-Race-Boots-LeBaron/dp/1494218526

%d bloggers like this: