Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rickey's Vacation Retrospective, Part I

Please accept Rickey's profound apologies for his long leave of absence--we promise that we will never abandon you again. And now that Rickey's has returned from vacation and is back, (back!), back in the New York groove, we figured we'd spend some time discussing a person whom Rickey and Ms. Henderson had the distinct pleasure of visiting during their stay in sunny Florida.

We'll preface this by saying that when you’re a member of that magnanimous group of people whom Tom Brokaw referred to as The Greatest Generation, you feel a certain sense of entitlement. A certain confidence in your tone of voice when you recount war stories of storming Normandy and leading a daring five man incursion to steal Hitler’s shoehorn. A certain braggadocio whilst you blast your big band music, break wind uncontrollably at a Denny’s, or fall asleep in the library. And quite frankly, we as a society don’t posses the balls to call you on any of it, because you belong to that Greatest Generation which undeniably has yet to be surpassed. But on its own, that’s merely a mundane opportunity to behave like a boorish old fool, and really, who’s entertained by that these days anyhow? What’s the point of being a member of this famed group of people if you can’t have some fun and push the tolerance card to its absolute limit?

So really, what do you do when you’re a member of the Greatest Generation? Why, you lead a one man campaign to get a bridge somewhere in Florida painted sky blue of course.


Enter stage right, Rickey’s grandfather. For a bit of background, Rickey’s grandfather currently dwells in Key Largo with his wife and successfully fought the creation of this bridge for nearly a decade before the case was finally tossed out of the courts. And so, not willing to back down, the guy informed the Florida DOT that if any bridge was going to go up, it was going to be sky fucking blue, just like God himself intended.

*A fun little side note: the body of water that the bridge crosses is known as “Jewfish Creek.” For those amongst us who aren’t marine biologists, trust Rickey when he tells you that the Jewfish is quite possibly the meanest and ugliest fish you’ll ever witness, (complete with a massive schnoz!) In retrospect, campaigning to have the name of the creek (or possibly even the fish) changed might have been a more worthwhile cause, but who knows, perhaps the White Supremacist Ichthyologist lobby is a force to be reckoned with down south.

So if you ever find yourself driving from mainland Florida to the Keys and are wondering what the deal is with that odd sky blue bridge that’s a mile long, you’ve got Rickey’s grandfather to thank for it. And as far as this energetic man is concerned, that's the tip of the iceberg. The man is a sheer force of nature: always on the move, perpetually ebbing and flowing for a cause of some sort. It doesn't do him justice to boil his life down to a few meager bullet points, but nonetheless, here are a few items Rickey's found most interesting:


  • He once flew from Syracuse to New York with a crooked-neck squash that was so large that he had to buy an extra ticket for it.
  • In 1937, his grandfather, being friends with a fellow named Jacob Ruppert, wrangled World Series box seats at Yankee Stadium and then took him into the locker room to have a game ball signed by all the Yankee players: Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzari, Red Rolfe, Bill Dickey, Charlie Keller, George Selkirk, Joe DiMaggio, Red Ruffing and Frank Crosetti. (No word on the whereabouts of aforementioned ball).

  • He has a snapshot of Churchill and Eisenhower with the following written on the back: "My bosses who came to visit, 10 days after we made beach landing on Omaha. We were assigned guard detail for them. Churchill passed cigars out to us. Traded mine for a bottle of Calvados made in Normandy by a frog."

  • He once spent the night in a Boston hotel with the dog who played Lassie. That evening both man and dog swore fealty to each other, vowing never to bite the hand that fed them.

  • He once was assigned to drive Helen O'Connell to a ball and decided it would be a wise idea to profess his lifelong adoration for her. Her reply: "Who the hell are you?"

  • He currently gets around in a golf cart with a Tweety Bird logo on the side which Rickey suspects was once the property of an amusement park of some sort.

What we're getting at here is that if you're fortunate enough to possess a parent or grandparent who was roaming this crazy blue marble during the WWII era, Rickey strongly recommends spending a little time sitting down and chatting with them about their experiences. We guarantee, they've got a few stories to tell.

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9 comments:

Toasty Joe said...

Sounds like quite the spry old codger. By the way, my question to Helen O'Connell would have been "who the hell is Helen O'Connell?"

maybe i can help... said...

I agree 100%. Before my grandfather passed away, he did an interview for some NPR "Greatest Generation" thing. I found out some gems including

-how he made friends with the Germans guards at the POW camp he was imprisoned in, and escaped from twice (I guess the first escape didn't take).

- how he was thrown in military jail the day that he was supposed to ship out because he got drunk the night before in Times Square and literally missed the boat over to Europe. No charges were filed, but they kept him for a couple of days until the next ship was sailing.

- how he met the Beatles and was there for the famous photo of them stepping off the plane at JFK.

I like to think that every time I light up a stogie or play a hand of poker, it's in tribute to my grandfather... who also taught me to love the Mets and more importantly, hate the Yankees.

Ray said...

Ahhh so thats why that bridge is blue...

My dad served in WWII - South Pacific - always had a good story to tell...always wanted to hear them, even though I had heard most of them 1000 times by the time I was 20.

I wish I had written some of them down - even though they were war stories - they always ended good or with a good laugh.

Rickey Henderson said...

Toasty: you know, Helen O'Connell, of the Jimmy Dorsey Band. Yeah, Rickey had to look her up on wikipedia too

Tom: Nifty stuff... It's fascinating to hear stories from people of that generation where they stumble into those huge historical moments. Like Forest Gump, but actually entertaining (and true).

Ray: Yeah, Rickey's lucky enough to have read his Grandfather memoirs, which is absolutely invaluable.

Alex L said...

Sounds like a top bloke, I never really got to know my dads dad which is sad really, I think he was a sailor in ww2.

Smitty said...

The knowledge imparted to me by my Grandpas...both of them...could be stand-alone blogs in and of themselves.

Thanks for sharing!

Haley said...

Grandparents are the best thing since sliced bread.

And they will tell you all about the invention of sliced bread if you ask.

jeremy said...

now i've got ace frehley stuck in my head.

Smitty said...

And they will tell you all about the invention of sliced bread if you ask.

Mine told me about the invention of canned beer.