Archive for December, 2016

A Command Performance……………#91a (the 60’s)

December 30, 2016

The Rythm Tamers band was in turmoil, while playing a club date in Lawton, Troy Elledge suffered what appeared to be a nervous breakdown just before starting the last set.   Don (Red Eye) Kinder a long time friend and promoter of Troys musical aspirations was in attendance, intervening and taking Troy to the hospital.  Gary’s friend, drummer and once business associate Glenn Froman having been discharged from the service at Ft. Sill remaining in Lawton making Gary an offer to join him in reorganizing his band.  The drummer desiring to replace Carl, a sergeant and veteran of the Korea War who was a guitar playing wannabe vocalist more interested in the female activity off the bandstand than the music. Glenn also having secured a sax player named Fred that was in the military and whom like Gary was from Oakland California.  Glenn proposing and Gary finding it difficult to decline the opportunity to change bands, questioning Glenn covert conspiracy to also coax’s the unsuspecting guitarist Jerry Willis away from a semi disabled Troy and the Rythm Tamers band.  Gary relenting, Glenn having rented a two bedroom house on Oklahoma St, not the best neighborhood but sufficient for the musicians, Jerry soon followed Gary’s lead giving Troy notice, the Glenn’s Hi-Liters having a new look and sound.

  

Gary discovered accordingly,  club dates can be difficult, especially when involving a piano.  There’s a built in handicap with having a pianist in a band,  most clubs or dance facilities were often deficient in having or providing a piano,  and if by chance they did,  the instrument was often out of tune.  Gary discovering the purchase of a hand-held accessory, a tuning lever in most cases resolved the first predicament,  enabling a slightly discoursed piano to sound disciplined.   The second asperity was mitigated with a purchase of an inexpensive antediluvian upright piano to be transported for provisional installation, to insure the bands integrity.

    

The biggest difficulty to be confronted,  was a means to transport the heavy musical burden.  The piano rested in mundane silence at their Oklahoma St. address,  its worn ivory giving vestige to past accolades.   it was waiting to be summoned,  but the custodians of the appendage desired more than just another performance from this heirloom from the past.    A decision was made, a striking new finish to garnish its exterior,  something to instill conversation,  promote awareness,  and broadcast its appellation.   The artistic coating was completed,  the stenciled name of the group  embolden in black letters, ” The Hi-Liters”   standing captive on the side of the lustrous brilliant,  Pink Piano.

  

Innovation was Glenn’s middle name when it came to relocating the piano from the Oklahoma St. residence to a performance venue,  as the Hi-Liters normal transportation was limited to a passenger car status.    When necessity intervened, Glenn would scourer the newspaper ads,  selecting pick-up trucks for sale ads,  and inquire as a prospective buyer,  asking permission to afford the vehicle to his brothers residence across town for approval.  Leaving his car parked with keys in it at the marketeers,  to still their concern about  Glens character,  time consumption,  or  aspirations,  the drummer returning the pick-up after moving the piano , with an apology for declining to buy.

 

The Pink Monster,  an apropos designation for the exceedingly heavy upright piano was residing on stage at the Colony Club in Altus.  There was electricity in the air,  never have the Hi-Liters performed before an anticipated crowd such as this,  only the congested throng wasn’t present for them,  but for the one and only,  Jerry Lee Lewis,  whom would perform that night.   The Hi-Liters entered their break-song,  halting at 10:30 to begin moving their equipment backstage for the coming gala performance.   Gary and Glenn commenced to roll the Pink Monster behind the offstage curtains,  securing room for the clubs slightly out of tune baby grand piano at center stage.

  

The arriving entourage consisted of four,  Jerry Lee, a drummer, a bass player, and his manager.  The drummer and electric bass player rose without hesitation, approaching  the stage to assemble the band equipment,  while Jerry Lee and his manager remained surrounded by enthusiast,  mostly of the female gender.  Gary could tell from Jerry Lee’s appearance, the glassy eyes giving notice of something more than alcohol having been consumed by the entertainer,  either inhaled, or digested.

   

It was showtime, the Great Balls of Fire celebrity strutted on stage,  the manager shouting over the mic, “Let’s hear it for the great Jerry Lee”.   Jerry leaning on the grand piano,  plunking a few notes on the keyboard and then to everyone’s start, rising up and  disappearing off stage behind the curtains.   The crowd silenced by his departure beginning to murmur,  then a rustle of a curtain stilled the air, from behind the drapery enter the commanding presence of a Pink Piano,  being pushed by the pretentious Jerry Lee Lewis to center stage.

 

With Jerry Lee at the ivories, This was the Pink Monsters finest hour, boisterous, exclamatory, melodious,  the keyboard punctuating a convergence with never felt before dexterity.  The acoustical electricity accompanying the vivid choral vocal lyrics of Jerry Lee,  exploding the perceptive club atmosphere with song.

   

Jerry Lee was not concerned that the front cover of the piano had been removed,  exposing the strings and rows of hammers,  he soon realized the purpose for its absence,  reaching up and pulling a hammer loose when it refused to return,  it was almost as if the two were acquainted,  Jerry Lee and the piano  having been together before.  The Hi-Liters finding Jerry Lee a hard act to follow, but were resolute with their dance music.  The second show was repetitious, a quick and robotic presentation,  a realization that the young Jerry Lee  performance showed that he was only interested in obtaining the meager monetary compensation and moving on.

It was almost understandable, the accomplished musician having fallen from the pentacle of success rivaling Elvis for the title of King of  rock-n-roll, all because of the public’s perception of scandal,  Jerry Lee marrying his 1st cousin once removed,  13-year-old Myra Gale Brown.  The Colony Clubs evenings extravaganza a success,  but the true star remained on stage that night,  having provided its acoustical gift to the performer and the audience, the star, the Pink Monster.

Invoking Tenacity………#92 (the 60’s)

December 28, 2016

Band members Gary and Jerry having discovered drummer Glenn’s two bedroom rental  on  Oklahoma Street very convenient.    During their practice  sessions,  the band would conveniently leave the front door  open,  the melodious sound of the session resonating for the neighbors to hear.  and on occasion  the neighborhood children would arrive at the door bearing homemade delectable’s and song request..   Their lodging did present one concern, but it was more like an occupational hazard, when returning from an out of town engagement, discovering acquaintance’s frequenting the house, not minding so much their crashing,  but not appreciative of the raid on the refrigerator.  A decision was made, it was time to padlock the house,  but a problem still remained,  many of the windows refused to lock and on occasion an unexpected guest could find  an alternate entrance.

Glenn was in need of further transportation, his  52 Chevrolet having  “given up the ghost”.   Jerry’s 53 ford convertible the sole surviving mode for getting around.   Gary wasn’t surprised one Saturday afternoon when Glenn drove up in a roughlooking 1953 Nash,  his one thought,  “how did you come up with this wreck”.   Glenn’s explanation was to the point ,  “I found the cheapest car on the lot,  offering to put a hundred dollars down and sign a promissory note for the balance”.

The Hi-Lighters soon discovering,  besides providing transportation,  it possessed another much needed trait,  Nash being one of the first Detroit cars with 90 degree reclining front seats.  On warm nights,  when discovering their beds taken by various guest after returning from their weekend gig,  gary and glenn would grab a blanket and partake of the cars reclining seats.  The downside of the automotive resting place was,  not only waking to the sun shining in your face, but the neighbor kids staring at you thru the windows.

The invention was a “God Sent”  for road-traveling piano playing musicians.   It’s first notoriety was sculptured by Ray Charles utilizing the instrument for his number one national hit,  “What’d I Say”,  the acclaimed musician introducing the Wurlitzer Electric Piano to the spotlight of  prominence.  The city of Lawton having two prevalent music stores,  the multi-generational  ‘Hardy Suggs Music’ and the much newer store  ‘Lawton Music’,  the band preferring business with the elderly Hardy, but discovering Lawton Music was the Wurlitzer Piano distributor and just happen to have one in stock.

Gary immediately seizing the opportunity to  bring the piano into the fold,  the Wurlitzer #110 model becoming the newest member of the band.  The piano having a 64 keyboard range,  about a octave shorter on either end of a regular piano keyboard,  Gary soon discovering  the bottom octave could be utilized as a keyboard bass by splitting the sustain bar from the pedal action and plugging into an amplifier with the bass setting turned up, adding a much-needed sound to the band.

 

A Saturday night, the band loading the equipment in the Nash,  Glenn at the helm  Gary riding shotgun,  Jerry following in his Ford, their destination once again, The Colony Club in Altus.   The 55 mile drive very uneventful,  except for the last five miles, both Glenn and Gary hearing a new sound emitting from the Nash  Airflight six cylinder motor.   It wasn’t loud, but telling, both having experienced this sound before, it was the beginning voice of a cylinder rod bearing in distress.   The sound seemed to mellow and with their destination just a few minutes away they continued on.

 

 

The club performance coming to a conclusion,  loading the band equipment in the Nash, the return trip  beginning,  Jerry following in the ford.   the sound they had first heard on the drive down didn’t sound as threatening as before,  giving raise that the trip could be completed.   About 30 miles from Altus their sense of security began to wane, as the slight tapping sound from the engine  increased in volume becoming noticeably louder.  Glenn beginning to slow down, a knocking began,  then increasing echoing like a hammer striking metal, but then abruptly, silence,  and for an instance the motor was smooth, the only noticeable sound was the wind through the open windows as the Nash continuing down the highway.

The silence wasn’t lasting, another knocking began,  and like the first,  its sound raising in volume reaching a crescendo, a sudden jolt and once again  silence,  but this time it was short-lived,  immediately smoke began to fill the traveling vehicle.   A third rod began protesting,  its knocking voice straining to be heard, windows being rolled down, the smoke making it difficult to see and breath, the Nash’s forward progress rapidly descending.  The two riders bearing witness to a motorized death, the Nash coasting  to the side of the road.

Jerry who was following in the ford stopping, excited and aghast at what had  happen,  relating how it was difficult to see the road because of  the smoke bellowing from the Nash.   Transferring the band equipment to the Ford, the three leaving the Nash at its resting place,  making the decision to return with a rope and tow it back in the morning.

The next morning finding the three back on the highway towing the disabled car to Lawton.  Once back at the oklahoma street,  rental, Glenn lifting the hood to perform a visual autopsy,  the oil bathed six cylinder motor providing an unreal sight,  the left side of the engine block destroyed,  a gaping hole where the cylinder rod traversed,  exiting its domain.   Gary well aware of the bands dire financial situation,  inquiring  Glenn as to a remedy for the situation.   Glenn shaking his head, replying the only alternative would be to stop making his payments, leave the keys in it and let the dealer repo the Nash.

It wasn’t too much  later when as expected the dealer showed up,  approaching the house,  his knock at the door unanswered, returning to the car, sitting behind the wheel attempting to start it. Glenn watching as the dealer drove away,  soon afterwards a tow truck arrived.  Gary somewhat concerned about the dealer being a victim, but Glenn responding,  he was the victim, the dealer selling a car knowing the inevitable.

The Day of Reparation…#93

December 26, 2016

The day of reparation having arrived,  a representative of concern about Gary’s military commitment approached the Oklahoma Street residence,  requiring the pianist to accompany him.  Gary accepting his repression and subjection to a hearing of his indiscretions,  acceding to its outcome and discipline that was to be instilled.  Interned in the Fort Sill post stockade,  a General Court Martial convened , the outcome to be upheld by the convening authority but subject to review by the Military Court of Appeals.

Gary being dispatched and flown in an army de Havilland Beaver to United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth Kansas, known as The Castle., a maximum security facility situated on 2500 acres, its center rotunda with  eight wings,  25 out-buildings and 26 buildings within it walls,  providing residency for up to 1777 discredited members from all branches of the military service and staffed by 752 military and 158 civilian personnel.

 

On entering,  the interned soldier was introduced to the  3rd wing of The Castle, an  8 tier edifice for new arrivals for indoctrination, clothing acquisition, work skill evaluation   and  permanent placement location.  The new arrival soon discovering that the incarcerated  remained subject to military protocol and discipline, being issued brown military type uniforms, boots and subject to a military haircut with mustache and beards strictly prohibited.  Their 6 X 10 living space included of a lavatory slash commode, metal bed, standing locker, fold down table,  and upon departure for work, their area was to be ‘inspection ready’, bed made, clothing stored properly, much like basic training.

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Gary accepting his newfound circumstance, transferring to the 2nd tier of cell block 4, discovering a silver lining in his new environment, the opportunity to audition for a fulltime work assignment with the 12 member Castle Dance Band.   A sense of anticipation as he mounted the stairs to the  bands working environment,  the upper floor in the confines of the smaller administrative 8th wing.  Having secured an interview,  introducing himself to the Band Director Sergeant First Class Demand,  the sergeant inquiring about his music experience, and then asking the enviable question,  can you read music, a shadow cast upon his hopes.   The pianist giving a yes and no answer, elucidating he was an intermediate,  able to reed sheet music but was hesitant at sight reading.   The brief interview coming to a close with no acknowledgement,  Gary following the Sergeant into a large adjoining room.

The room laden with musical instruments,  standing before him a group of men of various age,  apparently the members of the band.   The NCO giving no introductions, but pointing to an anteroom,  instructing Gary,  ”there’s a piano in there,  go in close the door and play.”    Gary entering  the room, closing the door, realizing he wasn’t auditioning only for the sergeant, but for the members of the band assembled behind the closed door.   The pianist seating himself before a console piano,  starting  his selections,  encompassing a variety of music, from Debussy to the Bumble Boogie and Stardust,  demonstrating his versatility.   The door opened, a somber looking bandleader instructing that he could return to his billets,  Gary hesitant, then noticing the slight grin on the NCO,  “welcome to the band  ”you’ve got the job Willson”.

A new outlook prevailed,  the musician analogized his confinement and the experience of a new spectrum in the world of music,  one construed as a detriment,  the other as an asset,  but even that was subject to change.   As a member of the band and his low risk infraction,  his status was changed to minimum risk and he moved from the rotunda 8 tier cell block complex to Building 462,   a  3 story billets with its own mess hall.

A new perseverance of music ascended the aspiring musician,  the orchestrated sheet music arrangement.   Gary finding the members of the band all professionals, entertaining years of musical accomplishment,   and most having been exposed to the streetwise life that is part of a musician experience.

Gary was impressed,  the bands instrumentation was congruent with the published stock arrangements provided for each of the instruments,  clarinet, alto, tenor and baritone sax’s,   trumpet, trombone, piano, guitar, bass and even drums.   Sergeant Demands’  trumpet adding  additional brass when called upon.   The repertoire was  reflective of the NCO’s age,  composed of classic popular standards,  The Way You Look Tonight,  All The Things You Are,  The Nearness Of You,  and the regimented enterprise was highlighted with a vocal quartet with current popular hits by the Marcel’s,  Coasters and the Platters.

The auspices of the post NCO and Officers Club were regular host,  the band members provided sport coats, white shirts and ties from a band room rack to enhance their appearance,  the patrons savoring the nostalgia music from the past and the flavoring of the present.  Gary looked forward to when they were in concert with the full orchestration contingency of the Post Military Band for ceremonial gatherings,   giving insight to the big band era of Count Basie,  Glenn Miller, the Dorsey Brothers.

The bands daily activity wasn’t always confined to music,  on occasion they were called upon by other departments for menial task.  Gary and another band member were completing a minimal chore in the Castle’s power building when they happened upon a raised wooden platform with 13 steps, immediately recognizing for what it was,  the gallows. It was common knowledge,  the sentence of  Private John Bennett,  for the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old Austrian girl, was soon to be carried out, death by hanging

Gary accepting his environment, coming to realize his punishment of  incarceration was instead,  a once in a lifetime journey into an another aspect of the music world.  The Musician savoring his learning experience and being a part of this melodious group.        

Appraisement & Restitution…. #94

December 24, 2016

With the passing months, the day of appraisement approaching,  Willson was called to report to  the DB’s Judge Advocates office.  The staff officer informing him that the Military Appeals Court in Washington DC had reviewed his case and had determined that the sentencing instructions given to the  Court Martial Panel was in error,  the results of his Court Martial have been set aside and he is to be restored to active duty with all back pay benefits, Gary was stunned.

The Officer detailing,  he would be assigned to a retraining group for six weeks, reintroduced to a missile battalion, but because of his record would no longer retain his M O S having lost his secret security clearance, his service time would be extended as there was no credit for absence or incarceration time-served,  and his military record would reflect his past activities.

Gary having totally forgotten,   the Court of Appeals automatic review of his Court Martial and a return to duty was the furthest thing in his mind.  It wasn’t that he wanted to continue,  although in some respect he would miss his repertoire with the band and his recent discovered musical arrangement infrastructure.  He discovered a total lack of enthusiasm to return to military life,  especially after eight months of incarceration, it would be like a continuation of punishment

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ary seeking Sgt. Demand’s help in seeing if it would be possible to speak to someone from the Judge Advocates Office concerning his return to duty.  At the Judge Advocates office,  questioning the representative about the possibility of a discharge,  the JAG officer informing him that his record reflected no justification for a discharge, then interposing something that almost sounded intentional that raised a flag, adding,  unless one was subject to a judicial process for an infraction during his retraining.

The move from the Castle didn’t entitle far to go, the training unit was located in the 3 storied MP Headquarters Building directly across the street from the west wall and Building 362 of the Disciplinary Barracks.  His introduction was reminiscent of the past, much like basic training, the groups billets was a second floor bunk lined bay, the participants standing at attention as a SFC informed them of their good fortune and the opportunity to return to duty,  then discharging  the pleasantries,  bellowing the ‘what not’s’  of discipline that would be instilled during their stay, including not to converse with anyone but those in this unit.  During the first nights  evening mess, Gary recognizing some the MP cadre as Castle guards, including Sergeants Demands well liked assistant Corporal Jim,  Gary acknowledging his hello with a nod,   saying Hi.  Upon returning upstairs to the bay, he found the SFC waiting for him, lambasting him for breaking the rules on his first day,  speaking to someone in the mess hall,  then listing the removal of future privileges as punishment.

That night in bed found Gary struggling with his conscious, whether to even attempt to travel down this once traveled road again,  there has to be another way.  Returning from the mess hall that first morning, the group once again standing at the foot of their beds awaiting inspection from the duty NCO, all the beds properly dressed and displayed save one.  The NCO halting at Gary’s bed, questioning him why the bed wasn’t made, instructing him to make his bed,  then asking “ are you refusing to make your bed?”   Gary breaking his silence with one word. “yes”.   It was repeated three times, “Willson I’m giving you a direct order to make your bed”,  Gary refusing to comply.  The sergeant escorting his charge down the hall to the duty officer, giving an explanation, the Lieutenant looking somewhat perplexed having never experienced something of this order before.

The officer reiterating,  that by his noncompliance of a direct order,  charges could be filed and he could be returned to the DB to await court martial proceedings.  Gary having made his decision, finally making a statement  “I would rather be there, than here.”  His restoration to duty preparation having lasted less than 24 hours,  handcuffed and escorted to the DB’s  basement solitary confinement.  His stay was short lived,  the second day being transferred back into population to a cell on the ground floor  of the 4th wing cell block,  being assigned as a minimum security custodian,  responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the 8 tier edifice.

The justice system at Fort Leavenworth moved swiftly, a special court-martial was convened in less than 30 days, unlike the large hearing room with a convening judge and six man panel board for a General Court Martial, the Special Court Martial was held in JAG office almost like an informal hearing with a presiding officer and a three officer panel.  Gary agreeing to answer questions about his infraction and able to  summarized that it would be best that he would be separated from the service.  The sentencing was delayed, Gary being interviewed several time, given a battery of test, including physiological and a IQ test.  Once again ordered to report to the JAG office, the staff member conferring the intrinsic results of his Special Court-martial,  in brief it gave notice that Pvt. Gary Willson would be issued a 257A General Discharge Under Honorable Condition and separated from the service on August 29th.

The day of restitution having arrived,  but for some reason its reception was without fanfare, there was no feeling of contentment, a cloud of solitude engulfed Gary as he made  the rounds picking up his fitted summer weight  ‘jody suit’, white shirt,  tie, and new shoes.  Boarding a jeep at the gate, his only possession being a small satchel containing what few personal item he had,  questioning the driver why he was being handcuffed as they were going to the Post Out processing center, the driver saying one word, regulations.

   

A glance back at  The Castle,  knowing the catharsis effect it had on those lives  it appraised, but also knowing that it would take time to adjust to his departure from the confines of regiment, and obtain an exit to ambiguity.

Exit To Ambiguity……#94a

December 23, 2016

Gary receiving a vindicating honorable discharge from the army, fulfilling his final military discourse at the Post Out Center.   Glenn Froman was anticipatory, the drummer having borrowed the bass player’s car for the 560 mile drive from Kokomo Indiana to reunite the pianist with the band.  Gary wasn’t surprised to see Glenn walk into the center as he waited on the paperwork to receive his final back pay.  The two beginning their journey, Gary questioning why he was traveling east to Kokomo and not west to California.  His decision to join Glenn and guitarist Jerry Willis in Kokomo Indiana was not decisive, but transitory and the long drive provided an opportunity to give his action more thought.

Darkness having set upon the travelers, a rain beginning, the product of a passing thunderstorm.  the two deciding it would be a good time to halt their journey and find a roadside diner.  Gary mentioning and Glenn receptive to traveling west to California, exploring the possibilities of booking the band.  The roadside pause giving Gary an opportunity to call home, it had been a prolong time since he had talk to his parents and he recognized their probable concern.  His mother was upset, questioning why he wasn’t coming home, the musician conveying  the situation, emphasizing the band traveling to California.  The call concluded, Gary assuring his mom he would be returning.  Glenn asking about the call, Gary relating about their california decision,  now the only question mark was Jerry Willis.

During Gary’s absence, Glenn had taken a giant step, entering into a matrimonial union, the pianist recalling that he had meant June Brewer once before when she was dating Glenn.  Gary listened as Glenn mentioned how Jerry agreed to accompany him and June to Indiana,  transporting June’s horse to his father’s farm and that June was in the later stages of a pregnancy and had moved back home but was currently visiting relatives in Clovis New Mexico.  An arrival in Kokomo, found Gary awakening to the sudden change in his environment,  it was good see Jerry again, the two having shared not only their approach to music but some serious and humorous times.

He was surprised when told Rickenbacker Guitar playing fort sill soldier, Tom Holt, had followed Glenn and Jerry to Indiana and had secured an additional week day gig as a single act playing in a bar.  The discussion turned to traveling to California and the expense of making the trip, Gary mentioning that it wouldn’t be a problem having received his army severance pay.  With their California trip decision made,  Glenn proceeded to see what the two thought about  changing the band’s name,  a group playing at Indiana Beach called the Untouchables had dissolved, going their separate ways, and thought the band name Untouchables would be ideal for them.

Gary reunited with his Wurlitzer Electric Piano, with one night remaining,  the Club date  coming to a conclusion,  the band loading Jerry’s ford, deciding to stop at a diner with a well-lit parking area, able to view the Convertible conveying all the band equipment from inside.  Their meal completed, the three approaching the car,  something seemed amiss, Gary recognizing a dry cleaning laundry package containing white shirts on the ground.  The shirt packages having been placed with others in the convertibles boot covering Jerry’s stowed guitar case with its  pristine black and white Fender Stratocaster.  Taking a closer look,   moving the remaining packages, the guitar was missing. It became was apparent,  someone observed it being put in the convertibles boot at the club,  and in all probability followed them to the restaurant, somehow seizing on an opportunity to steal it.  Jerry placing a call,  law enforcement was notified, there was nothing they could do except take a stolen property report, the situation futile, the guitar irretrievable.   The 877 mile journey to Lawton Oklahoma was scheduled to commence in the morning, but a decision to stay another day was made,  hoping something might turn up, but to no avail,   A sadden Jerry very dishearten,  but remained resolute about the future.

It was a familiar hearth for Gary, the musician arriving in Lawton and Hardy Suggs Music store on D Avenue.   The three travelers greeting the familiar Hardy,  Jerry venturing the question about having a used Fender guitar, to his benediction, Hardy answering in the affirmative.   The guitar not a Stratocaster,  but another fender product that was an ample messenger of music,  a Telecaster.  The Lawton visit providing Gary an opportunity to  call upon Lawton music, the establishment that rendered him his #110 model Wurlitzer electric piano.  the musician in need of the tuned metal reeds that produce the resonating piano sound,  aware that only Wurlitzer distributors stocked them.

Their journey to begin, every available space consumed with storage, preventing the convertible top from raising, giving meaning to a scattered thunderstorm watch on their journey.   Gary having notified his family of the groups embarkation,  being assured of accommodations upon their arrival at his home in Oakland. The journey would encompass well over 1600 miles, with an overnight stop in Clovis New Mexico so Glenn could visit with June,  then a non-stop continuous excursion west.  The enterprising exploit beginning, the Ford incurring the responsibility for success, the front seat of the open air jitney  providing a temporary home for the three Untouchables.

 

Route 66………….#95 (the 60’s)

December 22, 2016

The well traveled road west

The well-traveled road west

The 1953 Ford with its consignment, Glenn, Jerry and Gary all packaged for delivery,  traveling west from Lawton Oklahoma on Highway #62,  the musicians first stop Amarillo.  Coming into view were the statures silo’s and scattered high-rise building silhouetted against the horizon,  providing a preview to a building performance by the budding West Texas town. A detour was enhanced,  negotiating southwest on Highway #60,  the venturing trio befalling the heritage cow-towns of Hereford,  Bovina,  Texico,  their destination,  Clovis New Mexico and an overnight visit for Glenn to illuminate prospective scenarios for his expectant wife June and himself.

The early morning establishing a Clovis departure,  the Ford providing  passage west on highway  60,  then northwest on 84,  discovering its junction with infamous Route 66.  Continuing on, traversing below the Sandia Mountains entering  metropolitan Albuquerque,  the documented highway 66 still entertained its path thru the center of town,  the new Route 66 soon to be interstate 40, its city bypass still under construction.   The westward road plotting its course on the scenic  New Mexico plateau,  the occupants of the Ford having to maintain a weather vigil, unable to protract the convertibles top.  On the horizon, omnibus rain clouds dotting the sunlit vault,  threatening a cascade curtain of condensation,  but yet had made a presence to intersect the postured roadway.

The celebrated expanse of landscape, it’s  bellowing raised islands of rapture giving form to the mesa’s of the high plains plateau in the distance..    Approaching Gallup, a small community located in the center of the 27,000 sq. acre Navajo Nation,  the horizon showcasing a darken brume of a towing thunderhead threatening their path with a  possible deluge from the sky.  Good fortune enter town was bestowed,  a  A&W Drive-In  providing shielding cover for the undressed convertible, the delay enabling an early lunch for the three wayfarers.  Gary noting that all of the town was located south of the railroad tracks, commenting that Gallup appears to be a one side of the tracks town.

Traveling thru Winslow Arizona, the marauders continuing the uphill journey reaching the mile high citadel of Flagstaff, stopping for fuel and then a downhill slalom through the celestial ponderosa pines that blanketed the omniscient mountains, the Ford  journeying down from this enduring ambiance, its next projection  Kingman Arizona.    The throes of Kingman in the rear view mirror, a border crossing,   a hesitation for the Arizona-California state line inspection station.   Into the cauldron depth of  Needles California and the upcoming Mojave desert, its barren boundaries  stretching to Barstow.

The hour registered late afternoon,  a brief stop for fuel and a suggested six-pack of beer for the three to consume on the Needles to Barstow Mojave run.   The first indication of something being aberrant  was the appearance of desert water bags decorating the hood-ornaments of the oncoming cartage.   The surroundings giving way to insipid landscape frequented with desert bloom,  cacti and chaparral yucca,  a wonder to some,  but desolate to others.    Jerry was mindful of the engine temperature as the Ford continued to cruise Route 66,  the overhead sun basking the  wind-driven rays on the uncovered musician seated in the front seat.  the threesome, unaware of the ultra violet radiation consuming them.

The small town didn’t broadcast its name,  but the injured ones in the convertible found refuge in the air-conditioned diner.  The sunburn that permeated their appearance gave notice of the pain.   Gary concluding,  the combination of wind, sun and possibly the beer may have been the culprits responsible for their exposed now scorched facial  parchment.    After inquiring at the lone retail convenience establishment  adorning this wide-spot in the road,  the only available remedy to provide some solace was  a bottle of Jergen’s hand lotion.  The fragrance of the Jergens permeated the occupants, but the unrelenting discomfort continued serving notice,  never to venture thru the desert without covering.

Darkness having descended when the quandary travels became a talent of change,  their perception of the road was different, the three noticing the headlight illumination on the road appeared  dimmer.   The Ford projecting both an amp gauge as well as a generator light,  and it was then noticed a faint flickering glow from the dash light,  then finally it energized,  a steady red warning glow proclaiming its presence.  Continuing on Highway 58 toward Bakersfield,  the three realized the audacious consequences with a generator failure and as they continued,  their expectations of finding a solution was  wane.

Visibility was approaching inadequacy,  a decision to continue or stop was in mid discussion when miraculously a service station with garage appeared,  and even more astounding,  it was alight with patrons.  Disembarking,  explaining their plight,  finding the proprietary help only able to assist with a phone call,  expressing the nearest parts emporium would be closed,  and not available until morning.   Inside the open garage,  an individual was concluding activity on his transportation, having just replaced generator parts in his car.   Gary and Glenn addressed the garage work bench discovering old remnants from generator repair work, again approaching the attendant inquiring about them.  The attendant relating that they were remains of past work,  and in all probability were of no use.  After a brief discussion the two musicians deciding they might as well pull the Fords generator and at least give it a visual once over.

Rising the Fords hood, Glenn  removing the generator,  the two examining the brushes,  rotor and armature, Gary having been here before in high school auto shop,  finding the latter looking suspiciously damaged,  the armatures wiring looking parched.  On the bench amongst other parts was a similar looking armature, the two began to scrutinize whether it was any value not knowing its condition or even if it would fit.   Arrested with no meter to validate armature continuity, the two armatures appeared to look identical,  Gary suggested that it was worth a try, as they weren’t going anywhere anyway and once installed it would provide a yea or nay test of success.  Fate or luck, either was acceptable, later the hours before dawn finding Glenn navigating the Ford northwest,  the yea or nay generator test a resounding yea.   The ceasing of motion stirring a slumbering Gary and Jerry,  Glenn halting at the side of the road, a silent agreement,  a short recess for dormancy was in order before continuing on.

The morning dawn bringing the final leg of their quest, Jerry maneuvering the Ford maneuvering from Bakersfield heading north to Fresno on Highway 99,  the  long journey soon to end.  Once past Modesto,  Gary directing him to take the Tracy turn off, the wayfarers  soon traversing the wind-driven Altamont Pass and the Livermore Valley.  Passing the Dublin Canyon Road turnoff, cresting the rise looking towards the horizon  and the Oakland san Francisco bay area.  The three untouchables venturing into an uncharted west coast music arena

The Musicians Union…………………#96 (the 60’s)

December 20, 2016

The Ford convertible,  jaded from its sprint of traversing mountainous palisades and decumbent plateaus,  enduring searing temperatures and component failure,  finally achieving a placard of recognition at Gary’s parents’ house on Greenly Drive in Oakland.  The itinerant musicians fulfilling a 25 hundred mile quest from Indiana,  adding  a new chapter to a musical score entitled, California.  Over a year having transpired since Gary’s last return home, an air of  the past remained, recollections, the experiences,  and memories of youthful endeavors,  his boyhood home still commanding an atmosphere from its anointed past.

Unloading the Ford of its melodious burden,  the three comrades would domicile in Gary’s old room,   the downstairs apartment with its private entrance, his parents welcoming Jerry and Glenn with an acceptance equating family.  The travelers ready for an intermezzo, a time to reflect and chronicle an itinerary, to survey the location of local entertainment facilities and make an assessment of their employment possibilities.

The music trio discovering an unexpected dilemma,  California was an organized labor union state.  For a musician or musical group to conference or audition for employment required membership in the American Federation of Musicians, an affiliate of the AF of L,   with its approximately 100 member national and international unions retaining jurisdiction over a craft,  and full autonomy of their own affairs, gaining the right to bargain collectively for wages, benefits, hours, and working conditions.

Gary and Glenn finding upon closer examination, all services, including bartenders,  waitresses, delivery services,  involving a public entertainment facility in the San Francisco Bay Area embraced mandatory union membership.  An inquiry to musicians union  Local 6 in San Francisco, found that union membership for non-residents including first quarter dues would equate to $185 dollars per member.   The Trio was taken aback with this precipitous cost prohibitive disclosure, aspirations beginning to ebb,  with their diminishing funds a solution was not readily conceivable.

 

Perseverance,  resolution prevailed, Gary was not without supposition, advancing a prospective solution,  a telephone call to his aunt Loretta in San Francisco presenting the bands obstacle.  The phone call to his Aunt enabling the nephew to present the bands financial predicament and the possibility of financing of their union membership with the promise of repayment

 

The three musicians arriving in San Francisco at her Steiner St. address, Gary recalling the last time he was there was after his uncle Dino had passed and he was in high school.  His aunt letting him use his uncle’s Cadillac for school, but it was short lived as the Cadillac Fleetwood was deemed property of the estate and would have to remain in storage until settlement.  Concluding their brief stay,  Gary’s Aunt counting out six one hundred dollar bills, with a smile adding not to worry about paying it back. Gary always believed his aunt Lori was special, now she was esteemed, the musicians extending their gratitude, Gary not so much for the monetary capital but for her confidence in their endeavor.

The 53 Ford convertible once again burden with instruments parlayed across the scenic Bay Bridge, taking the ninth street exit,  entering the Tenderloin District of San Francisco achieving their destination at 230 Jones St., an edifice constructed in 1924 and home to the American Federation of  Musicians,  Local #6.   Entering the reception area of  the august building, finding two others prospective members seated,  the three inductees receiving application forms and upon completing the calligraphic aspects were asked to remain seated until called upon.

Gary noticing that one of the waiting individuals entered a large open accommodation room, removed a violin from its case and commenced to perform.   The second  seated person rising, accompanied by a representative to another adjoining area, with sheet music in hand seated himself at a  piano invoking the composition.  After a brief wait,  a union representative approached the remaining three, cordially addressing them about retrieving their instruments from the car,  then questioning whether they  preferred to apply as a group or individuals.  The decision was forthwith, it would be a group effort, the three hastily setting up the instruments, the official observer remaining  present, the Untouchables rendering a version of Yellow Bird, an acknowledged new instrumental hit by Arthur Lyman.  The official nodding his approval, the association with the union was confirmed,  with their payment, the Untouchables were now card carrying union members of San Francisco’s American Federation of Musicians, Local 6.

 

Approaching the bay bridge,  the Untouchables in an animate mood, one of confidence and attainment, now possessing the credentials to prospect for fame and fortune in the world of california entertainment.   The convertible beginning its traverse across the top deck of the premier span,  the view enabling the returning homespun musician,  to evoke memories of the past.  Their return to Greenly Drive, the group now accredited and licensing to venture into the land of musical opportunity, researching the bay-area periodicals.  Glenn and Gary finding many  perpetuating entertainment established venues with their prospective business hours and locations.   A decision being made to constrain their initial pursuance to the East-Bay rather than San Francisco, realizing they were strangers in a strange land,  but concluding that assertiveness,  cultivates discovery.

Meaningful Discovery………….#97 (the 60’s)

December 18, 2016

The band having secured their license from the Union to solicit for employment and were ready to sample the live music opportunities that the East Bay had to offer.  A decision being made it would be best to do their booking enquiries thru the week , accepting Gary’s parents weekend invitation to journey to pioneer, a Serra-Nevada Mountain way-stop  on highway 88 thru Kit Carson Pass.  Their property  still in the construction stage,  it’s colloquialism designation,  a cabin,  but in reality a future two bedroom small retirement home.   The purpose of the trip being to convey building materials for the ongoing project.

During Gary’s military service,  his dad having purchased an additional pick-up truck,  a quarter ton 1948 Chevrolet,  giving retirement status to the families 4 speed responsive 40 Chevy.   Setting about,  his parents occupying the piloting seat,   the three wayfaring  musicians occupying the pickup bed like steerage passengers, seated among the amassed construction  material.   Traversing thru the Livermore Valley,  it was soon discovered that the 1948 transports performance was struggling,  vacillating with hesitations.  Gary’s father finally halting its progress, diagnosing a fuel pump problem, and accordingly turning about, nursing the pickup back to Oakland before the fuel pump inadequacy caused a standstill.

The cargo transferred to the old responsive 4 speed 40 Chevrolet,  the group once again resuming their travel,  bound for the Sierras.  The three cohorts thankful that the building material in the back of the pickup,  providing some protection from the onrushing wind.  Leaving the stifling calamity of the San Joaquin Valley,  turning east on highway 88,  that venture east thru Kit Carson Pass to Nevada.   The rolling acclivity of the foothills becoming prevalent,  Gary pointing out to the California newcomers, the hillside mine tailings,  their residue giving notice of past excavation for the accolade of precious metals, gold.

The stage stop town of pioneer having remained.  a timeless remnant of the past  coming into view,   the encompassing travelers turning north, onto buckhorn ridge road, the last blacktop, a gravel and dirt trek for the remained of their journey.   the pickup making itself down the final dirt lane,  still very much familiar, Gary affronting the recollections of youth, the prospect of adventurer no longer the precursor of record, but still a viable memory.

Disembarking, viewing the raising walls predicated the sub floor, proclaiming a beginning credence to its oracle, a signature of accomplishment addressing the cabin structure.   The visitors more than willing to assist the elder Willson in the fabricating task at hand, their labor a welcoming  addition to the com plex, but Gary awaiting opportunity,  having another calendared event readied for activation.  The night in the forest laden environment was enshrouded in darkness, save the hue, and shadows cast by the pitted bellowing flames of the bond fire,  a much remember tradition from Gary’s past, its essence surrounded by a captive family.  The morning bringing an undertaking to corral the clandestine results of their fruition.   once accomplished, allowing the applauded help, time to begin a quest of promontory discovery,  a search for the hidden remains of past gold excavations.

The three explorers outfitted with a flashlight venturing down a path from Gary’s youth,  past the families natural water source, a spring discovered years ago still flowing from the track laden abandon mine.  Traveling deeper on the zoological trail with its tree enshrouded  canopy seeking signs of the vigilant mounds of mine tailings, remnants of past excavations.  Eureka!  A discovery of a pine needle covered mound leading from a draw, a positive sign of excavation.  With further investigation, behind the concealing brush the remains of a mine entrance, and from its appearance its ground level opening could be access from a prone position.   A closer examination found a steep sloping incline, Gary well aware of the possible danger of vertical shafts of twenty feet and deeper, having stumbled upon them in his youthful discovery era.  Knowing from experience, a first discovery would accelerate Jerry and Glenn’s enthusiasm just as his exuberant was vaulted in the past, noting that it was often ensued during haste and that inventiveness sometimes would preclude precaution.

An approach was conceived to ascertain the entrance could be breached and what lay beyond the entrance.  It was devised that Jerry would enter laying on his stomach breaching the entrance slowly lowering himself into the subterranean abyss, Gary would follow holding his legs and following suite, Glenn holding Gary’s extremities.  Jerry could then determine whether this was just an exploratory hole or the entrance to a once workable mine.  The results from Jerry’s observation were  discouraging,  if it was once an entrance the tunneling was no longer viable, having been sealed decades ago.  It was only after the abortive attempt did Jerry mention a concern about being first into the darken abyss,  the possibility of rattlesnakes.

The exploration continued with two other findings, both relics of the past with a non-attainable entrances and no certainty of opulence, but with the act of  discovery, Gary achieved introducing his friends to his youthful days and the sharing of the past.   The returning transit to the bay area was a non-event, the 22-year-old  Chevy still a reliable highway performer,  the returning  musicians once back in Oakland still hopeful of a discovery,  not a gold mine from the past, but a mother lode on the bandstand.

Common Practice Clause…………….#98 (the 60’s)

December 16, 2016

The three musicians began their forage for employment, but soon a sense of ambivalence was beginning to prevail,  the bay-area clubs hosting live music were mostly cataloged by music designation, country, blues, jazz, rock, Latin,    very few catering to a versatile band with a total inclusive repertoire.  A survey of several eastbay clubs distinguishing,  most were four piece bands with the basic two guitars, bass and drums, or if a five piece group,  an added instrument depending on the genre of the music.  Gary conjecturing it would be ambiguous to try and dislodge an acknowledged  country or top forty band with a confirmed cortege of followers,   but a struggling club might be open to a new musical venue.

It always made good business sense to have one individual represent the band,  as lounge and club managers preferred negotiating with a display of  leadership rather than a consensual group.  The Untouchable discovering two Eastbay  opportunities in Oakland presenting themselves,  the first in the 3200 block of East 14th Street,  and the second in the 94oo block on MacArthur Boulevard, both clubs laboring with four piece bands.

Jerry’s Ford once again journeying across the Bay Bridge,  the band members venturing to a downtown business district lounge on San Francisco’s Sutter Street.  The establishment was acknowledged to Sylvio Tognazzi,  Gary’s little known cousin by marriage, the son of his Aunt Loretta’s deceased husband Dino by his first marriage. His Aunt having ventured that the band might inquire with her stepson Sylvio, as his nightclub sometime frequented live entertainment.  Entering the club, the band discovering an interesting concept,  a small raised performing platform behind the bar,  a provisional area for entertainment.   A congealed  conversion with Silvio,  disclosing the club had provided entertainment during the busy afternoon and early evening hours in the past,  but by single or duo performers.  Gary thanking his cousin,   it was obvious the raised platform behind the bar lacked the stead to accommodate the band.

Returning to Oakland, Glenn readying his rehearsed trump card,  the  overall sound of five instruments, the club only having to compensate three musicians making up the  band,  the 2 Eastbay associations showing a definite interest.  An audition presentation for the East 14th Street  and MacArthur Boulevard clubs was in the makings,  but the band deciding to forgo the East 14th  club with its shot-gun bar, make-shift stage, and definite lack of atmosphere.    Audition for the MacArthur Boulevard lounge,  known as The Elbow Room was at `10 a.m.,  a time chosen to prevent disclosure of managements desire for a change from the current Latin band.

The Elbow Rooms street appearance was presentable,   the club having a luxurious mirrored bar on the south, the bandstand and dance floor on the west and able to seat 75 in a carpeted,  well decor atmosphere.  The band setting up on the dance floor to audition, Gary having mixed feelings about auditioning with the other bands equipment still on the bandstand,  and presumably unaware that they might soon be replaced.  It was confirmed The Untouchables would start the following Tuesday on an open-ended contract for five nights a week.

The Union contractual agreement signed by the club management that was filed with Local #6 of the musician union in reality didn’t correlate with the actual agreed upon terms.  The union contract imposing the union wage plus calling for an additional stipend amount if the band supplied a piano, a P.A. System and to compensate for the Band Leader position,  the Untouchables meeting this criteria.  Management offering a take it or leave lessor wage if they wanted the job, the owner advancing what he referred to as  a  ‘common practice clause’  in lowering the amount the band would receive,  asserting it was adherent of all the clubs in the Bay Area.  The union setting the contractual demands beyond what management would pay, even though a band was required to sign a receipt for the Union contract amount, Gary acknowledging a better term for the ‘common practice clause’ it was called  ‘kickback’.

The last time Gary ventured to the memorable  Lake Chabot golf course was in high school, the recollection of Hank Ball and him caddying on weekends and the many after school tee  offs indelibly etched in his memory.   Glenn and Jerry having never been exposed to the eighteen holes of challenge,  their expertise was limited to an entertaining past time called miniature golf, but this would soon change.   The three traveling to the  60018 yard par  72 course that opened in 1923, a five dollar rental fee provided a golf bag of used clubs enabling them to charge the fairways and hole the greens.

The scenic hill course a wonder, the feel of the clubs once again bringing back an awareness to the chapters of past events that had transpired.  Gary was absolute about one thing with introducing his friends to golf and to Chabot, its monstrous  673yard,  par 6,  18th hole, something that every golfer would remember, even these two novice’s.  Gary wasn’t at all surprised that once Glenn and Jerry experienced only what a golfer can, they would be hooked.

It was the unexpected of the expected.  Glenn’s wife June giving birth to a daughter named Kim and was in Lawton.  Glenn without hesitation making a decision to return by bus.   The club management somewhat unhappy about the short notice, but also the decline of the other bands regular following with the  change of music venue.  With Glenn’s departure, Gary was in a state of limbo, it was decision time, he could remain and return to the past, or venture on the uncharted highway of tomorrow.

Uncertainty A Destination…………….#99 (the 60’s)

December 14, 2016
The Twilight Zone episode coming to life

The Twilight Zone episode coming to life

The 53 Ford was laden with the band equipment and the clock having started for Jerry and Gary’s 1600 mile trek to Oklahoma.  Gary’s view of his East Oakland hills childhood home on Greenly Drive was in recession,  the landmark hillside mass extracted by the Gallagher and Burk quarry and the edifice of Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, a station for 6000 during WWII extirpating the advancing dysphoria that comes with goodbyes.  His brief return enabled a search for congruity, to establish an imprint rather than to absorb and reflect on the caliber of  his surroundings, but giving thought to his flight as an  opportunity or a prospective but still questionable and with his departure the chronicles would  remain as written.

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     The black 53 Ford Convertible peregrinating southeast on mountain boulevard to McArthur boulevard,  then eastward  on US 50,  the voyage just beginning.  Upon entering  Castro Valley an immediate complication,  a dashboard blinking red light once again appearing,  serving  notice of a generator in distress.   A sense of day ja view  beginning to prevail,  it was the same problem experienced on the bands trip west.   After a brief discussion,  the two musicians concluding that it was better to  resolve the problem now while in the civilized world,  rather than later in the middle of the Mojave  desert.   Exiting the highway into metro Castro Valley,  the search for an automotive repair  facility coming to a conclusion,  and with the installation of  a rebuilt generator,  the two stalwarts once again resuming the ambiguous journey,  Oklahoma their ambition,  uncertainty a destination.  With highway 50 merging with 99 north to Sacramento, the ford traveling south on 99 to Bakersfield, and the junction of 58 to Barstow.

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      Inaugurating 58, they passed a hitchhiker adorning a denim jacket, possessing a small suitcase satchel. Gary recalling, and mentioning to Jerry his thumbing days at Fort Ord,  and the unforgettable experience of an eighteen wheeler auto transport rig stopping for him and a soldier buddy named  Steward, being asked where they were headed and wanted off,  then told the cars were unlocked, realizing there wasn’t room for both of them in the cab. They rode from San Jose to Oakland in an upper trailer level new ford.  Continuing on, the two still keeping a watchful eye on the dash,  a lingering doubt still remained but confidence was prevailing,  the generator was behaving normally.  Hopefully this trip across the arid Mojave expanse to Barstow and beyond should go without incident.  Unlike their first encounter and the summer desert heat, unable to put the convertible top up because of a hastily storage arrangement.  This time the enclosed transport provided a more convening environment.    Oklahoma their ambition,  uncertainty a destination.

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     Neither Jerry or Gary having bequeath the weather a single thought,  residency in the bay area tends to make a person circumvent weather extremes,  especially in October,  but approaching  Flagstaff,  the temperature began dropping and a powdery light snow began to fall.  Jerry having a concern about antifreeze, noting that the Ford was devoid of the weather accommodating substance.   The two deciding on a brief stop to eat and gas up at a truck stop in Flagstaff,  questioning about the weather, the local attendant reassuring them that this early season powder would not hamper their travel.

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   The attendant was right, exiting town the snow ceased,  the Ford procuring its downhill eastward  journey,  and with their descent the sun once again proclaimed itself.  It was leaving Winslow that the two once again encountered an elapsed  hitchhiker in a denim jacket with a small satchel,  both commenting that this was the second time they had passed this person.  Gary having thoughts about a 1960 twilight zone episode, the Hitch-Hiker,  only it was Inger Stevens appraising the same hitchhiker several time during her travels.   The Californian mentioning the scenario to Jerry, both laughing, but it was agreed  upon,  if the traveler appears again, they would stop and accord his plight.

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   It was leaving Albuquerque, the two  in the Ford professing an upcoming truck-stop, noticing a person wearing a denim jacket and carrying a small suitcase satchel standing, thumb extending facing the oncoming traffic, it was the phantom traveler.   Without hesitation,  Jerry pulled the Ford to the side of the road,  the hitch-hiker approaching, thanking them, introducing himself saying he was traveling to Shamrock Texas.  When questioned about his thumbing conveyances, he related it was the big rigs that provided his rides, which answered the question of seeing more than once,.\ but to the two travelers in the ford,  the twilight zone still remained ominous.ud26ud27ud38

   The wayfarers of the highway arriving in Lawton,  fulfilling thirty-two hours of travel since leaving Oakland, their Castro Valley generator replacement stop included, the two weary travelers ready for a brief hibernation.   Glenn having rented the two bedroom side of a duplex for the couple and their new addition, mentioning to the west coast arrivals,  it could serve as a temporary reside pending getting their own  accommodation.  Glenn was true to his word, giving assurance, having booked them for the coming weekend.  Gary discerned it would take time for the group to reach a status of ascendancy,  but by renewing the initiative and collating their individual virtuosity, wonders could be accomplished,  and the untouchables would be ready to take on the competitive challenge.

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