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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Swimming Lesson

The author, standing second from the left, remembers a real-life Wendy Peffercorn and J.Edgar Hoover while growing up in the seaside Shangri-La of La Jolla



By Harry Cummins

     In the early 1950's, I spent summers learning how to swim at a bewitching local resort. In the winter I would wait wide-eyed for Christmas and my personal visit from America's top crime fighter, Mr. J. Edgar Hoover.  In short, I was just another disadvantaged kid living a lucky life of  intrigue and romance under the umbrella of palm trees and adolescent innocence.

     In those days, my mother worked the night shift as a nurse at the original Scripps Hospital on Prospect Avenue. As a result, I  took up residence among a motley gang of youngsters at the Gillispie Cottage, a way station for underprivileged children of single mothers and working parents, serving the posh California community of La Jolla.  Its founders, pediatrician Samuel Gillispie and his wife, Ada, were on the leading edge of early childhood learning long before nursery schools became the standard.

     Today, Gillespie Cottage has evolved into The Gillispie School, a prestigious K-6 institution of high learning and even higher tuition. Now sporting rigorous curriculum development to include arts,music,and physical education,the Gillispie School has received national awards from Apple and the National Association of Independent Schools.  All this was a long way off for us "ground-floor"groupies of the 1950's.

     Every summer,  the original 'Cottage Kids" were treated to swimming lessons and poolside lunches every week by the benevolent ladies of the Gillispie Foundation. A couple of times a week, we were transported to the nearby Del Charro Hotel, it's kidney-shaped swimming pool and secluded lanais a magnet for it's hush-hush guest list of the famous and infamous.

     The Del Charro Hotel was NOT an ordinary hotel and certainly not an ordinary guest list.  I only came to understand this many years later. Originally the area was a riding school for girls on the outskirts of town. In 1951, the La Jolla Stables were purchased by Texas oil multimillionaire Clint Murchison, who converted the stables into bugalows and built a Spanish style, tile roofed luxury hotel on the site. Room rates started at $100 a night at the new playground on Torrey Pines near Ardeth Road.  It became my playground as well.

     The Del Charro's  proximity to the Del Mar racetrack drew a checkered summer crowd of Mafia figures, Hollywood celebrities, and politicians.  John Wayne, Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Joan Crawford, and Richard Nixon were among the frequent  guests.

     So was J. Edgar Hoover and his companion, FBI deputy Clyde Tolson, the pair spending every summer at the Del Charro.  In the winter, at Christmas, Hoover and Tolson would visit Gillispie Cottage and present each child with a Christmas present along with a personally signed greeting card from the FBI.

   

   

   
                                     
The author on the far right, with coveted Christmas card in hand from "pal" J. Edgar.
   

         Little did I know at the time what significant events in American history might have taken shape in those secluded Del Charro bugalows occupied by leading political figures, the super rich, Texas oilmen, and organized crime members.  There is sufficient information available today to satisfy the most ardent conspiracy theorists and those wishing to journey down the rabbit hole of fact and fiction.  I didn't have time for any of that then, or now, for that matter.

        I can remember seeing a lot of important looking and beautiful people pool side in those impressionable days, but I only had eyes for Nancy Kindall, our Del Charro swimming instructor for the summer.  I was 'Squints' and Nancy was 'Wendy Peffercorn', forerunners personified of that unforgettable 1993 movie classic The Sandlot.

     I never faked drowning that summer, but I did feign learning how to swim to elicit extra attention from Nancy.  If mermaids existed, surely Nancy Kindall was one. When I found out that she lived just down the alley from my mom and I, I would often hide out behind a nearby garage to get a glimpse of her ascending or descending a large stairway leading to her small apartment behind La Jolla Elementary School. My hormones were on perpetual watch, eagerly awaiting our next close encounter under the guise of a swimming lesson.

     Developmental experts tell us that important life lessons can be learned early.  From the still shimmering remains of a nearly forgotten childhood, I now surmise this much to be true: 

    ...that pubescent passion can be a precursor to a more textured love....that prominent people are capable of unsettling things..that tough and tender get inexplicably mixed up in people and places...and a hidden, deeper life, still swirls all around us.

     A wading pool can become an ocean once you learn how to swim.






Harry Cummins is a free-lance writer now living in Portland, Oregon.



Friday, July 3, 2020

Once Upon A Time On The 4th of July.....


By Harry Cummins



     Thirty-seven years ago today, I was in the grip of the greatest summer of my life.

     I was house sitting a brownstone on West 83rd street in New York City, my days
unencumbered by traditional employment.  It was 1983 and I was as free and easy that summer as a Dwight Gooden fastball.

     On a sweltering July 4, I found myself part of a holiday throng of 41,000 at Yankee Stadium to celebrate a Yankees clash with their rival, the Boston Red Sox.  Boston had taken two of the first three games of the series, collecting nine home runs and 38 hits in the process.  They were as hot as the 94 degree temperature that baked the storied stadium.

     Dave Righetti was on the mound for the Yankees with a 9-3 record and just two years removed from being named the American League rookie of the year.  It was apparent early, that 'Rags' had it going on.  He struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced.

     Righetti took a 4-0 lead and a no hitter into the 9th inning that day, and the Stadium was alive.  We were on our feet as he walked to the mound to throw the final inning.  Yankee manager Billy Martin said that he prayed for the first time in his baseball career. Home plate umpire Steve Palermo said he didn't even know Righetti was just 3 outs away from baseball immortality. The Yankee southpaw had been snubbed in the voting for the upcoming All-Star game and Palermo thought the applause was intended as a sendoff in recognition of his great first half of the year.

     After walking the first batter, Righetti retired the next two hitters and came face to face with Wade Boggs, the last man standing between him and the first regular season no hitter at Yankee Stadium in 32 years.  Boggs hit .361 that season, and was the toughest hitter in the league to strike out. He was leading the major leagues in hits as he stepped into the batters box.

     Righetti ran the count to 2-and-2.  He has already thrown 131 pitches in the game.  On pitch 132, Boggs swung...and missed.  Righetti thus joined Satchel Paige (1949), George Mullin (1912), and George Wiltse (1908) as the only 4 pitchers to ever unfurl Independence Day no-no's.

     Later that night, I sat on the banks of the East River and reveled in the spectacular fireworks display that ended a most memorable American holiday.

     The next morning, I walked to the corner news stand to snare a copy of the Post.  "Yankee Doodle Dandy" the perfect headline proclaimed.

     That was once upon a time when we were still allowed to gather for fireworks and baseball.....a time when a serendipitous headline maker topped a summer of  uncloistered imaginings.



Happy Fourth of July, 2020.






hcummins@aol.com

   

   

   

   

   

Monday, June 8, 2020

More Than Meets The Eye



By Harry Cummins


     I've always viewed reality, of itself, in a somewhat suspicious light.

     This pervading notion of the real world, the one cynics and scoffers so readily welcome us to, is made manageable only when first mapped out on the tangents of my own imagination.  For me, this is how it works.  The same may not be true for you.

     It is now my firmly held belief that imagination, this ability to see behind and beyond things, is essential to any sorting out of the truth. In this current climate of pandemic and protest, it has never seemed more important to gain a little more insight into what my place is, what my proper response should be, in this unrecognizable world.

     Like lost apples in Eden, it has become painfully apparent that good things no longer grow unspoiled.  We must work to clear off the pesticides from a polluted age.  In an effort to become authentic human beings, our imaginations are like road maps to these places of restoration not seen with the naked eye.  Places reached only thru passion and persistence.

     If all this sounds abstract, it is our task to make it specific.  What works for  me may not work for you.  We all have been given a gift by what is happening all around us today. Imagination can form in solitude as well as in collective causes.  I am suggesting we all need a passion for those places around us that suggests there is more than meets the eye. More to this life than what we witness on network news.

    As a sports writer many years ago, I became friends with John Curry, a British figure skater who later went on to win an Olympic Gold Medal in 1976.  In a dinner conversation one night, I remember him saying, "we all need to discover something that burns a hole in the heart."

     I believe this is our Great Work, a work in progress if you will, a journey in which we will never arrive and find no other place to go.

     The truth about ourselves, if it is ever to be trusted, must be on-going.  Our Burning Place often hides..... just out of sight.




hcummins@aol.com
photo: hcummins

   

   

Monday, June 1, 2020

Above The Rim...A Far Greater Glory

John Rudometkin- 1940-2015  (Pictured here in 1962 game vs Jerry Lucas and Ohio State)


By Harry Cummins

     After all, it is one thing to play the game of basketball and another thing, entirely, to live a life.

     I had yet to grapple with such inherent complexity in 1970, that same year I first met John Rudometkin.

      I was a young sports-focused journalist on assignment from an East Coast magazine and had arrived in the early morning hours at Rudometkin's Fresno, California home to profile the nearly forgotten former All-American.

     My interview request had been precipitated by a succession of unaccountable events that had baffled medical science.  After an arduous struggle, Rudometkin had just beaten a rare and inoperable cancer.  The doctors who recognized a terminal cancer case when they saw one, had once advised family members that the end was near.  These same doctors were now running tests on his blood to determine if he might have had certain anti-bodies in his system that could be used to cure others.

      I sensed I was about to confer with a miracle.

     Later that morning, I remember the 6'6" Rudometkin, totally cancer free, emerge from the tool shed in back of his house, a timeworn basketball firmly in his grasp. The adulation of the crowd was long gone then.  So, too, were the acrobatic moves that once prompted famed Los Angeles Lakers radio announcer Chick Hearn to dub him "Rudo the Reckless Russian." Those same moves that prompted the New York Knicks to select John as the 9th overall pick in the 1962 NBA draft.

     A salvo of shots soon began to arch their way through the net and bounce crazily off the the dirt surface.

     "I guess you never lose that touch," he laughed.

      Until the sad day many decades later, (2015) when he passed away of chronic lung disease at the age of 75, John Rudometkin never lost his touch.


     He never lost that human touch bestowed on the wife and 3 sons left behind.  Never lost that touch embraced by his basketball family who still celebrate Rudometkin as one of the greatest players in University of Southern California history.  Never lost that touch that memorialized the courts of Santa Maria High School and Allan Hancock College in central California.

     His number 44 still hangs in the USC rafters..his name enshrined in the cardinal and gold Hall of Fame. His luminescent statistics seem irrelevant to this story.  His collegiate coach, Forrest Twogood, flately called Rudometkin "the greatest player I ever coached."  In 1962, he joined an illustrious AP All-American team which featured future NBA greats John Havlicek, Jerry Lucas and Dave DeBusschere.

     Rudometkin also never lost that touch for others, traveling across the country as a ministering associate evangelist for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It was a different kind of glory than he once experienced from those celebrated years at USC, and those abbreviated stints in the NBA.  The crowds were quieter, save a hearty amen now and then.

     Beset by chronic fatigue and his yet undiagnosed physical condition, John Rudometkin failed to enjoy predicted success as a professional basketball player.  He was eventually released by the San Francisco Warriors, whose front line at the time included the likes of Wilt Chamberlain and Nate Thurmond.  After just two and a half frustrating seasons in the NBA, unbeknownst to John, a tumor surrounding his heart and lungs was expanding rapidly.

     Why, he wondered, had it suddenly required unnatural effort to run up and down the court?  Where was the burning desire to push himself beyond his capacity, the trade mark of his earlier style of play? Soon after his release from the Warriors, Rudometkin found himself paralyzed in a hospital bed, close to death. It was a siege that lasted seven months, sending him into convulsions.

    What he ultimately gleaned while dangling on death's abyss, John explained in this later conversation:  "It was at that time that an unexplainable certainty came over me. It was a much bigger game, a different set of rules, but I couldn't ever give up. My trust in God had, above all, become very real to me."

     Sometimes life presents a window which we can see through... to the underlying coherency in this world. The player that USC teammate Chris Appel once described as having"the same court creativity as Kobe Bryant," had been given an extended, albeit painful, time to stare thru such a window.

     Many years after our interview, I received another letter from John describing how a fire had broke out in his home on Halloween eve.  His wife and boys narrowly escaped injury.  The house, however, was totally destroyed.  All of Rudometkin's trophies, awards, and keepsakes were lost.

     "You know", he wrote, "I realized then that those things no longer meant that much to me. God had replaced that part of my life with something far greater."

     Fighting thru a lifetime of health anxieties and the aftermath of cancer treatments, much of John Rudometkin's final years were accompanied by an oxygen tank to help him breathe.  I never knew the degree of his daily suffering.

     Recently, I happened to chance upon the old Walt Disney movie classic, 'The Absent Minded Professor' which tells the zany tale of a professor/scientist who rigs a basketball game by ironing a miraculous substance onto the soles of the home team's shoes.  Once those players take to the court, they bound high over their taller opponents, high above the rim.

     In what remains a stroke of perfect casting, John Rudometkin was selected as one of those real life basketball players used in the making of that film.  Today, the memory of John's honorable life allows my own life to ascend a bit further in search of higher ground.

     John called me one afternoon a few years before his death.  He would always begin our conversations with "How's my brave buddy"?

     In reality, he was the brave one.  His example, his touch for life, was a towering influence in helping me understand the exalted lessons and miracles that reside above the rim...above our natural impulses.

     Yes, it's another thing, entirely, to live a life.    I understand now.
In  Memoriam



hcummins@aol.com

This story is also dedicated to every player, coach, and administrator at every level of basketball. Those who pursue their chosen sport with passion and who also aspire to make a significant difference in the lives of others.

As they say at John's alma mater... FIGHT ON!!!

   

   

   

 

   

   

   

     

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Kiyokawa Crawford Search

By Gregory Crawford @wchoops

Craw’s Corner is always brought to you by Kiyokawa Crawford LLC.

A brand new division has been formed at Kiyokawa Crawford LLC and it is called Kiyokawa Crawford Search. The name is perfect, as whether you are an employee or you are an employer,, we will lead the SEARCH for your future place of employment or future employee.

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Thank you,

Gregory Crawford, COO Kiyokawa Crawford LLC

Saturday, May 30, 2020

“The Kiyokawa Crawford 26”

By Gregory Crawford @wchoops

Lots of preparation, homework and late nights, but it is all worth it. “The Kiyokawa Crawford 26” is here and here to stay.

What is it ? The Kiyokawa Crawford 26 was developed to help people succeed and become leaders. And it will help you no matter what the subject, be it professionally or personally.

Yes cost is important and we have tailored this program to fit your budget whether you are a business, group or individual. This truly is an opportunity not to pass on.

Finally, we have an individual who is both our Chief Strategist and Senior Advisor who made a career out of teaching people to be successful and leaders, he is Coach Dave Rice.

To find out more at no obligation, please email kiyokawacrawford@gmail.com and response will
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Friday, May 29, 2020

The Aftermath Of A Sports Sabbatical

Will only the hard-core fan return?


By Harry Cummins


     Several years ago, in order to ensure the safety of our neighborhood, a key overpass linking us to the West was shut down for emergency reconstruction.

     Out of necessity, all traffic ceased and was diverted to the East.  For many, it opened a whole new landscape for local residents.

     We were now exposed to the verities of a wider world.  Suddenly, we found meaningful discovery in another direction.  Ultimately, many found a more satisfying utilization of shopping and entertainment resources.  How we spent our time had been critically reshaped.

     With the extended Western world sabbatical from spectator sports now entering its fourth month, the migratory patterns of sports fans could be permanently altered as well.

     Once the overpass project was completed in our neighborhood, one of the ultimate winners was a nutritional enterprise appropriately named...New Seasons.

     Possibility in the politics of movement.