THE OFFENDED WARD

“I promised myself I’d leave politics out of this.”

note: this story is being used as the ending to my latest book

A while back, I overheard a stranger say she’d been terribly offended by another person’s statement. There appeared to be tears in the woman’s eyes. I didn’t catch the whole conversation, so I had to leave things to my imagination.

Most likely, the offensive remark had something to do with social media. Perhaps someone expressed a differing political or religious opinion on Facebook or Twitter. That happens every five seconds give or take a second.

I’ve offended a person a time or two simply by voicing my thoughts, when in fact, they probably should have been kept under wraps. It happens, especially when you’re a writer. Several times I’ve had to apologize to friends and family over such.

I was defriended on Facebook by one individual regarding my viewpoints on politics. To me, it was silly, but evidently to the person opting me out it was much more serious. Not to be offensive, but thin skinned comes to mind here. The guy evidently needed to stop using lotion.

Hey, I should’ve been offended at times, yet the intended insults went flying directly over my head instead. Only after friends rehashed things did I finally see the light. One such remark has already been mentioned in this book.

It deals with an old truck I built, where I turned a guy’s slam into a compliment. The other one that I recall, regards a long beard that I wore for a couple of years. Initially, I took the negative statement as meaning they were jealous. It wasn’t until much later that this person told me the truth. They absolutely despised it. No harm done. I’m still alive and so are they.

It seems there’s an organized group of people throughout the United States, wanting to muffle anyone both verbally and literally, who disagree with their way of thinking. I promised myself I’d leave politics out of this. Hollywood elite are the loudest of the loud here. That’s only because they get radio and television coverage to express their viewpoints.

I’ll finish my life by not holding back on opinions, unless it’s Facebook of course. I told my daughter I’d bite my tongue before doing that. A couple of times I’ve slipped and thankfully she didn’t catch me.

Something needs to be done for those poor souls so easily offended and I believe there’s an answer. Hospitals should start construction of offended wards.

Whenever a person becomes highly offended like that man I encountered, they, or someone close to them, should immediately call for emergency help. Strapped to a gurney in an ambulance, they’d be quickly whisked away. A giant, open box of Kleenex’s at one of these wards would comfort the patient, along with trained therapy counselors.

Seem farfetched? Check back with me in 2055 and we’ll see if such becomes reality. Why 2055 you ask? That’s when I turn 101, the same number as there are stories in this book, and hopefully, the same number of books that sell by then.

Should you ever come to one of my birthday parties, and bring plaid pants and shirt, including red suspenders as gifts, call for an ambulance right away. Have it whisk me straight to “The Offended Ward” without stopping.

An ambulance responds to the scene of an offended person.

FAMOUS PEOPLE

“I didn’t intentionally plan on insulting the guy, yet sticking foot in mouth sometimes happens on its own.”

Brian Hitt

I’ve been in the company of several famous people or celebrities a time or two. Throughout 68 years, I’ve crossed their paths, observed, and even went to school with one. Other former students might’ve hit fortune and fame, but I don’t have any names jumping out at me like Brian Hitt’s.

Brian Hitt is drummer for REO Speedwagon and has been for a long time. That’s a rock group for those not into music. Brian attended East Anchorage High School in Alaska, graduating in 1972, like I did.

I recall several classes we took together. Mrs. McBeth’s geology class being one, and P.E. class, under either Coach Bob Durado or Coach Chuck White. I’m sure there were others I’ve forgot. The one thing I remember most about Brian, is him walking down the hall after class let out with pretty girls at each side. Brian Hitt had a huge following even back then.

In 1986, I met IndyCar driver, Rick Mears, in Portland, Oregon. I’d won tickets to the Portland 200 race through a Snap-On tools promo. Part of the prize package was an opportunity to attend a meet & greet session with Rick. I didn’t intentionally plan on insulting the guy, yet sticking foot in mouth sometimes happens on its own.

There was a short line of people waiting under a corporate tent for autographs. When it came my turn, I jokingly said to the famous racer,

“It must be hard competing with writer’s cramp.”

He stopped short on signing my poster and replied back with no expression whatsoever.

“Let’s hope that doesn’t happen!”

At this point, Mears was eager for the next person to step forward, most likely wanting me gone. My wife asked why I said such a stupid thing,

“It just came out.”

Rick Mears had been finishing up front in most all races leading up to this one, and he was the reigning IndyCar champion from the previous year. He finished 16th out of 21 participants at this event. It’s probably good he didn’t spot me in the bleachers after things were over.

Several years later, in 1993, I bumped into IndyCar champ Nigel Mansell at a K-Mart in Portland. Sponsored by the retail outlet, he was autographing photos at a table they set up. I had my picture taken with him, plus got his signature on a K-Mart hat. I made sure not to insult him like I had Rick Mears.

In the race, Nigel came in a competitive second, right on Emerson Fittipaldi’s back wheels. Evidently, the strain of signing signatures didn’t affect Mansell as much as it did Mears.

Actress, Della Reese, was riding in the back of a transportation cart in the Salt Lake City airport. This would’ve been around 2001. Unbeknownst to me, the driver of the cart needed to get around me. The fellow tooted his horn and I jumped out of the way almost falling. He slowed down and stopped, making sure I was okay.

Della cracked up and I did too. Recognizing the face, I waved at her, and she smiled back. Both of her hands were full. In just a matter of seconds, I sensed this lady was the real deal, much like her character, Tess, in Touched by an Angel.

In 1964, President Richard Nixon was in Alaska on a fuel stopover. I was fortunate to see him depart Air Force One through binoculars. He waved at the crowd, and I waved back, yet I doubt he noticed me amongst all the taller adults.

Pope John Paul II flew to Anchorage in 1981. I was a mere fifteen feet away from the religious leader as he slowly rode down Minnesota Boulevard, while standing and waving at bystanders in back of new Chevrolet pickup truck, surrounded by Plexiglas. They called this contraption, “The Popemobile.”

Even with my brief glimpse, there was a look of total peace on the pontiff’s face, something I’ve never observed on any mortal before or after. As far as that Popemobile goes, I had to laugh.

Roli, from reality television Counting Cars fame, was eating lunch in a local Lake Havasu City Mexican restaurant in 2019. We sat a few tables away from his entourage, which consisted of two other people. On the way out I nodded at him, and he returned the gesture. Car guys are good at remaining humble.

My wife and I traveled to Havasu from Anchorage in 1990 to attend the “Run to the Sun Car Show.” At his event, I heard someone paging Mike Love over the intercom. Asking someone if Mike Love had cars in the show, a vendor told me that he had several. The man then pointed to one hot rod in particular with Mike and a group of people standing around it.

I wanted to get an autograph but decided it best to wait until folks left. Several minutes passed and I looked over that direction, finding everyone gone.

Back in Anchorage, I informed numerous people I’d seen the famous Beach Boys singer at a car show but missed getting his autograph. It wasn’t until twenty years later that I discovered there were two Mike Loves. The one at the car show wasn’t the famous singer. He’s famous though, for being one of the finest automotive painters on the West Coast, if not the U.S.

Where actually meeting famous people in person is concerned, I have a total of four: Brian Hitt, Rick Mears, Nigel Mansell, and Mike Love. Yes, I was fortunate to finally meet Mr. Love a few years back. He’s a nice guy like the other three. They are indeed icons in their respective fields.

Surprisingly, these gentlemen have something in common with me.

We aren’t getting any younger!

“Popemobile” – Anchorage, Alaska – 1981

THIS OLD HOUSE

“Just recently, some friends in Anchorage informed us that our old house on Fern Lane is up for sale.”

334 Fern Lane

For 35 years, my family lived in the same house in Anchorage, Alaska. At 1,280 square feet, it wasn’t the biggest home in town, yet not the tiniest. Friends asked how we existed in such close quarters. The saving grace was that it had two bathrooms and three bedrooms, as small as they were. This place was a mansion compared to where I used to live.

For close to 13 years, my brother Jim, and our parents, took up residence in a 600 square-foot-trailer. It was a whopping 10 foot wide x 60 feet long. In our first three years, our mobile home was more like 240 square feet. That trailer was 8 feet x 30 feet in size. Being in the Air Force, Dad towed it to different bases all over the country with his car.

These days with both kids having left the nest, our house in Arizona is 1621 square feet not counting Casita and garage. The garage is actually bigger than the home itself. Only in Lake Havasu City can you get away with such. Thank you, Planning and Zoning.

Just recently, some friends in Anchorage informed us that our old house on Fern Lane is up for sale. I took a gander on Zillow to see how it appeared. Not a whole lot is different than when we sold it in 2010.

Some nights I lay awake, and can virtually open the door to that place and visualize every scratch and blemish in it. The current owners made some changes, but in my mind, I still know where things that aren’t right. Having 2-inch x 4-inch walls is one of them. In Alaska, you rarely see that anymore because extra insulation is needed, with 2-inch x 6-inch studs being the norm.

I spent many hours trying to keep that place glued together. During winter was the hardest. We had a sloped driveway, and on more than one occasion I discovered our car or truck at the bottom of the hill. Concrete had to constantly be salted and sanded. Buckets of both were kept near the front entrance.

During winter, I’d shovel a maze through snow in the front yard. That took lots of time each snowfall to keep it open. Carly & Simon, our Pekingese fur babies loved it so the effort was not in vain. By mid-winter, walls to the maze would be up to my waist.

Our former neighbors, Matt & Kim Stohr, still live across the street. Kim asked if we’d be interested in moving back to that location. I thought about it for a good while. It’d be hard at this point.

Unbeknownst to the current owners, we have pets buried in the backyard, and neighbors from long ago are now permanently gone. So many memories and most all of them good. I don’t think coming back would recapture life the way it used to be.

We purchased the place in 1977 for $75,000.00. It’s now listed for $349,000.00. To buy it at this price would be like doling out $35,000.00 for the same motorcycle you bought for $3,000.00, 45 years ago. I couldn’t do that no matter what.

Perhaps the number one reason for foregoing such is the size of the garage. It’s only 400 square feet. Tiny as it is, I build several cars in that cramped space lying on cold hard concrete. My body would now veto the idea of going back and doing that all over again.

We’ll have to pass on this old house. At this point in life, I like being mobile much the way I grew up. Traveling in an RV is as close as I can get to reexperiencing such. Hopefully, the next owner of 334 Fern Lane keeps it up like we did. My one message to them would be,

Keep plenty of salt and sand on hand because you’re eventually going to need it.

The only house with a blue roof.

SWAP-n-SELL

“The disc jockey had to assist many callers through their spiel, because they got stage fright being live on the air.”

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, I remember my Grandmother Hankins turning the radio on each weekday morning to catch up on local news. The radio host would read off a list of people currently in the hospital, including those released. This was early day, social media, without the flak. When I say flak, I mean totally negative remarks. More about that in a few seconds.

Grandma generally recognized those folks mentioned because she was a longtime resident of Vernon, Alabama. She practically knew everyone in town. At the conclusion of the show, the DJ announced the names of recently deceased residents and where their services were to be held. Hearing this news was depressing not only to Grandma, but to me as well, and I didn’t even know these people.

After this portion of the program was over, Swap-n-Sell came on. That’s when I tuned in with both ears. Residents called via rotary dial telephones and tried to explain what they were selling, with price. The disc jockey had to assist many callers through their spiel, because they got stage fright being live on the air. I recall Grandma chuckling when that happened.

A seller would leave their phone number for interested parties to call. Seller and buyer could then hash things out in private, which is the way it’s supposed to be done. Having a moderator helped things along here.

I’ve never peddled anything on Swap-n-Sell, but I have sold junk via online forums. Those can be a hassle because of flak from gadflies. A gadfly to me is nothing more than a person offering unwanted advice or criticism. There’s generally a purpose behind them doing such. They are pros at using flak to intimidate sellers.

Several months ago, a woman was trying to unload a bassinet on a popular online Havasu sales site. She asked a reasonable $40.00. Right off the bat, a couple of gadflies announced to the group that the seller wanted too much money. I looked at their Facebook profile, and immediately came to the obvious conclusion that these gals were way past childrearing years.

I suppose they wanted to steal the furniture and resell it for profit. Gadflies often work that way. I was happy to see this bassinet go in spite of efforts to cripple the sell. I’m hopeful the seller got full asking price.

Recently, I listed a motorcycle on one of those same sites. Within minutes, I had a few comments from fellows trashing my bike, and another guy claiming it was way overpriced. I ignored them which is the best thing to do. “Don’t feed the trolls!”

A good friend of mine, Jim Brownfield, explained to me that sometimes buyers believe something’s wrong with a car, motorcycle, or boat, when the price is low. Taking his advice, I cancelled my listing and waited a few weeks. I then relisted it for double the money. My Harley sold the next day without discount.

If Grandma Hankins were still alive, she’d have no use for gadflies and trolls on her computer. A troll is a gadfly, possessing unlimited flak. They toss out insults merely for a response and nothing more.

If she could reach down from Heaven with a superlong flyswatter, she’d smack those folks upside the head with it.

If allowed by higher authority, I believe Grandma would start her own online sell group and moderate things from up there, using that swatter as needed. She’d simply call her show, Slap-n-Sell.

Grandpa & Grandma Hankins – 1963

JOHN KELLY – MICHAEL KELLY

“He was one of those guys that everyone liked.”

Michael Boyd Kelly

John Phillip Kelly Jr. and Michael Boyd Kelly didn’t know each other. John died 33 years before Michael was ever born. They could’ve been related, but only God or a family genealogist would know for sure.

I knew Mike Kelly from junior high and high school. He delivered the Anchorage Times newspaper going back to the days when I did. We’d bump into each other on occasion at the newspaper office. I considered him a friend and we often talked. He was one of those guys that everyone liked.

Johnny Kelly was a bit before my time. I came across his name while researching the Smoky Hill River in Kansas. This river runs through Salina in the western part of the state. Smoky Hill River is where Johnny met his demise. When I started reading the newspaper article dated August 2o, 1921, it was strangely similar to how my friend, Mike, died.

June 19, 1921

In one of my East High yearbooks, I keep newspaper clippings about Mike Kelly and his unfortunate accident. I was at Hope, Alaska that day with a friend, Jeff Thimsen, when Mike drowned. We saw the ambulance and police cars but didn’t realize it was him until returning home. Mike was gold mining with another friend of ours, Bill Lowe, and some of his pals when the incident occurred. Mike, Bill, Jeff, and I had only graduated from East High two months previous in 1972. It’s now coming up on 50 years since Mike’s death (August 20th).

Johnny Kelly has been gone for 101 years now. Reading about John’s death, I can feel the pain that his mom went through. I can’t imagine losing a child being that she’d already lost her husband. According to the article, Johnny Kelly was well liked in Salina, Kansas. I’m sure he was fun to hang out with. Michael Kelly fits the same mold.

I composed this piece as a way to remember them both. Everyone has a story to tell. Sadly, the only way John and Mike get to tell a small part of theirs, is from the grave.

Died – August 20, 1972

Died – June 19, 1921

SIGNS

“These days, some businesses around town would bend over backwards to hire such people.”

1971

It’s that time of year when political signs sprout up like scorpion weed on street corners. Being that I’m the one driving, I see them, but then again, I don’t. I’m generally watching out for crazies trying to run over our little car more than anything.

The other day my wife said to me, did you see so and so’s sign back there? That’s the first time she’d noticed this particular candidate. I told her I didn’t have a chance to look, because a lifted Dodge pickup suddenly changed lanes, almost knocking us into the left-side pocket like an eight-ball.

Folks are now complaining as they always do about election signs uglying up our city. Webster’s doesn’t recognize the word uglying. They should. I use it all the time.

Personally, I have zero problem with political signs, as long as they aren’t blocking my view while driving or being some kind of visual hazard. I suppose in some countries like communist China and Russia, residents don’t have to put up with them.

Political signs are similar to the loud military aircraft and helicopters flying in and out of Lake Havasu City Municipal Airport. Some folks voice disapproval about them as well. They evidently don’t view this noise as the sound of freedom.

Running for public office is a thankless task. Time taken away from family, friends, and hobbies to try and make things better for all citizens is a sacrifice. Just trying to get elected is an ordeal. Let candidates have their election signs for a few months. They’re as American as apple pie and Chevrolet. I can deal with red and blue signs more than I can dodging all that debris on Highway 95. Now that’s something to fuss about.

In 1971, a song came out about signs performed by the Five Man Electrical Band. Starting lyrics are most memorable,

And the sign said, long-haired freaky people need not apply.

In 68 years, I’ve never come across a sign dictating such. Something tells me the band made things up. These days, some businesses around town would bend over backwards to hire such people. Evidently, Five Man Electrical Band had no issue with political signs, otherwise they would’ve mentioned it in their lyrics.

Some signs we don’t need, but political signs we do. The moment those signs come down because they’re labeled an eyesore, will be a terrible day in the USA!

2022

.

3035 ROSE STREET

“The day I came home from work and my wife handed me a certified letter from the Municipality of Anchorage will never be forgotten.”

3035 Rose Street as seen today

I told the story of 3035 Rose Street in my book, Ordinary, Average Guy – Uncensored Memoirs of a Trailer Park Refugee. The chapter is titled, “Nightmare on Rose Street.”

It’s one of those life adventures that wasn’t so funny back then, but now I chuckle each time I think about it. I’ve repeated this story countless times with some listeners undoubtedly believing I exaggerated things. Not so. You can’t make this stuff up.

The day I came home from work and my wife handed me a certified letter from the Municipality of Anchorage, stating that she was operating a junkyard will never be forgotten. The expression on her face is priceless!

A follow up letter from the city with pictures claimed there were 37 vehicles in all states of disrepair on the property. Driving over to investigate, I counted 49. It was a rental back then.

This residence still exists as the attached photo shows. Thankfully, we’re no longer connected to it.

BIAS

“The congregations of most Baptist churches would undoubtedly be labeled right wing extremists by this crowd and CNN.”

I’m always picking news articles apart where a reporter’s unquestionably “leaning to the left.” I’ve done a lot of that here lately. It’s been getting worse over the past five years. I’m sure those on the other side of the fence are claiming just the opposite.

I suppose it’s tough being a reporter and leaving personal opinion out of things. I couldn’t do it. Walter Cronkite came across as unbiased on his daily television news show. So did Huntley and Brinkley. I’m dating myself here. It would’ve been interesting hearing those fellows after they had a good dose of truth serum.

There are subtle ways a person can get their thoughts across without uttering a word. For me, most every time I hear someone mention the name, Joe Biden, I shake my head in disgust. The person doing the yapping generally sees I’m not a fan and shuts up. On the other hand, if they believe as I do, that opens up flood gates to a rant.

Should I say out loud what I truly believe about our current political situation, some would label me an extremist. That’s what the leftist crowd does to folks not adhering to their ideology. The congregations of most Baptist churches would undoubtedly be labeled right wing extremists by this crowd and CNN. Other churches perhaps not so much. Many of them are weak and “go with the flow” instead of preaching the Bible and stepping on toes.

I try not to argue politics or religion with anyone. It’s a waste of time. My opinion is my opinion and the WOKE crowd isn’t going to change it.

If I were a reporter, it would have to be in sports. Bias is welcome with open arms in that arena. Everyone knows, or should know, that the Arizona Cardinals is the best NFL football team in the league. Arizona Diamondbacks without question is the top National League baseball team. Where high school football and basketball teams in Mohave County are concerned, the Havasu Knights lead the pack.

For those not believing as I do on this, I’ll stay mum and simply shake my head.

MASTER MECHANIC or FLEDGLING WRITER?

“We’ll simply call him, Ajax Warthog.”

Most writers have their own unique writing process. I suppose some stuffy literary experts would say one version is better over another. They’d definitely shake their heads at mine. I don’t listen to those people anyway. I’ll now quote, out of context, former first lady, Hillary Clinton, “What difference does it make?”

I use the term writer quite loosely in describing myself. I’m strictly a hobbyist and struggle putting words to paper, using dictionaries, spellcheck, and writing guidebooks to help me along. Some authors I know like, Helen Hegener and Professor Michael Burwell, are naturals and know their stuff. If you were to ask what I’d like to be called, “Master Mechanic” comes to mind.

My mechanic friends will laugh at this self-bestowed title because they know it isn’t true. An okay technician at best, I eventually get the job done. The master mechanic misnomer goes back many years.

A mechanic working in Bethel, Alaska was notorious for never getting his maintenance work completed. He was an expert at filling out paperwork saying that it was. I won’t mention the fellow’s real name because that wouldn’t be kosher. We’ll simply call him, Ajax Warthog.

I was flown to Bethel by my boss to take care of work that Ajax was supposed to have done. He’d documented all was finished, yet when I started checking things out, it was checked off by pencil only.

I spent a good week in Bethel finishing up some of his projects. After I left, other Anchorage mechanics went out there to do the same. On the man’s toolbox was a fancy sign saying, “AJAX WARTHOG – MASTER MECHANIC.” I took a photo, and the picture went viral in our shop. Ajax was eventually relieved of his duties.

Getting back to my writing process and how it relates to mechanics. I use this site strictly as a tool for perfecting my work, including storing it. An idea is first composed in my head, and then written down via Microsoft Word. I have a hard time editing stuff there, so it’s copied and pasted to WordPress.

The literary mechanics of this process allow me to look at sentence and paragraph structure from different angles. It’s kind of like installing drum brakes on a car. Just because all of the springs go on doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in the right holes. Both literary composition and mechanical repairs oftentimes have to be tweaked.

When I finally publish a story, article, or whatever on WordPress, it immediately goes to all that subscribe via email. That initial publication is never totally free of typos or mistakes. I’ve been asked by some subscribers about such.

The blunders are eventually corrected, but unfortunately, those corrections don’t show unless a reader goes to http://www.michael-hankins.com afterwards. That’s just the way it works and I can’t change things.

I sometimes spend weeks “reworking” the same article. There are nights when I wake up, suddenly thinking of a better word to use. I’ll quickly turn on the computer and change things out. It’s an unorthodox process but one that works for me.

Unlike Ajax and his mechanical assignments, I eventually get my literary compositions perfected and ready to send out to publications. Even at that point they’re not 100% error free. I know editors will take care of the ones I missed, or at least I hope they do.

A book of mine that was recently published has some deliberate grammatical errors in it. I informed the editors to leave them as is because they went along with the book title, “Ordinary, Average Guy – Uncensored Memoirs of a Trailer Park Refugee.” No one reading a book by that name would expect to find perfection.

If I were to label the type of writer I am, fledgling comes to mind. Call me, “Fledgling Writer.” To my mechanic friends having never heard this term, it simply means, brilliant.