Who is Benito Badoglio

Paper

Reed Books: The Museum of Fond Memories in downtown Birmingham, Alabama is a destination no bibliophile, antiquer, or ephemera collector should miss. Jim Reed, proprieter, is usually behind the counter, a wall of stuff where he has carved out a place to perch, and ring up sales. Sue and I stopped in again while I was in the Magic City for Y’all Connect, a blogging and social media conference. Reed Books is a wonder. Don’t look for anything, is my advice. Let an item find you as wind, meander, and wend your way through a sarcophaguas of paper entrails.

Book

“Did you ever read this?”

I glanced at the cover, it didn’t look familiar.

“No, I don’t think so.”

As one of Sue’s favorite books as a child, her eyes lit up recalling the adventures of the main character and how much she knew I was going to love the book. She handed it to me to look at, but I refused, saying, “Just buy it.”

The Hat, written and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer, was published in 1970 and quickly fell out of print, but it continues to be a highly rated and sought after children’s picture book.

It wasn’t until Saturday night, back home in Fairhope, that we finally got around to reading the book.

“Read the The Hat to me,” I said to Sue as we sat together on the love seat in our living room.

The book cover doesn’t show you much, it’s just a bunch of colorful heads looking up at a hat, but when you turn to the cover page there is man in a weathered soldier’s uniform with chin whiskers, crutches, wearing a peg leg and a charming hat. Okay, so I’m totally intrigued as Sue starts reading.

“A tall black top hat, shiny as satin

            and belted with a magenta silk sash.”

The hat comes alive on the head of our main character, Benito Badoglio, a down on his luck veteran. The Hat begins doing good deeds and saving people from physical harm, and Benito is the benificiary of their generosity.

With his rewards Benito Badoglio bought clothing to match his hat.

Sue turned the page. Benito was transformed!

He had his peg leg fitted with a silver wheel.

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Badoglio’s kicking up dust in his practically preposterous wheeled prosthesis. The crutches are gone, replaced by a highfalutin, yet functional cane. I wish I knew of this book when I was a child because I was fascinated with wheels. Matchboxes, Hot Wheels, Big Wheels, training wheels, bicycles, and especially skateboards, which is a subject I’ve  written about here. We did not have many books in our home. We went to the library occasionally, but we were not a family of book readers. When I played with cars, lying leg free in the dirt beside the driveway, I was in a world of my own. I can only wonder what what my imagination would have done with Benito Badoglio’s silver wheel.

Wheels

A couple of months ago, I bought a slightly used set of wheels for myself. I’ve got mixed feelings about the Drive DV8 Steerable Knee Walker. Instead of getting out of bed and using my crutches to get around the house I’m trying to use the knee walker. It’s not as practical, or as manuerable to me as my crutches, or “sticks”. It’s got the nice channeled knee pad for my stump, and I can sit down on it. The knee walker is safer, and sturdier than my crutches, and it’s good to have alternative forms of transportation available. It takes some getting used to, and I’ve nicknamed it Luke, because whenever I think knee walker, I say Skywalker.

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Rolling

After an hour and thirty minutes and $35 at Reed’s, here’s a list of what came home with us.

  •   TV Guide. March, 1977 Quincy cover featuring Jack Klugman, who Sue adores.
  •   Lectures Delivered in New York at the New School for Social Research by Thomas Mann on Freud, Goethe, and Wagner in April, 1937.
  •   Practical Zoölogy
  •   The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore. Massage, not message is the actual title.
  •   A Still from Jaws. Michael lying on the beach after a scrape with the shark. Just before this scene was when the sailing coach’s leg sinks.
  •   Four totally overpriced ($1 each) retro postcards that I had to have for my collection. Electra, Five Points, Greetings from Birmingham and Rickwood Field
  •   The Hat, by Tomi Ungerer

While in Birmingham, we walked around Railroad Park and Regions Field, home of the Birmingham Barons minor league baseball team. It is a wonderful downtown redevelopment. Right across the street from the main entrance to the baseball field was a place for skateboarders that was blended seamlessly into the park’s urban landscape.

As we were walking along the side I saw these bowls in the middle of the sidewalk in various sizes. Then I saw the liabilty warnings about skateparks.

“I would so drop in if someone came by with a skateboard right now,” I told Sue, who immediately looked toward heaven, probably saying thanks for letting skateboarders sleep in during the summer. I’m not completely irrational, but I can be impulsive. In hindsight, it was probably better there were no skateboarders around that day because in all likelihood, I would have broken something.

Benito Badoglio is now part of my amputee catalog, and his silver wheel has given me an idea. Age shouldn’t be a limitation to amputee mobility, even when you’re not wearing a prosthesis.

If I go to the Y’all Connect conference next year, I’m going back to Railroad Park. I might just doff the leg and drop in on my knee walker.

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Tenders of Information, Libations, and Patrons

The restaurant patio was quieter than the library. There was one woman sitting outside, with a dog lying by her feet. Sue and I walked into the bar at Cosmo’s in Orange Beach and quickly realized we were the only patrons inside. It was 3:30 on the first good beach day in about a week and we were greeted by several staffers. They set tables and did other chores in advance of the maddening red-skinned, owl-eyed tourist hordes that would descend in a few hours seeking liquids and a late dinner.

I had just gotten the news that a former staff member died. Jill was only 35 when “Her heart stopped.” I was shocked by it, and yet I really didn’t know her, outside the library. Except for the time that she almost ran me over in her black SUV shortcutting through the Greer’s parking lot.

It turns out Jill had problems, like the rest of us, though hers in hindsight were a bit more serious. When we got to the bar, I was feeling thirsty after a few hours on the beach, and yes, a bit confused and saddened by the news of her death.

Grabbing chairs in the middle of the bar, we sat down and Sue ordered a Pensacola Bay Raspberry, and I ordered a NOLA Hopitoulas.

We had great service, two bartenders.

“Cassandra,” in dark-framed glasses, was getting stocked up on new work shirts. She was also gearing up for her shift and put on this accoutrement for opening bottles. She attached two bottle openers to her body where a wrestler would rake an opponent with forearm shivers.

We noticed all the stickers about dogs around the bar and both women told us Cosmo’s and the owners’ other restaurant Cobalt are the names of their dogs.

“I’ve got a sticker that you’d love,” I said, in between fried shrimp sushi bites.

“Yeah, what is it,” Cassandra asked.

‘In dog beers, I’ve only had one!’ She laughed, not a patronizing laugh either. I like to believe it was a genuine, never heard it before guffaw.

Cassandra asked how our sushi was and talked about how she was going to learn to roll sushi, by her coworker at Cosmo’s.

“Are you going to get together at work sometime?” I asked.

“No, I’ll just have it at my place,” she said.

“Oh, a party,”

“A rolling party,” she corrected me, and we laughed at the unspoken marijuana reference wafting through the bar.

After some more good conversation and barroom banter we parted ways.

I kept thinking about the sticker on the ride home, and I decided to send it to Cassandra.

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It was only today, writing this card to our barkeeper, that I realized the bartenders and reference desk jockeys have a few things in common. I also sit or stand behind a bar and greet patrons. Librarians are servers too, but of books, information, and computer assistance. Good service, not textbook, but professional, the kind where you form a brief but satisfying relationship, is our aim.

Cassandra’s job is not much different than mine at the reference bar at the Fairhope Library. Some similarities and differences are capitalism, ID for legal drinking age, and food safety. The library is not in it to make money, your library card is your ID to get free stuff and to use the computers, and we allow you a safe place to surf the web, check Facebook, or write your resume.

Patrons come to us when they want to tell a story, a joke, or are simply lonely or looking for answers. Conversation seems to be the most important thing patrons crave. If nothing else, bartenders and reference staff should be good listeners. Sometimes it’s easier being friends with strangers. Telling the problem to someone often lifts a measure of the burden and remember, when you find a good relationship, work at it, don’t take it for granted.

My co-worker Jessica reminded me yesterday about Forrest Little, a former Fairhope Library guy, who died on Father’s Day weekend in 2013.

Why, in less than a year, have the following people died? Theresa Barrows. Roberta Long. Tinley Combs. Forrest Little. AJ Crochet. Michael Mannion. Jill. I’ve been the memory tender for some of them here on these pages. I write the stories for the living, so we can read, and remember, but the tenders of bars will never have all the answers. We don’t always know. Sometimes we can only listen.

9Legs, Nine Lives

Tripawds

Yesterday, my co-coworker Pam sent me a message with a photo on Facebook about something she learned during a carriage ride in Natchez Mississippi. Riding past the cemetery Pam heard about Tripod, a three-legged cat that was befriended by Natchez city workers. She included a photo of the Tripod’s Headstone for me and I thanked her of course and messaged back, “I’ll add Tripod to my list of names of leg amputees.” The list includes the famous, infamous, fictional, factual, legends, dogs, dolphins (Winter’s dorsal fin), horses, cows, and now my first cat. Anyone with a three-legged pet should visit tripawds. There are more than 6,000 animal lovers registered on the site who have pets with less than four paws.

Including Tripod, I’ve got nine legs to add to the list this week, which is the one year anniversary of my blog.

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Cow-Tipping News

On Friday, my sister-in-law Kim forwarded a link for me to check out on Facebook.

A 600 pound calf had two hind legs amputated due to frostbite. The English Charolais calf was recently fitted with two “high-tech” prostheses in Houston, Texas. Hero’s the only double amputee calf with two prostheses in the United States.  

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Aaarrrgghh-etype

I read a fantastic kid’s book on Thursday morning. Pirates vs. Cowboys, is written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by David Barneda. It’s a story about feuding pirates who go over land to bury their treasure. They run into a motley group of cowboys. But these are no ordinary human pirates and cowboys. Burnt Beard is an octopus, accompanied by an armada of sea creatures. Black Bob McKraw is a steer, with a nose ring, and he’s got a mixed up gang of barnyard animals and desert characters, including a prickly cactus in a pot.

What makes the story effective is that it’s not an archetype peg-leg character. Pegleg Highnoon is not the villain, though he is an alligator. He’s not just any old gator, but he’s the world’s only pirate cowboy. Pegleg Highnoon’s a peacekeeper, moderator, and the closest thing there is to a lawman in Old Cheyenne. I really enjoyed reading about Pegleg, as I discovered something of his character in me. I don’t want to be typecast as the angry amputee and I’m usually looking to avoid conflict by seeking common ground. Stop by your local library or bookstore and check it out.

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Infamy

I have been following the court appearances of “the fastest man on no legs” in South Africa. Oscar Pistorius is still on trial for shooting and killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013.

The double amputee competed in the Summer Olympics in 2012.

On Tuesday morning, the trial stopped because the judge ordered Pistorius to undergo psychiatric testing to find out whether he was “criminally responsible” on the night he shot and killed his girlfriend. Pistorius’ infamy has kept him out of prison. Most people go to jail while they wait for a psyche ward bed to open up, but he will remain on the outside. Pistorius will also be an outpatient while he undergoes evaluation.

Prior to his arrest, I had never been so proud of an amputee’s actions as I was in those moments watching Pistorius pistoning around the track on his Cheetahs.

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Famous Fembot

I watched double below-knee amputee Amy Purdy dance for the first time Tuesday night. I was skeptical about her ability to compete against two good legs. I will say for a dancer who doesn’t move her ankles, is on her toes, and in swim prostheses, she was outstanding!  That night Amy stepped on the dance floor. I was riveted, mesmerized, and in awe of her human and hardware synchronicity.

Amy didn’t win this season’s “Dancing with the Stars” on ABC. Meryl and her partner, even to my super amateur eyes, were better.

Many people I knew said the couple deserved to win, but I think that was based on Amy’s story, rather than her dancing, which was phenomenal and nearly flawless. After contracting Bacterial Meningitis at 19, both her legs were amputated. She also received a Kidney from her father.

She’s an actress and model and Paralympic athlete. Amy is also an amputee advocate for X-Games sports like moto-cross, snowboarding and skateboarding. She’s a spokesperson for Element, a skateboard and clothing company. She was on “Amazing Race” two years ago, but got eliminated so fast I never got to know her. Her company Adaptive Action Sports helps amputees participate in these sports. She’s propelled skateboarding among amputees and I wish I knew about her for an earlier blog I wrote called, “Skateboarding Legs.”

We humans are suckers for an inspirational story, especially one so perfectly packaged for network TV. There’s no doubt Amy is confident, athletic, and an attractive person. It’s interesting that the network TV viewer that fell in love with the dancer may not know Amy the snowboarder, skateboarder, and self-proclaimed “Fembot” blogger. I’m intrigued by the edge-y, experimental, provocative, creative, and risk-taking Amy I discovered in a risqué photograph taken by Motley Crue Bassist Nikki Sixx. She’s wearing a pair of custom-made ice pick legs.

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My Art

Steve and I were sitting in his living room Friday morning. We had struck up a conversation about Friday Night Art Walk in Fairhope. The first Friday of every month, businesses open up late and artists hawk their wares from 6-8 PM.

“The girls and I had fun,” Steve said, about their April walk.

I’m kind of sick of it,” I said. In hindsight, it wasn’t fair to Steve because I didn’t really know why. I am a lover and an appreciator of art. I’d be lost without it. Art influences my writing life in ways I dream of and wake up to.

After eight years of living in Fairhope, I can say that I’ve seen some really unique work. Sue and I walk around, have a glass of wine and never seem to buy anything. There is a lot of great work out there, but when a Nall print costs $400 , and a framed photo of the pier costs $250, you start to wonder why you are walking around. My friend and coworker Jillian (Not to be confused with Jill) seems to be having some success in Downtown Mobile with her art and needlework. She creates lifelike scenes, all handmade, often with red yarn. She calls them crochet installations. She also works in clay and recently sold a bust to a salon in downtown Fairhope. So I know art is alive along the Gulf Coast. I’m just not sure what my “art” is, or more importantly, whether I can market it and, ultimately, sell it.

It was only a few days later that I was able to identify why I’d grown bored of walking around during art walk. Art walk was new to Steve, as he strolled one Friday night with his daughters. That’s great, and exacly what it’s all about, getting people together on sidewalks, in stores and galleries to appreciate and ultimately to purchase something creative. What I’ve discovered is that I want to be the artist. I have an MFA. My degree just happens to be in creative writing, and not ceramics, or painting, or other media. My creativity comes from the passion to communicate something in words that another human appreciates.

So I invite you join me tonight in downtown Fairhope from 6-8 PM at the corner of Fairhope Avenue and Bancroft Street for Art walk.

Stump the Librarian

You Give Me a Subject, I’ll Write on it.

$ 2

It’s strange and wonderful how a conversation can alter our perspective. That little conversation with Steve and Jillian’s creative successes proved to be the tipping point for me. Tonight, I’m taking my writing to the street. Thanks to Steve, I’ve learned that I’d much rather fail than live with the regret of never trying. I will make every attempt to to write something creative and unique, and inexpensive. If it’s raining look for me in a dry place.

This Little Pink Pup is Not Like The Others

Jill works with me at the Fairhope Public Library. She stopped by the desk the other day to share a children’s book she discovered, and I’m so glad she did. I’m a firm believer in books finding us when we need them. I call it book karma. Not only must the book find us, but we must also read it when the time is just right. Jill found the book, where it should not have been, so she knew, as most librarians do, that it is some sort of cosmic sign. She read it immediately.  

“Aaawwww, loooook at how cuuuute they aaaaare.” Jill pitched a tune and dragged out her syrupy southern vowels, like I imagine she does when she talks to her two bulldogs. She started flipping through the pages of the Easy Reader faster than she talks, which is saying something. The second day I met Jill, she admitted she talks fast. My sister Lynne couldn’t hold a candle to her, and my dad nicknamed her “Motormouth.” The pictures were great, photographs actually, and it’s a true story.

“My friend Sandi’s gonna love this,” I said. The Looks Great Naked author and I were pursuing our MFAs when the book was published in 2010, and I was hoping that she’d somehow missed this book.  Duty called and Jill walked away with the book. I wrote down the title, Little Pink Pup, so I could check it out later.

Several days later, having not written it down, I asked Jill for the title again. In an average week, I get at least 20 book and movie recommendations and suggestions from patrons, staff, through my own reading and watch list, or simply by walking by a cover that looks interesting. (A few items from this week, that I remember are The Tenth Parallel, The Reivers, The Telling Room, A few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip, Andrew’s Brain, The Girls of Atomic City, Tinkers (Loved it), Natchez Burning, (Author and amputee), The Wolf of Wall Street (Liked it) American Hustle (Loved it for a second time) The Goldfinch, Hi Koo (Liked it).

Little Pink Pup, by Johanna Kerby is a dog book, but it’s also a “twisted tale.” As you know, I’m always looking for books about people and animals with limb differences. While this book is not about amputees, it directly addresses the subject of being different. It offers a poignant lesson about acceptance, not only of others, but of ourselves.

So whether you’re a Jabberjaw or stumped about what to read next, check out Little Pink Pup. The book is available through all booksellers and at many county and city library systems, including St. Johns County in Florida and the Falmouth Public Library in Massachusetts.

She’s Off the Rails

“It’s for an April Fool’s joke,” she finally said after my third trip over to help her with a document. A black woman, in her early 20s, she was having problems formatting a Word document. She wore orange and black leopard print stretch pants and she had a diamond stud in her nose. She was soft-spoken, but she was not shy about asking for help with her document, and yet she was secretive about what she was trying to do. She quickly showed me the paper she was trying to duplicate.

Together, we were able to set up the page so it looked like an official document with results from a medical testing company.

It had all kinds of personal information for a man named (redacted). As I looked closer it had blood and urine tests, but the resultsw were folded over so I couldn’t read them.

We walked over to the printer together.

“How’s it look? I asked her.

 “I’m gonna get him,” she said. After she looked at it, the woman turned the paper in my direction.

She had removed the “not” from three lines, leaving the word “detected” after “Chlamydia,” “Gonorrhea,” and “Syphilis.”

“I hope he can take a joke,” I said, worried that if he responded violently, I could be considered an accessory to the crime.

She was grinning, not as widely as Snidely Whiplash, but in such a way that this went a bit beyond funny and into villainous territory, like Chuck Klosterman’s book, I Wear the Black Hat.

I just read his book, which I’ll call uneven but still informative and entertaining, and not without a Stump the Librarian reference. A man named Gardner had his leg severed after he was tied to train tracks. Snidely is a cartoon, Gardner is a nonfiction person, but I couldn’t decide if this woman was mean, villainous, or just having a little mischievous fun.    

“It’s gonna be good,” she said. She didn’t have a mustache to twirl, but as she turned to me her nose ring twinkled.

Beer, Books, and Bras

I brought home a massive book I had the library order about John F. Kennedy’s assassination, The Day Kennedy Died: 50 Years Later LIFE Remembers the Man and the Moment. I browsed through the book, the photos, and illustrations, but what really piqued my interest was the reproduction of the November 29, 1964 LIFE magazine that was included in the back. Now that we are past all the anniversary remembrances for a president who died three years before I was born, I was intrigued by how our products have changed in 50 years. This is not a trip down nostalgia lane, but an image comparison, a visual catalog if you will, to see how remarkable and unremarkable the changes to products have been over 50 years.