I want to tell you a little about my brother. He was my step-brother but we never quite saw it that way...we were brothers. And as such we didn't always agree or get along. In fact, one afternoon a hundred years ago, I had to lock myself in the Chief's Chevy while Skip, my brother, circled the car ranting and threatening to kill me. I think he might have, too. Seemed like he was out there for more than an hour, which was a long time for him to keep a mad going (he probably would have calmed down sooner if I hadn't been making faces at him and calling him names). See, just like real brothers.
He was always proud of his Italian heritage (which I didn't share). He made his own sausage and pickles and was an expert on where to find the best sourdough bread, which restaurant has the most authentic sauces, and so on. And wine. Loved that wine.
We only saw each other for a couple of weeks each summer and sometimes when we were in Fortuna; and whenever we were together he updated me on the latest songs and dances, what the "cool" kids were doing, and what he had done to his car.
He taught me how to drift around a curve, how to power-shift a stick, and a dozen other useful things a big brother should pass on. He was proud of his driving ability and his cars. One night on a double date, he was showing off for the rest of us in the car. He blasted into a double curve, "brake going in...coast to the apex...then punch it coming out!" Which worked great until the back tires of his '58 Chevy skidded out from under him and suddenly we were "punching it" while completely crosswise in the road. There just happened to be a back gate and driveway right at that point in the curve - did I say how lucky Skip was? - he was able to stop the car a little way up the drive - the gate, of course, was open. Then he took a bow for his amazing driving expertise.
I posted a story about our swinging out over the road to kind of illustrate Skip's nature. He was the adventurous one. Me, not so much. He convinced me to be the test pilot on the swing but couldn't convince me to test his theory that you could climb way up to the top of a pine tree, start swaying back and forth, and then jump from one tree to the other. I just couldn't bring myself to try that one out. So he did it himself successfully...after a couple of painful failures.
Skip had a voice. His disc-jockey voice usually served him well as a salesman. He had an easy, fun-loving nature. He could walk into a bar he had never been to before and within a few minutes he had a room full of new friends. He had a million jokes and he loved to tell them. His specialty was dialects and accents. He loved to get into long, funny stories switching from character to character, changing voices and accents and pulling you along with him. It didn't always serve him well, though.
In Basic Training, classes were often begun with a joke to loosen things up. On one occasion the instructor was running late so the drill sergeant asked the class if anyone knew a good joke. Skip was immediately nominated to do the job. He went to the front, stepped up on the platform and launched into a lengthy hilarious story that involved a man with a harelip and his misfortune with a young woman and her huge boy friend. When he reached the punchline, which if I remember correctly was, "When the sun came up I was only two feet off the ground...AND THAT'S WHAT PISSED ME OFF!!"...delivered in a lispy, impeded voice, not a soul made a sound...not even a giggle. This never happened to Skip. He sat quietly at his desk and then looked up at the platform. While he had been telling the joke the instructor had shown up and had stepped onto the platform behind Skip...the instructor was a harelip.
Skip bragged about being asked to leave some of the best colleges in Northern California, but he did attend Humboldt State. He joined the Army in 1964 and went to Vietnam in 1965. Vietnam was tough on him, as it was on many, but he kept the funny-guy fascade intact. He had a problem with marriages and after a couple of failed attempts, he just decided not to marry 'em anymore. I think he really wanted a family but didn't know how to make it work.
Skip played city league softball all of his adult life. He was always involved in civic groups and associations. He stayed busy.
Skip died while I was sitting in the jury assembly room last Tuesday morning. Of course, he was in Northern California and I was in Southern Colorado...so I had no idea. I had spoken to him recently about his failing health and I had suspected it was worse than he was telling me...you know...gotta look out for the little brother. I just didn't think it would be so soon.