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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Growing Up

I grew up in a place called Omaha, Nebraska. The city was named after a local Indian, Barney Omaha, in recognition of his many contributions to modern day society which included his building of, and dedication to the city, of both Fontanelle Hotel and Fontenelle Park, named after a distant cousin who had earned many merit badges for scalping.

But that was long before my time. I lived in Omaha long after the tents and wikiups and hogans of the Indian were gone. We lived in a very hoity toity part of Omaha called Benson, a northwestern suburb. Benson also had a high school which some very creative person had named Benson High School. Being in the hoity toity part of Omaha it attracted a great many rich kids.

My family and I were not rich, but middle class. My valet, for example, was not particularly well trained, not even knowing how to mix a decent martini (sniff). I only had one valet, most Benson High School students had at least two. Unlike many other of my fellow students, I did not have an entourage. Couldn't afford it, being of modest means.

I recall many a morning when my baby blue T-Bird would face the daunting challenge of climbing the steep hill on Maple Street from about 69th to 63rd, before finally reaching that lovely level stretch of land through downtown Benson. I have to compliment my chaufeurr, Nicky, for the always comfortable, sometimes very scenic drives. I always enjoyed viewing the colorful Benson Baptist Church (where I was later to marry a Countess from Scotland, the lovely Mary (sorry, don't quite recall her last name. I'm bad on names). I also recall the excitement as I passed Kremer Funeral Home, the Benson Post Office, Steve's Grill, Feierman Jewelers, and the Benson Theater (where we used to always scrape together $0.09 cents for every Saturday morning and see both cartoons as well as exciting adventure movies, including my favorite hero, Lash Larue). Those were wonderful times.

Arriving at Benson High School, I was met every morning by a smiling John "Pinky" Aronson, the Vice Principal, who would open the door to my T-Bird, shake my hand, wave at Nicky, and welcome me to the school. I remember one day I suggested to my fellow classmates that we all honor "Pinky" Aronson by dressing in completely pink clothing. I wore pink trousers, pink socks, a pink shirt, white belt and white shoes. I was a sight to behold. The entire school turned out in pink that day.

Mr. Aronson, I'm sure, was amused.

As we walked together up the sidewalk leading to the building I was often approached by other students who did not have transportation and had to walk to school. They would compliment me on my T-Bird and mention how it would be nice if, maybe sometime, I could give them a ride, seeing as how I was going in the same direction. I always made it a point to shake their hand or give them a friendly wave, show a warm smile and say, "what a perfectly grand idea. Do let me give it some thought and get back to you!" (I have always found it to be a good idea to treat those of a different social class kindly. Even though a majority of us were middle class, some of these forsaken kids didn't have so much as a valet to their name. I tried to brighten their lives by being kind to them and favoring them with, at the very least, with my wonderfully contented smile).

I soon joined the rest of those from my social class and we would tell marvelously funny stories, describe our valet's hilarious shortcomings and/or great accomplishments. Being of modest means, my valet, Nicky, had to double as my chauffeur. Several times I thought of giving Nicky notice but she was such a strikingly lovely creature that I found it hard to part with her. Besides, she was often of great comfort to me in times of sorrow, like when our cook would forget both Brie and a sufficient amount of caviar in my box lunch she had prepared for me daily. Nicky (short for Nicole) would put her arms around me and murmur soft things in my ear. I always felt so much better; sometimes, to the point of skipping school for several hours to be with Nicky, the more to enjoy her comforting.

In late morning I would always head for gym class, presided over by Art Harris, our football coach. Mr. Harris was a strapping 3' tall but he was a human dynamo, often running around in circles, clapping his hands and yelling, "Let's go! Let's go!" to no one in particular. I was very fond of Mr. Harris, however. I suppose it might have been because I went to him one day, very sad, and told him my favorite pet rabbit, which I had called "Bunny" had passed away. I suggested to Mr. Harris that we might memorialize Bunny by naming the school, and in particular, its football team, the Benson High School Bunnies.

Mr. Harris slapped his thighs, and exclaimed, "that's a wonderful idea! It shall be done!"

And so, to this day, members who attended, and who still attend, my alma mater, are known as The Benson High School Bunnies.

All good things, however, must come to an end. After four years of absolute bliss, my high school days came to an end. I graduated (flipped my tassle, as we say) and went on to a brilliantly successful career in business and also became a highly successful and adored international spy.

That, too, is all behind me now. Nicky is still with me. She stays in the spare bedroom here at the Madison Mansion, still chauffeurs me about town, still mixes me my martinis, still performs as a valet, and is always there to offer me comforting words, thoughts and deeds whenever mean ol' Evelyn says or does something to wound my sensitive ego.

Mrs. Madison recognizes that Nicky is simply my valet, nothing more, (at least, that's what she believes) someone with whom I would find living life to be particularly difficult.

Nicky was even with me during my exciting and adventuresome years as an international spy.

But that, as we say, is another story.

Buy me a drink sometime . . . maybe I'll tell you. (Some parts, however, are still classified. Those parts would take two drinks).

(A reprise from January, 2010.)

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