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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Billy Beer

Billy Beer
There are several TV shows today that have people bringing in old and or strange stuff and finding out it is worth a lot of money.  My favorite show of this genre is “Pawn Stars.”

Pawn Stars is about a pawn shop in Las Vegas and it always shows interesting things that people bring in.  Sometimes these items are worth a lot of money.  Sometimes people think they are worth a lot of money and they end up disappointed.

If I had to pawn or sell something to dig up some extra cash I would be in trouble.  I don’t think I have anything that is particularly valuable.

I have an old Mickey Mantle button in good condition that cost $5 in 1956; that might be worth $25.  I’ll bet my 1957 autographed copy of “The Mickey Mantle Story” would be worth a pretty penny if that prick Freddy Deroda hadn’t stole it before his family moved out of town in the dead of night.  I have a few old coins, but other than that nothing the Pawn Stars would be interested in.

I thought I made an astute purchase in 1978.  In 1978 our President was Jimmy Carter.  His brother Billy Carter was a real character.  He was a beer guzzling good old boy from Georgia.  Billy didn’t have a lot of money.  In 1978 he capitalized on his reputation and slapped his name on a contract for a brew called “Billy Beer.”

I immediately bought a six pack of Billy Beer and put it away in my closet.  This beer was not to be consumed, oh no, this was an investment. 

The young Cranky was going to make a fortune. 

Buy a six pack of beer, sit on it for 40 years and in retirement pull out an unopened six pack of very rare Billy Beer, find a collector, and I would be in high clover.

The problem with this investment was in 1978, young Cranky was very poor; paycheck to paycheck poor.  In the 1978 economy of Jimmy Carter a lot of people were poor and a lot of people didn’t even get a paycheck.  In 1978 unemployment was 9-10%, wages were low and prices were through the roof.  It was called stagflation, that rare economy of stagnation and inflation.  I was at least lucky enough to have scored a mortgage years before at 7%, because during stagflation mortgages were 12-14 percent and rising.  


The day came in 1979, where I had little or no money, and a heavy hankering for a beer.  I consumed my investment.  I saved the empties for a while, but ultimately tossed them figuring their value would be next to nil.

I have often berated myself for not saving my investment.  I have wondered how much my lack of discipline cost me.

It is now thirty-six years since I consumed my investment.  I recently Googled “Billy Beer” to see how much my thirst cost me.  In 1978 that six pack of beer cost me $3.65.  Today it is worth about $20. 


It seems I was not the only one who thought Billy Beer would be a great investment, and most of the other investors had enough self-control to hold on to the brew.

Now I am glad I drank mine!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Yesterday Mrs. C and I were DFDers, “Down for the day” at the beach.  When I was a kid with the good fortune to have grandparents who had homes at the shore we called the daily beach invaders “Shoe-boxers” because they tended to bring their lunch with them in a box.

We did in fact bring our lunch with us, but in an insulated zip up bag.  We are lucky in that Mrs. C’s Aunt has a house by the beach.  This gives us a place to park and a place to clean up and change…it also gets us free beach passes. 

Thank you very much Aunt Catherine.

The water was warm (for New Jersey) at 72 degrees, it was so calm and so clear it could have been the Caribbean.  The air was 82 and the humidity low.  It just doesn’t get any better.

We met up with a bunch of aunts, cousins, second cousins and little tiny first cousins once removed.  Mrs. C has a very complicated family; I just try and go with the flow.  There was a Christina, a Christine, and a Christin.  There were three Mikes and a smattering of Joe’s.  I just nod a lot and give out the Jersey greeting “How ya doin?”

I was up early this morning for a dentist appointment.  When we got to the beach the water was so inviting I dove right in.  The sun, the salt water and an early to rise morning had me ready for a beautiful power nap. 

I got in maybe 25 zzz’s when a four year old first cousin once removed decided I needed to see the jelly fish he had collected.  Four year olds apparently have no compunction against punching a sleeping old man and saying,

“Wanna touch my jelly fish?”

The jelly fish was the size and shape of a sausage patty, was clear, and looked to be the consistency of almost dry putty.

“Whah…No!” I answered with just a tiny bit of a cranky attitude.

“What’s your name, I’m Joey.”

Dang, another Joe.  There is a rule; Joe’s have to stick together.

“I’m Joe too.”

“Why don’t you want to touch my jelly fish?”

“I just don’t like jelly fish.”

“Touch it.”

“Not going to happen.”


“Look, I don’t like jelly fish.  Jelly fish and asparagus, I don’t like either.”

“What do you like?”

“Chicken and lima beans.”

“You only like two things?”

Joey’s mom leaned over and whispered that Joey doesn’t take no for an answer and always has the last word.  I said he hasn’t met Cranky yet.

“I don’t care if it is your wish, I do not like your jelly fish, I do not like them in the sand, I do not like them on the land, I do not like them here or there I do not like them anywhere.  I do not like them can’t you see, I do not like them Joey V! (I think he was on the Vacarro side of the family.)”

“It’s not slimy…touch it.”


“Here let me touch it…Hmmm, pretty cool!”

“I told ya.”

Then he let me go back to my nap.

It was a beautiful day at the shore.  The air was warm, the water clear and inviting, and I made a new friend.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Great Westfield High Nose Whistler of 1961 - a cranky re-run

The Great Westfield High Nose Whistler of 1961
This cranky re-run is from August 2012 

 “Pssst Frog, check this out.”  

Frog and I shared a table in 7thperiod study hall sophomore year in high school.  I barely knew him then, though he would become my best friend through college and right up to today.

“What?…I’m studying.”  

Frog was a bit of a nerd; well I thought he was at the time.  First he was smart, second he was the football team equipment manager.  I would become captain of the team our senior year.  So Frog was a nerd, I was a stud; except the nerd was getting laid…me not so much.

Anyway…in this study hall Frog was all I had; I had something to show and I had to show someone.

“Frog, check this out.” 

I closed one nostril of my nose and exhaled slowly out the other.  A high pitched loud whistle pierced the air. 

“No friggin way!  Do that again.” Frog whispered.

So I did it again and we both melted into silent sniggering.

“What is that?”  

Mr. Barnes the study monitor barked.  Mr. Barnes was the meanest, nastiest, detention-handingoutiest study hall monitor in the history of study hall monitors.

I let out another stealth whistle. 

Mr. Barnes was irate.  Detention pad in hand he scoured the room for the offender.  No one in the room except Frog and I, knew where the whistle came from.  We sniggered, whistled and tormented Mr. Barnes the rest of the period.

The next day Frog told everyone about my peculiar ability to whistle through my nose.  I rehearsed all day long.  When 7thperiod came, half of the room knew about my stealth whistle talent.  They were all anxiously awaiting the whistling torture I was going to give Mr. Barnes, the meanest study monitor in all of Westfield High history.

When the bell rang, the pre-study hall hubbub ended.  An eerie hush hung over the cafeteria, as by now the entire room knew of my whistling ability and awaited the Mr. Barnes torment. 

“Now!” Frog whispered, and I collapsed one nostril and let blow out the other.  “Woosh”…Woosh? I blew again, and again nothing.  Frog held up his hands in that “I don’t know kinda way,” for the entire hall to see.

That’s it, shows over, nothing to see (or hear) here. 

The room went back to its normal study semi-buzz. 

“What happened?” Frog asked.

“Booger shifted” I answered with a shrug.  

And that was the end of “The Great Westfield High Nose Whistler of 1961.”  It was a legend that only Frog and myself experienced; a fleeting moment of greatness that somehow forged a lifelong friendship.