The infamous red ball.
This is the famous story of the red ball. It is a true story, which is the amazing part. A very long time ago when I was about six years old, my family had just moved from Redding to a quaint neighborhood in Stockton, California. The year was 1963 (I think) and the address was 4149 Oakridge Drive, Riviera Cliffs. One morning I casually walked outside, intent on discovering this new and exciting neighborhood. Much to my surprise, I found a red ball lying in the gutter in front of our house. It was the nicest red dodge ball you could ever imagine! Of course, this red ball was mine because I had found it, and who would argue with the universal childhood law which states "finders-keepers-losers-weepers?" Later that day, a neighborhood kid came down the street, and he shouted at me saying that the ball belonged to him. A verbal disagreement ensued. While he was much taller, I stubbornly refused to give in. Finally with a pouting frown on his face, this boy returned to his home saying he would tell his mother. Tattle tale, I wasn't afraid of him. Well as it turned out, my mother told me that I had to return the ball (I can imagine the other mother calling up mine to explain the situation). I will never forget how mad I was standing on their front porch, having to apologize and handing the ball over to this boy. He had this gleeful "see-I-told-you-so!" smirk on his face. This boy's name turned out to be David Wilsey. While this episode meant we were enemies at the start, this was quickly forgotten, and we became friends for life. Pretty amazing, isn't it?
I leave this section open for comments from Dave himself so that he could fairly challenge my version of the red ball story above. This is the answer I received from him. I have not corrected the obvious errors and exaggeration and in respect for his right to defend himself I leave the following excerpt untouched and as is:
"I appreciate the opportunity you have given me to reply to the claims made on your personal website in regards to the so-called 'Red Ball Incident'. Your side of the story cries out for balance and fairness, and I appreciate the courage you have exhibited in giving me a chance to respond. In any case, much of your basic outline of the red ball incident is true. There was indeed a missing red ball, mine. I had been playing with it, and it got kicked away down the block. I thought it was lost for good, never to be found. Imagine my surprise to see that a neighbor kid, someone I didn't know who must have been new to the neighborhood, had found my missing red ball and boldly claimed it as his own. As I recall, it even had my name clearly written on it in black magic marker. I confronted the culprit, who weakly mumbled something about 'finders keepers, losers weepers'. I could see that logic and reason would not work on this hardened criminal. So rather than resorting to unnecessary violence, I felt it would be better if I appealed my case to a higher authority. Tell my mom. She would surely work behind the scenes, negotiating directly with the ruffian's mother for the prompt release of my red ball. And sure enough, the approach worked perfectly. Part of the settlement would have to call for a formal apology from the hoodlum directly to me. He did apologize, half-heartedly, but apologize he did nonetheless.
The end result of this unfortunate beginning was the enduring friendship of a lifetime. Our paths crossed, and re-crossed, several times over the next ten or fifteen years. It was maintained despite great distances between us. Letters and cassette tape recordings were exchanged. Then, upon graduation from college, our paths met once again on the Monterey Peninsula in California. Both our lives were at a crossroads. I had just become married, and Kiffin was set to embark on a one-way voyage to Europe to find his future. The course of our lives had yet to be set. And over the next twenty years, our lives did indeed take very different paths. While on his European pilgrimage of self-exploration, Kiffin found his wife, Thea, and remained to begin a family in the Netherlands. I stayed in California and began a tax accounting practice in Carmel. We are two very different people, with very different personalities. Yet all through the phases of our lives, there remained the common thread of our friendship. My childhood feels like such a distant memory, yet the bond with Kiffin keeps my youth alive. Kiffin, my good friend, I dearly value our friendship, and the anchor that it provides me through life's changes and challenges."
Still friends after all these (37+) years.
Once a year, between my birthday and Dave's (November 3rd) we are exactly the same age. This is always an honor and a privilege for me, but unfortunately the time is short-lived.
Both Dave and I have crossed paths pretty randomly and regularly throughout the last thirty-seven plus years. While our lifestyles may appear different, there remains an invisible bond which somehow holds us together albeit distantly.
Funny. Dave says he envies me for the so-called adventurous life I have led. In turn, I envy him greatly for the successful business he has created and the stable direction in which he has proven himself a worthy citizen.
Dave is now a very successful professional who has achieved much in life. The picture to the right attests to this fact. Notice how impressive his calling card looks.
Dave is what you would call a "real" professional, an expert in his field. He can sit long hours behind his desk, smiling that gentleman's grin while at the same time straining himself with mind-boggling financial problems, too complex for the layman to even imagine. Truly amazing...
Here is a short list of random memories which come to my mind when I reminisce about those days gone by and the times I have spent with David:
That big old rock I hid in the garage wall in Stockton so David could defense purposes so that after I moved to Turlock he could ward off any attacks by the Dickey brothers.
The cabin up in Bear Valley where I nearly suffocated on my mashed potatoes (actually Dave had yelled at me earlier during an intense dart match where his irrational outrage at me prematurely stepping in front of the line -- I could have died with a dart in the back of n=my skull -- triggered an acute case of home-sickness).
Being invited to the Captain Delta Show on television (thanks Dave for asking me!). When asked where I went to school, I forgot the name (Herbert Hoover Elementary School) and instead pointed in the general direction of the scene backdrop. Captain Delta laughed and said that could not be because there was the ocean behind the harbor. The ship bell was rung just after I was interviewed, and the treasure chest was won by the girl next to me.
Cub Scouts and learning to preserve pennies by wrapping them in aluminum foil and burying them deep in the ground. When we excavated them next day, they were perfectly preserved, amazing!
The Sport Shop in Pacific Grove and going to the Halfway House.
The Gaseous Excretion Controversy (GEC) and the cassettes we passed between Monterey and Champagne, Illinois recorded with our endless debate about this important and historical issue.
Retainer Container retainer...
Wrestling in our underwear pretending to be Greek athletes battling in the arena of death.
Dave made me shave the bridge of my nose so that I wouldn't have connected eye-brows, how very embarrassing that could being handicapped.
Burning the cassette in the fireplace and watching it melt away, no more GEC or retainer containers.
Swimming at the Country Club and acting goofy, spending whole afternoons and hearing the Beatles on the radio: "I love you yeah yeah..."
Meeting Linda for the first time and trying to act polite, even though I swiftly munched down the fine dinners she always prepared for me with care.
David played the coronet so I had to have one also. Like the Erector Set, model of the Saturn rocket and the Apollo Lunar Module, ad infinitum.
At the Stockton Elementary School there was this white line dividing the playground from the back of the buildings, along the asphalt and across the grass all the way to the back fence, separating the younger kids from the older kids. Dave and I would meet on each other, respecting this line by staying on our own pre-defined sides of the playground.
Neil Young strumming his guitar on the stereo system.
And many, many more...
Although our two paths may diverge greatly, in the end the separate paths come back regularly to intersect, sometimes at the most unexpected places and times. Like when we were growing up and moving around, we not only kept in touch but on occasion we ended up living close by to each other. Despite the unforseen distances, we manage to get together because of some invisible force field of friendship. Whenever I visit my mom in Monterey, I always make it a point to drop by Dave's house to visit and reminisce about the good old days.
Below you can find a couple of maps showing where Stockton is and also a zoom-in to the neighborhood we shared. Note the section of green nearby which was the golf course. Across the channel of water there was some Navy base with all kinds of war ships and landing crafts, I remember. I used to skip flat rocks there along the water front, wondering if any of those ships had been to Vietnam.