The Chief and I
A seven-part series originally published in the Central California newspaper, The Tracy Press. These seven essays about a small town kid and his uncle, the local Fire Chief, represent some of Max's more personal work. Part Wonder Years and part Tuesday's with Morrie, The Chief and I is an enjoyable read, especially for anyone who remembers the 1970's.
#1 Memories of the Chief and I
"He was fearless when it came to saving people from automobile wreckage and house fires. He never stopped to evaluate the risks to his own life when saving another — even if he was saving some drunk who had just killed a few teenagers with his pickup or breathing the toxic fumes of burning paint in a house where someone had fallen asleep with a lit cigarette between their fingers. In countless incidents such as these, Uncle Dan was too busy responding to think about his own mortality."
"When I had found out Uncle Danny was going to AstroTurf the walkway, I was beside myself with gleeful anticipation. I pictured my friends and me playing football with a swimming pool as the middle of the field, and as long as we avoided the rose bushes and cactus, we could not get hurt."
#3 Dan's Pool and Pet Supply
"Dan’s Pool and Pet Supply was home to a most singularly wretched and vicious animal, an animal capable of frightening stouthearted lifesavers like Uncle Danny, who was about to make captain at TFD. That animal was Roger the Parrot. He came with the pet shop my aunt and uncle bought in the ’60s, and I do believe this green-feathered demon was so abusive, the previous owners practically gave the shop away."
" Sitting in between Uncle Dan and Aunt Beebe, I saw nearly every Burt Reynolds movie that came out in the ’70s — mostly on account of Beebe, who kept the Burt Reynolds “nude” centerfold from Cosmopolitan magazine. Uncle Dan liked Burt too, but not nude, and not as much as he liked Clint Eastwood fully dressed and playing Dirty Harry."
#5 One Firehouse Town
"I remember the many smells of the old firehouse. Upstairs where the firemen lived during their five-on five-off shifts smelled of hot food, clean laundry and, because of the era, cigarettes. As a nonsmoker (a trait I shared with my uncle), I am still surprised by how much people smoked back when I was a kid and where they smoked — pretty much anywhere they damn well pleased, thank you. I can only picture Monsignor Shea from St. Bernard’s with a lit cigarette between the same fingers he used to bless us and serve us communion."
#6 At Hastings' Island, Out for a Pheasant
"I shot my first pheasant there at Hastings’ Island under Uncle Danny’s guidance — and my last. I loved hunting but couldn’t take the killing. I found out recently that Uncle Danny told my dad that once I’d shot and killed my first pheasant, he could tell my hunting days were over. I am grateful Uncle Dan never told me that, because I would have been afraid I had let him down. He knew how much I loved running the dogs through those brown and gold fields with him."
#7 Chick o’ Stix, Pixy Stix and Nik-L-Nips
"West Side Market devoted at least a third of their store to all types of mass-produced, cheap American candy, including Chick o’ Stix (chicken-flavored candy), Candy Cigarettes (because when you were 6, you wanted to carry around a pack of Lucky Strikes, just like your dad ), Razzles (candy that turned into bad chewing gum when mixed with saliva), Pixy Stix (colored sugar packed in straws), Bubble Gum Cigars (because sometimes a candy cigarette wasn’t strong enough), Black Licorice Pipes (because sometimes bubble gum cigars weren’t strong enough, either), Nik-L-Nips (colored, high-fructose corn syrup in little wax soda bottles), Red Wax Candy Lips (there must have been a wax surplus in the ’70s), Boston Baked Beans (what kid doesn’t love the comedic potential associated with beans) and Necco Wafers (you had to have at least one bland, waxless, non tobacco-themed alternative).