We rarely would watch TV during summer vacation. There were way too many kids playing outside to be cooped up in the house in front of the TV. Summer time was outdoor time, and we took advantage of every minute of it.
All my friends on the block used to collect baseball cards. Not the way a collector might do today. I remember my mother giving me a quarter and me and Junior would take a walk to the candy store and see the fresh box of Topps baseball cards on the counter. I would pick up two packs of the cards and immediately smell them. I loved the smell of baseball cards. Each pack cost a dime so that left me five cents to buy a candy bar or some pretzel rods or 5 pieces of Bazooka bubble gum. The gum that came with the cards was fine, but never lasted as long as Bazooka. Besides, I had to see what Bazooka Joe was up to in his little comic strip that used to wrap the gum.
“Got it, got it, got it…..NEED IT, got it, got it”. That was the ritual each time we opened up a pack of baseball cards. I’ll never forget the day I got Mickey Mantle. I immediatly put him in the back of my collection with Roger Maris and Bobby Richardson. There was no way I was going to loose him. Once all the new cards were sorted out with my collection, I’d place them in my pocket and walk home.
Now it was time for some serious business. We would “flip” each other for baseball cards. The art of “flipping” baseball cards came with time and practice. The idea was to flip a card onto the ground and your friend would flip his card right next to yours. If your card was face up and he flipped his face up, he would take your card. If your card was face up and he flipped his and it landed face down, you would win the flip and take his card. The person who won had the choice of going first or second.
You would stand with both your feet together, head down, and take a card in your hand, holding it with the tips of your four fingers in front and your thumb at the edge of the card in the middle. Your arm would go down and back and you would flip your hand up, and just at the right moment release the card with your thumb and watch it rotate to the ground. A good card flipper had control of his card and knew exactly how to make it land heads up or heads down….well, most of the time. Of course we would play with all our doubles, and if you were a big winner at flipping you had plenty of doubles to choose from.
Then we learned the art of negotiation. This involved trading your baseball cards. It’s amazing the things we did as kids that prepared us for adulthood. How was I going to get Yogi Berra’s card from Mayor? Would he take a few Met’s and maybe a Willie Mays plus a dozen other cards for that card? It all came down to negotiation.
But flipping and trading were not the only use for baseball cards. A brand new baseball card made a great clicker for your bicycle. We would attach the card to the frame of the bike wheel with a cloths pin. The card would stick out just enough to hit the spokes of the wheel. So when the wheel turned the card would click against the spokes. If you really wanted them to hear you coming you would attach a card to each side of the wheel on both wheels. We thought it was pretty neat!
We made all sorts of things that kept us busy. One little street invention was called a carpet gun. A neat little device that shot pieces of linolium. We would get a piece of wood about the size of a rifle. To one end we would nail a heavy rubber band. At the opposite end we would nail a wooden spring type clothspin. You would pull the rubberband back and attach the end to the clothspin, then place a piece of linolium between the stretched out rubber band. Take aim, and release the rubberband by openeing the clothspin with your thumb. It’s amazing the things you can do with a rubber band and a clothspin.
One year, me, Junior, Johnny Boy and Mayor were playing in my back yard and my father made us wooden swords. We thought it was great! Swashbuckling around the driveway. Until Johnny Boy got hurt. Nearly lost an eye. Nothing life threatening, just a superficial wound. Johnny Boy’s parents were not too thrilled about what my father did. Ever do somthing as a parent for your kids and never really thought it through? My father was good at that. At least he didn’t buy us all BB guns!
Grilled Pressed Chicken With Fresh Herb Marinade
- 1 whole young chicken, prepared
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- 7-8 fresh mint leaves
- 2 sprigs of fresh oregano
- 10 fresh basil leaves
- 2 fresh sage leaves
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/4 cup white wine
Once you salt and wash your chicken, rinse and dry it off well and place breast side down on a cutting board. With a pair of kitchen scissors, start from the tail side and cut down the back bone to the other end. Make the same cut along the other side of the backbone to remove it. Discard the back bone or save to make chicken stock.
Once the backbone is removed you can flatten the chicken by pressing the legs and thighs down and flatten the breast. The chicken is now ready to marinate.
Chop all the fresh herbs with the garlic to a fine dice. Place the herbs and garlic in a small mixing bowl. Add the vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper , honey and white wine. Mix well.
If the chicken is small enough you can marinate it in a large zip lock bag. Or you can place the chicken in a container large enough to hold the flattened chicken and marinade.
Stir the marinade well and pour over the chicken in the container or plastic bag. Seal the bag or cover the container and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight. Turn the bag or chicken in the container at least once during the marinade.
Once you have your hot coals prepared turn the dampers on the grill to the lowest setting closed. If you are using a gas grill keep the temperature on low to keep the chicken from burning.
You can use 1 or 2 bricks covered in foil, depending on the size of the chicken, or a heavy cast iron pan with the bottom covered in foil to press the chicken while it is cooking. Place the chicken with the rib side facing the coals and the breast up.
Place the brick or cast iron pan on top of the chicken. Cover the grill if you have a cover and cook this way turning about every 10 minutes.
Carefully remove the brick or cast iron pan with pot holders and with tongs and a spatula turn the chicken on the other side. Place the weight on top of the chicken and cook another 10 minutes. If you get flair up you have the dampers open too much. Turn them down so the chicken cooks without burning. Total cooking time should be about 50 minutes.
Once the chicken is cooked place on a platter and serve with your favorite salad or vegetables.