Moronfest 2018 – Veni,Vidi, Moroni – We came, We saw, We were morons




I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive about attending this year’s Moron reunion. All of us still maintain a close kinship for each other based on our shared history; a boatload of fond memories, a certainty that we each affected the others in ways that formed who we are today, but there is also a divergent set of opinions on politics, sometimes acrimonious in tone, that could, if left unchecked, shorten the reunion in a hurry. Fortunately we have a long standing rule about the topics that enflame – it’s a simple rule, to wit; Not allowed.

This year marks our 8th get together, but the first one for me in three years; financial woes kept me from attending the last two and was rearing its ugly head again this year, adding to the apprehension and doubt of my attendance. However, faced with the hard realization that we may not have that many more chances to swill cheap beer and shoot pool together etc;  mortality paying us a visit as we lost one of the original morons this past Spring. With that fact of life firmly in mind I made the 840 mile trek to once again conjure up memories and to create some more.



20180622_093815 (1).jpg The official opening of Moronfest 2018 was scheduled for Friday morning, 9:00 sharp at the venerable home of the Gourmet Omelette, Dan’s Diner – corner of 10 Mile and Hoover. My itinerary had me staying with Ralph and Denise the first two nights of my visit, arriving around 5:00 p.m. Wednesday after 17 hours on the road. One of the unplanned results of this reunion was that I got to spend one on one time with almost all the morons; catching up on life in general or as seemed to be the case with many of us, how many more grandchildren we now have, and none was better than the reacquainting of two kindred spirits-twin sons of different mothers, if you will. Ralph and I have been friends since circa 1957. Urban legend (that I am just now making up) has it that we met on a fine spring day in the alley between Lenox and Dickerson and at once recognized our potential friendship, and at the same time recognized that the alley was a concrete baseball field. We drifted apart in the 60’s and lost contact for nearly 50 years, reconnecting through the aether via social media and finally reconnected in person at Moronfest 2015. We emerged from that 50 year hiatus two people vastly different from our youth, yet strangely alike in our current mindsets. It was simply a wonderful visit, albeit bittersweet in retrospect as you ponder the lost 50 years.


It was with some hesitation that I pulled up stakes at Ralph’s and stayed at Tracy’s the rest of the weekend, but how often do you get to hang in his garage with a cooler and a mini-fridge full of cold beer, while remembering old deeds; told with gusto, laughter, braggadocio, and perhaps with just a slight hyperbolic slant (and nary a word or any snide/witty remarks about ‘the forbidden’ – more on this later)? The highlight of the ‘night in a garage with a bunch of morons’ was the memorial tribute to our departed moron brother, Wing Tom. The ceremony, hosted in true moron fashion by Chuck, included the passing around of the newly acquired, official Eastside Moron Hall of Fame beer stein, purchased in true moron fashion by Chuck. 35920418_10216775084353312_2472593452328550400_o  We each took a sip in memory of Wing, many of us relating sentiments or memories of our times with Wing. It was a poignant event, the laughter filling the cluttered, makeshift lounge with images of Wing’s smiling face, the sadness of his passing, never completely gone, but for a few minutes forgotten.


The main physical activity at Moronfest 2018, befitting the fact that we would most likely die dribbling a basketball or running a pass pattern, was two rounds of par 3 golf. Friday’s exhibition was a caravan of 5 golf carts bearing a motley assortment of 10 aging golfers and a seemingly unlimited supply of interesting golf shots.   The winning team on Friday was anchored by $6 Jim who carried his team to victory, a heavy task indeed given he had this guy with this golf swing as a team mate.  20180622_105620 (1).jpg Anyway, it was the most fun I’ve ever encountered in a ten-some.

We were down to a seven-some for round number two, a hurriedly decided affair after loading up with carbs and sausage gravy at Dan’s Diner Saturday morning, hoping to beat the anticipated showery activity predicted for our area. The team of $6, Turtle, and Chuck refused to split up, their greed for dynasty status overriding moron camaraderie. So, it was the three morons versus the four morons (Mark, Rick, Ralph, Me), hence the title of this section. 35932378_10216775080513216_3169687410636226560_o And as the title implies, the three morons are now a golf dynasty.



Prior to breakfast on Saturday, Turtle was complaining about his back, but insisted it would loosen up. His first tee shot in round 2 did the opposite of loosening, the club hitting more of the ground than the actual golf ball causing painful spasms instead, rendering him mostly hors de combat. However, he gamely pressed on, leading his team to victory (well, $6 Jim led the team to victory but I will not speak ill of the tragically injured.) How does this relate to the poker game the more astute might ask? Well, my peeps and fellow travelers, it goes like this. Upon arrival at Rick’s poker palace, and driveway basketball court, Tracy took a couple of Tylenol and laid flat on the floor. That seemed to help as he was soon able to get up and walk without using two golf clubs as props. The morons made their way to the backyard patio for some pre-poker game preparation. (Law abiding peeps should skip the next few sentences.) Someone in the morons produced a small shotgun holed pipe filled with a substance, that while legal (finally) in some states, is still verboten in MI. Back in the old days, many of the morons broke this law on a daily basis, but for many of the morons going one toke over the line hadn’t been done in years. Abstinence over decades plus more potent hybrid blends than we had back in the old days made for some great comedy.  And oh, by the way, Tracy was no longer in any pain and was practically dancing a jig. 🙂

Back inside the house, seated around the table, poker chips being counted out for dispersal, deck of cards being shuffled – what’s the first thing we do before actual card playing? Order pizza because now we are hungry for some reason. Now, I don’t know why Turtle decided that he should be the one to call the pizza place and put in our order, but that is how it played out. After placing the order, a miracle in and of itself, Turtle came back to the table laughing like crazy. We asked him what was so funny, and he began to tell us, but could not because of another bout of uncontrollable laughter. He tried three times and failed three times. Turns out that he could not remember what three toppings to order on one of the pizzas, even with Rick telling him multiple times.

Over the years we have learned to rely on $6 Jim to provide interesting poker games. One of them, Anaconda, brought out one the funniest poker moments I can remember. To backtrack a little, we play games that sometimes have the low spade ‘in the hole’ wild, or sometimes the low card ‘in the hole’ is wild for your hand. In this particular hand of Anaconda, and this is crucial to the story, we were playing Hi-Lo, meaning the high hand and low hand would split the pot. We reached the part of the game where you reveal your cards one at a time…there were three of us left in the pot, Chuck, $6 Jim and me. I had a full house queens over nines…it was obvious that $6 Jim had the low hand so all I had to worry about was Chuck. After three of his cards had been revealed, I knew I had him beat but he kept betting and raising. When the last bet had been called, $6 Jim won half the pot with the low hand, my full house won the other half, but not before Chuck thought he had won with a Royal Flush. Chuck’s hand consisted of Ace, King, Queen of clubs and a pair of nines. The poor moron thought we were playing low card ‘in the hole’ was wild thereby giving him the hand to beat all hands. Oh well, sometimes it doesn’t pay for a moron to think too much.  🙂



It was 5:30 a.m. Sunday. I was planning on leaving at 6:00 to drive to Ann Arbor for breakfast with college friends Rochelle and Steve Igrisan…however, the aging body rebelled and I could not get out of bed except to stagger to the bathroom, the bladder doesn’t care if you don’t feel like getting up. This lack of sufficient recovery meant I would eat one more time at Dan’s Diner and then head home from there – miles upon miles traversing I-90 from Toledo to Boston. It also meant that I had one more opportunity to sit with Chuck for a brief acknowledgement that the reunion was everything we could have hoped for. We did confess to each other that there were a couple times where a witty comment came to mind that could have broken the truce as it were. We both agreed that we did good not to utter them. So, hats off and high fives to a most endearing group of morons for surviving yet another test of our endurance, and proving again that once  a moron, always a moron.


One anticipated meeting, with Debby Prince-Vassallo, did not happen as due to her busy schedule she proved to be as elusive as she was when I, as a teenager, was making feeble and futile attempts to woo her. It’s an utterly devastating fact that she will have to wait even longer for me to sign her copy of my book, Clash of Empires (available at Amazon)   🙂



An important item on my schedule happened prior to the Moronfest, dinner on Thursday with Ralph and with great anticipation, my editor and old friend Marguerite Walker II.  We last saw each other sometime during our years at Jackson Jr. High, but it was our time together in 6th grade under the firm gaze of one, Mrs. Edgerton, that provokes the most memories. Now, it is fair to say that young Marguerite was the smartest kid in the class (oh heck, in the whole school), but had a foible in her makeup, one that I also have. Quick wittedness is a double edged sword, the laughs garnered from classmates at some vocalized retort, is quickly offset by the arrival of Mrs. Edgerton’s penchant for discipline. I think that, at least partly, my memories of Mrs E. are a bit kinder because I was rarely at the wrong end of her ire, while MW received more than her share of it.

Anyway our time together at dinner flew by quicker than the actual four hours we spent talking. I knew MW 50 years ago, after the four hours I was wishing we had kept in touch. However, it is now, and we have forged a partnership in my quest to write novels that will be turned into screenplays by Ron Howard or Steven Spielberg, so I guess we’ll have to be satisfied with that. 🙂



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