Why? Aylan. Why?

Damascus has been continuous occupied for over five thousand years. The lands around Syria have supported innumerable civilizations throughout the millenia. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire Greater Syria was mandated under French control and at the end of World War II France granted the ancient lands freedom. Most of its following history has been dominated by the ruling Assad family, however during the Arab Spring of 2011 huge crowds gathered in every major Syrian cities to protest the draconian rule of President Bashar al-Assad. Having witnessed the fall of Iraq’s Saddam, the Alawite clan leader decided to respond to the masses’ request for more freedom with violence and the crackdown soon evolved into a vicious civil war shattering national unity.

Bombardments, air strikes, assassinations, massacres, poison gas attacks, extremists, hardliners, starvation, murder, and despair have forced millions of Syrians to flee their native land for refuge in neighboring countries ill-equipped to provide comfort for the desperate refugees.

Left with few options these forlorn Syrians have fled their homeland in droves.

By air, by land, and by sea.

This week the shores of Greece harvested a tide of dead refugees.

One was a baby. He was three years old and his name was Aylan Kurdi, whose Kurdish family was fleeing the depredations of a brutal kaleidoscope of horror.

Left with nowhere else to go this boy found his place in the world on a beach.

This tragedy and the other tragedies of the world has to stop.

Silence is not an option.

War is not the answer.

Only peace.

Smiles shall be he reward as those shining from Aylan Al-Kurdi and his older brother, Ghalib.

A HERO FOR THE OPEN ROAD by Peter Nolan Smith

My father loved road trips. The Westbrook native would load our family in the station wagon and drive from the coast of Maine to distant destinations throughout New England. He bestowed his wanderlust to his second son and as a young man I took to the road on a motorcycle in emulation of biker heros such as Marlon Brando in THE WILD ONES and Peter Fonda in EASY RIDER.

Upon moving to New York City in 1976 I met another kind of road warrior. Dmitri Turin, a exile for the USSR, was running a British bike shop with his Scottish partner in the wildlands of the Lower East Side. He rode a black Triumph with his furry dog Wilber resting on the gas tank. They were good days and A HERO FOR THE OPEN ROAD tells of my love for motorcycles, the road, and my friends from the era of errors.

They live on forever.

Here’s a small sample of A HERO FOR THE OPEN ROAD

A lice infestation swept through southern Maine in the late winter of 1958 and each school district around Portland mandated crew cuts for the boys without explaining why girls were exempt from the edict. Every Sunday night my father sheared his two older sons’ scalps to the bone with electric clippers, after which my mother inspected our heads for ‘cooties. Once deemed clean my older brother and I ran into the living room to catch Disney’s DAVY CROCKETT on TV.

Millions of adolescent boys idolized the Hollywood frontiersman.

Every Monday morning my schoolmates and I left our houses with raccoon caps over our bare heads and sang the theme song on the school bus to Underwood Primary School. Few of our teachers could discern the difference from the pack of bald boys.

We were the sons of Davy Crockett.

On the 4th of July 1958 my parents loaded our Ford station wagon for a drive to the seashore.

My father had installed aluminum bars across the rear windows to prevent any of his five children from falling out of the car and my grandmother Edith joked that we were the youngest reform school prisoners in the State of Maine. My mother didn’t find her comment so funny. We were a handful and she had another one on the way.

That weekend Old Orchard Beach was overwhelmed by a deluge of Canadian tourists, families from Portland, and local residents seeking relief from the summer heat in the Atlantic rollers crashing on the slanting grey beach. By late afternoon my two younger sisters’ skins radiated an unhealthy pink and our parents packed up our beach boys, blankets and towels.

My brother and I rushed to the bathhouse to wash off the sea salt, because Old Orchard had more to offer than an ocean. Dressed in identical jeans and Davy Crockett shirts, we re ran out to our father, who lifted his hands.

“Calm down.”

“Yes, sir.” We respected his commands, especially when they were in our best interest.

“You ready for fun?” He looked over his shoulder to the amusement park.

“Yes, sir.”

“Then let’s have a little fun.”

Silvery stars sparkled over the darkening green of the Atlantic beyond Old Orchard’s pier. My father accompanied us on the Mighty Mouse coaster ride and we screamed on the turns. My older brother got lost in Noah’s Ark funhouse and I cut my knee on the giant slide. The carousel was the only ride my mother considered safe for my sisters.

At the arcade I chucked three baseballs at lead milk bottles. My strikes barely wobbled the targets, while teenage boys won Kewpie dolls for pony-tailed girlfriends, who rewarded their prowess with kisses from candy-colored lips.

“What you looking at?” my brother asked holding a bag of popcorn.

“Nothing.” I cringed inside my Davy Crockett shirt, for ‘bein’ born on a mountaintop in Tennessee’ had ceased to be as important as knowing the words to the Platters YAKKETY-YAK.

“Yeah, nothing.” My brother also wanted to be older.

My father bought a turn. His first pitch toppled the pyramid of bottles and he repeated the feat two more times.

“Who’s hungry?” My father handed my mother a stuffed dog.

“We are.” My brother and I walked away from the White Way.

“We have a half-hour until the fireworks.” The Independence pyrotechnics were scheduled for thirty minutes after sunset and our family queued before the take-out counter of Gordon’s restaurant with our mouths watering in anticipation of golden fried clams, French fries, and cold Cokes.

A roaring thunder interrupted my father’s order in mid-sentence.

Ten motorcycles rumbled down East Grand Street and screeched to a halt before the restaurant. Not one bike was driven by a policeman. Their riders sported dirty leather jackets and oil-smeared jeans. Sideburns skated down their cheeks and they strode along the sidewalk, as if they had inherited the world from the meek.

“Who are they?” I asked, as my parents spirited us into the family station wagon.

“Bikers.” My father explained examining the stripped-down motorcycles with interest. He was an engineer by profession.

“Trouble,” my mother answered with no uncertainty and a uniformed policeman appeared from the bright White Way shouting, “You boys better be moving along.”

“We ain’t breakin’ no laws,” the twenty year-old with a Mohawk replied without any threat. “All we want is ice cream.”

“Then go down to Saco and get some.” The cop wasn’t taking any lip from a boy half his age. Saco was a factory town. The workers didn’t like rebels of any kind. “You’ll get a good welcome there.”

“Ain’t this a free country?” The young man stood his ground.

“Not for your type.” Another policeman arrived with a long billy club. A crowd watched from a safe distance.

“Our type?” The biker with the Mohawk examined our station wagon. “Guess Old Orchard is for the squares. Let’s go, boys.”

Even at age six I knew that squares were uncool and my Davy Crockett shirt crawled on my skin.

The bikers remounted their chrome motorcycles and revved their engines. Our car vibrated with each twist of the gas. The Mohawk biker pointed at our station wagon’s aluminum bars and said with a gap-toothed smile, “Don’t worry, kid, you’ll escape that jail wagon soon enough.”

His friends and he sped away in a swirling nebula of high-octane exhaust. My father had taken off the locks of the doors, so I couldn’t chase them like a boy desperate to join the circus. My love for Davy Crockett was dead.

To read the rest of A HERO FOR THE OPEN ROAD on Kindle Amazon, please go to the following URL and purchase it.



Greatest of the Great

On my birthday several friends and I were having a conversation about the greatest athlete of our lifetime at Frank’s Lounge. We were all in our 50s. Larry had seen Ali, Homer claimed for Magic Johnson, AP proposed Andre the Giant, then I said, “Evel Knievel.”

“No way.” Larry shook his head. AP and Homer called me a fool, but I stood by my choice.

Evel Knievel broke over 400 bones broken in the pursuit of aerial excellence, but his most heroic leap was the attempt to clear the Caesar’s Palace pool in Las Vegas.

That New Year’s Eve in 1967 on New Evel dropped $100 at the blackjack table. He zeroed out his chips, then had one shot of Wild Turkey before exiting the casino to climb on his Triumph Bonneville 650 cc.

Linda Evans filmed the crash at Caesar’s pool for the Wide World of Sports.
His approach is perfect, but somehow the engine cut out on the ramp. The bike’s rear tire caught the receiving ramp. Evel tumbles a football field into the casino. Linda Evans caught every agonizing second. Evel was comasized 29 days.

Next jump.

Houston Astrodome.

19 cars.

Harley 750.

Successful both times.

None better.

Evel Knieval.
The Greatest of the Great.

to seethis jump please go to this url

The One The Only Evel Knievel

America has not elected a bald president since Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. Every candidate with a hair issue has been rejected by the voters, although the outcome in the electoral college proved to be a landslide for the GOP, Hubert Humphrey missed defeating Richard Nixon in the 1968 popular vote thanks to George Wallace diverting the Deep South to support his cause of segregation now and segregation forever.

This year Donald Trump has surprised media pundits by seizing the lead for the GOP despite sporting a sweep-over. His attacks on migrant workers has resonated amongst white voters fearing the loss of their majority rights and the media have showered the billionaire with increased coverage despite his covert baldness.

Yesterday I found a photo of George Hamilton playing the daredevil Evel Knievel, the second greatest athlete of all time. The movie actor renown for his deep brown tan sported a coif very similar to Donald Trump and that might be another reason GOP voters are attracted to the billionaire candidate.

Of course Donald Trump is no Evel Knievel, but then again he’s no Dwight Eisenhower either.

To view Evel Knieval’s first jump in 1967, please go to this URL

A Boy Of Montana

My second choice for greatest athlete of the 20th Century has always been Evel Knievel. Mohammad Ali might have been the greatest fighter and Bill Russell won more NBA championships than any other basketball player, however the Butte, Montana native rode a motorcycle like a demon and refused to quit no matter how badly he had broken body.

His public expected nothing less from a man who was fired the Anaconda Mining Company for doing wheelies with an earth mover. Evel might have gotten away with this stunt, if the truck hadn’t knocked down Butte’s main power line.

Bobby Knievel changed his first name to Evel after a night in the Butte jail for a wild motorcycle chase.

According to the night jailer came around to check the roll, he noted Robert Knievel in one cell and William Knofel in the other. Knofel was well known as “Awful Knofel” (“awful” rhyming with “Knofel”) so Knievel began to be referred to as Evel Knievel (“Evel” rhyming with “Knievel”) according to Wikipedia.

He was not a simple man as demonstrated by this quote;

“You come to a point in your life when you really don’t care what people think about you, you just care what you think about yourself.”

Evel Knievel was a lucky lucky man.

I wish I could have been a little more like him, but couldn’t do wheelie of an earth mover, but Evel didn’t do everything for the camera.

He did them, because ‘I love the feeling of the fresh air on my face and the wind blowing through my hair.’

Same as me on a bike.