Not that  James Hunt

Jim Hunt was Bradley-educated and a native of Galesburg, Illinois.

When our Little Rock Air Force Base 70th Reconnaissance Technical Squadron was rendered useless by a change in the Wing's mission, Jim applied for and was assigned a job teaching in the tech school at Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls, Texas. The month before I split the blanket with the military James Brown and I visited him on the way to California. We met in a basement lounge, The Gar Hole. Alligator gar swimming in tanks behind the bar. There was a similar place of the same name in the Marion Hotel, Little Rock.

In Little Rock Jim and I sometimes treated ourselves to fresh strawberries and cream at the Grady Manning Hotel. The cream was served in a silver urn sitting on a bed of ice, and was so thick you had to spoon it onto the berries. The coffee was especially good, too.

That (Grady Manning) was the same hotel another legendary coworker and friend chose as the site of one of his legendary episodes. Bob From The Bronx, New York, if I remember correctly. Summertime and the dressing is light. Bright white for Bob: pants, shirt, and white buck shoes. Boisterous Bob had a few beers in a nearby club. Walking the streets in search of a new perch, he felt the pressure of processed beer. He headed for the Grady Manning where he knew there were first-class facilities off the lobby.

Just outside the plate-glass doors Bob was distracted by some passing hiccup in the flow of events. He turned his head away from his path. That twist and his mild inebriety resulted in a stumble that took him through the hotel doors, without opening them. Crash. One door shattered. He sustained a small cut on one arm. Alcohol and heat-thinned blood flowed copiously into garish display on Bob's white raiment. His naturally pale skin grew ashen in contrast to the blood and his black hair and eyes.

Never one to lag in assessing a situation, Bob evaluated his wound and played it strong. "My God, I'm wounded! What kind of place is this? Such a dangerous place should be shut down! A public nuisance and a hazard!" He ranted and staggered and sprayed blood around, apparently to good effect: the hotel doctor emerged and escorted him out of public view, while the manager tried to seem unaffected.

Bob came out with a couple stitches and a generous cash contribution to his clothing allowance. For him it was easy. The rest of us agreed if we had run into someone's door we'd have ended up paying for it.

Bob Mills from the Bronx

Here's a picture of Bob From The Bronx. He said he hung out at "The Log Cabin." In the Bronx. This was taken in 1957 or 1958. In a LRAFB barracks room. Martini time, it looks like.

I been wanting to tell this story. You know what they mean when they say you are "In the Zone"? You are super-coordinated, worldly events slow down, you are completely in charge of your actions, and your wish becomes crystal poignant reality? Sure, you been there.

One early morning, two or three or four o'clock, a crowd of us came off some Base Alert guard duty, and by accident Bob From The Bronx and I found ourselves resuming a Ping-Pong rivalry that had simmered for some weeks. Somehow I quickly diagnosed my Zonie state and was so cool I hid it for half or more of a game, playing at my usual pretty-good-but-no-tournament-winner level.

The night was warm, and off came the fatigue shirts, then the T-shirts. Bob was a little on the round side and a lot on the pasty side. I already remarked on the contrast between his black hair and pale skin.

Well, inspiration struck. I hit a slam so hard and straight no human reflex could defend against it. It struck him within an inch of where I aimed it, just below the collarbone, above the heart. In no time a red spot describing the compliance among adipose and skin and celluloid appeared on Bob's chest.

Pleased as he was about winning the point, he grimaced, rubbed, and continued his serve. I won and lost points in proportion to make the game pretty even, in control of every shot. At deuce I'd reach advantage-in and pop him with another red shot spot. We played several deuces before he started to have a glimmer of what was going on. By then he was displaying a dozen coup signs, some overlapping, some beginning to raise in proud welts.

I saw him scowl-eye the generous target of my torso, and was ready when he forehanded off an easy lob. His shot didn't get close, and I was able to hook it off his backhand corner. I took no more shots at him and even fed his best positions and he never, ever, got one past my paddle. He was foaming and slavering by the end of the second game, which he kind of gave away in the interest of his artillery barrage. None ever landed.

We never played again.

I never played Ping-Pong that well before, or since, although I have gotten close a couple of times in similar exhaustion- or other high-fueled circumstances. I once got into a Zone and ran one game of straight pool off the break. There have been a few other instances of Zone-produced writing, singing, Flamenco- and La Bamba-style dancing, some excruciatingly fine autocross and racetrack driving, occasional comedy invention, a few exalted runs, and even a couple of penciled drawing efforts that came from a place I can't usually go at my whim. There were also more than one sustained set of inspired activities in aid of Court proceedings, testimony, and righteous prosecution of mopes and miscreants.

I have to say I believe in the Zone and that it springs from within. Those who consistently excel are able to tap or enter into it at appropriate times and places. They have some kind of control over the trajectory of their beings, physical and otherwise, that I have not fully developed, whether because of incapacity or lack of application.

Any road, I wanted to let you picture pale Bob with red splotches, and Your OBedient Servant with the light of the spheres in his eyes.

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