Another side of Cliff

 

January 1, 1982

 

Before coming to Cosmetics Plus, Cliff O'Neal was a football player at the University of Pittsburgh. He was going to make a career of it, but he hurt his knee.

He was a real party man at college; he was involved in a number of drunken brawls and, in one case, he threw someone through a glass window.

Cliff was also involved with a lot of women at these parties.

His father owned an insurance office nearby. Cliff resisted going into the same business but since he had to have a job, he came to the new warehouse just after Donald moved there in early 1977.

He was a big New York Yankees and New York Giants fan. In fact, Cliff looked like a larger version of Thurman Munson with blond hair and a brush like mustache.

His father or some other family member introduced him to some friend of the family, a woman who he dated a few times. While he didn't seem to be in love with her, he thought he ought to settle down and decided at one point to marry her.

The day Cliff started at the warehouse, John Telson ran up to me in the warehouse to warn me that about Cliffs of arrival. Since I tended to taunt fellow workers, John thought it wise to tell me that Cliff is too big and tough for me to mess with. But John also told me about this trick knee, so I started in on Cliff right away. Naturally, Cliff chased me through the warehouse and when he caught me, pounded on my arm until I said uncle.

I said, I thought you had a trick knee.

He said, I do it tricked you didn't it?

Cliff didn't like John he saw him as a kiss ass and Cliff just barely tolerated Donald. But Cliff sincerely like Stan and often split the tab on a six pack of beer we all shared in the late afternoons.

Cliff, unlike the rest of us, didn't start out as a driver but remained a warehouse worker picking and packing orders and loading trucks.

During the summer of 1977, Cliff and I attended a number of New York Yankee games. We drove to a garage near the Port Authority building and from there we took a Subway to the stadium. We drank too much at these games to trust driving home directly. So, we figured we could sober up on the subway ride back to Times Square.

At first, we each drank a beer for each inning. Later on, for 1/2 Innings; then we tried for every out. I did not survive this; even Cliff staggered.

By the end of the 1977 Christmas season Cliff made up his mind to work for his father and get married. I never saw him again.

Since Cliff arrived just out of college, he must have been about 22 or 23 and 1977 I was 25 going on 26 so I guess he was born in 1954 or 55. He tended to take things in stride though when pissed could get violent. He was a soft-spoken man the epitome of Teddy Roosevelt's concept of speaking softly but carry a big stick. While he was flexible, he never let anybody push him around; he was calm in the way a brooding volcano is.

He loved sports and seemed most at home on a field or stadium where he could let loose a little.

He wanted to pursue a career in sports and when that was denied him, he felt around for something to make a living but made it clear he wasn't going to be hoisting boxes into a truck the rest of his life.

He wasn't looking for success in the way John Telson was, nor wanted a position; he just wanted security and was looking for a place in the world where he could live comfortably.

I remember how his clear eyes seemed to be laughing or thinking of something funny except when pissed and then they narrowed and focused.

His blond hair hung down over broad forehead which had a few creases suggesting he worried at times yet held in his concerns

he also had a broad nose yet not one overly large and this thing over the bristle like mustache that partially hid his thin upper lip. He had shoulders so broad he seemed to be wearing shoulder pads even when he was not -- this idea supported by a football jersey he routinely wore -- some from his college some from the New York Giants. He also wore a New York Yankees pinstripe shirt sometimes with Munson's number on it and the New York Yankees hat with his blond hair sticking out the back and sides.

His chest was as broad as his shoulders only he was clearly out of shape and had a bit of a beer gut from partying he did in college. He limped a little, more on cold or wet days when he claimed his knee bothered him most.

Cliff grew up locally the Caldwells where he went to school and where his father still ran the insurance office. He had a younger sister I never met.

Cliff told me he respected his father yet did not wish to end up like him. But eventually, he got so sick of working like a mule, he saw no alternative since he wanted to live a normal life which meant home and family and job.

This may be the reason he calmed down after college. Instead of partying with party girls, he started to date women he might eventually marry. He tended to be more conservative than the rest of us more like his father yet did not wave a flag and never served in the military since he was in college during the last years of the Vietnam War he graduated after the draft had ended.

Unlike some of the other workers that came on at the warehouse, Cliff tended to like drinking more than drugs and was part of that kind of crowd when in high school and college yet as much as he loved party women and focused on marriage, he struck me as someone who preferred being around other men rather than women and found it easier to talk to a man than he did to a woman and so did not lust after the girls in the outlet like some of the other warehouse workers did.

He wasn't a dumb jock. He was versatile enough to be able to do more than physical work and wise enough to want to life that allowed him to use his talents rather than his back.

While he boasted about his past exploits, he clearly did not want to get trapped into the kind of life he saw many of his college friends getting trapped in.

 

 

 


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