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First Car

On December 28, 1956, my father was 16, and he bought his first car. It was a ’53 Chevy, and he paid $800 cash for it. 800 bucks was a chunk of change back then.

At the end of the summer of 1987, I bought my first car. It was a ’75 Toyota Celica, and I paid $800 cash for it. At 17 years old, I thought $800 was a chunk of change. It was a five speed manual transmission, and although it would survive for many more years and over 200,000 miles, it had seen it’s better days. Dad made sure I learned to drive on a stick, because really, once you can drive a stick, you can drive anything. But I was always more comfortable with “four on the floor” than “three on the tree”.

Dad had been looking at a WWII surplus Willys Jeep, complete with a tattered canvas top. My grandmother, Mama Agnes, wasn’t going to let him buy that, so he bought the more practical car, with doors, seats, and a hard roof that was still intact.

Both of us have bought, sold, or traded many cars since then (Dad has the best record to date though; he once traded two briskets and a tow charge for a 4-door hatchback), but we’ll always remember the first car that we bought with the money that we earned.

Change

This is a reply I sent (several weeks ago) in response to Google asking me to take a survey asking why I did not like the Google’s “new” look.

“I answered this question earlier, but I was unable to (exactly) put my finger on why I disliked the new look. However, I think it has something to do with the decision to use icons or pictures on your “buttons” rather than the word, ex: the “delete” button has been replaced with the garbage can icon button, and with the color scheme, the icons/buttons tend to blend in more with the background so visually it, well, to put bluntly, sucks. No me gusta. Hell, I don’t know, maybe I’m just getting old” (it was at this point that I reached my character limit of 500)

What I would have written if I had more space… “Shit just seems to be changing quicker these days than I’m comfortable with, and that is what bugs me. I completely realize that change is going to happen, and that some of it is for the better. However, it seems that lately it is accelerating; faster than I can keep up. I can’t help but wonder if new for the sake of newness (rather than actually being better) is really that important.”

I guess this is a gripe for the ages. I’m likely not the first, nor the last one, who will think/write/say this, or something similar.

So there’s that.

Now get off my lawn!

Seeing the incredible moon these past few nights reminded me of an evening in Switzerland, sometime in my first year there. One evening, while walking up the Ra Cürta to my apartment in Montagnola, as I was going up the steep part below the bench, I saw the moon as it rose from behind the peak of San Salvatore. I stood there in awe, having never seen the moon rise at just that spot before (and I never saw it like that again in the time that I lived there). Although I had my camera, I didn’t even think to take it out; I just stood there watching the moon slowly move out from behind the mountain. It is no wonder that Hermann Hesse (among many people) fell in love with this place.

“I Love You”

Funny story.

After running the Warrior Dash in Manchester, back in September, my buddy and I headed north up I-24. We stopped for water and snacks at a truck stop south of Murfreesboro at Exit 89. After I got my snacks (I got a Little Debbie oatmeal cream cookie, because I figured, after 3.1 to 3.4 miles of Warrior Dash awesomeness, I deserved a little treat), I went up to the counter to check out. After the clerk gave me back my change she said, “I love you.”

I have to say, I was a little surprised, and didn’t know how to respond right away. As I was slowly getting out, “I, uh, love (andImeanloveinastrictlyplatonicIlovehumanitykindofway) you… too” She realized what she had said and told me that as she was handing me my change, her sister walked up behind me in line and while she had meant to say something along the lines of, “Thank you, have a nice day.”, seeing her sister had distracted her and apparently thrown her off her game. So she told me (as proxy for her sister), that she loved me. She apologized and I told her that it was okay and the world would probably be a better place if people said, “I love you.” more often.

Then I went to where my buddy was checking out at the other end of the counter and told him that my clerk had told me that she loved me. His clerk, not to be outdone, promptly told him that she loved him, as well. So it was a very friendly truck stop.

And yes, the name of the truck stop was “Love’s”.

“I used to always pick him [the regional VP] up at the airport; he would catch the 9 a.m. flight out of Atlanta, and then we would go to the Gerst Haus, when it was over there on 2nd Avenue [Gerst Haus moved to Woodland Street in 1970].

Ashby, we’d sit there allll day long, and this was when beer was a quarter a bottle. I’d run up a tab of $80-$90. He’d buy drinks for all our friends, and clients, and other brewers who’d come into the place, and he’d be snookered by lunchtime. But we stayed there all day long having our business meetings.

His favorite beer was Falstaff, but I never drank the stuff. Hardly drank beer, truth be told. I went and bought a case after dinner and put it in the refrigerator, and danged if he didn’t drink it all that night!”

You sure can have some interesting lunchtime conversations.

I have been thinking about the oddly timed episodes of cheering/booing at the past three Republican debates, and perhaps I am most incredulous about the latest episode. Get this: a crowd of GOP booed a member of the military who asked a question via video, because he was gay. That service member is currently serving in Iraq. I really want to put that last sentence in all caps. But it helped me remember something from my high school days.

This was back in the mid-80s, at Episcopal High School, in Houston, Texas; I was either a freshman or sophomore, because Mr. Barr was still teaching, and he figures prominently in this story. Mr. Barr was a history teacher at the school, and among other duties, he was the faculty rep for the Model United Nations (we were Colombia).

We had a congressman from the U.S. House of Representatives come to the school and speak. I can’t remember which one, or if he was actually the congressman for this particular district. However, I do remember that he represented Texas. I can’t remember what he was there to speak about either, maybe just a general sort of “this is what I do as your representative” type of speech.

After the member of Congress spoke, they started taking questions. Mr. Barr went up to the microphone. I cannot remember if his question had anything to do with the speaker’s topic or not, but it had to do with immigration, of the illegal variety. Nor can I remember the entirety of Mr. Barr’s question, except to say that Mr. Barr was not happy. Essentially Mr. Barr wanted to know what those yahoos in Washington were going to do about the large numbers of immigrants illegally crossing the Rio Grande River and “invading” Texas. I believe that Mr. Barr actually likened the size of the immigrant “army” to being several times larger than Santa Anna’s “invading” army of 1836, called them “Mexican wetbacks”, and by that point he was shouting.*

Like I said, I don’t remember too many particulars, what I just wrote pretty much sums up what I remember about the actual question. However, I do remember that after he finished his question, there was a great deal of cheering, clapping, and maybe laughter. (To this day, I use the words “great deal” instead of “a lot” out of reverence for the next person mentioned in this story.)

Mrs. Corbett was an English teacher at the school, and although I knew she was born in Germany, I didn’t know much else beyond that. She was the next person to go to the microphone. She didn’t really have a question, more of a response to Mr. Barr (which was good, because I think the congressman was kind of speechless at that point). She spoke about being an immigrant, and how she and her family had fled East Germany and if it had not been for Harry S. Truman (and I think his support for the Displaced Persons Act), they might have never been able to make it out of a still destroyed Germany and into the United States which allowed them to have a much better life than what they could have had in a Germany that was still recovering from the war. When she finished, she was on the verge of tears (if not already crying), and the auditorium was dead silent.

Having written the above, there are a number of routes I could take before I finish (why did we cheer, immigration and associated policy in the 80s, Anglo/Hispanic relations in Texas in the 80s, among others), but I think I want to write about the cheering. As I said, I was a freshman or a sophomore. Because of the unique way they were growing the school, we did not have a senior class yet, and if I was a freshman, we didn’t even have a junior class yet, only freshmen and sophomores. So the age range of the majority of those in the auditorium was 14-17. We were kids, and not even old enough to vote. But apparently we cheered this guy. I have to be honest; I was probably one of the ones cheering, most of us were. But I was also regretting my cheering after Mrs. Corbett finished speaking.

I am not sure what happened immediately after that, we may have had more questions or they may have dismissed us at that point to prevent any further embarrassment. Regardless, later that day, or the next, Mr. Barr got fired, was “asked to leave”, or resigned. What people (including myself) found out later was that Mr. Barr wasn’t exactly a loveable curmudgeon given to bombast in class to help illustrate a point of history, but apparently (possibly?) a racist, or at least a xenophobe. Turns out there were other instances and complaints about his behavior towards, and questionable treatment of, people of color. His actions in the assembly were the straw that broke the camel’s back. Mr. Barr was angry, and he apparently asked questions that some people wanted to ask but he asked in an inappropriate way. And he was cheered on by a crowd largely made up of minors. I like to think that most of us immediately reconsidered or regretted our cheering, or at least were regretting our cheer by the time Mrs. Corbett had spoken. However, we still cheered. The defense I would use is that we were kids, and we may have been cheering (and laughing maybe) Mr. Barr’s bombastic way of questioning more than the content of the question. I like to think that most of us would eventually grow out of it and wouldn’t get as blindly caught up as we did in Mr. Barr’s fervor. Regardless, we cheered, clapped and probably laughed.

So in retrospect, I would expect to hear such cheering or booing as was heard at the Republican debates. Only the audience would be a group of high school students who aren’t mature enough to know better and who still need to be reminded of decorum and decency. Not a crowd of supposedly mature adults.

As always, I welcome all responses, but this time especially if you are EHS class of ’87, ’88, or ’89, because I’d be interested in hearing your memories of this event (or any event at EHS that stands out in your memory).

*For a little historical perspective, it should be noted that contrary to the beliefs of many critics at the time, the illegal immigrants coming across the border could have been refugees from any number of Central American countries fleeing wars, death squads or bad economic conditions that were happening in the 80s.

Writing

One last note (at least for now) brought on by the retreat I attended earlier this month. Early in the retreat, Robert Benson said this about his writing: “I want to write, I need to write, and I need to be read.” I recognized that for his type of writing, it was a true statement. I partly identified with him. I too want to write, and I need to write, but I don’t need to be read. This blog notwithstanding, most of what I write, I don’t share. In fact, later in the weekend I wrote this at the beginning of my journal:

I want to write
I need to write
I don’t need to be read

The journal I bought in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, in August of 2007 just before starting work at Christ School. The journal that I am finally over half-way to filling.

Not that there is anything wrong with being read, especially if you are a professional writer; that’s what you want. But for me, the writing is more important. It helps me think, it helps me remember (more and more, if I don’t write it down, I’m going to forget it). If one day after I am gone, my children (and maybe my wife) want to read the journal (maybe journals?), they might get the chance. Maybe see what I was thinking as a man in his 40s starting new journeys left and right, and before my brain went to mush.

This is of course, assuming that I don’t burn them.

Earlier in life, I used to be a writer of letters, and in a way I guess those were my journal entries. I did have actual journals throughout other portions of my life, but the only time I’ve written with any consistency was in high school (thanks to George Hawkins and his daily journal topics) and now the past few years. But the letter writing has fallen off, and I do more journal writing.

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