A couple of months ago, I (along with my trusty side-kick Tini) drove my parents to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Seems that my mother was meeting her three sisters for a sibling’s stay together weekend. My dad, who was not going to be staying with his wife, preferred being nearer to my mother than being further away, was along for the ride.
It really was good to travel with them once again, especially at this stage in our lives. In my youth we put a lot of miles underneath us as a family. A lot of miles. Back then our numerous road trips were adventures across the country. We basically camped all over America in a VW Microbus. My folks were kind of like hippies before there were hippies. They still kind of are.
I am thankful for those so many road trips. Traveling by car was a combination of a lot of reading, observing the countryside, navigating with a map, long talks (day and night) and inevitably reaching a destination. Along the way, the unplanned, the unexpected and the unique experiences of being on the road were plentiful, and mystical…in a way.
Anyways, the drive to Hilton Head is all good. We get mom checked-in with her sisters for the weekend. The rest of the crew is on its own. My dad, the dog and I check into the motel room. The manager goes out of his way to say that the morning breakfast is excellent. He wouldn’t stop. We don’t, as a general rule, pass-up food that’s being offered to us, so the following morning, still a little road weary, we go to the much praised breakfast offering. For the record, it lived-up to the hype, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I mentioned that we have a history of different road experiences. That is what I am here to talk about:
There are maybe 10-12 folks eating in the dining area. I have my back to a wall and a very clear view of the whole room. My dad is facing me. Tini is alone guarding our room wishing he had been taken along. Everyone in the breakfast room has that unique look of being in a motel in the early morning with other people in the same boat. Everyone knows that everyone knows that nobody is home in this room…we’re all travelers of different sorts. All coming from somewhere else, all going somewhere else.
A man and woman, in the latter half of their sixties, are at the next table. I notice that the woman is having increasing trouble getting the food to her mouth and seems somewhat unaware. The man decides that they should leave, but she does not respond or seem to understand. He goes over and physically helps her to get up from her chair. They take a few staggered steps and the woman latches on to the back of the chair that my dad is sitting in. We ask the man if we can help in any way. He asks us to just keep her with us while he checks out (they’re already packed & loaded) and then he will take her directly to the car. We agree.
We manage to get the woman to sit in a chair, but that doesn’t last long. She’s on her feet and seeming to compulsively clean the table with a paper napkin. She does not coherently respond to words. I go to see if the motel has a wheel chair. They do not. When I get back the man and my dad are on each side of the woman pretty much carrying her out of the breakfast room. I step in to relieve my dad on her left side, but she has a super-tight grip on his fingers and will not let go, so he is towed along behind us as we get her to and into the car.
We exchange first names and talk with the man. He thanks us. They are married. The husband says that she is having one of her bad spells. He then did something I found remarkably different under circumstances that weren’t normal to begin with. He says, “Well, you might as well know about our 15 minutes of fame.” From his phone, he pulls up a black white photo that he says is them in what he says is in Time Magazine.
I confess, my initial thought was that his best interest might be spent tending to his wife, not showing dad and I a picture from their youth.
As it turns out, I am pleased, very pleased that he did.
He proceeded to tell us of how he and his wife met. It was at a campus protest in May of 1970 at the University of Maryland. The Kent State Massacre had just happened…the Vietnam War…civil rights…leaders being assassinated – social unrest, turbulent times indeed.
He was reluctantly there on duty having recently felt obligated to join the National Guard. He didn’t want the job, but it beat the alternative, which was the draft and an all expense paid tour of The’Nam.
She was there as a protester. She didn’t want anyone to have to go to Vietnam. She really didn’t.
They somehow met in the midst of the protest, got to know each other, eventually married and have been together ever since.
Now if that isn’t a nice way to meet your future spouse, what is?
He, in what I have come to view as a touching exhibit of love, was showing us a picture of the woman that we had just helped. Young, vibrant, a protester. The woman he knew, but we did not.
He wanted us to see beyond the woman buckled in the seat of their car, but somewhere else entirely. He loved her then, he loves her now. Love over time is wonderful thing.
Dad and I got quite the start to our day.
Back in the room, I fact checked everything that he said. It all fit. I couldn’t locate the picture he showed us however. Months later, digging through Time Magazine’s vault, I did find the same picture he showed us. This is the two of them from the May 18, 1970 issue, along with Time’s caption:
I hope they are well and that she is not having any more bad spells. I am glad we were able to be of some assistance to them. I am the better for our random encounter and having heard their wonderful story.
This is a story about a great grandfather and a great grandson, but before it is told, I think a little background is in order:
Through modern science, the ultrasound revealed that my eldest daughter One’s second child (“1.2”) would be male. The all female streak (daughters & granddaughters) was at an end. There would be a first boy cub.
Great grandfather Michael was my widowed mother-in-law’s second husband – a wonderful man who was loved by all. A man who knew a lot more than higher education could ever have taught him. Michael had a practical engineer’s curiosity. True Statement: He never stopped figuring things out.
Michael and 1.2 bonded right away. They really did. It was special. They did all kinds of things together. As 1.2 became more aware, with Michael showing him, he became fascinated by ceiling fixtures. At family functions, I vividly remember Michael carrying 1.2 room-to-room where they would stop underneath the ceiling fan or light and 1.2 would point up to it. They would each in their own way analyze it for a time and then move on to the next room.
As it subsequently turns out, thus far, 1.2 continues to exhibit an engineer’s curiosity. So perhaps there was a certain instinctual and/or even metaphysical connection between the two of them. They were virtually inseparable when in the same place.
Being faithful parents, my daughter and son-in-law made arrangements, as is done amongst protestant churches, to dedicate 1.2’s upbringing to the Lord. They were attending at the time what I could best describe as a very large church, perhaps not a mega-church, but a very large church nonetheless. The Sanctuary was well appointed with an excellent stage having good sound and lighting. Their services were ably produced. Many people attended.
1.2 was almost one and a half years of age at the time – still way too young to comprehend everything happening around him. As is true of children of that age, most language was beyond his understanding as was the full meaning of the ceremony that he was the subject of.
The pastor who presided over the baby dedications was perfect for the job. He combined earnestness in his role while still being amiable and a nice enough guy. Children generally reacted well to him. It was his duty to publicly confirm with the parents their intent to raise their child within the beliefs of the faith.
Along with that, the pastor would address the child directly, among other things making note of the meaning of the child’s name within its religious context. At the point when the pastor was mentioning to 1.2 that he too had some obligations in this matter – to be a good, obedient son, respecting his parents and being faithful to the Lord above…
…1.2 raised his hand and pointed straight up to heaven.
The congregation collectively gasped in amazed reaction at having seen the hand of God move through the hand of a child. It was on TV and streaming on the Internet. 1.2 had no idea of how far his reach exceeded the length of his small arm!
Michael and I followed 1.2’s upward motion and realized what had happened. 1.2, perhaps not giving the pastor his full attention, had noticed the colorful stage lighting above his head and reacted to it. Michael might just as well have been holding him on that stage at that particular moment. Most thankfully, someone took a picture:
I was sitting next to Michael. I looked at Michael. Michael looked at me. I think…I am pretty sure that wry smiles appeared on both of our faces. Nothing was said between us, words were needless – it was truly an amazing moment in time. In a crowd of well over one thousand, he and I, along with a few family members, knew what 1.2 was up to. To the rest, a religious act of some magnitude had occurred right in front of their eyes, and well, who am I to say, perhaps God does move in mysterious ways…
I was on my way to take my last college final exams…life had other plans for me.
It was 1981. It had been a little over four years since I had joined the United States Air Force. Almost five years since we had married. During that time we had two children. I had just received an Honorable Discharge from the military. I had been going to college full-time as well.
I had acquired an early ‘70’s Volkswagen Square Back that needed an engine overhaul and other work. Living on the coast of California, the surfer dudes were always wanting to buy it – perfection for their purposes. I received numerous offers, but held on to it.
I have never been all that mechanical, but the VW engine is not a very complicated affair. It took awhile because of the scarcity of time and the ever present lack of money. All indications were that my rehab work was adequate, but there seemed to be numerous other mechanical issues that required solving.
Deb and the girls had flown home. I rented a moving truck and with my father’s assistance drove our worldly possessions while towing our MG back to Buffalo. I then returned to California to stay with friends for a couple of months while I finished my last semester of college.
It had been four very long years away from the land I was born, raised and grew-up in. I was ready to go back. I was very much looking forward to being a civilian again. I was anxious to be with my family once more. I had been around the sun 24 times and was eager for new adventures.
The VW ran well enough for me to use while I finished my courses. I had to tinker with it a bit, but I tested it with a couple of small trips and all systems were “go” to drive it back to New York once I was done. I had grown attached to it. It was my escape vehicle. I had been the one who brought it back to life.
So, the day of my last finals came and off I went to be tested. I had no way of knowing the real tests I was facing. Midway there, the VW spewed an oil slick that James Bond would have been proud of. I left it on the side of the highway and hitch-hiked the rest of the way. Not the glorious ending to my college career that I had anticipated…
I managed to get the VW to a friend’s and pulled the engine. I did a quick tear down and then put it back together. Not being sure of what had happened, I took it to the local shop and they replaced an oil gasket as I recall. It was functional once again.
With haste I would soon regret, I loaded the VW with my stuff and left Vandenberg AFB (a little north of beautiful Santa Barbara) and headed home. I didn’t get too far. I was near San Bernardino when the final engine meltdown occurred. I got a small amount of cash for the VW. I gave away the possessions that I couldn’t economically ship home. I was devastated mentally and emotionally. My homecoming drive was a disaster.
To make matters worse, then President Reagan, my former Commander In Chief, was taking a stand against the air traffic controllers. They were taking a stand against their work conditions and were on strike. The nation’s airlines were basically shut down for a brief period. The exact period I was in serious need of the services they normally offered.
I got a bus out of San Bernardino and once again began my trip home. Adding further to my difficulties because of the lack of air travel, the buses were full up with travelers. I and my sadness over what had happened were closely packed with other humans who no doubt had stories of their own.
I vividly remember what happened just before the bus left the Las Vegas station. A woman with two young children came aboard. The woman got the children seated just in front of me, told them to be good and walked off the bus. Just like that. The kids looked scared. The brother was about seven, the sister about five. I could feel a lot of interest in them generated by the other passengers on the bus. Some of that interest didn’t feel so good.
Isn’t it funny how sometimes, in our own bad times, we intersect with others in even worse situations?
I was handed a mission that I could not refuse. Certainly not a mission that I wanted. I had my own troubles, but I knew that those kids needed someone to keep them safe and on course from Las Vegas to their destination in upstate New York.
I moved from my seat and began talking to them. I told them that I had children of my own, that they could trust me and that I intended on helping them along the way. I made sure that the other passengers on the bus could hear me well enough to know that the kids were no longer fair game – they had a protector.
And I took care of those kids. I made sure that they ate, went to the bathroom and slept safely. During stops along the way, I took them on walking expeditions to explore the surroundings and have some physical exercise. We talked. We laughed. We had a few occasional outbursts. I read to them. We played silly child games.
Over the course of the next few days, our route took us through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania followed and then New York. My final stop was Buffalo. I gave the bus driver primary responsibility for the kids’ safe passage for the not long rest of the way to their destination.
As it turned out, parting from them was not so easy. I have the feeling that those kids helped me more than I helped them. That’s life, ain’t it?
I think of them from time-to-time. However it has happened for them and wherever they are, I hope those kids have had good lives.
You lie still less than a foot away on top of the soft mouse pad that protects me from carpal tunnel syndrome.
I noticed this morning, through eyes not yet clarified by my first coffee of the day, your presence in my study. Odd, I thought, that you would even be present this close to Thanksgiving. It is certainly past your time of the year in these parts.
I had the presence of mind to reckon that your life must be short. Rather than remove you from my space, both physical and mental, I decided that if these were your final moments then my study could be your Hospice and I your companion.
Your flight and movement were a little chaotic, seemingly random. You nestled in the heat of the light in the globe of my desk lamp, you circled my cranium, you landed in various spots, and in and on various objects on my desk while I got about the business of the day.
Sometimes I could see you, other times I did not know where you were. Then you would rise again to a new location. I wondered if you had any purpose in this, if there was more going on than my conscious programming allowed me to realize.
Perhaps it was, in your reality, some last business to be done? Or perhaps a ritual of your species’ existence?
I hoped that if there is any pleasure in being a Ladybug that it was satisfying in some way, even so far from your natural habitat.
Then you landed on your final resting spot and moved no more.
For me, my study is a place of many good things. I hope in your last moments it was to you as well. Rest in Peace my little Ladybug. And thanks for reminding me of the preciousness and fragility of life.
Having recently heard of the latest Monkees reunion tour, sans Davey of course, I got to thinking of one of the threads of my youth that came to fruition much later along my pathway.
It’s very important to take the space time continuum seriously… especially when you are not much of a believer in fate, destiny or that things always happen for a purpose, like myself. For me things can be summed up pretty neatly with the words of Douglas Adams, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”
Back in the 60’s, music was exploding. It seemed like every day there was a new sound or a new artist adding to ever expanding genres. I tried to take it all in. We all tried to take it all in. I think we may still be trying to take it all in. It was an incredible time musically!
I love music in every form, but I have always been a sucker for a good pop hook. The Beatles were astounding. They were everywhere. They changed pop music with each new album, and they changed pop culture each time as well. The rest of the English Invasion was a musical force to be reckoned with.
America had to respond. And respond it did on every front. Admirably too.
One of those fronts was sheer profit. The Monkees were assembled as a money making business, pure Hollywood corporatism. Yet it was so wonderfully American.
And I loved the Monkees! Their job was making music! They had the Monkeemobile! They were hanging out and having fun! They got in (and then out of) the most ridiculous situations as a way of life!
My take on them, then and now: Davey had charm that was contagious, Mike was a serious thinker, but someone had to be, and Peter was just goofy. Mickey was just too cool and my undeniable favorite.
In the 60’s, when the Monkees came to town for a concert at the venerable War Memorial Auditorium, I heard on the AM wireless that they were arriving at the airport. My brother and I convinced my mother to drive us over there so that we could meet them in person. I was never more excited. I tried to think of what I might say to them. Maybe they would give me tickets to their concert. Maybe they would ask me backstage. Maybe they would ask me to be a Monkee. Maybe they would ask me to tour with them…
Of course we were at the wrong airport. The Monkees flew into the private airfield right next to where we were. Dreams dashed in the sad realization that we were not going to meet them.
But I knew one thing for certain from the Monkees – I had to be in a rock band. As a result of that, I had the incredible opportunity to perform with musicians who, to this day, I am deeply honored to have shared a stage with – times I will always cherish and be thankful for.
Real good stuff.
Fast forward a few decades. I’m doing the corporate gig as CFO of a rapidly expanding Internet company. We make generous donations to “Computers for Kids.” We get preferential treatment at their annual gala fundraiser. Mickey Dolenz is the performer. I get a private post performance party invite.
I am going to finally meet Mickey Dolenz. Did I mention that Mickey was my favorite Monkee?
It’s not that I am star struck, well maybe a little, but it’s that I like to meet the people who have had a profound influence upon me and thank them. And if possible, have as much conversation as the opportunity presents.
The show was great and it’s time to fulfill a boyhood dream. I’m cool, but yet I am as over-excited as a child. Finally, Mickey joins the party. He situates himself right next to me at the bar in the private room. I seize the moment and request a photo of me and Mickey.
As the photo is about to be snapped, I place my arm around Mickey, and in doing so, I push his drink right off of the bar. Horrors! Mickey looks at me and tells me that it took 20 minutes for the staff to find his particular drink of choice. He is not happy. Nightmare! I sincerely apologize. They replenish his drink. It gets better. I get my picture.
We talk. I feel so good. I tell him that “Shades of Gray” remains my favorite Monkees song. I tell him that Davey did a great job on the vocals. He tells me that it is his favorite too, but he sang the song. I am pretty sure that my memory is good in this regard, but this is Mickey Dolenz contradicting me here. I have to cede to him. Meeting summary to that point: Oh no, bad start that got better now taking a negative turn.
But things went back to good between me and Mickey, and as it turned out, I had the most delightful time talking with him.
When I had the later opportunity to listen to “Shades of Gray,” I realized that Davey did indeed sing most of the lead with Mickey singing along, but mostly harmonizing. Well at least Mickey and I consider it our favorite Monkees song.
Sometimes we get what we want in our childhood, when we are adults…
I’ve put on some obscure Iggy Pop from your collection and smoked a little to set the mood.
Your body stopped functioning yesterday, and you passed away a few days before that.
I am actually thankful for the deep cold virus that inhabits me right now and seeks to live at my expense. It forces me to be more inactive, which gives me time to think of you and our times together.
So, I thought I would write you one last time. Maybe you can read this, maybe you can’t, but there is little to come that you don’t know already. Maybe this is selfishly more for me than it is for you.
How prophetic that you would die at the hands of the state. How wrong. How fucked-up. This is going to have to work itself out within me in the future as I am not capable of dealing with it right now. But I will deal with it, on that you can rest assured.
What a prequel it is that your father, of Polish nobility, would be killed working for the secret service of the allies during the Cold War while you were still in your mum’s womb.
You weren’t properly “schooled” because you couldn’t take them and they couldn’t take you, yet you were one of the smartest people I’ve ever had the opportunity to be around.
Oh, and Eddy (and I must say as trying as it was sometimes), I really like how you understood and looked for the Zen in everything. In your occupations as a mason and plumber you were a magnificent craftsman. You raised masonry and plumbing to a form of art. I wish others could better understand you in this regard. As a chef, you prepared a private meal for the artist then known as Prince, and had your own audience with him. I wish you had more of those experiences for a lot of different reasons.
Like virtually everyone in my life, your political views were different from mine. But unlike virtually everyone in my life, your views came about from deep study and a real search to determine your position. I would very much like to think that was one of our mutual traits. Tears rise up as I realize that I will never be able to call you a “socialist twit” again during one of our thankfully many discussions. You never had any idea how much I enjoyed calling you that, but on the other hand, perhaps you did. It wasn’t that you were a “socialist twit” (as we both knew you weren’t), but that you would let me call you one.
As you well know, I have said for over 30 years that you are one of the few people that I would give my life for. You didn’t give me the chance.
The world at large did not want you in it, my friend, but of course, you knew that. It did not want to listen to the inconvenient truths you so readily spoke of. It, metaphorically speaking, shut its ears as you raised your voice thinking that it was the decibels it should be avoiding instead of listening to your different point of view. It could not tolerate your non-conformity. By everyone’s standards, you weren’t normal, and that meant that they classified you in demeaning, negative ways. The fools…
And it is because of all of the foregoing, that I knew that the world needed you in it.
I think I will take “a little one” now in your honor and to dull the sadness in me. Na Zdrowie Brother.
You married a girl who even at her young age saw, as she describes, “the diamond in the rough” that you were. How many people have missed what was obvious to her? And though you have left, you added two daughters who I am sure, just like you, will make the world a better place.
You and your house were a haven for others that didn’t fit the mold very well – generally musicians or people who liked being around musicians. I find it ironic, yet wonderful that you, a guy who faced his own mental demons all the time, was able to “mother” them so well. Each walked away the better in some way for the time spent with you. You should be really pleased by that Buddy.
There is not a musician who received your help that did not appreciate your efforts.
Very few really ever knew how much of a musician you were.
I am glad that my children got to experience you in their lives – they are the better for that. And just for the record Buddy, they are thankful for that too. Biology never interfered with your being a true member of our families. Holidays, camping, pinochle, talking, arguing, fixing stuff, music, hanging out together – these are times I will always remember well.
You continually referred me to interesting authors, Neal Stephenson being the latest. As a source of music and literature, as well as philosophy, you added so much to my existence.
Who will take your vital place in my life? There are so few capable. You were truly one of kind Ed.
Oh, and I have to mention that in the past, when someone close passes, I have felt an overwhelming blast of loss. In your case, the blast of loss deepens as the days go by. You always had to be different, didn’t you?
You fought the good fight Eddy – See ‘ya on the other side, Brother.
My connection to Kurt Vonnegut (November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) began most innocently.
My father and I were doing a classic road trip in a VW Microbus in the spring of 1972 when we happened upon a drive-in theater featuring the recently released movie Slaughterhouse Five. What a beautiful accident!
“I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all” – Sirens of Titan
From there, I commenced to read everything that Vonnegut wrote. He became an essential element in my life. I was (and still am) an avid reader, but I connected with his writing and thought process better than with any other author.
“This is my principal objection to life, I think: It is too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes” – Deadeye Dick
His curiosity, humor, sense of irony and tragedy, and even his joy affected me deeply. No other writer could make me laugh at life’s follies while at the same time crying over them.
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be” – Mother Night
Curiously enough, I came close to Vonnegut without realizing it during 1974-76. The parents of the drummer of the band that I was in were post-hippie secular humanists that hung with a very interesting crowd. Vonnegut turned out to be an element of this group though I missed that completely.
"I am notoriously hooked on cigarettes. I keep hoping the things will kill me. A fire at one end and a fool at the other" - Kurt Vonnegut
The next Vonnegut miss was in March of 1988 when he premiered his humanist requiem in my town. I have chatted with a guy who conversed with Vonnegut in the bedroom at the post-premier house party while Vonnegut was looking for his coat…can you imagine that?
His impact upon American culture has not yet been fully realized.
The Essential Kurt Vonnegut
I still believe that peace and plenty and happiness can be worked out some way. I am a fool – Jailbird
Around the millennium I began thinking. If I could meet any one individual currently living on this planet, who would it be? Musicians are certainly my most admired group, but for me it is a one way relationship: what would I say to David Bowie…I really like your music? There are a lot of philosophers and statesmen that I would love to meet, but none presently living. Current Politicos didn’t merit consideration. I soon knew who it would be.
Somewhere later, in the ensuing years, my best friend and wife says, “You know, I am getting tired hearing about if you could meet any single individual on this planet that you would choose Kurt Vonnegut.” She went on to say that I should either meet with him or stop talking about it. I thanked her for understanding and arranged the meeting.
It was a lunch in Manhattan at a little French restaurant that he enjoyed, with a few other people.
It was September 13, 2005, the day that his last work, “A Man Without a Country” was released.
It doesn’t really matter, but he ordered the salmon. I have no memory of what I ordered.
The conversation was incredibly delightful. He read us a poem that he had just composed. After our lunch, Vonnegut went to appear on the taping of the Daily Show with John Stewart.
I took a picture of Kurt as he walked away down Lexington Avenue, but I missed the picture completely, photographed my own finger on the lens, and only got his feet. Kurt Vonnegut walking away down the street and all I got was his feet. And yet, in ways I am still feeling, that picture is perfect.
Vonnegut's feet right along the shadow line on Lexington Ave
I remember watching the show that evening – Stewart introduced Vonnegut, “as an adolescent, he made my life bearable.”
I could not possibly put it any better.
So it goes.
P.S. It was some years later that I connected the dots to another story involving Vonnegut that made me realize even more how close we are all:
As my friend Kent says, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”
As Frankly Francis says, “Enjoy the moments as they come because there is no rewind button.”
As Marv Levy says, “Where would you rather be than right here, right now?”
We are in a very unique position geographically, economically, historically and politically. Perhaps never before in recorded history has a nation had at its disposal what we have today.
For the most part, it has been handed to us.
Seriously, as far as life as we know it on this planet goes, we have hit the big lottery.
So through apathy and sloth, will we waste what we have been given? Or will we further multiply it?
Social evolution is a non-linear pathway – we tend to get distracted along the way. What can safely be said is that humanity has yet to achieve its full potential.
I have an idea that in the long run, our Founding Fathers will be thought of more as practical philosophers rather than as revolutionaries. How they embraced the potential of mankind is really remarkable, especially in the context of the time that they lived in.
Indulge me and re-read these words:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Now over 230 years old, what powerful and well chosen words these are.
How symbiotic…first, amongst each other, we are all equal. Because of that, I have the absolute right to my own life. And given that, I have the liberty to live and pursue my own pathway.
Or in regressive terms, I cannot pursue my own happiness if I do not have liberty… and I cannot have liberty if I do not have the right to my life…and I cannot have the right to my own life unless we are all equal.
It all fits.
And it remains revolutionary to this very day.
But that’s not the intriguing part for me. The intriguing part is the glossed over, subtle and almost hidden words “among these.”
“Among These” expands our individual rights beyond the enumerated “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
What else does this include? Have you ever speculated?
Could it really, actually play out like this?
I may choose to do whatever I want, so long as I am not infringing on anyone else’s right to do what they want. Simply put, my right to throw a punch ends at your nose. However, if you stick your nose into my business, well then you face the consequences.
I believe that it is our unique individuality that needs to be maximized during the brief time allotted to us. Fight the Power Brothers and Sisters. And teach your children too.
Well, I’m here to tell you that from personal experience, the answer is yes.
It Begins I’d like to think that I’ve always been a bit of a romantic, but in high school, I devoted myself to playing in a band for the purpose of lots of sex & drugs & rock-n-roll. Let me be brutally honest – it worked beyond my wildest expectations! In fact, it worked so well, by the time I was 18, I was kind of tired of the whole thing…
It Continues So, I’ve just about graduated from high school and I go to this superb outdoor concert with my girlfriend at the time. Great bands and great times to be had except that my girlfriend really does not want to be there and really wants to leave. In fact she’s making me so miserable that leaving is the best alternative. So we go.
Then It Happens On the way out, as I’m walking a little behind my soon to be ex-girlfriend, I see a vision of female beauty approaching me:
Tall, blonde, short-shorts (that’s what we called ’em at the time), tube top, dangling earrings, calf-laced platform shoes…yeah, that’s the way it was.
I distinctly remember saying to myself, “I should not be leaving, I should be staying to meet this woman.” And let me be very clear here, she was a woman, I was still a boy.
I left with my unhappy girlfriend. So it goes…
Fast Forward So now I’ve graduated from high school. It’s 1975 for those who care about carbon dating. My close friend, Cocaine Corey, suggests that I go to Hairstyling School. The movie “Shampoo” had just been released (starring Warren Beatty & Goldie Hawn) and Beatty was having a pretty good time. Seemed like a great idea, so it’s off to become a Cosmetologist.
It Really Happens First day of Hairstyling School. I’m surrounded by a lot of very hip people older than myself. Intimidation is taking its toll on me. I settle into my chair, but realize that I forgot something, so I leave the room.
At the doorway…right smack dab in the middle of the doorway…I mean, at the exact center of the doorway, I literally walk right into (you may have guessed it) my blonde Goddess from the aborted rock concert a few months before. The impact is so strong, we literally almost knock each other unconscious. Not only am I seeing stars, but I’m seeing stars.
She Likes Me The blonde Goddess, who happens to be a couple of years my senior and maybe not as smart as she should be in picking a guy, actually falls for me and within a few months we are engaged. About one year later to the day we are married. A little more than one year after that our first child is born. Guess we were really stupid or just really in love…
She Still Likes Me 35 years later. 3 daughters and a few grandchildren. We are still living life’s adventures together. I tell her she has been punished enough by my presence, but she still lets me in the house.
Like everyone, we’ve had our share of ups and downs, but I would not walk this planet with anyone else.
P.S. I dropped out of Hairstyling School – I had no talent for it. But I ended up with a whole lot more than a certificate and a vocation!
So last weekend was spent going to a couple of graduation parties. Lots of fun, good to see people, proud of the graduates. Got me a little reflective…
I have never attended one of my own graduations. I intend to keep it that way. Pomp & Circumstance does have its place amongst us and I respect that for others.
I had what you might call a less than wholesome attitude in high school. I wanted to live. I wanted to experience things. And authority and rules were needlessly restrictive.
You know what it was about? It was playing in a rock-n-roll band and enjoying to the fullest all that went along with that. I never got caught up in school spirit. I was doing time when it came to that place…
Hence, I decided to my skip my graduation. I took a nap during its scheduled time. Never regretted it.
Fast forward a couple of decades. Number Two daughter (I refer to my children by their birth order rather than by their names) was graduating from the very same high school. It meant that I had to go to the graduation ceremony. I really did want to attend her graduation, but I still wasn’t too keen on being back at my old alma mater.
Grad ceremony time and, well, I’m getting though it just fine. As she stepped up to the podium, I noticed that the Valedictorian had colored a rainbow on her headgear.
She took a moment to make the standard acknowledgements and opening remarks.
She then launched into a searing harangue about how mean and awful her fellow classmates were to her and to each other. Accusations of cliques and cruelty shot from her lips like bullets from an AK-47.
She was clearly deviating from her pre-approved speech. The school board members and faculty were squirming in their chairs behind her.
Then, to my wonder and amazement, she topped it all off by formally outing herself! Yep, she played that card in front of a full house. Remember the mention of the rainbow earlier?
Graduates were openly yelling and taunting her. Parents were saying very nasty things loudly. The school officials looked ready for retirement.
Bedlam and anarchy all around me. Chaos.
Truth being stranger than fiction in front of my eyes.
I was ecstatic! I think I yelled “You Go Girl!” Frankly Francis sidebar: please place the phrase in the time context that it was delivered in – prior to this millennium.
It was the best graduation I’ve ever witnessed!
However, cinematically, the best commencement address I’ve ever heard was delivered by Rodney Dangerfield in the movie “Back to School.” It went something like this:
“Thank you, Dean Martin, President Sinclair…and members of the graduating class. I have only one thing to say to you today…it’s a jungle out there.
You gotta look out for number one. But don’t step in number two.
And so, to all you graduates…as you go out into the world my advice to you is…don’t go! It’s rough out there. Move back with your parents. Let them worry about it.”