decades

I saw a mention recently that Star Wars celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. How can that be?

It shouldn’t surprise me. Two years ago I missed attending the Pitzer College alumni weekend which included those of us celebrating our forty-year reunion as Terry and I were in the process of moving here to Hemet from Gilroy.

clocks and hourglassSo yes, two years later would be the fortieth anniversary of Star Wars. I missed that event, 25 May 1977, and was only vaguely aware of it. I was in the process of moving then as well. I was leaving my beloved Claremont for the unknown world of Laredo, Texas where I was opening a new B. Dalton Bookseller store. Later that summer a new section of the mall opened up that included a multiplex. Star Wars was one of the movies showing when the theater opened. I lost count as to how many times I watched it.

I also received notice recently that the twenty-year life insurance policies that Terry and I took out when we bought our house in Gilroy are coming to term this summer. Has it really been twenty years? It has. It was 1997 when we said goodbye to our landlord, gleefully telling him that our new mortgage payment, PMI, and taxes combined were less than the rent he wanted to charge us under his proposed new lease.

It’s all hard to believe, but then our nephew Race, whom I knew as an infant when Terry and I first got (back) together, is now married and has his own son who will be two in November. My brother Brian’s adopted son, Eric, was an unhappy ten-year-old when Brian married his mother Bobbie. Eric turns forty on Friday and his daughter turns sixteen in September.

Sigh.

Issac Watts was indeed right when he wrote about time as “an ever-flowing stream.”


I’m not that old

I’m not that old. At least I don’t feel that old. I have to admit that I become eligible for Medicare next year. But still. And if I want to feel young, all I have to do is to do is have lunch at the Bistro here at Four Seasons or go to Sunday service at Good Shepherd Episcopal.

So I was a bit taken aback when I read a recent daily meditation in the Forward Day by Day devotional guide. The author wrote:

quoteThink back to the first major global event you remember. For me, it was the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

She went on to write: “Others may recall the fall of the Berlin Wall. … Still others will remember the events of September 11, skyscrapers folding in upon themselves and planes being transformed into missiles.”

Freedom 7I was working at the weekly newspaper Metro in San Jose when the publisher’s wife said, “The shuttle blew up.” When the Berlin Wall fell I was working at a small software company in Mountain View. On 9/11 I was snoozing on the commuter train, not learning what had happened until I arrived at Lawrence Station in Sunnyvale.

The earliest events I remember were decades earlier. I remember talk of Khrushchev pounding his shoe on a podium and people discussing his statement, “We will bury you.” I remember the events surrounding the 1960 presidential election. I suppose the first specific even I remember was Alan Shepard’s sub-orbital flight in 1961. I was an avid follower of the space program then on.

But still, I don’t feel that old.


habits that stick with us

shopping listI was looking at my shopping list the other day and I thought about how habits we acquired long ago continue to stick with us. In particular, I noticed the cross-hatch on my z’s. I thought about where that habit came from.

It came from seventh grade math. Mrs. Proctor was the teacher. We were doing some basic algebra and so our problems included letters as well as numbers. She asked us to cross-hatch our letter z so as to clearly distinguish it from the number 2. I’ve been doing it ever since.

It’s interesting where we pick up these things.


literary smackdown

There is a column each week in the Sunday New York Times Book Review called “By the Book.” Each week a different author is interviewed with a more or less standard set of questions. Here is an exchange from a recent interview with author Daniel Silva:

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer, with William F. Buckley to serve as referee. I think I would set the table with paper plates and plastic utensils to avoid any undue bloodshed.

I posted this to Facebook and commented, “Can we somehow involve Dick Cavett in this as well?” After I wrote this I realized that Cavett had both Mailer and Vidal on his weeknight half hour PBS program in the mid and late 1970s. I don’t recall Buckley ever being on the show, but this was when Buckley was ascendant with his own weekend program in which he engaged in an intellectual smackdown with whomever his guest might be.

In fact, if I recall correctly, Cavett once had Mailer and Vidal together on the same episode, and there was something of a smackdown on that show.

There was some marvelous television in the 1970’s.


my Steve Allen encounter

You no doubt remember the great comedian Steve Allen. He was brilliant and I miss him. Terry and I had the opportunity see him when we were living in Mountain View and he was at the comedy club in next-door Sunnyvale. It was a small, intimate space, which was nice.

Steve AllenSteve was a master of improv, and he engaged the audience. In that show he took questions from the audience. After getting the first question he said, “And what do you do for a living, sir?” The audience member said, “I’m a technical writer.” Given that I was a technical writer in those days as well, I applauded. Steve looked over in my direction. The stage lights were on and the house lights were off, so he couldn’t see me. But he looked over in my direction and said, “Why would someone applaud at the mere mention of the words ‘technical writer?'”

The Steve made phrase “mere mention” a thread throughout the rest of the show. So I was a contributor to that night’s performance.

That’s my Steve Allen encounter.

photo credit: Alan Light. cropped. Creative Commons License.


a distraction

Earlier this summer I was watching a baseball game. I don’t remember who the teams were. They weren’t either of my local teams. The game was not terribly exciting and I noticed two attractive young women sitting behind home plate. They were just two or three rows back. These were certainly ultra-expensive seats – the ones where servers come and take your order for gourmet snacks.

baseballIn any case, these two women where talking to each other and seemingly not paying attention to the game at all. I could only see them when a left-handed batter was at the plate, but I became fascinated. When one of the women left her seat for a while, the other woman seemed to be looking at her smart phone rather than watching the game. When the first woman returned they resumed their conversation.

Obviously these ladies were not baseball fans. I am guessing that their tickets must have been gifts from a season ticket holder who couldn’t make that particular game.

They were definitely a distraction from the game, but an interesting insight into human nature.


Pat Summitt

Terry and I were saddened by the passing of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt last week. The Monday newspaper said that she was declining rapidly and family members and former players were arriving to be close to her. On Tuesday the news spread rapidly online of her death that morning.

PatSummittThe two of us loved watching her on television during the women’s NCAA Tournament. She was an intense and energetic coach, beloved by her players. She had the best winning record in all of Division 1 college basketball – men or women.

It was hard for both of us to learn that she retired from her position after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

The morning of her death the doctor guy on the local morning news was talking about how a study said that extensive brain training exercises could help stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s in its early stages. But who used their brain more than Pat? Her career was all about using her brain all the time.

And you know what else? Pat was only a year older than Terry and me. Sobering.

Life is fragile. Embrace it while you can.