The Zits cartoon below reminded me of the end of my sophomore year in high school when we were passing yearbooks back and forth.
I was very much involved in the speech program at Hemet High School. I was in the forensics class, which was the advanced public speaking class. We had our speech club, and we attended speech tournaments across Riverside County. However, for reasons not entirely clear, but perhaps related to budget, our teacher, Miss Palvadore, was not brought back for the next year. We were all very upset, and were concerned about the survival of the speech program for the next year.
One member of the speech group was a young woman named Paulette. When she gave me her yearbook to sign, I wrote in earnest about the future of the program, quoting a Top 40 song of the day:
United we stand,
Divided we fall,
and if our backs are ever up against the wall,
we’ll stand together.
When Paulette handed me back my yearbook I was crushed to read:
You are a nice boy.
You have a good summer.
Really? That’s it? I suppose I don’t need to say that the speech program the next year, taken over by the drama instructor, was not the same robust entity it was my sophomore year.
I still have that yearbook. It’s in our great room, just outside my office where I write this. I can’t, however, bring myself to open it up and find Paulette’s words. I’m not willing to open that Pandora’s box.
Some memories are better left undisturbed.
Those of you who have been on Facebook for a while will remember a time when the meme, “Keep Calm and Carry On” or some variation thereof appeared with annoying regularity. It was supposedly originally a message to the British people from their government in the run-up to World War II.
I have never been big on sharing memes on Facebook, but recently one caught my attention in such a way that I had to share. It read:
The less you give a damn the happier you will be.
It seems to have struck a chord, as it received multiple likes. That is worth noting in that many of my Facebook posts receive no likes at all.
Interestingly, that same evening there was a quote from venerable Ram Dass on Instagram which said the same thing in a different way:
The resistance to the unpleasant situation is the root of suffering.
My cousin Keith posted a saying from the Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius, who reigned from the years 161 to 180 in the Common Era. Despite its antiquity it struck me as being particularly appropriate for those of us who are nauseated by the words and actions of the current administration in Washington. It reads:
You always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can’t control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.
All different ways of saying the same thing. The final word goes to Dame Julian Of Norwich, who was born in 1342 and whom the Episcopal Church honors on May 8. A vision told her that whatever God does is done in love, and therefore:
All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.
In other words, keep calm and carry on.
When the latest issue of the AARP magazine arrived I did a double-take. I took a picture of the cover and posted it to Instagram. I wrote, “This is So Very Wrong. (Or maybe it’s just depressing…)”
My friend Fran responded, “Both/And.”
Exactly, Fran, exactly.
It really is hard to believe that “many years from now” has arrived.
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.
So 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.
Issac Watts was indeed right when he wrote about time as “an ever-flowing stream.”
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.
Think 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.”
I 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.
I 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
In 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.