Journey through History, Filtered

Outside the car windows it’s dark, but hundreds of red lights glow on the road ahead. The smell of exhaust from idling cars seeps in over the chemical tang of the air conditioner. I can’t hear the engine because my mom has turned up the radio so high. The droning voices are interrupted periodically with cheering, but, from the back seat, I can’t quite hear them. When I can, I have no idea what they’re talking about. Suddenly my mother shouts, waking my brother snoozing next to me, “Agnew! Who the hell is Spiro Agnew?”

It was August 8, 1968. I was seven years old and we were stuck in traffic, late on a Thursday night driving from our summer cabin back to Detroit, my mother listening to the Republican convention. Continue reading “Journey through History, Filtered”

The Past Is Not What it Used to Be

Suppose you are looking at dinosaurs…

What do you mean you have not seen any dinosaurs recently? Do you not have any children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or little neighbors, or do you not know someone else who has children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or little neighbors? Surely, you know someone who has access to a young person, and it is summertime, therefore, you can take them to a science museum or natural history museum or for heaven’s sake a Toys-R-Us to look at some dinosaurs.

As I was saying…

The collection you are looking at is probably not all, in fact, dinosaurs. As a general rule, dinosaurs in the Mesozoic age, aka the “Age of the Dinosaurs,” did not swim or fly. Those giant things in the water that looked like a turtle crossed with a giraffe? Or had teeth and flippers bigger than your head? Not dinosaurs. The thing with the membrane stretched across one finger, depicted gliding across the hundred foot fern trees? Not dinosaurs.  This is true, even though most museum exhibits and reference books will include pterosaurs, plesiosaurs, and mososaurs.  They might as well have included crocodiles or gekkos while they were at it. Continue reading “The Past Is Not What it Used to Be”

Madison, Our Best President

This weekend, flags will be a-flyin’, firecrackers a-poppin’, politicians a-pontificatin’, and barbecues a-grillin’ as our nation celebrates its 240th birthday amid the usual pomp and turmoil. Our national patriotic selves are in particularly high dudgeon this election year, when we all play the game of Why Do We Have an Electoral College, Again? Some you will be tourists, traveling to national parks, or perhaps to our nation’s capital (I hear there’s some GCLS thing coming up soon?)  ‘Tis also a fine time to play another fun game of history, Who’s Your Favorite President?

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Was Lincoln your favorite because he believed in the equality of all individuals and the strength that can come from a united people under a good central government? How about FDR shepherding the country through the miseries of the Depression and anxieties of world war? Jefferson, articulating the freedoms that prompted us to start our grand experiment of independence? Or is it some prez that you lived through more recently? (Though I’d argue anybody after 1976 doesn’t give us enough perspective to evaluate fairly.) Or do you think picking the best president is Uncool, too Nerdy for you?

Nerdy or not, I submit for discussion, Mr. James Madison. He deserves his own carving on Rushmore. He should have his own obelisk on the National Mall, his own memorial next to the Potomac. And it should be the biggest.

Continue reading “Madison, Our Best President”

Empty Locker

Six months have passed since I retired, and I am slowly redrawing my habits. I was happy to leave the back-to-back conference calls and the constant grinding stress from my corporate masters. I was not happy to leave my work comrades. I had processed – therapeutically – the feelings about leaving them and still think of them fondly every day.  I had not, however, considered the feelings I would have about the non-work part. I miss the trappings. I miss my gym.

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End of an Era

February came and went before I was able to send my corporate polo shirt out of the house, the uniform that I wore weekly for years. I felt silly, but I took a photo.  I still long for the fresh turkey sandwich on a French roll that I would literally run next door to get in the five minute break between calls. I miss reading the newspaper on BART going into the city. I challenged myself daily to complete the cryptogram and the two crossword puzzles between Lake Merritt station and my office, which meant finishing them while I walked the five blocks to work. I couldn’t do it if it was raining.  This month, I finally decided to find a new gym.

Continue reading “Empty Locker”

Ba-ba-doo-BANG (The One for Father’s Day)

I don’t want to write about my dad, even though Father’s Day is coming this week, and that’s a natural topic for my blog. Circumstances in recent weeks have thrust this topic into my lap, but I am resisting full force. In a prompt from my writing class, we were asked to pick the fourteenth photo in a randomly chosen album. The fourteenth photo: there we are in North Carolina on a drive from Detroit to Miami in 1973, but my first thought was, I don’t want to write about me and my dad.

Later that day, my wise friend Nancy saw a set of essays about famous fathers on http://myoldman.org/. With praise towards my weekly entries, she wondered what I would say about my parents instead of writing about food or art. How can you refuse a friend? Especially when they flatter you?

I didn’t know my dad well enough. That’s my problem.

Continue reading “Ba-ba-doo-BANG (The One for Father’s Day)”