Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Thoughts on my very first car....

     They say that you never forget your first, and if they are referring to cars, I suspect that they are right.  My first car was a 1972 pale blue Chevy Vega and I reminisce about her in this blog...

     I think it was mid-1984 when I bought her.  I was enrolled at CCFL (we all called it Syphilis in a hipstery ironic way back then (I so apologize if I started that trend), but it made no sense after they changed the name to FLCC) and working full
A close facsimile of my first car
time at a local pizza place (Shout out to Morey's in Cdga).  I'd love to say that I scrimped and saved for her and picked out the exact model that I wanted amongst a selection of others, but truth be told, I was tired of walking or trying to catch the short-lived Cdga Trolley to school, and I had $400 in my hot little hands and the father of the pizza shop's owner was selling her, so she quickly became mine.  Back then a lot of my decisions were based on the ease of availability as it is with most young men, I only became more discerning later on, but regardless, I was suddenly a car owner. 

     She was pale blue, the kind of blue you can only get when some other blue has seen a decade or more in the sun.  She had a wagon body, an automatic transmission, just 2 doors, bucket seats and a sexy roof rack on top.  The radio inside had two choices, AM or FM.  She had a 4 cylinder aluminum block engine that was prone to overheat and leak, and sure enough mine just
A Vega still on the assembly line
loved to suck oil and blow pretty clouds of blue and white smoke as the engine got hot and expanded. She had been named MotorTrend's car of the year in 1971, but all her faults were revealed by the year that I purchased her.   I lived around the corner from my job at the time, and I really only needed her to get to college and then to work  and she did that, but just barely.  Most mornings as I climbed the hill to the back parking lot of the college I could not see behind me due to the cloud I was leaving and when I went to work, I'd coast down the hill by the police station at the top of West Avenue as to avoid the potential ticket.  I could coast almost all the way, but I'd have to goose the accekerator just a little to get into the parking lot, and sometimes I got the cutest little smoke rings coming out of the tailpipe as I did that.  I doubt any driver behind me was as smitten as I was with them, but that's because they didn't own her.

     The roof rack teased me every time I got into that car as I envisioned strapping some suitcases or camping gear onto it and heading off to the wild blue yonder, but that's kind of a pipe dream when
They couldn't keep up with the early demand
your car can only drive a mile or 2 before becoming a hazard to others.  It was probably for the best anyway, since my full time work and college schedule and newly found girlfriend left little time or money for such trips.  My "best" schedule had me going to school MWF 8-11 and then working those days 11-7, and then school TTH 8:30-4:30 and working 4:30 to midnight.  I'd fill in with a shift on the weekend occasionally but I was whipped by the end of the week.   Those were the poorest years of my life as well and I lived in a room at my sister Hummingbird's house and subsisted almost entirely on pot pies (4 for $1 back then).  I still like them today, but I no longer have to eat them every day either.  They were, for me, like Ramen or Mac and Cheese are for college kids now.  I did get to use the roof rack one year when my girlfriend and I got our first Christmas
Tree, and I'll never forget sliding backwards down a steep hill on my bald tires, evergreen strapped on top, heading straight towards an approaching snow plow.  I had to ditch it to the side of the road to stop the slide, but was able, with assistance,  to get out of the snow bank.  That was probably the day that  I started seeing her many faults (the car's not the girlfriend's), as she had endangered me and my girlfriend and I was becoming attached to one of us....

     A brief 6 months later, after putting some money aside and qualifying for a small car loan (I was making a manager's salary by then), I bought my second car, an economical, safer, Toyota Tercel hatchback that had a  standard transmission.  I'm pretty sure I paid around 
$3,000 for her.  I sold the Vega to some twins that worked for me, you see they were young and prone to making bad decisions based on proximity too, but it was only a $200 lesson for them, so they still got a deal.  They worked on the car and converted it to a standard transmission and they kept it for a few years.  I missed her some, but with the ability to go a little further with my girlfriend (Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge) she was quickly forgotten.  They say that you'll never forget your first, and I don't think I have.  That's the end of my story, I'd love to hear yours.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

It's time to name my sister.....

Author's Note:   A full 7 weeks after this was published, an anonymous fan came up with the perfect name for this sister and it is....... Wilson !   If you consider the "Home Improvement" Wilson, who always offered the main protaganist sage advice, but always from behind the scenes and taking not credit, it fits her to a tee.  If you consider the Wilson voleyball that was Tom Hank's confidante on the island in Castaway, well that makes sense too, she is the perfect listener, and she keeps us all sane while listenign to us blather on.  Welcome to the family, Sister Wilson.
Sister Wilson

     I established the pattern of nicknaming my siblings in my blog early on, with a blog that I penned called "They call my brother Aquaman".  A while after that I did a two part series nicknaming all of them, but I cheated my youngest sister out of a name and assigned her a non-nickname, so in this week's blog, I try and correct that travesty.  

     I'd like you all to participate in this one, as clearly I ran out of creativity before I got to name my last sister in this blog a few years ago.  If you haven't read the blogs that I wrote  in which I nicknamed each and every member of my family, you would do well to look at these first (It's time you met the family - Part 1) and (It's time you met the family - Part 2).  I took a long time to create each nickname for my siblings and some I think are spot on, and some I'm just ok with, but couldn't
My 2 younger siblings
come up with a better one.  When I got to my last sister, who happens to be the youngest in the family, I couldn't find the right moniker for her, so I simply bookmarked the page and named her  She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.   It was outright laziness and a lack of respect for my own established rules, but hey if Kirk can set his own rules for the Kobayashi Maru, I guess I can for this blog too.  I imagine her reading the blog every week and wondering when I would bestow upon her a more fitting name, but in reality she had far better things to do and it's not like her to dote upon herself so I am deluding myself if I think this has bothered her, but nonetheless, it is now time to truly name my sister.  If you are going to help, you are going to have to know a little about her....

     She was born 7 years after I was and with my sister, Teary in between us, she was never a threat to take attention away from me that Teary was.  This helped to facilitate a better relationship between us from the get-go, and I still consider her one of my closest siblings (She, in fact, is the sibling who lives closest to me, although several in-laws
What Merry Go Rounds used to look like
have almost completely surrounded me now).  When referring to her, I always call her the "Baby of the Family", but others call me the "Baby Boy" and her the "Baby Girl".  My earliest memories of her were of a happy-go-lucky baby who rarely cried or complained as she grew older, but I honestly don't know if those memories are real, or have been colored by my view and respect for her now.  I'll let my family members weigh in on that.  Her early childhood will always be defined for me by that one particular incident at Sonnenberg Park.  You can read the long version of it in "The Family-Part 2" referenced above, but the cliff notes version has her falling face first off a Merry-Go-Round, coming up bruised and bleeding, and yet never shedding a tear.  She was tough.  She has always been a peacemaker in the family of sorts, I love to talk to her, because she lets me do all the talking.  For years, I suspect, she kept her own opinions quelled inside of her and became the
Circa 1985 maybe, S-W-S-N-B-N'd on bottom left
family confidante for a lot of my siblings.  I'm sure I used her during those years and felt good dumping some emotional baggage or using her silence to justify some action or inaction that I probably knew was wrong, but I'm glad to say that our relationship has evolved now, and she's more apt to stop me, mid-sentence, during some outlandish story, and say, "Really? That's the way you think (insert Your Mother or God here) would want you to act?"  I would not recommend her trying out for the position of my conscience (although she is approximately the height of Jiminy Cricket), but I'm sure that there are many times that I've come around to make a good decision after conferring with her.  My wife and I both consider her one of our best friends and we joke that we could never divorce because neither one of us would concede giving up her close friendship or counsel.  Yes, she's that good, picture Solomon with less splitting babies in half. 

     To talk about this sister and not mention her strong Catholic faith would not do her justice.  Although she is the youngest member of our family, if I ever want to know how my Mother would have felt on a particular
Jesus has no hands but ours
issue of faith, I only have to seek out this sister's opinion, and it likely would match my Mom's.  She has some great faith based stories about growing up in our large Catholic household. One of my favorites is when she brought home a broken statue of Jesus from a garage or yard sale. The statue had suffered some wear and had lost both hands and when this sister pointed it out to my Mother, my Mother simply replied that Jesus didn't need hands on earth because she was Jesus's hands on earth.  It's a lesson that she took to heart and she has lived this adage spoken by a clever mother for as long as I have known her.  She attends Mass each week (albeit a little late some weeks) and she had volunteered on both the Parrish Council and in the Youth Group.  There are those that are more pious than you that make you feel bad about your own commitment to your faith, but that's never been the case with me and this previously pigeon-toed sister.  Admittedly she does inspire me to think more about my faith, but never in a judgemental way, and that is a clear gift from God.  I should probably stop discussing this topic as my polling shows that I lose blog readers if I tarry too long on this topic, so just to keep interest, I'll randomly thrown the word BACON in here to make them happy (Try Bostrom Farms local, all natural, farm-raised bacon, it's delicious).  Personally I could probably do with a little less bacon and a little more Jesus in my life, but that's not the case for my sister.

     I hope I've started to give you an idea of this sister's strengths, gifts and personality, but I'll throw a few more in here to make sure you know her well enough to participate in the naming process.  Shes' a stay at home Mom, who you can never catch at home.  She volunteers for Carenet, a faith based pregnancy caring
With her family
center located in Cdga.  She is married to her college sweetheart and they set a powerful example for couples on how to continue to work on building a stronger marriage perpetually.  Of course she is involved with the local Parent-Teacher group in school and more recently Scouts (She says I talked her into that, but I was just being Jesus's hands on earth by recognizing she would be a great asset to the committee).  She keeps a great circle of close friends and interacts with them often and spontaneously.  She and her family keep physically active by swimming, jogging, biking and hiking, I get tired just hearing about their adventures sometimes.  She loves food and her and her husband have raised kids that not only can cook but will experiment with different cuisines.  She limits her kid's computer and TV time, although the second is hardly necessary, as they only get 2 channels.  I'll close by talking about her failings, before you all make her out to be a Saint.  Her character flaws include both humility and thrift (Wait, those aren't flaws? Darn it.).  In a nutshell, there is a reason that in a family poll she'll run a clear first or second for everyone's favorite sibling. 

     Now to the naming part.  Please suggest a name for this sibling, whether you know her personally or not.  You can put it in the comment section here or on my Facebook page and I'll compile them.  I'll be the final decider on what name to assign to her, but your input is invaluable, if I haven't come up with it in 2 years, well you can finish that thought.  Please fire away......


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The election we were bound to lose.......

     This story goes back roughly 15 years and revolves around our daughter Molly's unsuccessful bid for student Senate while she was in 3rd grade.  No hanging chad cliffhangers here but it did give us some insight on the kind of daughter that God had given us....

     Mid-bite into a chicken finger at the dinner table one evening she shared her news of that day with us (She may or may not have had pigtails at the time, she rarely wore them, but when I think of young Molly, I always see her in them), "I'm thinking of running for Student Senate" she said, with a
dab of ranch dressing still clinging to her lip.  We were both instantly excited, as honestly the news reports from the 3rd grade heretofore had centered largely around who had cooties and what everyone was wearing, this, however, was real news.  We peppered her with questions about the job, the field of candidates, the length of time we had prior to the election (it was the week, that's even shorter than a Canadian election (36-74 days)),and many more pertinent queries. Truth be told it was me asking most of the questions, I had run for a few things in my time, so I knew the cutthroat world she was about to enter.  I quizzed her on her platform, which was non-existent (how naive), and after some discussion about things that were important to her, shorter drinking fountains, longer recesses, nicer teachers, we settled on few that were sure to resonate with the 3 foot tall electorate.  By the time we were at the milk and cookies stages of supper, we had formed a pretty decent game plan to sweep this thing.

     I met her each day as she got off the bus that week, anxious to hear the latest election news.  She was faring well in the bathroom polls and there didn't seem to be any dirty politicking going on (I
tried but she wouldn't go for it).  The polls would open on Thursday after lunch and we believed we had a good shot at a win.  I continued to caution her on taking hard stances on issues with her classmates to avoid alienating any potential voter.  I'd have sent candy in for her to distribute but the school had a clear policy against it and we couldn't risk the scandal this late in the election process.  We all had a restless night on Wednesday, well at least I did, Molly seemed to sleep fine in her footie pajamas, snuggled in with her stuffed animals encircling her.  I paced the floors and got up to Google the most popular hairstyles for winning candidates. Morning came and all too soon, I bundled my sleepy little candidate off to school.  I had considered taking the day off, but it seemed like overkill, I had already arranged to work locally that week.  We anxiously awaited the sound of the approaching school bus.....

     She skipped off the bus, surely this was a good sign, wasn't it?  She unpacked her backpack and we waited to hear the big news, but she seemed per-occupied with petting the family dog and other
None of these worked for Molly
banal activities.  I finally cleared my throat and said, "Um, Molly, the election?"   She got a puzzled look on her face, I'm sure it was election fatigue, but then she seemed to remember and stated, "Oh Bri (It's Bri with an I, not Bree with an e, I always messed that one up) won and Ben and I tied !".  A tie?  We had no contingency plan for this and apparently upon further questioning the run-off was the following day.  Things were looking darker for us, the Ben in question was from a large farm family who ran the most popular agricultural destination for 3rd graders in the area, a Picking Patch complete with corn maze, corn cannon, cookies and cider, you couldn't buy better brand recognition (Hell, the kid smelled like cinnamon, I swear).  With virtually no time to restrategize (her bedtime was at 7), we had to let the chips fall where they may, and count on our prior election activities to help us to pull off a win.  Off on the bus she went again.....

     I had to wait until dinner to find out this time (I hadn't anticipated the run-off and actually had to work that day) and although she delivered the news with a smile and seemed to have a healthy
appetite,  I could tell she had been crushed by the defeat, Ben had won by one vote.  My food got cold as I pondered where we had gone wrong, and I muttered out loud, wondering who had changed their vote?  The response I got to my unintentional query was loud and overstated "It doesn't matter who did it Dad ! Ben is my friend and he will do a good job!" Molly shouted.  It only took a few seconds to realize that the electorate that I had failed to sway, was sitting in a booster chair directly across from me, Molly had voted for her friend Ben and not herself, her crushing defeat was dealt by her own hand.

     I went to bed that night still fretting on how this thing had gotten away from us so easily.  I blamed myself, I should have seen the signs earlier. Molly would capture flies and release them to the wild and eventually she had the whole household doing it, she lacked the killer instinct.  I should have backed Ben from the beginning, he had the name recognition and association to cookies, that I should have realized was unbeatable.  Molly, on the other hand, a few years later would lobby successfully for the release of a class pig that was intentionally bred and raised to be used for a class pancake breakfast.  She had no business in politics, she was better suited for tree-hugging or humanitarian efforts.   She joined the girls wrestling team that year, and never won a point, much less a match (The girl she
Our little election loser
wrestled most looked like an octopus on the mat).  Molly shocked us the next year when she signed back up for it, knowing that the year was going to go the same, who in their right mind would sign back up to be repetitively pinned by their opponent?  Molly, of course.  It took a long time before I realized that type of kid that we had accidentally raised, a kind, considerate bleeding heart, and by the time she announced she was a vegetarian and was going to pursue nursing in school I had all but given up hope of raising a normal kid.  The moral of this story is simple, if you are going to back a candidate in an election, try and get to know their character first, even if they are family.   I've made that mistake and it took me years to realize the kind of kid we raised. 



Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Saturday mornings with Ace

     I've done a whole blog on my brother Ace before, but I thought this habit of spending nearly every Saturday morning with him would provide enough fodder for a whole blog.  Think Tuesdays with Morrie as you read it......

     For the better part of a decade, and maybe longer, I've had breakfast Saturday mornings with my brother Ace.  I say "maybe even longer" because I don't remember when or why we started to get together for breakfast and it may have been an irregular occurrence at first, but at some point it
evolved to an every week event.  I could argue that it is necessary so that we could catch up on our respective weeks', but since we talk every day, all we really do is recap everything we have already discussed, but we do it over a couple of over-easy eggs (over medium for me) and a few cups of coffee.   We both have marriages that span a couple of decades and I'm not sure that this habit isn't responsible for a portion of that success.  We don't really care, you see, when we repeat our story or latest work frustration multiple times to each other, but I bet it gets old to our spouses sometimes.  That's just one reason we get together.

     Where do we eat each week?  Most weeks he comes over my way and we walk over to the Hall Diner.  We occasionally switch it up and go to his diner in Gorham, or shoot up to Sweet Sue's on 5
My regular breakfast
and 20, but 4 out of 5 weeks we dine in Hall.  The food is good, the pricing is reasonable and the crowd is comfortable.  When we walk in each week, the atmosphere resembles Cheers when Norm walks in the bar, well, except that they don't serve beer, and we only hear them call our names in our heads.  In the middle of the diner a few tables are pushed together and the usual array of farmers and locals sit there, solving the issues of the day.  We grab a booth against the wall, close enough to be included in their conversation if we want, but far enough away to give us a chance to catch up too.  When the waitress comes over to see if we want coffee, my brother Ace always greets her
Ace's breakfast
by the wrong name but inquires "Right?" at the end of it.  He's never right, and I can't remember her name now because I've heard her called a different name for years now.  I do remember that my brother takes cream in his coffee, but even that I failed to notice for the first decade or two (think glacier-like learning).  Our orders rarely differ, 2 eggs, sausage patties for me, bacon for Ace, rye toast and potatoes.  I prefer well done hash browns, and Ace normally gets home fries with peppers and ongions. 

     We rarely finish breakfast in less than an hour, it's not that the kitchen is slow, but we do slow play our coffees and stretch out the time we spend both together and at the diner.  We have to make sure
the regulars are all accounted for, you see.  Sometimes we do order other things, but honestly I'd rather do 2 extra workouts a week just to have this 1200 calorie breakfast every Saturday.  As I had said we have tried the diner in his town, Gorham, but it closed for a while and the new owner eliminated the waitress position, so I don't like it as well.  I think Ace thinks it's a toss up so he acquiesces and comes to my town.  I will say that my brother in law (He's married to She-Who-Shall-Not Be-Named) claims that the chef in Gorham is "The Egg Whisperer" and that he makes the best omelets, but I've tried them and they are fluffy, which is an adjective that I like to use to describe my pillow, but not my eggs.  It's all personal preference, so if you like fluffy eggs, you now know where to find them.  We will try Sweet Sue's, it's a huge meal for a cheap price and it puts the "greasy" in Greasy Spoon (that's a good thing), however, a few years ago they changed the coffee and the current blend is simply weak, which is an unforgivable sin in my
book for a truckstop style diner.  We like the Hall diner because they get it all right, they even pre-heat the ceramic coffee mugs so that your coffee comes out piping hot.

     After we finish breakfast we walk back over to my house and generally spend 5-10 extra minutes in the driveway talking.  My wife thinks it is so we can wake up the rest of the house, which is not the intention, but nevertheless is sometimes the result.  That's the end of this week's missive, no deep points, nothing to ponder, and I'll finish with an invitation.  If you ever find yourself driving through the sleepy little hamlet of Hall at 7 am on a Saturday morning, and you see two middle ages guys walking, deep in conversation, feel free to follow us over and to join us for a tasty breakfast.  It's a great time, if you don't mind 2 guys talking about themselves for an hour.