My Sentimental Journey Part 4

My Sentimental Journey Part 4
Day 23: Saturday, Washington, DC: Not our best sight-seeing day: We started out for the post office and George (the GPS) wanted me to take a left onto New York Avenue. Normally that might be a good idea, but, during Cherry Blossom Season New York Ave is more like New York Parking lot. Coming back George didn’t warn me that the road we were on, and that he wanted me to turn right off of, went into a tunnel under and past the street onto which I was to turn. I don’t trust him as much as I did four weeks ago. So I caught his error and made the correct turn to get back on course. We thought today would be a good day to visit the National Arboretum. The weather was cloudy with some patches of sun. I ignored George’s suggestion to stay in the right lane because it was so bumpy. I missed the turn and had to turn around and join the inbound New York Ave cherry blossom enthusiasts. We finally got there and were enjoying it.

Dan and Lucy at the Arboretum

Michele went into the Bonsai building while Lucy and I stayed outside and watched some Koi in a pond next door. Then I heard a great wind and suspected that it did not bode well for us. Before you know it we were in a downpour. Lucy and I found shelter and waited for Michele and for the rain (and hail) to let up a little. That was the end of the Arboretum for us. On the way back to the hotel I stopped at the gas station (on New York Ave) that had a good price posted for diesel. I was all set to pump when I noticed that the pumps had “Condemned” signs on them. The next station I tried had a posted price of $3.959 but when I put in my credit card the price jumped to $4.049. I try not to do business with folks who bait and switch so we left without gas. We asked George for recommendations for a Mexican restaurant. He wanted me to take a left onto New York Ave. I knew the way by taking a right but George kept recalculating and trying to get me onto New York Ave. Does he get a commission? Michele asked if George and I would still be on speaking terms when we get back to Ashland. I’m not sure. His first restaurant suggestion was in a seedy neighborhood, so we tried his second. It was great, one of the best we have ever eaten in. When we got back to the hotel the parking lot was crowded. I had planned to put the camper on the truck after dinner. Michele said I’d never be able to do it, but, with a little maneuvering and blocking the driveway for a while the truck got under the camper and all is well.
Day 24: Sunday, Washington, DC – We decided to go to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s farm. I had more than a few disagreements with George. Partly, my fault. I got confused when we went over the Anacostia River and thought we had crossed the Potomac. My sense of direction was off and I missed a few of his queues. When we got there a guard motioned to us to go around the circle again and come to talk to him. I wondered what kind of trouble we were in but he was just helping us find a good parking place, behind locked gates, even. The place was crowded. It was a mob scene. We took a walk and decided not to go into the farm and farm house, etc. Someone suggested the Grist Mill which was interesting and not crammed with people. What a treat! It only cost $4 a head and that included a guided tour of the mill and the distillery. George Washington’s mill was looted and nothing was left but the foundation. There was sufficient documentation of how it worked that it has been completely restored. The mill is based on a patented system that was fully automated in the 18th century. The grain goes in at the top. Its chaff is blown away by agitation and a fan.

The chaff blower at the top floor of the mill

It then drops down a floor to the mill stones. The ground flour is then hoisted by an enclosed elevator to a rotating basket that sorts the fine, medium and coarse flours and drops them down into waiting barrels. The Mill wheel drives a shaft with wooden gears that drives all the other equipment.

The wheel and shaft of G Washington's mill

There are various clutches that determine just which wheels turn. There is some metal, but it is mostly wood. We saw wheat flour being ground, The dust was too much for Michele. The distillery was also in operation but I didn’t hear the presentation because I had dallied looking at the Mill. Washington was not only a general and President but quite an entrepreneur. After Mount Vernon we picked up some desert and went to Bobby and Danine and Elise’s house for dinner. They are the family I met three years ago who were taking a year to travel the country in an Airstream trailer. I mentioned their blog in Part One of this story. It is “www.ayearabout.wordpress.com”. I had enjoyed meeting them at The Valley of the Rogue campground, but I enjoyed their company and hospitality even more. They have wonderful stories to tell of their trip and great pictures and Danine is making books of the blog. Bobby offered electricity for the camper and Danine offered the use of their washer and dryer. Elise remembered Lucy, but me? Not so much. They have been following what I have posted about our trip. Danine commented on my disillusionment with nostalgia. She said the risk in going back is that you pollute your memories with visions of how it is now which has to be very different from how it was then. Which reminds me of the misquote of Gertrude Stein. About Oakland she said “There is no there there.” People often think she was knocking Oakland. She was not. She was saying “You can’t go back because what was there is no more, it has changed. We had a great time and stayed up too late because we had to get Michele to the airport by 5:40 AM!
Day 25: Monday, Washington, DC to Hazelton, PA: Up at 4:30, on the road by 5, dark roads, construction, tolls, confusion with the GPS but we got Michele to the airport on time. (I’ll fill in her adventure later, or I’ll let her fill it in.) The GPS sometimes gets a little behind or a little confused. It says turn right but the arrow on the screen shows left, or vice versa. I wanted to get out of Washington before the rush hour traffic made it difficult. I guess rush hour starts at about 6! There was traffic. And tolls! We don’t have tolls in Oregon. I experience them in the Bay area when I visit there but I have a “Fastrack” device that pays the tolls for me. I don’t have to fish around for money and change. The East confuses me. I asked George to plot a course for Blue Bell, PA. I had worked there for Univac in 1965, 66. I hoped to find the Cross Roads Motel and restaurant. George took me on the blue highways I had wanted. It was great. The roads lead us through Amish country, though we saw no Amish. The homes were old, the roads narrow. We saw horse country. I asked an old-timer I met in a Walmart parking lot if he remembered the Cross Roads. He suggested a road I should take but did not remember the Univac plant or the Cross Roads. So I chose to move on to where I grew up, Port Chester, NY. I didn’t want to go up the Jersey Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway so I told George to take me to Suffern, NY. That would get me close to the Tappan Zee bridge. Then I changed the command to Tarrytown, NY which is just across the bridge. First thing I know I’m on a road that is signed as going to the George Washington Bridge. I changed the command to Nyack, NY and tuned around to face away from the GW Bridge. George turned me around and again sent me toward the bridge. I shouted and swore at George. I pulled off the road and checked a map. OH! George was taking me toward the GW Bridge but not necessarily over it. I let him have his way, planning to abort if he didn’t turn on route 17. He had a better idea and got me to the Tappan Zee Bridge. I took an interstate to Port Chester, got off at Westchester Avenue. When I was a boy White Plains’ tallest building was the Bonwit Teller store. Now it has high rises galore. So does Port Chester. Where Russ Shaw’s funeral parlor and the Elks Club were are now high rises. Rocky’s Hardware store is gone, Frits & Tom’s restaurant and bar is gone. The old barber shop is gone. The local banks are now Chase and Wells Fargo. The Embassy Theatre is gone. The building is there but there is no marquee. I stopped at a nice park to walk Lucy but they had big nasty signs saying dogs were not allowed in the park. I took a lot of pictures on the street where I grew up.

Betsy Brown Road, the house I grew up in

The trees are all different. The two lots that we played in on either side of our house now have houses on them. Mrs. Rigney’s house is painted a lighter color that I don’t think fits her style of house. I got a picture of the wall in front of Helen Davidson’s house. When I was about 5 or 6 I refused to march around the dining room table with the rest of the kids at a Halloween party there. Mrs. Davidson said that if I didn’t march around the table I would have to leave and go home. I left and sat on the ground on the other side of that wall and cried. It’s not as big as I remembered it.

The wall behind which I hid after Helen Davidson's party

But then, I’m bigger. At the other end of Betsy Brown Road was a mansion where my godmother’s father had been the caretaker. I have pictures of me as a little kid on the steps of the mansion. The property has been split up and developed so there is nothing to show of the old estate except the old house which looks out of place on its small lot.

What used to be the grand entrance

The new, less grand entrance

Next it was up to Bowman Drive where we moved after I graduated from High school. I did a lot of work on that house, finished the library, installed a safe in a hidden place behind the book shelves, insulated the attic and planted a chestnut tree. The tree is gone.

The house on Bowman Drive

I tried to call Billy Davidson but got his voice mail. He was Helen’s big brother and I think is still a lawyer in town. I had tried several times to call Patti, my niece in Boston, but I never got a response. So I gave up on the trip to Boston. It felt complete when I left to start home. We let George plot us a course to Chicago and went back across the Tappan Zee Bridge and off across New Jersey into Pennsylvania. I had a lasagna in a Hollywood Diner and Sports Bar and we parked in a Walmart parking lot.
Day 26: Tuesday, Hazelton, PA to Toledo, OH: My calendar says spring but my eyes say winter. It was cold today. I even saw snow falling and accumulating on the north slopes by the freeway. Last night it started to rain just as we went to bed. At times it really poured but the temperature didn’t go that low. I drained the camper battery by using an inverter to power the computer. In the middle of the night I had to turn the heater off because the battery was too low to power the blower. It didn’t get unbearably cold. I had trouble today remembering “here and now, boys, here and now.” My mind got out of the present and went into the past and future. I kept catching myself and pulling back to the now. The now was interesting by not spectacular. Although, crossing one bridge I looked down into a deep valley and saw the cutest little town. I wish I could have stopped and taken a picture but the bridge was narrow with no pedestrian access and it would have been my last picture. For quite a way in Pennsylvania I noticed that the woods were strewn with rocks, from the size of bricks to basketballs, no boulders. Trees grew up through them. The forest looked normal except for the floor, covered with rocks. They were irregular shaped, not like glacier rolled round ones. There were no flowering trees, no sign of spring. The skies were gray or raining or snowing. As soon as we crossed into Ohio things seemed to clear up. The wind that had blown the camper all over the road let up and there were patches of blue in the sky. But it was still cold. We registered in a KOA and I pulled apart the electric cable between the camper and the truck to see if I could make the turn signals work. They did before and after dinner. We’ll see if they keep working tomorrow. On one of my distractions I got thinking about all my best friends over the years. Jimmy Griffin who was my best friend in second grade died in third grade (leukemia). Walt McGuire died in a car accident when we were in our twenties. Gary Nielson died of leukemia when he was 48. Ted Chatterton died at age 79. I have lost touch with my high school and college pals. I was thinking of contacting some of them and remembered what Danine said the other night about the danger of going back and finding things just aren’t the same and the memories may be damaged by new experience. When I get home and am not so insistent on being in the here and now I may revisit the question and decide then.
Day 27: Hazelton, OH to Geneseo, IL: Truly a long day. We passed from Eastern Time to Central Time and gained an hour. I overslept this morning. I had not been able to log onto the internet the night before so I found out how after the office opened at 9AM. We finally got on the road at about 11:30! It was more “there and then” then “here and now.” My mind kept wandering off what I was seeing and thinking about other things. I got distracted by a tower for high tension wires. This one was a tall round pole or pipe anchored to the ground in a piece of concrete, I got thinking about how deep you would have to dig to make such a pole stable. I guess it would depend on the type of soil around the foundation. How wide would the foundation have to be? How would the engineer know, how would he communicate to the builder? Suddenly I thought of how much that makes this world work I do not know. I have been criticizing the rough roads but could I do a better job of building them? Not a chance. I wouldn’t know where to start. How do they chose the route? Where does the fill come from that raises up the valleys? Is it the same material that they carve out to level the hills? We passed the Lordstown GM plant. I remember when that was being built and how advanced it was, how modern. I thought of all the skills that went into building it and maintaining it and running it and how many of them I do not have. It was a very humbling day. We passed Gary Indiana. It doesn’t look like the town sung about in the musical “The Music Man.” Then into Chicago. Have I said that I don’t like traffic? George guided me pretty well to Burton Place where I had lived in 1968.

The house on Burton Place

It used to run from Wells to LaSalle but it has been turned into a Cul De Sac by putting a mini park at the Wells Street end. I had turned into it before I realized there was no way out! I was able to turn around but had a confrontation with someone who came in behind me and didn’t want to give me the room to turn. Eventually she saw that she was not going to get anywhere until she backed up and let me out. I found a parking place big enough for the camper on LaSalle Street across for the end of Burton Place! I couldn’t believe my luck. Until I saw that it was 3:30 and the parking lane would turn into a No Parking, No Standing bus lane at 4. Lucy and I walked around the old neighborhood and took pictures. I had lived in an apartment that had been built during the depression. Someone had given some artists a credit card at the junk yard. They used recycled mosaics, marble, tiles and bricks to build a unique house. I couldn’t get inside where the true art was but the outside demonstrates the idea.

 

The sidewalk in front of the house on Burton Place

Thru a window in the wall on Burton Place

The drug store that had swastikas in its tile floor was gone. It had predated the Nazis usurpation of that ancient symbol. But it didn’t survive the yuppification of Old Town. Just before four we got out of there and were surprised first by the route George chose for us and second by the lack of traffic thru downtown Chicago on Lake Side Drive and onto the Interstate. We hit heavy traffic further out of town, but it wasn’t all that bad. George got me good at the end of the day. I had chosen a campground in Geneseo, IL. We were almost there when George took us on a road under a railroad. The bridge was ten feet off the ground. The air conditioner on top of the camper was ten feet off the ground. I realized this about two feet too late. When I backed out from under the bridge some of the air conditioner fell off the camper in many pieces. To add insult to injury after I had found a way to get over the tracks a police car pulled me over. I asked “What did I do?” He said “Did you hit that railroad bridge?” I said “Yeah, but I didn’t hurt it!” He took my license and went back to his car. He asked if I wanted to file an accident report for my insurance company. He said he didn’t have to file a report if the damage was under $500. I said it was and he said he’d check with his sergeant. Then he said to wait while he checked for damage to the bridge. I told him that if the damage had rust on it, I didn’t do it. (The bridge appeared to have been hit by larger and harder things than my air conditioner, many times, and on both sides.) He came back and gave me back my license and wished me a good day. I’ll investigate the damage in the light of tomorrow. It was too dark to climb on top of the camper when we registered for our campsite. To add more insult to injury, when I tried to turn on the light over the table in the camper, it wouldn’t go on! Maybe my luck is changing. The camp store was still open and they had replacement fluorescent bulbs that fit. Dinner was eggs and cheese and apple and beer. When I walked Lucy before her bedtime the stars and moon were out and lovely.

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Mt Sentimental Journey Part 3

Mt Sentimental Journey Part 3

Day 18: Monday: Washington, DC: Today we delivered Lucy to the vet for a doggie cab ride to Shady Spring Kennels for four days of doggie camp. She will get a 15 minute walk (with ball throwing) and a private suite with a 20 foot run. Then we learned the Metro. When I lived here from 1957 to 1968 I don’t remember there even being any talk of a mass transit system. Now there is one. We missed our stop and had to back track but still we got to the Holocaust Museum with two hours to spare before our 1:30 ticket would let us into the main exhibit. One could take all day or maybe more seeing all the pictures, movies and reading all the captions and quotes. I could be glib and sum it all up as “We shellacked Germany in the First World War and left them with damaged pride and economy. They reacted with puffed up pride and decided to kill everyone who in their mind was inferior to them. They killed six million innocent people. We beat them. And it should never happen again.” But it is so much more profound than that. As long as there are “We” and “Them” it will happen again. It happened in the former Yugoslavia. It happened in the Congo. It might be happening in Libya. What is frightening to contemplate is that we all are capable of doing what the Germans did. The Germans of the thirties and forties were no different than we are now. We could demonize some group. Some of us have demonized Muslims. I fear the We-Them mentality. When I was very young we reduced the Germans and Japanese to “Krauts” and “Japs,” the North Koreans to “Gooks,” the soviets to “Commies.” I see the roots of the same hostility in ads for professional wrestling or in the talk of some sports fans. I see the same “we-them” in politics. One of the things I want to do in DC is visit the National Archives. There is a statue in front that has the inscription “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Too many of us believe that liberty means we can do what we want and make others not do what they want. Too often we don’t want to pay the price of free speech which is to let other people say things we don’t want to hear. I don’t want to see the flag desecrated or burned but I’ll begrudgingly defend your right to desecrate or burn it. I don’t want to see your naked body on Main Street but I’d rather look away than have you arrested. But many people who “Love Freedom” would disagree.

Eternal Vigilance is the price of liberty

I was moved, disgusted, frightened by what I saw at the Holocaust Museum. We met a man who showed us his number tattooed on his arm. He survived 3 years in a concentration camp. We can only prevent a repeat by recognizing our common humanity in all people, by seeing “we” not “them.”

Day 19: Tuesday: Washington, DC: Today we did the tourist thing and rode a tour trolley all over the place. We got off at the National Cathedral where Michele took an audio tour and I took it easy for a half hour. A delicious lunch at a local brewery, Gordon Biersch, and off to the Smithsonian Sculpture Garden and the Hirshhorn Gallery by way of the National Archives Building where I got pictures of the statues with the aforementioned inscription. I used to take energy from the city. When I worked in San Francisco I picked up energy as I walked from the bus station to work, both at Western Union and at Wells Fargo. Now the city saps me of energy. This is only the third day in the city and I’m worn out. I long to get back behind the wheel and see the country.

Day 20: Wednesday: Washington, DC: Today was war memorial tour day for me. Michele and I went to the Korean War Memorial together. It is so different from the others. It is a group of statues war-weary soldiers. The one in back is looking over his shoulder like he sees something he didn’t want to see. In front of the soldiers is a fountain (well, a water feature) that lists the number of killed and wounded both of US and UN forces. Then Michele grabbed a cab and went to the Sackler Museum while I went to the Vietnam Memorial and the World War II Memorial. I wish I had the sense to take a picture of the book at the entrance to the Vietnam Memorial. It looked like a phone book for a large city. It had two columns of names on each page. Next to each name was Rank and address of the name on the memorial wall. There must have been five hundred pages.  What could we have won that was worth that many lives? I have heard about and seen pictures of the Vietnam Memorial but seeing it is a whole new and moving experience. The same is true of the World War II Memorial. It is large. It has columns for each of the states and territories. It has a wall of Gold stars, 4048 of them, each one representing 100 Americans lost in the war. Flanking the Gold Star Wall are two water features of cascading water. The roar of the water blanks out other sounds. The stars and the water create a strong emotional experience.

Each Gold Star represents 100 dead

 

In the center of the States pillars there is a large pool and fountain. It is all quite magnificent. At the east entrance to the WWII Memorial there are a number of Bas Relief depictions of war scenes. I saw some young people looking very closely at one and laughing. After my earlier rant about how important it is for us to see all humans as “we” and not “we” and “them” I am not proud of my anger at these Asian, and I presumed Japanese, young people showing disrespect at this memorial. If I am going to hold such a high standard for other people I must do better, myself.

Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty

 

I got better pictures at the Archives Building and rejoined Michele for lunch at the Smithsonian Castle from which we went to the Native American Museum before folding for the day. We were both exhausted.

Back in Greensboro, NC we stayed in a Ramada. I meant to mention a delightful note they had on the bathroom door. Instead of threatening legal mayhem on anyone caught stealing Ramada property they had this note that said something to the effect.”We know that many of our guests really like some of the amenities we provide, like irons, hair dryers and towels. We keep a stock of them at the front desk and would be happy to sell them to you. Our housekeepers keep careful records of what is in each room. If you would like to take any of the amenities in your room we will gladly add the cost to your credit card after you leave” There followed a price list of irons, towels, hair dryers, sheets, coffee pots, etc. I think it is an excellent way to convert thieves into customers without sounding in any way threatening or un-trusting of good, honest clients.

This being a journey of remembrance and acknowledgement of change I have been reminded several times of how my world has changed. One of the sculptures in the Smithsonian Sculpture garden is a large stainless steel and fiberglass representation of a typewriter eraser, you know, the round eraser wheel with a little brush attached. Michele explained it to a full grown woman who had never seen such a thing. Someone explained it to a kid who replied that if the typewriter had spell check it wouldn’t need an eraser. Another thing I noticed (or remembered) is that billboards used to be painted by men on ladders with paint cans and paint brushes. Now they are either electronic LEDs or are preprinted and rolled on like wallpaper.

Day 21: Thursday: Washington, DC: Today we went to the Newseum, seven floors of displays, artifacts, films and experiences related to the news. It is the most modern of the museums we’ve seen. It is the most technical. It opened in April, 2008. It has a page from the Guttenberg bible and the front pages of 700 daily papers every day. A ticket gives you two days of access and that could not be enough for a thorough inspection. I spent 6 ½ hours there and didn’t see it all, hardly scratched the surface. But I saw enough. One thing I learned that had always puzzled me. Where did the term
fourth estate come from?” There were two explanations at the Newseum: The press was the fourth estate and the other three were Clergy, nobility and the people, or, the press was the fourth and the other three were the three branches of government, Legislative, Executive and Judiciary. It took me back to an experience in high school. I was the editor of my school newspaper. I was very shy and deathly afraid to speak in public. One afternoon at a school assembly with the whole school in attendance the headmaster introduced me to speak to the assembly as “our representative of the fourth estate.” I had had no advance warning that he was going to do this. I was totally unprepared to deliver a speech. I was in shock. And I had no idea what the “Fourth estate” was. I could fall apart and run from the room and be teased for the rest of my high school career or I could get up and speak. So I got up and spoke. I made up some bull story about the other three estates being study, sports and religion or some such and sat down. I have never been afraid to speak in public since. Now that I have been to the Newseum I know the four estates. A long time coming! Michele will go back to the Newseum tomorrow and I will drive out to Woodbine to pick up Lucy from her spa.

Day 22: Friday: April Fool’s Day! Washington, DC: It’s been three full weeks since Lucy and I left Ashland. I may be getting homesick. This morning I left Michele off near the Metro Station and went out to the Maryland countryside to bail Lucy out of her “vacation” or “jail,” depending on who you ask. George (the GPS) tried to send me the wrong way on a one way street but eventually got me on the right road to Woodbine. Lucy was happy to get out of there and to chase the ball for her 10 minutes. She sang all the way back to DC. Part of the sentimental part of this journey was to visit my old homes which we did this morning. The house we bought in 1965 and sold in 1969 was in a new neighborhood that had few trees. I planted several saplings before we moved. The place we visited today is an established, tree-lined development. I rang the bell at the house next to ours to see if our old neighbor was still there. Roxanne had moved about 7 years ago. A guy came out of our old house to see why I was taking pictures. He was satisfied with my explanation and invited me in. He has air-conditioning, which we did not, but he says the fan I put in the attic still cools the house on hot days. The family room has an alcove which buts into where my shop used to be. Otherwise the house looks pretty much the same, except for the trees and bushes.

Kim Place House Circa 2011

 

Next we tried to find where I lived before we bought the house. It had been a nursery with a green house, a main house and a small house for the help. We lived in the small house, with 26 acres of prime Montgomery property at our disposal for several years. Since 1965 the property has been developed. The house we lived in has been torn down and replaced by a house lived in all these years by Senator Inouye form Hawaii. I used to go to the big house to study when I was finishing college. The “big” house doesn’t look so big anymore.

The "Big House" at 8003 Bradley Blvd

Today, nostalgia was sweet.

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My Sentimental Journey, Part 2

My sentimental Journey Part 2
Day 10: Sunday, Savannah, GA: Michele took a tour of the city while I stayed with the camper and did maintenance work. I cut a larger hole for the new carbon monoxide detector. In a Siskiyou Woodcraft Guild Class on whittling and carving Will Sears said that anything that can be built with wood can be built with nothing more than a good knife. He inspired me to open the hole for the CO detector with my Swiss Army knife. I have all sorts of tools at home I might have used, but on the road, not so much. Well, the knife and a little elbow grease worked. I stretched my horizon and it felt good. Then I went online and posted the first part of the trip on my blog. That felt good, too, but I felt a little self conscious. I have never shared my journals with anyone, now with everyone! This trip is changing me. Not in a new direction but more in the same direction,. I am becoming more at peace. I feel very comfortable with the here and now. While driving down the highway I don’t see “trees.” I see that tree and that one and that one. Each tree is different and I see that now. And I love it. And hanging out in the camper, working on the CO monitor or writing this blog, I love that too. I am more comfortable than I can ever remember. We ate in a restaurant by the river called, of all things, “River House.” The food was OK but I thought it was overpriced. Michele got the view out the window but I got to see the seagulls in a reflection from the glass case housing a 1903 sailing ship replica. We both had very different days but both were very satisfying.

Day 11: Monday, Savannah, GA to Jacksonville, FL: On our trip to the Antarctic in December and January we ran into a couple Michele had met in Thailand two years ago. Lu and Ted were from Jacksonville and were on the cruise with their next door neighbors, Ann and Robert. We spent a lot of time with them on the cruise and enjoyed their company. When I called, Ted invited us to stay with them. When we arrived they had a wonderful layout of Hors D’oeuvres and they took us to dinner by the Jacksonville Harbor. The dinner and company were great, the view outstanding. Jacksonville has many bridges and we saw a lot of them, including a railroad draw bridge that we watched go up. Then Michele and Lu played Rumicubs while Ted and I shared Picture files from our Antarctic trip. Ted and Lu are active in the Tea Party. We have many different views on politics and economics but seem to share a mutual affection and respect for one another. I hope they enjoyed our company as much as we enjoyed theirs.
Day 12: Tuesday, Jacksonville, FL to Charleston, SC: On the way to Charleston we passed a billboard that simply read “Who is John Galt?” The phrase “Who is John Galt?” is repeated in “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. Rand was a rugged individualist. She was born in Russia and saw the damage Russian communism did. She was ardent about personal responsibility and despised weakness. She favored limited government and felt that government regulation interfered with the free flow of business. I imagine a lot of Tea Party people agree with Rand and that is probably who sponsored the billboard. Former FED Chair, Alan Greenspan, was a fan of Ayn Rand. Nicholas Johnson, a member of the Federal Communications Commission under President Johnson (no relation) said in one of his books something to the effect of “For a system to work it must be capable of being carried out by self-serving men of average intelligence. To dream of systems to be implemented by angels is futile.” (I am sure I am not as eloquent as Johnson but I hope you get the drift.) I don’t think free market fans like Ayn Rand have an answer for people like Bernie Madoff and the guys who put together the mortgage bundling fiasco that led to this last recession. Just like Karl Marx didn’t have an answer to Stalin or Pol Pot. “To each according to his needs and from each according to his ability” only works if everybody plays fair. Free market capitalism only works if everybody plays fair. Unfortunately, we can’t trust everyone to play fair without some oversight. Well, enough of my philosophical ramblings, back to the trip to Charleston.
We first went to the visitors’ center where I was not allowed to park in the regular parking lot and Michele collected info about Charleston and the available tours. They did not warn her of the tour we were about to take. The KOA was in Mt Pleasant. But the GPS did not recognize Mount Pleasant, so we entered the cross streets we found in the AAA directory, Rte 17 and I 526. Two choices came up that looked a lot the same to me. But there was no KOA 5 miles past I 526 on 17. A phone call got us on the right track. It’s “North 17,” not “South 17” and I 526 loops way out and around Charleston and intersects with 17 on both the north and south sides. Well, now it’s rush hour and on the way back into town we see the traffic we just missed on the way out. But, then, we get to the center of town and join the outgoing rush hour stop and go traffic jam! I didn’t time it but I suspect it cost us over an hour. On the plus side, it gave us extended views of the Cooper River Bridge. (By the way, in Charleston, “Cooper” is pronounced “cupper.”) The other plus wasn’t discovered until the next morning when I checked in the KOA office and found that they charged me $30 for the night. If I chose to stay another day the second day would cost $40! Late check-ins only pay $30. But, if you check in before the office closes at 6PM you pay $40. I checked out and said I might come back after their office closed that night. We did.
Day 13: Wednesday, Charleston, SC: Marvin was our tour guide. “Doin’ the Charleston” was the name of the tour. Marvin has been “doin’” it for 20 years. His tour company allows dogs on board. He doesn’t allow two year olds. He gave us a wonderful tour and explanation of old Charleston. At one point he leaned out the window to greet the mayor who called Marvin by name! The tour bus had a screen that showed the interiors of the mansions we passed and the historic pictures of places like Fort Sumter, which by the end of the “War” was a pile of rubble. Oh yeah, in Charleston, and, I guess, in the rest of the south “the War” refers to the Civil War, as if there were no other. After Marvin’s tour I put Lucy back in the truck and Michele and I had a delightful dinner at a French café called Rue de Jean. I thought the escargots were delicious. We’re told that in the south the three meals are breakfast, dinner and supper. Oh, I’m sorry, those last two are “dinah” and “suppa.” Well, our Dinah being French we had a very light suppa and did our laundry back at the camp ground.
Day 14: Thursday, Charleston, SC to Greensboro, NC: We started the day at Boone Hall Plantation. There was no mention of any relationship between this Boone family and the more popular one. At one point Boone Hall had 5000 acres tended by 900 slaves. It now has 700 acres and 40 employees. Many of the slave quarters still stand, a grim reminder of our less humane past.  We stopped in Santee North Carolina for lunch at a Thai restaurant. I thought the food was good, Michele thought it was great. The proprietor spent the entire lunch talking to us. (We were the only customers there, the others left soon after we arrived,) He gave Michele some brochures about Thailand where he grew up. He told us of how he left Los Angeles to buy a restaurant in a town of 700 people!
Proof reading what I have written of this trip, I think I have been pretty positive. I saw the positive of getting lost in Charleston and wasn’t too upset when GPS, who I have named “Gorge Paul Snodgrass,” took me the slow way through Reno. When I saw a bunch of trash by a beautiful road I thought of the David Wilcox song which turned a spilled can of paint on the kitchen floor into a work of art. “Leave it as it is!” But I can’t leave the south without noticing the Kudzu! We saw it in Georgia, Florida, both Carolinas and in Virginia. It is dormant now. It looks like a brown blanket over fields, bushes and trees. I had heard of it and it is about as bad as I expected. And I don’t like it. It could be out of a poor Science Fiction movie, but it is real, not fiction.

Day 15: Friday: Greensboro, NC to Greenwood, VA: We stayed in a Ramada last night. It was a pleasant change from the camper. There was room to move about. We got to Monticello at about 2 PM. The house tour started at 2:40. I have always admired Thomas Jefferson, the Renaissance man, farmer, philosopher, politician, statesman, scientist and tinkerer. I had faulted him for his inconsistency on slavery and his poor money management that left him practically broke at the end of his life. At the end of our tour I had more respect and understanding of the man. Sure he wrote “all men are created equal” and he owned slaves. I suspect he didn’t free his slaves because the times being what they were his slaves might have fared worse if they had been freed into a slave state. His money lasted through his life even if he did have to sell off his library and other things to make ends meet. But he supported a lot of relatives and friends in a fine manner right until he died and even after.
Michele keeps asking me how I am. She knows of the peripheral neuropathy (PN) that has bothered my feet since my chemotherapy last year. It was January, 1973, when I coined the expression “I don’t let my pain interfere with my pleasure. “ I first said it when someone asked me if I was crazy to go skiing in such poor weather. Later in the day, after getting a bunch of stitches in my head after falling of my skis, I said it again as I headed out onto the slopes again. Several days into this trip my gout returned and I got an infection of some sort in my nose. Michele noticed the nose and suggested I treat it with an antibiotic. It hasn’t gotten worse, but it hasn’t gotten better. It doesn’t bother me much. The gout hurts like hell. Ibuprophen seems to help. The PN doesn’t respond to anything I have tried so far. Sometimes it is worse other times it is better, but it always is uncomfortable and frequently painful. I don’t let my pain interfere with my pleasure and my new aphorism is “Pain is God’s way of reminding us that we are still alive.”
Trees: Trees keep coming up as a subject of this trip. Not only have I discovered that there are no two trees alike, I have also discovered that there are many colors to the trees. They are grey, brown, black, red, many hues of green, pink, white and I’m sure I’ve missed a few. There are Oaks that turn brown in autumn but save their leaves until spring. There are Oaks that keep their green leaves all year, others shed their leaves in fall. The blossoming trees are spherical, conical or oval, white, pink, yellow or red. By the side of the road we frequently see Daffodils. At Monticello we saw Tulips and violets and Vinca in bloom. We’ve seen Azaleas, Flowering Quince, Forsythia and camellias. It has been a wonderful colorful, exciting, informative and spiritual trip.
In a way, today is the first sentimental part of the trip for me. I first visited Monticello in February, 1973. I had been transferred to Middletown, VA in October, 1972. I went from a busy social environment to stark loneliness. I had been miserable for three and a half months. I took a trip to Monticello by myself. I decided that day that there would be no more lonely weekends. I went home to Winchester that night to a party and took up with a new girl friend and was not lonely again for a year. Some lessons need to be learned and learned and learned before they sink in. I hadn’t planned on going to Monticello on this trip, my sentimental journey, but it sure fit into the scheme of the trip.
Day 16: Saturday: Greenwood, VA to Washington, DC via Middletown and Winchester, VA: Our campsite was in the Misty Mountain Campground resort. It was a beautiful setting with a babbling brook next to us, a large field with horseshoes and volleyball and basketball, and a small pond. We left early to get to Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park. Skyline Drive is bumper to bumper during the fall color season. Today it was almost deserted. We pulled off the road many times to enjoy the spectacular views with different colors. We saw many deer, lucky for us, Lucy only saw one. We had dinner (Dinah) at the Wayside Inn in Middletown. The Wayside Inn has been an Inn continuously since the 1790’s. It would never meet today’s building codes, ceilings too low. Their specialty is Peanut Soup. I’ve never had it anywhere else. I worked in Middletown in 1972-73 for Western Union. The building I managed in now run by AT&T and it has two microwave towers instead of the one I managed. We got to the parking lot, but not inside. It looked pretty buttoned up. They no longer have the guard shack we used to have. From Middletown we went to Winchester where I had lived. I had bought a mobile home and parked it on Short Street. I didn’t recognize anything in Winchester. It has grown huge. The area where my mobile home had been looks pretty run down. I wouldn’t want to live there now! The Back Room where we used to hang out is gone. I wanted to find an old friend, Justus Russell. As we drove up from Middletown I noticed an Elks Lodge just off the freeway. We found our way back to it and went inside. It was pretty busy for a Saturday afternoon. I asked a few people if they knew Russ, or Junior, or JR. One guy said he thought he had died, but wasn’t sure. No one else even had a hint. They didn’t recognize Patty or Sissie or Janet Kline either. And so I gave up. I asked George, the GPS, to take us to our hotel on New York Avenue in Washington. I didn’t recognize any of the roads from when I lived here. They were wide and fast and crowded. New and big houses were all over the countryside. Then George took us on a toll road past Dulles Airport, didn’t even warn us that it would cost $5.65! When I lived in the DC area in the 60’s Dulles airport was way out in the country. There was nothing around it. When they built the Beltway it was considered too far out in the country. Not now! There are high rises by Dulles! We passed some construction that narrowed the road way too much for a wide camper. Driving was stressing. Soon after we crossed into DC we went into a tunnel and George squeaked and said he had lost satellite contact. When we came out of the tunnel he was confused. He told us to turn left, then right and finally I realized we were on New York Ave and headed for our hotel. Then George got his bearings and told us we had arrived at our destination. It was a thrill to drive past Georgetown and see how big it has gotten. I can’t wait to visit.
My sentimental journey to Middletown raised some questions. What was I thinking when I bought that trailer? I was only planning to be in Middletown 2 to 4 years. Buying real estate would have been foolish, but buying a mobile home was just plain stupid! And why has it taken me thirty eight years to see that? I could have, I should have, rented! I was lucky to find a fool to buy it from me for the payments. I didn’t lose as much as I could have.
Back to trees: I have noticed along the highways we have travelled a strange shrub, can’t call it a tree, can’t call it a bush. As I recall, in summer it has large green leaves. Late summer through winter it has what I guess is a fruit that is dark red, maroon maybe, shaped sort of like a small ear of corn, without the husk, on the end of its stalks. It never grows more than 15 feet high and doesn’t stand straight. I remember seeing them along the rail road tracks between New York and Port Chester when I was going to school. I’ve never seen them is anyone’s garden.
Day 17: Sunday: Washington, DC: There was a light dusting of snow on the ground, but not the roads, when we woke. It was gone by the time we had our breakfast. Yesterday I finally got to talk to a person at the kennel I wanted to send Lucy to. She was not cooperative. Lucy won’t be going there. Other dog hotels required letters from vets about vaccination and health. I didn’t get one from our vet before we left. A big oooppss! So I found on-line a vet/doggie day care on P Street who was open on Sunday. We asked George to show us the way. We found Sunday-only parking less than two blocks away! The vet doesn’t do the boarding but sends the dogs into the Maryland countryside to a doggie resort. Bur the resort wants proof of health and vaccinations. Lucy is due for vaccinations in June anyway so we asked if the vet could take care of it for us. A half hour later we had an appointment. After Lucy was given her shots and a thorough checkup and a clean bill of health and I was given a bill for about three times as much as it would have cost me at home we were on our way to Georgetown. The Traffic! The traffic was terrific. Fortunately I had left the camper at the hotel, so it could have been worse. (But, not much.) I didn’t even grit my teeth. I relaxed into enjoying the slow pace of sightseeing in a strange place. The street cars are gone, thought some of their tracks still abide. The “Old Europe” restaurant is still on Wisconsin Avenue but I didn’t see LOU-ROSE. Sugar’s drug store is now a café. Wooton’s is gone. The campus at Georgetown has grown! It is still recognizable but different. The old temporary buildings are gone. There are many new and big buildings. We went into Healy Hall and Lucy got her first and second ride on an elevator. She was shocked! The floor moved! When I went to Georgetown we used to meet at “The Tree.” Sometime after I left I remember a controversy about taking the tree down because it was old a diseased. To me, there should be a new small tree. But, no, it is big and looks old. It made me feel old. I asked some students if freshmen still get hazed. They asked “What’s that?” When I explained they said you could get arrested for that now. I showed Michele the stairs between Prospect and M Street that were featured in the movie, The Exorcist. Then we were off to see the Cherry Blossoms. I took a detour from George’s route to look at the street where I had lived in Arlington when I left college and got married. It was changed so I couldn’t recognize it. Lee Highway is four lanes. The railroad bridge that used to be there is gone. The green valley that made our apartment seem to be out in the country is filled with buildings. I think all the buildings where my friends and I had lived are gone. Then it was back on George’s route to the cherry trees. More traffic, more enjoyment of the slow pace. Then I saw a sign for disabled parking. I still have a disabled tag I got when I was so down from chemo. It expires next month. There were seven disabled parking places and only three were taken. The road they were on was blocked off for the construction of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. It was near the FDR memorial. What a pleasant surprise. The FDR memorial is large and has many of his quotes, many of which should inspire our leaders today. We got to walk right next to the Tidal Pool where the cherries bloom. The sun came out and the sky cleared and we both got pictures of a blue sky behind the Washington Monument reflected in the Tidal Pool.

My honey and me and cherry trees

 

DCF and Lucy and Fala at FDR's knee

Lucy was very nervous about approaching Fala.
It was a wonderful day. Earlier in the trip my aphorism had been “Here and now, boys,” from Huxley. Today I coined two new ones of my own. “Sentiment is highly overrated.” And “Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.” Middletown, Winchester, Georgetown, Arlington are not the same places I remember. I’m not sure if there is any value in trying to go back to places that aren’t there anymore. This trip has been great. I have gotten so much out of it that I didn’t plan for or expect. Maybe it is more a journey of discovery than a sentimental journey. Maybe I’m discovering that I’m an old man trying to recapture his youth! Do I really want to go to Blue Bell, PA, Loyola School, Port Chester, Candlewood, Boston or Chicago? Do I even want to go to Bethesda or Potomac? Is the lesson from this trip “here and now, boys, here and now!?” Is it time let go of the past? Forget about old successes and defeats, old friends? Are friends you haven’t seen in forty years still friends?
When I was a boy there was a television program called “The Naked City” (I think). Its tag line was “There are seven million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” Are all seven million stories worth remembering? Is mine? Tonight the existential questions just keep coming. The answers don’t.

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My Sentimental Journey Part 1

My Sentimental Journey – 2011

Several years ago I got the idea to take a trip across the country visiting places I wanted to see and places I had lived or had fond memories of.  I hung a map of the US on one of my bookcases and scribbled various points of interest.  Years went by and we moved and the map came down but not the desire.

I am writing this account of my trip for myself. I am publishing it for anyone who is interested. Several people I have told about my trip have asked if I had read “Travels with Charley” by Steinbeck. I had. I also read “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat Moon. And I had read a series of articles in the Ashland Daily Tidings by Don Dolan when he took his trip across the country. And I read a blog by a family I met trying camping with Lucy several years ago. They had sold their house bought a truck and an Airstream trailer and took their 8 year old little girl for a trip of a life time. They visited unusual places. Their trip is chronicled at “http://ayearabout.wordpress.com.” I don’t think this journal will be like any of those.

So here we go. Friday morning, the eleventh of March, 2011, at 9:15 Lucy, our dog, and I set off across the country. We are going to visit people and places for the next four or five weeks. Our itinerary will take us to Janet Martin, Michele’s sister in law in Truckee, CA, Erica Burkett and her family near Reno NV (she’s Michele’s niece) The Hot Springs campground in Beatty, NV, the new bridge near Hoover Dam, the Murrah Memorial in Oklahoma City. Then we will meet Michele at the airport in Atlanta. We’ll see the cherry blossoms in Macon GA, Savannah, GA, Charleston, South Carolina, The Blue Ridge Parkway to Winchester, VA, a week in Washington, DC and then Michele flies home and Lucy and I continue on to New York to see my cousin, Boston to see my niece and nephew, Chicago, Omaha, NE to see Michele’s cousin, Judy and her husband Joe, Denver to see my old class mate, Nick Nikkel, and home.

I’m writing this the evening of the second night on the road at Baileys Hot Spring, Beatty, NV. I just spent 20 minutes in a hot spring and am feeling very relaxed. Earlier I was feeling a little crazy, like I used to get at the end of a day commuting to or from Livermore from Ashland.

I wanted to travel the “Blue Highways,” the roads less travelled. I told the GPS to avoid highways thinking that that would keep me off the interstates as much as possible. We weren’t five miles from home when the GPS started giving me bad advice. At the end of Siskiyou Blvd it wanted me to take a left onto route 99. I wasn’t about to go cross country across and perpendicular to Interstate 5 so I ignored its advice. 15 minutes later it told me to get off I5 at Hilt. That was OK because I wanted to stop at the liquor store there to see if my lottery tickets had paid for the trip. ($40 invested in tickets returned $1 in winnings, not my best investment.) I wondered where it wanted to take me because there is nothing at Hilt, Well, it told me to gat back onto I5. I guess it thought if I wanted to avoid Highways I could avoid a bit of them by exiting and returning at every off ramp. I don’t know how it wanted to take me to Janet’s house. I see now that I should have stopped and checked its route. It might have had a better idea of how to get to Truckee than I did. I took 89 and ignored the GPS trying to get me back onto I5. I decided to give it another chance as I was driving down 395 from Susanville. Everything was going fine and we were having no disagreements when the GPS told me to take the Janesville Road. (I think that was the name of the exit.) I got concerned when what was ahead was snow covered mountains and a sign that said “Janesville Grade 20 miles ahead.” I remember the family that got caught on a snow covered road that their GPS had suggested. I stopped and looked for a California map. Oops! I had emptied all my collection of maps before this trip because I didn’t need them anymore. I had a GPS! I zoomed out the GPS and saw that its route was just about as long as going trough Reno. Then the GPS told me that my route was an hour quicker than the one it had picked.  I had told GPS to pick the shortest route rather than the quickest. That almost cost me a trip to the snow it later cost me most of the hour I had saved. Being that I was ahead of schedule I thought I’d visit Trader Joe’s before going to Janet’s. The GPS took me straight through downtown Reno and showed me a red light on almost every intersection.

Well, I got to Janet’s only five minutes late, but the guy who came to the door wasn’t Janet. He was the guy who rents Janet’s house. She lives in her other house! Michele had given me the wrong address. A few minutes later I got to the right house and had a nice visit. Janet was amazingly composed for a woman who had lost her husband less than two weeks before.

Before the night was out GPS got me again. It told me to take the first exit from the round-about it neglected to tell me that it meant the second round-about, not the first. In all the confusion I neglected to watch my fuel gauge.  Until the low fuel warning light came on! It took me forever to find a gas station. I needn’t have worried, I still had three gallons left.

After a brief visit with Erica and her husband, Nathan, Lucy and I slept in the camper in their driveway. This morning we met their two year old son, Elijah. What a beautiful little boy. I gave Nathan and Elijah a tour of the camper. Later he told Erica that the camper had a bathroom and a bed and trash. I guess I should have put more stuff away. From the mouths of babes!

When I filled the truck’s tank the night before the pump stopped at $80 and the tank wasn’t full. When I left Erica’s I noticed that I had only traveled 11 miles from the gas station. The GPS said that it was 8 miles to route 395. I decided to double back and get the good price gas to fill up rather than get a higher price out in the boonies to which I was headed. Oops! The GPS was taking me out of their town by a different route than we had taken in. In all, I wasted 32 miles trying to save a few pennies a gallon. Then gas was cheaper down the road in Carson City. Not my worst investment but not my best.

Later in the day I made the mistake of not turning back. I passed a sign just south of Walker Lake. It said something to the effect “Navy Underwater Demolition Test Site.” I wish I had turned back and gotten a picture of that sign in the middle of a desert a hundred miles from any navigable water. The ride was perfect. It was a meditation in motion. Snow capped mountains, rugged rocky outcroppings, desert, long stretches of road with no traffic for miles in either direction. At one point I caught myself working on the cradle I’m building for Shonnon’s baby. I have an intricate milling job to get the bottom rails to also support the bottom of the cradle. I was deep in thought about the various cuts I will have to make. Then I thought of Huxley’s “Island.” “Here and now, boys, here and now!” The parrots were taught to repeat to remind the inhabitants to live in the here and now. I put away my thoughts of next month and went back to enjoying the scenery. Is it God forsaken or God’s country? It is quite amazing.

Day 3: Beatty to Meteor Crater: Daylight savings time came in last night. We didn’t change our clocks right away. We got a leisurely start. I threw the ball for Lucy and we had our breakfast and disconnected the camper and got on our way to Hoover Dam. More deserted highway. 395 does not get a lot of traffic 30 miles or more above Las Vegas. It is mostly one lane in each direction with an occasional passing lane on the steeper grades.  Then we got to Mercury. Mercury is a small settlement about 60 miles north of Las Vegas. The sign said “Divided Highway Ahead.”  And suddenly the traffic that couldn’t fill 2 lanes was spread out over 4! 40 miles of empty highway until we got to about 20 miles above Las Vegas then everybody joined us. I have been used to travelling in remote, sparse areas. Las Vegas freaked me out. Too many cars going too fast and passing too close. After Henderson it eased up but only for a bit. Boulder City’s approach to Hoover Dam was stop and go, mostly stop. I don’t know why there was such a backup. I saw nothing where the traffic started moving again.

To get to Hoover Dam one must submit to being searched by Security. It was reminiscent of going to the lab but these guys were no so thorough. They didn’t even climb into the camper much less open the drawers.

We pulled into the parking area for the walkway over the new Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Wow! What a sight. If you floated the Transamerica Pyramid on the Colorado River it could pass under this bridge without touching. It is 890 feet above the Colorado River. The arch spans 1060 feet.

This is my picture of the bridge from the dam.

This is a picture of the bridge while it was being built. For more details visit “www.HooverDamBypass.org”

We walked onto the new bridge and took some pictures of its superstructure. Then we drove over the Hoover Dam. I parked on the Arizona side and walked onto the dam and took some more pictures. Then we drove back over the dam so we could drive over the new bridge. It is so big and still so delicate. What an adventure.

I have been having power ( or brain) problems. Last night I didn’t notice that I hadn’t inserted the power cord for my computer all the way.  Fortunately I save my work frequently so I didn’t lose too much when the computer quit when its battery ran out.  I also didn’t notice that the power supply for the cooler was not supplying power. The plug is tricky and if it is not wiggled just right, no juice! Tonight I was careful to plug in the power supply for the computer but I didn’t notice that it wasn’t charging. And I forgot that when the guy at the campground showed me the outlet into which I was later to plug in the camper he remarked that the breaker was turned off! So, again, I lost a lot of my work. I promise to be more careful tomorrow. I’ll make different mistakes, then.

Day 4: Meteor Crater to Santa Rosa NM: We left Meteor Crater Campground at about 9. Soon I was repeating “Wow!,” “Ahhh!,” Wow!.” The scenery was breath taking. There are two geologic structures in the Rogue Valley called Upper and Lower Table Rock. They are quite impressive. In Arizona they’d be kiddy table rocks. We passed The Petrified Forrest and The Painted Desert. I was exercising my neck muscles all day first to the left then to the right. And the trains! Route I 40 runs parallel to a pair of train tracks. It seemed to be one freight train after another. I noticed a lot of JB Hunt and Swift logos and then realized I haven’t seen so many of them on the roads. Could they have switched from highway to railway? What a great way to save fuel. Then around Grants the flat plain we had been riding through between the Mesas and buttes was pock marked with lava fields. I saw no sign of a volcano, but miles and miles of rough black lava fields. After Albuquerque the scenery settled into rolling hills and flat plains, not exciting, but beautiful none the less. For a while today I let my mind wander to what could have been. I kicked myself for not being more persuasive with Michele and talking her into the whole trip. I’m sorry she missed the sights I was seeing and I missed not being able to share them with her. I surprised myself with my effusiveness when I told her about my day on the phone this evening.

Day 5: Santa Rosa to Shawnee, OK: Shawnee: In my world, trees have trunks and branches,  bushes have multiple stems from one base. I don’t think I saw a tree from California to 50 or 100 miles into Oklahoma. None in Texas.  I was 150 miles into Texas before the first “Rest Stop.” There had been “Picnic areas” and “Parking areas” but no “Rest Stops.”  The picnic areas and parking areas had no toilets! I was beginning to believe that Texans didn’t defecate. Which reminded me of the story about the 400 pound Texan who died. Someone asked the undertaker how he was going to find a coffin big enough. “No problem. We’ll give him an enema and bury him in a shoe box.” But, back to the rest stop: The one Texas Rest Stop was outstanding with terrazzo floors and faux granite walls between the stalls. It was clean and beautiful, if not worth the wait.

Day 6: Shawnee to Hurricane Mills, TN: The trees changed as we went from Texas to Oklahoma to Arkansas to Tennessee. They became more tree like, with trunks and branches. The further East we got the more green we saw, both in  the fields and in the buds of the trees. Also we saw more and more trees in bloom. Between Texas and Tennessee I only saw two places along the freeway that had daffodils, the second had bunches and bunches about 50 feet off the freeway. Riding through Oklahoma the land was flat and I could see to the horizon most of the time with few geologic structures or trees. Arkansas and Tennessee had hills rising more and more the more east I got and the trees enclosed the freeway so that most of what I saw was trees in various states of waking from winter. Gray, slightly green or red or covered with blossoms. And the Kudzu. I’d heard about it but this is the first time I’ve seen it. It’s like a blanket over fences and bushes and trees. At this time of year it has no leaves. It looks like giant spider webs.

Day 7: Hurricane Mills, TN to Atlanta/Forsyth, GA:  I found Hickory nut shells in the campground dog walk area in Hurricane Mills. I don’t remember ever seeing a Hickory tree before. The campground does not bill itself as being in Hurricane Mills. It says it’s in Buffalo. But the GPS says there is no such place as Buffalo. There’s a Buffalo Valley, but is nowhere near Hurricane Mills and the campground in “Buffalo.” The Exit from the freeway says “Buffalo.” My bet is that the campground didn’t think that “Hurricane Mills” would do as much for business as “Buffalo.”  This morning was to be devoted to making the camper habitable for Michele. I changed the slats in the blind behind the table. Seemed like a good idea at the time. It would be a difficult job to take out the old blind and install a new one. When the job was done and I tried to raise the blinds I found that the new slats had holes for the pull strings about a quarter of an inch away from where the old ones were. It made ascent and descent not impossible but difficult. Then we were on our way. We had little time to spare if we were to get to the airport in time to meet Michele.  But I was not about to let a rush interfere with my enjoyment of the trip. Nashville, Chattanooga, more Wow! Trees! On this trip I came to realize that there are no two trees alike. They are all different. The land through Tennessee and into Georgia is gently rolling with few cliffs or bluffs except where roads or rivers have carved them out. The cliffs we saw displayed many layers of sedimentary rock. Each layer probably not more than a foot thick. Thinking of geologic time made me feel very insignificant but very much in awe. We saw many flowering trees. Maybe cherries heralding the Macon festival. They were mostly round like white balls on a stick but some were more pointed like arrows with rounded bottoms. As I drove I was experiencing a wonderful sense of calm and peace and tranquility. The calm and peace were not broken by traffic or the frantic push to get to the airport on time. The speed limit was 70 and I was driving at about 69. Suddenly I noticed the traffic in front of me was stopped! I jammed on the brakes and checked the mirror. There was a semi bearing down on me. I started to pull off onto the shoulder until I saw that he had successfully stopped. There was a lot of smoke coming from his trailer’s rear tires and the trailer had swerved and was at about a 25 degree angle to the line of traffic. Traffic was stop and go for about twenty minutes. I am trying to enjoy every moment and I have been mostly successful. I noticed my language was not always what my mother would have approved of. I think I will try to filter some of my words. We got to Atlanta on time. Even had to circle the airport arriving area several times before Michele made it from the plane to the baggage pickup area. The dynamics are much different t with Michele here than when it was just Lucy and I. Rumicubes games instead of typing at Word.  But my peace and smile abide. I even accepted Michele’s anger that I had not made reservations at campgrounds for the week we’re in the truck. I don’t want to commit to being a certain place every night. I want to play it by ear and if we can’t get in a campground, there’s always the Walmart parking lot. We ate at a Cracker Barrel restaurant, had to try it just as I had to try a Waffle House. It was not great but not disappointing either. Wow, people in Georgia are wide.

Day 8: Forsyth/Macon: Even as we watch, the trees get greener. But our purpose in Macon is to see the Cherry Blossoms. They are white and they are everywhere. There is a “Cherry Blossom Trail” map that we got at the info center. A woman Michele met while she was taking pictures said that they get Pink later. I saw a few trees tending toward pink. On the Cherry Blossom Trail most mailboxes had pink ribbons attached; many houses had cutouts of pink poodles in their front lawns.

Day 9: Macon to Savannah, GA: We got to see what that woman meant when she told Michele the cherry blossoms turn pink. The trees that were white yesterday were turning pink today. Michele toured some old houses while I got some supplies to fix up a gadget to remind me if the cooler is not being powered. Lucy and I drove around a bit and saw some beautiful old mansions from the days of the old south. A lot of them are split into apartments now. Some had “For Rent” signs in front.

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How I changed the computer Service Manager at ISD

How I changed the Computer Service Manager at ISD (2/2010)

In 1974 I got a job with a company that sold time on Supercomputers. They were in Oakland but moved to Santa Clara. Information Systems Design rented their computers from a company that had in the rental agreement that all service be performed by computer manufacturer. We could not shop for a competitive firm to do the service. If we didn’t like the service, we were stuck.

As Operation Manager it was my job to deal with the service on our computers. I was warned when I took the job, that I would have trouble with the difficult service manager. I soon understood why. I despised the service manager. I thought he was a lying weasel. He would quote “company policy” to deny our requests for upgrades.

I distinctly remember sitting in a meeting one day when I had difficulty concentrating on the subject at hand because I was so pissed with this guy. I realized that I had no choice but to find a way to deal with him. He was the Service Manager. Our contract required we deal with his company. So I decided to get creative. I decided to find a way to loath him less. I tried to find a way make him less odious. I told my self that his mother loved him. But the picture I got was of an ugly granny type whose love did not raise my sympathy. When that didn’t work I mentally regressed him to being a little boy and crying to his mother that he had scraped his knee. She kissed him and held him. It was a sweet scene but I still disliked him, maybe was even happy that he’d hurt himself.

This called for drastic measures. I knew nothing of his personal life. As I recall, he was probably in his early to mid forties. In my imagination I gave him a wife and kids. I pictured him at breakfast in a bathrobe and messy hair. His wife put her arm around him lovingly and his kids kissed him goodbye as they left for school. If his kids and wife could love him, couldn’t I at least tolerate him? That relieved my tension enough for my mind to come back to the meeting. I never told him what I had done. I don’t recall doing anything different with him, but, from that day on he was easier to get along with. Sometime later he even bent some company rules to get us some concession I requested.

I am still amazed at how different he was after I changed me. When I stopped hating him he started liking me. Wow! What power! I could change the relationship by  changing myself, not the other person.

I suspect that that experience has changed all my relationships since. I know it has made me a better husband and father.

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On Kidney Stones

(5/12/2010)

 

As of May 2010 I have had a total of 6 kidney stones that I know of.  They have all been different. In June of 1970 I was experiencing the stress of a marital separation. The first Kidney stone came on me with no warning and was a constant pain for five days while I was drugged with Demerol in the Albany Hospital. In the middle of the last night I felt a very sharp and sudden pain and then relief. The next time I peed the tiny rock came out and I went home to recover from the drugs. A week or two later the second stone arrived. I was moving from one house to the other and didn’t have time for another hospital stay. I bound my sides with moving tape and carried boxes of books down the stairs. During one such load the stone broke loose and the shooting pain had me almost throw a fifty pound box through the ceiling. But the stone was gone and so was the pain. The third stone snuck up on me over the next several months. It never caused real pain just slight discomfort and a strange sensation when I urinated. In September I made an appointment with my doctor to talk about it. The day before the appointment as I was peeing in the morning I heard a plink in the toilet and felt a strange shot in my urine stream. There at the bottom of the toilet was a stone a little larger than an eighth of an inch long. It was shaped like a Rice Krispie.

 

The fourth stone came and went in one day. I think it was about June of 1998. It hit at night. By the next noon it was unbearable. I went to Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley and they gave me some morphine (I think). An hour or two later I passed the stone and was back in shape in a day or two. I don’t recall any specific stress at the time.

 

In September 2007 I was diagnosed with Lymphoma and around April 2008 with Prostate Cancer. I don’t recall the specific details but over a period of one or two weeks the kidney stone pain came and went. I was treated with Toridol several times and on a Wednesday had Lithotripsy.  The pain continued until Saturday when I passed some pieces of the stone.

 

Starting in February of 2010 I have been getting chemotherapy for the lymphoma. In March I had an intestinal blockage that required emergency surgery that removed some six inches of my small intestine. This was a week after my second infusion. A CT scan showed “nonobstructing calculi” in each kidney. A month later after my third infusion I felt that old familiar kidney stone pain for a day or two, not as intense as I had experienced before but anything but pleasant. Then it went away. Three weeks later it came back with a bang. My GP suggested Vicodin and if that didn’t work the emergency room. It didn’t work. But while I was in the ER the pain subsided. The next day I had several hours of pain that made all the other Kidney pain seem slight. I have never hurt so badly. And then it went away. Three weeks later it has all come back. Tylenol seems to take the edge off but the pain is persistent and is wearing me out.

 

This had been going on long enough that I personalized the stones and gave them names. My granddaughter, Caitlin drew them for me. Sidney and Sheila are pictured below.

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The UNIVAC 1005

The UNIVAC 1005.  (2/2010)

 

How I attached myself to the project

 

In October, 1964, I was hired by John Klein, the systems manager for the Army division, of the Federal Government Division of Univac Corporation. My title was to be Systems Engineer, my salary $6000 per year.

 

I heard about the job through the employment center at Georgetown University.  I had just completed my degree in September. In my first interview with John he said they usually hired people with computer experience, computer education or Math degrees. He didn’t consider my tech job at ACF Electronics as computer experience. They would consider my application if I passed their aptitude test.

 

They sat me in a room with no windows and I started the test. When I finished I came out to the desk of the person who had given me the test. She said something to the effect that you can’t come out until you finished the test. I said I had. She was surprised. Apparently no one had ever finished that particular test in the time allowed. Well, I must have aced it. They offered me the job. My first two weeks were spent in programming school on the Univac 1004. The 1004 was a plug board programmed card processor. It was a big box with a punched card reader and 132 column printer. Over on one side was a door that opened to a bay that held an aluminum framed board that held 5120 holes into which wires were plugged to make up the program to read the cards, process the data and print out the results. There were peripheral devices that could be connected to the 1004 that would allow punching other cards as out put, Modems and magnetic tape drives.

 

 

After my two weeks of training I was introduced to my clients, Fort Belvoir, Fort Meyers and a couple of others that I don’t even remember. John told me that I was to keep my clients happy. If they were happy he didn’t care if I only worked half days. If they were unhappy he didn’t care if I was working 18 hour days he’d be unhappy. I spent most of my time at Fort Belvoir helping them with their accounting software.

 

Sharon, my wife, and I had always been able to talk about anything. But when I came home talking 1004 she didn’t understand what I was talking about. Over coffee at work, I mentioned this problem to my boss and he suggested I bring her in to take the 1004 class. She did. When I told Captain Lokke at Fort Belvoir that my wife was learning 1004 he said send her down and he’d give her a job. I did. He did. My Foreign Service major wife became a programmer. Later she was recruited to be a Univac 418 programmer at Walter Reed Medical Center. And then I didn’t understand what she was saying. (But that’s another story.)

 

One of the problems with punch cards was that there were only 80 columns on a card. Each column had twelve possible holes. The cards were divided up into fields like first name, last name, social security number, pay grade, Hours worked, Vacation accrued, sick accrued, etc. Well, we ran into a problem when someone at Fort Belvoir accrued over 1000 hours of vacation. There were only 3 columns in the accrued vacation field. With some deft programming we were able to use one of the high holes that were usually punched for letters rather than numbers to indicate that the number was over 1000.

 

Meanwhile, my boss’ boss had sold an upgrade to the Army, the 1005. The 1005 was to be a version of the 1004 that could be programmed by a deck of punched cards. Leon Hammerman was involved in creating a language in which the 1005 could be programmed. Other people were working on the program that would be plugged into the 1004 board. My clients were happy and I had time on my hands. I came back to the office in the afternoons and got interested in the 1005 project. I started helping out. Before long I was working late on it.

 

One day Leon told me I was not allowed on the project because John didn’t want me distracted from my clients. I went into John’s office and reminded him of what he told me when I started. He had said that if my clients were happy he didn’t care if I spent the afternoons on the golf course. I asked him if my clients were happy. They were. I said I’d rather work on the 1005 than play golf. He allowed me back on the project. Eventually that was my only job. We put together a rudimentary 1005 but it wasn’t very robust. I made a case that if we were to add some logic components we could make the 1005 much stronger. My experience at ACF Electronics had taught me to deal with logic circuits like ‘and’ gates, ‘or’ gates and ‘flip flops’ (which were little electronic switches that could be turned on and off). I was tasked with designing the logic additions. I left the office and commandeered our dining room table to lay out the logic we needed.

 

How I manipulated the logic functions.

 

I put in all the bells and whistles I wanted, including bit logic functions that allowed comparing characters at the bit level using “and’ and ‘or” statements. When questioned about them I said they would help build and debug the 1005, they could be taken out later if necessary. Well, I thought they really added value to the product without much additional cost. They allowed real computer functions. So when the project was just about complete and ready to go to manufacturing and I was asked to take them out I replied that I could do that but it would hold up the project by three weeks. That was too long, so they stayed in and were a valuable asset to the 1005!

 

After all these years I will admit that it was a manipulation on my part. We probably could have done the project without the logic functions and I probably could have taken them out in less than three weeks. I’m not proud of my tactics but I am very proud of the results.

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