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Okay, here’s the deal… this front page is my regular, ongoing, run-of-the-mill “whatever’s on my mind today” blog. The page “Invasive Species” is a murder mystery work in progress that I’m posting for anyone who is interested in following along, as it unfolds. IF it unfolds. Mostly, I’ll probably continue to avoid it by blogging the “whatevahs.” My favorite part of blogging is the interaction, so – as always – I love comments. Enjoy…
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So I’m about seven chapters in to Chrissie Hynde’s autobiography, “Reckless: My Life as a Pretender” and two things have made a big impression, one positive, one not. I’ll get the “not” out of the way first. I chose the audiobook version and really wish I hadn’t. Rosanna Arquette – who I like very much – reads it. As a book narrator, she’s fine. But having Hynde’s wry, honest words come at me in a higher pitched girly voice is driving me nuts. When the author is someone whose voice is so familiar to me, I really want to “hear” it in their voice. Literally as well as figuratively. But that’s just my little whine.
But what truly strikes me is the detailed accuracy of growing up in blue collar-ish Ohio in the sixties. Born in 1951, Hynde is only three years older than I am. So from having to “red up the house” to the phenomenon of underground music hitting us rust belt teens smack in the middle of our musical awareness, she really gets it right. It’s in the throwaway details that someone not from the era or area will probably miss. So far – at least until the point where she becomes a word famous rocker – it’s as though she’s writing OUR autobiography.
I’m familiar enough with her life to know that some difficult times are coming up, such as 5/4/1970 (she actually was a Kent State student at the time) or a horrific experience probably not made easier by Quaaludes. But really – I want to read it all.
It would be interesting to hear what someone who is NOT from my age or geographic demographic thinks of it. Feel free to add your two cents’ worth. And incidentally … I don’t think there was a ghost writer. It’s all Chrissie.
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An early 20th century arranged marriage – as was the custom in the “old country” – resulted in a son born in Yugoslavia, a move to America and five more children, three boys and three girls. The move was timely, as Dan was born smack in the middle of the Great War. His mom, Yeka, was a sweet woman/borderline saint and his father, Juro, was a rather abusive old fart who made some money and bought up some land through bootlegging and a few other questionable ways. Juro (George) was not very respectful towards his wife and kids. Since he was the baby of the family, Dan managed to miss the brunt of his father’s ways. and was even a little spoiled, according to his first cousin.
When growing up “in the sticks”, the main mode of transportation was horseback. But Dan learned to drive an old model A when he was still in short pants, and managed to ditch school after the eighth grade in order to help on the farm. Neither school nor farming was his thing, but he loved all things mechanical. Cars, trucks, tractors, motorcycles, you name it. Dan was just barely literate, but he could take apart any engine and put it back together just right.
He helped start a coal company with his brothers and father, and married Bessie Tepovich while in his early twenties. Initally, the Wukelic Brothers Coal Company was a success. But the auto accident that claimed the life of his revered elder brother Milan did not have a positive effect on the company and the decisions made thereafter. But that came a little later. For now, Dan became a father at twenty-six, and named his son Milan, after his beloved late brother.
He was devoted to his little boy. But that love was not enough to keep the contentious marriage alive, and it soon ended in a divorce – unusual for the times. Dan continued to drive a coal truck for the family business. When the US got involved in WWII, the government informed him that providing coal was a necessity to families in the cold Ohio region, so he would not be joining the armed forces. We never really talked about it, but I can only assume that was fine with him. Dan was a simple man, driven by routine, and conducted his life as such.
In 1945, a nineteen year old part-time bookkeeper named Anne Vein caught the twenty-nine year old’s eye and they eloped to Virginia in October of the same year. They lived in a tiny apartment at the opposite end of the building inhabited by his brother Duchin and his family. It wasn’t ideal, but it was okay. Shortly after the death of his first wife, his son came to share the apartment as well. Initially, the boy slept in the kitchen. Or at least, I think that’s what I was told. During these years Dan’s hobbies included all things motor-oriented, particularly race cars. He was not the driver, simply the car owner and sponsor. Although he stopped racing in the early 50s, the race car lived in his garage – covered and up on blocks – for another decade. I can still remember how it smelled of burned, hard rubber. But I’m getting ahead of the story again.
The coal company continued for a few more years, but due to questionable decisions on the part of his other brother and to changing demographics, he left the family business and began making coal deliveries for Pier Coal Company. Nine years later, Dan and Anne (yes, they rhymed) were about to have child #2. Claiming the acre that was his and perhaps purchasing the second one from his father, Dan and Anne built their own home. Red brick and sturdy – no straw houses for them! In January of 1954, Dan became the father of a daughter. Yes, that would be me. He continued to haul coal, fix motors, help family and friends with car issues, wheel and deal by buying and selling items like industrial grade air compressors, and just pretty much being “Dan.”
He was a collector. Not art, or anything of value. Just … stuff. Tools, parts, antique oddities, you name it. By the early 60s, he had to build a second garage on the back acre to hold all the … stuff. It was forever known as Danny’s Back Garage.
“Where’s that riding mower?”
“Oh, it’s in the Back Garage.”
“Hey, Dan . I need a winch to pull the transmission up out of the Buick. You have one?”
“I think. Let’s go look in the Back Garage.”
That garage was legendary. It was like Felix’s magic bag. It held everything anyone ever needed..
In the mid 60s, Dan went through a couple career changes. First, he franchised two Texaco stations the first in Bloomingdale, then second on Sunset Blvd. I loved that phase, loved having our “stores.” Or maybe I simply loved the never ending access to Nehi Cream Soda and Ice Cube chocolate squares. He was a hard worker and totally committed to customer service. But he did not have a head for business, and had to give them up after a couple of years.
Shortly thereafter, Dan began working for Steubenville Transfer, owned by friend of the family Howard Bowers, as a delivery truck driver for Sears & Roebuck. He continued to deliver furniture for Sears for the next next twenty years or so. It offered good benefits, a Teamster wage, and great “markdown” opportunities. Seriously. We had a top of the line pool table that he got for peanuts. I’m still not sure why. Perhaps it had a scratch. Perhaps it was simply because he was Dan. My mom and I had lots of nice clothes and a never ending parade of interesting vehicles to drive. He worked hard for this blue collar existence, but provided well for us.
By the early 70s, both kids had moved out. His son lived locally, but didn’t really visit much. I kept in touch weekly, but generally lived at least a thousand miles away. Our distance was augmented by frequent visits to wherever I lived at the moment: A father/daughter Disney World adventure, watching the Aspens turn to gold in Colorado and his lifetime dream – a trip to Hawaii.
Dan became a grandfather in the late 60s, early 70s to his son’s children, and then again in the 90s when I caught up. And throughout his life, he was Uncle Danny to many – both literally their Uncle, but also from his heart.
In the mid nineties, two unfortunate events occurred. First, Dan began to show signs of Alzheimer’s. Secondly, Anne developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Each situation was bad. Happening at the same time, however, was exponentially worse. His son worked round the clock at two jobs and has his own family to deal with. Plus, relations between father and son were strained. And I was a continent and an ocean away, with my own family.
Luckily, Anne’s large group of siblings rallied around them, as did his son, and the support was welcome. After an “all clear” signal and nearly three good years, Anne had a relapse and succumbed to cancer in October of 1996. With the help of his sisters-in-law and son, he continued to live alone for another year or two. But eventually, the disease became too great and I went to Ohio to get him settled into a nursing home and to liquidate a lifetime’s worth of … stuff.
The next couple years were basically without incident, if that’s the right phrase for those sit-around-and-wait final years. A nursing home life for an Alzheimer’s patient is an odd existence, but it was what it was. He and his elementary age grandson got along famously during our annual visits. I figured they were on the same wavelength.
Somewhere in late 2000, Dan was transferred to a different nursing home and died a few weeks later. Interestingly, he made it to the 21st century, which was something he aspired to. When my dad passed away I was a single mom struggling to get by in one of the most expensive, farthest away parts of the country, so I wasn’t able to make it to my own father’s funeral. But that’s okay because – to the best of my ability – I made it to his life.
Like every other human who has ever existed, my father had traits that could drive a person nuts. He could be obstinate, was given to pouting, and made corny jokes that weren’t even in the same galaxy as being funny.. But mostly, he was kind, loving, sentimental beyond measure, Mr Fixit for a huge extended family and our friends, always up for jumping in the car and exploring the newest flea market, friendly to EVERYONE, totally dedicated to his family and I’ll tell you – this man could spot a screwdriver on the side of the road while traveling 50 mph and would totally commit to turning around to retrieve it. Yes, that was Dan, in a nutshell.
So why chronicle this simple, humble life?
Because today, April 28, 2016, would be his 100th birthday. And I thought you should know about him.
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My high school didn’t have a debate team. However, I did participate in de facto debates is our Government and Civics classes, and thoroughly enjoyed it. One that I particularly remember was debating the pros and cons of capital punishment, where I was assigned to the “pro” side. We researched it, gave a great presentation and won the debate. Woo hoo! The irony is that 17 year old Marti was definitely NOT pro capital punishment. But it was a game and I was pretty competitive back then. Plus, winning feels way better than not winning. Debating was what I considered “good sport.”
And today, I see many people continue to feel the exhilaration of a good debate. No, I’m not talking about those preposterous presidential things on TV that pass for a debate. Those have devolved into something closer to Jerry Springer or studio wrestling. Even the candidates who I respect are more geared to tomorrow’s soundbites than they are to substance.
What I’m referring to is debating among us regular people. People I know and generally respect, who may or may not have the same opinion as I do. Several friends have asked why I no longer participate in hot topic debates, particularly via social media. Some have even speculated on why I don’t – everything from feeling bullied to not being “up on things.” I’ve wondered myself: why have I stepped away from discussions where previously I would have jumped in, front and center?
And it finally occurred to me. It’s debate vs. discussion.
At this point in my life and the life of the world around me – I engage in discussions mainly for two reasons:
1. To understand
2. To be understood
And the concept of “debate” strikes me as counter intuitive to the process of understanding. If I listen to another person for the purpose of preparing, in my mind, how to counter his position, then I’m not really listening, am I? And vice-versa.
I’ve actually managed to have one or two brief discussions, mostly with people who see things differently from how I see them, and mostly because I’m curious about how a seemingly bright person could be so wrong-headed about an issue. [see what I did there? self-deprecating humor wrapped around a chunk of truth]. In those cases, I only listened, and did not explain how I see things. Why? Because I wasn’t asked, so figured I wouldn’t really be heard. Those discussions didn’t change my own opinions, but did open my mind a bit. And then I moved on.
Same way with social media. If something holds a promise of new information, I read. If not, I scroll by. These days, I do way more scrolling than reading.
Because here’s the thing about pretty much any hot button issue and how we assume a particular stance or action will play out: No matter how convinced we are, no matter how much data we find to support our position, it’s still just an OPINION. (ooooh, I bet some people quickly disagreed). And we are so close to the issue that we tend to forget it’s only our viewpoint, and not an absolute. In most cases.
But then again, this is only my opinion.
So let’s talk about time today.
I understand that we need the chronology of time in order to navigate this world, in the same way we need gravity. Without either, things would be, well, a mess. Hunger alarms can tell me when I should eat (yeah, like I wait that long) and heavy eyelids let me know when to sleep. But how would the showing of Star Wars, The Force Awakens and I hook up? See, I understand we need the concept of time.
But the more I accumulate of this chronology thing, the less I understand the value. What I particularly don’t understand is our tendency to hold on to it, to try and hit the pause button.
I write this as I sit at a desk that was mine for eight years, in a community that was mine for twenty. But in the past seven years and ten months, my life has been elsewhere. And by this evening, it’ll be there again. So today I think backward and in a few hours I’ll begin to think forward, while in each case, trying to gently bring myself back to now.
Why is it so hard to think in the present?
And in the Cause & Effect department, “time” produces an even more perplexing concept:
Tomorrow I turn 62 and I think that’s partially driving this post. It isn’t my “age” per se. I mean, yes, I’d prefer to forego the wrinkles and creaky joints and yes, I’m wondering if I should do some future care planning. But for the most part, I’m cool with my age. It took about a year, but I like being in my 60s. It’s like having permission to gleefully not give a shit about unimportant stuff on so many levels. Or more specifically, to have the clarity to see how increasingly unimportant so many of those things we value really are.
The part that has me totally flummoxed is —
WHEN DID 62 YEARS HAPPEN??!!
And that’s the part I just can’t grasp. Seriously. It seems like about 30 years or so have passed. I have maintained friendships with people I’ve known since my childhood and teen years and when I talk to them, without consciously thinking about it, I feel no different from the person I was at seventeen. Or seven. Or whenever.
I’m about the hit the 400 word mark, so it’s time to tie up these somewhat disjointed musings.
What’s the bottom line? Well, it’s not very original, but still resoundingly true:
The passage of time is a constant in this life. It doesn’t stop, it keeps moving, and there’s nothing we can do to change that. But the hard-to grasp good news is this – that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be. Not only can I accept 62, but I also accept that next year will be 63 and – if I’m still here – ten years from now will be 72. And that one of those years, I won’t be any longer. The clock is running and eventually I will get a big “DING! Time’s up!” And that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be. I don’t exactly know what’ll happen next, but I know something will, and it’ll be some kind of adventure that I couldn’t possibly grasp yet. But good. I know that. So what the heck …
My wish for you and for me, today and within all these crazy increments of time is simply to keep reminding ourselves to be present and to keep remembering to enjoy the moment, big or small, tender or funny, intense or easy. It’s ours. And it’s ours to do with what we like.
Happy 2016, gang.
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One of my favorite sites on social media belongs to Oakland’s KTVU’s anchorman, Frank Somerville. His posts are often thought-provoking, sometimes sad, sometimes heart warming and always very, very human. One frequent topic is his younger daughter, who is about middle-school aged, I think.
Today’s post (and if you have Facebook, you can find it here) had to do with how he managed to get hoodwinked into bringing milkshakes to his daughter and her two friends every Thursday. His comment to us, the readership was – he had worried he was “spoiling” her and wondered what we thought. He also invited us to tell him about what we remembered about our dads, growing up.
I wrote this:
Oh, I have one!
My dad drank his coffee with lots of cream and sugar, and he liked to dunk a folded slice of regular old white bread, buttered, into the coffee and eat it. As a little kid, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. My dad drove a coal truck, so he left for work by 5AM, while I was asleep and he went to bed pretty early. I’m not sure when it started, but each morning, he’d gently wake me up, and stand by my bed with a cup of coffee (more milk than coffee) and a folded over slice of buttered Wonderbread. He’d patiently hold the cup while I dunk and ate. Then he’d tuck me in, and I’d go back to sleep. I know it sounds silly and Mom thought we were ridiculous. But even now, 50+ years later, I smile as I write this.
Speaking of which … Dad always had a huge smile on his face during this routine and I never really understood why until I became a parent. Then I realized – without this tradition, he wouldn’t otherwise see his kid until late afternoon or early evening. So really, he was doing it for HIM. (aww …) Okay Frank, the spirit of my dad gives you “permission” for this little routine to be as much for you as it is for your daughter. Admit it. You love it.
That’s all. Just wanted to share.
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I moved to Lahaina, Maui from Hana, Maui about seven years ago and it took awhile to adjust. Like, maybe six years to adjust? Hana is a very down-to-earth, very Hawaiian “local” kind of community where I lived for twenty years. But Lahaina is full of hotels, restaurants and luxuries like fully stocked grocery stores that are open later than 7pm and even a movie theatre. It also is full of mainland visitors and the recently moved.
What I noticed right away was that people treated me differently than I was used to being treated. They were polite, of course, but there was something missing. In fact, there was one grocery store checker that really kind of bothered me. She was courteous and efficient, but not really “there.” Then it struck me. She treated me like a …
I didn’t consciously think about it, but under the surface, it bugged me. I wanted to pull out my “Twenty Years in Hana” hat or fake pidgin street cred and say, “Hey, I’ve lived here half my life!” But of course, I didn’t.
Nevertheless, I began to behave a little differently whenevah I went to da stoh. (see how I did that, there? Yeah, that’s what I’d do). For some crazy reason, I wanted her to know that I wasn’t a tourist or recent transplant. There are a hundred different ways in which that’s a messed up attitude, but the one that fits my current train of thought is simply:
I had an agenda.
I wanted her to see me in a certain way. Odd, yes?
Once I understood that, it was easy to let go of it. Pouf! Gone!
But it got me to thinking … do I have agendas when dealing with other people? Think in terms of the phrase hidden agenda for this to make sense. It’s when you do something that seems one way at face value, but under the surface, you actually want something specific from a person. Some common, relatively benign social ‘hidden agendas’ are: Do I want this person to like me? To do something for me? To think I’m smart? Or cool? Do I want them to adopt a certain opinion? And yes – I sheepishly admitted to myself – I often have those agendas, without even realizing it.
It was one of those “moment of truth” times, where we fluctuate between patting ourselves on the back for being so self-honest and wondering why it is necessary to always be so damn deep. Okay, maybe I’m the only one who fluctuates thusly.
Anyway, the point is…
I spent the next year or so honestly examining my motives when dealing with others. I mean, yes – we like to be liked. But no, I’m not running for Prom Queen.
At this point, those of you who have known me for a long time are probably thinking, “When in the hell did ‘what people think‘ ever stop her from saying what’s on her mind?” So I will qualify it by saying – this wasn’t a HUGE issue; it was just a little quirk that had gone previously unnoticed.
These days, I’ve hit a good balance. Life is good so I’m happy, and “happy” leads to kindness. But on the other hand, I’m technically a senior citizen, so regarding most opinions of me (or anything, actually), I really don’t give a shit. Really. I don’t. [Young people take note: This actually makes getting older worth it.]
What brought this one? The other day I saw a notepad thing with AGENDA as the heading, but someone had scrawled
I have no agenda! across the page. And I decided it was a sign.
So I am going to dust off my “no agenda” agenda and make sure that it’s still valid. “Being Present” – I think that’s what the kids are calling it these days.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Oh and an anecdote:
A few years ago that grocery store checker needed some college advice and – even though I was only my regular, no frills Marti, the Haole College Lady self – she now calls me Aunty.
Funny how that works.