The sun bakes the brown skin on my back. I peer through a knot hole at the water below. The warmth feels good but I’m not here for the sun. I’m here for the water.

I place my palms down on the gnarled wooden surface of the dock and hoist myself to my feet. I quickly look around to assess the situation: Who can I impress? Who should I avoid? Who might I frighten with a sneak attack?

I face the shore and stand on the edge of the dock plank, balancing on the balls of my feet. Hands at my sides I take a deep breath and fling myself into the space beyond the dock.

The water is barely six feet deep so the dive must be shallow. Shallow dives don’t allow for much finesse but as I jump, I sweep my arms outward until they meet above my head just before I hit the water. I feel graceful and superheroic never considering that I may look less so.

The water is cool and murky green. My older siblings won’t swim here and some friends level charges of “runoff” and “swimmer’s ear” but I never believe them. This is my habitat.

With eyes wide open I immediately glide to the sandy bottom. I take massive strokes with my arms, inverting the motion I used in the air moments before. My hands pass in front of my face each time I reposition my arms for a new stroke. I feel all the power and grace my non-athletic body will ever manage. I know I am a better swimmer than my peers and that is a great comfort.

I swim silently, slightly above the sand, with no other thoughts in my head but suppressing my desire for air. Eventually that desire will overpower me but I know I’m one step ahead of my future self. When at last I can take no more, I will begin the ascent to the surface, forced to continue swimming by virtue of my position at the bottom. This, I know, will give me an advantage in future underwater swimming contests, should they ever arise.

But none of that is necessary for this dive because the shore arrives before my air supply dwindles. I take one final stroke and glide into the shallow water where it is no longer possible to hide my awkward body from the world. When I can go no further, I raise my head above the surface, taking care not to stir the water unnecessarily or to make any gasping noises with my first breath.

I linger briefly in the shallow water, feeling my body float effortlessly while my belly rubs slightly against the sand. I revel in the moment. I know I belong here. I long for the rest of my life to be this effortless.

Dedicated to Mary Lou, 2016.08.21

Future programmers of America

Future programmers of America
Originally uploaded by rynosoft

This is a picture of my second grade class that appeared in our hometown newspaper, the Riceville Recorder. There were many more of us but I suppose they couldn’t all be in the picture with the newfangled computer they had us using. It was actually a teletype terminal that connected to a “mainframe” computer at Luther College in Decorah, IA (via an acoustic modem hookup). The terminal was kind of mounted on a dolly that let the teachers wheel it all around the school. We played Oregon Trail and a MasterMind knockoff called Bagels.

Road Trip 2010 revisited

Awhile back I wrote about a potential future road trip we might take in the summer of 2010. The intent was to visit family and see the sights along the way on a trip that encircled nearly all of the continental U.S. According to my calculations then, the trip would involve 16 days for just the driving, never mind time taken for family and recreation. Given the unlikelihood of having 4 weeks of vacation by next summer (I have about 2 days at this moment), here is a revised itinerary:

  1. Portland
  2. This 1326 mile length will take two days. Stopping point will likely be Salt Lake City.
  3. Colorado Springs (Tina’s dad, Leroy)
    378 miles/5.5 hours
  4. Albuquerque (Jan and Tom)
    1010 miles/14 hours
  5. Houston (home to Tina’s grandfather, TQ)
    354 miles/6 hours
  6. New Orleans (stopping in Baton Rouge to visit my nephew, Wally, for a few hours)
    546 miles/8 hours
  7. Jacksonville (stopping in Pensacola to visit cousin Beth)
    139 miles/2 hours
  8. Savannah (Mardy and Steve)
    765 miles/12 hours
  9. Cleveland (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)
    344 miles/6 hours
  10. Chicago (various sights)
    377 miles/6.5 hours
  11. Riceville (stopping in Dubuque to visit my old friends, the Sunleafs
  12. This stretch of 1800 miles is a two or three day drive. Stopping points will be dynamic.
  13. Portland

That reduces the trip to 12 or 13 driving days. I would expect we would take extra days in Cleveland and Chicago and have all the equipment for your kids, although we could see the HOF in the morning and drive to Chicago in the evening. We’ll also need several days in Riceville for a probable family reunion.

Bicentennial Money

Bicentennial Money
Originally uploaded by rynosoft

In 1976, I was in third grade when America celebrated her bicentennial. One aspect of that celebration was the minting of special bicentennial coins. Anticipating that such coins would eventually be collectable and worth more than face value, I gave some of each denomination to my mother about 5000 dollar yahoo borrowing and asker her to place them in our safety deposit box at the First National Bank in Riceville. When I was back in Riceville in September, my mother handed me this envelope on which she had inscribed my name 30 years ago and said, “These are yours.” While it was cool to be reminded of something I had completely forgotten about, I was disappointed to find that they are not worth much more than face value.

Road trip 2010

Last week as I chatted with my newly discovered cousin, Beth, I pulled up Google Maps to get a better idea of where she is geographically. Specifically, I wondered how far she lived from my sister, Mardy. It didn’t take long before I realized that a killer road trip could be devised. My first pass at possible destinations yielded this list (see Glossary if you don’t know any of these names):

  1. Portland: Our home.
  2. San Francisco: Home to Uncle Ralph, Aunt Carol and cousins David and Danielle.
  3. Moreno Valley: Home to Maridee, Steve, Trisha and Michael.
  4. Phoenix: Home to Michelle, Ric, Xander and Wil.
  5. Albuquerque: Home to Jan and Tom.
  6. Austin: One of America’s music capitols. Need to find worthy venues to visit here.
  7. Houston: Home to TQ, Tina’s grandfather.
  8. New Orleans: Another of America’s music capitols. Will probably need a couple of days here. Any suggestions for family friendly spots?
  9. Pensacola: Home to Beth and her family.
  10. Jacksonville: Home to Mike, Micah and his family.
  11. Savannah: Home to Mardy, Steve, Barrett and Kendrick & his family. We should spend at least three days here.
  12. Charleston: My old stomping grounds and historic southern city.
  13. Washington, D.C.: Our nations capitol. We would want to spend more than one day here visiting monuments and historical curiosities.
  14. Philadelphia: A natural follow-up to a visit to D.C.
  15. New York: The boys have a long list of places they want to visit here so this might also take a few days.
  16. Cleveland: Home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  17. Madison: My cousins Dee and Jon live near here.
  18. Riceville: My little hometown where my 25th class reunion will be held in 2010.
  19. Colorado Springs: Tina’s cousins, Natians and Kelly live nearby.
  20. Salt Lake City: Much maligned but beautiful city.
  21. Portland: Our home.

Continue reading “Road trip 2010”

What dreams are made of

Lately, as I’ve been waiting for sleep to come, I lay in bed and fragments of recent dreams begin to stream through my mind. Each fragment brings to mind another and, before long, I have embarked on a new dream journey. Here’s a few of the disconnected thoughts from some of those dreams:

  • I’m living in Iowa and trying to get my car working. I own several cars and one of them is a muscle car which my dad is helping me fix up, the idea is put this car in the leasing market, I got this obsession after I check a article callĀ  Addicted to Transit Custom Lease? Us Too. 6 Reasons We Just Can’t Stop.
  • My dad and I trespass on a farmer’s land. The cops come and we make a break for the car, but I am shot in the back. My dad gets away. The cops question me for several minutes before I ask them if they want to look at my wound or call an ambulance. They were unaware they had shot me.
  • I’m riding my bike through Cedar Falls trying to find my old apartment. I purposefully cut through the bank parking lot by the ATM but still end up going down a hill by a park. My previous experience (which is fictional in real life) tells me I have overshot my destination and I am bummed I have to pedal back uphill.
  • I am at the Dental Office in NY for family and general dental services office and I remember belatedly that they should check my bottom left molar because it’s sore when I chew (in real life), and them I got a wisdom teeth removal.
  • I’m back in Riceville and there’s something incredible happening in the sky. It could be aliens and it could be atomic bombs. Everyone is outside watching it.
  • The whole family is on a road trip and we decide to go through Kansas which is way out of the way.
  • I’m late getting on an airplane that is taking me home. As we fly in to land, we dive at a terrifying steep angle.
  • I’m back in Charleston and wondering around trying to find a particular place. I have an idea of how the city is laid out but I keep getting confused.
  • I find a pawn shop in a really shady part of town. When I walk out of the shop I find that my car has been stolen from the parking lot.
  • I go to a club where I know that there is a play. The play is self-referential and recursive which makes it cool. But there is something evil in the back of the club that I can never remember.

In Iowa for the next 10 Days

In a few minutes, I’ll go jump on the Max which will take me to the Gateway Transit Center where I’m meeting Tina and the boys. From there, we’ll drive to SeaTac where we’ll hop a plane for Minneapolis. The plane gets to Mineapolis around 2 am. After we gather our bags, we’ll take a cab to a nearby hotel where we’ll sack out until about 10. My sister and her family will meet us at hour hotel at 11 and then we’ll continue our journey to my hometown, Riceville, IA.

Folly Beach 1984

From 1983 to 1986, I spent my summers living with my sister, Mardy, and her family on Johns Island, South Carolina. I have many great memories from those summers but some of my best memories are from one week in 1984.

Mardy, Mike (her partner) and “the gang” decided to pool resources to rent a beach house in Folly Beach during the first week of August. “The gang” that summer, and every summer in South Carolina, were Mardy and Mike; their married friends, Bob and Pam; and their single friend, Jeff. Mardy and Mike also had two little boys, Micah and Kendrick, while Bob and Pam had two girls, Merry and Joanna, and a boy, Jesse. All the kids were close in age. During my time in South Carolina, these were the main cast of characters on the weekends.

By that summer, I felt like a part of the gang. Having adult friends and living away from my parents made me feel like an adult. In an attempt to prove that I was as responsible as an adult, I volunteered to contribute my fair share to pay for the beach house. I suppose I was being condescendingly generous at the time, but I was fairly flush with cash at the time and my financial assistance was accepted nonetheless.

I was wealthier than the average 17-year-old because Mardy hooked me up with a job at the Credit Bureau of Greater Charleston, where she worked part-time in the evenings. I did well enough my first summer there that her boss asked me back the next summer and I even got a raise. I also had few expenses because I didn’t have to pay for my room and board. Instead I agreed to mow the lawn as well as wash and wax Mardy’s new white T-Bird every weekend. I think she indulged in a little perverse enjoyment knowing that I really despised washing that damn car every weekend but I suppose it worked out to my advantage in many ways eventually.

For the rest of the gang, that week in August was an awesome summer vacation on the beach. For me, it felt like a giant step into adulthood. You see, I continued to work at the Credit Bureau while commuting back and forth from Folly Beach each day. Somehow I managed to convince Mardy and Mike that I could be trusted with Mike’s VW Beetle and was allowed to drive solo to and from work all week. As I recall, they only had two suitable cars at the time and so I was usually stuck hitching a ride every morning with Vicki and Bobby, the rednecks next door. Not only were they somewhat disagreeable company, having to ride with them meant getting up very early in the morning. On the worst mornings, I would awake to the sound of a honking horn. As Vicki waited patiently outside for me, I would take the fastest shower of my young life before throwing on clothes and dashing outside.

But during that week at the beach house, Mike was on vacation and they only needed the Thunderbird to get around Folly Beach. I needed a way to get to the beach house after work every night and so letting me loose with the Bug was the best solution.

As you can tell from the map, Folly Road, the route to Folly Beach, goes past Johns Island. After work each night, I would stop at Mardy’s house before continuing on to Folly Beach. I’m not sure exactly why I stopped there, but I remember pulling out my newly purchased Billy Idol records and listening to them very loudly on Mike’s stereo while singing and miming. After that testosterone rush, I would jump back in the Bug and head out on Folly Road for the beach. One night I picked up a hitchhiker on Folly Road and gave him a ride home. He was black and I was proud of myself for giving him a ride. I remembered that my dad would occasionally pick up hitchhikers back in Iowa, so I supposed I was emulating him in trying to be an adult.

Most nights, though, it was a straight shot out to the beach where I settled in for some merry-making with the gang. After the kids went to bed, we smoked a few funny cigarettes, drank some beer and indulged in some delicious snacks. Of course, nearly everything is delicious when you’re in that state, but Mardy had gotten the art of munchy-making down to a science. I think we probably had nachos with Velveeta often, but my favorite was fried okra, a delicacy in those parts back then. I used to joke that you didn’t need to swallow okra, it would slide its slimy self down your throat whether you wanted it to or not. Folly Road was also chock full with crab sellers where you could buy a dozen live blue crabs and they would throw in the “boil” for free. I loved the legs and claws but always handed Mike the body from which extracting the meat was harder and grosser.

But just as man cannot live by bread alone, stoners cannot live without sufficient entertainment. Entertainment in the summer of 1984 was the Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games where the United States kicked ass because none of the real competition showed up. Four years earlier Jimmy Carter had boycotted the Moscow Games so the Soviet Bloc countries responded in kind when it was our turn to host the summer games. The stars in 1984 were the women’s gymnastic team and the star of stars was Mary Lou Retton. It seemed like we watched MLR every night, but it was probably only a couple of nights.

The week culminated in a weekend in which I probably spent every minute on the beach. Unfortunately, I did so without the benefit of sunscreen and ended up with the worst sunburn I’ve ever had. I was wholly unprepared mostly because I had always taken my sun-resistance for granted. Summers in Riceville were spent in the sun and I tanned easily and darkly. Moving to South Carolina in the summer ironically took me out of the sun as I spent most of my time under fluorescent lights in the Credit Bureau. When I returned to work on Monday after that weekend in the sun, there were huge cracks on my nose, skin was peeling off in thick sheets and my bright red shoulders hurt every time my shirt moved even slightly.

It was worth it, though. The highlight of the weekend was hanging out on the deck late on Saturday night when a couple of girls wandered by. I was always girl-shy as a teenager so it always seemed to be a huge accomplishment to interact with girls I didn’t know. We talked for a few minutes and I invited them to stop by later. I suppose I could barely contain my excitement when I went back inside and told Mardy about my encounter. As was usual in those situations, she merely smiled at my enthusiasm. She understood that I was shy and never pushed or questioned me further than was necessary. Those girls never did come back.

First election, last election

I still remember the first time I voted. Voting in Riceville was always at City Hall, where there were probably two or three booths. The helpful election volunteer explained the whole process and what I needed to do. There were levers, I remember, and there were two big levers. One you could pull to vote all-Democrat and the other you could pull to vote all-Republican. At the time, I thought that was handy but something I would never use. I scrupulously considered all my options for each race and voted according to my conscience. Something I have done in every election since.

But yesterday was different. Yesterday it seemed like there was a message to be sent and the only way for the intended recipients to hear it would be a massive Democratic victory. So I voted Democrat in every single race that had a Democrat running. Now the message has been sent. Will it be heard and heeded?

How was the message sent? Let me count the ways:

  1. Democrats will now control the U.S. House of Representatives
  2. Democrats are guaranteed at least a tie in the United States Senate, with a very good chance of taking control (depending on how the recount goes in Virginia)
  3. Donald Rumsfeld resigned
  4. Rick Santorum lost
  5. Ted Kennedy won
  6. Democrat Ted Kulongoski won a second term as Oregon governor despite heavy negative campaigning by his opponent in the waning days of the election
  7. 28 states now have Democratic governors
  8. Four out of five U.S. House seats up for election in Oregon went to Democrats
  9. Democrats prevail in 10 of 14 Oregon Senate races and retain control
  10. Democrats win 24 of the 42 available seats and gain control of the Oregon House
  11. Oregon turnout is expected to reach 71 percent when all votes are counted
  12. All but one of the state-wide ballot measures went the way I voted
  13. No local ballot measure I voted against won

There were a few downsides:

  1. Joe Lieberman won his Senate race. Can his vote be counted on?
  2. Same-sex marriage bans were approved in six more states. Either people don’t understand the whole freedom concept, or I’m missing something.
  3. Hillary Clinton won by a large margin possibly encouraging her to run for President in 2008
  4. Harold Ford lost his Senate race in Tennessee but did you see his concession speech? Wow!