Tag Archives: Autobiography

Coffee, Jiffy Lube, and Old Victrolas


Today is warm and overcast, but I have my coffee and I am willing to get going on life.  I drove Judi into work and had her grab me a large coffee with the online ordering system. Don’t look at me that way–I’m a well-behaved gentleman and get my own coffee most of the time.  She got TWO large coffees and a sandwich so she wouldn’t have to make a second trip from her office (where there is lousy coffee) to the coffee shop (where there is much better coffee and a long line). At 6:30 AM, these are the sacrifices you have to make.

Next, I drove the car to the Jiffy Lube. They don’t open until 8AM, and I got there at 6:45 so it was sort of a mess-up.  I need to get the oil changed (not sure I’m capable of doing this task by myself anymore) and have the tires filled with air.  When we drove to Alexander’s birthday dinner last night, it seemed quite bumpy with 1000+ pounds of “cargo” in the automobile. I think we might have a slow leak in one of the tires anyhow, so this is just a stopgap measure, until I can buy some new ones, maybe later this summer.

It is 8AM and I was listening to Spotify for the last hour. Today’s playlist was from 1940. I assembled it a few months ago, when I was watching that Ken Burns documentary about the Roosevelts, and the second documentary about World War II.  Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood” was popular that year. So were “Tuxedo Junction” and “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,”.  It seems 1940 was full of Glenn Miller. The United states was still a couple years from entering the war, and the Depression was gripping us. I guess we needed something go make us believe in ourselves again.

Next, I listened to old wax cylinder recordings from the turn of the last century.  I’m coming to realize that I have missed loads of music that may have been really important to our history. The music is muddy, of course, with scratches and cracks. I guess when you record on wax, it’s bound to happen.  My Granny and Grandpa Spurgeon had some friends when we were growing up. I remember this place well, because Joe and Esther Moser had two different recording devices that played wax cylinders. One was Edison make, and the other was a Victor. In those days, the music was controlled by the manufacturer of the device it was recorded on.  Edison had its own stable of musicians and recordings, which would *only* be playable on Edison’s machines (not to mention player pianos) It’s not like today, when every song is easily purchasable on any device you’d like to listen to it with.

Anyway, the Mosers had all these machines, and a catalpa tree in his back yard, that grew big long beans. He let me visit his son’s room. The son had died a few years earlier in a car accident. He owned a trumpet that he played in the high school band. Joe kept the room exactly the same as she had left it. Joe showed the trumpet to me, but wouldn’t let me play it. I was perhaps 12 years old so I wasn’t surprised he never allowed me the chance to put my own spit into his memorial tribute. My mother tells me Joe had a couple *really* old cars and would occasionally take them out for a spin. I don’t remember old cars. This was the first place anyone let me touch a typewriter. I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever thing. I guess Joe Moser liked his gadgets.

In my listening, I heard an old song that I hadn’t recalled in years.  My grandfather used to bounce me on his knee and sing it to me: “Pony Boy, pony boy… Won’t you be my Pony Boy?” went the chorus.  And he would bounce me harder and harder when the lyrics turned to “Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up, whooooooa!” He was a good man, my grandpa, and loved to sing.  That song is over 100 years old now.  When I knew him I don’t think there was a single record in the house. He listened to talk radio. It’s funny how things will change.  If you give a person a Victrola, they’ll be interested in music for awhile. But give them a song to sing, and that song will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Blogging for the Future


Here is how I find my most productive place to write, during a chaotic day.

First, I shut my eyes, and then I try to take a few deep breaths. That’s right folks: I type with my eyes closed. Then I focus on what the sounds are that are running through my head.There are so many other sounds here in the living room. Alex grunting on the couch; the cat yowling at my feet (apparently we starve the poor guy); and Judi watching the Outlander program she loves so much. Outlander is loud, with people speaking in English/Scottish accents. It’s so compelling. It’s hard to type when Scottish people are compelling.

And then I feel the pressure of the keys against my fingers. They just feel right somehow, the way right things should feel: the pad of my fingertips know the way to go, to produce the messages I want to say, when there is one. sometimes there is just no message though. Sometimes there is just nonsense.

Today, I am thinking about my family history.

I have been thinking of my past; specifically of the old folks I knew, but I didn’t really bother to learn from. Uncle Stanley and Aunt Elizabeth. Wilma Walker. Uncle Bob and Auntie Millie. Enid Hurst. Elma Ismert. My grandma Myrt’s sisters, Elanor and Wanda. These folks were all uncles and aunts and distant cousins. But almost never did I take the time to sit down and have a really good chat with them. Not to discover basic family facts, like birth dates, nor even deeper facts like what their schoolhouses looked like. But what I lament is that I never got to learn if they were sarcastic, or loving (I’m not entirely convinced these two are opposites), or angry, or prideful, or covered in some secret emotion nobody has discovered yet. My list is long. I knew so many of these people ,but I didn’t really know them. I mowed their lawns and did odd chores around their houses: (my great grandmother’s sisters Aunt Gladys & Aunt Mabel, for example) but I let all those opportunities slip past.

It’s too late to complain now. I’m doing what I can to gather up information about them. But how do you really know a person?

Here’s an example of something. My Grandpa’s grandfather was shot and killed by his son. He died in the hospital in Auburn, California. I just found this “Admitted to Placer County Hospital March 12, 1905, Age: 45. Resident of Lincoln. Gunshot Wound – shot by son Claus, age 14. (Doesn’t mention if it was a accident.)” Was my great great grandfather a kind man? the one picture I saw of him and his wife, they seemed happy. She was touching his arm a bit more intimately than you usually see in pictures of that era. But who knows if this is really what he was like? Was he a violent drunk? Was he abusive one moment, and charming the next? Maybe it really was an accident and my Uncle Claus was totally innocent.

And there was another great grandfather, who died around the turn of the century. He joined the Union army in Iowa, marched with his company down to a swamp in Arkansas, got sick, and was shipped home a couple months later. He was given a tombstone by the government for his service. But what service?

This is, partly, why I write blogs today. I don’t want my grand-descendants to say “Who was that guy?” I’d be a series of dates and nothing else. There is a bit of pride involved, but more than this, I feel like I have something to say sometimes. Or do I? I mean, look at today’s blog. It is pretty inconsequential, and I’m typing with my eyes closed, for goodness sake. What kind of information can I push to forward generations with my eyes closed? So that’s my fixation with Genealogy. Maybe one or two people will even remember my name in 2115. Even if I am a footnote, as long as I can leave some kind of imprint on the earth, I guess I can live what that.

Head Above Water


I was thinking about it a couple months ago, and I wonder if my mom was scared of water. As kids, my sister and I would swim one or two times a summer, if we were lucky. Curry County is rather a water-borne place. Other kids swam upriver (the Rogue River was the only “upriver” that mattered), or at Lobster Creek, or on the very warmest days, in the surf of the Pacific Ocean.

Continue reading Head Above Water

Grandparents


Monday night, around 8:30 PM, we arrived in Auburn. We chose Round Table pizza for dinner that night because it had been a few years since any of us had enjoyed it. The one nearest our location is Idaho. They don’t deliver to Washington DC. The whiners.

Continue reading Grandparents

A Brief Autobiography


Asshat
How I Wrote this Autobiography.

This year, I am returning to Oregon, for my 25th Year High School Reunion. I was asked to write an autobiography. I’m a decent writer, and an excellent liar: person would think I should have no trouble putting one of these together. I begged other people to write it for me, with no takers.  So here it is: the bio was written with both hands tied behind my brain, and my head firmly wedged up my hind end. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Continue reading A Brief Autobiography

I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet


I stare in awe at the slate-gray sky this morning.  The trees are newly-green. Just two weeks ago, they’d have been more twigs than leaves. It’s late April, and I just got news that over 100 people have died in the tornadoes that plowed through Alabama. They are truly magnificent, dangerous weather phenomena, and it sounds like, from all accounts, they will be visiting Northern Virginia this morning. Continue reading I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet