Wednesday, December 18, 2019

About Schmidt

Some movies based on books adhere to the essence of the novels.  To Kill a Mockingbird is an example. Some movies take liberties with the story such that there are significant differences in the plot of the movie. An example is Presumed Innocent.  Then there are movies that change the film so radically such that there is very little about the book in the movie. An example is Up in the Air and in that case the movie is better than the book.

However, I cannot imagine a movie based on a book to have less of a connection with its alleged source than About Schmidt.  Several years ago I saw the movie with Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates--and I enjoyed it.  Recently I read a review of Olive, Again (after I had written my own) in which the Schmidt of the novel About Schmidt was referred to.   At that time I did not even know that the film was based on a book.  I thought it would be interesting to read what had inspired the film I liked.

Folks, about the only significant thing about the novel that is the same as the movie is the title.  Everything else that is substantive about the book was changed in the movie.  Schmidt in the book is a wealthy ex lawyer who is recently a widower.  In the movie, Schmidt a mid level administrator, retires and he and his wife plan a new life in a camper van.  Then she dies and he travels across the country in the camper.  In the book Schmidt has a big house on Long Island, has or develops an estranged relationship with his daughter, is lonely, has an improbable affair, and drinks a whole lot without seemingly getting smashed on any particular occasion.

So, besides the fact that the movie and book are two separate works of fiction, what did I think of the book?

It has its moments.  We do learn about Schmidt more than we learn about Schmidt in the film.  He at 60 is contemplating mortality. Brooding about his age brings no sympathy from me, 10 years his senior, and not feeling particularly marginalized for the most part. But that is what makes me different from Schmidt. He, is loaded, but disconnected.  He does not like his daughter's fiance, and feels especially annoyed because the groom to be was groomed by Schmidt to work in his ex law firm where the beau presently thrives while Schmidt is treated like a horse put out to pasture. Then there's the fact that the beau is Jewish and Schmidt harbors some WASPish anti-semitism.

There are parts of the book that are well written, but other parts that are just poorly written.  Of the former there is the affair with a restaurant waitress which while not quite believable is crafted well generating no small amount of steam.  But the parts with Bryan, the waitress's boyfriend are not well done.  And the end kind of fizzles out though you can tell he is gearing up for a sequel (which I discovered when reading the review is what happens).

Sometimes I read books and because of the story lines I think the author is just horny.  So much of Schmidt and About Schmidt relates to his carnal interests. We all have them and I am happy to say that I have not lost my enthusiasm, but gee this guy meets his daughter's mother in law to be, and she flirts with him at the family Thanksgiving dinner. He had an au pair who could not wait to do the slow dance--and then there is the waitress 40 years his junior, nearly ten years younger than his daughter who knocks on his door at 1 am and after minor small talk can't disrobe fast enough. Then there is Schmidt's friend who had an affair and left his wife for the lover, only to have a torrid affair in his office and his lover turned second wife is now the jilted one.  Also, the mother in law to be relays how she, ho hum, has had a lover for 20 years.

Look, I went to school in the 60s and was single in the 70s when there was a whole lot of shaking going on, but these folks seem to be frolicking a bit more than what is normal. Either that part of the story is not realistic, or I hung out and hang out with monks--which was/is not the case.

Also, the drinking. I like to have a cold one now and again, but if I drank as much as Schmidt and his friends my liver would have been pickled before I was eligible for social security.

Do I recommend the book? Well not if you are reading it because you liked the movie.  But there is enough about it which might be engaging.  You do learn about Schmidt--the question I have is, is Schmidt that real?  In the end, I just could not buy that he was.  And I am unlikely to read a sequel.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Again, Olive

After I read Olive Kitteridge several years ago I went ahead and, over the course of a few years, read everything else Elizabeth Strout had written or subsequently wrote.  None of the other books are as good as Olive Kitteridge.

The author has just written a sequel to Olive Kitteridge called Olive, Again.  Like its predecessor, Olive, Again is a series of stories in which Olive is either a central or peripheral character.  And also like the original, the book is beautiful and moving and does what any good novel should do: help the reader think.  In this case think, as Olive does, about the past--past decisions, behaviors and mistakes--and how this past propels us towards where we wind up.

When I was in the hospital in August I found it off-putting to have the nurses tell me that everything I was doing was "excellent" and "perfect" and "fantastic" because I knew that some of the things I did for which I received this praise were not excellent, perfect or fantastic. And, in fact, they were at best minor accomplishments. I'd lean to my left so a nurse could pluck something from under my body and the move was "perfect."  I managed to stand up next to an 18 year old in order to put a few drops of urine into a plastic cup and I heard: "excellent!"  I managed to eat something on the second day after surgery and that accomplishment was greeted with the assessment:"fantastic."

Well while I am happy with much of what I have done in my life, I know that there have been decisions that have not always been fantastic.  And in this book the reader witnesses not only what happens to Olive, but to many neighbors and friends, who are in pain because of goofy, inconsiderate, and foolish behaviors. Yet we all have a shot to right ourselves and at least attempt to purge the pain fueled by our past.

Some problems with the novel: This book is in large part an update on what happened to characters who appeared in the first book.   That seems fair, but there are also at least two references to characters from other novels that Strout has written.  Even for someone who has read all her books, it is not easy recalling enough of the details of these prior books to appreciate fully the stories about these characters. This was most noticeable with the story called "Exiles" about the Burgess family.  The only reason I caught the reference was because the name "Burgess" rang a bell as it is in the title, The Burgess Boys. In the last story, "Friend", the central character Isabelle is from the novel Isabelle and Amy,  I barely remembered that book.

In the original, there were a few stories where Olive is a peripheral character. That is true in the sequel but there are more of these. There are, however, enough about Olive to understand how she evolves and how she realizes that this evolution is important.

At one point Olive tells young Cindy Coombs, who is sick with cancer, that the spouses of widows and widowers become saints. When Cindy recalls a bad memory and fears her children and spouse will remember a particular negative Christmas incident after she's gone, Olive tells her: "Cindy Coombs, there's not one goddamn person in the world who doesn't have a bad memory or two to take them through life."

Tis true and the message in these stories is that while there is a whole lot of emotional pain in our universe, and we have to acknowledge our complicity in creating such pain, we should not allow ourselves to be disabled by bad decisions, we have to look at them, and take steps--maybe baby steps to move on in a healthy way.

Why do we read? We read because of books like this one.  Reading can be escape reading, but it also can present characters, like Olive, who can be a catalyst for our own introspection.  Olive regrets how she treated Henry.  She knows now what a good man he was.  Fergus and Ethel come to realize how inane was their behavior within their marriage.  Jack acknowledges that he treated his daughter poorly.

We all need to take a look at ourselves. Even a stubborn Yankee like Olive Kitteridge can come around and acknowledge our responsibility to the people in our lives, and ourselves. And assess how much of what we have done is really "excellent" or "terrific" or "perfect."  Then try to purge the bad tendencies and enjoy this wonderful shot we have at life.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Kurt, Sluggo, and me

Spring break 1971.

Kurt Legler, Pete "Sluggo" Moore, and I did the obligatory senior trip driving from Albany New York to Daytona Beach Florida. We stayed in a place that as I recall was called the Seahorse. The objective was to do what college students did in Florida during spring break. We left around midnight on a cold Albany night and arrived early evening in Daytona.  I remember stopping at a package store when we got into town and being amused by the owner's drawl and shorts in March.

My recollection of the week is fuzzy. Some clear moments, but they fuse together with others.  We ran into, surprisingly, some fellow Albany students who we did not know were going to be down there.  Daytona, then and I suppose now, had one hotel after another right on the beach and the place was jammed with college students.  Just jammed. There was one forgettable night when students at an adjacent hotel had a party where a vat of what tasted like grape punch was available for the gulping.  It was loaded with toxins. I recall bumping into a few fellow Albany students at the party and we stayed up all night to watch the sun come up.  Earlier in the week I spotted another Albany woman whom I'd seen around campus.  When we returned to the university we became a happy couple towards the end of my senior year.

The drive back was not as much fun. The car had some engine trouble early on. We got into a spirited, but not uncivil, debate with the owner of the service station about the Civil War (and this was only 100 plus years after it was over) during which he told me to hold onto any Confederate money I came across because the south would rise again.  Despite the chuckling, I am not sure he was kidding.

We hit murderous traffic on the Belt Parkway and then Southern State as we were finishing the journey.  Eventually, Kurt dropped Sluggo off, and then me, and then headed to his home in Rochester.  I last saw Kurt at a reunion in 2012 or so.  He seemed great but a few years later I received the news that he had died at 65.  This morning I read a group e-mail informing all that Pete passed as well earlier this year.  He was only 68.

Both Kurt and Pete had been very successful in their businesses and family lives.  Kurt had started as an insurance agent for a major company, and then established a lucrative insurance business of his own.  Pete I had not seen since graduation, but I read today that he had had an excellent career in Pensacola owning his own automobile dealership as well as being a generous contributor to charities and his community.

Let's hope things don't happen in threes.

Seize the day.

Monday, December 2, 2019


All are shouting hosannahs because the Baltimore Ravens have won impressively the last several weeks.  You read it here first. There is no way the Ravens will win the superbowl, nor do I believe will they even get to the game despite all the gushing.

No pro team wins a superbowl with a college offense. The Ravens offense is a read option offense that works well with a running quarterback--IN COLLEGE. It is true that the Ravens have an exceptionally athletic quarterback, but he is only an average passer.  A good defensive team will stop him like the 49ers essentially stopped him last weekend.

The Patriots, my team, are unlikely candidates for a superbowl victory either, since they have no offense to speak of and Tom Brady, to date at least, is spending too much time squawking at his receivers and not enough time looking inside.  It would not surprise me if the Patriots win only two of their remaining four games.  But should the Patriots play the Ravens in a playoff game. Quoth the Raven.

You will see teams, and the Patriots would be one of them, just making sure that every time Jackson runs with the ball he gets walloped.  All it will take is one good zetz that slows him down and their offense is shot.  Once defenses do not need to worry about Jackson as a runner there will be no balm in Gilead.

I don't know if the Bills will beat the Ravens next week, but after Cleveland, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh (three of the four teams that play the Ravens during the remaining regular season) get done, Jackson will not be a jolly runner anymore. He'll take a couple of shots and will be gun shy.  I saw yesterday that after a zetz he does not run on a subsequent play.

It may not be the Patriots, but it will not be the Ravens either.

Ravens fans: Quoth Zaremba, by way of Poe

Other friends have flown before.   
Quaff oh quaff,
but there'll be no kind nepenthe in the post season.
In January it will be

A Good American Family

Last week I finished David Maraniss's latest book, A Good American Family. It is about his father, mother and family who were damaged by McCarthyism.

I'm very glad that I read the book but not sure I can recommend it.  It is, or was for me, tough sledding at times and there was a good deal of detail that seemed peripheral to the essence of the book.  It was informative to read about the Spanish Civil War and important for the book to include it but the detail seemed excessive.  There were other parts which I felt were also a slog to get through.

However, the point of the book is very important and I am not sure one can write about the McCarthy era more powerfully.  Maraniss's father and mother and their children were terribly affected by accusations challenging their loyalty to America.  Dad lost his job a number of times. The family was forced to move frequently.

The elder Maraniss and his mother did indeed attend meetings of Communists and were supporters for a spell. It was myopic, as they subsequently agreed.  Communism as the author points out is an ideology that does not see the world as it is.  Yet those in the Maranisses' circle were good people who were not unAmerican in any way. They believed strongly in democracy, despised fascism, and worked hard to rid the world of dictatorships.  They raised their kids to honor American values and be good citizens.

The irony is that the people who questioned Maraniss and made political hay out of disparaging and persecuting his family were Un American hiding behind a cloak of Americanism.  One of the members was as Un American as one can be unless believing in race superiority is an American value. This House representative was involved, at least peripherally, in the Leo Frank lynching.  Others too who spewed rhetoric suggesting that Maraniss had undermined American values, undermined American values on a daily basis.  One suggested that it was startling that there were Communists even those from "good American families."  Well, the author describes his mom, dad, and their siblings warts and all, and yet--it is clear that they were fundamentally good people who may have temporarily supported an illogical political philosophy.  They were a good American family. And the people who persecuted them were, despite their duds, corrosive to our society.

Like all schoolkids of the 50s and 60s, I knew about McCarthyism, but the presentation here of the author's family--a people who were concerned for the rights of others and were willing to work to preserve freedoms--juxtaposed with the persecutors drew the picture more clearly than I had previously seen it.

I keep a list of the books I have read. I do it both to give myself credit for not being a slug and watching forty football games a week but also so that subsequently I can remember what I read. In the document I have a second section which includes books I especially liked. Despite the detail I mention early in this review, I included A Good American Family.  Subtly powerful. An odd juxtaposition, but that is how I have reacted to the book.

Sunday, November 3, 2019


I had a nightmare last night. This is very much an aberration for me.  I almost never have such dreams and, while it is self congratulatory, I attribute this to the fact that I tend not to manufacture and then submerge shit into my subconscious.  I tend, I believe--again I know this is self congratulatory--not to do stuff that I can't live with unless I ram it into my subconscious such that it pops up in the middle of the night.  So, typically, I do not have unpleasant things surfacing and sleep pretty much straight through.  Even when I wake to stumble to the bathroom, I come back and am asleep in no time when I return.

But last night I had a nightmare.  It was with Donna and me, and this morning the particulars are not clear.  She was not even here to discuss the dream let alone do anything that could, even irrationally, be the source. Even though it was about Donna, it wasn't about Donna.

I tried to think about what could have provoked the bad movie.  I bought a whole bunch of candy for Halloween and the kids did not come by in the droves I anticipated. Couldn't let the left over candy go to waste so I have had more than my share of chocolate over the past few days. Could be the chocolate.

I have been very good typically about my diet since the docs opened me up in August.  Not a piece of red meat since July 24th when I was told I was blocked up.  I did, however,  have bacon with my eggs at a diner yesterday morning.  Could be the bacon. Probably not the Almighty punishing me for eating trayfe.  But maybe. Bacon on shabbat no less.

I've been exercising regularly and taking my meds.  Cant be an excess of energy or a missed pill.

The last book I read was not one to cause nightmares and I am into a benign memoir right now which is not Psycho stuff.

I am in the throes of a battle with Blue Cross Blue Shield but if I had a nightmare every time some bureaucrat said they were "sorry for the inconvenience" when they themselves were the negligent source of the inconvenience,  I would not have slept much since Junior High.

So, not sure what brought it on.   And pretty sure that it was indeed an aberration and my next nightmare will come in 2029. Still, it has set me to thinking.

People regularly ask me how I am doing?  Since I feel almost completely healed now, I am sometimes surprised by the inquiry--as in, "why are they asking me, oh right".  I bought some suits in, not kidding, May or maybe early June.  Long story, but there was some back and forth with getting the alterations right, and I did not pick them up before the operation.  And I havent been back since. I did e-mail two months ago and explain to the salesperson what had happened, and also that I lost about ten pounds so the suits will have to be realtered.   He was fine about it. When I called on Friday to say I am ready to pick up the suits, he asked me how I was doing.  And for a minute I did not know what he was talking about.  When I relayed my saga with Blue Cross and Blue Shield to friends over dinner last night, they immediately told me not to get my ire up--and it took a second to get why they were concerned. Same thing with my brother.

I did not like having the nightmare. And do not like that I do not know why I had the nightmare besides having a bunch of mini Kit-Kats and Mounds bars, and a couple of pieces of bacon yesterday. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Homecoming, Septuagenarians, and Sport

This past weekend was Albany's homecoming.  Alums were congregated in various places on campus with the alleged centerpiece a football game, and a university museum exhibit about the connections between Art and Sport.

At a school like my alma mater the enthusiasm for football is not what it is at many universities. There was, however, cheering at the game, and one particular fan with a bell seated in front of us was so noisy that I wondered what it might be like to wring a neck as the fan incessantly rang the bell.  There indeed was cause for some excitement in the fourth quarter as both teams attempted to manage the clock.  Rhode Island needed to rush to score and Albany attempted to exhaust the time to save the victory. Albany ran out the clock and won the game 35-28.

Several of us, all fledgling septuagenarians, traveled to the state's capital to attend the game. We get together once or twice a year to reconnect.  This time a recurring theme was that each of us was either already, or would be shortly, 70- old in a way that was beyond our ability to conceptualize when we were undergraduates.

We had a meal together on Friday night and were served by a recent university graduate from our school. "What did you study?", we asked. "Physics" she said. "Using it right?" she quipped as she took away our dishes.  One of the bunch of us, asked if she had a sister who might be forty years older.  This caused another wise guy to comment that that would still make the sib too young for us.

At the Alumni House on Saturday morning we met a fellow sixteen years our senior.  The function brought alums together from various fraternities that existed at the time.  One of the first things the man said to us was that he was on the team that first beat a rival fraternity in football in the mid 50s.  Later a group of others came by, again our senior but by only a half dozen years, and again mentioned sporting events as highlights of their time. I met two former editors of the sport pages of the school paper who spoke about how their extracurricular activity in sports journalism launched their careers.

We sat at a table prior to the game in something akin to a tailgating setting. Tailgating light.  We stared at a picture of other septuagenarians who are contemporaries, and could not recognize a particular guy whom we all knew well.  There were toasts to those who have passed, and questions about those we have not seen in a spell, and those who somehow had managed to avoid the wide angle lens of social media.

We walked around the campus and spotted a family waiting for their son to emerge from his dormitory. Coincidentally his room was near a section where we had been in the 60s.  Out came the fellow and we said that he should take a look at us, because we were him 50 years later. He did not want to get his head around that as he stared at the gray and balding cluster. We asked another undergraduate to take our picture.  She willingly did so, and then walked away--and we could see that she had on a tee shirt that read "Class of 2023."  Yikes.

For some reason they had scheduled the game as a 330 start. In Albany even in October it can be cold and gets colder when the sun goes down.  It was a beautiful and unseasonably warm day while the sun was out, but once the sun went down it was close to frigid.  Only three of our group stayed to the end of the game even though it was close.

The Art and Sport exhibit was interesting, housed in a section of the campus now called the University Art Museum.  But the real museum was the entire campus that day, from the madhouse in the bookstore selling football and lacrosse jerseys, to the concurrent open house with high school seniors parading about, to we septuagenarians meandering and shmoozing during, before, and after the game.

And then of course there was the most significant exhibit for us.  As we said our goodbyes after dinner on Saturday the tacit message for us all was this:   Like the football teams in the fourth quarter--we need to wisely manage the remaining time on the clock.

Monday, September 30, 2019

8 weeks

It is eight weeks today since I had a triple bypass that nobody I know thought I could possibly need--including my docs.

So, what is new.

  • When I came out of surgery I could not burp without feeling pain. Not an exaggeration. A sneeze was a disaster. I learned how to stop a sneeze before it started--a useful trick for burglars I imagine.  I sneezed today and the pain was minimal. Such is progress.
  • When I was released from the hospital I was told to walk daily.  Even while I was in the hospital I was told to walk.  When I came home I walked up the block and back and felt like I had run a marathon.  Sucking wind, lying in bed as if I had just finished a 10K and sprinted the last mile.  I am walking now 5 miles a day--most often not continuously. But there are days when I have gone 5 miles without much stopping.  I am tired when I get back, but not nearly as tired as I had been when all I did was walk up the block the week after surgery  
  • I have lost 10 pounds.  Without a belt I am in trouble.  I bought some jeans before the surgery that were relaxed fit.  Really need to tighten that there belt if I am to wear those.
  • A friend told me that after the surgery I would feel tremendous energy. That has not happened. The periods of feeling strong have increased compared to the initial period, but I do not feel like popping up in the morning or feel that, compared to pre surgery, I am a bundle of energy.
  • It still hurts in the morning and at night where they cracked open my chest. Somedays worse than others. This is healing pain as opposed to problematic pain, but it is still there.
  • There was a proscription against lifting anything greater than 10 pounds for ten weeks.  I understand it. The other day I picked up a jug of laundry detergent and while it did not hurt as much as it did the first time I did this once out of surgery, it still hurts.  Just on Saturday I bought a six pack of liter waters.  I picked it up suddenly and felt it.  
  • A few weeks back I had my first alcoholic beverage.  A couple of sips and I was flying like a frat boy after knocking back a sixpack with a couple of shots. I think part of that is that my body weight is less. If anyone wants to take me out I have become a cheap date.
  • I am allowed to drive and fly. If I fly I cant pack a suitcase because of the 10 pound proscription. When I drive I have to put a cushion between the seat belt that comes across my chest and the incision.
  • I am a professor by trade, and I could not stand in front of a class for 100 minutes. Sometimes when I speak for a stretch right now I get tired.  I think that may just take some working up to it. I return to work on November 1.
  • I have had lots of time to read.  Some good, some not so good. I am startled still by books that are given rave reviews and famous people have written glowing blurbs about them, that I think are just okay. Finished, One Mississippi, over the weekend.  Not terrible, but it is called "hilarious" by several authors.  I am an easy audience.  This book was not hilarious, and--often--was sophomoric.  Some of my favorite authors have disappointed with their latest offerings.
  • Am I getting stir-crazy? A little. 
  • They said 10-16 weeks for total recovery.  Tough to believe the pain in the chest will be gone in two weeks.  
  • The scar is fading, and my hair is coming back, slowly.  Two weeks after the surgery I took a photo of myself and I looked like a teenager sans hair (a teen who had been attacked by a tomahawk, but a teen).

Happy new year to all those who consider themselves members of the tribe. l'shana tova.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


I was going a bit stir crazy in the house. I had completed my morning walk and it was time for my afternoon walk.  My route has been to go around a path in the park adjacent to my house. It is a nice enough park--nothing to ooh and aahh over, but not bad.  But I was tiring of the route. I decided to try my luck walking up to Brandeis.

Yesterday I had considered this as well. But Brandeis sits on a hill, a not insignificant hill. And yesterday it was hotter and sunnier than it is today.  So, when I set off for Brandeis a day ago I got as far as the ballfields which are at the base of the campus and parked myself in the shaded bleachers. Today I figured it was time to try the hill.

I brought my bag.  There is a proscription against picking up anything greater than 10 pounds for 10 weeks.  I found two five pound weights that one can employ when walking. They were purchased with the intent of increasing the rigor of walks.  For the most part they have sat near the cat food in a cabinet in an anteroom to the kitchen.  But today they had a value: to test the weight of my bag.  It was less than the two five pound weights, so off I went to conquer the hill with my bag.

I've done this walk probably 100 times since I moved to the area.  I've occasionally gone around the campus two and sometimes three times.  Today, I got about half way up the hill and I had to sit down on a step.  I'm getting there, but I am not there.  Eventually I got up from the step and made it the rest of the way to the library.

It's pre-week here at Brandeis. Classes will start next week, but there is a buzz on campus and activity that, while not robust like it will be next week, suggests that the fall is upon us.  I found a seat in a section of the library that had easy chairs and ottomans.  Took out my laptop from my less than ten pound bag, negotiated the wifi of the library, and began to check the sites.

It was around 2 pm when I got settled, and I noticed a moving line of folks walking just behind a screen to another section of the library. Someone was tinkering with a microphone beyond a wall.  I saw official looking folks with name tags and plastered on smiles greeting those entering the space I cannot see.

At about ten past the hour I could hear, whether I wanted to or not, a speaker welcoming a group of incoming students and their parents. My best guess given the content of the introduction and the ensuing agenda was that this was an orientation for international students.  Attendees were asked to introduce themselves and say where they were from.

There then was a procession of speakers. Head of advising. Associate dean of this. Associate dean of that. Director of Housing.

I have been working or studying at universities for 51 of the last 52 years.  I have attended or participated in so many orientations where I heard speeches of this ilk.  In the old days we would distribute or receive pounds of literature about this group or that. Now, we may distribute a single sheet with the urls to all information needed.  The goal is to get oriented.

Do we ever get oriented?  No matter how many orientation sessions we attend.  Must we become immersed in anything before we truly get oriented. And can that immersion create a counterproductive orientation; an orientation to something that is unhealthy to become oriented to?

I feel very disoriented these past weeks.  Everything seems surreal.  I should be preparing for classes and my annual jaunt to New York and the USOPEN.  I should be heading to the Cape for the last summer excursion into Minister's Pond and any of the various haunts I like to visit when I go to the Cape.  I might be finishing a writing project or starting another one.  Maybe I would take a drive to visit my buddy in Hyde Park and hang out drinking beer on the Hudson.  Last year, one year ago exactly tomorrow, I sent in the manuscript I had been toiling over all summer long. I remember going down to Quincy Market, treating myself to a cold one, and congratulating myself on getting it done. Felt very oriented.

Instead I am disoriented.  I heard the speech from the surgeon, nurse's, PAs.  I read the documents in the discharge manual.  I know how many walks I am supposed to take a day, what not to eat, and what soap to use, to clean this otherworldly scar that reminds me that I am mortal after all.  I know it will take 10-16 weeks before I am myself (whoever that will be in 10-16 weeks) and I can't drive a car until my surgeon says kosher.  I know this, but I am not oriented to this new reality.

But how oriented was I when I thought I was oriented. And how oriented is anyone when we think we are.  Oriented to what. 

The orientation session near me is in its final moments. Some people have had it with the orienting and are dribbling out. Others who got the time wrong or who are not the most punctual of sorts, are dribbling in.  Are those that are just arriving any less likely to become oriented to the university than those who arrived at the start.  Are those of us who never get oriented to where we are any worse off than those who are oriented to their lives, got their coordinates down pat, know where to go to get the drugs and groceries, and know who to eat dinner with and the designated person to kiss goodnight?

Monday, August 19, 2019

what if

This week I am supposed to walk 15 minutes, twice a day. It was very hot today so I got out there at about 7 am this morning.  A storm threatened late this afternoon, so at around 515 I did my second 15 minute stint.  I checked my cell phone as I departed to make sure I had completed the requisite quarter hour.

As I neared what I thought was the 15 minute mark, I took out my phone to check the time. Somehow, while in my pocket, I'd hit something that set off an update. On the screen I was informed that the update was in progress.

No big deal. I knew it was about 15 minutes and went into the house.   I glanced at the phone and saw it was still doing its updating thing.  A few moments later I saw that the Verizon logo was coming on as it does when I power on.  I grabbed the phone and went upstairs.

I glanced at it when I got to the top of the staircase and was thrown for a moment when, at 545 pm eastern time, the clock read 1:15 am.  Great, I thought, now I am going to have to figure out how to reset the time.  Before I went ahead and attempted to do that, I was really thrown when I saw the date. January 1971.

January 1971. I know just where I was in January 1971.  I was a senior at what is now called the University at Albany.  In January 1971 I was a resident assistant on campus ahead of the students helping to get the dorms ready for the beginning of what was, laughingly, called Spring semester in a climate where Spring did not arrive until late April or early May.

Here I sit nearly fifty years and how many right and wrong steps later.  I've got a scar from my collar bone to my gut indicating that my heart has been repaired.  Scar or not, all of us with fifty years around the track since college, have had some bruises to our hearts or we're kidding ourselves. That comes with the territory.

Aside from being disoriented when I saw that it was 1971, my second reaction was "I'll take it".  Sure three years of Nixon again would be tough on the stomach, but I'd like another shot at getting things right and fifty more years on this wonderful planet.

Not maudlin here.  Even with a tomahawk's mark on my chest and my current recuperation which will, for the first time in decades, deprive me of going to the US OPEN with my high school pals, I know that every day, every minute, we have a great shot at enjoying time. 

Also, who knows if some of the right steps I have taken would be taken correctly if I turned back the clock.  But still, there is something attractive about having another shot at doing those things I did not, and not doing those things I wish I had not.

It is just a mind game.  My phone figured it out before I needed to mess with it. 8/19/19 at 6:10

Saturday, August 17, 2019


On Monday it will be two weeks since I had open heart surgery. When I am not immersed in thinking about the ongoing rehabilitation, taking the meds, doing the walking exercise, and in general contemplating front and center necessities--I am very grateful that the condition was detected so that it could be addressed.  Otherwise there would have been few blog posts in my future. 

Some observations about the experience.

  • One loses all modesty in a hospital. I was exposed at various times and so frequently that I stopped caring who saw what. So what, who sees what. Purging fluids is key post surgery so nurse's assistants were encouraged to encourage me to so purge, congratulating me for the liquid I was able to deposit in a plastic container while they propped me up in the middle of the night.  "Good job" they would say after such a curious victory. And then they had to help me get back in bed.
  • I could not sleep in the hospital. It was not primarily dealing with the rhythmic bells and periodic testing of my blood pressure and temperature. That would have been a challenge had I been able to fall asleep in the first place.  I was speeding every night. I'd gone into the hospital with some tricks to use to help me fall asleep, but they were no contest for the commingling of drugs I was consuming or just my individual brain activity.
  • When I ran road races I would like it when bystanders would accurately tell me how many miles it was to the finish line. Those who thought they were encouraging and said "only 100 yards" when it was five hundred, did me no favors.  To date every doctor and nurse who has looked at my scar after removing the bandage, has said words to the same effect.  "It looks beautiful" they say.  They all need new eye doctors. My scar begins a bit below my collar bone and goes to my solar plexus.  The truth is that it is not beautiful.  
  • It is amazing what they did.  Cracked me open. Stopped my heart. Put in a pacemaker. Removed an artery from my arm. Bypassed, three times, blockages in my arteries. Closed me up. Connected the two separate pieces together with something that amounts to scotch tape for the skin.  And I did not feel a thing....
  • Until later.  Not a whole lot of fun the first three days in the hospital, moving any old way. Burping, for example, hurt. Coughing very painful. Thank God I did not have to sneeze. After a while the pain dissipated, but even now nearly two weeks later I have to take some tylenol or else I will be reminded of what transpired. Feeling good today I skipped the tylenol and then at midnight had to take some.
  • The nurses in the hospital were so positive, and so helpful.  What they were called upon to do at all hours of the day and night was significant. They worked 12 hour shifts, three days a week.  The nurse's assistants were often college students. My university has an experiential education requirement for many majors. Students are required to work during portions of their academic program in lieu of taking classes so that they leave with actual experience in the field. We have a Health Science College. One of the nurse's assistants one day was a Northeastern student. Others were students at other universities. I was taken by their dedication in what had to be a difficult job.  I am an easy patient I believe, but I can imagine some of the grousing they get from people in pain or people just grouchy by nature.
  • Before they knocked me out, I had to be prepped. Several people were in that cubicle getting me ready. One guy was just shaving me clean. Another spoke to me about the anesthesia process, a third had me listen to what they were going to do and sign documents, a fourth came in and wanted to know if I would be willing to participate in a study related to anesthesia. (I declined).  I was also supposed to meet the surgeons, but whatever they gave me knocked me out before we could shake hands.
  • I had read the documentation ahead of time about restrictions after surgery, but still found it difficult to internalize them. Four weeks before driving a car, okay that makes sense. But ten weeks before you can lift anything heavier than 10 pounds.  Ten pounds is not much. A gallon of milk is close.  Laundry detergent jugs can be over 10 pounds.  In the hospital a bunch of blankets were on the floor. I went to pick them up. Not wise. You would be surprised at what you pick up that weighs more than 10 pounds.
  • Not for the first time I have been taken by the power of love and good wishes from friends and family. I received phone calls and e-mails and texts that were, in a real way, therapeutic. The surgeon touched my heart literally, but others did so as well.
The bottom line, however, is that it is a miracle. I'm typing this now.  It may take two and a half months of doing not a whole lot, but by November I ought to have essentially a new heart.  I can go back to this wonderful horn of plenty called life.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

M is for Mortality

I ran a marathon a few weeks before my thirtieth birthday.  At that time I ran 10 miles a day and fifteen on weekends. Then I cut back to five a day.  Until I was past 60 I ran five miles five days a week. In my late forties, I would run five miles on the day of a tennis match to get the nerves out.  And then play tennis.

In the year I turned 50 I won five consecutive tennis tournaments on five consecutive weekends and 6 tournaments out of 7.  On most of those weekends I played two back to back matches on a Saturday, and then two back to back matches on a Sunday.  I have been able to go, up until very recently, 90 minutes consecutively on the elliptical at a decent clip.

Whenever I have had my annual physical, the numbers all come back so glowing that the doctors have been, or have pretended to be, surprised at the kind of shape I have been in.  The only medicine I've ever had to take is for blood pressure which I started after I was eligible to receive full social security benefits.

So it was surprising when a few months ago, call it February, maybe March or even April, I started to feel tension on the elliptical machine after only 10 minutes. I'd have to stop, get some water, and start again.  It got so bad that I had to reduce the resistance on the machine.  When I had my annual physical I reported this and the doc felt I should have an EKG. As usual, no problem. Then a stress test, some ambivalent results that suggested I should take another one with a sonogram.  The second stress test made the cardiologist say, hmm, let's do an angiogram.  There looks like a blockage that will require a stent.

This was not great news. It was in some ways good news because I had been scheduled for a hip replacement and, if there was even a little bit of blockage, clearing that would have been a good idea before I went under.

I started thinking about mortality. The doc described the mortality rates as minimal for the procedure, but 2 out of 1000 is still something.

They did the test and while they were poking around and I was feeling fine on the bed as they, an army it seemed like, were looking at a screen I tried to glance at the screen myself.  I felt pretty good so I figured they would come by and say, "guess what, there's not much in there, we can clean this up with a minor procedure."

Did not happen. Head doc comes up to my head and says, "It does not make sense to put a stent in. You are completely blocked in one artery, and nearly completely blocked in another, and 75 % blocked in a third.  We'll need to schedule you for a bypass in a week or so."

They wheel me out. I see a procession of doctors and nurses.  I schedule the bypass for 8/5.  I meet the surgeon. A nurse draws blood and then, to test for some infection, sticks a cue tip up my nostrils in an attempt, it appears, to see if it will come out of my eyeball. Then she comes back forty minutes later to tell me that she used the wrong type of cue tip and has to do it again. The surgeon seems nice. I looked him up and he gets rave reviews.

It seemed surreal, and still does. 

All day Wednesday through today the following Thursday, I think that this is not real. I feel pretty good.  I have lost some weight by design and now weigh what I did ten years ago.  I have not gone back on the elliptical, but gee before I had the angiogram I had been able to go for 45 minutes, having to stop every 9 minutes or so. I'd go for 9, then another 9, then another 9, and then do 18 minutes without a problem. Apparently one's body builds its own routes when everything is stopped up, so I guess I had built my own routes. Otherwise this blog would require some very fancy software to be distributed from my perch in the sky--putting new meaning, I suppose, to content being stored in the cloud.

I have been told by animate objects (as opposed to the internet) that this is a routine procedure and most people do fine. The doctors also said that I am in very good shape and am a prime candidate for doing well. My pulse rate, from all the exercise, is around 50 and often less.

But still, they told me the procedure. They crack open my chest. They stop your heart. They create a detour for your arteries.  And you feel good as new,. Except for the cracked chest. And the fact that you cant resume stressful activities for 12 weeks.

Sobering for someone who thought he would live forever.

I find that I am irascible.  Could be the new medicine. Could be the anticipation of being cracked open with something probably like an axe. On Sunday we had a spat. It comes with the territory of sharing space.  (I was right of course) I became very tense. For about two hours I sat stiff and felt angry.  (Did not help that the Red Sox played lousy that evening--vu den)  Cant be good for someone who is blocked up to stew. I'm making light of it, but I really did tense up. Nothing went shooting down my arm, but I knew this was not good. Not good to feel this way, and not a good sign that something minor could--I hope because of the blockage--make me so upset.  I'm usually a sweet fellow.  Not a mollusk by any means but, I've been told, fun to be around. Not lately.

They said this buildup has happened over several years and I try to think about manifestations.  I read on the internet (good to scan the internet if you want to, repeatedly, get punched in the stomach) that one manifestation of clogged arteries is high blood pressure. Well, it is possible then that the blood pressure meds giveth and taketh away. Yes, they reduced my blood pressure, but they masked the reason for the elevation.

The good news is that this is 2019 and not 1965 or 1945.

Monday, July 15, 2019

For the Ages

During the post match commentary a broadcaster remarked that in thirty and forty years from now people will still be speaking about the contest.

In thirty to forty years I am likely to have used up all my tickets at the ultimate amusement park we call life.  However, as long as I am here, and capable of remembering much of anything, I will remember this match.

I was thinking yesterday afternoon that there are few such sport events that rival what those who watched saw yesterday. There was the Miami-Nebraska 35-34 Orange Bowl in the mid 80s.  The Rangers 2-1 overtime victory over the Devils in 94. I was fortunate to attend two college basketball games that my alma mater played in that were similarly riveting and thrilling.  And then there was the Patriots-Carolina Super bowl game in 2004 at the conclusion of the 2003 season.

Yet I think yesterday's tennis match for sheer excellence beats them all.  I am not a big fan of the personality of Novak Djokovic, but he has a backbone of steel.  I am a big fan of Roger Federer and he too is other worldly.  These two warriors took it to the cliched next level in a five setter that was remarkable.

Sports transcend sports. This was about will, and personality, and play within the rules sans gamesmanship--particularly Federer--that it is to be admired.  Federer caught a bad break in the final tiebreaker when a Djokovic ball he could have clocked was called out, then reversed on appeal, thus requiring a new point which, had the ball been called in, would have resulted in a Federer point.  Federer just went back to play the next point.  Neither player took bogus health breaks to unnerve their opponents. Just a remarkable match.

Both players "forced heart and nerve and sinew to serve their turn long after they were gone. And so held on when there was nothing in [them] except the will to say hold on."

A treat. And you did not even need to enjoy sports to enjoy it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

law and the law

I completed Kate Atkinson's Big Sky a few days ago, and am nearly finished with a non fiction book that deals with a similar issue.

Big Sky is the fifth Jackson Brodie novel.  Atkinson has written several books that do not involve Brodie, but the four that preceded Big Sky that did, were very well received and in my opinion, for good reason. Case Histories was the first and it is brilliant.  Then came One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News, and Started Early, Took My Dog. Case Histories was the best with three cases cleverly related.  And When Will There Be Good News has a message that is so powerful that it, in and of itself, makes the book worth reading.  If you are interested I've blogged about the Brodie books before.

This one, Big Sky, is not as good as the others. To me, it reads like her publisher said, "They want Brodie, give us Brodie" and Atkinson after resisting for a spell said "Fine, you want Brodie I'll give you Brodie." But her heart wasn't in it.

However, it does bring up a point that is present in the other book I mentioned, Furious Hours. I've got about 40 pages to go in it, but the section that deals with the common question has already passed. I am not giving anything away with this following brief synopsis.

There is a man in Alabama, a reverend no less, who is killing off his kin. He is doing it for the insurance checks. He takes out insurance on his wife, and then kills his wife, and collects the insurance. Then he remarries, takes out insurance on his second wife, and kills his second wife and collects the insurance. And he does it to other family members as well. Remember this is NON fiction. This really happened.

The insurance companies are, go figure, reluctant to pay up.  The Reverend hires a lawyer who initially is able to get a not guilty verdict on a murder, and subsequently successfully defends the reverend's rights to collect on the insurance policies.  After the reverend knocks off a step daughter, at the funeral of the step daughter, a man stands up and, at the funeral home, shoots the Reverend.  The shooter then hires the same lawyer that defended the reverend to acquit the shooter for murdering the reverend.  And the lawyer is successful. Again remember this is non fiction. All this really happened.  The last part of the book, the part I have not fully completed is about Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, who intended to write her second book about this case.

Question is this: is a person innocent of killing someone if the victim was a nogoodnik like the reverend? In Big Sky at the end there is a similar ethical challenge.  If a slime ball is killed by a decent person, is the killer someone who authorities should let go.  Readers of To Kill a Mockingbird with a long memory, may recall that the bad guy is killed by Boo Radley, an innocent, and the sheriff encourages those who witnessed the killing, to not press charges against Boo.

Are there laws and laws?  Is the reverend's killer a hero?  Are good guys responsible for killing bad guys?  And if so, how can we be sure that those who assess a bad guy to be a bad guy, have an accurate read on the character. What if the bad guys are the good guys, and the good guys are the bad guys.  Lynchings in the south were incomprehensibly regular in the early and middle 20th century. Probably a sheriff or two who felt that the killers were not bad guys at all. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Boys of Summer

The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn came out nearly fifty years ago. Since it was published many have recommended it to me. For who knows what reason, I just picked it up last week.

The Boys of Summer is a very good book that got more engaging the more I read.  It was one of those reads that I did not want to end.  I finished it in a library and looked around to see if there were newer editions which might have more inclusions. The edition I read had a late 1990s addendum so I thought that since the author is still alive, he may have included more stories. I discovered that I had read an edition that included all the subsequent additions.

The Boys of Summer can seem like two separate books. Initially I thought they were so distinct that it should have been two separate books, but later I thought the connection was less tenuous. The first part of the book describes how the author got his job covering the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952 and 1953. There is a good deal about him growing up, his folks, the steps he took to become a journalist, and some stories about the 52 and 53 Dodgers.  

The second part is "where are they now?" That is, where are the Dodgers in 1971 that he covered in 1952 and 1953. Where is Preacher Roe, Andy Pafko, Jackie Robinson, Billy Cox, Pee Wee Reese, Carl Furillo, Gil Hodges, Joe Black, Duke Snider, Carl Erskine.  In 1971 he was able to meet up with these ex players and learn how they had fared once the summer ended.

Now most if not all the people he interviewed in '71 are dead.  Jackie Robinson And Gil Hodges died  very shortly after the book was published. Carl Erskine and the author are alive, but the rest are gone.  

Where are they now books may be more popular now than they had been when The Boys of Summer was published. One of the reasons for the book's enormous popularity could be that there were fewer such books at the time. Also, the book was about a team that was beloved among New Yorkers. Reading about the Dodgers to many was an opportunity to relive young years.

 But the book, to me, is more than about the Brooklyn Dodgers.  We all have our summers, and we are all boys and girls of summer at one point—but then there is fall and winter.  The people who come out the best in the book are Pee Wee Reese, clearly number one, and Jackie Robinson. Some others kept their heads up and were mensches. Others fell on hard times or took routes to hard times. 

Billy Cox went home to an area that was very racist,  Furillo retained anger that was debilitating.  The people who fared the best were those who, like Reese, dodged the inevitable toxins and did not "give way to hating."

There are several good stories in the book, but my favorite is how Reese, when Robinson was getting berated by racists, walked across the diamond from his shortstop position and put his arm around Robinson at first.  And Reese was from Kentucky.  When Robinson was promoted to the Dodgers, several players approached Reese and asked him to sign a petition refusing to play with Robinson. Reese, refused to sign.  

I had heard of nearly all the people Kahn interviewed, but did not really know the Dodgers of 52 and 53. My consciousness with baseball arrives when Don Larsen pitched his perfect game in 1956.   One could contend, I suppose, that I like the book because it was about baseball regardless of the era. Yet, I think anyone who is interested in what happens to people past their prime, will find the book engaging.

The title comes from the first line of a Dylan Thomas poem. "I see the boys of summer in their ruin."

We are all, as I wrote above, boys and girls of summer.  We have our moments in the sun.  What happens in the fall and how we decay is up to us and the choices we make..

Saturday, June 22, 2019

I see you.

Twice in the last month there have been incidents in which I was startled to see myself as a young man. And it was not in a photo.

I've moved my office once again.   I am now back in an office I'd been in a few years back. We at Northeastern have become excellent in many ways. One has to do with the broad area that is called Facilities. Facilities folk do a number of things including moving furniture from one space to another. You fill out a form on line and at a mutually convenient time, movers come to your new space bringing items from the old one. They patiently ask where items are to be moved and place them there.

So, on an assigned date a few minutes before the scheduled time, I arrived at the office. As I turned a corner to a hallway that leads to the office, there I sat.  Two people were there, ahead of time, but one was me.

In the summer of 1970 I took three classes during summer school.  I had switched majors and in order to complete on time I needed nine credits.  Before school actually began I sought work to help pay the tuition bill. I had a short stint in a fast food restaurant chain, another as a pot washer in a catering outfit, and eventually got a pretty high paying job as a toll collector on the New York State Thruway.  There was another job too.

I knew a man who worked in what was the equivalent of Facilities at the university. It may have even been called Facilities. He got me a job as an assistant to a worker who did anything and everything in our multipurpose Campus Center.  An air conditioner had to be moved, it came to him.  Someone wanted a chair that was on the first floor of the campus center. We got the chair. The bowling alley had to be cleaned so bowling balls had to be carted somewhere; he was in charge of the carting.  I was an assistant. There was another fellow there too, a guy from Brown University who played baseball for them who was a relative of the head of the Campus Center. So, he worked with me as an assistant too.

What I remember most about the job was that I felt sorry for the fellow we worked for. He was about 50 and had been laid off by the railroad. This job in the campus center was either beneath him, or paid less than what he earned at the railroad.  And he looked at the two of us with some mixture of envy and sadness.  He had, he thought, had his shot, and here he was shlepping air conditioners. But we, the guy from Brown and me, were just shlepping on the way to something possibly grand or hopeful.

I'm not sure how long I lasted as an assistant, but at some point when the toll collector job came through I hauled my last air conditioner. But during the time I found the job to be a lark; I kibbitzed with the kid from Brown, and listened respectfully to the stories from the head guy with sympathy. 

So fast forward to 2019 as I approach my door waiting for the furniture.  And slumped along the wall are two people who had gotten to the job early.  I came up short because there was me and the guy who worked for the railroad.  The elder person was courteous, and the kid was energetic and helpful.  Lugging my furniture here and there with a sense that this was just a summer gig.  About a week later I found some furniture in the campus warehouse that I wanted so the same two but this time with another young guy came to the office and there I was again, smiling and looking at the furniture. The two of them oozing, hey this is just a summer job and, well it is kind of fun. You want the bookcase here, sure. You want the cabinet there, nothing to it.

And I wanted to stop the kid and shake my hand. And say something like, "hey young man, I am you fifty years down the pike.  Take a good look.  And don't lift like that you could hurt your hip, and guess what-- it isn't going to be as smooth sailing as you think it might be."

But he would have thought I was crazy. So I just smiled in a way that he would have thought strange if he thought about it at all.

Then a week or so later, again I ran into myself  We bought a couch.  And we needed to get rid of the 85 inch monster of a couch that had been in our living room for 25 years. Even I agreed it was time for this guy to go, even though it was in decent condition.  I called the sanitation folks and they said we could bring the couch to the curb.  But the thought of Donna and me lifting the couch and carrying it to the curb was, sadly, comical.  Even when my buddy Kenny came to visit, I didn't even ask.  We would have left our groins on the deck if we tried to carry that thing.

Coincidentally, I had contact with one of the two cousins I have living in the area. She called me for a ride and I happily obliged since we see each other far too infrequently.  In the course of our ride I asked how her 30 something year old son was doing. Very well, she told me, and he was moving to a new apartment.  I asked her if Alex might want the couch.  She did not know but gave me Alex's number.

He did want it.  He just needed a buddy of his to be available with his van to be able to transport it.  In a few days, Alex called to tell us that the fellow with the van was available. He came at the appointed hour.  Out of the van popped Alex, his friend, and his friend's girlfriend. And there I was again.

Three happy bouncy 30 something year olds.  Moving furniture. How many times I moved furniture in my day, I do not want to count.  There was a stretch when I was about Alex's age when I drove a very large truck from Buffalo to Boston having stopped at a number of places along the way to pick up couches, chairs, and bookcases. Quoth the raven...

In no time Alex and his pal, picked up the couch which would have left Kenny and me crotchless, and carried it through our slider and around the corner.  The three maneuvered the couch into the van as Donna and I stood by. Most of the couch was on the bed of the van; part was in the air. After a number of tries they shut the van trunk.

They had a problem, I was sure. The couch took up the entire back of the truck.  How they managed to get it in there was one thing. But there were only two seats in the cab part of the car. Where would the third sit. I offered to drive one of them to the apartment.

No need they said easily.  They sort of laughed and the woman said that she had been in more cramped places.  The two fellows got into the cab.  Then as if it was the simplest thing in the world, the woman climbed through a window into the back of the van and lay down on the couch as if she was in someone's living room. Head on the ground. Legs in the air.

Donna said, "We used to do that." Meaning it metaphorically. I don't remember an incident where one of us had so contorted to climb through a van window and kerplunk on a couch that was part on the bed of the truck and part in the air, and drive however long--but there was a time even before we had met, that we would think nothing of hauling an 85 inch couch into a van and then sleeping on it as we drove here or there.   And doing similar things.

So I saw myself in the van and speaking for myself, but maybe for both of us, it was an odd sensation standing on the lawn watching the van drive away with me in it.

Again, like with the Facilities guy, I wanted to shout out classic middle age platitudes--"Enjoy yourself, seize the day, don't blow it" as the car drove away,

We had a '50 Ford in Brooklyn. It was the only car I knew until we moved away. We drove that car everywhere. In 1961 a year after we moved to Plainview, my dad bought a Rambler.  He put an ad in the paper to sell the '50 Ford for 50 bucks. We could not believe how many calls we got to buy that car. The lucky guy, a hot rodder or so it seemed to me, came by and gave Dad fifty dollars. Dad began to explain the problems with the car. The kid didn't need to hear anything.  He said something like, "I got it." And took the keys. Dad called mom from the house so that she could see the '50 ford for the last time. My brother and I were already at the curb.  By the time my mother got out the door, the '50 Ford was zooming down Forest Drive. And there Dad stood looking a bit stunned at the past, take off down the road.