"To be too certain of anything is the beginning of bigotry." -- Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Summer Vacation

      I remember when we were kids, my mom and dad would pile us into the car and we'd ride up to a lake in New Hampshire or Vermont for a month's vacation. It was a long trip, before the Interstate went that far north, but it was a lot of fun.

     My dad didn't stay the whole time. He had to go back to work. But we drank in every moment -- swimming in the lake, jumping off the raft, running through the woods, and picking leeches off ourselves at the end of the day. Somehow those leeches, aka blood-suckers, didn't bother us at the time. Kids don't care.

     Later on it was summer jobs. I worked at an amusement park, a beach club, and one summer as a camp counselor.

     By the time I had kids, time and activities were more structured. We went to visit Nana and Grandpa every summer, usually for a week. But otherwise the kids were taking swimming and diving lessons, or tennis lessons, and entering local tournaments. They later went on to become a lifeguard, an assistant tennis pro, and then play in college.

     So what are your fond memories of summer vacation? I can guarantee, they were always good, weren't they?

     I am taking a summer vacation from blogging. No tennis. But probably some golf, maybe some swimming, and a little bit of traveling. I'll see you again after Labor Day. Have a good rest-of-the-summer!

Saturday, July 10, 2021

What Was Your First Car?

     Occasionally we look back and remember . . . our first car.

     My parents were General Motors people, and they thought Buicks were the best (except for Cadillacs which they couldn't afford). So we had Buicks when I was growing up.

     The first car I ever drove was a 1961 Volkswagen Beetle. Red convertible. Stick shift. No radio. That was the first "second car" my parents had. They bought it used for my older brother and sister, and eventually I got to drive it when they weren't around.

We had one of these
     At one point, I don't remember exactly when, we had a Nash Rambler. That was one terrible car. It had a push-button gear shift, and labored mightily to climb even the most mild of hills. 

     The first car I ever owned was a 1971 Volkswagen 411 stick shift. It had a weird heater that always smelled like gasoline. My wife and I bought it, used, for $1,965 in 1975 when we moved out of the city.

     My first new car was a 1977 Saab 99. It cost $5,200 (as I remember.) Stick shift, manual windows, am/fm radio, no air conditioning.

     Today my wife and I have a 2015 Subaru Forester and a 2018 Volvo S60.

But never one of these
     You might ask: Haven't you ever bought an American car? Yes! We had a Ford Taurus wagon to carry around the kids in the 1990s.

     I was going to boast that I've never owned a gas-guzzling SUV. I guess that's not quite true, since B has that Forester. But it does get close to 30 mpg on regular gas.

     Enough about my reminiscing. What was your first car? Or your family's first car? Or your favorite or most memorable car from back in the day?

Sunday, July 4, 2021

What Does July 4th Mean to You?

     July 4th is the day we declared independence from the tyranny of the English crown, 245 years ago, which eventually, after much argument, negotiation and an eight-year war, led to the formation of the United States.

     By now, of course, we've forgotten much of what we're celebrating. Most of us have no ancestors who were there at the time. At least, I don't. In 1776 my forebears were scratching out a meager existence on the periphery of Europe.

     Many Americans just use July 4th as an excuse to enjoy a long weekend and go to the beach or have a barbecue. Others may even harbor resentments about the holiday, as a symbol of how their parents or grandparents were treated when they arrived on these shores . . . African Americans, obviously, but also Asians, Italians, Latinos, Irish, Eastern Europeans. 

     I blame the English -- not the English of England, but the English of America, many of whom, egged on by PBS and other anglophiles, still think they are better than the rest of us.

     Sure, I have an abstract appreciation of what our Founding Fathers did. But I have no direct, emotional connection. Neither do I hold a grudge against the people who thought less of my ancestors because they were just off the boat -- maybe because my grandparents were able to join the great American middle class.

61% of us own an American flag
     So July 4th means different things to different people. For me, I'll admit, I mostly enjoy the fireworks, the parade and the parties. 

     To Meryl Baer, who retired to a beach town in New Jersey, it means the arrival of tourists. "Folks love three-day holiday weekends and particularly the long summer weekends -- especially this year with the launch of post-Covid life." So in Holiday Happenings she offers her view of the crowds packing her shore town, and reveals when she and her husband like to venture onto the sand.

     For Laurie Stone it's A Different Kind of Fourth. She remembers sitting in a veteran's hospital with her dad. He gives a weak cheer when he learns the Yankees won. Nathan's is holding its annual hotdog-eating contest. The heat outside is record-breaking. And his Parkinson's is progressing.

     Carol Cassara looks at the broader landscape and worries that Something's Going On and It's Not Good. She sees how the Covid lockdown has cost us, as we feared doing something as simple as going to the grocery store or eating at a restaurant. It's easy to stay cocooned, she says, but fear and anxiety prowl our world, and we need to do something about them.

     On a more personal note, Rebecca Olkowski with babyboomster.com asks: Have You Lost Interest in Love Now That You're Older? She has some ideas about how to enjoy being on your own, how to discover who you really are, and how to enjoy being yourself for a while.

     Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, offers Facts and Figures for July 4th, 2021. Her pictogram shows, sadly, that only 42% of us are "extremely proud" to be American, compared to 70% in 2003 -- yet paradoxically 61% of us own an American flag.

     Jennifer of Untold and Begin asks What Does Success Look Like to You? She suggests a couple of ways to focus not on the kind of success that looks good to the world, but the kind of success that will make you happy. 

     Finally, I want to mention a blog I ran across from Wealth Legacy Institute, a financial advisory firm based in Denver and managed by women. The company specializes in financial planning, of course, but also publishes a blog that covers retirement. The latest post Pinpoint Your Passions -- Opportunities for Volunteering in Retirement offers some concrete advice as well as links to several organizations doing meaningful work.

     Because in my opinion, the American Way that we can all believe in, no matter what our ethnic, political or social stripe, is how we help each other out, whether it's volunteering for our fire department, sponsoring an exchange student, running for local office, sharing our lives with other people through a church or community organization. These are the things -- perhaps even more than national holidays -- that bring us together, make us a community, and produce real pride in America.