I haven’t posted for weeks, and the reason is Facebook. I responded with what I thought would be a simple, single gesture, to an invitation to be a friend. I don’t even know who it was-probably a complete stranger with a cute name, like Verandah P0rche-one that came along today.
Almost 800 friends, two user groups and a thousand message exchanges later, here I come with a blog post at last. What is it? “25 Random Things About Me”! It wasn’t, as usual, something I contributed because I had the idea to do so. Nononono! It’s just one of many ways Facebook and those who revel in it (and it is nigh impossible to resist everything offered) Hoover up a participants’ time and consciousness.
A dozen people “tag” me in a post by this title, thereby obliging me to follow suit or risk being thought a ratbag for ignoring such gracile acts of online camaraderie. It almost endears one to those one knows considers one a ratbag, for they would never think of providing one such an opportunity.
Since I haven’t liked my “About me ” statement from the beginning, maybe this Facebook post will redeem me in the eyes of readers who feel the same about it. So here it is:
25 Random Things About Me
1. This is hard for me because I disapprove of certain random things about me.
2. I live with four females, a café-au-lait French girly dog, and the ghost of my father, and I love them all.
3. My daughter will graduate high school in June; my granddaughter a year later.
4. My son is a better man than I will ever be, but may not see it just now.
5. I miss a half-dozen people who don’t miss me.
6. Wherever I am, I’m homesick
7. I was born in a place I have no recollection about.
8. I am the oldest in a sib of 6, with 5 years between oldest and yongest.
9. The last time I drank alcohol, and hundreds of times before that, I couldn’t stop before losing consciousness.
10. I imagine a cold beer would taste fantastic several times every day.
11. I haven’t had a cold beer since July 7, 1975.
12. My father’s life during WWII, was described by Joseph Heller in Catch 22, where he details the reality of US Air Force bomber crews and seemingly endless series of missions. Dad survived dozens of missions, some of them in aircraft that would never fly again. He was a navigator.
13. I was born while that War was winding down; I was the only baby shared by 3 beautiful sisters, who sang to me as they listened to the jazz and swing music over black Louisiana radio stations between newscasts about the War. I imagine that the two years of my existence begun 6 months pre-natally (or whenever hearing develops in utero) were the happiest of my life. Nine months after he returned from the War, my brother was born. I was 6 months old when Dad first saw me, a fact that shaped my life, to some extent.
14. For his wartime service, my father got fantastic education benefits. He used them to study botany and forestry at Utah State University, where his English professor was Wallace Stegner Stegner introduced him to the writings of John Wesley Powell, who became his hero and role model. My two sisters were born there in Logan.
15. I started school in Jackson, Wyoming, where Mom had six jobs, the two most recent of which were newborn twins; Dad had three jobs in self defense (having distinguished himself as a survivor of defense). He drove the daily freight run over the old Teton Pass highway between Jackson and Victor, Idaho; he was a temporary worker for the U S Forest Service, and he was the Principal of Jackson Hole High School.
16. I skied half a mile to and from kindergarten every winter day, through snow deeper than I was tall, beside Flat Creek, drifts in places towering many feet overhead. The occasional earaches probably dampened for me the enthusiasm most skiers have for the sport, but never killed it entirely.
17. My father’s permanent appointment as an assistant forest ranger was with the Teton National Forest, and consisted mainly of marking trees for removal from the area soon to be inundated by the Palisades Dam on the Snake River, where it enters the eponymous Swan Valley. Thanks to Dad’s job, I got to grow up in or near some of the most beautiful places in North America, including the Yellowstone country, the Idaho Primitive Area, and the Canyonlands of southern Utah.
18. I ruined a plate of buckwheat cakes for Edward Abbey at Elmer’s Restaurant in Pocatello in 1985. I took him there after his lecture at Idaho State University, where I was finishing a graduate program in anthropology. We were talking about places we both knew better than most, and I described the practice of “chaining” virgin pinon pine and sagebrush plains and hillsides by the Forest Service prior to seeding vast areas with “forbs” or forage grasses for livestock. Ed signed my dog- eared copies of his books. He lived a few more years, until ’89.
19. In 1965, George Hansen (R-ID), the first US Congressman to do time for taking the money and getting caught, found a job for me at the Pentagon Heating Plant, through his connections at the General Services Administration. I caused a stir when I arrived, because the job was on the labor crew. Who knew that the plant was still de facto a segregated shop, where the engineers were white, and the workers were black, each with separate dressing rooms. I was given a desk in the Superintendent’s office, where my only task was to spend 15 minutes at the beginning of each day calling each of the divisions and getting the work attendance data and recording it. I hated it, and demanded after two weeks to be sent to the repair crew, where GSA assigned me, per the job order. To punish me, (so he imagined), the boss agreed. That was one of the best jobs I ever had, among some of the finest and most interesting men I have ever worked with.
20. I stood on Pennsylvania Avenue watching as the Inaugural motorcade bearing Lyndon Baines Johnson to the White House swept past. I made eye contact with him, both of us waving. As a result, I always felt a little guilty for my small part in derailing the Vietnam War for him. I have a photograph of his vice-president, Hubert Humphrey, presenting an award to my father for saving the government a bunch of money while improving the morale and efficiency of brush crews and smoke chasers in the national forest system.
21. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society was an inspired act of governance, and one of few, often-overlooked, reasons to trust and respect nationalism. One worthy program of the Great Society was the Job Corps, which had two divisions: urban centers and rural centers. My father was the assistant director of the rural center program, and established the first camp, built adjacent to Camp David in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland. It was a pilot project intended to preclude as many of the inevitable missteps of a new government undertaking as possible (yes, my long-suffering fellow victims of the Misrule of W-there was such a time!). They day I spent exploring that camp confirmed me forever after as a social leftist.
22. My first airplane ride was in a three-seater, with my father and a pilot. We flew out of the Bryce Canyon (Utah) Airport, and over the spectacular national park on the way to the headwaters of the south fork of the Sevier River. Our mission was to locate as many herds of grazing mule deer as possible and count heads, under contract to a fish and wildlife agency. Later the same day, we would approach a terrified deer in a mesh trap, tranquilize it and apply an ear tag.
23. My first and last big game hunting trips were with my father. There were dozens of such trips. The most memorable ones were undertaken after I stopped carrying a rifle on them, and just went along to be with Dad in some wild place, where he was most at home, and content, except for the last two trips, which were both successful, and both utterly bizarre.
24. My name appears in the acknowledgments section of one of the best books about prehistoric stone tools and their makers, one of the best anthologies of American poets of the last half of the 20th century, and of the English edition of the primary religious document of the practitioners of Korean Zen (Son). Even so, I am one of the people included by the great author of underground comics dialogue, Dennis Eichhorn, when he observed, “I am a lightning rod for weirdos”.
25. The most thrilling stories I ever read were by Robert Louis Stevenson. I was 6. Dad gave the book to me twenty years before completing his forestry career by creating a soft woods forestry program for Jamaica, through the U S Agency for International Development. I still have the 25-cent coin he gave me that was minted to commemorate it. It was based on tree farms like the Lucky Peak Nursery outside Boise. I am not my father. I am more like the Governor of Idaho, Robert Smylie, who was supposed to cut the ribbon opening it for business, but was too drunk that day. I don’t approve of such randomness, but I do understand and sympathize.