Archive for the ‘Wayback Machine’ Category.

Home, Once More

My Ohio State Marching Band Alumni has a “regular band”, a year-round group that plays concerts, parades, funerals, weddings and other special Buckeye occasions.  Of course, you have to live within driving distance of Columbus to participate, which definitely rules me ineligible as long as a private jet is beyond my means.

Last winter, however, I received a notification from them that they would be playing a parade and concert for the bicentennial of my hometown, Perrysburg, Ohio, and it got me thinking.

I moved away from Perrysburg in 1974 but, because my parents and grandparents lived out their lives there and I visited fairly frequently, there was always a sense that it was home (despite the fact that the bulk of my life has been lived in Seattle).  Once we moved my Mom out of our childhood home in 2013, however, nothing remained with enough gravitational pull to justify a destination-based trip back there..until the coalescence of a Bicentennial, TBDBITL (the OSU Alumni Band) and two brothers who apparently were also looking for a reason to hit the Burg once more.  My youngest brother also played in the OSU band, the OSU people responded affirmatively to our request to join them for the festivities, and our trip was on.

It seemed strange booking a hotel room in the town where I’d always just crashed at my parents’ place, especially since the hotel was less than a mile’s walk from there.  We arrived on a Thursday, walked around town a bit and dined at a pretty decent restaurant in “downtown” Perrysburg.

Although eclipsed by nearby Toledo in size, Perrysburg has always been an independent municipality and never a soulless suburb.  Its “downtown” stretch of independent retailers, however, suffered greatly over the last 2 decades, as mega-malls and big box retailers sucked away their customer base.  On this trip, for the first time in a long while, I observed a renaissance along the main drag, Louisiana Avenue.  For many of the venues, we could hardly walk through the front door.  Although inconvenienced, I was happy for them.

(Click to enlarge)

Our parade and concert was Saturday.  First would be the parade, and then the concert later in the afternoon.  The OSU band staged for the parade on the grounds of Elm Street Elementary, a block from (wife) Betsy’s childhood home, where my high school marching band used to rehearse on foggy fall mornings, hard by the building where my mother-in-law taught 3rd grade for 20 years.  As we waited to enter the parade, I spoke with an old friend, an OSUMB sousaphone player from my high school band who had lived up the street from me and had spurred me to a running regime in order to try out for the OSU band.  A running regime that I would carry on for 40 years.

The parade up the main street of town was so reminiscent of the Memorial Day parades our high school band played in.  Later, I saw our concert was setting up in view of the building where I attended Junior High, and right in front of the (long gone) Perry Dairy Bar, where I used to sneak off-campus for hamburger & french fry lunches.

I started to feel like I was in an alternate reality, one where I had never left town, where I recognized everyone on the street and knew their dogs’ names.  Could I envision myself satisfied with playing little bandbox engagements instead of the thrill of massive, raucous, bawdy urban Pride Parades in front of half a million screaming fans?  I gazed at the audience that was assembling, nibbling on picnic lunches and hailing neighbors, and then I espied my high school band director (Judy Justus) in the stands.  I left my seat in the trumpet section, ran over and gave her a hug.  The concert began, time slowed down and for a while I could imagine myself…content.

During the concert, they introduced folks in the band who had Perrysburg connections, including me.  After the concert, several people I’d known in high school, people I hadn’t seen in 50 years, came up and introduced themselves, and that only added to the feeling of alternate reality.

After the concert, my brothers, their wives and I paid a visit to a couple who live next door to our childhood home.  I’ve always enjoyed them and loved them for the support they provided for my parents in later years, and we had a good time catching up.  But our ulterior motive was to see what the new owners had done to our place.  Our friend/neighbor contacted the new owners, and we were awarded a tour of the extensively, but sensitively, remodeled residence.

My parents built the house and we moved in in 1961, signified by a Lincoln 1961 penny enmeshed in the concrete of our front sidewalk.  It was eerie to walk through the place.  They had blown out a back wall and built a modern kitchen and changed the interior floor plan in ways that our mom had often wished for.  Each time Mom would develop a plan, however, our dad would shake his head and say, “We can’t do that, that’s a bearing wall.”  The “bearing wall” cupidity we observed would have boggled our mom’s mind, in addition to pantsing our dad.  As we left, we saw that the front sidewalk had been rebuilt.  With a bit of trepidation, we walked to the end and saw..two pennies embedded in the new concrete: our original 1961 coin, and their 2016.  They will forever be our heroes.

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As night fell, we headed west on River Road to visit old friends who had made their lives in Perrysburg.  As we entered their place, their music system was blaring OSU marching band songs that turned out to be on a record that I was playing on in 1971.  This never happens to me in Seattle.

We caught up with a lot of history, marveled at our friend’s opulent riverside digs, and I let the experience of a warm, fecund midwestern summer night soak in.  We said our good-nights in the cricket-and-tree-frog cacophony, with the river ambling picturesquely by, and it was strangely seductive.

But my morning flight from Detroit to Seattle emerged insistently on my phone, and that same raspy lozenge of - not discontent, exactly, but more of an Urge For Going - that spurred me west in 1974 hastened me inexorably to the airport, and on to my real home at the edge of the continent.

Memorial Day Musings

(Originally posted on Facebook, but cross-posted here - with enhancements - before it sinks beneath the FB wave)

My dad and my grandfather were both veterans, but neither experienced combat, and I rode a college deferment into a beneficent draft lottery number as the Vietnam War wound down. So Memorial Day to me wasn’t at all about death and loss and heroism, it was all about small-town ritual.

My high school band marched in a parade down the main street, my grandfather drove a miniature Monza car in a Shriner group, and we all ended up at the town cemetery. My junior and senior years, I played echo taps on my trumpet, but at that blithe age it was all about getting the notes right. Everyone close to me was alive and well, and Memorial Day mostly meant the end of school and the start of summer, and as soon as I tore that band uniform off, the pool would beckon.

As the years progressed and I began losing people, on my visits home I would head out for a run but go to the cemetery to commune with my relatives interred there.  It wasn’t the “I know you’re happy in Heaven with (blank)” kind of thing, it was just the physical proximity, the solitude and the clearing of mental clutter for a while in order to re-experience them sensually - seeing them, hearing their voices, placing them in a familiar context.

Memorial Day for me is remembering them, their admonishments and compliments, breaking their hearts, reconnecting and coming home again.

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Abandoning Our 40-year-old Landline

So we changed internet providers this month, as Centurylink has strung fiber through the neighborhood and began offering killer deals in competition with Comcast.  Collateral damage in the process: our landline phone number, which we first acquired from Pacific Northwest Bell in 1975.

We could have included it in our package, but for the last 5 years or so, we’ve just used it as a sponge to absorb solicitor calls, almost never actually answering.  We’ve switched all our important communication to our cell numbers.

One problem with this might be that more solicitor calls start raining down on our cell numbers, but I might just ameliorate that by continuing to cite the old landline number when whoring around the internet.

But my larger angst about losing that phone number is its historical and sentimental significance.  The first thing to come to mind is the physical, sort of bricks-and-mortar history.  The number first took up residence in a yellow rotary-dial phone which we rented from PNB, and resided there until the early 80s, when I needed touch-tone capability in order to use a 1200-baud modem to support clients and tap into the nascent Internet.  This required dumping the rotary-dial in favor of a touch-tone model (still rented from PNB) and upgrading our line service to “digital”.

Eventually, in the late 80s, we quit renting from PNB and acquired a cordless model.  We also, owing to the burgeoning demand for bandwidth from a) our son’s internet and bulletin board participation and b) my increasing requirement to do online software support, signed on for a second landline and phone number.  In theory, this should have resolved our bandwidth competition, except that our son took to signing on to bulletin boards with one of our lines whilst engaging in long-term voice communication on the other line with the same person he was engaging on the bulletin board.  Broadband internet couldn’t have found our house soon enough (and eventually did.)

But that’s just the bricks-and-mortar story.  My nostalgia for the phone number I’m forfeiting is more cerebral and perhaps emotional.  So many significant life events pulsed through the copper wire that struck the northwest corner of our house and found its way inside to a prosaic, non-ringtone, ring, especially because the bulk of our families lived in the midwest:

  • so many Christmases, New Year’s, birthday greetings
  • celebrating Buckeye victories, and lamenting Buckeye losses
  • the death of our wedding’s best man.  I still remember my grandmother delivering the news, while the aroma of fresh-cut sweet peas wafted through the room
  • calling to tell my parents, and then my grandparents of our son’s arrival.  Anecdote: Both my grandfather and father were named Philip, as was I, and when I conveyed our son’s (non-Philip) name to my grandmother, the venerable phone line was silent for quite a few ticks
  • the deaths of my grandparents in the mid-80s, and my last conversation with my grandmother before the surgery that she didn’t survive
  • the wonder of making a phone call and having a pizza arrive at my door
  • conversations of our son’s that we were not privy to, but were likely fraught with love, growth, deception, friendship, devastation, redemption
  • job acceptances, and rejections
  • the nurturing of those first clumsy, inexpert, messy flirtations with the internet and cybercommunication

This event feels a little like losing a family member, a little like physically changing residence and a little like quietly abandoning a friendship that was vital for so much of my life but whose usefulness and relevance has severely dissipated in the last 5 years.  I can still hear clearly the tone and timbre of dear people long dead that this antiquated technology delivered to my ears, and sometimes wonder if, listening really intently, I could detect snippets of those conversations in overtones ricocheting around the copper alloy.  But I’m entering the season of letting things go, and I’m sure this will prove to be one of the least painful.

Western Union

I see that May has gotten away from me, but here’s a sorta-Memorial Day post anyway.  The last time I visited my mom, I was startled to run across this whilst rummaging in drawers and boxes looking for the gold ingots I know are around the house somewhere (click to enlarge):


The “W PHILBIN” is my great-grandfather, and “PHILIP” is my grandfather. He would have been a little over 16 at this rendezvous with law enforcement.  This episode was never mentioned among the tales of hard work and Depression-era gypsy-wandering that my grandparents related.  The story was that, when he turned 13, my great-grandfather bought him a “suit of clothes” and turned him out of the house to fend for himself.  My great-grandparents were middle-class people, so that treatment seems to be more of a custom of the time than an economic necessity (although they had 7 kids). The presumption was that he found his way into the workforce and began building the stable life that I observed him living.

I know that my grandfather knocked around in the southwest sometime in the years before the Navy and meeting my grandmother in Waukegan, but I never knew what exactly he was doing.  Was this the end of that sojourn, a white flag of surrender, or was it another excursion entirely?  What did he do to attract the attention of the St. Louis police?  Was he incarcerated, or in protective custody?

Despite the best intentions of Memorial Day, people slip inexorably through our fingers, their essences yellowing and crumbling in the closets of our recollection.

December, Part 1

The world finally slowed down a tad, before turning on its heel and hurtling into 2010.  I’ll recap December a bit, then turn and face the new year head (and blog) on.

The month started, I think, with a cold, enough of one to make me postpone a business trip to eastern Washington.  It was still lingering a bit on a Friday afternoon when I boarded a plane for a week away from home, first to visit my mom in Toledo for a weekend, then on to Milwaukee for a week of work.

We had a really pleasant visit.  I did something over that weekend I hadn’t done in about 40 years - practiced my trumpet in the basement of the house I grew up in.  See, I’ve been hauling it on my business trips since I’ve been playing in this band, because laying off for a whole week would just kill any progress I’ve been making all fall, and our holiday concert was coming up the next weekend.  (In the hotel rooms, I put my cup mute in, sit on the floor and point the horn under the bed. On a good day, it might sound to anyone in adjacent rooms like space alien sex.)

We made a trip to visit the Toledo Art Museum.  It’s one of those venerable old civic institutions endowed by industrial barons of the gilded age (in this case, Libbey Glass), and has a surprisingly extensive collection.  I would say it’s easily twice the size of Seattle’s.  Toledo was known for a long time as the Glass City, owing to its housing the corporate headquarters of Libbey Glass, Owens Corning, Owens-Illinois and Libbey-Owens-Ford.  It’s no surprise, then, that one of its featured collections is glass art and artifacts, dating from ancient Egypt.  They opened a Glass Pavilion annex a few years ago, and we watched a glassblowing exhibition and perused the exhibits (Click any photo to enlarge):

On Sunday, I did a few odd jobs, including hanging some curtains, that required me to go out to the garage and riff through my dad’s tool shelves. They are laden with tools that date from the 40s and 50s, and the sight of them stirs some of my oldest memories. My dad was a delegator, and when he was doing some job around the house, he always wanted one of us there with him - ostensibly to learn the particular task or skill, but more to the point, to run to the garage and retrieve tools as he needed them. As I touched them, I could hear his words: “electric drill; brace-and-bit; 3-in-one oil; Phillips screwdriver (this one confused me for a while, as they called me “Philip” in my early years). The tools remain there even with the infrequent use they get now, a shrine to a doggedly resourceful DIY guy.

Guide Service

On Saturday, we played tour-guide for a friend from high school whom we had not seen since 1980. In fact, we’d only exchanged sporadic Christmas cards for most of that time and, since we stopped sending them altogether a few years ago, even that exchange was entirely one-sided. For the last 5 months, I’d been carrying her 2008 card around, meaning to respond via some sort of snail-mail device, but I just couldn’t figure out how to use a stamp you can’t lick.

A couple of months ago, however, she found me on Facebook, and two-way correspondence resumed. It turned out that her husband has been commuting to Seattle from their home near Boston, teaching for a semester at Bainbridge Graduate Institute in the idyllic Islandwood setting, and she wanted to use it as an opportunity to make her first-ever visit to Seattle.

Her intended arrival last weekend coincided with the last weekend of her husband’s semester. She’s a person who makes decisions and gets things done, and by the time we started talking dates and times, she had an itinerary put together for her and her husband that included a day in Seattle, a jetboat trip to Victoria, BC for a day there, and a float plane trip from there to Vancouver for two days in that lovely city.

Saturday turned out to be their Seattle day, so I picked her up at her downtown hotel in the morning and we hustled down to a ferry bound for Bainbridge and an opportunity to see her husband’s teaching venue. As luck would have it, Saturday’s weather started out gorgeous and then improved as the day played out. Mount Rainier stood completely disrobed and dominated the southern horizon to our left as the ferry left the terminal, and the Olympics beckoned us from the west.

We found the Islandwood venue, and her husband guided us around the facility. It occupies about 250 acres of second- or third-growth timberland that became available in the mid-90s and was secured as a quasi-wilderness encampment for school children’s outings, corporate retreats and the like. It was designed and built out using as much “green” technology as was available at the time. They even treat their own sewage.  I remember reading about it when it was first endowed, but this was my first opportunity to see it.  It’s nice to see an opportunity like that capitalized upon.  It’s a sweet setting, and will only improve as the trees thicken back to old-growth dimensions.

We had lunch there amongst faculty and students, and it quickly became apparent that her husband had been a huge hit.  So many faculty and students engaged us as we walked around that I started to feel like I was traveling with Mick Jagger.  It was very gratifying to see the mutual enthusiasm he and they had for each other.

We were finally able to tear him away from the facility and spirit him onto the ferry back to Seattle, where Mrs. Perils was waiting to meet us for some city tour-guiding.  We had intended to head directly for Pike Place Market, the levitating fish, etc, but Mrs. Perils advised by cell phone that the place was mobbed with participants in some huge cheese festival.

We decided to instead walk along the waterfront to the Olympic Sculpture Park, an outdoor exhibit sponsored by the Seattle Art Museum.  It’s been around now for about two years, but we hadn’t yet seen it ourselves.  Pictured below are three pretty interesting pieces:

  • Eagle by Alexander Calder, 1971
  • Typewriter Eraser by Claes Oldenburg, 1999
  • Perre’s Ventaglio III by Beverly Pepper, 1967

(Click any photo to enlarge)

I’d like to go back after I’ve done a little research into what’s there.  I left Saturday thinking that it could host a few more pieces, but after perusing their web site, I see that there was a lot of stuff that I missed, probably due to the multi-level design of the place and the amount of socializing we were doing.

Once we’d zig-zagged through the Park, we headed back up Western Avenue to the Market, which had by then thinned out to the point where it was somewhat navigable.  Fish were thrown and observed, the original Starbucks store photographed and a fascinating cavalcade of people rubbed and bumped against.

We initially wanted to have dinner at Etta’s, a seafood restaurant right next to the Market, but their waiting list was too long, so we diverted across the street to a place called Cutter’s, where we noshed on sushi and other delectables and sipped beverages.  The sun was setting gloriously as we settled up, and we walked outside to Steinbruck Park for one more look at the Sound:

Anecdote from the wayback machine: I was in the company of our friend and Mrs. Perils on the occasion of my closest opportunity to participate in a bar fight.  Our friend was in Columbus to join her parents to watch the Ohio State-Michigan game, and Mrs. Perils was in town visiting me as well.  The three of us were out on High Street sampling the campus bars, and had landed in the Heidelberg North, a dingy underground grotto of a place with the ambiance of an ill-maintained urinal.  As we sat at the bar drinking beer, we were approached by a fellow who apparently felt that I had no business in the company of even one gorgeous woman, let alone two, and made it plain that he intended to prise one or both of them away from me.  I stepped between him and them (afraid to give either of them the opportunity to voluntarily ditch me) and told the guy to buzz off.

Fortunately, he was so drunk he could hardly stand.  After some unintelligible insults, someone guided him gently away for a nap on a distant barstool, maidenly honor was saved and I was spared the ignominy of dying on the floor choking on sawdust of dubious provenance.

Feliz Cumpleanos

To Mrs. Perils today. I won’t divulge her age, but I will say that she misses Truman.

Since I’m living the high life gallivanting around the country, I’m going to make sure to save her some extra snacks from the airplane on my way home Friday night.  Perhaps our son will do something festive in my stead.

It’s nice that it falls on the Veteran’s Day holiday.  Way back when I worked for the state, I even got the day off.

Have a fine day, dear!

Day of Infamncy

Over the weekend, I got a birthday card from my mom, and tucked inside was a reminiscence of the October days in 1949 surrounding my birth. My mom and dad met at Ohio State, my mom a year or so out of high school and my dad a veteran attending on the GI bill. My mom tells of how intimidating it was as the university culture was transformed by this flood of vets, predominantly older and all male, and how the faculty seemed to gravitate to them and became dismissive of women “pursuing their MRS degree”.

My parents married in September of 1948, and I was conceived within sight of Ohio Stadium, a product of malfunctioning contraception (sorry, Mom!). They spent the summer of 1949 living with my paternal grandparents, and my dad returned to OSU to graduate at the end of fall quarter while my mom remained in the clutches of her inlaws. In her words:

This lovely October day brought back so many pleasant memories, I wanted to share them with you.  Whenever I experience a warm autumn day, the memories come flooding back.  That summer, your dad’s dog died.  He had had this Scottie since he was the age of 12.  The dog was 15 and going strong until the night he went after a ham bone and in the process of bringing it home, was hit by a car.  We were coming home from visiting some friends when we discovered him on the road.  This was so sad for your dad.  He cried like a baby. 

It wasn’t too long until he found another Scottie puppy.  The rest of the summer, your dad really worked training him.  However, since I was home with the dog and since your dad had to go back to OSU for another quarter, the dog and I became great friends.  When I came home from the hospital after you were born, the dog was so happy to have me there that he ran around and around me so I could scarcely move. Much later, I felt really bad as that was the end of my total commitment to the dog as I was busy trying to learn the ways of motherhood.  So I forgot the dog. 

Your dad left for school and then when you were about to make an appearance, the grandparents took me to the hospital.  Grandpa was so excited (on the way to the hospital - ed.) he had a slight accident by running into the back of a car.  The fellow told him to go on as it was just a bump.  Your dad was on his way home for the weekend and didn’t know what great things were happening.  When you and I came home from the hospital, your aunt Margie (Mom’s sister) came up to stay with me.  Good thing, too, because your grandma and I were really ignorant.  Margie had stayed with a friend of hers who had had a baby, so she knew what to do.  Therefore, we all survived.

Thus I lurched into the world 59 years ago today, raised on love and, apparently, hearsay, with the good fortune to slip in between two beloved dogs.  Thanks for making the effort to write that, Mom (as well as the effort to have me)!

Ball ‘n Chain

Today also marks the 34th annual recurrence of the day Mrs. Perils made an uncharacteristic lapse in good judgment and became my bride. Backstory here.

When I travel, I usually hoard a few packets of pretzels and peanuts to proffer upon my return. This innoculates me from higher expectations that might involve expensive trips to duty-free stores. I’ll have to check my luggage pockets, but I don’t believe I’ve retained any from this trip, and it’s going to cost me.

We have anniversary dinner reservations at a neat little neighborhood restaurant, Tilth, which features eclectic organic fare, and is owned and chef-ed by a woman that Mrs’ Perils knows from her climbing gym. (She’s the last person you’d think of as a social climber, but there you go).

I’m thinking we might do a little bit of urban hiking this afternoon, and arrive at the restaurant in good spirits and with healthy appetites.

Update: I found a couple packets of airline nibbles I saved from last weekend:

I think I’ll take her to dinner anyway.

Gettin’ On

This weekend, back in my hometown in Ohio, they held my 40th high school class reunion. I had originally planned to go, tagging on a hop across Lake Michigan after working last week in Milwaukee. It would have worked out nicely, since my mom still lives in town and I could have combined the festivities with a visit with her and chores around her house. However, my client decided he wanted me in Milwaukee a week earlier, so I sent my regrets.

Since my high school social life revolved almost exclusively around the band, my friends were drawn from 5 or 6 different classes (older and younger) rather than just my graduating class. And while it’s true that Mrs. Perils and I met in high school band, she was in the class of ‘69. For these reasons, plus the fact that we’ve lived in Seattle for the last 33 years, I don’t have super-strong ties to anyone from my class. There are people I’d enjoy seeing, but it’s not like we correspond, or even send Christmas cards.

Still, it’s a milestone of sorts, another chink in my armor. The reunion committee did a really nice job of reaching out to find people, and I got nicely reacquainted through a website they set up to post photos and stories. Some of the stories, of course, were startling in their portrayal of lives that you could never have imagined for certain individuals.

Maybe I’ll make the 50th. From my senior class yearbook:

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Guess I wasn’t what you’d call a varsity athlete! Pitiable male pride probably led me to list “Intramurals”. Sheesh. Also, they misspelled my name - it’s one “l”. Yeah, I was on the yearbook staff, but I did the sports. Still, you’d think I’d check my own entry.

And here’s one from the Perils archive - that’s me and Mrs. Perils gettin’ down at the senior prom. Please be gentle if you comment (Click to engorge):

A picture named Homecoming 66.jpg