In the past several weeks, I’ve been sharing stories about my family. I’ve done a lot of talking about my mother and her business as a building contractor in what is typically a man’s world. The last two weeks I’ve talked about my summer of 1982 in California with my father. Last week I wrote an opinion piece about some 13yo kids on a school bus. I wasn’t very nice to those kids in my writeup but I felt they deserved my wrath. Did they really? Perhaps. I wrote that piece with the belief that kids are rotten by nature. I don’t really want to revisit that entry except to say that no one is perfect and can’t really be expected to be perfect. It’s a tall order to fill on any level. Truth be told, I could have easily been the same way and so could have most of us. Perhaps some of us were the same way and our memories won’t allow us to admit it. We’ve all done stupid things and some of us continue to do stupid things. It’s how we learn to live and it’s a never ending process. One thing that separates a lot of us from our peers is whether or not we learn from the mistakes we make along the way.
How does this pertain to me? Simple. As a kid, I was constantly provided with the opportunity to get into trouble. Once in a while, I embraced that opportunity but usually I chose the other path on the road that steered clear of trouble. Why did I make that choice? As much as I would like to credit my angelic ways (stepping aside to avoid the lightning bolt) it was that I was given other choices. My parents always encouraged us embracing our interests and sometimes they shared in them. For me, those were music, photography, and model trains. To this day, those interests remain with me. As they relate to my ability as a kid to get into or cause trouble, they were the other choices I was given. When I was 10 or 11, my father gave me my first 35mm camera. He showed me how to use it and turned me loose with it. He gave my sister a camera as well, a 126 Instamatic. While our film lasted, we ran around the neighborhood snapping pictures mostly of each other and the dog. I guess we could have gotten into some sort of trouble with taking pictures but for the most part, we managed to avoid doing so.
At the age of 5, my father bought me a drum set. Probably to my mother’s dismay as she was still a stay at home mom at the time. Dad played an accordion and I can still remember him at my side trying to teach me the basics of rhythm. For hours it seemed, while he played, my foot on the kick drum would go boom, and on the snare, tap tap. 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3 and on and on. I probably whined about it thinking I was being punished for something, I don’t remember that part of it too clearly. What I do remember is dad packing up the drums because he said, I didn’t want to practice. Yes, he could be one of those dads at times. What he was really packing them for was preparation for my grandparents to return from St Louis after grandpa retired from the railroad. They weren’t going to tolerate the drums even being there let alone my playing them. He took them to his parent’s house for temporary storage.
That kind of brings me to the third interest. Model trains. I’ll tell you the full story of how that interest grew another day but for now, suffice it to say, it’s been a lifelong interest for me. As a teen, a long awaited promise finally was delivered on. That promise was my own space for my trains in the ‘new’ house. It took several years to get to that point but it did happen. Photography for me as a teen was a passing, usually faded interest because typically, I didn’t have the patience for it. What the trains interest did for me was keep me home and out of the trouble I could very easily have gotten myself into. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t ‘moments’ or lapses of judgement. I was after all, an idiot teenager just like all the rest of them. Testing my boundaries at times and yes, paying the piper so to speak. For the most part though, I was more interested in working on whatever train layout I had going at the time than going out and looking for stupid things to do. Perhaps if it were 30 years later and I had all of the instant gratification that is now available, things may have been different. I can’t really say for sure because, again, as angelic as I like to believe I was, I certainly was capable of getting into trouble. What kept me from doing so was having something else to occupy my mind and time.
With the music, I was also in school band most of my school career. I was a band geek but one of the ‘cool’ ones ;) There was a summer band experience but it was a local one and one I rode my bike to every day. Trust me, that wasn’t much fun, carrying a Tenor Saxophone on a bicycle. It gave me something to occupy my time however, at an age when like those kids on that bus, I could have very easily been out causing problems for somebody else. I had a lot of friends who were constantly in trouble for one thing or another but some always said, that when they were with me, they could have a good time without getting into trouble. I had a few ‘garage’ bands throughout high school, there was barely a kid in the neighborhood who wasn’t part of one at some point. Some tried to embrace the drugs and rock and roll aspect of it, I chose to stay away from the drugs. I can’t really say for sure why I stayed away from it. Lack of money to pay for it or lack of interest and understanding of what drives a person to get stoned. Probably a little of both. In HS, I was known more as the guy who just didn’t give a shit what everyone else was doing. I still don’t to this very day. That is, I was never a follow the crowd type of person but I can’t say I was a leader either. I just did my own thing and anyone who wanted to come with, was welcome.
There were other things that the folks did to keep me out of trouble. There wasn’t a lot of money around during my teen years but there was always something to do. For instance. Dad had a couple trucks and a couple cars. I lost count on how many times I changed the oil in whatever vehicles he had at the time or how many times I rotated the tires. There wasn’t any arguing about it either. The assignment was given, the job got done, whether I wanted to do it or not. My first all to myself vehicle was a 1971 Ford f-100. It was pea green, had a caved in passenger side door, the brakes leaked like a sieve, and if I didn’t gun the engine to redline upon starting it, it would stall at every light. It was a manual transmission with three on the tree (that’s the shifter on the steering column) and I learned to drive with 3 feet in that truck. This had originally been my mother’s truck when she was hanging siding but it became my go’fer truck. I could do whatever I wanted with it but when it came time to pick up materials or deliver cabinets, I had better be at the ready with it or no more driving privileges. All the kids at school were driving cool muscle cars and here I was with this rattle trap rust bucket. You know what though? When it was time for one of my ‘garage’ bands to go somewhere, 2 of us slid into the front while the rest rode in the bed of the truck. My next actual Car was a 1973 Ford Pinto. What I learned with that car was when the brakes start making noise, Stop driving it and get it fixed. That was it for the folks providing ready to run cars to this HS teenager. Do you know what else I learned with that car? That a 5mph roll into the back of a 1972 Impala will destroy the radiator. Next I got to learn how to do body work on the car. An opportunity came to grab a Mustang during my senior year. Just one thing, it needed an engine. This wasn’t one of those badass muscle car mustangs, it was a Pinto wrapped in a mustang body. What I learned to do with that car though is how to swap a powertrain among a lot of other things. This is the car that I let mom trade in for her first Ford Escort while I was out in California. Point is, I never got into much trouble as a kid because there was always something else to do added to the fact, I did most definitely fear the consequences.
Throughout my life I’ve put each of these interests away for a time but there is always something that rekindles them. Music being the latest to be revisited. In the past several years, as I may have mentioned in the past, I’ve combined some of these interests and for the most part, they continue to keep me out of trouble – for the most part. The difference between then and now, the ‘interests’ or hobbies, have become a lot more expensive. That is, I’m no longer happy with the $100 knock off Les Paul guitar I had as a teen, I wanted the real thing. That’s really matter for another discussion though. The point is, especially in this year, 2012, I’ve become more interested in showing the results of my hobbies in the form of slide shows. Shows that combine both the photography and the music. Since one of my photo interests is still the trains, that’s how all three are tied together. Yes, this is kind of another rambling BS post and it’s main purpose is self promotion. As I stated in the California posts, my teen dream was to be a country star. It was probably never going to happen anyway but most definitely didn’t happen due to lack of motivation to make it happen. So now, as I use to entertain my family when I was young, I choose to entertain all of you. Well, those of you who are willing to accept it anyway.
I’ll see you next weekend with another post – about something.