Judy and I recently traveled to the Jersey Shore as guests of new friends. I was expecting something akin to Bagnell Dam on steroids (a cheesy, tourist trap at the Lake of the Ozarks), but instead encountered communities resembling the toniest one might find in the Hamptons. We caught crabs, boated, rode bumper cars on the boardwalk, dined exquisitely, and greatly enjoyed our visit. We also learned one goes Down the Shore, not Down to the Shore. Don't ask me why.
Afterwards, we journeyed to New York City to meet up with son Ben and his girlfriend, Deb. We rendezvoused for Sunday brunch at a popular, uber-foodie restaurant, ABC Kitchen, in the Union Square neighborhood. Reservations are required days in advance. The back of the menu expounding on the "Kitchen's Commitments" caught my eye and assured diners that all ingredients hailed from:
- organic small farms
- cruelty free / humanely treated livestock
- free of pesticides, insecticides, synthetic fertilizers, and GMO's
- organically cultivated on fair trade cooperatives
- celebrating and honoring sustainability, artistry, and global diversity
After being revivified by the tasty, but tiny, $15 meal of scrambled eggs and humanely slain bacon, we journeyed to nearby Madison Square Park to meet a college friend of Ben's. Chion, a delightful young man, lives in Seoul, Korea and works for the electronics division of Samsung. Serendipitously, he was in town for a few days of meetings giving us the chance to get reacquainted.
It was a beautiful, sunny day in NYC, and the park was full of prosperous people. I pulled out my 6-year-old iPhone to take a picture of the others in the shadow of the Flatiron Building. Shortly afterwards Ben, Deb, and Judy went to a nearby concession stand to buy beverages, leaving me chatting with Chion. The conversation went thusly:
Chion, "Chuck, I hope you don't mind me saying this, but your phone is very outdated and is quite untidy."
His observations were in fact correct. My phone is almost antideluvian, and the plastic covering was smudged, scratched, and bulging in all the wrong places.
Chion continued as diplomatically as possible, "In Korea a son is judged, in part, by the quality of his father's electronics."
In other words, had we been in Korea, I would have brought shame upon Ben.
Chion, "Let me help you with this."
He then began to vigorously clean the phone making a marked improvement.
Chion, "Here, this should be better, but you still need to get a new phone."
The following day, Judy and I planned to meet Ben for lunch at Bryant Park. We arrived early so I ventured into the nearby New York Public Library. While in the majestic lobby, I noted a display of index card-sized signs labeled, "What Are You Reading". I added one more entry, and am proud to report, that NNAOPP is now, or at least was for a while, prominently listed among the must-read books in this magnificent edifice.
On more than one occasion whilst shamelessly huckstering my book, I have encountered a fellow amateur author. This should not be surprising as there are over 350,000 books published each year in the U.S. They'll say, "I too have written a book," and proceed to tell me about it.
Recently, we traveled to Vail, CO for the wedding of one of Judy's childhood friends, oddly the first time I've attended the wedding of 67 year olds. Beforehand, I had occasion to lunch with two other guests and the Lutheran pastor who would be performing the services. Pastor Jim is 73, now retired, and through an unusual set of family circumstances reminiscent of the song, "I Am My Own Grandpa," is the nephew of the bride.
After learning of our common interest in story telling, we agreed to swap books. Tales From Trinity, by Jim Bornzin, sat on my desk for a few weeks ignored. The title didn't grab me, but I decided to take a gander and quickly became immersed in the tales. It's a fictionalized account of the life of a parish pastor in the Midwest. The stories are well told and thought provoking. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in a captivating glimpse into the uncommonly complex lives of ordinary people.
A few weeks ago I received a call from a friend and former client I hadn't seen for many years. Someone had given him a copy of NNAOPP, and he called to say that he enjoyed it. Later, he stopped by, and we had a visit. I'll paraphrase some of the stories he shared:
"Your basic training story, particularly your experience of speaking up during the character guidance session, reminded me of my own experience during the Korean War. After two years attending MU, I was drafted. After completing basic training several officers took me aside and asked me to sign up for officer training. I declined, but then, in an offhand manner, expressed concerns about the war. They apparently didn't care for my political views, and one week later I was in Korea."
"By December of 1952 the war had reached a stalemate. U.S. forces had ceased offensive operations, but the Chinese were still going full force. We were positioned on a series of hills on one side of the valley that later became the 38th parallel (now separating North and South Korea), and the Chinese were on the mountain range on the opposite side."
"My platoon was positioned in the 'point' bunker, aka the closest to the enemy and furthest from friendlies. Every night the Chinese would probe our defenses, and we were engaged in constant skirmishes. I was one of only 25 in our company (out of approx. 200 men) who came home unscathed. General Maxwell Taylor (then head of all forces in Korea) decided to take a tour of the front lines, and I was chosen to be his guide. When General Taylor learned that this particular sergeant played bridge, I was invited to complete a foursome with two other senior officers. Bridge gave me several days respite from the front lines, perhaps saving my life."
"We once went 45 days without eating a hot meal. I went nine consecutive months without eating at a table, so I constantly dreamed of a home-cooked meal sitting in our family dining room. When I returned home, my Mom announced she was having a picnic in our backyard with friends and family to celebrate my safe return. She noted my disappointment at hearing of this, and I explained. She then adjusted the picnic to be inside."
Yes, people do have interesting stories.
I had occasion to observe grandson Finn's encounter with an older girl with whom he was obviously smitten. After testing her arithmetic acumen, "How much is 32+32?" and receiving the correct answer, he continued:
Finn, "How old are you?"
Girl, "11. How old are you?"
Finn, "I'm four now." Pause. "But I'll be 11 soon."
Last week I placed an order for the fourth printing of NNAOPP, as I am now out of copies, save for one from the original printing that I am keeping for posterity. Admittedly, the latest order is for a meager 25 books, but who's counting.
That's what passes for news from here.