My brother Seth introduced himself in the comments the other day, so now I get to blog about him with impunity. (Hey, I don't make the rules, I just follow them.)
It turns out he and I were experiencing opiates on opposite sides of the world sorta-kinda simultaneously. He messed up his knee when we were kids and his doctor over there in Asia decided the repair had been fine work for 1976, but that it needed a 21st Century overhaul. So, now we're both convalescing in opposing time zones. The thing I remember about his first knee surgery is that it happened right before my 16th birthday (shut up...this is all about me).
Growing up in Florida, we could get our Driver's License when we turned 16. In my family, there was a strict protocol that was followed thereafter. First, you'd get to drive with Dad during daylight hours for a few weeks. Then, that would expand to driving with Dad after dark. Eventually, you'd get to drive somewhere with only Mom in the car. After 6 months or so, you'd get to take the car out on your own. (I think the deciding factor was that if you drove with Mom and her fingertips no longer reached the deepest gouges in the dashboard, you were ready to drive by yourself.)
On my Sixteenth birthday, Seth was just home from the hospital and knee surgery with a cast that went from his toes to his armpit. (It might not have been that big, but this is my memory.) I don't remember all of the details, but for some reason, there must have been two or twelve other assorted family members in various hospitals at the moment also. In other words, Mom had a fair amount of running around to do. Mom and I were sitting outside the DMV to get my test about an hour before they opened and she was quizzing me mercilessly and reminding me that if I didn't pass the test on my first try, I'd be out of the family. Luckily, for me, I did pass. I dropped Mom off at one of the hospitals (I think), and was given a permission slip to skip school and a loooooong list of errands to run all day. I was in heaven driving all over town in the 1972 Plymouth Fury Station Wagon all day. Look at me! I'm buying milk!
Now, for a brilliant segue. On The Office last night, there was a scene where Michael and Dwight were arguing over the relative merits of Denny's vs. IHOP. This reminded me of "The Great HoJo/HolIn Debate of '69 or '70" when Seth and I would have been somewhere in the 9 to 11 year old range; he's the older one. (I don't remember exactly what year this was, but I asked Seth in an email last night and he's no fucking help at all, so we're going with my recollection.)
Anyway, apparently that summer, all of our older brothers and sisters were gone away to summer camp and Mom and Dad decided to take a road trip with just Seth and I, the culmination of which would be a visit to our siblings at camp.
There are three things I remember about this road trip.
First of all, this was in the days when the back seat of a family car sat 32 people comfortably, seat belts were for wusses and the speed limit was 130 m.p.h. Since Dad's main goal was scoring mileage, meals were eaten in the car. Knives and forks and glass bottles of Coke were deriguer. I haven't got a clue why any of us are still alive.
Second, Seth and I had OUTFITS set aside for when we visited our older sibs so we'd look cool! We each had the following matching items. 1.) a pair of bell-bottoms. (These were either the one style of bell-bottom available that year -- those horrid blue denim things with the wide white pin-stripes, or maybe real Navy-Man pants, since our grandfather owned an Army-Navy Store and those would have been cheap/free); 2.) a 'peace-sign' pendant on a leather thong, and 3.) a suede vest with fringes all over. Each morning, the OUTFIT had to be laid out flat on the bed before being packed up for the next leg of the trip to make sure we'd look appropriately cool when we arrived at camp in front of all the big kids. (To paraphrase Seth, "Gawd, what a couple of dorks we were!")
Last, but definitely not least, for some unknown reason, I was a Howard Johnson's afficianado and Seth was firmly in Holiday Inn's camp.
I need to take a slight aside here to set the stage a little better. I've mentioned that Dad's over-riding goal was to put as much mileage on the car as possible each day. Mom, on the other hand, had to find an acceptible motel. There were three criteria for choosing an acceptible motel: Mom refused to stay anywhere that didn't have, at least, a Queen sized bed for her and Dad (No I love Lucy bullshit for her -- Yay, Mom!); there had to be a connecting room for the kids; and it had to be clean. I don't think she had any kind of CSI kit or anything, but she knew whether or not a motel met her standards.
The HoJo/HolIn debate complicated issues to a degree that I can only imagine made my father want to just shut Seth and I in the trunk every night and be done with it. It was decided that we'd alternate nights between Howard Johnson's and Holiday Inns so that the two of us would shut the fuck up. This. Did. Not. Work.
First, Dad would have to pull off the road and start looking for a motel around 4 every afternoon. This was so that Mom would have time to reject 4 or 5 motels before we comfortably settled in each night. Since each evening's choice was limited to one chain or the other, we might cover an additional 30 miles before choosing the night's lodging.
And once we got there, the fun had only begun. Seth and I devised a checklist to compare the quality of each chain against the other: Did all of the lightbulbs work? Did the bed have Magic-Fingers™? Was there a pool, slide, diving board, high-dive? (and why did we care since we'd be getting back on the road before getting a chance to use it.) In all fairness, I'm sure Seth is the one who came up with the check-list, but he could get me to eagerly argue with him about absolutely anything then, so I was a willing participant.
Eventually, we got to camp and proudly donned our OUTFITS. I'm pretty sure our sibs were embarrassed to be seen with us, so all I remember is playing with a goat.
Note: Family members are free to contradict me on any of my recollections here, but until you get your own blog, my version is the true one. Hey! It's on the internet---it must be true!
P.S. The nifty gift I got yesterday will show up later today. It's worthy of some careful photography I'm not ready to deal with yet.