Friday, January 23, 2009

I Dis-Remember It Well.

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.


Anonymous said...

.......I knew there was a reason.......
Anon GF

PS. I guess you're feeling better??

vince said...

I think this post makes a prima facie case that Nathan is back and, if not 100%, certainly in the high 80's.

Anonymous said...

The opiates must have worn off by now because your memory is almost crystal clear. Did you forget we were watching the moon landing from one of those clean hotel rooms, so it had to be '69, not'70.

Damn straight you didn't come up with hotel checklists - those were the days before computer keyboards and writing was as foreign to you as doing homework. I'm guessing all that arguing we did has served you well in negotiating contracts, the end justififying the means.
Say it ain't so!

If indeed we did eat all those meals on the road, I now know why an enduring road trip memory is of an emergency pit-stop at a pharmacy in hicksville to pick up a bottle of paragoric to ease the stomach pains. Where was the opiate when we needed it then? Locked away in the upper medicine cabinet, to be sure, well away from more accessible unlocked lower cabinet liquor shelves. Remember when Boone's farm was your drink of choice, what was your favorite flavor - strawberry?

Some dude stuck in the Midwest said...

Magic Fingers? The possibilities are hurting my head now.

Nathan said...


I don't remember the flavor...mostly because the bottle of Boone's Farm got opened up, but set aside while we shot hoops. I'm 99% sure nobody got a taste before Mom and Dad came home and caught us.

And you're right about the moon landing. We saw that in Atlanta on the way home.

Nathan said...


Magic Fingers was this thing where you'd plug in a quarter(?) and the whole bed would vibrate for 3 or 4 minutes. It may have been dimes, though, because gas was around a quarter a gallon then, if I recall. And, no. I don't think it was meant for the kiddies, but the novelty of a vibrating trampoline was too much to pass up.

This was obviously a useless innovation since it's a thing of the past.

Ilya said...

There must be a picture of you two in your OUTFITS somewhere in the family archives. This story practically cries for photographic evidence.

MWT said...

Hmmm. Sounds like your family roadtrips were of the character-building variety. ;)

Anonymous said...

Wanna hear a serious "all about me?" In high school I played Rosemary in a school production of Picnic and I was proud of that role and my performance. Rehearsals finish, performances are about to start younger brother breaks his kneecap when the throttle on the motorcycle of a neighbor kid sticks and my brother rams into a wall. He's very lucky he only broke a kneecap and I was very happy he was mostly okay, but my parents were at the hospital every night while he was there and staying with him at home when he was released, so they never did see me in Picnic. Which made me very sad and very conflicted about feeling sad about my parents missing my performances when they had a kid who had just had surgery.

I'm a petty, petty woman. :(

Count me in with Ilya re: needing photographic evidence of the OUTFITS.

BTW, I think all fathers of that era were all about putting in mileage on road trips. We moved multiple times and stopped only to sleep, slowing down for drive-through food and packed lunches.

Good times...

John the Scientist said...

Got news for you - fathers today are still all about mileage. It's because you kids won't stop bothering each other (or us) and shut the fuck up! And we want OUT of that damn car before we chuck your asses out the window. :D

Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

The father-figure (to my children) in my household has an iron bladder and NEVER NEEDS TO STOP on the road. So annoying... I'm very thankful he likes to highway drive, though, because I don't much.

Yes, pictures please!

Tania said...

As the driver I have to say...

Pee when we stop for gas, or I will have little sympathy for you. Especially when we get 10 miles out of El Paso and now you have to "go". Yes, John (my hub) I'm looking at you.

Jim Wright said...

I was enjoying this story, right up until I got to this part "...leather thong..."

Also, I vote for Seth to comment more, because he's fucking hysterical.

Nathan said...

thong Definition

thong (t̸hôŋ)


1. a narrow strip of leather, etc. used as a lace, strap, etc.

Get your mind out of the gutter, Jim.

Tania said...

all I remember is playing with a goat

How did I miss that the first time through?

Nathan, I thought you knew better than to admit to that sort of thing publicly.

Seth, you're the older brother, couldn't you have looked out for him and saved him from his own twisted proclivities? Huh?

Anonymous said...

I'm sad I wasn't drinking milk when I read that so it could come out of my nose.

Nathan, glad you are well enough to blog. Hope you are on the mend! Do they let you smoke in the hospital? Wow, now that would be a throwback to the 60s/70s.