Canto I. Long ago and far away...
Under the bridge across the Kankakee River, Grampa found me. I was busted for truancy. First grade. 1946.
Summer and after school: Paper route, neighborhood yard work, dogsbody in a drugstore, measuring houses for the county, fireman EJ&E railroad, janitor and bottling line Pabst Brewery Peoria. 1952-1962.
Fresh caught Mississippi River catfish. Muddy Yummy. Burlington, Iowa. 1959. Best ever.
In college, Fr. ***** usually confused me with my roommate, Al. Except for grades. St. Procopius College, 1958-62. Rats.
Coming home from college for Christmas. Oops, my family moved a few streets over and forgot to tell me. Peoria, 1961.
The Pabst Brewery lunchroom in Peoria, a little after dawn, my first day. A guy came in and said: "Who wants my horsecock sandwich? ****, this first beer tastes good." We never knew how many he drank. 1962.
At grad school, when we moved into the basement with the octopus furnace, Dave, my roommate, contributed a case of Chef Boyardee spaghettios and I brought 3 cases of beer, PBRs. Supper for a month. Ames. 1962.
Sharon and I were making out in the afternoon, clothes a jumble. Walter Cronkite said, " President Kennedy has been shot…”. Ames, 1963.
I stood in line, in my shorts, waiting for the clap-check. The corporal shouted: "All right, you *******, Uncle and the Republic of Viet Nam want your sorry *****. Drop 'em". Des Moines. Deferred, 1964.
Married and living in student housing. Packing crate furniture. Pammel Court, 1966.
One of many undistinguished PhD theses on theoretical physics. Ames. 1967.
He electrified the room. Every woman in the room, regardless of age, wanted him, or seemed to. The atmosphere was primeval and dripping with desire. In the presence of greatness. Palo Alto, 1968.
US science jobs dried up. From a mountain-top, beery conversation, I got a research job in Germany. Boulder, 1968. Aachen, 1969.
The first time I saw automatic weapons at an airport. Geneva, 1970.
I toasted Rembrandt with sparkling wine at the Rijksmuseum. He said nothing. Amsterdam International Conference on Elementary Particles. 1971.
A little drunk, but sobering fast: the guard had Khrushchev teeth.
Midnight, alone, locked in a room at the border.
Hours later, release. East Berlin, 1973. Harrassment.
She said, "You know it's remarkable that we're not having an affair." No, it wasn't. George's wife. Germany, 1973.
"Maybe there really are quarks, but if so, we'll never see them." Truer than I knew. Exit to Huntsville, 1974.
On my first day at work, my first federal felony. As a joke, I impersonated an FBI agent. What the hell? Huntsville. 1974. Guess what?-- No witnesses left! 2021.
Hard work, good times, difficult times. The first years in Huntsville are not fully digested and may stay that way.
The golden Lord Buddha radiated peace with his smile. Pop, pop. Shots in the distance. Bangkok. 1992.
Accomplishment at work, discord at home. Divorce. Huntsville. 1994. I got the dogs.
New beginnings, a fresh start, true love and life-partner. Huntsville. 1995.
Canto II. In the present century....
Should be working on a proposal, but riveted to the TV. The day the towers fell and nearly 4000 people perished. September 11, 2001.
I started painting. Old barns and such. 2004.
We bet on how many dead bodies we would see. None, but lots of flip-flops and a sheep. Secrets of the Yangtze. 2004
I quietly admired a Rembrandt portrait at the Schiphol airport. Ever inscrutable, his painting had presence, even as the bomb dogs sniffed by. Beagles. 2006.
I’ve lost two close friends that I’ve known for 50-odd years. There aren’t many more. Huntsville. 2008 and 2011.
Here's some career advice: On your desk, keep a coffee cup marked, "No Whining", that side out. Third and final retirement. 2015.
I occasionally kick myself for not staying with physics—I’m jealous of friends that did. I moved on, but stayed interested. Continuing.
I’m eighty years old and walk like a duck. 2021.
Canto III: Coda
Honest distortions emerging from the distance of time. The thin comfort of fading memories. Thoughts on poor decisions and worse outcomes. Not often, but every now and then.
(Begun May 2016)