I. Long ago and far away...
Under the bridge across the Kankakee River, Grampa found me. I was busted for truancy. First grade. 1946.
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, "Who wants my sandwich? ****, this first beer tastes good." I won't tell you what he really said. 1962.
At grad school, when we moved into the basement with the octopus furnace, Dave, my roommate contributed a case of Chef Boyardee spaghettio's and I brought 3 cases of beer, PBRs. Supper for a month.1962.
Sharon and I were making out in the afternoon, clothes a jumble. Walter Cronkite said, " President Kennedy has been shot…” 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". Deferred, 1964.
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, 1968.
US science jobs dried up. From a mountain-top, beery conversation, I got a research job in Germany. Boulder, 1968.
The first time I saw automatic weapons at an airport. Geneva, 1970.
I toasted Rembrandt with sparkling wine at the Rijksmuseum. He said nothing. 1972.
A little drunk, but sobering fast: the guard had Khrushchev teeth.
Midnight, alone, locked in a room at the border, why?
Hours later, release. East Berlin, 1973.
She said, "You know it's remarkable that we're not having an affair." No, it wasn't. George's wife. Germany, 1973.
I said, "May be there really are quarks, but if so, we'll never see them." Truer than I knew. Exit to Huntsville, 1974.
II. In the present century....
And what have I learned? Here's advice for the next ones: On your desk, keep a coffee cup marked, "No Whining", that side out. Final retirement. 2015.
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.
I started painting. Old barns and such. 2004.
I occasionally kick myself for not staying with physics—I’m jealous of friends that did. But I moved on, and came back. There is still problem 12-19 in Becker's mechanics and it still needs solving. 2016 and continuing.
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.