Saturday, December 31, 2016

Mesa, AZ - Am I Really Married to a 70-yr old?

What’s ‘OLD’ to you? Well, to me, it’s a moving target - depending upon how old I am. When I was 5, the next door girl who was 10 and actually had glasses was ‘old’ Then, when I was 8, the babysitter who was 16, wore make-up, had a boyfriend and drove a car was ‘old.’ At the rip old age of 21, the age difference increased a lot and it was my parents who were in their 50’s who were old. And so on. However, now, I’m 70 and am married to a guy who is 70 today and I’m thinking that the young parents of today are exceptionally ‘young.’ Was I ever that young? It’s all relative.

But, I am married to a guy who is 70 years old today, the 31st of December, a good little tax deduction for his parents back in 1946. So, I thought I’d write an ‘Ode to Gary’ and cull through all the old photos he has laboriously put onto our computer and find some of my favorites.

It stated with Darlene and Milan, nicknamed ‘Lug’ who survived the war where she was a waitress in Fort Dodge and he was in the Navy in Hawaii. They hardly knew each other when the war began but began a long correspondence when he was shipped out to Hawaii. Their letters were censored, of course, but mostly they were about mundane things. He was an artist and drew little cartoons all over the envelopes. About 20 years ago, Darlene was showing these to us but, since they were love letters, she was just showing us the cartoons on the envelopes. Cool. She died in 2001 and he died in 2013. Then the search began. We looked high and low, in the attic and in the basement, through every box they had squirreled away over 55 years of marriage looking for those letters. Never found them, What a disappointment to all of us.

But here they are, in quite a playful mood.
When he returned from the service, they got married, two young kids who hardly knew each other.
Lug was on the GI Bill and he and Darlene drove to Chicago for art school. They had so little money so he took a job with loading up trucks. Sometimes he didn’t even have the 10¢ to pay for his bus ride home and he had to walk. Then he met a guy who told him that he might be able to get a job as an insurance salesman but he had to learn sales techniques first and he took a job selling encyclopedias.

Meanwhile, the family was growing and here is little Gary at 3 months.
He grew pretty fast and here he is out side their apartment in Chicago, jaunty as ever in his cool fedora.
3 years later he had a sister, Cathy. I’m thinking that Darlene must have used the proverbial bowl to cut their hair. Brutal.
For grins and giggles, when we traveled to Chicago many years later with Cathy and Tom, the two siblings recreated the picture and here it is. I think the haircuts are a bit better.
Older now and off to school. This is another brutal haircut. But the bow tie and single button on the jacket make him look so cosmopolitan.
Here’s a family vacation. This was copied from a slide so looks a bit reddish. How high can Gary get those pants?
Who doesn’t have to stop in the Badlands and get their picture taken at this site. And, look at the huge knife tucked into his belt. What was he expecting? Grizzlies?
Milan proved adept at selling encyclopedias so was hired by Prudential as an insurance salesman and was able to get assigned to the Fort Dodge, Iowa office where he worked his whole career.
And, then the cool car. In high school he dated Jan Jones who lived in Badger, a small town about 15 miles from Fort Dodge. He drove out to pick her up, drove back into town for the date, drove back out to Badger to drop her off and then drove back home to Fort Dodge, In the morning his father was stunned at the mileage he had put on the car and interrogated him about where they had gone.

Our high school put on a play each year and one year it was My Fair Lady. Gary got the part of Zoltan Kaparthy, a language aficionado from Hungary.
But, he also ran for Student Body President, which he won. We all worked in his parents basement on his campaign posters, one of which is here. I remember using a huge mirrored thing that took a small picture and reflected it larger on a black piece of paper for us to trace and color. And that’s how we did so many of his posters. But I doubt that it was the posters that won it for him. Must have been that friendly smile. 
Off to college at the University of Iowa. He’s starting to look much more suave than he did in high school.
In the summer he worked for his Uncle Ralph shingling homes in Fort Dodge where he got this awesome tan. Here he is at his ‘desk’ in his apartment above a pizza joint in Iowa City. Note the Johnny Mathis album there, he must have thought that all the women swooned over ‘Chances Are.’ He’s pretty careful with his record player, covering it with a towel but, what are those liquor bottles doing there?
College graduation.
Then, the Navy. He surely didn’t want to go into the Army where he’d be shipped to Viet Nam with a gun in his hand. So he chose the Navy. In college he got engaged to a young woman named Jill whose uncle was a partner with a man named John Ferguson in the Farm and Town Lumber Store in Fort Dodge. When he joined the Navy, she sent him a Dear John letter with the engagement ring in it. Because he was in boot camp, he had to get special permission from the Chaplain to call her. Now, I suppose I should be sad that this happened, but, nope, I’m happy it happened.

A friend took this picture for him to send home to show his parents how suave and cool he looked in his new uniform. Now, Gary worked with a bunch of guys and they all smoked and got breaks to go out for a cigarette. Gary asked if he could go with them but was told that he couldn’t because he didn’t smoke. He had to stay at his workbench and keep working. Well, he’s no dummy, he took up smoking too. When his little sister saw this picture, she yelled, ‘look, he’s got a cigarette.’ And, that was the end of that.

I don’t know the story of this picture and I’m not going to ask.
Gary looks like he’s three sheets to the wind in this picture. Not him.
Gary and I started dating in 1970. In the winter of 1969, I was a teacher in Warwick, RI and was heading home for Christmas. My mother thought she’s invite lots of my old high school friends to a party and called Gary’s mother to ask for Gary’s address. Oh, too bad, Darlene said, he’s in the Navy in Newport, RI and won’t be home for Christmas. My mother must have heard wedding bells even then. Oh, by the way, my father is John Ferguson, a partner in Farm and Town Lumber. Funny, the coincidence.

So, did I fall for him because of his dreamy eyes? His paisley shirt?
His cool fringed pants?
His shiny polished car?
Well, maybe none of those things. Here we are in our first apartment together. Yep, we sure have a sense of style.
Today, he turned 70 and tomorrow is our 44th anniversary. What a great time we’re having and looking forward to many more years together. Who says 70 is old?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mesa, AZ - Tom's Thumb

We’ve got to get out of the RV - Gary’s been working too hard on the inverter and the hot water tank and - well, he’s been busy. One of our favorite hikes is up Tom’s Thumb, down East End, and then around and about on several FLAT trails to get back to our car. Tom’s Thumb is a steep uphill with lots of switchbacks, East End is a steep downhill with lots of rocky switchbacks with scree. But the views are delightful, it’s a loop trail so we don’t have to backtrack and there’s a fine bench half way around where we can sit, have lunch and enjoy the silence.

Bagels on the way - I’ve decided that donuts are too sweet. Imagine that. Big changes.
Tom’s Thumb is normally saturated by the locals who use TT as their daily exercise. Up, down, and they’re gone. Me? How many times did I stop on the way up to catch my breath and let my legs rest? Don’t ask. Enough. I hate to have people pass me - of course, as I get older, it happens more and more often. But today, a Thursday, didn’t have many locals and I actually got to pass some others.
A-a-a-a-h-h-h-h. The top. And there’s Tom’s Thumb. Still a bit of a scramble to the rock itself. But, our goal today is down the East End.

And, down we went. Rocky, steep, lots of scree and switchbacks. But the views - awesome. Looking back up at the saddle.
We’re heading generally down that canyon and somewhere down there is a trail to the left that will take us around this hill and back to the Jeep. And, here’s where the solitude of the trail kicks in. We’ve taken this trail several times and have only met one other person on this trail - a volunteer doing some geological work on the trail. Otherwise, no one - except a befuddled group of hikers without a map and without a plan. When we tell them that the trail only goes down followed by a choice: right back up (yecch) or about 5 miles around the bottom, they quickly turn around and head back down Tom’s Thumb. Gary and I continue.
Lots of rocks around here.
Ah, we’re at bottom and at the bench. Time for lunch. Check out that bench: small rocks embedded in cement - aint’ no one gonna move this bench. But we’re wondering: how in the world did they get it here? We’re 4 miles from where a cement/rock bench could be unloaded by from a truck.
Thank you, Lori and Bud.
Lunch in the solitude of the McDowell Reserve. Oh, I forgot the airplanes. Yep, we’re right under the flight path to the Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix. As soon as one plane flies out of hearing range, another flies in. But with a beauty and grace all their own.

This hare followed us for a while, posing all the way. He’d stop off to our side, pose, then hop hop across the trail in front of us to the other side, pose and then hop back across the trail to the other side to pose again. Look at those ears - and those legs.
Around the hill and we’re heading back to the Jeep. Cool rocks on this side too. Mushroom rocks.
Xenoliths in these rocks. Xenolith is ancient Greek for strange rock, kinda like ‘Ferguson’ is ancient Scottish for ‘old tired hiker’. Actually this xenolith is a rock that was 'enveloped by molten magma flowing around it and survived when the magma solidified into granite.' At least that's what the plaque said.

This looks like a wise old man with a top knot and a secret that he’s going to keep. Nothing will open those lips.
One last view out over the desert towards the mysterious Superstition Mts in the background.
We’re back at the Jeep. Time for clean socks and regular shoes.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Mesa, AZ - Not Your Mother's Park Model

Recently, I’ve been thinking about a park model here in Val Vista. If you’ve read this blog this summer, you might guess why. But let me list the problems we’ve had with the RV lately - and these are only since May 20th of this year. (In all truthfulness, let me also say that we had no problems in 2015 - but we’ve sure made up for it this year.

RV: fan fell off the fan hub assembly but was put back on

RV: fan again fell off the fan hub assembly 1000 miles later

RV: Norcold refrigerator broke 2 years after major repair in 2014

RV: new inverter to take care of new residential refrigerator

RV: water pump had to be replaced

Jeep: ding in windshield which will have to be repaired

Jeep: rear differential rebuilt

RV: control panel for the washer/dryer had to be replaced

RV: water heater check valve had to be replaced

RV: new windshield after getting 3’ crack

Jeep: rear end noises again: we have an appointment for next Tuesday.

And, Gary tells me that there are issues that he hasn’t even told me about. Off-da.

Can you understand why I might be wanting to change direction? Can you see why I might be willing to try something new? To think outside the box? To try something that doesn’t move, that is stable?
Well, I have. So, I’ve been looking around here. And, while I’ve seen lots of older park models, I’ve also seen some that are quite elegant. Some that are quite livable. Some that I’ve seen that have everything that I’d need in a home. But, of course, you have to remember that I’ve lived in an 8’ x 34’ box for the last 3 years and have been satisfied. My tastes don’t run large.

But let me show you pictures of some park models that I have looked at recently. Am I going to buy one - probably not but it’s fun to look and imagine.






And, here’s another one I’ve looked at.





Small, yes, but they have all that we need. They don’t take more than an hour to clean, there is no leaf raking, no grass mowing and no snow shoveling. Now, what’s wrong with that? I'm having a hard time coming up with a negative here.

Here’s one fly in the ointment: these are motor vehicles, they have a VIN number and - they depreciate. No matter how well you keep them up, they depreciate. Anything with a VIN number depreciates - especially in the first year. But, you know me, I bought an RV which depreciates too. But, then, I saw lots of homes depreciate also in the last recession, too. It is a home, not an asset.

Here’s another fly in the ointment: it doesn’t move. We can’t get to a new place in this. It will never be by the ocean, it will never be in the mountains, it will never get to - well, it will never get to any place but where it is. It stays in one place and, if you want to use your money wisely, you stay in it for a while each year. Hmmm. 6 months here, 1 month in Iowa which leaves only 5 months for travel.

Gotta think about this.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Mesa, AZ - Oldies but Goodies

Check out these cool yearbooks - from 1962, 1963, 1964 - my years in High School. Well, they were Gary’s years too but he’s scanned his yearbooks long ago. All we have now is mine left to scan. My choice: put them back into storage intact or scan them. Let’s see, the last time I looked at these was - who knows? Long ago. But I’ve spent a bit of time recently looking them over and - we’ll scan them.
Funny, after we scanned mine, I happened to look up where I keep my cookbooks and found - Gary’s Senior yearbook. I guess I thought that this one should be kept for some reason and I put it up there where Gary would never look. Oh, well, we’ve tossed all of them now and just have all the pictures we wanted scanned into our computer. (Sorry, Sherron.)

We were in the same class and took many of the same subjects in high school so we wrote in each others yearbook. Here's my first stab: ‘May your joys be as deep as the ocean and your sorrows as light as its foam.’ Oh, my, I thought that was so deep. I’d never heard this meaningful adage before and I was so impressed with the seriousness behind the words. Oh, my, spare me. I should have stuck with: ‘It was great having you in Latin class’ and ‘See you next year.’ We are both in this picture: Gary is top left, hand side, I am in the second row, 2nd from the left. Note how full my cheeks are. I weighted 153 lbs in my sophomore year in high school. But, when I realized that my father weighed 155, I began my diet and lost 40 lbs in my junior year.


Who wrote ‘Hugs and Kisses. Forrest’ on the picture of the School Board Chairman in my yearbook?


and ‘Love you’ in Gary’s yearbook? Same handwriting, same person. Who was this mysterious person?

A guy that I had a HUGE crush on wrote ’Good Luck, Sherron, (this name was crossed out and ‘Nancy’ put in) didn’t we have fun in Ms. Gorsuch’s class?’ Who was he having fun with? Certainly not me. Actually, he’s referring to a good friend of mine, but, when you write in ink, it’s there forever. In my Junior yearbook, he wrote: ‘I owe you some reading, I owe you some laughs, gas, but from Algebra and English I owe you’ and he had to draw some arrows to make this make sense. Cross out someone else’s name in sophomore year, draw arrows in junior year - why, oh, why, did I waste so much time on this guy? He obviously wasn’t concentrating on me.



Gary wrote this in my sophomore book: ‘Nancy, Had lots of fun in English and Latin this year. Just watch your SPQR’s. Hope to see you next year.’ (Did he realize that he would still be seeing me in every year between from 1970 on?) BTW, he’s the cutie in the top row on the right.


In our Junior year, he wrote: ‘It sure has been a ball in English, Algebra and Latin. You’ve got a great personality and you’ll go far.’ Did he know that he’d be going ‘far’ with me in our RV?


Finally, in our Sr year he wrote this:


Another friend wrote on the picture of a history teacher named Mr. Johnson, whom we called Big J: ’Hope you hadn’t planned to have Big J sign here. Now I’m sure you remember those important lessons he taught us like Andrew Jackson was impeached.’ You’ve got to be kidding. Did our American History teacher really say this? Even we high school kids knew this was wrong. Maybe that’s why I became a history teacher - to atone for Big J’s mis-statements.


I took debate in my Sophomore year. Here’s a picture of our debate class - we look like a bunch of prisoners on our way to jail. Not a smile to be had. We much have had our ‘debate’ faces on.


And, in gym class, we got to wear some really ‘cute’ uniforms. Everyone had to have one and we had lockers to keep them in. Now - I don’t know of many who took them home after every gym class. We all just stuffed them into our lockers. Some were happy just to get them home on weekends to wash. Others … Oooh, imagine the ‘aroma’ wafting into the halls from that room.

But, it was not the uniforms that were the bane of every girl, it was the showers after every class. We had to strip down to our birthday suits, pile into a mass shower while jockeying not to touch anyone else and trying not to get too wet (and certainly keeping our hair dry) but just wet enough so that we’d pass ‘inspection.’ Yep, Ms. Nordstrom was there at the towel window passing out towels - she checked us out to see if we had really taken a shower, if we were wet. Then she’d give us a towel. Don’t pass inspection, back to the shower and the end of the line. Then we moved into the drying room. No snapping of towels or you’d get detention.

Did we have any team sports? Nope, this was before Title 9. We got to have some school teams and we’d have some matches but nothing big. We had volleyball, soccer and basketball. Coaching? practice to get better? Matches with other schools? Nope, nope, and nope. It always frosted me that only boys could be ‘Patrol Boys’. Of course, now they have females and they are called ‘crossing guards.’
Well, that’s yearbooks for now. I’ve got some more cool pictures of Gary and me but some other time.