Is it a boy named Sue, or a town named the Soo?

The two plus years before I attended college was a lot of fun. I think, to this day, a lot of people think that’s how I live my life. Even people I meet today, people that don’t know my past, assume I’m out having fun all the time. The truth is I never discourage that image. I’d rather have the world think my life is a party every day then I’m lazy, or sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. While I never sit at home feeling depressed and I never get bored, it just doesn’t sound fun, I don’t party every day, anymore either. But for two plus years I did. The weekend trip to Mackinaw Island with Jim was one of those ‘’party’’ weekends.

It all started on a Thursday night at the Pier I a bar on Lakeshore blvd in Marquette. Thursday nights at the Pier used to be bahama bomber night. They sold pitchers of them for a cheap price. Wednesday nights at the Pier was jumbo night. I think they sold jumbos of beer for $1.25 or $1.50. I never bought them. I bought the cans of beer for $.90. Oh, that brings up a trick of mine. Men tend to want to buy people with disabilities drinks especially when they’re drinking. They also tend to buy members of the military and women drinks too. It didn’t take too many times out and about to find myself getting drunk when too many people wanted to buy me drinks. Some people, especially when they’re drinking become offended if you don’t accept a drink from them, so when I had enough, I’d leave my last drink full in my can holder. Thanks, this drink is full, see (show them), but when it’s gone I’ll take one! Give me a few minutes. Free drinks are nice until you’re a mess.

Jim can be a lot of fun, but he can be the slowest person ever to get ready. I pulled into his driveway around 1 o’clock on Friday, the next day. Jim looked out the window; he’s on the phone, holds up a finger like he needs a minute. An hour later he runs out to my car, my 1969 GTO, to tell me he needs to shower, an hour and a half later Jim’s finally ready to go. Well, not quite. Jim has to stop by his grandmother’s place first. It was after 5 o’clock when we finally were driving down M-28 leaving Harvey in Jim’s Chevy Nova. Jim wanted to drive and since I drove on last weekend’s road trip to Escanaba, I didn’t argue. The Escanaba weekend was a fun trip. I decided to take M-35 to Escanaba. On the way, I notice a pig farmer on a gravel side road approaching M-35 in an old beat up pickup truck. When driving, I tend to assume other drivers are capable of doing the wrong thing, so I tend to drive defensibly. I let off on the throttle as the GTO approach the intersection of the gravel road and M-35. I thought I was ready, I had slowed a little and switched lanes to pass him when he pulled onto the road without looking. Well that jerk didn’t just pull onto the road on the one lane, he pulled out and drove down the center of M-35. I had no way around him, so I had to brake – HARD. I was already breaking when Jim noticed what was going on. He yelled something and braced himself for the impact. If I wouldn’t have been watching him expecting he might do something wrong, even dangerous, I would have rear ended his truck.

Adrenaline instantly pumped though my body. I’m telling you it’s the best high you’ll ever get. I feel sorry for people that sit at home playing video games or drinking and doing drugs. Get out of the house and go skiing, ride a mountain bike down a steep trail, push your wheelchair into a mosh pit at a Metallica concert. I actually did the mosh pit a few years ago. Oh, and the skiing and the steep hill at the Bark River off road race. I’ll get to the mosh pit story soon. For now, my stories seem to be stuck in the 1980’s.

My GTO went from about 45 MPH to 5 MPH in a matter of feet. I think I could read the micro print numbers on the license plate tag we were so close to hitting him. Jim had to be scared shitless. The asshole pulled onto M-35 highway without ever looking ‘’right’’ in front of us. I backed off about a half mile while the adrenaline pumped though out my body. Then I pushed the gas pedal to the floor. We were probably traveling 90 mph as we approached the truck. With a quick flick of the steering wheel first to the left and then to the right we went around the truck in a flash. The roadway was straight for a few more miles, so I held the throttle at the floor. At about 120 mph the 69 GTO steering began to feel light. At 130 mph the GTO was beginning to float. At 140 I didn’t feel like I was in control of my 1969 GTO that had too many miles on her. I could do nearly a half a turn on the steering wheel and it would change the direction of the car. Even though the GTO still had a little left in her, I slowly let off the gas. Over a mile or two I brought her back down to 55 mph. Jim the goofy nut he is opens the door and says he’s getting out to take a piss. I had to yell at him to close the door. Even though we were going 55 mph, it felt much much slower. Soon we were in Escanaba and less than an hour when we met a few girls at a park. We spent the night at their apartment.

Going out with Jim is always an adventure. Well, maybe not as much now as when we were in our 20’s, but I’d be willing to bet if we went on a two week cruise, we’d be partying in both 1st class as well with the crew in the off limits crew areas and every place in between. One afternoon in Vegas when Jim and I crashed my brother Jim’s wedding, we were playing black jack at Harris casino. The casino, as they do from time to time, was closing down a section of tables. They closed down every table in our area but ours. Jim and I were on a hot streak. Jim was counting on his fingers the cards in his hand. I’d tell him that he had 12, or 15 or whatever his cards added up too. He’d yell back to quit telling the dealer his hand then take a hit. Even though I would tell Jim to stay, Jim was hitting on every hand that was 18 and below. Jim was the first to play and he was getting a three on 18, a four on a 16 or 17. He’d hit four and five times and never bust. I was next and stayed on anything 12 and above. The rest of the players at the table played correctly and we’d win. Soon there were 20 to 30 people crowded around our table in the closed section of the casino cheering us on. When we finally quit a couple hours later, we were up $300 to $400 up each. We were placing $5 bets too. Before we left, the casino brought over a microphone that broadcasted over the loud speakers and interviewed us.

Hanging out with Jim is always interesting to say the least. Finally we’re in his 1979(?) white Chevy Nova hatchback heading out of town on M-28. Yes Chevy made a Nova hatchback. I believe it was the Canadian version. Jim had just had the car painted white. Why? That’s his story to tell. Since it was already late afternoon, Jim had the pedal down and his radar detector on the dash. Even though we cruised 110 to 115 mph much of the way, it was after 7pm when we approached highway 75. Jim said we’d probably miss the ferry to Mackinac Island. He then said the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie) or St Ignace? I didn’t care so I told him to pick one. At highway 75, Jim turned north toward the Soo.

The Soo started off a normal night. We found the part of town with the bars and clubs and did what Jim and I do best. We started talking to woman. It was a fun night. We even ran across others from Marquette before the night was over. The night seemed to go by fast. Before we knew it, it was 2am. We drove by the motels, but they all said no vacancy. Jim even ran in to one and asked, but nope. Then we seen a taxi cab with ‘’Ma’s Taxi’’ painted on the door. Jim drives up and asked the driver if he knew of a motel that might have a vacancy? No, but there is Ma’s whore house not too far away. Jim then comes up with this great idea. We’ll pay them $50 then fall asleep there. No Jim this isn’t a great idea. I’m not doing it. Jim finds the place anyway, but within minutes we’re driving away. I just looked at Jim shaked my head and laughed. We were about three blocks away on a dead end gravel road when I spotted a field. Jim! Pull into the field. We’ll sleep in the car right here. It was pitch black, no houses, no lights, no nothing.

Everyone comes up with a dumb idea from time to time, but we did find a field to sleep in, so it all worked out. It was about 8am, the sun was already up when I opened my eyes. I’m lying across the front bench seat and Jim is sleeping on the rear seat. My eyes quickly focus to see this bearded man looking at me through the open window. Sometimes, maybe most of the time the nice approach is best, but there are those times a direct somewhat forceful approach is needed. This was one of those times. Remind me, I’ll tell you the story of the time I was in Los Angeles when there were 6 or 8 police cars with their lights flashing and more than a dozen cops with their guns drawn on me.

What do you want? I said in a slow direct voice. A little startled he responds, how much for the car? My eyes quickly dart back to the 4-sale sign Jim has in the back window. Jim! This guy wants to know how much for your car? Jim’s out cold, buy gives a moan as he rolls. Jim! This guy wants to know how much for your car? $4,000 Jim yells out without quite waking up. I think Jim sold the car for $2,000 later on, but he got rid of the bearded guy which I was happy for.

I closed my eyes and relaxed for 20 minutes or so for Jim to come alive. Then it was off to Mackinaw Island to try some of their world famous fudge. That story will be next.

Red Bikini underwear

Now that I was completely addicted to leaving my bedroom cave and enjoying life, I couldn’t get enough. I was going out so often, I got in trouble and lost my driver’s license that 4th of July on the gravel road called the AAA. But that didn’t stop me, it was the best thing that ever happened. Not only did it lead me into going to college, but because of it, I started to hang out with Jay Are and I bought the 1984 ford van.

The Jay Are part was easy. One night while at my brother Pete’s garage Jay Are told me that if I ever needed a ride, because I didn’t have a driver’s license, he’d give me one. A day later he’s picking me up in his custom built 1972 4 wheel drive SS El Camino. Here in California there is a road called the El Camino Real. It’s Spanish for the King’s highway, the Royal road or the California Mission trail. It’s an historic 600 mile road that connect 21 missions that were built here hundreds of years ago. One of these days I’m going to ask a pretty girl if she wants to take a motor home road trip to visit all the missions. It might take a week, so she’ll need a suit case.

Oh, Jay Are. We started hanging out together by going to Walstroms and playing pac-man. looser would buy an 8 pack of 16 ounce bottles of mountain dew. Jay Are had patterns, so he won 7 out of 8 games. I didn’t care. I was getting out of the house. For me, it was a very small price to pay. His El Camino is 4 wheel drive with 38’’ tires? To enter his El Camino one has to climb into it. The floor board is probably 3 feet in the air. I’ll have to ask him someday, but I don’t think I’m exaggerating. Still, Jay Are would lift my 145 pound body into the passenger seat every time we went out. I was skinner back then. Crap, I have to start exercising more. That will teach me to tell this story.

Jay Are’s El Camino could go places. I’ve never been in a 4 wheel drive vehicle that could go through mud and snow like his. One night we were going to Jackie’s grandfather’s cabin behind the farm. It was winter time. The cabin was a mile behind the farm. In the summertime you could see the road or path if you will through the field. But this night there was snow on the ground. The snow was 3 feet deep, which wasn’t a problem for Jay Are’s 4 wheel drive. About half way there Jackie point off to the right saying the cabin was just over there a ways. Jay Are turns the steering wheel that direction and the front of the El Camino drops 2 to 3 feet. The snow level didn’t drop just the ground below it. It’s now coming over the hood. Although the El Camino could go through snow, it wasn’t going through six to seven feet of snow. We’re now stuck. So Jay Are calls AAA. Just kidding! Upper’s don’t call AAA to get themselves unstuck or a jump start for a dead battery. They carry a shovel and jumper cables. I’ve had a set of jumper cables in every vehicles I’ve ever owned. When I owned the 1979 Ford pickup truck, I not only carried one shovel, but two shovels. That way my passenger could shovel as well. I also carried a chain and cable come-a-long or some would call it a hand winch. I actually have a chain and cable come-a-long in my motor home right now – old habits day hard. Anyway, Jay Are only had one shovel, so Jackie, Gwen and I stayed in the nice warm truck while Jay Are shoveled snow. I bet he shoveled snow for an hour. Then he got into the truck, put it in reverse and backed out of the deep hole we were in. From then on Jay Are and Jackie were in much better communication on the directions to the cabin.

Jay Are and I have become great friends because we are both a like in many ways. But mainly, we look for the positive in life, not the negative. Oh, here’s a perfect example, sorry Jay Are, but it’s the Mitchell South Dakota story. Sometime prior to that trip we went to my cousin’s wedding in Ely Minnesota. We arrived there early but didn’t have directions to the church, so we decided on lunch at a local restaurant. At the restaurant was a different wedding reception taking place. Weddings are like birthdays to me. You should congratulate everyone on their wedding day and wish everyone a happy birthday. So just before going to give my congratulations to the bride and groom, Jay Are gave me a challenge. He told me I wouldn’t be able to get ‘’a dance, a hug and a kiss on the cheek’’ from the bride. I love a challenge, so off I went into the reception hall to accomplish my new task. The hug was easy. The dance was even easier. But the kiss on the cheek was the real challenge. The groom, best man, father of the groom and I became friends for the day. When asked why I was there, I told them the truth. I believe in congratulating people on their special day, which includes the family. I also told them of Jay Are’s challenge, which they thought was amazing that I’d take on a challenge like that. They were actually hoping I could pull it off. I wheeled up to her several times, but I just didn’t see it in her eyes. And, I wasn’t going to cheat and tell her about the challenge to get an easy kiss on the cheek, so I didn’t fulfill the challenge. But I had fun. Jay Are, he never crashed the reception even though several members of the wedding told me to bring him in. some people are wedding crashers and some people aren’t.

So Jay Are and I are returning from my annual pilgrimage to Denver Colorado, to be more accurate Englewood Colorado. In 1979 I went to Craig hospital there for my rehab. I spent 4 months there, which I’ll tell more about later. I used to go back every year afterwards, but then I moved to San Jose California. Here in San Jose is a spinal cord rehab hospital. I don’t like them here, so I quit going to them. I’m now seeing doctor’s at Stanford. But they don’t do the spinal cord issues well, so I’m in the process of getting a referral from them to go back to Craig. I’m getting old and having a few issues.

I’m driving my 1984 ford van home from Denver when I start losing power. The gas gauge is also dropping like a rock. Two minutes under the hood and Jay Are says the fuel pump is shot. He tries to jimmy it to work, but no luck. With that said, Jay Are and I always seem to have good luck together, even when we don’t. We decide its best to get off the highway, so I start driving the van at full throttle which is maybe 20 miles an hour and probably two gallons a mile. One quarter mile down the road is a sign for an exit to a rest stop a mile down the road. As luck would have it, this rest stop has a pay phone. This happened in the 80’s long before cell phones. A quick phone call to AAA (we both have AAA memberships) and they’ll be here in 20 minutes. The tow truck arrives and on the door says ford garage Mitchell, SD. One of us asked them if they were open on Sundays, the next day, and he said yes. Jay Are tells him the problem with the van and the guy says not a problem that it would be an easy fix. I, who was attending college was given a case study in a management class on the Holiday Inn corporation. Did you know that every Holiday Inn must have a restaurant and a bar or lounge? I did. You cannot say I didn’t learn anything in college. Now-a-days, you’ll see Holiday Inn Express. They don’t have the requirement for the restaurant or the lounges. So I ask the tow truck driver if there was a Holiday Inn in Mitchell. He replied there was one on the way to the ford garage – great, drop us off there.

You’re probably already guessing where this story is going, but I’ll tell it anyway. The young lady at the front desk of the Holiday Inn informs us there is one room still available on this Saturday night, but it’s not a handicap room. I don’t care, it has two beds that’s all I’m interested in. We drop off our overnight bags in the room and off to the lounge. Jay Are and I are in our late 20’s, single, out of town on vacation and no longer driving, we’re going to be happy on this night we broke down. We had just ordered our 2nd drink while playing stump the bartender when four men wearing tuxedos entered the bar. I quickly asked who the lucky man was. Three men quickly pointed out the winner of my question. If you’re in a bar and someone is getting married or it’s their birthday, it’s only polite to buy them a drink. Jay Are and I paid for their round of shots, which made of best buds for the night. This was one wedding I didn’t have to crash. I was invited to it. Over the years I’ve attended 15 to 20 weddings I didn’t have a clue about until I got to the hotel. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many I’ve crashed, but if I’m at a hotel for any reason and there is a reception of any type going on, I’ll wander in.

Jay Are doesn’t crash the wedding with me, but he does keep the bartender company when I’m on one of my three or four trips inside the reception hall. Of course the challenge is still on for me to win the trifecta. Again I became best friends with all the men there. I danced with the bride and a few other women. If I remember right, I even danced with the mother of the bride. It was like I was an honored guest from a far away land. And I tried, but I could get that elusive kiss on the cheek. To this day I’ve never received the kiss on the cheek when crashing a wedding.

It was about midnight when the bar and reception hall closed for the night. Even though we were invited to party with the wedding party in their rooms, Jay Are and I headed back to our room to call it a night. I’m taking my prescription pills before bed and about to take off my shoes when I hear Jay Are snoring, already. I turn around to see Jay Are face down on top of the covers wearing only his red bikini underwear. I have my foot over my other knee about to take my shoe off when I change my mind. I’m going to party with my new best friends.

I have no idea where the room key is, so I grab my overnight bag and head for the door. I open the door, then prop it open with my overnight bag so it won’t close. I took a quick glance at the room number, so just in case I know what room I’m staying in and I’m off down the hall to meet up with the gang. Now the wedding party had two rooms joining that everyone was partying in, but they were both packed with people, so I stayed in the doorway/hallway. That way I could keep an eye on my room too. Since the door was opened, the light from the room shown out into the hallway. It was about 3am when the bride and maids of honor did a head count and found the best man/brother of the groom missing in action. He wasn’t at the party nor was he in his hotel room. So the women set off to rescue him from where ever he decided to pass out. He wasn’t feeling any pain earlier, so if he wasn’t in his room I was betting on his car, because that’s where I would have gone to hide.

About a half hour later I can see from my advantage point in the doorway of the wedding party’s room that the five women are returning from their king Arthur quest to save the world. I sat there watching the wedding and bridesmaid’s dresses bouncing about as they skipped down the hallway when they suddenly stopped 75 feet down the hallway. The groom was in the hallway with me and a few others were in ear shot, so I quickly told them how the room the women were stopped at was my room and my buddy Jay Are was sleeping in there on top of the sheets wearing only his red bikini underwear. Now there were six or seven of us watching the women trying to decide if they should enter my hotel room. After what seemed like a lengthy discussion, one girl went into my room. She quickly came screaming out and pulled the others in the room. Soon all the women were running down the hallway laughing and giggling like school girls. But I have to admit, we were having just as much fun watching.

It was about 4am when I finally called it a night and finally closed my hotel room door. The hotel room telephone rang at 9 o’clock sharp. I looked over to Jay Are’s bed and asked if he could get that. I closed my eyes again. I did not feel like trying to drag my body over to the phone. I heard a, yes it is, ok, ok, ok, click. Considering he got 9 hours of sleep, Jay Are, all bright and chipper says the van is all repaired, that they’re sending a car over to pick us up and the total cost was going to be only $20 because it was still under warranty.

I’m going to have to do a part two on this story because have to go and I had another point I wanted to make when I started. But that’s the kind of luck Jay Are and I always had when we traveled. Even though things happen that might piss others off, we’d take them in stride and they’d turn into a fun story to tell.

Spring Break – Where the girls are

I love my motor home. Prior to it I was traveling across the country in my 1992 Ford van. It served me well. I still have her. She’s old and is now living up to her name, ford (fix or repair daily). Ford lovers, don’t send me letters. She has over 200,000 miles. All vehicles with high milage have problems. Then before the 1992 Ford van was the 1984 Ford van that I bought without the interior which my family and friends helped me with the interior.

 

Now I have this condition called CRS (can’t remember shit), so if I start repeating my stories, please bare with me. You’re allowed to laugh at me. I laugh at myself all the time. Hey, I’m 50 years old and happy. Laughter is healthy. So if you’re laughing at me, I’m helping you live longer. I feel sorry for those who look for the negative in everything.

 

Crap, what was I going to write about? Traveling. When one is paralyzed from the chest down and especially with paralyzed hands, the very simple things in life become very difficult if not impossible. A few months ago I was sewing something on my ‘’so called’‘ heavy duty sewing machine. The fabric became tangled and the machine jammed or locked up. I thought if I removed the needle, I could unjam it. After getting pissed off some, I finally broke the fabric loose. Now I had to reinstall the needle. That little screw was a pain to put back in. It took me over an hour to get it back in place. Now after a few minutes of trying and failing, I could have given up and called a friend or two or three to help, but I felt I could do it, and I did. It just took me an hour to do something you wouldn’t think twice about doing in 30 seconds or less. I just finished drinking my morning can of mountain dew, so I’m a little wired on the caffeine and sugar. Lets see if I can remember my point to this story? When I can’t get a small screw in my sewing machine, no one dies. If a small screw falls out of my ford van when I’m traveling alone, I could be in trouble. Traveling alone is a lot scarier then sewing alone?

 

But it’s a dream of mine to travel. When I was lying in a hospital bed it was my dream to get a passport and travel the world with my family and friends. Well, that takes money, money I didn’t have, so I decided I was going to travel across america. After I went to Vegas for the important fours days with Mike, I knew I needed to travel. But I was a long ways away from traveling alone. Then fate stepped in. A few weeks after returning home from Vegas, I received a phone call from my brother John. He was in Green Bay Wisconsin and needed a ride home. Why? That’s his story to tell. But after giving him money so he could pay ‘‘someone,’’ we started talking on the way back to Marquette. His plans for leaving Marquette fell through. Somehow spring break in florida came up, he had a friend living in florida, I had 1979 blue Chevrolet Monte Carlo, so lets go to florida. (this is a year before the 1984 ford van)

 

A few weeks later we pack up the trunk of my Monte Carlo with two suite cases for me. One with clothes and the pretty rose colored one. I’m sure I had ‘‘everything’’ I thought I could possibly need because the trunk was packed full and John had only one small suite case. To this day I still travel like that. I take two or twice as much of everything I ‘‘think’’ I might possibly need. Then I always forget something very important. My last trip to Florida, two years ago, I forgot the charging cord for my samsung digital camera. I’m finally taking pictures. I’ve traveled for years without taking them. I know, I was stupid. These stories would be so much better with pictures. Plus the hairdos people had and the clothes we thought were cool? How about the 80’s when everyone had a mustache?

 

Driving to Florida was as exciting as it was scary for me. When my life changed on May 13, 1979, the family house on 322 East Ridge street became my sanctuary. Especially my bedroom in the basement. The house was built in 1880. The foundation (basement) was made from sandstone and poured concrete walls two feet thick. My bedroom was at the opposite end of the house from the basement door, so there was a long hallway with the thick stone walls leading to my bedroom. My bedroom sanctuary was like my own little cave that protected me from the cruel world. Even my bedroom door was 100 years old made from 2 inches of solid hard wood that when locked could keep out seal team six. I even had a TV, fridge and microwave in my bedroom. I could survive for days without ever having to leave my room.

 

But I wasn’t driving to florida alone, I had the security of knowing my brother John was there riding with me in the passenger seat of my car. Florida is the second longest state you’ll ever drive in. The excitement from driving over the Florida boarder from Georgia soon ends when you read the road sign that informs you you still have 400 miles to Miami. The longest state to drive in is by far Michigan. When you drive home from a three week trip to Florida and you cross over the Ohio – Michigan boarder, you don’t need a road sign informing you you still have a long nine hour drive still before you arrive home in Marquette. It’s like Christmas morning and you receive the coolest toy ‘‘ever’’ but it requires six D batteries and you searched every flashlight in the house only to find five. The coolest toy ever is going to sit there for a whole day unplayed with until you can get the last D battery.

 

Florida was like a whole new world for me. Although I had been there a few times, the previous time I was 16 years old, I was still a child traveling with my parents. On that trip I met the son of my parents friends the lived in Ft. Myers Beach. He was into cars. He had an old Ford two door with a 390 cubic inch motor. It was all stripped down to loose weight and it had racing slicks on it. The car wasn’t street legal. But just outside of town there was a straight stretch of road that the locals would drag race on. There was one or two police cars there to make sure everything was under control. It was so cool to watch the cars pair off and race. During one race with my new friend, I even got to sit in the passenger seat on a milk crate. There was only the drivers seat in the car. We lost. My friends car had a shitty shifter. He had to double clutch to shift. You’re not going to win many drag races double clutching. I’ll never forget the most important thing about motors my new friend told me. A motor is a big air pump. The faster you can get the air through the motor, the faster your car will go. If you’re going to put on a big 780 holly double pumper carburetor on the top of the motor, you’ll need larger freer flowing exhaust (headers) on the rear to allow the increased volume of air to leave the motor. When I got home from that trip I had two baseball caps made. I don’t remember the first one, but the second one said, ‘‘stock sucks.’’ It wasn’t just about high performance is better then stock, but also a play on the air pump idea. A stock motor doesn’t suck enough air through the motor fast enough. When I was in the hospital right after the accident, my sister Connie told me my younger brother Jay wore that hat everyday. Of everyone in my family, my brother Jay has the biggest heart, by far!

 

My brother John’s friend Spenser was a great host on our stay in North Miami. Spencer was 18 or 19 with two room mates of the same age. We were all young, so we were doing something every day or night. They took us to the beaches where I seen thousands of beautiful girls in bikinis. We went to the bars and clubs. Went to Ft Lauderdale for spring break a few times. There was a movie out around that time called, ‘‘where the boys are.’’ That was spring break in Ft Lauderdale when we were there. We were in all those bars and more. I saw my first wet t-shirt contest. I flirted with every girl I talked too. I was too stupid to know how to pick them up, but I had fun trying. We went to Bush Gardens and several other touristy things.

 

That trip was a blast. I changed so much because of it. I now seen my bedroom sanctuary as the cave it truly was. Now that bedroom was for sleeping, only. The world was big and beautiful. The people in it are friendly and helpful. I know how Lewis and Clark felt when they seen the Mississippi river, the great plains, the rocky mountains and finally the pacific ocean for the first time. Exploring was a drug and they were addicted to it. A couple of months later the 4th of July weekend came and I was arrested. But it was too late. I was addicted to enjoying life. An addiction I hope I’m never cured of.

 

A few weeks ago I got my hair cut by the lovely Angela. I brought my birth certificate with me, so on the way home I could apply for a passport. I arrived at the passport office at 3:10 and it closed at 3 sharp, but two days later I made it on time. A few days ago I got the call that it was approved. Someday soon my travel stories will involve getting a stamp from a foreign country.

 

Thanks John and Spenser for the spring break that changed my life.

my passport photo, well same shirt and hair cut

College, it’s not just for breakfast

My college days… I truly enjoyed going to college. My dream was to attend college somewhere away from Marquette. The University of Wisconsin at Madison was my first choice. I figured it was close enough to Marquette that I could drive back and forth on a weekend. I had several friends and relatives living in Wisconsin and Minnesota, so I know people nearby if I ever needed help. But mainly it would be a reason to leave Marquette and live somewhere else for a while. But after realizing the cost of the school and housing, I quickly put that dream to rest. Then maybe I was still a little afraid still to move away from Marquette. In Marquette I had family and friends to pick me up off the ground when I’d fall out of my wheelchair, repair my vehicles, change burnt out light bulbs I can’t reach. I could make a list a mile long on reasons I should stay in Marquette rather then moving away. Sorry Jeri, I need to tell this storey first. I was at the karaoke bar last week. Yes, I go up on stage and sing like the fool I am. Jeri is a lovely woman that is originally from Ireland. I don’t know why, but women with an accent are intriguing to meet and talk too. Maybe it’s because I know they’re from someplace else someplace I’d like to visit. When I was 17 and lying in a strange circle type hospital bed that rotated me every 6 hours from lying on my back to lying on my stomach, I day dreamed about getting a passport and traveling the world with my family and friends. You know what? I’m getting my haircut tomorrow. I’m taking my birth certificate and social security card with me. Before coming home, I’m going to get a picture taken then go to the post office and finally apply for the dam thing. Oh, Jeri asked me how I came to live in California. It was 11 o’clock. If you’ve been reading my stories, you know it wouldn’t be remotely possibly to finish telling a story like that before the karaoke bar closed in Japan’s time zone, so I told her about this blog and promised to write about it soon.

I’m lost. What was I talking about? Oh, college. I talked myself out of going to the University of Wisconsin and I signed up at Northern Michigan University (NMU). A university located right in Marquette. Looking back at it, I’m so glad I did. I learned a lot, meet some great people and had a lot of fun.

During that summer I still hadn’t figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I missed the fall semester. I literally went to sign up a week after classes started. The lady at NMU told me I could start late that it would be OK, but I decided to wait and start on time. It worked out great. While Christmas shopping at Yonkers, a store so much like the Kohl’s department store Kohl’s bought them, I seen I briefcase for sale. It was on sale for 25% off because someone changed the combination and it was locked. I thought it wouldn’t take that long to go through all the combinations and open it if I bought it, but thought better of it. What did interest me was how useful it would be. I could carry my books, note books, pens, etc. in it to class then while there use it as a desk on my lap. After finding the briefcases that weren’t locked, I found the one with an interior I liked and a nice brown leather exterior, I bought it. I still have that briefcase today in my closet. It worked great. You’ve been to school. Those little desks are nearly useless for someone in a wheelchair. I say nearly. I’d put my books on the desk I was using for the class I was in and use my briefcase as my desk to write in my notebooks, do my class work and take my test and quizzes. Now, NMU would have put a table in every classroom just for me, as a matter of fact, they asked me in the beginning if I wanted someone to help me while I was on campus. I could have had a personal assistant pushing my wheelchair, carrying my books, opening doors, etc. for me every day I was on campus. But that’s not my style. I take a lot of pride in being as independent as I possibly can. My hands are paralyzed, so there are so many things I’ll never be able to do. I’ll always need some help, but I try, everyday. It’s not my legs’ being paralyzed that makes my life difficult, it’s the hands, or the lack of the ability to move them that is hard. What I do have that is so important to make my life SOOOOO much easier are leather push cuff mitts, or what I like to call wheelie mitts. I used to get them from a mail order company, but now I make my own. I’m still working on what materials are the best to use, but when I do I’ll post them on here for sale. I would not even attempt to make it through a day without a pair on. I use them to hold my pens and pencils, forks and spoons, knives even butcher knives, wrenches and screwdrivers, oh crap, everything I possibly can and I wouldn’t/couldn’t push my wheelchair without them. They are that important to me.

I knew college was a big step for me. Not just the higher education aspect of learning, but the mechanics of wheeling across the campus in the snow, taking notes (I couldn’t write very well) and all the other fears one can dream of that doesn’t come true, so I signed up for only two classes – a math class and an English class. I spaced an hour break in between the classes which turned out to be perfect. I got a B+ in both classes which put me on the dean’s list. I can do this!

My hand writing improved a lot during my first semester, which on a scale of 1 to 10 went from a 1 to a 4 or so. Often when trying to read my notes I’d spend forever trying to figure out some of the words. My spelling was/is terrible as well. During the summer break I bought my very first computer. It was an 8086 Xerox computer with a screen that had those orange dots for a display. I’m about 80% sure they were orange and not green, but I could be wrong. It had two 5 ¼ floppy drives, so that means no hard drive. My printer had the paper that had the holes in the side so the printer could continually feed the paper from a box you kept behind it. Of course the writing software was Word perfect 2.0. In order to do a spell check, you had to remove one of the 5 ¼ floppies and load the spell check program every time you wanted to use it. You saved your file on the 5 ¼ floppy as well, but you better be careful, they went bad often. In those days, you backed up everything at least once – often more. But it worked a lot better than a typewriter.

At Christmas I treated myself to my first computer upgrade, an internal hard drive. It was very small in today’s standards, but, wow, what a difference. The next year, my second semester I signed up for two classes again, then three classes my third. After that it was a full schedule. After a few semesters I bought another computer. It was a 386 (Northgate) with a color monitor. I had that computer for three years or so. I upgraded probably most everything on it but the mother board itself. I installed a faster processing chip, ram memory, video card, sound card, game card external CD drive and monitor. Near the end it kept crashing. It took me nearly a month toying with it installing and reinstalling everything in different order because at some point it would always crash. I think the best way to explain it would be to imagine buying a Dodge Dart car then trying to put on Pontiac heads, a Ford intake, a Jeep carburetor and Chevy wheels. Back in those days there were new computer companies popping up every day. But there weren’t many if any real standards if any. Often things weren’t compatible.  I finally gave up and bought my first Pentium powered computer. I believe it was a Gateway. I didn’t buy my first Dell computer until I moved out here to California. Over the years I must have owned 10 computers, which I still have three.

I loved my college years. Because I didn’t take a full schedule until my 4th semester, I was automatically going for five years or more to get my four year bachelor’s degree. I started off thinking accounting would be great, but after my first accounting class I knew that wasn’t for me. Next was a degree in computers, then? I didn’t know, so I took Northern’s class book and highlighted all the classes I had already completed in Northern’s Chrysler’s school of business program. They offered accounting, management, computer science, computer information, business, etc. One day I even made a spreadsheet on a excel type of software that showed all the degrees Northern offered in their school of business. I had each one showing what classes I completed for each one, what classes I still needed, credit completed, my running GPA grade point average and a few other stats. It wasn’t until I started my junior year. I needed to finally pick a major. I didn’t have a clue, but as luck would have it I actually dropped the Northern’s book of degrees. When I picked it up, it opened to a school of business degree I had no idea they offered. It felt like my guardian angel was up with the others looking down on me laughing at how stupid I am and saying, ‘’this guy wakes up every morning (even on Saturdays when the markets are closed) at 6am to watch the stock market and listen to the financial news, but he’s not smart enough to flip the page in a book ONE MORE TIME to see the college offers a degree in finance? Guess it’s time to knock the book out of his hands on to the floor and have it open on the finance degree page so he’ll see it.’’ I swear that’s how it actually felt to me. I bet a dollar I looked up and said thanks, I’m an idiot. So I finally graduated with a degree in finance and a minor in computer information systems. The world of finance just makes sense to me. It always has.

My last 4 or 5 semesters were probably my most fun. Well, not the second to last. I was taking finance and computer classes, which I truly enjoyed. I also joined a fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi (AKPsi) which some of my finance degree brethren were members of. Growing up in Marquette I knew countless number of people, then with all the friends I had at NMU, I had fun. I like who I am.

For a couple of semesters I was the Masters of Ceremony at AKPsi. It was always interesting when I’d have to speak during the official ceremonies. There wasn’t just the $2 to 5$ words I had to try pronounce, there was the $25 words too. During the practice sessions, everyone including me just laughed when I’d try to pronounce some/most of the words for the ceremonies. At the official ceremonies themselves I just did my best to read the words without slowing down or stopping. If you go to college, get involved in something on campus, especially if you’re going to school in your home town.

When I look back to my college days, a few memories always seem to pop into my head. The first one is a short quick one, lol! I’m sitting in the front row in the classroom. The professor flips through the stack of quizzes we took the day or class before and hands to the person sitting at the front desk all the quizzes for each person in that row. I quickly find mine and hand the rest behind me to the cute girl sitting behind me. She was a finance major, so she and I had been in a few finances class together. She was also in my fraternity, so we knew each other for a few semesters. I was really understanding the material, so I thought I did well. When the cute girl asked me how I did, my mouth couldn’t say the words. I showed her the quiz with the big red C on it. How did you do? I asked. I received an A, she replied. But I always tested well, she quickly added. I was bummed. I guess why this story means a lot to me is what she said next. Jerry, you understand this stuff. I don’t understand it at all. You know this stuff better then the teacher. You often correct him when he’s wrong. If it wasn’t for your discussion with the teacher, I wouldn’t have a clue what this class is about.

That meant a lot to hear her say that. I worked hard in college. I went to every class whether I wanted to or not. I read every chapter before the lectures. And I studied and did all the homework. The reading wasn’t my best part. I don’t learn easily from a book. Most of the time I’d finish reading the chapter(s), close the book and not have a clue what I just read. It took me a few semester to realize that was OK. Even though I didn’t remember it at the time, later during the lecture light bulbs would start to flash. That’s when I’d learn the material. If the teacher didn’t explain it so I could understand it, I’d ask questions. I’m not getting it. Why does this happen when you do that? Where does that number come from? Even though I often didn’t remember what read before the lecture, often during the lecture, often with a question or two, or three it would come back to me and begin to make sense. With the teachers that liked me asking questions, when I finally understood, I’d say something like, ‘’so what you’re really trying say is A = B because of C even though you can’t see C! And if I could make it funny so the class would laugh, I would. You may not believe it, but there were teachers that liked me because of doing that. When I would break down complicated theories into layman’s terms so I could understand it, the entire class would benefit. Some teachers would get me involved in the lecture because they knew the class would listen to us discussing it. Sometimes I would say off the wall things when asked what I think? I’d respond with something like, I think it’s time for lunch, or this class would be more fun if we wine, cheese and crackers right now or, I’m thinking about going to the R.E.O concert on Saturday night. Like I said, there were a few teachers that liked me, most just put up with me while some hated me. Some thought, who is this want to be comedian think he is trying to take over my class? A few times a classmate would kick my chair then give me the look like, STOP! Shut up, you’re pissing him off. Sometimes I’m not very smart. I’m often my own worst enemy.

Finally after every lecture I’d read the chapters again. I went to college for an education, not a piece of paper.

While I could write a book alone on my college years, the next two stories involve a cute little girl from East Beirut Lebanon. Her name was Jamona. I have no clue on how to spell her name. She was a finance major with me, so we had several classes together. She’d often ask me what classes I was going to take so she could take the same or suggest I take a different one with her, which I usually did. Jamona had this cute smile that if she would have asked me to rob a bank, I’d start planning it.

A teacher that taught several finance classes was named Charles something. Chuck as I called him was one of the teachers that liked my involvement in class. He was very smart and really knew what he was teaching, but too technical. With him it took time to understand his lecture. it often took a lot of questions. Sometimes I’d pretend like I understood just so he could finish his lecture, than catch him after class to have him finish explaining it. He was kind of like me. Sometimes when I’d ask him to explain something, he’d go back to the very beginning. The cavemen invented the wheel. The Egyptians learned how to use it as a measuring devise. They made a wheel a certain diameter, put a mark on it and attached it to a stick. Then when they push it in a straight line, they could measure long distances by counting the number of times the mark went around on the wheel. Then in the 1800s a professor studying the pyramids stumbled on the number 3.1416 when doing some measurements and calculation on the pyramids which leads him to believe the Egyptians invented Pi, which wasn’t true because of the wheel being used as the measuring devise, and on and on and on we both could go.

Sometimes when Chuck strayed too far from his lecture he’d be too lost to continue. He’d then tell us all that I got him too lost to continue and we’d have to learn it from the book. He’d then open the book and say something like, know what’s on page 144, he’d flip a page or two, the bottom paragraph of page 146, flip flip, and both 154 and 155 might show up on a quiz or a test. Jamona often sat next to me in class. Sometimes one of Chuck’s classes that met on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 am to 11:40 am could drag on and on. Too often Jamona would poke me in the side and whisper to me to start talking to the teacher. I’d say no, I didn’t understand this chapter when I read it. 10 minutes more of a boring lecture later she’d poke me again, Jer we can get a Togo and drive around the Island. No, I need to learn this. Then after another poke or so she would just smile and say let’s go. That would be it. I look at Chuck and say something like, OK Chuck, why does the price of gas at the pump go up instantly when the price of a barrel goes up, but it takes so long for the price of gas to drop even though the price of oil did? Isn’t the gas at the pumped in a tank in the ground already paid for at the lower price? He’d switch to another board and start writing as he talked; well crude oil contracts are actually futures contracts to have crude oil delivered on a future date. The gas in the tanks in the ground, even though paid for acts like a series of one day contracts. The lower price gas in the tank has to be replaced at the higher price, so that means… Chuck at some point would stop, look at the chalk board with all the formulas that had nothing to do with today’s lecture and tell us to go home.

Jamona was a sweetheart. She use to always copy from me when we took quizes and tests. I never cared. I could get a C on them as easy as I could get an A. I graduated NMU with a 3.0 GPA. It’s something I’m proud of. My second to last semester was a tough one. I was taking five classes so I could graduate in May with my group of finance majors. Near the end of the semester the stress must have really been showing because out of the blue in the library she closed both of our books, sat on my lap, hugged me and whispered it’s going to be all right, you’re smart.

Sometimes it’s not just what you say, but when you say it. The semester ended.  Then it was the Christmas break. When I started my last semester her words, as simple as they were opened my eyes to what I was about to accomplish. I was going to be the first and maybe only child of Peter and Lois O’Dovero that graduated with a bachelor’s degree (in finance) from college. That semester, my last, I finished on the dean’s list. Thanks Jamona for believing in me. I hope you’re doing well.