I Just Turned 59.99589!

It may interest you to know there are real Memory Lanes in the bedroom communities of every American state. Look them up on Google Maps (I stopped searching after finding dozens.) Must be fun to be one of those residents and see the look on someone’s face when you give them your address.  No, I don’t know anyone who lives on Memory Lane, but me, I kind of do; one with no stripes or sidewalks. Mine is paved with sixty years of material, some of it worth a visit; other items best left alone.  All of this “Dave” stuff is somewhere between my ears and today it’s time for a big – okay, little – reveal.

59.99589.  If you’re reading this post the day it was published, I’ve just revealed my age to ridiculous exactness.  The 0.99589 amounts to 363 out of the past 365 days.  You could say I’m still in my late fifties (very late, Dave), but more accurately you’ll say I’m either sixty on the dot or a mere forty-eight hours removed from it.  Do I feel old now?  Of course not!  Er, until I calculate my age in months.  I’ve spent 720 of those bad boys.  For Pete’s sake, what have I been doing all my life?

Well, let me answer that question.  In fact, let’s make it a game because then you get to play too.  Think about the last sixty years (or in your case, however many decades you’ve been around).  Now let’s create a list – off the top of our graying heads – of up to ten significant world events in the timeframe of our years.  No, no, no; not the events you learned in the history books, but the ones with lasting, maybe even personal impact.  Here are mine, in no particular order:

  1. 9/11 (2001)
  2. COVID-19 (2020-???)
  3. San Francisco Bay Area earthquake (1989)
  4. Space Shuttle Challenger (1986)
  5. America’s war in Afghanistan (2001-2021)
  6. Apollo rockets (1961-1972)
  7. Colorado’s Black Forest wildfire (2013)

I don’t have enough time to explain my choices (after all, I only have forty-eight hours until I”m a “sexy-genarian”) but trust me; these seven came to mind in a heartbeat.  Now arrange them in chronological order to paint an interesting picture.  My childhood was inspired by Apollo rocket launches (courtesy of black-and-white TV’s); my young adult years by two disasters – the Challenger explosion and the devastating earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area; and my adult years by big-bad-ticket items like terrorism, war, wildfire, and a global pandemic.  Sadly, not one of these events makes anyone’s “good list” (am I a product of headline news or what?). But that’s not to say my sixty years have been altogether bad.  Quite the contrary.

Now, here’s where the game gets more interesting.  Make a similar list as above, but include up to ten significant events of a personal nature.  These are the formative moments, where you’re not the same person after they happened as you were before.  Leave off relationships (including marriage) and having kids, because most of us have or will have those in common.  Let’s see now.  My eyes are closed, I’m in a thoughtful trance, and I’m typing, all at the same time (a man of many talents, no?) Okay, pencils down.  Here’s my “formative” list, also in no particular order:

  1. Corrective eye surgery (1977)
  2. I-survived-but-the-car-didn’t rollover (1984)
  3. Immersive year of studies in Rome, Italy (1982-83)
  4. Traded California’s coast for Colorado’s Rockies (1993)
  5. First job <McDonald’s> (1975)
  6. All things Boy Scouts (1973-1978)
  7. Architecture career ends, tech career begins (1993)
  8. All things basketball (1974-1979)

Again, I’d love to wax on about my choices but I’d turn 61 before I’d be done typing.  Instead, sort my formatives from earliest to most recent.  Notice anything?  All happened between the ages of 10 and 30.  My “clay was molded’ in a mere one-third of my lifetime.  Not really true, of course.  Ages 1-10 – none of us remember much of those.  But now I hear you saying, “So Dave, what have you been doing for the last thirty years?”  Well, you know the answer already  The same thing as most every other red-blooded American male.  Raising a family.  Making a living.  Loving my wife.  Loving my life.

I predict my sixties will be my greatest decade; just you wait and see.  I’ll witness another significant world event or two (maybe even a “good one”!)  I’ll break my thirty-year run of nothing and come up with at least one more formative experience.  I’ll write another 520 blog posts (and you’ll block a chunk of your calendar to read them).  But let’s be real; this is just musings about my sixties.  I’m only in my fifties. My account still shows a credit of forty-eight hours.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #2

The concert is underway! (read about my hesitant warm-up in the post Let’s Make Music!).  Bag #2 – of 21 bags of pieces – started out innocently enough, with big pieces and easy assembly.  My maestro-confidence overfloweth.

Suddenly things got v-e-r-y complicated in Mr. Instruction Manual.  Tiny, tiny pieces!  Mechanical components!  Cables!  Batteries!  Here’s last week’s build, and then below, this week’s additions for comparison.  Enlarge the second photo for a better look at the colorful, scary-looking “spindle”, running top left to bottom right.  I have no idea what it’s for but it connects to the gray/white motor (at least I think it’s a motor) just behind it. I count forty-five little Legos on the spindle, each required to be positioned exactly as you see them.  Almost walked off the stage when I was done with that step.

Running build time: 2.5 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor” (three times through!)  Leftover pieces: 5 (Conductor’s note: Last week I only had 1 leftover piece.  5 = concern.  I need to double-check this week’s work before moving forward.  Safe to say you can’t go back and “repair” after the fact).

Color of Courage

I am a civilian living in a “military town”, considering the number of Army and Air Force bases in and around Colorado Springs.  The contemporary Air Force Academy campus (USAFA) to the west is the dead giveaway, but the Army’s Fort Carson to the south is larger in terms of acreage and personnel.  Fort Carson is also the largest employer of any kind in this part of the state.  Then there’s Peterson Air Force Base to the east (co-located with our municipal airport), Schriever Air Force Base to the slightly-further east, and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station hiding in the foothills to the west (which may or may not have missiles pointed towards North Korea).

All this presence-of-the-defense in Colorado Springs prompts the question whenever I purchase: “military or civilian?”.  You get a deserved discount if you are the former.  I am the latter so I pay full price.  Safe to say I will also never be awarded the Purple Heart.

This past Monday (August 7th) was “Purple Heart Day” – on the list of U.S. Holidays and Observances – honoring the date the award was created in 1782.  The Purple Heart was not given between 1783 and 1931 – the span of time between the Revolutionary War and World War I – so it has “only” been awarded a total of 86 years since the days of George Washington.  That still amounts to countless acts of valor (over 1.8 million by some estimates).

I have the utmost respect for the men and women in uniform, so I am awed by those who receive the Purple Heart.  “Those” includes my father-in-law, who served and was injured in the Korean War back in the early 1950’s.  “Those” include various notables, including Kurt Vonnegut, Pat Tillman, Rod Serling, and Norman Schwarzkopf.  “Those” include Curry T. Haynes, who died less than a month ago.  Haynes served in the Army in the Vietnam War and received a total of ten Purple Hearts for the injuries he suffered.  That’s more decorations than any other recipient.

Ponder for a moment: Over a million Purple Hearts were awarded during WWI alone.  Another 350,000 were awarded during the Vietnam War.  All in defense of freedom.

Because decorations were not always documented (Purple Hearts were often awarded on the spot; even attached to the hospital beds of recipients), there is no accurate total.  Instead, the Military Order of the Purple Heart commemorated a network of roads, highways, and bridges in the states of Purple Heart recipients.  Whenever you see a sign like the one above, be reminded of the high (and frequent) price paid for your freedom.

Between 1942 and 1997, civilians serving in the armed forces were eligible to receive the Purple Heart.  Nine firefighters in the Honolulu Fire Department were decorated during the attack on Pearl Harbor.  After 1997, Congress passed legislation limiting awards to men and women in uniform.  Civilians now receive the Defense of Freedom Medal for similar sacrifices.

    Sergeant Reckless photo – by Andrew Geer

Animals are also eligible for the Purple Heart.  The most impressive: the decorated war horse Reckless, a thoroughbred mix rescued from the race track and trained by members of the Marine Corps.  Reckless served in the Korean War, frequently carrying supplies and ammunition to the front line.  Remarkably, Reckless memorized her routes so she could deliver unattended.  During one battle, she made 51 trips in a single day between supply depot and front line.  Reckless was wounded twice and thus received two Purple Hearts.  She was promoted to the rank of sergeant shortly after the war ended.  A plaque and photo of Reckless can be seen at the Marine Corp base Camp Pendleton in California.

As I began with, I’m a civilian living in a military town.  I am surrounded by my Colorado peers who serve or have served in the armed forces.  I may not be one of them, but at least I can tip my hat on the streets, especially to those who wear the Purple Heart.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.