Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Playing Favorites

When I was about sixteen I borrowed a shirt from a friend. It was a soft-blue, button-down, cotton casual oxford. I never returned it, and wore it unbuttoned over my “Save the Wolf” tee shirt well into my early twenties, when it actually fell apart at the seams.

Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy was my favorite book throughout my teenage years. The well-written and fast-paced story of a conventional third world war fueled my ever-fearful-of-a-world-war teenage imagination. I dog-eared my way through its pages over and over again, reading it on the school bus, in the tub, on campouts, and in the flashlight privacy of my blankets at night. I am not sure where that book wandered off to in the end.

At the age of 17, I started writing with a green ball point pen made by Bic. “Love” letters, song lyrics, short stories, and the occasional journal entry; they were all written in green, using that ball point pen that wouldn't dry up. I loved that pen until the day it finally died, somewhere in Paraguay. I was twenty years old.

I had a brief affair with a 1972 Toyota Land Cruiser when we lived in Seattle. She was painted green, wore chunky new tires, and looked great topless. The very thought of her roll bars makes me grin. Beautiful and petite, she was also tough; she loved to climb mountains and wasn't afraid of mud. We spent our weekends together in the Cascades, and my wife wasn't in the least bit jealous. I sold her when we moved back to New Hampshire with a new baby boy in tow.

A good friend and hero of mine gave me his watch. It was a simple black and white analog timepiece, and the wrist band was just a red and black braided bracelet that he had made out of string. I wore that watch long after the last time I saw him, waving goodbye from a rusting rattletrap of a bus in the middle of nowhere, Paraguay. I lost the watch a couple of years later, and was upset about it for some time.

I took several beatings for Roger Staubach and the Dallas Cowboys in the 70's. We lived near Pittsburgh, and in spite of two Super Bowl losses during our time in Steelers country, I wore my Dallas gear to school on the days after both. I lost some blood, a little skin, and had there been any friends or pride for me to lose, I probably would have lost them as well.

When I was sixteen, I bought a beautiful muzzle-loader from a trader at a mountain man rendezvous. Much like the gun Daniel Day-Lewis carried in "The Last of the Mohicans," there were six extra inches on her barrel, and her wood was naturally patterned to attract the eye. She shot straight, stood tall, and I loved her as much as I had ever loved anything. Every time I slid her out of her long, black, cloth cover, men would stop and stare as if I were peeling a lacy thigh-high off the leg of a sexy starlet. Upon hearing her roar, some would even dare to ask how much money I would take for her. "There isn't enough money in circulation," I would reply with a grin. Years later I lost her in the move from Seattle to New Hampshire, and I don't think I even have a decent photo of her. I still sit and think about that gun from time to time, and my wife can usually tell when I do, because my mood shifts to the left of happy.

I often think about these and other favorite items that I have loved and lost over the years, and wish that I still had them. But I wonder if they would be priceless in my hands, just as they are in my memories.

Probably not.

Well, maybe the gun. Sitting next to me on the seat of that Land Cruiser.


  1. Was that MY shirt? Brings back memories...I remember those days. PS--Dropped by Kamas for ice cream, saw your book with the "Local Author" insert and told the guy at the counter to tell you I said Hi.

  2. It was your shirt, Jack. Thanks for letting it go. I was at Hi-Mountain the other day and he mentioned your visit. We live 6 miles north of there.