Saturday, September 30, 2006

A visit to great-great-great-great-grandpa

It's not often you have the opportunity to visit the grave of your great-great-great-great-grandfather. In my North Carolina family, a lot of the graves were marked with uncut slabs of rock, if at all. From the small bit of information I've uncovered, this grave had even less marking other than the tradition that he was buried next to his four-month-old son Webb in the old Nashville City Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee.

Susannah is sitting on the child's marker, and just to the right is the new (2005) headstone for Samuel Chester Godshall, Captain, Co. G, 11th Tennessee Infantry, the great grandfather of her great grandmother.

The smaller marker has the names of three Godshall children who died in the same year, 1860, presumably of some illness or disaster. What the marker doesn't show is one of the more interesting names to appear in the family tree -- "A.H." is Captain Godshall's wife, Aramathea Helon Webb (listed as Aramathea in the 1860 census and Helon in the 1880, when she was living with her bachelor brother John C. Webb and her widowed sister).

Friday, September 22, 2006

Okay, I know it's stupid

... but I'll admit to it anyway.

While working on a month-long project out of town (and, not incidentally, on an expense account), I took advantage of a small storefront Chinese restaurant a few blocks from the hotel.* Just for fun, I always make it a point to eat Chinese food with chopsticks, as it was intended, and try to ask for them in Mandarin (Duì bù qì -- gěi wo kuài zi?). I'll confess, I'm not much good with rice, so I'll cheat and use the fork for that.

Unfortunately, eating Chinese four or five times in two weeks wore a groove in the cultural processor in my brain. One evening, I ran across a Greek restaurant** and settled in for another exotic meal ... and all the time, my brain was saying, "Chopsticks ... need chopsticks ..."

Apparently it couldn't deal with "Greek" and settled for "foreign".


* If you're interested, it's the Shuang Xi Kitchen in North Charleston, SC, just off Montague Avenue and near the airport ... it's good, too.

** This was the Zeus Grill and Seafood in Mount Pleasant; it is tucked in behind some crepe myrtles so it's hard to see from the highway, US 17, but it adjoins the parking lot for the Outback Steakhouse. It was really good, and I highly recommend the lemon chicken soup.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Is it Gestalt? Or word association?

My first car was a 1960 Volkswagen, but my first "new" car was a used 1981 Ford Escort.  I had a lot of fun with it in college, driving it all over the mountains around Clemson and off to court my future wife in Charleston.
At 45,000 it threw the timing belt, a design flaw of the '81 model, and wrecked several valves, forecasting the future for the little two-door.  It did this twice more and finally stalled the last time at 83,000 miles.  I pushed it home, worked on it for a while, and got a trade-in valuation of $250 when we towed it to the dealership at nine years old.
Though we had decided never to buy another Escort, we were expecting our first child and had one dead car in the driveway and a Datsun/Nissan Sentra starting to show its age as well.  It was definitely time to get a more realiable vehicle.  As it happened in God's Providence, the best buy was a new, last-year's-overstock 1989 Escort station wagon.  Our first brand new vehicle, then, was the second Escort, which was the family Conestoga to California and back.  It was our main vehicle until 1996; I installed an after-market seat belt in the back to make it a "five" passenger arrangement.  When our first son's feet extended between the front seats, with him in the back and a baby seat on either side of him, we bought our first van.
That Escort developed inexplicable electrical problems the next year, and while waiting at our mechanic's for repair, was swallowed up by Hurricane Floyd's floodwaters.  Scrap value at ten years:  $36.
Recently my work vehicle, a well-seasoned Chevy Blazer, developed a very disturbing rattle which was diagnosed as a failing piston bearing.  Since we have three vehicles at the moment, the Blazer has been sidelined for the time being.
The peculiar thing is that more than once when I've mentioned the Blazer in casual conversation, I said "Escort".  Obviously my subconscious mind has permanently associated "defective vehicle" with "Ford Escort"; I suppose that's enevitable when you spent the better part of ten years visiting repair shops in several states.  And I can't say it's a Chevrolet mindset, since I'm currently driving a Jeep and have very happy memories of my VW and the Nissan along the way.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Never answered

Working on her masters degree from Florida State early in our marriage, my wife had to take a class at the main campus in Tallahassee, a good two hour drive from our home at Tyndall AFB.  It was a Saturday morning class, once a week, so we decided it was manageable.  On the other hand, the class met at 8:30 a.m. and the drive involved crossing from Central to Eastern time zone, which pushed the start time back an hour more.  We had to leave our home near Panama City well before sunup and frankly, some mornings we weren't at our sharpest driving past Wewahitchka and Blountstown in "the howling wilderness of northwest Florida".
I was driving one morning while my wife napped in the other seat, and passing the exit for the town of Quincy, I recalled a short story called, "The Quince Tree".  Musing along the two-lane road, I wondered about that tree, which apparently was symbolic and familiar to the (British?) author but a mystery to me.  Knowing my wife's bachelors degree was in biology with a good amount of plant taxonomy in the curriculum, I asked, without introduction and bit too loudly, "WHAT IS QUINCE?"
It was a bit startling, I guess.  I don't recall her answer, either.
To this day, now eighteen years later, whenever one of us erupts into comment or explodes a question into a still room while reading, the other will typically answer in kind, "WHAT IS QUINCE?"  And like the question in Atlas Shrugged, it generally goes unanswered.