Five years ago today, on September 27, 2006, Duane Roger Morrison, age fifty-six, murdered sixteen year-old high school student, Emily Keyes in what is called the Platte Canyon High School incident, near Bailey Colorado, a few miles from where I live. In April 2007, two days before the Virginia Tech massacre, I had the pleasure of hearing Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener, who was in charge during this horrific crime, give a speech to a small group of concerned citizens. He spoke for one and a half hours detailing what schools and law enforcement learned after the Columbine HS massacre on April 20, 1999 and how, in many ways, the Platte Canyon school was very well prepared because of Columbine. (A unique perspective of that incident is offered by the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the shooters at Columbine, in this article, “I’ll Never Know Why” from oprah.com.) Sheriff Wegener also said that Platte Canyon, being in a rural area where everybody knows everybody, never expected such a thing to happen there. He discussed the lockdown procedures, the prior training of teachers and students, and assured his audience, including some teachers, that the Sheriff’s office takes the matter seriously—his own son was in the room below the shooter when it happened.
I rode 40 miles today, along the paved bike paths from Morrison, CO to the big REI store in Downtown Denver via the Bear Creek and South Platte trails. It’s rolling and flat terrain and it was not Ride the Rockies, which this year is 412 miles from Crested Butte to Georgetown over six days. It’s underway now, and yesterday a 67 year-old man died after a crash on his descent down Tennessee Pass, a rare event for this tour. I stopped for coffee at the Starbucks connected to REI, and sat on the deck with about 25 other bicycle riders, enjoying the sun and the cool breeze—another beautiful day in paradise. Before returning, I sat there enjoying my surroundings, thought about my experience with Ride the Rockies, and contemplated what I was doing now—riding a bicycle.
This NPR book review of the confessional Dark Desires and the Others, written by Luisa Valenzuela, is titled Sex, Submission, and ‘Dark Desires.’ It’s interesting. The reviewer says,
It’s a little self-indulgent, perhaps, and rambling, too. But Dark Desiresdoes rub up against an uncomfortable truth that began to emerge in the late 1970s and early 1980s, around the time her notebooks were originally written: Women were suddenly finding success in work and business, but were failing at love. Valenzuela could be a case study in Female Perversions, Louise Kaplan’s groundbreaking Freudian study of this phenomenon. Women who felt powerful in their chosen professions were, in their love and sex lives, willfully subjugating themselves to their male partners.
Sometimes, there is simply nothing further to say.
Kurt Vonnegut’s A Man Without A Country, published in 2005, is a short entertaining memoir full of wit and candor. Unfortunately, it also contains a good deal of commentary on his politics, which simply reveals him as another partisan hack in support of all things progressive. He also seems to hate all those who disagree. (In 2005, that was pretty much the base-line attitude of the left. Every and all evil was tracked to George Bush.) Perhaps he enjoyed sounding like a disagreeable 82-year-old man angry with the world. Late in the book, he even admits to being “grumpy.”
An article at Huffington Post suggests “an explosive cultural phenomenon.” I’ve read very few memoirs over the long haul, but two stand out—both within the last three years and both impressive representations of memoir: Breaking Clean, by Judy Blunt, which I read doing research for my novel. (I became aware of it because of a recommendation from a lovely lady I know who was raised on a Montana Ranch.) And The Memory Chalet, by Tony Judt, which I recently reviewed on this blog. An excerpt from the article:
According to Neilsen Bookscan, which tracks about seventy percent of U.S. book sales, total sales of memoirs increased four hundred percent between 2004-2008. In 2007 and 2008, in England, seven of the top ten best selling hard covers were memoirs.
All this success, which shows no sign of wavering, begs the question: what’s with all these memoirs?
The following is a record of a particularly rewarding (and fattening) business trip to Italy and France in April 2003:
I’ve never seen a member of the Ku Klux Klan in their dunce-like getup; and I do not knowingly know anyone who has been, or is, a member. For me, the KKK is an anachronism. It doesn’t belong; but then fringe groups of all stripes don’t disappear just because we think they should.
In 1926, my mother was living in a small farm community in Northeastern Ohio, the same community where I spent the first ten years of my life. She was 12 year’s old at the time. One day, the Ku Klux Klan came to town. Fifty years later, she vividly recalled the frightening event as though “people from outer space had arrived,” and wrote it down.
As an anonymous male once said, “we are men; we are what we drive.” Well, I never believed it. Yet it seems I’ve always wanted a Porsche. I can trace it back to the middle 1950’s when I was about twelve. We lived in Northeastern Ohio, a mixture of farm country and small industrial towns connected to the automotive or machinery and equipment industries, tied to the economies of Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Cars were mostly basic family vehicles, ours being a ‘51 Ford, moving up to a ‘56 Oldsmobile later in the decade. My pilot uncle had a gas consuming but great looking sloped back straight 8 Buick and another uncle, the rich one, had a Cadillac. An early favorite of mine was the Hudson Hornet. These were the cars of memory from my childhood. Sports cars were unknown to me except in the movies.
Reflections on my Work Life Until Retirement on November 1, 2005
It’s been said that doing work you truly love is better than being rich. While I’ve known a few people that could credibly comment on loving their work and being rich, most of them were entrepreneurs. I investigated a few entrepreneurial opportunities over the years, but they all fell through for one reason or another, and I remained attached to the corporate world. Tethered to this life, I experienced periods when I thoroughly enjoyed my work, but a labor of love? Not so sure. Also, there were times when I’d felt the heady rush of fiscal revelation, but an unexpected raise, or a nice bonus, or a little profit on an investment isn’t the same as being rich.
In February 2007, I decided to take guitar lessons—an old guy with small slightly arthritic hands—amazing or ridiculous, take your pick. It was a commitment to do something for its own sake—to finally, in retirement, fulfill a latent desire. It was also a commitment to keep my mind sharp and, selfishly, for my personal enjoyment. On September 13, 2010, I stopped my weekly lessons. This is a story of my journey: