Hanging On To The Old Ways

by SteveHulse on February 4, 2019 · 1 comment

Sentimentality has somehow become a part of my DNA, I think. It’s a curious
symbiotic process that can be easily disproved by medical science, yet has
a definite power, mostly emotional, though sometimes, I think, even physical.
Physical in the sense of hearing the engine of a muscle car roar and the hairs
on my arm go straight up… physical in the sense that every so often the
hearing of a sweet old song from way back in the dark ages will bring tears…
physical in the sense of smelling the heady fragrance of sagebrush and pine
after a summer rain in Montana, and in that moment knowing exactly who
and where I am.

Then there are the times I curse the monotone monotony of the new music,
curse the tone-deaf teenagers who are whining it out, curse the silent electric
cars that back out of the parking lot and almost hit me because I didn’t hear
them coming. And I curse the changes that brought our country to this sorry
state of current events.

Boo hoo, Steve, but everything changes… things we expect to change, things
we are shocked and surprised at when they change. The optimist will tell us
that change is basically what keeps life interesting, while the pessimist insists
that much change is brutal, even evil… that change is a built-in difficulty
we have to deal with all our lives, that it’s a curse we can’t disconnect from.

I tend to believe that most change is uncomfortable for us, yet we often come
to be grateful for it after the fact. Strange, huh? And that would suggest that
perhaps we don’t know everything, or at least don’t know what’s good for us
in the long haul.

One of the beautiful benefits of becoming older is the realization that most
events and happenings in our lives that seemed negative and unwanted
turned out to have good, sometimes wonderful results we couldn’t have
possibly foreseen. For me, that knowledge makes it easier to forge ahead,
mostly blindly, into uncharted waters, knowing that there is probably a
silver lining lurking behind that cloud somewhere.

That knowledge, that positive spin on the unknown of future events, still
doesn’t keep me from wanting to hold on to many of my old ways, and
old loves. And lest you misunderstand my meaning of “old loves,” let me
assure you that it refers to my old truck, my love of old dirt roads, my
enduring preference for live music, ’60’s jazz and airports before TSA.
I still care more for planes with propellers, cars & trucks with big V-8’s
in them, Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. Wally and The Beaver, you
get the idea. Much of all that is simply sentimental, but some of it is
cultural, what I was brought up with, what was of value to me when I
was younger. Don’t we all still have those preferences for times gone by
when our lives were good, were simpler, and everything seemed to be
working for us?

The very idea of a driverless car is, to me, a horrendous idea. There are
so many wrong elements in the whole concept that it boggles my mind.
Driving, for much of the free world, is the cheapest therapy one can have…
a chance to see something new, think things over, get a handle on one’s
latest difficulty… all for the price of a tank of gas. Mario Andretti once said,
“When they finally come out with driverless cars, I don’t even want to be
around.”
If it’s good enough for Mario, it’s good enough for me.

When we get older, the view of the history of our lives changes. I now see
my first 40 years as “the comfort zone,” the times when I was completely
at ease with life and my surroundings, mostly because they were familiar,
and I was growing with them. From then on, however, changes seemed
to become less subtle and quicker, slowly separating much of the world
from itself and me. “New and different” stopped becoming exciting and
began being a challenge, or a nuisance, at the very least. And only now
do I understand that the changes that today brings are uncomfortable
to me, mostly because 40 years is a long time to live in the comfort zone.
It was easy to get used to, and sometimes difficult to now let go of.

So naturally I don’t like much of the newness, the differentness and the
strangeness that change has brought us over the years. Do I love my cell
phone, with its myriad bells and whistles that we suddenly can’t do without?
Hell yes I do! Especially the GPS! As we all say at one point or another,
“Don’t know how we lived without it…” But do I love Lady Ga Ga? No.
Sure she’s talented, sure she’s a star, but she’s not, nor will she ever be,
even close to Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson or Nat King Cole.Not to me,
anyway. The old masters are my comfort zone, the big bands I grew up with,
the beautiful tunes that came out of Tin Pan Alley, the timeless music of the
great Broadway plays of the ’30’s and ’40’s… George Gershwin, Rogers
and Hart, Rogers and Hammerstein… their music absolutely enchants
me to this day, as nothing newer than the Beatles or Earth, Wind and Fire
can. My enduring loves are emotional, cultural, time-based figments of
life that came to define my tastes in music, in people, in perception of
quality. And in that, I yam what I yam, as Popeye used to exclaim.
“Wait, what? Tin Pan Alley? And who the hell is Popeye??”
You had to be there, kid.

Steve Hulse

{ 1 comment }

A Christmas Memory

by SteveHulse on December 20, 2018 · 4 comments

Jean Shepherd was a writer, a radio host and a fantastic storyteller. In the
’60’s and ’70’s he hosted a radio show on WOR New York at 11 pm… I was
in Boston at the time and I heard it often. He had a most engaging style,
always telling tales about some of the crazy things that happened back in
his childhood in Indiana. I tell you this as it was Jean who inspired this next
post… a reminiscence about a past Christmas that is particularly dear to me.

——————————

The little town (pop. 150) of Virginia City, Montana, was one of the world’s best
places for a kid to grow up. A tourist resort in the summer, it usually overflowed
with tourists and activities, only to shut down after Labor Day and become one
jump to the left of a quiet, peaceful cemetery! Well, think about it… how much
noise and bustle can a town of 150 people make at any one time. As I recall,
the noisiest it ever got was right around 2 a.m. when the bars closed and
everyone went home. Okay, “How quiet was it?” Why, it was so quiet my best
friend Ricky Gohn and I could ride our sleds through the streets from one end
of town to the other without ever worrying about a car coming… either day
or night.

Like most youngsters, Christmas was my favorite time of year. I owe that to my
parents, who helped me discover the magic of the season in so many ways.
Dad and I always went up into the hills and cut our Christmas tree. He would
carry a small saw, and axe and a half pint of brandy in his hip pocket. We
would tromp through the snow, passing several good trees, stopping in a
clearing to catch our breath. He’d pull out the brandy, smile at me and say
something like, “That snow’s pretty deep this year, Stever, pretty tough going.
Think I’ll take a little snifter…”

Shortly after our break, he’d find just the right tree. We’d cut it down, drag it
back to the car and have another “little snifter” for the road. We continued to
enjoy that ritual long after I’d grown old enough to join him for a bracer or two,
and we’d always get home with a nice tree and a warm glow from the outing.
Mom would just smile and tell us what a good tree we got that year. She knew
it didn’t take four hours to find and cut a decent tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the early years we’d bring home two trees, a big one for the bar, and a little
one for our upstairs apartment. Mom always decorated the bar tree while I
was left to decorate the upstairs tree by the time I was six or seven. The lights
and the ornaments were always easy for me, but Mom had to teach me her
way of hanging the tinsel just so… doubling each strand over and making sure
there were all perfectly straight! It was a pain, but the result was so satisfying…
and for years it was simply a labor of love that I learned to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Christmas Spirit would build slowly, starting with cutting down the tree
with Dad, then our Saturday trip into the “big city” of Butte for all our
Christmas shopping. Butte really was the big city to me, with all its lights and
holiday atmosphere. On top of that, a trip into Hennessey’s basement to see
Santa and their huge electric train layout usually helped jump-start my
Christmas feeling of good cheer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was the Christmas of ’54. I was eleven and had already learned, as an only
child, how to spend long periods of time by myself. This particular December
evening I had tackled the decorating of the upstairs tree. I had just gotten the
lights and ornaments up when Dad came up the stairs with an armload of
wood for the upstairs stove. “That tree’s coming along pretty well, Boy,” he
remarked as he stoked the fire.
“Yeah, now comes the hard part,” I complained, not really dreading the process.
“I’ve got an idea,” he smiled. “Why not put on a few of our Christmas records?
Might make the chore a little more bearable.”

Dad went back downstairs to the bar and I rustled through our small record
collection to dig out some Christmas music. We only had 4 albums back then,
the big 33 1/3 rpms, remember them? Two of them had little signs on top of
the covers that heralded the coming of an aural event that was sure to change
our lives in some significant fashion, “Living Stereo!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our records were The Ames Brothers, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby and Percy
Faith. I carefully stacked them on our console record player in the corner and
hit play. Percy Faith and his orchestra plopped down first and began with a
triumphant rendition of “Joy To The World.” in Living Stereo!

Going back to the tree, I stopped and looked out the little window of our
apartment that faced back into the alley. There was a light pole and a light
out there that lit up the alley at night. Now, in the darkened winter’s eve, I
saw snow swirling in the street light, softly, beautifully. Inside, the lights of the
tree twinkled merrily and I remember thinking, “How beautiful Christmas time
is! I wish it could always be Christmas!”

I began hanging the icicles, from the top down. The Ames Brothers Christmas
music poured across the tiny living room, the wood stove crackled, and i found
myself in a most wondrous spirit, moved by the music, the smell of the pine,
the warmth of the apartment and the sweet snow in the evening… everything
was perfect! I got goose bumps and remember wondering if this was what the
Christmas Spirit felt like… turns out it was!

There’s no trying to explain it or analyze it… a very rare and special feeling
that I’m sure we all feel in a different way. Point is, it was a very real feeling
for me, one which I got every Christmas for years. It finally drifted away,
probably somewhere in my twenties or early thirties. I remember missing it
at first, then figuring out that growing responsibilities and the gradual loss of
wonder of life were probably the ultimate culprits.

Turns out that Christmas time can be a difficult, inward-looking time for many
of us. High expectations of the season is a huge problem… it’s virtually
impossible for several days to approach our perceived perfection, let alone
several weeks! It’s a human condition, after all… one of those things we can
be aware of but still can’t quite fix. “Peace On Earth” is a myth and “Good Will
Toward All” has been handily booted out of the country for now. assuming it
ever really existed at all. But I can tell you this – Peace On Earth And Good
Will Toward Man existed in Virginia City, Montana on the Christmas of 1954.
I remember it so well, I know that it existed and was real. And in that, I have
hope that a time like that, and a feeling like that, can possibly come again.
For now, I hold that memory most dear, and will cherish it always!

Steve Hulse

{ 4 comments }

A Day At Winter’s Edge

by SteveHulse November 16, 2018

A Late Autumn Cruise On the RSV Aimless Out on the North Sound on a cloudy, chilly, rainy day… a day that will most likely become the standard day for the next 5-6 months. This will be my last trip out here until next May… I no longer do well in the wet chill of […]

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Roxanne Part II

by SteveHulse October 1, 2018

            I should probably explain why it is I talk to cars and trucks. Actually, a lot of guys talk to their vehicles. It probably comes from the idea that working on them brings a familiarity after a time, and (at least in my mind) they become more than simply […]

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The Saga Of Roxanne

by SteveHulse September 21, 2018

With apologies, I must warn you that this post and the following one are for truck lovers only. I have always had a weakness for people who show patience, strength, endurance, loyalty, consistency and reliability. I have instant respect (and perhaps a touch of jealousy) when I see those qualities in someone. I have tried […]

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The End Of An Era

by SteveHulse July 11, 2018

B and I are in Montana this week, moving my lifelong possessions from my cabin in Virginia City to Whidbey Island, Washington. I contracted Ray Taylor to build this cabin for me back in 1979. He did a fantastic job on it and it was my home base, and my heart, for 38 years. Much […]

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Big Memories Of Small Times

by SteveHulse July 8, 2018

Being back in Montana for the 4th of July week has brought back some delicious memories of my childhood here. I’m sure you all have these, and I hope mine can stir a few of yours. It’s the 2nd of July, 2018, and we just got to my cabin this afternoon. Betty Ann unpacked us […]

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An Empty Bucket

by SteveHulse June 28, 2018

We’ve all got a bucket list, right? Maybe not written down, maybe not in order of importance… but if someone asked you, at a cocktail party, what’s on your bucket list, you’d quickly be able to think of a few things. Don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “Oh, I don’t have a bucket list, […]

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A Forced Perspective

by SteveHulse June 19, 2018

Last year my B and I built a small model railroad together. it was a great winter’s project that turned out well, and we had a ball doing it. In the process I discovered that B built and painted small ( HO scale) buildings very well. Her crowning achievement was a sliver mine with an […]

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Way Back When In The Here And Now

by SteveHulse June 4, 2018

Try as I might to pretend life is still as good as it was in the 60’s and ’70’s, it simply isn’t, and won’t be. The comparable simplicity of that time, the almost naive sincerity of that time faded into oblivion somewhere in the mid-’80’s. Funny that it took me twenty years to notice it […]

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