I’m feeling drained and a bit low (I awoke at 2 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep), and really have nothing to say. So I thought I’d start a discussion thread. A suggested topic is this: “What was the best, or worst, or most memorable day of your life?”
I was led to this by an old memory that popped up for no apparent reason, a moment that was way back in 1971, the year I graduated from college. It wasn’t the best or worst day of my life, and maybe not even the most emotional or memorable, but somehow it sticks in my mind. I’ll recount it—not as a way of bragging—but to show how overwork in college nearly ruined me.
I entered William and Mary in 1967, and had some really stimulating courses. Those included biology (8 a.m. on the first day of school), and, being in the Honors Program, I got to take the equivalent of small seminars on Greek plays, as well as calculus, American literature, and other courses I can’t recall.
I don’t remember working especially hard, but I did do well, getting straight A’s. And yet I ha a normal social life: going out to parties, drinking (we had to get upperclassmen to buy booze for us), and schmoozing a lot on the weekends. But somehow that perfect academic record got its hooks into me. The next semester I worked a bit harder, and got straight A’s again.
By sophomore year, when I started taking advanced biology courses, as well as fine arts and chemistry, I was working even harder. I worked mainly because I loved the courses, but also because I needed to be the best—not just in every class, but on every test. (I got only one “B” on a test in my entire college career.) I loved the courses: philosophy, Old English, Beowulf, Ethics, Honors English, and Organic Chemistry, but I also killed myself trying to master the material.
By junior year it was well known that just two students in my class of 969 had maintained straight As; I was one and a sorority girl (a friend and a cheerleader) was another. But then I heard that she got a “B” in one course. That put me on top. And that’s where I stayed, working 7 days a week, and from after breakfast (with meal breaks) to 11 pm. I did some socializing (I have a lot of anecdotes from my college years, including run-ins with cops, peace demonstrations, and the like), but if you looked up the definition of “grind” in the dictionary then, you’d find my picture.
By the second semester of senior year, my record was still perfect, both on tests and course grades, and I managed to take courses in which success was almost guaranteed: independent research and the like. Finally, in June, I had my last final exam, and I knew I aced it. I was going to be valedictorian, and had killed myself for four years to accomplish that. My overwork was unhealthy, of course: though I wasn’t really working for grades, I lost a girlfriend because of my obsessive work ethic, and didn’t have as much fun as other people. I remember my dad telling me, “Would it kill you to get a ‘B’ once in a while?” (Imagine a parent saying that!)
My last final exam ended in on a sunny spring afternoon, and all at once a huge weight dropped from me. It was over, and I knew that I never wanted to go through that again. I went to the Sunken Garden, a “sunken” meadow that’s the epicenter of the College, and lay down on the grass. All of a sudden I started sobbing, and I couldn’t stop. It was the sudden lifting of all the anxiety that had plagued me for four years. I’ll never forget that moment.
Here’s what the Sunken Garden look like: the campus of William and Mary is beautiful. I still remember where I lay down, and I’ve put an arrow there: on the inclined slope on the east side.
- Yes, I was valedictorian, and was awarded the Lord Botetourt Medal for the highest academic achievement in my class. In the photo below I am holding it: it’s a lovely gold medallion with my name and graduation year etched on the edge. Attaining that was, perhaps, the hardest thing I ever did. Was it worth it? In some sense, yes, because my record got me into good grad schools as well as an NSF predoctoral fellowship, making me more attractive to grad schools. Normally the valedictorian gets awarded the medal onstage at graduation, and says a few words, but since I was a “radical”, known for being a hippie peacenik, they decided to keep me off the dais. They simply called out my name from the stage and asked me to stand up. I did stand up, wearing a black armband because of the war, and I raised my right arm high in the air, making a “black power” fist. That act cost me a summer job that year. When I applied to work at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, I didn’t get the job as a summer researcher, and I heard it was because I was that “radical guy who made the gesture at graduation.” Or at least that’s what I was told.
- I remember thinking, as I lay on the grass, that “Somehow, I am going to find a way to never get a grade again.” And so it happened. When I got to Harvard, we had two days of written tests in various subjects, which were meant to determine for your advisory committee which courses you needed to take. I placed out of everything, which meant that I wasn’t required to take any courses; I could just do research. But of course I did take courses, for there will still gaps in my background. So I took classes in probability theory, differential equations, biostatistics, population genetics, and so on. But in each course I told the instructor I was auditing it, and I still did the homework and, if the instructor was willing, got my answers corrected. But none of the courses were recorded on my transcript: I simply signed up for four “research” courses each quarter. I took these classes for two years, not doing much research and then later, while I was working in the lab, organized reading classes with my fellow grad students (Russ Lande and I, for example, met every week for a year, working our way through Crow and Kimura’s Theoretical Population Genetics. I don’t think I could do that now.)
I’m not sure why I’m writing this, as it’s autobiographical and may not stimulate any discussion, but I’m hoping readers can highlight a memorable moment of their lives—perhaps the most memorable. Lying in the Sunken Garden, sobbing with relief, is something I’ll never forget. And yes, being #1 in my class was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, though if you asked me what I see as the academic thing I’m proudest of, it would be having written Speciation with Allen Orr. I was not proud of being a workaholic.
So, it’s your turn. I’m curious if people will comment (I hope so) and what they will say if they do.
112 thoughts on “Discussion thread: autobiographical”
What class did you get that undergrad B in?
I was on my first Fine Arts test: I got an 89 when you needed a 90 or above to get an A. But I got an A in the course.
In my experience, it’s harder to get A’s in arts-type courses than science or math courses or similar, “objective” courses. I’ve never been much good at reading what a professor might want in such circumstances.
😂 poor Jerry! 😉 I wonder what nugget would have got you that one mark!
I have the somewhat dubious honour of spoiling a straight A science student’s record with a B+ in a non-science stubject. Fortunatrly people handing out science scholarships and jobs treated my marking with appropriate contempt.
I did the same—pretty much killed myself with work in college from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm. At 9:00 pm I allowed myself an hour with my girlfriend, who lived in the dorms. I kept telling myself that once I get into grad school I’ll start living a life. But I didn’t. I got into Harvard’s geology program and, once there, I strived to be the best in my class, thinking that once I passed my orals I’d start living a life. But I didn’t. Once I passed my orals, I needed to write the best dissertation so that I could get a good job. I did get a good job, as an assistant professor at Virginia Tech. Once there, did I live my life? No. I needed to get tenure. So I hustled day and night and weekends to get tenure. And then, once I got tenure… . That’s the way the career world is constructed! Every hurdle passed is followed by the next hurdle. If you let yourself, you can end up with no life at all.
I eventually realized this and ended up having a life. Since then I’ve mentored numerous coworkers struggling with what we today can work-life balance. My advice to them? “Institutions will take as much as you’re willing to give. There is only one person who can decide the limits, and that person is you.”
My best time was a three day period in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1983. The first of those three days was my graduation day as a Harvard Ph.D. Day three was my wedding day to my current wife.
Men can in academia can still have children when they finally decide to get a life. For women, it’s a tad more difficult.
Yes my wife experienced this difficulty. Her biggest obstacles to getting back into the academy after having children were other women in the academy.
I’m very curious- how are other women the biggest obstacle? Thanks.
Sorry I posted a longer answer but I deleted it (thanks “Edit” button!) bc the details tend to identify my wife. Briefly, my wife took a hiatus after her postdoc to have kids. When the kids were school aged, female faculty members in the university department where I’m tenured stood in the way of my wife being offered a job in that department. University was supportive, job was part-time, wife was very highly qualified. The opposition was pure spiteful sexism from other academic women, plus a little gaslighting.
Hi Professor. One small, pretty inconsequential moment of triumph comes to mind. I was back-packing in Greece in September 1986 (or thereabouts). I was travelling with two really nice Australian guys and we decided to rent a car and explore northern Greece. I had recently read the book “Eleni” by Nicholas Gage and we drove our rented Yugo around visiting some of the sites mentioned in the book. I had a wonderful time.
One day our trip necessitated backing that Yugo onto a ferry. It was my turn to drive and I remember feeling really nervous about performing the manoeuvre. The two Australians watched closely as I backed up the car and positioned it perfectly on the ferry. I still remember them exchanging a look with each other that communicated that they were impressed with my driving performance. I felt on top of the world. Such a small thing, but I remember it all these years later.
A softball game under the lights at Delta Park in Portland, OR. It’s the bottom of the ninth and our team, the Center for Health Research “Random Errors,” is down by three and up to bat. I’m due up sixth, and after our first two batters go out I’m thinking I probably won’t even make it up to bat.
But the next three batters manage to get on base and so now I’m up with the bases loaded and the game on the line. As I step into the box I say to the ump (I’m the pitcher for our team and she and I have been exchanging friendly banter all night), “So it comes down to this.” She smiles and says, “You can do it.”
So I take the first pitch as I’m wont to do but swing at the second and send the ball deep into center—not over the wall (which is 300 ft. at Delta Park) but over the center fielder’s head. By the time the ball gets to their cut-off man I’ve rounded third heading for home and have to slide face-first just under the catcher’s tag—safe! A walk-off grand slam to win the game!
It doesn’t get any better than that. (Did I mention I was 61 at the time?)
The most memorable day of my life had to be when Alice and I got married. It was my second time (my first wife had passed away about five years earlier) and her first. We neither of us were spring chickens (in our 60’s) and we didn’t want a big deal, so we set it up in our back yard and only invited our closest family and friends. Even that involved travel for some from places like Florida, DC, and India, but all arrived on time, and we an excellent local Indian cook cater the affair. All was in order EXCEPT (drum roll) the minister didn’t show up – he had completely forgotten and was off in the Smokies. Even his backup was fishing in Wisconsin. So – the day became our “almost wedding” – we followed it up with an “almost honeymoon” in North Carolina (where, in addition to a lot of other fun things, we got to meet up with two of my former graduate students who were by then pursuing fine careers. When we got back to Ohio, the embarrassed minister came over to our house, and we were married in front of a very small group of local friends, as well as my younger son, who was on summer break before his senior year at Cornell.
As a footnote, both of my marriages were in midwestern state (Indiana and Ohio), and I have interesting stories about getting wedding licenses at the local courthouses, one of which involved testing for sickle cell anemia (spoiler – I am as White as they come and yet I was required to do it In Indiana).
My two best days, tied for first, with only a few even close runners-up, were the days of birth of, first, my son, and then 17 months later, my daughter. I did not know it was possible to be so happy before that (not that this will surprise anyone…I’m not a chipper, cheery person, though I am jokey). My daughter was born 2 days after 9-11, and I used to say, the universe had to do something to make up for that, and she was it…and if anything, she overshot the mark. I don’t think that overstates my feelings at all, about either of them.
Had something longer to post, but yes this. Birth of my two kids (first one just before 9-11). Bursting happiness. Plus awe at the physical toughness of my wife. Holy hell is she tough.
I can relate to this 🙂
Ditto, my 2 kids (and now 3 granddaughters😻)
I would say I have two memorable moments that stand out, but I will share one of them. A month after turning 19, I came home from work at night and went to the patio. I saw something that looked like an alien, kinda human like, but couldn’t really tell what it was since it was dark in that side of the house. I thought, what the hell is that, I couldn’t make what it was. I took one step closer……..it was my dad sitting down with his head completely blown off with blood everywhere. The rifle was on the floor. I when inside the house to grab the phone to call the police and went back outside to the patio. I was looking at him while I called the police and told myself, this is the last time I will ever see you. Once the police came, I was in front of my house, talking to the police while a hundred million neighbors were all around me. To be honest, it was a good thing he did that. That guy ruined my life a hundred million ways. He was a very bad alcoholic and was never going to help or get better. I don’t love him and I didn’t wanna go to the funeral but my aunt, his sister who flew in from out of state, told me I had no choice but to go. There’s more to the story but I didn’t wanna make it too long. Thank you to all of you for sharing today, I would lie if I didn’t say I got a bit emotional reading your stories.
Yes. I had not expected the incredible rush of love when I held my firstborn in my arms. Not the intense intensity of it. And when I was carefully placed in a wheelchair and taken from the delivery room to the hospital room I was to stay in for the next 3 days(1981) I felt triumphant. The feeling of just haven gotten all the best presents ever gotten rolled up into one has never quite left me.
Nor has the moment I was once again placed in a wheelchair, son on my lap, and taken down the elevator to my husband waiting by the car. I kept expecting someone — an authority, an adult, a grown-up to rush forward and say “Wait a minute. You’re not thinking you’re taking that baby home, are you? Oh no — that baby needs a real mother. Someone who actually knows what they’re doing.” But I had just turned 24, was still feeling triumphant, and went home.
One of my most memorable times was one day when I picked up my crying daughter, all of 1 1/2 years old, and held her in my arms. Of course I was already deeply in love with her, as with all my kids, but after a moment of her studying my face and myself studying hers, it suddenly hit me- like a lightning bolt- how beautiful she was. Something like love at first sight, romantic love, but with my little girl. It took my breath away. Instead of trying to comfort her, I whispered- “You have the most beautiful eyes”, then she folder into my shoulder and fell asleep. In just that moment I understood by what is meant by the “daddy daughter relationship”.
“… It was over, and I knew that I never wanted to go through that again.”
Precisely – after four years – or after any such challenge… a basketball game, an I din’t know what .. give it your all. It doesn’t last long and you have the rest if your life to go. Make it count.
That sort of thing. Not that I managed such an accomplishment.
Being in the North Tower on 9-11. https://medium.com/@The_Last_Age/my-9-11-story-53813784359d
Yeah. That’s the kind of thing that would tend to leave a very strong imprint.
Flooding at test depth on a U.S. Navy submarine. A back up sea valve burst and “Flooding in the Maneuvering Room!” was announced over the 1 MC. The maneuvering room was the compartment behind me, and I was on watch in the engine room. Hatches were secured, and I went down to the lower level to check on things, feeling oddly comforted that I was going to be okay. The submarine took a steep angle, and I couldn’t tell if we were heading up or down. Ballast tanks were blown and, after a time, we leveled off just below the surface. The main sea valve ahead of the burst back up valve had been closed, and the flooding stopped. Lesson learned: Stay calm and do your job, which I’ve been trying to do ever since that day.
Youch! I can comprehend, but not imagine. The worst I have seen is a 5000TEU container ship pumping at 30m^3/hr with the primary bilge pumps, and some additional with the ballast stripping units, when sea chest valve failed in port during a repair on the other sea-chest (which was dammed externally). The failed valve was 800mm, so it was a BIG hole in a BIG vessel, but in port. That was a LOT of water, impressive and frightening, but no existential threat.
My worst day is a day i have absolutely no recollection of and of which I have just picked up snippets from my parents who are now both long dead.
I was 4 and had been put to bed at the normal time that a 4 years old does but woke up screaming a few hours later. My mother came in looked at me and called my GP father. For a few key hours he stopped being my father and became a medical professional who had a critically sick child on his hands. The fact it was his own son had to be put to the back of his mind because he knew what it was: bacterial meningitis. A killer then and a killer now. Mad rushes to the nearest hospital with my father informing then what it was as I came in.
Massive doses of antibiotics saved my life but I developed gangrene which necessitated the amputation of my leg. What is strange is that I can remember being in hospital not many days after the event – it seems that my brain put the shutters down on the event and, incidentally, me having two legs. Other effects manifested: ADHD is very common in children who survived bacterial meningitis and I have recently been diagnosed with it – 20% of ADHD cases are environmental with 80% being genetic.
Since then I have just winged it through life with various prosthetic legs of varying sizes and complexity and trying to use what sparse intelligence I have to make myself to half fit into to society !
So that is the worst day ….
Oh my gosh, bonetired, what an awful story. I am sorry to hear this. You seem to have a wonderfully resilient spirit. And if I might gainsay you a tad: your crisp writing reveals a sharp mind.
I made it. Went to uni in Wales, went into IT. Grandkids now 🙂
I’ve had a lot of memorable GOOD experiences in my life so far, so I’ll mention a strange and memorable BAD day, which occurred when I was only four years old.
While running through the yard at my friend’s house, I stumbled onto an underground yellow jackets’ nest. I fell down and was immediately engulfed by the angry, sting-y creatures. I felt like I was on fire. Along with covering any exposed skin, they got inside my clothes, including my socks and underwear, and into my nose and ears. I might have swallowed a few. At one point I tried to brush some of them off my arm, but my hand just slid over their backs. Soon my friend’s father heard the commotion and ran right onto the fray, no hesitation. He picked me up and carried me into the house and helped get the remaining yellow jackets off of me.
I was stung around 200 times and was quite ill for the next couple of weeks, so I don’t remember that time too well. But do I remember the event itself pretty clearly, like a series of vivid photographs and short video clips. I had yellow-jacket nightmares for a few years, along with a major fear of seeing one in person, but now I’d say I feel the same way about them as most other people do.
Memorable: taking the train through the Copper Canyon in Mexico on a summer high school trip. We left Los Mochis at the base of the Gulf of California, taking a Swiss-made train through the mountains to Chihuahua. The trip lasted about 8 hours, IIRC, through incredible tropical scenery. I spent most of the time on the outside balcony between the cars marveling at the sights. In some places, you can see where you will be going, a big horseshoe curve nestled around the upcoming hillsides. Whizzing past the local kids looking up at the train, going through countless tunnels.
Incredible scenery and a sense of freedom and wonder of what the world had to offer…
I find it nearly impossible to choose single best or worst things, but I’ll relate a very awful day.
My wife and I had twins, 8 weeks premature. They spent their first month in neonatal intensive care, which was a very good sign because the initial estimate was they would be there for at least 2 months. There is a very long list of potential issues that correlate with prematurity and from birth they were subjected to test after test, nearly continuously at the start and tapering off over time until the last evaluation at about 14 months. Thank goodness that not a single serious issue was found.
There was one “minor” issue though. As is very common with preemies they had serious acid reflux issues. This is a minor issue, health-wise, if treated properly. But, OMG, was it ever miserable and difficult to deal with. Especially for the twins. For about the first 6 months of their lives they were either asleep (not nearly often enough!) or screaming in pain. They each needed two medicines at regular intervals, one an antacid and the other to promote healing of the damage to the esophagus.
This period was a blur for my wife and me. My wife bore the brunt of it because she stayed home full time to care for the kids. I got some relief by going to work. I have no idea how my wife managed for the hours that I was at work. While at home we each would take one of the twins and care for them. The routine was, when the baby wakes (screaming) feed them. They each needed a certain amount of food each feeding and it was very difficult to meet that goal. After feeding, medicine. After that, comfort them and try anything you could think of to get them to sleep. (During this period I discovered that my daughter liked her music on the hard side. Mozart was no help at all, but Rage Against the Machine comforted her) Once asleep, you rest too because they are going to wake up in about 20 – 30 minutes and the whole thing starts again. 24 – 7 for about 6 months. Snatches of sleep 15 minutes at a time through the nights. We were zombies.
This is the period of time during which this horrible incident occurred. My wife noticed a change in the twins. Even though screaming in pain nearly the entire time they were awake was normal for them, she noticed a change and thought something might be wrong. The pediatrician, picked by us after long research and who was supposedly the best in our area, rather condescendingly told my wife that she was just an upset overwrought mother and that nothing was wrong with the twins. That was the diagnosis on two visits. Things got worse with the twins. On the 3rd visit, with my now thoroughly pissed off wife insisting there was something wrong, the pediatrician finally did some testing. Lab results showed a serious urinary tract infection in both twins.
The infections had gone so long without treatment that it was feared that there might be kidney damage. This, of course, really pissed me off. A test needed to be done to check the kidneys. The test involved inserting a catheter into the urethra, forcing a dye into the urinary tract all the way up into the kidneys and then imaging the kidneys.
OMG. I had our son while my wife had our daughter. My son was first for the procedure. I carried him into the room. I tried to comfort him as they inserted the catheter and injected the dye. With the help of two other adults I struggled to hold my son in place on the imaging table. Three of us had trouble restraining this less than 6 month old baby that was two months premature. He was so violent that he ejected the catheter. He screamed his voice hoarse. He burst blood vessels in his eyes. Fuck. I can’t adequately describe how upset I was. Thoroughly distraught doesn’t begin to cover it. Every negative emotion was in extremis. If my need to try and comfort and protect my son had not provided some focus, I think I could have easily killed somebody in a hopeless attempt to make it all stop for him. This tiny little soul that had known nothing but misery in its short existence was then subjected to this additional torture. I was a complete wreck.
Thank goodness, there was no kidney damage. Now they are teenagers, almost ready to go out on their own. It has always amazed me that they were not marked for life from the constant misery of their earliest days. Things suddenly changed sometime after about 6 months and they quickly became the funnest, happiest kids. As if it never happened. I’ll never forget though.
How horrible that you all went through that; how wonderful that it all changed!
Thank you, su gould.
Just curious: did the acid reflux go away?
They did. The problem was merely that the valve at the base of the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), was not completely developed so wasn’t ‘on line’ yet. Apparently the LES is one of the later things to develop and it is very common that premature babies have this issue. Even full term babies too. By about 6-8 months they had no more acid reflux issues.
Not sure if this has held up, but we were told by their doctor at the time that typically a colicky baby is caused by this issue, acid reflux due to the LES not fully on line yet.
Have you ever resented that they don’t fully appreciate how much you suffered for them? I’m guessing that you haven’t. Moving story of parental love.
Thanks Ken. No, never resentful, not for a second. It’s funny, but rather quickly I could no longer really remember what it was like. As if I knew the story but didn’t actually live it.
I do remember the incident I related here, very well. Still gets me upset whenever I think of it, 18 years later.
” I remember my dad telling me, “Would it kill you to get a ‘B’ once in a while?” ” I like that part of the story in itself, which reminds me of a story of my own.
My son Aaron, the apple of my eye, rejoices in a 3rd chromosome 21, or Down Syndrome. He and a group of DS contemporaries were taught to read and write early (ages 3-5) at a pioneering special ed program. Ever since, Aaron has been good at words and word games. Around 25 years ago, my old friend (now deceased) the noted genetics researcher and author Robin Holliday, stayed over with us on a visit to Seattle, and joined Aaron and me in two games of Scrabble. Robin won one game and I won one, and Aaron was a close second in both games. I remember how struck Robin, a Fellow of the Royal Society, was by Aaron’s Scrabble-abilities.
Worst? The day my wife died in bed next to me. Best? Too many good days to pick one. The most memorable? The first kiss with the love of my life.
I’m so sorry about your wife, Robert.
Thanks. it has been 30 years
A grief difficult to fathom – so sorry for the depth and trauma of that loss.
Yes but he had that love. Some us never get to experience that!
Interesting question and it got me thinking. There have been a lot of bad days and not enough good days for my liking but it is hard to think of one which is outstanding. However, here’s an incident which I remember vividly and I write about because it has some similarities with what Jerry wrote but from a different mindset.
I was an intelligent, enthusiastic, hard-working pupil at secondary school in the UK whose future plans were dealt a severe blow when a teacher discovered that he had been teaching the wrong syllabus for my A level exam for nearly 2 years. Cutting a long story short – I’ll do that in several places – I ended up at university studying physiology which was not what I wanted to do. I was very depressed during my years there and did not enjoy myself at all; nonetheless, I studied hard, was top in all but one of my exams, and won a couple of minor prizes. During the summer between my 2nd and final years, I did a research project in a lab and did not enjoy it at all. So at the start of my third year, I went to the career advisor, told him that I didn’t want to go on with a research career and asked what else I could do. He shrugged and said “If you didn’t want to be a research scientist, why did you study physiology?”. So with no other obvious options, I went on to do a PhD, hoping that it would get better and I would become enthusiastic. It didnt; I didnt; and the whole experience was awful. Again, I went to a career advisor who again had no good ideas about what else I could do, so I ended up doing 6 years as a post doc in the US. Eventually the whole experience proved too much and I largely had a mental break down.
The day I remember clearly was the one I started my a final year research project as an undergraduate. The lab head said to me “So Gareth, you want to be a research scientist? Today you kiss goodbye to the rest of your life”. I remember breaking out into a cold sweat and feeling sick to the pit of my stomach. I think of it too often and too vividly.
“Today you kiss goodbye to the rest of your life.” That’s mentoring malpractice. He’s the one who should have found a different career. So sorry you got such bad counsel.
This is close to 40 years ago. I married a woman at risk for Huntington Disease. As you know, that can cause considerable anxiety for those in that position. From as long as we’d been together, Nancy would have moments where a twitch or slight loss of balance would cause her to question whether she was starting to show signs, and I would try to reassure her that it was nothing. Some days after one of these instances, I woke up consumed with the possibility that, this time, it could be true and i was completely unprepared. I wasn’t working and didn’t know when I would be. We had talked about trying to adopt a child but hadn’t done anything about that. As I tried to get my act together, the anxiety just got worse and worse. Like I was trying to stop a bowling ball going down a set of steps. It got to where I knew I should seek help, but I didn’t think that I could. If I said anything, Nancy might wonder if I had good reason to think she was experiencing onset or, in any event, that I was not psychologically strong enough to support her. This anxiety went on for many days and, over a number of years, would periodically reassert itself. By the way, this was before there was any genetic testing for HD, so that wasn’t an option. I’ve subsequently come to appreciate that this memorable event showed hallmarks of depression: The sudden onset, the downward trajectory and the oscillating reoccurrence. It’s just that it had a specific trigger. Anyway, that is perhaps my most memorable day. Today, Nancy is 68 and has never shown signs of HD.
What a terrifying story, Ruth! I’m so sorry that happened to you. I don’t think men can ever grasp how threatened women feel even in seemingly innocuous circumstances. A lone man in an otherwise empty elevator. The parking lot attendant when nobodyt else is around. Wolf-whistling construction guys. Mashers on the bus or subway. The grotesque euphemism “assault with a friendly weapon.” It’s not just annoying. It’s deeply, biologically threatening in a way men will never know. Undoubtedly that’s why Lorena Bobbitt (talk about an aptonym!) so shocked the male consciousness.
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”
Excerpt from “If”, by Rudyard Kipling
Written as tribute to Leander Starr Jameson
^^^url should have three hyphens after “if”
These are brutal to read. It is astonishing readers are sharing them – I give them praise.
My best day was my physical exam for military service in 1970. As a graduate student at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, I had been involved in a lot of Vietnam war protests and was in the draft resistance league. After drawing a low draft number and having been refused CO status, I went to a sympathetic psychiatrist. He said we’ll have to have a few sessions to prove I am really treating you. Eventually he wrote a three-page letter concluding that I was as likely “to kill my commanding officer as the enemy.” At the physical I pulled out the letter and the military physician, quickly leafed through it and said “nice job,” stamping my form 1H. My mother said this was going follow me the rest of my life. The odd conclusion is that as a graduate student at Michigan I was doing my dissertation research in Europe a few years later, teaching part-time for the Univ. of Maryland Overseas program in Germany and had officer’s status. So with my (secret) 1H and long hair and a beard, I was drinking at the officer’s club in Ramstein, watching the Army/Navy football game. That might have been my second best day.
I was involved in anti-Vietnam war activities in those days, and my draft board mysteriously ordered me to the military service physical exam sometime in the late 60s, although I was in my late 20s and an Assistant Prof. at a university. I don’t remember the details of the process clearly, but I think I managed to flunk the intelligence exam.
What stories! Discounting my worst days, about which I do not want to write, and my best days, most of which are the usual stuff, one of my most memorable days was when I was 19 and my then 26 year old ex boyfriend, who had stalked me for two years after I had broken up with him, cornered me in a public place and put a knife to my throat. For about 5 or ten minutes (really, I have no idea how long) I talked and talked, trying to somehow get him out of his resolution without making it too obvious, all with the blade pushing against my jugular and his breath on my face. Finally I managed to make a stranger nearby notice my predicament, using arm signs which my attacker, whose nose was practically touching mine, could not see. The young male stranger alerted a second male stranger, and together they resolved this by speaking softly and patting my attacker on the back, while the other of the two put his hand around the arm with the knife and pulled it away. I then fled and could never even thank my saviors.
I had occasional nightmares of meeting him again (and did a lot to prevent this), or felt a frisson of fear when a saw a silhouette from afar that resembled him until I heard, many years later, that he had died by suicide, and from then I was free of that fear. I get very agitated when I hear of overly jealous men, or of women killed by their partners or ex-partners, and my experiences with this boyfriend have somehow marked me for life, but I was not what I would call psychiatrically traumatized by almost getting stabbed, it was over far too quickly for that, and without my getting hurt. The most lasting influence of that boyfriend on my later life was that when choosing a life partner, I very consciously chose someone whose personality was/is the exact opposite in every way. Sorry should I have told this here before, I tend to tell this story a lot, it pops up in my mind in all kinds of contexts.
Maybe I should add that when he put the knife to my throat, he told me that he was now going to kill me, and had hoped to do this for quite a while, and now finally his moment had come, and I could never again escape from him.
Ruth, my reply to you somehow ended up under Ken’s post above.
Thank you, I think, Ruth, for sharing your gratitude for the helpers who did intervene. In any other case I would respectfully read and move on, and please forgive if this is unwelcome ‘advice’: there is professional help for folk after such terrible things so you don’t have to keep rehearsing that day, and I hope you can find the people that can assist you.
My worst day was January 2,2010 when I had a cardiac arrest and my wife used CPR until EMS came. I think I reported that here before. I was on ice for 36 hours and unconscious for 6 days and received a pacemaker/defibrillator (which was replaced in 2021).
My best days are numerous – college graduation, marriage (will be 50 years in December), 3 children doing well, 6 grandchildren, friends and WEIT to read daily.
One vivid moment for me also came with sobbing relief – it was the apex of some of the best and worst moments of my life.
In US veterinary training, four years of education beyond undergrad is standard. Most vets enter general practice after graduation, but those desiring to specialize (e.g. neuro, cardio, ophtho, etc) have another 4-6 years of training and research. I realized early on that I didn’t have a ‘jack of all trades’ mind where I could easily jump from one system to another – or the desire to manage cases without in-depth knowledge of the conditions present. Furthermore, for my own mental health, I needed to be in a specialty where euthanasia was not common practice. As I learned in my rotating internship year, even the cases where euthanasia was almost certainly the compassionate choice gave me little comfort. Being unable to confirm euthanasia was the patient’s desire – yet performing it – nearly obliterated me.
Most specialties require a one year rotating emergency medicine/surgery internship, and variations of additional specialty internship/research years before accepting candidates for a residency position.
Many candidates never match to their favored specialty, despite going through these hoops (desire to specialize far surpasses available residency positions). The stress associated with this path began early – in undergrad to earn grades needed for acceptance to vet school – in vet school to earn grades needed for acceptance to a respected internship program – in my internship years to perform in a stellar manner and prove I was worthy of residency… I burned the candle at both ends for many years.
One evening a few months in to my specialty internship, the director took me to dinner and after several hours of pleasant conversation, offered me a residency position. I had been clueless about the dinner’s purpose, and elatedly accepted. It was long past sunset when we left the restaurant, but I promptly drove to the nearest beach, fell to my knees in the surf, and wept. The relief was indescribable, and has never left me.
Taryn, thank you for becoming a veterinarian and bringing relief to suffering animals. I kiss your toes.
It was a calling thanks to the laws of physics 😉
The most memorable, the best, day in my life was back in early 1966. I was a novice Dominican Friar. One afternoon, we were sitting in the chapel during a “quiet period” that always lasted about a half hour before Vespers. For some reason, I remembered an incident when I was a little kid — our parents invited a Santa Claus to come to our house. As I was sitting on his lap, I couldn’t help but notice that his mustache was held on by what appeared to me to be a bandaid. In that second, I realized that Santa Claus was not a real person. For some reason, that same logic applied to my belief in god — in one second that belief vanished and has never returned. Within hours I turned in the habit and got a bus ticket back home. I have never once had occasion to second guess that moment.
Can you imagine my delight when some years later I read Robert Service’s poem, I think its called “The Skeptic”. He wrote: My Father Christmas passed away when I was only seven, at twenty-one, a lack-a-day, I lost my hope of heaven; yet not in either lies the curse, the hell of it’s because I don’t know which loss hurt the worse, my god or Santa Claus.
It’s also the reason I’m so grateful to scientists like you, Jerry. Your book Why Evolution is True was most helpful.
This is an amazing panoply of things that are awful and things that are wonderful. Keep them coming, please, as I am learning a lot about the readers. For those who recounted a horrible story, you have my sympathies; for those who told about the high points, I share your joy.
My best days. Coming home from operational deployments
My worst days. When I was being sexually abused by my Sunday School teacher
Most memorable. The days my kids were born
Some people are horrible. I am really sorry you had the bad experiences…
How awful, Grant. Hideous. I’m so sorry that abuse happened to you.
I remember the best meal of my life. I was 16 and went back packing with 4 friends in the Wallowa mountains in eastern Oregon. We didn’t have much money and as a result our food choices were limited. Instant mashed potatoes were a new thing at that time (1964) They were light had lots of calories and were cheap. We took lots of them and some other things. We were gone 2 weeks. The last 4 days we ate only potatoes and fish. We were even out of oil to fry the fish. We hiked out 9 miles and were met by my father at the trailhead. He had 4 fried chickens, a large container of potato salad and 3 ice cold watermelons (grown by my grandfather and the best watermelons on earth). We ate it all. I married the French teacher and live half time in France and know what good food is. Nothing has ever compared to that meal. It was the secret ingredient- hunger sauce.
I remember back-packing in Desolation Valley (California Sierra) with my bf, my brother and his gf, and my bf’s grad-school buddy. Buddy poopooed the instant hot chocolate with marshmallows and the tuna helper at first, but he was all over them by the fourth day. ANYthing tastes good when you’re that tired and hungry (and snow on the ground in August🙀). After our final descent the gas station sign said EAT HERE AND GET GAS.
This is a really interesting anecdote. It makes me feel like I am not a normal person. You get so emotional. I find that hard to relate to – for example the dead duck. I think I am not so emotional about death. I would have taken it home, put it in the garden, & let the insects eat it. I think I am just matter-of-fact. My memory for personal things or events, is terrible. I live in the moment, not in re-remembered memories. I would be hard put to recall any event or day from when I was in my 20s, let alone 30s!
I do not have a particularly memorable day as a result. Perhaps when I was asked as an MA student to give a postgrad lecture, around Easter 2001. My MA had exams in September, as well as the dissertation of 10,000 words, unlike most which have exams after Easter allowing the summer for the dissertation. I was not really doing the MA because I wanted to, I had become a student at 36, never having been to uni before, got a good degree, but as a 40 yold, there were far fewer opportunities for further study. Some grants were for under 40s I recall. My aunt offered to give money towards the fee -but I had to work to make enough to live, so had less time for study. I was stupid to say I would do the talk, when I hardly knew the subject – runes & the christianisation of Sweden. I had never given a talk, no one advised me how to go about it, & I was talking in front of two of the world experts on the subject. It was a disaster. I rambled on & on, like I am now (did I already share this story???) to no effect. I talked or squawked for an hour!! The ting is, if they asked me to do it AFTER writing the dissertation, I could have had something better to say, in an amateur way. If you want to be an academic do it young. I have just dribbled my miserable life away like water into sand…
Oh well! 🤣😎
Wish I had not put this up now- when I read other people’s memorable awful days it seems trite.
It doesn’t. Honestly. It was a lovely, horrible story of a disaster 🙂
No, Dom– thanks much for sharing your story.
like many have already said, There are many, many memories, good and bad, and some of those already told resonate with me. Thanks all for sharing.
I’ll throw a one into the pot, after noting a few that don’t make the cut: Getting stabbed in the eye in a bar and being brought into surgery ahead of the girl with a torn aorta from a car wreck because she wasn’t stable enough (she survived, as far as I know), the day I met my ex (still the love of my life, but she was right when she cut it off), when tonsilitis in college changed my future in one night, being the primary reason I went to grad school, circumnavigating New Jersey on a 1975 CB400F in January (1996, I think. Awesome, if chilly, especially in along the Delaware). And many others, good and bad.
The most powerfully memorable day was actually 20january2011. I was still smoking, and stepped out back of the dive bar I was hanging out in to have a smoke. All I could hear was “Mrow! Mrow!” Non stop. There was what appeared to be a few week old kitten standing in the middle of the parking lot, alone. It was a wet January, and there was a bit of sleet, so, here I am, and there are people around just ignoring him, and he is “Mrow! Mrowwww!” wandering around a dive bar parking lot.
So, I stood there.
For about an hour.
Eventually, he came toward me, and I crouched down. A few minutes he approached enough to give him a scratch, and he almost immediately decided the best place to be was my lap. While I am crouched down in a parking lot like a baseball catcher. At night. Another half hour later, the manager stepped out and told me he thought I forgot to pay and he was figuring to roast me the next night. Sorry, my beer was dumped. I got back inside maybe an hour later.
The next evening, I had a well used cooler in my truck, had picked up a couple cans of cat food and a small bag of litter, and confirmed late hours with a local vet.
And then hung out in the parking lot.
A while later, he came back. This time, he set pitons and went mountaineering. Up my leg. I walked over to my truck, he decided to explore the bed, and I convinced him to get into the cooler. Into the cab, and to the vet we went, him looking over the edge of the cooler and my hand on him the whole way.
Turned out he was four or five months old (dive bar dumpster isn’t the best for a kitten to grow on), has all of the parasites they could test for except tapeworms, but was basically healthy otherwise.
Almost eleven years later, he is 5.8Kg, still a joy, makes biscuits constantly, and purrs so loudly and continuously that I have no clue if he has a heartbeat, loves to play ‘life on the savanna` in the yard, and is quite a proficient mouser.
Watching my father die. He’d been ravaged by cancer. He was emaciated and riddled with rock-hard tumors. He was alive, and then he wasn’t. I’d seen a human corpse before but never had seen a living human become a corpse. It’s a dark miracle.
A few months later I saw the movie “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” There’s a scene where Indiana falls into an ancient crypt and lands face to face with an unwrapped mummy. It was supposed to be a “scary monster” but all I could see was the tragic remains of a person who had suffered and died.
I’m ashamed now that, when PCC(E) issued this challenge, I didn’t right away think of watching my father die. (He’d gone septic after surgery.) People imagine that watching someone die in a hospital is a horrible experience, but it really isn’t. I found it profoundly moving. ICU nurses are our real priests, and morphine is the sacrament.
I can relate. I watched my mother make that strange transition from life to death. She was ravaged by cancer – a smoker all her life – and was just waiting for the inevitable.
This may not qualify as a memory, but it’s interesting nonetheless:
In one very clear memory from my early childhood, I can recall falling out of the family car onto a gravel road, suffering lacerations to my arms, face and scalp. I remember the door being slightly ajar, and my mother, the driver, saying “Don’t try to close the door. It’s not safe.” I remember well the feel of landing in the gravel, and seeing the car come to a stop and backup; then laying on a kitchen table while my mom picked gravel out of my scalp.
I told the story a few years ago to my older siblings (I am the youngest) at a family gathering, expecting them to be able to fill in details I couldn’t accurately remember. Instead, they looked at me strangely for a moment, then informed me that it was not myself, but an older brother, who had fallen from the car. A few months ago I listened to this same brother recount the experience in detail, and felt amazed that he got it all exactly right as I remembered it.
The real accident happened several years before I was born; I only heard about it years later. It’s quite the shock to realize that a landmark early childhood memory was in fact confabulated.
I don’t know if this is good, bad, or just memorable, but here ‘goes: Being the first of my extended family to go to college, I had no mentors or role models to lean on. Though I was valedictorian in high school, “doing college” was something else. My undergrad years were intensely intense, to coin a phrase. Memories are very sparse from that time beyond the disconcerting feeling that I was out of my mind somehow. (In the first or second year I was diagnosed with some kind of fatigue-related ailment that required me to stay in bed for a few weeks and miss classes, but I have no recollection of what the ailment was). I graduated with decent grades and went to an annual musical retreat in the mountains that summer. Here’s the memorable thing: I was taking a walk with an older friend when she said, “I hear you just graduated. Congratulations! What are you going to do next? Do you have a job lined up?” I stopped dead, feeling like I’d been struck by lightening. What *was* I going to do next? The question somehow hadn’t even occurred to me. What did one normally do after graduating from college? (Remember that nobody I knew had ever gone to college – it was truly unknown among family, friends, or community). Anyway, I don’t recall how I responded but as soon as I got home I started a frenzied search for graduate schools I might apply to in the fall. Luckily I got into a good one, got my masters, and have been in a great job with a Forture 500 company for over 20 years.
Avondale Lunatic Asylum and Carrington Psychiatric Hospital… this little memory.
I went to visit a friend of a close girlfriend who had been admitted for reasons I did not know at the time and can’t remember now. A chemical imbalance is how it was described. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon. She (the patient) started calling me Jesus Christ (I had long hair and a silly beard) and she was hyperactive and dancing around, verbalizing all sorts of stuff. I had never encountered anything like this before, I had met her the week earlier and was overwhelmed by the starkness of that person and the one in front of me now. Her mind completely gone (at least to me)The visit ended, we lead her back to a padded cell and the orderly locked her in… the crying and screaming.
It shook me like hell, I dropped my friend off and spent a good hour or two in a park lying on my back looking at clouds.
I’ll take this as an opportunity to recommend Andrew Scull’s Desperate Remedies: Psychiatry’s Turbulent Quest to Cure Mental Illness, a great history of psychiatry. Scull offers a compelling case that we really know nothing of the etiology and pathophysiology of psychosis.
Just put this into my shopping cart. Thank you.
Thank you for your reply I will look it up and review. This experience happened 47 yrs ago and have since read and gained a good appreciation of disorders of the brain.
I was woefully underprepared for that day and it set me up for a lifetime of learning.
At 17 (1963) I finally got a guitar. I’d wanted one since I was twelve, having heard Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly on the radio. My parents were against the idea but finally relented. Since that time I have constantly played guitar, practicing hours every day (still), playing in bands (with Chuck Berry Bo Diddley, Jeff St John, many more). I think about it all the time. I tried careers in science (arachnology), science journalism – but they weren’t enough. Playing the guitar is my joyful obsession. When I can’t do it any more I’ll stop living. That’s it. A life in music. Best thing I ever did.
There are some moving accounts here.
Most of my stuff in the “bad” category is related either to combat or other job related experiences. I have managed to mostly keep those in a box, apart from normal life. It also seems wrong to complain about experiencing things that tend to go with activities that I voluntarily joined. For example, I signed up to work in Indonesia in the immediate aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. Going in, I sort of imagined it would involve a lot of handing rations and bottles of water to smiling children in fishing villages. The reality was more to do with recovery of gruesome floating remains. As bad as that seemed, I was surrounded by people who were objectively having a much worse week than I was.
ronsch99’s experience in particular, and others related here are hard to read, because they were experiences that were both unexpected and in no way voluntary.
So lets talk about good days. We lived on a 47 foot sailboat for almost 8 years. I am sure my memory is a composite of lots of such days, because we did it as often as possible.
We (my wife and I or with some friends) would get up early, spend the day sailing, and anchor in some secluded and protected cove. About sunset, we would grill some BBQ or the day’s catch, late in the evening, jump naked into the sea, then talk late into the night over a cooler of cold drinks.
If I got stuck in one of those time loops where you repeat the same day over and over, and it happened to be one of those days, I would be pretty content.
When I was in college, we had a marina attached to campus, and I had a vintage racing boat there. When things got stressful at school, I would take the boat out after dinner, and sail around the bay until just before dawn. There was almost no wind at night, so I could put up a lot of sail, and just whisper silently along in the dark by myself. No engine, no lights, supremely peaceful. Again, that is not a thing I did one time. I did it often. There were times when I misjudged the weather and it turned into a bit of an adventure, but I always managed to get back before dawn.
When I worked on the big blue ships, I had an outrigger canoe that I could take out when we were anchored offshore. On the ranch, it is a motorcycle I can ride up in the mountains. Variations on a theme, and for me, it is a key to sanity.
I am not sure if a day repeated counts, as an answer to the question posed in the post. I guess in each of the cases I related, there was one perfect best time, but I can’t remember which it was.
Most memorable is probably standing on top of Half Dome in Yosemite, my choice of a hike for my 10th birthday. On a more academic note, I won the Sproul award at Berkeley for combined academic excellence and “service”, mostly to the student run marching band. My future mother-in-law’s response: “It’s a shame you didn’t win the University Medal” (awarded each year to the graduate with the highest GPA). My perfect record was ruined by a B+ in an embryology class that emphasized memorizing (and drawing) serial cross sections through assorted embryos . An older memory: I was not very challenged my first year or two in high school, so I studied very little. My father questioned that and ended up with “OK, but I don’t want you coming home with a bunch of Bs”. For him, B was the lowest imaginable grade.
Boo Cal Marching Band. Yay Stanford Marching Band🤓
I would have been hopeless at drawing those embryology slides😬
The Stanford band years ago gave up any pretense of actually marching. They just fool around in what has degenerated into little more than self parody.
I’ve written and deleted three comments. Oh, man…what’s my problem? Now I just have to summarize because I’m exasperated.
Also, I loved reading everyone’s comments here. Wow…just wow.
This is more of my “proudest” moment, which was also a happy one.
My father started a company called “Sierra Trading Post”. It was a family business and I worked on and off for many years. Then I decided to work there “for real”. Me and my then girlfriend, now wife, moved from Seattle to Cheyenne, WY in ’98 to work there. Talk about culture shock! After reuniting with the business with a “title” I was expected to follow the social rules and obligations. Well, dad’s a born-again Xtian and eventually he asked me to attend a “retreat” where they decide how much money goes to a missionary-group called ‘The Navigators’ and how the money is to be distributed, etc. I declined and he asked me why. It was the first time I told him I was an atheist and that’s why I couldn’t participate. I added “please don’t ask me again to do this kind of thing.” What a relief! He wasn’t pleased, but I sure was…elated, actually.
Another very happy day was when I won $15k in a “Build a Better Burger” contest hosted by Sutter Home wine (mediocre wine) held in Napa. They flew us down all expenses paid on a 3 day excursion of coolness. I made a an Indian appropriated lamb burger for the “alternate burger” category. Got a cool trophy too and one of those 6-foot checks. WTF? My 15 minutes I suppose.
You’re the son of Sierra Trading Post? Learn somethin’ new every day. 🙂
I used to order a lot from that outfit!
You did? That’s cool! They’re still around, but it’s now called “Sierra”. We sold the business to T.J. Maxx in 2013. They still have great deals and great brands; I buy a lot of shoes from them.
I have a new worst moment – hearing about this on the news this morning –
Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios
PS I was hoping Jez would put as an anecdote the disastrous day he first encountered me! 🤪
Being sworn in as a US citizen in 2003 was pretty damn cool. And arriving here to study a few years earlier.
Not the best or worst, but most powerfully memorable due to my age at the time: As a teen around Memorial Day weekend in 1982 I was waiting for the late bus at my public high school on that Friday after baseball practice. To my surprise, I saw a former teammate from Little League walk toward me with a couple other big-time jocks. It was Teddy P., who’d gone to a private high school and must have been visiting my school for some reason– so this was the first time I’d seen him in a couple of years. He didn’t speak to me, just gave a friendly kick to the bottom of my shoe as a sat on the floor, leg outstretched.
Well, that Friday night I fell asleep with my transistor radio under my pillow, as I was listening to a late baseball game, Boston was out in Seattle. But I never turned off the radio and I was awakened just after 8 a.m. on Saturday at the very moment the announcer reported that “Three teenagers became the State’s first Memorial weekend traffic fatalities last night in an accident at routes 122 and 56 in Paxton.” That was just a block from my house. Then he said the names, “Phil W., Jason L. and Teddy P. died….”
It was so overwhelming to me at that time that it remains the episode I most vividly recall through the years, as if the immediacy of its power has never diminished. And as an afterword, I discussed that accident with another mate that fall, 1982, in an English class. Glen B. told me that he actually encountered the accident scene late that night as he was driving home from a date. We both wrote about our experiences for that class and I felt that I’d connected with him for the first time in several years. Anyway, he was a year ahead of me and went away to college in Florida the next year. Then in the fall of 1983 as I was waiting for the bus in the crowded cafeteria a young woman burst into the crowd, obviously broken up and wailing. The news passed through the mass of students that Glen B. had been killed in a car accident in Boca Raton, FL.
I think that my age during those events made them my most significant memories.
“He didn’t speak to me, just gave a friendly kick to the bottom of my shoe as a sat on the floor, leg outstretched.”
I just want to highlight the _detail_ of some of these recollections – I too can recall the precise details events from long ago – I find it fascinating.
Perhaps it is confabulation, but I think not always. It makes me wonder about the realm of experience – what details are ignored, which are recorded, and by whom.
Thanks, ThyroidPlanet. I can chuckle about it now, in that Teddy was the fat kid in Little League but he’d become a cool, muscular Senior by that day. And I realize that he probably didn’t speak to me because I was still a bit scrawny and probably not the kind of kid to broadcast his association with in front of the other Big Boys on campus.;-)
I think you are right about that age being very formative. I still clearly remember the faces of high school classmates that died during high school, and I wasn’t ever even friends with any of them.
I even remember their clothes. My own, and theirs. And I still dream about classmates I haven’t seen since school, mostly in the context of school outings.
From the “best” category, a particularly fine day of riding. Some friends and I were on a mountain motorcycle riding trip, something we used to do regularly. This trip 6 of us had rented a large cabin somewhere in the western NC mountains near the TN border.
On the 1st or 2nd day while riding with a much larger group, something I hate doing, I was hit from behind by another motorcycle and was bruised and banged up a bit, including what I later learned was a couple of cracked ribs. My bike, a Yamaha R1 on that trip, was a bit banged up too but my friends (mostly) and I had that sorted in a day, so I continued riding the rest of the trip, though mostly with one arm / hand.
In our group of close riding friends me and one other are the fast guys. The others know not to try and follow us when we take off. But the other guy is always a bit faster than me. I put it up to me just being a bit more cautious (at least that’s what I tell myself), while he’s just crazy. I tend to sneak up to the limit incrementally, he just smashes into it.
One day, as we often do, me and the other guy just took off on our own for a hard ride on some beautiful twisty mountain roads. Everything was perfect. I was in the zone. Wasn’t even aware of the painful ribs or shoulder. The other guy could not get away from me. I was on his rear tire the entire time. We stopped for a break. He asked if I wanted to try switching bikes. I said sure. We hit the road again, and again it was perfect. One of the best rides I’ve experienced. Many of my best riding experiences have been with this friend.
To top it off, later that day after meeting back up with our other friends, the other guy told everyone about our ride, how he couldn’t get away from me and, “Then we switched bikes and he even beat me riding my own bike!” The other guy is very competitive, to the point that we tease him mercilessly about it, and this was a rare acknowledgement from him. Made my day.
I have had two different people, years apart, relate to me that the first time they saw my father, their first thought was “What kind of maniac drives that fast?”
He drives distinctive cars, so it was only later, after they met him, that they realized he was the maniac they encountered earlier.
There are time when I was following him someplace, that I only kept up because of his distinctive purple tail lights.
Cool story. I never made it past the Honda Trail 70! Actually I have a quad now, but have never had a proper motorcycle and probably never will. But riding bikes on mountain trails is pure exhilaration, even if it’s on a “mini-bike”. 🙂
A while back I was hanging out with some friends at an amateur flat track racing event and someone there had a beautifully restored and customized Trail 70, and a 50 too. Very nice work, I took pictures.
One thing that struck me was how small they were! I know, obviously they’re small, but my minds image of them is from the perspective I had of them when I was 7 years old, when they seemed quite large!
Here’s the pics if you like.
Trail 70 & 50 Pics
Wow! Those are superb. That 70 looks speedy; what a great job. Thanks for sharing.
I recall when you were at UMCP, you made a comment in reference to Richard Highton and his seemingly inattentiveness to his children and his travels. In effect you said, “No one ever dies thinking, ‘I should have worked more’ “
Probably a twofer – same day being run over (while asleep on a golf course) by a pickup truck (moving sprinklers on the greens in the middle of the night), and shortly thereafter concluding that I was still alive and didn’t seem to have any broken bones, subsequently confirmed.
Worst: That day in 2011 when I was in a house that was in a direct hit from an EF4 tornado.
1. When I was about 9, our family sailed from New York to Southampton on the Queen Elizabeth, the world’s largest ship at the time. As soon as we got on board, I managed to get separated from my family (aka “lost”), so I just went on a sight-seeing tour of the boat. I entered a door into the superstructure of one of the funnels, then found myself in a strange room with windows on all sides, and weird-looking equipment around the edges.
I was alone, unsupervised, on the Bridge of the world’s largest ship. I had total control, but didn’t know it. I don’t think I ever told anyone at the time, since I didn’t understand what a ‘Bridge’ was to begin with.
2. At 11 I started attending an English prep school (Ravenswood Sch., Stoodleigh, Devon). The English class was assigned to write a competition on any topic we liked. I’d recently read Oliver Twist so I decided to imitate Dickens’ style of prose. I got marked 19/20, as did another boy.
Both of us were asked to read our stories out loud to the class. When we’d finished, the teacher upped my mark to 20/20.
This might not seem extraordinary, unless you know that in English private schools there was a strict unwritten rule: NO ONE EVER GETS FULL MARKS FOR ANYTHING, EVER. While an exception might be unavoidable for a math test, English compositions are easy to find problems with, hence the rule.