Over the years I always thought it was charming when I knew people who had named their cars and commonly referred to them that way. I also thought this was somewhat affected. I had trouble imagining how one went about naming a car, and, of course, this is not commonly done. Now, however, this has happened to me, quite unintentionally. For some time I've been calling my 1972 Volkswagen Beetle "Yoda."

I bought Yoda in Texas in 1981 after my 1965 Volkswagen Squareback was totaled in an accident in LA late in 1980. I did not necessarilly intend to buy another Volkswagen, and would even have preferred another squareback; but my friendly mechanics at George's Wagon Works in Austin, who had always worked on the Squareback, had just rebuilt the engine in this Beetle. It was a type 113. People sometimes called it a "Superbeetle," and it has some Superbeetle features (e.g. larger engine), but, with a flat windshield, it was not a true Superbeetle. I liked the pickup and handling and so did the easiest thing and bought it. I also had some affection for the model, since my first wife had driven the very same car, in the year when it was new (1972), when I met her.

Driving back and forth between Texas and California produced some adventures. Once my clutch went out in Blythe, California. At a gas station, a guy called "Nacho" (actually, a nickname for "Ignacio"), armed with nothing but the VW service manual, actually pulled the engine and successfully replaced the clutch. I had checked into a nearby Motel 6, but the heat didn't work, they weren't going to do anything about it in the office, and it was winter, so I drove on to Phoenix and spent the night there.

Another time, the generator bearing burned out just as I was rolling into Artesia, New Mexico -- half-way between the better known cities of Roswell and Carlsbad. It was a Sunday. The closest AAA service was 200 miles away, in Clovis. But there was, it seemed, a local guy who worked on VW's. He showed up with his tow truck, towed my car to his garage, and dropped me off at a motel. As I entered the motel office, I was bowled over by the smell of curry. The motel was owned by people from India. It was only later I learned that "more than one-fourth of all the hotels and motels in the United States are owned by people from India" [Thomas Sowell, Is Reality Optional?, Hoover Institution Press, 1993, p.33]. At the time it seemed very bizarre. Now it is splendid testimony to (East) Indian entrepreneurialism.

A couple of years later, in LA, my friend Marc wanted to buy a present and I went to a toystore with him. It was not long after the release of Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi [1983], and there was the complete collection of Star Wars "action figures" on sale. There really is no dashboard in my car, but it struck me that the tiny Yoda figure would fit on the minimal molding below the windshield. I thought that Yoda, rather than a plastic Jesus, would be a nice touch for the car.

What happened was that, as the years went by, the name began, somehow, to stick to the car itself. This continued even after I removed the figure -- it was beginning to become valuable, and I feared someone might break into the car to get it. I put a compass in its place. But then another alternative presented itself. When George Lucas re-released all the Star Wars movies, in anticipation of the release of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in 1999, a new line of figures was released, including an even smaller, inconspicuous figure of Yoda. This was perfect. So now the eponymous figure has returned to the car.

In the photo of Yoda above, there is a U.S. flag on the passenger side window. This was right after 9/11, when having flags on cars, even in Los Angeles, was quite common. The parking lot at the market looked like the Fleet had come in.

Yoda (the car of course) is now 46 years old. There are fewer people who work on such cars, and parts take a while to get. For a while things were often going wrong, but then for some years little or nothing went wrong -- until, in 2000, a spark plug blew out of one of the heads. So now I have two new heads. It might be about time for a new car, and I've rented cars to go on longer trips. The new cars are nice, but also rather expensive. When a Model T Ford in 1999 dollars would only be $3000, modern cars seem overpriced. The new cars, to be sure, have much more in the way of features and safety devices than the Model T ever had, but then all of that isn't much help when you can't afford to buy the thing.

Yoda was not my first car. That was my wonderful 1959 Triumph TR3, seen at right, which I acquired in 1968, just before starting my Sophomore year at UCLA. It never occurred to me at the time to name this car, so I fear that, for all its love and service, it remains nameless.

The doors of this car did lock, but it was hardly worth the trouble. Anyone could have gotten into it at any time, just by pulling off the top or the cover I used when the top was down. There wasn't much to take anyway. But, despite a year of parking it in UCLA Lot 32, which was all the way down by Wilshire Blvd., there was never any break-in or robbery. It was missing what otherwise might be regarded as amenities, like interior door handles. You opened the door by reaching into a cutout pocket in the door and pulling on a wire. Or, if the top was down, you could just reach outside and use the external door handle. Indeed, with the scooped shape of the door, and closeness of everything to the ground, you could reach out over the door and touch the pavement. Since the ashtray had just been screwed on under the dashboard, I removed it the day I got the car. Later, when I had a girlfriend who smoked, she would often put out her cigarette on the street when we were stopped at a stoplight. Those were the days -- not the least because it never occurred to me, or anyone, to rebuke her for smoking.

The Triumph did not have a special souped up engine, but it had excellent pick-up and speed. In the days of hippie-ish long hair, I kept my hair cut relatively short, or it would have been impossible to comb after driving at any speed with the top down. These were also the days of little in the way of consumer safely. Although the car did have seat belts, it had doors that were no more than sheet metal; and it had no roll bars. If I had flipped it, a good part of my body probably would have been smeared on the roadway. But the low slung car never felt like it was in much danger of rolling.

The heater was useless at high speed, since cold air would blow in around the fabric top. Driving in the winter over the Grapevine on US 99 -- now I-5 -- my feet would end up numb. Now I need to ride my bike in freezing weather for that to happen.

The first year, my favorite drives were often up to Edwards Air Force Base, to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins. It was an open base at the time, and there were several ways to drive in. I favored coming from due south, where the road went by what I now believe was the rocket sled track, where they tested very high g accelerations. The doctor who allowed himself to be the test subject was often blind for a while after a run.

The second year I owned the car, I wasn't driving it, because I was in Beirut. My father would drive it every once in a while, to keep it running. When I got back, I had places to go, since I was eager to visit a friend from Beirut, Gay Lee, in San Francisco. See her in Palmyra. The photo at left is thus with the two of us, and Gay Lee wearing a dress she bought in Syria, standing by the TR3. I looked like a philosophy student, tweed coat and all, already.

Visiting her up north, I took her, of course, to The Shadows restaurant in the City. At the time, it seemed like it would always be there; but now, of course, it is long gone. But patronizing it on those occasions, and walking up to the top of Telegraph Hill after dinner, adds a lot of great memories.

My most adventurous drive, as it seemed at the time, was to go to Mesa, Arizona, where Gay Lee was visiting her grandmother. This was before I-10 was completed through the desert. And her grandmother's house was pretty much at the east end of town, with the desert stretching away to Apache Junction (the origin of the stagecoach in Stagecoach, 1939, the movie that made John Wayne a star). Imagine my surprise when I drove back through Mesa in 1979 and that stretch of desert was no more -- competely grown over by the urban area of Phoenix. And I-10 was completed through the desert.

Then the day came to move on to graduate school in Hawai'i, and I sold the 1959 TR3. I will not see its like again. In Hawai'i I began driving my first wife's brother's VW Squareback; and when we moved to Texas in 1975, and stopped in Los Angeles, we bought our own 1965 VS Squareback. As little as we were moving with, it all fit in the back of the Squareback. That car can be seen parked at Deep Eddy Apartments on the Drive Friendly page here.

Since I originally wrote the section above, in 2001, Yoda got a complete new engine. But then in 2007 I also bought a new car, a 2007 Mini Cooper.

I've decided that what I like about the Mini is that it combines what I liked about each of the cars I've owned. Like my 1959 Triumph, it is British, small, low, and sporty. Indeed, it was built as a racing car -- but without a real overpowered sports car engine. Like my 1965 VW Squareback, it has square hatchback with easy access to space for groceries and light hauling (though the Squareback had rather more space than the Mini -- but then the TR3 really had no space for anything behind the front seats). And, like my 1972 VW Beetle, Yoda, it is nimble, small, and cultish -- much more so than the New Beetle that VW has put out.

But that was not the end of the story for Yoda. I shipped him to New Jersey and registered him here -- where I moved to Princeton in 2013, after my retirement in 2009 and some travel around the country. The photo shows him with our bikes mounted on the roof rack. For a couple years he sat in the garage and simply provided me with a car while I was in town. But in the Spring of 2009, my wife's own car died, and so for a while she was been driving Yoda around Princeton until she bought another car. There aren't that many old Beetles still on the road, so he attracted some attention. While sitting at an intersection, I've had a woman shout at me from a passing car, "Love your bug!"

In June 2009, I first drove my Mini entirely across the country. This repeated a drive I did in 2003 with a U-Haul truck, to clean out a storage space that my wife and I had been using in LA. After three round trips across the country in the Mini, I repeated the drive with a U-Haul in 2013, when I sold my house in LA and moved completely to New Jersey.

Although I see quite a few Minis around in both California and New Jersey, in 2009 I only saw two on the road:  and I didn't notice any old VW Beetles. So Yoda is a dying breed, but not quite dead yet. For the Mini, however, something now seemed missing if it did not have a name. So I bought a little Chinese god, Hotei in Japanese, for a dashboard ornament, and the name stuck to the car. So the Mini is now "Hotei."

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On Religion

The only organized religion to which I ever formally belonged was the Bahá'í Faith. I had known something of the religion already, but I only made the acquaintance of a Bahá'í community while living in Hawaii in 1975. What attracted my attention was an exhibit that the Bahá'ís of Oahu set up in the Ala Moana Shopping Center. I decided to go to one of their "firesides," by which the religion was formally introduced, in their low key fashion, to interested parties. I liked their ideas, attitude, and history, though I wasn't all that attracted to the idea of actually joining. Nevertheless, my wife and I in short order became very friendly with one of the couples who were community leaders. (Being in a leadership position with the Bahá'ís of Hawaii was a little special, since Hawaii still had its own "national" organization, from the days before the Annexation of Hawaii by the United States.) They were very, very nice people, which was always my experience with Bahá'ís in general, and we had a number of pleasant evenings visiting and talking. One evening we began playing Canasta, of all things, and actually ended up playing through the entire night.

Soon afterwards, when my wife and I moved to Texas, our connection and interest in the Bahá'ís lapsed--and then our connection and interest in each other lapsed. Some years passed before an old friend of mine, Marc Gilbert, converted to the Bahá'í Faith himself and drew my attention back to the subject. Then it turned out that I had already met, in a karate class, one of the Bahá'í community leaders in Austin, whose last name also happened to be Kelley. He and his wife, again, turned out to be extremely nice people, and I thought that if I were ever going to be involved in organized religion, this was about the closest to my sensibilities that I would get. So I joined. At the same time, I was never very interested in Bahá'í religious practice or in the authority of the Faith to govern my personal behavior in ways beyond the requirements of simple morality. However, the Bahá'í community was not very militant when it came to enforcing, or even observing, such outward manifestations of religious practice, so it would not have made very much difference for my long term participation.

Nevertheless, I could not avoid the sense that I wasn't quite in the spirit of the thing and that my continued participation was under something like false pretenses. After I left Austin and, again, no longer had the personal connection and fellowship of the people I knew, I decided that I didn't really belong in the Faith. The local "spiritual assembly" leadership in Los Angeles at first didn't seem to think it was really necessary that I leave formally, but then they agreed that my scruple over the authority of the international Bahá'í organization (the "Universal House of Justice" in Haifa) to interpret doctrine put me at significant odds with them. One thing I had liked about orthodox Islam was its lack of authoritative institutional structure. Orthodox Islam, at least in the past, had allowed "independent interpretation" (ijtihâd), which had been an important idea in the history of Islamic philosophy, since the philosophers thought that they could say all kinds of odd things as long as they produced their own interpretation of how this squared with the text of the Qur'ân and the Traditions of the Prophet. Averroës, who was an Islamic judge (a qadi) himself, tried to use this device to defend philosophy against accusation of heresy and apostasy. Thus, since I rather liked this in Islamic Law, the Bahá'í institutional structure, derived not from orthodox Islam but from the kind of Iranian Shi'ism that believed in Authoritative Interpretation, seemed like very much the wrong direction to go in. (Interestingly, some people didn't like the authority of the Guardian Shoghi Effendi devolving even onto an elected council at his death in 1957; there has been an apostolic succession of claimants to the Guardianship since, through Charles Mason Remey and Joel B. Marangella--originally there had also been a schism with those, "the Covenant Breakers," who had not accepted Shoghi Effendi in the first place.)

Now, I would never have worried much about all this if I had not thought that there was something important to religion. What that was and how I would express it were a while in coming. My parents had not been actively religious, though one of my great-grandfathers, John David Kelley (1868-1934), had been a Methodist minister back in Arkansas, and my grandmother still took her religion very seriously. My mother's family belonged to the Disciples of Christ; and when I was a child, such church attendance as was practiced by my family was with that church. For some reason I fiercely resisted any further involvement, and my parents' own enthusiasm seemed to flag as the 50's passed into the 60's. Although my father would later sometimes take my grandmother to her Methodist church, and occasionally managed to get me to go along, this did not seem to represent an effort to get me religiously involved; and by then it was far too late anyway. I already thought that Islam was at least as interesting as Christianity, most of my friends were Jews, my love of Egypt undermined any sense that the ancient gods were any more evil than modern ones, and when I finally came upon philosophy, the whole idea of believing in anything on faith became utterly contemptible.

The special dislike I then conceived for Christianity for a while even disinclined me to enter churches, which meant that I passed up a memorable opportunity in 1967 to visit with some friends the cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico, when we had driven there from Albuquerque (rather foolishly) in the middle of the night in a snowstorm, at a time when the cathedral was trustingly (or inadvertently) left open to such visits. It was a very beautiful scene in Santa Fe, deserted and quiet, with a light snow falling onto the empty streets, but from clouds that were so thin that the moon shone through them. I simply waited outside, taking in the scene, as my friends, who were students and aficionados of religion as I was becoming, went in to see the famous statue of the Madonna in the cathedral. I would visit the cathedral later, but it wasn't quite the same in daylight with streets full of tourists.

I was soon over such foolishness, but it was some years before I could begin to formulate and articulate what interested me and what I thought was important about religion, but also why the practice of a specific religion didn't appeal to me. I wouldn't begin to do that until I was reading Rudolf Otto as a graduate student in Hawaii and then C.G. Jung as a graduate student in Texas, and I wouldn't be writing about it extensively until I was actually writing my dissertation. The answer is then part of the "Polynomic Theory of Value" and so specifically the "New Friesian Theory of Religious Value". The specific business of religion, in those terms, is not morality, which is polynomically independent of religious value and rationally explicable, but the meaning and purpose of life as a good-in-itself. That is not a question that can be answered in rational terms, simply because an intrinsic good or end-in-itself cannot be explained instrumentally or in terms of further goods or consequences, which is what the discursive explanation of value requires. Although religious meaning can be expressed in theistic religions in terms of the purposes of God (e.g. "God has a plan"), the explanation of those purposes then raises the same questions all over again: What are the ends of the plan really for?

This is illuminated rather starkly by Buddhism, towards which I was directed as part of course work in Hawaii, where the philosophy department had specializations in Indian and Chinese philosophy and included some attention to them in degree requirements. In Buddhism, the problem answered by religious practice is to be freed from suffering. The suffering is not thought to serve any purpose, no attempt is made to justify it, and no particular attention was paid, originally, to what happens after one is delivered from suffering and attains Nirvana. Buddhism thus avoided the troubling, theoretical questions as "not tending to edification." This all was something different; and I thought about it more after moving to Texas, losing my marriage, and meditating on loss, failure, and suffering in the loneliness and grief I then experienced. Later forms of Buddhism, of course, developed the idea that deliverance from suffering ends up meaning, not the avoidance of rebirth, but accepting life just the way it is. That could be extremely dangerous, since it could well mean accepting the political and social status quo, which has been a powerful effect seen in Japan; but since I didn't really agree with the overall world-denying thrust of early Buddhism, that aspect of later Buddhism was not entirely unappealing.

Buddhism's willingness to suspend judgment on ultimate theoretical and metaphysical questions was clearly conformable to the Kantian tradition's limitations on human knowledge. But it was also clear that the philosophy of religion in Kant himself, and in Fries and Nelson, was far too rationalistic, focusing only on religion as morality or art, and not on religion as a means to salvation that doesn't have any necessary connection to either morality or art, and which either in Buddhism or in Christianity finds expression in doctrines of salvation "by faith alone." The paradox of individual religions, however, is the paradox of absolute contingency and absolute necessity: the contingency of a particular historical practice and doctrine, against the sense that these reveal the fundamental necessities of meaning and reality. Religious "truth," assembled from different religions, violates the Principle of Non-Contradiction, which however is precisely what different traditions, from Buddhism to Islam to William of Ockham's view of the Omnipotence of God, say about ultimate reality. Religious truth is thus historically contingent and absolutely necessary without any way that this can be rationally understood, though it can be expressed through something like the Buddhist Four-Fold Negation or the Kantian Antinomies.

When I came to remarry, it was a service at a temple of the Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism of Japan. Ironically, Nichiren Shoshu, presenting itself as "True Buddhism," is very far from having the easy going or universalistic attitude of the Bahá'í Faith, and they ordinarily would have gone after me with fierce "shakubuku," or hard sell proselytizing. (This is not typical in Japan, where the ancient attitude survives that a different god, or a different religion, for different purposes is fine and sensible--"Born Shinto, marry Christian, die Buddhist"--exclusivism or "single practice" is characteristic of certain Japanese sects, as it is of Judaism, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me," and its descendants.) My fiancée, although she had adopted Nichiren Shoshu practice, long before came to entertain the same doubts about historical contingency and institutional authority that had estranged me from organized religion, and had decidedly drifted out of the organization. In the ordinary course of things, she herself might have been unwilling or unable to participate or conform enough to be allowed a Temple wedding. But we got lucky. The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and the lay organization by which the faith had been propagated in the United States, the Soka Gakkai, were on the verge of a historic schism. Previously, permission from the Gakkai had been necessary for access to the temple, but now the priesthood had overridden that, without, however, having put in place the tests and prerequisites by which they would later assure that participants were properly affiliated and orthodox. So a sincere and well meaning, but rather unorthodox (indeed free-thinking), couple managed to get married under the noble aegis of Nichiren's Gohonzon, his calligraphic, soteric Mandala of the Lotus Sutra.

Thomas Jefferson's view that all Americans would ultimately become Unitarians, or the view of fashionable intellectuals in the 19th and 20th centuries that religion would simply disappear before science and enlightenment, turned out to be badly mistaken. After the grotesque and pathetic pseudo-religions of Fascism and Communism were through slaughtering, torturing, and terrorizing people in the 20th century, the dust settled to reveal religious activity pretty much as before, though with a new sense, especially in Judaism, Islam, the "New Religions" of Japan, and specific parts of Christianity, like fundamentalist Protestant sects and Mormonism, that the winds of history were now blowing their way. This was, of course, not altogether good, since religions have always been just as capable of oppressing people as Fascism and Communism, but it should now be clear that there is also something else going on.

The positive side of historical contingency is historical responsiveness, as Christianity itself arose from specific needs, conditions, and elements of the Roman Empire. Human beings are just as productive of religions as of anything else, even as in the Answer to Job Jung saw the Collective Unconscious in give-and-take development with human consciousness. The Bahá'ís had a nice handle on that with their doctrine that new revelations are periodically provided to meet new conditions. Unfortunately, the revelation of Bahâ'u'llâh had a little more to do with the conditions of 19th century Iran than with the prospective conditions of the 21st century. But there is no dearth of new revelations to rush into the breach. Just what will emerge to overcome the problems of historical contingency, institutional authority, and the bitter moral debates of the modern world remains to be seen. Until then, free thinkers can only watch with sympathetic curiosity and concern.

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The Socrate Soda Fountain

Back in 1970, across Bliss Street from Penrose Hall, my dormitory at the American University of Beirut, was a restaurant called the "Socrate." High society in Lebanon, especially Maronite Christian high society, had tended to be francophone and francophile; and although Ras Beirut was pretty anglicized, there were French pockets. Since I was studying philosophy, a restaurant named after Socrates, even in French (and Arabic, ), was a nice touch.

The Socrate was a very nice restaurant, with a kind of atrium and, I think, a fountain in the center. But my friends and I went much more often to the associated "soda fountain" right next door -- in the photo just to the left of the obvious main entrance of the restaurant. It stayed open very late, and so was convenient for a late night snack. It also had a curiosity: a mechanical, twenty-four hour digital clock -- long before LED and LCD technology made digital clocks (and watches) ubiquitous. Sitting at the counter or in a booth, sharing a bowl of hummus, my friends and I waited for the novelty of watching the clock trip over from "23:59" to "00:00." Now I have several such clocks, albeit electronic versions, and this is something I no longer even notice.

An ealier digital clock figures in the recollections of physicist Richard Feynman. In 1945, while he was working on the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, Feynman's first wife, Arline, was dying of tuberculosis in Albuquerque. Alerted to her terminal crisis, Feynman rushed to her bedside and was present for her death. After she died, he noticed that the clock by her bed, an early digital clock, had stopped, apparently at the moment of her death. It crossed Feynman's mind that there might be something supernatural about this -- or at least what Jung would call synchronicity. Later he comforted himself, if we can call it that, that the mechanical clock, which was sensitive, may have stopped when the nurse turned it to note the time of death. Fortunately, I have no such grim, or supernatural, associations with the clock in the Socrate Soda Fountain -- although grim associations later would abound for Beirut itself.

It is nice to remember Beirut, after all the years of civil war, kidnappings, murders, and torture, in terms of such simple pleasures and the fascination with a mechanical novelty.

On the adjacent corner of the alley that led down to the AUB men's dorms, a couple of little gypsy girls typically staked themselves out every morning for begging--though formally they were selling little boxes of Chicklets chewing gum. One might have been about eleven or twelve years old that year. Her younger sister seemed much younger, maybe even only five or six. I saw them every morning, for most of the year, if I happened to go out into the city to get something for breakfast, which I didn't always do. But I did it often enough that they became familiar to me, and I to them. This kind of thing was outside of my experience from growing up in Los Angeles.

I usually gave them something. The most interesting thing about their attitude, or at least the older one's, was, I might say, their sense of, for want of a better word, professionalism. They acted like they were engaged in an honest business and, by God, they were going to do it properly. The most striking thing that occurred was on the occasion of an Islâmic holiday. It could have been the end of Ramadân. Both of them showed up, not in their ordinary rather shabby clothes, but in glorious dresses of fine embroidery, loaded down with gold jewelry, as though they were princesses in hiding, now suddenly revealed in all their nobility and splendor. They were proud as hell. Somehow, these poor "exploited" children, engaged in what might seem some of the most menial and debasing activities, apparently did not see it that way at all. The "poor" part, indeed, either in the sense of lack of wealth or in the sense of unfortunate and downtrodden, never again seemed to quite fit what they were or how they thought of themselves. I can only hope that their confidence and savior faire served them well later, both to avoid the evils of the Lebanese civil war and to make their way to a better life. But I am unlikely ever to know.

The alley from Bliss Street separated the main campus of AUB proper from the smaller campus of International College (IC), which was an Arabic language (I think) primary and secondary school. The AUB men's dorms were inside the IC walls, which, after the AUB gates were all locked at night, meant that the men's dorms were separated from the women's dorms inside AUB proper--this was a very serious consideration, and probably still is, in a Middle East where not just embarrassment
Back from Beirut with Gay Lee, in her dress from Syria, South San Francisco, 1970;
see her at Palmyra
but possibly killing could result from even a hint of irregular sexual relations. Past the facing gates, the alley led to a flight of steps down the hill. The walls on each side of the steps were often used by young students, or others, to relieve themselves. At the bottom were a few blocks of apartment houses, and the American Community School, next to AUB on the side and facing the Sea in the front.

Inside the gate to AUB was actually an extensive wooded hillside with pleasant stairs and trails. Although fairly built up in places, the University had enough land inside its walls to preserve some sense of the detachment from urban Beirut that AUB had originally enjoyed.

It was while taking a little walk across the lower part of the campus one day that I had a curious encounter. I found myself walking towards a little old lady, who stopped me when we came together and asked, in an English accent, where I was from. When I said that I was American, she expressed some interest in my derivation, since, she said, I looked "the most like a Scott" of anyone she had ever seen! Since I am largely of Scottish descent, from the Reids but actually more Scotch-Irish, as a Ross and a Kelley -- with some German (Werner) and English (Wilson) thrown in -- she could well feel vindicated. But the closest I have ever been to Scotland was London. I have yet to see just how much I would really fit in in Ross County.

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Drive Friendly

In 1975 my first wife, Gaye, and I moved to Texas from Hawaii. First we packed up everything and shipped it to my parents in California. Then we flew to Los Angeles, spent some time here, bought a car (a 1965 Volkswagen Squareback), drove around California a bit (saw the Sequoias), and then hit the highway for Texas.

It was a difficult trip, both because of the daunting nature of such a move (with a car full of furniture and luggage), because we began having car trouble in Arizona, because our relationship had become strained, and because Gaye had never lived anywhere but Hawaii: She was apprehensive of some kind of Southern racism being directed at her, especially if people mistook her for being Mexican or something. That wasn't too likely, as she later discovered: Hapa Haole -- mixed Hawaiian, Japanese, and Anglo (haole), doesn't look very Mexican. Indeed, people actually would stop her on the street because they didn't know what she looked like.

Despite the difficulties, it was not too bad a trip, as these things go. Indeed, in retrospect it was a epic drive and was a very suitable transition to a very different life for us. It was just that neither of us had done anything quite like that before, although I had at least already made three lesser moves (as originally to Hawaii). And the trip had some very pleasant interludes. The first day we drove to Las Vegas and spent a night with my cousin Linda and her family. Our starter solenoid stuck after we arrived, and Linda's husband Larry got all wound up, found the part, and changed it for us. Then that night Gaye and I went out to a show. I had not been in Las Vegas since about 1959, and I would not be there again until 1996, so now I actually have trouble identifying where we went. I think it was the Frontier. And I know we did drop in on Circus, Circus. Obviously, we didn't have a lot of time and money to get to know Las Vegas intimately back then.

The next day we drove to Flagstaff, Arizona. It was a splendid drive. Since Interstate 40 had not been entirely finished, we passed over one of the last remaining stretches of US 66. I was eager to see Flagstaff, since the only time I had ever gotten a look at it was just before Christmas 1967. I was on a train back then from Albuquerque to Los Angeles. A great blizzard had just hit northern Arizona and New Mexico, and the train got stuck in Gallup for several hours. Then it could only go at a slow speed across Arizona. A twelve hour trip ended up taking twenty-four hours (and it had already been late getting into Albuquerque). Rolling into the train station in Flagstaff, the place was so deeply buried in snow that the parking lot consisted of lumps (cars) with radio antennas sticking out of them. The men who had dug out the tracks stood next to walls of snow that were higher than they were. Needless to say, I flew back to Albuquerque after New Year's, though later, in the Spring, I succeeded in doing the round-trip to LA by train.

Gaye and I didn't find any snow. And the train station certainly looked a lot different. It was a nice visit, except that the next morning, after 40 degree temperatures during the night, the battery had gone dead on our car. This was discouraging, though with a bit of help, we got the car into the street, which was on a hill, and started the car on the roll. That worked fine, but as the trip progressed the car got harder to start and keep going, even with a new battery. Nevertheless, it got us to Austin, where we learned that the heads of the (horizontal) engine had come loose from the block!

Returning to Albuquerque was poignant. I had not been back there since leaving the day after Robert Kennedy was shot in 1968. It was great to see everything again, though there really wasn't much for us to do besides that. I didn't know that one of my old friends from Beirut, Craig Nettleton, was living in the area.

Driving down I-25 to Las Cruces and then over US 70 to Alamogordo, I was also returning to an old scene. My first trip away from home without my parents was to visit an aunt and uncle at Holloman Air Force Base in 1962. Now Gaye and I drove off into the desert just south of Tularosa to find another aunt and uncle--this time my mother's sister, Jeannie, instead of my father's sister, Lorraine. Jeannie and her husband lived in a mobile home on five acres of land down dirt roads east of US 70. We stayed a couple of days and had a very nice, restful visit, including side trips to Lincoln, where Billy the Kid shot his way out of jail, and up to the solar observatory south of Cloudcroft. Leaving their place, we drove through Cloudcroft again over to Carlsbad and saw the caverns. Then, the final day of our trip, we rose before dawn and drove all the rest of the way into Austin, Texas.

As we crossed into Texas, there was a sign that said: "Drive Friendly." And the road suddenly got better.

Gaye and I had both lived in humid and reasonably warm climates, but neither of us was quite ready for what hot and humid were going to mean in a climate near the Gulf Coast in August. Mile by mile across West Texas the air changed, and we began to wilt in turn. The lay of the land was also unfamiliar. In retrospect there was one great sight: The roadcuts on Interstate 10 frequently exposed the most solid and beautiful Cretaceous white limestone, terraced back up from the roadway. The "Roadcuts of West Texas" may not sound as nice as the "White Cliffs of Dover," but is the same lovely rock. On the other hand, I had never lived anyplace without mountains on the horizon. In central Texas, although the Hill Country is not the flattest kind of landscape, it seemed flat enough, and we had little sense of what was ahead on the highway.

As it happened, our approach to Austin, on US 290 and Lamar Blvd., turned out to be one the few ways into town that provided no prospect whatsoever of the city ahead. We were well into Austin before we really knew we were there, and all the way to Town Lake before we saw the downtown Austin skyline.

We had a motel reservation and had already lined up an apartment in University married student housing--some place called "Deep Eddy Apartments." The motel was mercifully air continued, but also rather far from either the University or from the housing. The "Austin Motel," indeed, was next door to the Texas State School for the Deaf, whose dormitories were not to open until the next day. So the motel was full of deaf kids, signing away, something I had never seen before nor, in those days before Children of a Lesser God, even heard of. Later, while it was still light, we drove down to Lake Austin Blvd. to find our apartment and get our keys.

We discovered that the site supervisor for Deep Eddy was away, so we had to go down to another area of housing, the Breckenridge Apartments, to pick up the keys. There I found that the site supervisor and his wife were dead ringers for friends of mine, Marc and Cathy, from years before at UCLA. When we finally got back to Deep Eddy, our first impression of the building and apartment was very discouraging, to say the least. It seemed little better than Sam Houston's "Wigwam Neosho." The building, indeed, was World War II war surplus housing, shipping down from Kansas back in the Forties. Later it would turn out that one of my neighbors had actually been born while his parents lived, on the GI bill, in a nearby building, and there was a picture of him as an infant in front of our very building.

The building had four apartments, two downstairs and two upstairs. There was truly a kind of old barracks look to it. Since it had been in place a long time by the Seventies, there had been time for it to settle on the shallow foundations, warping the floors and walls. Thus, in our apartment, the walls had pulled up from the floor in a number of places. That was disturbing, especially when within the first few weeks I would see a very large spider peeking out from under the wall. The floors themselves, as it happened, were beautiful hardwood--the kind of thing people pay large sums for now. The whole time I lived there, the floors were nice to have. Everything else was rather like a nightmare, especially with the empty, unfurnished rooms as we found them in 1975. The walls and ceilings looked more like cardboard than anything else.

We were soon welcomed by our neighbors, Mike and Donna. I wasn't quite sure what we were getting into when I saw that Mike had a picture of George Wallace and a Confederate Flag on the wall; but it soon turned out that this was a put-on and Mike's politics were, if anything, rather too far in the other direction. Some other neighbors loaned us something that I hadn't realized we couldn't sleep without: a fan. I never could sleep in Austin in the summer without a fan blowing right on my naked skin. Since I actually don't like air conditioning, even later, when I had air conditioned apartments, I would turn that off at night and use a fan anyway.

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Ma Vie Sexuelle

one night/
day stand
La Vie Sexuelle de Catherine M. by Catherine Millet (Éditions du Seuil, 2001; The Sexual Life of Catherine M., Grove Press, 2002) is the most extraordinary sexual memoir I have seen. Perhaps I haven't seen too many -- although I did read The Happy Hooker [1971], by Xavier Hollander. No one knows whether to believe things like the letters in Penthouse. After Millet's book, one hardly needs them.
I already have a bit of a discussion of Millet in a
note to a review of Kissing Jessica Stein. Here, I might consider my vie sexuelle. Indeed, I can't hold a candle to Millet.

In a lifetime, I seem to have had intercourse with fewer persons than she would have in a good couple of hours on occasion. In the "sexual revolution" of the Sixties, all the days of "free love" seemed largely to pass me by, even when I was dating apparently Hippie girls. One I picked up hitch-hiking on Sunset Blvd, diving my wonderful Triumph TR-3, and then dated for months. But never got beyond first base.

Later, the "singles scene" of "meat market" singles bars in the Seventies was something I never had the slightest attraction to. And I know other men who honestly admitted that they had never picked up a woman in a bar, took her home, and had sex with her. Others certainly did, but I don't seem to have run in those circles.

I may have had only one wild, spontaneous one night stand, with a girl I liked from high school, that didn't even wait for a first date. We did date briefly afterwards, but we had no further intercourse because I was healing from our first encounter -- I had been rubbed raw. Otherwise, I dated steadily and usually came up rejected -- although occasionally rejecting. And I made sustained efforts to meet women, going to Sierra Club "singles" hikes and even going to ACLU events for those purposes. Dates would result, which, however, went nowhere. In the end, I could claim full intercourse with, like a good Pythagorean, only ten women.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine who was a lawyer went out with women a lot and would sleep with them to the point where he lost count of the numbers. But he only married once, and that durably.

Since my intimate partners were limited, I can do something that Millet can't:  Remember all their names. I don't think it is nice to kiss and tell, so I only give the initials of my partners. Since two of them I married, their names can be gathered from information elsewhere at this site. They are all, as it happens, women. I've never been attracted to another man, though I don't have any particular moral objection to homosexuality. Aesthetic objections, perhaps. At least to male homosexuality [see Kissing Jessica Stein].

But these are all women, and this means relationships that went to full intercourse, though not necessarily orgasm. No Bill & Monica sex here. I would have counted relationships with oral sex alone, but there never were any. The relationships are color-coded by duration, from red for years, which means marriage for both, to blue for one night stands, though that didn't always mean at night.

Nor were the one night stands pick-ups. All involved women that I knew for some period of time, and two continued to be friends afterwards. One was the second try with a woman I knew over a few years, but her liking for me seemed to go from very hot to very cold, which I didn't appreciate. Of the three, two did not continue sexually because I was disinclined, the other because the woman was unwilling.

Hugh Hefner would have regarded it all as a poor score, I am sure. I would have had no objection to its being larger, but I just wasn't meeting women all that quickly, and many I might have been interested in weren't attracted to me. If Hugh wanted to invite me over to the Mansion, even now, I'd be happy to go -- though being happily married, I might not be ready anymore to go for it even with willing Playmates. I did visit the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles twice, for Marijuana Project events, but didn't even get a date out of the visits -- and, of course, it is all gone now, with Hugh himself.

While many women might like the "quiet type," I don't think that diffidence gets the attention of most; and it was the impression of many of my friends and me that a "bad boy" character, a bastard even, actually never wanted for a variety of female company. It is like the story of a woman asking Norman Mailer at a party once when men were going to stop being chauvinist pigs, and Mailer answered, "When women like you stop paying attention to us."

The best that can be said for a low total is that I never was burdened with VD or with illegitimate children. Come to think of it, this would be a good recommendation for pornography, which can substitute for the kinds of dangerous (bizarre, exhausting, or expensive) practices or relationships that it often portrays. As it is, the thought of dating now fills me with horror. It was always a painful, awkward, and sometimes humiliating business. I got more pleasure out of watching the former television show Blind Date, where encounters ran the gamut from "Dates from Hell" to couples who all but copulated at first sight. I'm not sure which is more fun -- to watch, that is. On one date, a women brought her date home, not just to have sex with him, but to include her roommate in the fun. Catherine Millet couldn't have been more eager.

Talk Dirty to Me

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