Friday, May 30, 2008

Word of the Day: truttaceus

Word of the Day

truttaceus (adj)

Pertaining to or like a trout.

"....crowded with the boats of paradise, we would fancy parades and serenades mid its roral gales, lepid glens and truttaceus charms...."
--Edmund Lester Pearson, Queer Books

A "chub" and a catfish -- those are the only types of fish I ever caught. And I threw them back. That's the kind of guy I am.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Real Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones and the Real-Life Inspiration

According to this article, Col. Percy Fawcett, a British archaeologist and explorer, was the model for Indiana Jones. Fawcett disappeared in 1925 in Brazil, while searching for the "Lost City of Z." Sounds like a Spielberg/Lucas type to me.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Word of the Day: tittup

Word of the Day

tittup (n or v)

A caper or prance; to move in a lively way

"Well," he says, "it's not much of a place for a tittup. There are one or two jolly old cockalorums there, and, when the season's on, you can go on the scoop in the way of a music-caper, or a hop, and you can get rid of the stuff there as well as anywhere."
--Francis Cowley Burnand, More Happy Thoughts

I haven't felt much in the mood to tittup lately. Scramble the letters and you get "putt it". That's more like it....

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Eulogy for My Father


My father passed away last Saturday. Since I'm the writer in the family, I wrote and delivered the following eulogy during the memorial service on Friday. It was well received. Someone asked me if it was difficult to write. Actually, the writing of it was not difficult -- I work as an editor, and I'm used to "assembling" essays out of diverse bits of text. The hardest part was getting other family members to contribute memories of my father at a busy and difficult time. But it all worked out, I think. I'm posting it here as both a memorial and -- who knows? -- perhaps an aid to someone out there who needs to compose a similar piece.

Thank you all for coming. Today we remember my father, Edward Gates, and I would like to share some fond memories that my family has of him with you, some of the "little things" that you may not know about.


My mother has many stories about meeting my father in Tacoma, Washington, and knowing him when he was a pilot stationed there in the Air Force. He used to fly low over her house in his F-86 fighter jet, which impressed her and her mother, but disturbed their neighbors. My mother was charmed enough to marry him and move all the way from a city on the West Coast to a small town in Upstate New York.

My parents built a home and my father built a business on East Main Street here in West Winfield. And in his spare time, my dad liked to work in his woodshop in the basement of our house. He made lots of furniture there, including our kitchen table. He also made kids' furniture and bookcases for me. (And you can see some photos of his handiwork on the table here in the foyer.)

Later on, when we grew up and moved away, he was still making things for us and delivering what he had made in his truck or his trailer. My sister, Nancy, recalls that whenever we asked him to make something for our new homes, he would ask for plans and then rush out to get the materials. He made a cradle out of cherry wood for Adam, for example, who was the first of his grandchildren.


Speaking of grandchildren: Every time another grandchild was born, my mom was hoping for a granddaughter, to join Stacie, but instead my parents ended up with six grandsons, which pleased my father. He thought he was on the way to having a complete baseball team of grandsons. Instead, he ended up with two thirds of a team, which included three hockey players, one aspiring film-maker, one future paleontologist -- and only one grandson who actually did play baseball.


More memories: My brother Dan, who lives the closest to West Winfield, remembers all the projects he helped my father with. He often helped him attach the snow-blower to his lawn tractor – quite an operation that often also involved Doug Evans, who helped my parents with many jobs around the house in recent years – so my dad could plow the driveway in the winter – an activity he seemed to enjoy. Other wintertime activities that Dan recalls include skiing trips that Dad took us to at the old Gunset Ski Bowl in Richfield Springs and attending Buffalo Bills games with Dad and the Whitchers in Buffalo.

Dad loved his fireplace and his wood-burning stove in the winter, which meant that we kids – and especially Dan – helped him split wood and stack it in the basement. Dad seemed proud of the enormous stack of fireplace logs he collected.


My father loved his home but he also liked to travel. He loved to drive, especially in a truck or camper.

When I was a kid, we did a lot of camping with a travel trailer or a motor home. When I was about 13 or 14, we took a camping trip clear across the country in a motor home, which seems kind of crazy today, when gas is approaching four dollars a gallon. I remember visiting my mother's relatives in Minnesota and the state of Washington on that trip. I remember being in the Rocky Mountains and the desert in the southwest, and the badlands of South Dakota -- and even crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in this enormous house on wheels, which seemed like a very surreal experience.

Every year after that, at least once a year, my father would ask me if I remembered that trip, which I thought was strange question and even a little annoying at times. How could I possibly forget it? "Of course I remember it, Dad," I would say. But he kept asking. Gradually, I came to understand that the trip meant even more to him than it did to us kids. It was his gift to us.


As a gift to him, a few years ago my brother Ted put together a scrapbook of my father's life which you can see on the table in the foyer. Over a period of days, Ted remembers my father bringing him an astonishing number of clippings and articles about things Ted never knew about, such as the time that my father, as a teenager, found a meteorological radio balloon that landed on the farm where he grew up, or the article that referred to him as a the "triple threat freshman star of the 1946 Hartwick football team."

Probably the biggest news item was an article from the Tacoma New Tribune that detailed the mid-air collision my father survived when he was a pilot in the Air Force. Typically, my father was nonchalant about all these things.


In recent years, the family would gather on almost every holiday at my parents' large, welcoming home on East Main Street.

Originally a farm boy, Dad was up and around in the morning before any of us. We remember him whistling old tunes in the morning, like “Those Were the Days” and “Tammy” as he was going through his morning routine. Sometimes he would sing, replacing the words he would miss with “bum bums” – always in tune and fading in and out as he passed from room to room.

Just one of my father's memorable contributions to these occasions was buying doughnuts for breakfast every morning. When my nephew Josh, who very much wanted to be here today, heard that his grandfather had passed away, he offered to buy the doughnuts in the future. And we may hold him to that.


Over the last few days, we've been amazed by the number of messages and cards we've received from people touched by my father's life. Over and over, they mention that they will miss seeing him at the post office. My father's daily routine always included a visit to the post office to pick up the mail – he never wanted it delivered – which we never thought too much about. Now we realize that it was his way of staying in touch with the community he was born and raised in, and never wanted to leave for too long.

In closing, we're all grateful for the years we had with my father. We wish there could have been more time, but we're also grateful that he didn't have to endure more of the ill health he encountered over the last couple of years. We'll remember him fondly, and we hope you will too, and will think of him -- perhaps when you visit the post office.

Thanks again for coming today to remember Ed Gates.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Micro Fiction: Vanilla

Micro Fiction: Vanilla

Marcus didn't mind the bus ride back and forth to "the job" every day. The 30-minute transition from his doorstep to desk gave him time to think or meditate. And he had a lot to think about.

He would have to make the decision today. He would have to either decide to try the complicated plan, the one that might offer a bigger reward but that involved certain ethical loop-de-loops, or he would have keep it simple, and let the situation unspool slowly while he held on to his morals.

What to do? That's what he was asking himself, when just about the last type of creature he would want to sit next to on a crowded public bus was deposited on the seat beside him: a tiny little human with a large ice cream cone.

Marcus looked down at what appeared to be a chubby three- or four-year-old boy. His mother sat across the aisle with what looked to be the boy's slightly younger sister. The girl was also licking an ice-cream cone. The mother gave Marcus a tight little smile and a shrug, as if to say, "You pay your fare and you take your chances."

Marcus offered to change seats with her, but she refused. "These two fight if I put them together," she said, "and I want to sit next to my daughter."

There were no other seats to move to, so Marcus resigned himself to sharing his perch with this very sticky little homunculus, who had ice cream all over his hands and a frosty white mustache.

"Please don't touch me," Marcus said, thinking about his latest dry cleaning bill. He disliked children and could hardly believe he'd ever been one himself. The little guy looked up at him and grinned.

His mind wandered back to the problem. What to do? The ultra-complicated course with the bigger potential payoff, but the guilt-inducing dirty work, or the simple plan? Devil or angel – Marcus couldn't decide which to be. And he only had half an hour, the length of this bus ride, to decide.

He didn't believe in prayer, but he did believe in intuition and a higher self, or whatever it was. "Tell me what to do," he thought, addressing the cosmos. "Tell me if I should structure the deal, or shoot it straight, the fancy or the plain. . . .

Just then, he felt something cold in his lap. He looked down and saw a lump of something glistening and white, a blank glob of undifferentiated creaminess slowly oozing between his legs.

The kid was looking up at him with a solemn expression. "Vanilla," he said.