Monday, September 18, 2006


I was 16. The second car I owned was a VW. The first a 1947 Ford coupe bought for $125 without the consent of my parents, carried no insurance and parked at a "secret" location until dad found out about it: Shortly after buying the Ford and driving it down one of the main streets I passed Dad on the street. What a look he had on his face.

And while I'm on the subject, my dad didn't want me to get a driver's license until I was 17 or 18. There was no way that I was going to get a driver's license at age 16. Undaunted by what my dad wanted compared to what I wanted, five days after I turned 16 I persuaded the mother of my girl friend to drive with me to the DMV, sign off as my mother so that I could get a driver's license. Back then, no body checked anything. I got the license and started driving anything I could get my hands on, like buying m very own 1947 Ford . . .

It has always been a habit to maintain my cars with spit, polish and care. I had off-set wheels on the VW, a great paint job and a muffler that made it sound like a Porshe. There were street races with other VW's in town owned by kids my age. I often won. Word on the street was that my VW had a racing Porshe engine, something I would not confirm or deny.

Washing my car happened several times a week. I'd take the wheels off and wash them inside and out. The inside would be clean and I'd make certain that it smelled right with an new and appropriate air freshener. Well, air fresher that was fresh was something I had to do - there was no choice. One warm summer Saturday evening my friend Leon and I were completely blasted and cruising the Russan River area. This was an area fraught with young ladies from San Francisco who were there on vacation with their parents. Bands from the City (San Francisco for those of you who have no idea what The City is) would play at resorts on the river each weekend. The River was a happening place. That night Leon had too much to drink and threw up into the passenger side windshield heater vent. What a mess. There was no cleaning the vent. I owned the green VW for five more years. Every time I turned on the windshield defrost heaters I was always reminded of that night out with Leon.

A female physician, her three very young daughters and architect husband lived next door to my family. Each time I washed my car the three girls would come , lean over the fence that separated our two homes and aske me questions. "Does your car go fast?" "Why is your car so loud?" "Do you have a girl friend?" "Do you like school? " All kinds of questions. Their questions used to drive me nuts, so nuts. It wasn't long before my response to their questions was, "Shut up!" I'd say nothing else. "Shut up!" It wasn't long before I was referred to by Dr. Payne's daughters as the "Shut Up Boy".

My last contact with the Payne's was just before I went into the Air Force. At age 18 I contracted a raging case of the measles. There was not anything that I could keep down. I honestly cannot remember being so sick. I wanted to die it was so bad. After two days of high fever and misery, mom called and asked Dr. Payne to come over and give me something to stop the vomiting.

I remember Dr. Payne coming into my bedroom, syringe in hand, and for who knows why, accompanied by one of her daughters. Before Dr. Payne could say anything to me, her daughter asked me a question to which I quickly replied, "SHUT UP!" After being asked by her mother to leave my bedroom, Dr. Payne delivered a painful injection to me that seemed, at the time, to carry with it some amount of enthusiasm. I stopped vomiting within hours. The fever soon went away. My butt hurt for a week. I never saw Dr. Payne or her daughters again.

Here I am in Brookings Oregon camped out. Yesterday a family pulled their trailer next to ours. Once they were parked and setup, their four or five year old daughter set up her toys outside of their trailer and started talking to herself and to whoever in the family would listen to her non stop. Before I shut the door on the trailer in an attempt to save myself from her chatter I wanted to yell at the top of my lungs, "SHUT UP!" I flashed back to the days of washing my green VW. Shut Up Boy is alive and well still living somewhere in California.

Old habits die hard.

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Whiskeytown Lake, Very Northern California, United States