In Memoriam (at The Spot)

Love is acknowledged in many ways and I get happy when I find a new one.

The Spot is a great walk-up burger joint two blocks off the beach on Linden Avenue in Carpenteria, California. I eat there every time I visit my father. The people at The Spot don’t know me from Adam, but if I lived in Carpinteria I would be a regular.

I don’t believe I ever saw David Winneguth, the man in the photograph. I only eat at The Spot once a year (ortega chili burger, fries, diet Coke no ice). I will probably never know any more about him other than the information posted at The Spot.

But he was known to the people there, who honored him by placing his celebration of life notice prominently and surrounding it with how they knew him: “hot dog/must, choc shake”.

I think of David as a well-loved regular who’s consistent smile was one the order-takers could rely on amidst the hit and miss of sometimes grumpy customers.

What an accolade to be remembered because of a smile and, I am sure from his smile, a kind disposition.

A smile is such a simple act––one that has such a pleasant effect on people.

Years ago I decided to smile all of the time. The first week was hard and I had to constantly remind myself to keep smiling––and then it became a habit. People who didn’t know me referred to me as the guy who smiled all the time. Almost every person I met smiled in return. I was like the Johnny Appleseed of smiles––for awhile. I don’t remember why I stopped.

I like to think that David Winneguth never stopped smiling.

Posted in Fine Tuning Relationships | Tagged | 3 Comments

Are You On The Bus Or Off The Bus?

In the 60’s being on or off the bus was often a metaphor for hipness––to hark back a generation still for a descriptive term. And hipness in the 60’s often meant drugs––psychedelic drugs, “the revenge of the guinea pigs”, to quote Tom Wolfe.

I recently listened to Teri Gross, of Fresh Air on NPR, interviewing Robert Stone about his memoir prime green: remembering the sixties and decided to read his book and re-read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. I had forgotten how good Kerouac’s writing is and how well Wolfe described experiences for which words rarely suffice.

I was a teenager and young adult in New York and California in the 60’s and car-toured much of the rest of the US on vacations with my family in the 50’s. My experiences tell me that what these guys wrote is accurate.

I wanted to be on the Ken Kesey’s bus. Fortunately, I had neither the courage nor the tolerance for drugs. Drinking was what I did best. I never became very hip. Weird was within my abilities; occasionally inappropriate.

But I did get the sense. I felt the slipstream of what Kesey was trying to do and I trailed along in my own way, at my own speed, to my benefit.

There is a stupid (and fun) saying “If you can remember the 60s, you probably weren’t there”. More accurate, I think, is that if you weren’t there the 60s can’t be explained to you. Certainly not the feeling of it.

But the goals can be explained––my goals, my friend’s goals, the merry prankster’s goals (according to Tom Wolfe). I was looking for meaning and reason and God and things I couldn’t articulate. The way my parents made sense of––everything––didn’t work for me and I struck out for the same destination by a different path.

This-way-be-dragons only added to my excitement. (I think my daughter did about 15% of the “things” I did and she scared the Hell out of me.) I am proud that I survived––and that I made about as much sense of life as I think possible.

I looked hard for the answers. For a long time I thought I would find them in places like high mountains, on the other side of the earth, in a language I didn’t understand. I was wrong. When I gave up searching, answers, tailored for me, became obvious. My path, to which I am happily committed, is in storefronts and church basements with other ex-drinkers.

I now know what I am doing and what I can do.

I am on the bus!

Posted in Everything Else Matters | Tagged , | 4 Comments