Things Dad Taught Us | Thoughts of the Week, July 27, 2018

I’m not going to say I was a good kid. It was just that, well, I didn’t get caught doing bad stuff all that often. Once, in Junior High. I ditched a whole day of school with a friend of mine. We each called into the office to pretend we were the other’s dad. Uh, yeah. That didn’t work. We called, promptly left my friend’s house and walked down to the mall. Six hours later and the jig was up. For us, anyway. The jig was up immediately at school. I’m sure the administrator who took the call hung up the phone with my friend, flipped the Rolodex to “M” and promptly called my mom.

I think it was the last time I got caught ditching. Not that it was the last time I ditched a whole day of school, mind you. The moral of the story? Don’t let your friends call the school office.

Needless to say, my dad wasn’t too happy about that one. My mom, too. But, let’s face it, moms can sometimes be more forgiving than dads. At least with their sons. When it comes to daughters, dads are putty. Pure. Simple. Putty.

The biggest reason, I think, my dad was upset wasn’t that I tried to cheat the system, per se. I got caught, so that was my punishment for cheating the system. No, he was more upset that I was cheating myself out of an education. This was the man who had put himself through college and grad school. Dude was raised in the sticks and had nothing. By the time I met him, he had made quite a life for himself and his family. He valued education. Boy did he.

The man is still educating me today. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I encounter a situation and ask myself “What Would Virgil Do?”. Of course, I never called him Virgil. Not if I wanted him to speak to me. I called him dad. Pops, on occasion. Virgil, if I was being a wise-ass, which, to be fair, was often. He would counter with “Don’t let your mockingbird mouth overload your hummingbird ass.” And then we’d all laugh.

Man, I miss him.

It’s not that I was a bad kid, either. I pushed boundaries. What kid doesn’t? I pushed them, learned from my mistakes. Failure teaches us how to win, right? I’m not encouraging social disruption and anarchy here, folks. I’m talking about the stupid things a teenager says and does, only to be schooled by their dad.

Anyway, being schooled. When I first started drinking alcohol, it was beer. And not good beer. It was just beer. Stupid things. Teenagers. You get the idea. As I got older, I started drinking tequila. Not shots. On ice. Refined and all. That’s what you think when you think of me, right? Refined? Well, anyway, tequila is my drink. On ice. Mostly reposados, but I really enjoy a good anejo as well. And then, I had a desire to drink whiskey. That was my dad’s drink. He would occasionally have a mixed drink or a wine or a beer, but whiskey was his thing. He collected rare and expensive bottles. He drank the good stuff.

I started drinking whiskey shortly before we lost him. He taught me so much, and I wanted him to teach me so much more. He was always willing to teach. We never got a chance to really drink whiskey together, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about him when I have a glass every now and then.

Words of the Week: The Proper Spelling of Whisky (or is it Whiskey?) – Men’s Journal.
I saw this article and immediately thought of my dad. He would have loved it. Most likely he already knew this information, but it would have been fun to share regardless. So, I’ll share with you. Even if you don’t imbibe, this is a pretty cool “fun fact” you can share with your friends.

Sounds of the Week: Cannonball Adderley – Somethin Else
Julian “Cannonball” Adderley was a jazz saxophonist, and is featured on the best jazz album of all time, Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue”. Somethin Else is pretty unique in that Miles is the side man on the album, a role most people don’t think of when they think of Miles Davis. Miles is great on this album, but this is definitely Cannonball’s album. There is nothing quite like the first track, “Autumn Leaves”, on a cool evening with a glass of bourbon on the rocks. Bourbon is a kind of whiskey, did you know that? So is Scotch, which was what my dad liked to drink. Sensing a theme this week?

Thought of the Week: I miss driving a stick shift automobile. When I was 14 years old, we moved one town east. That in itself is a whole story, but for another time. When I was 14 years old, we moved. The way I remember it, I emphatically told my mom I was not switching schools. All of my friends were getting ready for high school, I wasn’t about to do the same, alone, at a new school. However it really happened, I was able to attend the same high school as all of my friends. Or friend, as it were.

Anyway, that first year my brother drove me to school most days. He was a senior, I was a freshman. It wasn’t ideal, having to ride with your older brother whom you despised because he was your older brother. But it worked out. I got to school every day, and that was the goal, after all.

That second year, my brother was out of the house and pursuing his own adventures out of state. I needed wheels, but wasn’t yet old enough to drive a car. So I drove a moped. Which, when you type it out looks like I was donkey who was friends with a talking bear that liked honey. Try this…Mo-Ped. Nope, still looks goofy. Anyway, I drove a scooter. Rode a scooter? What’s the correct phrasing here? Who cares. I operated a motorized bike. Still does not sound cool.

Anyway, that lasted a year. In my mind I was a world champion street bike racer. In reality, I was riding a motorized bicycle. Either way, I was responsible for getting myself to school every day. Which I did. I took myself to the mountains. The beach. My buddy’s house. The donut shop before class. You name it, I was riding/driving there. Freedom on two wheels, and I didn’t even have to pedal. Nice!

In the sixth month of my fifteenth year, I bought a car. A brand-spanking new sporty lil’ two seater. A Honda, if we’re being specific. Two seater. Five speed, manual gearbox. Not that I knew how to operate a manual gearbox. But I bought the car anyway. And now, my dad had to teach me how to drive it.

Which he did. On a hill. Have you ever driven a stick shift vehicle on a hill? Down hill is a piece of cake. You can actually start a manual gearbox with downhill momentum. Up hill? It’s like a ballet routine. Clutch in. Foot on brake. Car in first. Foot off brake, foot on gas. Ease out the clutch. Ba-da-da-da, DA-DA, DA-DA…

My dad taught me how to drive a manual gearbox car on an incline street because it was difficult. We argued. I got frustrated. Scared, a little, when, at a stop sign, a car pulled up behind us and dad said “Ok now, pull away from the stop sign without rolling into the car behind you. And without ‘peeling out’ going forward. And don’t stall.” Yeah. Sure. I can do that. Would you like me to engineer a bridge, too? Paint the Mona Lisa? From memory? Flap my arms and FLY???? I mean, since we’re talking the impossible here.

That last part was in my head, of course. What came out of my mouth was a fear induced “Ok”. But I did it. Maybe I peeled out a little. The first time. Ok, ok. The first couple of times. But I did it. Never did hit the car behind me. Never stalled. Well, not never, but never in that situation, with my dad in the passenger seat. Grinning.

Dad taught me how to drive a manual gearbox on that street because it was difficult. He knew I’d get mad and frustrated. But he also knew I’d figure it out. And when I did, I’d know how to operate that car safely and skillfully. It made me a better driver because it was difficult.

I encourage everyone to learn to drive a manual gearbox automobile. They’re rare, and fewer and fewer people are learning the skill. I’m saddened by that, and hope to keep the style alive. I think it’s an art form. Besides, I think they’re fun as hell.

Find an old stick shift, and find a friend who knows how to drive one and have them teach you. All the better if it’s your dad, but I’m a little biased in that sentiment. Have someone teach you. Argue with them. Get frustrated. Get scared. Laugh, cry, scream at the stupid, stupid steering wheel. But learn. Never stop. Never stop until that car is behind you and you can pull away without rolling back. And without peeling out.

Ok, maybe peel out just a little. That’s fun too.

One response to “Things Dad Taught Us | Thoughts of the Week, July 27, 2018

  1. Thanks for posting this, Greg. I especially enjoyed the part about learning to drive a stick shift. My dad made me learn on a hill near our house, too–he knew I’d need to be able to drive a stick in San Francisco. We inherited his Volvo when he died (a ’97 850 sedan, manual transmission, of course), and Jim taught all three kids to drive it. Laura drove that car for three years in Dallas traffic before we finally sold it.

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