Friday, December 31, 2010

Just call me Steve

My first name is Terry, but I’m often called Gary, Barry, Larry or, when I was a kid by mean (possibly homophobic) classmates, Mary or Fairy.
Persons of authority, teachers, or anyone with dyslexic tendencies sometimes use my last name as a first name. The variety of ways in which people screw up the name ‘Stephan’ (stef-an) as a first name is amazing. Usually it is shortened to the familiar ‘Steve’, or ‘Steven’, sometimes it has even been pronounced ‘Stif-fon’.
Before I married Emmy, she was dating a young man named Jerry. He served in the Navy, as did Emmy’s father, Fred who spent WWII in the Navy.
Fred had six women in his life, his wife and five un-married daughters. He probably saw Jerry as a good prospect, as not only a future son-in-law but also an ally and comrade-in-arms for a man with so many females in his life.
Then I came along, no military involvement; Navy or otherwise-and my hair was too long.
I don’t think it was a slip of the tongue when Fred called me ‘Jerry’ every so often for the first decade or two of my marriage to his daughter.
Mispronouncing or purposefully using the wrong name never bothered me. I have always felt there are too many serious wrongs in the world to worry about small stuff like that. When I was a kid, I heard the adage, ‘call me anything, but don’t call me late for dinner’. I like the phrase, and the large waist of my pants shows that I have gone overboard in adhering to its fundamental message.
I’m not offended when people call me Gary, but I am perturbed if I miss a meal.
Because I care little about people using my correct name, I tend to play fast and loose with friends, political leaders or even names for whole sections of the populace.
My cousin, who is my age, went by ‘Becky’ or her given name ‘Rebecca’ for forty years. Then she changed it to ‘Becca’. Becca is a fine name but she gets upset when I call her Becky.
I think altering her name at the age of forty falls under the category of changing the rules in the middle of a game. This is similar to how the shifting sands of political correctness have changed over the past thirty years.
Somewhere back there in the 70’s or 80’s there began real debate about PC. I was all for it at the time because it looked as though we were going to simplify things. It became politically correct to call a “person of color” simply, “Black”.
My uncle was “visually impaired”. He is gone now but he single handedly ran a small business his entire adult life. A realist, he would have scoffed at someone calling him anything other than ‘blind’, a word considered offensive by some these days.
This brings me to our departing governor. I knew little about David Patterson when he was Elliot Spitzer’s sidekick but after a few public appearances, he seemed to be a man of substance. At least he was humorous, eloquent, and gave a good speech.
Shortly into his term, we discovered he was sexually overactive, outside of marriage. This only complicates his PC title a bit more.
He became our “African American, Visually Impaired, Oversexed, and Fidelity Disadvantaged Person with Governorship Responsibilities”.
If this is the wrong title, I apologize and hope to find someone with a Master’s degree in Political Science or Geography or Genealogy or maybe all three to straighten it out.
I suppose we could just call him ‘the recent Governor’.
Call me Ishmael if you like, just don’t call me late for supper..

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Norm Nason Remembered

Terry Stephan

Norm Nason hired me and was my boss for much of the thirty years I worked at Nason’s Delivery. He passed away recently. When someone dies, I have a tendency to rewind the years and remember them at their most active.
Despite the crushing responsibility of overseeing dozens of employees, and dispatching as many trucks, Norm Nason maintained his good humor and patience most of the time. All told, the equipment and drivers he and his brother Paul directed, logged thousands of miles each day.
Moving freight is a labor intensive, 24 hour a day industry. Trucks have to be emptied and reloaded overnight. I was part of that overnight process for the first half-dozen years I worked at Nason’s. On busy nights, moving freight from ‘inbound’ to ‘outbound’ trucks seemed an overwhelming task. On not-so-busy nights; I and the rest of the dock crew would be walking out the door as Norm was walking in. He started his mornings in a good mood. In passing, he would give us a friendly if not jolly, “go home, get some rest, you guys deserve it”.
Norm smoked a pipe back then; it was a crucial part of his persona. He didn’t smoke in the office, but during lulls in activity at his desk, he could be found in the adjoining ‘driver’s room’. It was a twelve-foot-square room, with a counter top on which drivers could complete their paperwork at the beginning and end of each day.
On easy days, Norm would stand behind the counter, waiting to receive drivers’ paperwork. While he waited, he would be lost in contemplation. He cupped his pipe in hand, tween’ forefinger and thumb, the tobacco barely lit. A small slip of smoke denied that the pipe was merely a prop over which his thoughts were allowed to roam.
If it had been a bad day of setbacks, missed deliveries or breakdowns, Norm would be drawing on the pipe often. The driver’s room would be cloudy with smoke.
The dock was 100 or so feet long, the office door at one end. When Norm arrived in the morning, He would walk down the long dock, an occasional puff on the pipe, glancing into the half-loaded trucks, taking note of how long we had yet to go.
When it looked as though we would be finished soon, Norm’s mood wasn’t dampened much. He simply went into the office and performed his morning routine.
If we had a long way to go, Norm’s walking pace would increase a bit as he traversed the dock, the puffs on his pipe becoming more intense. By the time he returned to the office door, like an old locomotive, clouds of smoke trailed him.
On the dock, at the entrance to the office, there stood a galvanized garbage can. If we were really behind, Norm would kick that garbage can, as he returned to the office. He didn’t stop, it was a fluid movement. The crew would be at various locations up and down the dock, but we could all hear how upset he was by the oomph he put behind that kick.
I don’t remember him verbally chastising the dock crew. He knew our job wasn’t an easy one, but kicking the garbage can was an impromptu message - he wasn’t happy.
We tried to be done in the mornings so Norm wouldn’t kick the garbage can. If we knew we would be late, we emptied the big trash can before he got there. That way he wouldn’t hurt his foot (he had a history of gout) when he kicked the can and we wouldn’t have to pick up the trash, if he kicked it hard enough to knock it over.
Norm was quick to anger but he was just as quick to forgive. A while later, when the trucks were all loaded and the drivers on the road, Norm would call out, “go home, get some rest, you guys deserve it”.
He was a vibrant and good man, he will be missed.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

two choppers too much

As we walked out of the party, we overheard the man behind us say to his wife, “I just can’t talk Dave out of buying that second helicopter”.
Every avenue taken in life leads to something new and different. When I retired from truck driving I knew I would need to work at least part time to supplement my income. I thought I would probably end up with a nice cushy job, maybe computer work from home, maybe I would look good in one of those handsome red vests at Lowes. I figured on a part time job, less than 20 hours a week, ten minutes from my house.
Emmy altered my plans by producing high quality bead embroidered jewelry. Instead of a nice cushy job, close to home, I assist her in selling her wares. We travel the country in our truck camper from one arts and crafts festival to another. The traveling is sometimes nice, sometimes a drag, a two-day show usually includes three consecutive-twelve hour days of hectic activity. It has brought us in contact with a very diverse group of people.
Not long ago we participated in the “Fall for the Arts” show at Lake Gaston near Littleton, NC. The show takes place at four or five beautiful homes near the lake.
It isn’t your average art festival. The Gaston Lake area includes two states and five counties. Because of the diverse geography and multiple municipalities, many residents feel overlooked by local agencies for financial support. This was only the 3rd year for the show. The group producing the show is called O’Sail, (the Organization to Support the Arts, Infrastructure and Learning).
O’Sail aspires to raise money for local causes, support artists, and among other things produce high quality arts’ shows. Money raised at previous events has been given as grants to local fire departments for computer and life saving equipment and training to perform rescue and recovery operations. Other organizations in need received grants from O’Sail for safety and education programs.
Emmy and I have never dined as well as we did for this show. The group provided a great chicken barbecue after “set-up” on Friday night, with an open bar beforehand. There were hors d’oeuvres served during the show for artists and patrons alike and a wonderful (typically southern) boxed lunch including sweet tea served in a Mason jar. The weather was beautiful. Our space location was on the front porch of a guest house, a few hundred well-manicured feet from a beautiful mini-mansion main house.
The home owners at our location were not only gracious and welcoming, but hunting enthusiasts as well. We shared our porch with a small stuffed bear who became Emmy’s assistant, holding a few necklaces displayed in his outstretched front paws.
Most of the shows we attend are either free for customers or have a small entrance fee, from five to eight dollars. The Gaston Lake show had a $35 dollar fee for those wishing to view the artworks. I think the high fee produced patrons who were serious art enthusiasts and/or supporters of the O’Sail cause.
Monetarily, for us it was an average show, but a typical show would have up to several thousand people a day pass by our booth. At Lake Gaston there were around two or three hundred. It was a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
At the home of our Friday night reception, where we heard the “helicopter” remark, I had just said to Emmy that the basement room with the bar we were in probably cost more than our whole house in Cattaraugus County.
I hate to admit it, but I sometimes lament that we are not as financially secure now as I had hoped to be. We are very fortunate though; we have a roof over our heads and always have food on the table.
However, just once I would like to overhear someone worried about my dilemma- “Boy, that Terry really shouldn’t be buying another helicopter.”