Archive for January, 1995


28 January 1995 at 7:57 pm
by Jonah

Christmas day my extended family and I were in my grandfather’s van, driving to New Orleans, where a plane would take me on a prized trip to Colorado. My grandmother sat in the middle seat, commenting about things to everyone in particular, while no one really wanted to listen. I made snide remarks to match each irrelevant one of hers, but only my dad sitting next to me in the drivers seat could catch them. “Stop it,” he warned but couldn’t stop himself from laughing. “Respect your elders,” he choked between convulsive gasps for air among hysterical chuckles but then broke into a fit of coughing brought on by my next joke.

A week later, I was sitting in a snow covered house in Colorado, letting the information sink in that my grandmother had suffered a severe stroke at our kitchen table.

Spring Semester ’95

24 January 1995 at 8:00 am
by Jonah

Classes have been going pretty good. Well, actually more than good. It’s great. I love all the courses I’m taking this semester.

My sociology professor is a commie lib, but that’s just because he’s just a really compassionate guy (plus the fact that he’s resentful that he doesn’t get paid more than he does). I’ve been reluctant to get in any arguments with him because he seem so unsure of himself, but we have had a couple of good discussions. I’ve decided that I’m a functionalist capitalist, so if you want to label me anytime in the near future, you’ll know what terms to use.

Chemistry has been a doozy, even though I got 20 out of 20 on my last quiz (I am so happy). I’ve been listening to The Origin of Species (abridged) by Charles Darwin and A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking on tape. It was great because, while I was finding the result of a positron emission in Chemistry, I was learning what a positron IS from Hawking. Chemistry lab was pretty fun (although I broke a cardinal rule and wore contact lenses). We did all sorts of chemical reactions with a penny. It was cool. What chemistry lab should be, except, alas, with no explosions. However, now I can’t look my professor in the eye.

Religion is okay. We’re going through the synoptic gospels. As academic as my professor was last semester, this one is exceedingly conservative, a real fundamentalist. I like it. The other day he made the statement that angels have emotions. I asked him after class what scripture he could use to back that claim up. The next class period, he had a list of references for me.

English, as ever, is cool, even though Nathan isn’t in there. We did some William Faulkner and are now reading Billy Budd by Herman Melville. We’ll do The Death of Ivan Ilych later on. Dr. Allums is trying to persuade me to become an English major. Actually, double major. I told him, yeah right.

Philosophy is fun. It’s a discussion class, so that usually makes it interesting. We had our first test today on the Orestia. It was easy. I hope.

Russian History is great. Right now we’re at the 1917 Revolutions. Today I stayed after and another student and I talked with the instructor (a 44 year old woman from Russia) for over an hour and a half! It was great. She expressed the difficulty it is for her to adjust to a new way of thinking after years of believing that socialism was the best way. It’s fascinating to gain her perspective and understand why people accepted communism for so long.

Along with school I’ve had to pick up a bunch of the slack in household duties left off by mom, since she spends a majority of her time down at the hospital with my grandmother. I have a LOT of reading to do this semester, but I prefer that to papers, projects or other “work.” In the meantime, I haven’t had any. Time, that is.

Hey, did you know that time passes slower at higher altitudes than it does at sea level? No wonder Colorado has such a relaxed attitude.


23 January 1995 at 11:10 pm
by Jonah

(date unknown)

Nathan’s grandfather has a M1 Garand (he’s sitting here telling me how to spell it). His dad wants to buy it back from him. Nathan’s been cleaning his grandfather’s handguns and rifles and in return gets to shoot them. He’s been cleaning an Ithaca .45 auto that’s also a WWII veteran. He says it shoots a tad bit to the left. His dad has finally started reloading all those 9 mm shells he’s been making us collect. Nathan says: “they shoot much better than some made by rookies at the police academy (they would just scoop the powder out, brush the top off, and insert the lead:) ). Needless to say, there were quite a few uncontained explosions at the range. My dad laughed a great deal when telling us that story.”

About a week ago, we went to play Q-Zar, “the world’s favorite laser game,” according to its advertisements. Nathan, Stephanie, and I met some other people down there and waited while watching Nathan play graphically violent arcade games until they called us into the briefing chamber. There we divided into two teams, red (actually orange) and green. The ref (or employee, whatever) came in and picked me, since it was my first time, as an example of how to put on the vests. They’re kind of a breast plate and back piece connected with straps and shoulder pad things on top with a gun attached by a telephone cord type wire. After the briefing, we entered the vest place, where everyone else put on vests, and then on to the battle room. It was a maze-like room, foggy, and with loud music playing. We all went to our appropriate energizing stations, and then the game began. It was great, sneaking around corners, blasting away at the enemy. You could see the lasers as they shot through the fog. That helped with aiming. When you get shot, a thing on the breast plate (mine was more on my tummy) vibrates. I was running here and there for the first minute or so until I remembered the first rule — NO RUNNING.

Whenever you get shot (or tagged, as they benignly call it), the gun talks to you, saying, “Defense shield active… active… warning… warning…” and you have to wait for six seconds before you can fire again. I shot the green headquarters twice.

During a lull in the game, the ref that had given us the briefing came up and told me he thought I was doing pretty well fo:r my first time and gave me some pointers. “Protect your back. And don’t tell anyone I told you this, but if you unsling you gun, you’ll have a better range of motion.”

After 15 minutes, though it seemed like a lot longer, it was all over and we returned to our energizing stations, as per the instructions our guns gave us, for our points to be recorded. Mine didn’t work right, so the ref came over to try to help. Finally, we went out, and I got my score sheet from the desk. The ref came over to where we were comparing cards. “What’d you do?” he asked. “Not bad for your first time.”

As we were leaving, he came over again and handed me a couple of coupons for 2 dollars off my next game.
“Come back,” he said.

On the way home, Nathan and Stephanie started teasing me. “He likes you,” Nathan taunted. “You probably could have got in free if you gave him your phone number.”

Beaver Sticks

22 January 1995 at 10:55 pm
by Jonah


It was a beautiful day today, so Stephanie, Nathan, and I went outside. After playing with the dogs, crowding into the hammock, and climbing trees, we walked around the lake in our backyard. Evidence of our newly resident beavers was everywhere, from chewed stumps to gnawed twigs. We explored the area where the spring feeds our lake, thinking they might live in that vicinity, but we found nothing.

“What do they do with all the wood?” asked Stephanie. There were only a few logs and sticks lying around compared with all the trunks of small trees and bushes pointing from abnormally short heighths into the air.
We split up, looking in different directions, Nathan breaking his way through the thick undergrowth and vines in his way. Then Stephanie called us over to where she was stooping near the shore. A worn path in the grass led from the water. The dogs were digging at some roots.

“Look,” Stephanie said pointing at a small hole in the ground, “Beaver sticks.”

We examined them and then continued on around the lake where another path led up to a place under the trees where the ground had been trampled.

By now the dogs were digging furiously, so we went back to see what they had accomplished. The hole where some of the sticks were seemed to go down further than when we looked before. Nathan started scooping out the twigs covered with rotting leaves. It smelled like like earthy musk. We mused that this might be the beavers winter cache of food. As Nathan pulled out the last stick, we looked in astonishment at the cavernous hole that was before us. The opening was actually much wider than we had previously thought, but it had been covered with leaves. We peered into the darkness of the hole that was perhaps two feet in diameter at the opening. Stephanie cautiously stuck her head near the opening.

“Dig marks,” she pointed out. On the side of the hole were claw marks in the clayish dirt.

Nathan stuck his head in. “Joanna!” he exclaimed, “It goes right under you!”

We couldn’t see much in the gloom, so Nathan told Stephanie to go get a flashlight. She agreed but only if she could look in first.

Nathan teased, “I get to.”

We ended up all going up to the house, leaving the dogs to dig furiously at the ground farther up from the lake before coming to join us.

We came back, Stephanie holding her Maglight, Nathan a shovel, and me an ax. Shep, our Australian shepherd (we think) and Buller, our neighbor’s bulldog, were with us, but Buster, our mutt, was nowhere to be seen.

“Is he in the hole?” Nathan asked. Stephanie and I said we thought that he had run off behind us, but he didn’t come when we called him. As we approached the opening, Shep and Buller started sniffing around again. Then Shep yelped and backed away from the cavity. We gathered around, and Stephanie prepared to look in. Suddenly, a brown head popped out. Stephanie yelled as we all jumped. Then Buster brought the rest of his body out of the hole and shook himself as we collapsed into laughter.

“It’s a good thing I didn’t have the flashlight,” Nathan said. “I would have hit him!”

Buster reentered the cavern, and disappeared down a tunnel. Stephanie looked in after him, but couldn’t see him. She did see two tunnels running the short way down to where water lay. In the other direction, the mine continued up underneath where the dogs had been digging, but shallower. Buster crawled back in sight, but stayed in the hole. He seemed to like it in there.


16 January 1995 at 10:52 pm
by Jonah


It’s amazing to me how much Stephanie is talking Southern these days. She was the most resistant to change when we’ moved here. She didn’t like the weather, she guarded against developing an accent (and required the rest of us to do so too), and she was ready at a moment’s notice to leave home and spend as much time in Colorado as she could. Suddenly, I find her stretching one syllable words into two, she’s not real anxious to leave for foreign parts anymore, and she’s under the impression that where we live is the most beautiful spot on earth. It’s amazing what meeting the right person will do to you.

Classes seem to be going alright. I finally got a question in chemistry right today. That makes me 1 and 2. Our instructor starts at one end of the classroom and asks everyone questions, working his way down the rows. Unfortunately, I got assigned to the second row. Blasted alphabetical order. It’s a very effective way of teaching, however. If you don’t know your stuff, you’re gonna look like a fool. To
day we did dimensional analysis or some junk like that. And I thought I was through with math. We even have to have a scientific calculator for the course. I’m borrowing Stephanie’s. I had the dickens of a time finding out how to do exponents today. All those symbols all over the place. I couldn’t even find the key with the big EXP on it. He had to show me.

We had a visitor this weekend. On Friday night Dad brought home a basset hound he said had been wondering around at work. Finally, it ran in front of a truck nearly getting itself killed, so he lured it into the car and drove home. Dad’s got a real soft spot. He’s always wanted a Bassett hound. This one fit the bill. Everything about him was elongated. His body, his tail, his HUGE ears, his tongue hanging out of his long snout. The only thing that was short were his stocky legs. He was the sweetest thing, jumping up on me whenever I came in the kitchen. He was also a slobber machine, getting drool on whatever his extra long schnozz came in contact with. Mom and I got out a couple of recorders and started fluting away at some ghastly “tune.” Pretty soon the dog had joined in, making an O out of his scrunched up lips, and with eyes wide and head tilted back he let out a hoarse yet deep howl. The room would resonate with the sound until we were laughing too hard to keep playing, and the spell would break as he wagged his tail and waddled from person to person, seeking affirmation. Stephanie called him Fred after Fred Bassett in the comics. Dad made some signs and put them up on the streets surrounding his office, but he warned everyone who answered the phone not to give away any information about the dog’s appearance. It was clear he was intent on keeping the dog. Fred even got along well with our other dogs, once we finally let him outside. He thought it was great fun to play with them and afterward to collapse into sleep inside. Then on Sunday afternoon, the telephone rang. They lived near the office, and it only took a few minutes to get here. The dog’s name was actually Sam and belonged to a 13 year old boy, who was very relieved to see him. We waved goodbye as Sam looked past his huge nose out the window at us, wagging his tail.

My grandmother is improving every time I see her. It won’t be long before they’ll be discharging her from the hospital, and then we’re not really sure what we’re going to do. She’ll probably come here with us and live in Benjamin’s room. We don’t know if she’ll want to stay in Mobile or go back to Richmond, VA. Right now she still can’t talk, so we can’t ask her. We’ve had to divide up tasks for when each person is available. Between that, visiting her at the hospital, and homework, I’m not going to have a heck of a lot of free time. We’ll have to see what happens. Prayers are definitely appreciated.