Things That Have Made Me Happy

Once you’ve lived long enough and have a lot of memories in the ol’ grouch bag, it’s hard not to pause every now and then to consider that unique collection that adds up to your life. Like you, I have a variety of event-mementos good, bad, and hard to define. Mostly, though, I prefer to pull out those things that still make me smile.

Dogs

Dogs have had a surprising presence in my life. Though my parent were in no way good pet people, they did try on several occasions to provided me with some canine companionship when I was quite young. I often reflect back to one day in 1969. I spent an afternoon with my last dog, a purebred beagle. My parents wouldn’t let her in the house cj-and-sub-family-2005-xs-croppedmost of the time, so we just sat in the threshold of our back stairs. We didn’t do anything special. Just two friends spending some time with each other on a very warm afternoon.

A little over a year later, long after my dog had been adopted by another family, I came to the attention of a very large German shepherd who decided to make me his boy. I most remember one day: the dog had bent back the chain-link fence of his own yard and came over to my house. He was sitting in the front lawn, proud and patient. When I came out, we had a blast in the way kids and dogs who trust each other are able to have.

And of course I’ve written about Mary’s* dogs (Some Dogs I Know). Oh, there were many, but the lab/chow mix was my fav. Just knowing her is a good memory all by itself.

Space

I was raised in and around the space industry. When my friends were building model cars, I was building models of Saturn Vs, Ed White’s space walk, and LEMs.  One of the first plastic models I ever had was of a tiny X-15 back when I was 5 or 6. Gosh, I loved playing with that.

I’m still awed by the fact that I not only got to see most of it, but since it was a part of my culture, I appreciated what it all meant in spite of my tender years. While I sat in awe when I got to watch, live, all of the broadcasts of men walking on the moon, I think the moment that sticks out the most was the Christmas Eve broadcast from Apollo 8. For the first time, ever, men had gone to another world, and I was getting to see it.

Of course, one of the happiest moments is from when my dad took me to the JPL open house. There I was introduced to my first computers. In the forty-plus years since, there have been many more smiles than anguish about that.

Programming

I know it sounds geeky and even a little beyond weird to many, but the many memories of the hours I’ve spent working on computer programming could fill not only the memory grouch bag, but a few steamer trunks as well.

The first programming language that I became fluent in was 6502 assembly language. Sure, I’d dabbled in BASIC, COBOL, FORTRAN, and some of the DEC assembly languages in the years between my first JPL visit through to high school, but it was the 6502 that got me to turn the corner. I was able to enter into cyberspace (though that word wouldn’t exist for a few more years): that virtual construct that exists when human and computer minds comingle. It’s trippy stuff.

When I think of any of the assembly languages I’ve learned, I can’t help but smile. Only one higher-level language ever did that for me: Pascal. I don’t know what it was about that ALGOL-derived language, but it clicked with me. C has come close, but it doesn’t engender the immediate smiles that Pascal does.

For the past couple of days I’ve been sitting at my computer coding the new theme for this very site. While it wasn’t exactly taxing, I was smiling most of the time. Programming makes me happy. Working as a programmer, however, doesn’t make me happy (which is why I don’t do it anymore), but the programming itself is a great pleasure.

Female Folk

Of course there are scores of femmes in the memory library. How could there not be? They are definitely one of the empirically great goods in life. I think myself fortunate to have had mostly good and happy experiences with the lot.

While I’ve have my share of crushes, maybe a love here or there, I’ve been so blessed that most of the women in my life have simply been, and continue to be, very good friends. None of that sexual politics stuff (at least not to the point where stupid-in-that-area me noticed). Wow…so many memories are flooding my head at the moment. I could write rather lengthy tomes.

Ethyl and Agnes (remember, I’m changing names) were thick as thieves in elementary school, but they befriended me soon after I had transferred there from L.A. Ethyl was simply gorgeous and amazingly funny. Agnes… I played a lot of basketball after school with Agnes on one of the regular pick-up teams. (I’m guessing that’s where my love of women’s sports started.)

There was Gertrude, whom I met in Jr. High. What can I say that won’t cause me to embarrass myself? Every time she’d smile it felt like I’d just been given a glimpse into heaven. I asked her out our senior year in high school. Best rejection I ever got. Though it hurt at the time, I smile easily about it now. A class act that Gertrude.

Lupe I didn’t really get to know until my senior year in HS. A truly unique individual who made that year a very happy time. Plus, she was a impish PITA. With me being a smart-ass, it was an entertaining combo.

Of course I have to mention Shannyn. I totally crushed on Shannyn for years during and after high school. Hey, she was kind and sweet and laughed with gusto at my atrocious humor. Our timing was never right for a romance, but we clicked pretty good when it came to friendship.

As I mentioned, I could go on and on with this one aspect of memories alone, but just one more: Mabel. Mabel I met in college. Smart, funny, sensual. I mean, thinking about her and those black jeans… Well, those black jeans were famous, and how she worked them…legen-(wait for it)-dary. All the men thought so, and she admitted that she was very aware of it herself.

(Yeah, there’s Mary, Dale, and the girls who all make me smile a lot every day, but I said I’d cut myself off on this subtopic.)

Women’s Basketball

I wax rhapsodic at length about this subject. I wrote about it just recently (I Love Maryland Women’s Basketball). So much of my adult life has been entwined with women’s basketball that I’m just stunned that others don’t share my decades-long passion for this wondrous sport.

The first memory that always comes to mind: it’s just before the 1983 fall semester. I play against the Lady Terps for the very first time (on the floor of Cole Field House, to boot). Though I’m only 5’9″ and always play at the 1 or 2, I find myself in the low block against the team’s 6’1″ star F/C (I guess they translated 5’9″ to a basketball-media-guide 5’11”). Mind you, I’m only used to playing against the guys in DC-area pickup games. I thought I was prepared. Then she throws a hip into me and sends me flying off the block and well into Pennsylvania. Welcome to big-time women’s basketball, CJ.

University of Maryland

As if the women’s basketball team wasn’t enough, the memory of one place is guaranteed to raise a smile in me. Yeah, we had some downs to go with the ups, but from the time I um01-320was accepted until the last time I visited before I moved to NM, I’ve loved my school. There have been two places that I consider “home” (you know, that place so comforting and nurturing that you could just stay there forever): my grandma’s house, and UM.

First, it looks like how I’d expect a university to look: brick and columns and all neo-colonial. The bucolic landscaping merged so well with the student body that it felt like a place out of time.

Of course many of my memories come from the Colony Ballroom Lounge on the second floor of the Student Union (now the Stamp Union). While an official “commuter’s lounge” was being planned and later built over several years, this was where the car-poolers congregated daily. Within this community we forged friendships that have endured. While we couldn’t have the same experience as those people who lived on campus, we got a lot closer than those who just came to school to attend classes before retreating again to places that were elsewhere.

Because I had to take some time off now and again to make money to afford to live, I got to spend six years with my second home. The buildings, the Mall, Testudo, the marvelous people, and so much more… all of those memories are very smile-worthy.

Finn’s Follies

My friend, Finn, used to assemble a group of us together and we’d head off on some adventure. The end result was almost never what was originally planned. The double-beach trip that required dragging one of our friends away from the middle of a party and then not allowing a rest-stop (she wasn’t happy about that).

The trip to Gettysburg that ended up with me having to call my father to rescue us from…well, it wasn’t Gettysburg.

The movie trip where more time was spent at a supermarket parking lot in the middle of the night than we spent at the movies.

Then there was… no. There was the night where I was left in the middle of a den of iniquity while Finn was…frankly, I’m still not sure where he went. In any case, I’m not sure that was exactly a “happy” moment. Maybe it was, come to think of it. It was a confusing night.

And then… well, you get the picture. Lots of happy memories…not the least of which is that I’m happy that I survived :-D

Writing

Because I was an only child for almost 12 years, I learned to amuse myself in play with my own imagination. Boredom was averted because I was able to conjure up images and voices in my head that could enchant me. That evolved to me being able to write.

Writing is just an extension of that childhood play. I conjure up stuff in my head. But, instead of keeping it to myself, I let it spew forth. It isn’t all made up, either. Some of it you read here in these blogs. Some of it gets sent in emails or deposited in fora. But the rest is all me. Something pops into my head so I sit at a keyboard (or take writing implement to paper, if I go old-school) and play, for the lack of a better word.

I’m close to the point where I recognize I’ll not likely have a career as a professional writer of either novels or screenplays. There just aren’t that many more years left to me to forge anything that’s more than transient. But that doesn’t take away the fun. I just love to write. I write thousands of words every day—most of them are even spelled right and used correctly. Why? For no more lofty reason than it makes me happy.

And, as I’ve briefly outlined above, life is full of things that engender happy happy thoughts. There have been plenty of moments where events were very much not in the realm of happy, but I choose to not dwell there. I’ll pass through those places. I’d rather spend time considering those events that affirm for me the positive reasons for continuing onward: there are still many more happy memories to be met and gathered.

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