November welcomed the cold more heartily than I. November gave it a vigorous handshake, a full-faced smile, and injurious back-slaps. I grudgingly glanced up while winterizing Hobbes, Danger, Back Roads, and Rocker (my TR6 and three motorcycles. Yes, they have names) and forced the smallest smile possible; the kind of smile that says, "I'm stuck with you, but I don't have to like you." It is the same smile battle-hardened platoons reserve for fresh-faced lieutenants.
With riding season over I've been spending some cold nights and weekends sorting and sifting through the archives of my life. I've done this a number times in recent years – cleaning out as if I were my own next of kin – but this time...well, this time is different. This time I'm driven by my desire to live small and live south. Plastic bins are replacing cardboard boxes. Papers – those I'm keeping – are sorted into better categories; letters from home, cards from my kids, things my kids made, things my kids wrote (a note to the tooth fairy is one of my favorites), my report cards all the way back to kindergarten. And there, in those report cards, I found pause. Mrs. Willard's comments on my kindergarten report card are eerily representative of the person I am today, particularly the note imploring me not to pursue singing, not even at birthday parties.
By second grade, having turned my back on singing, I took to writing. In the envelope holding my second grade report card I found – folded imperfectly to a quarter its original size – a yellowed, wide-ruled notebook page with a fringed right margin and the carefully-penciled lettering of an 8-year-old boy. My first bit of travel writing! Before I continue, let me share this important sidebar:
In the summer of 2014, Elvis Presley Enterprises held the first auction of EPE-authenticated Elvis memorabilia. The items in the auction came from third-party collectors, friends, hangers-on and the like. One item presented for auction was a library card on which the then 13-year-old future King of Rock and Roll endorsed that he was taking temporary custody of The Courageous Heart: A Life of Andrew Jackson for Young Readers. It is the earliest known Elvis signature. It sold for $7500.00. You can see where I'm going with this.
On the other side of my hand-printed, double-spaced travel story is the definition of wheel. Well, my definition – as someone who had spent a full eight years and two months absorbing the knowledge dispensed by my parents, the Oshkosh Public School System and Big Bird – of a wheel. But I also see it as my first bit of technical writing. That old paper is a telescope that allowed me to look deep into my own universe and see the beginning of what has been a good, if not glamorous, career. Prior to rediscovering this forgotten treasure I had believed my life as a technical writer began when I was a high school junior. I was offered a co-op job in drafting where my immediate supervisor was in charge of the technical documentation. Rather than spend my days detailing machine parts, I played in India ink, creating technical illustrations for the manuals. By my senior year I was given the opportunity to write a manual for industrial silkscreen equipment. So what did I have to say, in second grade, about the common wheel?
fostened through the center. We find wheels' on cars, traks, tractors,
Yes, it ends abruptly – with a comma. But I was concise. That is important in technical writing.
And here is my first bit of travel writing, carefully transcribed from the original yellowed document. For historical accuracy I have retained all spelling and punctuation errors.
I went to Hawer Jhonsis and first we wated in line for 5 minus. And then we sat dawn and wated for hafe a awer. and then finle a water came to the tabl and watied on us and then we watied for hafe a awer and thea stile dint come with orur food so we laft and went to Mc duneldes and got same food and went bak to the Motell.
I can now correctly spell the word didn't, but my friends will tell you I pronounce it exactly as I had sounded it out in second grade: dint. I will let you now when I put this Danger-authenticated document on eBay. Happy bidding.
Search your past and discover yourself...