Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Leif - Honolulu, Hawaii - April 1984 - Age 9

These photos were taken after Leif came home from a soccer game in April 1984 when he was nine years old. Unfortunately, I made no notes on the back of them, but he looks really contented, so I think they must have won. Like most kids he loved to win and took losing hard. He's flopped on our living room rug here, looking relaxed and then acting silly.

It's hard for me to realize that I now have a grandson who will soon be nine, and although I never thought that Marcus looked like his Uncle Leif, I do see some resemblance in these two photos.

I wonder, if I could ask Leif now, what he would say the happiest years of his childhood were. I suspect that they were the three years in Hawaii. Those were good years for all of us, although I wore myself out working on my master's degree at the University of Hawaii, determined to finish it before we were moved again.

How I wish I could go back, just for a few days, with my boys and Peter W., have a Sunday breakfast on the lanai, go to Bellows Beach, head down to Waikiki for a movie and video games at one of the game parlors, dinner at It's Greek to Me  . . . those are fond memories. We were so fortunate to be able to do those things together!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

All Those Things Done and Never Done

I was thinking today that Leif did more in his 33 years than many people ever get to experience in a full lifetime. He lived in four countries, a US Commonwealth (Puerto Rico) and six states. He traveled in many more countries and states, served his country in the army, played musical instruments, starred in a musical, flew in airplanes, built his own computer, owned cars, a truck and motorcycles, was in love probably four times, was married and divorced. He worked at at least nine different jobs. He visited castles and cathedrals, watched performances ranging from Japanese Yabusame (archery) to hula dancing. He swam at beaches from Thailand and Japan to Jamaica and Italy. He went on two Caribbean cruises and attended three family reunions. He was an uncle. He had a college degree. He was a member of the SCA and fought in medieval armor. He was a SCUBA diver, had a black belt in judo.

There are so many more things, so many details of his life I could enumerate, so much he experienced. But in the end, did he feel his world was shrinking? So much of what he had experienced was either as a child with us, or and adult with us, or as an adult in the army. Then he circumscribed his life with debt and could no longer continue that kind of life.

But worse, so much of what he really wanted was out of reach. He never experienced years of a happy home life in a stable and loving marriage. He never had children. He never had a job or career that gave him satisfaction or a feeling of real achievement. The things that really matter to a man, he did not have.

We were able to give him a lot, but those things were out of our reach to give him, too. It's so sad to me that he never was able to find them, and sad that I will never hold a child of his in my arms.

Most of the photos I have of Leif are either happy, silly, contemplative, or sometimes, just absorbed in what he was doing or thoughtful. This photo is different. I wonder what he was thinking. There's a kind of sad and melancholy look about it, but maybe that's just my way of seeing it now, after his death. It was taken when we went to the "Big Island" of Hawaii for Christmas in 1985. He was almost eleven years old.

That was my idea because I was tired of hot weather for Christmas and wanted to feel a chill in the air. I wanted to see my breath. It was chilly enough for that at Kilauea Military Camp on the rim of the volcano. We had to wear jackets and we even had a fire in the fireplace in our lava rock cabin.

Peter Anthony's birthday is Christmas Day and he was turning 17. It didn't occur to us that no place would be open to get a good Christmas dinner in Hilo, which was closer than the tourist area at Kona. We drove around and around and finally found that although even Pizza Hut was closed, the International House of Pancakes was open, so we ended up there for our Christmas and Peter Anthony's birthday dinner. Not what we expected, but it makes a good story. Leif found that quite amusing, yet another of the many experiences in his life. Did he think they were over?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Leif and Frau Buhr - Sachsen bei Ansbach, Germany - September 1978 - Age 3 and a half

When we moved to the village of Sachsen bei Ansbach, Germany, we enrolled Leif in the German Kindergarten. In Germany, a Kindergarten is a preschool, not an elementary school class for five-year-olds. Sachsen had a beautiful Kindergarten with several classrooms. It was very modern and had a lot of wonderful curriculum materials and toys as well as a nice playground. Each child had a cubby for his or her her things, and each was required to have their own toothbrush, toothpaste and soap. Before a snack or a meal  they all went to the bathrooms to wash their hands, and afterwards they went there to brush their teeth, so a lot of good habits were taught, too.

Leif's teacher the first year he was enrolled there was Frau Buhr and he loved her dearly. I think you can see that in this photo. In her right hand she is holding a tiny bouquet of some little wildflower that Leif picked for her.

I don't know why Leif took to some people so much and not others, but the two women I remember him being emotionally attached to as a small boy were my sister Lannay and Frau Buhr. He was very affectionate to both of them.

When Leif started in at the Kindergarten that fall of 1978, he was the only American child in the school and the only non-German-speaking child. However, in a mere couple of months he had learned German so well just from being immersed in it that you would have thought he was a native speaker. I imagine that one reason he loved Frau Buhr so much was because during that period when he was unable to understand what was going on around him, she was warm and kind to him.

He had a good year that year but the next year at some point Frau Buhr went on maternity leave and Leif was very unhappy that she was gone. He didn't take to the new teacher who came to take her place. Her manner was quite different than Frau Buhr's and Leif did not respond well. It was a harder time for him and he got into trouble for losing his temper and throwing a toy, which hit another child. He was mortified, partly because of the scolding he got, but equally, if not more so, by what he had done.

The Kindergarten was about a mile and a half from our house. Going there it was downhill almost the entire way and coming back it was uphill. I walked him to school many days but later we had a car pool with a couple of other mothers of boys who lived up on the hill in our neighborhood. Leif had a couple of German boys from our hilltop area that were his playmates, and an American girl who lived about a block away.

I don't know whether Frau Buhr knew how much Leif loved her, but I suspect that all of her students felt the same way about her.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Leif - Hawaii - December 1985 - Almost 11 Years Old

When we lived in Hawaii, Leif's fifth grade class from Red Hill Elementary School did a production of a Hawaiian version of "Hansel and Gretel" which they performed at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center on December 15, 1985. Leif wasn't in the actual production but I don't remember whether he had any other "job" as a part of it. The larger context of this photo shows him between two huge gingerbread men. I don't know what he is holding up. It doesn't look like a toy or something he would have brought along with him from home, so perhaps he was helping to set something up. I wish I knew.

I love the beaming smile on his face. He really looks like he is enjoying himself. I find myself looking and looking at the photos of his life, trying to discern whether there was real happiness, and even though we try to get people to smile for the camera, you can usually tell whether it is a really joyful smile or not. I can see times when Leif was really happy, and times when he looked thoughtful, vulnerable, and sometimes even sad long before he was an adult. But what makes me glad is how many good times he  had . . . we ALL had together, during the years he was growing up. He must have wondered a million times why they didn't continue once he left home. We wonder, too.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Leif and Minouche - Hanau, Germany - May 1979 - Age 3

Leif and cats seemed to have a natural affinity for each other from the beginning of his life. He was always drawn to them. His love of cats was one of the recurring themes in his life, and it was probably a great sadness to him when he could no longer have them as pets when he developed asthma that was worsened by cat dander.

These are the last photos of Leif from our visit to the Fackrells in Hanau, Germany in May 1979. My friend Lili Fackrell had a beautiful big Siamese cat named Minouche. After our afternoon of visiting Romberg Castle and playing at the Hanau Bird Sanctuary, Leif needed a bath before he went to bed. To our surprise, Minouche seemed to think it was his job to watch or "supervise." He stayed perched right there on the toilet seat cover during Leif's bath, much to Leif's delight. You can certainly see how happy he was to have Minouche there.

We can never bring back those precious, priceless days when our children were young. I am thankful for the photos and the memories every day of my life.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why am I so peevish?

I am usually an even-tempered person, fairly easy to live with and get along with, but lately, in the past week, I've been irritable, easily frustrated, and snappish. I don't know why, and I've been thinking about that.

 I'm not sick, though I haven't felt really well for awhile. It's hard to feel pleasant when you feel worn out or just kind of punk, but that's no excuse for carping at Peter or snapping at him.

I have also been sadder about Leif than I was for awhile. It seems to have come back in one of its rolling tides. I wonder if the two are connected, whether something is causing both, and if so, what? Is there some kind of internal "switch" that got activated? I don't want to be "cantankerous" (a word Peter likes to use) and don't intend to be, but then I lash out like I did today when once again he was talking to me from two rooms away and couldn't hear my answer no matter how loud I shouted, or I couldn't see what he wanted to show me on his laptop because he was "barricaded" in his end of the reclining couch. It's frustration but WHY am I not just taking it in stride?

The only answer I can come up with is the depression that seems to come and go ever since Leif died. It's hard to motivate myself to do the things I need to do, or even care about them. Some days are good, and I can "attack" my list of to-dos and accomplish something. Other days I force myself to plod through doing this and that and wasting time (something very unlike me) while my list of things needing to be done gets longer and longer.

I hope I get over this bout soon. There have been several since Leif died, and each time I come out of one I hope they are in the past and I won't be in a funk again, but it fools me. It sneaks up on me.

The last one, when both Peter and I were in that funk, was in April and May, starting when we were facing the first anniversary of Leif's death, and Mother's Day, my birthday and Father's Day without him (though we were so fortunate to have Madeleine and Aly here for Father's Day and that made it special!), and getting ready to meet Peter Anthony in Orlando when he was there for a conference. We should have been really happy at getting to see him (and we were when we saw him! and hated to say goodbye!) but the anticipation was very strange. It seemed that sadness gripped us both, and I finally figured out that the reason was that getting to see Peter A. reminded us that we would never get to see Leif again. It's so grossly unfair to have that kind of sadness coloring a visit with a beloved living son, and luckily, it was dissipated and forgotten the moment we saw Peter.

I think something like that might be operating now. We are looking forward to seeing Peter again, very much looking forward to it, but it also means facing that we will not be seeing Leif. We were in Tampa on Monday and coming home Peter W. remarked again that it just doesn't seem right that Leif is no longer living there in his apartment, that we can no longer stop by to see him. He said that and I started to  cry. I'm crying far too often.

I look at these photos of my beautiful little boy and wonder how it could have gone so wrong.

Now I have to figure out how to lift myself out of this funk and get back to my ambitious, even-tempered self, how to live the life I have, which is a good one, without pining away for what I cannot have. It's not easy to shake depression. I just want it to go away and be temporary, not something that settles into my life and drags it down. That's not fair to Peter, to Peter W., to my grandchildren, to my family.

One of the difficulties of depression is that you don't feel like doing any of the things that will actually help. Work is the best therapy. Getting something done always helps. I just have to figure out how to make myself do more of it.
These are two more photos taken in May 1979 at the Hanau Bird Sanctuary in Hanau, Germany when Leif was three years old.

Look, Ma, No Hands! - Hanau Bird Sanctuary - Germany - May 1979 - Age 3

Leif was so precious at this age, a beautiful child. I doubt that there are many little boys who would miss walking on a log and Leif never missed an opportunity. This one was very long and he walked the whole thing. He had great balance and body control even as a very small child, traits that stood him in good stead when he took judo later.

It's hard for me to think about this trip to Hanau to see our dear friends, the Fackrells. Lili was one of my best friends. Now, both she and her husband Jim are dead, far too early, and so is Leif. Little did we all know that happy day in May 1979, at the park with our four children. Of the eight of us laughing and playing on that day, five are left.

Life is a fragile and priceless gift. Leif, too, was a fragile and priceless gift, it seems, no matter what a tall, imposing presence he became.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Need for Speed Began Early - Leif at Hanau Bird Sanctuary, Germany - May 1979 - Age 3

From the time he was tiny, Leif loved speed. He once describe himself as an adrenaline junky, and I think he was right. He found speed exhilarating from the beginning.

This photo was taken at the Hanau Bird Sanctuary in Hanau, Germany, where we were visiting our friends the Fackrells. This old-fashioned kind of merry-go-round is seldom seen on playgrounds nowadays. It's probably been judged too dangerous, but it sure was fun! It consisted of a hub with several spokes going out, four I think, each with a seat and a minimal tubular "back" that curved around to be like handles. Like most of those old merry-go-rounds, someone had to do the running and pushing to give the kids on it a ride. There were other kids in the park that day and I don't know who the boy was that did the pushing, but he had them going pretty fast. See Leif's hair streaming out behind him?

See the look of utter joy on his face? This park provided plenty of places for him to climb and to whirl around fast, all-in-all a big hit with him.

I'm amused looking at these photos of the 1970s with the "stylish" clothing. Plaid was in, even for boys, even for men. They all had plaid pants.

This was taken in May 1979 when Leif was three years old. Ironically, Peter W. went to the American school in Hanau for one year, when he was fourteen and went to live with his mother and adoptive father in Aschaffenburg, the year before he immigrated to the USA.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Leif With Bubble Gum - Fort Sheridan, Illinois - September 1986 - Age 11

This is a photo Leif took of himself when he was eleven years old. It looks like he set it up in his bedroom. He wasn't a big gum-chewer, and we rarely saw him blowing bubbles, so maybe that's why he thought it was worth a photo. On this photo and one other, I've noticed that it looks like his left eye turns inward slightly. Funny, I never saw that before. It must have corrected itself later.

Some days are harder than others. There are days I go along feeling mostly normal, although we still talk about Leif every day, but then things hit me again and the tears flow.

Some days I am so acutely aware of all the things here in our house that were Leif's or that he gave us, or even persuaded us to buy. He had such a great influence in our lives. I don't know if we even knew how great it was until he was gone.

Then a simple photo of him blowing a bubble brings back the years of his childhood, how important he and Peter Anthony were (and are) to us each and every day. I miss him so.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Leif in 1993 - Age 18

These photos were taken at the surprise family reunion we had in honor our of my mother's 75th birthday the weekend of July 4, 1993. Leif had just graduated from Manhattan High School at the end of May. He really enjoyed seeing his cousins, aunts and uncles.

You can see that already at the age of 18, his hairline was receding badly, a presage of things to come as it receded farther and farther, but here he still had that luxurious long hair, back in a ponytail and he's wearing his trademark (at the time) earrings and a chain he made himself using a heavy gauge wire he wound and cut into rings. It was part of his making chain mail, and he made quite a few items, culminating years later in the 50 pound chain mail shirt he made.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Three Volksmarchers - Somewhere in Southern Germany - September 1978

One of our favorite activities during our second tour of duty in Germany was Volksmarching. Volksmarches are hikes laid out by a local hiking club, that wander through villages and towns, but mostly through woods and farmland. You sign up and pay a small fee, and choose whether to hike the short, medium or long course. In those days, the short course was 10 km (6.2 miles), which was plenty for us and would take us about two-and-a-half to three hours with the boys, depending upon the weather and how challenging the terrain was. We never managed a 20 km or 30 km "march."

Volksmarches take place in all kinds of weather, and we were out in rain, snow and sleet as well as heat and sun.

The price to enter includes some "Kraftbruhe" at a couple of stops along the way. That's basically beef or chicken bouillon and is served steaming hot in disposable cups. It also includes your prize, which is a usually a medal with some interesting scene or personage on it, but could be a metal or wax plaque or a plate to hang on the wall. We had quite a collection of these and still have some of them.

It was a great way to see more of Germany, get some fresh air and exercise, and find a new restaurant to visit at the end or on the way home.

Lots of times, Leif would get worn out and have to be carried. After all, we started doing this when he was only two-and-a-half years old and six miles is quite a long way for those little legs.

I no longer know where this particular hike was, but we were living in Sachsen bei Ansbach at the time, and it was somewhere within a couple of hours drive of there in southern Germany. It was a lovely fall day and my guys did what they always did when there was something to climb . . . up they went, all three of them. I'm glad none of these logs rolled or slipped under their feet or we might have have some difficulty finishing the hike.

Peter W., as always with his arms around his boys, enjoyed those hikes, even if we did occasionally get lost for awhile trying to find them.

This photo was taken in September 1978, exactly 31 years ago. Peter A. was almost ten years old and Leif was a little over three-and-a-half.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Leif Climbing - Stuttgart - March 1978 - Age 3

I wonder how many things Leif climbed in his childhood; trees, fences, logs, playground equipment, hills, fountains, rocks, and so much more. If it could be climbed, he'd climb it, and seemingly knew no fear of falling. He took a lot of joy in physical activities and challenges as a child, which must have made it all the harder for him to accept the limitations his asthma put on him as an adult.

This photo was taken in March 1978 whe he was three years old. We went to visit our friends the Streckers in Stuttgart, and they had put this climbing apparatus into their daughter's bedroom. Leif was captivated. He's all the way at the top with his head against the ceiling. This was another photo which was badly damaged by improper processing and had yellow streaks through it. I'm glad I could restore it somewhat.

That was the same trip when Peter Anthony broke a finger playing with an exercise wheel they had. He was in a lot of pain until he got it braced.

It was a good weekend with our friends, a German family Peter became acquainted with through trial work. Our children were relatively the same ages. Another thing we did that weekend was going to see the darling baby tigers at the Stuttgart zoo.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What Fascinates a Three-Year-old?

If you think about it, it's amazing what fascinates and interests people, and this is just as true for very young ones. I read somewhere that young children are like little scientists exploring and testing their world to see how it works. This was certainly true of Leif, who wanted to figure out how everything worked . . . and he had a mother with a camera that loved watching him do it. I caught him on the floor having unbuckled his belt and he was carefully examining the buckle to see exactly how it worked. I doubt there are any other mothers who would take a picture of their son scrutinizing a belt buckle, but it just seems to like him to want to figure it out.

The date I wrote on the back of this photo was clearly wrong if the place was correct because it said it was taken in Fuerth, Germany in January 1977. However, we were living in Charlottesville, Virginia in January 1977 and didn't move to Fuerth until the summer of 1977. So it's probably January 1978 when Leif was just about 3 years old.

This photo is a great example of why it's a good idea to scan photos before they go bad. Despite some extensive PhotoShop work, you can still see that there are yellowed areas with a purple tinge at the end at the top and bottom of the photo. We have too many photo processed in Germany that have discolored yellowed areas or where the entire print has turned orangey in color. This is caused by improper processing and will only worsen with time. I can salvage some of them with PhotoShop, but they will never look like they should.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Leif's Theme About Earning His Black Belt in Judo - Written in 1990 when he was 15 years old

Leif began taking judo at Fort Shafter in Hawaii when he was ten years old. He enjoyed it thoroughly and became profient quickly. When we moved to Fort Sheridan, Illinois in August 1986, we found that a sensei named Andy was teaching a class at Great Lakes Naval Center and Leif signed up.

Andy was an excellent sensei and Leif flourished in his class. Remember that during those four years that we lived at Fort Sheridan, when Leif was eleven to fifteen years old, he grew to be 6' 1" by the time he was only thirteen. He shot up like Jack's beanstalk while he was in Andy's class. A lot of maturity was required of him, because this was not a class of children. Most of the other students were adults and some were quite mature adults. There was no one under the age of thirteen and I can't remember and other kids.

Leif took judo seriously and it was a source of pride and accomplishment for him. On January 6, 1989, just three weeks before his fourteenth birthday, he took the test for his first degree black belt and passed. Later, when he had to write a theme for an English class at Antilles High School in Puerto Rico, he wrote about the experience of taking the test. He wrote it in October 1990. By that time he was fifteen.

Unfortunately, there weren't any classes we could find for Leif to continue judo in Puerto Rico and after two years there, when we moved back to Kansas, he felt so out of practice that he said he would be embarrassed to show up on a mat with a black belt on. I have always felt that if he had gone back to martial arts, it would have done him a world of good, for the physical activity, the companionship, the skills, and the sense of accomplishment. However, he got interested in other things like the SCA and role playing games, and dating, and he never returned to judo.

However, it always meant something special to him. Although he was ruthless about getting rid of clothes that no longer fit him, among his things we found his judo gi and his black belt, and of course the bokken (wooden practice sword) that Andy had given him as a special farewell gift.

The photos were ones I took of him during and after the test, holding his certificate. You can see in the one where he is the fellow "underneath" demonstrating a judo throw, that the other man is considerably older with graying hair. In judo, technique and balance are what's important, not age, gender or even superior strength.

Here is Leif's theme:

"Shodan" by Alex Garretson 10/17/90

As I entered the gym it dawned on me that the time had come to face the challenge. I had been avoiding this event with good reason. For some time my judo sensei had been pestering me to take the test that would allow him to promote me to the rank of Shodan (first degree blackbelt) but I had declined.

The reason for my reluctance was a good one. I was still recovering from a very bad case of influenza that had caused me to miss some twelve days of school and over three weeks of judo. This put me at an incredible disadvantage for the test because I was very out of practice, having participated in only one ron dori (match) since my return. I still hadn't regained my strength, and with some of the competition I had to face I needed all the strength and speed I could get. To help compound the problem there was the fact that to fail a test for an advanced belt is a very embarrassing and degrading experience. But that night I felt like I was as ready as I could be.

The time had come. I approached the mat and informed my sensei that I was ready. He then called the class to attention and began the testing.

The actual test consisted of four basic parts, each very damanding to a certain aspect of judo. The first was the most physically demanding. For this portion I had to fight each of the members of the class (some more than once). These matches are very tiring and left me quite exhausted. For the second I had to perform a kata, a choreographed fight involving one tori, me, and eight yukis (dummies). This tested my style and technique (and my memory, for I was the only one present who had worked on the katas and I hadn't done that in months). The third was simple. I had to take a volunteer and demonstrate ten throws. I did quite well on this since I had been practicing these moves for a year and a half.

The final test was probably the most difficult. It required me to explain to the class what judo means to me both personally and philosophically. After explaining the meaning of judo and martial arts in general I was asked to run laps around the gym while they discussed with the sensei what I had told them and he asked them their opinions of my performance.

When I returned my sensei told me that I had earned my black belt and I was then repeatedly congratulated by my students and fellow classmates. When this was over my sensei lined us up, dismissed us and told us to pick up the mats. I then left exhausted and pondering the fact that this rank of shodan, which I had worked so hard for, in Japanese literally means beginner.

Leif on the Tropical Cruise at age 17

For some teenage boys, life seems to be a confusing mix of teenage foolishness and poor choices, developing talents, friendships, and a desire to be grown and sophisticated. Leif certainly fit into that mold. I thought Peter W. would be horrified at the story I posted yesterday about the candle-burning prank Leif's friends (with him along enjoying it) played on a teacher they liked. He pointed out that it could so easily have gone wrong, with a car accident, an arrest, being expelled from school, or worse, shot by a neighbor who thought they were doing something dangerous or illegal. The boys certainly never thought of it that way, but teens egging each other on to dares or pranks seldom think of those possible consequences and make foolish choices and use poor judgement.

That kind of incident, and the boys being out in a car on the loose in San Juan was one reason I was happy to have the opportunity to move Leif away from Puerto Rico when we did, even though I knew it was going to be hard on him moving away from his friends. I wasn't happy about him being out there in a car with someone else driving doing who-knows-what, and I wouldn't have been any happier with Leif driving our car and taking a load of boys with him. Leif didn't get his driver's license until the summer of 1992 back in Kansas. Although he continued to make poor choices (such as buying a motorcycle after he had moved out of our house, when he couldn't afford it, and driving it too fast), we at least avoided a disaster.

However, at the same time he was doing silly things that could have been disastrous, he was also wanting to be the sophisticated man-of-the-world. When we went on our first cruise, out of San Juan on the Carnival ship Tropicale, he was quite a handsome sight dressed up for the formal night on board. We took this cruise in April 1992, when he was seventeen, just three months before we moved him from Puerto Rico back to Kansas to stay with his grandmother and take driver's education in summer school. We moved back in August.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Leif's "Cross Burning" Story - Written in January 1993 just before his 18th birthday

Leif took a creative writing class in the spring semester of 1993, and one of the first assignments he had inspired him to recount an adventure he had the year before in Puerto Rico. Leif had a great group of friends, but they were teenage boys and sometimes their adventures wouldn't have been approved of by their parents. I think many parents never find out things like this ever happened and I'm rather surprised that I did. However, my sons had me help them polish their writing through the time they were in high school (no, I never did any of it for them, or even just corrected it for them, just gave them pointers and suggestions) and Leif showed this one to me at the time.

I remember the first draft he wrote, which to me didn't sound "creative" enough, just like a straight retelling of the evening he experienced. This is actually his third draft and since it was a creative writing assignment, I think there was some exaggeration going on. However, the incident really did happen. In his version, he used his friends' real names, but since I don't have contact with them and can't get their permission to use them, I have changed all the names.

The teacher mentioned in the story was popular with the boys. The prank wasn't intended to be hurtful. They liked and respected him, and it was supposed to be funny. I think the fact that they owned up to it shows that, too. I have changed his name as well.

The story is a window into the mind of teen boys and their behavior. I'm grateful that Leif made it through those years without getting into real trouble. The potential was there. He was not an instigator, but he did go along with things, like the adventure in this story. It was one he really enjoyed, because I heard him tell about it several times in addition to writing it like this. Basically, he was a good kid who longed to do risky things, so flirting with danger was exciting and fun . . . as long as it didn't go bad.

I picked a couple of silly photos of Leif to go along with this, taken close to the time the story happened. The top one was taken in Old San Juan on a really hot day when we had been walking around for hours and were roasting and exhausted. He stuck his head of long hair into a fountain to cool off. That was in 1991 when he was 16. The second one was taken on our first cruise, out of San Juan on the Carnival Cruise Lines Tropicale. Much of the time on that cruise he looked absolutely smashing and debonaire, but that evening he was being silly and put those little white cups that hold coffee creamer in front of his eyes and on his head and stuck out his tongue for the camera. This was in April 1992. He was 17.

And now, for the story:

"Cross-Burning" by Alex Garretson - January 1993

It was a dark but actually very pleasant night on the cosy little Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. The six of us met in the parking lot at the mall to go see "Wayne's World." Charlie had a flat on the way and pulled up with a shredded tire. Having plenty of time before the movie began, we tried to replace the tire. After floundering around for several minutes trying to get the jack to work I figured it out and changed it myself. Five minutes later we were in the theater flirting with the girls and throwing popcorn at the guys. After an hour-and-a-half of obnoxious misbehavior the movie ended and we could pursue new mischief. As the credits rolled at the end of "Wayne's World," Shawn, Dave, Gene, Bob, Charlie, and I filed out of the theater and headed down toward the parking lot.

Shawn's Mitsubishi could seat seven so we climbed in and were off. As we cruised down Roosevelt Ave. looking for entertainment Charlie spotted three girls in a Volvo coming up our right side. Having been inspired by Wayne and Garth we all saluted our approval with a simultaneous "schwing." Charlie climbed out the window and sat on the door waving his hat and whistling. Dave blew kisses on the window while the rest of us laughed and told Shawn to watch his driving. The girls pulled into the parking lot near the Carnival and we followed. As we parked and headed toward the entrance we circled and thought what to do next.

"One of us has to go and talk to them," Charlie said.
"Why don't you, Charlie? This was your idea in the first place," I replied.
"I can't, man, not tonight. Besides I have a girlfriend."
"That never stopped you before."
"Okay, okay, you've got a point there. But, still I can't. Why don't you?"
"I don't speak Spanish, man. If they don't speak English then it's all over and I'll look like an idiot," I said.
"Why's it gotta be me every time? One of you could get yourselves a date someday."
"Come on Charlie." I said, "Shawn and Dave are the only other ones that speak Spanish. Shawn's drivin' and you know Dave won't do it."
"All right, all right I'll do it. Just don't leave without me."

Charlie walked over to the girls and the rest of us got the car out of the way and watched his progress.

"All right, we're all getting laid tonight," Bob declared tactlessly. After about five minutes Dave and Bob started placing bets on how Charlie would do. Things seemed to be going well but after fifteen minutes we were getting bored.

Shawn rolled down the window and yelled, "Hey Charlie, we gettin' any tonight?" Since there was no response we assumed that either we weren't heard or the girls didn't speak English. Shawn repeated the remark. This time Charlie shot a cold glance at Shawn. Determined to get Charlie to return, he shouted, "Charlie, we're gonna tell Mariela." This time Charlie's stare was almost murderous. A few seconds later Charlie said good bye to the girls and returned.

"I ought to kill you for that," Charlie warned.
"Did they speak English?" asked Bob.
"Yeah, the first thing I said was in English."
"So what happened?" Dave asked.
"Well, first I asked if they wanted to go to the Condado. Then I asked them to Old San Juan, Shannon's, Peggy Sue's, the Beach, and finally I even asked them back to your house, Shawn."
"So, what happened?" Dave asked again.
"They had to wait for some friends who wanted to go to the Carnival and couldn't leave without them."
"Oh, well," Gene said, "Now what?"

We left and continued driving while discussing what to do next. As we approached San Patricio Charlie had an idea. "Lets get Mr. Bradley." It seemed perfect. Every one of us was taking, or had at one time taken, classes with Mr. Bradley. Mr. Bradley was a chemistry and physics teacher at the high school, an atheist with a great sense of humor.

"It's our last year. We've got to do something to Mr. Bradley." Charlie said.
"What did you have in mind?" I asked.
"I don't know but its got to be hilarious and it should be something about religion."
"What do you want to do, burn a cross in his yard?" I replied
"That's not a bad idea but we could never pull it off."
"We could paint one on his driveway or on his house." Dovovan added.
"No, that's not funny; it's vandalism. Nothing illegal." I said.
"We could pull it off."
"No fucking way, Charlie. We've come too close too many times. You almost got us arrested once."
"Yeah, almost, but only once."
"How about some candles?" Dave suggested.
"Yeah, you know how he's always saying that religion is silly and the only way to explain anything is through science. Well, lets burn a cross of candles in his yard." Charlie said.
"Yeah, now that would be funny."
"Here, pull in to San Pat' and we'll get some candles." said Charlie

As we entered the drug store at the San Patricio shopping mall, I began to remember all the times that Charlie had done something stupid that almost got me in trouble. There was the time that Charlie and Art pulled a fire hose out of the wall at the Stryper concert and proceeded to spray it over the giant inflatable Winston cigarette box down onto the stage, drenching the drummer, bassist, lead singer, and half of the first seven rows of of the arena. There was the time that Charlie recruited Warren, Scott, and I to help him break into the school during homecoming to tar and feather "Seniors Rule" across the freshman lockers. That one almost ended in our arrest as we were discovered by a pair of MP's behind the school with the stucco gun. And finally, here on this very spot, was the place where Charlie decided he was going to steal a cop's helmet off his motorcycle while he was standing in the checkout line of the very drug store we were about to enter. Fortunately, the cop turned around before Charlie got around to trying it.

It must have looked a bit strange to see six guys, mostly gringos, enter a drug store at eleven o'clock on a Saturday night, then leave a few minutes later after buying nothing but a box of candles and one Snickers bar. We returned to the car and left. Bob was feeling very proud of himself, having successfully lifted a Butterfinger from the counter on his way out, and the rest were planning our tactics for the cross burning.

"You sure you know were his house is?" someone asked.
"Yeah, it's right around here; make a left up there." Charlie said.
"Now how exactly do you idiots think you are going to do this?" I asked.

Charlie took charge as expected. "All right, Shawn, when we get there, park across the street and turn off your lights, but leave the engine running. We'll go out and set the candles up and after we light them we'll come back and stick my ghetto-blaster out the window. Then we'll blast "Smells Like Teen Spirit" out the window to get his attention and drive off. All right? Cool, there's his house. Pull over."

Dave, Bob, and Charlie stalked across the street and disappeared behind a fence. Shawn waited with his hand on the shifter while Gene and I watched for their return. A few minutes passed until suddenly the three of them came running back as if the creature from "Aliens" was chasing them. They jumped into the car and slammed the doors.

"Shit. We're busted man. Hit it!"

Shawn hit the gas and the little Mitsubishi wagon sped away as fast as it's four cylinders could take it. I was suprised to hear the squeal of tires from such a small engine. As we passed the fence we could see the little cross of candles burning in all its glory. As we rounded the corner we almost hit another car because Shawn forgot to turn his lights on again. We raced through the neighborhood trying to lose the neighbor's car that had begun to pursue us. The lights were still behind us as Shawn swung onto the highway. The speedometer was pushing ninety as we desperately tried to out run the other car.

Each of us responded differently to the situation: Shawn kept his attention on his driving, breaking his concentration only to ask if he had lost them yet. Dave maintained his usual curious indifference and sat calmly but attentively in the front seat. Gene sunk down in the back and shook his head, muttering, "I can't believe we're actually doing this."

I appeared calm as usual, but being an adrenaline junkie, I was having the time of my life watching as the other car matched our every move. I answered Shawn's inquisitions with a calm, "Yup, he's still back there." Bob was scared shitless. Having never done anything crazy in his life before stealing that Butterfinger he did not have the stomach for car chases. He made this quite evident when he kept asking, "Are you scared? You're scared, aren't you?" And Charlie naturally was loving every second. The only words out of his mouth were, "Fuck, yeah. This is awesome."

Shawn took the exit back onto Roosevelt Ave. and we flew down the off ramp and smoothly merged with the traffic. I looked back to see if the head lights were still behind us. Nothing. We had lost them.

We drove back to Plaza and dropped Charlie off at his car and then we began to head back home ourselves. Monday morning Dave placed the last remaining candle on Mr. Bradley's desk to confirm that someone from his classes was responsible for the display in his yard. The others entered his class to find the license number of Shawn's car on the board labelled "white Mitsubishi." Close, it was red. This was especially ironic because the car in question, which was parked outside, belonged to Shawn's mother, who, like Charlie's mother, is a teacher at the same high school. Charlie took credit for the joke immediately, as expected. Dave followed soon after and Shawn confessed that it was his car.

I talked to Mr. Bradley later in the year when I was sure everything had calmed down and admitted my "guilt." Bob never had the guts to admit it and Gene never spoke of it again. But, sooner or later we all heard how the neighbors had called Mr. Bradley thinking that we were doing something criminal to his house and he ran outside before they could give him the details and saw it glowing in the driveway. He immediately burst out laughing and went in to soothe his paranoid neighbors and appease his wife who thought it was an insulting prank by one of her students at the Catholic school at which she taught.

Eventually everyone was satisfied and the events of that Saturday night will live happily in our memories.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Leif's January 1991 Report on Electric Cars

My sons were always in the forefront of technology, both in wanting to own it and in learning about it, and Leif was always vitally interested in vehicles of all kinds, but especially cars and motorcycles. In his sophomore year of high school at Antilles High School in Puerto Rico, he had to write a research paper for his English classwith Mrs. Solis. The length and excellence of this paper is definitely a mark of Leif's deep interest in it, because he normally wrote as short a paper as he could get away with and while he did good work, it wasn't of the depth and detail of those subjects that really caught his imagination.

At the time, electric cars were seemingly a new idea, though the history of electric cars he includes in his paper shows that wasn't true, and Leif thought they had a bright future. It's a reality check to read this paper eighteen years later and see how far . . . or how little . . . we have really come since he wrote it.

Living at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, Leif had very few resources available to him to research this subject, but he had a (nonemployed at the time) reference librarian for a mother, and I had subscribed to something new and wonderful for that time, an information database service called "Knowledge Index" which gave us access to electronic versions of a myriad of publications, in text only. Leif patiently worked with me to learn how to search the databases for articles on his topic and we printed them out, all using our Atari 1040 Stf computer and a dot matrix printer, and a telephone modem. How primitive that seems now, and yet how wonderful it was to be able to have that kind of access to the world of knowledge, long before the World Wide Web and a graphical interface.

So here is Leif's paper, including his list of sources, written when he was just about to turn sixteen. He was going by the nickname "Alex" then. [Note: The Henry Ford mentioned as dying in 1987 is Henry Ford II, the grandson of the Henry Ford who founded the Ford Motor Company.]
Electric Cars by Alex Garretson
January 14, 1991

With growing concerns over the ever-increasing decadence of our environment and the general attitude of neglect on our part as citizens, the question remains, what can can be done about the pollution problem? Perhaps the greatest threat to our world is air pollution. The nitrous oxides and hydrocarbons that are found in the emissions of automobiles powered by internal combustion engines are poisoning our air and destroying our precious ozone layer.

The most promising solution, if only a partial one, is the electric car. Electric cars are no longer glorified golf carts but a realistic and feasible solution to the energy crisis and air pollution problems that have been plaguing our major cities.

Electric cars have always sounded like a good idea. They produce no pollutants; they don't consume our dwindling petroleum resources; they are quiet, reducing noise pollution; plus they can be recharged at home overnight instead of being driven to a gas station. (Haverdink, p. 396)

It has come to the attention of several figures in our government that electrically powered vehicles or EV's are needed for pollution control. Representative George Brown, Jr. of California introduced a bill in Congress in February of 1990 proposing a five-year program in which the government would join with our major auto manufacturers to produce 50,000 competitive priced EV's for sale in smog plagued cities. Senator Hershel Rosenthal proposed the induction of a law that would require 25% of all government vehicles purchased in the future be low emission or electric. Senator William Leonard suggests giving EV buyers a tax break as part of California's 20 year clean-air plan. A key element in southern California's 20 year clean-air program is getting motorists into alternative fuel or electric powered automobiles using economic incentives. It also will require that by 1992 all delivery vans purchased to be owned and operated by the government, including mail trucks, be electric or alternative fuel powered vehicles. (Gathright, p. 3)

The department of water and power and Southern California Edison have teamed up to invest $7,000,000 to develop an electric sedan and guarantee a market for 10,000 of them by 1995. Their contract with a Swedish EV maker, Clean Air Transport, calls for a 150 mile range between charges and a 0-30 m.p.h. in 9 seconds acceleration rate. It also requires that the car have a back up battery for getting the car to an outlet should the driver be unable to make it to the next recharging point on the main battery power. ("Electric Cars: Turning On Another Light," p. 4)

The government and several companies, especially General Motors, have tinkered with prototypes but have never gone to production. The main reason for this is battery design has been slow to improve for a very long time and then stopped improving completely. However, the 10,000 car guaranteed market and having all of southern California as a testing ground is a good incentive for manufacturers to try again. In addition, Southern California Edison and the Department of Water and Power claim they could charge a million electric cars without expanding. However, officials say it will take at least six million cars to put a significant dent in the problem. This is in spite of the fact that electric cars produce 98% less hydrocarbons and 83% less nitrous oxides even when the added output of electric power plants is taken into account. ("Electric Cars: turning On Another Light," p. 4)

California has adopted new air quality standards that mandate the development of ultra clean cars and cleaner burning fuels. These standards tighten the strictest emission regulations in the world. These new standards are expected to have far-reaching effects on the automotive industry and could serve as a model for other states, especially because California is the nation's largest auto marketplace. "This could pave the way for a whole new generation of cars and technology and will redefine what we consider an environmentally acceptable car for the next two decades," said James Bopt, executive officer of the California Air Resources Board which set the new standards. (Casuso, p. 1)

California's new standards will require that 2% of all cars sold by 1998 must be zero emission and 10% by 2003, making EVs an everyday reality. Auto makers are showing concern over the fact that they may not be able to meet the standards. (Casuso, p. 1)

"These regulations will impact everyone associated with the automotive industry well into the next century," said Samuel Leonard, director of automobile emission control for General Motors. "It will also change the very nature of cars and trucks." The new program requires some cars to run 50-80% cleaner than they do now. By 1994, 200,000 must be sold and by 2003 every new car sold in America (about 2 million a year) must meet the standards. This calls for transitional vehicles to a future when all cars will be either electric or alternative fuel. Service stations will carry alternative fuels such as methanol, ethanol, and nitromethane by 1994 in southern California and state-wide by 1997. (Casuso, p. 1)

The Government must see that a market is developed for the electric car because it is a long way from being a competitive family car.

Auto makers are extremely reluctant to make a quick change to electric power because of the billions of dollars they have invested in manufacturing plants. "If Detroit doesn't do it Japan will," said Rosenthal. "State and federal legislators are hearing from their constituencies. The message is: clean up the air." (Gathright, p. 3)

Many ideas have arisen from the tumult of technology that designers are attempting to apply. These are taking form in several ways and in several places around the world. Honda has been making prototypes for the 1990 Solar Challenge in Australia. Toyota has made arrangements with the power companies in Japan to build an electric car. Nippon Steel, Japan's largest steel company has built an electric car that uses off-the-shelf lead-acid batteries and claims it can travel at 69 m.p.h. for 150 miles. (Reuters, p. 6)

Chrysler Technologies has developed an electric vehicle known as the TEVan. Chrysler claims that it has a 120 mile range and a top speed of 65 m.p.h. The vehicle could be used as a commuter or shuttle van. It is powered by nickel-iron batteries instead of lead-acid batteries. A Swedish company has an electric vehicle with a fiberglass body and a small generator with low emissions that recharges the batteries while driving to extend the range to 150 miles. It will be offered in passenger, utility mini, van, and pickup models. Fiat/Bertone has plans to build an electric version of their popular Panda sub compact and expects to sell at least 500 Panda Electtros in 1990 at $20,000 each, making them the first to offer an electric car to the public. (Gathright, p. 3)

The first mass produced electric vehicle will be the G-van. Vehora, a subsidiary of Canadian auto parts giant Magua Inc. has begun production of 500 vans for 1990. Based upon a General Motors Vandura body, the van will be hard to recognize as an electric. The project is sponsored by battery maker Chloride EV Systems. The van is said to have a 60 mile range and requires overnight charging, making it useful only for around town deliveries. The biggest problem is the $32,000 price tag which is about double that of a conventional van, plus the batteries must be replaced every 3-5 years at $6,500. Southern California Edison has a fleet of 15 that it lends to people considering using them at their companies. Pacific Gas Electric will obtain a six van fleet to be used for demonstrations. After a test drive, John Maka of Sears Service Center in Long Beach is considering adding G-vans to his 60 van fleet. He was pleased with the performance and easy maintenance it provided, which is required by his company. (Gathright, p. 3)

This further demonstrates that at this time mail and newspaper deliveries and other such duties are the only use for the EV, but electric vehicles are doing very well in that regard. There are a few tens of thousands of them doing just that in Japan. However, Japan trails American and European manufacturers in the development of electric cars. They are beginning to sense environmental pressures as well and should enter the race very soon. (Reuters, p. 6)

One example of the progress that Japan has begun to make is Isuzu's revolutionary new electric storage device. However it will not substitute for the battery in electric cars. The device is one twentieth of the weight and has twenty times the output of conventional batteries, but it has limited capacity. It is also considerably less expensive to manufacture. Allen Rothwart, an electrical engineering professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia says, "I don't think we're looking at anything that is going to replace the battery in electric cars." He also says that it is not a battery in truth but a kind of sophisticated capacitor which stores and quickly releases large amounts of electricity, being rapidly drained in the process. Batteries, on the other hand, spread the energy out over a longer period of time. The capacitor could be used in conjunction with the main battery as a supplement to provide added surge power for passing, accelerating, climbing hills, pulling out into traffic, etc. (Haas, p. 15)

The electric car appeared in the late 1800s slightly before the gasoline internal combustion engine became popular. Ninety-eight years ago a man from Iowa named William Morrison built and drove an electric car on the streets of Chicago. The first electric cars most people saw were "1887 electric handsome cabs in New York City." They were built by Morris and Salom out of Philadelphia. They had previously won a medal at a contest in Chicago for vehicle design. The company, however, went belly up due to the expensive charging stations and excessive cost and weight. Soon afterwards, electric cars dominated the first National Auto Show in 1900 in New York. Gas cars ran a poor third after the electric and steam cars. "Man will never sit on an explosion," said Albert Augustus Pope of the Colombia Electric program in reference to gas cars. (Rothenberg, p. 5)

Albert Pope, after making dire predictions for the gas buggies, became a leader in the electric car development race. The Hartford Connecticut industrialist and Civil War veteran had been producing the Colombia bicycle in 1897. He then hired engineer Hiram Percy Matim to develop Colombia Auto. At the end of the first year, 511 electrics and 40 gas cars were built despite Pope's dislike for internal combustion engines. In 1899, William Collins Whitney merged Hartford Electric Vehicle Company with Pope to form the Colombia Automobile Company. They projected 12,000 cars for production but only 2,000 were built and the company faded from the scene. (Rothenberg, p. 5)

The Waverly Company of Indianapolis created a car with 3 1/2 horse power, 36 inch wheels, inner tube tires, and herringbone gears. Powered by four motors and a big battery, the delivery wagons were sent around the world and could be found in London, Paris, Stockholm, Frankfurt, Florence, Capetown, and other cities. (Rothenberg, p. 5)

Electric cars have been hailed as "man's silent servant." In truth they faired better with the ladies of the time because they didn't require cranking like gas cars and didn't need to be lit and fired like a steam engine. Women did not think it proper or feminine to engage in such activities. Likewise, men were rarely found driving electric cars as they felt it diminished their masculinity. (Rothenberg, p. 5)

The seating in the electric coaches was unusual and dangerous by today's safety standards. The driver would sit in the middle of the back seat and would have to look past the passengers that faced the driver from the front. The car was controlled by a tiller that could be moved back and forth and left and right to control direction and speed. (Rothenberg, p. 5)

The primary challenge with electric cars is coming up with a battery with adequate power and longevity. Electrics were silent, slow, and cumbersome with a limited range of about 40 miles, but in spite of this they could still exceed the speed limits of the day (8-10 m.p.h.), with some capable of 20 m.p.h.. Wood Motor Vehicles of Chicago made a larger car for $3,000 and for a while it made dual powered "hybrids" that used electric power for 0-15 m.p.h. and a four cylinder engine to boost it up for 15-30 m.p.h. (Rothenberg, p. 5)

Henry Ford was quoted saying, "The electric car is not feasible within my lifetime." He was correct, as he died at the age of 70 in 1987. If he had survived to this day he would undoubtedly agree that we will not see them on a large scale until well into the next century. (Rothenberg, p. 5)

Edison had a brief fling with electric cars. He bought a gas car and converted it to electric to demonstrate nickel-iron batteries. He denied rumors that he would mass produce them. Historian Wren found that Edison concluded, "the future is gasoline," telling his old friend, auto pioneer Henry Ford of the clear limitations of electric cars. But still Ford persisted in driving an electric car around on his own estate. It would seem now that if there is to be a future it must be electric. (Rothenberg, p. 5)

"The Horseless Age," a noteworthy publication of the era, editorialized September 27, 1899, "No modern invention has enlisted so large an expenditure of time and money with so little result as the electric storage battery." Many cars were built but none survived for any length of time and disappeared almost completely after the 1920s. Commercially produced electrics that crawled urban thoroughfares faded after World War Two. Production had ended long before but some people kept theirs till the 1950s. Since that time, getting around by electric car is rare except for the occasional mail truck or delivery van. (Rothenberg, p. 5)

Electric cars hit their peak in 1912 and have experienced a steady drive downhill ever since. Electric cars have been virtually defunct since 1920 but have gained popularity a few times in recent history. First there was the incident of Ford's announcement to build a new sodium-sulfur battery which was greeted by hordes of headlines but never actually had any effect. General Motors started two experimental electric cars when environmental concerns began in the late 60s. First there was the Electrovair which was based on the rear engine Corvair. It carried 800 lbs. of batteries on board. These were expensive and were only good for about 100 charges. Realizing there was no way they could successfully market such a car, the project was dropped. They also experimented with an electric Chevette that toured the country but never even approached production. Then in 1980 General Motors announced that they planned to get an electric car into the show room by 1985 but the project was soon dropped. And finally in conjunction with Earth Day 1990, General Motors announced they are serious about building the revolutionary new Impact electric car. (Rothenberg, p. 5)

Since then there have been rumors of BMW making an electric car and Tokyo Electric Power claims that it will built an electric car capable of traveling at 112 m.p.h. for 310 miles. It is also said to have an air conditioner. However, it is still just a concept and they have yet to build a prototype. They also have not named a price but considering that the car will be powered by nickel-cadmium batteries and made out of carbon-fiber plastics and aluminum, the price should be quite high, as those materials are more expensive than the steel that is used in conventional automobiles. The company has no immediate plans to market the vehicle. ("Tokyo Electric Power to Build a Sophisticated Electric Auto," p. 4)

At this time the only functioning electric car is the Impact, a sleek aerodynamic sport coupe whose performance rivals all but the best of today's gasoline powered sports cars. In preparation for Earth Day April 22, 1990, General Motors made an official announcement on the 18th. The announcement stated that they will produce an electric car. This car, dubbed the Impact, is said to be capable of going from 0-60 m.p.h. in 8 seconds, which is faster than most high performance sports cars, and is said to have a top speed of 100 m.p.h. with a range of 120-150 miles without recharging. (Mateja, p. 1)

General Motors' chairman wouldn't reveal when production would begin or how many would be built. He also wouldn't comment on which division of General Motors would produce it: Pontiac, Cheverolet, Oldsmobile, Buick, or Cadillac, or if a new division devoted entirely to electric cars would be created. He refused to reveal the price or if there would be a four seat version. When asked about his reluctance to answer, he attributed it to "competitive purposes." (Mateja, p. 1)

A two seat prototype was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1990 and received high praise. The car requires 2-8 hours to charge on a standard 110 volt house outlet. The batteries have a limited life and must be replaced about every 25,000 miles. The 32, 10 volt batteries batteries weighing 870 lbs. were projected to cost about $2,500 to replace and the question still remains as to what is done with spent batteries and if they can be recycled. General Motors has also considered making the Impact a hybrid to extend its range. (Mateja, p. 1)

General Motors' goal is to be the first company to mass produce electric cars that perform as well as gas cars without the pollution. Donald Runkle of GM says, "$20,000 is a back-of-the-envelope number for now." GM has planned, "an aggressive schedule in order to pull along the technological developments that we still need." This includes applying for a dozen patents on innovations i electronics, motor design, structural materials, tires, and batteries. They must also discuss with government officials whether the same safety standards apply as to a gas car. General Motors also wants the government to construct a formula to figure electric cars into regulations on fuel economy. (Mateja, p. 1)

GM is considering leasing or renting batteries to customers to help with the replacement costs but that won't extend the range. Runkle also said GM was considering a test of the Impact with a handful of cars (by consumers) before putting it on the market. (Mateja, p. 1)

GM does not intend to use the new supercapacitor that was developed by Isuzu (2/3 of Isuzu is owned by GM) in the new Impact because they believe the car has more than adequate performance without it. (Haas, p. 1) The Impact is the most advanced electric vehicle yet, with its impressive performance that is better than most conventional high performance automobiles. However the present replacement cost of $1,500 for the batteries is still in the way. The Impact will be more feasible after the battery life is raised to 40 or 50,000 miles which they say isn't too far down the road. GM intends to introduce the Impact in urban areas where the limited range will not be a problem. But the primary obstacle is the price to own and operate an electric car and how it compares to the gasoline powered cars. (Mateja, p. 1)

Still, the Impact is a very big step and has proven that the electric car is a feasible, realistic and absolutely vital solution to our environmental and energy problems. It is extremely important that it is developed because automobiles are the primary cause of air pollution and although alternative fuels will help, they, too, will pollute the air, only at a slower rate. Air pollution will continue to be a problem until we limit it to a level the environment can successfully cope with. This will require us to have at least as many electric cars on the road as internal combustion powered cars and probably more. If auto manufacturers continue at the rate that they have been going in recent years such a time may be reached in the near future.


Casuso, Jorge, "Calif. Sets New Air-Quality Standards." Chicago Tribune, (Sept. 29, 1990), p. 1
"Electric Cars: Turning On Another Light," Los Angeles Times, (Sept. 10, 1990), p. 4
Gathright, Alan, "California, Recharging Electric-Car Drive," Chicago Tribune, (April 1, 1990), p. 3
Haas, Al, "An Electric car breakthrough? Isuzu New Device Won't Replace Batteries in Electric cars Experts Say," Chicago Tribune, (June 24, 1990), p. 15e
Haverdink, William H., "Electric Cars," World Book Encyclopedia, 1989, VI p. 396
Reuters, "Sun Rises on Japan's Electric Car Drive," Chicago Tribune, (Sept. 2, 1990), p. 6
Rothenberg, Al, "Close Up: Electric Classics-Battery Question Still Charges Electric Car Debate," Chicago Tribune, (May 13, 1990), p. 5
Mateja, Jim, "GM Gives Go-Ahead to Electric Car," Chicago Tribune, (April 19, 1990), p. 1
"Tokyo Electric Power to Build a Sophisticated Electric Auto," San Juan Star, (Dec. 6, 1990)

I think this photo of Leif was taken the summer of 1992 just before we moved from Puerto Rico to Kansas. He is a bit sunburned and has white areas around his eyes from his diving mask, as we had been snorkeling and out in the sun on the water for hours.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Leif in Puerto Rico - 1991 - Age 16

Leif turned into a teenage heartthrob in Puerto Rico, quite a change from the shy and gangly kid he was in Illinois before we moved. With the long hair, I used to tease him, between his sixteenth and nineteenth years, that he looked like he should be on the cover of a "bodice-ripper" romance novel, or pose for the covers. These photos were taken in the back yard of our quarters at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico. I don't remember it ever really being cool enough to wear a sweater, but Leif's sense of fashion didn't seem to be geared to the weather. It must have been a bit cooler, though, because a friend of his who was also in these photos was wearing a long-sleeved turtleneck.

In those days, Leif liked to wear a chain around his neck and an earring, too, and dress fashionably, including the dress fads of the time. His favorite color was purple. I've already posted a photo of him in his purple suit. I don't know what happened to that sense of color and fashion as he got older, whether he got more conservative, or felt it didn't fit in as well in the USA, or whether it had something to do with his weight gain, but he stopped wearing anything but black and blah tan stuff most of the time in the years before his death, with the exception of some conservatively colored button-and-collar shirts that had nice patterns on them, mostly gifts from his dad.

Leif had good friends in Puerto Rico and I know he missed them greatly when we moved away back to Kansas.

It's getting harder to find new photos to post on this blog, especially ones with a story to tell. By now I have posted over 800 photos of him. The photos of him from birth in 1975 until we moved to Hawaii in 1983 are in albums and relatively easy to find, but I got overwhelmed in grad school and working, and the printed photos from 1983 until we started digital photography a few years ago are all sitting in two large file boxes, waiting for me to write on them what they are and where they were taken, and the dates, and who knows if that will ever happen. In some cases, I no longer remember where they were taken! At least I put a date on the envelopes. At least a year.

And aside from photos that don't have clear memories attached are all the memories with no photos, like the time in Puerto Rico when the termites were swarming. We had never seen anything like that, although I had heard about it. If you've never experienced this, I hope you won't. We were sitting at dinner one evening, in our dining room in Puerto Rico and it was dusk. We looked outside and saw a cloud, a HUGE cloud, of insects in the back yard. Bear in mind that our house in Puerto Rico did not have real windows, just screens and metal louvers surrounding some large picture windows. The screens were covered with clear plastic so that we could have a window air conditioner, but the place was far from airtight and the termites knew it.

While we were looking curiously out the picture window, termites started finding their way into the dining room in droves, through any small opening in the areas around the louvers. We couldn't dispose of them fast enough and we couldn't keep them out. It didn't take us long to realize the light was attracting them, so the only thing we could do was turn off all the lights. Not even a candle or flashlight. No television, either. We just had to wait it out. Leif thought the whole thing was rather amusing, just as he thought catching giant rats in the laundry area under the house (a task for which I paid him) was kind of amusing -- or to be honest, it was my unwillingness to do it myself that he found amusing.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Jerri and Leif in Merkendorf, Germany - August 1978 - Leif age 3

When I look through all the photos, I'm surprised now how few of them show me having fun with my sons, doing those ordinary but wonderful things like reading, hiking, swimming, cooking, playing games. So often, we don't think of taking those "ordinary" photos, but the special occasions like birthdays, Christmas and trips, we do. It's also because a lot of the time I was the one that took those "ordinary" photos so I wasn't in them. That's what makes this photo all the more special to me.

What parent hasn't had their child want them to swing them around in a circle, like I was doing with Leif here? Or swing them up high between two parents, each holding a hand? Isn't this a great action shot that Peter W. took? It's hard to imagine my grown up Leif ever being small enough and light enough for me to swing him like that!

This picture was taken in Merkendorf, a Bavarian town with about 3000 residents which isn't far from Nurnberg/Fuerth where we had lived from the summer of 1977 to the summer of 1978, or from Ansbach and Sachsen bei Ansbach, where we moved the summer of 1978. It's a picturesque place and one of the many towns in the area we visited while living in the vicinity. The boys got to see a lot of German towns either on outings like this or on the many Volksmarches we went on all over Franken and Bavaria.

It was a good time in our lives.

This photo of Jerri and Leif was taken in Merkendorf, Germany in August 1978. Leif was three-and-a-half years old.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Peter Anthony & Leif in Heidelberg, Germany - August 1978 - Leif age 3 and a half

We were so fortunate to be able to live just six kilometers from Peter W's beautiful home town in Germany, Heidelberg, when Peter A. was small. When we went back for our second tour in Germany, we lived in Nurnberg and then in Sachsen bei Ansbach, about a two-hour drive away, so we didn't get there as often to see Peter W's aunts, uncles and cousins, and to enjoy the city, but it was always a highlight when we did.

This photo of my boys with the Neckar River and the castle in the background was taken during a visit in August 1978. That was probably the visit when we went up to a balcony on the Heiliggeistkirche tower with Peter's Uncle Helmut to watch the spectucular fireworks during the "burning of the castle" celebration, commemorating the partial destruction of the castle during the Thirty Years War. It was a very special evening.

At the time this photo was taken, we were about to move from Nurnberg to the village of Sachsen bei Ansbach, where the boys would go to German schools, so at this time, they didn't yet speak German, as they would in a mere four months. Visiting their dad's relatives meant they didn't understand the conversation yet.

Peter Anthony was almost ten years old in this picture, and Leif was only three-and-a-half. Although Leif looks very small, it's hard to believe there was six years difference in their ages. Both our boys were blond when they were little but had very dark brown hair like their dad as adults.

Peter W. and I ride our bicycles together nearly every day and a few days ago he asked me several questions, like what was my favorite vacation, my favorite meal, favorite restaurant, favorite place we had lived, the best times of our lives. I always find questions like that so hard to answer. We have had so many wonderful experiences that it's very hard to pick a "best," or even ten "bests," but it set me to thinking about the best times of our lives and I think I would have to say the years between 1977 to 1986, when we lived in Germany, Japan and Hawaii. We had so many incredible opportunities and experiences, and yes, great food and fascinating travel, but those years were best of all because all four of us were together and doing it all together, and the boys were old enough to participate and enjoy it, too. This picture is a part of that, their chance to share in their father's hometown and heritage.

When we left Germany to move to Japan in 1980, I never thought it would be eight years before we went back to visit, and when we went in May 1988, Peter Anthony was not with us. Leif was thirteen. I don't think Peter A. has been back since he left in 1980, when he was twelve years old, and neither Leif, nor us, went back since 1988.

We had a trip to Germany planned for the end of April 2008, and our tickets purchased, but then Leif died and we could not go. Now when we make that trip it will be bittersweet for the memory of the canceled trip, and the memories of him there as a young child and a young teen, never to return.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Leif in Scheffau, Austria - March 1978 - Age 3

When we lived in Germany the second time, from the summer of 1977 to the summer of 1978, we made two or three trips to Scheffau, Austria. Scheffau is a lovely Tirolian village in the shadow of the Wilder Kaiser Mountain which in the winter is a terrific place to ski and in the summer is a wonderful place to hike.

Peter W. and Peter A. skied and Leif and I hiked around in the snow. We stayed at the Gasthof zum Wilden Kaiser, a lovely place with cozy rooms and superb food.

One of the highlights our our stays was the swimming pool complex in the nearby town of Söll. It had indoor and outdoor pools and one of the outdoor pools was heated to a toasty temperature in the winter. You could swim from the indoor to the outdoor pool through a passageway and literally swim surrounded by snow and ice. We spent one magical evening there swimming in the moonlight and watching the skiers on the mountain where they had lighted downhill runs.

There was another outdoor pool that wasn't heated, and it was so cold that ice was floating in it. If I remember correctly, some German or Austrian guy got out of the nice warm pool and walked (his body steaming in the light as the outdoor temperature was below freezing) and jumped into that icy pool.

Then Peter Anthony dared his dad to do it. I was not in favor of this experiment because I thought it was way too much of a shock to the body to go from a pool that was probably at least 95 degrees to one that was probably just above freezing, but what do wives and mothers know when there's a masculine dare afoot.

Peter W. climbed out of the warm pool, body steaming, and did jump into that freezing pool. To go the other guy one better, I think he even swam across the icy pool before climbing out and jumping back into the hot water.

He said the cold pool was bad, but going from that back into the hot one was much worse. He said it felt like a million needles jabbed into him.

Luckily, he was young and strong and survived this ordeal without any harm, and it became a favorite family story to tell. Unfortunately, we have no photos of it as we had no camera out there in the pool.

I don't know whether Leif remembered anything about our trips to Scheffau or not, but the likelihood is that he had at least some memories of it. He had an astoundingly good memory for things from his childhood and beyond. Even if he didn't remember it, he surely heard the story many times.

He was only three years old when we took the trip that is shown in these pictures, and although he was very tall for a three-year-old, it's hard to believe that my "gentle giant" was ever that small.

We were so fortunate to have the chance to live in so many fascinating places and be able to travel and enjoy them. I have warm memories of our Scheffau trips, and of walking in the woods with Leif and snuggling up with him and reading stories.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I Just Want to Hold Him

Will I ever remember the good times without missing him, realizing that there won't be any more, realizing that for him, the good times seemed to be gone forever and that that must be one of the reasons he ended his life?

After I posted last night, or more accurately, in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, I went to get ready for bed and Peter W. asked me why I looked amused. I told him it wasn't amusement; it was looking at the photos and remembering the fun we had as a family, how good it was. He said, "Leif was such a beautiful child." I said, yes, he was, and so was Peter Anthony. I am reminded of that over and over as I look at the thousands (yes, thousands) of photos we took during the forty years since his birth.

I went to bed feeling rather nostalgic, but it was a sweet nostalgia. Then I had one of those nights when I couldn't go to sleep. Peter W. always asks if I'm worrying about something but no, like my mother, I'm just awake. i think there is an insomnia gene in our family. For a long time, I was just awake, not thinking about anything in particular, not worrying about anything, but then I started thinking about all the things I have to be thankful for. I've read and seen programs that say that basically counting our blessings increases happiness, and I'm trying to do that.

However, some time after four a.m. I came back to the thought that haunts me when I think about my family and all I have to be thankful for; that my family is now incomplete and will always have a giant hole in it where Leif should be. It's hard to be only thankful when something so deeply important and beloved is not only missing, but ripped away violently. I started remembering finding him dead on his kitchen floor and how badly I just wanted to hold him, hold him and not let anyone take him away.

Of course that was not to be. I couldn't even touch him or anything else at the scene. All I could do was call the sheriff and wait there to be put out of the apartment while they did their investigation. Wait outside while the body of my dead son lay up there on the floor, and then was brought out in a body bag. I never saw him again after that glimpse into the kitchen. I never got to hold him and say goodbye. I held him when he came into this world but I couldn't hold him when he left it.

I ache for him. I ache to hold him. I ache for the goodbye I never got to say. I ache for the pain he suffered.

And although it has been nearly seventeen months since he died, there are still nights when I cry myself to sleep. Last night was one of them. How quickly happy memories can evaporate into sad ones.

This photo of Leif and me was taken at the Tegernsee, a lake in southern Germany, in August 1979 when Leif was four and a half years old.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Leif Would Have Loved It

Tonight I was looking online for birthday and Christmas gifts for my soon-to-be nine-year-old grandson, Marcus, and I couldn't help thinking how much Leif would have loved the things that are available today, particularly the computer games and the Nintendo DS and the games for it. If he were alive and had a boy of his own, he would have such a good time playing them with a son.

He had wonderful toys when he was a boy, too, particularly because of our three years in Japan. The Japanese shows and toys made it to Hawaii about the time we left Japan and followed us to the mainland USA, where he got interested in other things as well, like his radio-controlled model cars.

I still have so many of his computer games here, wondering what to do with them, ones he purchased as an adult. He loved the action, the simulations, the sci fi worlds he could inhabit.

Another thing I found on his computer was his iTunes subscription to marvelous photos taken by the Hubble space telescope. And Peter W. reminds me that Friday night was sci fi night on television, with his favorite shows.

His imagination soared. He found a creative outlet for it in his association with ZAON, but I wish he had done more on his own.

I remember shopping for gifts for him when he was a boy Marcus's age, and his delight in getting those gifts, how earnestly and devotedly he played with them, how thoroughly engaged he was.

He never outgrew those kinds of games, toys or gifts, in a sense; they just got more sophisticated (and expensive).

I was looking at the photos of him opening birthday gifts, remembering how much fun we had. Sometimes, in the sadness and mourning his loss, it's hard to remember that we had so many good times. I am so grateful for all the photos we took, because I will always be able to look at them and be reminded that there WERE good times, great times, happy times, for him as well as us and be glad for that. For every one of them.

We didn't know how good they were until they were gone. We appreciated our life and our family, but not enough. None of us really know the value of what we have until we lose it, no matter how much we love and are and are thankful for it.

This rather pensive photo of Leif was taken in Osaka, Japan in February 1983. We were there because I was attending a conference of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Japan District, and Peter W. came along with the boys and went signtseeing in Osaka while I was in the conference. Leif had just turned 8 years old. He still has the cast on his left arm from when he fell on the school playground and broke it.