I am sure many of you reading this are distressed by the financial crisis and are worried about the safety of your bank. I know that when I am forced to think about banks, the first thing that comes to mind is Switzerland. So when I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal about Switzerland yesterday (published 23 September—that's how far behind I've gotten) I was ever so pleased that it was about the alphorn, an unusual musical instrument, and had nothing whatsoever to do with banks.
Scanning and Driving
These two activities immersed me in nostalgia this past week. I've mentioned QSL cards in blogs previous, with particular reference to the Great Missing One, North Korea. But that was about new QSL cards, ones I "need" from various "DX" or distant countries. I have cards from almost every country, and many from each of the states in the USA. But there was once a time that I had none...
I got my ham license in 1959. The first guy I spoke with on the radio was just across the river from me, in West New York, New Jersey. I scanned his QSL card a few days ago. I remember that we actually met once, while we were both in high school. (There were lots of hams my age. There still are. Statistically most of us remain extant. But there aren't that many hams in high school any more.) There were a lot of firsts in that heap of cards. Many cards were frayed, some damaged, some had paper-punch holes, others bore the stigmata of removed pre-"Magic" Scotch Tape. I have no idea what I was doing with those cards decades ago, but they sure got more attention then than they do now! You can only work your 50th state once. I scanned that card (Alaska) as well. All my Manhattan buddies were represented; the comments on the cards both childish and poignant. We hams were more loquacious then. Maybe our QSL cards were the blogs of the day. Now the card exchange process is mostly automated, but computer-printed contact info labels and automatic address lookup aren't quite the same as the old personal comments now residing in JPG files.
The oldest of my cards have passed the half-century mark. I was a SWL (short wave listener) before I got the ham license that allowed me to transmit. A few of the cards had my Popular Electronics SWL "call letters." I didn't realize I had saved them. Some were addressed to my parent's PO box at our summer home, others to my college dormitory, still more to my address at summer camp, where there was a ham shack. I found the actual QSL card of my summer camp, too. It would have been yellowing had it not started out pre-oranged, one of the camp colors. Which conveniently leads me to Wallowing, part 2.
I drove to Maine last week. Other than New York and New Jersey, states in which I have lived almost all my life, Maine holds the distinction of having a greater Richard intersection than any of the other 48. Six years I attended summer camp, when I was too young to be left to my own devices but my parents needed to deposit me somewhere while they do whatever old people did. (I still haven't found out what, by the way.) After a 9-hour drive, I made a right at Augusta, the state capital, to head for the coast. Focused on my mission as I was, and further having not bothered to ascertain any location other than my destination, I failed to realize what might have happened had I turned left.
It seems that I was less than 25 minutes from the best, most carefree years of my life.* I could have revisited the first natural body of water in which I swam. The candy store in which I spent my allowance, the bunkhouse (without electricity!) in which I slept. The mess hall in which "he who nils it fills it" referred to the milk pitcher, and in which many plates of mystery meat were consumed. Not to mention the athletic fields on which I distinguished myself as the only camper with a 1000 batting average. It lasted until the final day of that summer, as the team captain almost immediately realized what an accident that single hit was, and what disaster I would bring to the team in the field. I never had a second at-bat.
I could go on. In fact I probably will, as soon as I find and photograph my "Most Improved In Canoeing In Camp" plaque. The trip on which I earned that is a story in itself, which story was distinguished by some literal wallowing, not the figurative kind in which I'm engaging here.
But not now. Enough nostalgia has seeped out and I must get back to my important activities. Now that those QSL cards are scanned, I must index them in my computerized logbook.
* The technical term for this characterization is "a lie." In fact I don't know when or what the best or most carefree years will be, or whether "best" and "carefree" are, or even can be, contemporaneous. Moreover, I have it on good evidence that I am still alive, and have at least some hope that one category or even both will yet eventuate. None of which is to say that they weren't "good" years, which they were, or I would have been very cranky at my parents for sending me back.
NP: "When In Rome" - Phil Ochs