The first breasts I remember seeing as an adolescent child belonged to a Finnish woman who was sitting across from my brother and I in a sauna in the bowels of a Swedish ferry that was carrying us across the Gulf of Bothnia.
Though I was raised in Europe until the age of 7, my parents had moved our family back to the United States, where nudity was relegated to hidden colonies and Playboy magazines.
On that same trip we visited friends in Austria, at the castle I had grown up in, and they invited us down to the local swimming pool for an afternoon in the water.
To our astonishment, the two teenage girls in the group disrobed in front of us, quickly pulling on swimsuits in a practiced and efficient manner.
They were not the least bit ashamed, but my brother and I, red-faced with eyes cast directly at the ground for fear of getting caught looking, took the time to find the bathrooms, where we changed into swimsuits as modestly as we could.
What I had grown up with in my time in Europe had become a great mystery to me in the United States.
On Thursday, around our dinner table, I couldn’t help but think that my kids are becoming really great liberals.
If liberals means they espouse a political ideology founded upon ideas of liberty and equality.
We discussed the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the State of the Union address, the economic impact of falling oil prices and, of course, school testing, a topic they are all too familiar with and opinionated about.
As I listened to each of them make a case for or an argument against some aspect of our discussion, it dawned on me that they have become what I had hoped they would.
Thoughtful question askers.
I was fast becoming a Young Republican at their age, bent on making my worldview, the one I had fashioned as a second generation immigrant, work for me.
I spent one summer working in a print shop in Santa Rosa, California.
My cousins owned the shop in partnership with my uncle, and they were gracious enough to host me for the summer and allow me to make a little money while attempting to learn the family trade.
I was a better production assistant than a press operator, which required some mechanical and engineering skills.
So I collated, packaged, invoiced and made deliveries in a beat-up old GMC truck with a hydraulic clutch. Which proved very interesting when I had to make deliveries in downtown San Francisco.
My favorite delivery, by far, was to the house of one Charles M Schulz, who lived and worked in Santa Rosa.
I only ever met the man on a handful of occasions, dealing mostly with his assistant or his wife, but I was as enamored of his celebrity as anyone I had ever met personally at that point in my life. Which I think included the actor Craig T Nelson and Pope John Paul II.
I didn’t start out planning to do a Southeastern United States craft beer tour.
It just happened to turn out that way.
I’ve become a bit disillusioned by craft beer in the two and a half years since I moved to Chicago.
From hoarding to overnight lines for new releases to subpar beer pushed out as aging liquid and everything in between, the craft beer world doesn’t represent the community spirit that I have come to know in places like Oregon, Montana and Alaska. Small breweries bent on craft and who cater to their immediate audience are what represent the trueness of the profession or art form to me.
Gabrielle and I approached the breakfast buffet at the Comfort Inn in Columbia, South Carolina, trepidatiously.
That is to say we’ve been there before.
That moment when you walk into the foyer of whatever cheap hotel occupies every single exit from here to Modesto, and you discover that it looks like it’s been pillaged by Viking raiders.
The tables were covered in the viscera of yogurts and bananas, whose skeletons and skins bulged in a heap atop the trash can like a pile of bodies ready for the pyre.
Sloppy paper notes indicated the orange juice, waffles and sausages were gone. Forever.
So we made up toast with jam, salvaged the rest of the Fruit Loops and drank apple-juice colored water and headed to the pool, where I taught her my secret skills of playing the mouth trumpet in an echoe-y room.
“You’re really good at that dad,” she said.
“I know,” I replied. “I want you to put that on my grave stone.”
She just looked sideways at me and continued to swim.
I started writing this from the Chili’s across from the Comfort Inn we’re staying at in Dentsville, South Carolina tonight.
The kids are staring at me after I just scolded them for replying to the waitress with their typical “ya,” or barely discernible grunt meant to infer that yes, they would indeed like fries with their burger.
“This is the South, where people are polite, and when they ask you if you want fries with your burger, you say yes please,” I told them.
They replied with those barely discernible grunts meant to infer that they indeed understood what I was saying.
After a long evening with Jon in Cincinnati, I was up early, as is my usual habit. I showered, dressed and sat in bed for a while waiting to wake my sleeping wife and kids.