Drafting to Classical Music

My work is pretty much all computer-based, sitting in front of the monitor for hours a day.  I enjoy having music on in the background or some NPR podcasts (what’s a day without Fresh Air?) but since a lot of the work I do is technical writing, music with lyrics and shows with interviews and opinions can interfere with my writing.  So recently I returned to classical music and opened a can of memories from secondary school drafting class.

Drafting was a large part of my secondary school life.  After an initial mechanical drafting class in 8th grade, I studied architectural drafting for my three remaining years and became quite good at it, winning a prize at the county fair and participating in some statewide competitions through VICA – the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America – kind of a 4-H for the vocational set.  It is now known as SkillsUSA.

Me, Mr. Geraci, and Marie Brown with our Santa Clara County Fair drafting trophies. 

My teacher was Mr. Frank Geraci, without a doubt the teacher who had a greater influence on me than any other.  In addition to teaching his students about drafting, he taught them about so many other important life skills: organization, preparation, patience, respect for the “right way” of doing things, leadership, communication, etc.  He even taught us about constitutional law: though he was a faithful Catholic, he was also a staunch believer of the separation of church and state and when we would recite the Pledge of Allegiance (the the US flag) he would remain silent for the words “under God” as he believed they had no business being in there.

High school classmates Joyce and Scott.

Anyhow, back to classical music.  After giving whatever instructions and announcements he might at the start of class, Mr. Geraci would set us to work and turn on the radio, which was tuned to KDFC 102.1 FM, a 64-year old San Francisco Bay Area institution that is the most listened-to classical radio station in the United States.  So we would work away for the fifty minutes or however long the class period was, to the strains of Mahler, Mendelssohn, and Mozart.

Except for Fridays.  On Fridays, Mr. Geraci would cede control of the tuning dial to the students so we could listen to our choice of stations, provided he could retain control of the volume dial.

So once again I find myself listening to KDFC as I diligently work, this time by streaming over the internet instead of over a decades-old stereo, making the hours go by pleasantly.  And as I listen and work, I find waves of memories from nearly a quarter-century ago lapping over me.


Pistachio Pudding

In the hours before I left the US to return to Thailand, I completed some shopping for Ron and Kari.  Ron and Kari are missionary friends up in Chiang Mai, Texans who have lived in both Thailand and Kenya for their missionary work and who are accustomed to suffering without the comforts of home.  Before leaving, I asked them what I could bring back for them and the answer was Jell-O instant pudding mix.

pistachio pudding The market I stopped at had a wider selection of flavors with the house brand, so I loaded up on French Vanilla, Chocolate, Butterscotch, and other flavors.  Then I came across pistachio.  It wasn’t on their list but I decided to buy a couple of boxes for me, for memory’s sake.

Normally I’m against processed foods, particularly those with an ingredient list as disturbing as what you will find in a box of instant pudding mix.  Sugar is the first ingredient, followed by different types of starches, followed by a whole host of multisyllabic compounds that fall generally into the “sodium” category.  But I decided to get some because of the fond memories I have of my paternal grandmother making pistachio pudding when I was a child, spending time down at her mother’s home in the 1,000-person town of Cole Camp, Missouri.

We would spend time down in Cole Camp each summer, playing in the backyard and the park across the street, going on trips to the creek where we would wade in the water and spend a long time holding fishing poles but not catching any fish.  And somewhere in those memories is the memory of pistachio pudding, cold, creamy, and bright green with little reconstituted chunks of nuts, served after dinner.

Making a batch this week, the smell and taste and texture were all as I had remembered them, although the memories were more enjoyable than the actual eating of the pudding.  I guess over time our tastes change, even if the memories don’t.


The Rusty 1968 Ford Fairlane

Few stories so well epitomize my childhood than that of my first car, a rusted out 1968 Ford Fairlane.  To be fair, it wasn’t truly my first car as my parents retained ownership of it.  But it was the car I spent my entire childhood in, the car in which I learned to drive.


This was the first brand-new car my father ever bought.  Everything else was a used car.  It was metallic blue with a vinyl top, a “California edition” of the car, similar in appearance to the photo above except the color.  Like pretty much all cars of the day it had a powerful V8, no air conditioning, Philco AM radio.

I remember that this car got scorching hot in the summer, back in the days before those cardboard foldable sun shades.  (Thinking about it, I remember that the first time I ever saw those sun shades was in 1987 in the parking lot of Disneyland.)  We would get in the car and the vinyl seats would be so hot we had to put beach towels on them, towels we kept in the car all summer long just for that purpose.  Of course the metal seat belts were much too hot to wear at first so we had to wait a few minutes with the vents blowing before we could buckle up without branding ourselves!


Back in those days, metallic paint wasn’t terribly stable and a black vinyl roof wasn’t ideal for sunny California.  Despite my father’s meticulous care and weekly hand-washing, the paint began to chip and the roof started to crack.  By the time I learned to drive in it around 1985, large splotches of undercoat were showing through.  A minor rear-ending after I got my license resulted in a missing high-beam light.  A few years later a piece of the metallic side trim broke off.

Inside, the blue vinyl ceiling’s glue came undone and hung, canopy-like, from beam to beam.  As the stitching came undone, my father used chopsticks to help hold up the ceiling, leading friends to call it the Chopstick Car.


My sister posing on her graduation day with the Chopstick Car.

Something about the transmission was fiddly and by the time I learned to drive, you had to reach over the wheel with your left hand, holding the gear lever just to the left of “Park” and turn the ignition key with your right hand, all the while gently pumping the gas with your foot.  If you pumped too much, you would flood the engine and had to wait a few minutes before trying again.

The car was symbolic of several things: my father’s thrift – he liked the car because unlike the “new fangled” cars that had computerized components, he could get under the hood and do most repair work himself – as well as my parent’s lessons to me and my sister on sufficiency.  The car wasn’t pretty.  It was actually the ugliest car in our high school’s parking lot by far.  But it was good enough to get us where we were going and we didn’t have to pay for anything other than the fuel for the tank.


In 1994, when the car was 26 years old, my parents were in the process of selling their house and packing for their move back to my father’s new job in Indianapolis.  Just a few days before moving, by complete coincidence, a man driving through the neighborhood stopped and asked if they were interested in selling the car.  This solved the problem of what they should do about moving it to Indy.  If I recall, the agreed-upon price was something like 50 dollars, cash.