Story of the Upside-Down Xmas Tree

In 1979, I was lying in bed and wondered why people didn’t decorate their ceilings. I began to decorate mine with billowing Indian print bedspreads or tapestries and other things.

In the 1980s, I first had the idea to hang an upside-down Xmas tree from the ceiling, but I didn’t act on it.

In 1998, a co-worker offered me her old artificial tree, and I implemented the idea. I put it up with strings, wire, and push-pins. I strung lights, decorated it, and put presents all around.

In 1999, I put a toy train around it and decorated the whole ceiling as if it were Xmas morning, and some of the gifts had been opened. I had a chess game in progress, a spilled drink,a Twister game, and various other gifts laying around.


I moved to a new place in 2001 and set it up again on the ceiling of my porch less elaborately.

I thought it was a unique idea, but a friend sent me a picture of an upside-down tree in a bar, and I discovered that you could buy variations of the idea online.

Many years later, my aunt took a picture of an upside-down tree for sale….

But I’ve never run across anyone who went to the extent of decorating the whole ceiling as I did.

Confessions of a Nasty Smoker

My father smoked in the house while I was growing up, but that was common back then. In fact, for generations people smoked almost everywhere: at work, at home, in theaters, in bars, in restaurants, in stores, in airplanes, and even in the hospital. Smoking was fairly ubiquitous for decades. In the 1960s when I was growing up, almost every other person was a smoker (today it’s down to about 15% of the U.S. population). Rarely did anyone complain about it.

Cigarette ads were everywhere: on radio, on television, in magazines, in stores, on billboards, and in movie theaters. Cigarette vending machines were commonplace. Cigarette companies even targeted children. They appeared in cartoons like The Flintstones and Tom and Jerry, and you could buy candy cigarettes at the candy store across the street from the elementary school.

Anyone can watch old movies and films to see how prevalent it was. About the only place I remember you weren’t supposed to smoke was in the elevator because of the confined space.

I have an old picture that someone took of my father on his knees proposing to my mother. One hand is holding hers, and the other is holding a cigarette.

Despite his own habit, Dad did try to discourage my brothers and I from smoking a couple of times while I was growing up. When I was very young, he satisfied my curiosity about it by letting me take a drag off his cigarette. He knew I wouldn’t like it, and he was right. I spent a long time in the bathroom afterwards brushing my teeth.

Later, he gave us all a demonstration that he hoped would keep us from ever smoking. He asked us to watch him as he took a puff and then he blew the smoke out through his handkerchief. It left a brown spot. He said, “That’s just what I blew out. Most of it stayed inside me, and that was just one puff. Imagine how that might build up over time in my lungs… so many puffs for each cigarette, a pack of 20 cigarettes a day, 7 packs a week, week after week, and year after year.”

It did make some impact on me, but I wasn’t planning to smoke anyway back then, so I didn’t think it was something I would ever need to worry about.

Things did start changing slowly after the 1964 United States Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health suggested there might be a relationship between smoking and cancer, but the changes after that were very slow and gradual—and almost imperceptible for years–and there didn’t seem to be any concern for nonsmokers. Things pretty much continued as they were, except later some tobacco companies began to introduce lower tar or “lighter” cigarettes and new kinds of filters.

By 1971 there was the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act, which banned cigarette ads on television and radio. I probably didn’t notice.

I started smoking in 11th grade. It was January or February of 1975. I’ve been a smoker on and off—but mostly on—ever since.

My best friend smoked, some of my other friends smoked, and I had dated a couple girls in high school who smoked when I was in 10th grade and earlier that year. I didn’t see what the attraction was, but it didn’t bother me that they smoked. After all, I had grown up with my dad smoking, and it was so common that I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.

If it hadn’t been for one especially cold and windy night, I might never have started. I asked my best friend to let me have one of his cigarettes to distract me from how cold it was while we were walking outside. Despite wearing my heaviest coat, it felt like the wind was blowing through my bones, and we couldn’t talk without our teeth chattering. I was looking for anything to take my mind off the cold. The cigarette didn’t seem so bad,  so I started thinking about trying it again… and one lead to another over the next few days….

I kind of liked the buzz I got off them before class when I first started. Of course, that didn’t last, but all the cool kids hung out in the designated smoking area in high school, and I was making new friends there.

Cigarettes were fairly cheap back then, about 35 cents a pack in NC. That was probably less expensive than anywhere else on the planet because North Carolina was the tobacco capital of the world.

I went to Myrtle Beach with some friends after graduating 11th grade and partied hard for a week, smoking and drinking. I may have gone through 15 packs while I was there. I had made myself sick of them by the end of the week, and I quit when I got back home. I didn’t feel any withdrawal symptoms at all, so I didn’t think it would be so hard to quit any time I wanted to. That was part of the reason I didn’t see any problem when I started back up about a week later.

Maybe it was in the late 1970s–or sometime in the 1980s–that there started to be separate sections in some (not all) restaurants for smokers and nonsmokers, but there wasn’t anything to stop the smoke from travelling from the smoking section to the nonsmoking section. It just kept it from being quite as direct or in-your-face as it might have been previously.

I bounced around a bit after college in the early 1980s, and tried to find work in the Clearwater Beach area in Florida. I wasn’t having much luck trying to find a job without a car before my money was going to run out, so I thought it might be productive to try and quit again before I was going to have to move back home. A few days spent floating around in a pool and trying to relax as much as possible worked. By the end of a week, I had gotten over the physical addiction. It had been a little harder than when I quit before, but it wasn’t too bad.

It was about 8 months before I started back. I started to realize that there was the physical addiction that I had already dealt with, but there was also the psychological addiction that might be more insidious.

The cost of cigarettes went over a dollar a pack in the 1980s.

I remember when it happened in Nashville. It may have been 1982 when I moved to Nashville with one of my younger brothers, and I got a third shift job at a corner convenience store called Hot Spot. It was just something to pay the bills until I could find better job.

I had been working there a few weeks when the cost of a pack went over a dollar. Near the end of my shift an old man came in to buy a pack, and I quoted him the price. He was outraged. I tried to tell him about the price increase, but that didn’t help. He was so mad that he took out all the coins he had in his pocket and threw them into my face as hard as he could. “THERE’S YOUR MONEY!!!” he screamed at me and walked out the door.

I wasn’t in Nashville long. I moved back to North Carolina in 1983 and it wasn’t much later that the cost went over a dollar there as well.

In 1984 the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act forced cigarette companies to place Surgeon’s General warnings on all cigarette packs and advertisements, but that didn’t stop anyone I knew from smoking.

I made another attempt to quit smoking in the late 1980s because a woman I was in a relationship asked me to. It was even harder this time. It took 2-3 weeks now to get over the physical addiction. This time my abstinence only lasted about 6 months before I started back. Once again the psychological addiction came into play when I was going through some stressful times.

In 1988 smoking was prohibited on all domestic flights less than two hours. In 1989 it was expanded to include all domestic flights. I didn’t do much flying, so that didn’t impact me. The only flight I made during that time was not domestic, and I was able to smoke in first class on my trip to Cancun, Mexico.

Things really started changing at a faster pace in the 1990s….

In 1993 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that secondhand smoke caused lung cancer. It designated secondhand smoke a Class A carcinogen, a proven cause of cancer. This put it in the same category as asbestos and radon.

As a result of the EPA report, by the mid-1990s smoking bans in some public places began to be enacted in hundreds of local governments and in 40 states, but I don’t believe North Carolina was one of them.

My younger brother in Nashville got married around then, and that was the first time I ended up in a smoke-free hotel when I went to his wedding. It seemed fairly noteworthy at the time because it was somewhat uncommon.

My parents stayed in the same hotel, and my father later told a story about an experience he had while he was there. He said he was heading outside to have a cigarette, and he was holding one unlit, cupped in his hand, when he got on the elevator going down. A woman got on at the next floor and saw the cigarette filter sticking out from his hand. Dad said she gave him a dirty look when the door closed. She assumed the cigarette was lit. He said she was waving her hand back-and-forth in front of her face to keep from inhaling the imaginary smoke. She was also “tisk, tisking” and making noises of exasperation as she continually looked from his face to his hand to the elevator door and back again.

When the door opened in the parking garage, he stepped out. He said he made sure that she saw him light the cigarette as the door closed.

It wasn’t long after this that a friend who was a few years older died. She always smoked like a chimney and everyone always bugged her about her smoking, telling her it would be the death of her. She died after being in a coma for 3 days after falling off the back of a golf cart and breaking her neck. No one ever warned her about falling off golf carts, and all that time spent worrying her about smoking was for nothing.

Probably every smoker has friends who bug the crap out of them about their smoking. I once told one of my friends like this that “One day you’ll be looking at my dead body, someone will ask you why I died, and you’ll have to tell them that you worried me to death about smoking.”

But probably every smoker has an army of friends and family who are always bugging them to death about smoking, as if we haven’t heard it thousands of times before. It is frankly annoying as hell, and not very likely to motivate me to quit. In fact, it tends to have the exact opposite effect. I might sigh and say, “Yes, I know” when they bug me, but I feel like saying, “Would you just shut the fuck up about it already? Don’t you think I KNOW all this by now?”

Nevertheless, I did make another attempt to quit smoking in the 1990s, and, once again, it was harder than the previous occasion to get over the physical addiction. It took about a month this time, but I did go about 1 ½ years without smoking before I got caught by the psychological addiction again. It happened after I broke up with someone I was in a relationship with. I was feeling down after the break-up, and I was out drinking with friends at a bar. Someone lit up a cigarette, I said “Give me one of those,” and BOOM! I was smoking again.

In 1998, it came out that perhaps the EPA had “cherry-picked” their information to come up with a desired conclusion regarding secondhand smoke risks back in 1993. In a case the tobacco industry brought against the EPA, a federal district judge ruled that the EPA had “committed to a conclusion before research had begun” and the “EPA disregarded information and made findings on selective information.” The judge also ruled that “using standard methodology, EPA could not produce statistically significant results,” and that the “EPA cannot show a statistically significant association between ETS [Environmental Tobacco Smoke] and lung cancer.” Based on this, the judge vacated the study.

Afterwards, the EPA appealed the ruling against them and had it overturned by the fourth circuit court of appeals on a jurisdiction technicality, not the merits of the ruling. But the media didn’t pay much attention to the controversy at the time. Things proceeded as if there was never an issue with the EPA’s conclusions, the EPA stuck by its guns, and the EPA report continued to be cited without any qualification about its legitimacy.

Nevertheless, for the most part, most things hadn’t changed very significantly for smokers. They might be a little inconvenienced here-and-there, but they could do much of the same things they were doing before. You could still smoke in a lot of places, and you could easily avoid most places where you couldn’t smoke. You could still smoke in bars and many restaurants and in many (but maybe not all) workplace environments (if not on the sales floor, in your office, for example). While many hotels now offered smoke-free rooms, you could still easily get a hotel room you could smoke in.

It wasn’t until sometime after the turn of the century that things began to change more dramatically.

By the early 2000s, an ever growing number of jurisdictions across the country began enacting smoking bans in bars and restaurants, reaching some areas sooner than others. By then, some restaurants had begun seating customers in a separate room rather than a separate section in the same room. As the decade progressed, many restaurants began to seat them at tables outside. By then, you could no longer smoke in most theaters, in most stores and malls, in hospitals, at work, in buses or subways, in planes and trains, or inside almost anywhere. Even the very small, designated smoking areas at airports began to disappear.

Another decade and another attempt to quit smoking. Again, it was harder and took longer to overcome the physical aspect. It took a couple months or more this time, but I did it. But once again I fell back to smoking a year later because of the psychological aspect.

Giving up cigarettes is supposedly harder than giving up heroin, as far as the physical addiction goes. I had proven I could make it through that, but I evidently may never be able to overcome the psychological addiction. It was at this point in my life I began to think I’d not bother to try to quit again. I mean why go through all that suffering when I just keep going back to it later??? I’ve heard that Einstein said that “the definition of insanity is trying to do the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.” I don’t know if he actually said it or not, but it seems to make sense.

By the 2010s, it seemed restaurants, bars, and some hotels were the last to have smoking banned, but they went pretty quickly as state governments began to ban smoking in all public and commercial buildings.

I happened to be in Washington, DC when that kind of ban was enacted there. As I approached a bar near where I was staying, it seemed to be packed with people overflowing outside. I thought the bar must be very popular. When I went inside, no one was there except the staff. Everyone was outside smoking because of the ban. North Carolina passed the same kinds of restrictions soon afterwards.

Even many restaurants have stopped offering a table outside for smokers, and most places not only stopped allowing smoking inside their establishment, they insist you must be beyond a certain point outside of it.

When my father had undergone (not smoking-related) surgery several years earlier, he was in a room recovering for 17 days. I had to sit with him most of that time so that he would have someone to take him outside in a wheelchair every couple hours to have a cigarette. He had been smoking since he was 14 and wasn’t about to stop this late in his life. No one else was there to do that for him, so I had to sit in an uncomfortable chair–while he had the bed–to be at hand for him for the full 17 days. Each time he wanted one, I had to get him into his wheelchair, push him to an elevator, take him downstairs, and push him outside so many feet away from the entrance so he could have a smoke. Then take him back when he was finished.

Now hospitals don’t even allow you to smoke on their property at all. You can’t even smoke in the parking garage in your car with the windows rolled up. I really can’t believe that could possibly be worse than the carbon monoxide pouring out of the back of a car.

I had to have surgery myself a few years ago, and I thought I’d check out the smoking situation before my admission. The closest area was across the street from the hospital, under a bridge that ran over a creek. A security guard told me that hospital patients were frequently injured falling down the steep decline to the creek trying to find a place to have a smoke. He said that someone had stumbled, fallen into the creek, and drowned the week before. Imagine that! People actually dying to have a cigarette at the hospital!

It would seem that hospitals would try to make some kind of better accommodations for smokers that don’t plan to quit rather than insisting they have to be entirely off their property.

Hotels are now smoke-free. The last time I stayed in a hotel, they offered three benches in the open air across the street as their designated smoking area. Beach hotel rooms with balconies don’t even allow smoking on those balconies in the middle of winter, even when it’s unlikely anyone else would be on a neighboring balcony because of the cold.

So, now smokers are forced outside, away from everyone else in all kinds of weather, in the blazing heat or the freezing cold or in the driving rain.

A couple years ago smoking was banned in parks in my city, and I know at least some beaches in some states that ban it. So, it’s increasingly banned in outside public places. Some rental apartments prohibit it. And it wasn’t long ago that the condo complex where I live sent out a newsletter telling us we shouldn’t smoke inside our own condo.

It’s increasingly banned inside and outside public places and commercial areas, and now there seems to be an effort to ban it in your own personal space.

I told someone then that it was beginning to seem like we were being driven off the planet, step-by-step.

Not only is it becoming harder and harder to find a place to smoke, it is also becoming more expensive….

The cost of cigarettes has continued to rise with additional federal and state “sin taxes” added onto the cost to theoretically lower consumption and cover the supposed health cost on society. Today the federal government adds on $1.01 per pack in taxes, and state taxes vary from 17 cents per pack in Missouri to $4.35 per pack in New York. In North Carolina, the state tax is 45 cents, so smokers pay an additional $1.46 per pack, and now cigarettes cost about $4-$6 per pack (the cost is roughly $200 per month for a typical non-casual smoker in NC, but probably higher in other parts of the country).

Health insurance rates are also higher for smokers, so they are paying more there as well.

There are also the social costs. Not many people today are interested in dating or entering into a relationship with a smoker (except possibly another smoker), and it seems like they are treated almost like lepers by society.

Aside from friends and family always bugging smokers about smoking, It’s not at all unusual for total strangers to give smokers some shit about it as well. Many will wag their finger and tell you how bad it is, how it will kill you, how you ought to quit, and so on.

It’s funny how no one would presume to tell some overweight person eating something unhealthy the same kind of thing, for example. But, if you’re a smoker, it seems like you’re fair game to be chastised by anyone who sees you smoking.

And people always point out the people who die of lung cancer to you: “SEE! Just think. He would still be alive, if he hadn’t smoked!”

Well, not necessarily. If he had been more health conscious, he might have been hit and killed by a car while he was out jogging by the side of the road years earlier. How can anyone know? Being a smoker might have prolonged his life.

Even when some smokers try to transition to electronic cigarettes or vaping to rejoin society, which shouldn’t be an issue for others, it’s treated just the same way as cigarette smoking in most places. Many nonsmokers are evidently freaked out by the very IDEA of smoking, even when it’s water vapor coming out.

In my mind, it has gone over-the-top, to a point beyond reason. I’ve always tried to be as considerate as possible towards nonsmokers, but why, for example, can’t we have some designated smoking bars and restaurants? A smoking car on the back of the train? Or a courtyard in the back of the hospital? I know it may be an issue for the staff in some of these places, but no one would be forced to work there. I’m a bit of a libertarian in cases like these. Why can’t we let the market decide?

I know it may be a health risk for me to smoke, but it’s bad for me to do a lot of things like eating too much saturated fat, or driving on the highway in 5 o’clock traffic. In the end, it should be my decision, and I should be free to take my own risks in life without people pestering me about it.

I know many people don’t want to believe it, but there are some good things about smoking. Aside from being a relaxant and calming, it can act as both a depressant and a simulant. It speeds up your digressive processes, and it makes you more alert by making the neurons in your brain fire faster. I sometimes joke that it also takes the monotony out of breathing.

I know that might not be much, but the point is it isn’t absolutely evil. It does seem to aversely effect some people more than others, possibly due to genetics. For example, my father smoked all his life, never had a problem with it, and it wasn’t the cause of his death. And a cigar-smoking George Burns lived to be over 100, for example. But I do know some families where it seems to be a greater risk factor. Of course, those kinds of things should be factored in to whatever decision someone might make about it.

I understand that my rights might end when it affects other people adversely, but there should be a way to make accommodations where the odds of that are minimized. In my life I’ve had neighbors who have had a lot of wild parties and played loud music late into the night. I never complained because I hoped they would show the same consideration for me when I wanted to party. I’ve had neighbors with dogs that barked for hours, day and night sometimes. I never complained because I might want to practice my guitar on occasion. The point is that we all might do things that bother other people sometimes, but the more slack we can give each other, the more freedom we have for ourselves to do the things we might enjoy.

I understand that we might be taking it to another level where other people’s health is concerned regarding secondhand smoke, but we can always try to work something out if that’s the case.

But I do wonder if that’s really so much the case with secondhand smoking as it’s made out to be.

I already pointed out how the 1993 EPA study about secondhand smoking was flawed, which may have set many of these cultural and societal changes in motion. Now it seems that everyone takes it as a well-established fact that secondhand smoking is dangerous. It is hard to find anyone—or almost anything on the internet—to challenge it. People seem to be able to find later studies to support the EPA study even if that one was flawed.

But how reliable were these later studies? Is the mindset of most of society so committed to the idea that secondhand smoking is a fact beyond question that people are unwilling to believe anything that might contradict that perception?

I’ve personally never been fully convinced that secondhand smoking is as bad as they’ve been saying for all these years. I’m not talking about how it might affect someone living in the same home as a smoker, someone constantly exposed to it like I was as a child. I’m just talking about people who might be occasionally exposed to it.

There have been several studies that have come out over the last several years that seem to put all these assumptions most people seem to have about secondhand smoke into question.

Is it something people are even willing to consider or are most people’s minds closed on the subject?

I know people aren’t going to go back to how it was—and that might be for the best after all–but maybe we can become a little more reasonable and less over reactionary about it.

Here’s an article from January 2017 which fills in the part of the story I left out of what I covered above. As the article’s subtitle asks, “Will we look at the new evidence for long enough to at least consider whether we’ve gone too far?”

We Used Terrible Science to Justify Smoking Bans
http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2017/02/secondhand_smoke_isn_t_as_bad_as_we_thought.html

 

My Second Year (1959)

There were two significant events this year.

The first was that we moved in Concord, NC from 15 Milton Lane to 29 Hyde Park Avenue.

The second was that my grandfather on my father’s side died on 06/12/1959.

Of course, I wasn’t told of his death, but not long afterwards we drove past someone who looked like him walking down the street. I pointed out that we were passing my grandfather by, but my parents didn’t seem to believe me. It made me mad at them for leaving him behind.

Online Tests

In the past week or so, I’ve taken some of those online tests to see if they could guess my age based on one thing or another.

Based on one test where I was asked to pick words to describe different things, my age was calculated to be 24.

Based on my political views, my age was calculated to be 26.

Based on my ability to pick colors, my age was calculated to be 42.

Considering I’m 59-years-old, these tests seem to be wildly off the mark.

There was another test that promised to calculate my IQ based on posts I made on my FB page. It was calculated to be 215. Right between da Vinci and Tesla. That one obviously seemed more accurate.

First Memories (1958)

My first memory is from the day I was brought home from the hospital after my birth. Actually, I was brought to my grandparents’ house.

I was being given a bath–on my back–on the dining room table when I began relieving myself. It was a beautiful golden stream… shooting up into the air and arching toward the kitchen before falling and splattering onto the kitchen floor. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen up until that time.

This wonderful yellow fountain drew my attention away from me and to my larger surroundings. There were two women to my left giving me a bath (my mother and someone else) and there was a woman in the kitchen (probably my grandmother), who turned to watch with concern.

I had no idea who any of these people were, where I was, or even that the urine stream was coming from me. I was just fascinated by it.

Obviously, I didn’t “remember” that this memory came from the day I was taken home from the hospital. The reason I know it was from then is because my parents once asked me about my first memories. I told them this story, and (with some surprise that I had remembered it) they told me when it happened.

I’ve always thought I’ve had a continuous memory from that day I was brought home from the hospital with no blank years (or “childhood amnesia”). Of course, I don’t remember every last thing that happened, just as I don’t remember mundane things that happened two months ago.

But I do remember things like having my diaper changed, being given baths, learning to crawl, being fascinated by gravity, learning to walk and talk, the first time I recognized myself in the mirror, and so on.

My next significant memory is from a few months later when my parents took me to a local cemetery–Cabarrus Memorial Gardens—at night to watch a light show at the fountain there. Here again I was relaying one of my early memories to my parents when they asked. I remembered it as some kind of fireworks in a cemetery, but they clarified that it was a light show at the fountain.

My Baby Book says I first smiled at 1 week, I was immunized against whooping cough at 3 months, and I learned to crawl at 4 months.

Here are some pictures of my first 6 months…


My next significant memory is of learning to walk and talk. My Baby Book says I stood up by myself at 9 months (November 13), and that I took my first step alone a few days later (November 21).

The main thing I remember about learning to walk was that I was getting along pretty fast on the ground crawling by then. I was a somewhat frustrated that learning to walk was slowing me down because I could crawl so much faster. In fact, until I got better at walking, I’d frequently resort to crawling when I was in a hurry.

Here are some of the pictures taken around then…


So, I was walking at 9 months and talking by 10 months (right before my first Christmas). According to my Baby Book, my first words were: Hey there, bye-bye, da-da, mama, Santa Claus, light, cracker, water, Pap-paw, car keys, and quack-quack.

My Baby Book says I got a duck, a top, a music box, a blue outfit, a corn popper, a toy train, a red wagon, some pop beads, a drum, “the five little pigs,” and “a little whistling engine” for Christmas. We went to my grandparents’ house on my mother’s side on Christmas Eve and went to my grandparents’ house on my father’s side for Christmas day.

Here are some of the pictures taken around my first Christmas along with a trip I made with my parents to the University of North Carolina to close out the year.

Pseudonyms

Humble Jerry

“Humble Jerry” in 1975

Over the years I’ve used pseudonyms for one reason or another: for writing, to protect my privacy online, or for fun or humor. Here are some of them….

Humble Jerry

The first pseudonym I ever used was “Humble Jerry.” It was the name I used for a regular column I wrote for my high school paper (see above for the associated picture of me used with the column). I got the name from the speech president Gerald R. Ford gave when he pardoned Nixon. He said, “I do believe, with all my heart and mind and spirit, that I, not as President but as a humble servant of God, will receive justice without mercy if I fail to show mercy.” Rather than using “Gerry” as he was sometimes called, I distanced myself from making a direct reference by using “Jerry” instead. Above is the picture of me used in my column.

Celery Blink

This was the second pseudonym I used in the high school paper. It was an unusual combination of words made up to sound like a name if you didn’t know their meaning. In this case I picked a vegetable and facial expression. I even made up a family tree for Celery that included such names as: Asparagus Sneer, Pea Wink, Okra Frown, Artichoke Squint, and Arugula Smile.

Apriori Arkhai 

In online philosophical forums I sometimes used this name.  Of course, “a priori” is Latin “from former,”  meaning “knowledge that is justified independently of experience,” and  “Arkhai” is from Greek philosophy meaning “first principles” or starting points, so it’s somewhat redundant. I liked the alliteration.

Hugh Mann, A. Hugh Mann, and I. Hugh Mann

All these were obvious word plays for “human,” “a human,” and “I human.” I thought any of these could be good everyman names.

Som Osog

In religious debates with my brother I got tired of typing out “only son of god” and started to shorten it to the acronym “OSOG.” To tweak my brother a bit, when gmail came out, I decided to get that name for a gmail address, but they required at least 6 characters, so I picked “SOM” or “son of man” to put on the front end. I thought the result ended up sounding like it could be a middle eastern name.

Spurious Satrap

I thought this would be a good name for a pretentious government official, and I used the name in a humor piece. Of course, “spurious” means “not genuine, authentic, or true; not from the claimed, pretended, or proper source; counterfeit” and “Satrap” is a subordinate governor or official.

Ergo Naught

This is Latin for “therefore nothing.” I thought this would be a humorous name to conclude any nonsense writings.

Sine Nomine

This is Latin for “without a name.”  I thought it was a good generic pseudonym.

Nomen Dubium

This is Latin for “doubtful name,” which is another good generic pseudonym.

Anonymous

As almost everyone knows, “Anonymous” means “without any name acknowledged and/or known.” I thought it would be interesting to reimagine “Anonymous” as an actual person—possibly an ancient Greek or Roman philosopher referred to with a single name like Socrates, Aristotle, etc.–who had opinions on everything (and seemed to live forever). I also thought it would be interesting to release sayings into the social media under that name. Of course, “Anonymous” could be the first name for A. Hugh Mann.

Ignotus Anonymous

“Ignotus” is Latin for “unknown.” This would be for any occasion where the imagined person “Anonymous” required a first name. “Ignotus” could also be the first name for I. Hugh Mann.

Nonumnos

Early Greek for “nameless.” This one could be used in a similar manner as “Anonymous.”

My Birth Day

baby picture
In the 1950s, a polio vaccine was developed, the helical structure of DNA was discovered, the first organ transplants were performed, IBM developed the computer language Fortran, and the term “artificial intelligence” was coined.

The construction of the Interstate Highway System had begun, the civil rights movement had started, the Kinsey Reports were published, Hugh Hefner launched Playboy, and Walt Disney opened Disneyland.

Sir Edmund Hillary had reached the South Pole, the U.S. Nuclear Submarine “Nautilus” had passed under the Ice Cap at the North Pole, and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge was discovered on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.

There was a conflict in Korea in the early years of the decade, and Castro overthrew the regime in Cuba by the end of it.

There was a “Cold War” climate in America with concerns about communism. And it was a period of conformity, conservatism, and consumerism.

At the end of WWII the United States had emerged as the world’s mightiest military power, and an era of prosperity had begun. The economy was booming, the suburbs were booming, and babies were booming.

Consumerism was king as banks began to offer more loans and credit. People were buying new homes in the suburbs, new cars with tail fins and lots of chrome, new time-saving household appliances, and new black and white televisions. Owning a television in the early years of the 1950s was a rare thing. By the middle of the decade, just over half of Americans owned one, and by the end of it, over three-quarters had one.

There were also signs of rebellion in this conformist climate with an anti-materialistic literary movement that appealed to “Beatniks” and the “Beat Generation,” who challenged the restrictive social and sexual mores of the time. Another type of rebellion seemed to be taking place in the art world with the advent of abstract expressionism which shifted the center of art culture from Paris to New York City.

And while Jazz was the preferred music of the Beat Generation, a new type of “devil’s music” began coming to the fore by the middle of the decade. Rock & Roll was beginning to have an impact with teenagers that would only grow over time.

While they were a concern to some, comic books were popular, as was science fiction, and people were flocking to theaters to watch horror movies in 3D.

The “Jet Age” was just beginning to go commercial with the first international passenger jets taking off by the end of the decade. And the “Space Age” was launched in 1957 with the Russian spacecraft Sputnik. The U.S. responded three months later with Explorer 1 on January 31, 1958. It returned data for four months, discovered the Van Allen radiation belt, and signaled the beginning of  the “Space Race.” Later that year, NASA was born on October 1, 1958.

But before NASA was born, and while Explorer 1 was still sending back data, I was born into this world in Concord, North Carolina at Cabarrus County Hospital on Thursday, February 13, 1958.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the middle of his second term as President, and I can say I was born when there were 48 states in the USA and 9 planets in our solar system.

Also happening on that day: Ford introduced the 300 hp Thunderbird, the city of Hiroshima asked former President Truman for an apology for the atomic bombing, and New Orleans had to cancel a pre-Mardi Gras parade because of 2 inches of snow.

Elvis Presley’s song “Don’t” was topping the music charts, “Old Yeller” was the #1 movie, and Jack Benny was hosting a “Shower of Stars” television special later that evening on CBS to celebrate his 40th(!) birthday party which would be the next day.

Of course, I wasn’t aware of any of this at the time. I was too busy adjusting to my new environment.

It wasn’t long before I had my first picture taken (above) and I got my name in the paper (a name that would be legally changed 6 months later to the one I have now).

birth announcement