Friday, March 28, 2014

What Is In A Name?

I have been mulling this question over for the last few days. On Wednesday, I had to call technical support for my computer because it was remotely hacked and things were not working right the last couple weeks. It finally got to the point where I had to do something.

I called tech support and got some place in India with a man named Jeff Wilson. That was obviously the American name the company had given him because he told me people did not understand his real name. He handed me off to his supervisor whose name was John Wilson. Where did the company that sent those American jobs overseas come up with those two names?

The interesting thing about the encounter that took several hours was the whole time as both the Wilson boys were operating my computer remotely I had a difficult time understanding their East Indian accents. I had to ask them to repeat themselves several times because I could not understand them.

It got me to thinking about names. I have always been fascinated by names and wonder why parents name their children the names they give them. You have to admit there are some very creative names out there!

Since my name is really two first names, Michael Patrick, people often have a difficult time wondering if my name is Michael Patrick or Patrick Michael. That is why I go by Mike. It makes it much easier to distinguish my name as Mike Patrick because Mike is not a common surname. I have never felt like a Michael. I have always been Mike. That is not to mention some of the nicknames I have been called. People often call me Pat as well.

I have collected a large number of people with two first names ranging from James James to Ahmed Ahmed. Yes, some parents decided to give their baby boys the same first name as their surname. When I knew James in college he referred to himself as Jimmy James.

I have pages and pages of people with two first names and several friends who have two first names. You know who you are. My collection contains names like Newton Arnold, Dylan Avery, Leslie Hope, Janet Lucy, Allen Luke, Yannick Noah, Jordan Paula, Colleen Raye, Brooks Robinson, Angela Rosa, Iris Rose, Blackwell Stephanie, Doris Victoria to William Zane. I think you get the picture.

When someone names their son Robert, does he go through his childhood as Rob, Robby, Bob, Robert or something else? Does he change his name, as he grows older from Rob to Robert?

One night at a Gopher basketball game, I asked one of the broadcasters what years he played for Ohio State? His name in college was Jimmy Jackson. Now he goes by Jim Jackson. I asked him point-blank, “Jim, I remember you as Jimmy Jackson in college, when did it become Jim Jackson?”

Jim said, “When I turned 40, it became Jim Jackson.”

I asked him, “What happens when you turn 50?”

He replied, “Then it will be James.” He cracked a little smile after that comment. 

I also think it is interesting how names become cyclical. Many baby names today are the same names their grandparents and even great-grandparents were given. It is interesting to think the most popular male baby name in America today which is Jacob was not popular thirty to fifty years ago when Michael was the most popular. Jacob is an old name that is making the rounds again.

I also find it fascinating when the same name can be used for either gender. Nonspecific gender names like Shirley, Sam, Alex, Casey, Brett, Bailey, Cody and Casey, to name just a few are fairly common.
A quick Google search lists Mohammed as the most popular male given name in the world today. It also lists Sophia as the most popular female given name worldwide.

I guess the reason I posted this was I find it fascinating what parents will name their children and why? When my parents named me Michael Arlin, my paternal grandmother had a fit! She said, “You can’t call him Mike because we used to have an old draft horse named Mike, and I don’t want my grandson to be named Mike.” That was my grandma!

She also had a thing about our initials. She believed one’s initials should spell a word, like my initials spell the word MAP. My father’s initials spelled ALP. Dad’s given name was Arlin Lloyd Patrick. My mom wanted to name me after her younger brother, Robert Michael Smith, and so that is where I got my name.

I know many names have meaning in certain native languages. I believe that is cool when a baby boy or girl is given a name that means something special in the parents’ native language.

One thing I do not understand is where some names come from today! We can all think of that certain name or names we have never heard before and wonder where or why the parent or parents gave him that name! I also find it interesting how some people will go by their middle name. Another thing people do is put their first name as an initial and then add their middle name and go by that. I have never understood that phenomena. Why not just drop the initial at the beginning?
Then there is always the spelling of a name. I have seen Michael spelled Mikael, Mychal, Mychel, Mical, Mikkel and Mikel, among others. 

Have you ever thought about where your parent(s) got your name? If you have, I would like to know about it. If you have not, maybe now you will? This is simply food for thought. Take my rambling for what it is.

I look forward to your comments.



Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all of my Irish family and friends, and those that wish they were Irish! Growing up with a name like Michael Arlin Patrick, I was always told there are two types of people in the world. They are the Irish and the people that wish they were Irish!

Click on the image to make it larger:

I have no reason to believe any differently, especially today! I have had more fun over the years playing with that quote then you can imagine. Most of us know the story of St. Patrick, so I will not take up your time with retelling it again. Besides, there is always GOOGLE!

Most everyone knows the stereotype of the drunken Irishman or woman and how he or she likes to drink their Guinness. On St. Patrick's Day much of that Guinness and other beers are turned green in honor of this unique holiday. The irony in that stereotype and the author of this post is I have never drank a beer in my life, green or otherwise!

I have only had two drinks in my life and can honestly say, "I just do not like the taste of alcohol in any form."

I remember back in the mid-70s and early 80s when I was coming of age and asked if I wanted a beer at a party or in a bar, I politely replied, "No thank you." Then, someone would ask me if I was a recovering alcoholic? When I told them, "No, I just don't like the taste." They would always tell me you have to acquire the taste.

Before my accident, I never would have drunk because it would have been breaking training regulations. I was not about to do that! After my accident, I never imagined doing any more damage to my body than had already been done. It was an easy choice. Plus, there was the issue of how would I be able to handle my van getting home from wherever I was? It was an easy decision to make, and still is.

The main reason I never drank, smoked marijuana or did any kind of illicit drug before my accident was I did not want to let my parents down by breaking training rules that would make me ineligible to play whatever sport was in season.

I tell a great story in my book about how during one of my many hospitalizations I was prescribed a muscle relaxer called Marinol whose active ingredient is THC. Yes, That's right, the same THC found in marijuana. My doctor gave me a five-milligram dose, and I laid there and laughed and laughed and laughed!

Friends and family would come to visit me or tell me over the phone I should have tried marijuana way back in college when they were all doing it and having such a good time. They told me now I knew what I was missing!

The irony in me getting that Marinol was it happened roughly six months after Dad died in 2006. I have often wondered how he would have reacted to see me lying there giggling uncontrollably!

Like many stereotypes, there is someone that breaks the mold about the Irish and how much they like to drink. I am one of those people that break that mold. I would be remiss if I did not tell you I am proud to wear that moniker! 

As I grow older, more and more people are telling me I am getting more sarcastic. I know that is true. However, I have developed a sarcastic wit about me a long time ago and also wear that quite proudly! I have some good mentors that have taught me that skill over these last many years. I have a feeling you know you are. Thank you for that gift! 

Here is another picture I would like to include in this post in honor of all my sarcastic mentors out there:

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If you are going out tonight and having some of that green beer, please make sure you have a designated driver so everyone gets home safely. Enjoy your evening.

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My Uncle Ed

My Uncle Ed was laid to rest yesterday beside his loving wife, Mabel. Although, everyone called her Tabby. For as long as I can remember, most everyone called him Ralph or Ralphie. Ed was the sixth child of my maternal grandparents Joe and Erma Smith. Ed was born in 1945 and after graduating from White High School in tiny White, South Dakota he enlisted in the Army.
Four years later, he found himself in Vietnam where he had volunteered to be a door gunner. He flew eight missions in the most dangerous position one could have in combat. For those of you that do not know what a door gunner is, they were the guys on the doors of the helicopters firing machine guns into the jungle as the choppers came in to rescue the wounded and other soldiers after an encounter with the Viet Cong. Only 8% of door gunners came home!

We have all heard the phrase, “I’ve got your back.” Being a door gunner is the epitome of having your brothers in arms backs! Door gunners saved many lives and had an incredibly high mortality rate because the VC were aiming at them! The enemy knew if they could take out the door gunners, they had a much better chance of survival because no one would be firing back at them.

Ed never talked about his experience in Vietnam, but talking to my other uncles, reading about the war, and talking to other people, I have learned more than I ever care to about war. You may have heard the famous General William Sherman’s statement to the Mayor and Councilmen of Atlanta before he burned the city to the ground, “War is hell!” If you have experienced battle, you know all too well what that statement means. If you have not experienced combat, ask someone who has and see what they tell you — if they are willing to talk about it. It will make you think twice about wanting to serve in a battle zone.

In May 1967, my grandma died very unexpectedly. Ed’s two older brothers who were active military at the time and had some high ranking connections, got Ed out of the Army on a hardship discharge to go home and help grandpa run the farm. There were still four younger siblings living at home and grandpa needed help. Fortunately, Bill and Bob were able to use their connections and get Ed out of his military obligation.

After several years of being out of the Army, Ed reenlisted and served sixteen more years to retire from the Army with twenty years of service. Between my mom’s seven brothers, they have a combined eighty-two years of military service in all four branches of our Armed Forces. I have always contended you cannot find many families that have made that much of a commitment to serve our country from one generation of young men in one family.

To a man, whenever I bring that up, none of my uncles think it is such a big deal and other families have done more. That may be true; but I believe eighty-two years from one family is pretty impressive!

Sometime in 1969, Ed was struggling with what today would be called survivor’s guilt and probably PTSD. He was in Marshall, Minnesota and called mom to tell her he was thinking about taking his own life because he felt he could have done more and he should not have left his buddies back in Vietnam.

Mom asked him if he had enough money to get a bus to Worthington. He said he did and he came to live with us for a year. That school year we had thirteen people living in our house! Besides my mom and dad, my four siblings, (Chad had not been born yet), two uncles, four renters in our apartment in the front half of our basement, and me we had a Baker’s dozen under one roof.

One of our renters was also a Vietnam vet who had combat experience with a K-9 unit in Vietnam. He would share some of his stories and kept us mesmerized for hours listening to his experiences with his dog in a combat zone. The four renters we had were all college student/athletes and my mother fed all of us that year. She charged them one dollar for lunch and a dollar and a half for dinner. We went through one hundred pounds of potatoes every two weeks, gallons and gallons of milk and more food than you can imagine. It was like living on Walton’s Mountain!

We had to eat in shifts because thirteen people would not fit around our dining room table. You just hoped if you got the second shift, there was still enough food left to fill your stomach.

Ed did several different jobs that year starting at Campbell’s Soup Company where he worked a number of jobs I do not want to describe. He did not have enough money to buy a car, so he rode my brother’s bicycle to work that fall. 

By winter, he was working in the Worthington Co-op gas station pumping gas, checking the oil and doing all the things full service gas station attendants did back in the day. He also worked in the shop doing car repair work. It was during that time he bought an old Studebaker for $50.00. I will never forget that Brown Studebaker with the bright red rims coming to pick me up from basketball practice to give me a ride home after he got off the shift from the co-op.

One day, Ed did 180° turn on the street in front of the playground while Chuck Peterson and I watched from inside the school door as we waited for our rides. When Ed drove up on the curb a little bit, rolled the window down, and yelled, “Come on Fat Cat, the hawk’s a bitin’!” 

Chuck looked at me and wanted to know who that was. I said, “Oh, that’s just my uncle Ralph!” 

For those of you that do not know what the euphemism, “the hawk is biting,” is all about, it refers to the wind is blowing and it is cold!

Ed’s younger brother, Terry, also lived with us that year and the next while he went to the junior college in Worthington. It was during those two years Terry became more like a big brother to me than my uncle. Before that, Terry, Dee and Tim who are the youngest three siblings in mom’s family were more like cousins then aunt and uncles. They still are.

After a year living with us, Ed enrolled in the vocational school in Pipestone, Minnesota and studied carpentry. I am not sure exactly which year he decided to go back into the Army, but at some point, he reenlisted and served his duration to retire after twenty years of service.

It was in the Army he met and married Tabby. They have one daughter, Amanda, who is married and lives in Mifflintown with her husband, Guy Bowman.

I know this is turning into a long post, but I want to share one more story about my relationship with Ed.

In 1995 I started a youth oriented business in White I called Prairie Woods. The whole idea of Prairie Woods was to recycle old or waste wood and make unique products out of the material. We also got a job taking down roughly three hundred ash trees and sold them as firewood. I hired Ed to come back from Mifflintown and help me run the business in the lumberyard in White. I was going to turn an empty lumberyard into a source for local farmers to buy used wood from barns we had torn down, products we were building like feed bunks and storage sheds. I wanted to give the young people experience and responsibility in product design, manufacturing, marketing and various aspects of running a business.

Here is a picture of part of my crew sitting in some of the Adirondack chairs we had made from a kit I got from a friend who was doing a youth project here in Minneapolis.

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How is that for a motley looking crew? There is not a lot of diversity in White, South Dakota. These boys and the rest of my crew knew how to work. I would like to think I helped them in some way to develop into productive and responsible young men and women.

Prairie Woods failed due to a number of reasons. Ed went back to Mifflintown to be with his wife and daughter. Even though that business venture failed, I had a lot of fun teaching those young people new skills and being around a project that was the right thing to do. Plus, I love the smell of wood!

I could go on and on telling you stories about my uncle Ed, but I think you get my point. I will miss him and appreciate the fact I got to talk to him about two weeks ago for a while one Sunday afternoon. Little did I know that would be the last time I got to talk to him?

Life is like that. We never know when it will be our time.

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Friday, March 7, 2014

Talk About Going Viral!

In the grand scheme of the Internet and when a YouTube video, statement or Tweet goes viral, this is probably no big deal. However, to a small town in southwestern Minnesota where I lived when I had my accident this site has grown by leaps and bounds in a matter of a few weeks!

If you know anything about my history before my accident, you know we moved a lot. My dad always got a better job with a little more pay in a slightly larger town, in an area of the upper Midwest in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota. Each coaching and teaching job gave him challenges and opportunities the previous one did not.

By the time we moved to Worthington, Minnesota in February 1969 when I was partway through the eighth grade and not yet fourteen years old, we had lived in seven other communities and sixteen different locations. We never lived in one spot more than eighteen months! Six of those years were in two different trailer houses in five of those towns, and I use the word towns loosely as one little community, Farmer, South Dakota had only seventy residents!

Worthington was by far the largest small-town we had lived in and offered all the amenities a young teenage boy could want. There was a YMCA complete with a pool, basketball and paddle ball courts, and weight room, Dad taught and coached at the local junior college and I had free-run of the athletic facilities when Dad would take me with him to his workplace, a lake across the road where I could go fishing and swimming at one of the beaches, a bowling alley, a movie theater, a local famously named drive-in, an A&W root beer stand, a golf course and even a daily newspaper. Worthington also has a beautiful park system with a bandstand that had Wednesday night concerts all summer long and a wealth of attractions for my growing interests. We did not have a McDonald's, but we did have a Quick Stop!

A few weeks ago, someone started a Facebook page entitled "Growing Up In Worthington, Minnesota What Do You Remember." As of right now, there are 4,343 members with 162 new members. When I joined about ten days ago, there were roughly 2,200 members!

People are building new relationships, rekindling old friendships that went away as people went their separate ways after high school, learning facts and long forgotten pieces of their past. It is creating a community of its own. Personally, I have had more than two dozen people asked to Friend me on Facebook. Some of them are people I never knew, and others are folks who had fallen out of touch over these many years.

People are putting their high school graduation years after their names and posts are drawing hundreds of Likes and Comments. Yesterday, for instance, was my B squad basketball coach's seventy-ninth birthday. His son put it on the site and it grew to having well over two hundred Likes and about the same number of Comments from his former students wishing him a Happy Birthday and sharing their experiences from having him as their teacher.

People are posting pictures of historic buildings that no longer exist. One friend posted a thank you note to all the patrons he has had at his business and within a few hours there were several hundred Comments about his store!

Here is the current Cover Photo of downtown Worthington circa 1900:

Click on the image to make it larger:

I know this is nothing compared to when a video goes viral and gets one million hits in one day, or Ellen sets a record for retweets of a picture from the Oscars and over two million hits in one day, but this site has been fun for a lot of people to learn and relearn the history and share memories of people from one small town in the southwestern corner of Minnesota.

As always, I look forward to your comments.



P.S. I am guessing someone will put this blog post on the site, and it will be interesting to see what sort of reaction I get to it.