Memoir exercise

Write down 10 turning points in your life.

Here they are in chronological order, outline form:

John F. Kennedy is assassinated. My father dies in a traffic accident about two weeks later.

“Meet the Beatles” is released in the USA. I get a copy as a gift from my Mom.

I memorize every single note of Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue”, left behind by my dad.

We move to Europe just after I turn nine and spend two years there.

At age 19, I get kicked out of college.

I fall in love with my future wife, who one day turns to me and tells me she’s with child. I decide to be the best dad there ever was.

I see my first born come in to this world.

I see my second born come in to this world.


The youngest child moves out.

This one’s a gem.

Found online, while doing research.

“Continuous productivity improvements allow us to differentiate on the basis of superior quality at market competitive prices without sacrificing our ability to achieve our profit goals.”

I read that three, maybe four times. Here’s my translation:

“Because we make our stuff better all the time, we stand out because our better stuff is better and cheaper than other folk’s stuff – and we make money off it.”

Let me ask you a question. How many times a day do you allow yourself to differentiate – I mean you, personally?

As in, “I allowed myself to differentiate while brushing my teeth this morning.”

Or, “Sorry, I can’t answer my phone right now. I’m differentiating. But your call is important to me, and my altered or modified self will get back to you as soon as I can.”

The bone I’m picking here is that I never considered differentiation to be reflexive.

Silly me.


It was fifty years ago today that John F. Kennedy won the presidential election in 1960.

NPR played a sound clip of JFK speaking at the Garden on election eve. It took my breath away – the man was hot. Every word, uttered with pure conviction, intelligent thought behind each syllable: “All the criticisms that are leveled at presidential campaigns in my judgment fade away against the knowledge which a potential President may have of the strength of this society of ours and our people.”

I’m not a JFK groupie, by any means. I don’t have any of his speeches memorized, I don’t hold him up as a yardstick to any other president living or dead. Mr. Kennedy was human, as we all are. He was not perfect, he is not the model by which all presidents should be judged.

He was a father figure to me, especially after my dad vacated the premises. I was three years old when he was elected, and six when he was shot and killed. My dad died in New York City barely two weeks after JFK’s life was taken.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my childhood in Ohio. It was filled with spacemen and the Beatles and secret agents and baseball heroes and scary movies on Saturday. Fall weather seems to activate these memories. Back in those days, folks would rake their leaves into a pile in their back yards and burn them. The smell of smoldering leaves transports me to the Ohio of fifty years ago instantly.

I reckon that JFK is a a grainy, black-and-white film in the imaginations of my children. I wonder if they can picture little blond-haired five-year-old me watching him speak on television.

What yardstick has my generation left for its young?