How Biker Gangs Reduce Risk for the Rest of Us

How 1%ers Make Motorcycling Safer

First, some terms to differentiate. We have “motorcyclists,”  “bikers,” and “1%ers.”

The 1% actually number far less than 1% of the motorcycle population, due to the deft marketing savvy of Hell’s Angels long term president Sonny Barger four decades ago. 

As an aside, Mr. Barger has written several books in recent years.  Some are motorcycle how to books and some are novels, and all of them outsell mine by several magnitudes.

In any case, motorcycles are, for 1%ers, essentially props. They are not really all that interested in riding. They are all about drug sales, prostitution, extortion, and the ever-present threat of violence. The motorcycles deliver this message very forcefully, but in every gathering of 1%ers I have witnessed the motorcycles were merely parked while the members all stood around in intimidating groups.  They are very effective in that manner.

“Bikers” are people who, almost to a person, ride large air-cooled V-twin cruiser motorcycles. Virtually all of them are Harleys or other brands designed and styled to be virtual clones of Harleys. Many of these people are the nicest folks you could ever meet, but the preferred outfit strives for the “bad ass” look. Lots of black leather, black helmets, and perhaps decals on the helmet expressing mostly rude “humorous” statements.

“Motorcyclists” ride all sorts of motorcycles, from dual sport to sport bikes to sport tourers to tourers and even cruisers.  Their look is usually slanted toward “ATGATT” as a philosophy – all the gear, all the time. 

All of these groups share one attribute – costuming.  The 1%ers try to look as threatening as possible, the bikers are bad-ass, and the motorcyclists are adorned with gear to the maximum for their choice.  There is no harm in this, and we all do it.

Fashion is not necessarily logical. The “chaps” favored by 1%ers and bikers are really not suited for motorcycle use.  They were originally designed as leather coverings for the legs to protect cowboys from the thorns of chaparral bushes. The correct pronunciation is actually “shaps,” although that is now changing by mass usage to “chaps.”  The cowboys usually wore a long coat or serape over them in case of rain, which bikers do not use, so in the event of rain the water goes straight to the biker’s unprotected crotch area.

The all-black “rule” can have amusing consequences. I used to ride with the Great Northwest HOG chapter, some of the nicest people ever. On one of my first rides a member said to me, “You cannot ride a Harley wearing a yellow helmet.”  He was not entirely serious, but mostly.

I replied, “Watch me!” as I pulled on my bright yellow Arai.

Later, the dealership asked me to devote more of my time to HOG events. As it was time for a new helmet, I purchased a black Arai.  Then came the comment, “Oh no!  We liked the yellow helmet, because we always knew where you were.”

But all of these genres have their silliness. At one time I owned a Muzzy Raptor, a barely street legal superbike. I wore my full “race leathers” and a pair of extremely expensive race boots that were incredibly uncomfortable when walking.  I used this bike to go to events, where I spent my time standing and walking. I never raced it or did a track day. But golly, I looked fast!

In like manner, many sport bike riders endure wrist and back pain by riding bikes designed to look like road race winners in jammed traffic conditions.  Most such motorcycles are not comfortable at all until you’re riding well over the posted speed limit. At the extreme, the suspension on my Muzzy worked very well – at speeds above 80mph.

Many dual sport riders both in their personal dress and with farkles for the bike, appear to be off on a dirt road journey of several months and multiple countries. All suited up, they ride to a local hang out, and are often termed “Starbucks Adventure riders.”

There is nothing wrong with any of this. We all go to some effort every day to look like we want to look.  The cosmetics industry thrives on this.

But the combined effects of the 1%ers and the bikers is that people who do not know anything about motorcycles react with fear whenever they see any motorcycle, no matter what type.  They do not differentiate by type of bike or the attire of the rider. We’ve all seen that look on the face of a car driver, a mixture of loathing and concern.

I used to feel awful about this, but in time the advantages have become apparent.  When someone is afraid of you, they want to move further away.  They may change lanes, fall back on purpose, or wave you by on a winding country road. All of these are good things, and enhance your safety.

“Loud pipes save lives” is one of the biggest lies ever concocted. Loud pipes offend and irritate, but do not save lives.

1%ers and the biker image, however, do save lives, or at least decrease risk.

Next time a car moves out of your way, you can be grateful for the branding campaign of the 1%ers.  Irony lives.

 

Copyright 2015                            David Preston

 

Posted in Motorcycles | 4 Comments

Where the teacher salary mess came from

Where the Teacher Salary Mess Started

….or at least some of it. An article in the Seattle Times pointed out that the Lake Washington, Bellevue, and Issaquah districts are now finding it nearly impossible for teachers to afford housing in the district where they teach. The origins of this problem go back almost 40 years.

Some caveats:  teachers are not the only professionals to have this problem. In addition, nobody forces anyone to sign a teaching contract, and anyone going into education does not have any logical expectation that the wages will equal careers with similar responsibilities. People teach because they want to. In many a case, it is almost because they have to because of their inner being.

The Times did not deal with the question of whether or not it is in fact a good idea for teachers to live near their school. When I was in college I clearly remember a professor advising us to never purchase beer or alcohol in the local town where we worked. I thought that was extreme, but he had examples to back up his assertion.  When I was teaching, many colleagues did not want their students to know where they lived, fearing vandalism or visitors or I don’t know what. I thought that was also ridiculous. For my entire career I lived within two miles of where I taught. Most of my students knew where I lived, and I saw them frequently in stores and at local events. I never had a problem, and there were real advantages. I wanted to be a part of the community, and of course the short commute was an asset, including frequent trips to school for evening events or on the weekends.

Overall, most would agree that there are clear advantages to having the teaching staff be in the community and a part of everything that is going on.

What has happened? To grab the handiest example, when we purchased our home in 1977 the top teaching salary was just over 20k a year. That salary has grown by a factor of four in the intervening years, but our house has gone up in value by a factor of… twelve.  If I started teaching today there would be little hope of living in a plus 500k home, ever.

The history is usually ignored, but in this case it is crucial. Back in 1977 teachers were granted the legal right to bargain for a “master” contract that covered all of the teaching staff. Within a time shorter than the legislature envisioned, teachers got to be very good at this, and in the next few years the salaries ramped up. This was pretty much confined to the districts on the west side of the state, which tended to be larger and had more aggressive teacher associations.

The legislature reacted to teachers winning this game by …changing the rules.  A state wide salary schedule was introduced, and districts on the east side of the state were over-funded for a few years to bring their salaries to parity with those in the west.  Virtually all of the strikes that had taken place, other than one area of Spokane and in Winthrop, were on the west side, so in effect teachers to the east gained all of the benefits of those who went on strike without any of the effort.  And unless you have lived it, you have no idea of the effort and pain and stress involved.

Back then the cost of living in the Seattle urban area was much higher than on the east side of the state. We used to visit my wife’s grandmother in the little town of Sprague. I went for a walk on my first visit and loitered around the local middle school on a summer day when school was not in session. I thought the school was being remodeled, because there were only 13 to 15 desks in each room. No – that was the norm. I wondered what it would be like to have a class of 15, since most of mine were twice that size. On my stroll I also noticed the prices asked for homes that were for sale, and realized we could sell our house, move to Sprague, cut my class size in half, retain the same salary, and purchase four or five houses to replace ours!

For all of these reasons strike activity has been mostly non-existent in eastern Washington schools for over thirty years. Now the cost of living in Spokane is catching up, and you can see that in the one-day protest Spokane teachers will be conducting soon.

But surely the legislature was aware of the cost disparity at the time they did this?  Of course they were.  In the unlikely event they were not they certainly received a plethora of messages on the topic.

The statewide salary schedule had nothing to do with logic, reducing cost, or fairness. It was a simple and effective response to the assertive teachers on the west side. They were summarily punished for their temerity in reading and understanding the law and the bargaining process.

And they have been punished ever since, the legislature smug in the belief that a state-wide massive strike would never happen. And it hasn’t.

 

Yet.

 

Copyright 2015                       David Preston

 

 

Posted in Education, Rants and Raves | 2 Comments

Videos of my protest speech

If you were interested in what I said the other day, the speech is now up on my You Tube channel. Because we are not very tech savvy, you will have to do a bit of meandering.

Susan taped the first part (A) with my Go Pro and then got frustrated because you cannot see what you are taping unless you have the accessory we do not have.  Worried, she taped the latter 70% of it (Part 2) on her phone.

I then loaded them that way, and now You Tube lists Part 2 first followed by Part A.

Got that? smile emoticon

 

They can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7HvpR9rS0p_AwS1UFPCslg

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Protesting With the Teachers

 An Amazing Day – Protesting With the Teachers

For several years various groups have been putting pressure on the state legislature to fully fund basic education, as dictated by the state constitution.  Several ballot measures have passed to increase spending on education, and the legislature has pretty much ducked or ignored them all.

A few years ago the legislature was sued by several groups working in unison, including several large districts and the WEA. That alone is mind-boggling.  The case wound up in the state Supreme Court, and the forces of education won. The legislature continued to ignore this, and is now working in special session on a state budget, under threat of a contempt of court citation from the Supreme Court for their historic failure to follow our constitution.

Last week Susan asked if I would like to join her in a one day protest against the legislature, with sign waving and other activities, followed by a rally. This is part of a “rolling protest” organized by WEA, with different districts going out on different days. These are not strikes but protests, and the districts are no opposed to them, with the day made up at the end of the year. Seattle’s by the way, is May 19th.  Join them!  Northshore and Lake Washington were both protesting today.

I said sure.  Been there, done that. In fact, I’ve been involved in every strike and protest in the district since 1969, which is pretty much all of them.

Susan suggested we might want to take two cars, as I would likely choose to skip the rally. I agreed, making the snarky comment that the only person I enjoyed listening to at such rallies was – me. Prophetic words,  as it turned out.

Then I remembered that I have a strike sign from the 1978 strike  (the 3rd one in three years when I was President of LWEA), and it would be fun to carry it instead of whatever this year’s version was. Because I am becoming polite in my dotage, I e-mailed current President Kevin Teely to see if this would be OK.  He responded that would be terrific (we later changed our minds on this), and added that he had been a 1st year teacher that year and my actions and those of others had made him a teacher activist ever since.

More snarky – I replied with “So it’s all my fault?”

Sobering reply. “Yes.”

Then he asked if I would like to speak at the rally.    “Sure,” I said, not really having any idea of the size and scope he had in mind.

Still on a polite kick, I worked up a synopsis of what I would say if nobody else gave me any pointers, and added that I could cut it or lengthen it or toss it and start over if desired.  He replied that he loved it and that I would be placed last on the list.

I asked, in my innocence, how many people he expected to attend.

“2000.” This was a bit staggering, and I could not believe they could amass that many people, as there are only 1700 teachers in the district.  The rally was intended to include parents and students and non-teacher employees, but really. 

The other speakers would include the current President of WEA, a parent, a building secretary, a teacher, and a student, and I would be the tumultuous conclusion.    No pressure, then.

At his invitation, I attended a Monday afternoon meeting of building reps where the details were discussed. It was really a weird experience, since I had conducted many such meetings almost 40 years ago. I kept flip-flopping between now and then, back and forth.

Susan prepared me for the day by purchasing one of the special red t-shirts almost everyone would be wearing, reviewing my synopsis of my intended speech, and urged me to get a haircut on Tuesday, which I did. This was also a step back in time, because she performed similar valuable services, and many more, when I was President.

The day started with massive numbers of people, all in red, occupying freeway overpasses and high traffic density corners all over the place. From our assigned station on an I-405 overpass near Lake Washington High, I could see two other overpasses, both filled end to end with red shirts and protest signs.  It was amazing.

I started out by waving my sign and waving, but soon switched tactics. So many of the people driving under us were honking their horns and waving that it was better to simply wave back and give a thumbs up to individuals.

Turns out truck drivers are almost entirely pro-teacher. Of course, many of them are union members. Or they simply like to honk their horns whenever there is any reason to. I even wondered if owners of trucking companies encourage their drivers to honk and wave at ANY group of demonstrators to create a positive impression of their company. I doubt it, but it’s not a bad idea. Whatever the source, the support was astonishing.  Of course, there were a few people offering solo finger salutes, but far fewer than I would have guessed.

After that it was time for the “secret mission.”  This plan was unveiled to the teachers in detail only today, because the element of surprise was critical.  In about an hour, 25,000 pieces of literature detailing the positions of the 45th District Republican Senator who is the chief budget writer were placed on doorsteps.  25,000!

After a break for lunch, we gathered at Heritage Park in Kirkland (shuttle buses from Juanita High and Lake Washington High avoided clogging Kirkland to a standstill for a two block walk to Marina Park for the rally.

The speeches were well done and blissfully short and to the point. The young man just before me is a senior at Eastside High and was very impressive.  As I watched I realized, good heavens, there ARE 2,000 people here!

My speech went very well and was received very well.  An abridged version of this follows.  I’ll try to put up video later.

The wonderment continued after.  As I left the stage area I was approached by Beth (nee) Crampton, who had been a student of mine when I was elected President. Her father was Loris Crampton, who was a counselor at Redmond High where Susan graduated.  Loris was one of the older and wiser folks who got me to run in the first place, and he often dropped by during my time in office to offer counsel and sage wisdom. He was such a help to me, and an inspiration. I was thinking about him as I prepared my speech, in fact.

Beth hugged me, told me my speech was wonderful and said “You were channeling my father.” And she was absolutely correct.

Then a woman came up and told me she had been in one of my Honors English classes at Kamiakin Junior High, and had now been a teacher herself for 20 years.

Funding basic education is important, which is why it was put into the state constitution in the first place. The legislature has been derelict in their duty for decades, and have ramped up their abuse of power exponentially in the past few years.  Now the time has come for change, and the people I witnessed today are going to make it happen.

 

 Speech – LWEA Rally against the Legislature         05/06/1

Thank you, etc.

LWEA strike history

       1976 – teachers allowed to bargain master contract. I am elected LWEA President. (Current contract is a descendant of that one, and none of you   have read it, which is a good sign as most of it is now business as usual.

First successful strike vote in district history – contract settled that night.   Master contract secured. Picket signs stored    

      1977 – 2nd strike – a couple of day

     1978 – as I am leaving office – 3rd strike – a few days

     1990   – strike for a few days

      2015  – a protest, and there have been a few others.

How this year is different

      No longer us (LWEA) vs. ‘them” – everyone else

      Coalition of support – district, other districts, parents, and students – and the state Supreme Court!

    Mass standardized tests and attendant ills and waste of time

          1. Some of the media and even some of your colleagues will tell you that teachers should not “waste time” on strikes.  This district has been on strike for about 10 days in 50 years = .2 of a day per year. If you work 10hours a day, as many of you do, that is 2 hours – per year. How much time has been spent just this year on preparing for, administering, and dealing with the aftermath of mass standardized tests? (Hint: it is more than 2 hours.
          2. These tests are to be scored by people whose qualifications are a college degree (in anything) and eagerness to score the tests for the salary provided. They do not need to have any knowledge of education, or of children, or even of the subject matter. This is analogous to Boeing designing a new plane and having the flight testing performed by people who “always wanted to fly.” 

What happens now?  Several scenarios, and all of them are positive. 

The state legislature is operating under the threat of a contempt of court citation from the State Supreme Court.   (Amazing!)  Legislature does nothing, and Supreme Court responds or  does not.  Either way, the media attention makes the situation obvious to all.  Advantage –  education.Legislature passes a budget they feel meets their constitutional mandate. Supreme Court agrees or disagrees, and further actions take place. Advantage- educationStandardized tests come under increasing fire, and student protests continue. Advantage education.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1976 was a crucial year for education in this state, and 2015 will be as well.   You have taken a bold step today.   You may need to take more, but from now on you will not be toiling alone. With the support of your district, parents, and students, your efforts on behalf of your students in your school in your community will triumph.  Not in the long run, but soon.  When basic education is fully funded, and schools are operated at the local level by dedicated teachers, I want you to take a moment to remember this day. Remember this morning, remember what you did after the sign waving, remember where you are right now and remember the people who are standing with you.  For the rest of your life you can remember with pride, and say to yourself “I helped make this happen.”Thank you.   It is an honor to speak to you today.                                          David Preston   LWEA President  1976- 1978 

Posted in Education, Rants and Raves | Leave a comment

Why You Want to Have Your Taxes….raised.

Raise Your Taxes to Increase Your Financial Status!

A confluence of three disparate events has me thinking this morning.  They are 1.) A bond issue to provide new communications systems for the 911 folks  2.) A re-finance of our home, and 3.) Bernie Sanders about to launch a bid for President of the United States.

The bond issue came up for Facebook discussion last week, and I was surprised that anyone opposed it.  A good friend opined that he did not trust that the money would be used as stated, and that the tax increase was too much. 

The tax increase would be $2 a month on the average house, and my friend stops at Starbucks for an expensive latte virtually 7 days a week. The bond issue amounts to less than 2% of his latte budget. There were several other comments, but that was the one that really impressed me.  Keep in mind that I do not mean to criticize him, that the increase is on top of the real estate taxes you already pay, and what is termed an “average house” does not necessarily include yours.

At the same time we were providing a financial institution with about 200 pages regarding a refinancing of our home.  We’ve done this before, several times, and it has always worked out to our advantage.  The last one was four years ago when the interest rate on a 15 year fixed mortgage dipped below 4%, and I figured it would never sag lower.  I was wrong. Now it is below 3.5%, and our real estate contact called me the same day the thought went through my mind.

With the refi, our monthly payment will increase $7, (or maybe $9 or $10 if the bond issue passes), we will pay off every debt we have, have a large chunk of cash left over, and still have about $200,000 in equity in our home.  And no tax issues.  This is not quite money for nothing and chicks for free, but as close as you’re likely to get in the real world.

How does such a thing happen?  First of all, it’s a good idea to buy a house, almost any house, as soon as you can afford the payment. The second good idea is to not move.  We’ve lived here for 38 years, having taken out a $47,500 mortgage we could barely afford the first time.  The house will now appraise for (I’m guessing) $500,000 or so.  Over time it has been refinanced to remodel itself (twice), to pay for some of a UW education, and for many other reasons.  This is all due to a real estate market that has climbed steadily over the decades.

Why is that? Why to people want to move the Seattle suburbs, or anywhere else for that matter?  People want nice weather, which if you live here you probably think we have. People who buy homes often have a family, and thus want good schools. Everybody wants, and assumes we have, that magic word we seldom talk about: infrastructure.

Any yet my neighbors (think large scale) in the past few decades have voted consistently to reduce or slash government spending which has affected, quite drastically, the schools and infrastructure quality that underpins the rising value of their residence. In essence, they are cutting the nose off their own financial face.  If my largest asset is increasing in value by 10% a year, does it make sense to vote against services which cost a small fraction of that gain and are responsible for a lot of it?

No.

Are taxes too high?  You can argue that in either direction and select statistics to support your point of view, but the majority of reports seem to indicate that we pay less in taxes than at almost any time in the past 40 years, and that our personal tax bills lag behind most other 1st world countries. All of this while we’re spending billions of tax dollars. fighting this or that war somewhere.

Are taxes applied unfairly?  Surely so, and that is a mess I will not take on here. 

Back to government services.

In the years we’ve lived here I have called 911 probably 4 or 5 times, for health issues, suspected crime, or other issues.

In all cases, including the fire down the street, highly trained professionals responded immediately. One on occasion, I called 911 on the phone in the kitchen (remember those) and the office pulled up as I walked out the front door.

In the case of the fire, help arrived before I could call 911.  I stood across the street and watched a fireman, all by himself, pull an inboard ski boat full of fuel, on its trailer and fully aflame, out of the garage so it could be doused by others.

My daughter was house-sitting at her grandparent’s house with a friend in her teen age years, and they thought some creepy person was trying to get in. She called us, and we told her to call 911 and that we were on the way.  Grandmother’s house is a mile from ours, and the officers were there before we were. They searched the house completely, and the back yard, and stayed until they were sure the girls not only were OK but felt OK.

Quality and prompt emergency services (many other examples left out for brevity) require professionals, and they cost money.

It amazes me that the Koch brothers and their ilk have managed to convince so many people that their problems do not stem from the very rich taking advantage of them, but from the government that provides services. It’s really an amazing feat of sleight of hand marketing.

The solution they promulgate is to cut or slash all taxes, removing community services. Then people who voted for that and probably volunteered time to help the issue pass complain that government is not doing enough for them. Politicians try to create new revenue streams to take care of matters, and then the same people work against them again. It’s a vicious circle, and the super rich who can provide their own services sit back and laugh.

But only in private.

Of course government is not perfect. Nor are the police or the schools. I am not Pollyanna. But compared to what the super rich have done to Wall Street and politics, I know where I want to place my bets.

To fight back, next time a tax increase is floated, support it!   You will gain back in the value of your real estate several times what you spend.

And now Bernie Sanders appears to be about to drop the bomb that he will run for President.  Can he win?  Assuredly not, but then nobody thought Barack Obama stood a chance, either.  Has Obama’s presidency been a success?  If you ponder what would have happened if the hand-picked stooges selected by the Koch brothers had won, I think definitely so. Sometimes slowing the bleeding is the best triage option available.

Like many others, I like to dream, both small dreams and big ones.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if the majority of Americans figured out that the Koch brothers and others like them have been using them as tools for decades? If that happens, might they rise up and throw extreme do-nothing Tea Party advocates and others who have stripped our society of so much of our advantage in schools and infrastructure out of office? 

Like I said, I like to dream.

 

Copyright 2015                          David Preston

 

Posted in Education, Marketing, Rants and Raves | 2 Comments

Another book becomes a paperback offering!

Thanks to Gary Stebbins, another of my “Harrison Thomas” mysteries is now available in paperback.  Identity Ride was the second of the series, and is in some ways my favorite, as this book was when I started using real people and events  (modified) in significant ways.  Most of the locales used are real, and some of the events modified just a bit to fit the needs of the plot.  I also really like some of the characters who do not appear it the others.

All 7 of my books are still available as e-readers for any platform from Amazon, of course.    I think Gary’s labors are done for a time, as we do not intend to create paperback versions of the other three. He can relax and wait for the next Harrison Thomas novel, which I am now creating.

Books by David Preston

Motorcycle 201 – 2nd edition.                                             Published 2015 

Meant for people new to motorcycling or those returning to motorcycles after years away.  Information on what to do and not do, what to purchase and how, riding techniques, and a lot more. Includes a glossary of terms. First written in 2000 after my son asked what he’d need to know before he bought a motorcycle. Published as Motorcycle 101 in 2003. Edited and revised to become Motorcycle 201 in 2010. Redone again in 2015.  Available as an e-reader or in paperback.

Mourning Ride                                                                      Published 2011 and 2015

My second novel. The first in the Harrison Thomas mystery series.  Harrison was the English teacher in The Third Marcia, and this novel picks up 25 years later after his wife has been killed.  He takes his Kawasaki Concours on a motorcycle ride in his grief, and adventures ensue.  Available as an e-reader, and now as a paperback as well.  

Motorcycle Heart, Theory, and Practice                             Published 2011

Essays on topics related to motorcycles.  Available only as an e-reader.

 

The Third Marcia                                                               Published 2012

My first novel!  Originally written in the late 1980’s when I was an English teacher at Kamiakin Junior High.  The characters were fictionalized versions of me, my colleagues, and students.  Sat in a drawer for 25 years until published as an e-reader.  In many ways my favorite book. The English teacher is Harrison Thomas, which became important later.

 

No Corner Left Unturned                                                   Published 2012

A 2nd book of essays. More motorcycle topics, plus high performance car pieces and other topics of interest.  Available only as an e-reader.

 

Identity Ride                                                                      Published 2013 and 2015

The 2nd novel of the Harrison Thomas mystery series, prompted by readers of Mourning Ride who liked the main characters and wanted more.  I formed a “plot team” of friends who had read the first one, and they provided terrific plot details and ideas which I used. Harrison starts on a vacation ride on his Kawasaki Concours down the Oregon Coast, and events quickly veer toward the serious. Available as an e-reader and now, as of today, also available in paperback.

 

Triathlon Ride                                                                    Published 2014

The 3rd novel in the Harrison Thomas mystery series. Harrison meets a woman who’s into triathlons and he begins to attend them in support of her efforts. And then people start to die.  In this one he rides a new Yamaha FJR.  Available both as an e-reader and in paperback.

 

Farrier Ride

The next Harrison Thomas mystery is underway!       Published in late 2015?

 

Posted in Marketing, Rants and Raves, Services | 1 Comment

How I Almost Ran for the State Legislature

How I Almost Ran for the State Legislature

A recent post on Presidential campaigning prompted several fun replies that jogged an amusing memory.

I have been a president. Twice.

I was elected president of my 7th grade class. Deephaven Junior High had two feeder elementary schools, so roughly half of the electorate did not know one of the two candidates.  The election was near the start of school. After my victory, I was told that many of the students from the other school did not like their candidate, feeling that he was stuck up, and so voted for me, the guy they did not know.

Jerry was not stuck up at all and became a good friend. He was also the MVP of the state basketball tournament my school won, on a team I was cut from, so it all worked out for him rather well. The best memory of my term in office was being sent to a student leadership conference where I met famed Olympian Jesse Owens.

In 1976 I became president again, this time of LWEA, my district teacher association. It was a tumultuous time in education, as teachers had finally been awarded the right to bargain for a master contract. I ran unopposed for a second term in 1977 and received 93% of the vote. My ego had grown to such an extent that I wondered who those 7% were. 

In those two years teacher salaries went up by over 20%, but inflation ate most of that, We also had the first strike vote in district history, and then the first strike, and then the 2nd strike just as I was leaving office, where I served as the LWEA spokesperson, although I think that term had yet to be invented.  And then there was dealing with the school that burned to the ground and a run of three Superintendents in the span of the two years. 

It was an interesting time.

Thorough all of this I gained a dollop of notoriety, with a guest spot on a radio call-in show about teachers on strike, some TV sound bites, and frequent appearances in the newspaper.

Side story I cannot let go by. When I was on the radio show, the host was trying to be as provocative as he could, asking me “tough” questions while smiling at me over a cup of coffee.  I was well prepared for this and was doing well. Then he had a call from a listener. This woman went off on a several minute long rant about the value of a strong public education system, starting with the Greeks, and summing up with the statement that all teachers were underpaid and should be given massive raises. The she asked a question.

After a pause, I started with “First of all, I’d like to thank Mom for calling in this morning…”   The host doubled over in trying the stifle his laughter, and pretty much had coffee coming out of his nose. A great moment!

Over time I was given credit for a lot of accomplishments that were not really mine.  A lot of tremendous things were done by an inspired crew of hard working volunteers who wished to remain anonymous for various reasons.  A lot of people thought that I did a great deal more than I did.

Among other perks, this gained me a lunch with a prominent local attorney, who was interested in having me join his firm as a law clerk. He explained that in this state you could “clerk to the bar.” If you worked as a law clerk for 6 years and then passed the bar exam you would be an attorney – no law degree required. The reason for the lunch was that he had read the contract we had just negotiated. He thought I had written in. When I explained that I had merely signed the contract which contractually bound all of the teachers in the district and not actually read it, the lunch ended rather quickly.  I will never forget the look on his face when I told him I had signed the contract but not read it. My explanation that I did not need to read it because several others had did not impress him in the slightest.

Now that I have set the stage, we move forward to the fall of 1978. I was returning to the classroom, but at the same time I was contacted by the Democrats of the 45th district with a request that I run for the state legislature as a representative. This was astonishing, but they were quite clear in their reasoning. Democrats NEVER won in the 45th district at the time, but in the previous two elections people who were “interesting” had run, labeling themselves as Democrats. The party leaders were tired of folks running under their label that listened to aliens or wore tin foil hats so they would not receive such communications. They wanted a candidate who would be “reasonable” and run a small campaign before losing, without embarrassing the party.  Made sense to me.

It seemed to me to be a tremendous honor, even as stated. How many people ever have such an opportunity?  I consulted several people I’d come to know and respect in the political community and decided I should do this.

Susan was horrified and utterly opposed. She pointed out that if I were elected I’d need a long term sub for the duration of the legislative session and would be away from our two young children for extended periods of time.

“But,” I pointed out, “there’s no way I could win. This is a chance to have fun during the campaign, learn a great deal, and lose with dignity.”

“Oh no,” she replied.  “I know you. You’ll figure out a way to win, and then where will we be?”

What a great line!  I had no response, since I was secretly already planning ways that I could win. Fortunately, and belatedly, I had a vague memory of a re-districting. We had moved to our current house and few months before, and sure enough, we no longer lived in the 45th district.

Thus my political career ended before it began.

All for the best, I’m quite sure.

 

 

Copyright 2015            David Preston

 

Posted in Education, Rants and Raves | Leave a comment

Touring in a Fiat 500 Sport

The Fiat 500 Sport as a Touring Car.

Just back from our second trip to Los Gatos in our Fiat 500 Sport.  For sure, the Fiat (almost any Fiat) is not the first choice of most for a long trip.  It has a mere 104 horsepower and is short on storage space, although not as cramped as you would think by looking at it.  The seats are not the most comfy for a long drive, and the two occupants had better be on friendly terms. They will be in close proximity for the duration.  However, it does have assets that come into play on trip like this, as they have in the past.

One quality that never makes it into the published road tests of any car is that the Fiat looks like fun. Every time. The base versions tend toward the cute, but the sport model, with its bigger wheels and tires and more aggressive front and rear styling, fog lamps, and (in our case), a power glass sunroof, give the car a “let’s go” vibe that resonates with either of us on any drive from two miles in length to over 2,000.  You want to have a car that says “let’s go!” every time you look at it.

We began by pausing in Olympia to visit with Susan’s brother Kevin and his partner Alex. They spoiled us with fine pastries and excellent coffee, and we lingered longer than planned, as you do when great conversations with interesting people arise. 

It’s 900 miles or so from our house to Los Gatos, and we always choose to make the trip over two days. It could be done in one, but we are in this to enjoy, not endure. Our first night’s stop is in Ashland, and Susan prefers a motel room in town so we can enjoy an evening stroll.  That did not work so well this time, as our laggardly behavior in Olympia meant we arrived in Ashland well into the evening. A motel by the freeway would have done as well and been cheaper.

The 2nd day is when the Fiat starts to become a great companion, starting off with a morning romp over the Siskiyou’s past Mt. Shasta. This time we actually ran into some snow, which I’d not planned on, but it was not enough to stick and challenge the Fiat’s capabilities. The fun comes from arcing through endless uphill and downhill corners while playing with the throttle, gear change, and cruise controls. The Fiat does not have enough power to hold the cruise control speed in 5th gear up steep hills, and sometimes not enough to hold 5th gear by itself.  Thus you are tap dancing with feet and fingers between 4th and 5th gear and in and out of the cruise control to maintain a goodly pace, which is sufficiently involving to keep you focused.

As we cruised past Redding the weather turned to the wet, which California desperately needs.  Once on the freeway headed west to Los Gatos the rain picked up quite a bit, and I became concerned with California drivers, many of whom have little or no experience with wet roads, cavorting with each other at 70mph across five lanes with a few feet between each car. I looked for holes where I could hide, and then an interesting thing happened.

The rain ramped up to a real deluge, and there was a “tipping point” where the locals all seemed to realize it was raining, and slowed down!  By now we were in a commuter lane that was empty, passing hundreds of cars that had worried me just a few minutes before.

In Los Gatos we stayed with our daughter and son in law and grandson for 3 nights and at the home of Susan’s sister and her family for the 4th night.  I drove Dorine to work each morning in the Fiat and then fetched her in the evening. During the day we used Dorine and Dorje’s brand new Subaru Forester, as you could fit a car seat into the Fiat but you might not be able to unkink your back for a week or two afterward. Each day we took 1.7 year old Arthur on various adventures and we all had a great time.

When Dorine was pregnant with Arthur, our first grandchild, there was a lot of discussion about what names our grandchild would use for us.  My opinion was that he or she would select the names, and our input was sort of moot.   Evidently Arthur has been given a menu of names over time, and has settled on “Nana” for Susan and “Pop Pop” for me.   A great way to start your day is with a cup of coffee and hearing your grandson coming down the hall calling for his “Pop Pop.”

The Subaru was purchased after due diligence by Dorje, and it is a fine vehicle for the intended use.  For me, it irks me that the center armrest is too low to be of any use, which seems stupid, and the CVT transmission irritates.  The car launches from 0-5 mph with great haste, so much so that a smooth take off takes some care, and then falls on its face. After that it accelerates in a fashion, but you are not to know or care what the car is actually doing.  It does offer great comfort, a lot of space, good fuel mileage, and a back-up camera, and the handling on winding roads is astonishingly good. A power sunroof would be a great addition, but was only available as part of a very expensive package of mostly irrelevant add-ons, so I would not have specced that either.

The trip home is where the Fiat comes into its own. We zip over the hill to Santa Cruz on Highway 17, which can be challenging with heavy traffic, sharp corners, cluttered sight lines, and semis that loom up in the right lane going 15 mph. Then we turn north on the famed Highway 1 around Monterey Bay, through San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge, and on to hug the coastline.  Susan enjoys sightseeing in San Francisco, with the sunroof slid back for great views of the architecture, etc.  At any speed over 30mph or so it’s best to slide the roof forward, as wind noise makes conversation impossible.  Even there the roof is an asset, because the light coming through makes the interior a pleasant place to be.  I’ve driven a 500 without the sun roof, and the interior is a dark hole.  You can also get a sliding fabric roof that slides all the way back, but at $3,000 for that option versus $875 for the power glass sun roof I think we made the best choice.

Once over the Golden Gate, Highway 1 yanks left and over the hills on what is essentially a well paved goat path.  Most of the corners are marked “15 mph” and they’re not kidding. Fortunately there are frequent turn-offs for drivers of a less sporting nature than me, and people were for the most part very polite.

I developed a “system” while enjoying this. When we came up behind someone I would first turn on the headlights. After a bit I would ignite the fog lights, and that usually resulted in the person getting out of the way, without the rudeness of hitting the high beams.

Once on the coast the road opens up and delights flood the car. Open roads with lots of corners, and spectacular views of the ocean waves breaking on the beach alternates with scenes of grasslands with cows who look very contented as they munch on plentiful grass on the rolling hills.  The drought has not had an impact on this area, at least yet, at least this year.

We passed the day enjoying ourselves immensely, stopping for a walk or food or whatever, whenever.  We found a great place to stay in Fort Bragg and then took Highway 20 over to Willits the next morning to join Highway 101.   I noticed last year that Highway 1 north of Fort Bragg becomes so cluttered with hairpins that it takes forever to go about nowhere, so I thought zipping over to Highway 20 might give us more time.  In the end, I think the time elapsed was about the same, but Highway 20 is about the best driving road ever. It was a great choice.   I’ve altered the intended route for my summer motorcycle trip to include this road.

The previous day I’d noted that we caught up to and passed dozens of others along the road, but nobody ever caught up to us.  I wasn’t trying that hard, and the Fiat is certainly not powerful, so what I took from it was that nobody was driving for enjoyment, which seemed very sad.

My ego was kept under control on Highway 20, where after an hour or so of catching and passing all and sundry, I looked in the mirror to see that we were being caught by – a huge Dodge pickup truck. 

Towing a trailer. 

With a hefty backhoe on it.

I was astonished. Over the next few miles I would gain on really tight sections, but if the road were open at all he was really pouring it on.  Discretion being the better part of ego, I eventually pulled over and let him by.  And then – he slowed down. It was easy to keep pace with him now, and I realized he was doing what many motorcyclists do on such a road. He was using my brake lights and car positioning as a guide. Well done, Sir!

We motored north from Willits on Highway 101 until it rejoined Highway 1, and from then on up to and into Oregon. Along the way we paused in the historic part of Eureka for a fantastic lunch. Our stop for the night was the Gold Beach Resort, which was fabulous and inexpensive. Highly recommended.

For the final day it was up to Reedsport and then inland on Highway 38 to I-5 and the ensuing drone home. The weather returned to wet for this day, which was fine by me. Interesting in its own right, and the great roads and scenery were pretty much behind us.

We had lunch at “the Cannery” in Eugene, across the street from the U of Oregon. Susan’s phone described the ambience of this place as “hipster,” and who be hipper than we?

A great trip, and the Fiat proved itself, once again, to be a boon adventure companion.

 

Copyright 2015                          David Preston

 

 

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The Absurdity of Mass Standardized Tests and What to Do About It

Understanding the Mandatory Testing Mess

Every school district in the country is dealing with the issue of mandatory “standardized” testing. In part this is due to the heavy hand of the Federal government holding a large bag of cash to be distributed only to districts that comply with a demand to use standardized test scores as a part of teacher evaluations. The states are concerned about this, as are local districts, and the result is a battery of tests from both that are given to such an extent that there’s little time left to do anything other than prepare for the next barrage of tests. As one of my wife’s 4th graders asked recently, “Couldn’t we just learn something today?” 

This sums up a situation that began as a sloppy mess and is rapidly soaring to flights of insanity. 

Consider just a few tidbits.

  • In my area (suburban Seattle in Washington State), the local school district prides itself as a leader in the use of technology. The new state tests are done entirely on computers. The hardware tends to “crash” with some frequency, causing delays and loss of data. Tech support is inadequate and understaffed, leading to further delays. In the rush to comply, the students are being used as “Beta testers.”

 

  •  This week the 3rd graders are attempting the new “Common Core” tests. Because extra notebook computers are required for spares, and because some of the tests are so lengthy that batteries must be replaced, extra staffing is required and none of the notebooks are available for other students. The tests take up six days over two weeks, with Friday reserved for make-up tests.  Then the 4th graders, and then the 5th. For six weeks this most technologically advanced district is put in the position of having no notebooks available for students who are not testing.

 

  • Last week teachers prepared for one of the tests by having the students read materials and take notes, as they had been directed to do.  The day before the tests came a new directive – no notes are to be used.

 

  • The tests will be scored by people hired off a current Craig’s list ad that offers positions as evaluators. The only qualification is a college degree. In anything. The pay offered is $11.20 an hour, in an area where the minimum wage will be ramping up to $15 an hour over the next couple of years. What quality of college graduates will want a job that pays $11.20 an hour in a demographic where an average house costs $500,000? 

 

  • Parents can opt a student out of the tests, but if they do so the student is given a test score of 0.  Such test scores are used in evaluations for entrance into all sorts of specialized programs. The scores become part of the student’s permanent record. Further, they are intended to be used as part of the teacher’s annual evaluation.

These few items are just the tip of an absolutely enormous metaphorical iceberg of items that defy rational analysis. How did we get here?

Proposition 13 passed in California in 1978.  Promoted by Howard Jarvis and Peter Gunn, this initiative capped real estate taxes at the 1975 level and restricted and controlled future tax increases. This had dramatic effects on the California economy and unleashed a tsunami of cuts in funding at all levels of state government. Of course there were reasons for the creation of Prop 13 in the first place, and some of them were valid, but the outcomes over time were more drastic than the funding cuts.  In sum, the public took to heart the concept that the government was not to be trusted, and must be limited and/or stymied at every turn, especially where taxation was involved. 

Since that time a blizzard of initiatives have been placed on the ballot all over the country seeking to restrict or remove any source of tax funds. Many of them have passed and been enacted into law. With budgets slashed, government services are pared ever further, and distrust of government grows.  

If you do not trust government, where is your nearest government institution to direct that mistrust?  Your local schools.

The ‘80s and 90’s were decades of unparalleled growth in the capability, availability, and usage of electronic technology.  With billions and billions of facts at hand, almost anything could be reduced to data. Lots of data. About everything. Available in almost no time on any topic.  Soon came the idea of reducing the school experience to data points, and the concept of attaching teacher performance to test scores was born.

Along the way we lost sight of an old analysis acronym called “GIGO.”  GIGO stands for “garbage in, garbage out,” and calls for an analysis of where the data came from, who collected it under what circumstances, and what factors were included or excluded.  We don’t bother with such trivia any more.

Decades ago I taught a series of 9th grade English Honors classes at a junior high.  In the room next to me, separated by a glass wall, toiled two of my colleagues in a Special Education program for kids with all manner of learning challenges.  Once in a while I would be cajoled, coaxed, or strong-armed into leaving my classroom for a day of staff development for teachers in the Honors program. At every one I attended the presenter praised those present as the best and brightest teachers in the district.

I knew that was an utter falsehood.  I became the teacher assigned to this program because nobody else wanted it. That was my qualification.

The Honors classes were the most creative and fun classes I taught.  On one occasion I gave up a planning period to teach the Special Ed class, as both teachers needed to attend a meeting.  They prepped the kids in advance, telling them that Mr. Preston, the Head of the English Department (!), and the Girls Basketball and Volleyball Coach (!), would be their teacher that Friday. I never had a class more excited to see me or more intent on performing well. The assignment was a fairly simple math lesson involving story problems and I tried to teach my eager students for an hour.  I totally failed. They tried so hard to understand while I, with more than a dozen years of teaching five classes a day behind me, could not summon the verbal and mental skills required to teach the lesson.

What happens when we use test score data to evaluate teachers?  How would those Special Ed teachers have fared when the scores of their students were compared to what my Honors kids would have racked up? 

Demographics count.  My wife’s elementary school is in a fairly affluent area dominated by parents who work for Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.  Her elementary school houses 650 students. Individual and groups of students speak a total of 27 languages in addition to English.  After vacation breaks, they often return from Paris, Hong Kong, Australia, or other far flung destinations.  Their world view, at the age of nine, puts them so very far ahead of students in a less affluent and world-traveled demographic. Most of them come from homes with state of the art computer systems they’ve been using for years. Their enhanced world view and experiences come into play on virtually any standardized test.

What if a student has moved here from a foreign country? If such a student does not speak English, his or her scores will sink to the bottom.  This in turn will drag down the average of the class, and the standing of the teacher.  The same teacher who is prevented, under penalty of dismissal, from offering any student any assistance or help during the entirety of the test.

Now add politics. Politicians have learned that to attain and retain an office, you must have an issue that resonates.  Education is a popular source of issues.  You must propose a bill to deal with the “issue” you have identified.  It does not matter a jot if the legislation succeeds at solving the problem, or even if it was a real problem in the first place.  If the law is not effective, you have an opportunity to propose a new one. “No Child Left Behind” was the first of these that applied to education on a national scale and has led to dozens of more specific requirements at the state level. All of them are driven by data, and all of the data is meaningless due to flaws in how the data is gathered and arrayed.

Consider the federally funded mandate that test scores must be used in teacher evaluations. Which test?  Who wrote it? When is it given?  Who scores it?  Are factors included for income levels, available infrastructure, student variations of capability, special needs, available food and shelter, parental guidance, and a host of other factors?  (Hint: no)

But isn’t it difficult to get rid of bad teachers?   Not in my experience.   As teacher who was receiving a bad evaluation from the principal. He noted the wads of paper tossed across the room a few times and where the teacher was in the various curriculum areas.  In Math, I recall, the teacher was on page 12 of the text and every other teacher was on p.96. The principal reeled off his findings, which were complete and devastating. He offered a list of books to read and a couple of college classes to take.  Failure to accomplish these tasks would result in dismissal.

As we left the meeting, the teachers asked me what he could do. I told him the principal had followed the contract, and he could comply with the items on the list or need to try a different career. There were no other viable options.

All the principal had done was read the contract and follow the specified evaluation procedure. It took two hours of his time plus perhaps a third hour to type up his report, and a fourth for our conference.  Four hours of time from a person who teaches no classes during the day is not a serious barrier to removing a bad teacher. Bad teachers are not all that common. In this case the children benefitted, and so did the teacher, who did move on to another line of work.

The new paradigm is to test frequently and to record all scores to create more data.  The tests are seriously flawed, the infrastructure to provide them is inadequate, and the scoring system ludicrous. The eventual results are useless and have little connection to a particular student, and none at all to the performance of the teacher.  But they are data!  GIGO.

The solution?  Reminds me of when I was a basketball coach. You would have try-outs at the beginning of the season and efficiently cut the numbers of applicants down to what the program could bear.  A few days of practice would allow you to select the “varsity,” and after that came the final step of selecting the starting team.  After another couple of weeks of practice you would get to a point where you needed to play a game. It was time to relinquish control over every activity of each two hour practice and turn the players loose.  During the game you could call time-outs and so forth to redirect, but it was now the players’ challenge to do the best they could with their own skills.

It used to be this way with teachers. After all, not all who enter a college of education make it through the course work and student teaching and the hiring process. Those who do have made “the team” and are duly rewarded with enormous responsibility.   We need to let them exercise the responsibility they have worked hard for.

Most school districts have relied for decades on a legal principle called “in loco parentis.”  This is applied to education in that in this location, the teacher is the parent.  Teachers are responsible for the education of the child, but also for safety.  It is a legal obligation to report to an administrator even a teacher’s suspicion of child abuse, with or without any definite proof.  Failure to do so can mean dismissal and the possibility of being sued by the child years later for abdication of the responsibility to protect.  I did report suspected abuse of a student on one occasion. The next week the parents removed her from school and enrolled her in a different district, but eventually the truth came out.

Standardized tests do not apply to teacher decisions like this, and there are thousands of them in a teacher’s year.

Think about “in loco parentis” for a minute. As a parent, do you ever make mistakes?  If your answer is “No,” you are either not a parent, fibbing, or emotionally and psychologically totally removed from your child.  Would your performance as a parent improve if you were required to take an extensive battery of tests each year to produce data regarding your fitness for the task?  For each child?  There would be, of course, no consideration given to the particular talents or needs of each of your own children.

I was fortunate to be taught by excellent teachers in my youth. They made mistakes.  The ones that either I noticed or my parents caught were discussed and resolved. 

The concept of “in loco parentis” is a good one and would be the basis for turning the ocean liner that is education around and heading back to safe seas.  Each community is paying for the education of the children with their tax dollars, but that does not require ceding control of schools to the funding source.  

Hire trained teachers, put them in the classroom, give them light and heat and paper and other materials and personnel support, and watch the results.  In your own home. With your own child.

Education is in a bad way at this time in this country. It is not the fault of the teachers. In fact there is no handy target to pin with a blame tag. What exists is a tragic cocktail of public pushback to taxes, political maneuvering, and a mass hysteria of blind faith in reams of data. 

To do better we will have to put some trust back where it used to be. 

In your child’s teacher.

In your own local school.  

 

 

Copyright 2015                          David Preston

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On our 43rd Anniversary…

How We Met:

In previous years I’ve written about our 40th wedding anniversary celebration (2012) and about our wedding itself (2014).  You can find them by date further down the list of essays on this site.

In honor of our 43rd wedding anniversary, which is today, I thought I’d take on that most frequent topic when married couples are getting to know each other: “How did you two meet?”

Full disclosure: this is actually being written for the enjoyment of our grandson (and possible grandchildren to come) for such a time when he or they might be interested.  Thus, it may or may not be interesting to you, but it sure was interesting to us!

It was 1971 and I was 24. I had a deal with a very nice gentleman I had met two years earlier when I purchased his almost new 1969 Honda 450 Street Scrambler. Every few thousand miles I would drop it off at his house and he would do a complete tune-up, as he was gifted at such things. In return, I would take him and his wife out to dinner.

This worked well until a planned dinner outing on July 3rd of 1971.  He called to cancel our planned dinner, as his wife was ill.  Alas.  I recalled that Rod, the younger brother of a colleague, had invited me to a party that night. I was not much of a party guy, but with the evening free – why not?

I arrived in my party finery for the time. On my bike, of course, with a spare helmet strapped to the rear of the seat. A helmet I carried with me whenever I thought there was any chance of having it come in handy.   

For two years. 

I wore my “motorcycle jacket.” Being an impecunious junior high teacher, I could not afford a “real” motorcycle jacket, but I also needed a “dress-up” jacket. Attempting to double up, I purchased a black kangaroo skin (it said) jacket which proved to be not very suitable for either task. I walked in to the party carrying my jacket, helmet, and a 6 pack of Pepsi, as I do not drink when riding a motorcycle. I found out later than Susan had noticed this and was impressed by it.

I knew virtually none of the people, so host Rod introduced me to all and sundry. When he got to Susan she replied with “I think we’ve met before.”

Thinking myself a great wit, but in fact a great idiot, I replied with “That’s so clever!  Did you think of that yourself?” Instead of telling me where to place my helmet, she continued, and to make me even more of a fool it turned out we HAD met before, when she was out with Rod and I was on a double date – with my father. (Another story)

Susan was unlike anyone I’d ever met.  Cute, with big hazel-blue eyes that danced with laughter, an amazing intellect, fascinating to listen to, and wielding a vocabulary that comfortably exceeded my own.  English teachers notice things like that.  I was intrigued. 

I don’t intend “cute” to be dismissive.  To my eye, she was cute until we had been married for a few years. After our daughter was born she became truly beautiful, and even more so after our son was born. I’ve never figured out exactly how that happened.

Fortunately, the party soon became appallingly boring, so I asked Susan if she would like to go for a ride on my bike for a piece of pie and coffee at the same place we had met.  She said she would love to.  Over pie and coffee it transpired that the entire group was planning to meet at Green Lake the next evening for the fireworks show held there in those days. Obviously, another chance for a motorcycle ride.

A problem arose for Susan the next day.  She would have to introduce me to her parents, and she’d forgotten my last name!  What to do? Her brother that I’d taught and coached three years earlier was out of town, so Susan called one of his friends and pretended to be her mother.  She made up some story about an activity at Rose Hill Junior High and asked him the name of the tennis coach.  David Preston!

When I showed up the next afternoon her mother came out to see the bike.

Dorine Tracy is one of the finest people I’ve ever met, and she plumbed her vast resources of tact on this occasion.  As a nurse, she had the same view of motorcyclists that most nurses had at the time – dim.  Now her 19 year old daughter was going out on a date on one.

I had thought Susan was about 24 – I was shocked to learn her real age a few days later.

Dorine came out of the house and said “Oh my – I want to see this beautiful motorcycle I’ve heard so much about.”  As she spoke her eyes took in the bike. Her voiced slowed and became almost a whisper by the end of the second sentence. “It is certainly…..big….isn’t it?”   I felt so sorry for her, but it would not have helped to point out that a Honda 450 was actually not all that big.

Susan accepted my proposal of marriage ten weeks later, and I was on a ride to Florida for five weeks of that span.

Amazing in so many ways.

Going to that party was the best decision I’ve ever made.

 

 

David Preston                                                Copyright 2015

 

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