I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. While I was growing up in the 60's, Atlanta was transitioning from a sleepy southern town into a cauldron of civil rights activism that eventually raped Atlanta of the last vestiges of its Southern charm. The Atlanta that I grew up in began a slow, gradual descent into chaos, ultimately achieving its present dubious distinction of being the murder capital of the nation along with Washington D.C.
I had my first taste of political correctness in high school. It was 1973-74 at Lakeside High School in DeKalb County in Mrs. Hearn's 9th grade Civics class. We volunteered for assignments to research the presidential candidates. Lester Maddox, former esteemed Governor of Georgia, was running for president. I had always admired the man for the exemplary Rebel attitude he had in standing up to authority.
Let's make one thing clear: Lester Maddox was not a racist as the lying, liberal media loved to portray him. It was unfortunate that one of his fights against federal authority involved blacks, but the mere fact that the prospective patrons of his restaurant were black had nothing to do with why he kept them out. He kept them out to make the statement that it is not the place of the federal government to tell a private business establishment how to do business. He was a deeply religious man who had the courage of his convictions and he was, is, and shall ever be a role model for me.
Anyway, I managed to get a tape recorded interview with Gov. Maddox, the only one in the class to get a tape recorded interview with a presidential candidate. When I proudly presented the tape to Mrs. Hearn to play for the class, the pin-headed bureacrat told me that that type of material was not allowed! I don't know if she's still alive (and if she is I wonder if she's crippled by guilt and arthritis) but she holds the dubious honor of single-handedly making me realize what a crock of sh*t high school is. High school doesn't teach you how to think, which is the mission of true education. Instead, public high school illustrates how to abuse positions of authority to suppress the full spectrum of debate while creating the illusion of being an educational institution. But the sad part is that they're not even very good at that game, either. Thank you, Mrs. Hearn, for ultimately paving the way for me to quit that silly institution of public indoctrination before my programming was complete.
Many of the teachers were not the masters of the Hegelian dialectic that Mrs. Hearn was, probably because they simply lacked the mental storage capacity. For example, one of my airhead high school teachers, suspecting that I was Jewish (which I am not--I'm half Greek, half Irish, and all Christian, thank you) asked what religion I was. I told her Greek Orthodox and she replied, in her best trailer park accent, "Oh yeah, y'all worship Zeus." And then she struts off, proud at having articulated her unique understanding of the oldest Christian church on the planet.
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I was so bored and jaded with high school that I quit in my junior year (1977) and joined the U.S. Navy at the tender young age of 17 (with my parents' enthusiastic written consent). I wanted to join the Air Force because I wanted to learn how to fix airplanes (that was the extent of my ambitions at the time) but they wouldn't take me because I was a high school drop-out. But, the Air Force recruiter helpfully advised me to go next door to the Navy because, "...they take anybody." And they did, they took me with no problem.
In the Navy, I was trained as an avionics technician (AT) and repaired the APN-187 Doppler navigational radar while assigned to anti-submarine patrol squadron VP-46, the Grey Knights, stationed in Moffet Field, California. My squadron made deployments to Misawa, Japan (paradise!) and Keflavik, Iceland (sh*t hole!). I also got my GED while I was in the Navy, a test most high school punks today couldn't pass if their virginity depended on it.
I had a good time in the Navy, met some really cool people like Dave Hamilton from Spokane, WA, Jimmy Walker from Boston, MA, and Pete Jenkins from Columbus, OH. And I met some raging arseholes like...well, we won't name names, suffice it to say that they wore khaki uniforms and had gold anchors on their collars. I also went to some wild places that I'll probably never have the opportunity to go to again, and got some excellent technical training.
While at home base at NAS Moffet Field, California, Dave Hamilton (Schmaltz), Jimmy Walker, and I would hop on our motorcycles and go for unplanned, devil-may-care weekend cruises around Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, wherever, in search of fun and women. Schmaltz's Honda was held together with duct tape, Jimmy's Harley Hog was always blowing oil or wouldn't start or something, and I kept my new Yamaha 750 (the Yimenshmister 7-5-0) in mint condition.
In Japan, Jimmy Walker and I would smuggle Scotch whiskey (a black market item in Japan) off-base to a Papa-san who ran a restaurant in town. In return, Papa-san would stuff us full of excellent Japanese cuisine and made sure we drank our fill of hot Saki. Me and another sailor named Mike Martiogni, attached to ship's company, would regularly go to another bar in town and drink Absenthe, a legal, opium-containing, licorice-tasting concoction that messed you up for days. Mike was fairly proficient at Japanese and taught me to say winning phrases to Japanese women we met in the bars like, "Anatawa buto des, na?" [translation: I am a pig, yes?]. It was only toward the end of my squadron's deployment in Misawa that I began to understand why I had such rotten luck with Japanese women.
But seriously, I had a great time in Japan and developed a profound respect for Japanese culture, language, and art. I found the Japanese people to be warm, open, and possessing a keen sense of humour. They are an attractive and remarkable people and I believe that we, as a nation, have much to learn from the Japanese.
In Iceland, you had to be a First Class Petty Officer or above to stay out partying all night without observing the curfew. The Icelandic people were afraid of us ugly, brutish Americans corrupting their pure Icelandic culture and ravishing their innocent women. I don't know what these people were paranoid about since it is common for Icelandic fathers to bed their daughters (no kidding) and kids become sexually active as soon as they're old enough to pee. The Icelanders boasted the highest literacy rate of any "civilized" country. Yep, even four year-olds can read the directions on the contraceptive devices. What they don't tell you, however, is that they also have the highest alcoholism rate of any "civilized" country, including the former Soviet Republics. More fruits of socialism and political correctness.
The other thing the Icelandic people did to show their appreciation of the NATO forces stationed on that rock they call a country is crank up the fish carcass burning plant every morning about chow time. So as soon as you walk out of the chow hall with a belly full of good omelettes, grits, whatever, you'd immediately deposit your chow right into a trash can placed at the exit door for that very purpose. The smell was so pungent that it would permeate the mucous membranes of your nose and, for the rest of the day, every time you picked your nose you got a re-whiff.
Did you know that there used to be vast forests on Iceland? It's a fact. But when the Vikings settled there, they brought sheep and goats with them that ripped the bark off all the trees. So all the trees died and now Iceland is just an ugly, strategically located rock, situated in the crossfire of historically battling forces. So, with the prospects for enduring peace and security at home historically dim, no sustainable means of creating a robust economy, and stuck with scavaging every last fish out of the North Atlantic Sea as their only source of industry, the descendants of the Vikings stayed anyway. Now how smart is that? I vote we use Iceland as a nuclear testing ground and put them out of their misery.
Looking back, I realized that I had the unique experience of having lived in two, vastly different island country-cultures: Japan and Iceland. Japan is an admirable, honorable, lovable people worthy of emulation. Iceland, on the other hand, is the decadent, burned-out remnant of a warring band of thieves [the Vikings] worthy of extinction.
[UPDATE: Many of my Icelandic friends have kindly emailed me to point out some inaccurate representations about Iceland contained herein. They make valid points and I have published a retraction here.]
Yep, I'd recommend a few years of active military duty to any of you young punks out there just drifting though life with your sorry butts planted on the couch, drinking Bud and watching Gilligan re-runs. It'll give you a much needed kick in the rump and you'll gain a sense of direction in life, even if you turn out to be a sh*t-bird sailor, like I was. Well, I wasn't that bad--had a few discipline problems but the Navy knows how to handle snot-nosed delinquents like you and me. Believe me. Been there, done that. And I lived to tell about it. Besides, it really was a great job, WAY more challenging and interesting than all the jobs I've ever had since in civilian life, including my engineering career, except for running my own business.Return to Table of Contents
Despite my having to stand in front of the Old Man a few times, I somehow managed to get an Honorable Discharge from the Navy. I returned to Georgia in 1980 and went to the University of Georgia where I graduated in 1984 with a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering. Being a native Georgian and having left the state once before out of sheer boredom, I was completely astonished (and delighted!) to discover that Athens, GA, during the early 80's was, without question, the single most Cool place on the planet. Bar none. If any of you had the supreme privilege of kicking in and around Athens, GA, during that time, you know what I'm talking about. Those of you that disagree with me obviously have no clue about what Cool is so go steal a dime from someone and get to the Jiffy Mart to buy yourself a clue. Go ahead, do it now. I'll wait....
WUOG, the radio station of the University of Georgia, was a constant companion, cranking out the homegrown, funky sounds of Athens all night long while I was cranking out engineering problems. Every few nights, I'd head down to the 40 Watt Club to check out a new local band like Pylon, Love Tractor, REM, or The B-52s, some of which went on to become quite popular nationally. Most weekends, I'd head up to the North Georgia mountains either with some budrows for some serious consumption of fermented grain beverage around the campfire or with the caving club to crawl into Mother Earth's descending colon.
But trying to describe the Athens experience in terms of music, academics, recreation, and partying just doesn't do it justice. You had to EXPERIENCE Athens in the early 80's to know what I mean. The entire town, including the University itself, was positively electric. It is said that, since the beginning of mankind, a Great Creative Light moves around the planet, touching various civilizations and cultures from time to time, spawning explosive developments of the arts and sciences in whatever community it visits. Athens, Georgia, was touched by that Light and I feel deeply privileged and humbled that I was there to witness it.
So 1984 rolled around and, with great sadness, I had to leave Athens because a horrible thing happened: I graduated and had to find a job. I worked for a couple years as a mechanical engineer at Michelin Tire Company in Greenville, SC (a good, decent company that treats its people well and makes an excellent product). I decided to further my edumucation so that I could learn how to spell words like edumucation and was accepted into Clemson University's graduate program in Environmental Systems Engineering, where I earned my M.S. in 1988 under my graduate thesis advisor, Dr. Thomas Overcamp, PE.
Clemson during the mid- to late-80's was also a cool place but, honestly, was just a reflection of the Cool the radiated from Athens, the Mecca of Cool. Academically, however, Clemson University was much more demanding and I worked my skinny little butt off, pulling many an all-nighter with Stuart Matthews, Bryan Youker, Geoff Germann, Ted Volskay, Tom Pollog, Padma Golla and other students torturing themselves to get an advanced degree that, we hoped, would help us make a difference in the world. So young, so energetic, so idealistic, so friggin' stupid!
But Clemson will always hold a special place in my heart as it is where I met my lovely wife, the former Susan Cooper, of Conyers, Georgia. She's also an engineer (B.S. Chemical Engineering, Clemson University, 1987; M.S. Environmental Systems Engineering, Clemson University, 1989). Susan and I were married on May 13, 1989, at my Dad's house in Conyers, GA. We had a nice pagan ceremony where we wrote our own vows and bestowed rings on each other which were inscribed with Nordic Runes. (Guess I couldn't escape Iceland so easily.) All our friends from graduate school attended the wedding and everyone enjoyed my Dad's gracious hospitality which included indulging in his imported fermented grain beverages while basking in his jacuzzi or playing in his heated swimming pool.
On our Honeymoon, Susan and I flew out to Oregon to visit Kathy, Dean, Bryan, and Sha, some other friends from grad school who had already moved out there. They were living in Corvallis (still are). Susan and I went backpacking in the Three Sister's Wilderness area and along the MacKenzie River (we had to because of the name). When we got back, we went camping by an idyllic river with Kathy, Dean, Bryan, and Sha. Then, Susan and I had an adventure drive down the great west coast. Brought back a lot of memories from my Navy days, especially cruising down Pacific Coast Highway 1, drinking wine in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. We stayed a night in the town of my birth, San Luis Obispo, the home of Cal Poly Tech, my Dad's alma mater. We drove all the way down to San Diego where we stayed with my Grandmother for a night and then flew back to Atlanta.
We decided that Northern California (and the whole Pacific Northwest) is really one of the world's showcases of natural beauty and we'd like to go back. We also decided that Southern California should go ahead and fall in the ocean. Not only is Northern California much more beautiful than the southern half of the state (from about Santa Cruz on down), but the people up north are much nicer, too. Southern Californians all seem to have an obnoxious attitude about them, as if they're all putting on airs and they're doing the world a favor by living. Northern (and inland) Californians seem to be the type of down-to-earth decent folks you'd like to sit down and have a beer with. Southern Californians are the type of people you'd like to slap around a little bit. I vote we sell Southern Californa to Mexico for $1. I would say $2 but that would be unfair to the Mexicans. Alternatively, Southern California would make a good candidate, along with Iceland, for a nuclear testing ground. Oh for crying out loud, lighten up, I'm only kidding. Jeez.
After graduating from Clemson, I worked in a variety of environmental and mechanical engineering positions in state government, consulting, and industry such as: South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control in Greenville, SC; ERM-North Central in Chicago, IL; General Mills in Minneapolis, MN; and Stahlman Engineering in New London, NH. During my engineering career, I became a licensed professional engineer in the states of Wisconsin and New Hampshire.Return to Table of Contents
While in Chicago, Susan and I both started feeling a pull back to our Christian roots. I was raised Greek Orthodox and Susan, Episcopalian. One Saturday, which happened to be Theophany, the baptism of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, Susan and I decided to visit the St. Demitrious Greek Orthodox Church in Waukegan, IL. Since I was raised Greek Orthodox, I thought nothing of going on up and taking communion. In talking to the parish priest, Fr. John Sardis, afterwards, it came out in conversation that our wedding was not one which the Orthodox Church recognizes. Fr. John told me that I could not take communion again until we were married in the eyes of the Church. So, on St. Valentines Day, 1991, Susan once again became my lovely bride in a Greek Orthodox wedding service pastored by Fr. John.
Unfortunately, our stay in Chicago was cut short by an unbelievably good job offer from General Mills Inc. in Minneapolis, MN. We loved Chicago. For a year, Susan and I lived in a penthouse apartment on Lake Michigan on the North Side, in the Edgewater district. You don't even need a car to get around, you can go anywhere you need to go using public transportation. And the city is laid out so logically that it's impossible to get lost. It was amazing to walk just two blocks from our apartment and be on a street where people spoke only Vietnamese. We walked into one of the grocery stores in this section and it was just like some the shops I was in while in the orient in the Navy: buckets of whole octopus on the floor with the tenacles spilling over the sides of the bucket splayed on the floor; the smell of fish in various stages of decomposition; brown, little asian people sporting toothless grins not speaking a word of English. It was like being in a foreign country except when I wanted a drink of water, all I had to do was walk two blocks to my apartment.
While in Minneapolis, we attended St. Mary's Orthodox Cathedral, a parish in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). The OCA is actually a daughter church of the Russian Orthodox Church and was granted autocephaly by the Patriarch of Moscow during the Communist occupation of Holy Russia.
Something many people don't realize is that all the Orthodox Churches, be they Russian, Greek, Serbian, Bulgarian, Romainian, etc. are all in communion with each other and are, in fact, one Church. The Divine Liturgy, feasts, fasts, Creed, etc. are all the same. The only difference is that different languages are used and some of the customs are slightly different. For example, on Orthodox Pascha (Easter), many Greeks enjoy picking the meat from around the eye of the head of the lamb being roasted for the feast. Russians prefer to make sausages, called Kielbasa, out of the animal's entrails. Americans like to bring bags of Burger King Whoppers. Either way, it's a Holy Feast you don't want to miss!
Anyway, it was in Minnesota that we met our great friends, the Griffins (Mark, Celi, Jordan, Peter, and Anna) who drove all the way out from Minneapolis to visit us in New Hampshire one summer after we had moved away. Susan converted to the Orthodox faith and was Chrismated by Fr. Ted Wojick in December 1991. Her sponsor was Nancy Borgstrom. And our daughter, Ivey Maria Brown, was born at St. John's Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 18, 1992. She was baptized by Fr. Ted Wojick at St. Mary's Orthodox Cathedral a month later, screaming the entire time, especially when Fr. Ted dunked her under the water three times. She still screams a lot to this day. Hmmm...
Comparing Minneapolis to Chicago is an interesting case study. The midwest in general is a great part of the country with the most well-balanced people in the nation. We love midwesterners. Within the context of midwestern culture, you find a surprising diversity. Chicago vs. Minneapolis is a good case-in-point. Chicagoans tend to reflect the ethnic diversity that made it such a great city. Lots of color and texture in Chicago, it's a beautiful quilt of people and culture. Minneapolis is overwhelmingly Scandinavian. Icelanders, despite whatever B.S. they like to say about their independant heritage, are also Scandinavians. And you know how I feel about Iceland and its decadent culture (see The Navy Years). The same applies to a lesser extent to Scandinavian culture in general. This basic prejudice aside, Minneapolis is clean to the point of being sterile. I don't mean clean in the sense of no dirt (although this is largely true), I mean it's culturally clean--no toothless Asian grins, no black dudes hanging out playing harmonica or strumming guitar for spare change, no Hispanics raucously celebrating our nations's birthday by firing automatic weapons into the air, no clackety-clak of the El chugging down its rickety, wooden tracks. I'm not being sarcastic: these kinds of things make for memorable urban experiences and endear a city to your heart. They are the essence of what distinguishes American cities from all other cities on earth. We love our friends in Minneapolis but, if we had to choose to live in one of the two cities, we'd choose Chicago (not with kids, though).
Job opportunities brought us to the Dartmouth-LakeSunapee region of New Hampshire where our next two reproductive units were birthed at New London Hospital in New London, New Hampshire: Stephen Grant Brown on January 11, 1995, and Samuel Weldon Brown on November 7, 1996. Both our sons were baptized by Fr. Andrew Tregubov at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Claremont, NH, where we are also parishioners. We love our little church and all our great friends there, especially our priest, Fr. Andrew, and his family, Matushka Galina, Tim, and Anna; and Stephen and Sam's God families: Greg, Lisa, Tracy, and Michael Uhrin, and Anton and Naomi Belov.
Our priest is a world-famous iconographer and writes icons for Orthodox parishes all over the world. He's also very good with machines (he used to be a machinist in Soviet Russia before he escaped and made it to this country) and makes beautiful hand-crafted greeting cards and prayer sets, featuring reproductions of his original iconography. Call the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Claremont, NH, at 603-542-6273 and Fr. Andrew will be happy to send you out a brochure describing his work and products. Fr. Andrew's wife, Galina, is also a very talented artist and creates beautiful, handcrafted iconographic tapestries for Orthodox parishes.Return to Table of Contents
After my Dad, Grant McKinley Brown, was killed in a private plane crash in November, 1994, I quit the paper and office world of engineering and started rebuilding RV refrigerator cooling units as a form of mental therapy and, hopefully, a means of remaining viably self-employed. I feel better now, though I still miss my Dad terribly and I'm sure I always will. My RV business did nicely and after a few years I morphed into home appliance repair and bought a Mr. Appliance franchise. We are also Shaklee Independent Distributors through our family bidness, Live It Up LLC.
My Mr. Appliance business was really doing well until I blew out the L4-L5 disk in my back. I went down to Atlanta on March 31, 2000 and had a microlumbar discectomy with mixed results. The acute pain is gone and I can lay down comfortably now, but I cannot sit comfortably for very long. So I stand to do most things including prayin' and 'putering. In fact, I'm standing at my computer now as I type this. See:
So now, we earn a living in a variety of ways. One thing we learned is that you really can get by on a lot less money that you think. The secret: living simply. There it is right there. No kidding! Hey, if your idea of a nice family vacation is to drop $3,000 doing the Disney thang then yes, Mr. Moneybags, you'll keep the golden handcuffs on the 9 to 5 gig. On the other hand, if your idea of the perfect family vacation is to spend a week camping in the woods, well, you do the math, Slick.Return to Table of Contents
Looking back over my short life so far, thinking about the places I've been and the things I've done, three things really stand out to me. First, despite it's defilement from years of limp-wristed, bed-wetting liberal policies, we still live in the greatest nation on earth and I thank God that I was born in this fertile land. I'm also proud of having served in our country's Navy, the most kick-butt Navy on the planet...just don't ask me to do it again. Finally, life is an adventure, a party, and God put us here to have fun. Our task is to figure out how to have fun when all hell is breaking loose around us. No matter what happens: Party On.
We live in a house on a hill by a pond and adjacent to a 70-acre wilderness preserve owned by the Town of New London. We love our Town and we love the people here. Susan and I never felt completely comfortable in the turbulent South, although there are a lot of things we still like about the South. We feel like we've finally come home here in our adopted home state of New Hampshire.
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