County Lines by Bob
Pinchy and I caught a flight south several days before the terrorists
attacked our nation. I wasn't afraid of flying then. I'm still not.
After landing at Orlando International, we stopped at a Starbucks
inside the airport and ordered two large cups of Costa Rican coffee.
Pinchy watched our luggage while I phoned my brother Eric.
Eric works at a large company near the airport. He's deeply into
computers. He understands how they work from the inside out.
I use computers for writing and gathering information. That's my
limit of understanding.
When Eric speaks to me in computerese, I nod and smile, like I
know what he's talking about.
"I reprogrammed the XR-19 CD files and downloaded the reconfigured,
fragmented data to a Model 1413 multi-fractional, framed capacitor
with a 10 giga-floppy, cyber-bite transponder. You understand what
"What's not to understand? Let's barbecue for supper. Where's
Eric said he was in the middle of something. Would we mind waiting
at the airport? He'd pick us up in a half hour.
"No, problem," I said. "We'll groove on our java
and dig the vibes."
"This is 2001," Eric said, "not 1967."
"I heard that rumor," I said. "You believe it?Ó
"I was only four in 1967," Eric said.
"See you when you get here on your tricycle," I said.
I knew Eric would arrive in 30 minutes. Both of us are always on
time. The blood of Swedish grandparents circulates through our cardiovascular
Everything in Sweden runs on time. If a mode of transportation
is slated to leave at 9:01 and you arrive at 9:02, you'll see the
tail end of your ride vanishing in the distance.
Although it contains Swedish, our blood flows red, white, and blue
completely. When our Swedish grandfather arrived in the United States
in 1913, he knew he was in the greatest nation in the world and
frequently said the proudest accomplishment of his life was becoming
an American citizen.
I have his naturalization papers tucked away to give my grandson
Jimmy. From grandfather to grandson, two times running, four generations.
Heritage, linking the past to the future. Family connections, the
most important type of contacts.
Returning to Starbucks, I told Pinchy what Eric said and asked
her to pose for a picture beside me in front of a nearby fountain.
I walked over to an Asian-looking young man and asked him to snap
a few photos of Pinchy and me. He nodded.
I handed him my Pentax automatic camera, small, easy to carry,
but with many intricate features, if you know where to look.
As Pinchy and I were assuming our places near the fountain, she
said, "You think he understood what you said? He might not
"Smile," I replied.
The young man turned the camera this way and that, zooming in and
out, pushing small, almost hidden buttons for certain effects. I
walked over and retrieved my camera when he was finished. "Thanks,"
"Cool camera, dude," he replied.
"Does he speak English?Ó Pinchy asked when I returned to
"More of a dialectic American," I replied.
When Eric picked us up, I thought about how fast time had passed
since he was a little kid who went almost everywhere with me.
Buckle him in a car seat and away we'd go. He liked stopping for
trains. "Here comes a choo choo," I'd say.
He would lean up in his seat and say, "Choo, choo. Choo, choo."
On my first date with a girl in a car, I stopped for a train. "Here
comes a choo choo,Ó I said automatically.
"What did you say?" she asked.
"One of my shoes is loose," I replied.
Visiting with my 2 year-old niece Mia was one of the most enjoyable
parts of being in Florida. Interacting with someone near the same
mental age was fun.
My niece was named Mia because Eric is a Miami Dolphins fan. On
the scoreboard, Miami is indicated as MIA. Eric named Mia after
the abbreviation for a football team. Being crazy isn't a requirement
to be a member of our family. But it helps.
Mia is learning to speak quickly. On the morning shortly before
the terrorist attacks, we were disagreeing about the pronunciation
of an apple I was feeding her.
"Awpul," she would say.
"Apple," I would reply.
The dispute continued until I suddenly remembered having the same
discussion with my Swedish grandfather.
Mia won the argument the same way her great grandfather did almost
40 years earlier: "Okay, have it your way," I said, "awpul."
At Mia's insistence, I turned on the TV and started flipping channels,
looking for Elmo.
I saw a jet crash into a tower of the World Trade Center. Then
another smashed into the second tower. Then one slammed into the
Pentagon. Another crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.
I canceled plans to visit nearby recreational areas out of respect
for the dead and injured.
When commercial jetliners began flying again, Pinchy and I caught
a flight to Nashville along with 16 other passengers on a 737. I
felt safe all the way.
As a citizen of the greatest nation in the world, I have a responsibility
to stand up and tell the terrorists, "You will not intimidate
me. I will fly where I want when I want. The sky above the United
States is ours, not yours. If you weren't already there, we would
blast you back into the Stone Age."
Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570