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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Double Nickels - Part One: Getting Under Way

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” 
                                                         ― Anita Desai

(For reasons about to become very obvious, most of the photos in this column were not taken by me. Used with permission.)

I have to wonder how many people are going to recognize the meaning of the title of this column. Yeah, it means 55, of course -- the age I turned on my latest completed spin around the sun.

But it also harkens back to the days of CB radios (if you remember them, we are contemporaries). Double nickels referred to the speed limit on most American freeways and highways. The connection, of course, is to a life on the road.

Getting under way also refers to the process of a ship preparing to leave -- and leaving -- dock.

Early memories of Japan
I began traveling at the very earliest possible age. Though no one remembers precisely when it happened, within six months of my birth I was loaded onto a commercial airliner -- probably propeller driven -- to go from Norfolk, Virginia to our new home in Palo Alto, California, via a short stop for a family visit in Los Angeles.

My father was a Navy officer pursuing an advanced education, which at that point was taking him from the massive Naval Station in Norfolk to Stanford University to get his fourth degree/first Doctorate -- in International Relations. Dad is a bit of an overachiever, but more about that later.

The move was the first of many in my youth. By the time I was eighteen and looking at my college years, I had lived in ten different cities -- probably thirteen houses. Norfolk and Palo Alto were just the first.

Dad climbing Mt Fuji
From Palo Alto we moved across town to Mountain View, then a massive relocation to Yokosuka, Japan. Aboard a Lockheed Super Constellation. A brief stop in Alaska for refueling (remember when aircraft had to do that?) and down to Tokyo International Airport.

Back yard in Japan
I was far too young to truly appreciate the cultural opportunity, but I do have vague memories of the house and the surroundings. A few flashes of Japanese culture -- Tokyo and a visit to the Great Buddha in Kamakura, a few Japanese gardens here and there, and a view of Mount Fujiyama from our Naval Housing back yard. There are several specific recollections which tell me the images are more than just something I conjured after hearing a story -- the are a few things no one else would have known, or had cause to recall.

I wish I remembered more, but that's enough to have gotten me off to a good start.

From Yokosuka we traveled back across the Pacific aboard the troop (and family) transport ship U.S.S. Patrick, stopping for a few days in Honolulu -- where I discovered that Batman, much to my surprise, spoke English. After a couple of years of Japanese television and comic books, this was the biggest shock of my young life, and probably a pretty welcome one. From a cultural standpoint, however, it made the impression that cultures differ -- and that I could appreciate that fact.

Christmas, Hawaii style...
Long Beach - my current hometown -- was our next destination. After Japan we settled into a pretty normal American life. I started Kindergarten at a school only a couple of miles from my current home, and yes I've been back to see my old school. And our house. Both are notable for their humbleness and normality. But in my memory, they stand out as very important.

Long Beach led to a two year stint in Pearl City, Hawaii. Terrific memories and wonderful place for a kid to grow up. Across the street from our house -- a Naval Housing duplex -- was a thick tropical rainforest. And a short ways away was a rocklike outcropping, where on numerous occasions my father would be met by a boat -- a "gig" -- from his ship. By this time he had gained his first captaincy, commanding a crew of a couple of hundred men aboard the U.S.S. Hissem, DER 400. I would accompany him a few times on his commute, riding on the bow as the gig sped through the waters of Pearl Harbor. I learned a deep respect for the Navy and for that way of life. To this day I am wonderfully comfortable at sea, on a boat or otherwise riding with the wind in my face and the smell of the ocean in my nose.

Visiting Plymouth, MA
Keeping the maritime tradition, the Navy soon sent us to what at the time I thought of as the opposite end of the world: Newport, Rhode Island. Hawaiian warmth became New England cold. Snow and allergies and the introduction of our first dog: Pandora, the Dalmatian. (Again, are you seeing a pattern in my life? Those things that impressed me as a child are still favorites well into adulthood, and probably into senility if I get that far. My family has had something like nine Dals over the years. Very much a family tradition my wife and I continue to this day.)

After the deep freeze and smallish town of Newport we returned to Southern California -- to Seal Beach, a town directly adjacent to Long Beach. Again, patterns. It was here I completed out Elementary School. In six grades (plus Kindergarten) I had attended fully five different schools. It forced me, and my sisters, to be outgoing and open. Unlike my wife, my friends were pretty much two year engagements, not the lifelong commitments more stable lifestyles permit. But we didn't know any better and each new school was an adventure of some kind. Some good, some bad, but each a different and exciting change.

Sledding outside DC
After graduating from sixth grade the family was transferred to Washington, DC. The longest tour of duty we had ever spent -- four years. After a temporary home in Reston, Virginia we moved into a neighborhood called Cinnamon Creek, which was at once both wonderfully diverse and cosmopolitan -- people from all walks of life ranging from military families to employees at government think tanks, corporate relocations and -- in at least one case -- a well-known reporter, minister and government "gadfly".

And it was here I began to develop more permanent relationships. I attended Joyce Kilmer Middle (Junior High) School, and George C Marshal High School. I am in touch, and enjoy getting together with, several of my friends from those days. (There's an amusing story about how I regained touch with one of them. One of my best High School buddies, Wes. I was at a trade show in Los Angeles when a guy walked up to me after a presentation and asked if I went to Marshall. Wes. 2500 miles and years away, he still recognized me. Now, nearly fifteen years later, we still try to get together whenever possible, and it's still a comfortable and genuine friendship. Forty years after I moved away from Marshall.)

My final tour of duty before I moved away to college was in San Diego. Two years there and I was attracted by the bright lights of Los Angeles, where I have lived in or near ever since.

And while I can certainly be considered to have "settled down", as far as a life on the road, this was only the beginning.

Up next, Tentative Steps.

Hawaii, the year I met...and the year before I married...my wife and Traveling Companion

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