Dear Smiley: A quick VW Beetle story:
In 1972 I was in the Air Force, stationed in Alexandria.
My wife and I bought a new 1972 Super Beetle, fully equipped and air-conditioned.
Several months later we received an assignment to Germany and took the car with us. We thought it was cute, returning it to its homeland.
What became even more fun was during that first summer, which was one of the hottest ones on record.
We would be sitting in traffic with the windows rolled up, in cool comfort, while the Europeans in their expensive cars (Mercedes, etc.) were sitting there with all the windows down, sweating profusely and looking at us as if we were nuts.
When my landlord and I took my car to his mechanic for a tuneup, I learned that he had never seen or worked on a car with air conditioning before, much less a VW.
He asked to test drive it and to take it home to show his wife. It seemed to be quite the novelty.
Teen in space
Dear Smiley: In the summer of 1963, when I was 16 and a rising senior at Baton Rouge High School, I visited for several weeks my uncle’s family in California.
He was one of the 400,000 people who worked on the moon program, in his case at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View.
He took a holiday and we spent it touring the lab complex where he was an engineer. Of many interesting things I saw, the highlight was an Apollo simulator then under construction.
In a black painted room the size of a basketball court, a mock-up of the command module was being hooked up to instrumentation.
The construction crew was due for a break, so after they left and with that lab’s director on one side, my uncle on the other, and me in the command pilot’s center seat, the room lights were extinguished, the moon and star field turned on, and with the instrument panel glowing in the blackness, we were quite convincingly halfway to what later became Tranquility Base.
I’m still amazed that thrill was accorded to a mere teenager.
Dear Smiley: Regarding Earl Newman’s question on “uptown,” these are directions my mother taught me when I moved from Baton Rouge to New Orleans.
There is no north, south, east or west in New Orleans because of the bend in the river.
Canal Street, which runs from the river to Lake Pontchartrain, divides the city. Looking toward the lake with your back to the beginning of Canal Street, “uptown" is to the left of Canal.
“Downtown" is to the right (starting with the French Quarter) all the way to the St. Bernard Parish line.
In lieu of south and north, you go “toward the river" or “toward the lake."
My aunts would say they were “going to Canal Street" if they were going into town shopping. (Back in the ’30s and ’40s, if a lady went to Canal Street without her hat and gloves, she was considered a “lady of the evening").
Dear Smiley: My stepdaughter and her boyfriend Jason were talking to my 7-year-old grandson Lane about his karate class.
One story led to another, and Jason told Lane he had a friend in high school who could rip a phone book in half.
Lane looked at him quizzically, then asked, "What's a phone book?"
Dear Smiley: Before my hip replacement surgery in 2013, at age 72, I was sitting on the edge of the operating table with the IV of “joy juice" in my arm.
The doctor said, “You’re going to feel a slight sting and burning when I inject your spine.” Feeling the sting and knowing I would soon be in la-la land, I raised up my head, looked at the cute blonde nurse standing next to me and told her, “Say good-night, Gracie."
She looked at me and said, “What does that mean?”
I laughingly replied “Never mind," and promptly went to sleep.