Mr. Barker is one of our newest members coming to us from Pennsylvania and now residing in the Tucson area for around 5 years.
Bob Barker, Charles Rice -- (Dec 12, 1936-Oct 8,2018)
Charles and I have had a few crazy ideas during our time together. After all, I lived with him for 42 years. About 37 years ago we went looking for Pennsylvania farm property--- for weekend use (crazy idea number 1). We were eventually led to a depressing, lonely house that looked like thoughts of demolition was its favorite fantasy. Charles, being a romantic soul, positively swooned over the possibilities of ownership. As we climbed the old stairs we entered the darkened attic, then swarming with thousands of houseflies. Yep, Charles was sold and I was horrified. Horrified, that is, until he proposed taking up all the attic floorboards and creating a novelty house with a soaring vaulted ceiling. Then I was on board. 30 years later we completed our masterpiece and were visiting a friend in Tucson who had put his house on the market. Crazy idea number 2 started forming and we sold, packed and moved 2500 miles to that mysterious land called the desert. We lucked out again. Tucson is now home. Fully retired and thoroughly enjoying the weather, I daily jump into the pool, look up at the Arizona sky and breathe, "thank you."
It’s a little under 300 miles from St. Louis directly North to Iowa City, Iowa. Camp Wyman sat a little Southwest of St. Louis and it was from there that I started the trek North with an optimistic enthusiasm for what I was thinking of doing. I was young and obviously stupid enough to take the endeavor on and as the old song said, “freedom’s just another word for nothing else to lose”. I had nothing to lose.
Since I’d never really walked any great distance before, it was a great revelation to find out what a few hours on the side of a busy road could do for you. I was ready to quit just after two hours. My feet were already starting to swell and even though it was early spring, it felt too warm and waaaay too muggy. The thought that I could just kind of cheat my way along was now entering my mind and I was critically close to sticking out my thumb. Not a moment before I did though, I heard the screech of a car up ahead and the howling of the little dog it just ran over. I was heartbroken for sure, but more importantly I knew that instant that it was a sign. There was to be no cheating. I had to keep my word to myself no matter what the cost.
The rest of that little jaunt is just a very dim memory now. I do remember that there was a moment when a man stopped his car up ahead of me and as he got out, he asked if I would be interested in working on his puppy farm. Work at your puppy farm? Are you nuts? But, wait! It might be a nice respite and maybe offer a solution or two in some twisted way OR maybe he was interested in just more than my working on his puppy farm for him….I politely turned him down, put my eyes back to the road and walked away.
I went to Iowa City because I had a good friend who was attending the University of Iowa there. She was a sharp woman and true friend and she was delighted when I appeared at her doorstep. Three days of my feet on ice, some food and rest and I was ready for the next step.
To Be Continued…..
Bucket Lists are developed to show where one hasn’t been or what one still wants or needs to do – this is, purposefully, a positive recounting of what I have been able to do. Maybe this is an ANTI-Bucket List? Fifty years since graduating from Rancocas Valley Regional High School and leaving Lumberton and Mount Holly behind – I have visited 32 states of the U.S.A. (this is in addition to living in New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Texas, & Arizona); 7 Canadian provinces; 27 countries, including Andorra, on 4 continents; and sailed some of the “Seven Seas.” I have been to Paris and Venice, to Rome and Constantinople, okay Istanbul. I have been to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and inside the Great Pyramid – ridden a camel and crossed the Suez Canal on a pontoon bridge. Have seen the grandeur of Westminster Abbey, Notre Dame, St Peter’s, St Mark’s, Hagia Sophia, and dozens of other Romanesque, Gothic, Byzantine, and Perpendicular cathedrals and abbeys – some in ruins, others in full glory – across Europe. I have explored London and most of Britain (visiting some two dozen times), even living on a lesbian-owned and operated, free-range, organic pig farm in Wales for a stretch. (So, I speak a little Welsh / Cymraeg.) I have known a member of the U.S. Cabinet, a member of the Bundestag, and had tea in the House of Lords dining room with a member of that body. The MacArthur “Genius Grants” escaped me – but not people I have known. I have seen the works of Rembrandt and Van Gogh in Amsterdam and those of Picasso in Malaga. I have worked in a flower shop, a hotel, the headquarters of an insurance company and for an insurance agency, and a publishing house. I have an undergraduate college degree and several advanced degrees, including one from Harvard. I have been a scholar librarian at a major university and have taught at universities on both the undergraduate and graduate level, and for a program to keep senior minds active. And I have been involved with students who have become an internationally known television journalist and commentator, the director of a presidential library, and an ambassador. I have held state, regional, and / or national office in the professional associations of both my main callings – library science and history. And I hold life membership in some of these associations. And I have as a friend – the Archivist of the United States – who is near the pinnacle of both of my professions. I have presented papers, been a guest lecturer, moderated panels, and the like on more than sixty occasions. And even appeared on television in two different cities as an “expert” commentator. My name appears on some 200 publications. Over a dozen scholars have cited me in their acknowledgements. And I belong to three academic honour societies. I have worked for gay civil rights and against war and been in parades (1974 & 1975 Christopher Street Parades) through Manhattan and tear-gassed in D.C. I have attended plays on Broadway and in London’s West End – I have met a Tony Award winner. And I have even met a Mouseketeer. Like most of my high school classmates, I know someone in the NFL Hall of Fame; I also know a former General Manager of a Major League Baseball team. I have won medals for sporting events. I have worked for and been involved with charities and my church, for which efforts I have received some accolades. I changed denominations twice before I found an almost perfect match in the Ecumenical Catholic Communion. As far as religion goes, I have attended a papal Mass, a Mass in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Shavout services in a synagogue in Cairo, Egypt – oh, and I have never had a cup of coffee, espresso, or cappuccino. In nature, I have been in a hurricane and an earthquake; I have seen swans on Shapwick Heath, bears in the Canadian Rockies, whales on Stellwagen Banks, and Gila monsters in the Sonoran Desert. I have not witnessed birth; but death I have seen. I have traced my ancestry back to the earliest days of European settlement in “The New World” and beyond. I have had many acquaintances and a few friends – according to Facebook, they currently number nearly 700 and live in 33 states, the District of Columbia, and 11 countries. Actually, like us all, I must have met thousands – many of whom I don’t remember any longer; many of whom are gone. Some of these I lament knowing; others I lament forgetting. One of these friends particularly stands out and I have been grateful to have him as my BFF for the last five years – his is the deepest friendship, I have ever had. I have children and grandchildren (some of both have had fur); and have spent most of these fifty years with the most amazing person by my side as soulmate. I have been blessed.
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