"Watch! Watch! Silk flash rich stockings white. Watch!"
Leopold Bloom's thoughts watching a passerby board a tram in the Ulysses chapter, "Lotus Eaters"
A few weeks ago, as the summer break drew to a close, I had the opportunity to share one last lunch at home with my wife before Fall term. Returning to work all smiles and contentment, I parked a little further from my office than necessary so that I could have a shady spot under a tree. This placed me in front of a large auditorium where various groups at work hold meetings, conferences, and ceremonies. Humming to myself, I watch a small Volkswagen glide to a stop between me and the auditorium. An attractive blonde woman glimpsed my way from the driver's seat, but paid little heed to me as she hurriedly collected items in the car. The trunk of her car popped just as she swung her door open. Still approaching her car (she parked in the street at the end of the sidewalk), my heart raced with adolescent surprise as she spun sideways to place her heeled feet on the ground. Walking directly in front of her, she seemed completely unconcerned with the fact that, perched on the edge of her seat in her short skirt, I could see up the length of her legs to the bikini cut panties at the top. I laughed a little to myself, smiled to her, and continued past her car. Despite the fact that I see people naked fairly often, I still appreciated this moment of voyeuristic thrill in my day.
The taco soup is excellent. Scooping it up with expensive chips shaped like little bowls, I talk about the minutia of the day with my wife and daughter. We sit in a group at one end of our dining room table, like every dinner we have at home. My wife and I decided long ago that when at home, we would eat as a family. There is no watching television, no taking supper to a separate room, but instead we are seated at the same time and sharing that time to eat together. I glance at her, and admire her hair again today. Each morning she begins her day in front of an old vanity, brushes and straightening irons and clips spread before her, and she takes pride in her hair. When she arrived home this evening I had noticed the curls and waves, and seated beside her at the table now I can fully appreciate how nice it all looks.
"Your hair really looks beautiful today."
"You think so? Thanks." She smiles, and the smile is framed perfectly by her fashion model-like hair.
My daughter is crying in her room. At 4 1/2 years old, she has entered a phase of stubbornness. Compared to most of her friends she is exceptionally well-behaved, but we can be demanding parents when it comes to behavior. We were supposed to be bicycling in the park with family friends, but in her frustration with her bike she talked back and we came home early. Confined to her bed for the next 15 minutes, I decide to use the time to read iceowl's latest writeup. As he describes his radio rig, I think about taking the test for my Technician Plus license in 2000 or 2001. I found the CW tests occurring beside me intimidating. Iceowl's writeup reminds me about many of the things I found appealing in ham radio, and without thinking a lot about it, I'm pulling boxes out from under my bed. Digging through radio magazines and manuals, I finally find my Yaesu handheld. It takes a little while to locate the battery, buried deeper in the box, but once clipped in I can see that it still has a charge.
The radio is small and light, and hardly used. A multiband transceiver, it can pick up a lot of frequencies but without the power of a dedicated rig its range is extremely limited. As I begin scanning through areas of the spectrum I think might be active, voices like ghosts emanate from the little black unit. I hear a pilot confirming his approach to the nearby airport. I hear an emergency dispatcher providing direction for a seizure response. My daughter's bare feet pad into my office, and little hands hold me as she tells me she is sorry. Then she sees the radio.
"What's that, daddy?"
"It's a radio." I switch it over to FM radio, and her face brightens with delight as a pop song comes through clearly.
"Do you want to go outside with daddy for a minute?"
"Yes!" she says excitedly, and races to the front door. It is dusk, and this time of year we rarely go out so late because of the ravenous vampire mosquitoes that breed uncontrollably in the stumps and pools of our wooded neighborhood.
Outside I switch the radio to shortwave, my favorite group of bands, because with even the low-power of my handheld I can receive broadcasts from hundreds of miles away if the weather is favorable. I find a Spanish station, but it is too garbled to really make out. I interrupt my daughter's jumping at leaves on the dogwood tree and ask if she would like to climb onto the roof of the house. This is exciting stuff for someone just over 3 feet tall. Her mom is in the shower, so there are no protests as we position the ladder on the back deck and scramble up to the apex of our 1960s era rancher.
I feel a moment of secret pride when my daughter asks if we can sit "up there," pointing to the highest part of the roof. Holding hands, we gingerly creep across the shingled ridge. I can only imagine what the neighbors think, but I don't really give a damn. Seated above the roofs of the houses farther down the hill, my daughter excitedly points out all the things we can see as I continue scanning the shortwave. And then I get a hit. Traveling in an instant from 2000 miles away, I hear a broadcast from the Pacific coast of NW Oregon. Smiling, I'm glad iceowl shared his writeup because it resulted in my daughter and I seated on this roof in the growing dark. She keeps her tiny hand on my arm.
"I love you daddy." she says with a smile.
"I love you baby."