My Brother, Buzz

There are tight knit families and casual families.   Ours is far from tight knit but Buzz, my older brother and I speak to each other two or three times a year.  As I reflect on the great life I have had and am having, I realize I owe my brother.  I am not sure if I have told him what he did for me was and is appreciated.  I recall being less than an ideal little brother and he would have been justified on at least one occasion if he had done me physical harm.

He played an important part when I became a world traveler.  He let me work in his machine shop at normal wages after I graduated from Everett Jr. College. I probably was not the most responsible employee. He didn’t even fire me when I ran a newly poured 900 gallon concrete septic tank too far out on the truck boom too fast. The front of the truck went up in the air and the tank crashed into the hole in pieces. The lesson I learned about the importance of being careful with center of gravity probably helped me survive years later flying small airplanes.

Rather than take all of my earnings each week or two, I drew only what I needed and let him owe me the rest.  When I left for Europe in January, 1961 he owed me about a thousand dollars and I took two or three hundred dollars cash with me.  Most of that went for the Icelandic Airlines ticket I bought to get from New York to Reykjavik Iceland and then to Glasgow Scotland. I am amazed looking back, at how I managed almost a full year of wandering around foreign countries with sometimes only a dollar or two in my pocket most of the time. What in the world made me even think it could be done at the time?.  The best answer I can come up with is; I didn’t have any reason to believe I couldn’t do it.  Naivete is a great ally for adventure seeking.

I now realize my success was largely due to the willingness of Buzz, my brother, to dependably be my source of financial liquidity whenever I sent a letter saying I was close to running out of money.  I would send a letter by snail mail, the only option, providing the name of a city I expected to be in about two weeks in the future.  Buzz would draw twenty or thirty dollars from what I had coming as earned wages and mail it to me c/o the American Express office in the city I had chosen. When I got to the named city, I would go to the American Express office and replenish my walking money. I cannot recall if he sent cash,  a check which the American Express office cashed for me or an American Express money order. The main thing I remember is, it worked, and I never suffered enough from being out of money to create a strong memory.  I am sure I planned my expenditures more and more carefully as the amount of cash in my pocket shrunk each few weeks between letters.

I did take a few odd jobs during the year of wandering.  I worked as a doorman on a jazz club in Brussels, a telephone receptionist speaking French and a weed pulling laborer near Frejus, France. Two of my most memorable jobs, neither of which paid very well, were as a guide and interpreter for an English girls choir* on a bus tour of Belgium, Germany and France and as a movie actor in Luxembourg.*  * These are separate stories.

The main thing I do not remember is if I ever thanked Buzz for what he did to contribute to one of the best adventures of my life.  It all seemed natural to just do it at the time but looking back I realize I owe a great deal to my parents and to Buzz for providing the home base support needed.  It is too late to thank my parents again adequately.  I have learned to not procrastinate thanking someone.  I am aware of at least a couple of times I  finally realized I should have told someone thank you more emphatically than I did. I have been guilty of taking a lot for granted.

Thank you, Buzz.