On Writing (originally drafted 2010)

Original draft

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to write. I dreamed of someday being published and having people read what I’d written.  In 2000 or so one of my grad school professors asked me if I’d help him with part of a book he was writing for AOL. I was in charge of an annotated appendix about various software and websites on photography and found the writing and research part easy, but the formatting part impossible. The professor ended up doing the formatting and also, I discovered when I got my copy of the book, pretty much changed every annotation I wrote — using words I’d never uttered in my life (maven was one of them). That experience sort of squashed my desire to be published. It seemed like a lot more work than I was willing to do.  My words would, no doubt, be changed anyway. Oh, and I hate rejection.

As you may know, I kept a journal (actually many journals) for several years. The trouble with journals was: no one read them but me, so all the creative energy I put into writing entries was sort of wasted. I remembered when my 10th grade English teacher read my journals and commented on things I wrote — it sort of validated something in me — that I had a voice.

Then I discovered blogging. I remember searching for journaling software — I wanted to type my journals instead of write them long-hand — and stumbled upon Blogger. I thought it was a perfect compromise — I could keep a journal and maybe someone would read it someday. Just like when Miss Sliger read my 10th grade journal. That was all I really wanted anyway — to write and have someone read what I wrote.

It was frustrating at first. I’d write but didn’t know if anyone was reading. The first year I had the blog not one person commented and there were no analytics attached to the software for me to see if anyone even visited. I persevered though, and did actually get published that year in an online version of a magazine.


I am not sure where I was going with this or why I wrote it. Maybe just to say that blogging is my way of writing and even if no one reads it, it really is all about getting it out there.

Since writing this I was also published (twice) in a newspaper supplement about my time spent in Chetek, Wisconsin. They posted some blog posts of mine with my permission.

I feel that my writing is suffering from either my old age or my lack of practice. I read things I wrote years ago (like these drafts that I am going through today) and am surprised at how much better my writing was then.

Dean suggested that when I retire I should take a class at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda. That would be cool.

A dysfunctional non-profit (draft from 2009 or 2010)


Wow. I don’t remember writing this ten years ago, but I imagine that I didn’t post it because I feared the wrath of the outgoing Director of Operations in case she stealthily read my blog. The film group is still going strong, even after the death of our president. I continue to do the website and write and send the emails. We have only two other active board members — the doer-of-all-things and a film reviewer who helps select films and has some contact with some embassies. We met last weekend and decided the show must go on but two out of three of us are tired of it.

We’ll probably keep going. I promised to be more active after retirement. I also suggested that the doer-of-all-things say a few words before each film, mostly about how we really need help.

Original Draft

Before I had kids I don’t think I ever volunteered for anything — but once they were in school and I got a taste of volunteering for school-related events and organizations, I couldn’t get enough. That was also around the time I’d acquired a new skill (web design) and my “talents” were needed.

One non-school organization I volunteered to create a web page for was a local film group. I found out about it because I’d heard about a film on public radio that didn’t get wide release and I saw that this film group was showing it. I was so excited about this group that I bought a season subscription and soon after volunteered to redesign their web site. They invited me to join their board of directors, and I’ve been on it ever since.

The board consists of a president (the original founder of the club), a film discussion leader, a treasurer, a secretary (who writes all the press releases), a web designer and email list keeper (that would be me), and a director of operations (a job that has the most frequent turnover rate).

The president is sometimes hard to work with. She has strong opinions about what we should do as a film group and sometimes I disagree. For instance she decided we should not serve coffee or bagels this year because she thought the price was restrictive. While she did give in to allowing coffee to be served, she steadfastly refused to provide bagels. Instead she bought a few dozen tiny muffins which were gone long before the last patron went past the coffee area. However, I understand that this film group is ultimately hers. She founded it and, I think, should have the final say, even if the board disagrees.

The job of director of operations (a name that one of the folks who held that job created for himself a few years ago) is probably the hardest one, but as with all of the other positions on the board, has no set list of duties. The first person that held the job when I became involved in the group did the following:

  • ordered the films the president chose
  • sent the films back to the distributor
  • acted as treasurer
  • sent email alerts to our patrons reminding them that a film would be shown the following Sunday
  • instructed me as to how the web site should look

After that person quit we found a new treasurer and I took over the email alerts, so the job was a little easier on this member of the board. I think that this person then took on the responsibility of helping the president order the films as well.

He lasted a year and when the president could not find someone to take over, asked if I’d help out. I did, but I hated the job. I hated contacting the distributors, especially if I had to do it over the phone. I hated the tension of wondering if the movie would get to the theater on time. I hated the fact that the job took up so much of my time.

Luckily midway through my year as the director of operations a patron of our film club decided to take on this job. She was recently retired* and wanted a new challenge. She did a great job and added “outreach” to her list of duties. Because of her we increased our film patrons. She also had many ideas for the group.

I agreed with some of her ideas: sending emails to the local embassies when we were showing a film in their native language, increasing patrons by inviting other groups, and continuing offering free bagels and coffee when the president was ready to give up doing so.

However, I did not agree with her idea of sponsoring a film festival or sponsoring a trip to a film festival. She also had grand plans for our website, based on her cousin’s advice. She thought our site is boring. Her cousin’s site is trashy and reminiscent of something from the late 1990’s. She wanted to use our email list to send out a request to see if the film patrons wanted to join her on her trip to Africa this summer. I guard our email list ferociously and refused her request.

She still wants our patrons to be able to order tickets online and pay with credit card. While I agree that might generate more income, I don’t want to be responsible for credit card numbers of anyone but my own. I foresee big problems if we accept credit cards, especially online.

Three weeks ago this woman sent an email to the board announcing her resignation. The email was hurtful, in my opinion, and if it were directed at me I would have thought, “good riddance”.  However, it seems that some members of the board, including the person it was directed at, have asked her to reconsider.

Yesterday she sent another email saying that she’d reconsider if she were given the rights to making all decisions regarding the operations of the group.

I was shocked. In my opinion, what she is asking is to have the dictatorship (which is what I think we really have) transferred from the president to herself.

If it were not for the group losing the treasurer and most probably the director of operations, I’d resign myself. This is just too much for me to deal with. I hope that the president calls a board meeting to discuss this because it is too much to handle over emails.

*A few years ago I discovered some interesting fun facts about the woman who was briefly the Director of Operations’ position.

My own search for Beatrice*

TL;DR: My grandfather’s cousin, Beatrice Patrick of Indiana married Wilbur Shaw but died in childbirth along with the child. She died the October after he placed 4th in his first Indianapolis 500 race. She may have been there to see the win, according to Shaw’s autobiography.


I wrote the following about ten years ago. I just found how I am related to Wilbur Shaw’s first wife, Beatrice Patrick. As I suspected she was my grandpa Patrick’s first cousin.

My grandfather, James Frank Patrick, was one of nine children. His older brother Wilbur Manville** Patrick had a daughter named Beatrice who died in Michigan at age 18. Her death certificate states she died of embolism following childbirth and her name was Beatrice Shaw and her husband was Wilbur Shaw. The parents’ names match up to my grandfather’s brother and his wife.


Original post:

For the past few days I’ve been doing some research on automobile racing, especially Indianapolis 500 kind of racing. I’m not interested in the sport. I don’t really have an opinion about it except that it seems dangerous and loud. I’ve been researching automobile racing because of something my father told me and probably everyone he knew at some time or another. His father’s cousin married one of the more famous winners of the Indianapolis 500 — Wilbur Shaw.

I can see my dad talking about this. He would also mention a book called Gentlemen, Start Your Engines. At the time it didn’t really mean anything to me. I’d never heard of Wilbur Shaw. I didn’t like racing. I didn’t know anyone who liked racing, although when I did occasionally meet someone who liked car racing, I did mention the Wilbur Shaw connection and they were usually impressed.

Last week I found out that my sister-in-law’s daughter was going to be married in Kokomo, Indiana. I remembered that some of the Patrick family lived there — I remembered visiting it as a child and I have vivid memories of a girl about my age — I’ll save that for another blog post. So I tried to find some information on the Patricks in Kokomo, but didn’t get anywhere. Maybe I had the city wrong. Maybe it was Muncie.

Then I remembered the Wilbur Shaw connection and thought perhaps I could find out where the cousin was from by searching the Internet. I’d actually forgotten Wilbur Shaw’s name, but recalled the name of the book, so searched “gentlemen start your engines book” and found that for less than $25 I could own a copy of “Gentlemen Start Your Engines” by Wilbur Shaw. So I ordered it. It arrived yesterday and I’ve skimmed it. I don’t think I’ll actually read this book — in fact I’m sending it to Dad for Father’s Day, but I found some interesting bits about Wilbur Shaw’s first wife, Beatrice, who was my father’s cousin (although now, doing the math, I think she may have been his father’s cousin).

In Chapter 7 of “Gentlemen Start Your Engines” Wilbur Shaw writes:

Living dangerously, no matter how you do it, has a certain amount of romance and fascination which appeals to the girls. I don’t ever recall being hungry for feminine companionship after becoming a race driver. Even though they occasionally infringed on the amount of time necessary to get my car ready for a race, it was nice to have them around when the pressure was off. You can’t beat them for a pleasant change of pace and an outlet for the pent-up energy untapped by the thrills experienced on the track.

No one girl, however, had occupied my attention for any length of time until a few weeks before the end of that 1926 season. Then I met Beatrice Patrick while I was back in Indianapolis to repair an engine I had torn up in a race at Akron, Ohio. It was the night of the first Dempsey-Tunney title fight. Ted Elliot, my close friend and ex-mechanic, had invited a bunch of us out to his home to listen to the radio account of the battle. But I don’t remember anything about the battle — except that Tunney won — because another friend of Ted’s waled in at about that time with a girl who took my mind completely off the fight and racing and everything else. If you can imagine a blond Irish Madonna, she was it. Five feet and five inches tall, weighting 115 pounds and built like a Greek goddess. If I had been struck by lightning, the effect wouldn’t have been more devastating than my fist glimpse of her. Every time she looked at me and smiled, I felt like a helpless puppy caught near a wet spot on a new carpet.

I don’t know whether it was the home brew or only the way in which she looked at me, but my stomach tied itself in knots and I had the first taste of indigestion in my entire life. I didn’t know whether I’d swallowed a skyrocket or a cannonball, but never have I had a more dreadful feeling. this embarrassing experience, however, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. When she realized I really was ill, she became the most solicitous and sympathetic person in the room. Maybe the pain my tummy didn’t actually stop when she put her cool hands on my forehead, but at least I didn’t feel it anymore. The hands did something that made me forget about everything except her intimate presence.

I had enough presence of mind, however, to continue getting “sicker and sicker”. At the same time, I managed to get the idea across to her — without everyone else knowing it– that the one thing I needed above everything else in my future was to have her around all the time. I probably did it in a stumbling and awkward manner, but I meant it. And the wonderful part about it was that she believed me. She didn’t say so, but I new it by the almost imperceptible little squeeze she gave me with those soft cool hands on my forehead.

Shaw then describes how the wife of his host intervened and gave him some bicarbonate of soda which made him feel better. Just as the party was breaking up Shaw writes:

…I suddenly realized that I didn’t even know the girl’s name. They called her Bea, but I didn’t know her last name or where she lived or anything about her except that she was wonderful.

He then describes how he surreptitiously followed them back to her house, waited for the date to leave then parked the car and knocked on the door.

…but it wasn’t Bea who answered. Instead it was her father who opened the door and I could have sunk straight through a crack in the floor. I was totally unprepared for such a development and he didn’t help matters any by standing there, silently, with an inquiring expression on his face. He didn’t even ask me what I wanted or anything.

“Do you know what time it is?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered; “but I know she hasn’t had time to get to bed and I’ve got to tell her something tonight.”

“Well, if it’s too important to wait until morning,” he replied, “come right on in and tell us all about it.”

We went on in and when I met Bea’s mother I knew I hadn’t made a mistake. She had the nicest eyes of any I’ve ever looked into. One glance was enough to tell me I was “home free” While Mr. Patrick called upstairs for Bea, I pulled a chair up alongside her mother and started to tell her the full story of what had happened that evening. I didn’t even slow down when Bea’s father came back into he room. He’d be easy, if I could sell myself to Mrs. Patrick, because anyone could tell in a hurry who was boss in that household.

He then describes asking the Patricks if he could date Bea and then how he goes home and tells his mother about his evening. He and Bea were married six weeks later.

I’m not sure how much later this next passage is, but it can’t be more than a year or two. The Shaws were now living in Detroit, at least for the summer.

Bea and I were expecting a son late in the fall. Early in the season she had accompanied me on almost all of our trips, but when traveling began to make her uncomfortable, she’d made up her mind the safest thing to do was to remain at home with Mrs. Smith.

Floyd [Smith] and I were scheduled to race at Milwaukee on Labor Day and everything had been fine when we started the journey. When we registered at the hotel about seven o’clock in the evening, however, there was a message for me to call Detroit. It required almost an hour to get the call through, because of some unexplained delay, and I paced the floor of our room every minute of the time. At last I heard Mrs. Smith’s voice on the phone.

“Don’t be alarmed,” she said. “I’m sure everything is going to all right. But Bea started to hemorrhage this afternoon and I wanted you to know that her doctor has taken her to the hospital so that she’d be sure of getting all of the care she may need.”

She gave me the name of the hospital and I placed another call to check direct with the doctor. The hospital switchboard operator couldn’t locate him immediately. But when I identified myself and asked for news of Bea, she said, “Just a minute, Mr. Shaw.”

Then the voice of a strange nurse came on over the wire.

“We’ve been trying to get you for several minutes, Mr. Shaw,” she exclaimed. “We have some bad news for you, so brace yourself. The baby was born prematurely and — despite everything we could do — it was impossible for us to save Mrs. Shaw.”

Shaw then describes his grief and the ordeal of bringing his wife and son’s bodies back for burial.

*You need to have read the Lemoney Snickett series of Unfortunate Events to understand the title

**My dad’s middle name was supposed to be Manville, but it was accidentally changed to Manuel on his birth certificate.