Enjoying an Old Photo As a Momentary Relief from Reality

by on August 4, 2020 · 10 comments

in From the Soul, Health

by Ernie McCray

Looking through a picture album to distract me from Trump lying and whining as people are dying and as federal troops violate the rights of protestors, one picture, in particular, caught my eye.

It’s a one of me standing on the top step leading to the front door of the first house I ever owned, a house that my daughter, Debbie, owned at the time. It was the summer of 1976 and I was taking a break from helping Debbie with her Lamaze training shortly before Cedric, her first child and my first grandchild, came into the world. Her future husband was out to sea with the U.S. Navy.

I don’t know what was on my mind at that moment in time but it very well could have been what had been on my mind for some time, thoughts of my daughter parenting a child as a teen like I had. Debbie was 19. I was going to be a grandfather at age 38. The grandfather of one of the mellowest human beings I’ve ever known.
That summer was one to remember, a summer of way more ups than downs, especially in my love life.

Nancy, my soulmate of 34 years, and I had been living together, “shacking up,” as they used to say, for a year – and we were taking our love for each other and our love for life and our world to new heights.

I remember her going on a 500 mile bicycle trip as part of Bike-Centennial ’76 and coming back home eager for me to enjoy a similar experience.

So we took a train trip to L.A. with our bikes, spent a night in a hotel, and cycled back home through the inner-city neighborhood where USC is located, through beach towns in L.A. County and Orange County, through Camp Pendleton and Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach and up a steep climb on Torrey Pines Road between Del Mar and San Diego, a nice test for tired legs.

It was a great summer for two people getting to know each other better, a summer where we went to a bunch of movies and a few plays, hung out with friends and swam at the beach and at the JCC… We upped our tennis games and ran 10k’s and 5k’s and hiked in the backcountry and trekked up Cowles Mountain a few times – as the Olympic Games in Montreal played in the background, occupying our sports loving minds…

Our neighborhood rag would feature my writing and Nancy’s picture taking from time to time.

Life for us was in perfect rhythm and rhyme.

Barry Manilow was composing “the songs that made the whole world sing,” partiers were getting down in the clubs to Johnny Taylor’s “Disco Lady” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” was out by Queen.

The country was talking about “Roots,” raving about “Rocky,” and laughing at the funny scenes in “Car Wash” as the funk filled sounds of Rolls Royce played in the background.

It was a summer that, to borrow from a Chris Stapleton song, was “smooth as Tennessee whiskey,” a summer that was as delightful as a solo played by Yo-Yo Ma on the cello, a summer that had a feeling of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” as it was so nice and mellow,

The town, on July 4th, 1976, was in a jovial mood celebrating the bicentennial of the country with all the trappings: beach crowds, parades, picnics and fireworks galore.

The Star of India, on that day, set sail for the first time in more than 50 years, the sight of the day on a day filled with much to be seen.

We didn’t, however, that summer, let all the fun take our eyes off of what needed to be done towards the creation of a better existence for everyone, not with Jimmy Carter needing our help to bring Gerald Ford down, not with the politics in our town, not with what was going on in South Africa, as we were deeply moved by the school children in Soweto who lead an uprising against apartheid and Afrikaans.

Those children made us think that hope really does spring eternal, that  it can be maintained no matter what.

So. This picture from 44 years ago (which was taken by Nancy, one might want to know) has been just the distraction I needed from our present reality.

No matter how brief this kind of escape has been it’s allowed me to return to the real world a bit relieved, ready for what’s next, knowing that what’s
to come could literally be anything.

But, if it gets too bad I’ll just look through my picture album again.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie August 4, 2020 at 12:14 pm

Now, you’re gonna have me digging around my old photos to see if I can come up with one that makes me look studly. Is that a Schlitz malt-liquor?


Ernie McCray August 4, 2020 at 12:22 pm

I looked hard. That’s one large can of beer whatever it is.


Richard m August 4, 2020 at 2:30 pm

It’s a 16oz Schlitz. Not the malt liquor but good old regular Schlitz


Frank Gormlie August 4, 2020 at 3:43 pm

It’s one thing Germans could do: make beer – until the PR firms and corporations buy it all up and run with watered down versions. You know why drinking American regular beer is like making love in a canon?


Ernie McCray August 4, 2020 at 6:37 pm

No, why?


Frank Gormlie August 4, 2020 at 7:55 pm

F*cking close to water.


Billy Elias August 7, 2020 at 10:13 am

Hello Ernie
You might not remember me, my wife and I are close friends with the 28th street gang. We both gre up in San Diego but have since left for the space and peace of the north west (western Montana) . I read your FB entries regularly and enjoy them immensely. At some point, we will be visiting S.D. and I’ll try looking you up when we’re at the 28th street hangout. In the meantime keep up the great work, I look forward to seeing more FB entries form Erine !
Billy Elias


Shirley Sprinkles August 7, 2020 at 4:20 pm

CharlieMack, you never cease to amaze me! How do you store so much in that head of yours? You are a walking musical encyclopedia. Compared to you (and considering that we grew up in the same desert town), I am an old, under-educated, neophyte! Although I feel so under-privileged, I always enjoy reading accounts of the exciting things that you and Nancy experienced together. Keep telling your stories—I’m listening!


Lorena Slo December 13, 2020 at 7:30 am

I love when you write about Nancy. I enjoy reading about all your ups and downs, you continue to have an amazing life. Your mere existence is enough but with pen in hand, you bless us. Happy Day, Ernie.


Ernie McCray December 14, 2020 at 1:59 pm

And a happy day to you, too.


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