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The Embodiment of Cool February 11, 2016

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Blogging.
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Charles BeldArgue all you want, but there has never been a man who embodied more cool than my Uncle Charles. He could fix almost anything, almost always wore a smile, and had a joy for life that was downright contagious.

Yes, the glasses in the pic look a bit dorky today. So?

I think his handwriting, which Mom told me was always beautiful (even on letters written in a foxhole during WWII), is the only characteristic of Charles that I haven’t tried to emulate at some point during my life. (I even took up smoking, albeit briefly, in spite of it certainly leading to his death.

Summer vacations at their house were filled with trips to the nearest store (whichever one sold the latest Revell plastic car kit, some Testor’s glue, and as much paint as they dared allow us to play with), playing football in the Zoysia-grass yard, helping him cut some roses from his garden for his wife, and hopefully eating homemade biscuits with sliced tomatoes (picked just before dinner). As dusk settled in, we would sit on the front stoop and drink Coke from little bottles and listen to the race cars a few miles away at Ohio Valley Raceway.

Before bedtime, if we were lucky, we would mix up some “dog’s mess” (an ice cream float in a bowl). That probably explains some of my weakness for sweets.

After he died, my Aunt Lorraine (who died last Monday) gave me his collection of Popular Electronics magazines, which covered a span from the late 60’s through ’72. Since I could no longer talk to Charles, or go visit him every Summer, I read these magazines cover-to-cover, imagining Charles reading them a few years before I did.

I soaked up everything I could, and by the time I decided to study electronics in high school, I already had a very solid foundation. I knew Charles had used what he learned from these magazines to build his own stereo system and speakers, and so I built the same kinds of things from the plans I found in those pages.

When I began driving, I wanted a fast car like Charles’ ’57 Bel Air. I wanted to drive like he did (I tend to drive too fast), fix my own car like he did (I generally can), and look as cool as he looked when he would take the wheel and let Tom and I accompany him on a trip to the store. When we returned, he would pause after we crossed the railroad tracks and see how fast we could go on the (nearly private) two-lane road that led to their house.

He always made us promise, with a grin, to not tell Aunt Lorraine about this. (When I asked her about it a few years ago, she said she knew, and that Charles knew that she knew, because it was impossible to not hear the sound of the Bel Air racing down the road.) I always felt bad for keeping a secret from her, so it makes me smile she knew, all along.

This week, in saying goodbye to Lorraine, I realized that I’m saying goodbye to Charles, again, 44 years later.

He’s still cool.

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