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June 19, 2005


The best thing about having the kind of father that everybody loves and respects is knowing you can do it too, and sometimes even thinking that you can do it better. Today I'm going to think about Pops in the ways I know I will never match, because it's all about him today.

I often think about my father not in terms of who he was or is as a man, but in terms of what he made us do. They say you've got to break down a person in order to build them up. It's not my turn to do that with my kids yet - they are still in elementary school so that's mom's job. Pops didn't wait so long or so I seem to recall.

When I got straight As and a C in handwriting in the 6th grade, my father made me practice my handwriting every night. He made me draw precise loops on page after page. When we moved to our new house across the street, the weeds were taller than I was and the house was pink. None of those things lasted long. My father who served with the Marine Corps at Pendleton was all about discipline. And so we learned the discipline of cutting weeds and painting houses, and painting sidewalks, and trimming trees, and replacing windows, and carpentry.

We four boys were addressed as 'The Crew', which meant working crew. On the refrigerator was the infamous 'List'. We not only had to make the house spotless, we had to clean the neighbor's side yard and the gutter. During the summer months, Pops would make an occasional 'pop call' driving home the County issued 1975 Chevy Vega to make sure we weren't just playing football and Monopoly, but actively showing off to the neighborhood how tightly the Bowen family was run.

Our driveway consisted of two strips of concrete with a path of grass in the middle that extended back to the garage. In the front yard, the grass remained. Behind the redwood gate (that we installed) (yeah it was fun using the pole diggers and setting the 4x4s in concrete) Pops had us rip up all of the grass and have a six inch deep trench between the concrete strips. Into this trench was placed four 50lb bags of ornamental tree bark. The bark filled the spaces around a dozen geometrically shaped stepping stones like a sea of Lucky Charms. Every summer we had to wash the bark. Each piece was about the size and shape of a computer mouse. There were thousands of them. We picked them up and washed them in one of our 30 gallon trashcans, set them out to dry and then replaced them in the driveway of Hell. Then we closed the redwood gate so nobody could see it.

This was one of many construction projects at Wellington Road. We converted the garage twice. Once into a neighborhood theatre complete with custom built seats and a stage, and then later split it in two into an office and my bedroom. We placed the studs at 18 inch intervals and braced them so that the wall would survive an earthquake. For the Bicentennial, we painted the back of the house and the garage red white and blue. We dug out the rose bush and poured a couple of tons of concrete to extend the patio. We built several basketball contraptions, none of which survived the slam dunks of the neighborhood kids. We built various fences and even a tool shed.

Our two favorite projects were, of course, the go kart and the Two Storey. The Two Storey was our playhouse, complete with a trap door and a hangin' post. It had, of course, two stories and from the top which was a little over 8 feet off the ground (with 2x4x10s from Cooper's Lumber over next to Sears Pico) we had a nice view of things. The hangin' post was a 2x4 that overhung the concrete path that led from the patio alongside the garage to the back corner of the yard where the Two Storey stood. We arranged triple pulley rigs and jacked up objects too heavy to lift; we swung from it. The Two Storey was orange and green the first time, then dark red later. We cut geometric and puzzle shaped windows in it. It was our castle.

The go kart was slow, converted from an old power mower. We cut the blades out and left the axle intact but didn't regear it to do much more than 5mph. Steered with ropes, even the little guys could drive it. Not that we let them often enough.

We were a building family. We even re-creosoted the telephone pole in our backyard. The Wellington house still frequents my dreams. I lived there from 66 to 82. It was in the 'hood, but we were its creators without question. This is what Pops gave us. A home of our own creation, driven by his discipline and determination.

There's so much more I could say about Pops, and inevitably will have to. I could talk about the Angeles National Forest, the jogging at 6 in the morning, the incessent letters, the library, and Saturday morning trips to the film library. He influenced us in so many ways. But today, I'm just thinking about Wellington House and what we made it, because he's the kind of man who leaves things better than the way he found them.

Posted by mbowen at June 19, 2005 04:44 PM

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There was a lot of love in that post.

Re-creosoted the telephone pole? Wow, your dad sure worked hard at keeping you guys busy. Sounds like a great guy to have had for a father.

Posted by: Cerberus at June 20, 2005 02:38 AM

Having a Marine for a Dad taught you discipline
whether you liked it or not at the time! Have you
looked at kenblackwell.com? There is link to article in NewMax (yes, right-wing publication)
about "The New Republicans" including J. Kenneth
Blackwell. He went against Republican leadership
in having marriage act support in Ohio.
James M. Barber

Posted by: James M. Barber at June 20, 2005 10:55 AM

I'm glad that there are some people who recognize that there are organic black conservatives. I was on board with Jack Kemp back in the day, so I think I know where Blackwell is coming from. I'll keep him in mind.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 20, 2005 11:47 AM

Went to the Ken Blackwell website. He has just the generic information on him. He presented only the basic talking points of the Republican Party. The judgment is still out on him, but I'm always suspicious of a Black Republican until they prove me otherwise. Colin Powell was a big letdown for me but Clarence Thomas has lived up to my expectations of him.

Posted by: James Manning at June 20, 2005 03:59 PM