RIP Grandpa Lott

[ca. 2009]

Grandpa Lott was my dad’s dad. Except that my “dad” was really my adopted.

After he quit smoking he always smelled of Wrigley Sugar Free gum, bubble-gum flavor, in the pink pack.

He was always ready with “Grandpa Lott” food: sun tea, kiwi fruit, cookies and biscuits made from tubes, pot roast cooked in a pressure cooker. Every time I visited he’d send me home with zip-loc bags full of each.

Setting aside those confused final days 15 years ago, he never hurt me, unintentionally or otherwise.

He bought– and got me started using– things that have informed my entire life: science and history books such as Powers of 10 and various Smithsonian and National Geographic volumes that I obsessed over at various times such as the National Geographic Picture Atlas of Our Universe, a Speak & Spell, a TI-99/4A computer (he was insistent that Texas Instruments was the company doing the most interesting things in computers at the time… and he was right) that I used to write quite a few lost stories and my first computer program that made the computer say “Do you want to play a game” and then flash and do a spirally countdown ala the movie “War Games,” many models– airplanes, cars, tanks, a telescope kit to build a little cardboard telescope.

It was from his house that I got on the nascent internet for the first time, connecting to a Vax machine at the University using one of his military friend’s account… which I promptly then started doing something I wasn’t supposed to and got not only myself booted from but his friend nearly lost his account.

He bought an IBM-PC when they first came out. He loved Borland Sidekick which was an amazing “terminate and stay resident” program and Desqview which allowed multiple DOS programs to run in Windows, and Lotus Symphony, one of the first integrated office-like programs. He “got it” about what was coming with computing even if he only, as he always put it, liked to “putter around on the ‘puter.”

When I really needed something and couldn’t get it any other way– like the time I needed money to get wrestling shoes and gear– he sent it to me. When he took me to school he’d give me an unimaginable sum– $20– to buy lunch.

Grandpa Lott didn’t have a lot of formal schooling until the military… he served in the Navy, flying on photo reconaissance missions then learned computing, becoming a programmer. He then worked as a civilian technician, programming much of the early ballistic missile early warning system at Clear Air Force Base using hex code, assembly language and punch cards.

He started me listening to jazz, blues and classical. I remember listening through the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz and various Smithsonian Folkways collections… all on LP.

He called me “Christopper.”

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