1985, August 22: Letter from Jed to G&H

One-page typewritten letter, single-spaced. Typed on tractor-feed printer paper (with the tractor-feed edges removed), but using our manual typewriter, not printed with a printer.

I was heading into my senior year of high school.

On the envelope for this letter, I wrote the city that they lived in as Seattle instead of Tacoma (even though all my life we had referred to them as “Grandma and Grandpa in Tacoma” (to distinguish them from Marcy’s mother, who was “Grandma in Philadelphia”)). Helen wrote at the top of the letter: “Sent to Seattle but not even re-routed — came straight to us (Grandma + "pa)” (where the “"” was a ditto mark, written underneath “Grand,” indicating “Grandpa”). I assume that’s because I got the zip code right for their address in Tacoma.

Content warning for ignorant/oversimplified remarks about ASL.

22 August 1985

Dear Grandma and Grandpa,

I keep either forgetting to write or running out of time, but I can at least get a start on a letter now.

Grandma, I hope your foot is feeling better. Have you been doing a lot of reading? I hope this letter is legible; our typewriter is not in such great shape, and I tend to not hit the keys hard enough to make dark enough letters.

I don't know if Peter already told you that I've started to work at the Book Place, a local used-book store. It's only two evenings a week (Wednesday, 4:00 to 9:00 p.m., and Friday, 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.), so it shouldn't interfere too much with school work once school starts again (on the second or so of September). It's also not a lot of money ($3.50 an hour, just above minimum wage), but it's fun work, shelving and selling books, and there are no deadlines or projects to finish, and the hours are somewhat flexible. The owners are nice people, parents of a friend of mine, who always wanted to run a book store and finally decided to start about 8 months ago. Every book in the store, except for some very old or rare ones, is half price, and they have quite a large selection. Also, by being an employee, I get an extra 10% discount.

I've been doing a lot of reading, too; mostly science fiction, but I have to read Vanity Fair before school starts; it's ax summer xxx assignment for the College English class (it's a high school class that gives college credit.). I'm on around page 80 out of 700, but I think I'll finish it before school starts.

Speaking of school, I got my new schedule the other day (for the coming year). I'm taking Honors Chemistry (halfway x between A-lane ("normal") and A.P. (Advanced Placement, or college level); it's a new class this year because several good students didn't want to take A.P. because it takes two class periods each day); College English A.P. (taught by the head of the English department, who was my teacher last year for English; he's a great teacher, and I had planned not to take College English but changed my mind when I found out he was teaching it); Creative Writing (actually, I may not take this, because one major reason I signed up was that the teacher had a really good reputation, and I was put in another teacher's class); Japanese (5th year; hopefully, we'll only have class three days each week); Psychology one semester and Government the next (Government has a reputation of being the easiest class on campus, but it's required for all students, so I'm hopingto get into "contract" Government, meaing I write up a contract saying what I'm going to do to fulfill the requirements of the class (one possibility is to read three or four books relating in some way to government and write reports on them) and then carry out the contract on my own time, not in class); BC Calculus A.P. (the second and third quarters of a college-level Calculus class); and Stage Tech again. This year we plan on putting on the comedy The Dining Room (I think that's what it's called), maybe a play of 1984, and some musical (we don't know what yet).

Last night, I learned the alphabet used with sign language. Several of my friends are taking an informal sign-language course in college, and one of them taught me the alphabet last night. Apparently, the standard sign-language in this country is, unsurprisingly, American Sign Language, or ASL, in which alphabetical spelling is only used if the "speaker" doesn't know the sign for a word. Therefore, the alphabet is pretty much useless as a method of communicating with deaf people (even a good signer would be much too slow), but it's fun even just as a code. And I guess it could be used to convey messages, but it would be slow. From what I've heard, ASL has an extremely loose sentence structure, not really much of a structure at all, so, for example, to say "I am go ing to the store," you would use the symbols "store" and "go"; two symbols as opposed to 19 if the sentence was spelled out.

Some time, I'll get around to learning shorthand, or at least the basics of it, so that I'll be able to write faster and get more writing done, but for now I just have to use the typewriter. I guess I'll wrap this up now. I seem to be running out of space on the paper as well as time (I really should read more of Vanity Fair, as I just realized it's just over a week before school starts...)




bookstore job
I continued to work there throughout that school year. But then the night before graduation (I think), I stayed up most or all of the night, and was too sleepy to do my shift at the store that day, so I told them I couldn’t make it, and they fired me. It was irresponsible of me to cancel a shift without much notice, but the firing nonetheless upset me.
“head of the English department”
Chris Rich, I think, who later became principal of the other Palo Alto high school, Gunn. Mr. Rich took a couple years off at one point to work for an anti-nuclear organization.
creative writing class
I did take the class, but I think I ended up dropping it. It turned out to be (in my perception, anyway) an easy class for students who weren’t doing well in the main track of English classes, and after the teacher told me that I wrote better than they did, I felt like it wasn’t a good use of my time.
5th year of Japanese
I had started in 8th grade, in middle school, and then continued through all four years of high school.

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