Quiet Desperation

First is probably special, but the heck with that


I will never be recognized as the first to do anything. I wasn’t the first in my family to graduate from high school or college, or become a schoolteacher, or nothing. Unless you stretch it.

I was the first member of my family to almost back over actress Elke Sommer in a Pacific Palisades parking lot.

I’d like to see the day when being the first this or that to do this or that isn’t mentioned — at least not right away.

Wikipedia’s second sentence on its Barack Obama pages states he was “the first African American to be elected to the presidency.” I’m betting he would prefer to have attributes, accomplishments, and what kind of a father he is listed beforehand.

Some firsts are worth recognizing: Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

Others are misleading or in dispute.

Charles Lindbergh was not the first man to fly across the Atlantic. Not by eight years.

The first man to reach the North Pole was Frederick Albert Cook. No, it was Robert Peary. No, it was Cook.

What was the very first rock ‘n’ roll record? Many think it was Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock.”

Others think it was “Rocket 88,” a song written by Ike Turner and sung by Jackie Brenston.

Anyone here heard of Jackie Brenston? I didn’t think so.

Being first can have its advantages. Some scholarships are available for “first-generation college students.” The stipulations are you’re the first person in your immediate family to attend college and neither of your parents has a college degree.

That seems slightly skewed. If your parents attended college but did not receive degrees you wouldn’t be the first person in your family to attend college.

Other first-generation college scholarships have additional requirements, including Hispanic ancestry, U.S. citizenship, and full-time enrollment.

As a former college professor, I always thought getting them in the door wasn’t the biggest challenge. It was sending them out with an education and a degree.

One day we will have a woman in the White House and then what larks.

It will be a great day in the morning. There will be parades. Books will be written about it.

The rest of the world will yawn because there have been women in powerful positions for centuries in many other places.

I’d like to know about a few food firsts.

Who ate the first snail, and why?

Have you heard of a fruit called a durian? Durian are banished in some hotels and the public transportation in southeast Asia.

Why? Because of its odor, which can be overpowering.

Maybe anything looks edible if you’re starving.

No one in my immediate family has eaten haggis, tripe, or khash.

I admit to Spam, but my Spam days ended about 50 years ago. I couldn’t even face it in college when I was down to my last pesos.

The first American-made selfie (1839), the first to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel (1901), and the first public showing of a bikini (1946) were all memorable moments in history.

Robert Cornelius took the first photographic self-portrait outside the family store in Philadelphia. It’s been non-f-stop ever since.

It doesn’t always pay to be first: The second mouse gets the cheese.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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