I was not paying attention to the news when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of England. It was about nine months before we got our first TV. If I heard about it, it would have been on the radio, and it probably didn’t register. I wasn’t 4 years old yet and had never even seen a movie, so I hadn’t had a chance to see a newsreel of the coronation.
She was completely settled into her job before I found out about her, so, until last week, I had never known any other monarch of England. Queen Elizabeth II was always synonymous with the British Empire, colonies and territories.
Her death is making me feel older than usual.
It doesn’t help that the new king, Charles III, was born not quite a year before me. I’ve watched him be not quite a year older than me my entire life, and he still is. He’s just a shade older than I am, he’s finally king — and he’s ancient! Wah!
The fact that he decided to be named King Charles III was a bit jarring. I’m not really too steeped in the history of England, but I do know that one of the previous Charleses was beheaded. That’s a tough act to follow.
I’ve often thought of the Prince of Wales as a fellow baby boomer who landed a cushy job, got a nice house and lots of bennies.
When he was crowned Prince of Wales, he spoke to a Welsh crowd in Welsh. I thought, ‘You know, if I had his tutors, I could’ve done that.’ But Welsh wasn’t offered at the University of Washington, and it’s really hard to learn just from books.
The Seattle teachers’ strike happened right on time last week in order to make my column look topical for once. It was a complete accident. I had no idea that the strike was in the works when I wrote at length about teachers being underpaid.
I wish current events would make me look prophetic more often. Thanks Fortuna, all praise be yours for coming through this time! You’re the best! Please don’t hurt me.
For something like 10 or 11 years, I had an editor who liked to live dangerously and let me turn in my columns two days before the issue date. Ever since he left, more than a decade ago, no editors have since been willing to risk me turning in a column later than five days before the issue date. I’ve almost given up begging for a later deadline. Not quite but almost. I only beg every other month now.
I used to teach at community colleges. I was paid what on paper looked great for the time, generally $25 per class hour. The catch was every class hour required a minimum of two hours prep, so it was barely more than $8 an hour in truth. That was only slightly more than the state minimum wage at the time and the federal minimum wage is now. I haven’t forgotten how hard that was.
Sometimes, people, mostly on the internet, say to me, “Wes, we’ve heard you’re a mathematician. Why didn’t you quit teaching and solve one of those Millennium Prize Problems that pays a million dollars?”
Don’t think I didn’t consider it.
I said to myself many times in 1981 that I should just solve the Riemann Zeta Hypothesis, which was right up my alley, and collect my million and never have to worry about property taxes and electric, water or phone bills ever again. I could have bought new clothes for the kid. I’d still have money left over for a lifetime supply of blank white paper and pencils, so I could solve another two or three Millennium problems and buy my first mansion, my first three limousines and my first Lotus Seven (for holidays). I could have wasted money buying a Betamax player and not cared.
Oh wait, I did.
I’m not sure why I never did solved them. Maybe it was because I wasted too much time in the library trying to learn Welsh from books.
Read more of the Sept. 14-20, 2022 issue.