I had a priceless opportunity when I was growing up to become a greasemonkey. My dad, Willie Nelson (yes, boys and girls, I am Willie Nelson’s son), owned a used car lot, the Decatur Auto Exchange, during my pre-teen and early teenage years. There were always plenty of cars in need of all kinds of minor, and sometimes major, work to put them in working order and get them ready for resale that I could have learned on. My dad even had people who worked for him who would have gladly taken me under their wing, allowed me to be their apprentice and learn the ins and outs of rebuilding a carburetor or setting the timing of a motor. A lot of kids of that era, the early and mid 1950s, would have given almost anything to change places with me and take advantage of the unique opportunity I had. But me? As has all too often been the case with me, when opportunity was there pounding on my front door, I wasn’t interested in letting it in. I had no curiosity at all about cars, the mechanics of what makes them work, nor any interest in getting my hands dirty or greasy. Though he never expressed any unhappiness to me about that choice, I can’t help thinking my dad must have felt at least some disappointment that I didn’t show any interest in something he seemed to care so much about. And I can’t help but wonder how different my life and, probably not coincidentally, our relationship might have been if I had.
Fast forward about 30 years to the 1980’s. After my divorce from Carole in 1981, my 14-year-old son Mike came to live with me here in Knoxville. During his teenage years, I was becoming passionate about computers and spent enormous amounts of time learning all I could about them and had one continuously in my home as he grew up. Mike had a “priceless opportunity” to become a geek, but like his dad before him (like father; like son), he showed no interest in computers. When I think about the similarity of how he and I reacted to our fathers’ interests, I can only smile and be amused. Maybe that’s the way it is in most families, and I trust that it is right and proper that it should be that way. Each of us has to carve out our own interests and explore our unique life strategy. Mike has turned out quite well and apparently hasn’t suffered any serious consequences as a result of not becoming a geek. And now that I think about it, I seriously doubt that Bill Gates followed in his father’s footsteps or adopted his father’s passions either, and he seems to have gotten along pretty well.
I took you on that trip down memory lane as a way of saying that I’m now ready to attempt to become a greasemonkey this late in life. But unlike what that term might have meant back in the 1950s, becoming a greasemonkey today means something entirely different. It refers to using a tool called greasemonkey to create or use previously-created scripts that permit you to manipulate the behavior of the web sites you visit so that you can tailor them to your own preferences. I’ve added the greasemonkey addon to my copy of Firefox, and I’m about to “dive into greasemonkey,” which is a tutorial that teaches you how to create these scripts. But whether I’ll be successful in learning how to program these scripts is less important to me than that I engage in the process of learning about it. There are plenty of user-created scripts already out there that you can use even if you never create one yourself. By adding the greasemonkey addon, I’ll be able to explore and experiment with learning about this tool and what it and the community of users has to offer.