Monday, July 16, 2018

Bang the Drum Slowly

When “I Love a Parade" was composed in 1931 I imagine that its title well expressed the sentiment of many folks who didn’t have cool technology to play with in the air conditioned comfort of their living rooms.  Turning out to watch and to wave at other people walking or riding in formation continues to be a thing in some municipalities, especially small ones that will use a parade to kick off some local event be it the opening of Little League season, a shindig of some sort, or the beloved tradition of many a volunteer fire station, the block party.  And, of course, there are the holiday parades in the big cities with commercial sponsors, and the patriotic varieties that continue to be a tradition in many places.

As with too many things in which the pleasure faded as I grew up parades became more of a nuisance to me as time went by.  By high school during which which I had to lug and play the Sousaphone in countless parades including a L--O--N--G one in Philadelphia in '76 on a day that was about 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade (I exaggerate slightly for effect.) I’d become jaded to whatever charm might have been in any parade when I was a little kid.  For many of my adult years parades seemed to accomplish little more than blocking off main arteries within whatever towns or podunks I'd happen to be traveling through and delaying my progress in getting to wherever I might have been heading.  They came, in my mind, to make much ado about nothing* and I lost whatever ability I might have once had to squeeze some degree of enjoyment from watching local dignitaries of much self-touted importance waving from atop the deck of convertible models of sports or luxury cars and big fire fighting equipment rolling by.

With that preface, imagine me saying, “Yes!" when other members of our local loosely knit scooter group asked if I’d like to ride my scooter in a parade along the main street in their hometown of Exeter, PA, a small borough across the Susquehanna River and a few miles north.  Because our group is small and doesn’t often host events like scooter rallies or big group rides (And I’m not criticizing, because I’m not the sort to roll up my sleeves and pronounce, "Let’s do this!") I do like to participate when we manage to find worthy opportunities to ride together, even if it’s for a parade that would certainly close off Wyoming Avenue in Exeter, a main route through the west side, for an hour or so.  The occasion of the parade was to be the start of the Exeter block party which they're hoping will become an annual tradition, I believe.

Old men with band instruments perform on a float.  If I'd kept up the tuba I might have been one of them.

We met up at the home of the family that asked if I’d join them and after a while rode in formation to the staging area for the parade where we sweated in buckets while waiting for the whistle that I imagined would start the line moving.  Thank God for the fire trucks parked nearby in the shadows of which we found some relief from the unrelenting sun that threatened to bake us.  It was a nice opportunity, though, to catch up on things that had been going on since we last got together.  Though I can’t say I felt any "excitement" at the thought of being in the parade as I did when I was a Cub Scout and we marched in one, there was a certain type of it in the air and I can safely say that I participated in it at least vicariously through the others around me who seemed to be taking delight in the chance to pass in formation before our audience already assembling on the sidewalks along the route.

I enjoyed riding in a group again with some scooter friends and even though it’s not easy to talk to other riders when we’re moving there is a unique connection and camaraderie that’s felt as we scoot along.  Admittedly I paid more attention to the high school cheerleaders directly in front of our group than to whomever lined the roadway to watch us go by because with a lot of starting and stopping, I didn’t want to achieve local notoriety by running over a kid with pom poms.  I’d been somewhat worried about the heat gauge on my bike because at slow speeds and lots of idling bikes tend to run on the hot side and it was a problem with my radiator last summer that had the Piaggio in the shop from April through August.  Thankfully the parade didn’t stress the system and the fan and radiator did their jobs nicely to keep me rolling along like the caissons in yet another parade song.

Lunchtime is fast approaching so here’s as good a place as any to put this post to rest.  Yes, I did, after all, find some delight in being in a parade again!  The scooter has afforded me varieties of pleasant experiences I'd not otherwise have had over the past 11 years so I'm still very grateful for having seen the word, "Scooter," used as an example in a tutorial blog tag, remembering my Uncle Andy giving me a ride on a scooter when I was about five years old, and having my brain immediately jump on the subsequent thought of, “I want a scooter!”

There I am on the right leading the scooter pack. 


* When I say parades came to be much ado about nothing I do not mean to imply that our beloved war heroes shouldn't be honored.  I just fail to see how marching the current members of the Armed Forces and the equipment of war through the streets gives them the rich honor they deserve.

Monday, June 18, 2018

22,000 Miles and Counting

When I left the house this afternoon I had no intention of riding the 60 some miles I still needed to put the odometer over the 22,000 mile mark, but at about 20 miles out I decided that I might as well go for it since I had nothing more pressing to do today.  I headed out on a road that I figured would put me about halfway there and then just kept going past the half, not deciding till I had about 20 miles left to hit the milestone in which direction I'd go to complete the intended mileage.

Other than watching the miles tick by I had no particular thoughts going through my head until my nose caught the scent of the deep woods along a stretch through the uninhabited forest.  It's said that smells can take us back to particular times and places more quickly and with richer memories of specific events than our other senses, and today that was certainly the case as the smell of ferns and such hit me.

I was in the back seat of my junior high girlfriend's father's car, she and I still in our bathing suits from having spent the afternoon at their lake house.  The sight of her body in her yellow bikini, the closeness of her bare thigh pressed against mine, and that look in her eyes that made me melt all came back to me as soon as that smell of the woods came to me on the scooter.  It was a fantastic memory, and I was smiling from ear to ear as I recalled that moment from my past that lives in that part of my brain where the very best of memories are stored.

We parted ways after high school, but she's still in the area on her second marriage and I confess that I sometimes ride the scooter past her house when I'm out in that direction for a ride, hoping to catch a glimpse of her.  Whether I'd have the balls to speak to her if I were going by and she was on her porch, I don't know.  The last time I saw her was many years ago at my grandmother's wake, and even then as she stood beside me near Gram's casket my mind was whirling with the many memories we'd made together, some admittedly with our clothes off.

As I'd noted in the second paragraph up there, I had no particular thoughts going through my head until my thoughts went back to her, but as I continued my ride toward a new odometer mark she kept coming back to me in snippets of pleasant memories.  Dare I say I still carry somewhat of a little torch for her?  She'll always be a special part of my life though she hasn't been in it for years.

It was hotter than hell out there today and I'm hoping I had enough of a base tan so that I won't be sunburned later.  I probably went through about three quarters of a gallon of drinks as I rode, grabbing a gulp whenever I could keep going with only one hand on the handlebars and stopping for refills as needed.  I stuck to roads where I could just keep going for miles without having to stop for signs or signals so I didn't get too hot with a constant breeze washing over me.

Without planning exactly when the 22,000 would hit and where I'd be at the time, I simply circled a neighborhood in which I knew I'd be able to put down the kickstand no matter where I'd be so I could get a few pictures.  It happened here at the intersection of Yeaver Ave. and Murray St. in Forty Fort, a small borough across the river from home and only a few miles away from home.

There's a finale to the day's story that put a huge smile on my face.  After having spent some of my ride thinking about my former girlfriend, as I headed out of the neighborhood where I'd stopped to get the pictures I lifted my head from the very satisfactory view of the odometer and out of the corner of my eye I spied a young woman in a bikini in a backyard.  With my camera still on the lanyard, I slowed enough to get a picture of her as a bonus to add to the day's celebratory nature.

All that was left was to celebrate in proper fashion, with some food!  The nearby McDonald's was a perfect stop with cheap burritos and my final drink refill before heading home to bask in the accomplishment of having ridden 22,000 miles on two wheels.

I have only 2,901 miles to go to have ridden the distance of the earth's circumference!  I sure hope I can complete that equivalent circuit on my beloved Piaggio and with my head as full of wonderful thoughts and memories as the past 22,000 miles have provided.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

When Everything Changes But Not in a Bad Way

I’d just written four decent sized paragraphs here, but then I reread them, highlighted the whole mess, and hit the Delete key because although they were decent sized, they weren’t decent all together, and I just wasn’t satisfied with them.  Unfortunately, I’ve found that to be the case frequently since I retired from teaching.  My thoughts aren’t the same as they were when I was still teaching, but I haven’t yet figured out if that’s a good thing or not.

In the past when I wrote here it wasn’t difficult to pick a theme and more or less stick with it throughout a post.  Now, though, I’m finding that after a paragraph or two I’m heading down an entirely different path of thought from where I’d just been a sentence or two before.  To be certain, in “real life” our thoughts are generally scattered all over the place as a day goes on, but in writing I was always taught, and taught my own classes, to write thematically within a given framework of thought that was determined at the beginning.

 Retirement changes all kinds of things and I’m thinking that my wanting to run in all different directions when I’m writing now is just another manifestation of my change in lifestyle from working full time to every day being like a Saturday.  It used to be the case that when I was out riding on the scooter I used the opportunities to be alone and focused to do some introspection – to dig through the mental cobwebs and clutter and just clear my head.  Now I’m more like a little kid at an amusement park while I’m out riding, looking all around me and appreciating the sheer thrill of things, the wind in my face, the things I see and hear and smell.  Although I’m still focused on the road ahead, eyes always scanning for bumps, potholes, gravel, and jackass drivers, my thoughts aren’t focused on any one thing.

For most of my 34 years in classrooms I loved the job, the kids, the subjects I taught, the moving through a typical school year day by day, yet now that I’m away from it I can look back and see that it was too much how I defined myself.  I can’t quite put this into words, but when you’re in the workforce, no matter how much you might enjoy your actual work, there’s a seriousness about it all that is always with you even in moments of seemingly great levity and after you punch out.  Even on weekends and during holiday breaks.  Even during summer vacation.  Retirement changes all of that!

 Now that I don’t need to use my time on the scooter to clear my head, I’m a little lost in figuring out what to think about when I’m riding.  My thoughts are like the roads I take often unknown in terms of where they’re going to take me and where I’m going to end up.  And while I’m liking that, I’m still a little unsettled by it because it’s so different than what I’d grown used to.

I suppose that’s a good part of why I haven’t been writing much here too.  I don’t come back from a ride as I used to with a clear thought of what I might write about and as a result I find myself too often with a diarrhea of words but a constipation of ideas.  Nothing’s worse than wanting to write, but not having something I want to write about, and that’s why I sit down here only to find my fingers rather than my brain  moving me in all different directions and find myself working Backspace and Delete like nobody’s business.

 I rather like that one of my favorite bloggers now breaks up a single post into different topics with separate headings and while it would make a lot of sense for me to adopt that style too I feel like I’d be stealing the concept and that wouldn’t sit right with me.  So I don’t know if I should write short posts often, or write longer ones less frequently.

Oh, hell!  It’s not that it matters terribly.  It’s not like I’m getting streams of great traffic here, but I know there are the few of you who check back from time to time to see if I’ve cranked out anything worthwhile and I do like to have something worth reading sitting here when you do.  Until I figure out what I’d like to do I’ll scratch out what I can and post some pretty ride pictures when I can’t.

Now that I don't need to count days till a summer vacation life is decidedly much more free, but awkwardly different.  Hopefully I'll grow into this every day's a Saturday thing!

 Who said retirement was supposed to be easy?