Saturday, September 2, 2017

Painting the Town Autumn

Facebook these days is full of young ladies figuratively jumping for joy because pumpkin spice flavored everything will soon be on the shelves and in cups everywhere.  I’m not sure what it is about Autumn and its decors, flavors, goodies, colors and all that stuff that somehow creeps into us and makes us feel a kind of relaxed peacefulness that escapes us the rest of the year, but even though I was never, not for even a fleeting second, a young girl enthralled with Fall, I admit that even as an old man I’m touched by that same spirit this time of year when it’s too cool to take the scooter out in the mornings or evenings without bundling up.

I’ve been savoring my rides as of late, riding relatively slowly up and down side streets all over “da valley” and looking for pretty places to photograph.  Today on such a ride I’m forced to admit that my spirit skipped a beat when I discovered this house already getting into the season that isn’t quite here yet, but will be soon.

And just around the corner from it, this simple decoration that scored the same kind of reaction in old Mr. Grumpypants here.  Not the sort of thing I’d admit feeling to most of the people who know my name and for whom my crusty reputation precedes me, but it’s a feeling that makes me feel inside like, well, pretty much what I imagine it would feel to be in the body of a bride to be with her gang of buzzed ladies in waiting at some random winery with mums and pumpkins decorating the place all over.  Not a bad feeling at all!

 Although I don’t think of Halloween as a holiday of any sort because everybody knows that on a real holiday most people get a day off from work, and in spite of darkening my porch for the past number of years on October 31st so I don’t have to keep getting off my lazy ass every time the doorbell rings, there’s something I admit to enjoying when I see homes and other places festooned with the props that make it something delightful to many.

 I’m ready for the ambitious folks out there to start painting the town with Autumn and Halloween.  As for me, I’ll be the guy on the scooter taking pictures of your efforts and secretly enjoying them as if I were back in grade school with a lifetime of Falls to come and to look forward to.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

No More Back to School

Today is Saturday, August 26, 2017.  Two days ago was the first faculty meeting of the year.  Friday was the last weekday of summer vacation.  Monday will be the inaugural day of school for the 2017-2018 academic year.  Come Tuesday, I will have missed all of those things for the third year running, and I couldn’t be happier!

 Although I didn't realize it when I took this picture in August of 2013, this would be the last "first day of school" for me ever again.

 Without reliving the horrors of the past three years during which I floundered with self doubt, depression, solitude by day, pain, and anxiety I am finally able, this year for the first time, to enjoy the “Back to School” thing as someone removed forever from the experience.

 I rode past here only two days ago, my last school with the windows of my last classroom in view.   I felt a freedom I'd come to fear I'd never know.  The freedom of being done.

 I’m officially done with teaching, with working.  I am now someone who can wake up on a typical morning and plan my day however I’d like.  It seems that I’ve been practicing for this by having and riding a scooter for the past ten years because there’s a lot about a scooter ride that compares to being a man of leisure overall.  There’s a feeling of freedom about both that is incomparable to any other joy I’ve experienced in my life.

 In some ways I feel like this old school might if it were capable of sentient introspection, knowing that my place in education is entirely in the past, but grateful for the good run I had.

 I often describe riding the Piaggio to the uninitiated in the art of scootering as a feeling of being at an amusement park without having to get off the rides.  And that feeling never gets old.  With every ride I take, long or short, I feel some of that same joy that hit me like a bolt from the blue when I rode my first 50 feet on a scooter in the parking lot at the dealership where I bought it.  And every ride is an adventure, whether to the grocery store to pick up a carton of eggs or a long two wheeled stroll on roads I’d not ridden before just to see where they’ll take me.

I plan to take lots of rides like this one with sights of nature's glory to be enjoyed at every turn, and even on the straightaways!

 My best friend suggested to me that it’s going to take some adjusting to come to terms with the pleasure of being able to do what I want, when I want.  I feel that I know what he means on one level; that without some kind of focus I might find myself floundering with many possibilities but without a meaningful feeling or sense of accomplishment.  On the other hand, when comparing the situation to scootering, I don’t know that strings of days on which I don’t know when I get up where I’m going to end up when the sun sets will necessarily be a bad thing.  I don’t know if I’ll need goals beyond the one-day-at-a-time kind to feel fulfilled.  Then again, figuring that out will be a nice adventure in

  Of all the things I see on the open road, I enjoy the whimsical ones the best, like this unique home adorned with seasonal doo-dads.  Perhaps there are those who experience a similar whimsy in seeing an old guy going by on a scooter looking like it's the best day of his life.

 Tomorrow would have been one of the saddest days of a typical year for me if I needed to return to the classroom - the very last day of savoring the unique kind of freedom that a summer vacation would have provided.  To be certain, I loved teaching for most of the ride, but I’d always identified strongly with the bumper sticker I saw many years ago that read, “A BAD DAY OF FISHING IS STILL BETTER THAN A GOOD DAY AT WORK.”  


I might be closer to the caboose than to the engine, but I still like very much being a part of the train of life.

 Even though I’ve been out of work for three years, on Monday, two days from now I’ll finally be able to enjoy fully the feeling of not having to go back to school to start up another year of counting down the days until another summer vacation might roll around again.  It’s going to be the best academic year ever, because for the first time in 54 years school isn’t going to be something I’ll need to think about at all, unless I find myself scootering through that 15 mph zone with the flashing yellow lights at the times of day during which they’re blinking.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Happier than Anything in The Golden Hour

“The Golden Hour” any photographer will tell you is that unique time of day that happens about an hour before sunrise and before sunset in which the sun’s color appears to be emotionally warmer than at other times of the day.  Photos taken during those times tend to be somewhat golden in tone, softer looking, and somehow evoke, at least in me, an emotional response that is most pleasant. When I’m on the scooter during a golden hour the sun’s in a position that makes shadows stretch longer than they do at other times of the day as well.  I never fail to take great delight in seeing my shadow on the scooter going ahead of me on the road, always staying that little bit in the lead to ensure that I’ll never catch up with it.

I’m a child at heart, and pray that I always will be.  Christmas morning, I believe is still far more magical for me as an adult than it is for most grown-ups.  Likewise on my birthday when I wake up full of childlike glee in knowing that my special day has come ‘round again.  I’ve been known to blow soap bubbles from time to time though my hair is gray and my knees ache, to walk barefoot through the grass and sometimes through the snow on the deck.  I look forward to good things on the horizon with more pizazz than most of my contemporaries and I still like taking things apart to see what makes them tick.  Having and riding a scooter is all a very big part of that kid inside me who never wants to have to grow up.

 I was fortunate to spend my working years among a few generations of kids who helped to keep me feeling young at heart.  Though I had to play the adult and couldn’t join in their games nor shenanigans, just being around them in their times of delight and glee was enough to make my own heart sing with some of the qualities of life long forgotten by most people my age.  Though some cynicism and a touch of becoming jaded hit me at times when things in the news couldn’t help but to make us shudder, I managed to go to sleep most days waiting eagerly for the morning and another day at school to greet me.  Now that I’ve finally “graduated” and put down my pointer, I still look for the best of what’s to come in the foreseeable future and look forward to its arrival as I scooter about town with what passes for a big smile on my face.

There it is.  Resting grump face.  I was having a ball when I snapped this, but you'd never know it by the look on my face.

In spite of trying to smile broadly when I’m being photographed, even by myself, I’m usually disappointed to see upon review that I don’t look happy at all, but somewhat grumpy.  Young ladies call a certain type of visage, “resting bitch face,” which means that someone who wears that particular look appears to be nasty at heart even at times of being emotionally neutral.  I seem to have “resting grump face” that makes me look like a grumpy old man even when I’m feeling happy.  Okay, to be honest, sometimes I act like a grumpy old man too, but I’m not always like that when it would appear that I am.

When I do manage a smile I have to bear down like I'm trying to poop and get myself to the verge of silly laughter to make it show up on the camera.  The smile, that is.  Not the poop.

So, if you see me motoring about on two wheels sometime during the golden hour and I look like an old sourpuss on a much smaller bike than his frame might suggest he ought to be riding, rest assured that there’s about a 99% chance that I’m inside myself feeling like I’m a kid on some amusement park ride, having the time of my life.  But without the need for waiting in line with an itchy wristband or a handful to tickets to get on the ride!