Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dinner for One

Sometimes I feel a little guilty when my posts here don't directly pertain to scootering in some way because this was supposed to be, and still is, a "scooter blog." In this entry I will attempt to tie together an aspect of my personality with the scootering theme that almost makes sense to me.

When I started college and chose psychology as my major I used to claim that my choice was because I wanted to understand myself.  I believe now at the ripe age of 56 that we give far too much credit to 18-year-olds embarking on college careers in that we believe they are capable of making decisions as wise as they might be if they weren't quite so green.  There was nothing in my study of psychology that even remotely explained to me why I made some of the choices I made, why I did some of the things I chose to do, and even why it took so long for me to realize that psychology was at best a pseudoscience.  I have, however, figured out a thing or two about myself through the years and can credit scootering more than studying psychology for the conclusions to which I have come.  So it is with this current entry, "Dinner for One."

I grew up in a home in which my mom, dad, sister, and I lived with my maternal grandparents and my bachelor uncle.  It was a traditional home in that all of us gathered for dinner at the appointed hour each and every day.  When I was in the fourth grade our nuclear unit moved to a home that my parents had had built and that tradition continued with one noteworthy exception.  Each year on my parents' wedding anniversary the four of us went out to dinner to a small bar and grill where, no doubt, my dad took my mom on some of their dates because my sister and I remember being told over and over again about how the lobster dinners there used to cost $.90 back in the day when three good-sized tails along with fries and coleslaw could be had for that price.

Eventually I left mom and dad's house, got married, and the tradition continued even as my girls were born and were growing up.  Each and every night we sat down to dinner together at the kitchen table with an occasional restaurant meal thrown in for good measure.

It was, a paradigm shaker, when about 10 years ago my younger daughter returned home one evening after having worked on a school project at a friend's house.  When I asked what she had had for dinner she replied," Emily made us macaroni and cheese."

"But what did their family have for dinner," I asked?

"Oh, they don't have dinner together.  They just make whatever they want when they're hungry."

It had never occurred to me, in my then 40 some years that there might be a family that did not sit down to dinner together every day or at least on a regular basis most of the time.

All of that leads up to this.  Because of my assumption that all families sat down to dinner together just about every day, all my life it broke my heart to go to a restaurant with my family and see anybody eating a meal alone.  I had always assumed the worst whenever I saw someone dining alone.  A spouse had died, perhaps.  A falling out with one's family had left one estranged from them.  Whatever.  It just never entered my thoughts that someone might be eating alone because one lives quite happily alone.  I never thought that perhaps a single person living alone didn't feel like cooking dinner that particular night and went out to enjoy a restaurant meal.

And what does this have to do with scootering?  Precisely this.  It wasn't until I began scootering that I was ever truly comfortable with myself.  My alone self.  It has been riding the scooter for these past seven years that has put me in touch with my alone self, and which has made me comfortable in appreciating and enjoying my own company when I am alone.  I would have chosen to go hungry before ever sitting down to eat by myself in a restaurant because I did not want to be perceived as that "poor person eating alone."

This evening I went to a local buffet and had a splendid meal with one of my favorite persons – myself!  It felt like a glorious scooter ride, but with food.  We no longer live in that same world in which I grew up where home was the place where they had to take you in and where you could count on a delicious dinner with the rest of the family each and every day.  I guess, I'm okay with that after all, because if you can't ride a scooter by yourself you are bound to miss out on a lot of fun, or maybe even go hungry.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

No Coincidence at 16,000 Miles

Let me begin by saying that it was about fourteen years ago when I reversed my thinking about coincidences of the good sort.  Until then I'd believed that uncanny occurrences were simply the operation of mere chance, but it was in in 2002 when I saw unfold a number of unrelated events that came together to cause a transition in my life that could have been catastrophic but instead became glorious.

It was two years ago when again, a number of circumstances and events happened nearly concurrently in just the right order to enable me to be in a place where I was needed, but where I'd never have been able to be had not the events that coincided happened as they did.

I was a philosophy major in college and at that point in my life I enjoyed a good philosophical argument of just about any sort, but where I am now, I'm not out to win any battles or change any minds.  I know what I believe and will continue to believe it despite the protestations of those who might want to draw me into battles of words for which there are no endings nor winnings.

When I set out on my ride this morning to my cousin's dental office in Tunkhannock, it was without consciousness of my odometer's reading being under 100 miles below another 1,000 mile milestone, although sometime last week I had noticed that.  After my appointment I took the long way home along back roads and byways, deciding at various junctures which way I'd go without a plan in mind at all.  I was back in Kingston, in the hustle and bustle of city driving when I remembered that another milestone had been near last week.  I glanced at the odometer at that point and was stunned.  There was the 16,000 mile mark, including a zero in the tenths place!

You can call it mere chance, some subconscious mental operation, or whatever you'd like to account for my having arrived at 16,000.0 miles at exactly the precise second that I remembered that I'd been close to achieving it.  I see it as God's way of reminding me that He's in my life, not as a bystander, but as an active participant in it.  I see it as His saying, "Hello!" lest I ever become lax in knowing that He is always here, even in what would seem to be the small and insignificant moments.  I'd have been horribly disappointed if I'd discovered that I'd ridden past that milestone without being able to get the picture you see above.

The rest of the ride back from Tunkhannock...

I'm not sure why, but the parking situation was much better in Tunkhannock this morning than it had been last week.  I scored a space right on the end of the block where Chris's office is located.  It's a picturesque town along the Susquehanna River, nestled in what's known as the Endless Mountains section of northern Pennsylvania, and the name is derived from an Indian name of "Bend River Place."

If I had been in the very same place at the end of a school day, I'd never have lingered near a storefront to get a picture such as this of classic tin toys from days long past, but when the hours of a summer vacation day lead from only one relaxing minute to the next I take in as many visual delights as I can without hurrying to kick off my shoes and slow down from a long day of teaching.

A slow cruise along the side of the river is always something I want to do when I have the luxury of time to play with and the park in Tunkhannock between the railroad tracks and the course of the river itself makes for a scenic passing of the time.  It seems to me and others who've made the similar observation, that the greenery this year seems to be much more lush than in typical years.  We wonder if it's because there was so much snow this past winter.  Old timers would have us believe that lots of snow makes for wonderful subsequent growth of farm and garden crops.  If it's true, perhaps it works its magic on the "regular" greenery as well.

Something that makes my love of taking pictures such as this one so much easier, is the nimbleness of the scooter and its ability to do a U-turn quickly.  So many such photo opportunities are lost when I'm in the car only to drive by a scene that I'd like to capture in a photograph, but without an easy chance to reverse direction in sight.

A stop to have lunch gave me this view of the mountains in the distance.  From a good vantage point, I'd be able to see mountains such as these around me in all directions.  There were places on my way back from here where I'd wished I could capture some such pictures but with nowhere to pull the scooter over where I might safely shoot, they were lost except to my memory of them.  I was on long stretches of two lane roads with nothing but dirt and gravel at the shoulders.  I won't stop on such a shoulder for anything short of an absolute emergency lest my foot roll out on the gravel when I put it down.

I always enjoy the sight of a creek from above, and on roads in the Susquehanna River's watershed they're abundant.  I can lose myself in thoughts of water flowing down from the mountains as I can in pondering that God had no beginning in time.  There is something remarkably peaceful to me in watching water moving here in this part of Pennsylvania along its course toward the Chesapeake Bay and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean.

If given the chance to live somewhere like this where the next jug of milk or loaf of bread are miles away instead of a few blocks, I'd probably stay put right here where I can touch my next door neighbor's house from my own front porch, but I do envy the folks who make their homes in the country and are happy with being there.  That distance from "civilization" seems to me a thing that one must be born into in order to appreciate it fully.  I like it on vacation, but couldn't take a steady diet of it.

The little guy on the left came out of the barn to watch me watching him.  Curious animals nearly make me giggle with glee.  It was only a few years back when I learned that if one stops along a cow pasture, eventually every last cow will come over to gawk at the viewer who is watching them from the other side of the fence. Pigs do it too, much to my amusement.

I admire folks who live in the middle of nowhere and keep up their homes to fit in beautifully with their pure surroundings.  For every hovel I pass by while riding through the country, it seems that there is a property such as this which looks so cozy and inviting.

There's that sky again making it appear as if the road I'm on just drops off at its edge in the distance.  Surprisingly, on a ride around here coming to that spot in the distance often reveals the sight of another group of mountains stretching as far as the eye can see.

When I came around a bend and caught sight of this unfortunate fellow whose truck is firmly embedded in the pavement he was on the left, out of the frame of this picture, approaching the truck with the long board he's holding.  The guy motioned for me to pass, but I called out, "Go ahead!  I need to get a picture.  This is too cool!"  His grin was priceless.

And, here I am at those 16,000 miles which are nearly twice the perimeter of the continental United States.  Long before I'd ever thought about getting a scooter, I dreamed of someday going coast to coast in a motor home.  Now and then I dream of doing that on a scooter. Thank God dreams are easy!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Tough Decision

It was back in college when I was playing the accordion in a polka band that I believe I damaged my right knee.  I was trying to dance like an Eastern European who knows what he's doing, specifically the maneuver where one squats quickly, jumps from the squat while extending one leg, squats again and jumps extending the other leg, and then repeats the move a number of times.  Forty pounds of accordion didn't help the night I was dancing like that at a dumpy club in Nanticoke, PA and I heard something crunch in my knee and felt a stabbing pain.

It was my senior year, a few months before finals when I went to an orthopedic surgeon who summarily told me that I had torn cartilage and that the knee needed surgery.  Against his advice to have it corrected immediately I waited because finals were coming up in another month or so and I didn't want to miss classes.  I figured that after exams I'd get it fixed, but by then the pain had gone away, and being the guy I am, I avoided that return trip to the doctor.  Gradually, through the years, and insidiously, the damage apparently worsened.  Maybe ten years ago or so the knee started hurting again, and the pain and resulting limp have only been getting worse as the years have been steadily marching on.

Severe osteoarthritis was the diagnosis when I gave in
 to the caterwaulings of loved ones who clamored for
me to get the old knee checked out again.

I got a handicap parking plate for the Impala some months ago because the pain and its resulting limp had gotten truly debilitating, and it was shortly after that when I finally caved in to the annoying pleas of those who love me to have the knee looked at again by an orthopedic surgeon.  The good news is that it won't need to be replaced yet, though I'm walking now and then with a cane or using a shopping cart as a walker, and at times avoiding going out all together when the pain is pronounced.

I was a little surprised when I filled out the application for the plate for the car to see that one could get a handicap plate for a motorcycle.  Although I could see that being handicapped and a bike rider weren't mutually exclusive, I wasn't certain that the powers that be in Harrisburg would see it that way.  I thought I remembered Dr. House on HOUSE M.D. parking his bike in a handicap space, but then again, his character might not have cared if he was legally parked.

During the summers, especially, and whenever the weather allows, I use the scooter for local and semi-local errands, but there were times when I'd take the car simply to enjoy being able to park closer to the entrance of wherever I needed or wanted to be.  I had a problem with applying for a handicap plate for the Piaggio, namely that the plate that was on it was a vanity plate gotten for me by my younger daughter, and on it were letters that had special meaning for her and me.

Now, the few of you who know me personally know that I have a quite warped sense of humor, and it would come as no surprise to you that the letters on my plate referred to a nickname my daughters coined for me after I told them about a gut bursting comedy sketch I watched late one night on cable that made fun of a kid who couldn't read.  Well, not one kid in particular, but that one kid in everybody's class who couldn't read the most basic sentences without sounding out syllables awkwardly, even at age 17 and in the seventh grade.  The kid in the sketch reads "bear" as "Bee-Are" and my girls started calling me that because I was their big teddy bear of a daddy.  Not "bear."  They called me, "Bee-Are."  It was some phonetic variation of that which my baby had put on the vanity plate she got me in 2008, and it was because it was a very special gift from her that I was reluctant to replace it.

Funny on another level, is that my Grandma
occasionally called me "Bruno" endearingly.

Well, it was a few weeks ago, after the first orthopod had me visit another who specializes in replacements of deformed joints, that I broke down and decided to get the handicap plate for the scooter.  It was only after much gut wrenching indecision and some tears on my part that I made the decision, and then after I turned in the application I had pangs of remorse and regret with which to contend.  I didn't want my daughter to be hurt by my choice because the plate she got for me means so much, but I was tired of walking like my Dad did before his knee replacements with that extra distance to trudge through parking lots whenever I took the scooter shopping or to keep appointments.  I'd timed turning in the application with the start of my second summer trip so I wouldn't have to think about it while I was away.  The nice lady at AAA told me that it would take about three weeks for the plate to arrive, so I left town more or less forgetting about the whole thing.

When I got back yesterday there was a message on the answering machine.  I'd assumed it was my dentist's office confirming my appointment for today, but it was AAA letting me know that my handicap plate for the Piaggio had arrived.  I ran up to their office to pick it up, but when I got it back to the house I was in no hurry to swap it out for the precious plate that was already on the bike.  I hemmed and I hawed, and then I hemmed some more.  The plate sat on my desk in its envelope until it was almost too dark to make the change, but with a heavy sigh I took off the old one and put on the new.

It wasn't until an hour or two later that I got up the nerve to call my daughter and tell her that I'd retired the plate she'd given me, and it was through tears that I told her what I'd done.  "Dad!" she admonished me through a knowing chuckle, "There's no need to cry over a license plate."  In my head I knew that, but other parts of me felt as if I were burying a member of the family.  Although technically I think I'm supposed to destroy it, that vanity plate will be one of the things I'll take to the nursing home with me when it's time.  It will remind me forever of one of my finest achievements in this lifetime, that of being a Daddy - a Daddy who was a big, sweet, cuddly bee-are to his girls.