Saturday, November 29, 2008

Class Reunion

Susan, a dear friend who now lives in western Pennsylvania, asked if she could borrow me to be her date to her 30th high school class reunion back here in the east. It was last night, Friday the 28th, in the Poconos and I was thrilled to accompany her because I never went to any of my own reunions and always wondered what they were like. It was a magical evening. The Sycamore Grill in Delaware Water Gap provided a lovely setting and a delicious meal. I haven't heard a live band since dee-jays took over at providing music at parties and the guys in the Who Knows Band who were cranking out the tunes for the evening gave us many of the songs with which we grew up. Though I was a stranger to all but Susan, I felt like one of the class. Everybody she introduced me to was super friendly and graciously welcoming. I even took to the dance floor with Susan a few times though I dance like I have two left feet.

Marty, one of the classmates, made this banner of all the folks who sent in their pictures. That's Susan, two heads down from the leftmost part of the "W" in the black V-neck.

I got back this afternoon, having spent the night at Susan's mom's house, and headed out on the scooter to the new Price Chopper to get some shrimp and scallops for supper.

We needed a new Price Chopper like we need another flood. The old one was friendly and small. We knew where everything was and it made for a quick shopping trip. The new one's in an inconvenient area with more traffic and it's so close to the Wegman's that it's practically copied from that it simply wasn't built to accommodate us, but rather to make the store more competitive. No doubt P.C.'s going to hang onto its lease at the old location to prevent another supermarket from moving in and make the whole plaza into another dry gulch like it did across the river when it closed its old location and built a new store not far away. I detest businesses that are all about themselves with little regard for the folks they pretend to "serve."

Tomorrow's forecast calls for a wintry mix of precipitation so the scooter will stay under the deck. We'll be taking our baby back to school anyway, though, so there wouldn't have been much opportunity to ride even if it were to be warm and sunny. She brought a girl home with her for Thanksgiving who lives too far away to have flown home just for the long weekend. She's a wonderful kid and I love being her daddy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Last Saturday I got a call from our elder daughter's boyfriend of four years, asking my blessing for him to marry her. I assented happily; he's a good man (for having put up with her for her entire college career, among other things). I didn't know he was a romantic. He proposed by serving her breakfast, her favorite meal of the day. The scene even featured a squirrel, her favorite animal. They drove up earlier to show off the ring even though they weren't supposed to visit today because they're going to the Eagles' game tonight. We're all very happy and excited.

I took my second annual Thanksgiving ride this morning. The temperature was a few degrees shy of 40 so I suited up with long underwear and my new ski mask face saver and headed out at around 8:30. As I did last year, I went to the parish church cemetery where all four of my grandparents are buried along with many of our distant and close relatives and so many of the people whom I remember from church and the neighborhood from when I was growing up. On this day of giving thanks, especially, I'm mindful of the gratitude I feel for their having given me a childhood worth remembering. I don't "visit" them as my parents are wont to describing what they do at the cemetery. Rather, I simply remember and quietly whisper my thanks, confident that somehow the Lord communicates to each of them my sentiments.

My cousin and her husband left this Thanksgiving card for her daddy - my mom's brother Joe and my godfather. He left us when my kid who got engaged today was still in utero and I miss him still, along with all the others who gave my life a richer color once upon a time ago.

I rode to the nearby state park which is one of my favorites for fall photos, but this late in the season with the deciduous trees barren, it's just a place at which to pause and to ponder. Our baby, home from college, worked at the nursing home this morning, and if she hadn't been at work I'd have taken her with me for the ride. I miss having somebody behind me enjoying the ride as much as I do.

I did two things on the bike today that I'd not done before. Having no idea what possessed me to try the first stunt, 'cause I'd never even thought of it before, I stood up while riding down a flat, easy section of road. Though I didn't dare to stay on my feet more than a few seconds at a time, it felt fairly awesome to do it. I don't know that it's illegal. The drivers of local delivery trucks (The milk man, the rag man, the huckster, and Pauly Wender, the baker, to name a few.) when I was a kid often drove from stop to stop while standing.

Riding into a parking lot to turn myself around inspired my second novel maneuver. As I rode in a circle to bring myself back to where I'd entered the lot I found myself exhilarating in the lean which was steeper than my usual easy turn around a corner. I kept the turn going through a number of tight circles and practically laughed aloud because it felt so neat.

A Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bit and Piece Riding

Yes, I've been riding, but not the sort that one blogs about. I've been zipping here and there on short trips when I can, avoiding the freezing temperatures and the dangers of black ice at night and more or less using the bike to get around than to joy ride. I did make it out over the past weekend for a while just for the sake of riding, but not on as long a trip as I'd have made if the weather had been nicer, and not on the sort of ride that I'd take off the gloves for in order to snap pictures of where I'd been 'cause I'd not been anywhere particularly nice in terms of scenery.

I do wonder about riding on snow. I know there are some guys who do it, but isn't it horribly slippery? I don't even like driving on snow with the car so I don't see myself giving the white stuff a whirl with the scooter just to say that I did it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Weekend Riding Again

Nothing beats a weekend without rain in the forecast for riding these days, but precious weekend hours are all too short before another work week looms on the horizon. Hopefully it'll be a quick week. After parent conferences tomorrow afternoon and evening I'll have Tuesday off to recuperate and to start packing. I'll be taking another road trip next weekend, though in the cage, to visit my friend in western Pennsylvania. I love my mini vacations out there once a month or so. They're rejuvenating!

If you've heard of North American Warhorse, they're practically in our back yard, and after having driven by their facility many times on the interstate I finally paid them a visit on Saturday. The place is immense and the stock of bikes, ATVs, and other fun vehicles is amazing to see.

We walked the perimeter of the place to check out the many accessories from body armor to boots, gloves, overalls, hats, carry bags. You name it, and they seem to have it. I picked up this fashionable piece of headgear that almost makes me look like I'm gearing up for battle in the Crusades rather than for a ride in the cold.

That was on Saturday. Today found me at the Lackawanna County Visitors' Center with my scooter posed in front of the building under an ominous sky. Luckily the forecast of cloudy didn't amount to anything more than just that.

I also chanced upon this piece of corporate art near the Diversified Information Technologies building not far from the visitors' center.

By the time I decided to head back to the house I was getting chilled to the bone and before I actually arrived here I was quite cold. It wasn't near freezing by any means, but the cumulative effect of the lower temperature and the wind seemed to add up. I want to take the bike to the parent conferences tomorrow evening so I won't have to worry about finding a parking spot among the early bird parents who'll be lining up to see me before I even get there, but thinking about not riding home in the relative warmth of the Neon cage nearly has my teeth chattering already.

Monday, November 3, 2008

All Souls Day

I was a terribly neurotic child. Monsters were everywhere and their favorite food seemed to be bad little boys. My parents and grandparents were quick to invent an appropriate ghoul of some sort who'd come to deal with my transgression du jour, usually after I was asleep by their telling. The boogeyman and the big bad wolf were the two creepers I feared the most, but anything scary sent shivers up my spine in the worst way.

My favorite uncle who also lived with us had this lovely image on the back of one of his record albums and I spent a good number of sleepless nights waiting for it to appear at the foot of my bed. Said uncle told me that this monster lived in the "Oakies" a wooded mile or so stretch of road not far from our house that separated the north end of our city from the south end of the next town and even in my teens when I drove at night to visit my best friend on the other side of that drive I raced as fast as I'd dare pump up dad's Fury II so as to be out of the forest before it or something worse would pop out from between the trees to even the score for something I'd done and for which my conscience bothered me.

I've spent most of my adult life thumbing my nose at the things I used to fear almost pathologically as a kid. Last night, on "All Souls Day," a day which an aunt once described as the day on which "the souls wander," I took a long ride after dark past a number of cemeteries which I'd not have been caught near as a kid even in broad daylight never mind after nightfall. I even rode through the Oakies to get to a few of them.

As a good Catholic schoolboy I whispered the "Requiem" as I rode slowly along the wrought iron fences that seem to enclose all of the older graveyards here, asking the Lord to spare from eternal damnation the souls of those who were laid to rest there, and surprisingly I felt an odd sense of peace in realizing that I was beyond that time in my life when the sight of lone red vigil lights glowing in a cemetery would have had me shaking with an irrational but substantial fear. If a wandering soul might have approached me from within the gates I believe I'd have met it with a bunch of philosophical questions I'd want answered about the other side.

It's not only the good magic of childhood, like the kinds that come with Santa, the Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, et al, that get lost when we grow up. The bad magic of imagination disappears too. The comparatively small fears and irrationalities that gave live some pizazz fall by the wayside just as easily, and somehow I lament the loss of them as new and real fears like the size and shape of a mole or frequency of urination wait in the wings to take their places. Oh, to be a child again! Once upon a time grandma's back porch swing was my race car, my rocket ship, the locomotive of my train. I have a scooter to be all of those things now. It just might be the closest to reliving my childhood that I'll come - well, the good parts of it, at least.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Well Suited

It's that time of year now, when I have to consider whether the opportunity to ride is worth the trouble of putting on the layers of clothing that I'll need to stay warm. I went out this morning rather light of garb, and after stopping at the ATM across the river I stayed in the parking lot till I could pull the heavy gloves, the hat, and the scarf out from their hiding places. My fingers, head, and neck were warm after that, but everything under my jeams got rather cold in spite of sitting like a girl.

I hit up some of my usual summer places, but their charm isn't as charming now with winter breathing down my neck. Add to that the change back to Eastern Standard Time tonight and the earlier dark which will come with it and it's almost time to batten down the hatches and get into hermit mode till the spring thaw. Once it's dark I don't feel much like going anywhere, never mind taking the time and trouble to get myself ready to ride. Therein will be the personal battle I'll fight often for the next few months. I'll want to ride, but I won't want to go through the trouble to venture out in the cold and dark.

Last March I attended a meeting of the local chapter of A.B.A.T.E. to get a 'cycle safety sign for my tree lawn and when I first got there I feared that I had the wrong place and time. There were no bikes in the lot. After the meeting when we went out to the one guy's truck to get the signs I commented on that. He chuckled and said, "Oh, it's too cold to ride now." While I'm being lazy and staying home (and being miserable because I'll really want to be riding) I'll find some consolation in remembering that even the tough, cool, biker type dudes don't always venture out on two wheels when it's cold. Then again, temperatures in the 50s aren't quite freezing, are they?