Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What's His Name?

The folks who love me the most know what an old softie I am most of the time and to what a ludicrious degree I tend to anthropomorphize mere things so that they're living and breathing and dear to my heart. Such is the case with "Papa Bear" whom I "lost" and haven't seen now in weeks since my daughter took him to the repair shop only to learn that he's beyond practical repair. I miss the old camera, the way it fit into my hand, how easily I could change his settings without having to stop or think or (Oh, horrors!) pull out the manual. Since his demise I'd considered that someday I'd need to try to fill his ample, warm, loving shoes (Okay, I'll tame it 'cause I'm almost nauseating myself.) but knew all too well that any replacement, no matter how beautifully crafted and able to perform would come up short.

A road trip to Dan's Camera City in Allentown yesterday evening made me the proud owner of an Olympus E620 DSLR! Ever since I got my mitts on mom and dad's big, luggy camera from the early 60's and got all camera crazy, (I did that with everything. The slightest interest in something and I was hooked, lined, and sinkered.) I wanted an SLR of my own. Now I have it!

But, it's not Papa Bear.

Instead it's this stranger. A stranger with a ridiculously thick book and about 2,000 settings I'll never figure out or use. I'm reminded when even thinking about toying with one of the million options how a good science experiment is supposed to have one and only one independent variable and I'm almost afraid, (except for "Factory Reset" waiting in a phone booth somewhere wearing its super hero cape and eager to see some action), to change one of the settings lest I forget that I maniuplated it when disaster strikes a few more changes down the road and I don't know which change caused the crap to happen.

I opted for two lenses, a through the lens flash unit, a wireless remote shutter release, a cool but expensive case, a new 2 gig CF card, a spare battery, lens protectors, and just about everything and anything else my daughter suggested because she knows me so well, is a photo bug herself, and knew I wasn't thinking straight because I was so excited.

But, it's not Papa Bear.

Until the Oly becomes familiar to me I doubt that it will have an affectionate nickname at all, and I'm doubting that I'll ever call it Papa Bear although it will remain the best camera in my digital arsenal for a long time to come. Don't get me wrong. I positively love the new camera and can't wait to screw up the settings and drive myself batty. I just miss the familiar ease of the old guy and how he told his own thousand words in every picture he took. Over 100,000 of them. That's over a million words, and the new kid's still babbling.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Boy and His Bike

It was probably 1973ish when I got the ten speed Schwinn that would be my wheels for the next four years or so. It was that period in time when everybody was getting the 10 speeds with the handlebars that curved around like rams' horns. I hated them and insisted on a regular old handlebar. Besides, I'd have looked like crap all hunched over like one of those skinny little bike racer types.

That bike took me everywhere I cared to go and I probably rode as many miles on it as I've ridden the scooters. My friends and I took relatively long bike hikes along some of the same roads that I haunt with regularity now when I go out for a spin with nowhere in particular to go. It was more than just a bike. Like the BV is now, it was a friend.

Life went on after I got my driver's license, but the old bike got relegated to dad's basement where it spent the past 30 some years hanging from the joists. He asked me many times through the years when I was going to get rid of it. I pretended not to hear. Though I had no intentions of riding it, parting with it wasn't something I wanted to do. After a cousin's husband died from a massive heart attack while riding his bike after dinner one evening I knew I'd never ride that Schwinn again, but I'm a ridiculous sentimentalist and wanted to keep it around.

Since dad was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years ago, whole paradigms have shifted. I'm confronted with my own mortality and I realize that I can't cling to childhood with as much tenacity as I once did. On Saturday dad, my sister, and I took my bike, and hers, to the city garage. We left them there hoping that some kind hearted DPW guy might shuffle them to a spot from where they might end up in the hands of appreciative kids who might give them a good home.

It wasn't so long ago that I used to scoff at old folks who'd sell most of their possessions and their homes to take up residence in some small apartment into which they could fit only the bare necessities. I look at them now not with a prickly and troubling disdain, but perhaps with some degree of envy.

I asked my daughters some time ago with my tongue partially in cheek to select for me, when the time comes, a nursing home that has high speed internet service and a food service that will bring you as much as you want at every meal. My tongue's not so fully planted against my cheek now.

I'm not ready to retire. Not even if I had the opportunity right now to do so would I take it. I love what I do and I have things to accomplish yet. But I know more than ever before what's important and what's not. I'll find my grip on other things once treasured loosening and letting go as the years go on.

I'm lucky to find myself holding on again to other things from my past once so dear and precious come round again into my life as the greatest of gifts. Only they're not things at all, but persons. Maybe that's the wisdom that never came with the teeth that share the name - it's not what you have that makes you who you are - it's who you have. I am blessed with my "who's." Nothing else really matters, no matter how many gears it has - even it's in your favorite color.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Passing of Papa Bear

It was Christmas 2003 when I opened the package containing the one thing that I'd most wanted ever for any Christmas of my entire life - a Fuji S7000 prosumer camera. I had taken a CF card, rechargeable batteries, and a flash unit with me to my parents' house that Christmas Eve in anticipation of using the new toy right out of the box. The biggest and best digital camera in my arsenal it was affectionately named Papa Bear and that's what I called it for years.

A few weeks ago I took Papa Bear to school to get a few pictures for the yearbook and that's when the first errors appeared. I'd assumed they were contained to the CF card I was using because when I took it out and used the xD card all seemed well. I became somewhat suspicious when trying to reformat the CF card in the camera didn't work, and then even more so when formatting it in the PC and putting it back into the camera didn't help. The errors went on until I got back to the house and formatted the card in an old Kodak digital. It worked! Until this past Saturday when married daughter and I headed to Lake Scranton to shoot some squirrel pictures and the errors were back.

Fortuitously, said squirrely daughter lives near Allentown, home of Dan's Camera City and offered to take Papa Bear to the camera hospital when she returned home after Easter dinner. She called this afternoon, after talking to someone at Dan's early in the day. All seemed well. For about $145 I could have the big guy overhauled. All wasn't so well when she called during dinnertime to tell me that when she actually got to Dan's the guy to whom she showed the camera suggested that it wouldn't be cost effective to have it repaired because the errors weren't as simple as I'd assumed they might be to fix.

Maybe Papa Bear will squeak out a picture or two still, but he can't be trusted to get the shots that I can't afford to do wrong. With over 100,000 pictures under his belt I suppose he deserves to take it easy or even quietly pass away, but I can't help but feel that a part of me goes with him to the great camera beyond. I've seen some of the best days of my life for the past seven years through his big old Cyclops eye. Thank heaven I have all that he and I saw together through those years backed up redundantly.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tids and Bits

As a Catholic I'm obligated to participate in the Mass every Sunday, but I'm not required to feel closer to the Almighty there than anywhere else. There are times when I feel much more attuned to heaven on the scooter than I do on a stationary, wooden pew. I talk often about the introspection I do on the cycle, but I do as much prayer on it as I do philosophical and personal pondering, and somehow there on the seat of the BV it feels like I have a direct line to the Big Guy Himself. Of course I do - we all do regardless of how many wheels we might be using at any given time. It's all a matter of perspective. I guess I just feel more alive when I'm riding, and life, as His greatest gift of all, and the appreciation of it that I'm conscious of when I'm riding, just puts me in that presence of mind when I can feel His presence more clearly.

I went to move the Neon after supper a few days ago and when I turned the key in the ignition I heard - NOTHING! Nothing at all. Not a bump, nor a grind, nor a peep, nor a whisper. Just stone, cold silence.

I checked with my mechanic the next morning, Friday, but he was swamped. I'd have to get the car there over the weekend for him to work on it on Monday. You guys who cut your teeth on the internal combustion engine might've relaxed thinking, Oh, it's just the battery, or the alternator, or the whatjamahoozit, but to guys like me who don't know a carburetor from a catalytic converter all it means is $$$. My dad has one of those external, self-contained car jumper things so on Saturday afternoon with my fingers crossed we hooked it up and it worked! To the garage we went! On Monday I found out that it was only the battery. Admittedly, I'll continue to worry for a while every time I go to start the engine. What made the battery die in the first place? It's always something to worry about...

For all the time and money they waste in Washington anyway, perhaps they could take a minute to add some kind of law or statute or something official that would make it illegal for vocalists to "stylize" the National Anthem. The same guy usually sings it at the arena before the Penguins' games, and he does a great job until he gets to, ...land of the free," at which point he holds the "ee" for as long as he can before he gasps for breath and mercifully tags on, "And the home of the brave."

The song should be about our country, our patriotism, our dedication to all of its ideals and values and it should NEVER become somebody's personal plaything with which to glorify himself. Keep it simple, in time, and on pitch. Don't bend the notes, prolong some, and shorten others because you think it makes you sound good. Play it or sing it with reverence!

I wasn't sure that I could get a case of lager to the house on the scooter, but I was confident enough that I could do it.

As it turned out I probably could have managed to bring three of them with me from the store. I'd hoped to find a patrol car with a policeman in it to get a shot of the BV with the beer on it. I'm not sure why. It's not illegal to transport one's brew on a bike, but somehow it felt a little naughty. The best I could do was to find this cop car (A marked one at that, if you can imagine!) parked outside the local tire place waiting to be serviced.

And, last, and I hope LEAST, this cruel, little joke of nature on the last day of March.

Here's hoping it's the last of it that we'll see until maybe next February!

My baby came home from school today for Easter and we did a two hour ride together on the scooter. Though we don't talk nor interact while we're actually riding, there's a bond that's totally unique when she's back there behind me. I'm hoping that when I'm in my 70's and she's in her 30's I'll still be able to ride her around with me - and not on a Jazzy type scooter!

To all who celebrate it with us, HAPPY EASTER if I'm not back here before then!