Monday, June 28, 2010

For This I Waited?

I had typed, "This Is What I Waited For?" as the intended title for this post, but then realized that I was ending the sentence with a preposition and changed it to its current form. Things like that bother me. Though I'll often begin a sentence with a conjunction for effect and to punctuate the added thought, and sometimes actually leave the preposition at the end because it would be just too awkward sounding to correct it, when I catch myself I fix things like them unless writing them for an intended reason.

Even there, in offering that explanation of the change in the post title, I lead up to the point I'm about to make which is that I desperately need a vacation - from myself!

Since Christmas, I think, I was waiting for the school year to end so I could start my annual summer vacation. By late March I was practically dancing with eager anticipation of that last day of school. It came two weeks ago, and it went. Now, here I am with weeks ahead of me during which I'll be my own primary companion and I'm finding that what I really need most isn't a break from school, but a break from being me.

I drive myself crazy with indecision among other things. I can sit here at 6:30 in the morning with a whole day ahead of me on which to do anything I choose, and find myself in this very same chair getting hungry for lunch with nothing worthwhile accomplished because I couldn't decide what to do. And when it comes time for that actual lunch? It can be overwhelming a choice if I opt for something other than my big salad. The difference between a cheese steak made from a leftover hunk of London broil and a salami and cheese sandwich would seem to be of apparent earth shattering consequence when it comes to making my decision. Then, as soon as the first bit of whatever I've chosen hits my taste buds, I start regretting that I hadn't opted for the alternate.

It's like that all day when I'm here alone. Not only with indecision but with self-motivation too. I have a number of things I'd like to get done for myself this summer. Yet, with the passing of each morning I find myself on the other side of noon telling myself that it's too late to start and that I'll have a better chance of beginning all fresh and rested tomorrow morning.

To be sure, it's not only myself driving me crazy at the moment. There are things of much more significance the courses of which will be charted over the span of the next few days. I'm playing a waiting game while I'm writing this, and to be certain, I'm losing the game miserably. I want to take a dose of something that will allow me to sleep until I need to be awake to tend to things that will need tending.

My best buddy from high school is now lying in a hospital somewhere in Boston with an annoying problem that seems to have gone into a chronic form. And his spirits are higher than mine! Yep. I need a break from this - from ME for a while.

I saw this little guy in the Wal Mart parking lot a few days ago, and when I got back I looked him up online. Seemingly, he might look a lot better than he performs if this review is typical for his make and model. Unfortunately, it speaks as poorly about the scooter as it does for what "customer service" has come to mean since I was a kid and the customer was always right. In this guy's case the manufacturer and distributor got into it as they often do with each blaming the other and not really caring about the fact that the customer ended up with a defective product. It's like good old Wal Mart not caring at all these days about how long the checkout lines are. Never has "Caveat emptor!" been as poignant an admonition as it is now.


...what to do after lunch? Oh! Wait...

What IS for lunch?

Saturday, June 19, 2010


When I was a kid, there were a number of amusement parks within reasonable driving distance. Not that I ever got taken to them often, but now and then as a rare treat we might visit one on a Sunday afternoon, and the elementary school I attended and later taught at had an annual picnic at one, and then another and another as they closed down in succession leaving "da valley" without one of its own. The only relatively small park (compared to the mega parks owned by huge corporations) that's left is Knoebels in Elysburg, Pa. It's about an hour or so away and just about everybody knows of it, so it's the one I refer to when persons who'd never in a million years get onto a scooter ask me what it's like to ride. My stock answer: "It's like going to Knoebels, but you never have to get off the rides."

I thought of that when I was passing by a fair that's going on between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton and decided to stop in just to get a picture. The fairgrounds were open but the only folks in sight seemed to be the ones who were setting up for when it would open later in the day. There didn't seem to be any Paul Blart types around so I scooted right through the open gates and parked the BV to get a shot with the Ferris wheel in it.

On my way from there to the bank I passed by the V.F.W. hall in Dupont, Pa. - one in which I'd played the accordion in a few different polka bands back in the late 70's when they still had local beers on tap for a dime a glass. Too bad for me then because I didn't like beer and preferred the pretentious taste of scotch and water, but I digress. On the side of the building now is a beautiful patriotic mural. I got a small part of it in this picture, posed with the scooter of course, but because of where the sun was positioned I couldn't get more of it without washing out the shot with glare. I'll have to head back sometime to see if the sun is in a better spot to make capturing the full mural possible.

I was going to ride more but got a call to head to the garage to pick up one of the cars that was in for service, and right after I got back to the house married daughter called to say that she and her husband were on their way up for the Fathers' Day weekend. Thus, I'm only riding the computer chair and might squeeze in a little nap before they get here.

A very Happy Fathers' Day to all the other daddies and guys who are just as good as daddies but without the official title!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Best Space (Not) in the Lot

I still enjoy parking the scooter as close to stores as I can manage, usually right around the corner from the entrance.  I don't really seem to get any dirty looks.  It's almost as if the general motoring public expects to see bikes parked on sidewalks.

I suppose I could pretend, if I needed to, that I'm concerned about the safety and well being of the BV and wanting to keep it away from where cars could do it a lot of harm if their drivers aren't careful, but I'd be fibbing.  It's because I'm lazy and don't like walking all the way from beyond the handicap spaces to the doors and back.

Places like Wal Mart and Target keep the electronics where the supermarkets keep the bread and milk - way in the back to force you to walk past a whole pile of crap you don't plan to buy on the way to get to the good stuff.  And Sears I hate ever since they started the commercials about the "softer side of Sears" which meant that they were going to hide all the cool Craftsman tools completely behind the clothing.  Besides, I don't want to buy my dainties in the same place where I get my circular saw blades.  It's just not manly!

Heck!  I'd ride the cycle through the stores if they'd let me.  And they should until they start putting all the stuff I like right up front where it belongs!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mouth Flapping and the End of Another Year

It was in April of 2009 on a regular old day when I found some of the most profound words ever written in a 'cycle blog, or any other kind of blog that I've perused. It was Dan Bateman, "Irondad," who wrote them in his Tranquility amidst chaos II. "Too many people make too much noise and flap their mouths way too often. They're full of themselves and their own ideas. Often times wrong ideas. They miss so much because they just won't shut up and be quiet."

I wrote in a reply to his post: " I e-mailed that to my work account because I need to remember that I need to shut up and listen more. I'm going to print it and nail it to my desk, I think."

Well, Dan, I didn't use the nail; I opted for a screw. But those words have been on my desk at school since the Monday after I read 'em, and one of the last things I did before I closed up my classroom for the summer was to take a picture of them sitting there, taped onto a magnetic strip that's screwed right to the desktop.

That admonition served me well, and it made a difference to me and to the kids who spent this whole academic year just past with me. Thank you, Dan, from myself and on behalf of those kids who benefited from my shutting up and listening more.

Because I left school on Friday and headed straight into a mini vacation out of town today was my first "official" day of summer vacation in that it was the first typical summer day back here at the house. As per tradition I had the inaugural lunch salad at noon on the dot. It had been a long time since I'd had one of my big salads and it was as delicious as I remembered them.

Oh! While I was away I replaced "Baby Bear," the camera I carry on my hip wherever I go. I got an Olympus to match the new recently acquired workhorse DSLR. I'm often asked why I have a camera with me at all times. My stock answer is because I'm planning to win a Pulitzer in photography someday, not because I'll take a great shot, but because I'll be in the right place at the right time. I'm not holding my breath, but I have gotten a lot of fun pictures that I'd not otherwise have taken if not for carrying a camera with me all the time. This is an actual self-portrait of the little Oly, mirrored thanks to Paint Shop Pro.

It must be a decent camera. It even makes the riverfront in Wilkes-Barre look half inviting (in part because the stupidity of not providing any parking or bathrooms for the new area isn't evident in the shot).

And, I got my first ride of the summer in today. It wasn't long nor far, but it gave me a feeling of freedom that I've not had since the end of last August!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Two Years Under My Belt

It was two years ago this very date when I penned my first entry here.  I made the claim at the end that we'd see if something worthwhile emerges from my writing.  I'm still here in spite of my uncertainty back then as to whether I'd keep this up, so something good has come out of this venture - at least for me.  I suppose this is as close to keeping a journal as I'll ever get in that I've written as much about other things going on in my life as I have about scootering.  Yet, for as much as I've written, so much remains hidden.

I suppose that's the way it is with all of us.  We create various stages and on them we act in the persona of one facet of our totality at a time.  Some characters give repeat performances, some emerge only on occasion, and others remain hidden from public view taking the stage only for ourselves or the select few we invite to be in the audience.  I like the Joe who writes this blog, perhaps more than many of the other characters who bear his same name.  This one seems sane, responsible, level-headed, even-keeled, sometimes intelligent, and now and then clever.  Sometimes he reels me in from having to contend with the other Joes who play on my stage.  While I love them all dearly, the others aren't quite as much fun to live with as this one.

This is my last day of school for this academic year.  I should be on top of the world in anticipating the feeling of freedom that awaits me when that last bell rings, but only a small part of me is.  The rest - those other Joes - are too mired in letting go of a great bunch of kids, some of whom I'll never see again, and in sitting vigil, basically awaiting word of the passing away of a gentleman who is, for all intents and purposes, a mere acquaintance, but who holds a very dear place in my heart.  The next few weeks are going to be rough and not as relaxing as I'd prefer them to be, but they're as much a part of real life as the good times so there's little I can do but learn what I can from them as they unfold.

I look forward to the rides I'll take between now and late August - the ones in which I'll rejuvenate my spirit and get it ready to make another batch of kids my own.  I know I won't travel all that far from where I hang my hat each night - that I'll repeat the trips I've taken time and time again over the same, familiar roads, yet the riding I will do will be sweet, and restorative, and will provide opportunity for painful introspection but in good ways.

A year in a classroom is a little like a scooter ride - a getting from one point to another at a staid, steady, even pace that doesn't seem to be going very far with any single turn of the wheels, but which carries one a long distance over time.  All too soon I'll be back here lamenting the return to this very classroom that it now grieves me to leave, and in spite of the emotions I'm fighting now while I'm waiting for that last bell to ring, I hope to have the time of my life between now and then even if in doing only simple, plain, ordinary, everyday kinds of things in which much joy can be found if the right Joe is doing them.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Chompin' at the Bit

School gets out on Friday and I've been getting ready for the past few weeks or so.  In the course of a typical school year it's not a matter of a certain day arriving at which point all activity ceases and the end hits abruptly.  There's a gradual slowing, not of actual work, but in mindset.  Final grades need to be crunched.  Books need to be collected.  Lockers have to be cleaned out.  Doing it all so that the students are still meaningfully occupied while  the end of the year things that need to be done get accomplished takes a bit of orchestrating, but when it's all said and done properly and that final bell rings there's a fulfilling sense of successful accomplishment that is its own reward as the academic year gives its tail one last shake and wriggles down into its little hole for a well deserved rest.

I'm too often asked, "What do you do for the summer?" as if it's just expected that a teacher shuts down a classroom and automatically takes up a summer job when the term ends.  My usual answer is, "As little as I can get away with."  I relish the down time and the easing of the daily responsibilities.  I like to putz in the garden on my own terms, but I won't worry about weeds that don't get pulled or tomatoes that fall over if I'm not in the mood to toy with them.  I enjoy the extra time I get at the computer exploring the world through the virtual eyes of the 'net.  Of course I love to ride the BV on the days when the weather cooperates and when it doesn't I'm often trying to rig something up to carry more fun stuff on it.  I usually toss a nice hunk of meat on the grill for supper most days.  I read.  I nap.  I savor every day whether it's exciting or boring.

I ride to the same summer places most days.  I might tend to e-mails or write something for here on the laptop.  I watch people and am as fascinated with their stupidity as with their brilliance.  I don't hurry.  Summer minutes are for moving slowly.

I spend a lot of time remembering all the time I spent at my grandma's house, only a few doors down from my own house.  I think back to all the rides I took on her back porch swing, and how that green swing on its sturdy chain could be a rocket ship one day, a school bus the next, and a trawler the day after that.  I nibble a piece of fruit and remember Grandma slicing a peach for her and me to share as she did so often on a summer afternoon.  There are smells and sounds that take me back so quickly, and sometimes the memories, though they last only a few good seconds, are realistic enough to touch my heart as deeply as the events once did themselves.

What will I do for the summer?  I will live!  I will live life richly and fully and deeply.  I will love life with a hallowed adoration and praise the Maker of us all for having made me and given me this life I treasure.  And I will get ready to take another bunch of kids through a year in which I will be delighted to be their teacher.  You will find me here in mid August lamenting my return to the classroom, but don't be fooled by my complaining.  I won't think of retiring until colleagues stop telling me that I'm too happy on a typical school morning - probably as happy as I am on any given summer day, but a different kind of happy.