Monday, October 25, 2010

His Last Scooter Ride

I'm bummed...

I just read an article on CNN about a girl they're calling, "Hiccup Girl," who it seems gained some fleeting fame with a case of incurable hiccups with which she suffered for an unduly long time. It would appear that she's in a whole heap of trouble now, like facing a first degree murder charge, for luring some poor slob she met online into a trap in which she and two accomplices robbed and then killed the guy.

It was almost laughable until I read that the victim rode to the ambush on a scooter. THAT really upset me. I'll need to be extra careful now when I'm scootering out to get together with strangers I meet on the internet!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Another Autumn Day

One of my favorite uncles went to school (Public school! Egads! At a time when everybody else went to Catholic School) in a building that in its day housed kindergarten through grade twelve all under the same roof. Now the corporate headquarters for a local company, it sits atop a knoll nary a block from the house in which I spent most of my formative years. I have to have driven past the front of that building tens of thousands of times in my many years of living in this same neighborhood in which I grew up, but until this morning while seeking a quiet place from which to make a call after church, I never ventured into its parking lot nor got a peek at its other side. I was stunned by its simple elegance and tickled in seeing something new, yet so very old, so close to my family home.

After lunch I took off in earnest to enjoy the beautiful day on the scooter. I passed by another old building here in the north end of the city - this one somewhat infamous in being the sweatshop in which I worked during the summer of my sophomore year of high school. I swear, that summer in the shoe factory inspired me to make the most of my high school and college years not only in studying so I'd not have to work in a place like that all my life, but in savoring the freedom of being a student and not having to earn my own living quite yet. No longer a working factory, the building is still home to a local business but its appearance is far removed from being the once proud factory in which many hard working folks earned an honest day's wage that could support a family.

Over the river and through the woods and I found myself at one of my usual haunts, the county sports complex. (Okay, not really through the woods.) Every year as the winter ever so slowly yawns itself into grudgingly showing some hints of the coming spring I look for the usual signs - a few tiny crocus heads peeking up from the sweet smelling soil, the buds aching to pop open on the pussy willow beside the deck in the back yard, and the gate to this park being unlocked and thrown open wide. I often visit on nice winter days, while the gate blocks the road into the park proper, and heave a heavy sigh upon seeing it there with its PARK CLOSED sign telling me that I'm once again being presumptuous in my wishful thinking.

The last leg of my trip took me west where old animal and Indian trails that carved naturally through the mountain that forms the western wall of the valley have become the roads we use today. While meandering up a twisty to where I was headed I noticed another cycle on my tail in the rear view mirrors. Usually I'm the one on the bike riding like a newbie, slowing noticeably where the twists get wicked, so it was with some degree of puzzlement that I noticed that I was out pacing the bike behind me. When I turned onto the side road that would take me to the picturesque setting I was riding to, the other bike followed me, and when I arrived and pulled into the parking lot I was even more surprised to see the other rider still behind me.

I rode to the far end of the lot, dropped the kickstand, and started unzipping the camera pouch when I saw the other rider park about midway through the lot near a stand of colorful trees. Only then did I notice that the other bike carried a passenger too. They both dismounted and took off their helmets and when I finally noticed their shapes and saw their long hair spilling down over their shoulders I realized that they were two young girls. I couldn't help but chuckle when I saw the cyclist take out a camera and shoot a picture of her bike with the pretty trees as a backdrop just as I was getting ready to do the same. The girls walked down to the water's edge and sat on a bench to enjoy the gorgeous view that autumn's paintbrush had created.

It was with regret that I decided not to approach the girls and engage them in conversation about riding, and photography, and whatever else might have come to mind. Had they been middle aged I'd have had no qualms about striking up a pleasant chat and passing some time with folks who seem to enjoy some of the same things that I do. Sadly, though, we live in a time when kids have rightly been taught to be wary and cautiously suspicious of old men with cameras. My own daughters would describe a guy like me as a "creeper" if he just came up to them and started yakking away so I wasn't going to make the day any less than perfectly pleasant for the young ladies who'd ridden in behind me. I kept my distance. I took a few pictures, savored the unique sensation of warm sun and chilly air, thanked our Maker for the scenery, and headed out.

Oh, how I hope I'll remember to look at the pictures I take on days like this one when the worst of winter is upon us and I'm feeling cabin fever to a degree that seems like it might make me hemorrhage!

I realized on today's ride that I write a lot here about the seasons - their unique offerings - their changing from one into the next. I mark and write my life, it seems, by their coming and going. I like it that way. Their coming anew each year keeps me looking forward to something all the time. Well, except for winter, perhaps. After that first dusting of snow on a windy, cold, dark night those crocuses can't bloom soon enough!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Doodle Head

"Last minute Joe!  You have to do everything at the last minute!"  I remember my dad growling that at me once when I was burning the midnight oil to get a term paper done.  To be sure, he was right; I always waited till I was down to the wire before starting on things I had to submit for a grade.  (For the record, I generally got A's.) I can only imagine the choice words he might've had if he'd checked out my college notebooks in which I doodled more than anything else.  I'm an auditory learner.  As I insisted to more than one professor, it only appeared that I wasn't paying attention.

The current blog header here features a doodle I worked on for a few days, adding to it now and then when I had a few free minutes.  The full doodle takes up an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of standard tying paper.  I guess I'd better add it here as a picture because when I change the header this post won't make much sense...

My scooter rides are a lot like my doodles.  Just as the pencil or pen tip moves toward no seeming particular end, so does my front wheel turn more often than not to take me in a direction in which I'm not necessarily  planning to go.  And, when I put down the stylus, just as when I park the bike, I can look back with a bit of a smug smile and take delight in what I've done or where I've been.

I took the BV in on Tuesday for its annual inspection plus an oil change, and to have the drive belt replaced 2,000 miles past when it was due.  I dropped it off without making an appointment because the weather was supposed to be lousy all week (which it was) and I hoped they'd get it done within a week or so.  They called on Wednesday to let me know that the drive belt would have to be ordered and that it should be ready on Friday or Monday.  I figured that with my typical luck what would translate into them calling next Wednesday.    I was wonderfully surprised when they called today, Saturday, to let me know that I could pick it up.  As soon as I finished my lunch I ran down to get it!

Though it would have been a nice day to ride I'd already made plans with others to head to an apple festival at a not too distant orchard.

A paper on which to draw.  A crisp apple.  A scooter ride.  Being loved.  My needs are simple and I wallow in their fulfillment whether manifested humbly or with fanfare.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What's So Hard about YIELD?

My dad - I love him dearly, but he has this pontificating tone of voice that makes me want to smack him sometimes, especially when he's totally wrong about something yet making it loudly known that he's the only one who's right.  "I always come to a complete stop at a yield sign!" he barked some time ago in that unmistakable basso profundo that implicitly insists that you do the same.  A decent argument ensued between dad and the rest of us about how it's not safe to stop if there's no reason to because the guy behind you, having no logical reason to expect you to stop if there's nothing coming, might plow into the caboose end of your car.  But, there's no convincing dad.

That's one wrong action to take around a yield sign - to stop completely when there is no traffic impeding one's entrance onto a road.  But there's another practice that drives me even more batty - folks moving from the driving lane into the passing lane to "be nice" and allow the guy coming up to the yield sign free reign.  

Now I'm not against being nice while driving.  I like it when somebody cuts me a break at a long traffic light and motions for me to turn left while he holds up the oncoming traffic piled up behind him.  Likewise, I often do the same for others and am often presented with the opportunity to do so when entering my own street which abuts such a busy intersection.  

What I am opposed to is having some dimwit cut in front of me as I'm zipping along in the passing lane to allow somebody to enter from the on ramp while slowing me down in the process.  I had that happen to me a number of times in my travels this past weekend which is why I'm bellyaching about it here and now.  Sure, the guy who's moving over is being nice to the person coming onto the highway, but it's at my expense!  And, it's gotten to the point where folks almost seem to expect everybody to move over for them without their having to observe the spirit of the yield in the first place.

How about from now on we all do what we're supposed to do at a yield?  Stop only if the steady flow of traffic on the main road warrants a stop, and go when it's safe to go without expecting everybody already on the road to move over for you.  Or would that make too much sense?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mildly Moist

I shot this picture last week when I got to work.  I'd left the house on the bike not realizing till I'd made it to the street from the back yard that a light drizzle was falling.  At that point I wasn't about to trade the cycle for the car so off I went hoping for the best.  I didn't get too wet and that was very good 'cause I'd've been miserable all day if I had.

I just remembered now, on Monday evening, that yesterday afternoon while I was out riding just for the fun of it I had a great idea of how to tie this photo into an introspective discourse to share with you here.  Unfortunately, that's all of the memory that came back to me and I can't recall what it was about being wet upon which I'd wanted to expound.  If it comes back to me I'll rush back here and type it up.  For now, though, all you get is the picture and my admitted chagrin.