Saturday, January 1, 2011

Another Auld Lang Syne

As I greeted my daughter at the table while pouring my first cup of coffee this New Year's Day morning, I glanced at the section of the newspaper she wasn't reading and my eyes landed on a snippet about a list of words that should be banished from the English language. Having proclaimed my disgust for many years about kids (of all ages) inventing new terms for things and phenomena that already have perfectly good names, I had to find said list if for no other reason than to vindicate myself for being an elitist of words. It didn't take more than a few seconds to find that it's Lake Superior State University that maintains an archive of lists of words which should be banned, dating back to 1976, the year in which I graduated from high school. I can't wait to dig through the archive in its entirety to exclaim, "Yes!" time and time again, as indeed I'm sure I will after having looked quickly through some of the lists to find myself in near total agreement with their choices of words to ban.

It was having seen the word, "Fail," in the 2011 list that led me to where I decided to ride today.

It was near this very spot when my phone rang on the morning of September 29, 2007. It was a Saturday. Earlier that morning I had taken the written portion of the Pennsylvania DMV motorcycle test. When my phone had rung, the loving party on the other end had been calling in anticipation of congratulating me for having passed the test and having purchased the BV which I'd been planning to do when I rolled out of bed that morning. I had failed the test which left me without the motorcycle permit I'd have needed to get the BV so when I had pulled over to talk in this very spot in '07 I was still on the 50cc Fly 50. Anyway, it was seeing "Fail" on the list of words which should be banished that led me to North Scranton this morning, to this same place that will always have some personal meaning for me.

My brain was working like a Seinfeld episode while I was riding today. Various thoughts somehow circled back to others in vaguely related ways. It was while I was rolling through the hamlet of Duryea that I saw, "Hydration Station" over the door of a business on Main Street and thought, "Aha!" There was another word which should have made the list. Hydration! It's nothing more than a pretentious term for what one maintains by drinking a glass of water, or in the case of the truly pretentious, a bottle of water for which one paid as much or more as one would have for a can of soda.

Then my thoughts ran to the idea of pretentiousness in general, of which I'm somewhat of a fan. I enjoy pretentiousness when it runs right over the heads of the lowly who are left in its dust unawares. I thought back to a boy in my eighth grade class a few years ago who blurted out in the middle of class one day, "I just can't get Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata out of my head," because he knew me to be a fan of classical music. I grinned when he said it because the rest of the class didn't even "get" the pretentious nature of the statement and just plodded along deep in their little MTV type thoughts while the boy who had spoken, fully aware of his own mock pomposity, and I had our own private chuckle at their expense.

Now to be certain, I fully enjoy as well the opposite of pretentiousness, whatever its name might be. Thus it was that I felt compelled to get this shot where Christmas seemingly projectile vomited all over the front yard.

While riding back through North Scranton I came to the intersection of North Main Street and Market St where a town clock in the middle of a traffic triangle always takes me back to a simpler time when business thrived on Main Street just about anywhere because malls as we know them weren't invented yet - at least not around here. Having wanted for years to take the right turn off that triangle, I decided as I rode past it, that today should be the day. Instead I took the next right turn, then another, and one more to bring me down to the triangle toward the turn I'd missed. As I'd suspected, Market Street was painted with old storefronts, their heydays long past a time when North Scrantonians might have done all of the shopping necessary to the maintenance of a comfortable life right there in their own section of town. I pulled into a parking lot behind the town Christmas tree to get this festive shot of a guy out enjoying his scooter ride.

I made a call while I was there, and in walking around and talking I decided on this next picture which to me sums up the nostalgic appeal that a small town such as North Scranton has for me - a feeling I get whenever I come upon a similarly defunct "Main Street" in some obscure place that was home enough for the people who spent most of their lives right there perhaps a century ago. I can lose myself in a photo such as this one, imagining in only a nebulous way, what life might have been like back then when steam locomotives still rode the nearby rails, thinking that perhaps I'd lived a thoroughly contented, prior lifetime in just such a place once upon a time.

Snapping out of my imagined trip back to some earlier incarnation I said, "Goodbye," at the end of my call and realized that I needed to pee and that my fingertips were still somewhat numb in spite of the rest of me feeling quite warm and cozy under multiple layers of fabric. I rode back to the McDonald's in Old Forge, enjoyed the hospitality of a lone urinal, and then ordered, "The biggest coffee I can get for a buck." I sat at a corner table with my back to the warm sunshine streaming through the window, and wished I could take one of those awesome food on the table shots of Steve Williams fame that make me long to be right there at that very table that he's photographing. All I could manage, though, was a shot of my lonely, closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam* cup with all the ambiance a Mickey D's can muster.

With my fingertips finally warmed, it was time for me to head back to the house for the traditional ham dinner, but not before pausing one more time to call my Honey, to finish the rest of my coffee which managed to stay warm for about ten miles on the back of the scooter, and to take one last picture of myself enjoying my first ride of 2011.

I just poured myself a cup of coffee and after I finish it it'll be time for my first nap of the new year. Yeah, I'd have thrived in the simplicity of daily life back on that Main Street of yesteryore. (I thought I just made that word up to be funny in light of my writing about our not needing more new words to replace tried and true old ones, but nope. It's in Google.)

My most sincere wishes to everyone for a blessed 2011!

* [I was going to use the word Styrofoam™, but after I dug the cup out of the garbage can and could find no actual brand name I grabbed the generic description for such a cup from Wikipedia. I bought a writer's magazine once, back in college, and read numbers of pathetic ads from various companies shamelessly begging writers not to use their trade names generically. What can I say? It wasn't really a Styrofoam™ cup.]


Dean "D-Day" said...

Excellent writing Joe. Thanks for stopping my blog and making me aware of your presence out here.
Keep scootin'!!

Baron's Life said...

And a verry Happy New Year to yu and your family Joe.
All the best for 2011

cpa3485 said...

A few yards around here also suffer from the Christmas Vomit Syndrome. There was one relatively famous house, with way too many decorations that was sold during the year. But somebody bought up all their "stuff" and the tradition continued, albeit in a different location.

And "I'm just sayin'", I kind of like "Man-Up"!

Have a Great New Year and hope the short break from teaching recharged the batteries a bit.

kz1000st said...

I liked the picture of the old style lamp post and wreath. I used to be involved with construction and those bulbs put out incredible illumination. In combination with higher old style lamps we lit up a Brooklyn street and the whole neighborhood took on a new vitality. Thanks for the memory.