Saturday, June 28, 2014

Simple Pleasures

I'm enjoying my first week of the summer away from the house, slopping up the "down time" from my usual routines.  I miss the scooter and my travels on it, but not so much that I plan to go running back a minute sooner than I need to.  I miss the PC by my desk as well, but between the laptop, netbook, tablet, iPod, and my phone, all of which I have with me, it's not like I'm cut off from the world.

Having taken typing class in high school 40 years ago my fingers are well accustomed to the usual sizes and shapes of keys on a keyboard and to the typical distances between them.  The netbook and laptop give me just a little difficulty until I'm at one of them for a while and get into the different feel of each keyboard.  I tried writing part of the dippy eggs entry two days ago in the dark, in the car while my host was at a chorus practice, but I didn't last long.

Eventually, after having had to bend the viewing screen downward to give some light to the keyboard each time I had to backspace over an error or try to edit and improve a thought, I gave in, braved the rain, and used the lobby of the church in which the chorus was practicing to finish writing.  As luck had it, there was a tiny table, just big enough for the netbook to sit upon right beside a big, wooden rocking chair.  It was like being in heaven compared to the passenger side of the car!

Every time I encounter or pass by the sight of people working I feel as if I'm being infused with blessings in the realization that for the next bunch of weeks I'm on hiatus from the rat race.  Then again, work is a relative term.  I might be able to stand around watching another guy work as many of the gentlemen on a road construction crew often appear to be doing more so than actually working themselves.  Is it any wonder why I seem to encounter what I call "stop sign monkeys" on every road I travel?  If all that watching got put into actual labor, the road projects would take less time and save us a bunch of money!  Yes there is a bit of tongue in cheek there, but honestly, I'm not sure how much.

Hardly any of the foods I've eaten since I left on Monday morning have been of the kind that I get on a daily basis, so I've been taking advantage of the varied offerings with relish.  (No, not THAT kind of relish!)  Breakfasts, in particular, have been out of this world with corn fritters, dippy eggs, and today, buckwheat pancakes!  I woke up this morning to the amazing smell of those buckwheat pancakes being made.  Some years back in the home of the gentleman who I mentioned in the "Dippy Eggs" post I had the opportunity to smell the batter from which these pancakes are made.  There was no way I ever imagined myself eating anything created from that glop.  A year or two later I was bullied into attending a buckwheat pancake dinner at a fire hall out in Western Pennsylvania to which I went most grudgingly.  Before I was finished I was practically being dragged away from the table.  Did I mention that it was an ALL YOU CAN EAT buchwheat pancake dinner?

I've noticed that my thoughts here at the blog are quite scattered.  I know they're like that much of the time, but they seem to be more so than ever this summer, although perhaps that observation is strictly subjective because I gave myself the whole school year off from writing.  It doesn't really matter, though.  If Blogger is still around when I'm in a nursing home spending half of each day in trying to remember who I am, perhaps the varied memories I'm recording here now will put an occasional smile on my crinkly lips and help me to remember some of the best days of my life.  I'm living them now, and thanking God for each and every one of them.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dippy Eggs

It wasn't really until I left my parent's house in 1983 that I learned that there were ways of preparing foods other than the usual ones in which Mom had always made them.  Oh, sure, I knew that there were restaurant meals that weren't quite like the ones I was used to having all my life, and now and then I'd be treated to something one of my aunts would make that was different from the typical fare I got at home.  Now and then Dad and I would go to a breakfast or a dinner at the church and the grub would be different there too, but for the most part much of what I ate as a kid was more or less the same kind of stuff I had at our own table.

Once a week, on Sunday mornings, Dad would get up early and make breakfast of bacon and eggs for Mom, my sister and me.  The eggs were scrambled.  Other than those scrambled eggs, hard boiled, and their variation of deviled were the only eggs I grew up knowing.  I'd heard about soft boiled eggs, poached eggs, eggs over easy, and other ways that eggs were prepared in my boyhood travels, but they weren't anything that sounded appealing enough for me to ask Mom or Dad for something different from what we usually had by way of bird ova prepared for family consumption.

It wasn't until only a few years ago when I was a guest in the home of an elderly gentleman, that something with a runny yolk was put before him that made my adult palate, now accustomed to trying all sorts of new things just for the sake of trying them, stand up and take notice.  A little paranoid about consuming something without a fully cooked egg, I wasn't quite ready to join him in his usual breakfast fare, but I knew, especially after watching him eat his "dippy eggs" as they were called there, that the day was coming on which I'd sample them.

Eventually that day came when, on a visit, I was asked what I'd like for breakfast and I opted for the dippy eggs.  The whites were done perfectly with a ton of pepper as I prefer them, but it was the liquidy yolks about which I still had reservations - until I broke that first leaky circle of sunshine, dipped the edge of my rye toast into it and brought it to my mouth with just a bit of the adjacent white for good measure.  The dippy eggs were delicious!

The gentleman whose dippy eggs were my first visual invitation to trying them is gone now, but I remember him fondly every time, as I did this morning, I break through the white of my egg to allow a bit of the runny yolk to ooze out.  Similarly, I think so often of my Uncle Andy who gave me my first ride on a scooter about fifty years ago when I mount the Piaggio and fire it up for another adventure to nowhere in particular.  It's good to try new things.  I often have to remind myself of that, and battle with my own reservations at times.  I'm grateful for novel experiences and for the dear folks who make them available to me.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Time for Pizza

I treated myself to more lunches out this summer than I have in the past number of summers combined, and you know what?  I was worth it!  One of my favorites, only available on Fridays, was take-out pizza from Bakery Delite in Plains, PA.  I savored every morsel knowing that once vacation was over I'd likely not be back there for another Friday lunch until next June rolls around.

I wrote those words on the 19th of August, last year - the last Monday before my return to school.  Another year of academia has passed and, praise God, June has finally rolled around again, and today was my first Friday opportunity to get some pizza at Bakery Delite.  I am nearly high as it digests, not from the pizza itself, but with the realization that I'm another year wiser than I was back then.  Okay, I lie.  It's the realization that another something to which I'd looked forward is here and now.

I live my life in various series of moments to look forward to, and nobody does it quite like me to my knowledge.  In any moment there is something in my brain and my heart to which I'm looking forward, but I do it like a little kid on Christmas Eve awaiting the sounds of prancing reindeer overhead.  There's a surrealistic excitement that I feel, and I wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world.

I guess that's why closing down another year at school is always such a big deal to me.  With the summer come many, many things that have me eagerly waiting for their arrivals, sometimes within days of each other and often with numbers of good things and events overlapping.

For example with a planned trip there usually comes visiting friends I haven't seen in a while, picture taking opportunities, decent restaurant meals, craft beer samplings, shopping excursions, and just gobbling up the scenery that passes by outside the car windows.  I don't know that I'll ever take a long scooter trip.  I'm a man who loves his comforts and air conditioning in the Impala on a brutally hot day beats being saddle sore and half baked on the scooter.

Today was the time for pizza on a Friday again.  I rode a few miles after picking it up to the county park where the gates close in November and my soul sighs as their closing heralds for me the coming of another dreary, dark, and cold winter.  But, because of that annual closing and its import for me there is likewise much joy as I approach the park and see the yellow gates flung wide open.  Every time, all summer long, I get to that entrance and my spirit sings and dances inside me.

The pizza was very good.  The company was rather quiet, but I like it that way for a summer lunch on the scooter.  I'm not the sort, if someone were to come around and strike up a conversation, who'd be delighted to be talking to some stranger about nothing much, or, heaven forbid, his aches and pains and woes.  So many acquaintances think that I'm an extrovert, but the truth is that I'm quite introverted and would much prefer to munch a humble lunch alone than to yak with somebody I just met.

I got to try out the bright green plastic spidery phone holder I picked up a few weeks ago at a cheapo goods store.  It holds one's phone as a tripod would hold a substantial camera.  It did a decent enough job.  The picture immediately below this text is the actual one from the phone.

I was feeling gleeful when I tossed the empty pizza box into a nearby trash can, gathered up my stuff, and hopped back onto the scooter.  Though it had been a simple lunch, it was one of the best I'd had in a while because it was one of those things I'd looked forward to a lot.

I love seeing a lot of sky and the view of it from the park is one of the best in the valley.  I suppose that's why they put the small airport next door.  Some days a scooter ride gives me that same exhilarating feeling I always imagined that being able to fly like Superman would provide.

I take lots of selfies as I make my way through life because when I'm revisiting pictures I like seeing on my own face the joyful emotions I was experiencing in the moments when I snapped them.  Most scooter rides give me this look which is why I know that having a scooter is something I'll always want.  That, and a little pizza on Fridays in the summers.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Country Air

I get to spend quite a bit of time each summer away from my house and out in "the woods" which are a very nice place to visit, but where I wouldn't want to live.  For one there are many more bears that might be encountered out where Hansel and Gretel might be looking for candied houses.  And, for another, the nearest source of a jug of milk or a loaf of bread can be miles and miles away.

I tend to lump together all rural places simply as "the woods" in my brain, though the deciduous forest which for years I taught my students about is just around the corner.  I watch a movie like one of the umpteen Harry Potters and cringe when the characters leave the creature comforts of some municipality behind and venture into the forest while I fail to realize that I can do the same thing within a scooter's ride away from the comfort of the air conditioned room from which I write this.

Now and then, especially in the heat of a particularly oppressively hot summer's day, I'll ride out into "the country" to get my fill of the cool, fragrant air, and a few good views of things I can't see in my own backyard.  I put up with the trade-off of my own scooter's engine spoiling the silence while I gobble up what's to be enjoyed in sight and olfactory pleasure as I roll along through nature's bountiful sensory offerings.

How easy it is to forget the simple science behind it being refreshingly cool out in the woods when the heat in the city makes one chomp at the bit to be away from it.  I remember the heat in the ground level apartment I lived in when I first married and how even in the evening when it cooled down outside, the temperature inside never seemed to drop.  What a difference some trees and grass would have made instead of being surrounded by concrete and asphalt absorbing the day's heat and then radiating it back when the sun went down.

And, just as effortless it is to lose consciousness of the fact that only a few miles out, on one of the side roads feeding into the valley, refreshment from the city's heat can be found for the low, low price of 65 miles to the gallon.  I need to work on remembering that!

Stay cool!  And watch out for bears.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What you're seeing as the title of this post, provided that the little "v" type symbol over the "z" showed up, (and I can't type the name of that symbol without using it in its own name) is pronounced in Slovak something like "oozh" where the "oo" has the sound it has in "book" rather than "boon."

 In English "už" traslates to "already," but there's more to it that is somewhat idiomatic, at least for how it's used in my family.  I have never heard it used in a positive sense as in, "It's time for the party already!" but rather always with a built in sense of regret as in a Slovak dirge that was often sung graveside.  In "Už Idem do Hrobu" (Already I Am Going to the Grave) there is what has to be the deepest sense of regret expressed in that "už" as there can possibly be.  "Already, my life is over!"  And that's how I've always heard the word used - with a heaping helping of regret thrown in, or in another sense that I'll explain in just a minute.

And thus this enigma that is me (That "me" should be "I" because of the linking verb requiring a subjective case complement, but I'm out of school now.) isn't even out of school for a week, but is feeling a tickle of už in having already had my first full day off, the breakfast that I'd looked forward to for months eaten, my first weekend off, and my first couple of scooter days of the summer spent.  I heave a sigh in realizing that some of my vacation is already behind me, rather than looking forward to the many days to come of sleeping late and tending to few responsibilities.  

Here comes the other connotation of "už.!  It was my daddy who always used it this way.  When I'd do something prematurely, or hurriedly, either because of a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm that couldn't be contained, or in haste to get something distasteful over with, I'd hear his booming voice.  "Už!"  It always stopped me in my tracks to reconsider how I was going about doing what I was doing and how I'd need to adjust my attitude, my speed, or both.

I can hear that voice of his even now, admonishing me to stop looking behind me at what's past, and to stop lamenting the future when soon enough I'll return to work.  And his isn't the only voice.  Loved ones who know me well enough can command in a single raised eyebrow the same attention as Dad's commanding bellow.

So, I'm going to do my best to live in the present this summer.  To savor every minute of this blessed freedom as I can while it's here and now.  Until my Slovak kicks in.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Precisely Nowhere

Today was my first day back at my own house since school got out last week, and I'm glad it was a nice day because I really wanted to get on the scooter and go.  Where?  Nowhere in particular.  And that's exactly where I went.  Sometimes I take forever thinking about in which direction I'll point the yoke, and other times the front tire just seems to grab the pavement and take over.  This was one of the latter times with no internal debate about where to roll.  I just went.


It was all very familiar territory through which I rolled, and it was one of those kinds of days when I just felt like waving at everybody I passed by as they seem to do out in the boonies whether or not they know the folks they're passing on a ride.  Mind you, I didn't actually do that, but my spirit felt like it which counts for something I suppose.

It was a good day to be out and about.  There weren't too many cars on the longer stretches which makes for pleasant scootering at a pace which allows one to slow down and savor the sights and smells.  Although I've been scootering for seven years now I still get such a thrill when I can smell grass that's just been cut or goods being made at a bakery, to name just a few of the smells that can be savored on two wheels in a unique way.

 I wasn't out too long because I felt my forearms getting just a little tingly in the hot sun and didn't want to risk a burn, but I was on the road long enough to have grabbed a big handful of summer vacation and stuffed it into my smiling maw.

Coming down the alley to the roses in full bloom was the icing on the cake.  Where to tomorrow?  Maybe a different precisely nowhere!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Worth Every Minute

So, after all my carrying on in recent weeks about the end of school coming and my looking forward to closing up the classroom and hitting the road, have my first few days of being off been worth all that hoopla?  Yep.  Every last minute!  I've been away from the house since I got out of school on Thursday at about 10:30 AM (It's now Saturday, two days later.) and I won't take to the scooter again till Monday at which point I hope to address the joys of scootering here more often.  In the mean time, though, a few views of me and some of the enjoyable things I've taken in since I escaped from work.

To celebrate my first full day of summer vacation I planned to breakfast at the Arlington Diner in Stroudsburg, PA.  I had breakfast there last year on the day after I got out of school and hoped to recreate the great feeling of freedom I remembered from last year.  It worked!  I couldn't have planned a better way to start the first full day off!

As you can see I've been having a blast taking pictures with the new camera I got on Wednesday as an early Father's Day gift.  Oh, how good it feels to have back the same model that died on me four years ago!

I'll never understand the folks who try to hide or block their faces with their hands when they see a camera pointed in their directions.  I'm always happy to be in a pictures just as much as I like to be the guy behind the lens.

I hope this summer moves by about as quickly as this little guy was walking when I stopped to get his picture!

See you from two wheels soon!