Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Beginnings and Endings

Although some days it doesn't seem like it because at times I tend to type all around some idea without ever making my thoughts coalesce so that they flow pleasingly and logically to make a definite discernible point, I often spend quite a bit of time in thinking about what I might write here before starting to crank anything out.  Today's post began with the simple notion that today might have been the last day on which I'll take to the scooter in shorts and a tee shirt.  The more I thought about it, though, it's really about the passing of another season, the changes that always sneak up on me as summer segues into early Fall, the thoughts of the impending season to follow during which my time off the scooter will be measured in weeks rather than days or hours.  But, with more thought I turned up the notion that much of what I write here seems to be about beginnings or endings because the in-betweens are just kind of marking time toward the start or finish of something.

I'm fairly certain that that conclusion came only after I saw this picture that I took this afternoon in anticipation of this post.  There I was atop a hill where one can look down upon a nearby neighborhood like the Grinch surveying his domain from the top of Mt. Crumpet, and as I ran into place in time for the timer on the camera to do its thing I didn't give any conscious thought about smiling or otherwise "arranging" my face for the picture. 

My face rarely "lies" in a photo, and even when it does those well versed in seeing through my facial expressions can't be fooled.  I trotted over to the scooter as the timer counted down and then the shutter snapped to reveal precisely what I seemed to be feeling at the moment.  My face doesn't show thoughts about putting away the tee shirts and shorts.  Its glumness reflects that whole mess of putting away the summer and getting ready, as if one really can get ready, for the in-betweens of winter that won't be far off.

Today was an ending - one of the things that gets written about.  No doubt, unless I croak (as my Daddy said for too many years before he finally did nearly three years ago) before April or May I'll be waiting for that fresh beginning of a new riding season.  Oh, I'll probably get many good rides in before I park the BV under the deck with a sigh of resignation and hook up the trickle charger, but not without the "gearing up" that cooler weather requires.  I'll sorely miss just putting on a pair of shoes and sailing out the door to hop onto my trusty steed clad in the tee shirt and shorts that I sport almost every minute from June through sometime in September every year.

And just in case my misery wasn't apparent enough in the first picture, I just had to shoot another by the colorful gazebo that's been in my pictures many times in the course of writing this blog as a featured prop to herald the coming of a summer or putting it away.  Nope.  I don't look happy.

Even the scooter itself seems to be looking longingly for next summer to get here.  Can you blame it?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

That Other Guy

Before I started scootering in the spring of 2007 I don't think I ever took notice of a scooter out on the roads.  Except for mopeds which I'd have recognized as glorified bicycles, I don't know that I ever consciously drew a distinction between a scooter and a motorcycle.  (Okay, we're not going to quibble here about how a scooter IS a motorcycle of specific design because I'll no more win this one than I will the one about how a Sousaphone is a specifically designed tuba rather than a distinct musical instrument.)  I mean, I knew that scooters existed, having been given a ride on one by a favorite uncle when I was probably of pre-school age, and I knew that scooters were used on certain honeymoon islands as a way to get around, but when one zipped by me and I gave it a cursory glance, I'm fairly certain that I never thought, Oh!  Look at that cool scooter!

Once you get on the other side of the handlebars, though, things change.  Now I could no more miss seeing another scooter out there than I could the tip of my own nose, and when I do spy one it's always with a full set of questions.  What kind of scooter is that?  What made that rider decide to get one?  Is it used for commuting, joy riding, or something else?  Why all the gear, or little of it?  I find myself wanting to stop the other rider just for the sake of chewing the fat about the joys of scootering, and to get "his story."

I guess this blog is "my story."  I'm not sure why I think a story needs to be told, but in spite of my long hiatuses here at times between posts, I find myself returning time after time to take up the "pen" again and to crank out some things that maybe others might find interesting.  The fact that there are other scooter riders out there who check in on me would suggest that we're all kind of curious about the other guy's story and not just isolated persons who happen to share the same mode of transportation.  There's something about being a scooter rider that transcends the machine itself.  There's a kind of brotherhood, even if it's a tacit one, formed by these two wheeled adventures of ours. 

(I was going to replace "brotherhood" with "fellowship" to try to be less sexist in there, but then I realized that "fellow" isn't any better than "brother."  I do lament a simpler time when we didn't feel the need to think like that because everybody except the militant few back then was "okay" with assigning masculine gendered terms to writing and speech when the actual gender was unknown.  Suffice it to say, that I mean nothing against the lady scooterists out there with whom I feel the same connection and bond as I do with the guys.)

I think, for dear want of much better terms, that it is cool, neat, interesting, and noteworthy that numbers of us feel the same way - that somehow putting our thoughts about scootering into print makes the experience of being a rider in some quantitative or qualitative ways inexplicably better.

To my fellow scooterists who do both, keep on riding and writing!

Monday, September 28, 2015

An Important Retraction

It was only 27 days ago when I recommended here the consumption of a certain snack item as often as possible.  Of course then I was still 15 days away from landing my sorry ass in the hospital for the stay that lasted over a week and confirmed everything I'd been fearing for years about my state of health and the need to improve it.

I wrote this, to be exact:  The next time you're out riding and riding all day and finding the need for something to eat and drink coming on like there might be no tomorrow, just do this.  Grab a Tasty-Klair, a little jug of chocolate milk, and head for the closest Cracker Barrel porch.  Your whole body will thank you for it.  Well, thank me, maybe, for this sage advice. 


I was out today at the supermarket looking for some bland, tasteless things that I might make for breakfast from now on, and I happened upon the TastyKake items where I had to take pause just to look at the nutrition facts on my beloved Tasty-Klair.  I nearly fell over when I read the chart on the back of the box.

Yes!  They would be 80 mg of cholesterol in that humble 4 oz. snack!  Just what every new heart patient wants to see on one of his favorite snacks.  And with 320 mg of sodium, they're just as "healthy."

Now, everybody says when one is diagnosed with heart disease and starts on that long walk of lifestyle change, "Oh, it's okay to cheat every now and then."  Maybe that's true to some degree.  But cheating doesn't have to include something THIS disturbingly high in the bad things.  I do believe I've eaten my last Tasty-Klair ever.

Those who know me best will be seeing less of this view of me to some degree.  The daily walks have been feeling super heart-wise, but not on my legs, most specifically my right knee the joint of which needs to be replaced.

Luckily, some of my favorite forms of having fun won't be any different at all!  Thank God that the persons who regularly accompany me out in public have gotten so used to me that when I hand them the camera and strike a fetching pose such as this one, I don't even get the old roll of the eyes that I used to get.  They obediently take the shots I want just as I've trained them to do!

There are plenty of smiles like this one left inside me.  The changes I'm making feel good to me now, but it's a damned shame that I had to wait till it was nearly too late to make them to get my act together and my ass in gear.

And, I'm already praying for lots of good weathered scooter days ahead before I'm posting pictures of the Piaggio's front tire frozen into the ice under the deck where I park it.  I've had Thanksgiving days, as well as Christmases, and New Year days on which I was able to take the bike out for a holiday ride.  I'm hoping with all my might that I might get all three of them this year without frozen anything on the ground and with relatively balmy temperatures for their time of year.

You know what, though?  No matter how those days come and go, I'll take them!  I'll take them and be as happy with them as I know I'm going to be already, simply because I'll still be around on them to celebrate!

I might never walk past the Tasty-Klairs without a melancholy sigh, but any number of those sighs will pass and I'll be just fine with that.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Good for Another 1,000 Miles

What a difference a week makes.

A week and a half ago I went to the hospital for what were supposed to be some cardiac tests.  The next day I had two stents implanted into cardiac arteries, learned that I'd head a silent heart attack at some point in the past, and was released for the weekend.

I was supposed to return on Monday for another stent implantation, but two and a half hours after I got home I returned through the ambulance entrance in congestive heart failure...

I thought maybe I was having a heart attack.  I hadn't walked from my recliner to the bathroom before I was struggling to breathe with a walloping pain in my belly.  It wasn't until Tuesday that I got the final stent which turned out to be two, actually, in series because the whole length of the right coronary artery was blocked.

Although I posed for this shot, acting silly after they got me feeling a bit better, it's kind of how I felt at the worst - as if I'd been to the brink of death and brought back just in the nick of time to reevaluate my lifestyle choices and adjust them big time.

By the time they got me out of heart failure and put in the final two stents, I was feeling pretty good, and raring to get out of there.  Considering how I'd only spent two and a half hours at home last week, though, before the ambulance took me back to the hospital, they weren't taking any chances and didn't release me until yesterday.

This picture is just to remind everybody that composition IS important.  What a sweet moment of me snuggling up to my new teddy bear.  After you take in the initial sweetness, though, glance to the left of the photo and see how that toilet just makes the pic extra sweet.

And a quick plug for that hospital food which I enjoyed thoroughly in spite of its traditionally getting a bad rap.  The portions were much smaller than I'd typically eaten in my life, but the appreciation of still being alive made them more satisfying than I thought they could possibly be.

What a difference a day makes! 

Yesterday I was still stuck in that hospital bed, but I knew that today I'd have to take the bike out just to celebrate the hospital ordeal being over, my continued existence, and to enjoy the possibility that today would be the day on which I'd roll the odometer over another 1,000 mile mark.  The second to the topmost windows in the gray tower toward the right were the ones through which I surveyed the neighborhood during my stay when I'd walk to the end of the hallway just to kill some time.

Today's ride was probably the best one I've taken in my life.  My new appreciation for life just made everything positive in a typical ride even better.  The colors, the sounds, the smells, the breeze, the warm sunshine - EVERYTHING felt to me as if I were experiencing it all for the first time.  The simple awareness of things long taken for granted kind of made my head spin, and I crossed the miles with a simple, "WOW!" going through my head the whole time.

God bless the folks who put up autumn decorations!  There were many festive sights out there today and my eyes just soaked in every one of them.

Better even, I hit a new milestone at 18,000 miles!  When I'd set out this morning I knew there was the possibility of doing it, but I wasn't sure how long I'd be able to stay in the saddle after the medical issues.

Best of all, though, I have this whole new appreciation for being alive.  I feel as if I've been reborn in this past week and a half, but this time they gave me a "maintenance manual" so I can keep on doing this thing that I love so much called LIVING!  In spite of my bad knee hurting like hell, I went for a walk during my ride today, and for the first time in years I was able to walk without having to stop to catch my breath over and over again.

I'm not going to get preachy, but I will take this opportunity to encourage you to do what you know you need to do to get or stay healthy.  I'm not an idiot, but there were times when I actually sat down to a cholesterol rich meal and prayed, "Lord, please don't let my first heart attack be fatal."  It appears that that prayer was answered in spades.  And although I'm not an idiot, there were far too many times I acted like one.  Don't be like me in that regard.  Do what you know a cardiologist would tell you to do with your diet and lifestyle before you need the "wake up call" that I just got.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Grandma Might Have Been Right

It was always with plentiful grains of doubt with which I listened to some of the things that rolled off my grandma's tongue.  Those things about how you'll get a cold in your neck if a breeze through an open window in the car should blow against it.  How garbage juice and muck stuck to the bottom of a garbage can turned into maggots.  How she could tell it was going to rain by the aches and pains in her body.

It's that last one that she might have been right about.  My "bad knee" has been aching like a rotten tooth since yesterday when our weather took a decided turn for the worse with on and off rain that's supposed to be continuing through the next four days.  Although I have a handicap license plate on my scooter, there are days like today when even the walk from a designated parking space to the entrance of a store is a new exercise in pain.  That's when I tend to park like this right beside the building itself.  Although I see lots of riders doing the same thing, particularly the crotch rocket guys, I still tend to think of it as a jackass move and don't do it too often.

I suppose I didn't really need to go out this morning, but with a brief stop in the rain and my hankering for a bowl of chili for lunch I checked the local radar forecast and headed to the supermarket that I thought stocked my favorite brand.  I entered the store around aisle 1 and was directed to aisle 12 at the other end of the seeming mile long front end to find the canned chili. (Yes, I can make a great pot from scratch, but I didn't have the time to do that to satisfy my immediate taste for some of the stuff.)  I settled on their house brand to save twenty cents on the can, quickly completed my purchase and headed out to beat the return of the raindrops while I still could.

Paul, this photo's for you.  One of my former students got me this magnetic bumper sticker that I've had on the crate on the back of the scooter for a few years now.  Although I'm sure there's not always a Christian behind me when I'm out riding, I'm sure everybody gets the point to leave a little room.

If you really looked at the junk in the crate in the picture above, you'll have seen my red cane sticking out on either side of it.  I've taken to carrying it with me when I go out, most of the time.  On a day like today, though, I parked right behind the rows of shopping carts near the entrance so I was only a few steps away from grabbing one to use as a walker on wheels.

As I rode out of the lot with my chili, in the distance I could hear the plaintive wail of the horns atop the Luzerne and Susquehanna train engine that often works through the valley making numbers of short stops to drop off freight and pick up empty cars.  From experience I had a good guess as to where the engine might have been and rode off in that direction.  When I got to the parking lot adjacent to the tracks, it was waiting before crossing the right of way and I was just in time to get the camera out of its case on my belt.

 If this attempt at uploading the video works, here's the train crossing Butler St. in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

The sky was getting ever darker since I'd left the house so after watching the short train make it through the at grade crossing I thought it best to head back home.

I got the chili into the microwave, grabbed a magazine and the box of crackers, and then headed to the deck just as soon as the chili was sufficiently warmed.  I'd eaten only a few bites before I felt the first plops of rain arriving in time to warn me that many more were coming; back into the house I went.

I didn't allow the tiny disappointment of not being able to finish my lunch outdoors get to me, but instead I counted my blessings.  In spite of the ache in my knee and the bad weather I was able to get in a nice ride and to see a train.  All in all, not a bad high spot at all to a gray, otherwise ordinary day!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Attention Span of a Dog

I discovered some time ago that my attention span isn't what it used to be, especially when it comes to reading non-fiction.  While Facebook links to many news articles, when I follow such a link it seems that these days I'm expecting a summary of something rather than a full length article that drones on and on with details.  I find myself with growing impatience closing out of half-read web links when they extend past what I consider a reasonable ending, much as I tune out a homily on a Sunday when the priest seems to be enjoying the sound of his own voice long past what could and should have been a good ending point only to repeat in different words something that he already hammered home a half dozen times.  At such times I'm glad to be seated beside close relatives who will give me a well placed elbow to the ribs should they hear a snore coming out of me.

While reading used to be something I loved to do,
I'm more of a book-end these days than a book worm.

Much to my horror I've discovered that I am much more in tune with Facebook memes and single declarative sentences than I am with full news articles.  It seems that we are being bombarded with news articles as of late that are more or less reiterations of the same old topics with which the liberal media choose to assail us.  As such, I'm just sick and tired of flipping the same coin over and over in hopes that one of the sides will miraculously be different if I give it just one more flip.  It's just not happening, and with presidential election campaigns already in full swing in some circles it's only going to get worse.  I'm already not listening to what Donald Trump and the great Hillary are saying at all because I'm just tired of them or because they're saying things I don't want to hear.

I remember English 101 in college all too well considering that I'm almost 40 years beyond it, but Mrs. Kerr drilled it into me that a good composition makes a thesis statement and then seeks to convince the reader in subsequent sections that the thesis is a sound one.

To be certain, many good writers follow just that formula when writing for news publications and the web.  Perhaps I've just grown tired of that same old format, or maybe it's that I've become sufficiently jaded so as to judge the merit of an article based on whether I already agree or disagree with its thesis.

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I learned over time that when I write I tend to think differently and thus make my own thoughts clearer for myself.  The ending of what I wrote above this last picture, I think, sums it all up for me.  I'm not at a point in life where I'm looking to have my beliefs challenged or wrestled with and if one is seeking to drag me from my comfort zone, I'm not going to continue reading what he writes.

I've been reading fictional stories about the Amish at times over the course of the past few months, and the profundity of their simplicity astounds me.  They simply do certain things as they do them because the means whereby they accomplish what needs to be accomplished is all laid out in their belief system.  They don't need to reinvent the wheel every time they need to raise a barn.  There's a way to do it, and anybody who has a pen and an opinion doesn't need to come along to tell them that there's a better or a different way to do it.

Maybe that's where I am in my own life.  I know what I want to know - what I need to know.  Isn't there a time when one becomes sufficiently old so as to be respected for one's wisdom?  Doesn't each of us get to a point in time when he doesn't need to consider other opinions because he just knows that his are right for him?  Pragmatic, to be certain, but I don't want to go to my grave considering varying thoughts about EVERYTHING rather than to enjoy my time attending to the things that are important to me.

I'm digging in my heels to a degree by doing what I want to do and turning a deaf ear to those who would try to even suggest that I think about this or ponder that.  Pig headed?  Maybe.  Closed minded?  To be sure.  But I've had enough of others' two cents especially when I'm not holding out my hand for it.

And so, if I don't finish reading articles in the news or on the web simply because I don't like what their authors are saying or grow bored with their saying it, so be it. 

Yes, here I am "assailing" you with my opinion in spite of all I've said.  If you made it to this sentence, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Snack Time

Scooter riding can be pretty hard work (said no scooter rider ever) so when one rides hard, one needs a most excellent snack to keep his scootering skills sharp and focused.  This particular scooterist has found, through much trial and error, that perfect pick-me-up for when he finds himself nodding off at the handlebars on one of his epic rides around the block or maybe a little farther.  Okay, end of the annoying third person...

If you're lucky enough to be on the east coast or thereabouts, you might know about the Tasty Baking Company, more commonly known as Tastykake.  Their line of pies, cakes, and other sweet baked type snacks are the cream of the crop to me, and their Tasty-Klair is THE definitive most wonderful and delicious single baked product not only coming from their bakery, but from any other bakery anywhere.

So when I'm on one of those long, long tours (of my neighborhood) and need that extra kick in the ass to keep on moving instead of just riding back to park the scooter under the deck, it's off to a Turkey Hill convenience store or perhaps a supermarket if it's closer to where I am, to score a Tasty-Klair and a pint of chocolate milk.  The milk I'm not so picky about and will drink about anything that's come out of a cow's teat and has a little chocolate syrup stirred into it.

Another great thing about this simple snack is that it can be enjoyed just about anywhere, although I prefer to have it in style, by a table if there's one handy, or at least in a comfy chair if one can be found.  (More on that in a minute.)

Unfortunately, comfy is a relative thing.  While some skinny teen girl might find the accommodations by this table at Sheetz to be amply spacious, my belly found it to be an unusually tight fit and I fear that the day might come when the consumption of one more Tasty-Klair might make the difference between fitting here and being out of luck.

God bless the good folks at Weis's supermarket in Duryea, PA for providing this outdoor snack time furniture in the summer.  Notice there's even a coffee table there by my left knee to hold the Tasty-Klair between bites, and a parking spot right by the curb so I don't have to wander far from the scooter to plop myself into a chair that Goldilocks would call, "Just right!"

There I was this afternoon with a little time to kill when the urge for the mid afternoon Tasty-Klair and chocolate milk hit me like a ton of bricks.  While I got them both at Sheetz, I wasn't going to sit by their hot aluminum furniture that makes me have to suck in my gut to fit.  I thought for a minute about where might be a good place to find a nice chair in which to enjoy my well deserved snack.  And then it hit me...

When I was a kid the local convent had a long front porch with a rocking chair for each of the nuns who lived there, some of whom had been my teachers in elementary school.  While riding by on my bike in the evenings I'd often see and wave to the good 'sters who were rocking away as if each back and forth motion got yet another poor soul out of purgatory.  While the convent and most of the nuns are long gone, there is a place, a magical place, a most comfortable space with that same line-up of rocking chairs that the good sisters once enjoyed.  Cracker Barrel!

Okay, maybe I didn't buy my Tasty-Klair and milk there, but I didn't think anyone was going to mind me stopping by to enjoy my time with my snack on their spacious front porch, in one of their many rocking chairs.  I was right.  Not a single Cracker Barrel representative came out to ask me to kindly move myself elsewhere.  It was a very enjoyable time that I spent there without a care in the world except to make the most of the experience.  It was a delight for the senses with the various scents of the food being made on the premises, the sights and sounds of people and traffic going by, and the most delicious tastes of my snack items!

The next time you're out riding and riding all day and finding the need for something to eat and drink coming on like there might be no tomorrow, just do this.  Grab a Tasty-Klair, a little jug of chocolate milk, and head for the closest Cracker Barrel porch.  Your whole body will thank you for it.  Well, thank me, maybe, for this sage advice.