Saturday, August 26, 2017

No More Back to School

Today is Saturday, August 26, 2017.  Two days ago was the first faculty meeting of the year.  Friday was the last weekday of summer vacation.  Monday will be the inaugural day of school for the 2017-2018 academic year.  Come Tuesday, I will have missed all of those things for the third year running, and I couldn’t be happier!

 Although I didn't realize it when I took this picture in August of 2013, this would be the last "first day of school" for me ever again.

 Without reliving the horrors of the past three years during which I floundered with self doubt, depression, solitude by day, pain, and anxiety I am finally able, this year for the first time, to enjoy the “Back to School” thing as someone removed forever from the experience.

 I rode past here only two days ago, my last school with the windows of my last classroom in view.   I felt a freedom I'd come to fear I'd never know.  The freedom of being done.

 I’m officially done with teaching, with working.  I am now someone who can wake up on a typical morning and plan my day however I’d like.  It seems that I’ve been practicing for this by having and riding a scooter for the past ten years because there’s a lot about a scooter ride that compares to being a man of leisure overall.  There’s a feeling of freedom about both that is incomparable to any other joy I’ve experienced in my life.

 In some ways I feel like this old school might if it were capable of sentient introspection, knowing that my place in education is entirely in the past, but grateful for the good run I had.

 I often describe riding the Piaggio to the uninitiated in the art of scootering as a feeling of being at an amusement park without having to get off the rides.  And that feeling never gets old.  With every ride I take, long or short, I feel some of that same joy that hit me like a bolt from the blue when I rode my first 50 feet on a scooter in the parking lot at the dealership where I bought it.  And every ride is an adventure, whether to the grocery store to pick up a carton of eggs or a long two wheeled stroll on roads I’d not ridden before just to see where they’ll take me.

I plan to take lots of rides like this one with sights of nature's glory to be enjoyed at every turn, and even on the straightaways!

 My best friend suggested to me that it’s going to take some adjusting to come to terms with the pleasure of being able to do what I want, when I want.  I feel that I know what he means on one level; that without some kind of focus I might find myself floundering with many possibilities but without a meaningful feeling or sense of accomplishment.  On the other hand, when comparing the situation to scootering, I don’t know that strings of days on which I don’t know when I get up where I’m going to end up when the sun sets will necessarily be a bad thing.  I don’t know if I’ll need goals beyond the one-day-at-a-time kind to feel fulfilled.  Then again, figuring that out will be a nice adventure in

  Of all the things I see on the open road, I enjoy the whimsical ones the best, like this unique home adorned with seasonal doo-dads.  Perhaps there are those who experience a similar whimsy in seeing an old guy going by on a scooter looking like it's the best day of his life.

 Tomorrow would have been one of the saddest days of a typical year for me if I needed to return to the classroom - the very last day of savoring the unique kind of freedom that a summer vacation would have provided.  To be certain, I loved teaching for most of the ride, but I’d always identified strongly with the bumper sticker I saw many years ago that read, “A BAD DAY OF FISHING IS STILL BETTER THAN A GOOD DAY AT WORK.”  


I might be closer to the caboose than to the engine, but I still like very much being a part of the train of life.

 Even though I’ve been out of work for three years, on Monday, two days from now I’ll finally be able to enjoy fully the feeling of not having to go back to school to start up another year of counting down the days until another summer vacation might roll around again.  It’s going to be the best academic year ever, because for the first time in 54 years school isn’t going to be something I’ll need to think about at all, unless I find myself scootering through that 15 mph zone with the flashing yellow lights at the times of day during which they’re blinking.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Happier than Anything in The Golden Hour

“The Golden Hour” any photographer will tell you is that unique time of day that happens about an hour before sunrise and before sunset in which the sun’s color appears to be emotionally warmer than at other times of the day.  Photos taken during those times tend to be somewhat golden in tone, softer looking, and somehow evoke, at least in me, an emotional response that is most pleasant. When I’m on the scooter during a golden hour the sun’s in a position that makes shadows stretch longer than they do at other times of the day as well.  I never fail to take great delight in seeing my shadow on the scooter going ahead of me on the road, always staying that little bit in the lead to ensure that I’ll never catch up with it.

I’m a child at heart, and pray that I always will be.  Christmas morning, I believe is still far more magical for me as an adult than it is for most grown-ups.  Likewise on my birthday when I wake up full of childlike glee in knowing that my special day has come ‘round again.  I’ve been known to blow soap bubbles from time to time though my hair is gray and my knees ache, to walk barefoot through the grass and sometimes through the snow on the deck.  I look forward to good things on the horizon with more pizazz than most of my contemporaries and I still like taking things apart to see what makes them tick.  Having and riding a scooter is all a very big part of that kid inside me who never wants to have to grow up.

 I was fortunate to spend my working years among a few generations of kids who helped to keep me feeling young at heart.  Though I had to play the adult and couldn’t join in their games nor shenanigans, just being around them in their times of delight and glee was enough to make my own heart sing with some of the qualities of life long forgotten by most people my age.  Though some cynicism and a touch of becoming jaded hit me at times when things in the news couldn’t help but to make us shudder, I managed to go to sleep most days waiting eagerly for the morning and another day at school to greet me.  Now that I’ve finally “graduated” and put down my pointer, I still look for the best of what’s to come in the foreseeable future and look forward to its arrival as I scooter about town with what passes for a big smile on my face.

There it is.  Resting grump face.  I was having a ball when I snapped this, but you'd never know it by the look on my face.

In spite of trying to smile broadly when I’m being photographed, even by myself, I’m usually disappointed to see upon review that I don’t look happy at all, but somewhat grumpy.  Young ladies call a certain type of visage, “resting bitch face,” which means that someone who wears that particular look appears to be nasty at heart even at times of being emotionally neutral.  I seem to have “resting grump face” that makes me look like a grumpy old man even when I’m feeling happy.  Okay, to be honest, sometimes I act like a grumpy old man too, but I’m not always like that when it would appear that I am.

When I do manage a smile I have to bear down like I'm trying to poop and get myself to the verge of silly laughter to make it show up on the camera.  The smile, that is.  Not the poop.

So, if you see me motoring about on two wheels sometime during the golden hour and I look like an old sourpuss on a much smaller bike than his frame might suggest he ought to be riding, rest assured that there’s about a 99% chance that I’m inside myself feeling like I’m a kid on some amusement park ride, having the time of my life.  But without the need for waiting in line with an itchy wristband or a handful to tickets to get on the ride!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Musings on a Four Skunk Day

I’m taking baby steps now that the scooter is back.  Okay, baby rides, to be honest.  It’s going to take me a little while to get my confidence back and to trust it to make a round trip without worrying me.  And, my riding skills have gotten a tad bit rusty during the hiatus when it was in the shop, so I’m trying to stay on high alert all the time, not that I shouldn’t always ride in that mode, but I prefer to relax a little when there isn’t anybody on my tail or waiting on a perpendicular street to dash out in front of me or somebody coming from the opposite direction ready to turn as I’m approaching an intersection.

I went out this morning just for the hell of it, before the rain that’s promised for this afternoon comes along and ruins the fun.  As I rode north on Main St. (The kind of Main Street that stays Main Street in name through a bunch of municipalities.) I realized that I needed to make a particular stop to visit the colorful gazebo where I often went to inaugurate a summer vacation and then to put it to bed before going back to school.  It’s in a park full of swings and other kiddie things so I hesitate going there with a camera in my hand lest I be thought a major creep, but I was lucky this morning to find it deserted so I could get my gazebo shot.  I could have cheated and just included one from a past visit, but I wanted it to be fresh.

 In this gazebo at a nearby park I often heralded the start of a summer vacation from school, and just as often revisited it before another academic year was set to begin.  I like my little traditions that have some kind of ineffable meaning to me.

 As I rode along after that, I was most pleased to feel the introspective mood that I often felt while scootering in the past coming back to me.  Various thoughts passed through my noggin as I scootered about, some of them about future blog posts I might write.  Unfortunately when I think about things like that the thoughts tend to evaporate before I can make note of them in some form or another.  On the bright side, though, it’s sufficiently pleasant to just have them in the first place. 

 Not far from the gazebo I feel like I'm sitting on top of the world with a view of the hollow below in the distance.

 Being able to entertain myself with my own thoughts (and subesquent questionable actions) has always been an ability I’ve treasured for most of my life.  I remember being of preschool age with a bucket of water, a handful of wooden clothespins, a number of pebbles and as many ants as I could find, and delighting in playing “war at sea” with ants floating on clothespin ships and going overboard as pebble bombs fell from overhead.  Yep, I was very good at keeping myself amused as the scar on my left index finger bears silent witness to from the time I gashed it while playing with my uncle’s rusty fishing knife and hitting my finger so hard with the blade when it slipped from carving the notch into an arrow I was trying to make from a long splinter of wood that I remember seeing my bone on the inside of the deep cut.  Lucky for me, I remembered being taken for stitches and a horrible tetanus shot some years before after I’d fallen down the stairs and cut my forehead beside my eye, so I gauzed up the awful cut and kept my hand in my pocket for the next week lest the adults find out what I’d done and take me for another of those bothersome needles.  But, as usual, I digress.

 Although I'm smiling here with that bandage beside my eye, the day before I was a screaming writhing mess while not only getting stitches but a big juicy tetanus shot for extra measure.

 Part of the reason that having my scooter in the shop for three months was so frightening was that I’d reached a point where I’d visited the garage a number of times to see it apart in what appeared to be hundreds of scattered pieces and I began to believe that the mechanic wasn’t putting it back together because he couldn’t.  Now that I’m riding again, I’m more amazed with every jaunt that it’s not only running, but running beautifully for the first time in a long time.  When he’d talked about boring the cylinder I was genuinely scared that it would never run again, and when I saw with my very own eyes my precious Piaggio eviscerated on the floor of the shop, I was even more convinced that eventually I was going to get the call to tell me that there was nothing that could be done to salvage it.  For now, I’m back in a good place, and hope and pray I’ll be able to stay here for a very long time to come.

Oh, as for the title of this post...  I passed four dead skunks on the road today in different places and in various stages of decomposition. It definitely wasn’t a good day for skunks to be trying to cross roads!

 Sorry, no skunk pictures.  If I'd thought I'd be safe stopping to get one, I would have.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Piaggio Homecoming

After 106 days in the shop, I have my scooter back!  It’s missing a small piece or two I think because of its being kind of flopped around in the shop as poor Mike tried to make it work while working on other bikes that didn’t need anything quite so complicated done to them, but for now it’s running, and so far I haven’t noticed anything dripping underneath it.  (I’m assured that said parts will be replaced as they come in.)  Although it was aggravating to miss much of the summer riding season, if it’s going to last me another ten years and 20,000 miles, I’ll be forever grateful.  And, besides, Mike only charged me a small fraction for labor considering how much time I know he put in on it.  Apparently the anatomy of a scooter is radically different from a typical motorcycle, so there was a learning curve involved as well as a pile of research that needed to be done.


Before I left for Florida last week, this was what I saw of the scooter when I paid Mike a visit at the garage.

 I brought it home only yesterday, so I’m holding off on celebrating quite yet.  It’s going to take me some time and a whole bunch of riding to feel the familiar confidence I usually felt when I took it out, relatively certain that it would bring me home again afterwards.  I am, though, blissfully hopeful that both time and distance will return me to the state of Zen I usually experienced on longer rides that took me out of the streets of the valley and into the back roads and byways all around.

At dinner last evening, I was happy knowing that the bike was back home, but wishing I could have been out riding it.


I’m often shocked after somebody takes a picture of me to find that I look grumpy in the photo when I thought I was smiling from ear to ear when the shutter snapped.  There’s no mistaking the smile in this photo, though, from the short ride I took this morning not long after I woke up, just to make sure that nothing happened overnight that would require a trip back to the shop.

 When I got hungry around lunch time, I ran down to the Farmers’ Market on the Public Square in Wilkes-Barre to grab an order of grape leaves.  How great it felt once again to be able to sneak the scooter into a space too small to fit a car, get what I wanted, and then hurry out.  For getting around the city the Piaggio can’t be beat for its zip and maneuverability, and those qualities were exactly what I was missing while the bike was tied up at the garage. To be certain, I was missing those longer rides too, but perhaps I’ll get one or two of them in tomorrow or over the weekend.  We just got back from Florida on Monday and there’s laundry to get done.  Well, that and a few naps to take too!

Still to come, sometime soon, to take the scooter out to the middle of nowhere and practice the ukulele just for the hell of it.