New Ride

For over a year now the idea of buying a new scooter has been circulating in my head.  Round and round, but not gelling.  No money!

I have a scooter now and I really enjoy it.  When it runs.  Lately that hasn’t been very often.  It’s twelve years old and has seventeen thousand miles on it so it’s not real surprising that it gets cranky at times.  But with a little effort I can coax it into running.  And I go for a ride.  It’s winter now though and I don’t like riding in the cold.

The biggest issue with the scooter is its size and speed.  It’s a pretty nice size.  Goldilocks’s favorite size – just right, but it’s slow as molasses.  It’s faster than what you might normally think of as a scooter, but not really fast enough to ride on the back roads that are so pretty, or the highway.  With a tailwind, headed downhill I’ve made it go a whopping sixty five miles an hour.  But when a pick-up truck comes up behind you and wants to go seventy it can be a little unnerving until he finally passes you.  And on an uphill climb she slows down to a measly forty five.  I just want to be able to go sixty up a hill.

So I’m looking at something bigger.  What should I get?  Small, medium. , large or extra large?  Italian, Japanese or Chinese?  Quite a few options really if your willing to go with a used one.  So I’ve scoured cycle trader and Facebook market place for months.  Knowing full well that I wasn’t really going to buy one even if I found it.  Yet.

With a touch of warm weather and a good deal of spring fever my timetable has advanced considerably.  I want to have a new scoot ready to ride when the weather gets good and not have to be scrounging around for it then.  So serious looking now.

And there it is!  Almost too good to be true.  Not too old, low miles, nice condition and the right size and brand.  And it’s at a dealership so I can have faith that its in reasonable condition.  But it’s a dealer a hundred miles away.  Not too far I decide.

How do I break this news to my wife?  She knows that the scooter makes me happy.  She wants me to be happy.  And I can afford it because of the awesome price.  So I move forward, without telling her.  

After checking out the dealership to find that it’s got a good reputation I contact them and set up a test ride appointment.  And put down a deposit to hold it.  I’m a little skeptical when the guy tells me I should put the deposit down because there have been a couple of other people looking at it, but I don’t want to miss out on this one.  

A coy question posed to my wife lets the cat out of the bag.  How would you feel about going to the big city on Saturday?  A funny look from her forces me to say that I’ve found a scooter I’d like to look at.  I can go shopping came the approving reply.

The idea that it was too good to be true kept haunting me.  Fear of disappointment often breeds disappointment.  I’ve seen it a thousand times.  And I was afraid something was going to happen here to cause me to be disappointed. Was this crusty old guy named Joe going to be a pushy salesman?  Would the price somehow rise?  Is the scooter really just a pile of junk and that’s why the price is so good? Did I really want to endure a day long ordeal of negotiating and paperwork?

Even what I wore could be ann issue. I’m not a big bad biker and don’t want to look like one so no boots, or leather jacket. Bikers and scooter riders are a different breed. Sometimes the bikers look down on scooter folk, and sometimes not. I’d be afraid to go to the Sturgis motorcycle rally lest the bikers take issue with my ride. During my cross country Route 66 adventure I went to a motorcycle museum in Texas I think. I was a little, well a lot really, anxious about going in because I was afraid scooter riders might be frowned on. I had recently passed by the headquarters of some biker club where the sign read “If you think shit happens, wait til you see what happens if you park here!” Not welcoming. On today’s mission I wore warm jeans, leather shoes and a toasty coat.

I knew that even if I bought it I couldn’t take it home that day.  It’s too cold to ride it home.  Might even rain.  I’ll need to rent a truck or a trailer.  Crap.  I’ve never driven my van with a trailer attached.  Or any other vehicle with a trailer attached.  How hard is that?  So many roads my mind could go down to take the fun out of this adventure.  Why do I let myself think this way instead of focusing on the good things?  I don’t know.  I’m working on it.

As I went to bed the night before my test ride I said a little prayer that my excitement about a new scooter not end up as an anticlimax.  Or a disappointment.  Help me just enjoy it and be positive.

At the dealership I told the kid at the door that I was there to see Joe.  He said he was Joe and offered a fist bump.  Covid has killed the handshake, and even made fist bumps iffy.  He was much younger than I thought.  Not a slick salesman at all.  Just a guy like me who likes to ride a two wheeled vehicle.  He showed me the bike, went over the features and asked if I wanted to ride it.

Heck yeah.  This scooter is bigger than the one I have so I was a little nervous but I got on and did a few laps around the parking lot.  It will take some getting used to but I hollered out that I thought I could ride this!  Joe laughed. 

In the parking lot we talked about the price and came to an agreement pretty quickly.  A transaction based on customer service and mutual respect and understanding.  What really impressed me was that Joe offered to have it delivered, one hundred miles away, for a really reasonable fee.  He was going to bring it himself.

The paperwork took about five minutes and from start to finish I think the whole deal took about an hour.  The people were nice and I was not disappointed.  I was very happy.

My wife and I, and our oldest daughter who’d come along for the ride then rode off to eat lunch and do some shopping.  And I still have a rosy glow.

None of the problems I thought might arise came to be.  I was positive.  It wasn’t an anticlimax.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Nope.  I was happy and I’m looking forward to many miles of happy riding.  Think positive.  It’s a lot more enjoyable.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Red Britches

Red is a bold color. It’s hard to miss.

A cardinal wears red so that it stands out distinctly in a snowy landscape.  And people who drive red cars want the police to chase them.  Need a bright pop of color in your home décor?  Red will do it!

When you choose to wear it as the color of your clothing you are making a statement.  Here I am!  Look at me!  Women wear red at a celebrity gala so that everyone will see them, and more importantly, talk about them.  I guess men do it on the golf course for the same reason.  It certainly doesn’t help their game.

Personally, I’ve always liked clothes that kind of kept me hidden.  Partly to hide my weight, and partly just to hide.  Blue jeans, dark corduroy pants, grey slacks.  Blue shirt, white shirt or pin stripped.  Move along, nothing to see here…

In my forties I stared to wear Hawaiian shirts on a hot summer day.  Big loud prints.  Blues, greens and muted reds.  A little more daring, but not too flamboyant.  I got an orange bathing suit too.  So the sharks could seer me better.

When I turned fifty it finally occurred to me that I was an adult and I could wear whatever I wanted.  Who cares what anyone else thinks!  But, I still cared and remained conservative in my dress.  Well, my socks and underwear were outlandish, but those don’t show too much.

This year I bought a pair of red pants.  Fire engine red corduroy.  I really don’t know what possessed me to do that.  They were very inexpensive which may have had a role in that decision.  Maybe I was thinking I could wear them as a joke somewhere.  The local football team’s colors are red and black.  And even if I never wore them, I could always tell people that I had red pants.

And then one day I wore them.  And they were comfortable and warm.  I could hardly see their color from my perspective looking down.  Ha Ha – they are bright red!  Can’t miss them.

It was much easier than I thought.  And no one stopped to stare, or to hurl insulting comments at me.  Someone said I looked festive at a Christmas party.

One thing about red though is trying to find something to go with it.  Black shoes are not good.  White ones look too much like sneakers.  Brown is ok.  Blue is best.  Same with belts.  Shirts on the other hand offer a lot of opportunity.  Blue is best, but I’ve worn green and even a muted orange.  No red.  My favorite pants.  But only on special occasions.

Maybe by the time I die I will be comfortable with being me.  If I’m lucky that will happen sooner and I’ll get to enjoy the person known as me.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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The Trailer

There used to be a single-wide trailer on the property next to mine.  No one had lived there for years; since it burned to the ground.  The story is that it was used as a meth lab and the “scientists” working there blew it up by accident.  I don’t know about all that.  It was that way when I got here.

There are a lot of woods between my house and what was left of the trailer so I couldn’t see much of its remains.  I could see more of the trash dump the previous residents had created in the back than the actual trailer.  I went over there once to look at all the mess.  Yup, it was a mess.

Not too long ago the new owner of the property started clearing the land.  I could hear a bulldozer and the sound of trees crashing to the ground.  I knew that was an ominous sign.  There’s going to be a house there now, which doesn’t make me too happy.  I moved out here into the country on a couple of acres of land to get away from neighbors.  Damn if they aren’t coming anyway!  Not my property so I have no control.  It will be ok.

I’ve been jumping the old barbed wire fence to walk up there a couple times a week to see what progress is being made.  The fence actually belongs to a third party who I get along with very well.  With the trees coming down I’ll be able to see much more up there.  And they will be able to see much more of me.  No more running naked through the yard I guess.

There are a lot of things up there besides fallen trees.  The bulldozer has uncovered a vast store of what I’ll call treasure.  Several old bicycles.  A refrigerator.  Three or four old lawnmowers and other yard tools.  And the kitchen stove!  I saw a motorcycle buried in the junk pile.  And old tire rims.  Plastic toys, plastic cups, coke bottles and even some chairs.  Off to the side were both a storage shed and a very tall metal TV or radio antenna, fallen over.  What blew me away though was the fiberglass boat!

Whoever lived there collected a lot of stuff and left it all over their property.  And left it all behind in a hurry.  Maybe it was a meth lab.  But at some time it had been the home of a family with children too.  Not a mansion or grand estate, but a home nonetheless.

Everything changes.  The destruction of the meth lab was good.  Getting the old trailer parts out of the woods was good.  Having new neighbors?  I’ll have to wait and see on that one.  But I know there are things beyond my control and the way to manage them is to figure out the best way to get along with them.  And plant some trees along the edge of my property to block the view.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Blinking Lights

Probably wouldn’t  surprise anyone to hear it said that Christmas isn’t really all about Jesus.  Some folks might be unhappy about that, but it has indeed gotten blown way out of that perspective. Sure, it’s about Jesus and family, but it’s also about presents and wrapping paper and retail sales.

My hand goes up to say I’m guilty.  Yes, it’s about the birth of the Christian savior, but its history is somewhat mixed up in some other celebrations in a cloudy amalgamation.  Sacred holiday with a twist of Santa Claus. 

The Magi brought gifts, and we all like to get gifts this time of year.  Some of us even like giving gifts!  Colorful wrapping paper, sentimental and silly cards, including a written recap of the past year of your life for people you only talk to at Christmas.

Ribbons and bows, shopping and excitement.

On this level, I have to say that my favorite part is not the presents, but the lights.  What started as a simple star, or candle or lantern has become mega light spectaculars that require one house to use enough electricity to light up Manhattan!  That’s too much for me.  I like it a little simpler.

While my parents lived in their old stone farmhouse they would put up a tree, with lights, inside, and a single electric candle in each of the many windows.  Simple, elegant, traditional.  In the suburbs they had put up lots of colored lights on the porch and the shrubbery.  And thus was born my love of the lights.

I like colored lights, and that’s what I display.  There was a time, and a place, both long ago and far away, where my homeowners association strongly encouraged the use of only white lights.  Strongly encouraged.  And so the neighborhood lit up white.  Residents would pay a very enterprising company to install formal white light displays on their houses.  A sign of wealth and prestige.  I put up my own lights.

Then came some global financial hard times, and fewer people would pay to install lights.  And it was then that some of us dared to put up our multicolored lights again.  A candle in the windows, like my parents, enhanced with red and green rope lights on the porch columns and strings of multicolored bulbs in the shrubbery.  And a blow up Santa too!

That was pretty much fixed every year.  And then we moved to a new house.  And came up with a new plan.  Still have the candles in the windows.  And the Moravian star out back floating in the air.  Blinking star strands and fake trees in the woods  along the driveway.  And now we have added more fun – blow molds!  You know, plastic Santas and snowmen and Nativity scenes and so many other cool things.  My sister has over one hundred Christmas blow molds in her yard.  I have seventeen this year I think.

We’ve been in this house four Christmases now, and every year the setup is different.  Partly because we keep adding things, but mainly because we can’t remember what we did last year or just want to do something different.

Four years, and the tree inside has been in four different locations.  More lights.  Different lights.  Color.  There is a blue light up Santa, because Elvis sang Blue Christmas.  A fiber optic tree, because the technology is cool. 

One thing does stay the same though.  There is always a real evergreen tree covered in lights and ornaments that our family has collected or made over the past thirty-five years.  Each one with a special meaning.

Some folks like a “themed” tree.  I prefer a curated tree.  It may look like a mess to some people, but to me, it’s a symbol of the love that fills my family.  None of it is ever perfect, but it all works!  That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Cold Steel

The sound of the words sends shivers down my spine.  Cold, and hard.  They suggest harshness, danger and deadly power.  A bayonet is cold steel.  As opposed to a bullet’s hot lead.

Vaults are made of steel to keep lucre safe and bad guys out.  Tanks, to destroy with impunity.  Barbed wire fences to keep prisoners in, or thieves and saboteurs out.  All places I don’t care to be in or near.

But there is a softer side to steel.  There are two sides to every story, and steel is no different.  Barbed wire fences surround the cattle ranch next to my property and home.  The wire isn’t very visible so I can look out my window and see what seems to be open pasture, with cows of several breeds lounging about and grazing.  Free range

The fencing isn’t there to keep me out.  It’s easy enough for me to go over it or under it or even around it anytime I like.  No, the fencing is to protect the cattle.  From themselves.

Have you ever come up on a cow standing in the middle of the road you are driving on?  I have.   My parents used to board a steer on their farm.  It belonged to a high school aged boy associated with the 4-H program.  That one-ton brute would occasionally trample the barbed wire fence and begin to make its way merrily down the road.  And someone would call the boy who would retrieve the steer and repair the fence.

Not something you want to hit with the car.  I know from personal experience that hitting a decent sized deer with the car will cause a great deal of damage to both parties.  I hit one once and while it got up and trotted away, I was left with a crumpled up hood on my otherwise shiny car.  A cow is a much more immovable object, and will do much more damage.

The fence also serves as a trellis for a meandering maypop vine.  Soft and curly, green, with flowers that look like a purple sunburst in the spring and summer.  In the morning, as I walk down my driveway to get the daily newspaper, the fields are covered with dewy webs and the fence presents to me thousands of drops of water hanging from its wires.  Like sparkling rainbows.  Soft, and pliant.  The givers of life.

The cows are safe, and I get a light and color show.  Cold steel sounds menacing, but looking closer, it does have a gentle side.

That’s part of my story.   What’s yours?

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Time Warp

This year has been a real doozie. For lots of reasons. One of the things that’s most notable for me is that I’ve really lost all track of time. Oh, I’m pretty good at distinguishing between day and night, although this daylight savings time can be very confusing. It’s the bigger chunks of time that are hard to keep up with.
Is it Monday or Friday, maybe Wednesday or Saturday. And the date?  Well, I’m generally content to know that it’s a day. Or there’s always the calendar. 
The months don’t matter quite so much. And I find myself frequently wondering if we are past the Fourth of July yet. Or Easter even. Wait, Halloween is over?!  I guess Christmas is coming soon. 
It is nice that I at least know that it’s Fall. Visual clues you know. 
I’ve certainly noticed this time thing messing with my mind before but it hit me today especially. One of those visual clues. 
Driving down the road my eyes made note of the pretty colors of the leaves. And I suddenly realized that we are pretty deep into Fall. Seems like it was yesterday that the leaves were barely showing a hint of something other than green. Now bam, the ginkgo is yellow and the maples are red. Oaks are brown and sassafrases are golden.  
There are leaves piling up in my yard now too. I guess I’m going to have to get out the rake. That’s not snow is it?
There is no doubt about what year it is. Could only be 2020. If time keeps up the way it has been at least this apocalypse of a year will be over soon. And hopefully 2021 is much better.
That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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The New Tree

Back home, down on the farm in Pennsylvania, lived a very special tree.  A copper beech.  The house was built in 1863 and the tree, out in the front yard, was there long before that.  It was massive, standing taller than the three story stone house, with a forty foot wingspan and a girth so large that as an adult I couldn’t wrap my arms even halfway around it.  As the seasons cycled through the foliage would change colors from purple to green to yes, copper, with a silver colored trunk in the dead of winter.

That tree defined the farm, and our family while we lived there.  The farm was, and is to this day known as Shadow Lawn Farm, referencing the shadow cast by that enormous tree.  Every year when the electric company crews showed up to trim the branches away from their wires my mother would go out to meet the  men and with her charm and persistence convince them not to touch the tree.  I’m not sure the current owner has been quite as effective in that endeavor.

When my parents sold the farm we said good bye to the tree.  I drive by to say hello whenever I’m in the area, but my parents never went back.  But the memory of the tree followed them to their new home.  Living in a very nice over fifty-five community they didn’t own a home or a yard.  They had two balconies with superb vistas, but they couldn’t plant a big tree on their own.  But they did find a way.

On the grounds of the community there is an official arboretum.  In honor of my mother, my father donated a copper beech tree to the arboretum.  It was planted in a prominent location on the campus and bears a plaque with my mother’s name.  We all watched over the years as it slowly grew and showed off its foliage.  I’m not sure my mother ever actually saw the tree, but she did see pictures and was very pleased. 

The last time I saw my father was when he died.  I knew it was coming and was trying valiantly to be upbeat around him.  He knew too.  So I went out and took a picture of the tree in full bloom to show him.  He beamed at the sight of the picture and I told him it was getting very big and looking good.

The tree on the farm is still there, as is the arboretum specimen, but my parents are both gone.  But the tree lives on in the family.  Somehow my in-laws knew about the tree.  I don’t remember telling them about it but over the years I may have, or my wife may have.  So I was surprised when they told me they wanted to have  a copper beech tree planted at my house.  In honor and memory of my parents.  Wow.

My home is in Georgia, on the very southern edge of the hardiness zone suitable for a copper beech.  Too damn hot!  Edge of my hardiness zone too.  And so it was hard to find a copper beech to plant.  The local garden centers didn’t have one.  Nor the nurseries.  And a nationwide search was launched.  Even then it was hard to find.

In the end I decided that there are many varieties of beech and that a weeping version is more suited to my location.  That one I could find at my local garden center.

It’s not THAT tree, but nothing else could be.  I concluded, perhaps rationalizing, that this tree represents a new generation, a new time, a new beginning, and a continuing heritage.  So it’s ok to be different.  I’m a transplant to the South and now the tree is too.  In a form that will thrive here.  Here’s to you Mom and Dad….

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Fix-it Man

How the damn thing works is still beyond my understanding!  I can take it apart and put it back together.  The machine has given me plenty of opportunities to do that recently.  And I can stare at all the pieces.  Not knowing what half of them actually are.  But I can fit them all back together practically with my eyes closed.  And reassembled, it still doesn’t work.

I just don’t know how all the individual parts work together and make the thing go.  When I got the scooter I wasn’t thinking about what kind of maintenance I might have to do.  Fluid changes, air filters, spark plug, refill the gas tank.  I knew how to do these things.  Much more was beyond me.  But I learned a lot by doing things myself.  Partly because I didn’t want to pay someone else to do it, and partly because I wanted to learn to do a few things myself.  Lots of people who ride scooters and motorcycles and drive vintage or souped up cars do their own maintenance.  It’s part of the love of the machine.

I can do the basics, and after ten years of fiddling with this contraption I can do some of he more advanced things too.  So I don’t connect the head bone to the foot bone when I put it back together.  But whatever is wrong with this thing now is beyond me.  

I could take it to a mechanic but that is a lot of hassle that I don’t want to deal with.  It works enough to ride, just not perfectly.  So I’ll keep tinkering with it and watching you tube videos on how to fix a scoot.

But I’m also dreaming of a new one.  New to me anyway.  And I look at Cycletrader and Facebook marketplace every day.  Even thought I really don’t know when I might get a new one.

I dreamed of getting my first scooter for a long time.  And then I got it.  And now I’m dreaming of a new one.  And I’ll get it.  The dream is half the fun.  The other half is the ride!

Ride on and be safe-

Buzz

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Adapting

Lots of things have changed because of this stinking pandemic.  And many people are suffering because of it.  Some more than others of course, but it’s bad all around.

But as humans will do, people are looking for ways to continue life with some normalcy.  Today’s topic is Halloween.

It’s an ancient celebration which in modern times has come to be dominated by scary stories and people dressing up in costumes.  Skeletons, ghosts, witches, black cats and chain saw massacres are the prevalent themes, but costumes have a boundless range of subjects.  I was a bar of soap one year, plodding around in a refrigerator box painted like a bar of Ivory soap.  I was a hobo, and a Martian.  Good times.  Not to mention the candy!

My little town has an annual parade where thousands gather in costume and march through the streets while thousands more watch from the sidewalks.  And there is live music everywhere.  And libations.  That’s all out this year.

Kids love trick or treating.  Dress up, wander around the neighborhood and get free candy.  Who doesn’t like that?  That’s out too.

So what is one to do in celebration?  What I’ve seen is a huge explosion of pumpkins, fake cobwebs and inflatable monsters appearing in people’s yards!  

Cruising a big neighborhood yesterday in search of yard sale treasures I couldn’t help noticing that many of the homes were participating in this new tradition.  Some in a huge way!

Adversity comes in many forms.  And it gets us all at one time or another.  This year it’s been Covid-19 and its been very hard on many people.  But we have an ability to go on.  And this year one of our adaptations is decorating our yard for Halloween.

Wear a mask and social distance.  We will beat this thing!

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Inspiration

Inspiration is the key to writing.  Every writer knows that their best work comes from somewhere other than their knowledge of vocabulary, sentence structure, syntax and plot development.  There has to be an idea.  And that often comes from out of nowhere.

Oh sure, you can force yourself to write.  Pick a topic out of a hat and create an orderly series of sentences with nice words.  Viola!  Best seller.  BUT, when we write with real inspiration guiding our hand the ideas and plot twists and word choices all come to us without any thought on our part.  It’s all just there, flowing from the brain to the fingers and to paper or keyboard.  It’s real self expression.

Finding inspiration isn’t always easy.  And sometimes the inspiration wants you to write something you don’t want to delve into.  My father died recently and while I have many thoughts on this, I do not want to write about it.  Deeply tragic and heart breaking and I just don’t want to think about it.  I want to write about happy things.

That will come.  And those happy things may include memories of my father, but I don’t do heartwarming well.  Inspiration hasn’t abandoned me.  It’s just trying to take me down the wrong path.  When I turn the corner I’ll be back.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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