Monthly Archives: August 2016

Scooter Trucks

Vehicles are built differently to accommodate varying purposes.   Giant earth movers have construction capabilities while a Fiat 500 is designed to be an in town personal people mover. Tractor trailers, pickup trucks and vans each offer cargo transit on varying levels. There are luxury sedans, economy sedans, and sporty coupes and convertibles designed for getting from point A to point B while making a statement, or fitting a budget.

A scooter, that motorized creature somewhere between a motorcycle and a bicycle, is intended to be fun, and economical transportation for one person from here to there. Generally a short distance. You can put a bungee cord, or milk crate, or helmet box or even saddle bags on these mini-motos, but they weren’t really made to haul much of anything.

Sometimes however we have to make do with what we have at the moment and I have used my scooter as, yes, a truck. The helmet box carries lots of stuff besides a spare helmet. Matter of fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever put the spare helmet in the helmet box. It’s usually stuffed with clothes, or water bottles, or small antique knick-knacks for the store. And of course the anchor. That’s a separate story.

But lately I’ve begun to take the scooter to yard sales and antique shops when I go on shopping expeditions. I tell myself I’ll figure something out. I have carried coffee table books in the compartment under the seat. And more recently I had a suitcase, too large to be classified by the airlines as a carry-on, strapped to the back of the seat. And an ice cream parlor chair as well. The scooter is really pretty good at haulin!

When I was in Hawaii I saw lots of scooters. And many had a strange contraption on them that I just couldn’t figure out. It was a set of curved metal pipes attached to the side. Not exhaust pipes. I just couldn’t figure it out. Then I saw one with this gizmo in use and it made perfect sense. The folks here use their scooters to transport their surfboards! Drop the board sideways into the curved metal rack and viola! I’m not sure how easy that is to drive since the board can be longer than the scooter, but they seem to manage. As I said, I saw a lot of scooters with this contraption on them, but only the one with it in use.

So, all sorts of things can be adapted to other uses. I’ve seen delivery trucks turned into restaurants, and truck trailers turned into homes, and now scooters turned into trucks. I’m trying to figure out how to make my scooter into both a boat and a snowmobile. American ingenuity. What a great thing!

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


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The Vanishing Rainbow

Waiting was a poor option. Oh sure, it will still be there in a few minutes. In the mean time I can piddle around looking at unimportant emails on my phone. Then I can take the picture of the beautiful rainbow stretching over the harbor and the palm trees in this tropical paradise. No rush.

Well of course as I sat there fooling around I glanced over at the rainbow once or twice and soon realized that it was vanishing. Duh! It’s only there as long as the sun and the moisture in the air come together in a certain way. The sun moves constantly. And the moisture evaporates. The rainbow fades and then disappears. Forever. Until the next one comes along.

That’s the thing- rainbows don’t come along every day. At least not where I live. Maybe in this place, but I’m only visiting here. People always seem to get excited about rainbows. Rightly so, because they are pretty spectacular.

So I missed the opportunity to take a picture of the brilliant rainbow. I knew there would be another someday. But not here. At least not for me.   I was leaving this place today. And I was mad at myself for fooling with the email when I could have been looking at the rainbow.

My visit to this place was a vacation. A week in a tropical paradise. I had indeed checked my email everyday, but I had also taken great advantage of being here. I had eaten strange new foods, and seen people who looked very different from me. I had gone shopping and to the beach. There was a visit to a cultural center that showed me cultures and ways very unlike my own. And there was exploration of the sea while snorkeling, and the mountains while hiking. Things out of my comfort zone. Things I could sometimes barely accomplish. But things I did, and enjoyed.

And now it was coming to an end. Dumb me, instead of catching a final glimpse of the surf and beach from my balcony, instead of watching the surfers and beach bathers, and instead of watching the rainbow, I checked my email. The vacation was over, and I slipped back into the ways of my regular life. Like the rainbow, my rest and relaxation, my fun in the sun, my vacation, all vanished as the world moved on.

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

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Trouble in Paradise


What makes a tropical paradise? Lots of sunshine. Cooling breezes blowing in from the multihued crystal clear waters. Sandy beaches. And of course, plenty of scantily clad bronzed bodies!

Some folks might add things like great shopping and fine ding. Or theme parks and museums. Or any number of other activities and attractions. But it’s the physical characteristics of location that make a place tropical, and then the lifestyle that makes it paradise. And everyone has their own idea of paradise.

There are many tropical places with beaches. And many with mountains. But from my experience, limited as it may be, Hawaii really is a tropical paradise. It has beaches. And mountains. And forests, valleys, rivers and palm trees galore. The waters are insanely blue, and clear. And there is an incredible variety of things to do and see. All as noted above.

But one ting I noticed, something that doesn’t show up in the travel brochures, was that not everyone living there believes that it is paradise. Sure, there are the high rise hotels and condos on Waikiki Beach where residents can take advantage of the paradise. But along side that there are enclaves of little rundown houses. As you move through Oahu you will see further evidence of poverty and decay.

And then there are the homeless. I didn’t see huge numbers of them, but they were everywhere. Sleeping on sidewalks. Pushing shopping carts filled with plastic bags housing all of their worldly possessions. And camped out on the beaches and in the parks.

Of course there are hustlers and street performers who make their money off of the tourist’s sensitivities and guilt. Two nights in a row I saw a group of young men singing and dancing on the sidewalk, preaching their ministry of abstinence and purity, and collecting money to support themselves. And one night a woman approached me and asked for twenty dollars because she had lost her purse. That’s bold!

Then there are the street people. Just minding their own business, living on the street. I saw them digging through ashtrays looking for any half smoked cigarettes that they could finish off. And sleeping on the beaches, under the palm trees with their shopping cart safely nearby. And one dude who was very animatedly conversing with some imaginary person while standing guard over his shopping cart.

I don’t know why all of these people live the way they do. Hustlers do it because its easier than working nine to five. Some people are down on their luck. Big time. Others have issues that keep them out of mainstream society. I can’t fix it by myself and I’m not saying anyone else should try to, or should even care if they don’t already. Just making an observation.

And part of that is to say that in Hawaii it seems that the homeless are still part of the Ohana, that’s family, and are left alone and treated with human dignity. At least I didn’t see the cops or anyone else hassling them.

They say aloha is a way of life, and if it includes tropical islands, and treating each other as family and with dignity, then I’m all for it! That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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The Rental Car

It’s like Mardi Gras. Or Halloween. A costume party anyway. You get to change your identity, if only for a little while. When you rent a car you can choose what you want. Leave behind the hum drum econo-compact and get yourself a big Mercedes-Benz. Or a sporty convertible. Redefine yourself.

Nobody goes to their high school or college reunion driving a ten year old clunker. It’s amazing how well to do all of your classmates have become. The parking lot is full of Mercedes, Jaguars, Cadillacs, Lexus. You name it and it’s there. Except for junkers. Guaranteed some of them are rentals. No one wants to look like they can’t afford a nice car.

I had never rented a car before, but on a recent trip I decided that the easiest way to get from point A to point B, and all things in between, was to rent a car and drive myself. It gives you a lot more freedom than a city bus.

I had called in advance and made a reservation for an economy car. This trip was costing me a lot and I was trying to save a few bucks. When I showed up at the rental agency the dude behind the counter smiled and said, “are you sure you wouldn’t rather have the Jeep?” By that he meant a four wheel drive, four door Jeep Sahara, 2016, with a removable hard top. That would be pretty cool to drive around in on this tropical island. Hmmmm?

Then he added that it would only cost twenty extra dollars. I’ll stick with the boring econobox. It does its job. He must have had a quota to fill for renting Jeeps because the next thing he said was, “how about if I give it to you for the same price?” That’s different.

I didn’t need it, but I did think it would look cool and be more fun. Not that I needed the four wheel drive, or would use the removable hard top. It would just look cool. So I got it. A new me.

As I drove around I began to notice that there were an awful lot of vehicles that looked just like this one on the road. Exactly like this one. Maybe that’s all they rent here! No, because I saw a lady walk up to two silver Mustang convertibles parked side by side and she had a hard time figuring out which was hers. A rental.

While I was walking down the street I noticed a young couple taking pictures of themselves sitting in a convertible Mercedes. Brand new. They were certainly enjoying themselves. As I looked at them it seemed to me that they couldn’t afford to buy that car if they sold all four of their grandmothers, and a couple of grandfathers too. Hold the hate mail, I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But it was a rental. They were living a big life on vacation from wherever.

My dad used to travel a lot with his job when I was young. The company always gave him a rental car. His personal car was a station wagon, but the rental was always a Plymouth Fury. A police car in it’s day. It was always very exciting to see him pull up into the driveway in that monster. It wasn’t him, but it gave him a big time executive look. A man of importance.

If you need a cheap vacation, or a quick change of identity, go rent a car. Something you wouldn’t normally drive. Who would you be?

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

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Selective Screening

After 9/11 the Transportation Safety Administration made air travel really difficult. You had to show an ID with a name and picture matching the name on your ticket. That was just to stand in line. Then you had to take off your shoes and belt and watch and any jewelry and empty your pockets and put all of that stuff into a bin that was run through an x-ray machine. And of course your carry on baggage also went through the x-ray machine. And so did you.

They weren’t taking any chances. Guns and knives and crazy people still showed up at airports, but for the most part the agency was able to keep the items of danger off of airplanes. Just not the crazy people.

After a while, as things calmed down and no more planes crashed or blew up, not including the ones shot down by various nation’s military, and that Malaysian flight that still seems to be a mystery (can you say crazy pilot?), the procedures eased up a little bit.

People were getting tired of standing in line for hours. Yes, hours. We were told to arrive at least two hours prior to flight departure to be sure we could get through security screening. You still had to wait in line, and still had to do all of the above, while being sniffed by bomb and drug trained dogs, but somehow it moved a little faster. Then for some reason it got really bad again.

The head of security at the Atlanta airport, the world’s busiest, got fired. Too many people waiting in too many long lines. Somewhere in that time frame the TSA began selling a pre-check service. If you told them all of your secrets, and gave them all of the information they wanted, they would allow you to go through security without taking off your shoes. It only cost $85.00 per year.

I don’t fly enough to make that a worthwhile investment. If I can drive somewhere in less than a day, I will hit the road rather than the airways. It’s easier. And sometimes I’ll drive for two days rather than fly. Even though I almost always get randomly selected for a TSA pre-check. For free.

It’s supposed to be a random selection, but I would say that the last six flights I’ve been on, I’ve been randomly selected for this rapid security screen six times. Maybe they know I was travelling on a bereavement pass one time. Or that I’m a combat decorated veteran with a disability. Or maybe they know that I have stinky feet and taking my shoes off makes everyone’s day unpleasant. I don’t know.   I

t doesn’t seem to save me much time except that I don’t have to stand in as along a line to get to the part where you run your belongings through the x-ray machine.

They may be catching on to me though. The last two times I flew I scooted through with the TSA pre-check, and then got randomly stopped at the x-ray machine for further evaluation. The first time I think was not random but retaliatory for asking the TSA guy a question while he was talking to someone else. The second tome I think was because I was having a bad hair day.

I’ll take it if they give it to me, but it won’t make me fly any more frequently. But it’s nice to know that someone trusts me. That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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She lived in a world filled with symbolism. Immersed in the ancient civilizations of China, Japan and the Native Americans, she was familiar with the importance of symbols in life. The Chinese and Japanese each have written languages made up of characters, each representing more than just a letter or even a word. They often describe a phrase, or a story, or have situational meaning. Native Americans have a limited written language in their native tongue, but do have symbols and sign language. This form of language results in hundreds, and even thousands of characters, or symbols, used in written communication.

She spoke Chinese, and read Japanese, and understood some of the words of the Native Americans of the eastern forests. Art was her forte though and as in all art, the creations of these peoples were filled with symbolism and hidden meaning.

When she died, she took with her a great deal of knowledge and expertise. I wish I had picked her brain so much more when I had the chance. But I knew some of the symbolism and I wanted to pay my final respects with as much of it as I could.

In choosing a flower arrangement, I opted for white chrysanthemums and blue iris.White is the color of death in the East, and chrysanthemums represent longevity. She was 90 years old when she died. The blue iris is recognized in China as the dancing spirit of Summer, its petals reminiscent of a butterfly’s wings. She certainly had a wonderful spirit. And both of these flowers were her favorites, and I remember her growing them in her garden for many years.

To her funeral I wore a wristwatch to recognize the Native American people of the Southwest. It had a sterling silver band, etched with leaf symbols, and encrusted with turquoise stones. This is my favorite watch, a taste I picked up from her. And I only wear it on very special occasions.

As I stood over her open casket, taking a final look, I placed a gift for her into what was once a warm and soft loving hand. Now cold and pale. It was a small Chinese cloisonné box. She loved the Chinese and Japanese enamelware, and ceramics. Inside the box I had placed a note to her for her journey. The note was written with a fountain pen made by the Esterbrook Pen Company, a place where she worked when she met my father. In the note I told her that my own children and I said to each other, every morning on their way to school, “and most of all, we love each other.” I knew she wasn’t really holding the box, but I hoped she was able to understand the massage. And to get the symbolism. She was my mother…

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

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