A Minute

Commuting is an art form. Oh sure, anybody can hop into a car and drive off to work. But knowing exactly when to jump into that car, and which route to take, that’s the art.

When I was working a regular job I wanted to be sure that I was always on time. But at the same time, I didn’t want to get there any earlier than absolutely necessary. I didn’t get paid overtime, so I wasn’t giving any of my time away for free. So, I had to know exactly how much time I needed to get from home to office. Driving the truck meant one calculation. Riding the scooter called for another.

Of course variables like the weather and the local school calendar all had an Impact on these calculations. Even the day of the week could make a difference. It took years of practice and experimentation to get it all down. My brain did thousands of calculations each second. Never early. Never late.

When I quit working at the office I lost my touch. Only because I was out of the loop and wasn’t constantly monitoring new routes and changing traffic patterns. I didn’t have a need to be anywhere on time really. If I was a minute late, it didn’t matter. And I wasn’t going anywhere I didn’t want to be, so getting there early was ok now.

So this morning when I wanted to go somewhere, and needed to be there at an early hour of the morning, it didn’t occur to me that there would be heavy commuter traffic impeding my travel. It dawned on me when I was trying to make a left turn across what normally would have been a pretty lightly travelled road.

But this road is a direct feeder to the local high school a half mile down the road. Hundreds of kids either being dropped off by parents, or driving themselves to school. All trying to get there on time, but not too early. It was 7:45 AM, and being late was looking more and more likely to them. I waited to make my turn while an endless procession of cars went by.

And now my own travel plans were disrupted. This unexpected delay would make me late. Had I arrived at this intersection five minutes earlier, or five minutes later, there would have been no traffic. Make note of this newly discovered pattern.

I’ve already figured out that at 6:00 PM on a Friday, trying to merge onto the eastbound lanes of the highway from here to Atlanta is a lot harder than trying to make the same merge at 2:00 PM. Allow extra time when going late. A minute is sixty seconds, but it can make a much bigger difference. Something missed here, or another met there. Stay in the loop, or get into the slow lane.

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

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Round and Round

Hi my name is Matt and I’m an antique dealer. Hi Matt! comes the chorus from the group assembled at the regular meeting of antiquers anonymous. That’s how my dream goes some nights.

Over the past four or five years I have been to countless yard sales and estate sales. So many that I can’t even remember the places I’ve gone. Neighborhoods yes, but specific houses? Pretty rarely. Would have been someplace that had something really incredible to offer.

On those same lines, I’ve moved so many items in and out of the house, and my antique shops, that I can’t even picture most of them. Hell, I can’t even look in the store and figure out what’s missing from week to week. Sometimes I’ll look at the list of things I’ve sold and wonder what this or that even was.

So you might imagine that it was quite a shock for me the other day when I walked into a house where the owners were having a sale and saw something hanging on the wall that I had once owned. A one of a kind hand made weaving that I had found at another yard sale, kept in my house for a while and sold. No doubt about it, it was the same one.

I told the girl who lived there that I had once owned the weaving depicting an ancient South American bird god. Her jaw dropped and she ran outside to tell her boyfriend. He remembered me. And where I lived and how on the day that he and his friend bought the piece they had come to my house in a blue pickup truck and strapped this huge masterpiece on the back of the truck. It was too big to fit inside the bed of the truck. And I remember that on the day that I bought it I had done the same thing.

The friend had moved away and left the weaving for his friend. And it was not for sale. I wouldn’t have bought it again, but I sure did like it hanging on their wall. Big, bold. Lots of wow factor. And I was glad to know that someone was enjoying it so much. After I had certainly saved it from the scrapheap of history.

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

 

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Olympian

The early days of 1968 found the world focused on the area surrounding Grenoble, France. The Winter Olympics had arrived. That was the year that my own Olympic dream was born. I was ten years old.

By modern standards ten is a late age to be starting such a quest. The minimum age for participation in the Olympics is fourteen, and gold medalists are sixteen and seventeen years old. But that’s when I was inspired.

That winter French skier Jean Claude Killy stunned the Alpine skiing world by winning three gold medals. One for every event he raced in. I always felt sorry for his teammate, Guy Perillatt, who came in second all three times. Killy was just a phenom. It’s rumored that Charles DeGaul, then President of France, told Killy, “win there golds, or leave France forever!” No pressure.

I had no such pressure on my dream. Hell, I was a kid in Pennsylvania who had never even seen a skier before. But I wanted to be one now. And to win a gold medal.

My parents agreed to let me take a couple of lessons at the local ski area. Apple Hill, now long gone, developed into a subdivision. It was an apple orchard with a few small slopes cut into the woods. Rope tows and one fancy T-bar carried the skiers to the summit. Courage carried them down.

Starting on the bunny slope I learned to snowplow. And how to stand up once I had fallen. There would be a lot of that. Up and down. Up and down. Ok, I got this, now lets move on to the double black diamond slopes.

We were renting skis and boots and poles at this time. My dad wasn’t convinced that he should invest in our own equipment just yet. But we were expanding our geographic exploration. We went to the Poconos, to the big ski areas. Big Boulder and Camelback Mountain. And again, I started on the bunny slope, still snowplowing. But at the end of the day, I decided I am going to go for it. And up I went, onto the expert slope.

From the top it looked like a long way down. Was I suddenly in the Rocky Mountains, or the Alps? No, it just looked like a long way down for a scared little kid. But I had good survival instincts, and was pretty good at dive bombing, turning here and there and slamming on the brakes. And didn’t like falling down. So I took a deep breath and pointed myself down the slope.

A few minutes later I was down at the bottom. I don’t remember even one second of that run, but I know I made it. I was excited to tell my dad and sister who were waiting at the bottom. They just thought I was a nut.

But my dad figured out that I loved skiing, and that it would be worth a small investment in some ski equipment. And from the winter of 1968 through the winter of 1975, I skied every single day from the first day of the season until the end of the season. On snow, ice, slush and yes, even dirt and gravel. My skis took a beating. I went through three pairs.

I never took another lesson. My ski school was the slopes, and watching others who were better than I was.. So many were. My dream of being an Olympian was pretty short lived. But I did become a pretty good recreational skier. And got smart enough to know double black diamonds were not for me.

And yes, I did finally win a gold medal. Not in skiing. It was at the Walt Disney World Marathon. We ran 26.2 miles through all of the Disney parks in Florida. In the dark, and cold, and rain, and sunshine. I got the gold medal. Not because I crossed the finish line first, but because I had a dream, and I made it come true. I finished the race. All Olympians are winners. Some just more celebrated than others. Such is life.

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

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The Wrong Turn

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The GPS is usually pretty good about getting me from here to there. It doesn’t always give me the route I would choose, but the one it provides will get me there. The problem is that in order for the prescribed route to get me from point A to point B, I have to follow the directions.

Wearing polarized sunglasses casts a certain darkness on the screen of my phone, and the map residing there. My vision isn’t so hot even without the sunglasses. In spite of the coke bottle like spectacles I wear. And can anyone explain to my why the darn thing gives me verbal directions sometimes, but not always?

This morning I had plans to visit two estate sales, in quite opposite directions. There would be a lot of driving on unfamiliar roads. The GPS would be critical. Punch in the address and off we go. OOOps, I missed the turn. It’s OK, the system reroutes me. After a minor detour I’m back on track. And soon enough I get to my first destination.

Shopping done, I head toward the next location. It’s just the beginning and the end of the route I’m not very familiar with . GPS. In the middle of the trip, on the part of the route I was supposed to be familiar with, I looked around and wasn’t sure where I was. Had I missed another turn? Pulling off the road I checked the map again. Right on course. So much for flying on memory.

After finding my second destination, and a few treasures, it was time to head home. This should be easy. I know where I live.

Within the first mile I missed my turn. The GPS said it was OK. I could just turn around and go back one block and make the turn. Or six miles down the road I could make another turn. HMM?

The road I was on was kind of nice. Two lanes. In the country. Lots of fields around me with a nice house here and there. The other route would be four lane. Lined with strip malls, gas stations and fast food joints. I stayed on the road I was travelling.

The road followed the rail line. Still two lanes. I saw some very nice farms and estates along the way. And on the outskirts of Madison, on a road called Dixie Avenue, I found the house in the picture. Never would have known that was there but for that wrong turn.

Given the choice between following the directions, or going with my gut, I will usually choose my gut. That may not always get me where I’m going on the fastest or shortest route, but it always gets me to where I’m supposed to be.

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

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Two Rivers

Long ago, in the Fertile Crescent region of Asia Minor, the rivers Tigris and Euphrates surrounded an area that gave birth to a great hubbub of humanity. This area is sometimes even referred to as the very cradle of civilization.

So, too, is the case near Athens, Georgia, where on a good rainy day, two rivers converge to encircle my home. My very own cradle of civilization! This place sits on high ground and has fertile soil for farming and livestock grazing. And there are books and artworks, and a thirst for learning and knowledge.

OK.  So I’m not quite the same as early man and his rise of civilization. I’m already pretty well civilized. And there are no earth shattering discoveries going on here. Although I do learn something new every day which impacts my own world.

But my house sits in this place. And when it rains a lot the water runs off of the hundreds of acres to the north of me that are home to a herd of cattle. And it finds its way down rutted paths on the hillsides in the forests to the east and west. Along its journey, the water gathers strength and momentum. And grows in its volume. It finds its way to two major sunken pathways, one on either side of my house. And rushing rivers take the place of dry gulches.

For the most part, the rivers are narrow enough for me to jump across. In other places it runs too wide for my leap. And it runs deep, and fast, with white water foaming. And sounding like a freight train. The waterfall feeding the western side is especially impressive.

The two rivers pour into a pond. The water rises until two islands there are submerged. And the water turns from its natural dark green and blue to a muddy reddish brown. Silt from the farmlands.

It takes several hours of good rain to create this, and when the rain stops the water continues to flow for another day or so. As the fields and hillsides continue to drain.

Don’t send any scientists or researchers looking for ancient relics. And no philosophers looking for great insight into human behavior and society. It’s just me out here. Watching. Learning. Having a blast.

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

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Population Zero

If you blink your eyes you will miss it. That’s how people describe small towns.. Towns with one traffic light. Or maybe just a stop sign at the main intersection.

We’ve all been through these small towns. A couple of buildings huddled around the intersection of two roads. A population in the double digits.

As we zip through, on our way to somewhere else, we sometimes ask ourselves, why is this town here? What do people do here? And what does the name mean?

Eastville isn’t that big. It’s on the map. If you zoom in real tight. But there is no red light. No stop sign. Just one building with a small sign on it that declares the existence of Eastville.

And most uniquely, there is no population. The building that stands there isn’t a house. Not a business. I’m not sure there is even a door. Its just a four walled brick structure with a roof. And the sign.

It seems like there must have been a real town there at some point. There is an old decrepit wooden building across the street. Its more falling down than standing up. With no indication of what it might once have been. That was the town.

The sign must just be someone’s way of trying to preserve the history that once was there. And the name? I don’t know. This location is on the western side of the county. As far as I know there is no East family. Maybe it’s a hoax. Or just a mistake. Half a mile away there is an intersection. And it has four stop signs and a flashing red light. There is a building on each corner, and two are even houses. But no sign, and no name.

I am always intrigued by how and why towns come to be. Someone knows the answers. I just choose, sometimes, to make up my own story. Keeps things interesting. But, truth can be stranger than fiction. I’ll have to get sleuthing!

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?IMG_1935

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Take A Leap!

Shiver me timbers! Polar bears are well adapted to swimming in icy and frigid Artic waters. Fur and blubber insulate them well. Humans, well, not so well adapted to this sort of activity.

The little bit of hair I have on my highly evolved body won’t even keep me warm on a hot summer day. And while I do have a reasonable layer of blubber, it doesn’t do much in the way of insulation either.

So what was I thinking when I signed up to take a Polar Bear Plunge on a chilly day into an even chillier lake? Can’t say exactly because I’m not sure. Maybe it was an exercise in relieving boredom. Something to do. No, more than that. I have plenty of things to do. Perhaps it was more a calculated effort to try something new. Different. Outside my comfort zone and exciting. Something to make me feel alive.

Laying in bed, nice and warm, I was questioning my sanity and trying very hard to convince myself to get up and get ready for this thing. The warm bed was awfully tempting. Until I realized that I wasn’t getting any more sleep, and would be disappointed if I missed it.

Jumping into a thirty five degree lake on a thirty seven degree day will either kill you or revive you. Heading from the registration pavilion down to the lake I saw the paramedics standing by. I told them I was glad they were there. Not that I was worried.

This was my first ever polar plunge although I’d thought about it before. I had no idea what it would be like. Other than cold. As it turned out there were probably about a hundred people milling about the pavilion when I arrived at about twenty minutes to plunge-off.

There was a big fire blazing and several portable propane heaters blasting heat. Better to stay away from the heat and stay adjusted to the cold I thought, so I drank some hot chocolate and walked around checking out the crowd.

Costumes were a no brainer for an event like this. There were five guys wearing kilts, blue war paint, and nothing else. And three guys in red body suits with strategically placed fig leaves. I saw Supergirl, a giraffe, unicorns, Batwoman, and a guy in a wetsuit with goggles. That’s cheating!

As it turned out, most of the one hundred or so people there had no intention of taking the plunge. They were there to watch the crazies, and perhaps cheer on their own personal nut.

With less than a minute to go, I removed my sweatshirt and my sweatpants. Leaving me dressed in a t-shirt, a pair of swim trunks, and my sandals. The big question in my mind was do most people go all the way in, or do they just dip their toes?

Standing at the starting line, the woman next to me said she was going to go in until it hurt. That didn’t sound good to me. I’m here for fun. But the idea was to get all the way in.

So as the countdown went 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… I ran with the rest and hit the water. Yes, it’s cold, but I’m here for a reason. And on I went, running in the water. When I was waist deep I sat down and was all wet. Up to my neck. Success! And I turned around and ran back. I hadn’t had a heart attack. Or chickened out. And I didn’t even really feel that cold. It even seemed like I was in and out so fast that I barely got wet.

Charging back to the shoreline, I saw a few folks still very timidly making their way out to the deep. I hollered out, “the secret is to keep moving!”

And so it is with life. Keep moving. Forward. Along whatever path you are following. Taking all of the fascinating detours you can find.

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

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