Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Take me for a Ride in your Car, Car

Just read a new statement on a blog by Triple G and it reminded me of a story so few of you know, so here it goes.

Yes, that is me, next to a Ford Mustang coup with black bucket seats and a huge engine with an automatic drive. My father bought it for my mother to drive to the Richmond Country Club to play golf. He traded in the family Ford blue station wagon with faux wood siding and a reverse third seat. He also bought? a yellow Ford Galaxy convertible with an even bigger engine but a massive square body.

These are the family automobiles I practiced driving in. I know, I know..... me driving is a freaky thought, but wait, there is more.

At the ripe age of 15 , like so many other boys of the day, the transfer to manhood required a driver's license.

So the first year of high school, I sat in a dark trailer watching a screen showing teenagers dying in black and white wrecks of mangled metal, then practicing in a bumper car type model following instructions to turn left, stop, and wait for school children to cross the street. Unlike today, when you pressed the "gas" pedal, the movie didn't go any faster.

At the end of the trailer training, I spent weekends next to the local baseball park behind the wheel of some smooth Chrysler vehicles listening to an instructor tell me how to turn around some orange cones laid out in the parking lot.

Then the real excitement happened. My instructor invited me to drive on the "street". Although we only traveled a few blocks on lightly traveled roads, the sense of freedom presented itself to me.

Before this adventure, I had to walk, or ride my bike (which wasn't cool) or take public transportation (which was slow and even more not cool) to get to any place other than my own room.

Which brings us back to the Ford parking lot in my backyard.

Yes, I graduated from the city driving training lessons and had my own learner's license. It was like a real driver's license, but a REAL driver had to be in the vehicle with you.

So I would get mom (dad didn't want to venture out with me, besides he was busy working) and we would take one of the Fords out to a local quiet neighborhood and turn corners, speed up and slow down, change gears, parallel park and all the stuff you need to do to drive. I actually was pretty smooth with this, but I preferred the Chrystal vehicles because they had power steering.

A couple of weeks reading the driver's manual and I was ready for the Department of Motor Vehicles driver's test. My mother drove me down to the building not far from where I took my in-car lessons and waited for me to complete the written portion.

Waiting to be graded, I watched other teens line up eagerly for their photos to be taken, then a dull man in a gray suit told me to follow him. We walked to a black former police cruiser and he climbed into the passenger side motioning for me to get behind the wheel. He held a clipboard in his lap and without emotion indicated my path to follow. With a deep breath, I turned out of the parking lot onto Broad Street and slowly followed his instructions. I checked the mirrors, gave signals on turns, slowed before stopping, and looked both ways before crossing the intersections. Pulling back into the parking lot and ending the uneventful journey by placing the vehicle into park, I was issued back into the gray concrete building to await my conclusion.

I had not talked to many of my friends about this incursion into manhood and none had joined me into this venture, though I knew some of the others were trying and a few had been successful enough to have access to their own escape pod on wheels.

The evaluator came back and stoically handed me the clipboard. I had missed a turn signal, BUT I had a passing score.

Happily I got my photo taken and received my laminated drivers license. I skipped out to my mother awaiting the results. I showed here the new license and begged to drive home, to little avail.

I still had to ask permission from my mother to use any of the Fords, which was rare. I drove her to the club on a few occasions and more so on the way home since she had been in the club house tasting the drink.

A few friends from the "good" neighborhoods, would come by to see if I could drive them to a local "social occasion" and my mother immediately agreed, since "they" were of the class of kids she wanted me to associate with. What she didn't know was these "good" kids just wanted to drive around and drink beer.

It wasn't long before these "good" kids had bribed their parents into buying used cars for them to drive to school, which was a joke, since school was about two blocks away.

So, on week nights, instead of studying, we would gather at a local watering hole called the Tempo Room, pay the proprietor too much money for 3.2 beer, listen to R&B on the jukebox, then get into our cars and drive up and down Grove Avenue.

Our favorite sport was to drive on Grove Avenue from the Boulevard to the University of Richmond.

Some of the "good" kids had clunkers like big old heavy 57 Chevy coups, but some had sporty foreign models like Mg's or the rare Corvette.

We would wait until late so the regular traffic had evaporated, then start at one end of the street and race to the other end of the street. We zipped through stoplights without a notion of danger.

When I drove the Mustang, I had no competition, but when I drove the Galaxy, there was a true race. The big yellow mobile machine was heavy, but had a powerful engine, so the start was slow and unless the other drivers could keep the lead, I would catch up and pass without a problem. The path was pretty straight, so it was just step on the pedal and press your body against the wheel. (Side note: this was before seat belts and air bags)

Unfortunately, at least for me, there were enough neighbors along the way who complained to the authorities about the noise of loud vehicles racing up and down the streets late at night.

Police were stationed along our path and sure enough I saw the red flashing light. It seemed to me I was targeted by the law, but maybe I was the only one who stopped. Looking back, other "good" kids may have gotten tickets, but they had parents who were lawyers, doctors, and politicians and got away with it.

I just drove home, signed the ticket, payed the fine and never told my parents. I was too ashamed to tell anyone. I had gotten caught while the others got away.

Yet, the next invitation was accepted and the race was on, only to be captured again.

I accumulated several violations for driving TOO FAST, so my father received a letter requesting him to accompany me to a downtown courtroom. This was not a good thing.

I had somehow gotten around this tendency to drive irresponsibly before, but now I had to face the music.

As my dad drove the yellow monster down to the courthouse, we were silent. He didn't ask, I didn't tell.

Before the judge, we stood together, awaiting his comments as he shuffled through a stack of tickets. The judge paused, looked up at my father, and asked, " Do you want to take his license away or do you want me to do it?" My father stood motionless. The judge folded the papers and asked for the next case.

After arriving home on a long, slow, quiet drive home, I never asked about using a motor vehicle again.

So today, I ride two wheels and am content in the knowledge I should not use the fossil fuel and metal madness to venture aimlessly onto the pavement endangering others and myself. Like an addiction, I enjoyed the thrill of speed within the confines of the fast moving vehicle, and like a recovering addict, I avoid the temptation.

Although this decision has limited my transportation confines, I have grown accustomed to and appreciate the exercise, weather, sounds, smells, and sights missed by those whizzing by missing what is surrounding them as they rush to the next location.

I probably made the right decision.

Noisy Children

This story ran in the New York Times.

It is an interesting discussion item.

Let me preface my thoughts on this subject by stating I am NOT a parent and have never gone through the rigors of raising and disciplining a child. I respect the trama parents have to go through to guide their offspring into proper behavior, but their are tolerable limits to what others must endure.

With that said, this story reminded me of an occasion at a Wendy's fast food restaurant, no longer frequented because of bad service, but I've already covered that.

As I recognize a fast food restaurant is not a 4-star eatery known for it's culinary excellence or ambiance, I ordered my meal from the vast array of selections wrapped in paper, paid the uniformed cashier hoping the order was correct, and carried my plastic tray filled with my greasy lunch to a Formica table that may have been wiped with a dirty rag in the same afternoon.

As I unwrapped my deliciousness meal, I noticed two tables over, two men and several children. The children were squirming and playing with their food, as children do, and the men carried on a conversation.

But, one of the children was screaming! This was not loud talking, it was SCREAMING!! This was SCREAMING as if the child was in pain or being tortured.

I looked around at the few patrons who were also seated and they looked oblivious to the noise. I looked at the manager and other employees who noticed the ruckus, but uncomfortably went on with their duties.

Now, I am a very tolerant person and because of my upbringing, do not get involved in someone else family matters other than to think "that's just kids being kids" and politely wait for them to leave. I've even interacted with children crawling over the back of a booth or crawling around on the floor, but this was different.

I tried to eat, but the SCREAMING continued unabated with the two gentlemen ignoring the behavior or the effect on others.

Something clicked in me.

I stopped attempting to eat, stood up and walked to their table. "Are you OK?" I asked the child in a most direct manner. "Is something wrong?" I asked disdainfully.

The two men looked shocked that I had come over while the SCREAMING increased. "He's just having a tantrum." one of the men calmly said then turned back to their conversation without another comment or apology.

I walked back to my table trying to ingest what had been their response and noticed all the other patrons had left. I hoped my steamy reaction would cause some quieting of the situation, but it did not.

The SCREAMING continued.

I again looked at the manager, hoping he would go over and reinterate what I had tried to convey, but he stood behind the counter cowering.

Normally, due to my etiquette training, I would have wrapped up my food and left the situation, but this time was different.

I was annoyed that my this rude behavior was invading my space and no one else seemed to care. I was not going to ignore this, as I was taught to do, and walked back over to the other table declaring, "If you do not get this child under control, I WILL!" raising my cell phone.

I abruptly turned and walked back to my seat. I was ready to call the police for child cruelty. At this point, I was ready to get the men arrested and the child taken into custody.

The two gentlemen, looked at one another, and I assumed they got the message that this was unacceptable and I was about to act. They gathered the children and quickly left.

Now, there is no moral to this story.

I understand children have to be taught how to behave in public settings. I also understand that parents do not have an on/off button on young enthusiasm.

My only outcome to this situation, which I surprisingly participated in, was as an adult, a parent needs to judge the environment and how others react to their families behavior.

What do you think?

Friday, September 24, 2010


There has been a funny story in the news here recently, at least funny to me. Some of you would like to read it yourself, so here is a link.

While this story isn't earth shattering, or will change life as we know, it does serve as a wonderful example of the restrictions we has human being place upon ourselves.

It's a silly story about people protesting the demand that they buy new mailboxes. So to show their dissatisfaction with the community order, they spray painted their mailboxes "yellow". Woooo! Radical. Probably being investigated and under surveillance.

Now let me describe this community. First, here is their website.

The community was conceived around a large lake on a massive plot of land in an unused wooded area across the river from the city. The difference with this suburb was the rules and regulations that MUST be agreed to before building or living in this "community". The styles of the house, yard (and it's upkeep), driveways, and even mailboxes were defined to agree with the overall look and feel of the suburbia atmosphere.

So knowing you must do as everyone else, why protest? The goal of living in this restricted environment is to be just like everyone around you. The kids go to the same schools, the families shop at the same retail shops and drive similar cars. Everyone dresses the same and attended the same clubs and religious gatherings. Conformity is good and safe and exclusive in this very expensive housing project.

But what happened to the individuals? This country was built on individuals evaluating the laws and rules and restrictions, while bucking the system and celebrating freedom of choice.

Now I'm not advocating anarchy, but I wonder why everyone must conform, like lemmings, and follow the same mundane decries presented to us by our "superiors" or the marketing media.

Where is the sense of freedom, to paint your house orange or take a walk at 2 in the morning or eat dinner for breakfast?

I had a neighbor who threatened to take me to court because my house did not look like everyone else on the block. He indicated, rather rudely, my house would affect the property values. He even searched the city records for some sort of restriction that I was validating

My response was that "this neighborhood" is so old, that those types of restrictions in building codes that not been established, so if he was looking for definitive rules on how to live life, he should move. He did.

And still my property assessment continued to rise.

So get wild, if you live in one of these communities and paint your mailbox "yellow". Feel free.

Note: If you notice in following this story, those who did paint agreed to paint them back to dull brown.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Is You Smart Enough?

Thinking of those who are pondering going back to school to better edubakate themselves for a better job (or retrain for a new job), I wondered if I could even pass basic high school.

I barely got out the first time. Though I finished in three years only because the final English exam teacher gave me a second chance. I don't think I really passed it, but the school probably wanted to get rid of me. I might still be in high school wondering why the participles are dangling.

I did graduate with an "elective" diploma. In those days, you dropped out and worked in a trade after junior high, or took elective courses, like typing, to get an office job, or took college preparatory for furthering education into the university. Only one of my friends took "college preparatory", but he was the smart one. I didn't want to take hard courses, so I choose classes like "art", "study hall", "mechanical drawing" and "yearbook". Besides, English was already my second language.

College wasn't much better. Studying wasn't on my "to do" list, so I squeaked by until my third year in college. Then, I realized it was a "read-and-repeat" rule to getting good grades. That and taking easy courses, like swimming and guitar got me a diploma.

Sixteen years of schooling didn't help me get a job. I suddenly realized, I had been taught theory, but no useful experience methods. I had to be retrained.

Recently I came across a book describing all the tools of the trade and how to use them. I studied it and practiced with a variety of knives, pens, compasses, straight edges, drawing boards, paper and pencils I purchased to master my profession. For years, my self-training kept up with the demands of the job and my production was rewarded.

But, ALL those tools and the expertise to use them are useless in today's environment.

So I wonder, if employers are looking at this new world order and changing how they "train" new hires.

Not just hire a body to fill a void, with enough education to survive minimal instructions and if evaluations fit expectations, employment may continue.

Suppose the new hire, was given basic training, evaluated, and then continued to be trained , that employee would feel the urge to become inventive with ideas for greater production and innovation.

It doesn't take long to be out of touch with what was so challenging to realize how fast it all changes.

The qualifications for the job description I had is completely different requiring totally different demands and skills, but then again, many of the tools required were not even invented or thought of 40 years ago.

And while I can pick up new techniques and methods quickly, I don't think I want to.

I is smart enough and wise enough too!

Caught my first leaf today

I didn't actually catch is, it drifted down as I was on my morning ride and landed in my lap. That little sign of fall arriving Thursday, while still hot and feeling like summer did give me pause.

My wife used to find joy in the changing of the seasons and would run and chase leaves trying to catch them before they hit the ground. I don't know where or when that started, but it was a ritual every fall to catch the first leaf to recognize the coming cold. Great triumph was the reward to hold a dried and crumbling leaf symbolizing the passing of the green growth period and the arrival of the dark sleepy time.

It brought a smile and a tear.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Who Are You?

It's 4:44 on a Sunday morning and I've been thinking about this for a few days, so I better write it down. Since this blog is like a journal, except public, I've got to get it out of my mind.

Who are you?

How are you described??

Supposed you are about to give a talk or a formal speech to a group of people who don't know who you are. The master of ceremonies or whoever organized the event or meeting or banquet stands up to introduce you to this crowd of strangers.

Certain characteristics will be automatically understood by your appearance. Height, weight, color of hair, glasses, clothing all arranged to present an impression.

Usually an introduction description begins like a resume. Hometown, martial status, children, employment title and years of experience are all simple profile qualifications that can be easily found on Facebook or in most public records.

If the speech is about an informative nature, education or awards achieved over a period of time may be emphasized.

(* Side note: Do you ever see sports awards in a neighbor's house and wonder? It is easy to buy a trophy and have it etched with a message. Get an old football and a sharpie and scribble a bunch of names on it. PhotoShop a team and buy a jersey, drag it around in the dirt, leave it out a few nights, then place it in a frame. Is he REALLY a football star? The same goes with degrees. Would you like to be a lawyer? doctor? CEO?? It doesn't take much to print those now a days. Think about it the next time you see a wall covered in accolades)

If the talk is to a community event, the boards and foundations associations and clubs you list as being members to or your philanthropic efforts may be on the top of the agenda.

Usually a small bit of personal information connecting you to these people in a light-hearted manner to break the ice, is helpful, though maybe not relevant.

And like an obituary, is this who you are? A list of facts and figures to sum up your place in time?

And of those few, who are closest to you, how would they describe you?

Your touch, your scent, your taste, the way you breath, what makes you cry are all very personal descriptions that only one or a few will ever know.

And even these are descriptions by others from the presentation of your most inner being.

And only you know who you REALLY are.

Ok, enough of that. I got that off my chest. It's 5:20 and I want to get some more shut eye before the sun comes up.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Doctor D

I went to see Doctor D
and asked him, "What is wrong with me?"
Give me an x-ray and see what you see
or give a shot to me that will make me feel free
would you give me the pill that I saw on TV
So tell me what Doctor D
What is it that wrong with me?

So I went up to see Doctor B
to asked him, "What is wrong with me?"
Did I pull of a muscle or get a bite from a bee
Did I touch something dirty that got into me
Give me a cup and looked at my pee
So tell me your thought Doctor B
What is it that you think is wrong with me?

Next I waited to see Doctor V
to ask him, "Was there anything wrong with me?"
He put a light in my face so I couldn't even see
He picked up a hammer and beat on my knee.
then he scribbled a note and asked for a fee
So I left the office of Doctor V
still wondering what was happening to me?

The next stop was to see Doctor C
I told him I've already seen three
I showed him the diagnosis to see if he agreed
All the papers and notes from Doctor D, B, and V
"So what is my problems?" I asked Doctor C
I said, "I can see no real problem, so it must me just me"
So I'm still wondering what is wrong with me?

So off I went to see Doctor T
Wanting to see what he could see
He pulled out machines and stuck wires and plugs in me
With lights flashing bright on a screen like a TV
He gave me a cup but by now I'm empty
He gave me a prescription of drinking Green tea.
So maybe there's noting wrong with me.

At last I went to ask Doctor Z
if he could find anything wrong with me
He said he would give lots of examinations to see
The test were expensive, but life isn't free
and like the others agreed, there maybe nothing wrong with me
So Doctor Z, and T, and C, and D, and B all got their fee
But I'll not be going to see Doctor P.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Where Are They Now?

First day of school. The neighborhood is full of excited children with back packs full of pencils, papers and minds ready to absorb. Lined up in front of their mother and father, they stand smiling for photos to capture the event. Some walked while others biked to the nearby elementary school that I attended as a child.

Meeting new kids from different backgrounds, religions, economic opportunities, and interest. The first real social network.... School!

When my family first moved to this town, I lived a few blocks away from school, so for awhile my mother would walk me up to school and come get me in the afternoon. After taking the training wheels off my bike, I was free to make the journey alone.

School became a release from the parents and placed under the guardian eyes of unknown women. They were not aunts or older cousins to care for you good well, but total strangers who could and would change you life forever.

Seating was arranged, lines were formed to travel from one room to outside activities or to lunch. Everything was ordered and regimented. And if any disruption was to occur, a stern warning was given in front of the class to embarrass the disruptor. If that did not do the job, the principal office was the next step with a letter written to the parents to be signed and returned. Luckily I learned how to write my parents signature at an early age.

The playground exercise period was full of iron jungle gyms used by boys to form rocket ships or submarines while the girls played four square on the blacktop. There was no formal exercise or games, just a bunch of loud screaming kids running around.

The lessons included english, math, cursive writing, history (with a lot of holes left out), and art (while I liked). Lunch was in a large room with a walk through line to load a tray with prepared plates of stuff that didn't taste like real food but served by mean looking sweaty women who did not take any lip. Started brown bagging my lunch at an early age.

Of course the social intermingling of students also brought about the chaste structure of the elite and the first reactions of those who were frustrated or determined to achieve. Today it is called bullying, then it was just kids being kids.

So on this mornings ride, I thought about all those kids and wondered what happened to them. I remember a few names, but so many were separated when we moved to junior high school and then again high school.

And where are they now? These doctors, lawyers, mechanics, bankers, drug addicts, and other pillars of our society.

Monday, September 6, 2010

OK suppose you left the bathroom door open...

...and then....

oh, enough of my crazy life.

Just counted my morning trip for the first time on this gorgeous September morning. One hundred and twenty city blocks. Some are long, some are short, some are up hill, some are down, some are rough and bumpy, some are smooth, but it is seven miles before switching bikes to stretch different muscles for another three miles. I probably could do more, but maybe next year I'll up the gear again instead.

There is a movie coming out which I think will be VERY popular and the trailer looks cute. It's about the boys and girls (I'm old, I can say that)who created Facebook. It should be interesting to see how they realized people wanted to use their new electronic devices to stay in touch with all their "friends" for ever.

I read about kids who sleep with their phones. The television shows now have conversations using laptops, and people of all ages are walking around talking to themselves.

I think back to a time when television was black and white and the only contact people could have (when not within ear shot) was writing a letter or using the corded telephone.

Writing a letter took some thought and time waiting for a reply. The telephone was usually cut off by parents, so the conversations were mostly, "What are you doing?"

And today, the immediate reply could be, "Not'n what r u doin?"

But Facebook is an interesting phenomena. One, it is FREE! (At least for the moment, so the inventors had to have the capitol for servers up front). Two, you can just about put anything you want out there to millions of others around the globe to view. Profile information (true or not), photos (retouched in Photoshop or not), links to favorite video clips, or just personal thoughts about what the baby ate and threw up last night.

And we all go out and make "friends" with everyone so we can scroll down this list of nonsense every day. It is as if we make ourselves important enough for someone else to spend time reading about us like we were in "People" magazine.

Of course there is the privacy of messages or personal email, but we tend to post a "status" as if the world will change with the announcement that "I'm going to the beach".

And what do you believe? It is as if a "friend" at a cocktail party just told you two other "friends" were breaking up. How does this information affect you? Is it true? Should you even care? Why are you listening to second or third hand news?

As a generation have we become so interested in each other, like the 'Inside Edition" or "TMZ" reporting, that we can not live our lives without telling the world?

OK, I've spend my allotted time writing this crap. Got to go to Facebook so see what everyone else is doing on Labor Day.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Daily Questions

Things happen without any explanation or reason. Take this for example.

Most of us have some sort of liquid in the morning, usually in our familiar morning mug.
We slush down the liquid without thinking about it. We put covers on the travel mugs and place them in our mobile machines to slurp while driving.

But what would you do if this happened?

You are sipping when suddenly there is something hard and crunchy in your mouth.

It could be something that crawled into the cup unnoticed or leftover liquid that hardened overnight. The object feels like when you are sticking your head out of a car window traveling down the highway with your mouth open and catch a bug.

Do you...

1. Gag and spit it out, spilling your mug and distracting your driving to create a multi-car accident. (Remember to save the object for evidence to show the police when they have you up on the side of their car)

2. Chew it up and swallow what ever it is, then take a big slurp to wash it down.

3. Spit it back in the mug, gently place the rest of the liquid and the foreign object back in your cup holder, open a beer and wash your mouth out.

So many options, so many decisions.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Now What?

OK, here is another situation to solve.

The toilet seat is up and you are changing rolls when the new roll falls into the water.

What do you do?

So here is the situation. A new clean roll of toilet paper is floating in the bowl and the options are complicated.

Did you flush before the roll fell in?
Should you flush now?
Will that clog up the new porcelain bowl?

1. Reach in and pull out the dripping roll, throw it away and gag while washing your hands in bleach.

2. Reach in and pull out the dripping roll, and wait for it to dry out, then place it on the roll.

3. Wait for the entire roll to dissolve and hope it doesn't clog up when you do flush.

4. Go to the neighbors bathroom and never return to your own.