The Twain shall meet

A 2016 trilogy, Colorado and Bust

Subtitle 1958 M-Benz, 190 SL roadsters on a 3000 mile R/T

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The opening bell has rung. Kiss Lynn and Wilson goodbye;

roadster : we have ignition 

westward to the first interlude, Westville, IN, a road bend with little Zen. However, any crossroad can evoke a distant memory.

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It was here, at the home of the Justice of the Peace, March,1935, two hormonally charged 18 y/o arrived from East Chicago, IN to elope, the brave somersault over parental approval of marriage.

Later those two teens were known, to me and my brothers, as Mom & Dad.

Meet with Traverse City, MI traveling companions, Don and Kathy Drabik, quick how-do-you-do, gas up, next stop Monticello, IL, the Main Street Pub for a cold one, and reconnoiter with Salt Point, NY’s own, Brian & Paula Parker.

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Careful examination reveals the Drabik’s have secured a standard American stop sign, matched to the color of their car, and functions first as an attention-getter, and 2nd, as a working antenna for the Blaupunkt AM/FM radio.  People stop and stare.

A backroad strategy session of old friends plotting a new destination, Hannibal, MO.  A peaceful settlement on the mighty Mississippi, here the Twain have met, at the historical museum, notable for its exceptionally clean men’s room.

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Allow now for a tangential drift from the blue highway to what might be viewed as the yellow road.  Three men, average age > 70, driving cars nearly as old, find three reasons for frequent stops

  1. The 190 gas tank is = to 13½  US gallons, requiring regular refueling (the 3 R’s)
  2. Male bladders, malted brews, and prostatic hypertrophy, well, you get the whiff
  3. Because my wife said so

Here then, never before discussed, is a description of male behavior at the urinal; (a) you may look down, look up, or stare straight ahead…but never, never look to your left or right, (b) zero conversation unless it refers to sports or some manly theme, e.g.,”how about those Cubs” or, “did you notice that tattoo on the barmaid’s cleavage”, and (c) aim for the para-dichlorobenzene, that pink mothball cake.

Women, I learned only this week, first thing, always, always, look under the stall doors. Rather peculiar, but it must avoid the embarrassment of the abrupt squat stare. Can you sense I’m not ready for the trans, uni, or same sex bathroom ?

I will admit to being confused about the new ‘waterless’ fixtures incorporating the latest green technology.   Why not just pee into an empty Dasani® or Aquafina® bottle and drop it off at the recycle bin?   At issue is the number of urinal manufacturers A-Z made in the USA; American Standard, Kohler, Regal Sloan, Zurn, and then there’s Toto, the clever Japanese upstart where nothing is sacred, including Holy Mary.

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Or above, go whizz while watching a quiz .

In spite of Toto’s contribution to male relief, it is unlikely that the stolen intellectual property of MGM’s Wizard of OZ pet canine, Toto, will ever receive the royalties to which he is entitled.  Would it be politically incorrect to refer to the Japanese as “The Yellow Peril”, like we did in 1946 when Dad was a returning marine ?  Sorry.

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We have no interstate highway in our crosshairs, crossing into the heart of this great country, next stop St. Francis, KS which is not the boyhood home to the current Pope.   Marysville, KS tourism booster is the black squirrel population, countered by Norton, KS located near the Prairie Dog State Park, although it’s rumored that no prairie dogs actually live there, having moved to states with more favorable property tax abatement.

Our KS zoology lesson is near complete as we ride parallel, FedEx trucks to the left and the original Pony Express Trail on the right. Nearly every sizable town, if there is no Arkansas big box store, boasts its largest, most successful business, the John Deere Implement dealership.

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One of these, a used JD 9430 will cost as much ~ #2 condition 190SL, except,

  • The J-D has A/C
  • power steering
  • auto trans
  • cruise control
  • self cancelling turn signals
  • on board wifi
  • and it BEEPS in reverse gear.
Passing through Smith County, a billboard announces the writer and home of a man named Higley, who penned the state song of Kansas, “Home, home on the range”.  For an hour, driving alone in the car, I am loudly singing….Ohhh give me a home where the buffalo roam where the skies….I’ll let you, the reader, finish the lyrics.

….to be continued where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, next, motels on the road less traveled

” The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Mark Twain, 1896

 

 

©insightout2016

The Legend of Stoney Gilliam

In the rear view mirror, what once was referred to as a cold front, then redefined as an arctic blast, has now morphed into a Polar Vortex.  The weather media have fallen into the exaggeration trap of their newsy colleagues who have given us the fiscal cliff, quantitative easing, the dreaded taper and the nuclear option.

Embarking on a four day, mid-winter, cross country trip over the Great Plains is always an adventure.  I make my first overnight stop, a popular, cheap hostelry that rhymes with No Tell Kix (to avoid being sued).  This in memory of my dearly departed dog, Jack.  This chain allows pets because they place you in a room with linoleum flooring.  The bath towels, roughly the size of a diaper, have the absorbency of a sheet of cellophane.  R.I.P. little Jackster, it’s only for one night.

Miles southwest of Albuquerque, I’ve taken an L-shaped route off Interstate-25, the hard right turn westerly on lonely U.S. Highway 60, which slices through the heart of parched, west-central New Mexico. The loneliness from Socorro, NM to Springerville, AZ, 154 miles, is palpable; should this desolation escape you, do not drive, get breathalyzed.

These San Agustin plains were chosen for a radio astronomy observatory because the isolated location away from large population centers, and the partial shielding effect of the surrounding mountain ranges.  This is peculiar to New Mexico, the state known to issue driver’s licenses to extra-terrestrials.  Locals of every ilk, perhaps on uncontrolled substances, enjoy regular visits from inter-planetary friends. This gives credence to the state motto warning: Land of Enchantment.

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I have, however, taken a personal turn for the worse.  A three course tamale dinner at an upscale Mexican restaurant in Albuquerque has tasered my gut lining from the tonsils south, septum to the rectum.  Urgency rhymes with emergency.  From the glove box of my aging Silverado diesel, a spare roll of TP and bottle of hand sanitizer become my two best friends. With only a single passing car every 1/2 hour, the entire county has become a personal port-a-potty.  Toxicity without vanity, I harbor some shame that this is not a ‘best practice’ health and sanitation policy.  Here, however, only the neighborhood rattlesnake population would issue an APB, a toxic intruder alert.

Next stop, Pie Town, NM, an unincorporated bend in the road, a cult restaurant, the Pie-O-Neer, and a clean restroom.  DSCN1314DSCN1315

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Saying grace, PieTown, 1940, before dessert

I pass on America’s favorite dessert.  The combination of red chile, tamales, clostridium difficile, and cherry pie might translate into the first nuclear disaster since the Fukushima tsunami.  I opt for a single bottle of Coca-Cola to ward off dehydration.

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30 miles west, in truly, the middle of nowhere, the worst is yet to come.  The dreaded “check engine” light illuminates the dash………..

 

…to be continued

 

insightout© 2014

 

 

 

Bridge over Troubled Squatters

The languid, and often liquid, sticky days of summer are closing down, in a rinse cycle of friendship and the gibbous moon.  Relocation to Rochester, two months +, and gaining momentum, we have encountered a full measure of “minnesota nice” ***, in spite of our classification as (pick a number);

  1. transients
  2. interlopers
  3. vagrants
  4. runaways
  5. squatters

A serious health issue for Lynn, my silver girl, prompted the move to MN.

Sail on silver girl

A visit from the welcome wagon, Kathy Johnson, the Rochester greeter, encouraged us to embrace the community.  And so we have.

Sail on by

Inhabiting an aluminum womb, in a lovely RV park with a rural setting, provides contentment but little intellectual stimulation, so we did what most elderly couples would do; went directly to the Pure Pleasure Adult store on US63 to view their inventory of “devices” and request the location of the nearest tattoo parlor.  Of course that’s not true.  O.k., so what if it is, the point being that overcoming the urge to get inked up is a serious challenge to fans of reality shows, like the NBA or Project Runway, where entire bodies emerge indigo blue with enough body piercings to set off the TSA siren.  Not desirous of impure pleasure, I’m forced to shift into reverse.  Lynn moves forward by meeting with women who enjoy sewing.

Your time has come to shine, All your dreams are on their way

Lynn suggested I explore an old passion, playing competitive bridge, having retired during the first Nixon administration.  The easy explanation, like golf, where I was also not proficient; the stolen hours away from a young family and a busy career.  The real reason: the players were often repugnant, ill-mannered, unkempt, and the majority smoked non-stop.  That was on their off days; when they arrived to play it became a logarithm on the Richter Scale of rudeness.  Although guilty of most offenses, I did not smoke.

Home to bridge “athletes”

Fast forward 40 years to the Rochester Duplicate Bridge and a welcome as a visiting royal, first by a person, who, for reasons of personal privacy and security, will only be referred to, anonymously, by the fictitious nom de plume, Sue Greenberg.  Curiously, that corresponds to the photo and name on her driver’s license, arrest record, financial statement and passport.

She provides a sheet describing Zero Tolerance for Unacceptable Behavior which defines gloating, poor personal hygiene, badgering, intimidation, profanity, and threats of violence as not commendable.  They even have a law, 74A1, that allows you to state, “this player is interfering with my enjoyment of the game”.  Already I’m feeling a bit uneasy, and unwelcome.  I mean (alert: dirty word tweet) WTF ?  I had played duplicate bridge in a private setting for years with a close circle of friends, mostly old physicians, where restrained war whoops,  borderline tribal behavior, and impugning the character of the opposition was not only acceptable, but laudatory.

But lo, she then invites us to her farm for dinner with her husband Rich, a charming self-described nerd from NY, dog Max, and, to a picnic two weeks hence for an annual get-together of family, friends, and a celebration to honor a vegetable (they harvest the sweetest corn in Olmsted County, MN as a hobby).

Back seat driver Max directs Rich, hayride driver of the vintage John Deere

Vulnerable bridge players contemplate corn-on-the-cob, doubled

 

In the month that followed, I joined the ACBL , played 2 to 3 times weekly, and met really wonderful people who have been genuinely warm and compassionate to both of us in our time of need.  Too many to mention, they know who they are, and saying thank you, in bridge lexicon, is an insufficient bid.

See how they shine, When you need a friend

If you neither play nor understand bridge, welcome, I don’t either.  The lure of the game is not complex; (a) you can never be perfect and (b) you can never learn enough.  Like Athena, the goddess of wisdom, warfare, battle strategy, heroic endeavor, and reason….the game, a ladylike mirror into our souls.  At the table we might quietly revel, for the moment, disemboweling an opponent, yet walk away friends.  No different than children in a sandbox.  Not everyone has a bucket and a shovel, but we all go home with sand between our toes.

An accomplished partner, at a team event, described my play as follows; your bidding is weak, play of the hand suspect, and defense poor, but you make a great dummy.  And I was flattered……batting average .250.  I have earned points, and a ranking (junior master) which is similar to a Boy Scout merit badge.  The points, however, have no cash value and are not redeemable for senior discounts at Coldstone Creamery®, an upgrade from business to 1st class on Virgin Air®, or a gift card at the Pure Pleasure Adult.  Ice cream, sex, and airborne abstinence are incompatible with bridge, so help me God.

Our time here may soon come to an end.  The prognosis, the clinical outcome, are a metaphorical walk on a razor’s edge of an abyss.  Often, the only courage I can muster is irreverence, and looking deep into the eyes of the woman I love.

When you’re weary, feeling small, when tears are in your eyes

The certainty is that my playing days in Rochester dwindle down, to a precious few.  The bittersweet paradox, the concomitant embrace of sadness and happiness, compelled me to share these random thoughts.  A kind gesture, no matter how small or insignificant, is never lost in meaning, and for that we are truly grateful.

It is nice to be in Minnesota.

Like a bridge over troubled water I will ease your mind

 

 

 

©insightout2011

*Garrison Keillor discusses “Wobegonics”; the  language of Minnesotans which includes “no confrontational verbs or statements of strong personal preference”

**the academic study by Peter Rentfrow, Samuel Gosling, and Jeff Potter in 2008 found that Minnesota was the second most agreeable and fifth most extroverted state in the nation, traits associated with “nice”.

lyrics, Simon, P., 1969