Thursday, October 30, 2008

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

When I was young, I asked Mother what it meant when folks said “I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Mom explained that in the old days when many families lived in triple deckers, they would often hear the neighbor upstairs getting ready for bed. First on shoe would hit the floor….then before you could fall asleep, you would find yourself waiting for the other shoe.

These days that is how I’m living my life; waiting for the next shoe to drop. I am sure many of you are doing the same. First, it was “how much will the gas be this morning?” Then it was “how much will my retirement fund drop today?” This morning I’m checking Outlook at work. (Do I need to explain that one?) And of course, the presidential race has everyone on edge. That shoe has yet to drop. When it does, we will be holding our breath listening for a whole new set of shoes.

Monday, October 27, 2008

“Your job is to stay on”

My sister, like many of us, often finds her life dictated by her fears. I have been watching my sister reclaim her independence these days by facing her fears and overcoming them. Not only that, but she has taken on challenges she would not have considered in the past. That is how we came to promise that we would take her on a motorcycle ride this season. “I would like to go for a ride” she had said “if only because it is not something one would think I would do.”

As happens so often, we find life dragging us along and the season was quickly coming to a close. So when we woke to a glorious day during the last weekend in October, we took the opportunity to show up on her door step. With spare jacket and helmet ready, she willing donned both and climbed on the back of Andy’s bike. “You aren’t planning to get on the highway are you?” she asked. “Don’t worry, you're still a virgin. I wouldn’t do that to you.” My sister’s laughter rang in the air as she hadn’t heard that term associated with her in years.

The day was one of full sunshine, enough fall foliage still along the roadways, and the fall air just cool and refreshing enough, but not cold that it made for great riding. We wove our way along the secondary roadways until we came to a stop in Dover. My sister was doing fine. Once her back side adjusted to the seat, and she let her fear go, she found herself enjoying the ride. “I stopped looking where we were going and enjoyed the view” she said. “Good” said Andy. “Your job is to stay on the bike.” We all love the way Andy has with understatement.

With the day quickly slipping by we hightailed it back to her place. To get her home on time, we did have to take a short strip of highway. Following behind, I wondered how long my sister could hold her breath or keep her eyes closed. We delivered her to her doorstep safe and sound. As for the strip of highway, Andy declared her “now a woman.” It was great to have my sister along to share with her what we enjoy so much. Next season, were sure to have her along with us again.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sensationalism, Rabble Rousing & Misleading Headlines

What has happened to good news reporting? It seems that most anything you read today is suspect. It can’t be trusted or the facts are skewed. The media today seems more intent on selling advertising than in reporting accurate and informative newsworthy subjects. To get your attention they use misleading headlines and sensationalism that can sometimes lead to rabble rousing by those buying into the printed word.

This was my concern when I read the article that I spoke about in my last post. I carried the discussion into an on-line forum for feedback. It is possible that I was preaching to the choir, but there were many interesting points of view, and even a few I hadn’t considered. One of these comments related to newspaper and online reporting. One person noted that there was no side-bar with follow-up information or facts to support or refute the claims in the article. Another mentioned a study which shows people do not read the entire article but only the first few lines. This is the point that concerns me the most. Too many people ask me “did you see the headlines today!” With that, they have learned all they need, never reading the story to learn the details.

Earlier this month I saw this headline in the local paper: “Firm says McCain could die in office.” This particular headline preys on the fears of voters. Do I have to lay them out in detail? Maybe you support McCain and have reservations about Palin. Maybe you like Palin and find this headline encouraging for the advancement of women in politics. Maybe you were undecided and seeing this headline figured you should vote for someone younger and healthier. The list goes on.

If you took time to read the story, you find that the Atlanta based firm that specializes in individual life and health expectancies predicts McCain would die in his SECOND term if elected. Buried at the end of the article, we find that this would be the case for the population as a whole if statistics only were used. However, in McCain’s individual case, his health being better than the average man for his age, the likely hood is reduced even further. However, considering the newspaper I was reading leans to the left, I would say their work here was done when they printed the headline. Especially considering they know only too well that people don’t read through an article.

Or how about the woman who spoke at a McCain rally claiming Obama was an Arab and a terrorist? This woman bought into the propaganda that due to a relative having Muslim ties, by default Obama and bin Laden are buddies. Gee, using that logic, since I was raised Catholic; I must be Italian and therefore a member of the Mafia.

This is also another point to consider. When watching the news or reading a paper it is always wise to understand the political leaning of the network or publication. You are spoon fed the news in a biased fashion and only shown that which they want you to see. Take for instance if you only watch cop shows. You will soon believe that there is no one to trust in this world. Since my cell phone along with 20 others and a woman’s purse with $400 was turned in when lost at King Richard’s Faire, I realize there are more honest people in the world than we know.

So where can one get unbiased reporting? I don’t believe we can find any. You have to listen to that which you agree with and that which you don’t. Someplace in the middle is the real truth. You may even have to dig around on your own to find it. If we know something is blatantly false, if is our responsibility to correct the misinformation. The let sleeping dogs lie theory does not work for me. The false information perpetuates, and soon, like urban legends, the world is believing it true.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Motorcycle Killed My Son

Here is the unfortunate truth. A 20 year old man is dead and his mother is on a campaign to educate parents about the dangers of crotch rockets. I began this article with sympathy for a woman who has lost a child. The more I read, the more I realized this woman did not know what she was talking about. It is evident that the woman is angry. Anger is one of the phases of grief and understandable. However, her anger is misdirected.

Check out the facts of the story here: Motorcycle killed my son

Here is an overview:
o Max died on the day he bought the motorcycle.
o He was out late with friends and showing off.
o Max did not have a motorcycle endorsement. It is safe to assume that he had no rider training.

Max’s mother, in learning that a motorcycle endorsement is state law wants dealerships to police those who buy a motorcycle by making sure the customers have an endorsement before they are sold a bike. How can this be the dealerships responsibility? Each person is responsible to know their state law. You need a driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle, you need another endorsement to drive big rigs and you need to show motorcycle proficiency to get your motorcycle endorsement. You can do this by taking the course and passing or as in New Hampshire, show up at the State Police Barracks on the right day of the week, and take your exam there. It is not the dealership’s responsibility to make sure Max had his endorsement, it was Max’s.

Next, Mom is angry with the government. She wants them to regulate how fast motorcycles can go by having the government require that a “governor” be installed on motorcycles that limit how fast they will go, and essentially shut down the machine when a person goes to fast. She would like this to start with Yamaha and Suzuki. How interesting. My thoughts here are the government already has laws in place to punish those who exceed the speed limit. If we modify bikes to shut down when going too fast, what’s next? The family van?

I am truly sorry for Cyndi Martin's loss. It is indeed tragic to see a young life cut short. However, it is yet another example of how people do not take responsibility for their actions. It is not anyone else’s fault that Max lost his life. Max was riding his motorcycle illegally. Max did not have the experience to be riding this bike. It was his responsibility to obey the posted speed limit and understand the state laws. This is the responsibility we all have. Max’s mother wants to educate other mother’s about the dangers of motorcycling. I agree and in addition, they should educate their son’s to make sure they take a Rider Safety Course, receive the motorcycle endorsement and invest in riding gear. It would be the responsible thing to do. We don’t need the government to parent us.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Writing Fiction

My blogging has become thin these days due to the short story workshop I am participating in with the Monadnock Writers’ Group. As a result, today I am moving away from the bike to show you what I have been up to. One of our members, Lucy Suitor Holt is taking us on a workshop odyssey this season. In each month’s correspondence, we receive our next lesson. Lucy is a short story published author with two degrees from Rivier College. She has held workshops with the emphasis on creating and writing short stories. What a great opportunity to learn and grow one’s skills!

I am not a fiction writer by any stretch of the imagination, so this is a challenge for me. In our first assignment we were to find two names randomly in the phone book by just opening and pointing blindly. For the rest of that month we were to “watch” our characters from a distance. That was the “who” of our story. This month, we are concentrating on the “what” that is driving our characters. I have names, and I see “who” they are with certainty. “What” is driving them is still up for debate in my mind, and is a challenge. I have an idea for the closing paragraph. How I get there is another matter.

With that said, let me introduce my characters to you. My intension, by placing them here for all of us to “watch”, is that it might lead me in the direction I need to fabricate the “what” that drives their motivations. Please let me introduce Mike Brennan and Jacqueline A Chasse.

Mike Brennan is a man of average height, fit, in his mid-forties. He works out regularly to maintain his physique he tells people, but it is really to keep old age at bay. Mike is an open book. He is also able to talk with anyone about anything. He is well read, articulate and handsome. This last he has little awareness of, and it often leads to trouble. Because of his friendly and welcoming nature, he misses cues that could have led to many a romantic encounter. The trouble comes when engaged in conversation with pretty women, usually initiated by them, leading to confrontations with their partners. Mike is a software developer with a specialty in reverse engineering. Mike has been on assignment at a client site to identify flaws in the company’s software that would lead to security breaches. This is where he meets Jacqueline. Jacqueline has been assigned to help Mike in his work and give him access to files he needs and to heavily monitor his activities.

Jacqueline A Chasse is a hard nut to crack. You only see about her what she is willing to show. On the other hand, she has a way of reading people that is intuitive, and often correctly identifies their motivations. In true Dale Carnegie style, she can get anybody to do anything by simply appealing to their sense of importance or to their fear of future pain. Jacqueline exposes only that which she would allow people to see. Her office as her home reveals nothing of who she really is. The colors are neutral, the furniture plain and functional, the wall hangings minimal and reflecting the geographic area where she lives, with depictions of wooded lanes, and sun dappled ponds. There is nothing personal here. No photos, knickknacks, nothing to give anyone a sense of what she is all about.

I hope you will “watch” me as I “watch” what Mike and Jacqueline get caught up in. Feel free to offer advice, suggestions, and insight. As I mentioned, fabricating stories is not my strength. Your commentary may help trigger and idea or two. I hope you will join me on this journey.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Perfect Gift

Mother Nature it seems is apologizing for all the nasty rain, tornadoes and hurricanes she has thrown at us this riding season. Just at the peak of fall foliage season, during a holiday weekend no less, she has graced us with sun dappled days of mild temperatures and brilliant shades of gold and crimsons against cumulus cloud studded azure skies.

It is against this backdrop that Jade and I find ourselves on a journey through New Hampshire and Vermont with the New England Riders. In the crisp early morning air, as we travel to the start point, the rising sun and tree tops meet in a spectacular display of dazzling color against the shadowed earth not yet touched by the early morning light. As the golden orb continues it assent into the ever changing shades of blue the warming breath of autumn air against my cheek chases the chill away.

Our route takes us through New England towns, seemingly untouched by the passage of time, with village greens, central meeting halls and churches standing sentinel as they have, some for 200 years. The colonial architecture looms before me, sometimes unexpectedly, and I am made aware of my heritage. The structures beckon and stir long forgotten memories of my forefathers, and the people who once called this place home.

We stop at Mount Sunapee and take advantage of the chair lift to the summit. We are not disappointed, as Mother Nature has swept the air clean of the mess we can make of it to open up before us a panoramic majesty. As I look below me, I see the blue of the sky mirrored in the lakes and ponds below, and the colors of the foliage made twice as brilliant reflected in the calm of the water’s surface.

At our stops I pause to give homage to the hardy blossoms that pay tribute to the season. Their petals held high, they stand as proud sentinels in testament to autumn’s delights. The fallen leaves, crunching beneath my boots send up the aroma that is so indicative of the season. Early childhood memories of leaping into raked up piles of leaves, turn up the corners of my mouth as I remember youth. It is then that I remember how in youth I lived in each moment. There is no regret of the past or worry for the future when you are laying in a pile of leaves looking up partly naked tree branches. On a day such as this, the lesson is simple. Live the moment. It is the perfect gift.

Fall Foliage Ride 2008

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


It is an unfortunate truth that in today’s world, people are still stereotyped by first impressions. Our outer appearance, false assumptions, misconceptions, misinformation or personal biases are all factors that lead to stereotyping of an individual. To confound this unfortunate truth is that if you ride a motorcycle you are instantly classified as a law breaker.

Maybe I have been living under an idyllic belief that our melting pot has finally blended into a comfortable stew, where we all compliment one another. So I am dismayed this season to discover I am living in a fantasy world. When traveling the roadways this season, I have seen more blue lights in my rear view mirror than at any time in my entire driving history.

Let’s look at the modes of transportation I use. I drive one minivan, and one motorcycle. During commuting when I am in the van, it is “keep up” or suffer the consequences. Are there patrols for morning and evening commute? Certainly! Do I ever see blues because I am in a pack of cars sometimes exceeding the speed limit? Never! So why is it, that when I am on my motorcycle, following the same commuters, or even Sunday drivers, I am the one who is stopped? It would seem that the riding gear and helmet disguise things, as once they realize they’ve stopped grandma or even grandma and grandpa, we are waved on our way. It could also be that once they view our spotless driving record combined with our age, it would not look favorable for them in a court of law.

I am not an aggressive rider by any means. When I began riding, I made promises to my father. I intend to keep my promises and should anything happen, it would not be by my hand. His 80 year old heart just could not take it. Couple that with two beautiful and cherished grandchildren that I have plans to watch grow and you have a mixture for a careful and courteous rider.

There are other ways that motorcyclists are discriminated against. In the UK, some gas stations have posted signs that require riders to remove their helmets before fueling. It does not require hooded or hat wearing drivers to do the same. Then there is the health insurance industry, or even some road side assistance programs that discriminate against riders.

If you feel your own small voice does not carry enough weight in society, I suggest you check out the American Motorcyclist Association. Follow the link in the side bar to Rights. Here you can check up on issues and legislation, state motorcycle laws and even check out resources at your disposal. Consider becoming a member and let your voice be heard. As for me, I would just like to be treated when riding my motorcycle the same way I’m treated in my Mommy Minivan.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Conquer Time

In the dawn of early morning, as I step outside my door, I feel the cold fall air sting at my cheek and turn my nose to red. I slide into the van to begin my morning commute. I reach for the temperature control and move it up a notch to warm and clear the windshield. Out the window, a gust of wind scoops a multitude of leaves in brilliant shades of gold and crimson into swirling dervish dancers of flaming color in the early morning sun.

With the arrival of fall comes the keen awareness that another riding season is slipping into the past. That I am in the van is testament to this. The grays I spy in the rear view mirror as I check my hair is further evidence that time is ticking on. A silver Lexus darts into the space between me and the car ahead. Soon he is dashing in and out of lanes. We meet again at the next light. His effort to save time is fruitless.

How we perceive time depends on our current circumstance. Time itself does not care at all how we are affected by it. After all, it isn’t time that changes tempo, but the person marking it. I recall waking in the morning after the death of a loved one. Coming fully to awareness, my grief once again holding me to my pillow, the thought of how cruel time is washes over me. For you cannot turn time back and retract an unkind word, correct an injustice or resurrect a loved one.

Neither can you stand time still. The joys of life skip on too quickly. The blush of the bride’s cheek, a lover’s sweet embrace or the baby at your breast are all moments that are over all too quickly. We wish to linger there if time would just wait. This last is what I wish to do with the moments on the road with Jade. To breathe deeply of the mingled scents of spring blossoms, feel the sun upon my cheek, the wind in my face, and the sense of freedom I have when riding. When on two wheels your senses and awareness are heightened, your soul as is your flesh, windswept.

I can however live in each moment. Grieve when it is time to grieve, love when love stands near, and caress the babies in my arms before they dash away. I will not pine for that which has passed or linger over sorrows. I am blessed for the moments time has given me and memories after all, are a gift over which time hath no power.

"Rest not! Life is sweeping by; go and dare before you die. Something mighty and sublime, leave behind to conquer time."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe