Monday, July 28, 2008

shoot em all

I can relate to this. Last week a man was so pissed at his lawnmower for not starting that he got his sawed off shotgun and shot it. Dead. Filled it full of holes. He was subsequently arrested for illegally discharging a firearm in the city and charged with possessing an unlawful shotgun. His reasoning when questioned by police—“it’s my lawnmower and my yard and I can shoot it if I want to.” The police were not amused. The guy could possibly be sent to jail for several years if convicted on those charges.

How often have I wished for a shotgun or some other incendiary device to rid myself of a balking machine? If I had a gun handy for all those past encounters with a failed lawnmower, power tool, or appliance, I would be surrounded by piles of dead, bullet riddled scrap metal. And there would be a special place reserved in hell for those electronic devises—computers, printers, cell phones, you know what I’m talking about--that failed and were subsequently destroyed by machine gun fire and obliterated by hand grenades.

It is probably a good thing that I have no firearms or other weapons at my disposal. It would be too easy to use them when the frustration of dealing with those dastardly devices began to get the best of my good nature. I am a nonviolent person for the most part, but I can see my using weapons of mass destruction on all those uncooperative machines that have plagued my life. It might be satisfying to destroy them at the time, but they would only be replaced by others of their ilk anyway. So instead of shooting those machines full of holes, it might be better to just let them sit rusting and unused. Serve them right for messing with me. Besides, I don’t think spending time in jail for shooting my lawmmower is how I want to be remembered.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

time machine

My bicycle is my time travel vehicle. It takes me back in time to those days when I was able to roll for miles and miles. I used to run for exercise and bike for pleasure. These days I am way past running as a possible means of exercise, but my bike is still a viable choice for pleasure and now more than ever, exercise.

Today I can’t claim that walking, let alone running, is a form of exercise. My Parkinsons shuffle with cane as my prop marks me as the doddering old man I have become. I “walk” as a means simply of staying mobile and fighting off muscle rigidity that is one of the hallmarks of Parkinsons Disease. But when I get on my bicycle I am transported, not just down the road, but back in time to those earlier days when I took my physical abilities for granted. On my “walks” I am 60 going on 70. On my bike I am still 20 going on 30.

There was a time 30 years or more ago when I would ride almost daily for exercise. I would get home from work, eat something, and then get on my bike for a 20 mile workout. On several occasions on a Saturday or Sunday, I would start out early in the morning and ride all day until I had covered the 100 miles I needed to complete a “century.” I loved being outside and being physically capable of such feats. I basically took for granted that I was in good enough shape to do all that.

Now, while PD has robbed me of walking as a means of staying in shape, it has not affected my bike riding capability. I can still balance and handle the bicycle as I always did. I don’t ride as far anymore, 20 miles max, but I still ride. I still get the same pleasure form rolling down the road, eating up the miles, pumping hard up the hills and being rewarded with a fast coast down the other side. The roads here in the country around our lake cottage are ideal for biking, being mostly flat with only occasional hills to challenge an old cyclist like me. The blacktop two lane roads are mostly smooth and the paucity of cars or trucks makes them a safe place to ride right down the middle of the road.

I usually ride alone seeking only the company of my thoughts and the noises that nature sends my way. I love the hum of the tires on the road, the click of the gears changing, and the whoosh of air past my ears. But what I really love is the sound of birds singing and crickets chirping and critters scrambling through the grasses and trees along the road as I startle them with my sudden appearance. A vigilant eye is needed to spot the scurrying squirrels and raccoons and rabbits that dart across the road in front of me. Sometimes a deer or two will bound across the road in my path, but mostly on these hot summer days they are hunkered down in their shady bowers out of sight.

It is not unusual around here to encounter a flock of turkeys pecking their way along the roadside and then taking off in awkward and soon aborted flight when they see me coming. They are ungainly in flight, due most likely to lack of practice, but surprisingly graceful when they trot along the edge of the road looking for the hiding place that will save them form me. Still, their graceful sprint belies the fact that they are, to put it delicately, unattractive. Ok, ugly.

The Sandhill Cranes that populate this area are easy enough to watch in the fields from my vantage point on the road, but they tend to keep their distance, preferring to keep a judicious amount of space between us. They are vocal in their displeasure of my intrusion into their world, often squawking and cackling loudly for me to get away and quit staring at them. They move as slowly as I do when walking, their matchstick legs looking ridiculously fragile as they highstep their way to safety.

Every now and then a hawk will soar overhead on his way to lunch and I have even spotted an eagle presiding over his kingdom from a perch high in the upper reaches of the tallest tree.

While this area is sparsely populated, there are the infrequent homesteads tucked into the open areas between the tree farms and wild growth. It is at those houses that I become most vigilant, my every sense on high alert, because inevitably a crazed barnyard dog, intent on protecting his world from intruders, will come bounding out of nowhere, snarling and barking, warning me away with a viciousness that is astonishing. People around here refuse to restrain their dogs, opting for the watchdog version of their pets. I have had too many encounters of the canine kind while peddling on the roads here to take them lightly. Fact is, some of these dogs scare the living bejeepers out of me. Most of them I can race past before they know I’m there and can mount their attack, but sometimes they see me coming and salivate at the prospect of chomping a chunk out of my leg. So far I have avoided losing that chunk of leg, but I know sooner or later my time will come. Then you will have a tough time convincing me that dogs are man’s best friend.

So now I can still enjoy the freedom that my bicycle gives me despite the ravages of age and PD. When I get on my bike I am transported both back to the past and my earlier joy of riding and also into the future, knowing that I still have the ability to ride and live and enjoy the world around me. The only thing that will slow me down is a flat tire. Or maybe that one barnyard dog that manages to run me down.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

hot is good

The real heat of summer is here with temps in the high eighties. The humidity is oppressive. The sun is cooking everything to well done. The sweat is dripping in my eyes. And I love every minute of it.

I like it hot. Granted, the humidity makes it more difficult to bear, but I like it hot. The hotter the better. I scoff at the sun. Bring it on.

The warmth of these summer days helps to keep my muscles loose and functioning. In the cold I stiffen up too easily and it’s always a battle to stay loose. But in the heat of July half the battle is over before I even get into it. I like that.

They say you should be careful exercising outside in the heat. Beware of heat stroke. Stay hydrated. Seek out shade whenever possible. But I rarely adhere to those admonitions. Shade is for sissies. I do drink a bit more water when I’m active outside in this heat, but not that much more than usual. Heat stroke to me is just a theory.

I love the feeling of sweat oozing out of every pore and running in little rivers down into my eyes and down my back and soaking my shirt and shorts. I like the image of my skin glistening with a sheen of sweet sweat. I like the idea that the sweat I create is cleansing my body of all those nasty toxins that accumulate in me despite my best efforts to stay pure. Sweat is good. It means you are still alive.

So while everyone else is moaning about how uncomfortable they are and how nasty the heat and humidity are and how they wish it was December, I am reveling in the joy of July and its wondrous capacity to make me feel good. This is the best time of year by far. I love it.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Questiion—what makes fireflies sparkle like, well. like fireflies? I just returned from my usual evening walk, during which I was entertained by the flitting about of many of those little beacons. Curious old soul that I am, I naturally wondered why they do that.

It seems to me that most bugs have a short lifespan. They barely last a season, many don’t last a week. They are convenient prey for the hungry birds and bats and other critters that find them unusually palatable. Their existence must be tenuous in the best of times. I should think that most bugs are wary and furtive in their movements so as not to attract too much attention from that list of predators.

And then you have the fireflies. Are they particularly stupid or unusually brave? They flit around brazenly advertising their presence for all the world to see. Do they really expect to get away from those who would make a meal of them? Are they thumbing their noses at their voracious enemies and daring those enemies to “bring it on.”
Are they born or hatched or metamorphed or whatever with an unusually strong death wish? Are they nature’s kamikazes? Or are they just going about their lives as nature intended, oblivious to the danger that surrounds them, content to be as fireflie-y as they can be?

Maybe there’s a lesson there for us.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

summertime menace

I just returned from a walk down the road here at the lake. It has become one of my daily rituals that after dinner in the evening, I grab my cane and I “stroll” to the end of our road and back, a distance of just over half a mile.

“Stroll” is a relative term in my case. With Parkinsons, it is more of a long shuffle. But I need to keep moving or I won’t be able to move at all. So I force myself to make the effort. Sometimes Mary will accompany me, but I can tell she would rather move a bit faster than I am capable of moving, so she will usually take the dog for a walk instead, using the animal as an excuse to get going. But that’s ok. I enjoy the time alone to observe nature and get lost in my thoughts.

But now there is an added dimension to my evening strolls. I am getting a lot more exercise now than I used to get. It seems all the arm waving and hand swatting of mosquitoes takes a lot more energy than a simple amble down the road. Swarms of the nasty little buzzers are intent on making me their evening meal. With all the recent rain we’ve had there are too many breeding areas of standing water left around. And those puddles and ponds are generating a bumper crop of voracious mosquitoes.

The frightening thing is that the worst of it is yet to come. This is only the first exploratory wave, the recon patrol if you will, of the huge army of flying marauders that will be hatched in the next week or two. Once they get here, it will be advisable to keep small children indoors, lest they be carried off into the woods for later consumption by the horde of bugs. Venturing outdoors will require some serious preparation. I’m thinking several layers of long pants, long sleeves, hoods and netting will be about right. And an industrial size spray can of insecticide to create a fog of safety around me will be the weapon of choice in the ensuing battle.

I realize that I could simply eliminate my evening constitutional and save all the hassle, but, hey, I got here first and I refuse to be chased off by a bug. I need to walk. And a treadmill is not quite the same.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

summertime blogger blues

I’ve been a bad blogger lately. I have been neglecting my blogger responsibilities. I have a million excuses for doing so, but the only real reason is laziness. And golf. And happy hour. And wonderful summer days that insist I be outside away from the computer.

Summers are like that. We endure the cold hard winters around here thinking and hoping for the warmth of summer, so when it finally arrives, we would be crazy not to take advantage of it. So instead of spending hours in my workshop, hours reading and writing, hours cocooned inside, I am outside reveling in the best of all seasons. I even like cutting the grass, which has been growing with a vengeance lately due to the exorbitant amount of water that has been falling from the sky. So blame my blogging negligence on the rain and growing grass. That’s as good a place to lay the blame as any.

Another reason for my dereliction of blogging duty is the fact that internet access is difficult to come by here at the lake. Our cottage does not have all the requisite electronic accoutrements to be part of the 21st century. Yes we have running water and indoor plumbing. We even have heat and air conditioning. We have television and radio. We have kayaks, a sailboat, a canoe, and bicycles. But we don’t have internet access. So call us primitive if you must and look for the smoke signals I will send from our next bonfire. And then when I finally get the time to run into town and seek out my corner in the local library where I can make use of their wifi to connect electronically with the outside world, you will know that I am still alive and kicking.

Until then, just assume that I am taking full advantage of the summer freedom to wander through the outdoors, chasing golf balls, paddling the kayak, riding my bicycle, and, yes, cutting the grass. Winter will return soon enough. I refuse to squander the summer with indoor activities. Unless it’s raining. Like today. That’s why I am here in the library and why I have time to write this.

The clouds are clearing. The sun is peeking through. Bye for now.