Adventures In Busing.

Seeing Double

I stopped at the library to drop off a book and when I got back to my car, which was a total round trip of about a hundred feet and less than a minute, it was locked. That’s funny, I thought. I don’t remember locking the car. Then I noticed there was a bottle of water in the center console. That’s really funny, I thought. I don’t remember having a bottle of water. Or some plastic flowers. Or a pink sweatshirt in the passenger seat.

Of course it wasn’t my car. I’d parked next to a completely identical blue Honda which, admittedly, isn’t that surprising. It is a little strange that I didn’t notice sooner, although I think I have a certain car blindness. I wouldn’t say that all cars look alike to me but I don’t exactly notice makes and models either. It’s why I’m terrified of witnessing an accident or a crime or something and being questioned about it.

“So you say you saw the bank robber get into a car and go west down 21st Avenue. What kind of car was he driving?”

“Well, it was…blue.”

Fortunately the car I briefly tried to get into didn’t have an alarm which would have been embarrassing. Car alarms seem to have fallen out of fashion after a time when they seemed to be everywhere and annoying everybody. And the driver wasn’t around, or at least they didn’t notice or say anything, although we probably could have had a good laugh about the fact that we were each driving identical cars, probably purchased in the same year, and even though Honda isn’t paying me I still feel I should say they’re amazingly dependable and run forever. We bought the one we’ve got now in 2019 to replace one we purchased in 1999—even on the same day, exactly twenty years earlier—and if we’d just replaced the fuel pump on the 1999 one it might still be running now.

Having realized my mistake I walked over to my car and got in and that’s when I saw that there was a bottle of water in the center console. Which I still don’t remember putting there.

Merrily We Roll Along.

Source: Gifer

Seeing a roller rink in Stranger Things 4 really took me back. Of course Stranger Things has always been drenched in nostalgia–I first started watching it not long after its first release when a friend texted me and said, “You’ve got to watch this–it’s your childhood!” and he was right as far as kids sitting around in a basement playing D&D. We never did save the world, but then we also never wasted a milkshake on a cruel and thoughtless prank either.

There was a reriod in my early teens when it seemed like I was at the Brentwood Skate Center two or three times a week, probably because I was there two or three times a week. There were special school nights and it was a popular place for birthdays of pretty much every kid I knew. In spite of that I was never a very good skater. I spent most of my time in the cluster of video games next to the rink–I was a master of Q*Bert and if I ran out of quarters or just needed a break I’d slowly make my way around the rink, holding onto the wall. The only time I ever really made any speed around the rink was one night when I was about to go and I’d turned in my skates. Kevin, who was still on skates, grabbed my coat and rolled away with it and I found the fastest way around a roller skating rink is in sneakers.

What I also remember is getting to the Brentwood Skate Center in the first place. It wasn’t far from where I lived and most of the adults who took us knew where it was, but, for some reason, one night my friend Tim’s father was the only adult available who could take us. Tim’s father was a gruff, serious guy who prided himself on knowing everything, especially directions. He had a ball compass mounted on his car’s dashboard and would, on long trips, lecture us on navigating by the position of the sun even though most of the time he was driving us at night.

It must have irritated him to have to say, “All right, boys, I don’t know where this place is so you’ll have to tell me where to turn.”

This was not a problem for me. I may not have been great on skates but I could find my way around and, as we approached the final stretch, I said to him, “Take the second left, the one past the interstate.”

“What?” he snapped. I think he’d been adjusting his compass.

“The second left,” I said, but I couldn’t get out “past the interstate.” He’d already taken the first left and was headed onto the interstate.  

Because the Brentwood Skate Center is a large building with not much else around it’s easy to see from the interstate, and, as we went by, Tim’s father said, “Well, there it is, how the hell do I get to it?” Then he started muttering about damn kids and how we didn’t know how to navigate by the position of the sun. He figured out his mistake, turned around, and went back, taking the correct turn.

In the end we were only about twenty minutes late, which was fine because, when Tim’s father came to pick us up to take us home, he was twenty minutes late. I suspect it’s because by that time the sun had set.  

Line ‘Em Up.

Source: Secrets Of The Universe

Unfortunately I slept through the great planetary alignment of 2022, or maybe fortunately because missing sleep can really throw me off, and also we live in a neighborhood with a lot of trees so I miss some opportunities to witness celestial events unless they happen in the winter, unless they’re due east in which case my view is blocked by woods, or if they’re almost directly overhead, or if I get up and drive somewhere with a low horizon and low light pollution, which is getting harder with each passing year.

Of course I do have a couple of astronomy apps on my iPad that allow me to see what’s in the sky regardless of what’s in the way which is why sometimes I’ll stand in the den and point it straight up at the ceiling and when my wife asks what I’m doing I can say, “Looking at Uranus,” but that’s another story.

In other words circumstances would have to line up in just the right way for me to see the great planetary alignment, but I’m okay with that. I remember when I was in second grade and there was supposed to be a solar eclipse that, while not total, would still be partly visible over Nashville. Of course it was cloudy that day. I’ve witnessed other eclipses since then, including the total one of 2017.

I’ve seen multiple lunar eclipses, most because I specifically planned my schedule around being somewhere where I could see them, and I’ve even gotten up in the middle of the night just to watch some.

One year my wife and I got up in the middle of the night and drove out to a farm where we watched the Perseid meteor shower which was supposed to be spectacular that year, and, lucky for us, it was. I’ve also seen meteors I wasn’t looking for; my eyes just happened to be in the right direction at the right time.

And then, Sunday afternoon, I fell asleep in front of the TV, because I hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before in spite of not getting up to see the great planetary alignment, with the Science Channel on, and I woke up just in time to hear an astronomer say, “Astronomy is a very serendipitous science!”

We can predict the movements of the planets—the next big one will happen September 8, 2040, but sometimes the best events are the ones that can’t be predicted.

The Kindness Of Strangers.

What did people do before the internet? I guess I should know—I was well into adulthood even before e-mail became widespread, and it was a few years after that my work department’s IT people came around and started installing Netscape on everyone’s computers, just in case someone found a use for it at some point and now, well, here we are.

Of course the problem with the internet then and now is that you can put up a request for help but there’s no way to know if it will reach the right people. In the old days the issue might have been that there weren’t enough people with access to see the message; now the issue might be that there are so many people with so much access looking at so much stuff it’s hard for a really specific request to reach the right person. Did someone happen to see a wreck involving a silver Honda on Charlotte Avenue in Nashville, Tennessee on June 11th at about 12:30PM?

I didn’t—I kind of wish I had because I’d like to be able to help the person who put up the roadside sign asking for assistance, but I was nowhere near where it seems to have happened even though it was a Saturday and I think I might have been running errands at the time. Or maybe I was home. I don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure I would remember seeing a wreck. Since it happened on a really busy street at a time when a lot of people would have been around it seems pretty likely there were witnesses and I hope one of them comes forward.

That also reminds me of one morning when I was on my way to work. I parked in the parking garage and next to the elevator there was a sign that said, “To the person who hit my car: please come forward with your information so we can arrange a settlement. If you don’t the parking manager has agreed to provide the security footage.”

I’m pretty sure that sign had a much better chance of success since it was addressed to a much smaller group. But since I wasn’t involved I never did find out what happened in that situation. I was kind of tempted, though, to put up a sign next to the elevator that said, “To the person whose car got hit, how’d that turn out? I hope you got some justice.” And maybe I’d add my email address, although I think there’d be enough interest in that story that they should have put it on the internet where lots of people could read it.

Pour Me A Cup.

So there’s a new study that suggests coffee can help you live longer, which is really good news to me because I start each morning with a cup of coffee. Or rather I start each morning by waking up, taking the dogs out, feeding them, getting them settled, and then I sit down and have some coffee and while I drink regular it might just as well be because there’s no way I’m going back to sleep after all that.

Also I have to get to work, but I take time to stop and enjoy my coffee. I like it cold, which most people I knew found weird before coffee shops started popping up everywhere and offering iced coffee or those elaborate beverages that are basically milkshakes with a little coffee in them, but that’s another story. I also my own coffee at home the night before and put it in the fridge, and when I learned Victor Hugo did the same thing I could say, hah! Take that people who thought I was weird for drinking cold coffee. The guy who wrote the book that musical you claim to like is based on drank his coffee cold too!

I don’t know if it adds to the health benefits but I’ve never been a fan of getting coffee on the go. What I mean is I don’t mind going somewhere to get coffee—I love coffee shops—but I don’t like to drink and drive, even if I’m not the one driving. I want to be able to sit and enjoy it. Even when I rode the bus to work I wouldn’t take coffee with me. Even when the driver would stop somewhere and get coffee—there used to be a Shoney’s on my route where drivers would usually stop and take a break for about fifteen minutes, although not getting coffee there was, for me, more a matter of pragmatism than a concern about savoring my coffee. Since it was close to the start of the route I knew it would be a long time before, well, I’d be able to stop, and another reason for not getting coffee on the go is it goes right through me.

After I’d get off the bus, though, I’d pass by a donut shop on the way to the building where I work, and I’d have no problem stopping to get a coffee there and carrying it to my office where I could sit and enjoy it. And one of the advantages of iced coffee is I never have to worry about it getting cold.

I Want To Ride My Bicycle.

Source: Nashville Scene

The Nashville Department of Transportation put out an open call to name its new bike lane sweeper, which is basically a regular street sweeper that someone put in the dryer on high. Open calls like this are risky but I guess the NDOT decided Nashville is full of smart, creative, and talented people and that we wouldn’t end up with “Sweepy McSweepface”. Hopefully.

I didn’t realize there was a sweeper specifically for bike lanes, but then it’s been a long time since I was downtown which is the only place I know of where the streets get regularly swept. There are bike lanes in the suburbs too, but around here the only street sweeper we have is called “rain”.

This also got me thinking about the pros and cons of traveling by bike and in Nashville, well, they’re mostly cons. The pros would be, obviously, that travel by bike is healthier both for the traveler and the environment, as well as cheaper. The biggest con, the one from which all other cons flow, is that Nashville is a city designed for cars. To get almost anywhere you need a car. One of the reasons the bus service around here is so lousy is it’s assumed everybody has a car, or at least access to a car, and that’s mostly right. It’s partly history but it’s also a matter of geography. Nashville is a city of hills. You could even call it Nash-HILL. I took a really long time to learn to ride a bike as a kid and one of the reasons is we lived at the top of a hill, and after seeing a friend on a bike get hit by a car as he sailed down that hill without stopping I wasn’t too eager to get on a two-wheeled vehicle. Yes, he should have stopped at the stop sign, but a bicyclist needs momentum to keep going, and when you reach the bottom of one hill and have to turn to go up another inertia suddenly becomes a major factor. Pedaling up hill is hard enough. It’s even harder when you have to do it from a complete stop. That’s why I sympathize with bicyclists who don’t stop at stop signs. They’re put in the difficult position of either risking being hit or having to get off their bikes and walk, which pretty much nullifies the advantages of riding a bike.

Then there’s the fact that cars always have the right of way. Even when cars don’t technically have the right of way they still have it. The two-ton hunk of steel, glass, and plastic moving at forty miles an hour is always going to have the right of way over cyclists, pedestrians, and small animals. The only real solution for bicyclists would be completely alternate paths that are blocked from motorized traffic.

Well, that or they could get a ride with Sweepy McSweepface.

And speaking of the economics of travel…

Source: Wondermark

Sorry I Missed You.

Source: Wikipedia.

So a guy got a call from the International Space Station and he let it go to voicemail because he didn’t recognize the number. A lot of people are making fun of him for this but I’m firmly in the sympathetic camp. I’m pretty sure I would have done the same thing. Most calls I get are from numbers I don’t recognize and I ignore them because they’re probably spam. I dealt with that enough when I was in my office. I always picked up my office phone whether I recognized the number or not because I never knew who might be calling even though, for a long stretch, I’d get at least two calls a day that would start with the blare of a ship’s horn followed by some pre-recorded offer for a free cruise. I wouldn’t hang up the phone right away. I would put it down on my desk and after a minute or so I’d hear someone saying, “Hello? Are you there?” I figured if they were gonna waste my time I’d waste theirs and eventually they’d hang up.

Admittedly if I had a friend on the ISS I’d find out what the area code was in case they called. It would be really cool to have a friend on the ISS because that’s probably the closest I’d get to space. A few times the ISS’s trajectory has made it visible from Nashville and my wife and I have driven out to a high spot to watch it go by, a small silver speck zooming along at more than 17,000 miles an hour, which is why it’s a good thing they don’t give out speeding tickets in space.

I’d also want to know what time zone the ISS is in. And is it on Daylight Savings Time? Since it orbits the Earth approximately ever hour and a half this wouldn’t make much difference although I know they want to stay on a regular schedule and I can’t imagine what the jet lag must be like for new arrivals.

Getting back to phone calls there is one call that I still regret missing. It wasn’t a number I recognized but I was asleep when it came in, but if I’d been awake I think I would have taken it. According to my phone it was coming from Ghana. The caller left a message and I’ve saved it although I can’t understand what they were saying. There are approximately eighty different languages spoken in Ghana so I’m not even sure I can narrow it down, but the caller was very emphatic and it didn’t start with a ship’s horn so I don’t think it was an offer for a free cruise.

And on an unrelated note…

Branching Out.

Source: yarn.co

We’ve had a lot of rain lately, and the other morning when I was taking the dogs out before breakfast I heard a sharp crackling sound from a few houses over. It was a tree, or at least part of one, and it sounded like it was near the road so I made a mental note to go in the opposite direction when I went out to run errands later.

We live in an old neighborhood, and it’s an area with big yards and a lot of trees. Our house was built in 1959 and I’m pretty sure some of the trees just in our yard are at least that old. It’s nice because it still has a natural feel even as the city’s development takes over surrounding areas and old homes are sold and torn down and replaced with oversized McMansions. Of course living in a house that predates the Beatles has its disadvantages too, like the time my dental hygienist suggested we get a water-pik and I said “That’s a great idea but we don’t have an outlet in the bathroom.” She thought that was weird and kind of funny but also not an excuse, so we have one and use it in the kitchen, then have to unplug it when we want to use the toaster, but that’s another story.

It’s also nice walking through a neighborhood with a lot of big trees. There was one afternoon that I was walking home from the bus and we had a sudden downpour and I was too far to get to my house but I was able to run into a neighbor’s front yard and stand under a tree that protected me from the worst of it. Then there was a loud clap of thunder and I ran for their front porch because you’re not supposed to stand under a tree in a thunderstorm and you’re not supposed to stand out in the open either and after a few minutes I decided to quit standing around and just run for my house. And every storm brings down large branches, and sometimes they block the road.

Anyway when I went out later I left my mental note at home so I went in the direction of where I’d heard the big branch fall earlier. I didn’t see any sign of it, though. Maybe it had happened somewhere else, or maybe it had already been moved. There’s another advantage of living in a neighborhood with a lot of trees: almost everybody has a chainsaw or knows someone with a chainsaw and any large branch that comes down gets moved pretty quickly.

Old And New.

Last week I had a doctor’s appointment at the 100 Oaks shopping center which is now mostly owned by the Vanderbilt Medical Center, but also has a few stores. Going there always brings back memories of when it was a shopping mall, the second one in Nashville, in fact. The front lobby where people now sit and hand out stickers that say “Visitor” used to have a fountain with copper lily pads and cattails. It’s long gone but the escalators are still there, and I still prefer to take the stairway that’s between them. At least one thing hasn’t changed: almost everything is on the second floor.

It seemed like a trip to 100 Oaks Mall every Friday night was a regular part of my life when I was four, before we moved to a different part of town, closer to Harding Mall, also now gone. These trips never seemed to have any purpose beyond just walking from one end of the mall to the other. Maybe my parents just wanted to get out of the house for a while, or maybe, because it was such a new experience for me, it’s been magnified. Maybe we only went a few times and I just never noticed that they were always legitimate shopping trips because of the mannequins.

I remember being fascinated and also more than a little spooked by mannequins. The ones with heads were unnerving enough with their thousand-yard stares and fixed smiles, but the headless ones that still had tall angled necks were even more frightening.

I remember going back there several times over the years, seeing the stores change, although the fountain with the copper lily pads and cattails was always there. At some point they turned off the water and let it dry up but it was still pretty.

The year before the mall closed I went to see my high school band march in with Santa.

I’m not sure why I felt such a rush of nostalgia on this particular trip to 100 Oaks. I’ve had doctor’s appointments there before, although the last one was in 2015. And this one was a little different because it was in the very back; I had to travel almost the entire mall to get to it and that made me think about how much the space has changed, and how much the world has changed.

Down The Path.

Last weekend I went to Radnor Lake again and, because it was crowded, I took a stroll down the Historic Valve House Trail, which, despite being historic, is both the newest trail and one of the least used and I could tell it hadn’t gotten a lot of use because there was a thorny blackberry vine growing right across the trail.

Here’s a quick history of Radnor Lake: it’s a manmade lake that was dug by railroad workers in the 1910s to provide water for cattle and steam engines at the rail yards four miles away. A few years ago I was part of the volunteer crew that helped move this piece of the original pipe to its current location along the trail:

While the lake provided water to the railroads it and the surrounding forest were also a recreation area for a few wealthy railroad magnates and their families who used it for hunting and fishing. Then, in 1973, the state and citizens raised the money to purchase the area and it became a state park. Now it’s open to everyone.

That and the bramble I had to duck under reminded me this poem by Yusef Komunyakaa, in which he goes from freedom to humiliation but, subtly, still gets the last laugh:

Blackberries

They left my hands like a printer’s
Or thief’s before a police blotter
& pulled me into early morning’s
Terrestrial sweetness, so thick
The damp ground was consecrated
Where they fell among a garland of thorns.

Although I could smell old lime-covered
History, at ten I’d still hold out my hands
& berries fell into them. Eating from one
& filling a half gallon with the other,
I ate the mythology & dreamt
Of pies & cobbler, almost

Needful as forgiveness. My bird dog Spot
Eyed blue jays & thrashers. The mud frogs
In rich blackness, hid from daylight.
An hour later, beside City Limits Road
I balanced a gleaming can in each hand,
Limboed between worlds, repeating one dollar.

The big blue car made me sweat.
Wintertime crawled out of the windows.
When I leaned closer I saw the boy
& girl my age, in the wide back seat
Smirking, & it was then I remembered my fingers
Burning with thorns among berries too ripe to touch.

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