At the Crosswalk

 Posted by at 10:10 am  3 Responses »
Feb 192011

Instead of going out for lunch, I often go out walking. As I did today. Down the trail where it crosses Tuckerman, there’s a crosswalk. A sign informs motorists: “State Law. Stop for Pedestrians in Crosswalk.” There is no traffic light or regular stop sign here, and cars whiz by in full stride. Today I stood there helpless and watching, head jerking left to right and right to left, watching for an opening, despite the Maryland state law warning standing right beside me.

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How Many Socks?

 Posted by at 5:01 pm  1 Response »
Jan 012011

We are fortunate to have a Salvation Army donation center just a few miles away. It is a remarkable operation. They take any donations of clothing or household items that might be of use to someone else. There are always volunteers waiting for you to drive in to unload. They are friendly and helpful. The place is usually busy, but it runs so smoothly that you are in and out in no time. It would be interesting to see the place where all this stuff is taken and processed. If you have things you don't want any more, this certainly makes more sense than putting them out with the trash.

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A Grown Man Crying

 Posted by at 7:35 pm  No Responses »
Dec 272010

Today I drove again on Sligo Creek Parkway and past its intersection with Wayne Avenue in Silver Spring, Maryland. I remembered again being halted here by a minor accident. I remember it vividly, because standing beside the bent fender of his new car was a grown man crying. He was crying as in wiping tears from his wet face. He was middle aged and dressed well, wearing glasses, and Asian in appearance. I was touched by this sight, and remember it every time I pass this spot. This has gone on for over 25 years.

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Finding A Parked Car

 Posted by at 4:23 am  2 Responses »
Dec 172010

I have a recurring dream about losing my car. Usually I parked it for a meeting and when I emerge it isn't where I thought I left it. So I begin walking and looking among rows of cars, then to adjoining lots, then sometimes back again to do another check. I am often expected somewhere and getting later all the time. I wonder if I should report my car stolen to the police. When I do wake up and find that I am in bed and not in a parking lot, there is a sense of relief, but also a sense that I have been over this time and time again. I would like to quit having such dreams.

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Dec 032010

It is Friday, December 3, 2010 and I am standing in the Safeway checkout line scanning the magazines again. I did not make this up, by the way. People and the Globe are side-by-side on the rack. Both have cover articles with pictures of Michael Douglas. People has a picture of him smiling and looking healthy and saying he is getting stronger every day. The Globe has him looking like death itself and saying he is planning his funeral.

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Over the Shoulder

 Posted by at 5:38 pm  2 Responses »
Aug 182010

If you're on a long, time-dragging flight and listening to music on your iPod, your eyes might wander. Wander several rows ahead and across the aisle and across the woman's shoulder there who was reading. She was reading carefully and turning pages slowly and deliberately, I saw.  I also saw that the reading material was one of those magazines that present themselves to you as you stand in the supermarket checkout line. Continue reading »

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Jul 282010

We were driving in the Allegheny Mountains of central Pennsylvania.  Ahead on a distant ridge appeared a line of electricity generating windmills.  I suspected that the road might cross close to one of the windmills.  Having never seen one up close, I drove on.  Sure enough, there at the top of the ridge, right beside the road, stood a windmill.  I pulled off the road into a small gravel lot and beside a chain link fence with two trailers inside it.  As we got out of the car two armed guards emerged from the trailers and started walking toward us.

I am inclined to start explaining when an armed guard starts walking toward me.  I quickly explained that we had never seen one of these things before and had just stopped to look.  I kept my hands in sight and spoke in the least threatening way I know how.  The guards smiled and said that was fine.  They came down to the fence and began telling us about the windmills.  They told how much they cost and how many homes each one can power.  One guard went back to the trailer and brought us some literature.  It was all very interesting.  They explained how fast the blades turn and how there is something that keeps them from turning too fast when the wind blows too hard.  We asked lots of questions and the guards seemed to love having company and someone to appreciate the windmills.

My last question was different from the rest.  I wasn't sure if I should ask it, but I did.  "Why is it that these windmills have to have armed guards here?"

His face changed expression.  Then he told us that people had come and shot at the windmills and almost hit a technician who was working on one of them.  After that the company decided that they had to guard the windmills.  He said they hoped that someday they would not need guarding any longer.

As I asked myself why anyone would shoot a windmill, I remembered some signs I had seen down in the valley.  The signs said "NO turbines in Bedford County."  I later examined one of these signs and visited the website of the organization that sponsored them.  I expected to find something extremist and perhaps ill-informed.  Instead I found an environmentalist approach to the subject.  "Save our Allegheny ridges" is their name and slogan.  And being an environmentalist myself I have sympathy for their position.  But I also recognize the need for renewable energy to replace our dependence on the oil we are running out of and paying more and more to get.  I recognize that drilling miles deep under the oceans and in riskier and riskier places will inevitably lead to more and more disasters like the one we are now seeing.

It is strange to me that people in the Gulf region still support "drill, Baby, drill" despite the effects of the oil spill on their environment.  The lure of jobs and money is too strong, I suppose.  And if this holds true for all of us it means that we will keep moving irrationally toward ruin, despite all warnings to the contrary.  On the other hand, I do not live on the Gulf and my livelihood does not depend on the oil economy.  I wonder what my position on these issues would be if I were in their places.

I have read the "NO turbines" materials on their website and I see their side of the debate.  I've read that the North Carolina legislature is blocking any windmill building on ridges in the state.  There certainly are no easy choices to be made.

My one and only experience with one of the windmills was not unpleasant.  They are very large and they certainly detract from the beauty of the mountains.  But no more so than transmission towers and microwave relays and power plant smokestacks.  They are remarkably calm and quiet things, actually, especially being so large.  Given the alternatives, they might not be so bad.  We certainly don't need to be shooting them.

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On the Road

 Posted by at 6:30 am  No Responses »
Jun 042010

Watch out!  He is cutting in front of you from the right, from the blind side.  From the lane that was marked as ending a long way back.  Other cars merged in as instructed, but not him.  He is bent on getting ahead.  Getting there a car-length earlier means a lot to this guy.  There isn't really space for his car in front of you, but he makes space.  He makes space because you chicken out and hit the brake as he swerves.  He is more aggressive than you which is why he is now in front of you.  He throws a casual wave as if to thank you, to thank you for being a sap.  You are mad at him and mad at yourself both.  You frown and fume and mutter various characterizations for this man. Continue reading »

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Urging On

 Posted by at 6:17 pm  No Responses »
May 212010

Some people find it hard to exercise regularly.  I find it hard NOT to.  I hate going to the pool on Saturday mornings for the reason I’m about to illustrate, but this morning I went anyway.  The swim teams are there on Saturday mornings, and they tie up 15 of the 17 lap lanes.  The 2 open lanes are like a traffic jam on the D.C. Beltway.  I tried the traffic jam for awhile and then retired to the hot tub.  The hot tub is out in the open and overlooking the swim lanes where the younger boys practice. Continue reading »

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What We Leave Behind

 Posted by at 3:44 pm  1 Response »
May 102010

I grew up in and around the small town of Maryville, Tennessee.  In one direction lay the big city of Knoxville.  In the other lay the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  I preferred the mountains to big cities, and still do.  So I spent more time in the park than in Knoxville. Continue reading »

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