Saturday, December 02, 2006

Life Themes

My back injury was worse than thought. It still bothers me and I must take it easy.

Promised I’d go out and pick up six bottles of wine for Charlene and Henry. At first, Charlene wanted to go with me and learn about wine, then decided she had too much to do preparing for their gathering today.

I headed out to “Bottle Barn” at 10:30, with a 6-bottle shipping box strapped to the back. Down the road, it was flapping a bit, so I pulled over to better secure it. But I couldn’t start the bike again. The battery was drained. I was at Farmer’s Lane and Bennett Valley Road, on a slight hill. Tried roll-starting it. No luck. Rolled off onto a side street, out of traffic.

Walked the bike a block or so, quickly remembering what it’s like to push this thing. Tried roll-starting again, but it wouldn’t kick over. A block up was a "Valero" gas station. The service bays were closed. “It’s Saturday,” the young man in the office announced.

“Do you have any jumper cables and a car that could jump me?” He had cables, but no car. Then a middle-aged woman seated in another room, leaned over into the doorway and said we could use her Mercedes parked outside. She had a “toy dog” in her lap and I assumed she owned the station.

Opened the Mercedes hood and after looking around, noticed the decal “battery is located in trunk”. Recalling warnings in my owner’s manual about jump-starting the bike, I nevertheless followed the same procedure I would use for a car. The bike started right up and I quickly disconnected the cables, somehow thinking any damage the jump might do would not be instantaneous.

Without hesitation, I handed the attendant $10 with my sincere thanks.

Continued on my mission to “Bottle Barn”. This is fun: spending other people’s money on wine! I knew what I was looking for in a German wine and was excited to find “Dr. Loosen” 2005 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett (with screwcap!). It was still in its case, at the bottom of a stack of new arrivals. Surprised at the price of the French Gigondas ($15-20), I then noticed Guigal’s 2003 Crozes-Hermitage at $17.69. A handwritten sign cited Robert Parker’s review, scoring the wine “91-94 points”.

I was $13 over budget, but intended to only charge Charlene and Henry the $100 I had promised to stay within. But Charlene was thrilled and they insisted on paying even more than what it cost. We agreed I’ll take $120 off the next rent check.

Leaving them I remarked that I was simply doing what I enjoy, “spending other people’s money. Now the urge to shop is out of my system!”


Out to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Many more non-paying cars (parked jut outside the fee area) than paying cars (parked beyond the toll booth.) “This is nuts. The parks need the money.” But not being a complete idiot, and unemployed, I parked outside and walked in.

It was reassuring to see so many people out enjoying the beautiful weather, especially now, when there’s considerable pressure to be at the mall.

The hike today was considerably more difficult, possibly because I began at an unrealistic pace, trying to pass a couple of young ladies who I did not wish to be “following” on the trail.

A chilly breeze out of the northeast, noticeably drier than recent winds. Relaxed on top of Bald Mountain, as I’m accustomed to do, lying in the grass, my hat shielding my face from the sun. Drowsy, perfect. But I only rested fifteen minutes or so. Future plans were not being elucidated. Nothing was being “accomplished”. This continues to hang over me.

“I have to think constructively. What should I do?” A purchasing consultancy for wineries (a la Tenzing)? Something so remarkable about the film 49 Up was to see the 49-year-old juxtaposed to the 7-year-old; how at 7 they already foresaw their life’s theme!

This causes me to reflect on the themes of my life. Is there a common thread? (No doubt, there is!) What is it? And why not continue it, even embrace it, rather than look beyond it?

It’s not science, music, art (though there's a romantic notion of hidden talents.) It is the world beyond the horizon. At three years old, I recall gazing out at Lake Erie’s distant horizon; at six, wondering what’s beyond the mountains’ sunset silhouette; the fascination with maps, with stamps of the world; at eight years old, the Family cross-country odyssey; high school fascination with the War in the Pacific, with Viet Nam; procurement missions that took me to out-of-the-way places; backpacking across Europe and later doing business in Europe; and, finally traveling the Western Hemisphere. There is a theme. Movement.

Maybe I’m not intended to have a “home”, a fixed address? That something that has gnawed at me, that “thing” that “responsible people my age” are assumed to have.

The predictable stimulation of these walks in the mountains raises the question “why not get this exercise early in the morning, then go through the day with the energy generated?” That would make too much sense.

Pleasantly-fatigued, drove to “Chelino’s” in the fading light, and enjoyed dinner as I read the newspaper.

President Bush’s words betray a trace of erosion in his single-minded stubbornness: “we are going to stay in Iraq as long as the Iraqi government wants us there.” A slight departure from his “until the job is done” claim. We are quietly backing away from the “job” of “bringing democracy to Iraq”. We will now settle for any government that might quell the violence and allow a face-saving withdrawal.

Tonight, I listened to a “Prairie Home Companion” broadcast from my “hometown”, Buffalo, New York. It was better than many of their shows.

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