Saturday, August 29, 2009

Travel With My Ego

I recently traveled to Houston, Texas for business. I did not want to go. It takes so much energy to travel against my will. Going was in my best career interest, so of course, I went. I kept a few notes, lest I forget what a great time I had for three whole days.

Notes On Direction: One of the worst things about flying - aside from the fear of falling six miles out of the sky in flames, or the impossibly tiny and odorous airplane toilets - is losing my innate sense of direction. What direction am I facing? I always need to know so I can have confidence to not get lost.

There is no hiding the hayseed trail I leave in the big city, so I do not even try. As I was careening through miles of residential Houston streets in the airport shuttle, literally at high noon, I did my best to get oriented. When I felt certain I knew what direction we were heading, I asked the driver if we were traveling south. "West!" he barked. They must be touchy about their directions in Texas or something.

Once I knew we were heading west, I tried to keep up. It was difficult with the curves and interstates and towering buildings faced at various angles. By the time I got to my hotel room (with a 15th floor view across the city of Houston), I felt I knew what direction I was facing, though.

A plains person always longs for a glimpse of the ocean. I strained my eyes toward the horizon as the plane neared Houston, hoping to catch a distant line of blue water. I did not know if the Gulf was too far to see even if the sky had been clear, but I kept trying, just in case. Maybe I could see a distant bank of clouds and know they were over the ocean.

From my hotel window, I scanned the distance for a tiny indication of the ocean. All Sunday afternoon and evening, I admired the view. I was confident I was looking southeast, toward Galveston and the sea. Even if I could see no sign of the water, I knew it was out there. I could feel it! I admired the slow descent of the sun over Houston all afternoon. The fact that it was setting in the east did not occur to me until the thin slip of moon appeared - the very same moon I had admired the night before as it sank behind the hills due west of my house in Kansas. What a dolt! I was so disappointed that I had a room facing northwest, back toward Ok-la-hom-a.

Notes On Communication: I had planned to purchase a toothbrush and toothpaste at the hotel in Houston. I knew there would be a little gift shop selling a few items of convenience but I did not know it would be CLOSED on Sunday afternoon!

I was also starving by the time I reached the hotel - airlines pretzels and peanuts notwithstanding. I had to eat in the lobby bar, alone, watching an infomercial on the widescreen. I asked the waitress if there was a convenience store or drug store close to the hotel, so I could get a toothbrush, among other things.

She said, "Oooooh, you forgot your toothbrush."

I said, "No, I didn't forget. I just did not want to bother with it through airport security."

She gave me a look, but assured me the hotel had toothbrushes for their guests who forgot their own.

What the hell, I thought. Was everyone in Houston a bunch of jerks?

Later it occurred to me that the waitress did not know I had an electric toothbrush. She must have thought I was daft.

Notes On Craziness:
I have a black knit dress made with spandex, so it is very comfortable to wear and impossible to wrinkle. I look as good in it as I do in anything. Even though it is black, it is surprisingly comfortable to wear in hot weather - perfect to wear on the plane to Houston. The problem is that I have not worn it for about a year because it needed a side seam sewn up. I got up at 4 am Sunday morning so I could mend the seam and wear it on the trip.

I wore that dress to Kansas City International Airport, walking all over, standing in line, bending over to pick up my bags. I wore that dress all over Houston's Hobby international airport. I got in and out of the airport shuttle. I walked all over the hotel lobby, visiting with the concierge and the waitress and the hostess. I wore that same dress Tuesday, visiting with the clerk in the gift shop who was from Ethiopia. I walked by the shoe shine man, exchanging pleasantries with him. I walked around the fourth largest American city for an entire morning wearing that dress.

Back in Kansas, I was late to work on Wednesday morning - jet lag. I threw that dress over my head with a clean shirt and tore off to work. A guy in the meter shop watched as I hurried across the parking lot in a pouring rain wearing that dress. As I finally made it to my desk and flopped down at last in my chair, dripping wet, I saw there was a GAPING hole in the front seam of that dress - which meant I had it on BACKWARDS - - - which meant - - - oh yes, boys and girls - - - the whole time I was wearing that dress in the airports and hotel and on the streets of Houston, Texas, the home of NASA, my ass was showing through that gaping seam. And I was clueless.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Harley Power Disks

Sunday, our friends who own and operate the Ramblin' Rose Cafe in Paxico, Kansas hosted the first Ramblin Scramblin Biker Breakfast. My daughter and I rode our motorcycles over, and the son-in-law met us there for breakfast. We ate a generous breakfast then hung around talking to other riders and an assortment of local folk. It was fun.

We also met with three of my daughter's friends. Steven and Tiffany own a big v-twin motorcycle, and David who rides a new Sportster.

Dave, my daughter, Tiffany, Steven

We struck up a conversation with Louis, a Paxico local, when he cruised by in his electric scooter. He admired all the bikes, with the exception of my daughter's Kawasaki, but he admired my daughter. Louis shared a bit about his biking glory days as a young man riding his Indian motorcycle to every state but Maine. He said he missed Maine by eight miles.

I told Louis he needed a Harley sticker for the back of his scooter. He was not sure but the VA might frown on that. Louis asked if he could ride my motorcycle, right out loud and in front of everyone. I was so shocked that I stuttered. He was just giving me a hard time.

If you have never had the great adventure of visiting Paxico, Kansas, it is a small town on the banks of Mill Creek. The business district consists of three blocks along perpendicular roads lined with mostly turn-of-the-last-century buildings hosting antique shops. There is a single stall open air car wash, and a tiny bank with some of the friendliest people in the world working there. Paxico holds a blues festival and a polka fest every year - two different weekend events. They also hold wiener dog races every fall. The local champion blazes past all competition, usually one or two other wiener dogs, to win the block-long race. There are some world class antiques in Paxico, but mostly there are tons of lesser antiques, items more accurately identified as simply "cool old stuff".

Making his usual rounds in his scooter, Louis found a set of cool old brass Harley Davidson drink coasters in one of the sidewalk displays Sunday morning. He surprised David and me by giving one to each of us in admiration of our Harleys. My daughter did not get one, since the machine she rides only resembles a Harley by technically being a motorcycle. Louis admitted he took the coasters without paying because the proprietor was not around. When David expressed dismay at accepting stolen goods, Louis assured us he would of course pay for the items. We accepted those gifts in good faith...

Soon enough, the five us of had decided on a route for our morning ride and left for Alma, down 99 highway en route to Eskridge, Kansas. That is always a beautiful ride, but with so much rain this year, the prairie was spectacularly green and lush, even mid-August. We stopped in Eskridge to while away a few pleasant moments. David explained the Harley coasters possessed special powers that could be triggered by holding them face to face. (I think David watches Power Rangers.) It was then that Steven dramatically revealed Louis had bestowed a Harley coaster on him, too!

Louis had to be convinced that Steven and Tiffany deserved a coaster despite the fact they were not riding a Harley. Tiffany used her feminine powers of persuasion, assuring Louis that although their motorcycle was not a Harley, it was a big v-twin and certainly a Harley in its heart. Louis could not resist and gave Steven and Tiffany a Harley power disk, too. We discovered the disks do indeed have special powers, turning five adults into laughing idiots.

Seeing if my mouth was as big as the coaster - it's bigger!

Louis kept a disk for himself. I suspect he is going to figure a way to attach it to his scooter. When we return next month for the Ramblin Scramblin Biker Breakfast, we will find out for sure if Louis paid for the Harley power disks.

I am also going to ask Louis how he missed Maine by eight miles.

MegaBrain the V Twin Superhero

Stop by and eat at the Ramblin Rose Cafe. Call ahead for hours. Tell'em I sent you!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Coming Home to the Flint Hills

When I left behind the concrete roads in town to live in the country, I escaped the constant noise, lights, and the troublesome intrusion of neighbors. I traded away some conveniences for peace and quiet. I left behind constant sirens and traffic and regular occurrences of property theft, but welcomed intimacy with the phases of the moon and an unobstructed view of the sky.

When I first moved to Spirit Creek Farm, there were no rural road signs at every intersection. My address was a mere route box number. I loved it. After turning off the highway, for almost five full miles of road, there was nothing man-made to reflect the truck lights in the dark. It seemed as if the headlights were not bright enough but it was just miles of natural surroundings absorbing the light.

Noticing the way the prairie reaches unevenly into the edge of the gravel road was a small and constant delight. Nothing was a straight line, not even the fences. The soil moves constantly, slowly pushing the fence posts out of alignment. The cattle rub and lean on the wire in their quest for the proverbial greener grass, and the prairie constantly encroaches on the road. Nature abhors a vacuum.

Even the road itself is natural, being only dust and gravel that constantly shifts with the rain and baking heat and the cursed attention of the road grader. A deluge of rain will sculpt the gravel into ruts and wide washes, and melt the shoulders into the ditches.

For several seasons Venus was particularly prominent in the winter western sky. Her brilliant silver disc reigned just above the lowering final glow of sunset. Descending into my valley hidden in the rising night, only a skyline of hills was visible. The flaming point of Venus against the deep orange and violet of sunset was immensely beautiful. I often stopped for a few transcendent moments. The deep shadows of twilight hid every trace of anything man-made, revealing the entire vista as the living memory of the prairie as it existed in millions of untouched seasons - long before human eyes witnessed its grace. Oh, it was beautiful.

It is beautiful.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

More Amazing Stuff....

Amazing thing #1: My daughter and I recently began attending a meditation class held in a private home just a few miles from my house. The woman holding the classes has at least one teacher who studied directly with the Dali Lama. Imagine the significance of a spiritual teacher from Tibet whose influence extends all the way to Wabaunsee County Kansas.

Amazing things #2 and #3: One of my favorite authors has long been Doug Boyd. He wrote Rolling Thunder, Swami, Mad Bear, Mystics Magicians and Medicine People - all biographical, non-fiction books. Rolling Thunder was a Shoshone/Cherokee medicine man. Mad Bear Anderson was a Tuscarora shaman. The Swami came to America to participate in scientific research into his amazing capabilities. The studies took place at the Menninger Institute, a pioneering psychiatric hospital and research center located in Topeka.

Doug Boyd's parents were Elmer and Alyce Green. Dr. Green was the former Director of the Voluntary Controls project at the Menninger Institute. He and Alyce were pioneers in the field of biofeedback, co-authoring the book "Beyond Biofeedback".

At the first meditation class I discovered the teacher and her husband were close personal friends of Doug Boyd. They both knew (and know) Dr. and Alyce Green. Through the teacher I was able to purchase Dr. Green's latest book "The Ozawkie Book of the Dead". It is an autobiographical account of the final years of Alyce's life afflicted with Alzheimers, and Elmer's extraordinary experience and conclusions.

I would not go to the universe, so the universe came to me, so to speak.