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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

High School Carting

 


(Image from the googles)

During our high school days on Friday nights, we’d pile in to one or two cars and head down to Burnsville to the go cart place.  We never bothered to learn the actual name of the business.  We just called it The Go Cart Place which was located west of I35 on Highway 13.  The place had a go cart track, bumper boats and I think mini golf.  I’m not sure.  We only went later in the evenings to go cart.  We’d buy tickets and stand in line waiting to race.  We would pay close attention to see which were the faster carts.  Then as it was our turn, we’d run toward to cart we picked out.  More often than not, someone else took our targeted cart before we could get there.

The track had only one straight away where the pit was to get seated in the cart.  It had only a few overhead lights to illuminate the track.  Once the attendant moved out of the way and said go; we were off!  Turn one was 90 degrees to the left.  A short straightaway led to turn 2, about 180 degrees turn. Then another 180 degrees turn, It was more or less an “S” shape curve back there.  Then a 90 degree turn to the left followed by another leading to the long straightaway with the pit.  Early on, the blacktop track was lined with old tires on the dirt as some sort of makeshift guard rail to keep us on the track.  But, quite often, the attendants had to run onto the track and replace the wayward tires after being bumped into the track.  The carts were low to the ground with a 5-horsepower gasoline engine behind the seat.  The carts reeked of burnt oil, exhaust, and gasoline.  These were set up for smaller kids.  Us that were taller felt cramped.  Obviously, there was a gas and brake pedal.  But we only used the brakes for stopping in the pit when our race was done.  Usually, we’d get back in line to buy another ticket and race again.

We learned the hard way to only purchase one ticket at a time. Occasionally we would get kicked out of there and not allowed to race the rest of the evening.  And yes, we did get kicked out a few times for such infractions as too much bumping or flat out causing an accident.  No, these carts weren’t all that fast.  Thus, we never used the brakes.  We’d jamb our foot down on the accelerator pedal and wedge our toe up under the front frame rail bending the bracket to get a little more speed.  Also, so we wouldn’t lose full open throttle.  The accidents usually happened in the “S” curve.  We were all bunched up at the start of the race and nobody broke away until after this “S” curve.  More spin outs happened there than the rest of the track. With ten competitive people racing into the “S” curve chaos always ensued.  That’s where the tires lining the track managed to bounce onto the track.  One of the guys somehow got his cart on top of the tire unable to proceed.  The attendants had to help the airlifted cart off the tire and restart the engine.

We’d jockey for position on the straightway, usually cutting or bumping into each other for the best line into the first turn.  Somehow, I got bumped and delayed bouncing off the tires watching the group serge ahead.  A buddy got bumped between turns 2 and 3, into and through the tires, he cut a clear straight path over the dirt mound pushing tires out of the way eliminating turns 3 and 4 setting himself up nicely ahead of the pack.  A few others spun out facing me as I zipped by them.  The attendants ran out to replace the tires and help the others get their stalled carts started again and going in the right way yelling at us, “no bumping!”  Of course, we ignored their warnings.  Yet too much bumping caused us to get kicked out. One of the guys was reprimanded for taking an extra lap.

The next autumn school year The Go Cart Place got rid of the tires and installed metal guard rails lining both sides of the track.  No doubt it was the tire misplacement shenanigans of our group that prompted the decision.  Of course this metal guard rail led to other difficulties.  Somehow a few of us managed to get the cart stuck up on top of this ten inch tall guard rail.  Which again led to us getting yelled at by the attendants.  They also installed a drag strip of go cart drag races.  We tried it once.  The carts were slower than the other track.  And there was not enough attendants to keep that going.

Despite helmets not being available, and all our crashing, nobody got hurt.  Well, except perhaps for our thwarted teenage NASCAR ego.  Fun times!  We just don’t see this type of activity anymore.  I guess everyone is racing on video games and cell phones, now.

 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Seventeen Months

  
 (MNDOT photo from the googles)

Seventeen months.  That was a good run.  Seventeen months of easy going carefree rush hour commute; the Covid commute.  In April of 2020, government shut down businesses for the Covid19 pandemic.  “Essential” workers had the freeway system all to ourselves.  It was quite strange not riding the brake pedal, stop and go fashion while creeping along at 20 miles per hour on the freeway.  The lanes were virtually empty!   No more accidents, people did not fall off the freeways.  It was awesome!
 
Admittedly, there were issues at first.  Just like kids let loose at the opening gates at the amusement park; traffic was pretty chaotic in those early days of the pandemic.  Speed limits were ignored.  In the first few weeks, lanes changes were made abruptly and without warning.  Traffic weaved in an out with each other across all lanes.  Some fell off the freeways.  Others had a horrific meet and greet.  Oddly enough, there lacked a highway patrol presence as the chaos unfolded.  It was getting out of hand.
 
On about the third month into our pace care-free rush hour commute, we covid commuters fell into a NASCAR groove.  We all lined up in the left lane drafting each other in a seamless pack.  Right lanes were for entering and exiting to merge into the middle or left lanes to join the NASCAR draft.  Merging traffic speeds matched that of the covid NASCAR drivers.  Exiting, nobody slowed down in the right freeway lane.  Nobody fell off the freeway system.  Traffic flowed quite smoothly at an average of ten mile over posted limits.  My 45 minute commute was reduced to hassle free 15 minutes.  It was even more awesome!
 
But now workers are coming back into the office.  Traffic is building.  We’re now stuck behind timid drivers entering the freeway system right lane 15 to 20 miles per hour below posted.  Some of these halfwit dullards merge to the left lane keeping pace car speeds under the posted speed limit.  These Citiots drive like speed limit vigilantes in their own small world oblivious to surrounding vehicles.  We’re back to slack jawed yokels riding the brakes - slowing down in the right lane to exit.  More accidents are occurring, and more are falling off the freeway.  Ugh, I miss my Covid NASCAR commute.
 
 

 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Red Owl Courtesy Clerks


 (Photo courtesy of the googles of The Country Store on York Ave in Edina, MN)



I walked into my manager’s office at the Burger King I worked at on 90th and Penn in Bloomington.  I was feeling good about my first annual review.  I had worked extra hours when they were shorthanded and came in on my days off to help close the store for the night.  I was sitting there listening to the glowing remarks with a big smile contemplating my raise amount for my whopper grilling job.  Then I heard it; five cents.  My efforts paid off increasing my minimum wage part time job from $3.35 to $3.40 per hour.  Three days later I put in my two weeks notice without really complying to those two weeks.  I was a teenager afterall.

A good friend of mine helped me get a job to work with him at Red Owl Country Store on York Ave in Edina.  Starting pay was $4.00 per hour!  Sometimes quitting a job pays off.  And I would no longer come home smelling like a whopper with cheese and fries.  We were hired as Courtesy Clerks; you know, the underlings who run around doing price checks for cashiers, keeping the store in general cleanliness, sorting and stacking returnable glass bottles, corralling carts from the lot and other managerial specified tasks.  

The group of us Courtesy Clerks were of similar age, a few went to the same school as my friend and I.  I’m not sure this was entirely a good idea as we all bonded and had a great time working there.  Three of us were on staggered shifts overlapping by an hour and a half.  Each shift had a particular duty.  The morning Courtesy Clerks were older than us.  They ranked higher than us for obvious reasons.  Our shifts only overlapped a few hours.  I discovered a good napping area looking for the floor buffing discs.  I found an older Courtesy Clerk was napping behind the shelf.  I promptly warned him of Mr. Polson was in the building.  This for the rest of my Country Store career put me on his good side.

I found the most fun shift to be corralling shopping carts from the lot. In summer, anyway.  Back in those days, there were no motorized cart to help.  It was all done by pure brute force.  What a great time to roam around outside especially in the evenings around 10 pm.  I remember many beautiful evenings slowly meandering under the illumination of overhead parking lot lights searching for wayward carts.  Key Cadillac was 100 yards away.  My buddy said he once found a cart there.  So obviously, a nice summer evening stroll over to Key Cadillac to find no Red Owl shopping cart.  But darned if I didn’t look every time.  Loafing outside became a fun working activity.  Though Corralling carts was sometimes harrowing.  Pushing a long train of carts that would not curve properly going down an incline proved nearly disastrous.  The front of the cart train got away from me and was speeding toward a 1973 corvette.  Leaping into action, I put myself in front and took the hit, diverting the errant train back on course down the lot. 

Newbie Courtesy Clerks learned the hard way of our Mr. Polson keep away games.  Mr. Polson, a manager, always had some extra busywork that usually took entirely too long to accomplish.  This resulted in less screwing around in the store with fellow Courtesy clerk friends.  He would approach one of us and begin to say, “I have a special task that needs to be…”  seasoned Courtesy Clerks who knew the Keep Away From Polson Game would frantically say, “um, sorry Mr. Polson, I’m price checking right now.  I saw Alan over in aisle 2.”  We’d make look good by grabbing something off the shelf and run toward the cashiers.  Mr. Polson would make his way toward Alan in aisle 2 where he had heard our conversation and darted the other way to aisle 8.  All night we’d play this cat and mouse game with Mr. Polson running around the store trying to chase down three wily Courtesy Clerks.  It was usually the unwary newbies who would get stuck doing Mr. Polson’s dumbass tasks.  That’s when they quickly learned our game.  The trick was to look as busy as possible with doing as little as possible. 

Sorting and stacking the glass returnable bottles was a fun task.  We had to separate the Coke products from the Pepsi and 7-Up products in the back bailer room behind the grocery warehouse.  It was the morning Courtesy Clerks who tended the beginning stages of the stacks.  After about a week, we evening shift Courtesy Clerks realized what the morning Courtesy Clerks were up too.  On the back corner wall in the bailer room where we stacked the bottles, they made a tight gap from wall to stack.  It was a tight squeeze, but once through, there was a small sitting area in the center of the stack complete with folding chair.  A perfect get away to hide from all managers.  You could not see through the bottles but you certainly could hear when fellow co-workers or managers came into the aera.  This glass fort was a guarded secret between just a few of us Courtesy Clerks.  We all took turns using this glass menagerie to hide form Mr. Polson.  Countless times we heard his voice in the room asking about our whereabouts.  Nobody fessed up.  To do so would foil our glass fort.  The beauty of it was there was a door leading outside near the narrow passageway.  One could feign coming in through the door to divert being caught mysteriously appearing in the bailer room.  The Coke driver was really cool about our glass fort.  He laughed and thought it ingenious.  It was a Pepsi driver collecting the bottles that gave it away to management.  The bastard. 

Emptying trash and collecting cardboard was fun as this allowed us to play with the bailer machines.  We’d make our rounds to collect the various garbage bins.  A few were in the break room.  We never really took breaks; our entire shift was more or less a break.  Though visiting with the pretty high school/college cashiers on break was always the added bonus.  Heck, some cashiers were in on our Keep Away from Mr. Polson games.  He caught me in the break room with the cashiers.  I thought I was doomed for one of his dumbass tasks.  But an older cashier announced I needed to hurry up and mop up under register 3 where she spilled a leaking milk carton.  A quick wink from her and I was off to fake mop register 3 as Mr. Polson left to find Alan.

Sadly, I later learned my working career was nothing like Red Owl Country Store.  Its more -  less fun work pushing a mouse around while staring at two monitors in a cube farm.  There’s no screwing around outside, no glass forts, no bailers, and no Mr. Polson to hide from.  I guess fun is reserved for our youth.

 

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Radio


 


I have enjoyed radio listening for much of my life.  My yearly memories were in the car listening to Twins baseball and afterwards, Mystery Theater on AM 830 WCCO.  We listened at night on the way to Grandma and Grandpa’s traveling north on Interstate 35.  I can still hear the creaking door as it opened to start the radio show.  Sadly, though, we usually arrived before we could hear the story’s conclusion.  

 

In grade school I discovered North Stars hockey on AM 1500.  I was hooked on hockey listening to Al Shaver announce the games.  I miss listening to Al as much as I miss the North Stars. To this day I hold a deep disrespect/hatred toward then owner Norm Green for moving the North Stars to Dallas.  Which led to a deep resentment toward the Dallas Stars.  But I digress.  In my high school days, my fellow high school friends would gather before home room and discuss the games we heard the night before.  We’d recap Al Shaver’s play by play, each goal and missed opportunities.  We were usually late to home room but North Star hockey on the radio was that important.  

 

Another high school friend had an enormous radio, a Zenith transoceanic shortwave radio complete with fold up flap of a world map with time zones and a compass.  He tuned it to 10.000 MHz for the universal time station.  Then we found Radio Havana, Voice of America, the BBC….I was hooked.  But these radios are not cheap.  It was years later before I could afford my own shortwave radio.

 

With cash burning a hole in my pocket demanding to be spent, I found myself at a local radio shop.  The selection was large and varied.  My shortwave radio knowledge was small.  I asked a plethora of questions.  The sales rep asked me if I needed Side Band.  Not knowing what that was, he explained with Lower and Upper Side Bands I could listen in on HAM amateur radio operators.  Neat!  Then he explained all about HAM radio and showed me some beautiful desktop HAM radios that equaled in the four digit price range.  Oof, that’s much more than I can afford.  Plus in those days, Morse Code was required on the HAM radio license tests.  I’m still interested, but the radio price…I’ll never convince her.  I can see the response, “so you want to spend a thousand on a radio to talk to strangers but not me?”  I best avoid this for now, eh?

 

With guidance from the shop owner I bought a Sangean ATS 909.  A beautiful mid gray radio with buttons galore.  It was fun tuning around to see what I could get.  The radio came with a reel up 22 foot long antenna to plug into the external antenna port.  This was the beginning of many late nights tuning in.  I found a soccer match broadcast from Australia at 2 am.  Radio Havana, Radio Moscow, the BBC.  Radio stations to listen to in all languages throughout the world.  And countless HAM operators on the Side Bands around the states, it was awesome!

 

Fast forward 30 years.  Still have an interest in HAM amateur radio.  No more morse code requirement.  Still the radio price keeps me away.  Facebook has made radio DXing more simple these days with many facebook groups, youtube videos, etc.  Like minded people gather in the groups to discus radio and antenna technology, reviews, how sunspots affect radio wave propagations, and frequency reports.  Many discussions about mitigating electrical noise inside our homes and in surrounding community generating noise that affects reception.

 

Shortwave radio has changed a lot since the end of the Cold War.  Countless stations have closed shop or transmitted to other world regions.  Its no longer the same with empty frequencies.  However, the Side Bands are loaded with HAM operators.  Every evening around 8 PM Central Time, HAMs on 3.916 MHZ Lower Side Band Play trivia.  It reminds me of listening to WCCO at night with Al Malmberg’s Full Contact Trivia.  There are Pirate stations to find; illegal radio broadcasts.  Military weather forecasts from Trenton Canada, Atlantic Ocean wave forecasts from Virginia and many other interesting things to hear.

 

Medium Wave, or AM radio has become interesting with 100 feet of speaker wire draped on my trees in the back yard connected to my radio.  I regularly receive AM 990 from Winnipeg, AM 940 from Toronto for Big Band music.  AM 650 from Nashville – Grand Ole Opry show.  AM 670 from Chicago for Blackhawk hockey!  And Bulls basketball.  I once received AM 1200 from San Antonio.

 

It’s a fun hobby for sure.  I still use my 30 plus year old portable AM FM Shortwave radio.  And I have a new tabletop AM FM shortwave radio on the way.  Now my desire is to lengthen that outdoor 100 feet of speaker wire to 400 feet.  Maybe I’ll try the aluminum raingutter as an antenna.  The fun is in the trying.




 

 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Saturday, November 6, 2021

The Old Dock

The old dock
Standing strong for summers past
Now alone guarding memories



Wednesday, October 27, 2021

A Walk in the Woods

 



Grouse hunting for me was more about a nice walk in the woods than actually hunting for grouse.  Though bagging a grouse or two was always a bonus.  We had 40 acres of woods to explore and hunt grouse.  Yet it was not enough.  Our neighbor at our woodland cabin had a 40 acre section behind ours to the east.  Beyond that 40 acre section was the Superior National Forest. 

Many times I headed towards our eastern fence line.  Beyond the barbed wire fence lay about thirty to forty yards of grass separating our woodland from a thick young stand of aspen and birch.  I knew grouse to be in there.  The trouble was swinging the shotgun around to get off a shot.  It was so tight in there that the grouse simply ran ahead of me.  At times, I managed to “push” the grouse eastwards to the next fence line to get off a shot or two.

The trouble with that forty yards of grass area was the bulls.  Our neighbors kept their bulls in that back forty east of us.  I typically crossed our fence line in silence and briskly and quietly and made my way into the aspen thicket.  Yet, on one occasion, halfway through the grass, I heard a snort, then hooves beating the ground.  I hightailed it as fast as I could wishing I would instantly evolve wings.  I heard him grunting, snorting and trashing through the aspens behind me.  Grouse were popping up like popcorn.  I’d never seen so many grouse take to the air as the bull and I crashed through the thick aspen.  Damn, I could have gotten a few if it weren’t for my Mr. Death chasing me. 

He quickly gave up the chase, but I kept running.  My being considerably more thin and my three years of High School Cross Country was my salvation.  I made it across that forty acre parcel in record time.  I rested after I crossed the final fence line where I was safe in the Superior National Forest.  I then pondered a new strategy to hunt grouse in that aspen thicket; run like hell, stop, shoot, run again.   If only that would work.

It was always a nice walk through this mature forest in the SNF.  There were a few potholes of water and wetland I used to cross between.  There were old remnants of roads.  Further eastward lay the old gravel Mooseline Road.  This day I was hampered again.  The little potholes were now some sort of lake.  Beavers must have been busy and created a larger lake.  I noted this thinking this may be a nice private duck hunting area.  But getting a canoe/boat back there would be impossible.  

I have always enjoyed my walks back there.  The National Forest seemed so calm and peaceful.  It was much easier to see longer distances through the mature pines than in our 40 acres or the Aspen tangle.  I knew there would be no ruffed grouse back there.  But perhaps there were spruce grouse to see.  Anyway, it was always an enjoyable walk.

After much procrastinating, it was getting late. More late than I had realized as sunlight was dimming fast.  Reluctantly, yet, enthusiastically, I headed back.  I needed to head west.  Our cabin was on the North West corner.  Rather than run the bull gauntlet, I followed the fence line to the South East corner and followed it West to our South East property line.  That’s where I hopped the corner fence to our forty in twilight.  

 Regrettably, I left my flashlight in the cabin as well as my compass.  The darkening shadows played tricks on me and I found myself in the Alder Swamp.  At least that’s what I called it.  Its more of a low wetland than swamp tangled with Alder.  I kinda’ knew where I was and needed to go.  And I wanted no part of being in the Alder Swamp.  I got turned around an found myself surrounded by the Alder and started to panic.  Trying to retrace my steps, I somehow got out but could not decipher where I was.  I decided I was heading south or so I thought.  The shadows moved mysteriously, our woods seemed more eerie.

I stood there in our woods trying to get my bearings as to where I was.  I had a pretty good idea when to my left I heard a woman scream maybe fifty yards away.  My heart stopped.  Childhood Fairy Tails popped into my head.  I stood there frozen with fright.  One does not recover quickly when alone deep in the woods in darkness when one hears a woman scream.  My mind raced, why was there a lone woman in our woods screaming. Then I thought Witches and scenes from Salem Witch Trials.

I heard it again, but behind me and closer.  Images of Halloween horror movies danced through my mind.  Then I heard it’s guttural growl.  I ran.  I ran straight forward, not really knowing where too.  Knowing the layout where the Alder Swamp was after getting out of it, I figured I’d run to our road, the east fence line or the south fence line. Not caring which; one would tell me where I was.  Yet I did not wish to tangle with that bull that may or may not have sent this witch to haunt me.  Nor did I wish to stay put and be turned into a toad, or worse.

I crashed out of our woods onto our road south of where I needed to be.  I kept my cross country pace to the cabin only to rest once safe inside.  It’s a strange sound hearing a Bobcat.  Especially deep in the woods in the dark. Yet, it was rather an awesome experience despite my pantywaisted fright.   Though I only wish it were more light in order to see the Bobcat in the woods.

 

 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Its Gonna' Be Alright


  Saturday September 18th, 2021
 
 
We woke to a beautiful crisp cloudless autumn morning.  We were glad for the warming sun as a difficult day lay ahead of us.  We were heading north from Grand Rapids to Paul and Kim's family cabin.  We were to retrieve their boat and other belongings from the lakeside cabin in the woods.  And to spread Paul's ashes at one of the places he cherished.  Each of us in our own way checked our emotions and anxiety on the drive to the lake.  It was a pretty drive with the leaves beginning their change to their autumnal glory.
 

 
A right turn off the road and onto their shared drive.  A two tire rut path through the woods.  Before us, the gate to their private road.  Countless times I witnessed Paul's father, then later, Paul open the gate.  It's now Kim's turn to open the gate for us.  Their road seemed different yet familiar.  Changes over time are inevitable.  The large stand of birch embracing the road was logged off years ago.  A new grove of young birch and brush now crowd the road.  One day, they too will grow to majestically embrace the road.  We continued downhill with a sharp left and past the beaver pond that habitually flooded their road.  This day the road was dry as though the beavers stopped their pond work out of respect.
 
 
 
 
The familiar brown and white cabin stood before us. Paint was a bit weathered, the trees grew up, the lake view hindered.  Yet the mature trees now compliment the cabin in the woods. It was rather emotional for me standing before the cabin realizing this would be my last visit.  In 1979, my dear friend Paul invited me to his family's cabin for the first time.  And now I stand in that very spot once again, forty-two years later.  Over the years I would spend at least one weekend a summer with Paul and his parents Cathy and Ken and a lifetime of memories.  Entering the cabin was like a step back in time with that familiar cabin smell.  It was similar yet different.  The layout was the same, but with new furnishings, new carpet, a new picture window overlooking the lake.  New improvements.  The wicker chair I always sat in during the evening's conversing with Paul, Cathy Ken was replaced by a more inviting sofa.  Good changes.
 
 

 
Julie spent time helping Kim sort through their personal belongings inside.  Deciding what to take home and what to leave behind.  Rick and I spent our time in the Morton garage sorting through how to get Paul's boat out and attached to the car.  We came up with numerous workable solutions when it struck us.  We were struck as though Paul was there stating the obvious, we were over thinking things.  That's the way it was, the three of us razing each other over simple things.  It was quite fitting. 

We took a lunch break after we finished loading the car, boat and trailer in anticipation of leaving.  We dined on SuperOne sandwiches, a good decision made by Julie.  A Bald Eagle soared high above the cabin heading east.  A Red Squirrel chattered.  A butterfly floated around us as we ate.  This little butterfly made it's way into the cabin's open door, fluttering around as if it too wanted one last look inside the cabin.  It rested outside on the window, perhaps to enjoy in our company.  Sometimes God or a Higher Power gives us these little things to comfort us.


It was a beautiful cloudless day as we walked out onto the dock amongst the lily pads. Kim brought Paul with her.  We carried green and red solo cups, along with a bottle of champagne and Jameson Irish Whisky.  One last party with Paul.  Though as usual there was confusion as which cup was for the drinks and which cup was to spread ashes.  No doubt Paul was behind this.  Paul always thrived on a good prank.  We had a good laugh over our confusion.  Rick popped the champagne bottle with a resounding "pop".  The cork jettisoned out over the lake lading on the deep end of the lily pads.  Champagne sprayed out into the lake, and on us as Rick shook the bottle.  The four of us, Kim, Julie, Rick and I enjoyed a last toast to Cathy.  I'd like to think that champagne cork will float in front of the cabin forever in Cathy's honor.

 A final toast to Paul.  I opened a new bottle of Jameson pouring into five green cups, green being Paul's favorite color.  We lifted to toast and poured out one cup for Paul.  Afterward, we enjoyed the whisky in his honor.  It was a pretty day.  After some emotional tears we each filled a red solo cup with Paul's ashes.  The wind started picking up from the south, blowing straight into us. No doubt Paul was at it again with his pranks; as the south wind would push his ashes into our faces.  One by one, we sent Paul to the wind over Gunn Lake.  One of the places he most cherished. 

Just the four of us, Kim, Julie, Rick and I, set out on this emotional adventure.  We may have feared  the unknown with great anticipation. However, everything fell into place.  As though a Higher Power watched over us and lent a hand to ease the day and paint the day with a pretty brush.  On the dock we wept.  We sat in silence.  The wind settled down.  It was such a pretty day.  The four of us sat in silence.  Each of us in our own thoughts, reflecting on memories and what we have lost.  We said goodbye to a husband, a cousin, a dear friend.  We said goodbye to a mother, an aunt, a friend's mother.  We said goodbye to the family cabin by closing and locking the gate one last time.  I believe we did right by Paul and Kim.  We now look forward.  A new beginning, A new adventure.

 

Every little thing gonna' be alright.



Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Traveling With Strangers






On our travels in Paris, we encountered numerous people who 
left an impression.  We are all from different backgrounds, cultures and life experiences.  Yet we find common interests bonds to share while traveling.  Simple human interactions that makes us aware we are all very similar in wants and needs.

While in Paris, the businesses catering to the hoards of tourists seem pleasant enough.  No doubt their patience are tried at times, but they manage a friendly smile in doling out assistance and help.  The typical Parisian on the streets seem indifferent to others and to themselves.  I suppose that attitude is necessary when one lives in a heavy tourist city.  The smiling happy people we meet on our travels were fellow tourists from all over the world.  

We met a young man from Nevada on the metro train, Line 1.  We got on the metro car at Concorde.  He graciously stood up to give us his seat as we chatted.  He recommended sites and restaurants to visit.  We stood in line with a woman from California to tour the parapets of Notre Dame.  She looked through her notes to recommend street crepes in Montmartre as that area was next on our list to visit.  We exchanged some money as the exact change was needed for the parapet tour. 

One breakfast we enjoyed was pancakes and a Denver omelette at a restaurant called Breakfast in America.  An American student was our waitress and helped us to understand the bill ticket tax and tipping information.  Strange to witness an American waitress in Paris.  We got to know the restauranteurs at Sarl Momh’s across St. Germain from the Maubert Mutualite metro stop.  That was our breakfast stop.  By day two, he had our coffee orders memorized and ready as we seated ourselves.  No changing our coffee order at that point.

Inside our hotel lobby we bumped into three elderly couples from Denver.  They were trying to see about having a couple taxis take them to the Louvre.  The metro system scared them.  Being that we were on our way to the Louvre, we led the couple to where they could buy the tickets.  I explained how the metro works and led them all the way into the Louvre.  

We visited the Louvre often in small amounts of time.  Its too large to take on all at once.  In the Dennon wing there is an enormous floor to ceiling painting by Louis David, The Coronation of Josephine.  One evening I walked up to get a closer look I walked in front of a young man sitting on the bench studying the painting.  I hadn’t noticed him as I was transfixed on the painting.  I excused myself and went around behind the bench to the other side for a closer look.  This Italian art student approached me and we talked about some of the other paintings we had seen. I asked him if he knew where La Liberty was.  Of course I was wrong on the painting name, but mentioned Delacroix.  He was intrigued I knew about it, knew where it was and explained about the painting.  It was five minutes to closing.  The three of us, the Italian art student, my wife and I raced through the Louvre to find and experience Liberty Leading the People.  Louvre museum hosts were trying to herd us to the exit.  The joy we shared with the young man in our discovery was priceless.  We exited in separate ways.  




The following day we met a young man on the Normandy Landing excursion.  He was studying in an exchange program in Germany.  We talked about the sites in Paris, the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and of course the historic sites in Normandy landing beaches.   On our last day for dinner at an outdoor cafe, a couple next to us asked about my camera.  He too had a Canon DSLR.  We talked photography and even allowed me to snap a few pics with his telephoto. We learned they were from Devon UK.  We had 12 metro tickets left and handed them over to the couple.  They were quite pleased and wished to pay us.  I refused their payment.  Too much to worry about with the exchange rates.  Sometimes its nice to leave behind small gifts for strangers.

Its quite an experience to see the world and interact with others.  A surprise to find such joy in simple things; like an exchange with others in art appreciation.  Helping fellow tourists in a foreign country.  The joy of sharing a common hobby like photography.  We’re all in this together, to travel and to find our personal happiness.