Monday, June 23, 2014


  I recently heard an interview of the author of the new book, Carsick on NPR.   A story by John Waters describing a recent cross country hitch hike by the 60 something author.  Apparently the book has three parts.  What happened, the worst that could have happened fiction and the best that could happen fiction.   The interview revived memories of my hitchhiking days in the early to mid 1950's.     My experience with hitchhiking was a mixed bag of good, average and down right terrifying.  In those days, it was common for college students to hitch rides.  Few of us we able to own cars and transportation to home from college was was not very convenient via public transportation.   (Although after a few bad hitchhiking experiences, I did resort to train and bus rides).    For the most part I had rides with cordial, friendly and helpful drivers.  Often they would go out of their way to get me to a new intersection for the next leg of my journey.   However, there  were the terrifying experiences of being picked up by deviants. ( I will not go into detail to describe).  Fortunately I was able to escape those encounters when there was a stop light or stop sign halt.  In some cases it was wise to travel with a friend, even though it was not as easy for two to get a ride.
    In another one of my experiences I learned that not is all what it seems to be and I was too hasty in fearing for my safety.   For the last leg of my journey home to Lyons, New York from Geneva, New York I was offered a ride by a near car full group of Spanish speaking migrant workers.  The driver seemed to know only two ways to drive.  Full brake or full throttle.  As we were tearing down the road at breakneck speed he suddenly said something to his front seat companion.   After the reply from his companion he suddenly slammed on the brakes and jumped out the car, came over to my side rear door and yanked it open.   I immediately thought that I was going to be mugged.  However, much to my amazement, he thought the door had not been fully closed, and he simply slammed it a few times, jumped back in the driver's seat and tore off down the road again.  I guess my heart rate dropped quickly.   Actually I was grateful to get to my destination with such a jovial group.
   Jumping to 2014, I am reminded that hitchhiking seems to be a lost art and probably a good thing.   The interstates likely have significantly reduced the opportunity to hitchhike.   Also, we seem to be living in a more violent world than that of the 1950's.  Maybe, hitchhiking exists in some places in the USA, but during the over 6000 miles Nancy and I traveled over the USA last summer on many secondary roads, we never saw a hitchhiker.
   Ah, well, I do wonder what it would be like to be a geezer hitchhiker today.   Maybe the best thing I can do is to read the book Carsick rather than conduct a field experiment.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Finding Ones Place

    It has been a while since I have written a blog.  For some time I have been waiting for an inspiration to reflect on an issue or theme.  Not necessarily a writer's block but more a matter of having something worthy to put down on paper.   An e-mail today from friend Pat has shaken me out of my slumber.  Not having seen a blog for a considerable time he was concerned that something was wrong.   Fortunately, nothing is wrong other than perhaps a bit of laziness.
   With the above as a preface let me venture into some thoughts spurred by may participation in tennis at the New York State Senior Games in Cortland, New York last week.   I had been signed up both for singles in my age group and mixed doubles in my considerably younger wife's age group.  Playing down as they say for us oldsters when we join the younger set.   In our mixed doubles group it was our misfortune not have any opponents other than us.   Since my wife couldn't make the time for a pickup game of mixed doubles because of a prior commitment, I showed up to participate with anyone that might appear.   I ended up picking up a partner Thoney from Brooklyn and we played a husband and wife team of Roger and Barbara from Ithaca, New York.  (Ages 87 and 86 respectively).   To the delight of Roger and Barbara, they ended up beating us in a set of 8-6.   That put me in my place as the youngster of the group.
   The next day I played my singles matches in my 75-79 age group.  My opening match was a blowout with a win at 6-0, 6-0.   My opponent is a much better player than the score shows but tennis is both a physical an mental game where things can go quickly awry when your opponent gets a fast start.   Over the many years I have been playing in the Senior Games I have played against the same people many times.   So in the semi finals I was bound to encounter my nemesis who has been the champion for more times than I can remember.  We have played both recreationally and competitively for dozens of times.   To be brief, he is an exceptional player and proceeded to show his skills by beating me 6-0, 6-1.   Thank God for getting one game to avoid the humiliation of a double bagel.   Although I was soundly defeated, I had the personal satisfaction of playing up to the level of my ability.   So here is where I get to reflecting on finding ones place.
    In the game of life I would observe we all have to wrestle with finding our place.   Each of us has both a level and type of contribution that represents our character and skills.    It is not to say we will fail to strive to succeed and be better.  We do need higher goals.   However, in the broader scheme of things we may end up being the foils for those who go on to higher levels of achievement.  As I look at pro tennis players, it is the rare few that reach number 1 and stay there for any amount of time.   But without the journeyman tennis players who make up the bulk of the pro population there would be no tournaments or dollars to support the top players.
    I have become  satisfied with my place in hierarchy of my contemporaries in senior singles  tennis.  Third or fourth place seems to be my slot.   Perhaps the greatest satisfaction of place now is that I am still in the game and almost every day my wife and I can play an hour or so of enjoyable tennis.
As to other aspects of my life, I find myself to be in a very good "place" at this stage in my life.  Good health, good friends,  a wonderful marriage,  a faith community, meaningful volunteer opportunities and intellectual stimulation from my Cornell colleagues.   It is nice to have found my place and at the same time have the enthusiasm to seek other places as well.
Geezer Skier and Nancy - July 2013 in Iowa.