Trying Out: Elevated Jungle Gym (Week 38)

Trying Out: Adventura (Week Thirty-Eight)

Five months ago I told my sister about some of the new things I had in mind.  I mentioned that there was a place where lots of cables and platforms were rigged thirty feet above the ground.  She looked at the age requirements and said, “You know, if you wait until September, the girls will be old enough to go too.”

So I partook in a patience-building exercise.  Besides, my status as a cool uncle was a stake.

startclm.jpgAll I really wanted to do was relive my favorite scene from Pitch Perfect 2; except without singing.  I thought that there would be more team-exercises or trust-falls.  I was wrong.  I am sure the instructors could have made things more cooperation-dependent.  Since we were a group of couples and one family of six, they more or less let us do our own thing.

And yes.  There was paperwork.  I was feeling a little paperworked-out, and I was running late.  So in the spirit of trying new things, I did not read what I signed.  Gasp!  If I signed over my firstborn, swell.  They can have it.

They gave their introductory shpiel.  They wanted us to be safe and they wanted us to have fun.  (There were many similarities between this presentation and the skydiving one.)  They hooked us up with harnesses.

“Gentlemen, make sure your tools stay in the right cabinets.”  Oh harness humor.

They handed out helmets.  They taught us to always have two ropes clipped on and to always have a buddy watch when we were transferring ropes and routes.  Ropes, rigging, and carabineers; we received all the proper training.

Finally we were allowed to play.

xoxos.jpgMy brother was in charge of his youngest on the ground.  My sister had the eldest under her watchful eye.  That left me with the middle girl.  She has her concerns and her degree of caution.  I was in no great hurry.

 

For the first fifteen or so minutes, we were all rather timid.  I thought my long legs would be an asset (reeeeeeaaaach).  They were, but for that first portion I was relying heavily on what arm strength I had.  (Pull-ups do have a real life application.  And this is it.  Just this one time.)  We were so concerned with the fact that the ground was thirty feet below us that our footing was not as sure as it would eventually be.

After the initial terror, we started to have some fun.  I swayed and bounced on the ropes just enough that my niece yelled at me.  I stopped pausing so much before each new obstacle.  I stopped caring that the next route had no stationary position.  “Let the platforms sway back and forth.  I am clipped in.  Bring it on.”

I was waiting in line for the zip line when I decided to let the ropes pull (lift?) their weight.  I placed myself between two stations, crossed my legs, and let it all hang out.  It was not quite same as having a parachute lift you above the earth, but it was still nice to not have my feet off solid ground.

The zip line was fun, though not fantastic.  I was told that the “best” way was to run and jump; keep your arms out of the way.  Yes, run and toss yourself out into the abyss and make no effort to save yourself.  Trust in the gear.  You will be fine.  Really.  (Turns out; I was.)  Not quite the epic-length I might hope for.  One day…

solohang.jpgIt was good practice for the finale.  There were two easy ways to descend.  You could climb back down the cargo net.  That sounded dull.  Or you could take the real zip line, once again throwing yourself off the platform, and assume that the cable will take you to the ground.  (I think there is a third, faster option.  But that involves no ropes, stepping off the platforms, and paying for an ambulance ride.)  Of course, once you took the zip line to the ground, you were done for the day.  Only one ride per customer.

They had some sort of cantilever/ deceleration/ pulley system at work.  The cable took your initial weight and let you slide down a certain amount.  Towards the end of the line, it adjusted to lower the cable a bit more and slid you backwards.  So on and so forth until the cable dropped enough for you to put your feet on the ground.  Physics!

It was a fun family activity.  If more activities involved harnesses and thirty-foot drops, life would be more fun.  Even my timid activity buddy had a fun time.  Sure you could spend your two and a half hours worrying that something will break and that the whole thing will go horribly awry.  However I found it was better to simply venture forth and enjoy.

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Trying Out: Neighborhood Club (Week 37)

 

Trying Out: Capp’s Club (Week Thirty-Seven)

Once upon a time there was an Italian restaurant not too far from me.  Now, it has been transformed into a bar.  Well, “slightly adjusted” might be a better description.  They painted the building black and gray.  What was once a well-like area has been transformed into a black metal cage containing a black metal bird.

 

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The neon sign is as colorful as they get.  And that was left over from its last owner.

None of this sounded particularly inviting to me.  Some folks like to drink; I do not.  Some folks like dark rooms with very little windows; I do not (unless we are in a theatre).  Some folks are interested in live music; mine is minimal.

However, the place is right there.  I pass it every day.  It is probably better to know what I am talking about than to entirely dismiss it.  As other entries will attest to, I have been wrong before.

Honestly, the biggest chore for me was settling on a dress code.  My ego did not want to dress up for anyone.  “I’m fine just the way I am.  Let them adjust to me!”  At the same time, I like to blend into the background.  I settled on jeans and a button-up shirt that was just this short of flannel.

When I say the building is dark, I mean it.  The brickwork was is black.  Once you step inside, the walls are black.  The ceiling is black.  The entire main room is black.

Except of course, the bar.  As a person walks in, it is the first thing they see.  Bright white fixtures.  Bottles and containers lit up in all the colors imaginable.  Two women bartenders, clad in short pants and trendy tops, were getting their station ready for the night.  Their workspace is clearly the focal point of the entire business.

There was a podium right by the door.  It seemed like it was a station to collect door fees or show people in.  However, it was unstaffed.  I had no desire to stay a spell.  So I let myself in and no one appeared to care.

I walked around and saw nothing but black where one would normally put windows.  I found the restrooms.  In that area was a rare dash of color; a giant poster advertising all the shows they had coming up.

Venturing to the other side of the place, I sauntered into the music room.  There, on the left wall, was a stage and a band that was either gearing up or breaking down.  (I shall return to that bit.)  Here, there was a dash of color.  Opaque red glass replaced what had once been clear windows.  If there were any less views of the outside, I would have thought I was in a strip club.  Or a prison.

Now, outside, right by the door, there is a sign that declares that there are no minors allowed.  Anyone under the age of twenty-one is forbidden.

 

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He’s here for last cawl.  (Pun!)

So it struck me as a bit odd that the group of people leaving the stage, taking their gear with them?  Kids.  Apparently they have some sort of School of Rock class or gathering in their bar.  Which, to me, makes absolutely no sense.  “Hey, come hang out here and have fun.  Except, y’know, for every other time.”  Maybe it makes the kids feel cool.  Maybe they want to share their love of music with the world.  To me, it struck an odd chord.  Kids meeting up… in a bar.  Huh?

 

(Oddly enough, the bar shares a parking lot with a private school for munchkins.  Go figure.)

I stayed for about five minutes.  Just long enough to see all they had to offer.  I suppose I can see the appeal.  Go into wide-open rooms, mingle about, get a drink, and perhaps listen to some music.

I can handle a pub, they at least have booths and some hope for a quiet conversation.  This establishment seemed all about the drinks and the music.  Which is fine, but not how I like to spend my Saturday nights.

Beforehand I was skeptical about the place.  It did not seem like “me”.  And it was not (especially not with all the black paint).  That is fine.  There is a violin shop not too far away.  I do not play instruments.  So that place is not “me” either.

If I want to have a quiet date somewhere, just the two of us, I know where to not go.  If a friend wants a trendy place to rock out in a rather sleepy suburban town; I can probably point them in the right direction.

I know where the caged bird (-sculpture) sings.

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Trying Out: Calling Reps (Week 40)

Trying Out: Calling Senator and Representative (Week 40)

(Yes, I am a little out of order.  We will get to 37-39.  But I am being topical today.)

I do not like guns.  I do not like violence.  So, I did the only thing I could think of and called up my senator and my representative.

gun-pistol-clipart(You can do the same if you like.  You can find your senator here and there is a click-down menu of states on the site.  For the House of Representatives, click here and enter your address.)

Both times a staff person answered the phone.  Both times I mumbled out a phrase.  It went something like,

“Hi, I am calling as a constituent.  I would like to encourage your boss to vote against guns and repeal the Dickey Act and generally make it harder for us to kill each other.”

I was not at my most eloquent.  I did not feel very effective.  The House of Representatives took my name.  The Senate did not even do that much.  Both assistants assured me that they would pass along my message.

It was my first time calling an elected representative.  If I felt doing this small act would make any difference, I would do it again.

In all honesty, I do not.  I feel like nothing was really accomplished.  I spoke my peace to my officials.  I had my say just like anyone else can.

Yet, the death toll keeps rising.  Grrr.

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Trying Out: Trespassing (Week 36)

Trying Out: Standing on Shaky Legal Ground (Week Thirty-Six) 

Pardon me for being vague here, but the fewer details the better.  This time I did something on the fuzzy side of legal.

Once upon a time I was allowed regular entry to a place.  I had a key. Everything was strictly above-board.  Then my status changed.  I did not have a reason to enter the grounds anymore.

But no one ever asked for me key back.

For years I had wondered whether or not the building had changed their locks.  Could I gain easy access if I really wanted to?  Were the folks in charge smart enough to re-key the place?

Now, I know the logical argument against what I wanted to do.  Technically it could be construed as trespassing.  I could not argue that I had a valid reason to be on the grounds.  There was a certain element of sketchiness to my plan.

However it would have been just as sketchy had I made a personal inquiry.  “Hi there.  You don’t know me, but I have a history here.  And I have this key.  Do you mind if put this key in this lock here and see if it still functions?  If I can still enter the building?  I mean, if not; that’s cool.  I’ll just take this key and go home.  Oh, you don’t mind if I try?  Well, if it works you can have the key.  Just assume that I haven’t made any copies and that I’m not some loon running reconnaissance on the place.  Don’t mind me.  I’m perfectly normal.  Do dee do dee doooooo.”

Whether I ask permission or not, I come across as a crazy person.  So I might as well be a crazy person that sneaks around at two o’clock in the morning and lurks under cover of darkness.

burglar-207x300I am clearly a criminal mastermind.  After all, I wore a black cap over my head.  No gloves though, because then I would be advertising my deviousness if I were caught.  “I know it is 62 degrees out; but my hands were cold.  Honest!”

I drove my car down the empty streets of town.  I parked my car in a lot I knew would be clear of any witnesses.  I walked briskly and quietly (sneakily?) onto the property.  As I crept onto the lot, some thoughts were prominent in my mind.

“What if the security levels have changed?  What if they have added motion-sensor lights?  Or a dog?  Or a trap-door that opens up to a pit of angry army ants?”

Also, “this is stupid.  This is really, really, stupid.”

Ever so quietly I approached the door.  I treaded lightly on my jogging shoes.  (I was ready for a quick exit.  I can sprint when needed.)  I had the key in my hand.  I snuck up to the door.  No lights, sirens, or barking announced my presence.

Careful not to leave any fingerprints, I tried the key in the lock.  Part of me was thrilled that there was no light.  (A flashlight would have been one more thing to carry.  Plus a focused beam of light at two in the morning draws the kind of attention I was trying desperately to avoid.)  The other part of me struggled to see well enough to slide the key into the casing.  I even had it upside down at one point.

I tried the key in the first lock, but could not get it to fit.  The keys had been changed.  So I walked away.

Two seconds later, I walked back.  I decided to try again.  And it fit.

So I moved on to the second lock.  My breathing was still accelerated.  I kept listening for sounds inside that my presence had been discovered.  Experience taught me that the area I was in was a low-traffic spot, but I was still on alert.

Try as I might, I could not get the key to work in the second lock.  So I gave up.

For all of five seconds, that is.  “This makes no sense.  Why would they leave one lock unchanged and replace the other?  It is a two-lock door.  The key should work.”

I approached a third time.  The “this is stupid!” voice was getting louder.  I was determined to find out the answer.  And I refused to let myself think that I could come back and try again.  There would be no returning or second chances on this adventure.  Once I got my answer, I was done.

I wiggled the key.  I jostled.  I finagled.  Sure enough, the key fit.  I could feel it starting to turn in the mechanism.  My key would still allow me entry.

key-clip-artSo I left.

I was not going to enter the building.  There was nothing left for me inside that place.  I consigned it to the past and I am fine leaving it there.

In the past, I was never consulted when told to leave those grounds.  It was just decided for me.  “You are done here.”  Now I can say it is my call.  And I am done there.

Perhaps I come across as crazy.  There are some possibilities that stick with a person more than others.  What ever happened to that high school boyfriend?  What would have happened if I had left the house five minutes earlier and avoided that car crash?  What if I had gone to a different college?  What if people are foolish enough to keep the same locks year after year?

I snuck back to my car.  Officially consigning my key to retirement status, I pondered the grounds (legal and actual) that I had trod all over.  I thought about a lesson others might benefit from.

Change your locks people.

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Trying Out: Podcasting (Week 35)

Trying Out: The Humble Story Teller (Week Thirty-Five)

My friend, and a grand orator, passed away on his one hundred and eighth birthday.  I like to tell stories.  I like to dabble in mass media.  All of this pushed me to start podcasting.  Enter: The Humble Storyteller.

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You can visit on Facebook.  (www.facebook.com/thehumblestoryteller)

You can see the hosting site over at Archive.org.  (archive.org/details/@thehumblestoryteller)

Honestly, it all comes down to my belief that everybody could use a bedtime story.  So I figured I would read some public domain stuff (like Dickens or Aesop).  Now and then I would retell some moments from history.  And who else to tell embarrassing stories from my life than me?

So yes, this blog is pushing me to create yet another media outlet.  :\  So far though, I am enjoying it.  I like microphones.  I miss reading to my nieces.  (They are old enough to read for themselves now.  Ungrateful little urchins!)  I am eager to collect stories from other folks and share them around.

If you have any stories to share?  One that a humble storyteller might pass along?  Speak up.  😉

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Trying Out: Protesting (Week 34)

Trying Out: Protesting Downtown (Week Thirty-Four)

Many things I have heard about protests made it seem a bit much for my tastes. In college, what was going to be a showing of disapproval turned into the WTO Riots. My friend, who was doing some reporting on the World Trade Organization at the time, received an eye-opening (or rather, -closing) dose of tear gas. Windows were broken; the whole thing went a little too far.

Since then I have heard of the antis fighting with the pros. People from neighboring states come around to spread anarchy. All this, added to the fact that I do not enjoy large crowds. Whenever I can, I rush off to places that are low on people and rich in nature.

Spending my free time standing to shoulder to shoulder with others, if not thousands of others, simply does not sound refreshing.

However, a group of ladies from church wanted to attend a pro-peace rally. They wanted to hear religious leaders, among others, speak up for peace and love. They wanted folks to know that we Quakers are not all oatmeal. We actually do work for a better world outside of church. At least, we try to.black_white_peace_sign_fav_wall_paper_background-555px

So I shirked my normal sabbath. I hopped on a bus without a bus pass. (I carry no funds with me on Sundays. I promise, I double-tapped later in the week to make up for it. All debts were paid.) I went to the wacky world of downtown. And I stood around holding a sign.

I wanted to support my sisters in church and hear what people had to say. The large crowd that I expected was not really there. A hundred individuals, perhaps more, gathered in a large courtyard. (When I hear “crowds” and “protest”, I think of the Women’s March.)

After ten or so minutes of technical difficulties, the speakers began to pour their hearts out. Jews, Christians, Muslims, candidates for public office; they all had their say.

It was hard to focus on what was being said. One person was keen to take our photo. A passerby walked up, criticized us for being there, and waved us off. And then there was the person that was a little too taken away by what was being said.

I would judge that the person’s sensibilities were altered. He seemed overly taken with every single sentence. He spoke in spurts and shoved his hands in the air. Several times he tried to climb, rather clumsily, up on stage. Without knowing him, I would guess that his capacities were hindered.

However, the response to this man was what impressed me the most. The police were standing reasonably close, keeping an eye on things, but the organizers never called on them. One person shook his hand, urged him to be cool, and let him be. Another person tried to slowly guide him away. The speaker; who almost had a co-presenter with him, responded politely as well. He reached out his hand out to the man and asked if he wanted a hug.

Instead of treating the man as a troublesome individual, they treated him with respect and kindness. That display of humanity impressed me.

The peaceful proceedings seemed to be calm, as I hoped they would be, but without any conflict. They were preaching to the choir. If they were trying to shore up their resources and come together as a community, then they succeeded. If they were trying to change peoples’ minds or prove they were right to anyone, then I do not think that they “won”.

I do not believe in white-washing the past. Let us not pretend that we have it all figured out now since we never had it all figured it before.  If we gloss over the mistakes we made once, we are just going to suffer through it again. I do not think any more confederate flags should be made, but I think we should acknowledge that they existed. If we want to do better, we have to remember what we did not do well the first time.

The man who made comments and gestures appeared to have that view, if not a little stronger. You cannot undo what has been done before. So keep a history book or two on the shelf while you write the future.

At the same time, I think everybody has a right to free speech. Even those I disagree with.

As I stood there, I heard numerous people calling out neo-Nazis, venting against fascists, and demanding that people that thought like that had no place in this world. That they were evil.  They had gone through a tough week, so I listened to their grievances.

I have no great calling for rallies. I am all for supporting those that feel led to do that. Nothing was wondrously solved that day.  Then again, no one said it had to be.  Perhaps it was meant as a show of love, and nothing else.

 

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Trying Out: The Local Mosque (Week 33)

Trying Out: Idris Mosque (Week Thirty-Three)

I had a brief course on world religions during my Social Studies class.  Hearing about a thing from a teacher is one thing.  Hearing about it from someone who cares passionately is another.

The local mosque was having a friendly barbecue.  They wanted their neighbors to feel welcome to stop by, say hello, and be a part of their community.  They invited folks from my church.  I saw no reason why Quakers and Muslims could not have a visit under their roof.

They drew a nice crowd.  There was a line of people happy with their food.  I heard a family try to offer a donation and the volunteers politely declined.  “No, no; this is on us.  It is our pleasure.”  One of the senior members of their mosque was standing out on the sidewalk, greeting those that came in.

I walked up to this man, introduced myself, and asked if it would be possible to take a peek inside since I had never been in such a building before.  He pointed me to a spot by the building, informed me that tours would be starting there in about half an hour, and strongly suggested that I try some food.

Right after that, I greeted a woman.  I held out my hand, but she informed me that she did not shake hands.  I was a little taken aback by that.  Honestly though, it could have been for any number of reasons.  Maybe it was cultural.  Maybe she was shy.  Maybe she had a cold.

In my half an hour or so of standing about, I noticed all sorts of people shaking hands left and right, so I decided that mine was probably a minor interaction.  If nothing else, it was hardly worth worrying about.  I was their guest after all, so it was up to them to dictate protocols.  I tried to be respectful since they were being kind enough to open their doors.  (And pantries.)

The tour was my main reason for attending; besides the desire to show them that Quakers care.  We took off our shoes, gathered in a small circle, and followed the guide around.

The mosque I visited was built in 1981.  It was the first mosque in Washington.  The basement floor we came in through had rooms for preparation, but mostly was a large gathering place for lectures, weddings, and other gatherings.

Upstairs, on the main level, was the central worshipping space.  There was a large chair for the speaker and a few others next to that.  Along the same wall were many bookshelves. (The community and neighbors are welcome to come and peruse the books whenever they like.)  The rest of the room was covered in carpets, but no chairs.

The tour guide had attended the mosque for many years.  Yet, that time that she was in the main/men’s room with us was the first time she had set foot in there.

On the second floor was the women’s worshipping area.  It was essentially an indoor balcony, looking down on the main floor and the speaker.  If they had questions, there were gaps in the wall and railings where they could throw down pieces of paper.  It was quite easy for them to see everything that occurred downstairs, unless it happened in the space under their floor.  Again, there were very little, if any, chairs provided.  Carpet for all.

There were side rooms as well.  They had rooms that could be used as a nursery and rooms that could be used for over-flow crowds.  At its heart, it was a very simple layout with three stories and stairwells on both sides.   The building, operated by volunteers, was sufficient for the tasks required; but never extravagant.

Towards the end, we started to talk about the woman’s personal views.  How she enjoyed having the fabric wrapped over her head, but that she did not agree with the covering of one’s face.  If she were in a place where the culture strongly suggested it, perhaps in the Middle East, then she would don the facial covering out of respect.  Yet she stressed that the coverings were a choice.

She also had some very positive things to say about how she and her community were treated in this country, which I had not expected.  She said that America was very tolerant of her religion.  She stated that workplaces were pretty respectful of their prayer requirements.  She had gone through some scares with 9/11 and the current administration, yet she remained positive about her current country’s treatment of Muslims.

In one of the few comments I made during the visit, I stated, “Well, we want you to feel safe.”

(I was there to listen and learn.  Others had plenty of questions.  I tried to keep quiet.)

I have some opinions about their methods.  I am sure they have their opinions about mine.  I like having women and men comingling during worship.  However, Quakers used to split genders down the aisle.  And I can see it as being less distracting and more God-focused to have certain areas to worship from.  Once the guide made it clear that she felt free to choose; that the choice was hers?  That rather nipped any concerns I had in the bud.

It is very important to me to be able to worship how I feel led to.  I do not want anyone else restricting how I interact with God.  I want that some freedom for everyone.  Whether in a meeting house or a mosque, I am glad that we can peacefully coexist and learn from each other.

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