Monday, February 27, 2012


Someone said to me recently that he thought my scooter was kinda cool, but that he could never ride one, because he still cares what people think of him. Well, I too care what people think of me! I hope people will think that I am independent minded, one who works with the resources I have (my battered and cut off legs), a person with a sense of humor, and someone who doesn't take himself too seriously.
My Honda Silver Wing will cruise the freeways at extra-legal speeds, my creaky old Honda Elite 250 will go anywhere that I want it to go at 55 mph (made many, many out-of-state trips pre-SilverWing), and my funky Sunny reverse trike is not only a handy and economical around-town bike, but also a conversation-starter almost anywhere it goes. My penis is large enough for my purposes, and I feel no need to make myself think it larger by riding a heavy, loud, overpriced motorcycle. I have as much fun on my scoots as anyone I know does on their Harley. I also prefer quiet bikes, so I can more easily hear the traffic around me - those car drivers are generally not used to recognizing and dealing with right-of-way issues with motorcycles, and I need to keep track of what they are doing!
I don't say all this to make people mad, to be unnecessarily disrespectful, or to dismiss anyone who rides and enjoys large bikes, but only to explain my position. I have an odd, but highly-developed sense of honor and respect, and while I automatically give a certain respect to everyone, I find that my respect for others varies, much as the "point value" that I maintain in my wife's eyes - I gain points one at a time, but I can lose them in multiples. In much the same way, one who refers to my Sunny as "chink crap", as someone recently did, loses units of respect in multiples in my mind. I use the word "chink" in its original meaning (a flaw or damaged area) in reference to armor (actual armor, as used in my medieval society, where a weak spot in one's armor can get one hurt), a sidewall flaw in a tire, a roof leak, and many other contexts, but never as a reference to Asians, and one who does loses it with me. Nor do I refer to someone else's vehicle as "crap", even if I think it is.
Drive what you like, ride what you like, eat what you like, weigh what you like - if you have respect for yourself, I don't care, and I will talk to you, and may even find you interesting...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sidewalk Shortage...

There is a subject that has been very much bugging me lately - sidewalks. Sounds like a simple thing, but these days, sidewalks seem an ignored and neglected thing, due to plentiful private cars and a society that no longer walks. I began my stroll on this mortal coil in the East Lake section of Birmingham. This is part of the "core area" of Birmingham, built from 1871 - the early 1940s. When I was a mere kidlet in East Lake, starting from the intersection of 10th Av south and 81st St, one could actually travel through the East Lake, Woodlawn, Wahouma, and Avondale communities, through downtown Birmingham, through the Elyton and West End areas, to Fair Park, a distance of more than 25 miles, on sidewalks.
In the post WWII era, residential suburbs began to sprout up, and formed different communities, and the sidewalk paradigm came to an end.
My address is in Trussville, Alabama. Trussville began as a depression-era government project in the mid-1930s, in a flat valley encompassing part of the Cahaba River. The land was unsuitable for farming, but was suitable for suburban housing. Fired by the vision of project manager W. H. Kestler, the "Cahaba Project" went up, opening in April 1938. Homes were sturdily built, with indoor plumbing, running water, electricity, septic systems, and amenities rare at that time in much of Alabama. The project included 287 residential units, duplexes and single-family homes, all of which still stand today. The government also built a high school and cooperative store, interspersing the area with malls, paved streets and parks. And sidewalks - sidewalks everywhere. After WWII, development went on, but no longer included the sidewalks, as the postwar booming economy was selling everyone cars! Trussville, named after Warren Truss, who settled in the area in 1820 and built a mill on the Cahaba river, incorporated as a city in 1948.
Today, Trussville has "sprawled" into separated residential communities, major shopping areas, and all the goodies that go with being a modern small city. There is no way to get anywhere on foot (in my case, by mobility scooter). From the original housing area, The sidewalks end at Main St. (which is also US Hiway 11) and in the other direction at Trussville-Clay Road. There is a major supermarket across Main St, but no way to get there on foot. There are traffic lights but no marked pedestrian crossings, and getting across on foot would be an extreme adventure, and of course, if one makes it across the street safely, there are no sidewalks on the other side. In the original core neighborhood, there are no businesses, and only an elementary school, in the original high school building. The community center used to be there, but now has been replaced with a much larger, more modern center near the new middle and high schools, and none of these have foot access. What a shame.
My maternal grandmother lived in the city of Fairfield for 60 years, and did not own a car. Fairfield is an old town in the Alabama sense, originally incorporated under the name Corey in 1911. And yes, there were sidewalks everywhere, built as part of the original city planning. My grandmother did her shopping, churchgoing, bill paying, and whatever business by walking sidewalks, from her home on 41st street to downtown, with her hand-truck-looking shopping basket. My mother and her siblings traveled to school, to the park, and wherever else, on sidewalks.
How we have changed...