Friday, November 18, 2005

The Final Passion

Kaiser / Fraiser Authorized Service

It is amazing what comes to mind during my walks to work in the morning and during the trek home each evening. Little things that make you think. Your mind is an awesome tool when not bombarded by stop and go brake lights and Howard Stern every morning.

Last week it was the Kaiser / Frazier Owners Club. Most of you young'uns won't have clue about what these are. They were automobiles produced after WWII in the heady days of the 1950's when we were on top of the world (figuratively). In those booming days after we had defeated Tojo and the Nazis, there were all sorts of car companies started up from all the excess production capacity of those plants that had been building Sherman Tanks and B-29 Superfortresses. There was Tucker, Hudson, Kaiser and Nash, to name a few. They are all gone now. Either bankrupt or bought out by bigger fish in the Capitalistic Ocean. I believe that Kaiser and Nash were eventually swallowed up by American Motors, which was swallowed up by Chrysler, which is now owned by Mercedes. It is hard to keep track.....but I digress....this is all just background.

I still have a lot to learn in life, but a couple of the blocks keep falling into place as I get older. One is the realization of the 'Final Passion'. The last great thing that we do in our lives. That thing or activity that we are passionate about when the old ticker stops working.

We all start out as pretty impressionable lumps of clay and we get molded by a bunch of factors over the years. We are told what to want, by our parents, our peers, the media and others. Rare is the person that charts their own course when they are young. Most are steered in various directions by the environment where they are raised. When we are young, and the sky is the limit, we collect passions like baseball cards. The desire to own the nice car, to have the BIG house on the hill, the perfect husband / wife, the yacht anchored off the Hamptons, the penthouse in downtown Manhattan. Capitalism sort of does this to you. Makes you want a lot of stuff. Most of it we don't need.

Then that awful thing called reality and maturity comes into play. Children don't raise themselves and they aren't cheap., taxes, what a bitch those are. And who would have ever thought that we would need medical care when we were 20 and that when we did, it would be so damn expensive!

As these hard facts of life start to weigh down on our shoulders, we started to drop our passions to lighten the load. Gone are my dreams of that Ferrari TestaRossa and sailing around the world solo. Last week I sort of scratched hang gliding off the list as well.

This all leads up to the final passion, that one thing that we hold onto and continue to pursue because we can't let go of everything. Life can't be all about work, taxes and death. And this final passion tends to be what we are labeled with. Think about it. Anyone that you know that is retired tends to have one, "You know, Bob. down the street...the guy with that huge stamp collection."

I recall my neighbor who lived across the street from me. He was a retired prison guard and had lived a tough life. He was pretty happy-go-lucky guy and he had some medical problems, but he didn't let it get him down. What was his final passion? His hot tub. It was in his back yard and it was huge. Totally enclosed, with a TV and little mini-bar. He had decorated his backyard with little lights in the trees and cute road signs and nick-nacks as well. Not a bad final passion I thought. He let me use it once or twice and it was sweet. He passed away about 2 years ago and the new owner tore it down.

On my way to work there is another such man. I have never actually met him, but I have seen him out in his driveway working on his 3 Kaisers. He has to be in his 70s. Neither the cars or the man are in perfect condition. The cars need new paint and I think the upholstery could be replaced, but I am sure they all run. They are not terribly attractive cars. They are big and round and must weigh as much as a tank. But they are his final passion. That one thing that he is good at, and brings him a lot of joy. A simple thing. A simple passion.

Kaiser / Fraiser Owners Club

That is where most of us are headed although we don't tend to realize it. It just sort of ends up that way. So if you think about it, what might our final passion be? And when we are gone, what will we leave behind for folks to remember us by?

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Bread Basket

Shopping Carts
(All Pictures Taken With My Palm Pilot)

Once the symbol of American Prosperity, they are now the icon of its decline.

In the old days, they were filled with Fruit Loops, glass bottles of milk, Ovaltine, large heads of lettuce and a toddler riding in the fold-away seat.

Today they are the conveyance of the down trodden, the homeless and the mentally ill. They are the automobile with a trunk for those that can't afford a car. Like the numerous check cashing stores and greedy politicians, they are easy to overlook until you start seeing things with a critical eye.

I first started noticing them a couple of months ago near my home. Abandoned, like lost puppies far from their litter. They sat forlorn on the street corner, overturned in my yard, pushed up against the curb on a busy downtown throughway. I started to ask that age old question, 'why'? Why were they there and how did they get there.

The answer seemed obvious but it has variations. People had to move things around and had no other option.

In the suburbs, it seemed likely that someone had a large family but no vehicle to drive to Safeway or Albertsons or Piggly Wiggly. When Jose is off putting up a new roof on the job site the little ones still need their pampers and tortillas so Rosita takes the long walk to the supermarket with their 6 kids in tow and then makes the long push back home. Once there, why push an empty cart all the way back the 3 miles you just walked? Just push it into the alley.

For the urban carts left downtown, the story appears a bit different. This is the transient's mobile home. This is the conveyance that they use to pick up the metal cans to be exchanged for money at the recycler. This is where they carry their bed roll and spare shoes pilfered from a dumpster. This is the cart that holds what is left of their shattered lives.

Even though the American Dream has failed them, they still cling to the concept that material possession is a form of wealth. They haul their throw-away trinkets around in a stolen four wheeled shopping cart to remind themselves that they still have some form of value.

All of these shopping carts were photographed miles from the nearest grocery store. There has to be a medical term for the precursor to cancer. That word would apply to these shopping carts. Regardless if they are urban or suburban, if the American Dream is a living breathing organism, these are the precursor to societal cancer.