STRANGER ENCOUNTERS

Two summer ago, we drove into Gettysburg on a return trip from Williamsburg. It was late afternoon, so we asked Richard, our faithful GPS, to take us to the nearest motel. We followed his directions since we were in a town we’d never visited. Finally, Richard announced “You have reached your destination!”

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Indeed we had, though not the one we had it mind for that night’s repose. As far as the eye could see, Richard had brought us to what must have been Gettysburg’s largest non-war related cemetery. It seemed to stretch for miles. Who knew our GPS had a sense of humor? We didn’t stop laughing until we finally found the motel.

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I’m a great traveler. I don’t like airports and hauling luggage, but I love everything else. It’s like a book I’ve just begun to read. Anything can happen and the surprises are what makes it fun.

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I habitually engage strangers in conversation. So does Garry. He does it because 40 years working as a reporter makes it natural for him to talk to people he’s just met. Me, because strangers are only strangers until you get to know them. After that, they may be odd, but they aren’t strangers.

I will talk to strangers on a grocery line, on the ferry, or in a waiting lounge. Not so much on a train or plane, though. Too much noise to make conversation comfortable.

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Otherwise, I love meeting people — weird and otherwise. If you ask the right questions, they will tell you about their town, their family, their jobs. How they feel about the government, music, art and if you are lucky, will offer you useful information about great places to eat and visit.

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I love learning about local sights, customs, legends. I don’t care if no one speaks real English. As long as they don’t point a gun at me or physically assault me, I’m up for any kind of conversation. Especially if it might lead me to a good photograph.

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You never learn anything about a new place if you only talk to the companions you’ve brought with you. If you don’t want to meet new people, to have encounters with those who are different from you, why travel?

WHICH WAY — AUGUST DOG DAYS

CEE’S WHICH WAY CHALLENGE 2015 WEEK #34

Welcome everyone to Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge. This challenge is about capturing the roads, walks, trails, rails, we move from one place to another on.

I keep my eyes open for entries to Cee’s great challenges. This is “downtown” Uxbridge in August. There are two pictures taken along Route 122 (Main Street) and a third on Route 16 (Mendon Road, at least for this short stretch). These are the only roads that go through town.

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ON THE BUS

Call it fate, Karma, destiny, or Murphy’s Law. It’s all one thing.

No project goes exactly as planned. No vacation is perfect. Some part of the meal won’t be ready when dinner is served.

Guests come early, stay late or leave too soon. Or not soon enough. Complications, delays, bumps in the road are the companions to everything we do. We cope. Like, we have a choice?

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Many things almost happen. When I was newly back from Israel, I took a three-day weekend from my new job to visit friends in San Diego. I bought a carry-on bag (I love luggage). Got tickets to San Diego — not easy because most cross-country flights out of Boston go to Oakland, SF, or LA — none of which are close to San Diego.

I got to La Guardia airport, but the plane didn’t. I had a connecting flight in Salt Lake City. Four hours later, the plane was MIA. I demanded my money back

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The perky young thing at the ticket counter explained, “These are non-refundable tickets. See? It says so right here. We can get you on a flight to Los Angeles tomorrow afternoon. How’s that?”

I was not feeling perky. More like an Arnold Schwarzenegger about to do serious damage to an airport.

“I took a three-day weekend from work. I won’t get those hours back. I’m not interested in Los Angeles. It’s more than 3 hours drive from San Diego and I don’t have a car. By the time I got there — if I got there — I’d have to turn right around. I’ve had to spend money on taxis, lost my holiday time. All I got is a long afternoon in a waiting room. I want a plane to San Diego. Direct, nonstop because I already missed my connecting flight — or my money back. Now.”

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I got the money. Took a taxi home. Spent the weekend feeling sorry for myself. Never made it San Diego or saw those friends. Eventually, I lost touch with those friends entirely.

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Our fondest illusion is control. We are proud to be the designers of our destiny. It’s the greatest promise we get as kids, and the biggest lie of all, that if we do “life” right, we can get what we want. You just have to keep trying.

You can try all you want, but some stuff will permanently elude you.

We know — because everyone told us so — that good work will be rewarded. Kindness will be returned. If we eat right, keep fit, exercise, avoid drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol, we’ll be healthy forever. The bad things won’t happen to us. We will live happily ever after.

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From little stuff that goes wrong — flights cancelled, vacations rained out — to failed marriages and jobs lost, we get stripped of illusions. Injustice comes in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes, from tiny indignities to incomprehensible calamities. No one is immune.

Sooner or later, it becomes clear. We are passengers on the bus that is life. We aren’t driving. We don’t even know what road we’re on, and have no idea of our destination. After a lifetime of trying to wrestle the steering wheel out of the driver’s hands, I get it. The bus is going where it’s going. It is what it is.

Life is not about where you end up. It’s about the journey. We might as well enjoy it.

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL!

We’re off on vacation today. We’ll be gone for a few days to visit friends. Where I’m pretty sure we will talk, laugh, eat, talk, laugh … and maybe fit in just a little bit of sleep here and there.

I may even take some pictures!

We have a lot of overdue vacation time coming up. We intend to fully embrace the “let it all hang out” concept. I can’t think of anything I would rather do. Or anything more likely to improve my state of mind.

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If you don’t hear from me, you may assume I am consumed with having a good time.

Wish you were there! Someday, we need to have a giant party. Maybe on a little-known south sea island in the middle of the Pacific.

That would be after one of us hits the Nigerian Prince Lottery and becomes wealthy enough to fly everyone to the isle of joy. There we will swim, sun and relax under palm trees … hanging loose while eating, drinking, and making Merry, whoever she may be.

See you all later!

WHICH WAY UNDER THE ROAD – 2015 WEEK 28

CEE’S WHICH WAY CHALLENGE 2015 WEEK #28

Welcome everyone to Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge. This challenge is about capturing the roads, walks, trails, rails, we move from one place to another on.

This week, I worked rather hard to see if I could take some decent pictures of overpasses through the windshield of the car. It’s difficult to shoot through glass. It’s hard to shoot in a moving car.

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It’s tricky getting the exact moment when you are under the overpass.

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You actually have to press the shutter before you are under the bridge if you want to catch it. And you need to be a bit lucky with the light.

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Despite the challenges, I got a few pictures I kind of like. Tell me what you think. It was fun trying.

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