Monday, January 03, 2011

Swimming in a crowded aquarium.

It's almost old history by now but I have to finish the story.

Swirling traffic finally spit me out into a parking lot. Drifting towards the edge of the current I found a relatively quiet place to park Elvira. Both of us crave elbow room and we find a tiny bit of blessed breathing room.

The telephoto lense compressed the distance. It was actually a nice little walk to get to Sears. Just after dismounting and pulling my helmet off a guy walked by. He'd parked close by, probably figuring it was easier to follow somebody than to blaze his own trail. As the guy passed, he said,

"Nice bike!"

I couldn't hear him clearly at first, not having gotten to pulling my ear plugs out, yet. So I asked him to repeat what he had said.

"Nice bike! Nice BMW."

I looked closely at the man's face but saw he was serious. I guess some of the things we take for granted aren't as obvious to others without the same interests. The man's statement was meant as a compliment so I let it rest and took it that way. Elvira doesn't care, either. Call her a wife or a mistress, as long as you tell her she's pretty!

Having my priorities dictated to me I headed directly upstairs in Sears. The restrooms are at the rear after you get off the escalator. On the way I passed a female clerk. She didn't see me until I got close to her. She thought she was alone while putting some stuff back on a rack. Her face was etched with battle weariness. Seeing me, though, she somehow pulled a genuine smile out of the depths of her soul and gave it to me as a gift. Gotta love people like her.

Feeling so much better than I can describe, I exited the restroom and went looking for a bite to eat. I know it's kind of like having one foot in quicksand and then firmly inserting the other. What can I say? I was already there and riding in the cold burns a lot of calories.

Negotiating heavy human traffic in the mall felt like swimming in a crowded aquarium. Outside the stores the corridors are big and well lit from above. Combined with the big glass storefronts it does feel a lot like an aquarium. Full of other fish. I'll share a little secret with you that makes navigating around people coming at you just a little easier. In case you hadn't discovered this for yourself.

Oftentimes a person coming towards you will glance ever so slightly in the direction they intend to pass you on. You have to watch closely as it sometimes is just a flicker of their eyes. Knowing this makes things smoother. Although this secret is proving less useful as more and more people seem to be freaking oblivious. That's all I'm going to say about that as I can feel my blood pressure rising.

Upstairs in the food court I followed my usual method of picking out what I wanted to eat. Which place has the shortest line? Subway was packed, as was Panda Express. Sbarro's is way over-priced. Taco Time had a two day waiting list. So the little stand offering Greek fast food was the choice. There was only one guy in line. I really didn't want to spend time pondering why the place wasn't busy. I chalked it up to people not being able to think for themselves and bravely ordered a steak Gyro.

This was only the third one I'd ever eaten. I'm pretty sure none of them have actually been authentic. Seems like for a true Gyro there is only one way to prepare the meat even if the sauce might differ. Maybe Nikos could help us out there. Gyro in hand I went in search of, believe it or not, more coffee. I know, fools rush in.....

I almost abandoned the quest when I saw the line at Starbucks. There are two of them in this mall. Pretty posh, eh? I tend to prefer the newer store because someone I know works there. This day she happened to be working which proved a real blessing!

Quick background. When I'm in the Portland area I often use one of the nearby malls as an office. They have coffee, food, restrooms, and a place to sit. Makes a great office away from the office. At Washington Square I tend to favor some chairs right next to the North entrance of Nordstroms. This is also close to a Shutterbug camera shop ( cool, huh? ) and some sort of spa.

One day last year there was this ebony skinned young girl sitting in the chairs across from me. I knew she worked at the spa. I finished a call to my mother and looked over at the girl. I told her she was a perfect advertisement for the salon. She just has these natural Ivory Girl good looks. She thought it was sweet that I regularly called my mother. Mind you, I never flirt with other women. I'm still totally taken with Katie. Women seem to relax and feel safe around me. I hope to God it's because of my attitude and not because they don't find me potent in a masculine sort of way!

Long story short this girl and I got to where we would chat when I was in my "office". She'd come out and sit for a few minutes when she could. She'd tell me about her young son and I'd tell her about Ryan. Then I didn't see her for a while. One day she showed up working at the Starbucks. She told me she was tired of pampered rich bitches and the new job worked out better for her situation as a single mother.

Seeing me walking away due to the long line she called out to me. I always order a 12 oz. plain coffee. My friend brought it out to me and I gave her the money. They say it's great to have friends. One of these days I hope to find out for myself!

Wanting a view while I ate ( such as it was ) I went back upstairs and found a table in the food court. It overlooked a main corridor of the mall. While I was sitting there a group of folks brought a tray of sandwiches and sat down. Actually, one person carried the tray but they all sat. These were folks from a group home, out for lunch. Near to me was a strapping young man that looked like a corn fed farmboy. He looked like perhaps he was challenged with something like Downs Syndrome. Perched on top of his head was this big black ten gallon hat. Anybody looking at the young man could tell this big hat was really special to him.

You know, I could totally relate. After all, I'd been walking around the mall carrying my Arai helmet in my hand. My helmet is pretty special to me, too. I admired his hat. He admired my helmet. It was a short exchange as he got distracted by one of the caretakers, but I considered it a pleasant addition to my day. Years and years ago I filled in for a month on a morning bus route. The bus was for people going to work at a rehabilitation center. It was a valuable education in getting to know people before we make a judgement. On my last day of driving every single passenger handed me a hand-made card of thanks and saying goodbye. I wish my heart were always as pure as theirs.

Arriving back at Elvira, who'd been patiently waiting for me, I was greeted by this sight.

Calling Elvira a BMW was one thing. Parking this truck next to her is another. Since the trailer stated it was a veteran owned business I decided to shrug it off and quietly head out. We were both glad to leave the crowded mall and head for freedom.

We didn't see any other bikes all day. We did, however, get to enjoy a stretch of highway with the late afternoon winter sunshine gently washing over us. Nothing warms a cold day like a bit of sunshine brightening your visor. Life isn't too bad, is it?

Miles and smiles,



Orin said...

My first thought is, the guy thought Elvira was a BMW because of the driveshaft. But no, if he was that clueful/observant, he'd have seen the Yamaha badges. To the casual observer, most late-model 1000+cc touring bikes could look alike.

I near "nice moped" a lot. Like you, I take it in the spirit in which I assume it's being offered.

Happy Festivus!
Scootin' Old Skool

Charlie6 said...

Irondad....the correct response would have been: "thanks but its a Yamaha, currently saving up for the BMW". :P


Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Redleg's Rides

irondad said...


Actually, the correct, correct, response would be,

"I'm saving for both a BMW and a sidecar. Then I'm going to connect the two and ruin the bike."

Take care,


irondad said...


I think it was just the general look of the bike thing as you stated. It's like calling all tissues "Kleenex". Not that sport touring bikes are anything to sneeze at, mind you. Just an example. Sounds better than using hook and loop fastener to illustrate.

Calling a Vespa like yours a moped is more of travesty than calling Elvira a BMW. Not sure if I'd have the same self control as you!

Take care,


Charlie6 said...

Irondad.....ruin is such a negative word, how about instead "make more interesting" in terms of one's ability to return home safely sometimes?

Allen Madding said...

See you are mellowing in your old age, if someone looked at Rosie and said "Nice BMW", I would have responded, "there are no such things".


Steve Williams said...

Maybe the fellow just divided the two-wheeled world into Harleys (cruisers) BMWs (everything else that doesn't look like a cruiser) and scooters.

Or he really thought it was a BMW.

I loved the last picture. I live for those situations and they seldom come around this little burg.

Your office away from the office sounds nice. Mr. Riepe will find a way to make it sound tawdry...

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

cpa3485 said...

I'm with Orin, sometimes I hear. "Hey, That's a Moped!" If I have time I quietly explain that a true Moped has pedals and point out the lack thereof. But if not enought time I just brush it off.
I am getting a little better, but it is very hard to tell a lot of bikes apart. Just when I think I have something figured out, I get surprised.
Your bike looks great in spite of what other people might say.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad:

Happy new year!

It is no coincidence that Yamaha — and other desperate motorcycle manufacturers — have copied the more dignified and slightly sinister profile of the BMW. There are now at least five copies of the GS, first introduced from Bavaria 25 years ago.

If you'd like, I'd be delighted to send you a set of roundels to cover the Yamaha burger symbols on your tank, which are just about the same size of the BMW logo, popular since 1923. (Isn't it odd that they are about the same size too?)

Your disguise will be complete with a Twisted Roads tee shirt.

I never have a preoblem walking through a crowded mall. I stain a hankerchief with red food coloring and caugh into it as I gimp along. Nothing opens up a table in the food court like tuberculosis.

By the way, I never flirt with women either. I just go to their place.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

bobskoot said...


I think the sidecases give it away as most Beemers have them . I think the mall would be the last place I would be during Christmas but we can be thankful for friends

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Nikos said...

I'm not sure that there is a universal specification for gyros, but the ones I like best contain lamb sliced from a vertical spit aka doner kebab placed in a delicious sour dough type bread with salad (onions etc) and doused with yoghourt garlic sauce. This would be rolled up in paper.
I can direct you to an establishment in old Athens if you wish to sample - ask for "souvlaki me pita".
Best wishes for 2011

Raftnn said...

Great read, You turned a simple trip into a intersting and thought provoking blog! Happy New Year to you.

Dean W said...

Don't take it personally, Dan. People have been mistaking FJRs for BMWs since 2002 (when the FJR first came to the US).

It's funnier when a BMW rider says "nice BMW- what model is that?" Your response is only limited to how fast you can think vs. how much post-processed coffee you need to offload.

But for the world at large, there appear to be a small handful of types of bikes: Gold Wing, BMW, Harley, Ducati (sometimes, "crotch rocket", or dirt bike. Doesn't matter who actually built it or what model it is. Frequently
the best you can do is "It's a (make/model), like a (fill in blank from list above)."

Psst, Charlie6- "Thanks, but it's a Yamaha. The money I saved not buying a BMW funds my Starbucks habit." :P to you too.

-Dean, '04 FJR "Bongo"

682202 said...

I feel your pain. I once had a young man tell me I had a cool Harley. I was prepared to take him to task and explain the fundamental difference and Superior aspects of the BMW R bike and boxer engine, when his mother came along and gave him a little whack on the head and said something like "that ain't no Harley, what's wrong with you boy... now get in the truck..." no longer the innocent 5 year old.

Thanks for sharing.

irondad said...


Ok. Perhaps RUIN was too strong. Mea culpa!


I'm not usually that mellow. It was three days before Christmas, a time to celebrate Christ. Figured I could behave myself just once.

Take care,


irondad said...


I think your general classification statement is fairly accurate.

One thing I learned from you. Always have a camera with you. When that shot does happen, you don't have to kick yourself!

Take care,


irondad said...

cpa3485 ( Jim ),

I always have to include your name. Something about calling people by numbers!

How do people react when you point out that you are not riding a moped? I find most don't really want to be educated and end up somewhat offended. Maybe it's just me.

Take care,


irondad said...

Jack R,

You know, I really don't mind being called a BMW rider. For that most part, that's a noble image. Except for some riders.

I've spent some time trying to figure out the difference between us. We have a lot in common. For example, we both like to ride bikes and whatever. We both have trouble and mischief bubbling just under the surface which often escapes. Sometimes not under our control.

It finally came to me. I think the answer to what separates us is Dignity!

I have it and you don't.

A food coloring stained handkerchief and a fake hacking cough? Come to think of it, I think I saw you at the mall that day. Being led off by security in handcuffs. Leering away at the female officer, asking for her address, and to please whack you with her nightstick again.

Love ya, anyway, my friend.

Take care,


irondad said...


Then you must have a very large bladder! Speaking of being thankful for friends, thank you for your friendship!

Take care,


irondad said...


It's the lamb on the vertical spit and the yogurt garlic sauce that I thought were universal. The three Gyro's I had were wrapped in pita bread. I love sourdough!

If I ever get to old Athens I will check out your recommendation. Do they do mail order? :)

Take care,


irondad said...


Thank you so much for gracing my blog! I followed the link to your blog, which I was not aware of previously.

I will do some rooting around over there!

Take care,


irondad said...

Dean W,

"post-processed coffee". I like that.

Thank you for sticking up for me, my friend. But who has a Starbucks habit?

Take care,


irondad said...

682202 ( Gordon )

That's too funny to ruin by a comment. Thanks for sharing!

Take care,


Anonymous said...

Hi Iron Dad,

Once I came out of Costco where a guy was resting on a bench looking at my bike, a new 1200 GS. He saw me walking up in my leathers (a short girl with a girlie helmet) and he said, "Cute bike." I laughed and said that manly men ride around the world on this bike but thanked him anyway. I filled my side cases up with merchandise while several other males walked past admiring my bike for the burly thing it is. This guy looked very sheepish as I rode away laughing in my helmet.

I enjoy reading your blog.

irondad said...


First off, thank you for reading and commenting! Secondly, congratulations on the new GS. Although I've never heard one called "cute" before. Interesting.

I like your style. Never let 'em hold you back!

Take care,