Saturday, April 10, 2010


It's winter, it's summer, it's spring, it's fall, it's global weirding. But, despite an Autumn chill in the air, the sun was out, the sky was blue, and my son talked me into driving across Jersey in a westerly direction which took us through some of the most beautiful countryside you can imagine to an indoor skate park that allows rollerblades as well as skateboards and scooters.

It was a heavenly day for him. due to the venue, where he could switch from his new rollerblades (having outgrown the old ones) to his beat up skateboard and then the new one he talked me into while we were there.

It was equally celestial for me, due to the horse farms we saw among the rolling hills with what looked like thoroughbreds grazing and nudging and playing, and even a small buffalo ranch with the big shouldered bison (are those words interchangeable as I'm using them?) and the blossoming trees, so many with white-ish and pink and light yellow hues it looked like a pastel drawing by an old style master.

And I've been feeling so lucky and grateful that my motor and cognitive functioning has returned to what for all intents and purposes (and I mean that cliched pairing literally as I just noticed how precisely they say what I mean in this case) is my "normal"—and then...

...I tried to buy a bottle of water at the vending machines in the area outside the fenced in park full of ramps and railings and steps and etc. First of all I put two dollars n the slot thinking that would be enough for any water, but on looking closely when pressing the buttons for the water did nothing I saw that it required fifty more cents.

Unfortunately I only had bigger bills left. So I figured I had to put a five in and take the quarters I'd get in change. But when I pressed the right buttons again, nothing happened. I tried it several times, then tried the coin return button. Realizing finally that "coin" probably didn't apply to bills, I gave up, about to get the manager when I noticed that the slot I was putting the money in was for a different machine than the one that held the water!

They were side by side without any room to spare and since the water I wanted was close to the other machine's money slot, I assumed... Now I had to get the manager and explain not only had I put seven dollars into a machine for a bottle of water that it turned out cost a dollar fifty, but I had put it in the wrong machine as well.

His key wouldn't open the machine I'd put the money in so with no alternative he could think of he pressed the button for a drink—in this case Red Bull!—and took the change in quarters it gave him, a lot, to the cash register and gave me my seven dollars back, leaving a note about the refund etc.

I went back to the correct machine money slot and put in my two dollars and pushed the buttons and got the water and my fifty cents in change and sat down, opened the water and took a big swig. It smelled and tasted like perfume! What the...then I looked closely at the label and it was some kind of "wild berry" flavored water, supposedly with "natural flavoring" that when I read the ingredients didn't sound very "natural" but instead like a chemistry experiment, which I'm sure is what created the smell and flavoring.

I went back to the machine and sure enough, there it was, clear as can be, "wildberry" flavored water in the row of bottles I'd pushed the button for, and right beside it, three more rows, with three more buttons to push, of plain old water. I felt like an idiot. Especially after I waited a good while before trying the water again, thinking it might grow on me, but no such luck. It still tasted and smelled like perfume to me, and not perfume that I would want anyone I know to wear.

When my son took a break and finished the water he'd thoughtfully brought in a water bottle from home, he asked if he could have a sip of mine and I said he could have the whole thing. He swigged it right down, in between gulps saying how much he loved this flavor!

I eventually got a plain water, since we ended up staying for three sessions rather than the one we were planning on. It was dark by the time we got home. But he was so happy with the experience, mostly because the kids he met there who were better skaters than him didn't mock him or make him feel less than or say mean things or just ignore him, but instead gave him tips on the tricks he was attempting so that by the time we went out for Chinese in our little village, he was skating up the brick sidewalk effortlessly while asking me wasn't he skating with much more style because he felt he was just from this one afternoon and evening of learning from these nice kids and how lucky he felt and grateful he was to me and other sweet things that make life worthwhile.

But I have to admit, my part of the experience, the vending machine part, though I'm sure others have had similar misadventures wasn't like anything I've experienced pre-brain surgery, so it was hard for me not to think that the surgery had something to do with it, and despite all my progress, I ain't there yet. But even if that's the case, here isn't a bad place to be at all, thank you very much.


Elisabeth said...

Michael, this is a lovely post. You sound quite different from the Michael I first encountered here, immediately after your surgery.

Although you worry about your experience at the vending machine there is something else going on in your writing here and to some extent in your experience that I imagine is far more important than the vagaries of your encounter with those blessed machines.

I read this post and I think there's a parallel between your son's experience learning new tricks with guys who are better skate boarders than he and your experience relearning old ways of writing, of being and fast developing new ones.

There's heart and soul in this post, visual images that arise out of your writing and through you as a person.

It's great stuff.

I wouldn't worry, if I were you, about vending machines. That's all they after all, just machines. You can outsmart them any day. They are not a measure of your capacity.

Your writing here is a far better measure. And it seems to me it's working very well, perhaps in some ways better even than before.

Not that I'd know, I never knew you before, but I can see enormous changes over the short time I've been blogging. All I can say is wow, for a man whose undergone brain surgery nit that long ago, your writing is amazing.

Harryn Studios said...

great story and a wonderful adventure for both as you rolled through horse farms and Impressionist landscapes toward my territory ...
the beauty of nature - particularly this time of year is inspirational and the mechanics of civilization - vending machines - become more of a mystery the further you move from urban areas ...
i dig what your saying about the water, but kids like candy - and its scarier when water has calories you have to count ...
i've always enjoyed the art of story-telling you Irish literary folk do so well - particularly when their subtext includes little jabs about global weirding and frustrations with modernity, etc ...
sounds like you and the little guy had a great weekend ...

Anonymous said...

Dear Lal--Your son is just the right age now for you to introduce him to "Skater Dater," which is available for free on line. You'll both love it. Enjoy.

Bob Berner