Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Scenes of American Life

On a recent outing to Clearwater across the Bay in the morning, we stopped by a McDonald’s for a quick bite. While the others stringed into the restaurant to douse their urge for food, I sauntered around the outside, camera in hand, waiting to snap anything that would prick my curiosity. And I soon found my first target, or rather targets.

Bikes after bikes, huge ones, started to descend onto the carpark from nowhere. The bikes were adorned with colorful decorations comprising ribbons of different hues and wreaths of varying designs. Some rode alone, some with partners, but with one commonality: they are all middle-aged. After getting permission, nicely solicited, I took a shot of the armada of big bikes, with some of their owners in the process of disembarking.

Apparently motor-biking or cruising in a convertible on weekends is a common pastime here. There is something about the gentle caressing of the wind, the feeling of being the king of the road when riding in numbers, the scenery sweeping by, that appeals to the bikers. One of my colleagues is an avid biker, and often ends up biking cross-country some place out of town on the weekend.

Not for me though. My days of motor-biking are definitely over, more than 25 years ago. I once owned an old Honda 125 (that is in cc) that was my faithful companion during my last year in the varsity and also my first year of work immediately following that. It made a tremendously loud booming noise when it was revved. However, the seat was another story. I couldn’t feel anything on my butt after a 3-hour long journey from my hometown to the Capital. After that I cut down such long distance stints to the bare minimum. However, the bike did afford me numerous moments of joy when my then girl friend (now my wife) came riding pillion with me. Believe me, it beats riding side by side in a car anytime.

OK, that is far enough for my reminiscing. Back to Scenes of American Life. Then I spotted this lonely old man waiting at a bus stop, luggage on rollers propped against him, waiting seemingly eternally for the bus that would take him to his destination. This is a typical bus stop with a roof. I’ve never taken a bus in Tampa, not even the Trolley bus that stops just in front of my office and which will take anyone to the Channelside area (part of downtown) for 50 cents. So I’ve no idea how frequent the bus arrives and the only time I seem to notice its presence it’s when I’m driving behind one, secretly willing it to turn at the next junction so that I do not have to put up with the frequent stops. Sorry, that’s the impatient part of me acting up again. Breathe slowly and start counting …

Fast track through time and we were now on the return leg of our outing. One of my passengers wanted to send a parcel from a post office, and we found one. But the line was long, this being the season for sending Christmas gifts. So I did my usual inspection of the site and thought you might want to know what the signboard for a USPS (PS = Postal Service) looks like. Here it is, alternating blue and white shades in the shape of the head of an eagle, symbolizing a reliable messenger I suppose.

Then I suddenly remembered that my wife has asked me several times to buy the Superhero set of new stamps that have eluded me on several occasions. She likes the new stamp designs and usually buys to keep, rather than for use. Fortunately, unlike the usual post office that I frequent along the Howard Avenue, this one is big enough to have separate counters for buying stamps and for sending stuff. One queue was long, the one that my passenger was in, while there was none at the other counter where it mattered. But disappointment soon set in as the store was out of the Superhero set too. But surprise, surprise. Look at what we got. The snowflakes.

The image is taken from the USPS website, which explains why the price is being crossed out presumably so that one cannot print them out for use. The snowflakes also fascinated one of my favorite bloggers, who blogged about the pleasant C6 symmetry underlying the snowflake design here.

But there is more. The American Motorcycles series, which fits in nicely with what I’ve talked about at the outset of this blog. There are four different bike models namely (from left to right): Indian 1940 (in crimson); Cleveland 1918 (silver frame with orange-lined wheels that resembles a bicycle the most; Chopper c.1970 with orange flame tank, high handle bar and a pair of exhausts that angle upward; and Harley-Davidson 1964 with blue tank and front screen.

I thought I’ll end with another American obsession: automobiles. These are the cute beetles that we see in front of Best Buy, a nation-wide store chain that caters to everyone’s electronic fancies. And the label on the white body spells Geek Squad.

Can't make it out? Here is a closeup. Interpret whichever way you wish, but I give it full mark for creativity, its nerd-like connotation notwithstanding.

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