Wednesday, August 6, 2008
On Dogs and Motorcycles...
Things have been pretty heavy on this blog lately basically focusing on politics and religion. It’s time to lighten up for a minute and discuss / reminisce a little about two of men's favorite subjects...dogs and motorcycles.
I have a motorcycle...a BMW650 Scarver...that was my birthday present to me on my 50th birthday. I had a few cycles in my younger days and always liked them. Only problem in recent decades has been that they are difficult to move around when you move a lot...and in northern climates like Michigan and Chicago, it is too frustrating having a bike and only 4 comfortable months to ride them in. But now that I am living in tropical climates and a big city, it seems like a more prudent investment.
Now, I know many people close to me would question the "prudent" aspect of cycle ownership and riding, the danger, and exposure to the elements. Alas, no one has ever accused me of being too "careful" or risk averse, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I still like to ride. There’s something about being on the road on two wheels that gives one a sense of freedom...free to roam, free to fit through small spaces, and definitely easy parking. And yes, going fast on two wheels is a special thrill though I try to reserve that to open road riding...and on good roads only.
In a city like Panama City, Panama, motorcycles make a lot of sense. The traffic and traffic controls here are ridiculous and during a busy day I can get across town on a cycle in 1/3 the time it takes in a car or taxi. Also, with gas currently at more than $4.50 per gallon, it makes enormous difference on the cost of transportation...and my BMW runs VERY clean...almost no exhaust...and it also runs very quiet compared to "hogs" and choppers. I don't really get impressed by LOUD engines. I'm more into performance, reliance and control of "noise pollution". That’s why BMWs are such marvelous bikes. And, they take a beating and still keep on giving. Most of the world tour cyclists I have found, many traversing around the world on a motorcycle, seem to prefer BMWs for their durability and low maintenance. Sure, it's not cheap when you need repairs or maintenance, but...I'd rather pay for the quality and less hassle.
Culturally here in Panama people don’t ride bikes around the city during the work week. Most of the bikes you'll see are delivery bikes...little Yamaha or Suzuki 125s on the average...with big delivery bins attached carrying everything from packages and documents, to Big Macs and Dominos Pizza. Me, I'm the crazy gringo that shows up to real estate and attorney meetings helmet in hand. If it is a nice day and lots of traffic, it is the preferred way to arrive on time. And those who know me know I have never minded being a little "different". Actually, I would prefer that more of this population road motorcycles or regular bikes in the city. Less congestion, pollution, better for their health, and parking is a breeze. There are few regulations in Panama on motorcycles and parking...at least "enforced" regulations. Most buildings have a few bikes parked right at the front door...on the sidewalk, in the grass, on the curb. Granted most of them are not as nice as my cycle and I try to be careful not to park in someone’s way or where careless people will run over my baby. So far so good (knock on wood).
Out at the real estate project we are working on, "La Reserva", there are 3 Labrador retrievers "guarding" the place. I don’t know how much security they truly provide since by nature they are quite friendly, slobbering and jumping like puppies on any new face they see on the property. Being outdoor dogs, they usually are a bit wet or grimy from their latest hunts and sojourns. They also have taken the worst of it a couple times meddling with Sloths and other wild creatures in the area. But being back around dogs in that environment reminded me of the value and tradition of dogs as "man’s best friend".
Dogs have great character. They are very loyal, especially to their owners/handlers. They tend to be affectionate also and they can have amazing sensitivity to human moods and even physical ailments or disease. They are usually playful and observant. And yes, they can be protective and "bravo" if their owner is threatened somehow. These are all good things to have in a friend. AND...they listen without talking back usually...which is very unusual in a friend.
The main dog in my life was a Doberman Pinscher. Yes, I prefer big dogs with short hair. Lower maintenance and less smelly. This Doberman, named "Dobie", was a good example of how humans can and should be. Friendly and happy around his "family", and very defensive and careful of strangers. He had a strong image so most people wouldn't "mess" with him, but underneath he read people well and was good with kids. He definitely didn’t like the garbage man or the gas meter reader man. They were definitely threats to his "turf", and maybe he even knew that somehow they were there to cost us money. He was a bit high strung and I remember him knocking down my grandmother a couple times in his exuberance...and one of my funniest memories of him was when he dragged my little sister across the yard on her belly in the snow as she held on to his leash with determination that SHE was going to walk HIM (sorry sis...had to bring that memory back up:) ).
Unfortunately we had to give him up when we moved and the family decided no dogs at the new home. Mom found a good home for him out in the country somewhere outside our home town. Then later on we heard a heroic story of our Dobie who apparently while home alone detected a fire at the house which was isolated in some woods. He reportedly ran out to the end of their long driveway and barked and barked until someone noticed and followed him back to the danger. That’s our Dobie...Lassie had nothing on him.
All this to express the little things in a man’s life that makes it worth living and meaningful. We can learn a lot from our dogs, and we can experience a lot of highs and escape on motorcycles…just you and the road. At the same time, one of my favorite themes in life is..."wherever you go...there you are". So we carry these experiences and examples of character with us where ever we go in this short life on earth. These experiences help us come back and face our daily realities with a fresh approach and energy.