Tag Archives: musings

Go Fly a Kite


I used to like kites until the day one tried to kill me. At this point, you’re imagining a Ben Franklin experiment involving a thunderstorm and a key, but it was nothing so glamorous or so foolhardy. I was simply trying to buy a loaf of stale bread.

I had been living in Indonesia for more than two years, and I knew that the only place in town to sell bread was a tiny store on the outskirts of town. I was out of flour to bake my own, and the purchase of more meant a trip up the coast along a winding road that hugged a cliff. It was only 50 miles, but by the time you dodged goats, cows, chickens and people who sat their fannies on the actual asphalt of the highway, you had two hours invested in the venture. So until that monthly trek rolled around again on the calendar, I had to content myself with bread that did a marvelous imitation of bleached cardboard. I had just such a loaf of this striking wheat rendition in my motorcycle basket as I whizzed along through the village at the speed of baked beans.

The other thing you should know is that not only is sitting on the highway after dusk all the rave, but flying kites before dusk is also one of the more popular hobbies in a small fishing town. It falls somewhere between cleaning your day’s catch and beating a ridiculously large spider to death with a machete. If you’re between the ages of 7-14, then it’s pretty much all you do unless it’s raining.

So on this ordinary day, Wonderless Bread in custody, I was puttering along when I noticed a young lad not far ahead, standing beside the road holding a kite string. I immediately scanned the sky for the kite. Not because I wanted to ooh and aah over it, but because its location was mission critical to my journey home. Kids flew those blasted things in the road all the time, something about parents not wanting their cherubs to get swallowed up by lurking pythons in the rice paddies, and if you weren’t careful, you could run through one of those lines with your scooter. So I swiveled my head back and forth trying to find that kite. I shouldn’t have bothered because the string found my face instead. Did I mention that they use twine for kite string? I’m not sure what test it is, but I think you could land Moby Dick with it and he’d feel like a guppy.

A picture of real, honest-to-goodness, Indonesian twine

A picture of real, honest-to-goodness, Indonesian twine

So I’m still riding my scooter as twine slices across my face. You’d think survival skills would kick in at this point and I’d hit the brake, but there’s something about searing pain and panic that short-circuits my brain. I clawed frantically at the demon burrowing with the vigor of a groundhog on crack until the twine won its game of tug-of-war and pinned me right there in the middle of the street. Ever been snatched backwards off a bike doing 25mph? It makes one grouchy to say the least.

So I lay there in the street, staring at the sky and hoping that Jesus was going to appear and just take me on home to glory, but my scooter, a real go-getter by nature, went another 20 feet before falling on its sword out of respect to its felled rider. By this time a crowd of thirty or so people had gathered. No one offered to help me get up or even checked to see if I could. The kite owner was so overwrought by my near demise that he stood calmly aside, slowly wrapping up his kite twine, no doubt checking it for blood stains that could impede future flights. This is the only time in my life that I’ve ever considered throwing something at a teenager. Like my scooter.

One man finally broke the code of silence and picked up my bike and rolled it over to me. At this point I knew my bones were still intact, but my pride lay shattered in pieces that even an atom couldn’t see.

I drove home more slowly than usual. I stood in front of one of the few mirrors in my house and surveyed the burn marks across my face and throat. I have to say, it’s one of the most painful sandwiches I’ve ever made.


Roads: They’re All the Rage

Let the games begin!

Let the games begin!

I hate driving. I didn’t always, but now that I’m older and driving is simply the process that must be endured in order to transfer your body to a new destination, I view climbing behind the wheel as a task akin to a booster shot: let’s just get it over with. So while my trip with Mom to Asheville was fun because of the location, navigating from point A to point B was another matter entirely.

First of all, there are the roads surrounding that delightful town. Three different interstates converge to form the perfect storm with corkscrew on-ramps that spit you out into the flow of traffic doing 35 miles an hour. The first thing you notice once you’ve straightened the steering wheel is the succession of three semi’s bearing down on you doing 70, and suddenly you understand all the fuss about high performance cars capable of going 0-60 in three seconds.

Once you’ve cheated death and exited the freeway, your next test of womanhood is to steer with one hand, follow that blue dot on your navigation system with the other, and keep a calm demeanor so your passenger doesn’t realize you’re about one car length away from a stomach ulcer. I was doing a decent job of this until Mr. I’m Local and You Tourists Really Get on my Nerves got behind me on the four lane.

My first crime against humanity was to drive the speed limit. This really torqued the fellow following so closely that one glance in the rear view mirror told me that he had broccoli for lunch. He decided to extend his fury through his horn just as I was trying the decipher the road name on a tiny green sign the size of a lasagna noodle (uncooked). Then, as if I hadn’t already qualified for a capital punishment sentence, I looked over my shoulder, turned on my blinker, and then moved into the right lane since there wasn’t another car coming for eight miles. This aggressive act of vehicular maneuvering incited another series of rash horn trumpetings.

At this point, I started an internal tirade: Hey, buddy! What’s your deal? Are you illiterate or just choosing to ignore my Florida license plate? Is it just possible that the plate gives you a clue that I may not be familiar with the area? That I may be chauffeuring my mom around to another cleverly hidden antique store? That your bullying horn antics make me want to say something unladylike because you’re jumping on my last nerve?! HUH?!!

Mom threw a glance over her shoulder. “Boy, he sure has his Fruit of the Loom’s in a twist about something. I’m glad you’re so calm when you drive. I’d be a nervous wreck. Oh, look!” She swiveled her head and tapped the window with her pointer finger. “Village Antiques!”

© 2014 – Traci Carver

Needing Chutes and Ladders

Beautiful Albemarle Inn of Asheville, NC

Beautiful Albemarle Inn of Asheville, NC

“You know what used to drive me crazy as a kid?” Mom asked as we made the journey by car to Asheville, NC, for some R&R.

“Grandmother telling you that you were going to get cataracts if you hung your head out the car window?”

Mom paused. “Well, that, too. But no, what really worried me was that God didn’t have a birthday. When the preacher would say that God has always been, it worried me. How can you not have a birthday?”

“Or a belly button.”

“A belly button? Glad I didn’t think of that one when I was eight. I wouldn’t have slept for days trying to figure it out.”

We still had an hour and a half to go when the rain hit. And then the hail. We didn’t talk as much then, unvoiced fears of four car pile ups, jaws of life, and a dinged paint job on a car less than a year old hanging thickly in the air. And yet I’d wager that even with the Brillo pad hail and the water pressure like that of Niagara Falls that we’d still have love bug guts on the grill of the car when we stopped.

The rain had finally slackened enough for us to see a few yards off the road when Mom spotted an antique store. I followed her pointer finger and yelled over the noise of the rain, “Don’t think we’ll make that one!”

“We’d need Noah’s Ark to get over there!”

“And even then there’d be the concussion to deal with from the hail!”

“Last thing I need is for someone to hit me on my weak spot!”

After this jolly banter at volume 42, we rode in silence until the rain finally abated. We pulled into the inn’s parking lot at a little past six and stretched from the long ride.

“Look at that,” Mom said with disgust. “There’s still bird poop on the windshield.” If only the betting windows had been open an hour ago.

Inside we found a room worth the ride and deluge. “Look at that carving on the bed!” Mom exclaimed, as she knocked her fist against the headboard to test the quality of the wood. “That’s good stuff,” she declared, but then she took a step back. “How in the world are we supposed to get up there?”

“I think we’re supposed to use the steps.”

Mom took one look at the wicker aid and said, “Yeah, when I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I’ll break my neck on those. Take those away.”

I put the offensive baby ladder in the small sitting room and returned to find Mom with one leg scaling the bed, one arm wrapped around the hand carved post, and the other clawing the air for a grip on the headboard. She finally made it with an Oomph! and then leaned over the side to gauge her altitude.

Alley oop!

Alley oop!

“If I roll off in the middle of the night, I’ll be in full body traction until I’m 80.”

I took my own turn in climbing up the other side, and without those baby steps, it was quite a challenge for the hip flexors. That nautilus machine in the gym doesn’t do half the number on your hip that taking a nap in this bed does.

After an hour of watching TV, I heard Mom sigh. “Great. I need to get down. I guess I’ll just make like a fireman and use the poles at the end of the bed.”

I watched with amusement as she maneuvered along her side until she dropped over the edge and I heard her feet make contact with the floor.

“Bend at the knees,” she said and padded off.

© 2014 – Traci Carver