Life’s a TRip, Episode 14

By Ojijaak

Well…here we all are in the middle of a tire fire. How did we get here? Each of us, I suppose, took a different path, so here, for your isolated entertainment or at least the occupation of time, is my story.

For those who are not aware, February 10 is a special day for Triumph owners and their cars. It is the birthday of Sir John Black whose vision and madness brought us the TR line of roadsters. Where possible, Triumph owners celebrate the day as “Drive Your Triumph Day.” I imagine that if Sir John had been born between, say, April and October, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. Anyway, I proposed to take Sara and Polly out for a day or two of celebration. I publicized my plans through the local network of alleged British car owners and hoped that some might join us…crickets. Thinking that some may wish to celebrate on Sunday, February 9, so not to interfere with a workday, I invited any interested persons to drive on Sunday afternoon as well as on the Monday “holiday.” More crickets.

The hell with it. I decided that the girls and I could celebrate alone – with Nokomis, of course. In the first week of February, I finished the winter maintenance that I planned before the drives. The spring oil changes could wait until the real driving season was closer. In the end, the weather was acceptable, meaning dry, but seasonally cool with clouds massing as the day progressed. I wanted to get both girls back to their dry garage by midafternoon.

I took pictures to document the drives because that is a requirement if one chooses to submit photos to clubs or their publications. Polly and I left in the early-ish morning, and Sara followed in early afternoon. Neither drive was longer than something between fifty and seventy-five miles, but Nokomis and I enjoyed ourselves. Nokomis loves nothing more than the feel of the road beneath her. Sadly, we did not see even one other Triumph. Maybe those who live near us and claim to be Triumph owners or enthusiasts are just wannabes.

Starting earlier in the winter, a college friend and I had been exchanging emails. Just after New Year’s, she asked me if I would like to join her on a weekend excursion. Why not? My schedule is flexible, but there was not yet any information as to where or when. Ultimately, I was asked, or more correctly, told to prepare to travel on Leap Day, February 29. Dress would be casual and appropriate for late winter, and, “Bring cash and your passport, but leave your cell phone behind. They aren’t allowed.”

Remember that at that time, life in the U.S. was “normal.” Newscasts told us that a pneumonia plague of some sort had broken out in Wuhan, China, and appeared to be spreading through China and East Asia. Then we had quarantined cruise ships in Japan and finally, on January 21, a case of this virus near Seattle. The underlying disease was given a name:  COVID 19, novel coronavirus 19. Still, at that time, the viral infection seemed to be so very far away. It was a thing to be aware of, but not worried about.

My plans for the upcoming driving season included several options. In late April, there was to be a regional meeting of VTR in Oklahoma. I thought that I might attend with Sara and, with some luck, get her some more hardware. The national meet would be in Galena, Illinois, starting a week before Labor Day. The thought of driving either of the Triumphs across the Plains with no air conditioning gave me pause, but I did not rule out the possibility. As an alternative, Triumphest was scheduled in San Diego starting on September 10. That fit in well with my fantasy of driving the Pacific Coast Highway, and visiting the Sonoma wine country. I could even extend that TRip through the Oregon coast. I could not have checked everything on this ambitious list, but life was full of possibilities for the Summer of 2020!

I should also include a planned visit to Indianapolis around the Memorial Day holiday to witness a beloved young man achieve a milestone, his high school commencement, and to visit with friends and family. While not a Triumph TRip, a pleasant experience all the same.

So…on the morning of February 29, I met Polly, the college friend, at the airport. I had cash, my passport, proper clothing, toilet essentials, and Nokomis. We boarded a private plane bound for San Francisco. There were plans made beyond that, Polly told me, but I would have to wait for the “best surprise of (my) life.” I have to say that it was that, or at least it was to be the biggest surprise of my life to date.

Polly and I were sharing a late dinner that evening in Sausalito. I had rented a car, and Polly had arranged the dinner and lodging. It seemed to me that our server was taking an exceptionally long time to take our orders; when he finally approached, he moved two nearby tables to ours and motioned to the maître d’ behind us. If you have not read the early episodes of “Life’s a TRip,” this would be a good time to do so.

In walked Joe, Chris, Tak, Deron and his wife, Steve, and Keith’s widow. With Polly and me, it was as much of the old crowd as still lived, plus two. Someone may know, and I do not, when we had last been together. It would be close to half a century at any rate. Certainly, it was bittersweet, as two of our original group are gone.

Not to worry. I will not bore you with the details of our time together save this:  The plan, as devised by Polly and Chris with assistance from Polly’s sister, Sara, I think, was to fly from San Francisco to Seattle and then to go by boat to Vancouver for the weekend. Chris, a retired physician, had come to believe that it would be best to avoid Seattle due to the fast-developing coronavirus outbreak in the area. We remained in the Sonoma and North Bay areas until early morning, March 3, when it was time to get our Honolulu-bound contingent to the airport where they found flight schedules altered due to travel restrictions and other virus-related issues that affected airline traffic and logistics. They were able to re-book on a Wednesday flight, so Joe, Steve, Polly, and I remained with them to keep the party rolling. Joe left for San Diego early in the evening, and Steve departed for Chicago a bit later than that.

Polly and I left just after midday, March 4. Then feces struck the impellor. Less than an hour after I returned home that evening, two state troopers arrived in my drive. It seems that my adult children had been trying to reach me through the day, and had finally requested a “wellness check.” I wonder if that officially designates me as an old fart.

In under a week from our return, the whole world went to hell in a handbasket. Sports leagues suspended, canceled, or postponed seasons, increasing numbers of flights were canceled between domestic airports, and communities, then towns, and finally whole states were “locked down.” You know better than I your individual situation.

In my case, a trip to a local supermarket on March 11 was my introduction to the new reality, or, as I prefer, the stampede ofthe jackasses. Who knew that toilet rolls could be such a comfort to those stricken by a virus? Or is it a prophylaxis? On my next visit, a week or so thereafter, finding toilet paper still out of stock, I left a note on the top shelf:  

“Dear Hoarder,

If you insist on purchasing and keeping an over supply of toilet paper, please be kind enough to leave your address below. I want to know where I should go to shit…”

Yeah, I did. It probably didn’t help, but I felt better. How stupid are you people, anyway?

Since that time, all of us have lived in isolation to a greater or lesser degree. In my case, my favorite pub closed completely for the duration and my alternative will not fill the growlers that I bring from home. Neither has any seating indoors or out as at the end of May.

I am required to mask at any time that I am “in public.” That requirement is so vaguely written that I am not sure if it includes, for example, walking alone on an empty sidewalk. At first, the only mask that I owned was a balaclava required for racing in my glory days. People found it…disconcerting. Worse, when I bought some beer in the supermarket, where a mask was absolutely required, I had to remove it before the cashier could ring the sale. I will not provide details.

Let’s get this out of the way:  I really do not object to masking. Wearing a mask or not wearing one is not a political statement except in one case. If I wear a mask, or if you do, we are not protecting ourselves. We are protecting others to some degree and minimizing the spread of infection. Maybe if you approach me unmasked you are assaulting me. Don’t do that. I hate the feeling of a mask, the lack of fresh air, the uncomfortable warmth, and the irritation of the skin on my nose, chin, and jaw. Big deal. I have survived worse.

Mostly I miss the limited socialization that I, already living as a hermit, used to enjoy occasionally. I miss taking one of the girls out for a day, or even overnight just to drive and to see someplace different. I miss the same things that you miss, but I prefer missing those things for a bit longer to attempting a premature reopening in the absence of a more thorough understanding of the risks involved.

Thank God for books, and thanks, too, to my parents who encouraged my reading. Never a big television viewer, it took less than a week of isolation for me to become completely disenchanted. How many ambulance chasing messages from how many “law offices” air each day? How about if Liberty Mutual shitcans Doug and just keeps the bird if they must?

I doubt that you can tell, but this brings us nearly full circle. If you have read this far, let me apologize to you for your tortured path, and next, I applaud your patience. You cannot know how many times events have altered the originally planned outline for Episode 15. It was to have been the description of the celebration of Sir John Black’s birthday by a group of Triumph enthusiasts. At least five first drafts have been committed to the paper shredder.

Back to books:  Among the books that I have read in the last three months, I have read J R R Tolkien’s three-volume Lord of the Rings four times. You see, that work was my escape in undergraduate days at Yokefellow U. Our little social circle, nine of us, shared it as the only commonality among us. We all read and re-read Tolkien. We played “Hobbit Trivia.” What was the name of Aragorn’s horse? The seven of us remaining played again one evening in Santa Rosa.

This has led to a diversion for me. Since I first saw Peter Jackson’s adaptations, I have objected. I have declared Peter Jackson a heretic. I spend some part of most days reading a chapter from Lord of the Rings, then watching the video adaption of the same passage as closely as possible. I am keeping a notebook of the discrepancies (some are minor, I admit). These are Jackson’s heresies. I will not survive to complete this project. I have not yet arrived in Bree and I have over ten pages of notes.

Were I to finish, I believe that I would find that Jackson’s greatest sin is due to his having been born a New Zealander and thus has never served in combat. Tolkien saw the elephant. He saw the ugliness and horror of the trenches in the Great War. Mr. Jackson dispenses with whole story lines and characters in order to expand scenes of gratuitous violence. Tolkien must have learned, as did I, that even wars fought for the good of humanity (they say) are evil and harm many who do not enter or see battle.

Only someone who has not been there would choose to show an audience scenes of beheadings, tramplings, slashings, stoningsand spearings while completely ignoring the effects of that violence on the faraway Shire. I did not learn this from Tolkien, but I was able to identify and apply what I had learned elsewhere when I read Tolkien’s magnum opus. Ann was right about war. She was right about a lot of things. She would have really enjoyed the Sonoma weekend. I wish that she were with me today to share this isolation. But I would still beat her at Hobbit Trivia.

Aragorn’s horse was Roheryn. You will not find that in the movies. He was a gift to Aragorn from Arwen. The “gift of the lady.” Isn’t everything?


The Rant

There is no rant this time. We all have enough to deal with for the moment. Be smart, be happy, be well.


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