Friday, August 27, 2010

People I Meet: Ken

He asked me for directions, a stuffed backpack behind him and rollerblades in tow.

The smaller Asian man said he was headed to the river - he just didn't know which direction that was, exactly. I pointed off to the south and told him it was just a few blocks away from our spot on Central Parkway. He smiled, said thank you and asked if there were any inexpensive motels along the river.

I thought it odd, considering this man was on foot, and that's when he told me he was rollerblading across the United States.

My jaw literally dropped.

Ken had made it all the way to the corner of Central Parkway and Vine on his rollerblades, with only a backpack full of necessities and a makeshift brake made out of a mop handle and piece of worn tire tread.

What an amazing feat.

Whipping out the journalistic skills of my past, I peppered Ken with questions about his trek. Where did you start? How long have you been on the road? Have you talked to any media?

He told me he started in Santa Monica, CA in April with the intention of completing the journey in three months. There we stood, shooting the breeze on the first day of August, and Ken still had quite a way to go before making it to his final destination in Cape Cod.

Ken told me the entire journey was dedicated to the American people. He explained that, at a spry 63 years old (yes, really), he was grateful for the assistance Americans gave to Japan after World War II. He told of being a small boy in a Japanese classroom, having a teacher share, "Every drop of milk you drink is because of the Americans. Every pat of margarine and every slice of bread - someone from the United States sent it over for you."

This experience, the kindness we showed to Japan after destroying them with Little Boy and Fat Man in what was possibly the darkest days of our world's history - that was why Ken was strapping on his rollerblades every day.

He told me he rode his bike across the U.S. twenty years ago for an effort with similar intent. This time, Ken said, "I must rollerblade because it is more physically strenuous and is the best effort I can make to show my thanks."


I asked Ken if he had a few minutes to wait with me in the shade until a TV camera could show up. This was a remarkable story that nobody knew - a precious treasure that I felt I wasn't worthy to keep to myself.

Ken unzipped his pack and and pulled out newspaper clippings - stories of Ken out west, venturing on the open road with wheels and bearings beneath his feet. He was excited about the prospect of sharing his story with someone else, and I was delighted to sit back and listen.

This is what life is about.

We meet each other on streets, in bars and on buses. A single glance can turn into a conversation - a talk that can turn into an opportunity for communion, appreciation and impact.

My 45 minutes with Ken made a deeply profound impact on me. Here is a guy who is using his own financial resources, 6,600 miles away from his home in Tokyo, wheeling on asphalt in the dead of summer to show his gratitude for my country.

And to think, so many of us in this nation question or fail to appreciate the liberties and blessings afforded to us here.

After the interview with the camerawoman, Ken and I exchanged information. I wanted to follow his journey in the worst way and was tickled when I discovered we could be Facebook friends.

Yesterday my Facebook stream shared with me that Ken had made it to Massachusetts.

A massive smile spread across my face.

He did it.

You can friend Ken Yamashita here.
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

An Homage to A Hometown

Confession: This blog post is complete indulgence. Thanks for humoring me.

Almost frame of this movie was shot in my old hometown.

Harvest Trailer from Ibid Filmworks on Vimeo.

The shots in front of the coffee shop? That's the Main Street mainstay (one of 8 in a town of 16K people) where my youngest sister worked in the summertime.

The shots of the grandson and grandfather fishing? That was taken at West Wharf, along the water where my middle sister and I worked for seven summers.

And the shots of Robert Loggia riding his bike town a thickly tree lined street? That's Island Avenue - the street where my family lived for 14 years. He's descending the ridge that's just beyond our old home, headed toward Middle Beach Road, Madison Beach Club and Tuxis Island.

Harvest took up camp in Madison, Connecticut for several months in 2008. Our town had other brushes with fame (was almost the site for shooting for The Stepford Wives and several celebs live in or very near Madison), but this was the first time a film practically chronicled life in this precious coastal town.

The movie has scored several awards, and I am so hopeful it does well enough to garner a showing at either the Mariemont or Esquire theatres.

Madison is a surreal place and I am grateful I had the opportunity to call it home for a time.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Slow and Steady

Keep Calm and Carry On.

It was a marketing theme thought up by the British government during World War II, only to be used in the event of an invasion. The idea relied on the notion that if a country of scared and threatened people could somehow stay focused and collected during the worst of it, they'd come out victors in the end.

I find some similar themes among my 30-something friends.

Had a great conversation with a 40-something colleague last week about how the midlife crisis is actually happening much earlier for 30-somethings. Whereas our parents and previous generations got married in their early 20s, had children, bought homes and climbed up the professional ladder - only to be a person they didn't recognize and in a place they didn't anticipate - many of us 30-somethings are putting off marriage, children and the whole kit and caboodle.

We're tossing the idea of the nuclear family on its ear and choosing instead to nurture interests, bring aspirations to fruition and become more self-actualized.

This dynamic directly complements generational studies that show Gen Xers would rather have more free time and less money. We Xers crave balance and meaning in our lives, and if that means doing away with traditional constructs, so be it.

Modern day 30-somethings are staring in the face of reality. We are questioning, no, challenging the expectations of a previous era. And so we are giving up our starter marriages, prolonging marriage or toying with the idea of doing away with marriage all together.

Some of us (likely, more of us, too) are eschewing the idea of family and children, in part because of these aspirations for discovery, but also because we are all too aware of the economic hardships our generation will bear in years to come.

Others are delaying the idea of having children, choosing instead to buy bassinets and car seats and breast pumps in our late 30s or early 40s. Thanks to the advances of modern medicine, and the more widely accepted philosophy that one does not have to share genetic code with a child to be considered family, we are inseminating, finding surrogates, adopting and otherwise bending the boundaries of parenthood.

This presents an interesting and sometimes challenging dynamic.

This quest for personal destiny does not jive with Mother Nature's schedule. While women bear the burden of biology where birthing babies is concerned, both man and woman age in similar ways, and so keeping up with a toddler is possibly a greater challenge for both sexes at 40 or 50 or even 60 than it is in one's teens and 20s.

This is the conundrum that keeps me up at night.

I am so torn. My 30s have been a miraculous gift of letting the dust settle after my raucous and irresponsible 20s. I am now more financially solvent, more disciplined and more genuine with myself and others.

This decade has become an opportunity to find my truest self - a discovery that still reveals itself.

That said, I am a bit terrified I won't settle down and couple up in time to meet the deadline of my youth.

Simply put: Sometimes I worry that by moving up my midlife crisis to my 30s, I might miss out on what this decade was supposed to be about in the first place.

My body and my spirit are at war with each other, and the only thing I can do is keep calm and carry on.

Because, no matter which side wins, I will have to live with the consequences and come out a victor in the end.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Victory or Death

Was thinking about how I'd like to re-watch the entire LOST series.

So many great messages, challenges and thoughts.

Victory or death.

You make your own luck.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bad Girl, Bad Girl, Such A Naughty Bad Girl

I think I discovered what it feels like to be a hooker.

Not the whole, money-for-sex thing, but the whole I'm-working-the-corner concept. That's the feeling that washed over me last week as I walked to dinner.

I set out in a short, black, linen skirt and black top, with silver-sequined, kitten heeled shoes, and a little, black handbag. My hair was perfectly coiffed and warpaint covered my face. I was ready for a good time.

But not that kind of good time.

A block away from my home in Over-the-Rhine, I encountered a gentleman named David. Riding on his bicycle, he sidled up next to me and asked me where I was going. A loose t-shirt hung on David's chest; his pants were grubby and his face, his chin and his head were covered in curly, black and gray hairs.

David pursed his lips when I told him I was going to dinner to meet a gentleman. His bike slowly rolled beside me, crossing streets and waiting with me as I watched for blinking crosswalk signs.

Along the way, he shared with me that he's a bricklayer. He cocked a smile and asked what I was doing in such a neighborhood - I told him I lived here. Pace by pace, David followed me. We looked like quite a pair.

I think we were crossing Central Parkway when it dawned on me - we probably look like a pimp and a hooker.

We paced a few more blocks until I arrived at my destination, and David flung out his flip phone and asked me if he could have my phone number.

I politely declined, falsely implying the gentleman was more than a friend. It's a defense mechanism I learned a long time ago - pretending to have a boyfriend when it's convenient.

He wheeled away, his head hanging.

I told him I looked forward to meeting him on the street another time.

Hopefully a time when I'm not dressed to the nines.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th

Today is probably the best day of the year - because my niece, Nora, celebrates her first birthday.

At one, Nora is brilliant, beautiful, and has perfected the art of air-kissing her aunt via telephone.

Nora knows how to use a BlackBerry on her own to randomly call her most beloved relatives, including her Aunt KayKay and her Nana and Papa, complete with heavy breathing and the occasional random yelp.

Nora is the queen of the cruising set, and has also mastered the most shrill shrieking you've heard this side of the Mississippi River.

Nora is practically perfect in every way, and I adore her immensely - not just because (at this rate) she is probably going to have to take care of me in the Old Folks' Home, but because she is the most special little girl in my universe.

Happy Birthday, Nora Bora!

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Just Write

A wise man once told me the best way to get over writers' block is to just plow through it and write.

So here we go.

Hmm. Well. Swagger Wagon. This is a hilarious video that More_Than_A_Mom told me about.

It shows two people who are around my age, bumpin' and dancin' around their fly ride - a Toyota Sienna minivan.

The video is actually quite clever and elicited more than a couple chuckles from me, even though I am the furthest thing away from driving a minivan.

The fact is, I drive a stick shift, and have for about 10 years or so.

When I got my first standard - a VW Jetta - I swore I'd never drive anything but a stick. Five years ago I got my Saab 9-3, thinking it a very reasonable family car (why the hell was I thinking about family cars at 28 years old??)

I've aways thought it would be difficult to drive a stick shift with little ones in tow. How will I turn around and give them their dropped pacifier? How will I turn around and give them their bottle? How will I turn around and swat their ass?

Now, I am entertaining thoughts of getting a sweet sports car when this car decides to call it quits.

At 9 years of age and 98K miles, I imagine I'll be cruising in the Saab for quite some time.

It is fun to dream about cars though.

Sometimes, I envision shifting gears and plowing down roads in a Porsche 911. Not one of the new ones that look like a Barbie car. No, what I'd really love is something from the late 60s or early 70s. Something that would go fast, turn heads and be fun.

Like me.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Do Unto Others

I'm a big believer in treating people well.

But I've come to accept a key fact about life: people are probably never going to treat me as well as I treat them.

I have a generous and sensitive heart. Where I have shortcomings of financial generosity, I compensate tenfold with loving arms, open ears and an opinion that is rarely clouded with unreasonable judgment.

"Treat people as you'd like to be treated," was a popular theme this weekend.

Both in my personal relationships, and in general human decency.

My heart was heavy Sunday morning, and I surmised a bike ride would be the best way to improve my disposition. But, it was not meant to be.

Someone stole my rear bike wheel. Tire and all.

My cheeks were already salty from a morning of weeping (thanks to a sappy movie and sadness over a personal relationship), and so the flood gates flew open and the tears washed over me as I stood in my supposedly secure courtyard.

My brain dashed through a thousand thoughts. "Who would do such a thing?" I exclaimed as I surveyed the border of fences and building walls enclosing the green space.

Those thoughts trailed off to a vision of myself riding my bike, the wind blowing through my hair as the wheels rolled over the pavement.

It's a feeling I first fell in love with as a little girl, atop the seat of my first two-wheeler. A blue Schwinn that my parents still have to this day.

Do unto others. It's such a basic principle, and yet so many of us have swiftly forgotten how vital this basic premise is to maintain a peaceful society.

It's an ideology that is essential to even our closest relationships.

Looking back on some of my connections - both romantic and those of a friendly nature - I feel that sometimes I've come out on the short end of the stick. I don't know that there's any way to avoid that; some of us are givers, others are takers.

I'm okay with that.

It just hurts a teensy weensy bit when I feel like I can't rely on a friend to mirror the way I'm there for them.

And that's when I start broadening my social circle, looking for new connections and brighter opportunities.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

Six is a great age.

Six is rainbows and scratch-and-sniff sticker books and ponies and Elmo.

Six is tying shoe laces and eying bikes with training wheels with envy.

KRM is six years old as of yesterday, and I'd be remiss if I didn't come out of hibernation for just a moment to say thanks to all of you who follow along and read this random melange of thoughts, gripes and revelations.

I admit my posting has been lacking as of late. When I decided to start a blog way back when, I committed to quality. I was never going to post something for the simple reason of shilling out another post. I would never force myself to craft a post because the day required it.

No, I'd only sit down and post when compelled to do so.

Life has a way of ebbing and flowing... and right now I'm treading through a lot of thoughts I'm going to file away for another day. Some of them deal with personal relationships, goals for the future and other heady stuff.

I could write about how my g-strings got tangled together in the dryer last week - but I just don't think you'd be interested.


Maybe you would be.

In any case, thanks for coping with my writer's block. Feel free to suggest a topic I should write about - and who knows, maybe I'll just open up a bit.


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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.