I've been mulling the purchase of a trekking umbrella, not so much for protection from the rain,* but from the sun. One thing (beside the cost) holding me back is the thought of all the odd looks I'll get. On my bike ride last weekend I wore a wide-brimmed hat instead of a helmet, and a passing rider nearly crashed from the impropriety of it. "'Tain't right," I heard him thinking. Imagine the suffering of passersby unused to seeing a grown man carrying an umbrella in the sun; why, I'd be a proper Hanway. (I'd almost certainly fare better on remoter trails. True trekkers get it - umbrellas are not uncommon on the PCT, for example.) The second point in an umbrella's favor is its potential utility in unwanted encounters with strays. Not sure where I read it (Lassie, maybe), but there was a scene in a novel where a couple dogs got into a squabble "until the umbrellas came out." So, not a new idea, but in that use-case a handheld (or otherwise easily accessible) umbrella might be better than a hands-free trekker. I mean, a charging dog can run fifty yards in less than three seconds. A quick-release mechanism might be helpful.
So, yeah, I dunno. I mean, sometimes I march to my own drummer - heck, I practically pioneered the wearing of wide-brimmed hats in our neighborhood (more typical around here are ball caps with the brims turned backwards, sigh) - but it can get wearying. On the other hand, I have a powerful motivator in the form of a few dermatologist-disapproved spots. Sometimes getting older makes it easier to stop caring what other people think. Especially when they're wrong.
*When we lived in the Pacific Northwest nobody used umbrellas. Everyone up there had good rain gear instead. Similarly, I have it on good authority that umbrellas are not common in rainy Iceland. Too windy. That's a problem here, too - it doesn't rain often, but when it does, it comes down sideways.
It's been a long while since I've been on my bike, but after my morning walk with Ondine I aired up the tires and took a spin to the lake. The chain was dry and the tires are showing a little dry rot, but it held together. PJ was on the porch when I got back - she seemed impressed that ol' grandpa knows how to ride.
At our local park this evening Pan and I noticed that everyone had their faces glued to their phones. All of them, every single one - we counted eight on the sidewalk in front of us. Most of them were standing transfixed, but one lady was shambling blindly through the grass after her outstretched arm and screen. Pokeycrap, I assume, but still quite a "welcome to the future" moment.
My first impulse was to pull out my own phone (which was, after all, in my pocket recording our walk) and take a picture, but I stopped and scolded myself severely. (I think my exact thought was, "These are not the droids you're looking for.")
I blame Walt Disney for sugar-coating everything; we need to read more of the old stories with the dark edges to our children. We've forgotten that magic always, always exacts a price. Little boxes on wheels that can zip you directly to wherever you want to go, in total comfort, in any weather? No problem, but they'll take 50,000 lives a year, turn the world ugly and eventually ruin the planet. A tiny device you can use to talk to anyone in the world, anytime, or to discover any known fact, instantly? Here you go, but you'll never have another secret that's all your own, nor ever again smell a flower or hear the trees murmur. A small object you can hold in your hand and point at a living creature and cause them to fall down dead? Well, OK, but that one will cost you your soul, brother.
Think I'm gonna start leaving the phone and camera at home and get me a tin-foil umbrella-slash-cane-slash-walking stick.
Now this seems sensible: Kale eating contest! (eater) Anyone can eat a bowl of potato chips, but it takes real talent to eat a bowl of apples. (Also, fun trivia note: the largest buyer of kale in the NYC area is the Bronx zoo.)