Packing for trips

As some of you know, I get packer's anxiety. I travel a lot, but I have a list for my list. Anytime I can simplify my packing and downsize my load is a win.

 When packing, everything has a place, and every place has a purpose for your travels. Space is always a challenge when traveling. Over the last six months, I have been working on reinventing my packing methods. In the past, my packing was a hot mess. Finding what I wanted when I wanted it was often frustrating. While motorcycling, every day you pack and unpack. Being organized makes for less mess and less stress and saves time.

 Packing cubes are one of those things I have found to be great. I have about eight different sizes of cubes for various space limitations. I used to pack my clothes by items. All underwear, socks, etc., were together. Now I pack by the day. The cubes I bought are dual-sided. One side is waterproof, and the other side is vented. This is good for separating dry and wet clothes or dirty and clean clothes.

 Laundry soap bars are a great way to wash your clothes on the road. I know this sounds crazy, but wearing your dirty clothes in the shower and soaping them up is good way to do the laundry after a long day of riding.

 Ziploc bags are great. I have a ton of them in different sizes. I use these for things I need to keep dry, and I can see what is what. I use them to waterproof my wallet to keep it dry while riding through the rain. I use them for my medications. I use heavier bags for my tools so I can quickly find the right tool for the right job.

I have a few small clear cosmetic bags for packing my electronic chargers and cables.

 On one trip, I pulled off from an ATM and did not realize I left my ATM card in the machine until I got to the next gas station. I was in Kansas City and had to borrow some money from a friend to finish the trip. These days, I carry a spare credit card and cash and keep them on the bike, just in case something happens to my wallet, or  I do something stupid like leave my card in an ATM.

As you continue to refine your packing skills, Nirvana is achieved when everything has a place, and every place has a purpose for your travels. If not, you overpacked.

If there is a topic that you would like to discuss, you can contact me at Ride safe!

This, that and the other

03 group of people making toast 3184183Just this month, the United States has endured six school shootings. CNN reports that 2019 brought us 45 school shootings in 46 weeks, from Georgia to California, in elementary, middle and high schools, as well as on college and university campuses. Of those, 32 occurred at institutions serving kindergarteners through high school students. Here are the most recent.

Nov. 3 A 30-year-old student was shot and killed in a Texas State Technical College dorm in Waco. The victim the shooter knew each other.

Nov. 4 A University of Central Missouri student was killed in an on-campus apartment when a gun was accidentally discharged.

Nov. 5 A man was shot outside a dorm of a Langston, Oklahoma, university.

Nov. 11 A 19-year-old student was shot getting out of a vehicle near Achievement Academy, a high school, in Baltimore, Maryland. Law enforcement authorities believe shooter and victim had been in an altercation.

Nov. 14 Two students, aged 14 and 15, were killed and three injured in a shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California. The shooter, 16, turned the weapon on himself and later died.

Nov. 15 One adult and two children were injured in Pleasantville, New Jersey, when gunfire erupted at high school football game.

Barely over two months ago in September, one of 45 school shootings took place at Fayetteville State University where a 20-year-old former football player was found with numerous gunshot wounds.

When are we going to stop this, or are we even going to try?

Other nations have issues of violence with various causes, but no nation — I repeat — no nation tolerates the gun violence to which we have apparently grown inured. No other nation allows civilians to own weapons of war designed to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. 

What if Sandy Hook happened not at Sandy Hook Elementary but at VanStory Hills or Benjamin Martin Elementary and your child, grandchild, niece or nephew were in one of the classrooms shot up by the shooter? 

What if instead of Saugus High School, an alienated 16-year-old shot up Jack Britt or E.E. Smith High Schools with your terrified child, grandchild, niece or nephew trying to find safety? A Saugus student told an interviewer that students there choose classes not by subject matter but by which classrooms have large, locking closets.

How much longer are we going to make our young people live like this?
Two stories from the “Who Knew?” department.

The Pew Research Center reports this startling find. It seems that between 1995 and today, some 59% of adult Americans between 18 and 44 lived with an unmarried partner, handily out pacing the 50% who have been married. During that same time, the percentage of currently marrieds dropped from 58 to 53%, while the percentage of those cohabitating rose a full 7%. So glad my grandmother missed this news flash.

And, this happy news from the animal kingdom. As we in North Carolina know all too well, hurricanes can be major weather events with strange consequences. Hurricane Dorian slammed the Bahamas in September before moseying on to make landfall at Cape Hatteras. Just south, Ocracoke Island was stunned by a 7-foot storm surge that flattened homes and businesses and from which the community is struggling to recover. During the storm, three wild cows living on Cedar Island went missing, presumably swept out to sea. Well, not so fast. It seems the trio has turned up 4 miles away on the Cape Lookout National Seashore, happily munching federal grass.

I don’t begrudge them one bit!
When I was a child, Thanksgiving was always at our grandparents’ house, complete with white tablecloths and fancy china. In more recent years, it has been with cousins and friends, less formal and sometimes rollicking fun. Thanksgiving 2019 will be different still, but always a welcome respite with folks near and dear.

Wishing you and yours a warm and peaceful Thanksgiving wherever you may be!

Fun at the Thanksgiving table

04 element5 digital RPjyNMHDrFY unsplashIt’s the most wonderful time of year — the full-blown eating season. The sun has disappeared due to the end of daylight saving time, leaving us in the dark at 5 p.m. Entering the depths of darkness, what is better at chasing away November’s gloom than overconsumption of calories? It is better to eat a candle than curse the darkness. Fortunately you don’t have to eat candles in Fayetteville. Seasonal food is all-around you.

 Today’s lesson will attempt a road map of what and where to eat. Locally, the eating season begins with the Gray’s Creek Woman’s Club dinner on the grounds in mid-October. If you have never been to this excellent event, go next year. It is a symphony of fried chicken, country ham, chicken and pastry, more country-style vegetables than you can shake a stick at, homemade desserts and an infinite variety of deviled eggs. As an added bonus, you can buy a chance to win the world’s best homemade quilt. I have been attending this fine event since 1978 when I first darkened the door of the Cumberland County Courthouse as a young lawyer. Young no more, but still able to darken a door, I give this elegant country cooking event five stars.

Next up on the eating agenda is the World’s Largest Spaghetti Supper at the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church. This is one of the true highlights of the eating season. The 61st edition of the spaghetti supper occurs Nov. 20, which coincidentally is the date of the publication of this issue. Read this column, and then go buy a bunch of boxes of spaghetti. Not only will you get the world’s finest spaghetti, but you can purchase the best Greek pastries in the universe. It is also the opportunity to see some of the hardest working people in the world slinging spaghetti and baklava.

Which brings us to the grand-daddy of all eating events — Thanksgiving. It’s time for the annual food coma. There’s turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, rolls, pies, cakes, adult beverages and, last but not least, relatives and friends sitting around the groaning board discussing topics both tame and inflammatory.

As nowadays everyone agrees on almost everything, conversation around the dinner table may lag when the turkey bloat sets in. To keep folks awake and engaged with relatives they see once a year, toss out some of these verbal stocking stuffers to get the conversation started and opinions on full boil. It is guaranteed if you bring up at least three of these topics, you will not have to buy as many Christmas presents for your relatives after these discussions — as you won’t be speaking to each other. It’s fun and thrifty, too!

Go ahead. Try it out. Before the pumpkin pie is served, blurt out your version of the conversation topics below: 1. Donald Trump is the greatest/worst president we have ever had. Anyone who disagrees with me is a poopy head. 2. Melania Trump is the classiest/strangest first lady in American history. 3. Adam Schiff is a pencil necked geek/ American patriot who is trying to oust the savior of American democracy through a sham impeachment process/ save America from a moron ignorant of the Constitution. 4. There is/was no collusion. 5. There is/was not a quid pro quo. 6. The phone call to the [president of Ukraine was perfect/a sleazy attempt to root out corruption/get dirt on Joe Biden. 7. Dook basketball is the greatest/most overrated program in the history of round ball. 8. Coach K dyes his hair with black shoe polish. 9. Elizabeth Warren is going to save/destroy the American health system. 10. Bernie Sanders is too old/radical/cranky/white to be president. 11. If Joe Biden is elected president, it will be illegal to say “Merry Christmas.” 12. Black mold is good for you. 13. More teenagers should vape because it makes them sophisticated and keeps them off heroin. 14. Climate change is a Chinese hoax sustained by fake news of heat waves, fires, melting ice caps, floods, giant hurricanes and drowning polar bears. 15. Mom always liked me the best. 16. Russia is our best friend.

 17. Formaldehyde is good on pancakes. 18. Gravity is not just a good idea, it’s the law. 19. The pepperoni pizza is nature’s perfect food. 20. If life were more like the Hallmark Channel Christmas movies we would all be much happier and healthier. 21. Sean Spicer should have won/ been ashamed to be on “Dancing with the Stars.” 22. Hillary Clinton was robbed/ the devil’s spawn. 23. Democrats/Republicans/Independents are in league with the devil.

24. Air travel during the holidays is more relaxing than ever. 25. It’s lots of fun until somebody shoots their eye out with an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200 shot range model air rifle.

Let the eating begin. Loosen your seat belt, it’s gonna be a lot of bites. The eating won’t stop until Jan. 2, when the gyms begin their annual guilt membership drives.

Bon appetit.

Tip accordingly

03 white ceramic cup 2878708Once upon a time in a land far away, a 20-year-old college student waited tables for the summer at a tony private club on a New England island. The six-person wait staff was all college students, including three from North Carolina, among them the Tar Heel girl who won the flip among the wait staff to see who would service Uncle Walter Cronkite and his wife lunch. Deploying her Southern accent, much enhanced for the summer, our college student once received a $50 tip for hamburgers for two from a visiting New Yorker apparently charmed by the Southerness of the belle.

That young waitperson was I, and that tip — far more in today’s dollars — instantly brought home to me both the importance of tipping in the service industry and the inherent unfairness of that system. It turned me into a routine tipper, even for mediocre service, and sometimes a big one. Tipping is what puts food on the table, clothes on the children, pays the utility bills of your servers of all sorts — wait staff, cabbies, hotel housekeepers and the like — because their employers do not pay them a living wage.  

Not all countries treat service providers the way the United States does, but overhauling our gratuity system would be a colossal task with massive opposition from all sorts of service industries, including restaurants and hotels. Prior efforts to move to a no-tip system have failed, and restaurants that automatically add tips to bills risk significant consumer blowback once they recover from the added 20% sticker shock. Tipping remains a cruel and capricious system, dependent on the whims of service consumers, but it is what we have. It is instructive to look at our system in all its ugliness.

New York Times writer David Brooks took a recent look at our gratuity system, referencing the perceived pros — tipping rewards excellence, and the cons — it discriminates based on gender, age, race, even appearance. Brooks relies on research by Michael Lynn, a Cornell University business professor, who finds that quality of service does not have much to do with the size of the tip.

Research finds the same sorts of bias in tipping as in other areas of American life. Young, blond women servers get bigger tips than brunettes. One survey found that Uber drivers get 12% higher tips from men passengers if the driver is a young woman. African-American and Latino servers can expect smaller tips across the board. Servers in upscale restaurants can make a good living from tips, surely because their customers have more disposable income, while people who work in the back of the house do not. Servers in more downscale establishments can expect to struggle more financially. In short, tipping has much more to do with the tipper than the server.

Brooks said he cheers on efforts to reform our gratuity-dependent system but is not holding his breath. In the meantime, he has several suggestions aimed at taking bias and capriciousness of the system.“Tip 20% when the meal is over $25 and 30% when it is under.

“Always, always, always leave a tip in a hotel room.

“To combat implicit bias when tipping drivers and others, commit to a percentage for all rides and stick to it.

“Understand that the advantages you enjoy are products of both your individual effort and privileges you didn’t earn. Tip accordingly.”

I never waited tables for pay again after my New England summer job, but the lessons I learned at that fancy-dancy club remain with me. Brooks’ last bullet sums them up perfectly. Our tip-for-service model does not reward excellence. It can even punish it and the hard-working people who practice it.

Tip accordingly, indeed.

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