Monday, May 13, 2013

braver than I...

DAREDEVILS     “I’ve thought about this for three days,” said the usually confident Carlos. Although I’d hired him to remove what looked to be an oversized bay window insert of ½” to 1” thick plexiglass from my second story window, I hadn’t wanted to ask how he was going to do it. Designed and constructed by a friend who was an engineering genius, my bay window had developed a leak I couldn’t remedy; I was concerned about mold and mildew as it worsened.

“I’d taken out a third floor window before, but never this,” Carlos remarked after he’d finished the job.

I’d watched and took a few pictures until the scariest part of the removal began. Carlos and his acrobatic helper didn’t pause for even a moment; I had to leave the room. Ten minutes later, the men were cleaning the hole and measuring for the window to be installed where the insert had been. They would be doing that too.

I was more than a little relieved. We’d waited until Sunday and we’d roped off the site. We’d trusted in the plastic’s tensile strength even after stress cracks appeared. At least they did.

Although, by watching them, I’d learned how to do a future removal, I hope that task never comes. Nail biters like me don’t make good daredevils.

I’d thought about that the day before when I visited the Eno Gallery in Hillsborough. Behind the counter was Sue, the woman who had introduced me to the dirt racetrack near downtown Hillsborough made famous by the likes of Wendell Scott and Richard Petty.

“You missed our celebration in Danville at Wendell Scott’s house,” said Sue. She told me that his daughter, Sybil, had arranged the gigantic affair. “Even the chief of NASCAR was there,” Sue informed me. Her club, that maintains the racetrack, had brought one of Wendell’s racecars; they displayed it near Wendell’s house.

How had I missed that event? “When was it?” I asked.

Sue told me.

“I was in Israel, visiting my daughters,” I said. Otherwise, I knew I would have attended.

She was excited at hearing my travels; she listened, then shared stories about a trip she’d taken, a pilgrimage she’d made every year for seventeen years.

“Every February, I go to the Iditarod race,” she beamed. She told me about friends she’d made in Alaska, about the exciting things she does there, about the volunteer work for the race that allows her to interact with dogs and their drivers.

“This time, it was 50 degrees below zero,” she told me as she showed me a picture on her I-phone. “You can really tell a difference when it goes from 40 below to fifty.”

Like summer to spring, I thought to myself, jokingly. But I didn’t say a thing because she was serious. I looked at her picture, wondered how life forms manage to get their blood to circulate at such extreme temperatures. I asked her about protective clothing. She told me about her special wardrobe, much like what a modern Eskimo wears.

When it was much warmer (she may have said “only 15 degrees below”), she rode on a sled to make a 22-mile run with a driver she had met. When they reached their destination, he checked for bears, dangerous at that beautiful but lonesome place. They looked around, walked on a frozen lake, then heard that a white out was coming. The way Sue described it, I thought of a coastal sailor’s pea soup condition where visibility is naught. A similar condition in sub-zero weather was life threatening. They headed back.

Midway, the storm hit. They couldn’t stop. They couldn’t see. Fortunately, the driver knew the route, was able to rely on bright orange markers that somehow served as a trail. Although she admitted to being overjoyed to get back to Fairbanks (I think it was Fairbanks, but I may be wrong. I was too focused on their life or death struggle to hold that detail.), I sensed she might yearn to do it again.

That’s when I asked the big question. “Does your husband want to go too?”

Sue laughed. He never had. They shared a love of theater and Manhattan, but not the thrills of the far north. I didn’t blame him. Sue plans to return next year. She told me that as she showed me a picture of a blue-eyed sled dog she had befriended. She reminisced. It seems that the dogs are strong enough to do what they do because they exercise all year. When it’s warm, they’re hooked to a Jeep-sized vehicle they readily pull. They’re that strong!

Even so, I noticed they were wearing what looked to be boots when they pulled on the ice and snow. “That’s what they are,” she told me. I didn’t ask how the sled drivers had found out their dogs needed them. Nor did I ask about places to stay if ever I wanted to go there.

Like Sue’s husband, I wouldn’t want to. Instead, I dream of Belize and Aruba and Cuzco (in the summer!). Pictures of those tropic getaways seemed even more appealing as I left Sue and the Eno Gallery. Back at home, I thought about that. I accepted that I’m not a daredevil like Sue and the guys who removed my bay window.

I’m more into politics and hotly contested ideas. That’s why I write about fundamental Islam and its threat to our western culture. Chances are that I’ll be writing about that for quite some time. But I’m not the only one. At home, at my computer, I noticed an article about another group of daredevils who, in their own way, are much braver than I am, demonstrably so. Although we share the same thoughts, I’m not sure I will ever be able to make arguments as boldly as they. This is what I saw from the Atlantic:

Femen Stages a 'Topless Jihad'
APR 4, 2013

Earlier today, members of Ukrainian feminist group Femen staged protests across Europe as they called for a "topless jihad." The demonstrations were in support of a young Tunisian activist named Amina Tyler. Last month, Tyler posted naked images of herself online, with the words "I own my body; it's not the source of anyone's honor" written on her bare chest. The head of Tunisia's "Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice," reportedly called for Tyler to be stoned to death for her putatively obscene actions, lest they lead to an epidemic. Tyler has since gone quiet, leading some to fear for her safety. Below are images from Femen's protests today in Sweden, Italy, Ukraine, Belgium, and France...

                                                B.Koplen 5/13/13

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