Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fiercely Local at Douglas and Oliver

The excitement is building. A formerly renowned and locally owned  Italian restaurant, known as Angelo's, closed for many years, may now be reopened by a relative of the family that started it. This is big news to the local citizenry. For some people it is the joy in the recollection of the fantastic aroma of the meatball sandwiches. For others it is simply the spaghetti and meatballs. For still others it is the incredibly authentic Italian salad with an un-pitted olive, eggplant pieces and dripping with savory Italian salad dressing. But for me, it was the Deluxe pizza.

I recall vividly the first time I tasted one of those pizzas. It was with my wife to be, her mother and her brother at the restaurant's location on East Harry street here in Wichita. The place was hardly what you would consider fancy. In fact it was kind of a cheap looking place. But nobody cared because they knew how good the food was. A warning note on the menu says that if you order the extra large deluxe pizza, be prepared to wait a little longer, because it takes awhile to bake. Nobody complained because they knew what was coming. Just ask my sister about the place. Long after she and her husband had moved to Tulsa, they would sneak back to Wichita and dine there.

That pizza is close to an inch thick! There were chunks (yes, chunks) of  beef, Italian sausage, ham and the most amazing pepperoni I have ever tasted along with green pepper, black olives, mushrooms and onions. Cheese is piled high. The only possible imperfection, to a Cyborg like me, might be the crust, but I never heard any complaints. Everything else was so spectacularly good. One piece was all most people needed. I kid you not!

The potential future location is the northeast corner of Douglas and Oliver streets, a place that once was a popular, locally owned jewelry store for many, many years.
It was almost sad to see the former jewelry store close. In the day of big chain stores in the mall, this local store had fought a good battle for market share. My wife and I had purchased rings there in the past. Everybody in town knew where this store was and the good reputation it had in the community. Eventually though, the markets became more difficult and the store eventually closed.

Ironically, very close to this location, across the street and down a little bit is one of my favorite pizza restaurants. This place, also locally owned,  has wood oven pizza, jazz music, great atmosphere and great pizza, calzones, salads and sandwiches.  

All the pizzas are good, many with unique toppings such as artichoke hearts, spinach, etc, that wouldn't be found on a pizza from a"corporate pizza" restaurant.

You may or may not know that "Pizza Hut" started here in Wichita in the 1960's. The original owners, two brothers, sold out to Pepsico, I think in the 1980's. I don't blame them. They made a bunch of $. They were hugely successful and I have eaten a lot of their pizzas over the years. Their pizzas were good. I say "were", because now the recipes are different and, in my opinion, the restaurants are now just very "corporate", the bottom line is more important than the food. I guess that's what happens when the company has to answer to Wall Street and shareholders, rather than the actual customers.

The original Angelo's Italian restaurant was never that way. Il Vicino isn't either. I haven't eaten a Pizza Hut pizza voluntarily for many years. For the same reasons I won't eat at Domino's or any other big chain. Something gets lost in the process.

Being "Fiercely Locally Owned" seems to thrive at this intersection. All 4 corners have retail stores, but the southwest corner is the most interesting, to me.
Supposedly the first true shopping center in the history of the world. I cannot verify that, but there are some great stores here. A marvelous florist, a good shoe store and a variety of shops.
This shopping center was not too far from the edge of town in the 1940's, far enough from downtown, that a walk downtown, to go shopping, would have taken awhile. But a walk here from what is known as the College Hill residential area would be rather nice. People used to walk more, and not complain about it.
Max in the morning sun helping to provide evidence of the origin date on the shopping center.
There is one local store here that I admire a great deal. One that has survived the upheavals of the market crash and weathered blistering competition from national chain stores. It is a locally owned bookstore. 
Surviving in a vast sea of competition, this small, but mighty, locally owned bookstore is an anchor for this shopping center. 
I am sure they have struggled at times, financially, as they compete with big box stores like Barnes and Noble and Borders, etc. But the customers of this store remain "fiercely loyal" to their local neighborhood book store at a time when it would seem that the obstacles against them might be insurmountable. Nonetheless, they survive. They compete. They do not give up!

It is almost like Winston Churchill, who was quoted as saying something like:
 "Never, Ever, Ever, Ever Give Up!"

I guess this Cyborg likes the idea of being "Fiercely Local" and not ever, ever giving up.

A lot of very loyal former customers hope the Angelo's restaurant is able to be revived. I bet my sister, who now lives in the Dallas area, will drive up and partake of their food once again.

Ride On and Carpe Diem my friends.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Man and Machine

I wasn't kidding about being a Cyborg. Here's the definition:

A human who has certain physiological processes aided or controlled by mechanical or electronic devices.

In my case the device is an Implanted Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD). Big words for a tiny device that is amazingly sophisticated. It consists of a pulse generator, a battery, a programmable computer chip, a wi-fi transmitter and connections for electrical leads (wires) that go into two of the chambers of my heart.

It's not a new idea. They've been doing this for over 20 years. In fact, medical science has become very adept at putting artificial devices in a human body.

My device constantly monitors the activity of my heart. It will attempt to pace my heart (cardioversion) if the heart rate either gets too fast or too slow. But the primary purpose is to protect me in case my heart tries to beat too fast (fibrillation). If that happens, the pulse generator will create a jolt of electricity to my heart similar to using defibrillator paddles. That jolt essentially interrupts the fibrillation of the heart muscle and allows the electrical system of the heart to essentially "reboot" and try to start beating again in a normal fashion. They work and they save lives. 

Now the word "cyborg" can conjure up many images of altered beings whose only apparent limitations are limited to the imagination of science fiction authors. But in reality, it is much simpler than that. 

I consider myself to be a primitive sort of cyborg. I say primitive because it is only a matter of time before major advances are made and people may be eventually walking around with all sorts of mechanical and/or electrical "enhancements".

I'm not complaining because the device may save my life someday. For me, the device's purpose is to protect me. It is meant to "restore" the functions of my body. 

Other devices might be  considered "enhancements" and are meant to improve the functions of a human being. There will be controversy here. For instance, there is a sprinter going to the Olympic Games this year with artificial legs. Does he have advantages? Could there be other athletes someday with enhancements that we don't even know about? Unseen? Did Lance Armstrong have cybernetic enhancements to help him win the Tour de France?

Seem far fetched? It's not! The day is coming. And it may not be that far off!

What about this? We've mentioned humans with mechanical or electrical enhancements. What about a mechanical device with human implants or enhancements?

Can they make a scooter to be more human? Do we want them to?

I am "Wi-Fi", Therefore I am.

Ride On and Carpe Diem my friends!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Premeditated Changes

Went for a hot Sunday morning bicycle ride. I had sort of planned to ride by a certain destination. But a certain bike path looked good when I approached, so I changed my mind and took a new direction. I didn't regret the decision.

Been thinking about the direction of this blog lately. I have to admit that some changes in focus and direction may happen. I thought about that as I rode this morning.

I thought about some of the things that define me as a person. My profession. My hobbies. My health. My family. There has been a change in priorities with respect to all the things that define me.

I received excellent news from my cardiologist this week. Fantastic news! Spectacular news! Good enough news to cause a change of outlook. He thinks my recovery is remarkable and better than he expected. For some time I had been living with a concern as to how much longer I would live. It now looks like I'll be around for a long time to come.

It was a great ride this morning. Slight breeze, lots of sun. Time to think. Time to enjoy. I could have taken the scooter, but somehow I was drawn by wanting to get the exercise. Don't know why. Don't care either. And that is part of the issue.

I have changed.

So don't be surprised to see some changes on this blog, maybe even a new name.

I am not abandoning the original purpose of the blog, just hoping to add to it in a way I hope is interesting to readers. But remember, this blog was always an extension of me, my interests, my experiences. In a way it is just as much for me as it is for my readers.

I have changed. The blog will too.

Life is too short.

Back to this mornings ride:

I encountered a woman working on a small public garden near the bike path. I wondered why she was there on a Sunday morning. She didn't look like a city employee, no uniform, but could have been, I guess. She seemed to work diligently and I thought how neat it would be if she was just volunteering her time. I don't know, and won't ever know, but I can imagine the possibility.

At another location on the path I saw a woman with a small child in a stroller. As I approached, I waved at the child and said Hi. I could hear the child jabbering a bunch of nonsensical utterances, which sounded pretty funny. Mom didn't say anything, but had a huge smile on her face. I was having a nice morning outing, she and her child obviously were too.

Then as I approached home, I was a little tired and just leisurely riding along. Another bicyclist approached from the opposite direction at a much faster rare of speed. Sort of instinctively I just extended my left arm and gave her a "wave", you know, a motorcyclists type of wave. I chuckled as I did it thinking I'm not sure if I have ever waved like that to a fellow bicyclist before. But it worked. She nodded her head at me and simply said "Hey!"

So "Hey!"

There may be some changes coming, but they'll be "Premeditated".

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Yielding to Patriotic Ducks

Sometimes its the little things you see when you are out riding that you remember.

Just this morning I saw a woman walking about 4 small somewhat unruly dogs on leashes encounter a guy on a skateboard. You can imagine what was to happen. The small dogs were ineffective, but attempted to attack the guy on the skateboard while the woman cursed and tried to maintain control of the little varmints. At the time I was thinking SIPDE and decided to give the whole scene a wide berth, which I did. In my rear view mirror I saw the skateboardist escape and move along down the street. I laughed out loud for nobody to hear but myself. Quite a scene!

Yesterday I had to run an errand and, darn it, I had to take the scooter and, darn it, I had to ride along the river here to get where I was going. My route out was along the west side of the "Big" river, my route back was in between the "Big" and "Little" Arkansas rivers which happen to meet each other very near downtown Wichita.  (Remember, the river here is pronounced like the state of Kansas, not Arkansaw.)

As I rode out I spied a cushion from a couch sitting in the grass by the side of the road. Not remarkable, in and of itself, but I spent the next few minutes as I rode wondering why the hell it was there and what were the circumstances to its arrival which I will never know or be able to figure out. Just Guess. A never ending conundrum? Ahhhh, it probably blew off the back of a pickup truck while someone was trying to move. Won't they be pissed when they get to the new location and wonder where the cushion is. Will they go back and look for it? Will it still be there if I go back by there today? Am I the only person who is troubled by these thoughts? Do I need counseling?

I dropped my papers off at the client's office and headed back downtown, but on the way I go by the parking lot that is essentially the spot where drivers license testers give the driving tests to motorcycle riders and commercial truck drivers. I remember this spot from 4 years ago when I was tested to get my motorcycle license. The place wasn't busy at all so I go in and test my skill at one of the tests I remember. It was the one where you had to keep your cycle between two lines for a certain distance, but at a very slow rate of speed, sort of a balance test. I did it again for fun. I think I passed. Later that night I looked at my drivers license and realized it will expire at the end of November. I better get practicing!

Then, closer to downtown I go through Riverside Park (aptly named) and had one of those moments when you wished you had a camera ready at all times. I stopped, but had to take a glove off and dig the i-Phone from my pocket before I could get a shot.

Now, mind you, I have been stopped here before, in the park, by ducks crossing the road. And I really don't mind even though I could sense that other travelers (particularly in cages) were a bit "put out" by the proceedings. I didn't mind and really enjoyed the parade. They crossed the road mostly in single file which made the delay even a little longer to the chagrin of some drivers. The first group was about 12 or so. Then a little break and then another group of 15 or so. Then, still another break with about 10 ducks following a leader who lead them all to a grassy area not far from the river.

And it was sort of like a parade. I could almost imagine each duck carrying a little American flag (July 4th is tomorrow, don't you know) as they paraded across the roadway to their destination.

I do need counseling, don't I?