Thursday, March 29, 2007

Soaking Wet, Wearing a Big Smile

Celebrities have iconic images, a look that is clearly stamped in the public eye and is readily associated with them. Back in the good old days, when we had few TV channels and everyone watched the same shows, an impersonator didn’t have to say a word to conjure up images of Ed Sullivan, Jack Benny, or Jackie Gleason. The way an arm was held, an eyebrow raised, a pained expression, and we all knew who the subject was.

Today, with the proliferation of celebrity status, it’s much more difficult. A woman on her knees barfing could be Paris Hilton, but it could be Halle Berry or one of our many celebrityettes. It’s the modern measure of celebrity: name recognition today, rehab tomorrow.

For those of us who are not celebrities, we may have as many iconic images as we have lasting associations with others. My image of Alice is soaking wet (fully clothed) with a big smile. Usually a bicycle is also in the picture.

After Marilynn died, and I joined Great Expectations, I noticed most of the young ladies wrote they loved outdoor activities and exercise. However, when I dated them, I discovered that a “love of outdoor activities and exercise” was very elastic. It seems that to many a walk through an uncovered shopping center satisfied both the outdoor and the exercise components.

This then brings me to Alice and her description of herself. If anything, she understated her love of outdoor activity, exercise, and of particular significance, adventure.

Unlike all the others, who said they loved the wind and the rain, but didn’t want to mess up their hair, Alice loves the wind and the rain and never gives a thought to her hair.

While I was auditing hazardous material and waste management at Lockheed in Sunnyvale, California in the early 1990’s, Alice accompanied me on all my audit travel projects, one of which started at Cape Canaveral, then up coast to Kings Bay Naval Base near St. Marys, Georgia, and finished at the Naval Base at Charleston, South Carolina. At Kings Bay we rented a bungalow on Amelia Island and while I worked, Alice explored the island on her rented bicycle.

We had already learned from previous travel on Lockheed business to Cape Canaveral that just about every day in the Atlantic Coast South includes a short but heavy thunderstorm. A particularly powerful one hit one afternoon after work just as I was driving back to our bungalow. When I got to the place we were staying, Alice and her bicycle were gone. Just as I was hoping that she hadn’t been caught out in the storm on her bike, I heard her on the front porch.

When I saw her, I had to laugh. I had never seen a person wearing clothes who looked so wet in my life. And I had never seen such a big smile anytime, anywhere. Alice had been totally thrilled and energized by her experience pedaling through the storm. Instead of being a discomfort and a bother, to Alice it was a great adventure. I could tell by her expression and energy that she was eagerly anticipating biking through the next thunderstorm to come along.

In the years since, we have experienced several memorable soakings. Once was in 1998 biking back to Rothenberg ob der Tauber from Wurzburg, and another was in Scotland in 2002 pedaling to Stirling on our way south to Edinburgh.

Now we live on the beautiful Northern California coast, and except for the few periods when health problems make her take it easy, Alice and Buddy take several walks every day. The morning and evening walks are usually along our road and through the woods, but their afternoon walks are to the beach, regardless of weather. Since she’s not on her bike, the combination of umbrella, rain gear, and raincoat usually keep Alice fairly dry. However, Buddy comes back looking like a happy drowned rat, and it usually takes me at least two towels to dry him. Needless to say, Alice and Buddy both love their walks, rain or shine, and Buddy loves the attention and towel rubdown, and his milk-bone reward.

My special reward is looking at their happy faces, and hearing Alice say “God, I love this beautiful place.”

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