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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Gotta love Toyota!

In spring of 2007, I chose to go to Toyota in order to buy a new car to replace my gas guzzling Chevy S-10. This ended up being a Yaris, a choice I made for its gas mileage and sporty blue color.

Today, the car saw a sad end, when it "died" in a car crash. In the crash, I was hit on the driver's side. Fortunately, my car took the brunt of the damage, and I was safe. Unfortunately, I bid goodbye to my driving companion of 11 years.

Together, my wife, and I have traveled from Pennsylvania to Ohio, Michigan, Maine, New York, New England, Virginia, Georgia, and many different spots in a car I affectionately tagged "The Macho Dude." After all, that was what Yaris translated to.

My car was there for many important moments. I used it to go on honeymoon with my wife, travel to hikes, haul rocks, get through snow, get to work, and travel extremely rough back roads. It never failed me.

Even when my tires were slashed and it needed parts fixed, it came back resilient every time. My auto repair guy told me that it owed me nothing, but I saw my car and its 250,000 miles good for another 50,000.

Today, it fell prey to a driving error, but it "died" keeping me safe. 

I write this to you as a diehard Yaris owner. Normally, we think of that term for cars like Jeeps, VW Bugs, or expensive cars and trucks. For me, I look forward to replacing the "Macho Dude" with his "son," another Toyota Yaris.

I thank you for making an excellent automobile that more than exceeded my expectations.



Thank you for contacting Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
We are sorry to learn your 2007 Toyota Yaris was totaled in a car crash.
We are very pleased to hear how well your 2007 Toyota Yaris performed in the accident.
Toyota is confident its vehicles are among the safest on the road today and is committed to the highest levels of vehicle safety and quality.  All Toyota vehicles are engineered with safety in mind. Every vehicle manufactured by Toyota meets or exceeds all federal safety standards at the time of production.  While passive collision protection is very important, Toyota also provides an array of active, passive, pre-collision and collision avoidance features. The “Star Safety System” is now standard equipment on all Toyota  models.
We understand how valuable your time is and truly appreciate the time you have taken to contact us.  We have mailed you a gift as a token of our appreciation for your confidence in our vehicles.
Your email has been documented at our National Headquarters under case #1804230372.  If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us.
Courtney W.
Toyota Customer Experience Center



Saturday, April 28, 2018

I Think You and the Moon and Neptune Got it Right (with a Little bit of Tremors, Echosmith's "Bright," and the Images of New York)

One of the best trips that my wife and I ever went on was a weekend vacation to Letchworth State Park in New York State. 

For those people that don’t know the difference between the state and the city, the answer is simple, and it’s defined in 2 pictures (the state above and the city below). 

While Jay-Z sings "Empire State of Mind" to represent the New York attitude, it's more about the city, which Frank Sinatra says, "never sleeps." Ace Frehley has his groove, Billy Joel has a state of mind, and Taylor Swift bids you a welcome to the city, but none of them really get the feel of the mountains, the waterfalls, the Finger Lakes, or the surrounding wine country. 

In your own mind, you can choose what you feel is better, and you can enjoy that. While I prefer the surroundings to the city, there is architecture, the arts, hustle, bustle, shopping, restaurants, and a culture unique and to itself in the city. You can't get that anywhere else, at least like this.

There is nothing wrong with these things, but given the chance, I prefer the state as evidenced in these next 12 pictures (to balance the 12 above).

The 3 above are Ausable Canyon


Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame


Hudson River above New York

Watkins Glen

Lake Seneca

Obviously, one of these things is not like the other.

At Letchworth, these are some of the images you can see of the 3 mega waterfalls on the Genesee River (also the name of a beer that would be served in cans to family friends when my parents would go camping). I won't try to explain. I'd fail miserably. All I'll say is I heard wonderful things about it, so we just had to go!

Our final stop on the first Saturday of our trip (Labor Day weekend) was to sit at a viewing spot and gaze back on a waterfall from about a mile away (as the sun descended and left us dark, save the lights on the waterfall). It was too far to take good pictures, but it was beautiful. We sat in the silence and enjoyed the stars. From there, we went to another parking area that was less crowded to watch the stars. Amazingly, we were in the midst of a meteor shower.

The first one that I saw was a brilliantly visible streak. I immediately wished for Heather's happiness.

After a while, we went back to our hotel and crashed that night, falling asleep in a happy slumber.

The next day was a beautiful day with some other waterfalls (Stony Brook) and the New York State Festival of Balloons.

In the picture of the waterfall, you see no people. That's because people aren't allowed on the waterfall. The park discourages this highly. We didn't know this, and many of my pictures show people jumping off a lower cliff for the waterfall. I don't show them so that I can encourage you to be a rule follower and to not get hurt at a pretty park.

Yes, at the balloon fest, we did go up for a trial flight in a balloon. It went up about 100 feet, and the view was beautiful, but I was petrified due to my fear of heights. Mind you, this was before I was diagnosed with Parkinson's (about a year earlier), and my tremors bolted into overdrive. The balloon captain noticed this as well and remarked about my fear.

Who knew I was learning a Parkinson's truth.

By that time, I had also learned anger, positive excitement, and fear multiplied my tremor response. Also, I was engaging in some of the first behavior of foot tremors as my left toes would shake like Taylor Swift's response to the liars and dirty, dirty cheats.

In the end, I was happy to be on the ground, but happier for going around my fears to get up above the ground. Some day, I hope I can get back to NY State and do the Letchworth balloon dream with her. Bucket list stuff, you know.

That night, after supper, we went back to the hotel relaxing before bed. I was reading the Mothman book to prepare for our next trip to West Virginia to see the Mothman Festival. Yes, we really did go to that, and yes, it was that awesome.

As we were in bed, my phone rang. I looked at the number, and though I didn't recognize it, I knew that it was near where my aunt Toot lived.

"Hello, is this Dan?"

"Yes, who's this?"

"So and so from the such and such raffle drawing. You won our grand prize!"

At this point, my jaw dropped and my tremors went into overdrive. My wife kept asking what was wrong, and all I could say was "nothing."

It turned out the birthday ticket from my aunt had come up YUGE (in the words of Donald Trump).

The amount of money isn't important. It wasn't enough to buy a new car, but it was enough to pay off my wife's surgery after her accident in the Las Vegas desert and some other things.

In this, my wish on a shooting star brought Heather her happiness.

It was the fitting culmination to a great weekend in a beautiful place.

Here, I think the takeaway is simple, as Echosmith sings in "Bright," a song we listened to that night as we reflected on our good fortune and the beauty of New York State (which Echosmith capture perfectly).

"Did you see that shooting star tonight? Were you dazzled by the same constellation? Did you and Jupiter conspire to get me? I think you and the moon and Neptune got it right, cause now I'm shining bright, so bright."

The universe provides answers at the most desperate of times. Sometimes, we wait for just one good thing to happen in the midst of a storm, but really, it's all those other things that we're doing when life isn't going right that reward us with the universe's failsafe to keep us from going under. Sometimes, we may miss it because we don't like what it is (it's not always our favorite option), but it leads us to the right place if we accept it. In looking at my life, I can see it many times.

For instance, today, after much debate, I decided to give up teaching for a different option (after 17.5 years in a classroom) that will be better suited for finance, family, Parkinson's, and stability, since I adjuncted for the last 14 years. That was my choice. This is my choice, too. It's still in education, but it's not teaching. I had to give up adjuncting to do this. I could still teach at a different school, but for now that part of my life is over. No fanfare, a little heavy heart, and the future is all I feel.

The other day, my beloved car was totaled. I walked away OK and so did the other guy. While my car was old, I loved it for all it did for the last 11 years. Sunday, it died keeping me safe, and while it might feel weird, I felt heartbroken, even as I bought a new to me Yaris. Today, insurance gave me a check for more than what I ever could believe it was worth.

I'm not saying any of this was a cosmic coincidence. There's no scientific study on wishing on shooting stars, divine intervention, or universal failsafes, but I would like to believe there's a plan in the world for all of us, and something that we don't understand sometimes intervenes in these things.

I'm not saying this will happen to you if you go to Letchworth. I do believe it happened to us.

All I'm saying about Letchworth is it's well worth the trip.

Nevertheless, if you give whatever you feel this power is a chance to happen and believe in the best, it will come to you wherever you are. 

For those of you with Parkinson's who read this, that might be your cure coming. I'm not betting on that for myself though, but I won't rule out what brilliant minds might be able to do.

Maybe we were meant to play a part in someone else's recovery, life, education, or love. I have no idea what either of us are in this great play that is running on the big stage.

All I know is to work through the bad, and when I can, to enjoy the good with my bestest bestest. Somewhere in the midst of that, great truths will be revealed.

Letchworth is a great place to do that, and Echosmith's "Bright" is a perfect anthem for it.