New outdoor relationship requires a few ground rules
Hey, Gal … glad you could join me on my bike ride today. We’re riding pretty close to 15 miles on one of my favorite routes outside of Stevens Point, and it should be a lot of fun. We’ll stop and take a few pictures.
But we have to talk.
I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and I need to tell you right away that I’m setting ground rules for this relationship.
I know we only met each other last week. It was definitely exciting, and you seem to be everything people say. I like you and think we could have a good thing here. Still, it will have to be with my rules, and you might as well get used to that.
First of all, I’m not sure I’ll be inviting you on many bike rides, but if I do, I’m going to basically be trying to hide you. No offense. You’re good-looking – slim, elegant in your own way, but still plenty muscular. You’re smart; that’s obvious. And you clearly can be useful.
But will you give me water when I’m thirsty? No; didn’t think so. Stupid question, wasn’t it?
Look. You’re just a phone. Granted, you’re a Samsung Galaxy S6 Active, made a little tougher for the outdoors, with lots of bells and whistles and plenty of capabilities.
The thing is that I’ve seen how other people act around you. They can’t keep their hands off you. They’re staring at you all of the time, oblivious to their surroundings. They’re addicted.
I’ve even seen them doing these things while they’re on their bikes. It’s a wonder they and their phones aren’t both dead (although I guess we’re not seeing them for a reason, eh?).
This is the worst kind of co-dependent relationship. Despite your attributes, you’re a soulless machine. You need people to own you to have any meaning at all, and they desire you to meet a bunch of cravings that seem never to be satisfied. After a couple of years, even less, they dump you for the newest model, and the cycle starts again.
That’s not going to happen here. I’ve got plans for you, but they don’t involve sitting around the campfire texting my friends and family members that I’m sitting around the campfire.
You’re not taking a selfie, ever, unless it’s by accident, like that one the other day. When I saw that thing, I knew what I had to do: set limits immediately.
So here’s the deal: I’m on the $5-a-month, 6-cents-a-minute plan for talk. I suspect you’ve noticed that I haven’t invited you into a single discussion yet. We won’t be talking much, especially in the outdoors. I’m a conservationist, not a conversationalist. Not with you.
We won’t be texting, either. I’m on a 200-per-month diet for two bucks.
The data is another thing, but not a big one. When we’re camping, you can tell me about the weather and maybe where the nearest open store is when I need something. You can tell me about good local restaurants, but we’ll eat mostly stuff from the grill or the camp stove.
Maybe the occasional football score, but I want you to notice that I almost never ask that of my other “little friend,” the satellite radio, while I’m in the outdoors. In emergencies, though, you can definitely help out.
For the most part, the things you bring to the relationship are those I’m running away from when I go outdoors. You’re great with email and calendars and helping with my work – that is, after all, why I applied for a grant to get you in the first place.
Keep that in mind, please. I have to pay to feed you, but I didn’t pay to buy you, because you’re just not that important to me. Trees and rocks and water? Absolutely. Birds and animals? Check. And don’t forget my family and human friends.
You? You’re my friend at work and my servant at play. Stick to that and we’re golden.
Now let’s see what you did.
Wow – great pictures. Look at those beautiful fall leaves. Look at the light reflecting against the dark water. Nice work!
Maybe we’ll get along fine after all.
Taking the outdoor smartphone pledge
Having never sent a text message, I put off getting my first smart phone for a long time. A lot of the reason is it seems antithetical to what I really like, which is getting outside when I can, however I can.
I decided it was time when I found myself telling multimedia journalism students to use smartphones for everything they do if they want to be efficient but still do quality work. Now the trick is to make my smartphone just another helpful gadget outdoors, rather than a center of activity as it so often becomes.
So those are my rules: no selfies, stay away from email, no texting from camp unless the topic is very important, and no topic is very important while camping unless it does not involve a text. And no selfies.
Did I mention “no selfies?”
Paving over paradise
One of the pictures I took on my bike ride, which went down Clark Street, out to River Road and a little past Rusty’s Backwater Saloon on the Wisconsin, was of the pocket park next to Sentry Insurance in downtown Stevens Point.
The park is dear to our family because we have walked or biked past it and through it many times on the way to the farmers’ market, riverfront festivals or KASH Park, among other destinations. Our children can rarely resist the lure of a detour down its brick path and past the wonderful mature trees and cool greenery that turns lovely fall colors later in the year.
By the time this column hits mailboxes, the city’s Historical Preservation/Design Review Commission will have heard a Nov. 4 request to take out the park to add more parking to Sentry’s lot on the east side of the building.
Virtually anyone who’s seen the park understands the charm and beauty it adds to downtown, as well as the sheer oppressiveness of the expanses of parking in the area beyond the park and extending for a couple of blocks in virtually all directions.
We all know of the benefits of trees and greenery – they cool our asphalt jungles, filter pollutants and add visual buffers between us and the sometimes-necessary urban ugliness that even a community our size has.
It will be a terrible loss to the downtown area if the park is removed. Granted, our corporate neighbors have their needs, but how wonderful would it be if the city, the company and Stevens Point residents could find some alternative solution to this issue?
If the commission has turned down the request by the time you read this, the issue will likely go to Common Council for appeal. At least that might buy a little time for folks to come up with a plan.
Otherwise, we may need to gather and sing the words to Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” out on Clark Street.
“They took all the trees, put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”
Thanks to Park Board members
There was an interesting piece in the New York Times this week on New York’s state plan to spend more than $900 million on capital improvement projects for state parks by 2020. Contrast that with Wisconsin, where the state has pulled virtually all tax support from parks, slashed all sorts of spending to local communities and legislatively limited the ability of communities to raise money through their own taxes to keep up with public services.
Those decisions are being felt by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and its Board of Park Commissioners. The board heard an update on the city budget during its Nov. 3 meeting, and a major focus was the city’s exercising of an option to take a substantial portion of the city’s hotel room tax for the city general fund, when historically it has gone directly to park projects – especially capital projects.
The new approach, necessitated by an almost half-million dollar cut in state aid to the city, plus state laws limiting what the city can do about it, will mean parks projects must compete against other capital projects for a smaller pot of funding.
“I think we have to remember how special our city is and how many cool things were built from the room tax,” said Jeff Bahling, board president. “It’s unbelievable. And now we’re taking away that money that made our place so special. I think it’s a shame that it has to go into capital projects.”
“I know the state’s putting us into some challenges, but we need to challenge ourselves and look at trying to keep it,” he said.
It was an inspiring speech and a reminder of the difficulty of tasks facing citizen volunteers for our local boards and committees. Thanks are in order for Bahling and other commissioners, including Wayne Sorenson, Liz McDonald, John Okonek, Sue Hall, Michael Glodosky and Robert Freckmann, as well as the Stevens Point Common Council representatives to the board – Heidi Oberstadt, District 4, Jeremy Slowinski, District 6, and Mary McComb, District 9.