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Essentially Ashland: Give me the balance

The sun's rays beat down unmercifully upon the arid sands. It seemed that the Nile was just a few feet away, but it was just a mirage that presented cool, clear, cold water. Gathered under the force of whips and chains were a thousand slaves on each of 50 thigh-thick ropes that attached to multiple harnesses that surrounded the imposing obelisk. The task was daunting, but the head engineer did not give it a second thought. Failure was not an option, for if the resolute stela failed to mount the platform, thousands might die, including himself.

Resigned to his duty the engineer gave the signal and 50,000 grunts echoed through the valley. Wood groaned as greased skids began to smoke, then catch fire as the tremendous weight was slowly slipped down a slope and onto its base. Such was the effort that sweat poured like rain on the sand as the sound of the lash upon skin wailed above the din. In less than five minutes the rigid structure was in place as the workers felt slack, then pressure on their lines. The oscillations decreased in magnitude until the head engineer addressed the monolithic pillar that stood imposingly:

"Lance, so what's the problem with getting on the Segway. You look stiffer than a statue in a public park. You said that this was going to be easy," intoned my wife, Annette, who always accuses me of making a big deal out of nothing. I guess she was right, though the fact that pigeons were atop me and delivering their customary blessings with gusto, did nothing to enhance my image.

My awkward and hesitant gait goes back to when, as a wee lad, I got bucked off of a tall stallion, upon which I was placed for a photo op. The horse kicked my baby bottle out of my mouth so fast that we got the patent for dried milk. I landed on my head, of course, and from that moment on had a penchant for walking into door jams, walls and gates. Paths were for those with no direction. I paved my own way.

My knack for falling followed me to the slopes of Mount Ashland, where I rigidly stood on my skis while those around me flowed, slid, swished and swooped gracefully down the slopes. The more I thought about skiing, the tighter I became, until I looked like cured concrete concealed in ski bibs and a parka. With the same lack of fluidity and grace, I first mounted a Segway in hopes of a smooth transition.

I grabbed the handles of the Segway as if engaged in an arm-wrestling contest. Where delicate balance is rewarded with performance, I clutched and strained to overrule the Segway's five internal gyroscopes, which I did not trust, for I could not hear or see them. My knuckles were white and my toes grabbed at my sandals as if their wrenching would somehow make a difference. Slowly I eased forward and crept out the gate and onto the sidewalk, which, suddenly, looked as narrow as a high-wire under a circus big top.

The tortured squeaks and pops I heard were not from my ride, rather they were my ultra-tensed muscles trying to sue for peace. Instead of surrendering to the elegant transport, I took myself prisoner and arrested my sense of balance.

After a few minutes I relinquished my balance to the gyroscopes leaned slightly forward and glided silently down the sidewalk and carefully into the street. I slowly began a controlled spin while stopped, backed up a little, aimed up the street and was at the coffee shop in a gulp. I stepped off the device, parked it and walked inside for a latte, rewarding myself for not having run into a parked car.

Only then did I take off my helmet and gloves, for I still don't trust the door jams.

Lance was last seen fluidly flying across town, wrapping up the last details of his upcoming book, "Essentially Ashland The Missing Years." Due to his successful dance with the Segway the etched-in-stone edition is no longer scheduled for production.