Behind the Notebook
June 2, 2008
Filed under Uncategorized
It’s not uncommon to walk into the Powersports Business offices on any given day and see an empty desk or an editor with that unmistakable “just got off a plane” look to them: wrinkled clothes, a pile of notes to transcribe and most important, lots of caffeine! The PSB editors travel from one coast to another — and sometimes beyond — to report the news we know is an invaluable tool to our readers. But for every grand excursion we take, there’s always a good story we share with our co-workers that doesn’t make it into the magazine — until now. The following are a few tales of adventure the PSB
editors have experienced during our travels from Taiwan to England and nearly every place in between in the past year or so. Enjoy!
WALKERTON, IND. – In the middle of what felt like nowhere, I wondered why I agreed to visit some small town in Indiana to see the Amish. I knew it would be a memorable experience, but driving my rental car gave me time to wonder if what I’d heard of strict behavior and quiet demeanor were true. It was an out-of-place feeling driving up a gravel road to one of their barns in an SUV the Amish would never ride in. It was even stranger taking pictures of their surroundings since their values don’t allow photos of themselves. Although they were more than friendly, it was awkward moving around frequently to get shots that didn’t include them. At one point, my phone started vibrating in my pocket, and I felt it too inappropriate to pull it out and turn it off, much less answer it. Yet it was me being paranoid because Tommy Sloan, Tommy Toppers’ founder and president, was talking away on his phone and pointing to things he thought I would need pictures of. He joked and laughed with the Amish about the happenings in the community, while I listened with amusement, bewildered that he was so relaxed with a group of people that had such different values.
His relaxed attitude carried over to his house when we took a UTV for an impromptu ride. In black boots with 21?2-inch heels and dress pants, I was slightly overdressed for a ride through a swamp. After driving down a dirt road, we took a sharp left to reach a creek. Tommy inched the UTV forward until we sat suspended on the bank at almost a 45-degree angle; our seatbelts locked against our chests. Staring down into the water, we debated whether it was too deep to get through. But Tommy gunned the gas anyway; water flooded the floor and mud splattered up the sides. Wide-eyed and realizing we weren’t going to make it up the other side, Tommy reversed us out of the embankment. With mud-splattered pants and a flight to catch in a few hours, I got my memorable experience.
— Karin Gelschus
TAIPEI, TAIWAN – I consider myself to be a very open-minded person … with the notable exception of food. My food can never touch any other offering on my plate. I won’t eat anything mixed together (such as casseroles) and it took my wife years to finally get me to try a fruit salad that has ring pasta in it.
So imagine the horror on my face, while sitting in a busy restaurant in Taipei, Taiwan, when our guide for a media event to visit the headquarters of SYM presented each of the journalists with a special treat: the country’s infamous 1,000-year-old egg. The egg is a traditional Chinese cuisine made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs in mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime and rice straw for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing. After the process is completed, the yolk becomes a dark green, cream-like substance with a strong odor of sulfur and ammonia, while the white becomes a dark brown, transparent jelly with little flavor or taste. I took that statement from an encyclopedia, and I can verify everything except for the “taste” part.
The egg was just one of the numerous crash courses I took on the differences between Westernized Chinese food and its traditional roots. No sweet and sour chicken, no fortune cookies, just an endless series of culinary surprises that had me cringing and running outside for air.
And yes, I admit it, I’m a big chicken and most of my colleagues during the trip ate their food with a smile and a nod of approval. I did sample the shark-fin soup, and for some reason still unbeknownst to me I braved a bowl of snake soup at one of Taipei’s night market restaurants. Centipedes wrapped in tofu? No thanks. Blackened goose head? Thank you, but I’ll pass. My only saving grace: At the end of one of our dinners, the dessert was strawberry Haagen Dazs ice cream. I savored every spoonful like it was my own little piece of heaven, and vowed to myself never to turn my nose at potato salad or tuna casserole ever again!
— Steve Bauer
Hinckley, England – From a journalist’s viewpoint, the best description of conducting an interview I can give is jumping onto a floating log and then trying to stay dry. There are so many things that could potentially upright the conversation that you need to constantly shuffle and reshuffle, all the while hoping to maintain some sort of equilibrium without looking or sounding too silly.
As if that isn’t hard enough, my first trip overseas, for Powersports Business and otherwise, proved equally challenging before I even turned my voice recorder on.
Halloween’s eve, last fall. A crisp late afternoon in Hinckley, England, home to Triumph’s headquarters. I arrived at the hotel two hours before an initial interview with Triumph executives. First thought: Shave and iron the clothes I had hastily thrown into my suitcase some 11 hours ago.
First calamity: The wall outlet in the bathroom bears no resemblance to anything I’ve seen before. Instead of three circular specs in the wall socket, there are three huge holes, something akin to what a toddler would shove some brightly colored triangular-shaped object into.
A lengthy inspection of the room reveals more of the Jurassic Age outlets, certainly nothing that would fit my electric razor. After a chorus of swear words, I venture outside my room to find a portly maid walking by. I wave and ask for an outlet adaptor. I swear she answered back in English, but all I could make out was the word “lovely” when it was repeated several times over the course of a sentence or two. So much for shaving, on to ironing.
But several minutes of inspection finds no ironing stand, no iron and only something that appears to be a concoction of both. Only it doesn’t work. Find the maid again. Decipher the language. Wait some more. Ten minutes to scheduled interview time the hotel’s technician knocks on my door. He enters, goes to the ironing station concoction and pounds on it for several minutes before turning to me and saying, “Well, that’s rubbish. It’s broke, mate.”
“Lovely,” I say, grabbing my voice recorder.
— Neil Pascale