Wednesday, August 29, 2007

bushcake

I came across this last week on the washington interns gone bad website. I think it bears repeating.

George W. Bush’s Iraq War Freedom Cake
(extra rich recipe)


Preheat a gas oven to 911 F. In a small bowl mix together one unfairly selected president, a vice president with corporate ties and a neo-conservative agenda. In a large pan, take the grief from a tragic national incident and place on stove, turning heat to high. Scramble the truth and slowly add grief while whipping war on terrorism and axis of evil propaganda until firmly set. Carefully fold in lies and confusion. (For darker recipe, use a black National Security Advisor and Secretary of State to distract from racist implications of the war while placing AIDS, unemployment and the black community on a back burner.) Divide country and cut all dissenters of war into small pieces. Separate those who fit the war's racist profiling and freeze anti-war discourse. Drain international goodwill and taxpayer's money to fund war. (If you can't find any weapons of mass destruction, you may substitute the liberation of the Iraqi people instead.) Cover (up) all dead U.S. troops and Iraqi casualties while thickening combined batter with grandiose statements like "Mission Accomplished" and "Bring it On." Grease pans generously with oil from Iraq and cover finished cake with American and Iraqi blood.

Serves none.

By Max Gordon

Monday, August 27, 2007

back to it

The routine returns. Mary started the new school year today so the onset of our usual school year daily routine is on us. It seems like only yesterday that the summer began. Now here it is nearly Labor Day already and my golf game has not improved. I need more summer.

A few quick thoughts......last month we were complaining about the drought conditions around here and how low the lake levels were. Our lake is up about ten inches from where it was a month ago. Now, after two weeks of not just plentiful rain but torrential rains, some areas of Wisconsin are suffering through damaging floods and have been named federal disaster areas. FEMA is on the case, so naturally nothing will get done to help all those people who have lost their homes and businesses. Do I sound cynical? Prove me wrong, FEMA.

With all the abundant rain the grass is growing with impunity, daring me to try to keep up with it. I am fighting the good fight and will continue to hack down the rampant growth, even if it means cutting daily. I have my new lawn mower to help me so I feel confidant that I will soon gain the upper hand. The lawn hasn't been invented yet that I can't handle.

August has become wedding anniversary month for this family. I wonder if it is a genetic thing that we all chose August as the month for our weddings. Mary and I are married 38 years on the 30th (I think it's the 30th. I better make sure), son Jonathan and Katie are married two years today, and daughter Carrie and Jeremy are in their 3rd week of marriage. Maybe the phase of the moon has something to do with it.

I love this time of year for all the sports that are happening now. Football season is upon us, baseball is entering the crucial run uup to the playoffs, and even golf has started a playoff round of tournaments to end its season. We should have tickets to the Wisconsin homecoming game (haven't heard from the alumni association yet) and my friend Pete has somehow managed to get us two tickets to the UW-Michigan game in November. The Packers are looking good (they are undefeated so far , but then so is every other team). The Brewers are causing some vexation by losing more than winning and giving up their hold on first place in their division to the Cubs. But we all know the Cubs can't win anything meaningful so I am not too worried. And there are still two good months to play golf before the weather keeps us locked inside until April. Maybe my golf game still has time to improve. Positive thinking--that's the ticket.

Simple, but good, things to look forward to.......tomorrow I get to have lunch with my friend Rich. Haven't seen him in nearly a month. This weekend we get together with our group of eight lake friends for dinner and conversation. Next week Jonathan is coming to the lake to play some golf with me (he took a couple days vacation) and I get to help him paint his garage, too. What a full and exciting life I lead. Bet you wish you were me.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

bugs

On the drive to our lake cottage here in central Wisconsin today, I came to the realization that there are no bugs in California and way too many here in Wisconsin.

How did I come to this conclusion, you ask. Simple observation.

For the two weeks we spent in California driving all over the place, over a thousand miles worth, not once did we encounter a bug slamming into our windshield. Not a one. Nada. Not even a glancing blow. So there are two possible explanations. Either there are no bugs in California or the ones that are there are smart enough to avoid a speeding windshield.

Conversely, in the two hours it took to drive here today, the windshield on the van resembled a Jackson Pollack splatter made of the mashed mucous of innumerable smashed and slaughtered bugs. Again there are two possible explanations. Either all the bugs that should be in California have migrated to Wisconsin looking for our more congenial climate and there are so many of them that they can’t get out of the way of that speeding windshield, or Wisconsin bugs are too stupid to avoid that same windshield.

The net result of course is a messy windshield. Could that possibly be another reason to move to California?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

everyone's friend

Mary has the uncanny ability to connect with people, all kinds of people. No matter where we go she manages to meet and get to know anyone she encounters. People just seem to open up to her. They must sense that she is genuinely interested in them. I get a real charge out of being with her and observing her while she does that. I never get tired of watching her work her magic with total strangers who, after a brief few moments with her, leave knowing they have made a new friend. I don’t quite know how she does it, but it happens nearly every time we are in a situation where strangers might encounter each other.

Several times during our trip out west we met strangers in various situations who, when we parted, were convinced we were their new best friends, just because of the way Mary related to them. One day we were out for lunch when we entered a stylish place that only had room at the bar too seat us. So we sat down on our barstools next to an elderly woman who had just finished her lunch. Naturally Mary started a conversation with her and before you knew it, 30 minutes had passed by and we had the woman’s life history and had a few laughs. When she got up to leave she gave Mary a hug and a kiss on the cheek and remarked about what a wonderful person she was for taking the time to talk and get acquainted. Happens all the time.

There was a clerk at a local store in Oakland a few blocks from where we were staying who Mary encountered on her nearly daily excursion to that store. They became fast friends just because Mary would seek her out each day to tell her what we were doing that day so the clerk could give us directions on how to get there.

One of the kids’ (kids? They are married now) neighbors in the building where they live had been somewhat unfriendly for some time. Naturally Mary set out to rectify that situation. I don’t know how she did it, but that neighbor is now Mary’s best friend in the world.

While we were touring around Lake Tahoe we met an older couple who were doing the same thing we were, taking pictures and admiring the scenery. Of course Mary offered to take a picture of them if they would return the favor. Twenty minutes later we had two new friends from Michigan.

Our flight home from San Francisco was as smooth and easy as it gets. Mary made a new friend on the first leg of the journey home, spending the entire 3 hours talking with a young grad student from Iowa, who got off the plane in Kansas City. By the time the flight ended they had exchanged email addresses and promises to stay in touch. On the shorter leg of the journey from Kansas City to Milwaukee, Mary made another friend with the young man who took the seat vacated by the grad student. He was a native of Somalia who immigrated to this country with his family in 1999 and who was traveling to Milwaukee to go to school. After giving him as much information about our hometown as we could, Mary proceeded to mother the guy and advise him about all the things that mothers are concerned with. They talked about school (the teacher in Mary took over then) and laughed when he told stories about his learning the English language and some of the misunderstandings that come from language confusion. He speaks five languages and he is obviously a good student and a very respectful young man who will undoubtedly be successful in the future. By the time we arrived in Milwaukee, Mary had provided him with several lists of people, places, and job opportunities. Of course she gave him her email address, too, just in case he needed any help while he gets settled here in town while getting started with the coming school year. He was such a polite and caring young man that when he saw me with my cane and my struggle to carry my couple carry-on bags when we got off the plane, he just took the bags from me and insisted on carrying them and escorting us all the way through the terminal. When we parted he and Mary hugged as if they had known each other for years, not an hour. I got a very respectful handshake while he called me “sir.” I sincerely hope we hear from him again some time soon. He gave me a great sense of confidence in the next generation. If Mary wasn’t so quick to connect with people we never would have met and got to know that young man.

The flight attendant on our flight remarked to me about how friendly Mary was. I told her that given fifteen minutes she would have the life history of every passenger on the plane.

So beware. If you ever encounter my wife, you will give up all your secrets to her before you realize what you’ve done. But you will be happy that you did.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

our excellent adventure part X

Friday

The honeymooners have returned. We picked Carrie and Jeremy up at the airport around noon today. They had a wonderful time in Spain, but were glad to be home. Mary an I figured they would need some time to unpack and get reaclimated to home without having us getting in the way, so we hopped in the car and took the four hour drive to Lake Tahoe this afternoon.

Glad we did. The scenery on the drive here was spectacular. Every turn in the road provided another incredible vista. The long drive was so worth it. The sky up in the mountains was a deep blue that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. The late afternoon sun cast lengthening shadows that created more depth to the landscape. Driving from bright sunshine into a canyon created by shear rock faces and towering pines was like gliding from day into night. And when we rounded one of those turns and saw Lake Tahoe nestled between surrounding mountains, it was a nearly religious experience.

Now we are relaxing in a very nice hotel in South Lake Tahoe after getting a free dinner at a restaurant here. The freeby was a result of our order being “lost” by someone in the kitchen. The staff was very apologetic and solicitous when we mildly pointed out that we had been waiting a rather long time for our food. I suppose I would have gotten the same free dinner if I had ranted and raised a ruckus, but I feel so much better that the free dinner was their idea and not a result of my throwing a tantrum. We left there full and happy and now look forward to tomorrow and some more spectacular scenery before heading back to Oakland and catching up with the newlyweds.

Saturday

We toured the west shore of Lake Tahoe this morning before heading back to Oakland. The scenery was unparalleled in my experience. It was another cloudless day of bright sunshine and that ridiculously blue sky. We cruised slowly so that we wouldn’t miss anything and took enough pictures to fill the camera’s memory card. Then we made the long drive back arriving in time to spend the evening with Carrie and Jeremy.

We went out to dinner late and sat in a sidewalk café, eating gelato for an hour before dinner. Very European. The kids were used to that kind of schedule, having spent the past two weeks doing the same thing in Barcelona. Me, I was starving and ready to scavenge for crumbs on the sidewalk. But the long evening was a great chance to hear all about their trip and tell them about our adventures while they were gone.

Now we are sitting in the San Francisco airport waiting for our flight home. Our excellent adventure is nearly over. All we need is an uneventful trip home to bring it to a successful conclusion. I am ready for it to end and anxious to return home to a normal life again. Vacations are great, but home is better. Later……

We are home safely. More tomorrow about our trip home and the interesting people we met along the way.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

our excellent adventure part IX

My goodness there are a lot of grapes in Napa Valley. Everywhere you look the fields and hills are striped with rows and rows of grapevines. Driving through the valley today we were treated with the constant view of gorgeously maintained vineyards.

The wineries themselves (there must be a hundred of them in a 20 mile long stretch) each seem to be trying to outdo their neighbors with their buildings and landscaping. Fancy doesn’t quite cover it. Ostentatious seems about right. They are all trying to create a sophisticated ambience in an effort to make their wines seem more special than the next winery down the road. Several that we stopped at added snooty to their description. I sometimes felt like an intruder sneaking in where I didn’t belong and wasn’t welcomed.

Adding to the snobby air at some of the places was the hushed and reverent tones that the wine experts, both the buyers and the sellers, adopted when discussing the qualities of the wines they were tasting. They swirled and sniffed, delicately sipped, and then rhapsodized about the essence of the smoky flavor layed over a hint of berries and a distinct essence of old oak. Ok. My expertise runs more to identifying red from white and sweet from dry. Other than that, if it tastes good, drink it. If it tastes like last year’s vinegar, dump it in the potted plant and move on. The pretension displayed by some of those people is frightening.

We still enjoyed the day and managed to buy a couple bottles of wine that we liked when offered a taste. Of course we only sampled at the wineries that offered free tasting. Some of the places that offered tasting wanted me to actually pay them for the privilege. Some wanted fifteen bucks to gag me on their snake piss, and then wanted me to spend upwards of a hundred bucks to ransom a bottle of it from them. I don’t think so. They should be paying me to give them my opinion of their attempt at wine making, not the other way around. I can almost guarantee a thumbs up on any wine I don’t immediately spit out. Their $95 bottle of wine tastes pretty much the same as the $4 bottle of Cabernet I picked up at the grocery store last night. Pay me the fifteen bucks and your grandma’s moonshine would get a rave review from me. I’m easy to please. Just don’t rape my wallet in the process.

Aside from the financial aspect of winery cruising, I really enjoyed seeing the complicated process of creating wine from the newly planted vines to the finished bottled wine. It seems to be equal parts science and art. I am impressed by the amount of effort it takes to supply me with a bottle full of wine to share with friends and family. Just don’t ask me about the smoky berry and oak essences that are supposed to be there in every drop. Drink and enjoy and let the bullshit pile up in the room full of experts.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

our excellent adventure part VIII

A nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. Maybe not such a nice place to visit when you consider what it was built for. Alcatraz is both fascinating and frightening. And cold.

At 11:30 this morning we boarded the ferry that runs out into the bay and takes its passengers to the "Rock", as it is affectionately called around here. At the loading dock we were enjoying a nice warm sunshiney morning, wondering if we had needlessly overdressed in our sweatshirts. But once out on the water, the sun was dampened by a layer of high fog, and heavy breezes that dropped the wind chill into the forties made us wish we had worn our snowsuits. But we toughed it out on the upper deck just so I could get a few good pictures of both Alcatraz in front of us and the San Francisco skyline behind us.

Once on the island we were instantly engaged by the story and legends that hang in the air, giving ethereal life to the many souls that once inhabited this awful place. It's hard to feel sorry for the despicable criminals who were locked up in those dingy cells, but seeing those bars and touching those walls gave credence to the term "hard time." The cold that permeates the place is not just from the cold winds that blow across the bay, but also from the cold-blooded crimes that those cold-blooded criminals committed to get them locked up inside the frigid confines of this prison. If you listened closely you could almost hear the plaintive cries of the men who suffered through their time here. Prisons are supposed to be punishing, and this one was most certainly that.

The audio tour provided by the National Park Service was essential to understanding just how Alcatraz functioned. It provided the stories of some of the inmates and guards in their own words. Hearing those voices only made the atmosphere tht much more eerie and alive. I was fascinated by the hardships they endured while trying to put myself lin their place inside a 5'x9' cell of concrete walls and floor and ceiling. If ever there was a deterrent to crime, this place is it. I feel the need to return that pack of bubblegum baseball cards I swiped from the five and dime on the corner of twelth and Geele Ave. back in the fourth grade. I promise to be good. Please don't lock me up in this place.

As stated before, Alcatraz is a "nice" place to visit, but living there is out of the question. I'm glad I got the chance to experience it, if only from a tourist's detached perspective. It brought to life the realization that there are bad people out there who need bad places to keep them. Trust me, you don't wnat to be bad.

Monday, August 13, 2007

our excellent adventure part VII

The weekend provided some needed down time from all this vacation frivolity. We just hung out at the apartment for the most part. Mary got to exercise her cleaning fetish by attacking with her dustcloth and cleaning rags the corners and crevices that only she can find. I read and napped and took her out to lunch. Since cleaning and eating out for lunch (preferably alfresco--the eating, not the cleaning) are her two favorite things to do, she is mostly happy and content. She is easy to please most of the time.

Today it was back to exercising our tourist muscles. We decided to do a driving tour of some of the highlights of San Francisco. Our first destination was Chinatown. Ok, what’s the big deal? You’ve got about 16 square blocks of Chinese people milling around and scampering from shop to warehouse to restaurant. Only they know which is which because all the signs are in Chinese. At least I assume that is Chinese on those signs, but since I neither speak nor read nor write Chinese, I am left with the uneasy feeling that they are pulling a fast one on us. San Francisco’s Chinatown is ostensibly one of the largest concentrations of Chinese in any city outside of China itself, but I can’t shake the feeling that it is really a Disneyesqe creation meant to separate the European/American Caucasian tourists from as much of their money as legally possible. It seems to be working out well for our Asian brothers since they have enough of our money now to buy most of the rest of downtown San Francisco.

After leaving the Far East Pavilion of Disney World, we drove to the top of Telegraph Hill. The Coit Tower juts skyward from the top of this mound of rock and dirt. From the top of the tower ($3.75 just to ride the elevator to the top), the panoramic view of the entire Bay area is unequaled. Since I am too cheap to pay to ride an elevator, I only saw 95% of the Bay area from the top of the hill. Somehow I don’t feel cheated at all.

The high light of my day, and the part that left Mary with a permanent twitch, was the drive down Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world as they bill it here . This is the street featured in innumerable TV and movie car chases where the bad guys are too stupid to take one of the other straight streets to make their getaway. Five mph is the posted speed limit and that is a careening pace if you choose to dare going that fast. I was grinning ear to ear while twisting the steering wheel hard right and hard left while smoking the brakes. And that was just coasting. Mary spent the entire five minute ride hyperventilating and entreating every saint she could think of to help spare our lives. Her entreaties must have worked, or maybe it was my amazing driving ability, because we arrived at the bottom of the hill unscathed, with nary a dent in the car or my ego.

We then cruised the Embarcadero, a drive along the waterfront with a lot of buildings blocking the view of the water and big buildings that house rich people. Every major city has an area just like it, and we poor folk love to drive by and wish.

That was our day today. Tomorrow we do the Alcatraz tour to see where they housed the bad guys who stole the rich people’s money and then tried to get away by driving down Lombard Street. Go bad guys!

I promise a full report tomorrow.

Friday, August 10, 2007

our excellent adventure part VI

We've been busy. And somehow we keep spending more money. I guess vacations are like that. Everything costs more than you expect, and you spend money on things you would never consider if at home. And we haven't even bought any tacky souvenirs. I did buy a Cal sweatshirt, but I did need another sweatshirt so that doesn't count as a souvenir. And today I found myself at Pebble Beach and in need of another cap and towel for my golf bag, so it made sense to buy them with the Pebble Beach logo on them. Those aren't souvenirs, they're necessities.

Yesterday we gave in to our cultural urges and visited the de Young Museum. There is a decent collection fo modern art on display and the facility itself is first rate. We spent several hours there after having lunch in the museum's cafe and came away refreshed and satisfied by both the lunch and the art. We did succomb to the touristy lure of the tower at the museum that gives a panaramic view of the San Francisco skyline. I even took pictures like a proper tourist. Hey, no one is perfect.

Today we headed south, aiming the car at the Monteray Peninsula and the promise of some unforgettable scenery. We weren't disappointed. Once we escaped the freeway traffic jam we were rewarded for our persistence. The Monteray Peninsula's 17 mile scenic drive along the seashore was worth the trip. The fact that some of the finest golf courses in the country were along the way was a bonus for a golfaholic like me. Mary was incredibly patient with my drooling and swooning at the prospect of setting foot on the hallowed ground of Pebble Beach. Golfers among you will understand. For the others who are less golf centric, think of visiting the Vatican or maybe Notre Dame and you will better understand the feeling I had. I didn't get to actually play golf, but you willl never get to say Mass at Notre Dame either.

Since Mary was so understanding of my worshiping at the altar of golf, I felt it was only fair that I take her to Salinas so her inner English teacher could pay homage to John Steinbeck. We visited the Steinbeck Museum and she did her drooling and swooning. So for both of us the day was a rousing success.

Now, since I haven't been getting my obligatory afternoon nap, I am ready to swoon into bed and probably do some drooling on my pillow. All this swooning and drooling has worn me out. Later..........

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

our excellent adventure part V

Today was devoted to the natural phenomena that only Mother Nature can conjure up. We crossed the manmade phenomenon called the Golden Gate Bridge on our way to the purity of the natural Redwood forest of Muir Wood. What man is able to produce is insignificant when placed against the backdrop of a giant Redwood.

We drove the twisted mountainside road that is US 1 after leaving the upscale tackiness of Sausolito. We stopped for lunch at a teahouse restaurant along the main strip of Sausolito after strolling among the other tourists, all trying to justify the overpriced purchase of some gimcrack souvenir from the hucksters in their fancy shops. We resisted the temptation to empty my wallet on any Chinese-made doodads and contented ourselves with the knowledge that far more worthwhile sights awaited us down the road. And once on that curving narrow two lane ribbon of blacktop glued to the mountainside, we were rewarded with vistas of high hills and forests and sky and water that defies description.

I have to admit that I only caught the occassional glimpse of the spectacular scenery since my eyes were glued to the road with its challenging curves and steep dips and climbs. I love to drive and that road provided a unique driving experience. Mary was clutching desparately to anything that offered some connection to reality, all the while praying that the car would instantly sprout wings to save us as we plunged over the side. Fortunately the car's wheels stayed attached to the road and we survived to tell the tale.

Our destination was Muir Wood National Monument, the repository of those mammoth Redwood trees. If you have never seen a Redwood you have no reference point with which to compare the majesty of those spectacular forces of nature. Anything that man can make pales in comparison to the magnificence of those trees. Calling them trees even seems to diminish their presence. I have never felt as small in the presence of any other natural phenomonon, whether mountain or ocean. You can't really touch a mountain or ocean to feel the connection you get when touching the bark of a 200 foot high 3,ooo year old tree standing alongside the path you are walking on. You can't really occupy the space alongside a mountain or ocean as you can with a huge ancient tree that was there long before you were ever a kernal in the imagination of whatever God is responsible for all this incredibly unbelievible TREEness. I will never forget the feeling.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

our excellent adventure part IV

Today was a down day for me. All the hectic activities of the past few days finally caught up with me. I'm used to getting a nap in during the late afternoon hours to keep me functional, but haven't had the opportunity to rest as I should. So while we were out this morning exploring the UC-Berkeley campus where Carrie does her grad work, I wroe down to the point where I couldn't walk anymore. The old PD shuffle became a crawl. Still, I made it through a very nice lunch at a local bistro before making it back to the apartment where I promply collapsed and slept for a couple hours. Mary has been very patient and understanding. By tomorow I should be ready and raring to go again.

Monday, August 06, 2007

our excellent adventure part III

It's Monday already. Where does the time go. Now that we've had a couple days to reflect on the weekend's activities, we have come to cherish the memories of the wedding. Everything went so well that we are piching ourselves to make sure it all really happened. But looking at this picture of the newlyweds, brings home the reality.

This is the view of the ocean shoreline we had for the wedding. I can't imagine a more beautiful setting.

Or a more beautiful bride. But then I am a bit biased.

Today we sent them off on their honeymoon to Spain. While they are off globetrotting, Mary and I get to explore San Francisco and some of this part of California. We did a bit of looking around today, taking a look at the Golden Gate Bridge, which is rusty red and not gold at all, and spending a couple of hours on Fisherman's Wharf where we had lunch. Sorry, but I was unimpressed by either the bridge or the wharf. The Golden Gate bridge is just a bridge that basically goes nowhere. Frnakly if you've seen one suspension bridge you've seen them all. And for the most part the whole wharf area is just a big commercial tourist trap of junk shops and carnival food. There were some nicer shops and restaurants, but the overall effect for me was typical tacky tourist come-on.

I enjoyed far more the drive around the downtown area with its steep hills and cable cars. After driving on some of those streets feeling like we were diving headfirst down a concete chute, I could only wonder whose dumb idea it was to build a city here. There has to be a more congenial spot than this to build skyscrapers. Pedestrians have to have some mountain goat dna mixed in to survive. The flatlands of Nebraska look downright heavenly compared to this. Still, they seem to make it work around here.

Tomorrow I think we may head across that ho-hum bridge and take a look at some of the natural wonders the area has to offer north of here. I want some natural scenery after today's manmade nonsense...........

Sunday, August 05, 2007

our excellent adventure part II

This morning the fog hugged the coast, slowly pressing down on the landscape, smothering it like a soggy blanket. Still there were hints of the sunshine above the fog as an occasional shaft of sunlight breeched the fog layer. We all kept our fingers crossed and said a prayer or two that the day would turn to sunshine by afternoon for our beach wedding.

The womenfolk went to a spa this morning and got their nails done, both fingers and toes, and were pampered for several hours. When they finally emerged they were all smiles and good cheer. And I have never seen my daughter looking so beautiful. She had her hair pinned up, her makeup done, and exuded the radiance reserved for brides.

After lunch at a local restaurant and some wandering through the local shops, we were ready to do the marriage thing. And our prayers were answered. The fog blew away, the sun brightened the ocean and the breeze was gentle. We all got dressed up in our wedding clothes and headed to the inn’s private beach where, with the foliage covered rocks behind us and the shimmering ocean in front of us, we had the most wonderful wedding imaginable. I managed to perform the ceremony with hardly a tear until the very end when I let the happy tears flow. I am an emotional idiot at times like that and don’t mind it showing. My beautiful daughter is now a beautiful bride.

Of course we took a thousand pictures. We just didn’t want the whole experience to end. But eventually we had to get off the beach to make way for the tide. It was time to celebrate anyway. So we did. Many bottles of wine and a fancy dinner later, we are now ready to call it a day. And a perfect day it was. My daughter is married.

Friday, August 03, 2007

our excellent adventure part I

Ok, we are airborne. Right now we are somewhere over Kansas heading west. I am constantly amazed that this pile of metal can actually defy gravity and float through the air. I know there is a scientific explanation for this phenomenon, but it still mystifies me. Aerodynamics, thrust, lift, all that stuff doesn’t really satisfy my sense of wonder at this machine flying through the air. If ever there was anything to take on faith, it is that this thing can fly. I remain faithfull.

Thankfully our trip so far has been miraculously uneventful. I did thinks that having to take off my shoes while going through airport security was a little much, but if it means we are safe then go for it. I was half hoping that the goodlooking security guard would insist on strip searching me, but I guess I look basically harmless. No thrills today.

Mary has been surprisingly calm so far. She seems convinced that the mountains we will fly over are not high enough to cause any problems. I have assured her that planes hardly ever run into mountains anymore. She seems convinced.

Three hours from now we should be landing in San Francisco. I think we are going to make it………

Later…..

We are flying over the western US. I am astounded by the unlimited horizon and the vastness of the open space. From this altitude the continent seems to go on forever. The towns and settlements that dot the landscape are mere scratches on the huge canvas of the country. If you ever need a dose of humility, this vantage will serve you well. Insignificant does not adequately describe the feeling I get when I place myself in this world.

Still later……

We have arrived in San Francisco safely and on time. We met up with Jon and Katie who flew out earlier and were waiting for us at the airport. Jeremy’s mother got on our plane in Kansas City so the family is together. We got in the van we rented and headed across the bay to Oakland to Carrie and Jeremy’s apartment to complete the family circle. It was an indescribable feeling to give Carrie a big hug once again. We haven’t seen her since last October. Reunions are such sweet occasions. I just wish they weren’t necessary.

We all—and by all I mean 7 of us and two dogs—piled into the van and headed north up the Pacific coast to the bed and breakfast inn where we are staying for the weekend. We checked in this evening after a long day flying and driving with lots of wonderful conversation and laughter along the way. We just finished sharing a bottle of Pinot Noir from a local winery, toasting the family and the occasion that brought us together. Now it is time to sleep. Tomorrow my daughter gets married……..

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

out of our box

This week brings us to the brink of our west coast adventure. Our daughter’s wedding is scheduled for Saturday. We leave home on Friday. Naturally we have to be there because I am the one who is performing the wedding ceremony. Of course that means we have to get on an airplane to fly out there. Ah, there’s the rub.

We are not experienced or willing travelers. We have flown before, but not for quite some time now. We are most comfortable being at home and leaving the traveling to others. So the next two weeks are shoving us way out of out comfort zone. I am not fearful of flying, but the experience is never pleasant for me because I get motion sickness so easily. Just looking at a plane or a boat gets me feeling whoozy. Mary doesn’t like to fly at all being afraid of all that space between the airborne plane and the ground. So between the two of us we are a walking advertisement for Dramamine and Valium.

We are not only going to California to get Carrie and Jeremy married, but we are then staying for the next two weeks in their apartment to take care of their two dogs and a cat and any other wild life that may have taken up residence there while they do the honeymoon thing somewhere in Spain.

Being away from home for more than a few days is tough for us. We have never taken a vacation longer than a week’s duration. Trying to plan for all contingencies while away from home has become a full time job for the past week. For instance, while we are dogsitting for Carrie’s mutts, we are having a dogsitter live here in our house to take care of our dog. Mary has typed up several pages of instructions for her already. It seems that every monthly bill will come due while we are gone, so those have to be taken care of ahead of time. (I don’t want to hear about paying online—that’s beyond my comprehension). Figuring out how to pack a suitcase with all our worldly possessions will be a real challenge.

Adding to our travel anxiety is the lifestyle adjustments we will have to make while there. Like no television. They don’t have one. Don’t need it and don’t want it. I need to watch a ballgame every now and then or suffer withdrawal pains. I do like to watch the news once in awhile lest I forget the dire straits the world is in. I may go crazy.

Of course we will take advantage of being the San Francisco area to do the usual touristy things. If we can find our way around. If we can find a place to park the rental car. If any of you out there have any suggestions for our stay in the bay area, give me a shout out. Or if you happen to be around Berkeley and wouldn’t mind giving some guided tours, I’m open to any help. This could be a disaster or it could be the start of Bob and Mary’s Excellent Adventure. Time will tell. I’ll keep you posted.