Fixed Itself

I left for California at 6AM on Monday morning, it was pitch black & raining, cold as heck, and pouring rain. I jogged to my car, threw in my suitcase, fired it up and I see a light on my dashboard indicating the tires were low. I hop out in the pouring rain, run around my car giving each tire a brief visual inspection, and hop back in concluding that the tires are good enough to get me to the airport.

I am now soaked and my glasses are wet & foggy. I throw the car in reverse and within seconds, my bumper & fender were tangled up with a large telephone pole that sits next to my driveway. I stop the car and the bumpers are all bent up and look somewhat mangled, I was so angry with myself I could have kicked my tire (but the tire pressure was already too low!).  I had no time to figure out anything more than how to get the car off the pole without damaging my car more or knocking down the utility pole. I come up with a solution, hop back into the car, cut the wheel and get off the pole without creating any additional issues. I jump back outside, look at the car’s damage, look at the utility pole (which was undamaged, thank God!), and get back into the car, I am know soaking wet. The whole car ride to the airport, I was an agitated monster, complaining to myself about how much I’ve been working, traveling, lack of sleep, the stupid weather, etc.

I pull into the airport parking lot and the rain had stopped. I grab my suitcase and take one last look at the damage, miraculously, the plastic bumper and flare over the tire just fixed itself. It all bent back into shape, I guess jeeps are anticipated to bump into things and so their materials are more malleable, it was awesome!  You can definitely still see a little line where it was bent, but it gives the car character and looks a million times better then it looked after the initial collision.

It made my 5 hour flight to California much easier on the mind. My trip to California was much better than Miami, I stayed near Venice Beach and worked 14 hour days, but took long walks in the morning & night. I saw a guy catch a small mackerel off the Venice Beach Pier at 8:30PM, I was still in my work outfit, but wished I could have borrowed his pole for a bit. The pier had all kinds of characters, fisherman, homeless, weed smokers, and affluent youngsters + 1 guy in business clothes (me).

On Friday, my family is going to watch the Christmas tree get lit up in downtown Pittsburgh, fireworks to follow!

A Quick Visit

We had a jam packed weekend which started off at the kidney convention (there’s an amazing amount of research & activity around kidneys), fascinating to see the amount of resources dedicated to the study of that body part.

Dalia had another birthday party with her relatives and she is one very happy camper, one of the last things I remember from this weekend was of her sitting down with her Calico Critters and soliciting my assistance to put a tiny Calico Critter telephone onto a tiny table in their tree house. Dalia loves seeing her older cousin Madisyn, I am very happy that they enjoy each others company so much.

After the birthday party, Jaclyn & I went to a wedding for a former work colleague. We had a great time catching up with old pals, but we were also tired and made it an early night.

On Sunday, I visited my Grandmother’s grave and thought about how great she did. She told me many stories of how she and Pop-Pop grew up with no money and for awhile had to live with her parents or once when Pop-Pop got injured (I believe his injury was acquired in a recreational baseball game), they had to eat lots of canned food to stay afloat. Despite their meager finances, they always seemed to be an abundance at their home. The garden was always overflowing with vegetables, they always offered food or beverage when you made an unannounced visit, and they were so happy & proud of their family.

She was someone who grew up through the depression, multiple wars, and lived modestly, but I know she would have told me that she lived in the best of times and had many lucky breaks.

Being at a grave site or a loved one makes you consider your own mortality, I hope to leave a footprint as remarkable as hers. Just like a flower that has sent its seeds into the air, knowing they’ve all landed on fertile ground with adequate sun to grow up tall & beautiful, so you can continue to live on through all of them. I am thankful to her, she gave us amazing ground to grow from and I see her in my children (especially Dalia). Dalia’s knack for tap dancing, her ability to wrestle her brother to the ground, and her unbridled competitiveness, Grandmom is still very much alive.

Afterwards, we visited Pop-Pop, where Dalia & Winston caught a frog, Dalia also ended up giving her brother a bloody mouth, and in between, I got to talk with my grandfather a bit. He seems to be doing quite well, reading a lot and watching movies from the library that mom brings to him. He recently watched and enjoyed Oh Brother Where Art Thou, my parents watched it afterwards and my mom did not share his enthusiasm. I love how no one in my family has a similar taste in movies.

Right now I am reading a book about Alan Turing, it is fascinating how so many intelligent men have struggled so much in school. A common theme is that they do not bother to master the simple tasks of spelling or handwriting and they make no effort to learn subjects that they do not find interesting. They also tend to be loners in school. A movie is coming out about him this winter and I hope it is worthy of his story.

I write this from 30,000 feet in the air as I make my final business trip of 2014. A couple days in Los Angeles and then back to home sweet home. Winston was very sad to see me leave, I cannot wait for this year’s holidays and to spend extra time with them, it has been a long year.

Kid knees

I have been living out of a suitcase for awhile. Last Friday, I traveled down to Atlanta and stayed there until Sunday. I left Atlanta and flew to Newark, then on Wednesday I flew from Newark to Miami, and late last night I touched down in Philadelphia. It was cold and rainy, but I do have such a soft spot for this city. The grit & toughness of these people is immediately evident.

I am in Philadelphia today to attend a kidney conference with my sister. It looks like she may need a transplant and I am hoping I can give her one of  mine. The conference should be a good learning opportunity, but more importantly, it is great to be in the center of the universe working on the issue. The people at the American Society of Nephrology have been wonderful & helping us at each step.

After the conference, I am looking forward to seeing my family (parents, in-laws, pop-pop, and I must stop by the cemetery to visit grandmom as she has been on my mind). Dalia gets to celebrate her birthday for a third time this weekend, I don’t think she will mind the redundancy of it all.

In Miami, I stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn and had two hours before I could check in or go to my work meeting. I asked the front desk if there was any place I could walk to for a bite to eat, they suggested a Denny’s across the street. I grabbed my luggage and walked in the direction they pointed, I got to the “street” that I had to cross and it was 7 lanes of highway. It was like the most advanced level of Frogger imaginable. After assessing the risk for a couple of minutes, the incoming lanes of traffic came to a halt. I dragged my suitcase through the traffic and got to the median. The other traffic came to a temporary stop and I made a run for it, but my suitcase tagged my right foot and I totally fell in the middle of the highway, thankfully the cars stopped and watched me collect my papers, dust off, and get to the Denny’s. I almost died for that omelet, it was not worth it. My knees are scraped and I had to throw away the pants as they got ripped.

Right now I sit in a cafe in Philadelphia, they only carry one newspaper, “Philadelphia Gay News”. My curiosity implores me to grab the latest edition and see what news is hot off the press for gays, but it is probably very similar to all the other news. I decide to just leave it alone.

On Monday, I have one brief trip left to Los Angeles and then my travel ceases until 2015. I will never enjoy Thanksgiving break as much as I will this year. I wouldn’t mind a little Glenn Miller Band & turkey.

Veterans Day

Over the weekend I had to go to Atlanta for work. As I got off the airplane and headed towards baggage claim, you go up a very tall escalator that takes you to a giant lobby where family members can meet you. As I emerged from the escalator, I see a mom and her son standing against the rope identifying the farthest you can go without a ticket.

The son had created a large sign out of poster board that said, “I’ve waited 181 days for this moment, I love you Dad!!!” The son was holding the sign up high, he was bouncing with energy, a smile that could not be contained, he leaned against the rope testing the boundary, determined to shave off every millisecond between present & reunion with dad.

The Mom stood next to her son, seemed a tiny bit anxious about something, tapped her foot, checked her watch, and looked at the big electronic signs with flight arrivals.

I stood back, wanting to see this reunion take place, it was going to be an emotional powerhouse.

I assumed the dad was on the plane, so excited to be back on US soil, waiting for the plane to taxi to the gate. Perhaps some people were slow getting their bags in front of him as he waited patiently to get off the plane.  Trying to figure out how to cram in all the love and affection to his boy to replenish him after being away for 181 days.

The kid is still holding the sign up high, his excitement is indefatigable! Mom checks her watch again.

I realize that this reunion may take place in a couple minutes or an hour from now. I picked up my bag and didn’t get to see the happy ending. Hoping their veterans day is filled with peace & happiness, they have earned it.

Meat Party

Dalia officially turns six today. Last night my back was uncomfortable, so I laid on the wooden dining room floor to flatten out the kinks. Dalia brought her art supplies over to me and created masterpieces next to me, she really enjoys company. After showing me several of her creations, she went to her backpack & produced a piece of paper with a phone number scribbled onto it, half the numbers were facing the wrong direction, she said, “Here’s Ava’s number, we can call it to set up a play date.” I told her that she should provide that information to her mom as I am not a good social coordinator.

Jaclyn went over to a friend’s house last night and I believe candle sales were also involved, I wonder that kind of event would look like for men. If I was going to have a bunch of men over to my house to sell stuff, here would be my plan:

  1. I would get a bunch of rubber maid rectangular tubs and fill them with ice.
  2. I would go to a butcher and see if I could buy all the meat from an entire cow.
  3. Raw meat would be displayed in the various ice filled containers for purchase, big knives would be involved to allow people to cut their steaks to their desired thickness.
  4. We would be blasting Led Zeppelin on the record player
  5. We would have a soda machine filled with Coor’s Light and charge $1 per can
  6. Ideally, a sporting event would be on the TV during it all

I am sitting at the airport and a nice lady in her 50’s is listening to Taylor Swift on her phone, but without headphones, she is just blasting it for all of us to hear. She seems incredibly happy and it puts a smile on my face.

Weekend Recap – Zanesville & American Girl Dolls

On Saturday morning, we made the two and a half hour drive to Columbus, OH to visit a huge shopping complex that has an American Girl Doll store. A little more than halfway there, we made a pit stop in the town of Zanesville, OH.  We stopped a the visitor center and learned a couple things about the town:

  1. Huge pottery scene in Zanesville, they have huge barns and buildings dedicated to selling the famous Zanesville pottery.
  2. Zane Grey, famous author about Western adventures was born here
  3. Zanesville is the home of the world’s only Y shaped bridge, we rode over it and it was interesting (but not worth anything greater than a 15 minute detour to see it)
  4. Big Muskie once roamed the Zanesville landscape to dig up earth and excavate coal. They said it weighed 27,000,000 pounds and was 22 stories tall.

Here’s Big Muskie in his prime (I believe it was demolished in 1999, but the scooper was saved)

The scooper!

After learning all about Zanesville and riding across the world’s only Y shaped bridge, we resumed our journey to Columbus. When we arrived in Columbus, we entered the huge mall that was home to the American Girl Doll store. We wandered around until we found a map, the map said that the American Girl store was actually outside the mall, we walked out the door and saw the store about 100 yards away on the horizon. Dalia’s gate transformed into a run, her little purse flopping in the wind behind her, Jaclyn and I laughed about her enthusiasm and then realized that we needed to start running to catch up to her! We start running to catch up to her and burst through the doors of the American Girl store out of breath.

Dalia started to look around and it was very overwhelming. At this point, Winston & I decided to hit up the Lego store for 30 minutes to let Dalia take it all in. When we returned, Dalia was holding up a box with a brand new American Girl doll and she was very excited to finalize the transaction. After we purchased the doll, Dalia & Jaclyn had reservations in the bistro within the American Girl store. I think they spent about $14 on desserts (which included tea for the doll). The people in the store found out it was Dalia’s birthday and they all sang to her and let her keep the teacup for the new doll.

Winston and I were at the bookstore during this time & he used a gift card to purchase some books on Minecraft. He is just like me, he loves reference type books (nonfiction).

On the way home we pulled off on an exit in the middle of nowhere to fill up our gas tank. The gas station sold beer (I bought a 12 pack of Old Milwaukee that came in camouflage cans for $6.99). raw meat (steaks, hamburger meat, etc.), and everything else you could need, I assume it was the town’s grocery store. We saw nothing but military people coming in and out of the store, it looked like the major employer of the town. As we were exiting the town, a pickup truck had a bumper sticker that said, “Build a well, bring a soldier home”. Route 70 West had several huge oil wells along the road, we think about the environmental cost, but it is hard to deny the economic gains it brings to these towns.

On Sunday, I raked 14 more thirty gallon bags of leaves, bringing my Fall total up to 34. Despite raking 34 bags of leaves, 75% of our yard is still under the fallen foliage. I can’t wait until my kids can do that stuff.