Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, hope all is well around the globe. We are spending today quietly at home with just us, roasting a bird and making all the fixings. We were actually invited to a friend’s house, A&J, but it was just a couple of days ago that the invite was extended, and we had pretty much prepared for the day at home, so we declined but expressed our deepest appreciation. It was very nice of them to think of us, and of course I feel bad for saying no. They are our good friends, but our lives have been a little crazy lately, and it would be nice to just stay home for a change.

So that’s what we’re going to do. Hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving and thanks for reading, and thanks to martha_chapa95 for the pic.

Hopefully Not Like Last Year

I think I’m finally over this awful flu, sort of (I'll keep my fingers crossed, winter is just beginning). I was beginning to think it was 2012 all over again, where I was sick for about 6 months. This is not an exaggeration, I was coughing for half the year, and I was not alone. This time around, I felt a similar malaise, but it seems to have tempered after a week, and now I’m feeling about 90%. At this stage of my life, I can’t ask for much more. Now that I’m feeling a little better, I can direct my attention at that pile of firewood, not to mention my hockey league - I’ve missed three games, what a bummer.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Bianca for the pic.

Job Hunt

I am currently on the hunt for employment, but it’s not as simple and straightforward as it might be for your average job-seeker. I need to find a job that pays me the big bucks but ideally lets me work from home, gives me flexibility, and is a lot of fun. Is that asking too much?

I know I could find a job at the drop of hat in research, they are always looking for people, but that would mean a drastic change in our lifestyles, i.e., I could no longer be the domestic spouse. This is not an outrageous concept, indeed most families operate like this, but we are pretty comfortable in our setup. I have definitely settled into domestic life, with R being professional at large. Embracing a reversal would probably be more difficult on R, because going back to work wouldn’t take a huge amount of adjustment, but for R to take on all the cooking and cleaning, not to mention transporting kids to activities and socializing with other parents would make it challenging. Throw in coaching hockey and taking them skiing, which I acknowledge are fun activities, but being the parent means it’s not all about fun.

Either way, we like things the way they are, and I enjoy being a big part of the kids’ lives. Now all I need to do is make the big bucks. Piece of cake, right?

We shall see. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to T Hart for the pic.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Getting Ready For Winter

As amazing as it may sound, I think we’re on the verge of being read for winter. It seemed to be a bit of a scramble trying to get things done before the snow comes, not to mention finding the time in between job hunting, hockey, and parenting. Factor in really short days and inclement weather, and it’s amazing that we’ve even arrived at this juncture, but arrive we did. If it were to snow tomorrow, I’d be disappointed, no doubt, but at least some of the big things are taken care of.

First off, I managed to squeak in one last mowing of the lawn, and don’t ask me why this was so significant to me, but it had some definite symbollic importance. Have you ever had a million things to do that really weighed heavily on your shoulders, and yet you do the less important thing because you know how and are comfortable with it?  This is the story of my life, and despite the fact that there is a barn to finish and firewood to split and stack, not to mention a glorious freelance career to kickstart, I seem to fall back on mowing the lawn, because I know I can do it, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment. Does anyone really care about the lawn? I guess I do, because on the flip side, when the I have no time and the lawn starts to look unkempt, it really brings me down. Strange how the mind works, is it not?

The final mowing was relevant in the sense that it gave me a chance to properly store the lawn mower, which entailed running the tank dry and clearing the carburettor (I never knew how to spell this word). My understanding is that you want that carburretor clear in storage so it doesn’t gum up and become clogged. I’ve experienced this firsthand and had to have the the thing cleaned. I’ve been told it’s because of the ethanol additives in fuel, it really harms high-revving engines like mowers and chainsaws. With the chainsaw it’s easy because you just tilt the saw and pour off the gas. You can’t do that with a mower, so you have to use a syphon.

Speaking of chainsaws, I also cut up some more wood and prepared that for storage, as well. Same deal, you need to clear the carb, which I managed to do. Now all our heavy gas powered equipment is stored and we are ready for winter, sort of.

There are still the issues of firewood and the barn, but they are not as time sensitive, sort of. In my ideal world, I would have all the trim done and all the firewood split and stacked before the snow, but who lives in their ideal world? The barn is in progress, I’m happy just to have the siding on, and the firewood for this year is all set. I have about 4 cords that need to be relocated and split and stacked, but again, if I can’t do it, I’ll live. Maybe having the flexibility isn’t such a good thing.

Either way, things are better than worse, if that makes any sense. A week ago I was fretting over the lawn and the power equipment, and now that’s all done. Of course, there is still some raking that needs to be done, but that could be the one thing I put off until spring.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Dave Olsen for the pic.

A Day Off to Work

I know how ironic this may seem, but we had a day off from our busy schedule that allowed me to actually work and get some things done around the house (note the empty hammock). These are things that have been weighing on my shoulders for some time, and the problem I have is they need to be done before winter fully sets in, i.e., the clock it ticking. The really short days and stretches of lousy weather don’t help.

Thus far I’ve been given a reprieve from the weather in that there hasn’t been a lot of snow. This seems fairly normal to me. We’ve had unusual situations like last year when we got a foot of snow before Halloween, which meant that raking and mowing the lawn were done for the year. This year, I have been looking out the window wondering if I’m ever going to have time to do that last mowing and raking, and believe me, it really bugs me. Each passing day feels like I’m really pushing my luck.

Of course, I could just leave it and deal with everything in the spring, which has its merits, especially since I really hate raking leaves, though I feel it’s better to tackle some of it before the snow comes. Either way, we had a day off from hockey and other activities, so I jumped in with both feet and got some stuff done. First order of business was to cut the firewood. We have about 5 cords of uncut log-length, and my goal is always to get year 2 split and drying. Fat chance, but at least if I had the blocks cut and in the splitting area, I could split over the winter. One the snow comes and freezes the pile into one solid block, that wood is not going to be moved until spring. At this point I should stop cutting and just move the stuff, but I wanted to cut as much as possible, and I also need to run the saw dry before storing it. I am not quite there, but hopefully by the end of this week.

I also managed to take care of our burn pile, which is important before the snow plow comes. In years past, I had a pile of wood that I wanted to burn, but then it would snow and the plow would push it to the far end of the yard. When the snow melted, I had to gather it all back into a pile and burn it. Not this year. N and I spent a couple of hours burning the pile, and now it’s done. It was fun hanging with him and burning whatever we could get our hands one.

I also managed to mow part of the lawn, just the side yard. If I can finish the back, I’ll leave the hill for spring. It’s all crab grass anyway, so it doesn’t need too much care. There are a ton of leaves that need to be raked, so we’ll see if I manage to get to that. The final thing is to put the hoses in storage. I needed on hose to manage the burn pile, but after that was done, I drained the hose and it’s ready to put in the basement. Then I had to make supper, but what else is new?

I still need to haul about 5 cords of wood and rake the hill, but even if the snow came at this point, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Sure, I’d be disappointed that I didn’t get certain things done, but enough has been taken care of to get us through the winter. It just means a busier spring, right?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Jeff Kramer for the pic.

Go Climb a Rock

They held a rock climbing day at the local indoor climbing gym, and I was at first ambivalent about the whole thing, but eventually the kids seemed interested and it was a chance to hit the climbing gym, something we enjoy but never do. One issue was it was that it was designated as a middle-to-high school event, which would have precluded one of us, but after some inquiry they said we could all attend. Good enough for me.

We headed over the Green Mountain Climbing Gym and it was quite a scene. They rented the place for a couple of hours before they opened, but everyone could stay as long as they wanted to, which I thought was a cool thing. What was really nice about the event was that A&N got to see several of their camp friends. It was a happy reunion, and they really had fun. There must have been over 30 kids there.

This also meant that I could head out and do some errands. There were about a dozen parents there, and a few dads, which homeschool moms seem to appreciate. The kids got to climb for a few hours before we had to head off to hockey practice, but I’m glad we went. It was a nice chance to meet other families and re-connect with some that we don’t see that often. What more can you ask for?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Rob Lucas for the pic.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

No Longer Board

Last night we had our annual hockey board meeting that the entire town and association is invited to, and I finally worked up the nerve and said that I was done. Fini. I will stay on as scheduler (which is a hard job!) and will work with the web site, not to mention being a coach on two teams, but I really did not enjoy attending those meetings. The argument can be made that it’s only one night a month, but whenever that night comes along, I kick myself for having volunteered for this. Plus, my job as scheduler does not require a board appointment, though I may have to attend an occasional meeting.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy leaving the board, they are always in need of members due to the ambivalence of the community in regards to hockey. It’s a ski town, though so are Stowe and Middlebury, and they are hockey powerhouses. It helped that I joined the board by replacing a member who was stepping down, so I was essentially riding out her term, which ended yesterday. I was in essence up for re-election, but I declined. They tried to convince me to take a one year term but I held my ground, which I am not so good at doing. It worked out, however, because they were able to fill several holes on the board, including mine, so all is well in hockey board land.

At some point in the meeting, as it approached 9:30PM, I realized that not being on the board meant I could leave whenever I felt like it. Wow, what a liberating feeling. I felt the shackles come off and suddenly I was a free man, sort of. I’ll take it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Victor M. Campos for the pic.

Sick of Being Sick

On top of all the things we have to do, I’m still sick, and believe me when I tell you, I am so sick of being sick. I need a box of cough drops like this. It must be something about physiology, but when I get sick, it seems to linger for a while, and always ends up with a persistent cough. I somehow recall as a kid always having a cough and being convinced that I had asthma, and even to this day I get hay fever and react strongly to allergens like mosquito bites and poison ivy. All of this seems to lead to the conclusion that I have a hyperactive immune system, and long after the bug that initially made me sick is probably neutralized, my immune system keeps revving up, making me feel sick.

At least that’s the current theory that R has proposed, and she knows her stuff because she’s an immunologist. With that in mind, I’m not sure how much more I can do other than go with it. It’s a drag, I’ve already missed two of my hockey games and will probably miss another. I’m not debilitated to the point where I can’t coach the kid’s hockey teams, and there is no rest for the weary in New England because there are plenty of things to do before the snow comes. Oh yeah, I’m trying to get my glorious freelance writing career going, or at least make some big bucks writing. Who’s got time to be sick?

Not I, that’s for sure. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Light Collector for the pic.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Let the Puck Drop

The kids officially started their hockey season last weekend, and it was a boatload of fun, as usual. A&N missed the first two weeks of hockey, which included a few games. Last season this would have been unthinkable under Mr. Hockey because when you play under him, it’s hockey or nothing. I can appreciate some of that enthusiasm, but at times it seemed like too much stress and anxiety about being there and doing the right thing. He’s a great coach, but would almost be better off coaching college players because he’s a bit hard on the kids, not to mention the coaches. He lives for the game and expects everyone to follow suit, and for the most part people do, but it’s a lot to ask of a 9 year-old.

Most parents can appreciate the positives of last season, but I’m sure they also welcome a more relaxed approach. I know I do, from a coaching and parenting perspective. Case in point, missing games. As I mentioned, last year this never would have happened for fear of incurring said person’s wrath, but this season, there was no such stress, and it worked out beautifully. Sure, we missed a game or two, but we were able to slide right back in with ease, and now the kids are back up to speed, or at least close enough. I say this because we did a lot of traveling this past month and it would have been easy to justify not going to California, which would have eliminated the need to miss those games.

Anyway, it was fun to be back on the ice. The kids hadn’t been to practice and I think getting their hockey legs back took a bit of time, but there’s nothing like being thrown into a game to do that. A had to jump in with both feet because she came back to play in a tournament, which meant 4 games. She did fine, even scoring a goal, and she was thrilled to be with her buddies, but you could tell it was a challenging adjustment. N was excited to be with his friends as well, and it was a chance for both of them to spend time with friends and hang out. In fact, A got to hang with HC at her house, then hang with KB at her house, while N got to go to the pancake breakfast with his buddies. All of these were not planned and came up at the spur of the moment, which is fine by me. It throws off the day’s plan a bit, but such is the life of a hockey parent.

It should be interesting what next weekend holds in store for us. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Al Rankin for the pic.

Sick in the Family

I'm trying to put a positive spin on things, so I guess it’s fair to say that it’s better that this is happening early in the winter than later, right? Or maybe not. Either way, we are sick, or should I say, I am sick? My sense is that we’ve all been through this and I’m the last man standing, or laying in bed, depending on how you see it. I hope this is the case because if I’m the last one, then maybe we can have an uneventful winter in terms of illness.

Last year was brutal as we all go the flu and were coughing for six months. I’m not exaggerating, it was that bad. Add in hockey season and it was a rough winter. This year the kids seemed to get sick early on, then R got it on our trip to California, and now here I am, sick as a dog while everyone else is fit as a fiddle. I wonder if the R and the kids benefitted from a few days in warm dry California to help clear out their symptoms. I hope so.

Every year it seems like the same pattern emerges. Everyone gets sick and it appears like I’m going to squeak by without any major symptoms, and before I know it, I’m feeling that familiar scratching feeling in the back of my throat. Within a day or two I’m sick. This time around I wasn’t laid out in bed for days, but it still feels a bit lousy, especially when there’s so much to deal with. Oh well, such is life, you have to keep plugging along. A good lesson that parenthood teaches you is that you can’t afford to sit around feeling sorry for yourself, there are lives that need attending to and you’re the attendant.

With that in mind, I need to make lunch and head over to the arena. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Jake Nickell for the pic.

Side Out (or In?)

I finally managed to finish the siding, at least on the first floor, and now we are ready for winter, though the house wrap did a pretty darn good job of protecting the siding from the elements. Sure, it looked awful, but the wood underneath was shielded from the weather, I was pretty impressed.

Yesterday I went out and finished the siding, putting on the last board and breathing a huge sigh of relief. That last 20 feet of wall space seemed to take forever, taunting me in an odd sort of way. I still have a few boards left over, which I will save to use on the dormers, which most definitely won’t happen until next year. I will use my birthday present from R&JR to get a small propane space heater so I can work during the cold months inside, putting in insulation. Yet another adventure awaits me.

In the meantime, I can sit back and enjoy the moment, at least until the next moment comes along and hits me over the head.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Reflections on LA

First off, I’d like to say that as always, it sure is nice to be back home. Going back to LA had its fair share of positive attributes, including eating good Mexican food, meeting my niece, and seeing my good friend Glen, not to mention reuniting with my brother, but for the most part, it was exhausting and I found myself pining for our home in woods of New England. Who in their right mind wouldn’t?

Or as A&N said, visiting my mom was “interesting,” which probably the best way to put it. I had sincere concerns about going back there, not the least of which was that I hadn’t seen my mom and my brother for over 10 years. My worries over my mom was that she was going to be mean and vindictive, and that my brother was going to be insincere and greedy and it was going to cause me to be a jerk. Both of these situations are how I remember my family, but my concerns did not completely come to fruition. Part of it was that I decided to suck it up and not react like I’d always done in the past. I know my brother is trying his best to get along with me, but my mom will always try to goad me into battle, or at the very least, hurt my feelings or make me mad. It’s no wonder I haven’t been home in such a long time.

To complicate the matter (why are there always complications?), we had a busy few weeks prior to the visit, with trips to Ohio and the kids going to camp. Going back to LA was just one more thing, but going back is what we did. I think nobody had more concerns about this than R, because she knows my mom and she knows how difficult this was for me, but she had the rational POV and just kept telling me to go with it. No matter how mean or tactless she was going to be, don’t react and start a fight, just nod your head and smile.

My mom has mellowed out a lot, no doubt, but she can’t seem to toss out a few barbs now and then, it’s just in her DNA. She has two methods of attack: the direct critique, where she flat out says what she thinks (regardless of the fact that it’s usually wrong), and indirect attack, which I think hurts even more. Now I grew up with these assaults, so I am sort of used to them, even though they anger me beyond words. I was not, however, going to allow her to target the kids, no matter what. There was just no way I was going to stand by and let this happen, despite R’s entreaties for me to just let it go. For the record, what I say to my mom makes absolutely no difference in how she interacts with people, but I still can’t stand around and say nothing, especially when it involves the kids.

Since we arrived in the evening and went straight to bed from exhaustion, we were spared the assault until the next morning when we woke up. Interestingly enough, my mom spared me from her usual comment when she first sees me, which is “You’re fat,” or “You’ve put on so much weight.” I kid you not, she has said this to me every time she sees me, before even saying hello. It’s the first thing out of her mouth, so naturally it starts the interaction off on a bad foot. This time around, she didn’t say it, and even later stated that I seemed to be at a pretty good weight. That’s as good as it gets.

That did not stop her from commenting on other things in my life, including my hair, which she says makes me look like a girl, which I guess is true; my choosing to live like a hillbilly in rural New England, also kind of true; the fact that I haven’t visited her in 14 years, which is very true, but not completely accurate since it’s been more like 12 years. Now I can deal with (sort of) all this, but when she says things about the kids, it simply infuriates me. Leave the kids alone. Our kids are well behaved, too, so they don’t deserve these attacks, but she simply can’t help it. To worsen the matter, all my anger and scorn make little to no impact on her behavior, it may even encourage her, she just keeps going on.

Case in point, she felt the need to comment on their hair (indirect: why do you cut hair like that?); their backpack (direct: that backpack is so ugly, I’m going to buy a new one); their clothes, (indirect: I’m going to buy some shorts that aren’t so long and ugly); the fact that they wanted to help make breakfast (I don’t like to see men in the kitchen, only girls should cook). She felt the kids don’t eat enough and literally tried to force junk food and sugary drinks down their throats, which is crazy when you think of how critical she is of being overweight. Kudos to A&N for not giving in, though a little junk food is okay.

My mom also felt the need to tell all of us that we clearly hadn’t taught the kids how to properly greet their grandmother, after which we all had to shower her with attention and affection before going to bed and in the morning. At some point, it just becomes a bit of a joke. How contrived can you possibly be?

I have to say that despite how awkward and unpleasant it can be, she has mellowed out a lot, especially with me. I just didn’t feel as oppressed as I usually do, though I still think she needs to put a lid on her comments. And though we weathered our fair share of attacks, my brother got it worse, in my opinion. When we were growing up, he was always the golden child, which was fine because it deflected attention away from me.

Now, he is no longer the golden child, for several reasons. Unlike me, he never finished college, and education is what it’s all about in my family. Plus, he’s gained a considerable amount of weight, for which my mom attacks him relentlessly. As much as I didn’t enjoy being targeted, I felt really uncomfortable with the way she went after my brother and worst of all, his daughter. What’s crazy is my mom really likes my niece, but felt the need to comment on how ugly her clothes were and even worse, that she thought her butt was getting too big. How do you say those sort of things to your own granddaughter? My brother and his daughter see my mom a lot more than I do, so they must be used to it, but it’s still awful to see and experience.

Now I could go on for days about how my mom treats people, or rather treats us, but at some point I need to just get over it and move on with my life. Part of that is living 3000 miles away, but it’s also about just living our lives the way we want to, in a place we love like New England. I think we prepared our kids for their visit, and truth be told, I think they had a nice time and were able to just roll with my mom’s quirks. Plus, they got to see LA and eat good Mexican food and see all the fancy cars in that part of town. At one point it seemed as if every car around us was a Benz, Porsche, or a Lexus. We even saw a few Lamborghinis and Ferraris, which you never see out here.

All in all, as ugly as I’ve painted it, the trip was fine. Most of the negative energy was directed to me, and she left the kids alone, though living with her is a bit of an exercise in self control because she is the way she is. On a huge positive note, she got to me A&N, who got to me T&T, and it was a nice time. I will say this, hanging out with my mom is a lot more pleasant when my brother and niece are there, because we are all bonded in the common goal of survival. There is value to that sometimes.

I also feel like a huge gap has been bridged, and now we can keep in touch with my mom and maybe even go and visit her again in the near future. I think it will be sooner than 14 years, that’s for sure.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Joseph Voves for the pic.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Feeling Like Ulysses

Boy, talk about a brutal trip home, the only thing missing was the Cyclops. I feel like going to LA and then returning home were epic undertakings, and sometimes I wonder if someone is trying to tell me something about going back there. On a number of levels, it’s a challenge, to say the least.

I haven’t been back in years, and for the most part, the kids had never been there, so it was time. As usual, the weather was perfect, sunny and warm every day, which the kids got a kick out of. Being the cynic that I am, however, I find the beautiful weather too strong a paradox to ignore because beneath the sunny exterior is a boiling cauldron of discontent, and it’s not pretty. Either way, our stay was pleasant, for the most part, even despite little jabs here and there. My mom was nice to the kids even though she couldn’t help but lob a few zingers now and then, but hopefully I prepared them enough. My mom definitely took a few shots at my niece, who must be used to it by now because they visit her all the time. More on all of this later.

We left LA on Tuesday to return home, and I think we stayed the right amount of time. If anything, leaving on Monday, when my brother departed, would have been even better, but we endured one more day. The crazy thing about being there is that we fell into the same decrepit routines that I grew up with, which basically sitting around watching TV all the time and then driving around and getting stuck in traffic. What a way to live, some people call this paradise.

My mom dropped us off at the airport and I have to confess that I’m glad we made the trip and I’m glad that my mom got to meet the kids, but for the most part, LA is just not my kind of town. The traffic is unbearable, and the idea of driving in it every day is absolutely hellish, I honestly don’t know how people do it. Of course, we got to experience that joy getting to the airport. For the most part, it was pretty smooth sailing, the traffic was heavy but at least it moved. There was a bit of melancholy in saying goodbye to my mom, as there always is when saying goodbye, and then we were on our way.

The flight back to the east coast was quicker than the trip west, I’m told because of the jet stream, but the amazing PR man would know more about this. We came prepared this time for USAirs awful service by bringing Subway sandwiches and snacks, so we were set in that department. I also had my laptop fully charged and plenty of movies, so the kids had their entertainment, and R and I had plenty of magazines.

The flight itself was fine, the plane was crowded but not in an ugly way, and we landed in Philly on time. What more can you ask for? Plenty, I guess. We arrived in Philly early, to boot, with an extra half hour, and our departing gate was close by. However, the connecting flight to Boston was delayed, so we had to wait, which wasn’t the end of the world. We knew we’d be landing in Boston late so we reserved a room at the Embassy Suites at Logan, which for the record is a great hotel. We figured we’d be arriving at the hotel after midnight, and now we were looking at 12:30, maybe 1:00.

We waited for at least an hour before USAir finally told us the flight was cancelled because of mechanical problems. This was around 1:30AM. What a bummer. They put us up in a hotel, but our flight was leaving the next morning at 9:15, which mean waking up around 7:00AM and essentially getting less than 5 hours of sleep. Plus, we weren’t going to get our fabulous breakfast at the Embassy Suites.

The hotel was a Marriott connected to the hotel, and it was nice, but we basically checked in and went straight to bed, then woke up and left. I’m usually an early riser and can function with little sleep, but man did I feel horrible. Everyone was miserable, but we had to get up and go. We walked back to the terminal, got on the plane, and landed in Boston in the morning.

Now this is where things get a little complicated. They put us up in a hotel, but we had already made a hotel reservation in Boston, and I had to call at 2:00AM to cancel a room. The guy on the other end didn’t speak great English, but it was late and I was tired, so I just go with it until the next day when I could speak to someone in person. We also put our car in long term parking at the hotel, but the deal only works when you spend at least one night there, which we were no longer doing. So we risked not getting our hotel room money back, not to mention having to pay the big bucks to park there. The parking is a great deal with the room, but is otherwise expensive to park.

All this was running through my head, but Embassy Suites was cool about it. They let us cancel the room with no charge, but it still cost us about $100 to park. Not great, but not the end of the world, and not as bad as it could have been. The final flight was fine, we were exhausted but glad to be back in New England. We got our bags, went to the hotel, got our car, and headed home.

Naturally we were hungry by the time we reached our area, so we stopped at Boloco for lunch, which was a fitting return meal, and then came home. The cats were happy to see us in that split second that they looked at us before bolting out the open door, and it sure felt nice to be home. Good to be home and out of LA, that is.

For now, we are settling back in, but it was rough traveling and if we don’t get in a plane for another 6-8 months, that would be fine by me.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Cliff Elliott for the pic.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

More on Our Trip to Tinseltown

As I mentioned, our trip was interesting, to say the least. The flight over was a bit crowded, and it was guerilla warfare with the antique lady. I realize that airlines are broke and are trying to cut back, but at some point the lack of service makes you wonder why they even have flight attendants. Plus, they weren’t as warm and fuzzy as I’ve experienced in the past.

R has a theory that the airlines tend to overestimate their flight times in order to make themselves look good when they arrive early, and that sort of happened to us. Once we were in the air, the captain came on and said they were making good time and would land 30 minutes early, to which the cabin gave out a cheer. Even I was happy, but when we landed, we were too early to dock at the gate. As I mentioned, we taxied for what must have been 35-40 minutes, and had to wait another 15 minutes for the door to open. It was maddening, and after all that time on the plane with no sleep and nothing to eat, we were weary, to say the least.

We finally got off and went to the baggage claim. The airport itself was a police state with the shooting and all, but thing were moving along smoothly. We were exhausted, but we still had the problem of getting to my mom’s house. We were originally going to rent a car and then drive over, which is the simplest and most straightforward way to go, but of course costs money. Plus, I really dislike dealing with rental car companies which always seem to rip you off with charges and insurance and all that fear mongering. My mom was fairly insistent on picking us up, which was free, but not as convenient. Free spoke volumes to me, so I went with it, but this of course added to the drama.

My mom’s plan was to meet us at the curb and go from there, but since there was a shooting at the airport, it was closed off for a while. The airport was offering a shuttle to some off site parking lot, and my mom said to call her when we got there. By the time we got to baggage claim, however, the airport had opened up, but my mom didn’t know this. In fact, she didn’t even know about the shooting until I called her from Philly. How could she? It happened in the late morning, and unless you’re watching the news 24/7, you couldn’t have learned about it.

Either way, I called her from the terminal and informed her the airport was open, so she met us. I tell you, it’s amazing how technology has changed our lives, we couldn’t have managed all this otherwise. It allowed us to keep in touch with my mom to get picked up. The only problem was we had to wait for her at that point, and the airport was a complete mess. I know my mom and I have issues with getting along, but I have to give her credit, she came and got us in her car in what is some of the worst traffic you’re ever going to find. People in LA are aggressive and unfriendly, so it takes a certain amount of mental fortitude to handle it, not to mention courage. I had a hard time dealing with it, and I grew up here.

It was nice seeing my mom, and I was happy she got to meet the kids. More on this later, but for now, we are settling into life in LA, even if it’s only for a few days.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Alan Brady for the pic.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Adventures En Route to Tinseltown

Well, it had to happen at some point. We jumped on a plane and headed back to my old home town, Tinsel Town. I haven’t been back for about 12 years, so this was not a decision that was taken lightly. In fact, it took about 12 years to make it. Needless to say, there is a degree of drama and anxiety going back to see my old home, but I won’t go too much into the details. Suffice it to say that I ruminated on this trip a fair bit.

All in all, the planning and preparation ended on a good note. My mom and I had some very civil conversations and we ended our planning on a good note, albeit not completely to her standards, but those standards are unattainable. The plan was for us to fly out to LA, spend 3-4 days, and then come home and settle into our winter lives. Bear in mind, this trip is on the heels of a trip to Ohio and a week at camp for the kids. We are all a bit weary.

There were some good vibes to start with, which is always a good thing. The original plan was to catch the Dartmouth shuttle to Logan, fly to LA, and then on our return spend the night in Boston because we would arrive late. We would leave the car at the bus depot because long term parking is such a scam. However, since we were only going to be gone for 5 days, it was actually cheaper to park in long term parking, since the bus runs over $100. Then I had another idea. The hotel we are staying at has a park and fly deal where you can park your car at a discount if you spend a night in the hotel. This happens to be the hotel we love, so I looked into it. Sure enough, they had a deal, and a great one, to boot. Now we could drive to Boston, save money, and return to our car and a nice hotel stay. I love when that happens.

Now being the whiner that I am, I will say that it’s much nicer taking the bus into Boston because you can just shut down and go for the ride. Taking our car gives us some flexibility, but driving into the city can be quite the adventure. Plus, we’re not really used to it because we always take the bus. It all worked out fine, however, and we got to the airport with plenty of time. That, of course is when the real adventure began.

The connection was pretty easy, we took a short flight to Philly to connect to our long flight, which was very manageable because it was quick and the plane was not full. In the modern era of flying, this is an anomaly, to say the least. It was in Philly that we learned that there was a shooting at the LAX, and the airport was basically shut down. We weren’t sure if we were going to be allowed to fly in, as were all the other passengers. Pretty much at the zero hour they declared the flight a go, and we boarded. Unlike our connection, this flight was packed, and there was some struggle to get our luggage in the overhead. We had gifts to bring to my mom, some of which were fragile, and other people were jockeying for space. It got a little testy. I placed our glass frame on top of some woman's bag, and when I wasn't looking, she moved it because the stuff in her bag was fragile. She could have just asked me, because she placed it next to her stuff, and then laid a bag on top of my stuff. I was worried that it might crack, and was on verge of giving her a piece of my mind. It was sort of a jerk move, but in the end, it worked out fine. If something had broken because of her maneuver, however, I was prepared to give her a karate chop to her head.

Then we learned that not only did USAir not offer any food, not even pretzels, but there was no on-flight movie. Talk about torture, we had to sit through a 6 hour flight with no breaks in the routine. Even meal service breaks the monotony. They did give us drinks, which was surprising. The modern era of flying is all about just getting there, forget about comfort or enjoyment.

Luckily we had my laptop, and I brought along a bunch of movies, so the kids were fine. There is about 4 hours of battery time, so if timed properly, they wouldn’t be too bored. We had brought food but you have to remember, we were traveling for about 14 hours. We left Vermont at 8:00, and landed in LA at 10:00 est. You just can’t pack that much food and take it to go. I have to give a big thumbs down to USAir, as well, because not only did they not give you any food, but they ran out of the food that you could buy. How lame is that?

The flight was smooth enough, we landed early, which was actually a bad thing, because the gate was occupied, so the plane had to sit there for about 20 minutes while the other plane prepared to depart. The passengers were going crazy, including us. Then we got to the gate and for whatever reason it took about 15 minutes for them to open the door to the jetway. Normally it’s not a big deal, but we were exhausted and irate. Finally we got to the terminal and were ready to be picked up.

This is where things really got interesting, but more on this later. Suffice it to say that my mom picked us up and we are home safely in LA. We ate a bite and chatted a bit, but we were tired, and it was 10:00PM by that time, which is past midnight for us since we were still on east coast time.

More on our adventures later. For now, thanks for reading, and thanks to Steve R for the pic.