Archive for the ‘Road Trips’ Category.

Lost

I woke up to this sight this morning at my Milwaukee hotel.  The one I checked out of because I have a flight to Seattle this evening:

And the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel had this cheery tidbit:

The sixth storm of this trying winter season proved today that the first five were mere practice. Nearly a foot of snow blown by wind gusts topping 30 mph stopped flights at Mitchell International Airport, stymied motorists and Milwaukee County Transit buses and shut down businesses and government operations.

And even if I get to depart MKE tonight, I’ll be flying into this in Seattle:

The weather’s just warming up for weekend blast

Forecasters say wind, heavy snow to hit again — hard

By TOM PAULSON
P-I REPORTER

OK, now get ready for a real winter blast expected this weekend bringing much heavier snowfall with dangerous winds and possibly even freezing rain followed by the potential for avalanches in the mountains.

“It’s going to be a real mess,” said Brad Colman, director and chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Seattle. “It’s a much more dangerous storm because of the wind element. … I think we will have power issues.”

So, I’m biding my time here at my client’s office, where hardly anyone showed up this morning, and those who did are mostly going from office to office describing their commutes.

As much as I’ve flown in the northern tier over the past 10 years, I’ve never been stranded anywhere, not even the week of 911.  But I think there’s a high probability that I’ll be bunking out either in Milwaukee or Minneapolis tonight.  Then who knows what will happen as everyone tries to reschedule into the teeth of the holiday travel season.  I think it might be wise to transfer some of my dainties from my checked luggage to my carry-on pack.

Update

I admit I spent way too much of my client’s time this afternoon obsessively refreshing my NWA flight status screen, trying to determine how my fate thread was unraveling from the spindle of the confluence of airframe vs. atmospherics.  As the day evolved and the Milwaukee airport stayed closed, more and more of the scheduled flights started to post “Canceled” or “Delayed”, but my 6:05 pm departure remained miraculously “On Time”.  I presumed that this was simply because Northwest had not been able to think, and cancel, that far ahead yet.

Turns out that I was just lucky in my scheduling.  When I arrived at the airport, there were two classes of Northwest customers:  Those whose reservations were still “alive” - i.e. not canceled, and whose connections had not been mangled,  and those who were fucked and not likely to get un-fucked real soon.

This photo shows (not really starkly) how this divide worked down in the Black Hole of NWA Calcutta:

Those directly behind me were in a short line to check bags for flights that were still on schedule; those to the rear were the tip of a line that snaked around the cramped ticketing area, waiting for agents to patch their lives back together.  As I checked my bags, I felt like a resident of a miraculously intact building in a city that had been carpet-bombed.

After I checked in, I discovered that I could catch a seat on an even earlier Minneapolis flight and, reader, I grabbed it as if it was the landing strut of the last helicopter leaving Saigon.  Under those circumstances, when you see an actual plane actually loading actual passengers, you can’t turn it down.

And, yes, just to prove that injustice can still be propagated in these post-bailout times, I was upgraded on both legs.  Boo-Yeah!

Shellfish Shenanigans

So we met at my middle brother’s place near Charleston, SC to roast oysters and watch the Ohio State-Michigan game last weekend.  The weekend sped by, and I could do no more than hold on for the ride. I mean, nominally it was a 4-day weekend spanning Thursday through Sunday, but so much of my time was taken up on airplanes that I only got 2+ days of ground time with my peeps.

I arrived in Charleston on time, but at midnight on Thursday. On Friday, my middle bro, the host of the festivities, and I went shopping at the oyster store and (natch) the liquor store, then stopped at what used to be a rice and indigo plantation adjacent to man-made Lake Moultrie. His employer now owns the grounds, and entree to the place is an employee benefit. It was chilly the whole weekend, and on Friday there was a 20-knot wind. As we strolled, the sun was lowering and the angle of light was making the sea oats and Spanish moss look like it was on fire (click photos to enlarge):

My youngest brother and his entourage arrived Friday evening and, after going out for a gala dinner, we stayed up late drinking his home-brewed beer around a campfire. Saturday, Gameday, arrived all too soon, and I dragged myself out of bed just in time for the noon (Eastern) kickoff.

Even though Michigan has had its struggles this season, I had expected the usual nail-biter. Instead, the Buckeyes finally fulfilled the potential that seemed imminent early in the season, and won the game easily. We usually watch the game outside, back by my brother’s garage, but the chill, and the presence of a new wide-screen TV in the living room, kept us inside for the first half.

My SIL was the first to notice it - my bro’s have finally devolved to watching the Buckeyes in rocking chairs, and spending time-outs in barcaloungers.  Eventually, in the second half, we tentatively migrated outside to start the grilling marathon.

The game won, we turn to developing a hot bed of coals for roasting the oysters. The pets don’t escape the madness (the dog is from Columbus, and is named “Beanie Wells”.  Go figure). After eating way too much, we hang out around the fire despite temperatures in the 20s, savoring the win, my brother’s excellent hospitality, and each other’s company.

Westward

I’m chillin’ at the Northwest Worldclub at the Minneapolis airport, waiting for my 9:30 flight home to Seattle. A hectic Friday, as usual for these expeditions.

The last couple of times I’ve gone to Milwaukee, I’ve been checking Craigslist to see if anyone’s selling a bicycle for a reasonable price. The area where I work and stay (Glendale/Fox Point/Whitefish Bay), north of town, seemed to be a great place to bicycle, and I often see serious training going on there.

So, last Saturday, I saw a likely candidate on Craigslist.  I stopped at the seller’s place on my way to my hotel from the airport, test rode it, and plunked down my money and drove away with it!

It’s a little bit bigger than I would ride if I had been shopping for a main squeeze sort of bike, but I had a great time cruising around on it this week.  It’s my first “modern” bike, with brake-lever index shifters and a 9-speed cassette in the back, triple-chainwheel in front.  I locked it up at my client’s when I left tonight, but kind of hated to leave it behind.  I’ll get good use out of it through the fall, and it adds some zest to the humdrum life of the road warrior.

Have a good weekend, everyone!  I’m glad to be headed west.

Home Cookin’

Well, last week in Milwaukee engendered another of my inexplicable blackouts. I guess the combination of intense work and hotel nights just sucks away my inspiration.

On Friday night, I hopped over to Detroit, met up with my youngest brother, and we zipped down I-75 to Perrysburg to visit our mom for the weekend. She’s recovering nicely from a bout of pneumonia that had hospitalized her for a few days in late June (and scuttled her trip to join us in Ashland). My bro and I took a long walk around town with the specific purpose of seeing what has changed and what’s stayed the same, and to just revel a bit in the high midwest summer, which repaid us by behaving exactly according to type - 90-ish sunny heat, followed by a short rain squall, followed by more sun that created a foggy soup of palpably aqueous air.

I actually enjoy a bit of that kind of weather for nostalgic purposes, and marvel a little that we endured summers without a shred of air conditioning in our house.

Here are a few pics from our walkabout. It’s not unusual in our hometown to find homes flying flags or other insignia of either Ohio State or Michigan year-round. Despite the changes in weather throughout the year, there is a binary time-template superimposed over the year: football season, and not-football season. It’s not so usual, and it even speaks to a certain bothersome moral relativism, when you find the emblems cohabiting in such close quarters as this (Click any pic to enlarge):

In this milieu, I am able to wear an OSU t-shirt without having to affect an air of irony in defense against west coast urban chic. Even a t-shirt commemorating our blow-out loss to LSU last year in the national championship game. You can get some idea of the heat and humidity from the shirt’s drenched state:

We walked through a street to which I stoically delivered newspapers in Jr. High, and emerged in the area of the municipal swimming pool, where we spent many a summer afternoon trying to position ourselves nonchalantly near ladders where a girl might emerge with just a little too much water weighing down her bikini top. This is also where Mrs. Perils worked as the cutest lifeguard ever..and to which we repaired one summer post-midnight to rewrite from a species standpoint the reason that W. C. Fields claimed to not drink water.

Just up the street we came upon the elementary school which my bro attended and where Mrs. Perils’ mother taught third grade. We think that was her room at the far left.

Perrysburg has a fairly typical midwest-town main street, at the end of which stands a statue of the town’s namesake, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. It’s unclear why his statue is flanked by two lesser statues of lounging cabin boys with hands firmly gripping their…swords, but Little Bro has apparently taken a liking to one of them:

The walk ends as we approach my mom’s house (in red brick. The house on the left was where my paternal grandparents lived). The place looks great now in summer, but the year my parents built it and moved us in (1961), it was a forlorn island in a sea of newly-graded dirt. Dirt which I toiled in that summer to plant grass, shrubs and trees, and upon which I toiled for many summers after with a push lawn mower. I actually ended up making my high school living mowing 5 or 6 such lawns in the neighborhood.

Our nostalgia for that agrarian toil found us on Saturday afternoon and Sunday trimming trees and bushes, planting a couple of Rhododendrons. The roseate glow of memory did not extend, however, to the legions of mosquitoes that attacked us unceasingly as we tore into their hidey-holes with clippers and rakes. As evening encroached, fireflies, which we don’t have in Seattle, flickered their Morse code of high summer, but by then I considered them merely as tracer bullets for the kamikaze mosquitoes. I retired to the house slick with sweat and festooned with mosquito body parts.

The three of us had a swell time, and it at least partially made up for my mom’s disappointment at having to miss the plays in Ashland.

Repatriated

I’m home from my work week in Milwaukee, after mildly adventurous travel experiences. They had a storm system pass through southeastern Wisconsin during the hours leading up to my departure flight, moving southwest to northeast and passing the Milwaukee airport just before my flight was to depart. Inbound aircraft were delayed, yada, yada, and my scheduled flight looked like it was sliding close to missing my 9:30 connection to Seattle in Minneapolis (the last one of the day). A helpful agent got me reassigned to an earlier flight to Minneapolis, which would not have been available without the aforementioned delays, and printed me two new boarding passes, which included my original first-class seat on the Seattle flight.

The weather passed on to the east, and I got to Minneapolis in plenty of time. At boarding time for Seattle, I presented my boarding pass to the gate agent, but it wouldn’t scan. He played with his screen for a bit, and said that I wasn’t checked in for the flight. They had given my precious seat 1D away, and there were no first-class seats left. Kind of a jolt, since the flight was full, but he found me an exit-row seat in coach, so I didn’t suffer unduly. I watched wistfully as libations were distributed in the front section, but got a good portion of my book (Another Country, James Baldwin) read, and also caught a few z-z-z-z’s.

I’ve developed a peculiar way of sleeping on airplanes. The central problem is that, when one is asleep, his head becomes an uncontrolled projectile, not unlike the old playground tetherballs. Because the seats on a plane only recline a couple of inches this head is hardly supported at all, and, full of blood, nervous tissue and whatever one has imbibed prior to departure, tends to lurch forward or, more problematically, cant sideways towards the shoulder of a neighbor where, 99% of the time, it is unwelcome. (This is also the point where an unfortunate amount of saliva has bestrewn the chin and cheeks, a possible explanation).

Window seats are not much of a problem - I just find a spot against the side of the fuselage to lean. Middle and aisle seats are more difficult, but I’ve found a way to sort of tuck my chin into the hollow behind my clavicle, where it tends to stay affixed. It’s sort of like a bird with a beak tucked under its wing. I wake with a little soreness in my neck, but surprisingly refreshed.

I know you can get those neck-ring pillows, and I’ve got one, but I already carry so much stuff that I’m unwilling to devote space in my backpack to it.

A chilly, rainy weekend, but a weekend nonetheless, yawns before me.

Anti-Climax

After that dramatic lead-in, sorry if this sounds mundane. I had a wonderful time at dinner Thursday night. My friend’s wife, also a Jordanian/Palestinian, had worked much of the day preparing what amounted to a feast, consisting of:

  • Adas - a soup of pureed lentils, lemon, rice and spices
  • Kufta - savory meatballs served over white rice in a stew-like sauce of tomatoes, potatoes and carrots. The meat was ground beef. They said that they had pretty much switched a lot of their cooking from lamb to beef because more of their American guests prefer it to lamb.
  • Kapsa - a rice concoction laced with spices, raisins, nuts, etc baked, and then topped with grilled chickens
  • Dessert was Qatayef - dainty crepe-like pancakes filled with goat cheese and folded into a crescent, then served drizzled with a honey-like syrup
  • Arabic or Turkish coffee - finely ground beans boiled with cardamom and a bit of sugar, served in small porcelain cups.

My friend’s two daughters from his previous marriage were spending the night, and helped set the table and serve the food, and were model children. (When I said as much to their mother the next day, she was moderately incredulous). The girls did say that they were happy that we were speaking English at the table. Apparently, when their father and stepmother have Arab guests for dinner, everyone speaks Arabic, and they’re left to fend for themselves.

Over the course of the evening, I learned a lot about the evanescent sense of domicile in the Middle East. Of course, the Palestinians have multiple layers of displacement. I also learned that other nationals there become displaced because some accept contracts to work in one of the oil-rich gulf states, and end up residing in Oman, Bahrain, UAE and Saudi Arabia for basically a 30-year career. But, at the end of their contracts, they must re-patriate to their countries of origin for their retirement, which causes a significant social dislocation. They are paid well while they are working, but they can’t really meld into the community because they will eventually have to leave.  And when they get back to “home”, they have no friends, and perhaps not many relatives left either.

So, after the dramatic build-up of last night’s post, I have to say that the evening was so convivial that I have nothing to “dish”. We talked about so many disparate things that I wasn’t at any risk of stumbling into the subject of work at all.  My friend’s wife is a physician trained in the Czech republic and working through a residency here in Milwaukee. She’s fluent in English and a delight to converse with. My sense is that there isn’t much that my pal can put over on her.

Long Weekend, Tardy Posting

Our trip with my brother and SIL last weekend worked out perfectly - nearly everything fell into place as if it were scripted.

Here’s a little soundtrack for a post about a trip that includes the San Juans - it’s called The Pig War by a Seattle band called Minus The Bear:

I picked up my guests at the airport Wednesday night, and we left Thursday morning for a ferry ride across Puget Sound and a short drive to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula (Click photos to enlarge).

Port Townsend is a charming little town nestled in a bay off of Admiralty Inlet, the passage that connects Puget Sound with the Strait of Wanna Fu Juan de Fuca. If you click the link above, you’ll read of an interesting wrinkle in its history that ensured the preservation of some knockout Victorian housing stock. Our weather pattern for the weekend was morning fog which the sun chased away at its leisure over the course of the afternoon. As we walked around Port Townsend, fog moved in and out, and eventually settled into a sculpted bank offshore, secreting ferries, container ships and other shipping, and their alarmist honking.

We stayed at a nice little place on the water called The Tides. Port Townsend and environs was the setting for the filming of the movie An Officer And A Gentleman, and The Tides was the site of one of Debra Winger and Richard Gere’s liasons. The middle photo below is the parade grounds at Fort Worden where the cadets’ graduation took place. The filming provided me with my only movie star client as a CPA. Friends of ours lived and ran businesses in Port Townsend at that time, and I did their taxes. During filming, one of their daughters was selected to appear in the film (in the dinner scene where Gere visited Debra Winger’s family. Their daughter was one of the kids at the table.) Every year thereafter, she got a 1099 from Paramount, and I prepared a little 1040 for her.

Friday morning, we had reservations for a boat tour that left Port Townsend, wound its way through the San Juan Islands to a lunch stop in Friday Harbor, and engaged in some wildlife-ogling and orca-watching on the return trip. Below you see the most interesting of our wildlife sightings, each in their own way attempting to absorb as many late-summer sunrays as possible.

And the piece de resistance: Our tour boat headed to the west side of San Juan Island and slipped in among a throng of other boats who were watching the J and K pods of southern resident orcas feeding offshore. The rule for whale-watching boats is to keep at least 100 meters’ distance, and, remarkably, all but one of the boats were scrupulously observing this etiquette. The whales, however, are under no such restriction, and at some point started heading towards the boats. The video below was taken as a pair of them approached, then swam around, our boat.

This might seem heretical to whale worshipers, but the above video for me is eerily reminiscent of this scene from my brother’s pond in South Carolina. For a time, the pond was home to one small-mouthed bass that, for all intents and purposes, became a housepet to my avid fisherman brother. It would follow us around the pond as we circumambulated the shore. I mean, can you eat a fish once you’ve named it “Shamu”? Shamu died of natural causes last spring. Or so we’re told. Me, I think he’s still down there, waiting for his “Call me fishmeal” moment:

And, finally, the ostensible reason for their visit arrived Saturday morning - the game at Husky Stadium between our Buckeyes and the Washington Huskies. Mrs. Perils is not a football fan, so my bro, SIL and I walked down to the stadium, taking time to meander around UW’s campus and absorb a little collegiate atmosphere. Upon entering the stadium, we were delighted to see that there was a large contingent wearing scarlet.

Also attending was an a pep band from the OSU Marching Band alumni club. When they were soliciting players earlier in the summer, I considered playing, but ultimately felt that it was sort of inappropriate for non-students to be participating in a college athletic event. I mean, it’s one thing to have an annual reunion game at our stadium where we play jointly with the student band and they love us and welcome us. It’s quite another thing to start showing up at away games and, in my opinion, usurping the role that students should be playing, even given that the Big Ten schools either send an entire band or nothing. I don’t want them to start thinking that they can quit sending the student band to away games because the alumni are only too happy to play. Our job as band alumni is to shut up and write checks. So, my brother and I attended the game as mere citizens. Meanwhile, the alumni band did a great job of playing and rallying our fans, they were loved and welcomed, and I’d have had a great time participating. But, in retrospect, I’m content with my decision.

The photos below depict a celebration after we scored, the final score on the scoreboard, and the team assembled in the endzone after the game, facing the contingent of fans and singing the alma mater along with the alumni band. A thoroughly satisfying afternoon. (I hasten to add - those people in kilts are not the OSU alumni band - it was high school band day at Husky Stadium, and they’re getting a ground-zero view of a tradition-laden program, even if it’s not the one they came to see!)