Sunday, February 20, 2011

Travels 2010: San Diego and Las Vegas

Travel-wise we stayed close to home in 2010 since my ambulation was still not 100% and also since my ankle is made of titanium, I could be worth money in 3rd world countries.

We knew of a couple that moved from San Diego to Cary, North Carolina, purchased a very nice house, moved into it then one spouse went into their new laundry room and started to cry because they did not live in San Diego anymore. That peeked interest. Speaking with anyone who lives in San Diego, was born and raised there, or like our friends, lived there for a time and left; they all claimed it was the best place in the US to live. Never asked why, wanted to find our ourselves.

Both Donna and I had been to Southern California before, just not San Diego. We found the area to be a wonderful place, Mediterranean climate, nice people, and many points of interest. We also noticed high taxes, the worst traffic in the world, and a huge density of people and structures. Plus Gertrude Stein could have been speaking about the Los Angeles area and not about Oakland when she said it "lacked theme". Still Donna and I wanted to find out what was so great about San Diego so we flew there last September.

Our first night we went to “Bring Your Pet Night” at Petco Baseball stadium just for the novelty of seeing a lot of dogs at a baseball game. The next several days we went to Balboa Park, a city park. The Park was wonderful! Balboa Park contains the world famous SD Zoo and 15 impressive buildings of Moorish, Italian, and Spanish influence surrounded by ornate, brightly tiled fountains and gorgeous flower gardens. Each building is a museum or cultural center. There is also an open- air Pipe Organ Pavilion with nightly organ concerts – we went twice.

Being in Southern California, we also drove up to La Jolla Cove to see the sea lions and rich people. We ate at Georges by the Sea in downtown La Jolla that had wonderful scenic ocean views. They sat us by the kitchen though, since we looked like most patrons’ grandparents and were probably not helped by the fact my khaki’s had the ever present soup stain from the previous meal - not black jeans with the pre-cut designer knee holes and the Mercedes CL600 convertible which the pants could sit in. The wait staff gave both hurried and slow service, probably unsure if we were early or late to our AARP meeting - the food was very good though. We then drove south to the less affluent Pacific Beach that was filled with an eclectic mix of young families, old folks, teenagers, and on the boardwalk, young people with tattoos and the pallor of a recent stay at a correctional facility. More our kind of people.

We took a city tour that brought us across the Bay to the iconic Hotel del Coronado, a landmark structure with large wings of white clapboards topped by red-shingled roof expanses and turrets. The back of the "Del" faced the beach and was landscaped with large swimming pools skirted with hundreds of white chaise lounges and very unique and beautiful plants. Donna knew many of the flower varieties without looking at the attending signs, I of course, added to the enjoyment by saying, "Look, a plant!" The beach looked perfect, but we couldn't understand why everyone was at the pool and not many on the beach. Why spend $500 a night on a beach vacation and go to the pool? It would be like getting a ticket to Augusta and then spending your time playing miniature golf. We knew the answer to the riddle as several Navy fighters skidded low across the beach (San Diego has a very large naval presence) and provided the same decibel level as the front row of a Stones concert. The backwash from the jet engines probably gave birth to the beach's divots. Just hope they wait to start the strafing runs during the off-season.

For such a large city, San Diego was easy to get around with one stipulation. If you travel there, be sure you have a map of the area with the shopping malls clearly marked. San Diegoans seem to place them in high regard. Directions always seemed to be given by major highways and malls. ”Right, you want to take a left about two miles before you hit Fashion Valley Mall… if you approach the Westfield Mall, turn around.” San Diego? People like it because it is Southern California without most of the attendant problems – size, traffic, etc….but has malls. If they ever put up a public sculpture downtown it will probably be a statute of a shopper.


As you know, I have been extremely concerned with our economy. Since the past and present Administration has made no headway increasing the M1 money supply to kick-start aggregate lending. I, well, you know the old saying, “if you want to get something done….”

So I decided to take Donna to Las Vegas for two days on the way back to North Carolina.

We also stopped off to see our friends Kathy and Jay Healey: photo provided (I’m the handsome one.) Always a unique place, Las Vegas routinely commits a hit-and-run on the notions of a mundane and ordinary life. A pile of neon that stands in protest of “buy and hold, keep your nose to the grindstone, and a penny earned.” A city where the hare wins the race and still has time for the casino buffet. In the morning, coming out of the breakfast buffet at the Bellagio (Donna had pork – totally out of control!), she won $90.00 at the slots. So much for the economy! We did notice that a lot of the men of my certain age all seemed to be dressed entirely in black and had very young ladies on their arms; must have been their daughters. That night we celebrated our largess by doing some fine dining at a steakhouse in the Paris. Walking through the spacious dining room filled with men in black and their “daughters”, I noticed one large, elderly gentleman seated between two “daughters. He was dressed entirely in white – white shoes, socks, pants, shirt and suit coat. He had jet black hair. He was smiling. He looked like a lone cue ball resting on a black felt pool table of eight balls. He reminded me of a character in one of the old Universal International black and white horror movies from the 60s. You know the asylum orderly, dressed in a white uniform, who forgets to secure the lock of the maniac’s cell while picking up the supper tray. That always happened early enough in the movie to give you enough time to run up and get some popcorn before the maniac took his revenge. Snacks with carnage
We shouldn’t blame the orderly though. He was probably just thinking of his daughter.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Odds N Ends

So I was performing the most ugly and depressing task of the year. No, not doing taxes, dredging through all my files looking for, well, misfiled, tax receipts that were not put in the accordion tax folder. As you know my mind is filled constantly with great thoughts so small mistakes will happen. So I found this ditty in the "God" file. Yes I have a file with the heading "God" and I am sure I will hear about it on a date certain in the future.

"What!, you put Me between the Auto Insurance file and the Fidelity Diversified International Mutual Fund folder? I couldn't go first? I couldn't be put at the beginning of the drawer? Not important enough to you, Heh?"

Can I say, "Sorry God, don't take it so personally." Can you say "personally" to God? Need help here.

Anyway, I found this poem in the "God" file and thought it would apply for this winter - whether you live in New Hampshire or not. I have no idea where it came from so cannot attribute to whoever wrote it.

It's winter in New Hampshire
And the gentle breezes blow
Seventy miles an hour
At thirty-five below.

Oh how I love New Hampshire
When the snow's up to your butt
You take a breath of winter
And your nose gets frozen shut.

Yes, the weather here is wonderful
So I guess I'll hang around
I could never leave new Hampshire
I'm frozen to the ground!


Here's a question you never want to ask. "How old am I?"

So I woke up yesterday and started on my first cup of coffee with the newspaper. I was reading about an article on Baby Boomer financial net worth from ages 45 to 69. 45 years old? Someone would have to have been born in the late 60s to be 45. Isn't the definition of a Baby Boomer someone born during or 10 years after WWII? I may have missed it, but I don't remember a birth spike during the Nixon administration. I mentioned this to Donna and pointed out I was very happy to be turning 65 this April.

"You're not going to be 65 this April", said wife Donna.
"Of course I am, don't you think I know how old I am?"
"Apparently not".
"I was born in 1947. I'm 64!"
"No, you're' 63 right now - do the math."

I didn't have pencil and paper and with only 1/2 cup of joe in me, I found mathematical calculation beyond reach, but not the laptop, so I fired it up and goggled, "How old am I". It brought me to a Mathkids site, punched in the DOB and behold - 63 going on 64!
It even tells me how old I am in weeks, months, and seconds. There's a lesson here someplace; just not sure what it is.

With the same cup of coffee, I tuned into CNN and a crawl came on that indicated the advent of a new phone app for Catholic confessions. As with most banners; just headlines; no details. So with the laptop already fired up, I googled and received sketchy information on the new smart phone application. For $1.99 you can download a "practice" confession of sins with a questionnaire and different acts of contrition. I am not making this up. I guess this is for people who can't differentiate between the minor sins like wearing the color blue with the color green and the really bad ones like premeditated murder, buying one of those foreign compacts that look like a wood shim on wheels, or worse, if you're a woman, having one of those handbags that can contain everything you've ever purchased plus a cord of firewood - then swinging it helter skelter in the checkout line at the local supermarket with all the force of a demolition ball and chain against the side of a crumbling skyscraper. It's not a handbag, it's checked baggage...don't get me started.

In my experience, going to confession is one of the most difficult parts of the Faith. Who wants to tell anyone, let alone God, their sins, but tell we must (see John 20:21-22, 2nd Corinthian 5:18, or my personal favorite because it is the simplest, Matthew 16:19). Whenever I'm around a bunch of whinny baby boomers (probably the 45 year olds) complaining about how things "used to be", I think of the people in church waiting for confession on a Saturday afternoon. If you walk into a Catholic Church, any Catholic Church on that afternoon, you will see people of all ages; young parents with their kids in tow, geezers like me, and most heartening, high schoolers and college age kids. These people's presence demonstrate a triumphant of love and humility over complacency and ego. They all try to get closer to God and humble themselves. It is not easy and must be particularly hard for the younger ones trying to find their way in life, their first instinct is to lean against themselves as their only support. To my mind, they are involved in a heroic act. You want a hero - don't look to Indiana Jones, look to Joe Jones walking into the Confessional. So, unlike the 45 year olds, I think we are doing just fine.

Just hope the phone app helps and not hurts. It will be another reason I won't be getting a smart phone since I'm always looking for a plan B. I can see myself doing the app then taking my time about actually going to Confession. I hope there aren't many Catholics like me. If there are, in about six months, I can visualize the Priest giving a short homily called, "Smart Phone Sins Stink (To High Heaven)." We'll see.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Travels 2010: Stand-Bye

"And this is good old Boston,
The home of the beans and the cod,
Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots,
And the Cabots talk only to God."

-Harvard University Toast

I work for an Airline and if lucky, get to fly at low cost if there is an empty seat. So last October, Donna and I wanted to go visit with my sister and some falling leaves in Southern New Hampshire so we sauntered to Terminal C at Raleigh Durham Airport one morning and awaited flight. During the relaxing afterglow of the TSA inspection station, we ran into Stephanie and Adam Parken with their delightful one year old child, Everett. We know them through our friend, Kristen Symank (See Get Shorty-2009 post). When God wants to introduce a gentle smile in your life, He introduces you to Kristen or someone just like Adam and Steph come highly recommended.

Steph was going to Texas to visit family and Adam got a gate pass to assist in transport; his help was needed since Steph was pregnant with another child. As I watched them with Everett I could see that if parenting skills were measured against athletic grace then Steph and Adam would reside on the ark of a Ted Williams' swing of the bat. The Parkens were natural at it and the world will only get better with a new addition under their tutelage.

We bid adieu and went to our different gates. They left, we didn't. At takeoff Donna and I were on the wrong side of the jet bridge door for the 7:15am through JFK, the 9am through Washington and the 10:25 through Chicago. I opened the new Michael Connelly mystery, then closed it and had an epiphany! I could help Adam and Steph give their new child a name! The fact that I don't know them well shouldn't be an impediment...I'm sure they will be thrilled. They can now devote all their time and effort toward little Everett and their new baby!

Given thought, most names have become too mundane, too, well, known. I always thought it would be interesting to name a child after a "thing" instead of a person. It opens up a lot of lanes. Architectural?: Chrysler(building), Empire (State Building), or Golden (Gate)...or perhaps a natural resource: Grand (Canyon), Lake (Michigan), or Missouri (Breaks). No? Not highfalutin enough? How about naming her after an S&P corporation? Proctor, Gamble, Microsoft, or Kubota (tractor)? No?

I liked the idea of a multi-national corporation though, but let's get classy. Name her after a European bourses listing: Peugeot?...ugly car design...Rio for Rio Tinto?...yes, I like that except they are currently immersed in a scandal. Too bad, Rio would be nice and also hit several name categories to boot.

What to do. Then it hit me. How about Everette? Since they had an Everett (boy), and probably getting a girl, Everette...they would be a matching pair. Think of the money they could save in initialed clothing. Aren't I good! Everette it is!


No, No, No. It is a horrible idea! Everette - would inevitably be mispronounced as "Eva-ret" which sounds like an experimental drug in its third week of FDA trials. Besides, what if Steph, Adam, or both develop speech impediments in later life. Couldn't you just hear Steph yell to the kids from the kitchen, "Ava-ret don't forget to wear the pink shoes with the blue dress." Too much money from Everett's 529 college fund would have to be diverted for therapy.

Then it hit me! From now on all children should have two names; one "written" and one "spoken". Look at the name, Everette. Doesn't it look grand on the page - almost poetic? Look how the letters live well together in print. I just can't give it up. Everette conjures up a romantic notion not observed since Evangeline, the epic tone poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that chronicled the forced move of Canadians to Louisiana during the French and Indian Wars in the early 1700s. Perhaps some erstwhile Longfellow years from now will write about Everette, a tale involving celestial truth and maybe some intergalactic space zombies. You never know.

So they can name the new baby whatever spoken name they like (anything from Sara to Snappy works for me), but I hope they take Everette as the written name under serious advisement.

Donna and I never made it to Boston. No empty seats. I guess the Lowells and Cabots were having a family reunion.

I wonder what their first names were?