Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

But it’s so much nicer to come home

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

We’re back! And so far it doesn’t look like jet lag should be too much of an issue: I’ve been up since 8 AM this morning, which is a little later than usual for me, but only by an hour or so. Karsten is still sleeping, but this is fairly normal for a Saturday morning. He’ll probably be up soon, if my schedule was any indication.

Here’s the details of the sleep schedule, for those who are interested in jet lag avoidance:

We were up late on Thursday night at a bar called Velvet Lounge (kind of a gay bar, apparently, though a very mixed crowd), and didn’t get to sleep until 3 AM. Then Friday, as is my habit no matter how little sleep I get, I woke up sometime between 6 and 7 AM. Our flight out was at 6 PM (mind you: that’s 5 AM Central Standard Time). Around 10 PM China time, I started getting really sleepy, so I gave in and slept for about 4 hours, and then was awake until we got home around 10 PM Central time (which is 11 AM China time).

So I got to bed around 11 PM last night and was up at 8 AM this morning. Seems not bad for having been 13 hours off schedule for the past week.

ANYway, enough of that. I’ve missed the last few days’ worth of updates here, but it was a wonderful trip. I felt like we did just enough sightseeing to get a feel for the place and the culture without wearing ourselves out. That was balanced with getting a taste of living like locals (or at least like ex-pats) by doing things like going grocery shopping, etc. And that was balanced by getting out to lots of great restaurants and eating some of the best food of our lives. And all that was balanced by a comfortable amount of time in our friends’ modestly luxurious home, which gave us a very relaxed feeling of being on a sort of staycation.

Or perhaps more meaningfully, it also felt quite a bit like being on a cruise, where there are comfortable periods of time spent relaxing and enjoying the amenities of the ship, interrupted by excursions and sightseeing, all highlighted by wonderful food.

I think that’s a pattern that works really well for me, so maybe I’m a cruise-type vacationer after all. Only I think I prefer big city ‘cruises’ over tropical islands. I suppose that makes me weird, but hey. I’m just not that crazy about hot sun and sand, whereas exploring urban areas never gets old.

I guess, like anything, it takes experimentation to learn your ideal vacation style. I think we got pretty darned close to perfect on this trip. (Sure, it would have been better if I hadn’t been sick for the first third of the trip, but even that wasn’t as bad as it could have been had we not been staying in such a wonderful home.) And we both loved Shanghai enough to go back, which is saying a lot considering 1, how many other interesting destinations there are in the world, and 2, how long it takes to get there and back. But it’s an endlessly fascinating place and we only spent a little bit of time exploring its neighborhoods. We could easily do another two weeks there and not get bored.

So maybe we’ll try to squeeze in one more trip before our friends come back to Nashville or move on to wherever they’re going next. Or maybe we’ll put it on the list for some future year and just look for an apartment to rent or something. It’d be a totally different experience without a Chinese-speaking friend to guide us (so I should probably improve my own Chinese skills beyond numbers and simple greetings and ‘bu yao’ or ‘don’t want’ which is immensely useful in the shopping areas) and without a driver. But it would almost certainly shed more light on what it’s like to live in Shanghai.

At any rate, I would love to publicly thank Paris and Charles for their warm and wonderful hospitality and for not only putting up with our vegan pickiness but for making sure we were well taken care of. Because Paris spent all week with us, we enjoyed the luxury of having a trusted and knowledgeable guide as well as the wonderful company of a friend. Thank you so much, Paris and Charles!

And now: back to our normal lives, with taxes to file and deadlines to meet. But also kitties to pet and friends to see and favorite places to go. Vacation life is good, but our home life is pretty darned nice too.

Shanghai while sick, days 2 and 3

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

This has been an odd vacation: I’ve been struggling with still being sick (I came down with a virus infection less than a week before we left) and with having no energy due to weirdness with the timing of taking my Synthroid.

The Synthroid thing really threw me — hard. Here’s the thing: this is a medication you’re supposed to take at the same time every day. And for me, I’ve found that I need to wait at least an hour and a half after taking it before eating, and then wait at least four hours before taking my calcium supplements, which interfere with the effectiveness of Synthroid. But I have also found that to go back to sleep after taking Synthroid seems to concentrate it in some weird, intense way, so that I wake up jittery like I’m on speed or something. So trying to juggle all those restrictions and requirements while 13 hours off my normal schedule? Not easy. I initially tried just taking it at the same actual time (about 6 AM CST), which meant evening here, but that meant I was trying to fall asleep when I was just starting to feel energized. Yesterday morning that meant that I woke up (well, I never really slept) all shaky and with my heart racing. So I waited through the time difference and switched to taking it first thing this morning, and am just now starting to feel more normal, but I’m still a bit weak and woozy.

So I have truly been in the apartment almost the whole time we’ve been here. The only exceptions were on Saturday morning when we went out for a walk around the block (which wore me out) and for lunch when the driver took us to a Thai place for lunch, and we briefly walked around the Xantiandi area (which also wore me out). Yesterday I just resolved to stay in all day and let myself recover so I don’t ruin my whole week with this half-assed weak crap, but yesterday was also the day I was hardest hit by the Synthroid timing discrepancy, so while I was off my feet almost all day, it wasn’t exactly restful.

Nonetheless, I think the virus infection is almost gone (I still have slight sinus congestion and a trace of a cough, but it’s very minor) and I expect I’ll have my strength fully back within a day or two. Of course, we’re only here three and a half more days. So I’m going to try getting outside today, and see how it goes.

Shanghai skyline

In the meantime, I have to say, if you’re going to be stuck indoors, our friends have an awesome place to be stuck. I’ve taken a few pictures from their panoramic picture windows and have played with ColorSplash on the iPhone with the one shown above. More pics are here, and more will be added in the coming days, I’m sure.

Swanky!

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008


Swanky!

Originally uploaded by Kate O’

Even the bathroom icon people are pretty sophisticated.

Are zee French rude? Mais non!

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

Jae got me thinking (in a way totally unrelated to what she was talking about) about how I found myself thinking fondly of the U.S. a few times while we were in Paris and Amsterdam. Not of the government, mind you, and certainly not of this current administration’s policies or whathaveyou.

But just thinking fondly of some of the little cultural niceties that I take for granted and which were notably absent from many of my dealings with folks over there. Maybe some of it is my having grown accustomed to the U.S. South and the culture of extreme gentility that underlies everything else around here, but I can easily understand why Americans who visit Paris, especially, would walk away thinking the French rude. I don’t think it’s really a matter of being rude, but I think there are a few characteristics that are typical of parts of U.S. culture that are either missing or very transformed in some of Europe’s cultures.

I’m thinking, for example, of the kind of you-first-no-you-first awkward politeness, or the face-saving that goes with conversations with strangers, or the extreme emphasis on customer service and the “customer is king” mentality and expectation within retail and food service. Certainly each of these has their analogous counterpart in other cultures, but I imagine it can be jarring for Americans visiting, say, Paris for the first time to be condescended to by a waiter, to be reprimanded by a stranger, to be bluntly addressed, and so on.

Know what I mean? And yeah, I’m sure this has been studied and documented and all, but when has that ever stopped a blogger from making dull observations about anything? So feel free to add your insightful thoughts in the comments and help me class this joint up, would ya?

The vacation that keeps on giving

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

You may have noticed I haven’t been posting in the last week. I didn’t want to make it too obvious when exactly we were going to be gone, but Karsten and I were in Paris for our 10th anniversary and in Amsterdam for his birthday.

We were scheduled to leave last Friday and arrive Saturday morning, but as it happened, we encountered a major traffic jam en route to the airport and missed our flight. About 30 or 40 minutes before the flight was scheduled to leave, while we were still only a few blocks from home, I knew we weren’t going to make it and called Expedia. The next few hours were a grueling exercise in trying to coax compassion out of apathetic customer support specialists. The ones at Expedia tried to pass me off to Air France, and the ones at Air France tried to pass me off to Expedia. Because we’d missed our flight, there was a sense that we would not be able to rebook it, but because we’d been on the phone with both Expedia and Air France prior to the flight’s departure (thanks to the aforementioned apathy and pass-the-buck-ism of each support department), there was a sense that we might be able to be reclassified and get on the next flight out. But it took losing my temper with a supervisor at Expedia and breaking down into sobs while exclaiming how important this trip was to me and my husband before that guy finally took pity on us and helped us change our itinerary. Cancelling the trip was an option, but without having, say, a medical emergency as an excuse, we would have lost most of the money we’d already paid for the trip due to the late notice of the cancellation. So we paid through the nose for new tickets, left Saturday mid-day and arrived in Paris on Sunday morning, one day later than planned and a lot poorer. But — I kept thinking — at least we weren’t in the accident that caused the traffic jam in the first place. There’s always perspective in that.
Anyway, you might say the trip was off to a bit of a rough start. And it was costing us more money than planned, so it had a lot to live up to.

Overall, it was truly wonderful — it really was — but parts of it were also really hard. Travel can be so exhausting, you know? And between jet lag and noisy hotel rooms (our room in Amsterdam overlooked a busy alley right near Centraal Station, so it was pretty much bustling all night), neither of us slept well most of the time.

Breakfast at cafe facing our hotel (with striped awning)And everything was SO expensive! I couldn’t get over how much meals were costing us. We weren’t being decadent but we also didn’t want to be overly frugal. Still, a modest sit-down dinner with an appetizer, a main course each, and a glass of wine each (which was almost always cheaper than soda, for perspective) ran us €45 — or about $65! — more than once. Usually, though, we were cautious about eating very little, and my loose-fitting clothes attest to that. Well, they attest to that and all the walking we did.

But we found so much to love about Paris, even when a waiter rudely refused to serve us, and even when our hotel front desk staff wasn’t technically proficient enough to help us with printing out the vouchers for our Metro and museum passes, bless their French hearts. And we both loved Amsterdam, even with all the ignorant, boorish Americans hooting and whooping it up, and even when a pickpocket almost got me but was thwarted by a random bike near-collision that made me turn my head in time to see the would-be thief sneaking up behind me.

Palais du Luxembourg and the Jardin du LuxembourgParis was big and loud and busy and dirty by day, but in spite of all that, still way more charming than, say, New York, and by night it was seductive and sly. We walked EVERYwhere, and even though we walk a lot here, my feet are still recovering. It was intense. We had no agenda; we just wandered where we felt like wandering and asked each other often what we wanted to do next. The afternoon we spent in the Jardins du Luxembourg was one of the most relaxing times I’ve ever spent. I sat on a bench with my Moleskine notebook and wrote poetry and random observations while occasionally looking up to enjoy the manicured gardens and fountain pools, and Karsten wandered the grounds watching people and studying the artwork.

Paris Apple Expo 2007My Mac-loving friends will appreciate that we found out about an Apple Expo going on last week in Paris, and we decided to stop in for a quick visit on Tuesday. I needed a travel adapter for my laptop’s power cord anyway, and that seemed like as good a place as any to pick one up. It was kind of a boring expo, though, so I don’t have much else to report about that. But I went to an Apple Expo in Paris! I think that earns me some serious Mac geek credentials.

Like I said earlier, though, there were parts that were really hard. Partly, I’m sure, because we were so exhausted and overwhelmed, Wednesday evening — our anniversary — turned sour unexpectedly and we fought bitterly. We so rarely fight that it’s always extremely hard on us when we do, but then to fight in the context of this much-anticipated vacation on this much-anticipated anniversary milestone was a big hurt and a big disappointment to us both, I’m sure. And all that anticipation was no doubt a culprit in feeding our hopes and expectations for how the trip would turn out — and I’ll be completely honest: mine especially. But eventually we found some resolution, got a little sleep, and like the grown-ups we strive to be, got on the train to Amsterdam the next morning, trying to make the best of it, trying not to let this over-hyped, over-anticipated, over-priced vacation be completely ruined by all of our best intentions.

Amsterdam canal cruiseUnsurprisingly, things started out rough in Amsterdam on Thursday, since we were operating on so little sleep and still, I’m sure, a little raw from fighting the night before. But by Thursday evening, we’d relaxed and settled into a pretty good groove and on Friday we were back to our old selves, laughing and having a great time enjoying each other’s company.

By Saturday morning, when we dragged ourselves and our heavy bags to the airport to fly back home, I was starting to feel sick and sore, with a slight burn in my throat. We were both drooping with exhaustion. I took an Airborne tablet and drank a lot of water on the overseas flight. But by last night, on the flight from Newark to Nashville, I was getting sicker and unable to keep my eyes open at all.

I woke up today with a searing burn in my throat, my head full of congestion, and my body aching all over. I’m most miserably sick, but I’m very happy to be home. And don’t get me wrong: I’m also incredibly happy that we took the trip. We experienced so much that we wouldn’t have wanted to have missed. And for all the headaches, frustration, disappointment, and hurt feelings, we are genuinely more in love than ever and I sense that our relationship is stronger for all the good and all the bad we rode out together. We never lost sight of how much we love each other, and that celebrating that was the reason for our journey anyway. Some of the best moments we had were when we remembered that most clearly: making each other laugh in the Louvre; daydreaming about — and then laughing about the unlikelihood of our enjoying — selling our house in Nashville and moving into a tiny apartment in the Latin Quarter; leering tipsily at each other over champagne; reminiscing about the beginning of our relationship while looking out over the rooftops of Paris; and so on, and so on.

Those are the memories I’ll be trying to keep with me. We can grow on those. The other memories are useful to grow from, but after that they’re not helpful anymore. I hope and believe we’ll be able to get what we need out of them and move on into even deeper and more meaningful times in our lives together.

And hell, if that’s what comes of this trip, that was worth going through anything for.

[More pictures are up at Flickr.]

Although come to think of it, Paris might not get my mind off of rats…

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

OK, right off the bat, here’s the sucky thought du jour: I can’t decide if we should go through with the trip we were planning to Europe. Though I’m in luck if I need to travel, because I’ve got bags under my eyes that could hold my entire wardrobe. Why? Because we spent the night in a hotel room with all six cats while we fogged the house for fleas.

I cannot properly do justice to the level of annoying this whole flea thing is. And it’s not just fleas annoying me. Allow me to whine for a moment.

  • I’m pretty sure I saw somewhere that it’s the hottest August ever on record in Nashville. Even if it’s not, it should be. So let’s just get that out of the way right now, ’cause the extreme heat sure isn’t making anything (or anyone) easier to deal with.
  • Remember the rats? Well, they’ve apparently nested underneath and in the walls in the back of our house. (One of my coworkers suspects that this is where the fleas are coming from, but I don’t know if there’s any way to be sure.)OK, and side note — this is a bad story. Feel free to skip to the next bullet — Karsten went out weeks ago and got rid of the junk pile, busted up the old deck, and started digging out the weeds around the house. He hit a nest with tiny wriggling ratlings (it’s easier to call them ratlings than “kittens” when your aim is to get rid of them). It was an awful scene and he was devastated at having hurt them but the aim is, after all, to eliminate the population from our property. So as a compromise, whichever babies weren’t already killed from the impact of the shovel got carried off to an empty lot a few hundred yards away.But anyway, even after all that there are still rats in the walls, and we’re not sure how we’re going to win this one.
  • Baby Clyde is doing better, we think. He apparently had a blockage in his digestive tract so when they x-rayed him, his stomach looked totally full even after a day of intense vomiting. Not sure how or why, but the next day’s x-rays showed his stomach clear and his lower digestive tract filling up, so the vet was satisfied that things looked to be on the right track. But I’m still nervous because we don’t know why he was having trouble in the first place. Which in my mind means it could happen again anytime. But considering I thought he might be dying on Sunday night, I’ll be relieved if all we’re dealing with is a bad case of indigestion.
  • And the fleas! The fleas are driving me nuts. I mean, it’s just exactly the kind of thing that really gets to me. I can’t take any kind of insect in large quantities. I won’t even release ladybugs in the garden ’cause they freak me out en masse, but individually I’ll let them crawl all over my hands and arms. A whole mess of bugs I don’t like under any circumstances invading my living space? Definitely gonna mess with my mind.
  • One of the other cats, Blackberry, has had a long-standing problem with urinating where he shouldn’t. We’ve fought it for a while, but it had been getting worse recently. Took him to the vet and found out he has a pretty serious bladder infection. Uh, OK. Now I feel like a terrible cat person. So we’ve been giving him pills twice a day for weeks, and if you’ve never had to give a pill to a skittish cat, well, you just haven’t experienced life.
  • Between the overages in the house renovation and the flea/rat/vet/hotel expenses, we’ve depleted our checking account to levels we haven’t seen in years. It really sucks and it makes me feel anxious. I think having had the experience of losing nearly everything we owned and getting as close as you can get to bankruptcy without actually filing, I’m having traumatic flashbacks to my anxiety level at that time. Our situation right now in no way resembles our situation then, but it’s hard to shake an experience like that.
  • Oh, and I’m trying to accomplish about a million things simultaneously in the next few months at work. So there’s that, too.

I’m really trying to keep everything in perspective by remembering that we have a house, we have our health, and we’re not broke (yet). But the amount of stuff we’re having to deal with is enough to make me whimper.

So yeah, I can’t decide if we’ve now spent enough unbudgeted money on all these various problems to mean that we should hold off on our long-awaited vacation. The vacation that coincides with our 10 year anniversary. The vacation we’ve been trying to take since 1999. The vacation we could really freakin’ use right about now.

You see what I’m saying? We’ve been really looking forward to this. So to put it off, while it certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world, would hurt and would suck and and and. Yes, we’d get over it. But it would be a big disappointment.

Anyway, it’s not time to decide yet. For one thing, I don’t think we’re out of the woods with the whole pest control issue, so there may actually be even more money to spend. But also because we still have a little time before we have to make the decision, and I may yet come up with some genius plan to make everything work. Hey, it could happen.

Mais il y a peu de chances. Le sigh.

Unexpected efficiency: the government edition

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

Karsten and I both just went through the rigamarole to get our passports processed, and although we have several months before we’re planning to take our European vacation, we’ve heard enough horror stories about delayed applications that we decided to pay the premium for express processing. It was definitely pricey (I think it added something like $100 between the two of us) but it was worth not taking the risk that we would have had to skip the trip.

Anyway, long story short: Karsten’s passport arrived two days ago, just a week and a half after he sent in the application. I’m seriously impressed.

(Of course, mine has yet to show up. Watch it take, like, 10 weeks.)

Question for women and other travelers

Monday, April 9th, 2007

Am I being short-sighted not to see the point in the new women’s travel center AA.com just launched? I realize there are safety implications for women traveling alone, and I realize there are planning considerations for families, yes, OK. And yes, many times the vacation planner in the family is the woman, but I bet it’s pretty often the man, too, so it would probably be better (from a marketing standpoint) to target that information and those resources and promotions to parents, not women specifically.

So beyond additional “smart solo traveler” safety concerns, what else distinguishes women’s travel needs from those of men?

Call me cynical, but this feels like way too heavy-handed an attempt to court the female dollar. Either that — or possibly in addition to that — and here’s where I hint at my e-commerce geekery — someone at AA.com just figured out how to segment their traffic and commerce data by gender, which revealed that women either spend too much or too little time or money on their site (I could speculate either way) and now they’re inventing excuses to draw more women to the site, draw us there more frequently, or draw us there and keep us engaged while we’re there long enough to buy a trip.

None of which are bad things — they’re just obvious. And the obviousness of it feels kind of, I don’t know, patronizing or something.

Or maybe it’s just me. Is it?

Airport security vs. airport freshness

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

Apparently, you can’t pack any aerosols that you don’t spray on your person, so my method lavender air freshener had to go. I gave the can to the two ticket agents, who were only too happy to take it and start spraying behind the ticket counter area. Glad to help.

In the Bay Area next week

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

I’ve been forgetting to mention that I’m headed for the Bay Area next week. I’m traveling without Karsten this time – he’s staying behind to work on the front porch – so I’m especially interested in catching up with friends in the evenings to keep me company! I’ll be arriving Tuesday afternoon and leaving Friday mid-day, and I’m staying in Redwood City. Getting together with friends in the evening Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday would be excellent.

So friends in the Bay Area, if you’re interested in getting together, I’d love to hear from you!

Home is where my heart is

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

The trip back from SLC involved a canceled flight, puking in the airport, and lost luggage, but it’s all over now and I’m simply happy to be home. I very nearly kissed the ground when we landed. Of course, I’ll soon be off again, bound for NYC, but let’s not think about that just now, shall we?

It doesn’t take much travel these days to make me appreciate being home. I worked from here yesterday, which was really nice. It gave us the flexibility to meet up for lunch at Baja Fresh with some of my former coworkers from the music technology gig, and that was a total blast. Aside from the ridiculous delay on one person’s one measly taco, it was an entirely wonderful experience. I really miss them, but I’m relieved that we’re actually staying in touch.

Karsten and I also dropped into a few banks after lunch and got some ideas on financing our front porch work. That’s looking promising. It’s going to look seriously great.

And then around sunset, Karsten and I walked downtown to the new H.G. Hill Urban Market to pick up some mushrooms for dinner. I’d read CeeElCee’s appraisal and basically agree with it, except that I’d add they did a great job with the vertical space. (And Smiley, if it were up to me you’d be a Metroblogger already.)

On our way back home, we stopped in at the Germantown Cafe to have a drink at the bar. After all this time, I still get a little thrill out of being able to pop in for a drink at such a great place.

And, oh yeah, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. *yawn* Although actually, rather unusually, I bought Karsten a present this year. I can’t tell you what it is in case he sees this before his gift shows up, but I think he’ll like it. As for me, I don’t need any gifts — I already have the love of my life — what more could I possibly want? (All together now: awww.)

Catch-up tricks and Halloween treats

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

So if you love me, you noticed I was offline for about a week. Lie and tell me you love me, dammit.

On Thursday, my employer took us on an overnight retreat to a cabin on a lake in Alabama. We did some “strategizing” and then got really, really drunk.

On Friday, one of my coworkers and I decided to stay an extra night at the cabin and get our respective spouses to come down and stay with us. It was great fun for all five of us: Karsten, me, the other couple, and their parrot. Their parrot, in fact, may have had more fun than anyone. He even developed a crush on me, I’m afraid.

Good thing he didn’t see me on Saturday night in my cat costume.

Oh yeah, so we got back on Saturday just in time for several Halloween parties, which we graced with our costumed presence. You already know my costume — here was Karsten’s:

Karsten & coworker Jim at a Halloween party, 2006

He was a hillbilly hockey player, or something like that. The ballcap he’s wearing says “Country Western Hockey Tournament” and he found it at a thrift store. It’s real! You can’t make shit like that up. His hockey stick is homemade, and it says “Puckfucker 1000″ down the handle. The mullet wig, however, makes the costume, in my opinion.

Oh, and that’s my coworker Jim grabbing Karsten to keep him from escaping the camera. Jim was a futuristic gay spaceman from the 1950s, or something like that. (Not that Jim is gay, really — only the tight silver gym-queen shirt he wore under his spaceman suit was gay.) He wore a suit covered in duct tape; pretty classic.

Some other costumes seen: witch, devil, zombie vampire, cheerleader, French maid, King Kong & blonde, pirate… oh, and Japanese anime characters. LOVEd that.

Hope everyone’s been doing well… and missing me. Lie and tell me you missed me, dammit!

Home again!

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

And a post about our travel ordeals is on Metroblogging Nashville.

Since what I wrote there was mostly trip complaints, here are some of the trip highlights:

  • Getting to see our friend D, who was a colleague on the infamous Indy gig.
  • Getting to see J & H, who were colleagues at the (infamous?) healthcare gig but have since moved to the Minneapolis area.
  • Getting to see brandismarie91, whom I haven’t seen in something like 10 years.
  • Eating at Chatterbox pub for Friday dinner and drinks.
  • Eating at French Meadow for Saturday dinner.
  • Eating at The Egg & I for Sunday breakfast/brunch.
  • Eating at Chiang Mai Thai for Sunday dinner.
  • Exploring and eating at several places in the Global Market.
  • While D was playing a league game of soccer, Karsten and I took the light rail to IKEA, which meant passing through the Mall of America. I’d seen the mall before and knew its enormity, but Karsten, I think, was unprepared. He was stunned.
  • Going to the Minnesota Zoo.
  • Seeing a white-cheeked gibbon show off how well he was able to swing from one end of his habitat to the other. He made it look as effortless as a marathon runner crossing the street.
  • Checking out the Loft, a cool writers’ center with a nice little cafe and the most wickedly cool staircase I have ever seen — it’s designed to be reminiscent of a book, with frosted plexiglass sheets that look like pages winding around the railing all the way up. I took pictures, but I don’t have them up yet and I don’t really think they do it justice. Here’s a small one on the Loft web site.
  • Checking out Wedge, a grocery co-op.
  • Checking out various other local coffee shops and bars.
  • Petting D’s two cats, Bea & Greta.

But at this point, I’m just happy to be back home. I’m even happy to be back at work!

Rambling essay-type-thing

Thursday, October 30th, 2003

I scribbled out a little essay-type-thing while I was waiting in the airport in Charlottesville. It’s not elegantly written, but I can’t bring myself to revise it. It’s just first-draft raw writing, and that feels somehow right.

I am in a tiny airport on the East Coast of the United States, and I am reminded of my father. The man to my right, whom I can only see from the back, is graying and dressed like a veteran businessman on a casual day — in other words, not very casually. He is regaling the man to his right with stories of engineering errors — miscalculations in the design of aircraft — not the sort of chit-chat most travellers would find entertaining before boarding a plane. But this man clearly enjoys the absurdity and darkness of telling these stories in this circumstance.

And that reminds me of my father.

“Sadistic,” my mother always shakes her head and says. “Your father has a sadistic sense of humor.” And it’s true, he laughs at movie pratfalls, situation comedies that pit a hapless character against insurmountable odds — and then make him suffer every imaginable cruelty before allowing him, inevitably, to triumph in the end. My dad loves this style of humor.

But I think part of what he loves is the security of knowing that the good guy -will- triumph in the end, against all odds. He can guiltlessly enjoy laughing at the misery in between.

So it shouldn’t have been surprising that during these dark hours of my dad’s battle against cancer, he is still able to laugh and joke about his hallucinations, about his kidney failure, about all the details of his suffering. Nor should it have been surprising that, until recently, he expected to triumph in the end, against all odds.

It broke my heart the first time I heard him acknowledge that there was no guaranteed victory here. “I don’t think this is going to be a short-term thing,” he said miserably.

How do you watch someone make that transition without losing your will to laugh? How can anything be lighthearted anymore when death is leaning on the doorway, coolly having a smoke before coming in to claim his due?

You find a way. You find a way because life is short, death is certain, and in between, humor keeps us sane.

Here in this tiny airport, the businessman to my right has just made a joke about the plane we’re about to board. It’s dark humor, to be sure. But you have to laugh. Don’t you?

I’m a wreck!

Thursday, October 30th, 2003

Running in Charlottesville this weekend did me in, I think — all those hills.

Of course, one of my locker room buddies teased me with “Well, if you’ll ever leave the park, you’ll find that Nashville is a hilly place too.”

I have left the park, thank you very much — I ran up and down hilly Music Row, and it was tough on my knees. I don’t think I’m ready for intensive hillwork yet.

So anyway, yesterday morning, it felt like I was running through water. And this morning, I felt like a limp rag doll, even though I was taking it very easy on my first mile. Finally had to give up and go inside. Quite frustrating.

I’m hoping my muscles will be fully recovered by tomorrow morning and I can put in at least four miles, maybe five.

And running isn’t the only thing affected by my trip to C’ville — I can’t seem to focus on work since I’ve been back. Could’t have anything to do with signing back up on LiveJournal, could it?