From sea to shining sea

1 06 2015

We made it.

Our coast-to-coast road trip, planned by master travel planner R. (his website will be ready soon and please do think about using his expert services the next time you are planning a US road-trip…), took us through 18 states and one Canadian province, on a not-so-direct route from the Fort Point Channel in Boston to the San Francisco Bay, from lobster-crazed New England to drought-parched California, from the worst winter in recorded history to a climate that we think we just might enjoy more.

It was an epic journey, and not only because we ran out of gas on the New York Thruway in the middle of the night. We saw so much. And we saw so much beauty, and so many contrasts and contradictions. We experienced kindness and shared meals with great old friends. We drove 90 miles per hour on the Interstate in some places, and stopped for something unique and singular, not found anywhere else, in others. We learned about this country in a way that is only possible when you travel across it on the ground rather than 33,000 feet up in the air.

Where we started: Downtown Boston.

Where we started: Downtown Boston.

Where we finish: San Francisco.

Where we finish: San Francisco.

Now it’s time to get our act together to make ourselves comfortable in our new home (photos to come of course). But before we move on to the mundane details of setting up house in the suburbs (and looking for a job… that’s kind of not mundane…) here is our road-trip by the numbers:

Miles/kilometers driven: 5,435/8,750

Gallons/liters of gas used: 211/836

National Parks visited: 6

Speeding tickets received: 0

Times we got stuck and had to call AAA: 1

Days it rained at least once: 16

Days we drove into severe thunderstorms/hail/snow: 4/2/2

Breakfast bagels: 8

Beef dinners (burgers, steaks, sandwiches): 8

Meals at Denny’s: 3

Hotel hot tubs used: 4

OK, we are off to buy a refrigerator, a washer and dryer, and a grill for our back terrace. I can smell the barbecue already!

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Opening Day at Fenway Park

5 04 2014

My employer has four season tickets to home games of the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park. And one of the perks is that employees of all levels on the food chain get to use these tickets (for free), most of the time all you have to do is ask nicely. Of course, sometimes some client entertaining has to be done, so on game day one might discover that one’s planned afternoon or evening at the ballpark has fallen through at the last moment. That’s fair, though. The seats are in the 12th row just behind 3rd base. I can see why clients would want to go.

But sometimes, regular old staff like me gets lucky.

Yesterday was Opening Day. The 2013 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox came home to begin another season. It was an afternoon game, with the official celebration and “ring ceremony” – where the players from last year’s team pick up their official championship bling, beginning at 1pm.

Famous Fenway Park.

What more American thing is there to do than go to a ballgame at one of the oldest and most storied ballparks in the country? And what more American of American things to do than go to a ballgame at one of the oldest and most storied ballparks in the country on Opening Day? Lest we forget, last year’s Opening Day at Fenway happened just hours before the Marathon bombings. And of course everyone here in Boston can tell you where they were during the fairytale worst-to-first World Series run last October that made the city whole again.

So Friday morning, as part of a planned office meeting, leadership held a raffle, with the four coveted tickets going to four lucky winners. And… I won a ticket to Opening Day.

The pregame festivities were emotionally-laden and full of symbolism; they included bombing victims and first responders, as well as a salute to the city’s firefighters, after two of them died in a blaze not far from Fenway last week. A Coast Guard helicopter buzzed the 36,000 fans in a very-low-altitude flyover. The pennant was raised to great fanfare. The Boston Pops teamed up with the Dropkick Murphys for the national anthem. The old mayor tossed the ball to the new mayor, who threw the first pitch. The game was not exactly an afterthought, but it was a bit of an anticlimax, with the players and the fans fairly spent. The Sox lost to the Brewers 6-2.

How totally cool is this?

How totally cool is this?

So what did I make of it? Without getting too slushy or overly patriotic – it was an unforgettable day I was absolutely thrilled to experience. And I’m not sure that any of my friends overseas can understand the bond that links me to all of this. This is a small part of why I came back to the States after all these years.

An old dear friend needed just two words to sum up everything I felt, reducing me to tears. She said, simply: “Welcome home.”





Sunday over Boston

24 03 2014

If anyone is wondering, it IS still winter in New England – even though the calendar says something else. A Nor’easter is set to barrel through this week, and on Saturday what seemed like its precursors had already reached us. The wind whipped around corners and gusted to about 35-40 miles per hour, roughing up any light aircraft that took to the sky. A private-pilot colleague who went up on Saturday, I am told, fought hard to keep from retching into her air-sick baggie.

Sunday was a different day entirely, and I decided to go fly.

Me and my ride.

Me and my ride.

A work colleague had agreed to be the guinea pig on my virgin solo into Boston Class B airspace, taking his life into his hands, and mine. It was an cloudy morning, but the winds had died down at least, exponentially increasing the physical and spiritual enjoyment of such a venture.

Once airborne, we headed southeast, towards the city about 20 miles distant. Flying into restricted airspace isn’t really more complicated than flying elsewhere, you just need to pay a little more attention to the chatter on the radio and follow instructions carefully.

The air traffic controller at Logan International Airport was in a good mood, underworked and indulgent, offering us access to airspace that we little folks rarely get to cross. He basically gave us free rein to do whatever we wanted over the city. “You are cleared as requested. I have nothing going on here, so you picked a great time to come. Go crazy. But please don’t get too close to the buildings.” We circled downtown, passed eye-to-eye with the tops of the iconic John Hancock Tower and the Prudential, sailed over Fenway Park, Harvard University and MIT, and watched the rowers do their laps on the surely still frigid Charles River. We flew a ways down the south shore, and after turning back towards the city we watched as a handful of passenger jets took off from Logan, below our right wingtip. “Feel free to fly around the inner harbor if you want, just don’t turn right, okay?”

Downtown Boston.

Downtown Boston.

Though the grass is still many weeks from green, and the overcast sky allowed only a diffuse grey light onto the city, I am still always fascinated by the perspective I gain from traveling at 1,600 feet above the ground. Every time I go fly, I marvel at the miracle, deeply appreciate the camaraderie and surprise myself with my skill. (Hey – I can still do this!) And after almost 14 years, I still know exactly why I do.

In the afternoon, I sent around a few photos to friends. They told me: “You look sooo happy!”

I am happy. Here, I am happy.





Sun, fun and law enforcement in Florida

27 02 2014

So last weekend I went to Florida to escape this unbelievable winter here in the Northeast. The endless weeks of cold and the series of snow dumps has certainly toughened me up, but my, it does get tedious after a while.

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Boston.

The first half of our flight to Florida was uneventful, my mother was happily watching CNN on the seat-back television while I closed my eyes to get some rest. It was a late flight, and I’d had a long week.

About an hour and a half from Boston, the two young adults in the row behind me (siblings, it seems) were getting louder as the flight wore on. Their voices carried far naturally, both wore earbuds and talked and laughed over the volume. This grated on me so I turned around to ask them to please tone it down. The girl just looked at me, clueless and pretty liquored up. For the next 15 minutes or so, she and her brother discussed whether or not they were being too loud (in their typically loud voices). During this conversation, expletives began to fly in my direction in, I will assume, an attempt to provoke me. I pretended not to hear. I generally am not easily provoked by immature strangers.

Numerous alcoholic beverages later (that they seemed not to have to pay for) and shortly before landing, they turned aggressive. During the tirade, once again directed at me, “stupid f***ing blond b**ch” was the nicest thing I heard. The flight attendants repeatedly told them to simmer down. When the chick reached over the seat back and slapped me in the head, the party was definitely over. Other passengers called over the head flight attendant, who told them that the were now in very serious trouble.

Mom, just turning off the TV, was like, “Huh? Whats going on? What’s all this about?”

And the girl still wouldn’t stop. She repeatedly pushed the seat-back, and began threatening me (“I’m gonna  get you, you f***ing c**t”), while her only slightly less inebriated brother repeatedly told her to put a lid on it. After landing, her parting shot: “I know what you look like. I’ve got you out on the street. Just wait till we get out on the street. I’ve got you, you dumb b**ch.” This is when the flight attendants finally took them to the back of the plane for a time out.

Still on the taxiway, the captain told the passengers to remain in their seats once we arrived at the gate. There was “a situation on board that needs to be sorted out.” Mom & I were told separately that law enforcement officials were coming, that we would be the first to disembark and that police wanted a statement from me.

When the door opened in FLL, three of the biggest and scariest-looking Sheriff’s department dudes I have ever seen headed straight to where the flight attendants had corralled the foul-mouthed little ones. Mom and I grabbed our bags and headed out of row 21, while a planeload of still-seated passengers stared at us, most of whom wondering what on earth was going on.

Officer Jackson, though scary-looking, turned out to be a very nice guy. Well, to us at least. Mom and I were still reeling from the experience, and the airline’s station manager came to apologize profusely. I have no idea what happened to the girl but I did see her sitting in handcuffs as we left the building.

Ah yes. Florida, LIVE! As we know and love the place.

That plus the 84 degrees F (29 degrees C) and the sunshine is why we keep going back.

Florida.

Florida.





Running from time

19 02 2014

I recently started running again in earnest. By “earnest” I mean distances longer than a mile and a half, more often than once a week. Those who know me well know also that I just hate running. Putting one foot ahead of the other, pounding your joints on asphalt or concrete or whatever, moving forward at a snail’s pace. Who on earth can find fun in that? Seriously.

Last summer, I decided to try to make peace with the sport once and for all, and see if I could actually complete a running (as opposed to skating) race. I had to get this out of my system. After about four weeks of training, increasing my distances and endurance, I promptly broke my leg.

The initial pain was similar to a twisted ankle (ho-hum….been there, done that, like, a dozen times before), so I went home and iced it. The next day it wasn’t much better, so more ice. After a week of this, finding it difficult to walk any distance, I sought a professional opinion. My doctor said it was an “inflamed tendon”, sent me home with anti-inflammatory drugs and an ankle brace. 10 days later it was still excruciatingly painful. Finally, an MRI brought clarity: I had been walking around on a fractured shinbone for the good part of a month. On my 43rd birthday I got a sexy removable boot-cast (size M) and a heparin injection. My party bag was filled with 20 more pre-filled syringes, one a day for the following three weeks, and DIY instructions. Harumph.

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Happy Birthday!

It took a really long time to heal. Really long. It was summer, ideal running / skating / outdoor weather, and I was stuck in a boot-cast. (Of all the indignities!) Not only was it all terribly frustrating, it also put a big dent into my motivation repository. I guess it was the first time that my body told me I was no longer 25.

For surviving this with grace, I rewarded myself by buying a new pair of running shoes. And a few weekends ago (yes, in the middle of a New England winter) I decided to face down those pesky demons again and started on a light running regimen that should get me to about 10K by the time summer rolls around. I will not be running the Boston Marathon this April, but I will certainly go to watch, and to seek guidance and inspiration.

Anyone have any useful advice for me? Or perhaps a few choice words for the aforementioned demons? At 43, I need all the help I can get.

Yeah, that looks better.

Yeah, that looks better.