Recent Splats according to Miz Yank

Celebrating 50 Years of Team Yank with a 21-Fun Salute

My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on April 16.

Fifty years of marriage —600 months –is a big deal. A very big deal. I can’t begin to comprehend such a feat, especially considering my marriage to the Lawnmower lasted two percent as long. My siblings and I were determined to make a very big deal of this very big deal. We booked a private room at Fireworks, a cool pizza and craft brew joint in Arlington, for a celebratory Team Yank dinner and invited Mom and Dad’s siblings to join us.

I woke up on the morning of the party feeling an odd mix of emotions: unadulterated joy for my parents on reaching this milestone, gratitude to them for showing us that people and love matter most of all, nostalgia for our years together as a family, and an unrealistic but understandable desire to hold on to all of this, and them, forever. As I drove to my parents’ house to spend some pre-party time with my brother and his family, those emotions formed a swell of sentiment that threatened to crest. To stay ahead of the wave, I cranked up a few of my favorite Earth Wind and Fire songs, and that got me to my parents’ house. The Roommates happened to be there too, a sight that never fails to improve my mood.

An hour and a half later, I was wrapping up my visit and getting ready to run some party-related errands and Emily, who may have detected that swell of emotions rising up in her aunt, said, “Can I come with you?”

As we got in the car, I told her she’d made my day. The minute we backed out of the driveway, we lowered the windows, opened the sunroof, and fired up our favorite tunes in preparation for a rolling dance party. We hit our stride twenty minutes later when she cued up “Walkin’ on Sunshine,” complete with air guitars and arms-through-the-open-roof dance moves. I was feeling so sunny I almost didn’t mind having to go to Michael’s: we needed a frame for one of the gifts we’d gotten my parents. Emily, who is Arts and Crafts people, was elated about this pit stop, so I didn’t feel guilty about using her as a human shield as we entered the store.  We knocked out our task in short order and had a little extra time, so I told her to pick something out for herself.

In a move that just might land her a spot on our Peeps squad next year, she asked, “Can I get a glue gun?”

Off we went, me carrying a frame and Emily concealed-carrying some Elmer’s. When we got to my house, we assembled the gift, grabbed the fancy gold wrapping paper I’d bought and some tape, threw it all in a bag, and Uber’d over to the restaurant. We got everything set up and needed only to wrap the gift. That job required the perfection of my sister Suzi, but I knew when she arrived she’d be busy setting up a cake she had decorated (flawlessly, no doubt). I decided to give it my best shot. I put Emily in charge of handing me pieces of tape, a job she performed admirably. The super-fancy paper I’d bought, however, seemed repulsed by a pedestrian adhesive like scotch tape. We couldn’t get it to stick, no matter what we did.

Emily’s eyes met mine and I said what she had to be thinking, “Get the glue gun.” As the two of us hot-glued wrapping paper seams together, I noted that such a thing would never happen to Aunt Suzi.

“I know, right?” Em said. “I just wish she’d make a mistake sometime.” We finished the job just as Suzi was coming in with her perfect cake. Shortly thereafter, the aunt/uncle contingent arrived, followed by the rest of my siblings and their families, and then, to round out our 21-person gang, my parents.

My Aunt Kate, who is no slouch in the Fun Aunt department, sent my parents out of the room and closed the door so she could give them a proper wedding-style introduction like they got 50 years ago. Mom and Dad pranced in, arm-in-arm, and took a few twirls around our tiny dance floor. The party had begun.

After we’d all stuffed ourselves with delicious Italian fare, my siblings and I got the official program underway. We had decided that each person would share a favorite memory or story, and that my brother would give a toast at the end. We planned to go in order from oldest kid to youngest, but we didn’t coordinate our remarks with each other at all. I looked forward to my siblings’ stories. Though we have close relationships with each other and our parents, each of those relationships is a little bit different, and I love getting a glimpse into what they look like.

Suzi reminisced about the years in high school during which she had to sell citrus fruit as part of a fundraiser. Because Suzi’s always had a real knack for sales, for a few weeks every fall our home looked like a Tropicana warehouse. My father would spend hours driving her around, helping her deliver pound upon pound of fruit. Then Suzi mentioned my mother’s willingness to do absolutely anything for her kids and grandkids, including dropping everything a decade ago to help my sister out on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Philly and New York with Suzi’s three boys.

Lynne took a slightly different tack. Known as the “feisty” one when we were kids, she told a hilarious story about a doubles tennis match with my father gone seriously awry. Though she and Dad didn’t win that day, at least she, unlike me, managed not to bean her parental tennis partner in the back of the head. Lynne also talked about how my parents never lose sight of the little things that make us feel loved. In Lynne’s case, one of those little things is liverwurst, which my parents always keep in the fridge for her. (Maybe it’s just me, but if liverwurst is an act of love, I’d hate to see a show of hostility.) She also reminded us that, fifteen years ago, when Lynne had broken her arm and I had come down with bronchitis, Mom launched her own Meals On Wheels program, loading Dad up with tortellini soup for delivery to me and Lynne.

The stories my sisters told led precisely to the point I intended to make: even though Mom and Dad were a “them” long before the rest of us showed up, my parents have never, ever been about them. As I was making that point, that wave of emotions, which had continued to gather momentum all afternoon, got fully organized and swamped me. I pieced myself back together sufficiently to talk about how we get only tiny reminders of Mom and Dad as a “them,” such as when I watched them dance at my cousin’s wedding two summers ago. Or when they decided to go to Alaska in the summer of 2014 and I joined them, wanting to take in the “them” and their enjoyment. I will never forget the experience of riding in a small plane with them, landing on a glacier (on purpose, don’t worry), and actually setting foot on it. I watched the two of them stare in slack-jawed awe and I listened as they reveled in nature’s magnificence. They were right, it was astonishing, but to me the real natural wonders were the two of them and what they built together. As I was finishing my story, that infernal wave pummeled me again so I handed things over to L.J.

My brother began by sketching out memories in broad strokes, like the gift-laden Christmas mornings that began so early they were really still Christmas Eves, and our annual week-long vacations in the Outer Banks. Then L.J. talked about his baseball career, which my father nurtured at all points, first by hitting countless flies after work and on Sunday mornings after church, and then, when my brother went to Georgia Tech on a full athletic scholarship, telling my brother to leave him a ticket for games “in case I can make it.” I wasn’t surprised to hear that my father made it, every single time, sometimes even with Mom and always with her help. When L.J. reached the minor leagues – a place where dreams are big and salaries small –Dad handed him a literal blank check, something I never knew. And my brother had kept it all these years. As L.J. held it up, it seemed the same wave that hit me might have splashed onto him just a little bit too.

At last it was time for the toast, which reminded all of us that my brother handles words even more expertly than he does a baseball. He mentioned that Team Yank, which may not have won every game over the past 50 years but has a very solid record, has the attributes of the all-time great teams, like chemistry, strong fundamentals, and passion. He quoted Babe Ruth, who said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” That’s Team Yank in a nutshell: we love to play together, and when we do, we’re at our collective and individual best. Then we raised a glass to the greatest team any of us could ever hope to play on.

The party ended there but the story does not. Suzi and her family were staying with me, so we loaded up their car with all the leftovers. My brother-in-law drove so Suzi could sit in the passenger seat and hold the remaining half of that perfectly decorated cake on the ride home. We pulled into my driveway and I opened the car door just in time to hear a sound that looked just like this:

busted cake

The Cake Splat: No, of course it couldn’t have landed on the box, silly!

I couldn’t decide whether to call Emily or to get a piece of chalk so I could draw an outline around the cake where it died. It is perhaps fitting that four of us spent the waning moments of April 16 doing what Team Yank does best: laughing hysterically while batting cleanup.

team Yank parmesan

All 21 of us, in varying states of saying “Parmesan!” Sometimes plain ol’ “cheese” works best…

 

 

 

 

A writer looks at 43

I turned 44 a month ago and, like Jimmy Buffett taking a pirate’s look at 40, I’ve decided to take a writer’s look at 43.

I considered doing one of those 360-degree assessments beloved by Corporate America, but since I’ve reached an age where I’d just as soon ignore the view from behind, I’ve decided to go old school and treat it like a standard six-subject report card. I’ve replaced math and science—subjects I excelled at but disliked—with subjects I like and actually encounter in daily life but perhaps do not excel at, such as “love life.”

  1. Health/Sports: 95. If the human body were a house, the major systems in mine are all still humming along after 43 years. If the body were Planet Earth, continental drift has not occurred…yet. And because my parents sprang for extended warranty coverage on my joints at birth, this year’s athletic pursuits included running the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler and doing the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim with four awesome dudes on a team called Capital Punishment. (Capital Punishment is poised to make its triumphant return, by the way, so stay tuned.) I continued to captain the hapless, but not entirely winless, Smash Hits. We even managed to soldier on when our beloved CeCe passed away unexpectedly, though that’s one loss from which we’ll never recover.
  2. House: 71. My home behaved like a high school senior whose college acceptances have already rolled in. It performed solidly for the first three quarters and then just gave up altogether, ending the year by leaving me with a basement that required major waterproofing and an oven that needs a neurologist.
  3. Writing: 100. I finally wrote a book, fulfilling my lifelong dream (and my family’s worst nightmare). Few things rival the joy of holding a bound volume of words you wrote, but pretty much everything beats the pants off of actually writing those words. The process stinks, and anyone who tells you it doesn’t is either lying or not really a writer. But just like going to the gym, if you do it with consistency, you get better (usually), and the results make the grueling, painful, sweaty agony worthwhile. Almost.
  4. Travel: 88. My book dragged me all over the lower half of the East Coast. It connected me with readers at a beer garden in Arlington and a book festival in Charlottesville, as well as bookstores in D.C., the Northern Neck of Virginia, and Elizabeth City and Charlotte, North Carolina. That last stop was a doozy for two reasons. First, it was the backdrop for a reunion with my beloved elementary school librarian, who just happens to live in Charlotte. It is one thing to hold a bound volume of words you wrote; it’s another altogether to read those words to a woman who helped you learn to love and aspire to great writing. My event at Park Road Books also created an unexpected opportunity to get in touch with my Jewish side. I expect to release Mazel Tov With That Thing You’re Doing any day now.
  5. Absurdity: 100. By any measure, Year 42 should have set the high water mark. Any year during which two single men materialize from the ivy in your fenced-in backyard is going to be very tough to beat. Not only that, but that same year I took a trip to Alaska with my parents, both of whom are in their seventies. Over the course of that trip, the three of us went whitewater rafting (referred to more accurately as “getting a glacial facial”), flew in a tiny plane that set us down at the base of Denali, and zip-lined in the treetops of Skagway. You haven’t lived until you see your parents outfitted in construction helmets and a harness that looks like a seatbelt diaper. It had taken some convincing to get Dad to go on that last excursion because he’s afraid of heights. (Every Yankosky fears heights, but Dad’s got it really bad.) Naturally, he was the only one of us to wind up stuck mid-zip, dangling like the lone grape on a vine. Against that backdrop, you’d think 43 wouldn’t have stood a chance, absurdity-wise, yet it met the absurdity challenge admirably. In August of 2014, I got ordained by the Universal Life Church and presided over a wedding. Not only that, but the blog post I wrote about the whole experience led the ULC to contact me. The ULC has a pretty great sense of humor as churches go – disorganized religions are smart enough not to take themselves too seriously –so a fun correspondence began, as a result of which I was featured in the ULC blog, keeping company with ordained elites like Lon Burns, “America’s Favorite Jewish Cowboy Minister.” (And High Priest of Niche Marketing, apparently.) I’ve made new friends in high places, at least latitudinally speaking. My other favorite absurdity from last year? A copy of the book I wrote that started out in the hands of my oldest sister wound up in a sewer, from which it was rescued by my 16 year-old nephew.
  6. Love Life: 53. A score like that would have led my elementary school teachers to dub me “remedial,” but it might not be as bad as it looks. I went on lots of dates last year, and many of them were even with the same person for a stretch. Though nothing fit quite right, articles like this remind me that my struggles in this area are far from uncommon and lead me to view this much like the scores I got on practice tests I took before the bar exam: anything over 50 is quite respectable, and nobody’s acing it.

My average? 84. Not bad, but it makes a pretty good case for staying in school.

karen and mom

I failed to mention that Mom, my #1 fan, was there to watch me get my Yiddish on at Park Road Books.

 

Remember that trip I took to Alaska? Because I barely do.

In May I took a trip with my parents to Alaska, making grand promises as I left to write about our adventures as soon as I got home. June came and went with my Alaska blogging output totaling exactly one post (two if you count the rant about my miserable trip home, thanks to United Airlines). July and August found me immersed in book editing, wedding officiating, and pseudo-parenting. You know, your standard summertime activities.

Late September landed me and my friend Philippa in Los Angeles to try to learn a thing or two about podcasting, and then suddenly November was upon us. Since National Blog Posting Month always makes me desperate for content, now seems like the perfect time to recap the trip, based on my notes and increasingly sketchy recollection.

My parents and I spent the first day of our trip in Anchorage, getting acclimated.  The next morning, the three of us boarded a bus bound for Kenai Fjords National Park to check out whales, glaciers, and other natural wonders. I’m not necessarily tour bus people; however, I understand that my parents, now in their early seventies, spent years schlepping me and my siblings around and are happy to let someone else do the driving. But I don’t think any of us expected our driver for hire to come right out of Mom and Dad’s demographic. This lent direct, if unwelcome, proof that drivers, as they age, really do gravitate towards vehicles that combine maximum size with minimum visibility.

Nevertheless, we arrived in Seward safe and sound three hours later and prepared to board a medium-sized boat captained by the spitting image of John Candy. I half-expected him to say, “Sorry folks, park’s closed. Moose out front shoulda told ya.”

As it turns out, we did not see any moose. But we did lay our eyes on plenty of sea otter, thanks to John Candy’s expert guidance. He also taught us to watch for the little geysers of water –“blows”–that signal the presence of a whale. As we made our way to a glacier we spotted a few blows off in the distance but no whales. We forgot about the whales once we got close enough to the glacier to see and hear it drop huge chunks of ice into the water in a process known as “calving.” I could have listened to that all day. But we had to turn back. We were escorted in grand style by a school of Dall’s porpoises-– a species found only in the North Pacific–zipping in and out of the water alongside our boat until our pace bored them. Then we passed a rock where a large group of harbor seals and sea lions lazed in the sun like surf bums.

We’d seen some amazing sights, but still no whales up close, and we were almost back at the port. My parents and I were resigning ourselves to a twinge of disappointment when the captain cut off the engine. He spoke in a low urgent voice and told us to hurry to the port side. There, three orca whales were surfacing at regular intervals, the water around them tinged with red. Orca whales are notorious loners and can be difficult to spot, except when they feel the need to show off after an exceptional kill. I couldn’t help but wonder whether one of those sea lions we saw had chosen a very bad time to take a dip.

We reflected on what a fun, exhilarating and exciting day we’d had as we boarded the bus, not realizing that more excitement was ahead. Our bus driver had picked up a trainee who, by the sounds of things, was both dyslexic and visually impaired. We tried not to be concerned when we heard him say, “Your right hand. Your other right hand. Nope, still not the right right hand,” and the trainee respond with, “I can’t see what you’re talking about.”

I closed my eyes, leaned my head back on the seat, and tried to picture a less traumatic scene, like those feasting Orcas.

This glacier is actively calving, or as actively as glaciers do anything.

This glacier is actively calving (as actively as glaciers do anything, that is).

Anchorage: You Could Do Worse

Alaska is wild, beautiful, vast and…really far away.

Getting to Anchorage, the starting point for my and my parents’  adventures in Alaska, required about nine hours of air travel.  We flew on United, which regular readers know is my very favorite carrier.

If you haven’t haven’t had the pleasure of flying United in a while, you might not know that it has totally revamped its in-flight entertainment.  Gone are the days when you had to spend a long flight watching some crummy movie you’d never waste good money to see in a theater.  Now you can waste perfectly good money to watch crummy programming you’d never pay to see at home.

This win-win was made possible by United’s recent partnership with DirecTV, allowing airborne consumers to watch TV shows live via satellite, a content delivery system broadband is pushing towards  obsolescence.  With this kind of forward thinking, it’s just a matter of time before United equips each seat with its own VHS player.

My parents and I forked over $7 each for in-flight entertainment privileges anyway, knowing that we faced a six and a half hour flight from Chicago to Anchorage. Only after the programming had begun did United mention in passing that coverage might be interrupted once we left the U.S., a useful thing to know when you’ll be spending the majority of your flight passing through Canadian airspace. Still, at least we got to Anchorage on time, if thoroughly bored.

We arrived at Pork Barrel International, er, Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage late on the evening of May 18 and cabbed straight to the Hotel Captain Cook, our home for the next two nights.  I had not researched the property ahead of time, but based solely on its stratospheric rates, I felt certain a vision of luxury awaited.

We pulled up to a complex consisting of three stark towers whose exteriors were mustard-colored with brown trim.  The sight did not evoke luxury so much as the color scheme in my parents’ kitchen, cerca 1975.

The Captain was built in 1965 and may well have set the standard for grandeur in its day, but since the ‘60s were days when a big chunk of the population stopped shaving and otherwise got a bit lax about hygiene, the grandeur bar was set a little low.  Today, the Captain still proclaims itself  Anchorage’s only “true luxury hotel,” which sounds better than “Acnhorage’s Crown Jewel of  Institutional Architecture.”  It’s a nice enough place on the inside, don’t get me wrong, but if that’s true luxury, I think I’ll stick with the fake kind.

Over breakfast the next morning, my parents and I traded sections of the Anchorage Daily News.  Whenever I go to a new city, I pick up the local paper because I feel like it gives me a window into the place and its people. I perused that day’s edition and found an article about how to handle a bear encounter. (Bears, moose and other wildlife do sometimes take to the streets in Anchorage.)

I read aloud the first piece of advice: “Spot the bear first.”

“Whoa, that’s deep,” said my mother.

The article did not elaborate on how one might go about spotting the bear first, so the second and final tip should have been: “Notify next of kin.”  But instead of relaying any truly useful advice, the author blathered on about running, making noise, and doing all sorts of things that wouldn’t stand a chance against the simple force of Darwinism.

Confident that we were as well-equipped to encounter a bear as we would be to gold medal in figure skating, my parents and I set about exploring Anchorage. Tourists don’t usually linger in Anchorage and instead use it as a jumping off point for excursions to Alaska’s more famous attractions.  At one time, the city’s official motto was “The Air Crossroads of the World,” which narrowly edged out “Just Passing Through” in a slogan-off.

The city is home to roughly 300,000 Alaskans, which represents more than 40% of the state’s total population.  I suspect it also boasts the nation’s highest number of moose per capita.

Anchorage might not offer jaw-dropping views when compared to places like Denali, but the city’s natural scenery still makes for some very happy wandering.  Six mountain ranges are visible from town, and an eleven-mile coastal trail gives walkers and runners a chance to enjoy both forest and ocean.  On a good day, you can even see Denali off in the distance.

Though our five mile journey on foot was nowhere near as ambitious as James Cook’s exploration of the Alaskan coast in 1778, it still left us pretty tired and hungry.  With the aid of Yelp– a tool I use far more expertly than a compass–we discovered Sack’s Cafe, an outstanding little restaurant I’d be thrilled to see in D.C.

We left Sack’s at 9:30 p.m. and headed to the Hotel Captain Cook, our way lit by a bright sun that wouldn’t think about setting for at least another hour.

The three of us agreed that our day in pretty and unassuming Anchorage had been outstanding by any standard, and especially so if measured by the number of bear encounters.

Next up: The Three Moosketeers Take on the Kenai Fjords!

The Hotel Captain Cook, in all its mustard and brown glory.

 

Alaska v. United Airlines: The Last Frontier Takes On the Unfriendly Skies

One’s enjoyment of a vacation often varies inversely with the quality of the trip back home.  With that principle in mind, I’ve decided to begin the stories of my adventures in Alaska at the end.

My parents and I had spent roughly two weeks in Alaska, one on land and another at sea on a cruise ship.  The ship’s final destination was Vancouver, and I was scheduled to fly back to D.C. from Vancouver at 11:15 a.m. on June 1.

I had booked my flight using frequent flyer miles on United Airlines.  (Yes, United is a known vacation saboteur, but I have a good reason for continuing to fly with them. I paid for my divorce using my United credit card, which means I need to fly the world’s circumference at least six more times before I’ve put a serious dent in my miles. )

The following timeline describes how my return trip went.

  • 9 a.m.: I arrive at Vancouver Intl Airport for 11:15 a.m. departure on United.
  • 9:45 a.m.: Fully checked in for my flight, I shop, wanting to spend my remaining Canadian dollars.  I purchase maple-glazed peanuts for one friend, dark chocolates for another, and ice wine for a third.
  • 10:45 a.m.: We board the flight.  As passengers busy themselves trying to wedge carry-on bags the size of dumpsters in the overhead bin, a constant drilling sound emanates from somewhere near the wings. I am vaguely aware that this might not be a good thing.
  • 11:30 a.m.:  The drilling sound has not abated since we boarded. Like most of us passengers, United was trying to ignore it, but eventually they are forced to investigate. We remain on the plane.
  • 12:15 p.m.: The pilot tells us they’ve found a problem with the hydraulics.  (Hydraulics matter only if you value a crash-less flight more than an on-time departure.) United cancels the flight.  A full load of passengers is barfed out of the plane and back into the gate area, swamping the two agents assigned to deal with the canceled flight.  The gate agents, seeing an opportunity to cut the line in half by doing exactly nothing, suggest that passengers use their phones and call customer services instead of queuing.  (I’d seen this coming and had called United before I’d even deplaned.)
  • 1:15 p.m.: I finish tussling with a customer service representative who struggled to understand why I might not want to take an 8 p.m. flight that would send me back to DC by way of Los Angeles, tacking on 6 hours of waiting time in Vancouver, an extra 4 hours of flight time, and a red-eye.  She reluctantly puts me on a 2:45 p.m. flight to Chicago that gives me 10 minutes to connect. I’m happy with this, knowing that I won’t make my connection but that my chances of getting home quickly are way better from Chicago than LA.  I ask where my bag will go. She tells me I have to get in line to find out.  New flight arrangements in hand, I hang up and take my place as the very last person in the line.
  • 1:16: United announces that they are getting a new plane for the canceled flight, and what do you know, we can all just hop on that plane, and head for Chicago at 2:30 p.m. like none of this ever happened.  Unless you already rebooked yourself, that is, in which case you have to un-book yourself from the new flight and re-re-book yourself on the old one. (Airlines love to punish passengers who show initiative.) I do this and get a reservation on the “original” flight, still hoping to make my connection at 9 p.m.
  • 1:50: I arrive at the new gate somewhat peckish but without time to buy something to eat. I break into the maple-glazed peanuts, convincing myself that if I only eat a few, maybe I can still give them to my friend. I’ll just need to find alternative packaging when I get home.
  • 2:45: Our plane has not arrived, much less departed.  I continue to eat the peanuts.
  • 3:15: Our plane shows up and we begin to board; however, United’s computer system has gone down.  What with passengers having un-booked, re-booked and re-re-booked, the crew has no idea who is supposed to have seats on this bird. TSA won’t let us leave until United figures this out.  United resorts to a manual method and breaks out pencils and an abacus. I’ve eaten so many peanuts that the remaining quantity would fit in a shot glass with room to spare.
  • 4:45: United finishes the manifest. I finish the peanuts. The chocolates sense that they are in imminent danger.
  • 4:46: Air Traffic control puts us in a hold. There’s Weather in Chicago. I break into the chocolates.
  • 5:25 p.m.: We leave Vancouver.
  • 6:45 p.m.: The flight attendants come through, offering meals for purchase. I refuse on principle and dine on dark chocolates, which I chase with ice wine.
  • 11:15: We encounter more Weather in Chicago, causing a slight reroute.
  • 11:45 p.m.: We land in Chicago and are instructed to go to United Customer Service for an Important Update.
  • 11:55 p.m.: The agent at United customer service importantly updates me that United has “courtesy rebooked” me on a 6 a.m. flight to D.C., and they have graciously gotten me a hotel room a 10-minute shuttle ride away.  I point out that a 6 a.m. flight requires a 4:45 arrival at O’Hare, which gives me 4 hours and 45 minutes to sleep if I go narcoleptic mid-sentence, and 20-30 minutes of shuttle logistics will eat into that, whereas the airport Hilton is just a few steps away. A supervisor overhears this conversation and, fearing that I might do worse than go narcoleptic at that moment, wisely offers me a room at the Hilton. United also offers me not one, but two, meal vouchers for my troubles. Because we’re not allowed to get our bags, United has given us an overnight kit. It is “eco-friendly,” guaranteeing that I will not wind up feeling clean even if I weren’t wearing the same  clothes I’ve had on for the past 16 hours, which I am.
  • 12:15 a.m.: I check into the Hilton. I request a 3:45 a.m. wakeup call. Again feeling slightly peckish, I pull out the vouchers, intending to call room service. That’s when I see that the combined total of said vouchers is $14. Knowing that it costs more than that just to consider calling room service, I decide that United won’t mind if I pillage the mini-bar snacks.
  • 4:30 a.m.: I return to O’Hare.
  • 5:00 a.m.: I blow the entire $14 on a latte, an apple and a banana.
  • 5:30 a.m.: I board.
  • 6:00 a.m.: The plane takes off, precisely on time.
  • 9:00 a.m.: I land at DCA. My prodigal bag, which was brand new before this trip and in outstanding shape when I dropped it off in Vancouver, returns with pieces of plastic hanging off of it, handle stuck in the partially upright position. It looks every bit like I feel.  Armed with nothing more than three hours of sleep and yesterday’s clothes, I start my work week.

I think social media consultant and blogger Karl Hakkareinan had it right when he said, “No vacation goes unpunished.”  As I share more stories from my time in Alaska, I’ll let you decide whether my punishment fit the crime.

The Meal Vouchers

Two meal vouchers totaling $14…Looks like I *will* have to spend it all in one place…

More Good Reasons For Why I Haven’t Been Blogging

Welcome to your bi-monthly installment of “Excuses For My Pathetic Blogging Frequency.”

I usually blame inadequate writing output on things like international travel.  It’s my preferred scapegoat because it sounds kind of glamorous, and my laziness always looks better when it gets dressed up.  This time, though, I’m going with the truth. I haven’t been doing much traveling, unless you count a 4th grade field trip to Jamestown, or time-travel by way of going to see “Hair” with my parents.

I was, instead, deeply immersed in a large writing project.  I’ll share more about that in the coming weeks, but in brief, I cleared a first draft milestone on that the first weekend in May.

At exactly the same time, the Smash Hits made their triumphant return to the tennis courts.

Regular readers know that I joined the Smashes in the spring of 2012 and became captain in the fall of 2013 because I possess the two qualities the team views as ideal in its leader: 1) Two X chromosomes; and 2) a tennis racquet.  (When push comes to shove, #2 is a goal, not a mandate.)

Our prior captain, whom I call “Mrs. O,” had run the team for years and had the whole recruit players-collect money-set lineups dance down pat.  I figured taking over from Mrs. O would be a cakewalk, like buying a lovely, well-maintained house in a nice neighborhood.

What I did not count on was that the house, while lovely and well-maintained, was located in the tennis equivalent of Crimea.  Civil war broke out in the amateur tennis universe days before our new season began. The tale of the Smash Hits’ secession from the tennis union will amaze and captivate you, assuming I ever get around to telling it.

Returning to one of my very favorite excuses for not writing, I am heading to Alaska for two weeks with my parents.

They booked their trip months ago –it’s long been on their joint bucket list– and I invited myself to join them because it’s on mine, too.  We had to choose various excursions, and as I was signing up for things like zip-lining and whitewater rafting, I assured them it was fine if we broke off and did different things.

“Of course,” they said, and then proceeded to register themselves to zip-line and raft. For the first time. In their early 70s.

When I mentioned this to my brother, he said, “Are you sure they’re reading from their bucket list, as opposed to ‘1001 Ways To Die’?”

I look forward to reporting back, when the blog and I return to the mainland in early June. Happy splatting!