Tuesday, August 15, 2017

On Vacation Part II The Reunion

So after a short drive from the Columbus, Ohio airport to my hotel on the north side of town, I decide to see just how early I can check in. It’s now about 6:30 AM and I’m a little punchy from the ‘no sleep’ flight I just had. I’m old and I get kindy cranky in these situations. To my surprise I can check in now. Sweet. Got my room keys and headed back out to the car to go get some breakfast. There’s a Bob Evans restaurant right by the hotel. I tend to judge a good breakfast place by a pancake, hash browns and a breakfast meat. At Bob’s you get the sausage. This one was very clean but when you first enter it there is a greasy smell like the walls must be covered in it. That soon passes and the meal was all I had hoped it would be.

Returning to the hotel I showered and hit the rack. Now not having flown for 15 years, I forgot about how the flight will suck all the fluids out of you. I didn’t realize how dehydrated I was until I was awakened by a bad charlie horse in my calf. Well after a 4-5 hour flight with no legroom, I’m now sure I’m having a DVT blood clot or something else that has been drilled into my head from watching too much MeTV, the old folks channel where you are bombarded with medical commercials and AARP ads. After a fitful sleep I get up and head out to Kroger’s for Gatorade, Propel, water and baby aspirin. Let the hydrating begin. In a matter of a couple of hours I’m feeling much better and ready to head over to my best buddy’s house for my first catch-up bullsh!t session.

Brad and I talked for several hours and decided to go out for a bite. We asked his son and his friends for a suggestion of where to eat. Bare Burger was to be the destination. Now we should have seen this one coming. GMO free, gluten free, free range chicken, cruelty free beef, brioche buns, grass-fed craft beers, non-label sodas, and so on. Did I mention the place is run by kids that look like they are 15 years old? We probably looked like the old guys in the balcony in the Muppet Show. They made us wait way past when a table was ready hoping we’d get tired and leave. When we did get seated we waited a considerable amount of time to get our order taken and the same for it to be served. By then the place was almost empty. “What would you like to drink?” My friend says “A Bud”. “Oooh, I’m sorry we only have craft beers” as he points to a chalk board sign written in pastel colors in number 9 font. My friend squints and says “What’s good?” since he does not have binoculars with him to actually read the sign. He gets a gluten free lager made by virgins from free range hops. I get the non-brand diet soda made with Pueblo Indian adobe ocher natural coloring, no preservatives. Forty minutes later the burgers come and they are very good. What made them so good was the continued talk with a great friend. And I’m on vacation.

The next day, Saturday, is the reunion from 5:00 PM to Midnight at a sports bar pizza joint right by my hotel. First thing I do that morning is get breakfast as it is the most important meal of the day and quite possibly my favorite. Waffle House is on my list. The one close to my location is like a Waffle House Annex. A mini version. Crammed full of people with no sign of a seat anytime soon. Right down the road is a Tim Horton’s. Of course there is. When I lived here 40 years ago there weren’t any Tim Horton’s this side of the Canadian border. Today in Columbus you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one. (Easy there PETA folks, it’s an expression). The coffee IS good but I can’t understand the draw of the menu. Nothing special. Bacon breakfast sandwiches on toasted bagels. Nice folks working there. I get the double bacon and cheese thing and an iced coffee and I’m on my way. Hit the music-Go-Round guitar store on Bethel Road. Guitar overload. I have extra money stashed in case I find a treasure. Found a sweet 1960s sunburst Fender Mustang severely over priced at $950. These guys will not budge on the price so I leave it and head to another good buddy’s house for a pre-reunion visit.

Gary has a really nice place right close to everything near and dear to our hearts from when we grew up about 2-3 miles from our old neighborhood. His older brother was there for a while and it was another great bullsh!t session that lasted 4 hours. His parents have both passed but his house is full of great memory triggers from a simpler time. His mom taught piano and sang and led the church choir, her piano is in his living room. I choked up missing her southern twang when she greeted us as we came through their home to hang in their son’s bedroom in the basement. She left a huge mark on me that I will never forget. His dad was a classical vocalist and voice teacher. Many Saturdays we would hear him giving lessons upstairs in the living room as we were warned to turn down our Pink Floyd or Bachman Turner Overdrive in the basement. Good times. Again it was super to hear what had gone on with my buddy while I was out in California the last 40 years. He told me of a time when his dad had the juniper bushes on the side of their old house torn out to re-landscape about 10-12 years ago. They found a 6-pack of Michelob beer still connected by the plastic rings although the bottoms had deteriorated. Pull tabs, remember those. Those bushes took a long time to give up their secrets.

The reunion. Got there about 6:00 PM. Right away I’m met by an old friend from junior high. The ladies putting on the event get me a nice name tag. I will certainly need it. Most of the folks here look the same, I am not one of them. I talked to as many people there as I could. I talked to folks that I did not remember. I talked to folks that did not remember me. I got to meet up in person with people that I had become friends with from Facebook. Several people talked to me that I thought I had pissed off in high school, they didn’t seem to think so. I did apologize to more than a few people there. I was a very mixed up kid my sophomore and most of my junior year. Guess what? I come to find out that MANY of the people I knew thought THEY were the loner/nerd/no direction kid in our classes there. We were all so young. Many times while watching my own kids go through the trials of high school I felt sorry for them. I knew what they were going through. I was not a ‘popular’ kid there, however I knew a lot of the other kids since I was born and raised in Columbus. I reconnected with one fine lady that I have technically known since I was born. I think most of our class that attended had aged very well. There were a few gimpy sorts like myself, a few over weight and a few challenged in the hair department, but as a group we looked pretty good. Those imperfections are reflections of our vast experiences and help tell our stories. I know for a fact that some of the folks that looked the same as they did in high school do make a noise when they get up out of chairs or when they collapse into bed at night. We are the class of 1977, Hoorah! (ouch.) 

Most of us held our liquor well and some had more fun than others in that area. I’m tickled that so many of you guys were still around and chose to attend this event. If I missed you there or did not get enough time to talk, we will make that up before the year is out. I’m nationwide and on the interweb smarty-box thing and there are several ways to reach me. Same goes for so many of you folks – talk to each other. Many of you still live local, I understand why, Columbus is a great place. I’m very proud to see how well the town is doing. I’m very proud to see how well all of you are doing. I’m very happy that the younger bartenders at Amano’s think there are 4 ounces in a shot. This was a hoot and you all made my evening. Go Braves.

NEXT: Part III The Vacation Tour

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Inbound On Vacation

Going on a vacation. Taking a trip. Going to be out of town. Way out. Taking a week off work. These are things I’ve seldom said over the years. These are things I just don’t do. It’s my hometown 40th high school reunion on July first. I haven’t been back to Columbus, Ohio in 32 years. Life got in the way. Three kids, jobs, mortgage, cars, bum knees. I had a suitcase full of excuses. It’s too humid/rainy there. Too expensive to fly. I don’t like flying. There is nothing I need to see there. There are only a couple of people I miss there. No family there. White Castles are in the grocery store freezer now.

   Well, the 40th reunion intrigued me for some reason. I have a lot more friends there than I thought. Facebook made me want to sit down and talk with them in person. So it was decided that I’d go ‘for the people’. It would be made comfortable by getting a first class airline ticket on a non-stop flight, a nice hotel suite, and a comfortable rental car. I’d stay for a week so there’d be no rushing to see everyone. If I had an afternoon where I didn’t feel like doing anything, it was in the schedule. The wife was not going. She pumped me up on how much fun it would be. I took it hook, line, and sinker. Booked everything 3 months in advance. Seemed like a great idea.

   As the days before the trip grew short I had some reluctance. I packed the minimum so I could carry it all on the plane. I studied the TSA guidelines so I’d not appear the fool at the airport. I was getting nervous, or was it excited? Counted and sorted my assortment of meds and supplements, put extras in ‘just in case’. I was compliant with my ‘liquids’ in my carry-on, bought several really cute little toiletries. I had extra phone chargers. I had a solar cell USB charger. I had band-aids, I was a boy scout. Man if I didn’t have everything I needed I could always buy it when I get there, right? I checked my anti-anxiety meds again. Check. I really could not have over-thought this whole deal any more than I had already. Still I was nervous.

   The afternoon came when I had my son drop me off at the local hotel to catch the shuttle van to LAX. Let them do the driving. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. Well, I don’t do as good with someone else driving. I’m old and cranky and I drive if I’m in a car. This was going to be my last ride anywhere as this woman was going to kill all two of us on the shuttle between here and LAX. She’s a maniac. Is it hot in here? No? It’s like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. This wasn’t such a great idea. In fact the driver was very good. The van had a rather high center of gravity which made it seem like it was going to tip over. Or maybe I was just an anxious nutjob on my first vacation by myself in over twenty years and I needed to calm the f*ck down. We arrived around 7:00 PM and then I was standing in front of the terminal where I had worked in 1980 with a glazed over look on my face.

    Nothing, and I mean not one single thing looked the same. Last time I had flown out of LAX was in 1985. I wandered into the terminal and was immediately swept away by the people current heading to the baggage check lines. A Delta CSA looked at my boarding pass, asked me if I was checking any bags (no) and then directed me to the Gate area and the TSA checkpoint. Surprisingly the TSA folks were in a decent mood and helped me though that 15 minute nightmare. The body scan lit up the two 4 inch screws in my right knee so I did get a little extra tickle from a surly Latino gentleman before I was set loose with my belt in hand, shoes under one arm, pulling my two wheeled carry-on and my hipster one strap man pouch backpack thing. I found the ‘get your sh*t together’ bench and reinstalled the belt and shoes and returned a smile to the guy who just groped me that may or may not have been employed by the TSA. In my backpack side elastic pouch was a half full bottle of grape Gatorade that I’m positive was supposed to be thrown away before the TSA thingy. I purchased a big bottle of water and went to find my gate and a place to park my butt for the next two hours.

    Now is when I think I should give a shout-out to the asshat that designed the rock hard plastic seating in the gate area. No chance of falling asleep here and missing my flight. The seats were almost slightly convex, like you are sitting on two large river rocks. Let the people watching begin. There was a Barney’s Beanery right next to my gate so I could see the diners and the gate sitters with great ease. Birkenstocks with dark socks, are they still a thing? So many people that should not be allowed to wear ‘performance pants’. A family, tired from a vacation in Los Angeles trudges towards me. Mommy’s been crying because Daddy’s been an assh*le. Their daughter starts showing me her vacation finds since neither parent is listening to her anymore. A sand dollar – sweet. As it nears time to board the redeye to CMH a question pops into my head. How many of you folks are leaving tonight to vacation in Ohio? That would be me. Only me. How many of you are exhausted, broke, sunburned and ready to murder your entire family? Most of the rest of you? Hmmm…should be a quiet flight. Oh good, the homeless looking dude from the restaurant is on our flight. Surprisingly he has a carry-on. He was talking to himself in Barneys for two hours. No Bluetooth headset, no earpiece. Just him and seven imaginary friends. It’s 9:30 PM.

    Priority boarding is the bomb. No wait, don’t say ‘bomb’. I’m in my seat in the front row. Uh-oh. The legroom is going to be an issue. Well I’ve only got five hours to sit through, how bad can it be. The girl with the service dog is on this flight. The dog looked at me like ‘the legroom is going to be an issue’. A drink? Sure, diet coke and… tequila. One thing that has not changed about LAX, it is 40 minutes of taxi time before you finally get to your takeoff runway. We’re in the air. There goes my stomach. I’m OK. Now for the 40 minutes of climb time. The dude in my aisle seat is out like a light. The legroom is going to be an issue. Only four more hours, how bad can it be. Turbulence. It won’t last long. The little devil says “this was a bad idea, you’re screwed”. The little angel says “what are you going to do about it? You need to calm down”. Calming down. The legroom is going to be an issue. Keep that foot moving. So four hours only seemed like four hours. We’re on our descent. This guy next to me is still out like a light. Professional traveler. Not only is my leg asleep so is my butt. I’m going to look like the elephant man getting off this plane. Forty minutes later we’re parked and deplaning at CMH (Columbus John Glenn Airport). I drag my leg and carry-ons up the jetway and start looking for the car rental signs.

    It’s 5:30 AM and there are about three people in the airport. Car rental area is about a mile walk from the gate. As I crest the escalator getting ready to step on I realize that I don’t/can’t do escalators going down with any degree of confidence anymore. I spin around and head for the elevator bank saying ‘Nope, nope, nope’ like the buzzard learning to fly in the old Warner Bros cartoon. “I hate this place already” I said. The girl in the elevator said “why?”. “Well the last time I was here was 32 years ago, back when you could stand out on the catwalk on top of the terminal gates and watch people get off the planes.” “ It’s not bad, you’ll be OK” she replied. The Avis sign appears at the end of a long hallway. It’s humid. It’s 5:45 AM. I’m in Columbus. I’m cranky. The girl at the counter says very little, smiles and hands me the paperwork for the car and says it’s in B9. At this point I picture Steve Martin in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles throwing his luggage in a fit of rage when B9 has no car in it and he’s now a mile from the terminal. No, my car is in B9, hallelujah! Huzzah! Well done Avis lady! It’s a…hmmm…Mitsubishi. OK. It has air conditioning and I fit in it, rather nicely at that. As I’m leaving the garage area another nice Avis lady checks my paperwork and says for me to have a great time in Columbus. Made my morning. I’m on the road and heading for the hotel. It is ominous outside, a deep dark very low ceiling and little spits of rain. Wild. As I turn the headlights on and figure out the wiper situation a bolt of lightning spreads across the northern sky. Welcome to Ohio.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Waiting

"The Waiting is the hardest part." - Tom Petty

Some of us hate waiting. I have come to grips with it for the most part. My dad used to say "she has to come out sometime" in reference to waiting for my mom to come out of a store when we were waiting in the car for her. I use that one a lot. A friend recently said that she is always waiting for something. I have done some weighty waiting in the last several weeks. Here is my recent story.

I will be forever waiting for a 15lb. hole in my heart to heal. Three weeks ago I had to put down a dog we rescued year ago. He was our biggest challenge. He came to the rescue from a hoarder situation where he had to fend for himself for the first two years of his life. He was at the rescue with 30 other dogs from the hoarder. He was one of two that found forever homes. The rest are un-adoptable for various behavioral and physical reasons. He had a defense mechanism where if you touched him while he was sleeping (or even just sleepy) he would snap at you like an alligator. I said "we'll wait and see what happens next". I wasn't too optimistic about him working though this at first.

After about 9 months with us he had stopped biting me and the wife and was doing way better with the kids and anyone else. We just had to warn folks about his temperament. When I got home from work he would get on my chest when I was in my recliner and look me in the face. He would not kiss (lick) me like our other dog does. I would say ‘give me a hug’ and he would turn his head sideways and bury it in my chest.

His name was Roscoe. He was a Dachshund / Mini Pinscher mix. When he was on top of me I called him Crusher (his wrestler name). My wife won him over with fresh cooked chicken and he gained almost 4 pounds in a year with us. He truly loved being an ‘inside dog’ for the first time in his life. He had gone home with two other families before we got him. They brought him back because of the biting. They were not into"waiting".

Our other dog Tucker was very annoyed with him at first but became a great big brother for him and was looking for him for the last three weeks all over the house. Roscoe had two seizures in January and the vet said he was probably epileptic. We have had that before with two other dogs and knew we could deal with it. The other thing the blood tests showed was a high liver count. The liver problem could be causing the seizures too. We went home with the appropriate meds and the knowledge that it could a minor thing or become a larger issue. Two seizes a month and seemed to be controlled with meds.

Three weeks ago my wife was out of town all week for job training, just me and my furry boys at home. Roscoe seized every two hours and then every hour and then he couldn’t put his head down without seizing. It started at 730 at night and went on until 430 in the morning. I gave him enough pills to put a human out. They no longer worked on him. It was heartbreaking to watch and hold him. At this point I couldn't "wait" any longer.

At 430 am we went to the all night emergency vet clinic and I held him while they gave him the shots. I was devastated. There was nothing anyone could do for him. I could not ‘fix’ him. Now I have had 5 dogs since I’ve been out on my own. Four of them I made the last trip to the vet with. This guy was a baby, not an old dog at the end of his life. This was just not fair. I felt like I had let him down somehow.

I was mad at God for a week. I waited for a sign that I was going to be OK. I started a fundraiser to buy fleece blankets for the dogs at the 2 local rescues. Roscoe had one when he came to us and it was his only possession, he loved it. I have raised over $500 for this effort. I’m not mad anymore.

I then waited to start looking for another rescue dog to care for. There is no set time frame. You just feel it. Who is out there that needs me now?

A week ago I looked at PetFinder online. Sixty miles away in Pasadena was a Dachshund / Beagle mix named ‘Roscoe’. Same coloring, same size, a year and a half old. Go figure. What are the chances? We went to meet him Saturday and brought him home that afternoon. Tucker punked him all day, but settled down by Sunday. He was found at a truckstop in San Bernardino where people dump dogs. He has no biting issues and is the sweetest dog that is not Tucker or the original Roscoe.

He is not a replacement for my other little friend. He is the continuation of caring for another little guy that deserves to be an ‘inside dog’. We discovered that this guy had only been ‘Roscoe’ for two weeks so we have changed his name to Tex which is short for Roscoe, Texas Ranger. A Ricky Bobby movie reference. The hole in my heart is still there and I know it always will be to some extent. The part without the hole has grown three sizes this week, just like the Grinch. I'm not waiting, I'm doing.

Roscoe & Tucker