16 February 2017

The 27 Club

So who here has heard of The 27 Club? Anyone? Anyone?

If you haven't, either click on the the link above or let me just tell you that the long and short of it is that unless you're hankering to be dead, you don't want in on this one.

Prominent members of the club include Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. Are you sensing a theme yet? All dead at the age of 27 and sadly not by natural causes. Like I said, not the club you want to join.

That said, since we now live in a world that makes the Upside Down World of "Stranger Things" look like the most logical thing ever, there is another less lethal version of The 27 Club and my first-born daughter joined that august group today. We have another birthday here in the Den and Our Lady of Awesome has turned 27.

I still marvel that I am the father of three well-adjusted children (all credit to their amazing mother) and that my oldest has turned 27. I have to admit though that it's good fun to see her at this stage in her life. Watching her parent her two children along with Awesome is something to behold. There are moments where my natural instinct is to help in that parenting, which usually means laughing inappropriately at something my grandson has done, but I manage to suppress and let them parent. It's a delight to behold.

I am amazed at her strength, her even-keeled nature, and how she still manages to not suffer a single fool gladly. I appreciate how she is such an incredible reflection of the goodness of her mother.

I am delighted that we get to spend this long weekend with her. We'll all be together tomorrow night - the whole lot of us - celebrating her birthday one day late. We are really looking forward to that.

As we celebrate her from afar tonight, I am reminded what an honor it is to be her dad. Being a dad to her, CAL, and The RM is the greatest title I could ever have.

Happy birthday, Princess!

09 February 2017


Not a snow ninja. It's my wife.
(This is not a well-deserved homage to Sen. Elizabeth Warren for the stance she took during the recent confirmation hearings for yet another controversial member of President Trump's cabinet, so read on without anger, if that's what you were expecting)

Seemingly out of nowhere, Mother Nature tossed a fast one called Winter Storm Niko at the residents of New England today. Starting at about 6:00 this morning, it started to snow and it didn't stop at all in this part of Martha Stewart's fiefdom until 3:00 this afternoon. While not quite as much snow as we got four years ago to the day in a similar Nor'easter, the 14 inches or so that fell on our 'hood was more than enough.

As the snow continued to pile up through the day, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I plotted our shoveling strategy. I normally don't like to wait until a storm is over to shovel. I typically divide it into thirds - hit it as it starts, then again about midway through and then a third time to clean up the wreckage. Why take such an approach? Because in my mind, it A) lessens the workload in the end and B) snowstorm-related OCD. It's more likely the latter. Today, though, there were two things working against the usual plan. One was the pace at which the snow was falling and two, my back is still not 100% recovered from the unfortunate stair incident that we don't like to discuss. So we decided to tackle it once the snowfall had subsided.

As my last conference call of the day ended, I dashed upstairs to throw on some snow gear. By dashed I mean approached both the ascent and descent on the stairs as if I were a frail 90 year old woman addled with advanced osteoporosis. Ever since my fall, that is the exact way I approach our stairs (or any set of stairs for that matter). Don't be jealous. It was at that point that I discovered my wife had already shoveled through about 1/3 of our driveway and was working furiously on what remained.

I wish that this surprised me but you see, this is how my wife rolls. As I got outside, shovel in hand, she looked up (at least I think she was looking at me since it was hard to tell what she was looking at  in her snow ninja outfit) from her snow-laden shovel and the following conversation went down:

SNOW NINJA: "What are you doing?"
ME: "I'm gonna shovel."
SNOW NINJA: "No, you're not. I don't need you aggravating your back. You're not even fully healed yet."
ME: "Yes, I am. I'm going to shovel."
SNOW NINJA: "No, you're not. Go get a broom and sweep off the front porch. I can do this.
ME: No, I'm going to shovel."
SNOW NINJA: "You're going to hurt yourself."
ME: I mumble something unintelligible so she can't hear it in her one good ear. Because I am a grown man. I then start shoveling.

About ten minutes in, I had my first delightful back spasm. She of course saw me flinch and wince and just looked at me. I was still determined to keep shoveling. I slipped a couple of times without falling and each time, even though her back was to me, she would tell me, 'I told you that you'd fall. You're only going to hurt yourself more.' Seriously, how does she this? I now know why our children were convinced she had eyes in the back of her head. My contributions at this point were borderline pathetic and that's when our neighbors came over, shovels in hand, to help finish the job. We, scratch that, I am clearly the 'old man' neighbor now.

They were there to help me, not the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML. She holds her own in any given situation. She puts her mind to something and she gets it done. She is persistent in a way that can take you by surprise. She certainly persisted with me today. I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful for her persistence with our children as she carried so much of that responsibility. They are who they are because of her. Our daughters are women who are not afraid to be persistent in their own right because of the example of their mother. I'm grateful for her persistence with me. I get that I am her biggest project (see my insistence to do something that would clearly hurt me earlier today as proof there is work yet to be done).

Persist away, SML, persist away. I'm a better man because of it.

22 January 2017

22 January 1970

Forty seven years ago, on 22 January 1970, a milestone in commercial aviation was achieved when a Boeing 747 completed its first revenue flight for its first customer, Pan American World Airways. The arrival of the newly crowned "Queen of the Skies," as she will forever be remembered, at London Heathrow opened up the world to the masses in a way that could not have been anticipated. Suddenly, hundreds of people at once could traverse the globe in a matter of hours. Overnight, the world became a much smaller place.

As a certified airline dork, Pan Am aficionado, and world traveler, this is a special day. My first trans-Atlantic flight took place fourteen years after that first commercial flight and it was between those same two cities - New York JFK and London Heathrow - on a Pan Am 747 that looked every day of its fourteen years. I did not sleep a wink on that flight, as I wanted to take in every second on board the legendary Queen. Sure, she looked like she'd been rode hard and put away wet, but this was Pan Am on one its marquee routes. Sitting in Economy that night, I was a few rows back from the vaunted Clipper Class and I remember seeing through the occasional break in the red curtain that divided our cabins, the passengers being served multi-course meals, reclining back in their seats further than I thought possible, and saying to myself, "One day I'll travel that way."

I've been very fortunate to travel that way many times ever since. I've flown in the very front of that plane, in its upper deck, and even in a middle seat in the very last row (let's never, ever, ever speak of that atrocity again). The 747 made the world smaller for me. She has carried me to places like this:

London, Frankfurt, Chennai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Manila, Sydney, Tokyo,
Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Chicago, Washington DC, New York City

As she carried me to all those places, I could not have imagined all the things that I would learn and experience. When I disembarked from that first transatlantic journey at 17, I had no idea that London would show me what a truly global city it is. In Tokyo, I discovered tastes that I never dreamed would cross my palette. In Manila, I discovered a people so full of kindness that I remember the lessons they taught me to this day. In Hong Kong, I found that a city truly is a living thing and there is nothing as vibrant as that great city. In Chennai, I discovered a people so layered in mystery and beauty that I still have difficulty articulating the experience to this day. In Sydney, I reveled in meat pies and did so with some of the friendliest, most adventerous people I've ever known. As I've traveled the world on the 747, I discovered a beautiful, diverse world full of stunning vistas, amazing cities, and people who prove that we are far more alike than we are different.

That lesson, that we are far more alike than we are different, is one I am trying hard to remember as my own country is as polarized as it has ever been. It's amazing what a smile and a kind gesture can bring you when you are in another country and not able to speak the same language. It's been incredible to see what happens when you express a bit of interest in someone else's culture when traveling. Some of the most amazing meals of my life have happened by asking simple questions in a local market. Language and culture barriers collapse over the joy of shared meals. 

I am forever grateful for the experiences I've had in this world, many of which were as a result of a flight on a 747. The airplane was, and is, amazing, but its the people in those places that plane carried me that have enriched my life. They taught me that our differences aren't so vast and that this world is  a gift.

I need to remember that lesson right now and apply it to my fellow countrymen. Something tells me we're going to need to remember that something awful in the coming months and years.

15 January 2017

I fell and I couldn't get up - Another entry in the "Learn from My Mistakes" series

She fell but she had LifeAlert, so she could get up.
After a great and very busy week in one of my favorite places, Mexico City, I was looking forward to a relaxing night at home with the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML this past Friday. I'd been home about two hours when I realized I needed to get something out of my work bag, which was down in my basement office. As I started down our steep wooden, carpet-free stairs, I gave nary a thought to the fact that I was wearing a pair of socks that are all kinds of slippery. This was, with apologies to the great Ron Burgundy, "a bad choice."

As I hit the third to the last step, both feet flew out from under me with a force not seen since Kris Kardashian abandoned all her morals as a parent and sold out her children and I sailed over the last three steps and slammed onto the floor with my back taking the full brunt of the impact. Mercifully, I didn't hit my head and with my lungs struggling to recover from the wind that was knocked out of them, I managed to scream out a stream of mild profanities as the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML came charging down the stairs to see if I was dead. Dead I was not, but pain I was in. I lay on the floor writhing for about 15 minutes before I managed to get up. Once up, every step sent daggers of pain up and down my back, so I decided to make my way upstairs and crawl into bed.

Once in bed, everything hurt. Pain was radiating all over the place. Every movement was a heaping slice of agony. I took a couple of Aleve, which alleviated nothing. A heating pad, even at its lowest setting served only as an invitation to burns on my back. At this point, it was time to throw in the pain towel and try to sleep. Sleep was furtive (my Fitbit showed I was restless 28 times through the night) and at around 530AM, after hearing me cry out in pain yet again, my wife decided it was time to go an urgent care facility. Getting out of bed was an act of contortion that any circus freak would have been proud of. As I finally stood, it was clear I was going to need a spotter. After a couple of steps, my legs gave out and I was down on the floor, now literally unable to move. Like the elderly stars of the LifeAlert commercials, I was not getting up but I had no monitor to push to get someone to get me up. As SML pondered our limited options, she decided it was time to call 911. She called them, explained our dilemma and asked them to not roll up with sirens and lights blaring. Because who needs that drama at 6AM on a Saturday.

In our little town, 911 calls are pretty exciting because we had two policemen in our home before the paramedics arrived. They were an interesting lot, these two. One took the role of determining if I had been drinking, thus causing the fall. He didn't seem to believe my slippery sock story. The other quizzed SML to determine if she had pushed me. Seriously. They were delightful, in the same way Donald J. Trump is delightful.

The paramedics, on the other hand, were great. I was so embarrassed by the position that I was in, both literally and figuratively, and they could not have been cooler. Because of the narrowness of our hallways, a gurney wasn't an option to get me out of the house, so they went with a stair chair. Once they determined they could move me without exacerbating my injury, it took the two paramedics and SML to get me up. I'll admit I hollered like an angry stuck pig as they got me into that chair. They got me downstairs pretty fast and into a gurney. As they got me into the back of their "rig," the paramedic who was driving was excited to tell me that this was the newest rig in the fleet. As far as paramedic rigs go and given my vast (none) knowledge of them, I will tell you I was impressed. As we drove to John Dempsey Hospital (my choice Cantonites - I like that hospital), the attending paramedic took my blood pressure multiple times as it was skyrocketing as they moved me and he was glad to see it lowering.

Once we got to the ER, we were turned over to the hospital staff and shenanigans began. A nurse came in and asked me to put on one of those breezy, flappy hospital gowns. This meant two things for me A) sitting up and 2) taking my fleece over my head and those were two things I was in no condition to do. I told her in no uncertain terms that I wouldn't be doing that. She said, "Oh you're the back guy. It's OK." Darn right it was OK. The ER attending physician came in and said I'd be going to X-ray shortly and then a nurse breezed in with Percocet and a muscle relaxant. Unfortunately for me and the X-ray tech, they took me to X-ray before either pill had kicked in. Going from the gurney to the X-ray table was an exercise in controlled rage. Then when the poor X-ray tech told me I had to roll over onto my left side, to say that I was displeased would be the understatement of the year. Mercifully, she was able to get it done very quickly. I was wiped out at that point and the Percocet was kicking in, so once back in the ER, I was in and out sleep. The doctor returned and told us that the X-rays didn't show a break and that I was, and this is my interpretation because he kept talking about my injury in words that sounded like names of superheroes (lots of words like echo, exo, and skelton), pretty banged up internally and that I was lucky that it wasn't far. At this point, I felt like a total spastic that I had to have the paramedics get me out of my house. He assured me it was a valid injury and that the muscle spasms I was having, and going to have, were heaping piles o'agony. Tell me about it...

So what have we learned from all this:

  • Wearing hospital socks with the grips on the bottom is now a requirement in the house
  • Carpet runners for the stairs will happen and soon
  • Percocet takes far too long to kick in and pales in comparison to the glory of Dilaudid
  • It is stupid to wait hours to get yourself checked after you've hurt yourself

Yep, that's me in the back of the Canton rig

Hospital Thug Uniform 
Learn from my mistakes people, learn from my mistakes.