31 July 2011

Another lesson in the key of Coach

I spent the weekend driving a grand total of 12, count 'em 12, hours back and forth to Cleveland, the Paris of the Midwest.  While driving over on Friday, I had six hours in the car to myself to not think and listen to a ton o'stuff on my iPod.  While on that drive, I was reminded about how much I dislike long-distance driving and how much I prefer flying.  My mind wandered back to an experience that has prevented me sleeping (until the advent of the sweet, sweet lie-flat seat) on a plane ever since it happened.

It was 1987 and I had returned from my two-year mission and I was living at home briefly.  I'd gone up to Salt Lake City for the weekend to see a bunch of friends.  By the time I boarded my flight back to PHX that Monday night, I'd been up for just about 72 hours.  I was ready to sleep, even if it was only going to be for the brief flight.  Collapsing into my window seat on an airline that no longer exists (although it did morph into what is today essentially the world's worst airline - if you've read the blog, you know who I'm talking about, but feel free to comment with your guesses), I was elated to see I would have three seats to myself.  Score!  I'd be sleeping.  As soon as we took off, I slumped across those three seats and was out.  I was, as far as I was concerned, dead to the world.

What happened next, I still can't explain completely, but here's what I recall:  I felt someone shaking me and I could hear a voice saying, "Sir,sir" but it was so faint and was being drowned out by the drone of the engines on the plane.  The shaking got a little more urgent and I realized I couldn't move.  Well, my legs could move but my head seemed to be stuck in place.  Something was not right - I suddenly got the sensation that I was trapped.  It dawned on me, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, that we had crashed. 

Having decided we'd crashed, I took it upon myself to get off the plane.  I yanked my head from my self-imposed seat vice and I bolted from my seat and ran for the forward exit, passing the flight attendant who was near my row.  I did not understand why people were still sitting in their seats but I was getting out.  Another flight attendant stopped me and explained that I needed to go back to my seat, that all was well, that we hadn't crashed.  I turned and faced a cabin full of people staring at the crazy man who had just bolted for the exits.  I sheepishly returned to my seat and tried to put the puzzling sequence of events together.

The stuck head issue:  When I fell asleep, I had gotten my head stuck between the armrest of the window seat and the skeevy seat cushion. 
The shaking and distant voice:  It was the flight attendant trying to wake me to see if I had my seat belt on since we would be landing shortly.  (I'd like to point out that even in those days I was an obedient traveler and my seat belt was fastened and all the world could see that - apparently Helen Keller was working my flight that night...)
The sense we'd crashed:  I can only chock that up to being so completely exhausted and when I woke up I was in that deep, deep REM sleep that I had no idea what was up (no pun intended).

As I finished the walk of shame back to my seat, I determined there and then to never sleep on a plane again.  I was not going to cede that sense of control ever again.  I'm really glad this happened when it did and by that I mean, 1987.  Had this happened post-9/11, I'd have been knocked to the ground, tased, put into plastic handcuffs and banned from ever flying the airline again. 

So it was a good lesson and I've pretty much stuck to the "no sleeping on the plane rule" until the advent of the blessed lie-flat seat.  A pretty awesome development that was, can i just tell you?

29 July 2011

The Doldrums - meh

I had my first experience with the summer doldrum phenomenon when I lived in Florida as a missionary.  It made August an unmitigated nightmare.  Any kind of heat-relieving cool ocean breeze came to a screeching halt during the doldrums.  It sapped you of any strength and made you look like a drowned rat since you were forever soaking in sweat.  Suffice to say, we didn't look forward to the "doldrums."

The doldrums have another connotation as well and that is that feeling of blah or "meh" that sometimes envelops us.  I find myself adrift in the doldrums this week.  It's been a weird week.  It has felt like it would never end and that there's just been a whole lot of listlessness.  I've not been able to put my finger on why the doldrums are here (perhaps it's a by-product of the ridiculous weather we've been experiencing - ridiculous heat during the day, drenching rains at night), but I'm eager to see them move on. 

The new month should push them out - we'll be just four weeks out until the wedding.  That can't come soon enough.  Maybe I could push out this doldrum thing by deciding to give up the deliciousness that is Coke Zero.  Drinking it came out of nowhere.  But what will I do without the stop at the world's slowest Golden Arches by our house for a $1 hit of goodness?

I may need to rethink that course of action... 

24 July 2011

It's Pioneer Day...wait...what is that?

Yes, July 24 is Pioneer Day and it you are not a resident of Utah, you'll be working tomorrow, or a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, you may be asking...what on earth is Pioneer Day.  A fair question.

Pioneer Day celebrates/honors the day (24 July) in 1847 when Brigham Young and the first vanguard of pioneers ('religious refugees' may be a more apt descriptor given that they'd been booted forced from their homes in Nauvoo, IL but I digress) arrived in what would eventually become Salt Lake City.  Brigham, ill at the time, depending on the telling, lifted himself from his wagon, and upon seeing the valley before him, uttered the now infamous words, "This is the place."  A city, a culture, a faith, and a way of life grew from there.

Now don't get me wrong, I like me some Salt Lake City, but had I been there with Brother Brigham lo those 164 years ago, I can't help but wonder if I would have had the temerity to have said to him, upon gazing out over that same fairly desolate valley myself, "Really, Brigham?  This?  Are you sure?  I'm probably good for another 750 miles.  Let's give her a go!"  Curiously that extra 750 miles would have gotten us to the California coastline, I'm just saying.

The fact that I wasn't there 164 years ago is proof to me that God lives and that He knows each and every one of us.  Who am I kidding?  I wouldn't have been good for another 750 miles.  I can barely survive a 90 minute flight (about 750 miles) in Economy Minus without the need for significant lamentation and soul-searching.  I would have not been a good pioneer.  There was no opportunity to upgrade on a handcart.  So I am more than a little grateful to have been born when I was.  Whew....

But in all seriousness, this day is one of significance in the Church.  We pause to reflect on the sacrifice of those pioneers who did in fact sacrifice all that they had, including their very lives, to get to a place where they could worship God as they desired.  I am indebted to them for all that they gave.  If you ever want to read more about the experiences of these pioneers, may I suggest "Journey to Zion."  It's an incredible compendium of journals written by those very people as they crossed the unforgiving plains to get to what to them was Zion.  It's well worth the read.  I'll close out the post with a little Mo'Tab - singing the pioneer anthem, "Come Come Ye Saints."

23 July 2011

The vultures are circling

Photo NOT taken near A. Winehouse's London flat
I found myself in a situation earlier today where the metaphorical vultures were circling.  Let me first say, though, that I am not in London.  I'm nowhere near the vultures flying over the late Amy Winehouse's Camden flat.

A word or two (ok, let's face it, it will be more than a couple of words) about Ms. Winehouse's death.  How this comes as a surprise to anyone is the shocking part.  She was swimming in the Celebrity Death Pool for far longer than anyone had expected.  She was incredibly talented but I take a hard line on the lamentation about her death being tragic.  A tragic death is one that more than 90 Norwegians suffered yesterday at the hand of a crazed madman.  A tragic death is a young child dying of cancer.  A tragic death is the healthy father who dies suddenly, leaving behind a family.  Drinking and drugging yourself to death is not a tragedy.  It's a waste and it's self-inflicted.  While the exact circumstances of her death are still unknown, her addictions were of her own choosing and were well-known and well-documented.  She, like so many other talented and far less famous/notorious people who have died in a similar way, didn't have to die this way.  It is not a tragedy.  It is a complete and utter waste.

Now back to our regularly scheduled blogging - so did I ever see the metaphorical vultures descend today.  They swarmed our local soon to be liquidated Borders today.  Like the British train wreck singer referenced above, Border's doom was of their own doing.  Multiple business writers have documented their slog to liquidation and now it is here.   was a regular at that store and it was a bit sad to see it filled with bargain-hunters today.  Few bargains were to be had as the liquidators returned all prices to their list price, eliminated the card holder discounts and then reduced prices about 10 to 20%.  Two days ago when I was in the store before the liquidation pricing kicked in, I could have bought a new hardcover book I'd been eying for 30% off as a cardholder.  Today, it was 10% list price.  So I quickly determined it would be far cheaper to buy it in my Kindle.  It's that very logic that helped kill Borders.  I'll keep going back to the store as it slowly dies.  I need to buy a bookshelf.  I think that makes me a vulture, too.

20 July 2011

I'm not in that club

As of this writing, it would appear that "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" is well on its way to making, what, something like eleven gagillion dollars since it opened a week ago.  OK, so I may be a few dollars off on its box office take, but I don't think I'm off by that much.  Seriously.

I must admit that I don't get the hype, the draw, the whole HP thing.  I am here to declare the following:
  • I have never read one of the HP books
  • I have never seen one of the HP movies.  Not.A.Single.One.
In making this admission, I realize that I have, by my own choice, ostracized myself from countless discussions that are going on about the movie and the series coming to an end.  I have never felt compelled to read one of the books or see one of the movies.  The youth in our ward, especially the young men, have banned me from any discussion that even touches on the movie. Some would suggest there's something wrong with me.  I don't buy it.  I just don't get the draw.  And I feel no need to get sucked in.

And here's another admission, I don't get this movie series either:
Like the HP series, I have not seen a single one of the "Lord of the Rings" movies either.  I never even read one of the books.  I did read "The Hobbit" in high school.  Before I was through the first chapter, I was wishing for the sweet relief of death.  I understand it's now being made into a movie.  I won't be seeing it.  I know that my not seeing any of these movies casts me further from membership in the club.  Once again, I'm more than fine with that.

I like my movie series in a more unrefined form - like the "Airport" series.  I'm talking "Airport," "Airport '75," "Airport '77" and the pinnacle of awful, gut-wrenching awful, "Airport '79 - The Concorde."  Or the disaster epics: "The Poseidon Adventure," "Earthquake," and "The Towering Inferno." I guess this is what happens when you start going to the movies in the 1970's.

16 July 2011

A little sneak peek

So I guess I really, really have to get off the Big Bus O'Denial I've been riding...Our Lady of BYU and Awesome really are getting married.  They had their engagement pictures taken earlier this week.  What you see above is all we've seen.  It's currently featured on their photographer's website.  Their photographer is Mikki Platt and she's pretty dang amazing.  But how can you go wrong when the subjects are pretty incredible?

14 July 2011

Lessons in the key of Coach

I had a same-day turn to New York City yesterday.  I can do this trip blindfolded, it's so routine - 6AM outbound/5PM return on Mother United

At 2AM, SleasyUpdate called to advise that the 6AM to LGA had cancelled.  I discovered this when I checked my phone at 420AM as I was leaving the house.  I called Global Services and they'd already rebooked me on the 806A to LGA.  Fine, I thought although it would wreak havoc with my meeting schedule.  In my fog, I forgot about the Newark option.  It took me a minute to realize, 'Um, wait, why not try for EWR?'  So I climbed in the car, made my way to ORD, and as soon as I got to Global Services reception, the agent said, 'Oh good, you're here.  I've already rebooked you on the 6AM to Newark.'  Well, great.  She handed me my boarding pass, 22A, and told me she thought I'd not clear the waitlist for First.  She was wrong.  I got to the gate and First was full.  For the first time in years, and I mean, years, I was sitting in Economy Minus.  Don't get me wrong, I like Economy Plus.  I do not like Economy Minus.  I am not a tall man.  My knees have no business touching the seat in front of me.  In Economy Minus, they do.  As I sat there jammed in 22A, I recalled an experience crammed into an uncomfortable Coach seat that taught me a thing or two.

It happened about 18 years ago, while we were living in the sweatshop that is Phoenix.  I had gotten my first 'big' promotion and was managing a big operational consolidation effort for one of my biggest clients.  Late on a Friday, I was told I needed to get to North Carolina the next day for a series of meetings starting on Sunday.  This was a big deal, literally and figuratively.  The quickest way to get there was on American Airlines, on the "Clampett Express" via Nashville, as this was back in the day when they had a hub in Nashville.

I was pretty frantic about this trip and was not in the best frame of mind when I got to the airport the next day.  The assembled teeming crowd made it evident that the flight would live up to its "Clampett Express" nickname.  There would be no First Class for me that day and I was way in the back of an MD80, which even then, felt as ancient as the flight attendants working the flight.  I was on the aisle on the three seat side, seated next to a woman traveling with a boy of about seven years old.  He was in the middle seat. No good was going to come of this.  None.

From the minute we got seated, this kid was all over the place.  Elephant tranquilizers would have only spurred him on.  As he talked, which was incessantly, he'd flail his arms, kick his legs, and generally, wreak havoc.  He had to touch all my papers that I had on my tray table.  He kicked me, kicked the seat in front of him.  My glares were death rays but they had no effect on him or his mother.  Reasoning with him was impossible.  The mother wasn't much more responsive to my pleas for her to do something.  This was the longest flight of my life.  I won't detail it but he finally eased up after I lost my temper near the end of the flight. 

I'm not proud of what happened next...as we were on descent into Nashville, I was reveling in the fact that this kid was finally quiet.  I felt a tap on my arm.  It was him.  'WHAT?!' I snapped at him.  'Um, sir,' he quavered, 'um, I have something I'd like to give to you.  It means a lot to me.  It's this book.'  It was at then that he pulled a copy of the Book of Mormon from his little backpack.  I think he said something like 'I hope you'll read it,' as he pushed it my way.  At that point, I realized my connecting flight was not taking me to Raleigh, rather it was taking me to Hades.  I instantly knew that this kid's Primary teacher had challenged him to give someone a copy of that Book while on this big trip he was taking.  It was time for my proverbial walk of shame now.  I had to explain that, in fact, I had a copy of that Book in my bag, as I was a member of his Church too.  You've never seen a more confused look on a kid's face in your life.  His mother's face was frozen in a state of horror/shock.  Clearly, she could not believe that Angry Man was a member of her Church.  I told the kid that I really appreciated it and hoped he would give the Book to someone else.  Not another word was said.  The mother's face was still frozen in abject shock.  I'm not sure she ever fully recovered.

I've never forgotten that experience.  I'm the first to admit I wasn't on my "A" game that day.  I should have been more patient.  More importantly, it reminds me to this day to remember something my mother always said to me, "Remember who you are."  Because you never know who you'll sit next to on the plane.

PS - Name the album on whom the title of this post is based.  I don't have anything to give away.  Just want to see if anyone knows the album and the artist.

12 July 2011

Some gladness and some sadness

It's the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML's birthday today and that's the gladness.  It's been a pretty low-key celebration, which is entirely my fault.  Sometimes the best-laid plans go awry.  Horribly so and today's been one of those days. 

I'm not much for romantic gestures.  It's just not how I'm wired, I suppose.  But I did order flowers to be delivered at her office today.  Guess who had fewer patients than usual today and got to leave early?  Guess who wasn't in the office when said flowers were delivered?  Yeah, couple of strikes there.  And then we'd hardly had time to talk about dinner plans.  CAL, the Boy, and I were able to throw something together, but I'm sure it wasn't the birthday dinner of her dreams.  I'm hoping to make it more of a birthday celebration for the rest of the week.

And now for the sadness.  Most people of my generation were influenced for better or worse by this:
Start singing the theme song...now
Of course, it's "The Brady Bunch" and today, its creator, Sherwood Schwartz, died at the age of 94.  He also gave us "Gilligan's Island" among other things.  "GI" was an afternoon TV staple as I was growing up and I recall having a plastic boat replica of the "SS Minnow."  Schwartz' opus, his "Mona Lisa," was the story of a lovely lady, raising three girls all alone and a man named Brady, raising three boys all alone.  Well, not so alone, thanks to a live-in maid who apparently worked for nothing and didn't mind living in the laundry room.  How insane was the Brady Bunch?  Off the charts, but I defy you to find anyone who grew up in the late 60's/early 70's that can't sing/hum the theme song or recall a favorite episode. 

Yeah, for better or worse, Schwartz made an impact.  Good for him.

09 July 2011

Craving the Classics

After I got home from a four-mile run through the Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve this morning, I turned on the television for a minute and got ensnared by "Totally 80's" on VH1.  This spectacle is an homage to the days when MTV actually played music videos, instead of featuring the escapades of drunken frat boys and skanks and glorifying teen-age motherhood.  They were playing some great videos from my own "golden age" and it was a lot of fun to see some of those classics, as well as some not so classic ones.  Huey Lewis, I'm talking to you.  Where's the apology you owe us all for ever making a record?

As I pondered the ill-begotten fame of Mr. Lewis and the classic music videos of the 1980's, I thought of another classic that I've been craving and getting my fill of lately.  This:
"The Bob Newhart Show" cast
To say I bust a gut laughing every time I watch "The Bob Newhart Show" would be a woeful understatement.  It is indeed a classic.  It is a master class in comedy writing that television writers today sorely need.  Newhart's straight man to the collection of crazies around him is brilliant.  While the sets and styles of this solidly 1970's program have aged, the writing, acting, and humor have not.  It is consistently funny, almost forty years later.

Thanks to a local TV station here, we get this classic program every night.  I'm not able to watch it every night but when I do, it makes me crave more of the classics, like this one.  I think one reason is the memories that it evokes for me of my father.  My dad wasn't much for television watching. Ever.  In those days, as a kid, we had three network channels, a PBS station, and one local channel that seemed to play the 1933 version of "King Kong" every dang Saturday.  But I do have memories of watching these programs with Dad: "The Odd Couple," The Jeffersons," and "The Bob Newhart Show."  What I enjoyed most about watching these programs was that my Dad laughed.  He really got a kick out of these shows.  I'm not sure I always understood the jokes then but it was great to watch him laugh and laugh with him.  

Today, I get the jokes and I love them.  It's been fun this week to catch a lot of the Newhart Show with the Boy.  We've laughed a lot.  It's been good.  Classics aren't such a bad thing.  Not at all.

08 July 2011

Welcoming the new move-ins

As I've noted previously, I have the opportunity to serve as a part of the clergy, or bishopric, in our local ward, which is similar to a parish.  As a counselor in that bishopric, I have the opportunity to see a lot of good things happen.  People are, at their core, inherently good, I think, and I certainly have seen that in action as members of our ward interact.

One of the unique aspects of this opportunity is that it is done on personal time and it is not compensated financially.  It is truly a lay clergy across the Church.  People serve in different capacities all the time.  It's dynamic and it makes things interesting.  So when new people move into the ward, the bishopric makes it a point to get to know these new people.

Our ward is enjoying a mini-growth spurt right now.  The fact that we are close to a train station for the commuters and that there's only one high school within our ward boundaries makes it pretty desirable.  So earlier this week, the three of us who make up our bishopric went to pay a visit to one of new families.  These visits follow a familiar pattern:

  • We show up at the new home and are invited in
  • Chatfest begins - where are you coming from, where have you lived, etc. - the biography
  • More chat - talking about work, school
  • Then the question:  "Tell us about what you've done in the Church."
This is the $64,000 Question.  Why?  Because it can frame where you might be serving, sooner rather than later, in the ward.  It's funny to see how people respond to this question.  Some get that deer in the headlights look.  Others take in a breath deep enough to take the oxygen out of the room.  Others seem more than ready to respond.  The best responses are the totally uncensored ones, like:

  • I've worked in the Young Men's program for years and totally enjoy the activities.  But the Scouting stuff...merit badges.  Totally don't get it.  Don't see the need for it.
Queue the triumphant sounds of "The Hallelujah Chorus!"  That, my friends, is the kind of answer I totally appreciate and can totally support.  Anyway, we take in all the answers and then we will prayerfully (I promise) consider how those folks can serve.  It really is pretty cool.

We've got more new families to visit.  More things to learn.  And we're faced with a good challenge - staffing a ward that's pretty much fully staffed.  Good times.

04 July 2011

Free to...

It's the 4th of July and the United States of America celebrates its 235th anniversary of its independence.  In the grand scheme of things, the USA is still a relatively young nation but it has done much in those 235 years.

I'm grateful to be a citizen of this country where I am free to:

  • exercise, literally, as I want.  For example, I got up this morning and ran four miles through the forest preserve/swamp near our house.  I ran through the biggest swarm of mosquitoes ever.  I'm looking forward to the delirium of malaria.  Or, as a friend pointed out, West Nile virus.
  • bust open my beloved Weber grill, throw on some wood chips, and grill some corn-feed beef and enjoy!
  • celebrate the nation's independence by NOT going to the local parades (I loathe, loathe, loathe parades) and by blowing up imported Chinese-made fireworks, adding ever so slightly to our burgeoning national debt.
  • handing over $10 to watch the latest Hollywood big summer movie blockbuster and wishing I had rammed a fork in my eye seven minutes into said movie.  Transformers - Dark Side of the Moon, (editorial aside - my apologies for including 'side' in the title as that's wrong and I don't wish to lead any Pink Floyd fans astray, thinking that their music somehow got put into the heinousness that is the movie) I am talking to you.  I beg you.  I warn you.  Don't waste your money on this one.  Don't.  Do.  It.
So, yeah, I'm proud of my country.  In spite of ourselves, we do get things right.  Blagojevich has been found guilty.  The country seems to be coming to its senses about the crazy that is Sarah Palin.  It's good to live here.

01 July 2011

A Night with Delta Rae

Last night, our fine city was rocked by Mother Nature (thank you, golf-ball sized hail) and by the musical force of nature that is Delta Rae (Full Disclosure - three of the four members of the band are my second cousins).  The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I were front and center in the audience enjoying the music as Mother Nature smacked Chicago around for the umpteenth time this year.

What an amazing show!  I love this description of the band:
Delta Rae is Mumford & Sons meets Fleetwood Mac - a full-throated Alt-Pop band with four lead singers - delivering crushing harmonies and one of the most electrifying live experiences on the club circuit.
They did not disappoint.  From "Morning Comes" to their encore number, "Darlin' If," every song was a showcase of the talent that every member of the band possesses.  "Deliver" was absolutely beautiful.  When the four leads sang in the audience acoustically, it was one of those musical moments that pretty much took your breath away.  The harmonies were beautiful, the drummer killed, and the guitars rocked.  Eric and Ian have written some pretty incredible songs and we really loved that we knew the songs (I know I am totally aging myself by saying that).  The energy that Brittany and Elizabeth put in their vocals lit up the dark basement club.  It was an incredible night!

One of the highlights for me was meeting my cousins again - I'd not seen them since 1995 when they were little.  They didn't know me from Adam but once we climbed up the family tree and made our connections, it felt like family.  I'm enormously proud of them and am in awe of their talent.  I'm also really glad they didn't note the fact that the presence of the mighty fine and stunningly patient SML and me skewed the audience age significantly.  I had twenty years on pretty much every on there.  Nice.

And now, since it's my blog and I can do this, I'm going to invite you to do a few things:
  • Go to deltarae.com and follow these guys on Twitter and Facebook
  • Consider helping them to get their first full-length album cut.  Go here to learn more on how you can get in on the ground floor of backing an awesome band
Finally, start your long weekend off right with a little taste of Delta Rae goodness: