27 November 2012

The sweater was the least of my concerns

Yesterday, after a great time with the Awesomes, we drove them to our now go-to cheap airfare airport, JFK, to send them on their way.  As the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML made our way back to our little corner of New England, and after losing count of the dead dear in Westchester County (it was NOT a good day for Bambi's kin to be playing a live version of Frogger), I saw a beautiful Porsche 911 Carrera speeding up the I-684.  Beautiful car driven, as expected, by a middle-aged dude who was seriously overcompensating.  The fact that I overtook him in my OMC (Old Man Car) was reason enough why he shouldn't have had such a nice car, but I digress.  Anyway, it took me back to my own experience behind the wheel of a Porsche - settle in as this is a long one.

It was Thanksgiving 1984.  I was in college and I was at the peak of my college freshman, overconfident hubris.  That hubris occasionally blinded me from satire, including "The Official Preppy Handbook."  I embraced plaid and Izod's with a fervor reserved for deathbed conversions, although I never went so far as to run around with my collar turned up.  I mean, c'mon, I had standards.  I had just flown back to Utah that Sunday after Thanksgiving and had been tasked with returning to the Salt Lake Airport that night to pick up a girl that I had been on again/off again dating.  Said girl had a Porsche 924 that she had foolishly agreed to let me use to pick her up.  I was sans car that semester, thanks to my umpteenth ticket, so I had to use something to pick her up.  Why not the Porsche, I ask you?

I wasn't going to pick her up looking like a slouch, that is for sure.  While I wasn't wearing plaid, there was an argyle sweater vest, a pink shirt, and, wait for it, a Member's Only jacket involved.  And penny loafers. Paying no heed to the weather, I left Provo for Salt Lake City.  I should have paid attention, because a snow storm was developing very, very quickly.

Now would be a good time to remind you that I had grown up in the desert of Arizona and had driven in the snow, um, never.  And by never, I mean never.  This lack of experience was going to come to roost momentarily.

As soon as I was on the I-15, the snow storm had unleashed its fury.  I, again thank you hubris, ignored the slowing, cautious drivers around me, and sped on. Why not?  I was in a fine German driving machine.  Right  outside Orem, near Lehi, my stupidity got the best of me as I began to slide, ever so slightly.  My reaction was to slam on the brakes.  Said fine German driving machine instantly converted itself into a very heavy, and out-of-control sled.  I'm not sure how many times I spun around but I know what stopped me...the snow piled up on the median.  The car was still running as I sat there, stunned.  There was snow all over the hood and for some reason, I could not open the door.  Probably because I'd forgotten how.  So I opened the sunroof and crawled out.  No one was stopping to check on me, as, no doubt, they'd seen me blow past them earlier, and were thrilled to see I'd gotten what was coming to me.  There was a rest stop across the freeway and I made my way over to it, none to pleased to do so. Rest stops were more than a little unnerving.

Anyway, since this was in the pre-historic era before cell phones, I used the pay phone to call the Highway Patrol.  It took forever to get through because of the storm.  When I finally got to a dispatcher, I immediately launched into my story of woe.  The dispatcher asked if anyone was hurt.  I said no.  Wrong answer as the dispatcher said I was stuck since there were a lot more serious issues to be addressed.  I was stunned.  I told her, "I don't think you get it.  This girl's Porsche is stuck in a snow mound and I'm in an argyle sweater at a rest stop.  You need to send someone.  Now."  As I recall, she hung up in less than three seconds. The sweater should have been the least of my concerns.

Knowing I still had to pick this girl up, I did the only reasonable thing I knew to do. I called another girl I'd been on again/off again dating who had a 4-wheel drive and asked her to come pick me up and take me to the airport to pick up this other girl.  And she did.  Unbelievable.  In the meantime, while waiting for her to get to the rest stop, I'd called a tow truck, and we agreed that he'd meet me there later to get the car out of the ditch.  So, 4-wheel girl shows up, drives me to SLC, where I pick up the other girl and have to very deftly explain why we are going to be driven back to Provo by this other girl.  Incredulously, she was forgiving.  Whew!

It's been a long time since that happened.  I'm glad to report I've mastered driving in the snow.  I'm even more pleased to report that there are no Member's Only items in my closet.  But there are still some argyle sweaters.  Some habits die hard.

25 November 2012

Getting Used to This

We've had a great Thanksgiving holiday here in New England. The weather has cooperated, with the air crisp enough to remind us that it is fall, but not cold enough to make us miserable. The turkey, which we smoked, a first here in the Den, was a success. Suffice to say, smoking the bird is how we'll be doing things in the future. It's been great to have Our Lady of Awesome and Awesome with us. We missed having CAL with us but are grateful she celebrated with friends and that she'll be home in a couple of weeks for the semester.

Black Friday wasn't terrible, at least for some of us. We only went to two stores before I lost the will to live. We were shopping for maternity clothes for Our Lady. That is a strange experience, can I just tell you? She doesn't look pregnant but she throws up like she is. Buying the maternity stuff certainly cements the fact that she is going to have a baby. I've got to get used to this.

The Boy had to work on Black Friday. He had to work retail at the near epicenter of Black Friday awfulness - Old Navy. During our maternity clothes excursion earlier that day we went into another Old Navy and it looked as if it had taken a direct hit from Superstorm Sandy. The Boy was in for it. Some of his texts once he got to work included:

Holy crap!
I'm quitting today. (This was sent about 20 mins. into his shift.)
I just quit (he didn't)
Seriously this store is a mess

The good news is is that he survived. He can now wear that as his own badge of courage since he faced down the thundering herds and lived to tell the tale.

On Saturday, we took the Awesomes to Boston. Although the sun was shining, the wind was far too reminiscent of our Chicago days, which meant it was dang cold. That didn't deter us from taking the ferry to see the USS Constitution and to marching all around the North End. We ate in Little Italy and braved the hordes at Mike's Pastry for cannoli, which was totally worth it. On our way home, I mentioned that the next time the Awesomes were in town that we'd have to go to NYC. I then said, since I'm trying to get used to the grandparent thing, that they would have a stroller in tow. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML then said, "Well, they can go out to a show while in the city and Grandma and Grandpa can babysit." Without thinking, I said, "Why on earth would your parents be here?" "We're the grandparents now," she rightly said.

Seriously, I have got to get used to this grandparent thing. Sooner rather than later, preferably, because this is happening.

22 November 2012


It's Thanksgiving Day.  Millions of Americans are counting their blessings by overeating, drinking too much, and getting into fights (food/fist/knife to name a few) with family members who they haven't seen in a long time and who they don't like in the first place.  Isn't this a great country?

I am thankful for a country that pauses to remember its blessings in an orgy of overeating, all in preparation for two days of shopping and overspending.
I am thankful for a country that is more consumed by the liquidation of Hostess Bakeries and the potential demise of the diabetes-inducing Twinkie than they are about the near state of war in the Middle East between Israel and, well, everyone else.
I am thankful that I am able to turn off the TV when I want and do not have to be subject to the horror that is, and forever will be, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the cavalcade of the damned that are the lip-synchers (shame on you, Neon Trees!) on the floats.
I am thankful that the presidential elections only happen every four years.
I am thankful that I can load my iTunes with such a freaky array of music that when that catalog of music is uncovered in 100 years, people will say "What was going on with this one?"
I am thankful for a world that has given me so much to explore, especially its food.
I am thankful, eternally thankful, for a wife who is so patient with me and who has grown with me in a way that takes my breath away.
I am thankful for my three children who are growing into amazing adults.
I am thankful for a daughter who decided to run a 5K on the spur of the moment today.
I am thankful for a grandchild who joins the Den in May.
I am thankful that I am able to search, ponder, and pray and that I find answers.
I am thankful for good friends and for the good times we've had.
I am thankful for trials and tests.  I may not like them when I'm going through them but I like what I learn from those experiences.
I am thankful this day for all that I have.  I am humbled by what I've been blessed with in this life.  I am grateful.

Thank you to all of you who read the Den, who comment, and who, for whatever reason, like spending some time here.  I appreciate you.  I'll say it again, on this day of Thanksgiving, thank you.

20 November 2012

Honoring Lincoln

What better way to celebrate finding out you are going to be grandparents than indulging in a movie wherein you know the central character is going to die?  Well, I'm certainly glad the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML decided to do that very thing this past Friday night.

We made our way to local cinemessplex to see Steven Spielberg's newest film, "Lincoln."  It was, in a word, amazing. Daniel Day-Lewis positively inhabits the role of Lincoln and brings our greatest president to life.  As I watched this movie, I couldn't help but think of the recent presidential election and what Lincoln would have thought of it.  I shudder in shame.

It's no secret that I'm fairly obsessed with Lincoln (editorial note - if you enter in 'Lincoln' into the search bar on the Den, you'll find something like eight posts so far about him) his leadership, his courage, and his humanity.  He was far from perfect but he he literally saved this nation.  This movie does an admirable, inspiring job of paying homage to the man. In one pivotal scene, one of my favorite speeches (I wrote about it here) that Lincoln gave, is recreated.  I'm going to cash in one of my Man Cards now and admit that it moved me to tears. It was incredible.

So if you've got a few hours to spare, go honor the man, and see this movie.  It beats the heck out of the drivel that is playing on the screen next door.  That's right, Barfing Breaking Dawn, I'm talking to you.

17 November 2012

Grand...grand what?

Grandpa Abe Simpson...icon?
When you think of a grandparent, what do you think of?  You may recall experiences you had as a child with your own grandparents.  If you're lucky, you still have your grandparents and you're able to spend time with them now.  If you are my age or older, in all likelihood, your grandparents have probably long since passed on. That is certainly the case for me.  My grandparents on both sides have been gone for a long time and I miss them.

As a result of a recent announcement, I've been thinking just a little bit about grandparents.  Why? Because Our Lady of Awesome and Awesome are having a baby, hence making the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and me grandparents in May 2013.  While we were a little surprised by this news (Editorial Aside - they called us on Facetime and I was the one who cried), we could not be more excited for our daughter and our son-in-law.  And, selfishly, we are more than a little excited for ourselves!

As I said, I've been thinking about grandparents.  Think about what we've had in the media:

  • Grandpa Munster, "The Munsters"- no grandchild should be worried that Grandpa is going to eat him for dinner
  • Grandpa Jones, "Hee Haw" - no grandchild should be worried about the damaging affects of inbreeding as manifested in their grandpa
  • Grandpa Simpson, "The Simpsons" - no grandchild should have a grandpa that yellow, unless of course said grandpa is affected with an epic case of jaundice
As far as role models, grandpas in the media are out.  So I think about the grandfathers I've known:

  • Grandpa Wade, my maternal grandfather - Man of legend.  Cowboy. Sheriff.  Amazing story-teller.  Epic with the curse words at Church (J. Golden Kimball had nothing on him).  Unique ability to have two TV's going at once at full volume and still have a conversation with anyone in the room.
  • "Dobby" Lyons, my paternal grandfather - Man of quiet patience. Example of love, patience, and goodness.  We called him "Dobby" because that's what my sweet cousin Laurie, the first grandchild, called him.  I'm sorry I didn't know him better, but I suppose I did because my Dad was so much like him.
  • My Dad - paternal grandfather - much like his dad, my Dad was one of quiet patience with his grandchildren.  He wasn't much of a 'get on the ground and roll around with the grandkids' grandpa, but that's OK.  He taught them so much in his example.  I'll never forget watching him take the Boy fishing.  It meant the world to the Boy.
  • Papa Thompson - maternal grandfather - the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML's dad only got to see two of his grandchildren before he died.  Watching him with Our Lady of Awesome when she was a baby was an indication of how he'd raised his children.  It was amazing.  I'll never forget watching him, this big man, cradling my daughter in his arms and telling her secrets that made her smile.  Pretty sweet stuff.
  • Grandpa Paul - maternal step grandfather - College football star. Air Force pilot. Airline captain. Missionary. Since he joined our extended family, he's not been a 'step.'  He's been Grandpa Puul and he's treated my children as his own grandchildren and they, no, we are all the better for it.
With examples like that, I've got some excellent guiding lights as I carve out this new path to being a grandfather.  I've got some time to figure it out.  I probably won't change much from who I am now, so this grandchild is in for it.  That was probably summed up best on Facebook by a very good friend when she quipped:  "Poor child."

It's been great to get a ton o'feedback on the Facebook and via text since word got out about this grandchild.  It's probably worth a "Top 10," but thought I'd share my favorite text so far, but I can't reveal he who sent it:

Great news!  You'll love being a grandparent - even sleeping with a Grandma.

I didn't see that one coming but I loved it.  And I think know I am going to love this whole grandpa thing.

15 November 2012

Lounging, Part II

The Prestige Class Lounge on the Korean Air A380
It's no secret that I harbor a significant helping of airplane dork/airline geek inside of me.  My recent trip to Asia allowed me to check off a couple of the boxes on my "Airplane Dork/Airline Geek" checklist.  Here's the skinny:

Box 1 Checked - Fly Singapore Airlines. Since the Wright Brothers flew their pseudo-paper airplane on the shores of North Carolina, people have complained loudly about air travel.  And since air travel, particularly in the US, has become a Master Class in Theatre of Cruelty, the complaints are mostly richly deserved.  One that has mostly risen above said complaints is Singapore Airlines. Their emphasis on service is legendary and I finally found out that, for the most part, the kudos are well-deserved.  While my flight with them was relatively short (just over five hours, thanks to good weather) and in, dare I say it, Steerage Coach, it was pretty much amazing.  Hot towels, menus, choice of meals, in-seat power, seat with a footrest, more than 1000 movies (no lie!) - and this was...Coach.  The cabin crew was really good.  They are a little Stepford Stewardess-ish, though, but at least you aren't afraid that one of them is going to slug you for asking for a Coke Zero.  Well, except for the one who was so made up that it appeared a post-flight drag bar appearance/competition was on tap.

Box 2 Checked - Fly the Airbus A380.  Yep, it's been five years since the A380 took to the skies and I finally got to fly it.  I flew a pretty new Korean Air A380 from Seoul Incheon to JFK and it was pretty cool.  The upper deck of this aircraft is where the Business Class (Prestige Class on KE) cabin is located and there are only 94 seats, so there was plenty of room to spread out.  Thanks to a fairly light load I found two seats to myself right near the Lounge.  Yes, the Lounge.  At the back of the cabin, you find the lounge pictured above.  I was delighted.  It's a fifteen hour flight and it's a daytime flight, at least according to my body clock, so I knew sleep was going to be elusive.  Being able to literally lounge about for several hours was completely awesome.  It made for a great flight.  Other things of note - the plane is deadly quiet, in spite of engines the size of small countries; sitting in the last row on the upper deck during heavy turbulence is not the wisest after a starter of kimchi.  You have been warned.

The trip to Shanghai and Singapore was a good one, made better by sating the yearnings of the inner Airplane Dork/Airline Geek.  I still adore Asia, its people, culture, and food.  This is an amazing world in which we live.  I feel so fortunate that I've been able to see a bit of it.  I've only scratched the surface of this place we call Earth, but boy am I grateful for it.  It's an incredible place.

12 November 2012


Thank You
Veterans Day is officially observed today, meaning banks, some schools, and government offices are closed, giving people the opportunity to complain bitterly, and without a hint of irony, about not having those services this day.

Why ironic?  Because this day, in which you hear people griping is about honoring those men and women who have served and, in far too many cases, died to protect those very freedoms.

I just came back from several days in China, a nation not exactly known for its embrace of honoring the rights of its citizens, and each time I go there, I am reminded of just how fortunate we are as a nation to have the freedoms that we do. We are free to express ourselves as we desire, although based on the absolute hysteria, vitriol and rancor on Facebook and Twitter during the longest.presidential.campaign.ever, a little Chinese-style media clampdown may not have been such a bad thing.  I will say this, I was in Shanghai on Election Day and Chinese media coverage of the U.S. election was subdued at best - take a note, American media networks.  We are free to do as we please within the bonds of the law and we are free to make the life that we want, regardless of who sits in the White House.  We still live in a place where we are free to control our destiny.  I worry that we take our freedoms for granted and that we spend far too much time blaming the other side of whatever side of the political spectrum you are on for what ails us.  We just need to take a long deep relaxing breath as a nation.

We are enormously fortunate to live in a country wherein its citizens voluntarily serve to protect it and its freedoms.  It has been that way since this country was founded.  I am humbled by the sacrifice of those who have volunteered to serve this nation and to protect it. I am grateful for what they have done.  I am moved by those who have given their lives for it.  I've talked about a book and a movie that for me sum up the sacrifices of those who have served here in the Den before and I'll refer to them again now:

Read this book - "Final Salute" by Jim Sheeler
Watch this movie - "Taking Chance"

You''ll be glad you did. You'll be all the more grateful for those who have served.
Thank you to our veterans.

02 November 2012


After years on the road, I was pretty much a pro at criss-crossing the globe.  I took a few years off the  "road warrior" path and it was good to be grounded.  While I don't see myself gaining my "warrior" status back, I'm getting back into it.

I find myself lounging in an Asian airline's First Class Lounge tonight.  I was the only occupant for awhile but not anymore. I am the lone Westerner, as per usual.  That's one of the reasons I like flying Asian carriers.  I wind up being the "one of these things is not like the other" guys.  If you're that guy on a U.S. airline, you'll find yourself on the wrong end of a TSA fascist's rubber glove.  You have been warned.

Speaking of being not like the others, my sister was that person in our family.  Why?  Because she was the lone girl, stuck between two brothers.  It is her birthday today.  She's done life on her own terms and it's cool to see what she's done with it.  She's raised three children, got herself through college and grad school and is now a Physician's Assistant.  On a side note - so she's a PA, my brother is a lawyer....guess who didn't go to grad school?

Anyway, a happy birthday to my sweet sister.  I only have one sister and I got a good one.