General Blog
San Francisco - Day One - Chinatown and Fishermans’ Wharf PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 24 December 2015 19:47

echnically, the part about waking up Hell happened the day before.

I’d been up early the day of travel, cross the country to California, the Earth’s rotation working against me. So a long day of effort. Got into San Fran in the early afternoon, ate dinner at a little Pub along Haight (and two dark-lager pints)  and I crashed at 6pm - felt like 11pm – lights out.

And I woke up to blazing heat and pounding noise. Hell!

Turns out the AC in the house we rented was set hot. And some busker was across the street doing amplified guitar riffs at 9pm. Fortunately some beat cops turned off his amps and he eventually drifted away.

So, our first day of San Francisco, we pretty much walked cross-town. We started off with an Uber ride (trust my app-head sister to arrange this) to Union Park. From there, we walked over to the business district, then over to Chinatown. There, I found out what happens when you take three women through a kitsch shopping area. Two hours later we'd finally bought all our nicks and knacks (I hung around against a dragon-topped lamppost, looking either like some serial adventurer from the 30s or the Midnight Cowboy). Fortunately, no businessmen tried to pick me up.

After a nice lunch at a walk-down Chinese place (we were the only Caucasians there) we headed across town to Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill. Stiff hike up to the top, 275 feet (or twenty-seven floors of climbing). But atop the summit, atop its tower, a sweeping view of everything! Took a lot of pictures out the open windows. Just wonderful.

After that, we walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf – as touristy as it comes now (and hell, I’m from Orlando). But we hung around the vintage arcade and looked at some of the old stereographic machines (WW1 and the great earthquake/fire of 1906). JB and I also got a chance to stroll the wharf, checking out the WW2 sub and liberty ship they have docked there. The sub we’d gone into before, and we really didn’t have time to go into the liberty ship.

Back in the wharf complex at pier 39, it really started to rain. My sister called Uber again and home we went. Dinner that night, we walked through light rain that turned heavy while we sat in our noisy Mexican restaurant. So again she called Uber. And I’ll say this about the service – I wasn’t hot about it. It’s techy and flashy and undercuts cab companies. But yes, it was pretty handy to have a driver show up within a minute or two, and get a quick and easy ride across town for a pittance. And even though I’m very resistant to change, I’ll give Uber credit for fast service across the bay area. Yes, that’s approval. I don’t do it often and it might be a little choppy.

So it’s late and rainy in San Francisco, the sort of night Sam Spade hangs out in a trenchcoat against a sheltered wall and watches a doorway for his mark. The nieces are out drinking, the wife is jotting notes in her notebook, and I’m wrapping up this blog. I’ll sleep good tonight (the rain should hold off the buskers).


Last Updated on Thursday, 24 December 2015 20:04
Reflections on my Kidney Stone PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 10 October 2015 08:31

ne thing I reflected on as I woke up after the best sleep I've had in a week-and-change; I'm very grateful I live on the cutting edge of now. Yes, we have problems in this world, but also wondrous things, too. As Owen Wilson said in "Midnight in Paris", when asked why he wouldn't wish to stay in the magical 1920's Paris he's discovered, replied "Novocaine".

For me, I'm still thinking of that horrible 4mm kidney stone I carried for nine days. Drinking lots of water never moved it a bit. When we finally got flowmax in me, we managed to move it a little further down the tract, but it hung up again. Maybe I would have been able (with another couple of gallons of water) to move it. But stones should be out in three days, and they hurt like a war-lance in your back while they are in. And even with flowmax going, it was iffy if this would have ever come out.

The surgery they used was probably the only way I was going to get that thing out. Otherwise, had the blockage continued, it would have probably infected my kidney and (only a hundred years ago) killed me. Yes, I would be dead.

And my teeth - yes, I have crowns, but at least I have teeth. With the wisdom teeth removed and braces, I have wonderfully straight teeth. A root canal prevented a horrific infection. My glasses let me see clearly; again, these are wonders most of the people of the world never got until recently.

So next time you want to bitch about the world (as I will inevitably do), remember that in hunter-gatherer time, most of us might have made 40 years, tops, if we survived our childbirth and first critical years. And this is true through history, where most surgery was done with an unwashed saw and a dentist's tools were a chisel and a hammer. Yes, health care is still an illogical mess (made worse by the illogical people it serves and the monstrous corporations who profit from it). But really, toss out a prayer of gratitude for what we do have.

Or read
Quicksilver, a book set in the 1600's where the main character has a kidney stone and nearly dies from it.


Last Updated on Saturday, 10 October 2015 08:41
Corporate 5K - 2015 PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 17 April 2015 07:24

ell, it was an event, all full of dramatic pursuits, missing diamond rings and mood-setting rainstorms.

So I was on setup this year and helped the boss load and transport over. Gray day and getting grayer. Set up went okay but there was some confusion with the wife driving about downtown and me jogging up and down streets trying to catch her (saw her go by twice). It was like some bloody Buster Keaton bit. Sheesh.

Anyway, everything set up as planned. Hung out and had a granola bar. Chatted with people. My brother and niece showed up - always good to see them. Drifted over for the race and got a pretty good start position (8 minutes back from the line). 

Runners: Manjula, The Author, Fadeelah, Omar, and Maryam. Associated kiddies: Krishang and Aadya

Hung out under a tree with work buddies Omar and Manjula. The latter is my personal nemesis - we've been beating each other at this race for years. I won my first time, then she buried me last year.

So the race got going, at least it did. My garman watch couldn't find any bloody satellites to GPS my effort. Five minutes of "scanning". You stupid bitch - this is what I bought you for! I've been using you for a year in anticipation of this event! So, 17,999 people crossing the start line, with one screwing with what is pretty much an inert timepiece. Glanced over and manually marked my time across the line. Should have brought the pocket fob.

Anyway, it was a good run for me. The usual bit - going around the time-liars who push up early and walk, getting around the clots and clusters, mindful of that stripe-on-the-bricks slick spot. Manjula pulled away early and I gave up on that, just finding a pace and keeping it it. Calves were usually my biggest problem (thought I was starting to cramp going in) but everything worked well. Running in a 56 year old body is like those B-17 movies where the plane is shot up and they are feathering their props, trying to make the coast.

I didn't really remember much of the race this time. The rain kept the usual morale-booster bands away, alas. East to Bumby, up to Robinson, and then back. No water for me - I run in the noonday sun and if I don't need water there, I really don't need it for a 5k in the rain at night. At water stations, I swing to the middle of the street to avoid the newbies.

Halfway down Robinson, and suddenly there was my nemesis (shoulda kept up with the noon running, Manjula!). Passed her with a "Bu-bye!" And damned if she didn't speed up and dog me for 100 yards. Managed to squeak through a couple of walkers and give her the slip but I didn't know where she was now and could only keep running.

Air became the big problem down the front of the park - was sucking in and couldn't quite fill my lungs so I had to slow. With the drizzle, nobody from the corp was out cheering people on. Kinda disappointed there - no cheering section. Around onto Central and put in a last sprint and crossed the line exactly thirty-two minutes after my start. Grabbed a taco from our tent and went out to find my wife and walk her over the line too, watching the fireworks.

Found out later, not only did I put Manjula away by a minute (she gave me an Indian bow of grace today) but I beat my brother by two seconds! Hurah! 

Oh, and the ring? When we were rolling my boss's seats back to load his car, I saw this ring and pointed it out. He shrugged it off - though it was one of his kids' Barbie rings. Turns out it was actually his wife's engagement ring, recently lost, and secretly (and frantically) looked for. So I got a call at 11pm from her, offering me gushing thanks for finding it.

So yeah, it was a good day.


Last Updated on Friday, 17 April 2015 12:09
New York - Day Four - Escape from New York PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 28 December 2014 00:00

won't say it rained that day. But it was ark weather.

The front hit on our final day. JB had agreed (with some prodding) to walk with me over to the Hudson to see the museum carrier Intrepid, followed by a walk across the city to Grand Central Station (something she wanted to see). She should have argued better.

At first it was fine - we both had umbrellas and it was raining. But was we got closer on the carrier, it came down harder and harder. Soon our legs were getting wet, my arm (from holding her hand) was soaked, it was windy cold. Not a good day to be out. Looked at the carrier, said, yes, it's a ship, and then started through ratty urbanistic lands for Grand Central. Hoo boy. We had just under a mile to go and it was coming down in sheets.

And she kept with me - I'll give her points for stamina in the face of the elements. Finally I suggested we find someplace we could go in, get coffee and gather our wits. She nodded agreement without a word. And so, it a bit of serendipity, we found ourselves at the same restaurant we'd had breakfast in our first morning in the city. Just looked and there it was. The head waiter even recognized us. It was my coffee against her hot chocolate, a draw. And once I could study the map, I realized that, indirectly, we could catch the subway a block south, go north, east, then south (two trains) and end up right under Grand Central. Or we could keep paddling.

Our two train rides were quick, easy and warm, and we found ourselves in the Mecca of Railroading (back when travel was a dignified adventure and not something thrown together using poured concrete and questionable bond issuances), Grand Central Station. I had to admit that this was impressive. Poked around for a bit, got some good pictures (there were more people taking pictures that waiting for trains it seemed). Then we decided to walk over to the 5th Avenue Library (famous in just about every movie in New York).

It was interesting. We saw a display that concerned the US propaganda going into World War One. Very interesting and informative (and I took pictures of some of the chicken-hawk books written at the time - hello Project Gutenberg). Once we were done, it was time to meet up with everyone for lunch and decisions.

Lunch was interesting - we were able to find plenty of seating at lunch hour, partially because it was Christmas Eve but largely because the place was a grubby dirthole. The bathroom (in the basement) was appalling and there was a leak dripping through in the center of the place (how many floors were above us?). Still, we managed to get some hot food down and decided that rather than waiting for 3:30 for the luggage pickup and ride to Islip Airport, we'd leave as early as we could - 2:30.

After that, it was a big tromp over (through the rain) to the luggage storage place. The van showed up on time, everything was great, and we were on our way home.

Along with a million other people on the Long Island Expressway. Throw in a couple of accidents and you had standstill traffic.

I'll give the driver credit - he did his best. We ran in the fastest lanes, then left the expressway to run down back roads, surface streets, whatever got us ahead of the pack. Tick tick tick went the the clock. It began to look like it was going to be close (had we left at 3:30, we'd have been screwed). And finally, at just after five, we got off for the quick surface street run to the airport.

"Fuck," I said as the train gates came down.

But fortunately it was a quick passenger train, nothing to delay us too long, and we were at the airport at 5:10 or so. Everyone gave the driver thankful graditutionals in the form of cash and then we were in the terminal. Nobody was at the TSA line so we got through fast. Made the flight!

Except that the flight didn't make us - a broken windshield wiper took our plane out of service.

A second plane was brought over from Rhode Island (nearly two hours later) and finally we got into the air. Orlando felt strange once we'd landed. Sultry night air coming through the open doorways, no bundled travelers, no honking and fuss. Got our suitcases and were in the car and away, hissing down moist streets as the clock ticked into Christmas Day. And soon we were home.

What heaven to wake up in bed the next morning with our cat curled lovingly between us, the window open to admit the warm breeze, the greenery of our back yard rustling, the wet, fresh air (with nobody yacking or honking under our window). It was good to be home.

Anyway, that's the trip. I've got to toss out thanks to sister Pat for organizing it (except for the ride home - shudder!). And to my mom, for coming up with the idea (and financing) of our grand family adventure. It was fun to actually return to New York, to walk through the city and meet its generous people (everyone was actually kinder and nicer than we'd been led to expect). But I'm old, not a young urbanite, and I'll keep to my old gay suburb, thanks.

And that's The End.



Last Updated on Monday, 29 December 2014 23:36

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