Saturday, June 05, 2004

Coasting To The Ballpark

If you live east of the Mississippi, going to the baseball game is a breeze. I contend there isn’t a major league city in the east where you cannot get from point A to the ballpark for about $5 a person. In the West, it’s a different story. When we had season tickets to the Giants, every game cost us $20 in parking plus the bridge toll. I’ll bet the tab for the Dodgers or Anaheim Angels is equally high. Tack on the food prices and ticket prices, and you have yourself a costly event. No one in Boston, New York, Philadelphia or Chicago would stand for that transportation cost.
Last night, we went to see the Padres play the Brewers at Petco Park (see above). Instead of driving and parking, we decided to take The Coaster from Carlsbad to the Gaslamp District. The cost, round trip, for three was $9.50 X 3. That included the San Diego trolley from the Santa Fe Depot to the stadium. In addition, the schedule was rather strange in that your return options from the game was either 9:45 p.m. or 12:05 a.m. The game started at 7:05 p.m., which meant you either had to leave before the end of the game (which we did and most everyone else did who rode the Coaster) or wait a few hours after the game was over. I’d say many did that as well given the number of “watering holes” near Petco. They need to be more flexible on the Coaster schedule to make this worth the cost.
After two trips to Petco, I am now officially lukewarm. It’s not nearly as great as Pac Bell/SBC. The views and old time feel with new touches makes Pac Bell an amazing place. Everyone comments that parts of Petco look like the city or builder ran out of money before finishing the park. Mind you, it’s a great place to watch a game; it’s just not up there with the elite new stadiums. It’s sort of a better version of those ‘70s stadiums: The Vet, Three Rivers and Riverfront.

Vacation is winding down. We have today—a totally nothing day to enjoy the beach—and ride back tomorrow. It’s been nice, but not very relaxing. The medical emergency I spoke of earlier included two trips to the doctor and a side trip to the pharmacy. Heck, I’ve always wanted to visit Vista, Calif.
I could wax on about the merits of not taking your 12-year-old on vacation. It’s a tough call. You keep hoping that next time your child will be more patient and flexible but it does not happen. It’s why you need to build in time for short family vacations and longer parent vacations. Ours is coming in five weeks. Camp is coming in four and a half weeks. Everyone has calendars marked accordingly.

Horses With Horns

I’m not sure why I wasn’t alarmed back in 1982 the first time I arrived at my then girlfriend, now wife’s home. Let’s overlook the fact that she was in the driveway playing with her dopey dog Chelsea, calling her all sorts of strange names of affection. Upon entering her home, I became keenly aware of her love for giraffes. There were giraffes everywhere. Giraffes in every form factor: pictures, stained glass windows, coasters, sculptures, clothing, etc… I did not turn and run. I found it to be a little charming, a little strange and quite mysterious.

Over the years, her giraffe collection has waned. Partly because we’ve moved so many times, it became a drag to pack them all up and box them for the next home and/or city. Packing and moving loses its allure once you get older. I did buy her a gold giraffe necklace for our 1st Anniversary and the odd knick-knack here and there, but surreal menagerie has not recently swelled in ranks.

A bit more than a week after my wife’s three-hour lovefest with her beloved Eagles, we had a 90-minute lovefest with her favorite of all four-legged creatures. We took a 90-minute photo caravan tour through the San Diego Wildlife Park where the stars of the show were a group of loving giraffes who must have anticipated my wife’s appearance. Words cannot describe the seven giraffes poking their heads into our caravan. We fed these mammoth creatures and they nuzzled and licked my wife’s hands until she was in a state of sheer ecstasy. Somewhere between laughter and tears, I have an amazing picture of two giraffes eating from my wife’s hands while she flashes a smile that could light Times Square. (note: family pictures are not for sharing on my blog).

These giraffes followed our caravan everywhere it went. We later encountered Ivan, the biggest giraffe of them all. He was like Shaq among other NBA centers. He owned the paint and I would have only imagined one of his colleague’s attempting to move him away from the prime spot next to my wife. Can you say flagrant foul?

When you love someone, you live to make her happy. Two times in 10 days I have made magic happen for my wife. I have even made magic happen for my daughter. It makes up for everything else…

Thursday, June 03, 2004

It's Always Something

The vacation juggernaut rolls on—not without incident.
Yesterday, our first full day of fun, included a trip to the farmer’s market (see above), a quick shopping extravaganza to the outlet center and really bad sunburn. Imagine, someone who lives in Arizona, getting sunburn. I forgot that beach sun and the desert sun are vastly different. I now remember that glare from the ocean and sand can ignite your skin in about 30 minutes.
When people ask what we miss about living in California, we say the Marin County Farmers Market. No one has fruits and vegetables like a farmer’s market, and I’d stack California farmers markets against any in the U.S. The one in Carlsbad featured stone fruit, beans, berries and the usual assortment of organic salad fixings. We made a haul plus some incredible breads from a San Diego artisan bakery.
So, now the incident. Last year on our trip here the transmission on my ’92 Lexus died and the car spent five days at the local Lexus dealer. This year, we wake up to find my daughter’s recent pierced ears have a problem: one of the earrings seems to be lodged inside the ear. Difficult to say how it happened; I have my theory, but I’ll keep it to myself for the sake of family harmony. A quick call to our medical insurance provider and we found a local doctor and made an appointment right away. We arrive to find they wrote the appointment down for tomorrow. I suspect she will live, although she might be uncomfortable till then.
Later this afternoon, we’re off to the San Diego Wildlife Park for the animal caravan ride. Should be a blast. We’re hoping a giraffe comes into the van and kisses my wife. She loves giraffes.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Run For The Border

There must be an art to going on vacation. I must admit, I am not that great at this art. I hope to get better.
Day one (yesterday) was spent in transit—all six hours of transit. The area between Phoenix and San Diego is not filled with visual beauty. It’s filled with desert and such cities as Yuma and El Centro. The temperature is a balmy 108 as you cruise through the desert, which doesn’t make stopping to enjoy the local flora and fauna very conducive.
For most Zonies, the state prison at Buckeye is a point of interest in that it was the site of a prolonged, tense hostage situation earlier this year. The local media insisted on telling us every excruciating detail of the ordeal. I made a joke in a recent posting over the number of U.S. men in prisons. As we drove by the prison, there was no laughing, I assure you.
There is also some perilous driving through some mountains that border Imperial and San Diego counties. It’s a two-lane highway, but once you’re through it, the temperature drops about 30 degrees and it’s a quick cruise to San Diego.
The motel we’re staying at is on the beach and it’s a place we’ve scouted out from last year. It’s vintage Best Western which means simple but clean. It’s not Le Meridian in Chicago, but it has a small kitchen and it is on the beach. There is this amazing place next door that we also have in mind, but it’s more money and better suited for two adults still in love after 20.5 years. This trip is not billed as a romantic getaway in Hawaii; it’s the family of three end of school, dad has use or lose vacation time sort of trip. In about six weeks, my wife and I have a second, longer vacation planned while our daughter is in camp.
We have some great events planned: an evening safari ride at the San Diego Wildlife Park and a game at Petco Park. We will not have to drive down to the park as The Coaster (Amtrak) has a route from here to the park with a special train back after the game.
The ideal life would be to live in Arizona from September to May and in San Diego, on the beach, the remainder of the year. We’re brainstorming this concept. There is an Indian Casino on the way home; we could bet it all on red and hope for the best.
One last note about traveling six hours: it’s a challenge to find music that suits the variety of tastes represented in the car. The best choice was a CD I burned a few years ago that contained one of the greatest dance songs of the late ‘50s: “Amazons and Coyotes” by the Dreamlovers. It is near impossible to find unless you too have a copy of “Frank X Fellers Made in Philadelphia.”

Monday, May 31, 2004

Selena Lives On

Selena's brother, AB Quintanilla and his band, Los Kumba Kings, are awesome. This track is one of my favroites:


Joey Pants

It’s not like I know the guy personally, but I think at the Emmy Awards, I heard someone refer to Joe Pantoliano as Joey Pants. It’s also the name of his Website.

I was watching “The Fugitive” for the millionth time, and there was Joey Pants. I began to think of all the roles he’s had movies and TV shows. Catch this list:

“Risky Business,” “Midnight Run,” “The Matrix,” “La Bamba,” “The Sopranos,” the above mention “The Fugitive” and its sequel, “U.S. Marshals.” Add on “LA Law,” “Olive, The Other Reindeer” (my wife’s favorite) and “Hill Street Blues.” That’s some body of work.

Diamondbacks Trade

Here’s a trade that makes sense for the Diamondbacks: Manager Bob Brenly back to the broadcast booth in exchange for current broadcaster Mark Grace. The team won’t win any more games, but they’ll certainly have more fun.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

The Trail To Arizona

So, here’s the story of how we got here.
In 1989, my wife and I lost everything we had when the business we owned in Seattle went under. We stood on the steps on the King County Courthouse and wondered what we’d do next. We had a few hundred dollars to our name, two cars and one Visa card with a very low spending limit. We lost our house, the rental properties we owned and a lot of money. I mean a lot. We left the courthouse and went to the movies. We saw “Parenthood.”
Not to belabor the point, we went to Palm Springs on some ridiculous one day airfare and stayed at a hotel that offered a summer rate of $40 a night. I fell in love with Palm Springs—the palm trees, the heat, the wide open spaces, etc.. So, my wife said, “If you like this, you’ll love Phoenix.”
Fast forward: a few months. The only job I could find in Phoenix was editor of a local religious newspaper. The pay was something like $15,000 a year. A far cry from my lofty status as newspaper columnist making close to 3X that wage. It was a job and it gave us the impetus to move. The side note is that my wife had to remain in Seattle for three months to finish her job. She was a hospital administrator but was willing to walk away so we could have a new life.
With the new dollars to our name, we landed at the apartment complex shown above. It’s still here and the neighborhood (which was seedy back in 1989) is now quite nice. We saw a Trader Joe’s two block away. We laughed and said that if TJ’s was there 15 years ago, we might never have moved.
It’s a great story. Over time, I’ll tell more.

Memorial Day

My dad was a veteran. My uncle is a veteran. My father-in-law was a veteran. My brother in law (I think he’s still my BIL), is a veteran. I have friends who are veterans. These people span wars from WWII (The Big One) to Vietnam. Vietnam happened in my lifetime and changed me forever. I was young, but my lasting image is Dan Rather on the CBS News, with a series of flags behind him (on a graphic) with numbers underneath each flag. Each day, there would be a casualty count, and I felt great when they other guys lost more than we did.

I can tell you how awful that sounds about 35 years later, but it’s how we were rained by the media. Someday, I’ll know more about the media’s manipulation of wars, but this posting is not the place to explore such thoughts. All I can say is that each number below each flag represents someone who died in services to his or her country.

And things are no different today. Do we feel better when 10 people die in an attack on our enemy as opposed to 10 U.S. soldiers or civilians dying? Is it the media’s training or are we so conditioned to separate lives by place of birth that we love to root for the home team and if they don’t win it’s a shame?

I have no answers. Today, and every day, I pray for peace

I Have This Theory

In just about every case, there are three kinds of people in the world.
What I mean, there are people who love Jacques Brel; people who despise his music (me) and people who are indifferent. Three are people who love ice cream, people who hate it (or more likely are lactose intolerant) and people who will eat it if served to them but would never think of stopping by Cold Stone Creamery for a cone.
Likewise, there are people who cannot live without a large family near them. There are people, like me, who have seen the value of family decrease over time and people who will enjoy their family if they are around, but wouldn’t seek them out.
I am trying to understand the reasons why. I could say that people who need family are weak, insecure and lack individuality. I think that could be wrong. In fact, it could be the opposite. You could argue that people such as me are cold-hearted and lack warmth due to a lack of familial interaction. That too would be wrong. I know a handful of people who might tell you I am a warm and caring person. These people are not my blood relatives.
I have discovered one universal truth when it comes to families. There is a powerful need for understanding. As I grow older, I am attempting to shed my disdain for people who have an ongoing need to constantly be around their relatives. I do not fully understand it, but definitely cannot ignore the happiness it brings some people.
I have one wish in return: I hope people respect my point of view and need to create a family atmosphere that reflects my needs. I can only hope.

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