Posts Tagged ‘distance’

Flying Back

10 June 2011

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Dear J-

On the first flight I look up and we’re surrounded by what seems like hundreds of fresh-faced youngsters. From the shirts and lanyards they’re part of a people-to-people program and it’s a short matter of coaxing before the story spills out, one I’m sure they’ll be asked a million times before they arrive. High school kids gone abroad to live with other families — it’s not clear if it’s a full exchange or just a reward for the right kids. And right they are, polite and well-scrubbed and quietly excited to be on their way, BHM-DFW-LAX-HKG, miles and miles before they get their three weeks in China. They take over the plane by sheer numbers; everyone is sitting near one and the insatiable curiosity starts over for them, some of whom are flying for the first time, some who have never been off shore.

It makes my complaining about not hitting the right flight sound a lot whiny, doesn’t it? The evening flight out of Dallas is quiet, everyone taking the opportunity to nap or quietly read as we fly west into the sunset, those colors retreating even as we chase them. Before long now I’ll be home. A week has turned into a day and so quickly now just a matter of hours — at the moment we’re two hours from touching down and we can resume our separate lives, these strangers and me. I open my mouthhand my voice feels rusty from disuse, flat Midwestern accent replacing the Southern drawl I’ve been immersed in for days now. It doesn’t sound right and I still want to order my Co-Cola or Swee’Tea with mah meal, all y’all. In time those thoughts will disappear but the mind will take time to catch up with the body who has moved thousands of miles.

Mike

Travel Jitters

2 March 2011

Dear J-

I always seem to think that there’s a thousand days before the next trip but it’s already upon me — I leave Sunday for Massachusetts and a whole week in the snow. The real question is what I need t brnig back from work in order to support what I’m going to be there for. So far I have a laptop request in process, and I need to print out an itinerary and hotel reservation so that I can have something to reference when all the batteries I’m carrying around have gone dead. There’s a lot of things I should have gotten but didn’t — I’m thinking wide-angle lens, smaller camera, phone, different bag — but it’s too late to fret about that now. Work with what you’ve got, not what you thought you needed.

It’s funny that I keep thinking about a better bag, as the one I’ve got has been doing fine for a year or so — it’s a tough beast, and certainly looks workmanlike. The best part is the tool compartment on the front, which provides lots of handy little pockets to stash everything without jumbling things together. In the dark it’s good to know exactly where everything is and stays. The worst part is that as it’s not a bike-specific design, when it’s hanging off the bike just about everything inside is inaccessible except for my keys, which makes it pretty useless. The answer would be pretty simple — get a Klickfix bar and attach it to the back, and get a rain cover too — except that I’m too lazy or busy to do that surgery. And it’s cheaper to keep looking at other bags and think that they’ll be perfect next too.

With any luck the drive in from Providence shouldn’t be too bad, though that’s one aspect of East Coast life I never got to try — I need to remember how compact distances are there. When I went to Alabama last year it was an hour from the airport to the hotel; that same time would take me through most of Connecticut or into Boston. I’m looking forward to the trip not because it’s a chance at a change but also for going back to New England and all it implies, gruff folks and wintry stares. Life in the air isn’t perfect and I’m going to miss the crazy that happens every night but it should be a nice change from the same old San Diego, which I’m sure I’ll miss within a few minutes of climbing into the air.

Mike

Two Minds

30 January 2011

Dear J-

This morning at breakfast the selections at Big Kitchen were appropriately upbeat Motown and I couldn’t help but laugh inside when Mary Wells came on with Two Lovers. It is melodious and beautifully sung but if you stop to think about it the song is really talking about her relationship with an abusive schizophrenic. I’m not going to drum up any false drama by claiming that figgy has any similar serious medical disorder but there are times that I suspect, although I’m sure that’s no surprise to any other parent of a three-year-old.

This particular three-year-old is a force of nature: contradictory and contrary to an extreme but sweet and clingy as well. She is insistent on being right, both that she is right and that you acknowledge it to be so. The portion of a child’s brain responsible for repetition and routine has developed to an extreme level, where we have simply shifted our schedules and buying habits to compensate (after dinner and a bath, marshmallows and a little TV). You may hope to stop her but the best you can accomplish is maybe a little slowdown.

Today after a long day of walking and fair-going (the Taste of Tet reminded me of the county fair, only less expensive, less crowded, more interesting, and better food) I slept a few hard-earned napping minutes on the floor, cheek pressed firmly to carpet while figgy kept running off in her own world, enough distance to remain friendly while orbiting back and touching base with us to make sure we were following. That kid’s heading well beyond us and all our introverted powers have the ability to follow, and I’m so proud already.

Mike

Out There

12 November 2009

Dear J-

What is actually out there?  If you accept that of all the stars in the universe, surely some have planets and of those planets, there must be a few that have Earth-like conditions, then there must be someone else out there wondering aloud what’s out there too.  Distance and relativistic limitations mean that we’re unlikely to ever meet, barring some kind of Star Trek warp drive and the acceptance of unacceptable risks (unless you assume that successful extrasolar exploration is predicated on society being peaceful/united enough to support it).

I used to play a lot of Spaceward Ho! when I was in college; it’s a game with some strategy, but it ends up being closer to Risk in space, with some minor resource management issues.  When you start the game you pick the number of planets (I’m assuming planetary systems), the size of the universe, and the number of players; my winning strategy invariably revolved around creating colony ships with long range, no weapons, and slow speed; fighters swift and well-armed; scouts lightly armed but as swift; and ringing all colonies with layers of satellites with state-of-the-art weaponry in case of accidental discovery.  Scouts were expendable to figure out whether a planet was worth going to (or to feel out the other player), with whole fleets of fighters along the front lines until satellites could be established, and colony ships bringing up the rear, ready to pounce on new discoveries as needed.

I would count the number of players I’d run out of existence, and sometimes it was less than we’d started with, meaning that the computer had exterminated itself in internecine warfare.  For some reason it would make me obscurely sad:  though I realize that the goal of the game was being the sole player standing it felt a little like electronic genocide — rather than seeing them as separate players, they always seemed like separate species, unreasoning and uncommunicative, rapacious and just like the player in front of the screen.  I haven’t played Spaceward Ho! in a long time, now.

Mike

Bumbling and Brash

19 March 2009

Dear J-

Well, despite my best efforts at sheer incompetence and procrastination, it looks like I’m on my way to Sacramento early next week:  Monday through Wednesday will be spent auditing one of our vendors.  We haven’t been back often — I remember going back twice now, I think, since leaving in 2001 — but for only being a few hours away, it might as well be across the country (reminding myself, here, of how long it’s been since I was in a different time zone, nearly three years).

I like to talk about how small the world is but I know that’s true on paper; faced with the prospect of actually traveling distances — yes, it’s possible, and I can only point to how lazy I know I am.  The journey is not the reward.  When I’ve got nearly everything I need here — and it seems like the rest can be shipped in — it makes me perfectly happy to be stuck where I am.

I guess that the point is that I haven’t traveled enough to be truly well-seasoned at it; various maladies will assault me on the road, and I’ll probably spend half the first evening awake and staring, insensate at the TV regretting the meal that sounded good on the menu.  We’re not so well-traveled that we can claim favorite places in far-flung corners (I’m more familiar with Ryo’s Yokosuka and Kazuo’s Kabuki-cho than most of Sacramento, in fact), but there’s compensations on tap:  perhaps I’ll finally be able to get the right Yolo causeway picture that’s been haunting me for years.

Mike

Moving Week

24 October 2008

Dear J-

The long week comes to an end; I look forward to several calm, numbing hours in front of the TV scanning odd channels for coverage of improbable NCAA Football upsets.  I always end up, at the end of the day, reflecting on the distances traveled and comparing where I woke up with where I lie down.  It’s easy with the lens of distance to note the changes, just as it’s easy when you make the millionth round-trip to where-ever you call home tonight to dismiss the everyday as pedestrian.

With the rare opportunity to be up and awake just past midnight (this, courtesy of my brother and his Wii), I bunked down in my nephew’s bed, which forced all kinds of musical sleeping arrangements — and was up by five to experience the promised ninety minutes of Bikram Yoga.  I’ve never practiced Yoga before, and the opportunity afforded me insight on the flexibility it lends its practicioners (“Okay … now bring your other leg behind your head …”).  The overall experience — held in a room kept at near-sauna conditions, to better replicate the conditions of India — left me drained and sopping wet, but as my brother explained, it’s more about the meditative experience you gain as you progress through the poses, rather than a competition to find the next human Gumby.

I’m not sure for sure that it lent me some perspective on the following internment ceremony later, but I certainly saw things in a different light than I did yesterday, flying in to San Jose.  I got to learn more about my aunt’s life; I got to see how she touched my family in numerous ways.  Best yet, I’m now most familiar with the portrait of her as a warm, vibrant woman, not as the past few years had left her.

We all came together with few exceptions, with few gaps, this mob of a family and all its cousins.  We may fumble over the right words and produce something nonsensical, but that we’re all willing to pause our lives and gather, that speaks volumes to how strongly the feelings pull us together.  Once again, humbled, amazed, in awe of the things that keep us family.  And a long Friday closes with nothing but surprises.

Mike

Drastic Steps

6 October 2008

Dear J-

We take drastic steps when we believe that we’re in peril — the fight or flight reaction.  The rumors you hear never seem to sound quite so urgent until they start talking about those things close to you — family, work, life.  You hear and you don’t want to believe, you don’t want to get involved, but most of the time it’s already too late, isn’t it?  The anecdote that keeps running through my head is that you never hear the bullet that hits you:  as they’re traveling faster than sound, you’re shot before you hear the shot.

We spend time worrying about things we can’t change, though, instead of doing what we can, where we can.  I remind you that all the extra time, all the extra hours spent in the paralysis of indecision could be spent chipping away.  Journey of a thousand miles, single step, you know.  A life lived a minute at a time, hour by hour, not looking too far forward, nor casting a backwards glance; is that really ideal, either?  Aren’t goals a form of looking at all the work you have in front of you?

Miles pass underfoot; time slips by and leaves us breathless in its wake.  Whether or not we choose to change, whether or not we continue to learn, the rules morph into something new.  Good enough changes day by day.  When do skills start to elude you?  What rungs on the ladder remain forever blocked?  Where do you decide your comfort zone goes this far and no further?

Can we continue, this world divided, this nation double-yoked end-to-end instead of side-by-side?  I’ve said before that the main reason I went East for school had to do with learning out of my depth, but it reinforced what we all have in common.  An essential humanity, a universal America, a belief and a hope that this can’t be the end, this isn’t the final, we can pull it around and succeed.  Are we realistic?

Mike


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