The Summer of Frank: Around the world in 60 Days

Editor’s Note: This site has really shifted over the past few years, for a lot of reasons. The kids can read now so that becomes problematic with regard to my sense of humor. There is also the issue of their own privacy now too. Got to respect their space as it were. Being a kid is hard enough, no need to add fuel to the fire of the standard ball busting done by kids on other kids.

The bigger reason is really more my laziness than any other thing. I wrote that I was going back to work, Back to Work: Stay at Home No More, almost seven years ago now. Time has absolutely accelerated. And I’ve not kept up. So now this has turned into more of a diary/scrap book type thing for when I start to go nuts and put sponges in the oven thinking they’re loaves of Italian bread. I’ll need some way to remember.

And man, this summer has had some memories. Most of them not mine. The title of this post is apt. It has truly been the Summer of Frank. The kid has basically been away the entire summer. He’s not been home two weeks in a row since June.

The following is both part narrative and part old fashion boring home movie style. Proceed at your own risk.

Around the World in 60 Days

A while back I became aware of an upcoming trip with Frank’s school in June. Tracy was quick to mention that she had told me several times about the trip and though it was run by teachers it was not technically sponsored by Frank’s school. She and Frank would be leaving for a 3-country tour of Europe in June.

Alrighty then.

First things first. Tracy was sick so I had to go to the briefing for all the parents. Frank came with me. It was at the school, but no the school was not involved. The briefing was kind of standard stuff, until we got to the security of your possessions part of the evening. It was then the group was informed of the three stops, London, Paris, and Rome; it would be in Rome where the thieves would strip your bones bare. Cut you open if they thought you swallowed a quarter. Rob you of your very essence if not your passport.

I mean, I should get the Nobel Peace Prize for keeping my mouth shut. For the love of… it’s a freaking school! Have they never heard of Oliver Twist and Fagen, who turns orphaned London boys into pick pockets and Broadway caliber singers? It sure as shit ain’t Ernesto Twist and Luigi, I can tell you that. And she said it again later in the presentation in case you were not cluing into how all us greezy EYE-talians we’re murderous, thieving, hordes. Wake the hell up lady. I know it’s East Tennesse and all but there are some of us Wops in the wood pile if you know what I’m saying. And in this case the wood pile was the front row in the briefing room.

Whew I’ve been holding that in since June. Anyway.

First stop Jolly Old, crime free England. London to be exact. The Beatles shirt was his idea. I dropped him and Tracy off at the school where they shuttled with the rest of the group to Nashville for a British Airways direct flight.

They hit the ground running apparently and didn’t make it to the hotel until later that next night. They landed right in the middle of the Queen’s Jubilee. Got to see the big parade and a few of the princes. So that was fun. I guess.

Frank ate fish and chips, so there’s that.

The big find though was part of Tracy’s family history. Her great-great grandfather owned a pub in London, and it was still there. She took Frank and they got to meet the current owner. It was there she found out her great grandfather was actually born upstairs, over the pub. Pretty cool.

Next stop Gay Paree, the city of crime free lights. No plane ride for this. My man took the train under the Channel. The Chunnel I think they call it now.

They also hit the ground running here. I think Tracy said they managed the Notre Dame Cathedral, or what’s left of it, and the Louvre in one day.

That’s some running. I believe they cruised through the 14th century on their way to see the Mona Lisa.

They got to go up in the Eiffel Tower at midnight which was pretty cool. Tracy was the last to step out of the tower that night. Quite the accomplishment apparently.

Needless to say, Frank was diggin his Euro-tour with his mom. As evidenced by the pic to the left.

On to the crime ridden bastion of thieves and swindlers. That’s right kids, Rome here we come.

Somehow, they made it to the hotel and then to the restaurant without incident. Huh, hard to figure. Anyway, the kid was the star of the show as they got to make their own food.

He already knows how to make pasta, so he did a little demo here for the group.

You know I have to laugh. That’s my kid, in an actual Italian restaurant in Rome, making pasta and bread under the watchful eye of the chef. Unbelievable.

Rome was the last stop so it was back to London and then another British Airways ride to Nashville. I collected them up at the school and heard all the stories. What a memory to have at such a young age. It was only the beginning.

Seabase and the Boy Scout camp at St Thomas was up next, a mere 10 days after he returned from Europe. And yeah, that St. Thomas, the one they keep in the Virgin Islands.

Not a lot of pics from this trip. But he seemed to enjoy it. Nine Scouts, three scout leaders, and three dads on two 40ft sail boats, sailing around St Thomas. One captain per boat and the boys were the crew. An amazing experience to be sure.

Frank reported he was only sick for half of the first day then was fine for the rest of the week.

Here he is with his boys on the beach, one of the few times they went ashore. Jesus that boat must have stunk of teenager.

No rest for the weary, we no sooner got him back from St. Thomas we had to get him ready for Camp Daniel Boone in North Carolina and the “normal” Boy Scout Summer Camp seven days later.

Yeah, he may have been tired of having his picture made at this point. But hell, these pics are all we saw of him this summer.

Footlocker packed, scout shirt ironed, off he went for a week to Camp Daniel Boone.

Frank won’t likely join the military so this scouting is giving him as similar an experience as he can get to that. Hearing him say he was going to pass on the City Swim Meet so he could stay the full week with his patrol group was interesting. He would have done really well with that swim meet I think. He’d been shaving time all season.

He was the only member of his patrol to go to Sea Base and he’d not seem any of them all summer. He wanted his time at camp to hang with his boys.

They elected him Patrol Leader right before the summer started for a reason apparently. Gotta respect his decision to pass on the City Meet. Hate it, but the kid is growing up. But then again who knows, I didn’t see him this summer.

What we thought was the end of his travels turned out to only be the second to last trip.

Deciding to go with his sister and mother to Anne Marie’s specialist appointment in Raliegh NC, Frank was off again. This time to the Outer Banks and the beach for a few days before his sister’s appointment later in the week.

His shoes still had the dirt of god knows what countries on them. But he packed and off he went again.

They hit the beach for a few days and then the aquarium and various eateries in the area. In other words, the kid was on his fourth freaking vacation in two months.

Not bad for a 13yr old. My first plane ride was to Air Force Basic Training. I was 20.

The summer of Frank was a good one to be sure. He made it home in time to make the Swim Team Banquet.

While he missed a few meets and some practices to go globe-trotting, he did contribute, swam some of his best times, and volunteered to be a junior coach.

Let me tell you something, seeing a random five yr. old get a medal for swimming and then run over to your table to fist bump your 13yr old to thank Frank for being his junior coach is an experience I never would have ever dreamed I’d get to witness.

Almost tops seeing him make his own pasta in Rome.

Almost.

Frank’s swim team ate the competition alive this summer and won their league going undefeated. Frank got his own medal, league championship tee, and was recognized as a junior coach.

The alarm of reality rings tomorrow morning though. The 8th grade won’t care one bit about Frank’s summer exploits.

But man, what a summer.

The Summer of Frank indeed.

Two Dog Night

Yeah so we caved, kinda of sorta. We had been talking about it for a while. It’s a bit of a selfish conversation born out of our pending sadness. Nothing lasts forever. The conversations got more serious, more detailed. Plans were hatched, lists made. Then, finally, after months of bullying and harassment by unnamed people (Amy & Rachel), we caved in and did it.

He knows not where he perches.

In the immortal words of DJ Khaled, and another one. No not the dirty copier machine you mutts. The dog. We got another dog. Adopted another rescue I should say. Orville to be precise. A 3-month-old Retriever/Springer Spaniel/Terrier mix. We think. Hard to tell with these rescues who just get abandoned on the side of a road or tossed over a fence at an animal shelter.

He may grow to be a killer, but hey at least he’s cute as a button now. And he rings the bells hanging from the front door when he wants to go out. That gives the cute impression that he is house broken, until you realize he’s peed and crapped himself all the way to said bells. What are you gonna do? Make the kids clean it up that’s what. Who says it’s a sad day when your toddlers grow up?

So now we have Milo and Orville. Solid names all the way around. No cute pic of the two of them sitting with-in close enough proximity to each other if that tells you anything about how Milo is adjusting to his new kid brother. Milo is happiest when Orville is in his crate.

The crate has been the clear marker the two dogs are different. Milo spent 38 minutes in his crate and has slept on the bed ever since. Orville naps in his and since the half of the family with no spine is in Europe, I’ve been crating that little prick every night. Guess who’s sleeping like a baby this week and last? No not the dog. Well maybe he is who knows. He’s downstairs in his crate. Me. I’m sleeping like a baby, a stone, a dead man and what have you.

The dog makes not one peep. When I come down to spring him for the day, he’s lying there staring through the bars waiting for his meal period like a convict resigned to his incarceration, waiting for yard time. So, in that respect he’s been much easier as a puppy than Milo was. We just don’t remember what a pain in the tuckus Milo was when he was a puppy because it seems like he grew into a member of the family so quickly. That could not be furthest from the truth. We have all hardwood floors because of Milo.

Thanks to those hardwood floors, Orville clean-up is so much easier. In Orville’s defense he is getting better. He’s still a puppy.

And if he keeps to his lights out by 10p prison sleep schedule, he may eve get to stay.

AN ODE… to the DMV

You read that right. The DMV as in the Division of Motor Vehicles. Your PTSD acting up yet? Well take your meds and strap in. I know what y’all are thinking and this isn’t that. This is an actual ode to the oldest of government professions, an agency dedicated to the systematic pissing off of the greatest number of the populace in a given eight-hour workday.

Without sarcasm, snark, condescension or tongue in cheek; with malice toward none, I will attempt to relay to you dear reader, in a non-ironical way, why on this particular day the DMV should be lauded, heaped with praise even. Yeah, I said heaped.

The story begins on a rare cool day in Knoxville, September-ish, year of our Lord 2021. My license plate was expiring Oct 31. Now in Tennessee we have, as I’m sure other states do, an on-line system that allows you to renew your plates with the click of a mouse and a surrender of $30 American for the plate and $35 American for the Queen’s share.

Basically for a few clicks and $65 clams you’re done, and you never had to do your hair or see/deal with people. Your sticker and new registration arrive promptly 14 business days later. Honestly, it’s pretty awesome.

However, on this particular day the system spit back, Plates cannot be renewed 90 days from expiration. Of course, that’s weird because I hadn’t paid it yet and was well within the 90 days. So, I wait till October, same deal. Tried again in November, same same and if we’re being honest, I completely forgot about it after that.

Flash to May of 2022 and Tracy’s van comes up for renewal but Tennesse is changing plates. That means no on-line magic. Have to go into the DMV to get the new plates, which FYI are much nicer looking in my opinion. Anyway, I thought since hers were up I’d try my plates again. Same message from the web site.

Not too shabby

Now I know I have not paid for my registration for the new year, so I’ve gone nine months on what I guess are illegal plates? My laziness to this point has kept me from going to the DMV to get this fixed and I’ve been skirting the law for a while. My 4:30am work schedule and working from home two days out of four has helped greatly in this regard.

I have no choice now. Got to make the pilgrimage to get the new plates for Tracy. When I say pilgrimage think going to Mecca but not as fun. The problem: May was quickly coming to a close and half the family is preparing to go to Europe for ten days. Plus there are a bunch of other poor excuses as to why I did not get to the DMV until the day Tracy and Frank were leaving for London. Oh and I had a window of two hours before I’d have to bail out to get home in time to take them to the airport shuttle leaving from the school.

Yeah man I was putting a lot of faith in the agency where red tape is actually manufactured. Especially in light of my last trip there over a decade ago. You can read that here if you like: What’s in a name?

Really, I was counting on the joint being covered up to make it a non-issue. Then I hit the Brewster’s Ice Cream place and be home in plenty of time to take them to the shuttle and I’d deal with the plates another day. Easy. Hell, any more days and I’d come around for renewal on my plates again, having gone a whole year without paying. Felt a little like Jesse James. A little.

Sadly, there was a parking space. Just one. So I decided to at least give it a try. Half way to the building I come face to face with one of Knoxville’s finest. Big smile and a hello and a question as to where I was going. Since I didn’t know where the place was located in the sprawling facility it was a pleasant surprise to be told where the door was and how to get into the DMV office from there. She was incredibly helpful and we’re off to a good start.

Then I step in and it’s wall to wall. I mean literally wall to wall. After a minute I realize I have to take a number. The “Now Serving” sign was not obvious for obvious reasons. When I found the sign, I had 24 they were serving 92, I was immediately crest fallen until I remembered the ice cream I was now going to get. But yeah it was so busy the sign had not even rolled over yet. I was half expecting it to jump several numbers ahead because surely these government drones just keep forgetting to advance the sign.

93! PLEASE COME TO WINDOW 4! Damn it!

It was at this point my body language, if not my actual language, betrayed me. The nice officer I met on the sidewalk was now standing next to me. She came over to tell me it moves fast and if I don’t have to be anywhere for the next 30 minutes, I should be fine. Again, she was very helpful and reassuring as the 30 minutes would work great, but no way I’m buying that timeline.

I mean there is no way they are moving fast enough to clear out all thes…. 94! 94 TO WINDOW 1 PLEASE!

Well holy hell they are moving pretty qui… 95! 95 TO WINDOW 2!

No freaking way. Don’t get me wrong it’s not a Moses at the burning bush type revelation but man it’s getting close. Now I’m looking at my watch doing the math. So, let’s see, if they call my number by 1pm I should be good, 1:15 at the latest and I can still make it home, grab them up and get them to the shuttle. But I still don’t see how it’s… 96! 96 TO WINDOW 4 PLEASE. 97! 97 TO WINDOW 1.

A few things to note. Window 4 is a rock star and who is the lazy bastard at Widow 3? That cat needs to find a new gear. Turns out, obviously to everyone but me, the room is full of people getting new plates since Tennesse canceled the current version. Apparently, that’s not a very intricate procedure.

And as astounding as it seems, not 21 minutes later I’m tripping the light fantastic to Window… you guessed it, Window 3. My man is getting some positive reinforcement from me and maybe a bit of a pep talk to get him back in the game. Gladys at Window 4 is flat out smoking his hind parts.

First, I have to take care of Tracy’s plate in case my nine months as an outlaw comes to light and things go sideways. I’m not the healthiest person walking the earth but in this joint I’m pretty sure if I have to flee, I’m making it out. Turned out to be a non-issue.

My man James of Window 3 was all over it. When I explained my story, he said, Yeah, it shouldn’t do that. Not a font of knowledge I grant you, but straight to the point. James is winning me over. So I asked how do I fix it. Again James dropped a pearl amongst swine. I’ll just renew your plate right now.

Yeah, sounds about right. No fine, no surcharge. Just the standard fee as if I was paying on time. You know why? Cause it shouldn’t do that, as James said earlier. And just like that, in less than seven minutes I walked out with two new plates and registration cards.

When I stepped in the joint, I had number 24 and they were on number 92. In less than 30 minutes I was walking out of there. I had to take a moment and pause just to try to comprehend what happened. Was I in some parallel universe? Had I died and this was my heaven? Nope. I simply walked into a place where the people were professional, polite, helpful, and very good at their jobs.

The DMV: come for the snazzy new plates, leave faster than you could have ever imagined.