Lisa Haffner: Mother, Nurse, Badass.

I wrote about Lisa in March of 2013. She is a remarkable person. If you remember that story you’ve probably figured out why I’m writing today.

Lisa Haffner, who blogs as Little Lisa Lollipop, a nurse at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) who beat cancer once as a kid and twice as an adult losing her leg along the way, went to meet her Jesus this past Thursday.

Lisa has laid her burden down. She has run her race, she has fought the fight. Little Lisa Lollipop has kept the faith. And so many patients, co-workers, and people are better because of her.

Now she rests.

She leaves behind her Husband and two year old son Owen.

Go read: http://littlelisalollipop.blogspot.com/2016/12/in-memoriam.html

If you are inspired, hit the tip jar one time for Owen. No matter either way.

Amazing people pass though the world all the time. And I feel like the world should know about it. This is my small part of that endeavor.

                                                      Lisa Joan Haffner Dorantes
                                            December 21, 1974 – December 15, 2016
Lisa and Owen

Lisa and Owen

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War On Christmas: My wife won’t let me use the laser.

A little Christmas Eve eve post to lighten your night and bolster you against the enemy. Who’s the enemy? Well all those godless heathens who who claim to love Jesus but hate Jesusy things, like America and cool lasers that cover your house with Christmas lights, that’s who. I mean how much coal do you have to have in your heart to not like laser beams that make your house a green and red field of Christmas cheer?

Now I am a guy who leans traditional at the holidays. I like Como, Bing, and Burl Ives. And I like putting up the old timey glass bulb lights like we used to do when I was a kid in Jersey. They were big, they were colorful, they were gaudy. In other words, they were perfect. The installation of the lights left a little bit to be desired.

We may have bent a few safety regulations putting them up. And by we I mean me, with my dad at the bottom of the 20 foot extension ladder that had already seen better days, yelling at me to be careful and don’t rip the gutters off the house as I dangled from the second story roof, some 25 feet above the ground. I am honestly misting up just thinking about it. Amazing what you miss sometimes. But man we laid down maximum effort at Christmas.

I recently went to a fall protection class at my current place of employment. Ladder safety was a huge topic obviously. The instructor probably had a complex by the end of the class because I could not stop giggling to myself as we went over all the OSHA, DOD, and DOE rules and regs governing the safe use of ladders. If any of those agencies had appeared on our lawn in the winters of 1975 through 90ish, they probably would have hauled us both off.

I don’t really have that issue here in Knoxville because the various roof sections are way too steep and I’m way too much of a coward now. Much more so than I was back in the 70s when men were men. But still I string my big bulb lights around the garage doors and the front door. I festoon the deck railing in back with my gaudy, go to hell 70s colored light bulbs. I even manage a few strands in the hedges out front.

It’s really a lot of fun, but that fun doesn’t come without effort. As it turns out age is directly proportional to effort. The older I get the less effort I feel like giving. Consequently the less effort I actual do give. But I dig Christmas so I was in need of a Christmas miracle of lights as it were. In steps my Neighbor Mike. Whilst curbing our new mutt, (to be covered in a later post), in the freezing cold of night, I glance up and see Mike’s house lit with a strange pattern of small red and green lights. I knew I was tired but it then appeared the lights changed pattern and then swirled around.

In between cusing and then admonishing the puppy/mutt to get on with his business, I ascertain Mike must have some sort of futuristic device generating his Christmas display. I must have this. After a quick text, he informs me the Kroger has them on the cheap. Well damn-it, I’ll be carrying myself down there the next day.

Can you not feel the Christmas in those lights?

Can you not feel the Christmas in those lights?

He was right. The Kroger had them. I went more on the cheap and got the stationary type. No patterns or motion, just straight up old fashion laser generated Christmas lights. And damn if they weren’t festive all to heck. Once more, it only required un-boxing them, jamming the steak in the ground at the desired position and plugging them in. That’s it. Done. In ten minutes I was lasering Christmas all over my house. And God said it was good.

Mrs Frank’s Place on the other hand…

She loathes it. With the passion and heat of a thousand Christmas candles does she hate it. My somewhat snarky, somewhat actual suggestion that she just avert her eyes while she was outside with the mutt in the freezing cold night went over like a fart in church. So, much like my parents who battled non-stop over the position of the thermostat, me and my betrothed duke it out over the plug, that’s right singular plug, required to power the two lasers in my front yard. One freaking plug, how can you not like that? It’s a Christmas mystery.

It would be easy to make all kinds of Christmas villain comparisons here, like the Grinch or Scrooge or the Heat Miser, but it is Christmas after all. So let us just say Mrs Frank’s place lacks the vision and desire for a better society when it comes to Christmas technology. Even the mutt liked the lasers. He only tried to pee on them once. And frankly the lights look good on him.

Christmas Milo rocking the

Christmas Milo rocking the “Laser”.

As I have explained, I am as old timey as they come when Christmas is involved. But I’m way more lazy than I am committed to tradition. One extension cord instead of my life flashing before my eyes as I hang helplessly from a ladder and gutters made in 1967?

Yeah I’m good with new and sexy over old and traditional.

Merry Christmas Eve eve people!

Swim Team: Really?

So swim team. Yeah. Swim team. I’m just at a loss here. It’s a great thing but I just did not see that coming. Sure the kids love the pool, they like “swimming” if you can call it that. But swim team sounds so official, and hard, and ya know might require some ability.

Let’s just face some facts here. Or at least let’s face one very important fact; the freaking kids can’t swim. There I said it. They can not swim. So swim team seemed a bit ambitious. Swim lessons sounded more reasonable. But as usual Mrs Frank’s Place would not be swayed. She was on swim team as a kid so our kids will be on swim team. End of discussion. Ok then. Great dear. Good talk.

Off to swim team we go. Oh no not Mrs Frank’s Place. No, I took the day off from keeping the world safe for democracy (not really) to schlep the kids down to the community pool for their first day of swim team. One thing is clear from the outset. My absence since returning to work has had a profound affect on the timeliness of my children’s arrival at various events. That is to say they went from being 5 minutes early to being late a lot. So much so that they were a bit flustered when we arrived at the community center 10 minutes early.

What do we do now? Why are we so early? How long till we can get in the pool? Those were just a few of the whinny supplications raining down from the back seat of my car as we sat in the parking lot. Funny thing, I didn’t get mad. I started to miss being home. When we finally dismounted and headed into the pool area and the other moms started showing up I saw a few old friends from my days of toting the kids around to school, soccer practice, the Kroger, etc… Then I really missed being home.

No time to get misty. A very hip looking dude, about 14 years old if he was a day, sauntered up and introduced himself. Not to me, but to Frank. That impressed me right away. Coach Joe, a stately 3o-somthing years old, turned out to be an impressive character. I didn’t know it then but the kids were in good hands. He showed Frank where to stand to warm up and off they went. I took my seat and watched nervously. We were at the Arnstein Jewish Community Center and this joint was big. The pool was big, the school was big. It was all big and my Frank is small.

It also appeared like there was no spot for beginners. It looked like Frank was going to be tossed into the deep end with everyone else. And by the way, Frank was the only newbie. All the other kids were returning from last year. I’m not feeling it at this point I don’t mind telling you if he had walked over and said he wanted to quit, I would have said OK lets go play some golf. I even stuck his golf stuff in the trunk for just such a contingency.

As it turned out he did get tossed in the deep end. Lane 1, 12 feet of water, everyone 6/7 years old into the water and swim a lap. For you land lubbers a lap is up and back. It’s an Olympic size pool. Did I mention Frank can’t swim? Not a stroke. Although I’m having enough of those for both of us. I quick like leave my mom friends and hustle to the lane 1 side of the pool. I’m half way there as I see my very timid 7 year old just jump in, no swimmies, no nothing, and no mention to coach Joe that he can’t swim. Just jumps in and starts to paddle.

Kid can always find the camera. Gettin work done in Lane 1.

Kid can always find the camera. Gettin work done in Lane 1.

Like an old Corsair coming off the deck of the USS Hornet circa 1942, Frank disappears below the horizon and I freeze, waiting for him to rise up into the sunlight as he gains altitude. No such grandeur. A few paralyzing seconds later as I’m really moving now, his head pops up and he is moving his arms fast enough to fly, but it’s just keeping his head above water. Not a soul is freaking out about this except me. Plenty of people can see him but no one is reacting.

So I sit down and watch. His head is staying above water and he is giving maximum effort. He has moved about a quarter of the way down the lane. The other kids are sitting at the other end waiting for him. They all glided down there like they had fins. I’m really close to shutting this all down and then I see the pic above.

The kid is ecstatic. I’ve not seem him smile that broadly since the day his sister finally came home from the hospital. No way I can stop it now. So I wait and he makes it to the other end. While Frank was giving all he had, the other kids were conspiring. They had decided they were not making the return trip. When one of the assistant coaches, wearing her college swim team pullover and dark shades, went to administer a beat down, a young lad got in the first lick.

Hey lady can we get some noodles over here?!? We’re just kids ya know! If that wasn’t enough to make this kid my best friend, his follow up question as he paddled to the other end leaning on a noodle he just received cinched the deal. Hey lady, is there a chik-fil-a around here anywhere. This is my new favorite kid. No contest. However, college swim team coach didn’t get the joke and gave him the community center policy of no food in the pool area. No sense of humor in college anymore I guess. But he wasn’t done. As he swims past where I’m sitting he looks over at me and moans, This is the worst day of my life. Ever! I swear to you had I known swim team was an hour long I would have run out and got that kid some chik-fil-a.

Still the kid appeared to be gliding through the water while Frank was barely staying alive. Then one of them got out of the water. They were, in fact, wearing swim fins on their feet. Frank’s mom is old school so I knew there was no way he would be allowed to wear them. But it really didn’t matter. He had a noodle and and then a kick board. He plodded along, up and back, up and back. He swam 20 full  laps in an hour. I was stunned and extremely proud. He was dead last the entire time but he never stopped. That was huge.

I was exhausted watching him. But he never stopped. By the end of swim practice he was hooked. Unlike soccer or baseball, swim team was every day. Plus you could come at night as well. Add to that the bonus of two nights a week practice was held at the University of Tennessee Aquatic Center on campus, where the 2012 Olympic swim team practiced leading up to the London games. Pretty cool stuff. Kid even got to swim in a meet there. Yeah I said swim in a meet.

By mid summer he was competing with his team, the Smokin Salmon, (not kidding). And by competing I mean actually swimming in meets against actual opponents. One of his first meets was in the a fore mentioned pool at the University of Tennessee. I mean hell, that ain’t bad for a kid who can’t, or should I say couldn’t swim.

Hard to say enough about Coach Joe and his gang. Just an impressive dude who got maximum effort out of my kid. To see Frank swim laps for an hour and then be ready to go do it again the next day was just astounding. It’s also a testament to the way Coach Joe can motivate these kids. He’s just a kid himself for goodness sake but the proof is in the pudding.

He believes he can fly.

He believes he can fly.

The pic to the left is the icing on the cake. Frank is a kid so scared of heights I can’t give him a piggy back ride without putting him in a climbers harness and employing two spotters. Safety first. But just peep that shot. He’s jumping off the diving board without assistance or me throwing him off.

I was standing near Coach Joe and one of his assistants and they were marveling about two things. One, how far Frank had come from his first practice. The second? They were amazed how Frank could even jump from the board and still managed to keep his hair from going under water. Apparently Frank would swim the whole practice without getting his hair wet. I could have sworn his head went under the water when he jumped off the board. But when he climbed from the pool he had huge smile on his face and his hair was barely wet. Not sure how he was doing it but he was clearly intent on keeping his rug dry.

 

She can fly.

She can fly.

Here is a little more proof of Coach Joe’s inspiration. This is my then 3 year old. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time then you’re probably aware of her situation. Born at 25 weeks, weighing in at 1lb 9oz, she didn’t have much of a chance. In fact her twin sister, Linda Claire, died the day they were born. So it might have seemed a little overly dramatic to most people there watching, but I made a bit of a weeping ass of myself when Anne Marie jumped from the diving board into the deep end. Someone was apparently cutting onions near by.

 

Small victories people, small victories. And in the end swim team was a big victory. They both loved it, they both got serious exercise for over an hour five days a week during the summer, and they both competed against and with serious competition. The best part, there wasn’t a participation trophy in sight, just hard work.

Well hard work and the occasional post night practice ice cream. But that was more for me than it was them.

A little Menchie's after swim practice.

A little Menchie’s after swim practice.

 

TEAM SMOKIN SALMON!

 

 

 

 

Back to work: Three Stall Monty

I’ve learned a lot of things since I’ve gone back to work. For one, I’ve learned that I am too frigging tired to do almost anything but work. I’ve learned that 4:30 am is not a wake up time you can adjust too. That’s right gang, it does not get easier, or even tolerable for that matter. I’ve learned I hate Knoxville drivers even more than I thought. And that includes the three other people on the road at 4:55am. But even all that pales in comparison to the most stark lesson so far since returning to the workforce, bathroom etiquette.

Can you pick the winner? Well can you?

Can you pick the winner? Well can you?

Specifically, in an office environment, what might be obvious bathroom etiquette to some is a universal law just meant to be broken to others. That is to say, going to the bathroom in a 21st century office environment is a world onto itself. A world with its own rules and its own rule breakers. Much like the popular street game, Three Card Monte, selecting the proper bathroom stall takes a little guile and a whole lotta luck. And chances are you’re still gonna lose.

In Three Card Monte you may drop a ten spot. If you’re a serious player, meaning an easy mark with no regard for your family’s next meal, you may even drop a hundy for not finding the Red Lady. But fail to find the proper stall, you’re gonna lose something way more important.

A while back I wrote about how awesome our master bathroom was because the toilet had it’s own room. That meant three doors between you and any outside interference while you commenced with the business of doing your business. Read it here if you’re so inclined: Three Doors to Solitude. I had no idea how prophetic that post was. I’m not sure I can convey the passion for which I miss those days.

The winner is in there somewhere.

The winner is in there somewhere.

Failing to select the proper stall means a neighbor in the crapper. And I can’t like that. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not exaggerating when I say I love my neighbors. Nothing I wouldn’t do for them… except do do next to them. Yeah I love them but I don’t want to use the joint sitting side by side with them. I’m betting the feeling is mutual.

So failing at Three Stall Monte means no solitude, no semi-privacy, and in some cases no dignity. As it turns out there is a whole set of rules for selecting the proper stall. The rub or gamble is this; will the dude who comes in after you honor those rules? If he does then he’ll take the stall at the far end, leaving the appropriate amount of man space between you and him. If he has no honor he’ll march right down the line and sit in the stall directly next to you. And if he does that you can probably kiss a charity flush goodbye too.

Why? Why does he do it?!? There are perfectly good stalls at the other end with no one in sight. Why must you walk the extra yardage and sit next to me. For the love of all that is holy… But that is a study for another medical journal.

Look man here are some basics. If the freaking bathroom has more than one stall and they’re all empty, take the one at either end. Preferably farthest from the urinal, as a courtesy to those just doing a drive by. Don’t under any circumstance take the center/centerish stall. That’s just arrogant. If one dude is in there already, keep at least one empty stall between he and thee. It’s just common sense dude. If there is only one stall open then all bets are off and you are on your own. Good luck.

Quick, you walk in the men’s room and there are 5 stalls. Some dude is in stall 3 as you look at them. Which stall do you pick?  Too late. You lose. Had you said, “I’d walk to stall 5 while muttering about the doofus head who picked stall 3 when he could have had either end stall.” you’d be a winner

But so it goes in the mean streets of corporate American bathrooms. Pick right and you’re a winner.

Pick wrong and you crap out.

 

 

 

Road Trip 2016 Part 2: Hot Dogs, Presidential Waffles, and Good People

If not for her ears, she might have made it in.

If not for her ears, she might have made it in.

When last we spoke Anne Marie’s fate was up in the air. Would she get through the fence on the South Lawn? Would she get zipped by a White House sniper? Would she get to the First Lady’s garden and possibly harvest some fruit? Might she get to the Roosevelt Room or perhaps even the Oval Office? I know a lot of you people were rooting for her to get through the fence, and sadistic few hoping she got to the Oval. Well I hate to disappoint but her melon prevented her crashing of the White House. The picture to the left is as close as she got. This time.

The walk to the White House was the first thing we did when we got to DC on Wednesday night. Well, unless you count disappointing our son 28 minutes after arriving.

We hit the hotel, got situated, and began to think about dinner. Frank noticed a hot dog vendor across the street and all of a sudden would certainly die if he could not eat a hot dog from a boiling vat on wheels. So we’re going to the hot dog guy. But mommy was taking her good sweet time and Frank was getting nervous. No worries Frank, I said. He’ll still be there I said. He’s a hot dog cart guy he’s trying to make money I said.

Wrong. We finally get Mrs Frank’s Place in gear and get to the corner. All we need now is for the light to turn green so we can cross annnnnnnd hot dog guy is shutting down his cart. I know this because I was looking at Frank and his shoulders slumped all of a sudden. I look across the street and the dude is closing the shutters and prepping to vacate. I mean I’ve had vendors in ball parks throw me a hot dog from a longer distance than we were from this guy. No good. He was closed. Frank would have to wait a full 24 hours to enjoy the sweet nectar that is street vendor hot dogs. Of course I get that span of time is like a millennia to kids today but still.

Regrouping from hot dog-gate 2016, the first night in DC was a quick walk to the White House and unfulfilling quesadillas from DC Taco. Hey man nothing was going to measure up street dogs at that point but the DC Taco joint was good. Not a lot of people interaction the first night. Day two in our nation’s capital however was nothing but people interaction. Now those of you who have been around me or this blog a while know good and well people interaction is laborious at best for me. So a lot of you might be shocked by what you read in the next few paragraphs.

In the morning we walked to the tour bus pick up spot. It just happened to be across from Ford’s Theater where Lincoln was shot and next to the DC residence where he died the next morning. Attached to that DC residence was a place called Lincoln’s Waffle Shop. That’s where we met Isaiah. Now before I get to Isaiah be aware the rest of this post is not so much what we did but who we met while we did it.

Don’t get your hopes up for some tale of a life changing journey or any weak minded crap like that. Hello, it’s me. No this was just some real interesting observations of real people interaction versus what media and media types would have us believe is happening on the streets of our country. As such you will notice I not only identify people by their names but by their race or ethnicity as well. Read it to the end. It will make sense, or it won’t. Whatever. Good luck.

Isaiah – Lincoln Waffle Shop

Sitting in the waffle shop was like sitting at a bar. The stool next to me was open and a young black man sat down. He appeared to be a local because the Asian family running this joint all knew him and treated him like a son. He ordered his usual by saying Huan, I’ll take my usual. Isaiah ended up with a very large stack of pancakes and that’s it. You can’t find that on the menu. More evidence he’s a local or at least a regular to this joint. Two minutes into requesting his order he engages Anne Marie who is making the rest of the family play a spirited game of Eye Spy.

Two minutes later and Isaiah is playing Eye Spy with us. He has no clue he’s sitting with ringers in the Eye Spy arena. Take a few 15 hour drives east and you too will be able to read the mind of your kids when they spy something and you need to guess. After I explain what appears to be my Jedi like accuracy in guessing what Frank and Ann Marie are spying, Isaiah and I get down to basics. Where you from, what do you do, how did you end up here, etc…

Turns out Isaiah is not local but a regular. A Howard University business and marketing double major who works at the Hard Rock Cafe to bridge the gap between his scholarship and living expenses. Typical college kid though. When the pancakes appeared he didn’t speak until he had muckeled the entire plate. An impressive eating feat to be sure. We both go to the counter to pay and now Huan is treating me like a regular. I don’t have that effect on people. Clearly because I was talking it up with Isaiah I must be OK. And if I was OK with Isaiah I was OK with Huan. Both of my kids hugged Isaiah as we parted. Isaiah and I man-hugged. It was a weird but good start to the day.

Darin and Ajahania – Tour bus 358/Tour bus stop 1

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this yet. We walked the 50 yards to stop one to get on the tour bus. We were sweating by the time we met Ajahania. So did I mention it was hot as balls? Cause if I didn’t, it was. I mean miserable hot and it was 9:30 in the morning. Ajahania was the person running the show for the tour bus system. A young black woman, she had been standing there for about an hour and had nine more to go. Yeah, nine hours to go. Did I mention it was hot as balls?

Yet somehow Ajahania could not have been nicer. She engaged our kids, she was pleasant, she represented her company wonderfully. Now I get she works in the tourist industry and she’s required to be nice and welcoming and all that other nonsense, but you can tell when people are sincere or just mailing it in. No mailing it in for Ajahania. Great start for our walking/riding tour of DC.

When we rode the trolley back to that spot around 4pm Ajahania was still there, still smiling. She looked at us like she recognized us. Then she said hello to Anne Marie. The kids were melted so not much cherub like demeanor from them but still. I can’t imagine how many people she must have encountered during the day. The trolleys moved from 9 to 5pm at 1/2 hour intervals. Meaning at all 16 stops on the tour a trolley will appear every 1/2 hour. So do the math. Just a very impressive woman. Did I mention it was boiling hot?

As impressive was Darin, the driver of tour bus 358. That’s the trolley we started on. We took that to the Air and Space museum. I think that was stop 7. Darin was a wealth of knowledge. His ability to drive and describe what we were seeing and not mow down people in the street with his trolley was just astounding. He fit that thing into spaces along the route I would not try with a bicycle. Obviously that’s his job, but again his happiness or joy in describing his city was apparent. I’m sure there is a way to calculate the number of people he must encounter during the day but I’m way too lazy. Sufficed to say he has no business being that happy, polite, and pleasant to us or anybody in that heat, doing that job.

One small step...

One small step…

Dr. Freeze – street dude selling water at Independence and 6th.

Dr. Freeze is an old black dude and might just be my most favorite person in DC. The trolley pick up spot coming from the Air and Space museum was at the corner of Independence and 6th ave. At that corner I met Dr Freeze. I guess he’s a doctor, that’s what he called himself anyway. The good Doc was selling ice cold bottled water at $2 a piece. It was cold too. Frozen actually. He made his pitch to me and then realized I had three other people with me. Hey my friend I’ll put you on the family plan. Four for five my friend, four for five!

Now my natural inclination is too wave off folk like this. I passed initially with Dr. Freeze based on this. After Tracy asked me what he wanted she rightly said, That’s a good deal. So she went over and signed us up for the family plan. Turned out to be a godsend. Five bottles of ice frozen water later we were waiting in the heat for the trolley. In case you weren’t aware it was hot as blue blazes. Anyway we get on the trolley and AM sits on the window side next to me.

Dr Freeze is now in the street as other tour bus companies are stacking up in front of the Air and Space museum. Our new driver Duchess, the older black woman who commands bus #357, has closed everyone else out thus having the best position to get in and out of the mass of buses and cars at that intersection. If I didn’t know better I’d say she learned to drive in the beach traffic around my home town.

We’ll get to Duchess in a second. But her position and the subsequent back up of other tour buses afforded Dr Freeze to make his rounds window by window of all the other tour buses. As he’s moving along he sees Anne Marie waving at him out the open window of our trolley and asks her if she’s hot. Before I can say we already bought water he just gives her one and won’t take my money. Hey man you on the family plan. Here you go sweetie take some water. He flat out refused to take my 2 dollars.

Now I’ve written a lot on a political web site about the people who stand at busy intersections and off ramps with signs that vary in some from of will work for food. Most of those folks are lying and have more money than you or me. They won’t work for food, they just want a hand out. Google it. Dr Freeze was not only hustling his ass off in heat so bad you could see the air, literally see the air molecules, he was giving away product and thus losing money, to little kids and families.

We’re not rich by any measure but certainly could afford bottled water, especially the Doc’s family plan. And I can guarantee you he was aware of that. The man just has a kind heart. With a pat on her hand and a Have a good day sweetie, Duchess pulled the bus into the battle zone that is DC traffic and we said goodbye to Dr Freeze.

My brother always jokes about being careful how you treat strangers cause they could be Jesus. I have no clue if Elvis works at the Burger King in downtown Memphis but I’m pretty sure what intersection Jesus is standing on right at this moment.  And his ice cold water is a dollar cheaper than any other water guy you’ll meet in DC.

Duchess – Tour bus #357 FDR and MLK Memorial

Big President - Little people.

Big President – Little people.

Duchess was a hoot. She drove that big trolley like it was a weapon on wheels. We rode with her from the Air and Space Museum all the way to the FDR and Martin Luther King Jr memorials on the opposite side of the tidal basin. So from the water’s edge we were looking across at the Smithsonian museums. Anyway, Duchess could not be more happy to be alive. Which is more than I can say for the people in cars who dared to take her on in traffic.

After a while I got the distinct feeling that Duchess took everyone in her trolley to be her children and every other vehicle on the road to be a terrorist of some kind. It was oddly reassuring. Twice I had to stifle a laugh as I could see the drivers faces we passed from my perch above them in the trolley that now felt more like the Old Lady that Lived in a Shoe nursery rhyme. Except in this case the lady knew what to do. It was the other drivers left in her wake that were clueless, and possibly slightly angry.

Vincent – Tour bus #350 FDR Memorial

Vincent was the old man of the trolley fleet. The salty old veteran who doled out sage advice and knew every nook and cranny of the city.  There was not a thing this dude did not know about DC and the memorials. Dates they were built, dates they were opened to the public, dates they were dedicated, he knew it all. We got on this bus around 3:45pm at the MLK Memorial. That was stop 9 or 10 I believe. Although if not for Vincent we may not have made it on.

His trolley was full when he pulled up and no one appeared to be getting off. But Vincent in his wealth of knowledge kept talking about the attractions at this particular stop. Low and behold four people got up. Vincent looks at me with a hand out and says let them exit and you can get on. Nice. He even jockeyed people around so Tracy and I could each sit with one of our kids. The kids were literal toast at this point so we decided to just stay on and ride back to stop 1, three blocks from our hotel.  Traffic was just crazy. And Vincent had the unenviable task of telling people at several of the next stops that the trolley was full. Two stops into our journey back three people get off but four get on.

A very large black woman was about to be odd tourist out. Vincent had one hand on the eject button. But AM crawled into Tracy’s lap and the woman gratefully sat down next to her. And just like that they were chatting up a storm about where we had all gone and what we had seen and what we should see the next time we come back. That was a prevailing theme. Any brush with a person in a museum or at a memorial and they would recommend things to see when and if we come back.

I honestly thought this part of the trip would be a hassle. But it was drama free and a lot of fun. We will betaking the kids back for sure.

As Vincent was reeling off some crazy long stats about different sights we were passing I thought about what has been going on around the country the weeks leading up to this trip. It was surprising how much of what we experienced was exactly opposite of what the media would have us believe. According to the headlines and breaking news flashes the streets of the US are running with blood from an all out race war. I must have missed it cause that just wasn’t the case. And yeah I get that we were in a tourist spot but it wasn’t Mayberry. DC used to be known as the murder capital of the world.

All the people we met: service industry, tourists, locals, college kids, Doctors 🙂  etc… they all treated me and my family with respect; the same we showed them. I never even sensed any animus or suspicion of such. I never looked at one person and thought “threat”. My kids hugged Isaiah they way they hug their Grammy. I’m not naive. I know problems exist, still to this day. The fact I even write that sentence about Isaiah tells you it’s unique and not the norm. All I’m saying is our experience, anecdotal as it may be, was not close to what the news and the media web sites and the “pundit/experts” claim is going on.

Although I identified the race or ethnicity of the people we met, that was for the purpose of this post. In actuality we were all just people. All just doing the same thing on the same day. Hanging out in the hot thick air of Washington DC. And we’d do it again tomorrow if we could.

No idea why I felt the need to include that or write this post in this fashion. I just did. Sue me.

Did I mention it was hot as balls?

 

Road Trip 2016: DC or Bust!

Well as it turns out when you work for money, full time and all, you get paid vacation. Pretty sweet deal. So the question became, where oh where to spend my precious time off. Obviously touring the golf courses of Scotland would make the most sense. But then I remembered I’m married and have two young kids. OK it’s off to Jersey to see the family, hit the beach, then stop for two days in our nation’s capital on the way home for good measure. Solid plan. Good plan. I’m proud to be a part of it.

What follows is the blogging version of home movies. An excruciating recount of a family vacation fun and interesting only to those who went on it. And I’m not sure about some of them. Anyway this is a two part series. Tonight you get the run to the mother land and our time at the Jersey Shore. Next up will be our decent on DC and our attempt to see the President (not really). Enjoy.

Road Trip 2016: DC or Bust!

Day 1: Escape Velocity

Trying to get anywhere from our house requires a herculean effort. Church, other kid’s b-days, school, swim practice, piano practice, soccer practice, parties, movies (what are those), you name it we’ll be late for it. Some destinations require more escape velocity than others. Going to church for instance, does not require the same gravity breaking maneuver that going on a week long vacation does.

To say I was not surprised we missed our Friday launch window for Jersey by almost five hours is underselling it. After 13 years I have come to expect a delay of that magnitude. In fact I dare time to stop ticking. I trash talk the clock with slanderous comments about it’s inability to slow down and keep us on time. I wish I was joking.

Still the delay set us up for a decent ride all the way to Front Royal Virginia. That’s about six hours from home base. That left us five hours to travel the next day and land at my sister’s house in South Jersey a little after lunch. On a side note my 4 year old daughter asked, rightly, Why don’t we fly on a plane. That seems like it would be so much easier. I’ll not survive this kid. I just know it.

Day 2: Golfers Remorse

Daddy, daddy we’re at a golf course! Well of course we are. We landed at our hotel in Front Royal around midnight after an accident on 81 North had a few miles of cars stopped in their tracks for an hour. Meaning it was dark when we checked in. I had no idea we were on the fairway of a beautiful golf course. I was already banned from bringing my clubs on this trip so there was no joy in Mudville for me. But the kids were only too happy to show me the course, being gently kissed by golden sunlight I might add, from our hotel window once we all woke up.

Photo-bomb level - Expert

Photo Bomb level – Expert (Sister for scale)

Taking one in the shorts from the golf gods aside, the final leg to Jersey was slow but uneventful. The traffic heading to the shore in one direction and to Philadelphia for the Democratic Convention in the other was keeping me from the breakneck speeds of which I’ve become accustom. No matter. Arrival in the mother land was followed by a kings welcome and a cold diet coke. Can’t get much better than that. Except for this righteous photo bomb by my mother.

Let the Jersey begin!

Day 3 and 4: Pool Daze

Well as some of you will read about in the next week, my kids were on the swim team at the Jewish Community Center this summer. The Fightin Salmon! Not kidding. Consequently, they can not only swim very well, but Frank actually competes in races. He swims in a pool half the length but equal depth of an Olympic pool. So jumping in my sister’s 8 foot pool doesn’t mean that much to him as he regularly swims 20 – 25 laps with 15 feet of water under his keel. And several of his practices were at the University of Tennessee aquatic center where the 2012 Olympians trained before the London games, so he can go 50 meters without stopping or grabbing the side or lane marker.

He’s damn proud of himself, as he should be. Not gonna lie, and you’ll read more about this later, but I was getting a little misty watching my son swim hard for the entire hour practice. I was also getting exhausted, but that may have more to do with me than him. Now look he’s no Michael Phelps but the kid puts in the effort. The only place he works harder is on the golf course. I have no delusions about his swimming, but he learned so much more than swimming being on that team.

Beatin the heat!

Look Ma! No floaties!

But he, and his little sister, did learn how to swim. So it was a little more fun than it should have been watching my sister take a stroke every time he went under water or jumped in the “deep” end, or swam the length of her pool, which was half the distance he does for an hour at practice. She really didn’t start yelling at me until I threw Anne Marie about ten feet in the air. And I’ll be damned if that kid didn’t bust my sister’s chops after one of my throws.

Instead of popping right back up after she hit the water, she threw her arms out and lay face down, just floating there motionless. I picked her up by her little floaty jacket thingy and she came out of the water with a huge grin on her face begging me to throw her higher next time. The sound in the background you might still be able to hear was my sister yelling at me, scream level set to kill.

Day 5: Down the Shore

Summer 2016 066

A touch of class to an otherwise uncivilized world.

I mean what 660 mile trip back to Jersey is complete without a day at the beach. We went full shoobie and lugged everything we had up to the boardwalk and down to the beach. Not a lot of bay watch, but tons of cholesterol watch if you get my meaning. But the kids enjoyed it and even got a little color. My whiter than white wife, well… red looks good on her really.

I did manage to bring a little Knoxville to Ocean City. My Sac cup, the vessel I and my neighbors use at our weekly Sac parties (read: we all sit in the street till wee hours on Friday and Saturday and drink, except me of course), made it to the beach. A little culture amongst the heathen if you will.

Pizza as God intended.

Pizza as God intended.

Besides fun in the sun, surf, and sand the beach means the Boardwalk and that means pizza, Jersey style. Look say what you want, there is just no substitute for pizza from Jersey. If you think otherwise then you probably cut yours with a fork and knife like Trump, or go, god forbid, deep dish ala Obama and Hill-dogg. Either way I got no time for ya.

After two days of fresh pizza and a day and a half of left over pizza it was time to start packing and head south. We figured we’d drop in on the President. Anne Marie has a few ideas she’d like to share.

 

I bet I can get through this daddy!

I bet I can get through this daddy!

First and foremost, What the hell is with this fence?

Check back tomorrow to see if AM makes it past the sniper fire from the White House Roof!