Friday, December 21, 2012

Putting Down Fresh Tracks

This morning I didn't think it would be a big deal but what looms ahead is, without a doubt, unsettling, but not for reasons you might think. I want to be the best husband, not just that I can be, but the best in the world, as in getting voted Time Magazine's Husband of the Year for more years in a row than any other husband. The pressure to be the best is heavy. For someone who likes independence as much as I do, I know being in a committed relationship is going to mean tons of work. I already know some of the areas I need to improve upon and I am sure more areas I need to improve upon will come to light very quickly as the marriage commences.

I am not talking about the big things like cheating and lying; I am talking about the little things like saying nice things even though you don't necessarily want to, cleaning up after my wife without saying anything snide (just doing it!), not bitching about the fact that I filled up the dogs' water bowl 500 million times in a row compared to her 2, and making sure that at least 75%...okay, maybe 99% of the decisions I make have her considerations in mind as well as the end result benefitting my own selfish needs. My sister left me a voicemail yesterday that was full of good advice but what stuck with me was when said: "make sure you do sweet things for each other." Gracie is already well ahead of me on this one so being reminded that reciprocity is important in a relationship was well timed.

For a lot of years I never thought this morning would ever happen and if it did I thought I would be that guy who passed out at the altar. The joke between Gracie and I as she has gone out on countless bachelorette excursions has been - you don't get a bachelor party you've had a bachelor party for the last 43 years. Everything happens for a reason...

I would not be in the position I am in this morning without becoming the man that I have become due to countless failures over the last several decades. Failures is a terrible word choice, but I cannot come up with a better word for it is early and I have a lot on my plate today...

Let me try and say it differently - I cringe when I look back at how I acted on some dates, in some relationships, and on some occasions during moments leading up to possible romantic encounters. I honestly don't think I started growing up until I turned 38. But I will say this - I never "settled", never have never will. All my romantic pursuits were after top-shelf women because I was enamored by the beauty on the outside and intrigued with what made the inside tick. And I am forever grateful for every moment and cherished memory that occurred because each was indeed a privilege bestowed upon me. From each of these experiences I learned a great deal because I was pretty much an idiot most of the time. Now, and only now, am I able to take this great step toward maturity after recognizing my foolishness and then making the proper (hopefully) adjustments. I feel very fortunate not only because when I look at my past I see nothing but incredible beauty but the beauty that waits ahead of me is rather overwhelming.

The sun has risen high above the buildings now and I need to start getting cleaned up and dressed in my new duds. I know that all three people who will read this are either good friends or family so I look forward to celebrating this wonderful day with you at some point in the very near future!!

A song just popped into my head which I think makes for a good start to the day (minus the somewhat sad ending of course)

Big hugs to all!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Post Race Musings

Yesterday was the most physically challenging day my body has had to endure since the Great Post-Graduation Party Hangover of 1995. For the last 6 weeks I trained hard to try and prepare my body for the 26.5 mile stand up paddleboard race around the island of Manhattan. I left Chicago to live in Oxford for easy access to the water, to get off the booze, and mooch healthy food off my mom. I also got back to church. I decided to do Chariots of Fire training and take Sundays off as a day of rest and did zero paddling, not even little fun paddles with friends. Much of this time was spent in solitude as I was working on getting focused for an endurance event, something I had never done before. Things seemed to be going well and I could feel the positive effects on my body and my mind as my research into endurance training brought about some positive results. The confidence grew. My goal was not only to finish but I wanted to finish in the top 10. I wanted it bad. Five miles into the race I knew that goal was beyond my grasp; however, I didn't slow down. Twenty-two miles into the race my goal was to just make it to the finish line...

I didn't start well. I am always too nice and too conservative at the start of races because I don't want to be the reason why someone gets dumped overboard. Being way conservative at the start of this race put me so far behind that I was unable to catch up to some folks that I wanted to keep pace with for the first leg of the race. At the second buoy turn I got behind one kid who just stopped and watched the goings on. I was caught on the outside and held at a standstill until I found out which way this kid went because all the momentum was on the inside. This took quite a few seconds and I lost all momentum. Bad idea on my part. I should have nosed my way right in the mix and tried to keep pace with some of the stronger paddlers.

The Hudson River was brutal with all the churning water for the first 8 or so miles. However, due to the flood tide my pace was awesome. I completed the first 8 miles in around 1:25, well ahead of my usual race pace. At 12.5 miles I was just under 2 hours in and I thought back to Danny Ching's pace that won the Carolina Cup as he won that 12.5 mile race in 2:05. So I thought to in the hell does one man paddle that fast without 2 knots of current and an 8 knot breeze behind him. All the while I am watching a large part of the field paddling far ahead of me. The Hudson River stage of the race was very exciting but it was also very humbling.

As we entered the Harlem River I made the dumbest decision of the race. I did not stop and eat the power bar in my back pocket. Other people had stopped to re-fuel their bodies and hydrate so I decided this would be a good time to try and pass some people. I did not realize what a costly mistake this would be for about 6 miles.

Let me state right now that I HATE the Harlem River. We had the wind and the current against us the whole way. When my body started telling me that it desperately needed nourishment and water I was in no position to stop and make the adjustments because every time I did I would immediately start to go backwards. Sixteen miles into the race and feeling the pain I DID NOT want to go backwards at all.

At this point in the race I also grew very sick of listening to music. My playlist that I had prepared for the race might be one of the worst compilations in mix-tape history. I focused on the Bible verse I had taped on my board to help get me through the tough times and this was a very tough time. I could feel my body weakening so I was grabbing at the bag of dried figs in my pocket and losing all forward momentum. The figs were helping but the damage was done and my performance was weakening a great deal.

On the Harlem River I watched some inspiring paddling. Two paddlers went by me making the current and wind on the nose seem like it was nothing to them. Their focus, strength, and stamina was amazing to watch until they went so far ahead that they disappeared into the urban horizon and reached the max-flood current of the East River at Hell's Gate well before me.

I knew the max-flood current at Hell's Gate began around 1:05 pm and I assumed that I would be there in plenty of time. I was still on the Harlem River and started feeling anxious that I would have to deal with the turning current on the East River unless I started accelerating. My pace did pick up on the southern end of the Harlem River.

When I saw the rapids boiling off Randall's Island I got excited. There was the current I needed to take me to the finish line. The East River and the infamous Hell's Gate.

As I started to push myself to catch the current I started to feel cramping in my left side. The pain got so bad that I could only paddle on my right side and that is not a good thing in Class 3 rapids. I had to break down and eat. I bypassed the protein/meal bar and broke into my plastic baggie of the little energy drops made by Power Bar. I shoved these into my mouth as fast as I could. The pain from the cramping got to the point where I became very scared about finishing the race. I started falling off my board at every little ripple. Pulling myself back on the board did not help the cramping. I rested on my knees for a few minutes and tried to maintain a heading down river. This also proved to be very difficult due to the pain on my left side. The fingers on my left hand started to form into a claw which did not want to unravel. On my knees I had to paddle holding the shaft between my two middle fingers. Trying to maintain speed, balance, and a proper course heading using this technique is not recommended.

Twenty-three point six miles in I realized I only had three miles to go! However, the Williamsburg Bridge looked like it was ten miles away. I begged and pleaded with the Man Upstairs to please let me finish the race. I popped some more Power Bar energy drop things, drank some water, and cooled off the East River another time or two and started to focus on breathing. I passed another Elite paddler who had just passed me when I was cramping. (I hate to say it but that felt really good.) The final two buoys at the finish line grew larger and larger and then I made that last turn toward the beach. I took off my leash and jogged across the finish line after one of the most grueling experiences my body and my mind has ever had to overcome, but I wasn't ready to celebrate anything yet. I had some of my own issues thumping around inside my heart and my head that I needed to deal with.

When the race was over I was mad as hell. I was mad at some of the foolish decisions I made during the race. I was angry with God for not providing me with the strength to pass the 27 people who finished ahead of me. I was mad at the waiter who told me I was in the wrong place to get food after the race and I was mad that I was covered in remnants from the East River. Then a thought struck me. This race was about more than individual results. This race was about doing something extreme to raise money for people affected by autism. When I realized what a little bitch I sounded like in my own head things started to change. My raising awareness through participating in this event brought in donations well over $2000.00 (thanks to an anonymous $500.00 donation!) and that is going to help ease the burden that some people have to bear day in and day out. I had 5 hours and 26 minutes of trial and tribulation over the course of one day. What business do I have to be upset about anything dealing with a paddle board race? As soon as I took a cold shower and rinsed all the dumb-ass negativity I had created within my soul I started to feel great about being involved with the SEA Paddle NYC event. This race was a beautiful thing and I am glad I did it. And damn, that Dos Equis amber tasted great!

Much love and respect to all the people who participated. This is not an easy undertaking. Rob Rojas is a beast for winning this SUP race two years in a row. That is just an amazing example of power, skill, and endurance. When is he teaching a clinic in the future!!??

Not reaching my goal was not a defeat but an experience, a lesson to learn from to put to good use for the future. How I respond to not getting my way might have been the lesson God wanted me to learn. When one door closes another opens. I prayed boldly but also had apprehension about getting in over my head with this 26.5 miles of paddling. You can't waver and get the results you hope for.

So...what did I really learn? I am already plotting out how to train for next year. Here are a few highlights that stick out in my mind:

I know I don't need to go away from Gracie and the mongrels for such a long time (unless she is being a big pain the ass during the time leading up to the race). I can have a damn beer if I want to during training. Not eating dairy does help my lung efficiency. Going to church is a good thing year round, not just the Sundays leading up to a race. Paddling with people is much more fun than paddling by yourself. Molokai 2 Oahu is less than a year away. Testing yourself helps you to grow. Other people need your time and help and you should make time and use resources to give it to them.

One last note that I took away from the SEA Paddle NYC even and that is: I have the constitution of a machine because I can let some of the East River get by my lips (and it does taste awful) and the next day be able to walk by a bathroom without even a glance and I do not glow at far.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Caught off guard, sickened, and tempted...way tempted.

Type in the word 'obesity' on the Chicago Tribune's website and 10 pages worth of material becomes immediately available to the reader. Articles ranging from a pill that fights obesity to the way obesity campaigns should not shame a child all point out the fact that there is a problem that affects an enormous amount of people around the world. In 2008 the CDC reported that in the city of Chicago 1 out of every 4 adults were considered obese according to body mass indexes (stat taken from the website in an article published April 4, 2011). According to many BMI figures I am considered obese so I don't always agree with statistics but the point I am trying to make is that there are definitely health-related problems and one's diet is a major issue. A walk through the Loop at lunchtime is evidence enough. The amount of articles published by the Tribune, just in the last month, that deal with diet, obesity, diabetes, and other similar issues is overwhelming. So I found the front page of today's Good Eating section in the print edition rather disturbing and even dangerous. The article about poundcake and all the suggestions of ways to use it is a careless misstep by the powers that be at the newspaper. I thought high-brow suggestions of affordable wines that cost over twenty dollars in a tragic economy with exorbitant unemployment rates was ludicrous but today's article takes the cake...tee effing hee.

I am no dietician but does poundcake offer anything of nutritional value to a human being unless said human being is attempting to fight off freezing cold temperatures without a winter coat? Perhaps I might step out on the very end of a flimsy ice-covered limb and go ahead and state that poundcake is not a healthy subject to write about on page one of Good Eating. My history at devouring all forms of unhealthy food items and the results is well-documented in my family scrapbook. Poundcake played a starring role during the dessert portion of family gatherings at the dining-room table. To combat the effects rendered by poundcake I had to muster up a lot of energy then put my butt in my Buick and drive
that car to the YMCA. I know first hand what can happen and I found this out way before society fell apart and everything started to really suck, like it does now, if you aren't party of the 1%ers. For some reason it seems even harder in contemporary society to combat everything that is unhealthy, especially eating. I think the main reason is that eating healthy is much more expensive but that is a whole other issue. Time to get back to the fools that the Tribune Company hires and pays salaries to...

The poundcake article points out that bread does not really do as much for certain dishes as poundcake does. Such dishes that could use a little more umph to them by adding poundcake are: rum balls, french toast, apple charlotte, croutons, and toad in the hole. None of the items listed do anyone's waistline any good and adding poundcake to them is one of the most irresponsible suggestions I have ever come across in a newspaper.

Reading the directions of how to make these recipes was like a how-to book on how to ruin yourself. "Cut thin slices of poundcake and butter them or dip in melted butter"..."dunk 1/2-inch-thick slices of poundcake in egg mixture and fry in butter"..."fry the slice and the hole in butter or, better yet, bacon fat" ...are all quotes from the article written by the brilliant James P. DeWan. My favorite quote comes from one of the headlines: "When good isn't good enough, use this classic dessert (and break the bread habit) to build unexpected delights." Break the bread habit would only be a good suggestion if the alternative was using a piece of Romane lettuce.

Healthy eating is not an issue that needs any competition. Sweet treats are attractive enough as they are. Who doesn't think about ice cream, M and Ms, and chocolate chip cookies? I think about ice cream, more than sex and that is why I cannot keep a gallon of Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip in the freezer to last a week; it lasts only one sitting. The general public does not need any help creating those cravings for artery-clogging indulgences. In moderation there is nothing wrong with sweet rewards but maintaining moderation in most anything unhealthy, especially things that taste like heaven, often proves to be very difficult. Publishing an article about poundcake front and center on page one is irresponsible reporting and editing. Adding pictures of the dishes makes me wonder if Mr. DeWan is actually trying to bring this country down using incendiary tactics.

I cannot imagine how the First Lady might react reading this article from her hometown newspaper (which is probably why the Tribune printed it). Her campaign to fight childhood obesity should be applauded and backed at every opportunity; even by right-leaning periodicals. Below is a link to her website to combat any talk of poundcake and other sweets:

The only safe thing to take away from this lack of discretion by the Tribune is the fact that nobody reads the print edition anymore. I had a hard time finding the poundcake article online. Bravo for that, Tribune.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sign Bruce on for 5 years of Super Bowls... at least do something

Would it be so bad?

Bruce Springsteen can reach a wide range of audiences. Pair him up with a rapper who has reached a mature age and knows how to deliver a performance instead of an antic and just imagine how much fun an audience would have watching that! Go ahead, NFL, sign him on to take over as half-time entertainment for the next 5 years so we do not have to suffer through more hype and very little delivery. You couldn't do any worse or maybe you could...

Madonna wasn't awful but she should have stood still and Last night's performance was a mixture of mid-tempo aerobics and really well-executed lip-syncing. The Super Bowl should be a test for artists who can deliver a performance that does not need Pro Tools to fix the voice or a strong back up dancer to help them do a cartwheel.

And speaking of in the hell is Blake Shelton a judge for the television show The Voice? His part in "God Bless America" might have been one of the worst performances by an individual I have ever seen. At least Tim McGraw admits he is tone deaf and has to work extremely hard to sing live. If you enjoyed him last night you need to go see an Audiologist.

Interesting pairings make for entertainment. Unfortunately the NFL usually misses the mark on this. Music fans should have known that all the artist involved in the performance last night require a lot of flash to make up for a lack of natural talent. Without tremendously talented designers (and some schemers incorporated into the mix) none of those artists would have ever made it to the top, including Madonna. Then add in the look-at-me antics of some never-will-be and disaster can be the only outcome. Audiences deserve more.

Madonna used to be an excellent entertainer. I thought she would have been smart enough to realize when it was best to take a step back and let the younger performers carry the torch she held so high for so long. Obviously her ego has pushed her into territory where I would have never expected to see her. I cringed watching her perform those moves at such a deliberate and hesitant pace. Even she seemed nervous she was going to break a hip. That was not the performer I grew up watching and last night was the performance I never wanted to see her put on display.

American Football is an American sport so why can't we use American talent, who actually have talent, during the half-time show of the Super Bowl? The Who? M.I.A? What's wrong with Aerosmith and Run DMC? The last time I saw them perform live together it was awesome. Kid Rock...Eminem...Jay Z...Pearl Jam...Katy Perry...Bruce Springsteen...Alicia Keys...Tom Petty...Pitbull...and so many others. It's the Super Bowl. Let the game be the star of the evening.

Lady Gaga would have been awesome last night. I cannot imagine what she would have done with that canvas but I bet I would have been completely entertained.

The best duet I ever watched perform live on television was Tom Petty and Axl Rose when they sang "Free Fallin'." That was completely unexpected and amazing. The second best collaboration I saw was Kid Rock, Steven Tyler, and Run DMC all doing "Walk This Way."

Does the same person pick the entertainment year after year? I hope not because that person must certainly get used to failure.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Boo Radley's gonna get ya (to fetch some blueberries)!

Yesterday turned out to be an amazing day. Plenty of fun was had paddling on the Tred Avon and catching up with family but then, out of the blue, an old friend flew in for a visit after being MIA for quite a long period of time.

Last winter my mom had to move to my Grandmother's condo while work was being done on her house.  During the cold months Oxford can be quiet place to reside. Along the time the doldrums were really starting to take hold a mockingbird began to show up regularly on her balcony railing. Mom started putting out half an apple and some blueberries for this brave bird. Fruit turned out to be the way to this mockingbird's heart. Within the first week of setting out fruit the bird quickly began trusting my mom and would fly to the railing as soon as she stepped out on the balcony.  

I came to visit from Chicago shortly after the close interaction between mockingbird and old woman became routine. On the first morning, after setting out a whole plate of blueberries, the bird took to me rather quickly as well. By day two the bird was snatching berries out of my hand. With such a close and rather unusual relationship developing Mom suggested that we come up with a name. Calling the mockingbird 'Bird' at this point seemed too impersonal. Unanimously, meaning Mom, myself, and Gracie back in Chicago, we settled on the cliche Boo. 'Boo' has a nice ring to it whether Boo is a male or female.

Early on Mom thought Boo was a female and I thought he was a male. To settle the matter I called on my friend Jim Brighton who is an avid bird watcher. He told me there was no way to distinguish between the male and female of the species. Google searches offered no help either. I continued talking to and feeding Boo as if he was the man of the Holly tree while Mom maintained her soothing tones and bountiful feasts to prepare Boo for a spring of bringing up babies. Either way Boo was in a win-win situation.

The relationship with Boo kept developing throughout the end of winter and into spring. As the world around us began to fill with color and the chill went out of the air we started leaving the balcony door open. This way Boo could come tell us when it was time to eat. If he didn't see anyone in the kitchen he would fly all the way down the hall to the bedrooms to see if anyone was home and would come fill the plate with blueberries. Boo did not like to be kept waiting.

Another Boo highlight was the time he/she went after a hawk that had landed nearby to take a look and what was hanging around the feeder. Mom said she was very scared that Boo had bitten off more than she could chew but with a relentless series of dive-bombs the hawk flew back to where it came from. This happened deeper into spring. Not only was Boo becoming more aggressive about territory defense, Boo was also gathering berries in his/her bill and taking them back to the nest.

In early summer Boo was seen showing baby Boos how to navigate around the yard. This happened throughout the summer months. Boo seemed to be quite busy in summer 2011 making sure the mockingbird population was well maintained on the northwestern edge of Oxford. Such activity showed up on Boo as well. By August Boo looked worn out and haggard. Visits for blueberries ceased in their regularity compared to what had gone on most of the past several months. Mom had also moved back into her house so my grandmother's place was often vacant. Whenever I was home I would go down and put out some blueberries and a half apple but I didn't spend too much time indoors waiting to see if a mockingbird showed up or not. Dreading the worst we were about to pronounce Boo as deceased. Then came yesterday...

While I cannot confirm if it was good ol' Boo or not this mockingbird had the size and tenacity for blueberries that Boo displayed. The tail of this bird was very long and wide, which was the dead give away for Boo compared to other mockingbirds we saw in the area. Within a minute of putting out a plate of blueberries and an apple this bird was on the balcony eating. I was very excited to just sit back and watch until he/she flew off to let the first course digest. Mom was excited as well to hear that Boo was back. She already thinks it is definitely 'her.'

No matter whether if it is Boo or one of Boo's offspring it is good to have a mockingbird nearby to watch and listen to. I am glad to be back home for a little bit to start another routine. Mom isn't too excited about buying blueberries and apples every other day but experiences like this are just too special to ignore. Boo or Boo Jr. can have my share of blueberries as long as I don't have to share my ice cream.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Scratch Scratch Shake Shake Heavy Sigh

Economics has never been my strength.

Listening to or being involved in political discussions has always made me wish I was somewhere else.

Now that I am of a more mature age and in the tax bracket categorized as 'desperate' avoiding the responsibility of casting a well-researched vote seems irresponsible. Unfortunately, the information available to the public always contains a bias based upon whichever side the source from whence it came leans.

My 2012 vote will be based solely on my own take on economics, which may not be the wisest course to take. I should have listened to my father and taken a business class in college...

I need a jobs plan that will provide career options and a fair income tax rate that will enable me to live a modest lifestyle. Paycheck to paycheck is how it has always been and I do not see that changing in any foreseeable economy. Something has to give to help my own situation and this country improve. Nothing of note will change until these political parties learn how to meet in the middle. The chance of this happening seems about as remote as an upswing in the GDP.

All this talk about money and taxation has been overwhelming as of late. The press seems to be misleading the country when talking about Mitt Romney's taxable income. Capital gains tax is the tax you want to affect your income. It is the most advantageous tax available to anyone in America. Romney's earnings come from investments and business deals he made when he was an employee for a company. He is no longer an employee of said company but he stills makes money. Whether his income derives from crooked business practices, well-thought-out investments, or a combination of the two his earning are capital gains. This is a separate tax from income tax and it should be. He is not earning a paycheck like most of America and only getting taxed 15% of his salary. He is profiting from his past dealings. I don't see what the uproar is about. The government should not base capital gains tax rates on income earned from investments. There has to be a way for people, no matter what their earning are, to be able to keep their money.

Any hike in capital gains tax would affect the small-business person who also invested wisely and earned enough to make a living in the golden years. While this person's income might not be as large as Mitt Romney's this person deserves to keep as much of his or her portfolio as possible. Should wise investing be regulated and constantly nipped at by the government? Restructure income tax rates but leave capital gains alone. Let one straight capital gains tax rate affect everyone. This makes government seem so less meddlesome. This should also apply to the estate tax rate.

The government needs to stay out of earnings that were already taxed then set aside for the future of a deceased person's family. This is meddling and reaching the hand too far into the till. People get heavily penalized for providing for loved ones after they have died. I cannot stand the idea of government profiting from what is in essence a double tax. The government did not aid in the investment process, in fact it more than likely hurt the investment process, so why should it gain any income from someone's estate that was accumulated after years of hard work? Again, restructure the the income tax rate so those that do well pay up and those that get by can still feed their families and pay their bills.

Please forgive me for the layman's view of our current economic status. I look at money like a tithe. believers are supposed to donate 10% of their earnings back to the church. When you make 1,000 bucks a week that is a $100.00 tithe to the church. One hundred dollars seems easy enough, eh? What happens when the rich need to tithe? That check gets a little bit harder to write does it not?

I once saw the pay stub for someone whose paycheck for two weeks of work was $75,000 dollars. That tithe would be $7,500 dollars. The more you earn the harder it gets to part with your money...

The amount of tax people have to pay is crazy and whose fault is that? Yesterday in the Chicago Tribune I read an article about a man being rewarded with 25 million dollars after being wrongfully accused and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. No wonder taxes have to be raised and people have to be nit-picked for money because the city keeps having to recover from terrible mistakes. Mismanagement on all government levels is destroying the economy. Hard-working citizens and citizens looking to become hard-working citizens are the ones that have to make up for the mistakes made by those whose salary is paid for by taxation. How can the economy improve when things like this occur?

Of course their are plenty of loopholes for the wealthy that I know nothing about. Wendell Pierce, a fine actor from "Treme" and "The Wire," once tweeted that he made over 200,000 dollars a year and wasn't taxed nearly enough. He made his tax rate seem like a joke and I appreciate that kind of honesty. That tax rate is something I know nothing about. I should probably just say that government should leave capital gains tax and estate tax alone, end of story. Don't penalize someone for managing their money well. Why not try my method and see what it does for the economy? Nothing else the government, meaning both Democrats and Republicans, attempts seems to work.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: I would never vote for someone who puts their dog in a crate on top of their car. AND...I know officially declare myself and Independent.

This heady stuff that, unfortunately, makes the world go round exhausts me. I think I need to go back to listening to the scanner and write about crime and coyotes. Politics and economics is for people who don't like daydreaming.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Traveler's Advisory: Joe Pa died so all of Pennsylvania has shut down

Should you ever have the misfortune of being stuck in an airport I hope you do not suffer the same fate as I am presently experiencing. Apparently Sunday isn't a work day for the janitors who clean the men's rooms at the Philadelphia International Airport. Apparently those people working at the airport today really don't give a hoot about serving you even if you over-tip them. Apparently US Air does not have any back up plans in place and ready to go should your flight from Philadelphia to Baltimore get cancelled.

The flight was supposed to leave at 9:50am. US Air was going to provide a bus to transport all those needing to get to Baltimore at, hopefully, 11:40. I called the airline and asked them for a rent-a-car but they said they do not have a way to provide this service to their customers. It seems odd to me that an airline would not have a relationship with a car-rental service in order to have options available to customers who have travel issues arise due to the fault of the airlines. How easy would it have been to trade the unused portion of my ticket in for a rental car then drive myself home rather than remain at the mercy of an airline that is overwhelmed with customer service demands? Having such a plan in place would have saved all involved a lot of time and aggravation.

I can see why airlines are going broke. Customer service seems to have become a lost art.

If I remember correctly, back in the day airlines would do whatever it took to get you to your destination in as any efficient manner as possible, even if it meant booking you on another airline. There was nothing efficient at all about the way US Air handled today's canceled flight. Who is running this airline? Don't the powers that be know there are sure-fire ways to lose business, number one being poor customer service?

And why aren't there any toilet-seat covers in any of the men's rooms? If I get a disease I'm looking into a lawsuit.

None of the floors have been mopped as well and travelers are bringing in wet shoes from the snow. One cannot set one's bag down anywhere that is free and clear of dirt. Where is the cleaning staff? Where is all that Philly pride? The Eagles aren't in the playoffs so airport employees certainly didn't need to take off work to watch the games today.

I will say this: the hand soap in the men's room smells really good.

When I woke up at 4 am this morning I was looking forward to spending the afternoon paddling on the Tred Avon River then watching the Ravens game at my mother's house. Most of the time when obstacles appear I can pretty much roll with whatever comes my way and chill out. I would rather be stuck on Route 29 in Nowhereville, VA than in the Philadelphia International Airport. As someone who really needs to find a job it sends me into conniption fits to see people with steady jobs address their tasks in a lackadaisical and poor manner.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

For most of my life I carried the view that pets were just that - pets. These days my view has changed. My mother has charged me with a small degree of anthropomorphism when it comes to Eli Mongrel. She might be right. I feel as if we share a kinship that surpasses any other relationship I have had with an animal. He is first and foremost his momma's boy but there is definitely something special between us. Or, so I think. Eli might just be playing me like the fool I have become treating a pet more like and offspring than what he truly is...a pet.

Some amazing animals have been in my life. My first pet was a crotchety old tabby cat I called Joey after the children's book that I think was called 'Hop Along Joey.' Joey was the baddest cat on the block to come out of the Baltimore suburbs. When my family moved to the Eastern Shore Joey stood her ground against any and every dog that wandered into our yard. They only nosed in close once then they skittered off with their tail between their legs. That cat was amazingly tough but amazingly sweet as well. I was the only one that could picker her up.

My favorite Joey memory was when she had a liter of kittens under the blanket we shared one summer evening. I woke up hearing a bunch of mewing then realized there was a lot of stuff going on down by my feet. I called out for mom who came in and found Joey cleaning the eight kittens she has just birthed. Mom told me she went to the place that she trusted was the safest. I thought that was pretty cool after I got over being grossed out.

Throughout my teenage years there was always a lab or two in the house. Then an old girlfriend told me that labs were boring so I bought a Husky from some farm in Warrenton, Virginia to impress her. I was not mature enough to handle the full responsibility of solo pet ownership. Poor Janie ran off and was run over on Route 3 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I learned a hard lesson about responsibility.

As it turns out my interaction with Huskies was not over. Another friend found a Husky on her family's horse farm and had to get rid of it. This dog was beautiful and they wanted to keep her but she always escaped and ended up chasing the horses trying to grab one for supper. This is how Sophie came to be part of my family.

My parents had no desire to be co-owners of Sophie. She had been a stray for some time and it took forever to get acclimated to life inside of a house. She was incredibly beautiful. I have yet to see another Husky that is her equal. She was the Helen of Troy of the dog world and she knew it. Whether she would stand on the glass-top table and preen on the porch in Oxford or come home in the back of Maxwell's police car, Sophie knew she could get away with murder. That Husky was something else. She came very close to transitioning from pet to kin. Mom still misses her and so do I.

I also miss Crazy Puss. CP was the cat I took over when my grandmother went into an assisted-living facility. I have known some wild cats that could fight but I have never seen one burst through a screened-in porch to go after another cat. CP's other great feat was surviving an attack from a Great Horned Owl. That poor cat had a divot taken out of the top of his head that looked like somebody and drilled straight down with a 1/4 inch bit. He never complained once. I finally took him to the vet when an abscess started growing out form under his left eyelid. That was a tough cat. He finally fell ill to cancer and had to be put down while I was working on a movie in South Carolina. Mom said he went down like a true original gangsta.

Then comes Eli...I have to give it to Gracie for researching through all the dog breeds and picking out a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. Eli is officially her dog but I have sort of snaked him away. At first I couldn't stand this whiny wuss who would pee if you looked at him wrong. Getting him to pee outside instead of the living room or the bedroom or the kitchen proved to be a very long process. I swore he had Down's Syndrome. He just might.

Eli and I first bonded when Gracie took Arthur to Westminster. I had to watch him for 4 days while she was in New York. I was worried that he would just whine and cry the whole time because that is what he had been doing even when she was around. He cried a few moments right when she closed the door but then I made him bacon and eggs. The smell of bacon fat took his mind off the fact that his momma was on her way to the airport. After he ate we went on a long walk all around the Gold Coast of Chicago. We had a blast. The bond began and has grown stronger every day. Eli and I are cemented together for life.

Diaz a day and one half later. Under Dr. Diaz's care Eli has slowly become much of his old self. The steroids have fattened him up and he lets Gracie put medicine in his ears without incident or whining. I missed my baby boy; it's good to see him back.

Caring for Eli felt like parenting and that is why I am feeling so odd. Life was put on hold as we cared for the Mongrel to help him through his struggle. He had to go out every two to three hours because of what all the medicine was doing to his system. After watching his episodes we didn't want to leave him alone. If he had been in a crate when one of the episodes hit he would have come out of it a bloody mess due to how violent his reactions were trying to fight the pain he suffered.

After going through all this it is hard to think of Eli as just a pet. We are just at the point of trying to bring back the discipline of walking properly on the leash, not eating a treat every five seconds, and going back to regular dog food. I don't know how he is going to handle eating kibble when he has been getting chicken breast, rice, and sweet potatoes for the last week. He looks great with all the new weight. I juts hope I can get him back to the life...a dog's life that is.