Walking is Better

Once upon a time in a world long ago flying was a pleasure. From the moment you got to the airport to when you put your tush in your seat you were treated with respect and hospitality.

I was on my way to becoming a flight attendant for PanAm when all of a sudden it went belly-up. I wanted to see the world while hosting travelers on their planes. To this day there’s nothing I’d rather do than travel, that is until I get to security. Then it’s all out war. I refuse to go into the scanners. I’m convinced they’re a health hazard. New York TSA agents are the worse. They’re bullies. Well, I bully back, which throws them off their game. That’s when they threaten me with harsh pat downs. “Bring them on,” I say standing my ground and glowering back.

It seems to me airline travel is a burden to the airlines. I think they’d rather be transporting chickens than humans. At least chickens wouldn’t be a threat on board or try to commandeer a plane into mass destruction.  You’d just have to clean up a lot of feathers after every trip, but then you could diversify and go into making pillows.photo (90)

Flight attendants are tired and irritated with the long hours of the work day. Pilots no longer just fly the planes, they also do cabin clean-up in between stops. There’s no time for lunch. I’ve seen crews grab granola bars and wilted salads at the airports. They’re probably dehydrated, which explains their impatience with the public.  And the hours of cabin pressure I’m sure is stressing out their hearts and lungs. No wonder they’re angry. Nobody is taking care of anybody and it trickles down to the traveler who only wants a beer, a movie and a smooth trip home.

None of this, however excuses United from the abominable treatment of its passenger on the flight out of Chicago. I noticed that neither pilots or crew were involved in the incident, which was good otherwise if I had been on board I would have bolted off the flight, realizing I was in a horror movie. And then the airline would have had its empty seat.

Calvin says, “The friendly skies look troubled these days. Stick to walking.”  beagle

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Third Time

After driving to Tulsa and leaving off my friend there, I flew back to California. It was on the flight from Dallas that I got the adventure I didn’t get on the road trip.

We were late in pushing back from the gate because there was a technical glitch in the cockpit that needed investigating and fixing.

We finally got clearance for take-off. We were strapped in and ready. The engines were revved up and we flew down the runway, but then the pilot slammed on the brakes. He revved up again, we gathered speed, and he slammed on the brakes again.

At that point I was going to raise my hand and say I wanted off the flight. taking off

The captain aborted the flight and we taxied back to the gate where we sat for another half hour as a tech worked on the indicator light that insisted on blinking its beady little head.

I was grateful our captain wasn’t taking any chances with the flight, so that calmed me down.

The third attempt at take-off was successful since I’m writing this. The flight itself was uneventful and the landing was smooth without any hard bounces.

I thanked the captain as I got off for another day of life. He was madly writing notes on a clipboard.

Calvin says, “Woa. If I had been under the seat I’d had bayed my head off.”

Road Trip

I just returned from a road trip from San Francisco to Tulsa, OK with a friend who was moving there.

It took us five days on I-40. First overnight stop was Bakersfield, CA followed by Flagstaff AZ, then Albuquerque NM, onto to Amarillo TX, and finally into Tulsa OK.

The thing that caught my attention in Bakersfield was the Barnes & Noble Bookstore. It was packed with people reading in there. Gave me goosebumps.

On our way out of CA to AZ I spotted kiwi orchards, orange groves and a plane boneyard that loomed in the middle of the Mojave desert. There must have been hundreds of aircraft parked there happily decomposing in the heat.

The drive through Northern Arizona with mountain ranges of pink rock flanking both sides of the highway left me wide-eyed. The word beautiful doesn’t even come close. IMG_8258

Albuquerque was a disappointment. Old Town turned out to be a bust. It looked like a movie backdrop with stores offering goods made for the tourist trade. There was nothing authentic about it. Molly, the border-collie who greeted us at the reception desk at the hotel was the best ambassador for the city.

It took forever to get out of New Mexico. Clearly you’re not supposed to leave. Eventually we crossed the state line into Texas and were greeted by miles and miles of windmills. And when we left the hotel the next morning, we were greeted by the smell of cows and their waste. We ran out of Texas.

As soon as we got into Oklahoma the green light switch came on. Trees, rolling hills and natural grasses flanked both sides of the highway. So was the 100 degree heat.

I have crossed the country many times by plane. Now I can say I have driven most of it. Would I do it again? Probably not, but I’m glad to have done it. It gave me a greater appreciation of the enormity of our country.

Calvin says, “You could have taken me, you know. Every one of those hotels were pet-friendly and I could have announced my presence in every state.”

beagle

 

 

A Marathon of Our Own

This last Sunday Alf and I had a Bay to Breakers experience of our own.

We drove into the city where Alf dropped me off at work while he went to the beach to wait until I was finished. It was the Bay to Breakers marathon run with the city streets swollen with more cars and traffic and he was anxious about parking. But he got lucky and was able to find a spot a block away from the ocean, in a good neighborhood, on that sunny morning with a cool breeze.

An hour and a half later, he called.

“The car’s been stolen,” he said out of breath. “I’ve looked everywhere.”

“Call the cops,” I said. IMG_0130

He did. They told him every officer in the city was on duty for the run and nobody was available to come and take a report. Would he please go to the nearest police station?

That police station was more than two miles away.

Alf walked there while I finished my work and then a colleague dropped me off.

The station was in a relic of a building, well preserved, but institutional and cold inside. By the time I arrived Alf was finishing up with the report.

“We’ll call you if we find your car,” the police officer said with pity in her eyes.

Not likely. It’s probably on its way to Tijuana.

I made a quick mental inventory of the things left in the car and concluded I could live without them. Alf, on the other hand, was going to miss his cool dark glasses, his jacket, and the Fastrak tag. With that alone the thief could crisscross every bridge in California on our dime.

We called our insurance company, they sprung for a car rental, and we drove home.

An hour later Alf got the call.

“We found your car. You have 20 minutes to come get it otherwise we take it to the impound lot. Make sure you get a release form from the police station where you filed the report.” Click.

So off we went back into the city, back to the police station to get the form. By now it was 9 o’clock at night.

From there we drove to the impound lot, or tried to. It was impossible to find for the first hour. Then we spotted it. It was tucked under the freeway in a darkened lot. We walked in. Another woman in the waiting area was talking loudly on her cell phone.

“My car was stolen and I’m waiting for the police to get here so I can get it back,” she said.

We wondered how many other cars were stolen that day. It must have been good pickings with all the runners and tourists in town.

We showed the release form to the clerk at the counter. She examined it, then went to her computer screen, then frowned.

“You need a stamp on this,” she said.

“A what?” I said. This reminded me of life in Mexico. Did we need to slip her some money?

“Without the stamp we can’t release your car,” she said.

It was now 10:30 at night. I wanted to come around to her side and strangle her.

“Where do we get this stamp?” Alf said holding me back with his arm.

“A police station,” she said.

“There’s a perfectly good one right across the street,” I said.

“That won’t work, you’ll have to go to this one,” she said as she slipped a piece of paper across the counter to us. “Not all police stations have the stamp.”

Now I was convinced we were in another country.

The piece of paper gave us directions for walking, driving or taking public transportation there.

We climbed into the rental and followed the driving directions. What looked like a quick trip across town on paper turned into a nightmare of going in circles of barricaded and one-way streets. It took us another hour to spot the station. I stayed in the car and locked myself in. It felt like I was in a war zone. Alf went in and came back with the famous stamp on the release paper.

We returned to the impound lot, handed over the release paper, and got processed quickly. We walked through an outside fenced-in corridor that looked like it belonged in a high-security prison and stopped at a closed gate. A security guard appeared, we handed him the release paper, and he unlocked the gate and escorted us to our car.

We stood there amazed.

Nothing was missing inside. Not a scratch on the outside either.

The guard shook his head.

“That doesn’t happen,” he said. “Usually it’s just a shell.”

It was midnight now. I climbed back into the rental to return it to the airport, the only office still open. Alf followed me in our car.

We drove home in silence with a ton of questions and no answers in both our heads.

Calvin says, “Next time come into the city on roller blades.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iowa Is Good for Writing

My friend and her husband are driving cross country to deliver a car to their daughter in D.C.

Nevada and Utah were blanketed in snow, which made for stunning pictures. Wyoming was another matter. Flat is the only word for it. A view of the occasional cow on some green land was the only bump on the landscape.

Now they’re in Iowa, home of John Wayne and its depressing Main Street, which looks more like a movie set than a real place for real people who work, play and raise families.  

I’m so used to living on the coasts that I forget there’s a whole country in the middle of the country. It looks like a foreign land to me. I expect people to be speaking another language and living another culture. And perhaps they do. They are ranchers and farmers and people who have worked the cornfields all their lives.

I looked up employment in Iowa. The list included pizza driver, office clerk, test administrator and library assistant. I noticed there weren’t any tech jobs. That’s probably because there’s no internet. Who needs internet for herding cows? Two border collies will do.

What I did discover were a ton of bloggers from Iowa. A lot of them are food blogs. But I don’t see Iowa as a foodie destination. How many blog posts do you need for grilling hamburgers?

It’s worth mentioning that there’s the famous Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, which has produced many award-winning authors over the years.

For some, looking at pasture lands and grazing cattle fosters the urge to write. I, for one, wouldn’t find any inspiration looking at a cow chewing the cud. I’d need some action like a line of geese following a marching band.

Calvin says, “And to think Iowa is the bellwether of American politics.” beagle

 

 

 

Chat Tales

The story continues with le chat.

After a night in our garage where he had dinner and slept in a warm spot, Alf put le chat outside the next day to see if mamma would respond to his plaintive cries and claim him.

No such luck. She’s chucked her mothering role for better options.

He ended up running into our neighbor’s backyard and meowing at a window sill. Our neighbor scooped him up, the kitten scratched him, he let it go, and the thing flew up a tree covered in blue morning glory vines.

We could hear him but not see him. le chat

That was the stand-still when I arrived home later that day.

I called a cat rescue group and talked to Lisa. Lisa was an expert in flying cats up trees. “Put some food out, he’ll come down,” she said.

Sure enough the poor beast couldn’t resist the smell of that plateful of tuna. As he gulped it down, I grabbed it and pulled him indoors back into the garage where he finished his food as I sat watching him. Afterwards he explored my feet and my back and rubbed his little body everywhere to put his ownership on things.

He’s moving too fast.

Today at work I may have found two people who would like to adopt him. They’re thinking about it.

I’m waiting with hope and bated breath.

Calvin says, “Me too! It can’t happen soon enough.” beagle

 

 

 

 

All About Dogs

Today is National Dog Day.

It made me remember the dogs in my life.

I was raised with my grandmother’s four Pekineses, and that made me one of the pack.

When we moved away, my mother bought a French poodle we named Jolie, whom we adored. He was a mass of brown curls with brown eyes and a pink tongue.

As I got older and we had grass we had a Collie and then a Doberman.

When I got married we had a succession of cats. Pretzels, the stray. Eternity, the Siamese mix, and Zoe, the Russian Blue. Pretzels died of cancer. Zoe walked out one day and moved into another couple’s home. Eternity stuck with us through a cross-country move, the birth of two children, and neighborhood feline bullies. calvin3

When our son was twelve, he wanted a dog. We told him he’d have to research the breed and give a report describing why he had chosen that particular one. To help him we took him to a dog show. He fell in love with the beagles. We chatted with the breeders and decided the handsomest dogs came from a breeder in Napa. Who wouldn’t want a beagle from wine country? And so Calvin came into our lives and changed us forever.

He flunked training school. We attempted off-leash episodes only to regret it when he caught the whiff of a scent. He loved to eat. He’d bay at police sirens. He’d get fox tails up his nose, which meant visits to the vet’s for surgery. When he developed a chronic neck problem we took him to the chiropractor for treatments.

Everybody in the neighborhood loved Calvin. He was our goodwill, fun loving, expensive ambassador.

Calvin says, “But aren’t you glad for the adventure?” beagle