25 May 2009

72 hours in St. Louis

Memorial Day Weekend. Drove the "Avenue of the Saints". Packed quite a bit into a stay of less than 72 hours to visit Rob and old neighborhood friends. Noon Friday to Monday morning....
  1. Thurs evening, landed at 6pm on flight from sfo, picked up the girls, on the road by 7pm. Night at the Best Western Cantebury Inn, Coralville, IA. Our balcony on the second floor overlooks the vending machines in the hallway on the first floor. Hard to describe, so i'll leave it to the proprietor... "Surrounded by beautiful Old World elegance, guests are sure to enjoy the hotel's extraordinary Old English inspired architecture and decor."
  2. Friday. On the road 7am. Traffic good enough to work in a lunch at Maggie O'Brien's in downtown St. Louis near Rob's office. Us, Rob, his girlfriend Laura, her parents.
  3. Quick walk through Union Station finds it has fallen on hard times once again.
  4. Hotel checkin. Marriott in Fenton
  5. Off to the old neighborhood and visits with very dear friends.
  6. Rob and Laura meet us at a park. Killing time while waiting for dinner. A real gem, hidden away in Ballwin off Big Bend.
  7. Dinner at Hunan and Peking Garden in Manchester. Best Chinese in metro St. Louis.
  8. Shopping for Rob at Walmart, Cardinals stuff for me.
  9. Sat am run at Fenton Business Park
  10. Arrive Busch Stadium 90 mins before game time. We miss the old stadium but the new one is nice enough to make the passing of the old one tolerable.
  11. 1210 first pitch. Cards beat Royals 4-0
  12. Ted Drewe's
  13. Hanging out at Rob's apartment, played cards, Ten Little Indians
  14. Dinner at the Hill. Cunetto's was packed so detoured to Favazza's. Same difference. It seems that the Italian food here peaked ten years ago, but is still better than anything in the Twin Cities, or any city for that matter.
  15. 10 am mass at Cathedral Basilica. 8 year old girl in front of me is practicing arm farts and the toddler two rows up tosses a cell phone at her father. Families in church. Not church without them.
  16. Lunch at the Boathouse in Forest Park followed by an hour or so at the Art Museum, back to Rob's apartment.
  17. Quick trip to the old neighborhood elementary school
  18. Great afternoon cookout with old neighbors. Played catch with Rob in the field behind our old house, just like we did countless afternoons. Probably set our record for most throws without a miss.
  19. Cookout ends around ten. Goodbyes to Rob.
  20. Monday 5am, coffee at Moto Mart in Valley Park, back to the Twin Cities

21 May 2009

Sfo to msp

How many times have I taken this flight? Lost count. Listening to "Stone walls and steel bars" on the ipod while flying somewhere over Iowa.
Thankful for small things, such as the dad two rows in front of me who is traveling with baby and working overtime to keep the cries to a minimum.
I love the city I just left and understand why so many people want to live there. For all its problems it is continually creating opportunities. It fights all the government efforts to stifle the soul of the entrepreneur. You can almost feel jobs being created and destroyed. Even here, capitalism will find a way.
... And the climate and scenery are hard to beat.
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20 May 2009

Another day in San Francisco

10 am - its a long day already that started at 5am. I'm two hours into my third meeting of the day.
4pm - a productive day but still in same meeting and dozing. Dinner ahead at 630. Only 6 more hours until I hit the sack.
7pm - Dinner at the Olympic Club. Food was very fine, service even better.
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13 May 2009

A little symbol

We spent Mothers day in Stillwater, MN, browsing the numerous shops of clothes, trinkets, books. Every visit here includes a stop at the Midtown Antique Mall, a great place to spend a few hours or a day.

I passed a collection of ashtrays and it brought back memories of when these things were commonplace in the home and office. Today they are rare and their absence is a reminder of how much personal freedom matters. I don't want or need total freedom, no one does. But I need a lot of it. Some liberties we collectively decide to give up, such as the freedom to drive a car while tipsy. Often we ask the government to enforce the things we give up for the benefit of others.

There are things that are not the business of government, such as the pay structure I have negotiated with my company, or whether I visit a doctor regularly.
Little losses of little freedoms add up and are reflected in little things, such as the ashtray that I purchased and is now in my office. I'm not a smoker. This is a reminder that I no longer have the freedom to be one.

08 May 2009

A few things don't change.....

A hundred miles north of here, they'll make a baloney sandwich for you at Duquette General Store, as I found out yesterday around 7pm. White bread. And if you overpay, the girls at the counter catch it right away and hand that dollar back. I love Minnesota.

06 May 2009

Say Uncle

There are a dozen or so people who honor me by calling me Uncle. I don't know any of them really well, but some better than others. Unless you live around a niece or nephew you never really know them. You always see them at their very best, Christmas, funerals, weddings, family vacation. It's easy to get the impression that they are the perfect children of the family. Your own children you see at their very best and very worst. Not so with nieces and nephews. The reverse is true as well. When I was a kid, mad at my parents, I thought how great it would be to live with my favorite aunt and uncle.

For the subject of this entry I'm an in-law uncle, not the sibling of her mom or dad. Give us a dna test and there's no evidence we're related. That's not all bad. I can pick on her mom and dad or grandmother in my synical, sarcastic, wry manner and no one takes it seriously. After all, i'm not really one of them, what would i know.

Kristin is my niece. Unlike the others, I vividly remember the day she and her sister Lauren were born. Can't tell you a thing about any of the others, barely get names and families straight. It was the same day as a major plane crash in Dallas. I was flying through Dallas that day and took off a few minutes before the crash. It was the big news when I landed in Little Rock, except in her household where this arrival was the hot topic. No one had time for tales of death and tragedy. This was new life, in a double dose.
Fast forward 20something years later and we are spending an afternoon together. In Philadelphia. In the rain. It is the very first time in all these years that we have spent uninterrupted time together. Not unusual I suppose. Uncles can be intimidating and a bit bizarre. I grew up with three Uncle Waynes. I get it.

We dodged from building to building trying to find some way to fill up the time while awaiting dinner. Had the weather been nice a long stroll would have been perfect. When it's raining and you have no car your mind fills up with strategies around dryness.

We went to the Art Museum, spot of the famous step running scene in Rocky. Closed on Monday.

We had both done the Liberty Bell.

We went to another Museum nearby. Closed on Monday.

We finally found the Science Museum. Open on Monday.

We wandered, past the Franklin Statue, the big Heart, the World of Machines, "the oldest thing you will ever touch".... It didn't take long to dispense with the normal chit chat, family catch up and all of my normal questions an uncle would ask a niece. Over Christmas you can stretch the idle chatter out for days. When you are face to face and no one else around, they take a max of two minutes.

From the museum we moved to Starbucks, where her purse was stolen. I'll leave that story to her. I hate that it happened.

That incident threw our plans and conversation into an unexpected detour. My plan was to treat her to a nice dinner at a place that might have been too stuffy. We were running short on time and ended up having dinner in a normal restaurant. After retracing the theft minute by minute several times, we moved to other topics. Two adults, bound by family ties, engaged in conversation on various topics and family events past and present. About as normal as you can get but a first for this pair. Fortunately, we don't have the baggage for one of those deep soul searching dialogues, although given the rain and circumstances, it would have been the perfect setting. Still, a bit uncomfortable but as it should have been. Not forced, just a bit out of place for both of us.

As we talked my mind was elsewhere, thinking about how one of the little girls that I could always count on to play with my little girl at Thanksgiving had become a fascinating adult with a life and path of her own. Just like my oldest daughter and son and soon, my youngest daughter. The wheel turns, the snow melts, the flowers bloom, life grows on.

We were in the Philly area for two completely different reasons. I was meeting a client in one of buildings nearby, talking investment talk with investment folk battered by falling markets. She was there healing hurts from people battered by things much worse than falling stock prices. A metaphor too deep for me. I was one of the thousands of Dads in identical suits, taking care of business, supporting the family. She was providing support to those who have no Dad. Both noble work. Both very different.

She has wonderful siblings and the offspring of Bob and Betty is an interesting casserole of family peculiarities, personalities and fundamentalist religion all covered in a thick layer of Southern culture, with 2 for 1 coupons sprinkled on top. It's much better up close than when viewed from a distance. In a strong family, there's always time and opportunity for days like this. Four hours well invested. Long overdue. Thanks K.

02 May 2009

One machine that puts a smile on my face.

Noon. May 2nd. First lawn mowing of 2009. Pack away the snowblower, gas up the John Deere lawnmower. Purchased for $25 from previous owner of this house in 2003. Three pumps on the primer button, one pull of the rope. Bbbbrrrrrrrrmmmmmmmm