Stormy Weather

Have you noticed how quickly airports shut down at the first splash of a rain drop that hits the tarmac? Twice now I’ve been left waiting at the gate for hours while the weather clears up. Another time I was kept waiting because the airport had too much traffic in the air due to bad weather and re-routed flights that were scheduled to arrive.

What’s with this? I’ve been flying all my life. I’m used to flying in all kinds of weather. Once, I was on board a plane in Argentina in torrential rain. I mean sheets. With lightning and thunder to go with it. We shoved off from the gate and headed toward the take-off area. The plane in front of us got clearance for take-off. It splashed through the rain, leaving a wake of water behind, and climbed into the storm clouds and vanished. Our captain, watching this no doubt from the cockpit, turned and inched our plane to a parking spot. “My wife told me not to play the hero, so we’re waiting for this storm to move on,” he said. In a way, I was relieved. I liked this guy’s survival instincts.

On the other hand, I’ve been on planes when an engine blew out just before landing in Mexico City. I pointed it out to the flight attendant and she said, “Oh that’s nothing, not to worry.” Meanwhile black fumes were spewing out and I could see flames licking the sides of the engine. Either she was blind, in denial or I was hallucinating. Fortunately we were on approach and came to a screeching halt the minute we touched down. Firefighters surrounded the engine with their extinguishers. I found the flight attendant who looked out the window with me. “I know it was your job to calm me down, but don’t take me for an amateur. I know a crisis when I see one. I’m a mother.”

On another flight, the turbulence was so horrible I wanted to die. It was worse than a roller-coaster ride because we were so far up in the air and I couldn’t see the ground. That is always a bad sign in my mind. We had plenty of distance to fall like a rock, but I wanted to sail, not fall. The wings shuddered, the cabin creaked and moaned, the passengers held their collective breaths, and the flight attendants were harnessed into their jump seats looking terrified. We flew through that rough patch and climbed to a higher altitude where we were greeted by angels singing and rays of sunshine.

Even with the newer planes, that are sleeker and more fuel efficient, these episodes happen. Weather trumps everything, every time, leaving all our systems in the lurch.

Calvin says, “That’s why I hate flying as much as going to the vet. Grip the ground is my motto.”

Never Getting Home

It took me two hours to get home on the train last night.I know for some this is normal, but it wasn’t for me.

When I came down the escalator the platform was a sea of people, tightly knit together in a mass of black and grey, standing in one direction away from the platform I usually wait on. Of course there were no announcements to explain this sight. Everyone was relatively subdued and waiting patiently. There must have been five hundred people there, everyone on their smart phones checking for updates. Eventually a calming female voice made an announcement. There was a serious medical emergency at the station before ours and they had closed down the track. Meanwhile they were running all trains, in and out, on one single track. That was even more alarming to me. How could they do that without major smash-ups?

There was no air to breathe below ground. This was also a good indication of how unprepared the city was for an emergency. No police presence either. Another announcement was made. This one specifying that there were too many people here and train personnel were closing the doors at street level for a while. 

I considered my options. To stay or find a coffee shop to wait in, but then I realized I’d be trading one line for another. I decided to stay. Trains trickled in for the next hour, but none were mine. The mass of humanity thinned out a bit bringing some relief. At this point I was strategizing which trains to take and backtrack to get home, but it was too complicated. I would have ended up in Alaska. I stayed put.

Eventually, an hour and fifteen minutes later, another announcement was made telling us the serious medical emergency had been handled and trains were resuming on both tracks again.

While we were never told what that emergency was, we were grateful to get on our respective trains heading in the right direction even if we were packed in like cattle.

Calvin says, “So glad I wasn’t with you. I would have rolled on the ground and howled my complaints.”

Bring It Down a Little

They say it’s global warming. That’s why today’s temperatures are almost to 100. And this is Northern California. It’s not supposed to feel this way. We’re not Arizona. We’re in the Bay Area where the fog rolls in at night and cools everything down. Except there’s no fog. It’s crept on its silent little feet to another state where it is being warmly welcomed.

We don’t have air conditioning in the house. Alf and I have never needed it, until now. But I know how this works. The minute we invest in AC in all the rooms, we’ll have global freezing and we’ll be stoking pot belly stoves in every nook of the house.

So you really can’t win. Best to wait it out, plug in some fans, drink lots of sweetened iced tea like they do in the South, and sit in the shade. It’s a good opportunity to chat with the neighbors who are outside like you.

Like Reynash across the street. He says this is cool weather for him coming from India. Or Angela next door who is soaking up the sun because her doctor says she’s low in vitamin D. She’s from Brazil. And good old Simon, the accountant, who lives indoors with a scarf wrapped around his neck and hasn’t noticed the climbing temperatures in months. Meanwhile his cat is sprawled out and panting on the back of the living room couch.

I suppose weather changes affect different people in different ways. For me, I can’t make enough ice, I feel lethargic, and I’m certainly not walking the dog. I’ve given him a fan of his own until the temperatures drop to a normal cool.

Calvin says, “I like the fan breezing over my tummy. But I am putting on pounds, you know.”

 

 

Ode to High School Teachers

In high school I loved two teachers. One taught Algebra, the other Literature. I had flunked Algebra and I would need to take it again. The teacher knew she had me as a second attempt student. Perhaps there were more of us in the class than I knew, but we never divulged our dull brains to each other. She was young, thin, with dark, short, curly hair. She deconstructed the concepts and made them easy. And for some reason, this time around my brain opened up like a Monet’s lily and I mastered the class. You’d think for such a milestone as this I would have remembered her name, sent her on a world cruise, given her a parade, blessed her continuously, and still kept in touch with her, but I didn’t do any such thing. I was just relieved to be finished with Algebra for the rest of my life and I could graduate. Life is filled with people along the way that help you master certain skills, even some you will never use like Algebra. They impart their gift for a moment and then vanish like shooting stars.

Image result for tony statueMy English teacher introduced me to plays, novels and poetry. She was fond of having me read out loud in literature class. That led to auditioning for the school play and getting the lead role. On opening night, after the performance, the mother of stage actor Richard Kiley, who was playing the role of Don Quixote in The Man from La Mancha in SF, urged me to study acting in college and go into the theater. But I had no self confidence. My mother had died two years before and I couldn’t picture myself doing it. And there went an opportunity I regret to this day. Could have I made it as an actor? Would I have become a Vanessa Redgrave or a Meryl Streep? I’ll never know.

Calvin says, “You’re actor enough for me. Especially when you’re yelling my name when you think I’m lost.”

Garden Invasion

The re-design of my garden in finally complete. I wanted an English garden. What I got was a Japanese version with some Mexican thrown in. It all works.

I have a lot of lavender and rosemary plants paying homage to Jerusalem where the highways and byways are flanked by these bushes.

I have a purple butterfly bush for the Monarchs that come to visit except so far only white butterflies got the memo. I’m hoping the Monarchs are still in Mexico catching their breath.

Oleanders in pink and white are bursting with flowers right now.

I have the citrus trees – lemon, grapefruit and orange – continuing to dominate the landscape with their fruit. Yesterday I picked fifteen lemons off the ground. I found them everywhere, under the maple tree, in the lavender, and on the gravel pathway. It was like finding Easter eggs.

Everything is unmanicured, and nothing needs mowing, which makes me deliriously happy. I’m at that stage in life where I don’t want to take care of anything anymore, least of all plants.

Several times now when I’m in my chair surveying my garden hummingbirds come whirring around me, staring me down, as if to say, “Who are you?” They behave as if they own the place and I’m the intruder.

The other day I caught one bathing in the sprinklers and then drying off in the orange tree. Then it flew straight for me and checked me out front and back. If they weren’t such adorable midgets of the air I’d say they’re invaders. This is my space, I designed it, and I’m staying.

Calvin says, “Oh oh. Does this mean I have to fend for myself from now on? That I’m not a cute little midget, but a hot, fat, lovable bundle of fur with slurpy kisses and a nose for trouble? Hey, I add stimulation to your life.” 

 

A Little Rain Will Do It

Have you noticed how quickly airports shut down at the first sign of rain that splashes the tarmac? Twice now I’ve been left waiting at the gate for hours for the weather to clear up. Another time the arrival airport had too many planes in the air and couldn’t handle all that traffic at the same time. All because it was raining. Really? Where have all the cowboys gone who could ride the storm like a bronco? I guess they’re afraid of a lawsuit if they skid off the runway.

Just recently I was scheduled into O’Hare from San Francisco. As soon as we reached Chicago airspace we began to do the loopy loops. I knew instantly we weren’t going to land. This went on for an hour. O’Hare had shut down because of stormy weather. And then we got re-routed to Grand Rapids. We landed and parked on the tarmac. For four hours. Other planes began to arrive. Pretty soon the small airport looked like a boneyard. It reminded me of the musical, Come From Away where 38 planes and 6,700 passengers were redirected to Gander, Newfoundland during 9/11. Except we didn’t have any catchy tunes to accompany us or trays of sandwiches and hot coffee greeting us. Eventually the airport gave us a gate, we disembarked, raced to the bathroom, bought some snacks, re-fueled and then boarded again. We finally got permission to fly into O’Hare. By then my connecting flight to Warsaw was long gone, and I was left to navigate the airport maze in search of another flight.

I’ve been flying all my life. I’m used to flying in all kinds of weather. Once, I was on board a plane in Argentina in torrential rain. I mean sheets. With lightning and thunder for special effects. We shoved off from the gate and headed toward the runway. The plane in front of us got clearance to leave. It tore through the rain like a torpedo, leaving a wake of water behind, climbed into the storm clouds and vanished. Our captain, watching this no doubt from the cockpit, had second thoughts because he turned and inched our plane to a parking spot. “My wife told me not to play the hero, so we’re waiting for this storm to move on,” he told us. I immediately liked his wife. I liked him even more for heeding her advice. On the other hand, I’ve been on planes when an engine blew out just before landing in Mexico City. On another one, the turbulence was so frightening I wanted to die. My seat-mate, a pilot said, “Don’t be afraid. Planes are built for this.” That didn’t help my stomach flipping over, making me grab the vomit bag.

Calvin says,”That’s why my preferred way to travel is four paws on the ground and my GPS nose.” 

What’s in a Name?

There was construction going on in a building on my walk to work this morning. The scaffolding was full of workers on several levels, wearing tool belts, yellow fluorescent vests and white hard hats. Two guys were leaning against a parked car, smoking, and watching the work being done. Obviously the crew foremen.

“Hey, Jesus, what country are you from?” one of them said.

Jesus turned around to face them. “What country? From the United States,” he said in perfect English.

I laughed out loud. 

The guy who asked the question clearly expected Jesus to say, “Mexico.” But he didn’t.  That showed him.

Stereotypes don’t work anymore.

For example, when I see a doctor. They’re from all over the world. Their last names are Carlson or Rodriguez or Ngo, but they’re Americans now. In fact, Carlson might be the real foreigner in the group.

The truth is most of us are immigrants. Scratch the family history and you’ll uncover Aunt Sophie came from Bavaria, Germany by way of her mother’s womb, and Uncle Basil skied into Austria from Budapest when the communists took over, and then boarded a ship to Ellis Island where they changed his name to Bertie.

If we want genuine, 100 percent American heritage, we’ll have to look at England first, or the American Indians.

Calvin says, “It’s true in the dog world, too. You can’t trust a beagle with the name of Waffles.”