Day 17,802 – It’s a Tuesday

I’m confused because I’m not sure if today should be considered the first, second or fourth day of my holiday.

The Western thinker in me believes that vacations should have a clearly defined, unambiguous event horizon.  Not so this break.   The Western mind wants to create artificial walls and boundaries and to classify and assign artificial meanings and values. If I were to engage my inner Eastern thinker  I would see each day, each day, each moment is equal and flows directly into the next without effort.  The ease or difficulty making the transition from one event to the next is a reflection of my inner self, not the outer world.

Siri informs me that it has been 17,802 days since the day I was born.  That’s what day this is, number 17,802.   She failed to answer the question about how many days I have remaining.

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This Works

I took the picture above on my iPhone.  I use that phone for work and would normally leave it locked in the drawer in my office during vacation, but I am trying out a new personal cell and I don’t quite trust it yet.  With one little swipe of the iPhone pseudo-button the deluge of emails are turned off and the phone calls, texts and messages sit in Limbo on some Verizon server somewhere waiting for me; calling to me.  I shan’t peek today.  I peeked yesterday and poisoned the serenity of my drive up to the Central Coast of California.  I won’t be foolish again.  It’s a lot of work to get serenity back once it is poisoned.

On this day 17,802 of my life, I woke up early in Avila beach on the Central Coast of California. Laura and I came here on our honeymoon, 7,639 days ago.  It seems like just yesterday.  I think this is the 9th hotel room I have woken up in thus far in 2014.  I am weary but not tired.  My legs are incredibly sore and stiff from a hilly race this past weekend and I couldn’t just lay in bed this morning.  The girls were exhausted and I didn’t want to disturb them, so I dressed and came down to the lobby to write to you all.  You people never write back and I am getting quite resentful.  Hit the fricking Like button already, will ya?  Would it kill you to leave a comment?  I mean really.

Everyone knows the OC, LA, San Diego and San Francisco.  Few appreciate the Central Coast with its seemingly easy-going lifestyle and attitude.   Some might consider it, the moderate part of California, not politically, but in terms of being neither of the extremes of LA nor San Francisco. All things being equal, the locals seem to pull for the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland teams rather than the LA teams.  You can easily prejudge and stereotype an area by the sports teams that the populus follow.  Stereotypes are great.  They allow you to like or dislike people without having to waste time getting to know them, really quite efficient if you think about it.

The hotel offers me a complimentary copy of Tuesdays The Tribune, the Newspaper of San Luis Obispo County. The front page features a banner “HAVE YOU SEEN THIS PUPPY?” Admittedly, the dog is cute, but I am still trying to slow down enough to read and enjoy this past Sundays New York Times. The truth is I never actioned (that’s one of my work words, actioned) reading the Sunday paper from two weekends ago. That’s one of the first signs that I am out of balance.  I brought two books to read and six magazines.   We are only going to be here 3 nights. We have to get back to the OC by Friday so The Child can start finalizing her Junior Prom planning.   Saturday, the girls will indulge me by going to see a lacrosse game at Whittier College. Then the next day will be Easter, time to get together again with Laura’s family.

Time moves quickly.   The Child turns 17 in 16 days.  God willing, in another 500 or so days she will be going to college. That scheduling and planning that I just did there is fallacy of the Western mind.  A classmate of The Child’s was killed a few weeks back in a skateboarding accident.  I can’t fathom that grief.  There was also recent news of cancer in the family.  Those shocks were numbing.  The Westerner assumes that the universe has made promises to us.  We get attached to those promises and believe that they are genuine.  I learned a long time ago, growing up in Las Vegas, that one should never ever ever believe in a promise.  One should enjoy this moment, this hour, this day and these wonderful beautiful people who are in front of me.   The metaphorical phone can ring so quickly and poison the rest of the day, week, month, or life. It’s a lot of work to get serenity back once it is poisoned.

Carpe Diem, people.  Carpe Diem.

 

 

 

Day 2 – Part II

Part I

Part II

Day 2 found me waking up for the second straight morning on an airplane.  I had between 6 and 8 hours of sleep combined over both nights.   The plane pulled into Schipol airport near Amsterdam about 8am.  My luggage took a while to come off the conveyor belt and I was starting to sweat a little.   I turned my bag over two days earlier and I had a spare pressed shirt in my backpack on the off-chance that bag would not arrive.  I would have been underdressed for my 1pm meeting and I am sure the people I was meeting with would have understood, and a well starched clean white t-shirt would have made me feel at least a little comfortable and somewhat refreshed.

At the meeting point, with nobody to meet

At the meeting point – with nobody to meet

I have my rituals at Schipol airport. If you are meeting someone at that airport, the best place to find each other is the big red and white checkered box.  Even if I am running very late, I take a moment at this spot to just sit and take the moment in and just check in with God and myself. It’s a sitting place for me, much like the boardwalk in Long Beach, New York, or the Castle in Nyon.  I sit and think and people watch as time permits.

Once done sitting, I bought my train tickets for the day.  The first ticket would get me into Amsterdam, the second to get me to and from Nijmegen.  I had cash ready because I knew from experience that the train station in Amsterdam only takes cash and credit cards with chips.

It amazes me sometimes just how I fall into the routine of grabbing the train at the airport and getting where I need to go in the Netherlands.   I have the same thing in New York and London, it’s just automatic.  Even if someone wants to arrange transportation for me, I decline, just so I can get my train rides.

It was a short ride to Amsterdam from the airport. Amsterdam Central looked pretty much the same way it did when the family and I were there last in 2009, except now apparently, it’s in black and white.

Amsterdam Central

Amsterdam Central

I hauled my suitcase to the outside of the station and struggled to decide how to get to my hotel. I could have taken a tram for a few euros, grabbed a cab for ten euros or walked. Given the light drizzle, the obvious choice would have been a cab. If I had anyone else with me, I would have taken a cab.  I walked; that’s what I do in Amsterdam and in Europe. I have a roller computer bag that I only use for two to four weeks a year while in Europe.  I bought it in 2006 and I have worn through TWO sets of wheels. I am brutal on luggage.  I can also be a bit brutal on my travel companions, but that’s a tale for another time.

Looks Like Rain.  Take A CAB!

Looks Like Rain. Take A CAB!

My hotel wasn’t but 10 minutes away by car and the fact that I was hauling a suitcase over uneven European streets and it was raining (slightly) didn’t really matter.

Maybe it was the exhaustion.

Maybe it was the fact that I would only be alone for two full days on this two-week trip and I could make a decision without having to be considerate of others.

Maybe it was that I love to experience Amsterdam from the ground?

Maybe it was just that I had a few hours to kill before I had to be on the other side of the country.

Maybe it’s all of that mixed in with a little bit of crazy. Who cares?   I walked in the rain.

Never judge the insides by the clothes

Never judge the insides by the clothes

I stayed at an inexpensive little hotel on the companies’ approved list. One must be a good corporate soldier sometimes.  Luckily, they had a room available for early check in. I napped for 20 minutes with a wake up call and two alarms set just in case. By 11am I was up, showered prepped and ready to go for my meeting on the other side of the country.  The hotel called me a cab and I was back to Amsterdam Central in a flash.

I walked into the train station and as luck would have it, there was an 11:17am train heading directly to Nijmegen and I got on just before it pulled out.

It was a 90 minute train ride.  The Netherlands hadn’t changed much since I was here last.  My train had mostly students on it.  People got on the train and off, it reminded me of a play to a certain extent with characters moving on and off the stage, each playing a role in the journey.

I fell asleep momentarily maybe a half-dozen times on the train ride.  I was tired and torn between closing my eyes and seeing the Netherlands again.   I hadn’t been to this country in winter since 2006 and it distinctively bare trees took me back to that first visit.

The Pastry Contained Mozzarella

My Only Real Meal on Day 2.  This is why I lose weight when I travel on Business

As the train pulled into Nijmegen, I was picked up and taken to my meeting. It was 1pm and I hadn’t eaten anything yet.  Carbs are my enemy on the first day in Europe, they can turn off my brain if I am not careful.

After my meeting I was picked up by a former colleague and generally cool person.  We headed back to Nijmegen and headed down by the river banks. We walked along the river and found a place to have a beverage.  Then after a while, we found a place to have dinner.  I love hanging out with Europeans, especially the Dutch.  They are pretty easy-going and easy to talk to.  They know how to sit a spell and enjoy a good meal.   I think we spent about 4-5 fun hours together before we said goodbye at the train station.

The truth is that I feel very comfortable in the Netherlands. I feel more comfortable than I do in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland or anywhere else I have spent substantial amounts of time.  I have only one person there that I would consider a friend, but I really believe I could pick up, settle in the Netherlands and be content there for the rest of my life, the place just makes sense to me.

The Train Station in Nijmegan

The Train Station in Nijmegen

The train ride home was uneventful.  The first train out of Nijmegen went back to the airport.  From there I caught another train back to Amsterdam Central. It was late and I was tired, so I took a cab back to my hotel.  I really wanted to walk though.

I got back to my hotel about 10pm, called home to say good night and settled in for the evening.  The second day was over and there were 10 more to go before I got to go home.

There was some street noise throughout the night, but I had no trouble sleeping.  I was looking forward to the next day.  It was a day I had been looking forward to for nearly a year.

To be continued…..

Trip Talley
Days Away 2
Hotels 1
Countries 2
Planes 2
Trains 8
Taxis/Cars 2
Friends/Family Visited 3

Such Problems A Person Should Have

I entered the lottery on December 1.

I waited.

I woke up today looking for that certain email.

I waited.

I got my answer a few minutes ago.

Disappointment

Disappointment

I admit to feeling a little numb and disappointed.

Given that I am rehabbing a knee/hamstring injury just 30+ days before my next marathon, I half-expected the universe to have a sense of humor and to put me into the NY Marathon so I would start training again in July.  In truth, I am glad not to get in and to see in the near future an opportunity for an extended break from long-distance running.

The way my body has responded the past year, I don’t think my body has many marathon training cycles left.

It’s not so much the marathons that are the problem, it’s the mandatory training miles and having to ignore aches and pains as well as all the cross-training and the associated opportunity costs.

There are no unmixed blessings or curses.   Not making it in to the marathon makes it easier for me to take my family to New York to see Derek Jeter’s final games in Yankee Stadium.  Such problems a person should have, no?

I have friends with children in the hospital. If this is the worst thing that happens to me this year, I am a lucky man.

Good luck to those who made it into the NY Marathon for 2014.  I wish you all enjoyment and fun.  I promise to get up early that day and cheer you on.

For those who have real problems in this life, I send you well wishes.

For now, I am going to go and not run, take ibuprofen until I am full, fiercely foam role my IT bands and watch the sun go down.

Peace People.

 

 

Day 2 – Nijmegen and the Old Liberators

Greetings from the Netherlands.  I am writing this near banks the river Waal looking out at the Nijmegen Bridge.   This is one of my favorite spots on the European continent.

The Nijmegan Bridge

The Nijmegan Bridge

This bridge was one of the three bridges that the WWII Allies attempted to take during Operation Market Garden in September 1944.    They were successful taking the bridges between Eindhoven and this bridge in Nijmegen.   The last bridge the allies needed to take at Arnhem was “The Bridge Too Far”.

The train that brought me to Nijmegen today stopped in Arnhem.  I took a picture of the platform sign for no other reason but to remember that nearly 2,000 allied forces were killed or went missing during the battle for this Arnhem bridge.

Stopping in Arnhem

Stopping in Arnhem

I haven’t been to Nijmegen in about 6 years.  Last time I stayed at the Mercur Hotel here in town,  there was a reunion of British soldiers who fought presumably under Montgomery.  It was bizzarre to have the elevators open and see a little old man in his dress uniform being steadied by his wife.  Without a word I knew his connection to this area.  Imagine his orders:

See that bridge with the explosives wired to it and the Germans all over it? Go take it and no matter what, do not let the Germans blow it up or our guys up the road are dead!

That’s bravery for you.  That’s a hero.  A few years later I came a poem by Robert Hedin called the Old Liberators.   Those were the men that were walking around that hotel that day.  You know that line from Henry V,  And gentlemen in England now abed, Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, And hold their manhood’s cheap whiles any speaks, That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”  That was how I felt staying in that hotel that night and at breakfast the next morning. I stood among frail giant men.

God bless those Old Liberators.

Trip Talley
Days Away 2
Hotels 0
Countries 2
Planes 2
Trains 8
Taxis/Cars 1
Friends/Family Visited 3

I Remember When Training for Races Was Easy

It’s exactly 5 weeks until the Big Sur Marathon.

Yesterday, I finally got it through my thick skull that I am hurt.

I went out for what should have been 15-16 mile run yesterday, but I had to turn home after 4 miles.

The run started off like all runs have this training cycle with about 1/3 of a mile of tightness in my right knee.  I was definitely running on tired legs, which is normal for this late in the cycle.

About mile three I started to hobble and I noticed that my right foot was toeing (pointing) out, such that I was landing on it at a 45 degree angle. This was due to the lateral muscles of my right leg being tight. I tried massaging my thigh but the problem remained.  I stretched and walked, but the problem remained. My mind flashed back to those people at mile 23 of the San Francisco Marathon who were clearly hurting and it didn’t seem they would be able to go on.

I tried forcing my foot to land straight ahead, but that just strained my knee in a manner that was reminiscent of what I felt at the Santa Barbara Marathon. I started to feel fatigue in my left thigh as it was overcompensating for the right leg.  So I shut the whole run down.

At home I had a realization that even though I knew my right leg was the one hurting, I rolled my left side and then pretty much stopped.   This I believe is part of my problem.   I have been favoring my dominant leg when it comes to stretching and rolling.

I guess it is better to figure this out now than in 35 days, but it’s frustrating and a bit scary.  I really don’t want to have a repeat of what happened either today or at Santa Barbara.

Time is Running Out

Time is Running Out

So now the challenge becomes how to train and let my knee heal up again. I am guessing that is going to involve lots of bike riding, stretching and rolling twice a day and making peace with my reluctance to take Ibuprofen.

I remember when training for races was easy.

Day 1 – New York

Day 1 was a travel day from California to Europe with a deliberately scheduled 13 hour layover in Newark airport. The great thing about these long layovers is that they often result in very cheap air fares, after all, what reasonable and rational person wants to spend 13 hours in Newark airport?

I slept about 3 hours total on the plane and soon as we landed I rushed to catch the train into New York. The morning was cold as day-old snow from the Polar Vortex covered the ground.  As I boarded the train at the airport, the conductor welcomed me back. It was a kindness that brought a smile to my face.

The Train Station at Newark Liberty Airport

The Train Station at Newark Liberty Airport

My dad didn’t get to the City until about 8am, which gave me plenty of alone time to walk around Penn Station and watch the city wake up.  Much like Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, early morning  is my favorite time of the day in New York City.  The City may not sleep, but it does make transitions, the most obvious and beautiful transition comes between 5am and 6:30am.

Time to Wake Up

Time to Wake Up

My Dad and I had breakfast at the  Tick Tock Diner on 8th Avenue.  Last time my dad and I were at the Tick Tock was July 26, 2003 at about 5am.  We ate a delicious breakfast while waiting for the 6:30am train to Long Island.  My Dad and I saw the Yankees beat the Red Sox the night before in Boston and we had to take an 11:30pm bus back to New York. I would have preferred to fly or take a train back, but only  the bus would afford me the time to see the 7:05pm game through to completion and get me back to JFK for my 9am flight back to California the next day.

Posing at the Tick Tock Diner

Posing at the Tick Tock Diner

I walked my dad all over the Boston Back Bay that Summer day.  We sat in the Boston Common and the Boston Public Garden and watched children, grown ups and dogs play in the fountains. We visited the BU bookstore and we walked around admiring the reflections of the old churches in the modern glass buildings. The baseball game was a classic, but I digress. Over the years my Dad has accepted the fact that when I show up in town, to just go with the flow.   There will be some excitement and by the time I leave, exhaustion.

Eleven years later, my dad doesn’t walk as well as he did when he was a spry 74.  Today’s visit involved more taxis and trains than walking.  Dad was in great spirits and he did well.

One Sexy Building

One Sexy Beast of a Building

After breakfast, we took a train downtown to meet the Freedom Tower and visit the 9-11 Memorial.   The Freedom Tower is one sexy 1,776ft tall sexy glass of water. The 9-11 Memorial was powerful with its fountains running into the ground where the towers once stood.  My father and I each to a turn at touching the “Survivor tree”,  the only tree in proximity to the falling towers which survived the day.   It is now thriving in the 9-11 Memorial.

After we left the memorial we took a cab to a little Tribecca bar for a mini tweet up which involved friends I’ve never met, fun, laughter, cheesecake  and my dad consuming his first two Long Island Ice Teas ever.  More laughter ensued.

Say Cheesecake

Say Cheesecake

As the time started to run short, we took the train back to Penn Station; however there was an extra 45 minutes.  Chaos junkie that I am, I decided to keep going all the way up to Central Park.  We walked through beautiful snow-covered park and sat on a bench for a while.  We sat and talked and laughed.  We also talked to a lot of people going by.  Dad pointed out all the people that were purportedly part of the Russian mafia. One of the park foundation emissaries chatted with us and he thought me might be locals by the way we were dressed, but he couldn’t quite tell.  He admitted that the only way you can really tell the locals is when they bring their dogs. I laughed.

Trouble

Trouble in Central Park West

Back in Newark

Back in Newark

As time genuinely grew short, we made our way back to Penn Station and parted company. It was good to spend a day with my dad with no other dynamics going on.  He was more carefree than I had seen him in a while.  It was good to see him moving well too.  It’s adventures like this that will sit in my heart all my days, like our 20 hour run to Boston.

I jumped the 3:40pm train back to the airport.  I thought about this visit with my dad and realized how the first 25 years of my life were really spent building memories with my mom and how the second half of my life has really been spent building memories with my dad.

Next Stop

Next Stop

When I arrived back at Newark, I slammed some sushi and used my AARP card to get a free Dunkin’ Donuts treat.  There are no unmixed blessing, but free donuts do make the whole turning 50 thing easier. The flight boarded and I settled in for a nap.  I wondered if my bag had made it on board and I was prepared in case it hadn’t.

Gonna Fly Now

Gonna Fly Now

It had been a good travel day. I couldn’t expect the next 13 days to go as well, but I hoped they would.

Trip Talley at the End of Day 1

Days Away 1
Hotels 0
Countries 1 (USA)
Planes 1
Trains/Subways 5
Taxis/Cars 1
Friends/Family Visited 2

Day 14: Ash Wednesday Travel Home

I am traveling today… Home

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It’s been two weeks since I left my family. It will be good to see them again this afternoon Pacific Time. Right now, it’s 5am In the United Kingdom. Ironically, the fastest way home from where I am required traveling East to Frankfurt. That’s life sometimes.

Today is Ash Wednesday. In my faith, it is a day observed by abstaining from meat, fasting (two small meals) and meditation. I am challenged today. It is difficult to fast and abstain when German flight attendants are in one’s face offering champagne, wine and breads and other delights for 14 hours.

I am not going willingly into this observance. I want to barter and rationalize with God. Get this one: “Ash Wednesday hasn’t started at home yet, so I can eat until midnight Pacific time and then I will start”. Another good one was Jesus didn’t know about air travel so I should start my fast tomorrow. It’s all crap. The fast starts on Ash Wednesday and it’s Ash Wednesday where I am. I just have to travel through it.

I walked into the airport this morning and saw a huge Burger King. This was the first time in months I’ve even give. That place a second thought. Having to abstain will do that. I went into the business lounge and passed by the drinks and snacks. I did eat the bowl of Granola and the bits of fruit on my first flight and I had water, despite how good the coffee smelled.

I am traveling home today, both physically and spiritually. The physical journey ends in 14 some odd hours. The spiritual journey, well, who knows.

I hope that the coming Lenten season is meaningful for you.