Month: June 2016

Seattle to Oslo in 36 easy steps

Disclaimer: The Irresponsible Adult Tour (TIAT) is not a travel advice blog. Using TAIT as a travel guide will probably get you lost, arrested, strip searched, and jailed. The TAIT is exactly what it states to be: an irresponsible trip taken by two adults who should know better. 

  1. Buy airline tickets.
  2. Get to the Bainbridge Island Ferry without an accident since everyone in an RV has decided that this is the year to visit the mighty Pacific Northwest. Most RV drivers are between the ages of Moses and Methuselah and spend most of their driving time looking at the trees lining the highway and saying, “This sure is a beautiful place, Martha,” as he drives across the double yellow line into oncoming traffic. 
  3. Take the light rail from downtown Seattle to SEATAC.
  4. Regret taking the light rail from downtown Seattle to SEATAC as you discover you have entered the train car with a young man who is pursuing a rapping career by hoping someone on board will offer him a contract for rhyming words with truck. 
  5. Wonder if this train also serves Western State Mental Hospital as the rapper starts doing push-ups in the aisle, asking anyone who isn’t white where they are from, and dancing like he is auditioning for Singing in the Rain 2: The Light Rail Edition. 
  6. Feel bad for the rapper as I begin to believe he might be insane. 
  7. Stop feeling bad once four large security men enter the car and the rap artist begins shouting, “What about my First Amendment Rights?” (Sidebar: I believe your 1st Amendment Rights end when everyone on the train car is so worried about their personal safety their sphincters get so tight that if they were to fart it would make a dog whistle sound.)
  8. Pass through the TSA checkpoint and get extra searched because I have a screw in my wrist that set off the fancy new detector thing.
  9. Eat nachos in an African themed restaurant. 
  10. Board the plane and discover Comfort Class only means that you aren’t in Purposefully Discomfort Class. 
  11. Gloat when the meals are passed out because you registered early as a vegetarian and you got your bean cake with spinach before everyone else got their three choices of better sounding food. 
  12. Regret ordering your bean cake as your intestines begin to make growling noises that eventually become noises like refried beans in a microwave for thirty seconds too long. 
  13. Try to get comfortable and sleep. Give up and watch Deadpool for the third time, then watch The End of Tour for the third time. 
  14. Get “Jimmy Legs” (restless leg syndrome…whatever big pharma) so bad that you try sitting like a yogi. 
  15. Listen to a relaxing sounds app on your phone. The soothing sounds of waves gently caressing a shoreline make you have to pee defeating the entire purpose of the app. 
  16. Wonder what the hell the lady sitting behind you is doing to your chair. Is she practicing the drums? Is she having a seizure? 
  17. Hate the woman sitting behind you. 
  18. Eat more beans…start really regretting being a “vegetarian” for the purpose of getting your food first. 
  19. Begin the descent into Amsterdam. Wonder if Dutch is a made up language. 
  20. Remark to your wife that, “Yes, there are lots of canals and dikes in the Netherlands.” 
  21. Get off the plane at gate D 80 and walk to customs located somewhere near Spain. 
  22. Pass through customs and volunteer to do a survey with a nice young Dutch man. The survey turns from, “Would you use self-serve kiosks?” To what is wrong with people who think Donald Trump is a good candidate. 
  23. Walk to Gate D 85…about twenty feet from where you just got off the plane but after walking 15 miles. 
  24. Get told that your flight is now leaving from gate D 60. 
  25. Notice how good Italians are at cutting in line. I mean this as a compliment. They cut in line without any guilt. They never go to the end of a line. They have my respect. 
  26. Get a tongue lashing from a Dutch KLM lady because I didn’t get my pre-boarding ticket even though my ticket says, “Go to the gate…or ticket counter…” Okay, I didn’t read that part. Get help from a nice young man who says my last name is very Dutch. I say, “Friesland,” and that is where he is from! We are now BFFs. 
  27. Get on the plane, eat a falafel burrito…regret it. 
  28. Arrive in Oslo. 
  29. Can’t get my App to work so I can use the train. I show it to an older man in a ticket booth. He says, “Have you tried restarting your phone?” It works, he looks at me like I’m an idiot, but smiles like all Americans are idiots. I can’t argue. 
  30. Take the fancy train to the central station. Get lost in a mall looking for our hotel. 
  31. Find the hotel. Check in. 
  32. Go for a walk to the Opera House. Take some pictures. 
  33. It starts to rain Noah and the Ark amounts. We hide in a fancy hotel and act like we belong there. 
  34. Eat a traditional Norwegian dinner of Tika Marsala and Thai Chicken from a place called Yum Yum. 
  35. Get back to the hotel.
  36. Sleep for three hours and then can’t get back to sleep…blog. 

The Irresponsible Adult Tour FAQ

Q: Where are you going?

A: Europe

Q: That’s not really very specific. Which countries are you visiting?

A: A bunch of them.

Q: Are you aware that the US State Department has travel warnings for summer travel to Europe?

A: Yep.

Q: Aren’t you afraid?

A: I live in a country where people believe semi-automatic weapons are a needed for home defense and trips to the grocery store. I’m pretty sure I’ll be okay, but if not, my preference would be to be killed near the end of my trip then I will have had a really good time before kicking the old bucket.

Q: Are you traveling by yourself again?

A: No, my wife will be joining me.

Q: Why aren’t you taking your kids?

A: Because this is the Irresponsilble Adult Tour.

Q: Why is this an Irresponsible tour?

A: Because most people think saving money for a rainy day is more important than spending money irresponsibly. I’ll misquote my man Thoerau, “I did not want to come to the end of my life and find out I had not lived.”

Q: Didn’t Thoerau live in Emerson’s basement?

A: Let’s call it an unpaid Air B&B…he also lived in a little cabin he built himself. And he had an epic neck beard, one of the best neck beards ever.

Q: What can we expect from your blog posts?

A: There is a 100% chance that I will get lost at some point. I will complain about my hotel rooms. I will eat something without finding out what it is.

Q: Why will you complain about your hotels?

A: Because I’m frugal. Frugal hotels are not always the best.

Q: How does your wife feel about frugal hotels, walking 50 miles a day, and getting lost?

A: She has put up with me for a long time…this might be the final straw.

 

A Year

This morning I should be working on a difficult section of my novel, but after yesterday, I can’t work on the fictional difficulties of Paris in 1925. Instead, I’m drawn back into the past by an odor in the bathroom of the Swedish Cancer Center.

The dates December 21, and June 21 will continue to be circled on our calendars for a few more years. These are our appointments. Every six months, just enough time to believe things are normal, just long enough to forget about the five months on the 12th floor. Every six months for five years, we will venture back to the cancer center to see if Dylan is still healthy.

I could lie and say that the days leading up to these visits are like any other days, but they aren’t. I still worry. Now, I have 100 other things I can blame for my detachment and moodiness, but when I examine it in my mirror where “things are larger than they appear” I can see that the last two weeks have been a building feeling of dread. I’m not really even aware when it is happening, I just have an angsty feeling that can only be compared to my 7th through 10th-grade years: my Dungeons and Dragons years.

The one thing about dealing with cancer is that it wipes away all the difficulties of life. Regular adult life is stressful because there are hundreds of things; cancer life is one big thing.

We arrived at the Swedish Cancer Center, Dylan checked in, and I went down the stairs to use the bathroom. I opened the bathroom door and the smell hit me. I don’t know if it is the cleaning solution used to clean the bathrooms, or the disinfecting soap next to the sinks, but whatever it is it has a distinctive smell that my brain connects to a time and place. The entire 12th floor at Swedish smells like it. The bathrooms, the halls, the showers, the family room, the nurse’s station all have the same bitter, soapy smell. I have heard that smell has the strongest connection to memory and I believe that is true.

One of the things that happened in the last year is that we have all gotten tattoos. We are not a tattoo family, but as Dylan was going through chemo we all agreed that when it was over we would get some ink. My wife got a pink lotus flower on her wrist, Dylan got an Ouroboros (snake eating itself) on his ribs, Emma got a “You are here” Google Earth marker on her wrist, and I battled between two quotes that I love. Thoreau’s, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live,” or Fitzgerald’s final line in Gatsby, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past.”

In the end, I went with Thoreau’s quote on my skin, but Fitzgerald’s words have been living in my head. As much as I want to move forward and forget parts of the past I can’t. I will forever be pulled back to the 12th floor of Swedish.

Dylan drank his banana flavored barium, was called back to scan area, returned to us 15 minutes later, we went upstairs for Dylan’s blood draw, and then had three hours to kill before our appointment with Dr. Pagel. We wandered around Capitol Hill, ate lunch, bought some CDs and books, and then went to the 10th floor of the cancer center. The last 20 minutes are the hardest. There is waiting and it is quiet. Then Dr. Pagel came in and said what we all wanted to hear, “One year is a big milestone. Everything is great. Your blood is great. Your scan is clean.” We talked about Dylan’s plans for the upcoming year; he’s off to Western Washington University to complete his BA.

We left. We had planned on celebrating at a fake German beer hall, but when it was all done none of us felt much like doing anything but crying and driving home. So we did.

There are times when last year seems like a nightmare that happened to someone else, but here we are, all of us pulled into the nightmares of the past paddling as fast as we can to make it beyond the bar and into the rolling ocean waters of the present. Someday, someday…

Blogging and Training a Puppy…the keys to no success

About a year ago, we decided to add a member to our family: Kam. Kam is a dog…kinda. He is half Northwest Farm Terrier, half black lab, and 100% devil animal.

Kam likes to bite. Kam likes to eat wood. Kam likes to eat rocks. Kam tips over his water bowl. Kam tries to sit on the couch. Kam sits on the couch. Kam can’t be trusted.

In his year with us, Kam has done some good things too. He killed a vole…he did try to eat it, but hey, as Shakespeare wrote, “Every dog will have his day.” Kam also has about 30 minutes of good behavior within a 24-hour period. When he first arrived there were no minutes of good behavior, so at this rate he might be well behaved right about the time I hit 120 years old.

Part of Kam’s difficulty is that he followed our dog, Steffi. Steffi was the sweetest, mild-mannered dog I have ever known. She didn’t need much training. Sure, she dug craters in the backyard when she was a pup, but after about five years of digging we had a nice dirt pond for the kids to swim in when it rained.

It was a very sad day when we had to put Steffi down. Dylan had just finished chemo and we probably waited a little longer than we should have because Steffi had always been his favorite family member. Dylan sat on the floor with Steffi as the vet pushed the syringe of chemicals into her system. I sat behind him, looking at his shiny, bald, head as he petted Steffi until she stopped breathing. The vet asked if we wanted to keep her ashes, which seemed like a weird thing to do to me, but I guess people do that or she wouldn’t have asked. We took her collar and leash and left.

Kam became a family member a few months later. What we really wanted was a dog who had been rejected and needed love. We visited several animal shelters to find a replacement for Steffi, but we never found a dog that fit our needs and when we did, we were the ones who were rejected because we didn’t have a fence, or there were horses nearby, or people running the animal shelters thought we were bad dog parents. (I thought people running dog shelters should wear something other than their pajamas to work, but who am I to judge?)

Eventually, we found Kam through a friend who also had a Northwest Farm Terrier. Someday I will get revenge.

Actually, Kam is as good as we can expect at this point in his life. He certainly calmed down after we had his berries removed and now that I built a fence for him things are looking up. (The fence is possibly the worst fence ever built. The backside of the fence looks like a frozen scene from Inception or Interstellar. If it survives the winter I’ll be happy.) During my morning writing sessions, Kam will sit next to my feet while I write…and then he will begin chewing on my desk, or eating a rough draft of a short story, or suddenly jab his nose into my groin like a jackhammer. You know, acting like Kam.

While Kam has been growing, my blog has been sitting here on one of the long lost tubes of the interwebs. Being away from blogging has been good and bad. I miss my blogging friends, but I also love the solitude of working on editing and rewriting. In the past year, I have joined a couple writing groups, had a couple short stories published in local presses, and done a good deal of writing.

Now that summer is here and I’m going to be taking another epic European vacation, I will be back to filling this long lost empty tube with words. The words will be like regular words, the ideas will be stupid, and I will get lost at least 15 times. So join me on my Irresponsible Adult Trip if you have nothing better to do and you want to learn from my innumerable mistakes.

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