Archive for travel

Where to take the kids

Posted in Family with tags on January 25, 2009 by macmystery

I found this a couple of weeks ago.

It’s a list of the top 15 American landmarks that every kid should have a chance to see.  Some of the things on the list, I have yet to see. Some I’m not sure I agree with, but it’s

Here’s the list.

“A Writer’s Credo”

Posted in Books, Journalism, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2008 by macmystery

My friend Jennifer mailed me a book on Yellowstone Park by a man named Jack Turner a few weeks ago. I can only imagine spending serious time in Yellowstone. It’s one of those places most people only read about. You know it exists, you’ve seen it on PBS specials but you’ve never been.

Consequently, making it to the east side of Yosemite National Park was one of my goals for my six-week stay in Reno this summer for the Maynard Editing Program, where I met Jen.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. It was simply a casualty of circumstance. I did see Lake Tahoe twice, Virginia City twice, and I made it to San Francisco and the West Coast for the first time in my life. (Not to mention, despite not being gay, I’ve now been to two major Gay Pride parades. Bizarre.)

Jennifer, who lives in San Antonio, saw the book at a booksale, knew about my unfulfilled goal and bought the book for me. She sent it along with some Alamo crackers for Dylan.

I haven’t got around to reading it yet. I will as soon as I finish the book I’m reading about the South. But I have perused “Travels in the Greater Yellowstone” enough to find this nugget between the acknowledgements and the introduction:

“The moral duty of the free writer is to begin his work at home: to be a critic of his own community, his own country, his own government, his own culture. The more freedom the writer possesses the greater the moral obligation to play the role of critic.”

The words were not written by Turner, but by Edward Abbey, “an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues and criticism of public land policies,” to quote Wikipedia, which of course, is always dangerous.

Apparently, Abbey, who died in 1989, was quite a controversial character. He was quite the environmentalist, with most of his attention focused on the American West, yet he refused to be associated with those we commonly know as environmentalists and tended to anger those on both the right and the left. For example, he advocated burning draft cards as early as 1947, but was known to support the National Rifle Association.

Abbey’s politics aside, his “Writer’s Credo,” originally written as a lecture and included as a chapter in his book “One Life At a Time, Please,”  is as on the money as one could be. And though Abbey was an author and not a journalist, at least in the common sense, he hits on what some of the goals of a journalist should be.

In the process of finding out more about Abbey, including spending considerable time on a Web site dedicated to his works and fans, per se, I came across a treasure trove of interesting quotes by the man. Here are a few: 

To truly bring about change, one must be willing “to oppose injustice, to defy the powerful, to speak for the voiceless.”

“Truth is always the enemy of power. And power the enemy of truth.”

“Whenever I see a photograph of some sportsman grinning over his kill, I am always impressed by the striking moral and aesthetic superiority of the dead animal to the live one.”

“Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.”

“A knowledge of the true age of the earth and of the fossil record makes it impossible for any balanced intellect to believe in the literal truth of every part of the Bible in the way that fundamentalists do. And if some of the Bible is manifestly wrong, why should any of the rest of it be accepted automatically?”

“The tragedy of modern war is that the young men die fighting each other – instead of their real enemies back home in the capitals.”

“Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top.”

“There is no force more potent in the modern world than stupidity fueled by greed.”

“In art as in a boat, a bullet, or a coconut-cream pie, purpose determines form.”

“Grand opera is a form of musical entertainment for people who hate music.”

“Science is the whore of industry and the handmaiden of war.”

“The rich can buy everything but health, virtue, friendship, wit, good looks, love, pride, intelligence, grace, and, if you need it, happiness.”

“The feminist notion that the whole of human history has been nothing but a vast intricate conspiracy by men to enslave their wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters presents us with an intellectual neurosis for which we do not yet have a name.”

“There’s nothing so obscene and depressing as an American Christmas.”

“Motherhood is an essential, difficult, and full-time job. Women who do not wish to be mothers should not have babies.”

“The best American writers have come from the hinterlands–Mark Twain, Theodore Dreiser, Jack London, Hemingway, Faulkner, Wolfe, Steinbeck. Most of them never even went to college.”

“Abolition of a woman’s right to abortion, when and if she wants it, amounts to compulsory maternity: a form of rape by the State.”

“In the Soviet Union, government controls industry. In the United States, industry controls government. That is the principal structural difference between the two great oligarchies of our time.”

America My Country: last nation on earth to abolish human slavery; first of all nations to drop the nuclear bomb on our fellow human beings.”

Any hack can safely rail away at foreign powers beyond the sea; but a good writer is a critic of the society he lives in.”

“There never was a good war or a bad revolution.”

“Baseball serves as a good model for democracy in action: Every player is equally important and each has a chance to be a hero.”

“The most common form of terrorism in the U.S.A. is that carried on by bulldozers and chain saws.”

“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”

“Jane Austen: Getting into her books is like getting in bed with a cadaver. Something vital is lacking; namely, life.”

And last, but not least:

Life is too short for grief. Or regret. Or bullshit.”

A day at the beach

Posted in Family with tags , , on August 6, 2008 by macmystery
Caroline's first trip to the beach

Caroline's first trip to the beach

My sister Michele’s baby Caroline, who had surgery just a couple weeks ago, is doing just fine. She’s happy and gaining weight, two things that couldn’t be said a couple weeks ago.

In fact, she’s not quite two months old, but she’s on her first trip to the beach.

A weekend of camping

Posted in Family with tags , , , , , , , on August 6, 2008 by macmystery

The weekend before I departed for my six week stay in Reno, Brooke, Dylan, Ella and I were supposed to go camping with our Sunday School class, a yearly trip that we have come to enjoy quite a bit. It’s nothing rugged, simply a weekend at a campground with a gaggle of kids and some good friends and good food.

Needless to say, with everything I had going on, we had to bow out. This past weekend was our “make-up” date. Along with 3 1/2 other couples from our class and their kids (20 of us in all), we spent Friday through midday Sunday at the KOA campground in Boone, N.C.

On Friday evening, after everyone got set up and settled in, we all went to eat at the Dan’l Boone Inn. It was pretty good. Kind of like an all-you-can-eat Wade’s. In the same vein, but not as good as the Dillard House. Definitely not on the same level as the Blue Willow Inn.

Dylan got to play nonstop with his friends for two days. And despite a bit of whining, he was pretty good for the most part. He got to play mini golf and swim on Saturday.

On Saturday afternoon, we went with Stuart and his two boys on a short hike, easy enough for 4- and 5-year-olds. We drove to the other side of Boone to the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopped at the Cone Manor House, near Blowing Rock and overlooking Bass Lake. The grounds are home to numerous horse and foot trails. We probably hiked between a mile and two miles. We also saw a couple dozen horseback riders.

Ella was the hit of the camp. Some of the kids wanted to hang around her the whole time. And she was the only one in our tent who had absolutely no trouble sleeping. She got a bruise when Dylan ran into her pack-n-play with a big metal dump truck. But she was a trooper. She even enjoyed the hike from her perch atop the carrier we have that Brooke wore on her back.

After we left Sunday, we stopped by the Mast General Store in Valley Cruces before heading home.

While I didn’t sleep well … a combination of the hard ground, the cool nights and the four of us in a two-person sleeping bag … I’d have gladly stayed another week rather than come back to work and wait to hear who’s going to get laid off.

Coming home … a long strange trip

Posted in Family with tags , , , on July 18, 2008 by macmystery

With my six-week editing fellowship in Reno at an end, my friends Jennifer and AJ dropped me off at the Reno airport just before noon on Saturday, and my journey home began.

I was heading back to S.C. via Philadelphia. It was the last stop on this year’s baseball trip. Four of us – Chris, Richard, Will and myself – take a trip each year to three of four major league cities and take in some baseball. Toward the end of the trip, we typically plan the next year’s trip.

This year’s trip involved an Astros-Nationals game in Washington D.C., a Rockies-Mets game in New York and a D-Backs-Phillies game in Philadelphia. My fellowship forced me to miss two of the three games on this year’s trip, but I flew to Philly to meet up with the guys and finish out the trip.

I was supposed to fly from Reno to Dallas to Philly, getting in at about 12:45 a.m.

I was supposed to.

Got to Dallas after a ridiculously rough flight. Found my gate. And boom! There go the lights.

An hour and a half of sitting in the darkness of the Dallas-Fort Worth airport later, an hour and a half after our original boarding time, I make it on a plane. I get to Philly about 1:45, to my hotel room about 2:30 a.m.

My dinner? Beef jerky and an orange juice.

The game in Philly is OK. We eat lunch at the park. We hit the road. Richard had to get back home to D.C. so he could then head to meet his wife at the beach. I was riding on to Christiansburg, Va., with Chris, where I would meet Brooke and the kids, surprising Dylan, who thought I wouldn’t be home for the next day.

After a typical dinner at Hooters, we left Richard and headed to Virginia.

Sometime after 11 p.m., my phone rang. It was my wife, crying. Her mom had taken her dad to the hospital because he was having pain on his left side. They thought he may be having a heart attack. Now she may not be able to meet me the next day.

Finally, at Chris’ house in Christiansburg, after discussing several methods for me to get home if my wife wasn’t going to show up to get me, Brooke called back to say her dad was OK. They think he just had a SERIOUSLY pulled muscle. Thank goodness.

Around 12:30 p.m. the next day, my wife pulled in the driveway at Chris and Bridget’s house. I watched out the window as she got Dylan and Ella out of the car, Dylan having no idea I was there. (Apparently, according to Brooke’s blog, Dylan ran down a laundry list of what his “surprise” might have been, even thinking for a time that Brooke was taking him to a horse she had bought for him.)

His face lit up when I walked outside, and he saw me. I’m sure mine did, too. I knew six weeks would be a long time, but I had no idea how tough it would be to not see them.

“I knew Daddy was my surprise,” Dylan said.

Yeah, right.

The drive home was long. I felt like I should already be there. I was with everyone I wanted to see there. We stopped for dinner at a Chick-fil-A, and I gave Dylan some of the surprises I had bought for him.
He loved the chunk of silicon. It cost a dollar, but it’s like gold for a 4-year-old.

After dinner, we drove two more hours before getting home. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to go anywhere else for six weeks.

What did you bring me?

Posted in Family with tags , , , , , on July 11, 2008 by macmystery

I remember when I was young, my father traveled a fair amount with his jobs.

He would travel to interesting places … Colorado Springs, San Francisco, Germany, Panama … I can’t remember them all.

My sister and I couldn’t wait to see what he would bring us when he would return.

Of course, my father is quite the photographer, and we could always count on a slide show to go along with his big trips. I miss those a great deal now, taking the pictures off the wall in the dining or living room so that the projector would have a big white space on which to throw its light.

But after most trips, we would pepper him with what must have been a familiar welcome upon his returns.

“Daddy, what did you bring me?”

Sometimes it was some trinket or a shirt or nothing. Sometimes it was something only a boy with interests such as mine would have enjoyed as much, like a chunk of fool’s gold from a trip out West.

(After all this time, my all-time favorite may be the Star Wars bedsheets he brought back to me from Germany, of all places. I’d still be using the pillowcase, if my wife would let me get away with it.)

But nonetheless, my dad always, if he had the opportunity, brought us something back.

I’m sure he would have rather come home and heard, “Welcome home, Daddy,” or “it’s great to have you home, Dad.” But he didn’t. We were kids, and I guess we took it for granted that he would always come back safely and I think we never understood how Mama worried while he was gone.

But it didn’t matter. He always tried to bring us something from his travels anyway.

And now I understand.

In two days, it will have been six weeks since I’ve seen my family. I’ve missed a lot and I miss them a lot.

Talking on the phone is just no substitute for seeing them or holding them or snuggling up with them at night. I’ve missed a great deal of smiles and maybe as many tears.

I’ve taken a ton of pictures, and I can’t wait to show them all the cool things I’ve seen and done. And I’ve bought T-shirts and postcards and little trinkets, just like my dad did for us.

And I’ve done it mainly because, while I’ve gotten to talk to Dylan on the phone, it just doesn’t seem like enough. I want him to know how much I’ve thought about him while I’ve been in Reno. I want him to understand that, even when I was 2,400 miles away, I was thinking about him. A lot.

And I don’t know for certain, but maybe that’s how my dad felt. And I don’t know if I can ever thank him or tell him that I love him enough.

But one thing I do know is I can’t wait to show Dylan what I brought him.

I’ve missed a lot

Posted in Family with tags , , on July 4, 2008 by macmystery
Dylan\'s growing up.

Dylan is growing up.

I’ve been in Reno, Nev., for five weeks now, away from my family. While I have learned a lot at the editing program and thoroughly enjoyed my stay in “The Biggest Little City in the World,” I’m ready to go home.

Early on, my trip was a lot harder on Brooke and the kids than it was on me. While I missed them, she was at home having to make things work without me with two kids and a job and all the responsibilities that go both.

But now, I’m ready to be back.

We talk on the phone semi-regularly. We exchange numerous e-mails a day. And my wife is blogging, so I get to read how her day goes. But it doesn’t make up for the things you’re supposed to be there for.

My little girl has her first two teeth and I haven’t seen them yet. She’s been sick the last couple of days and it hurts to hear her cough when I’m on the phone with them.

I’ve never been away from my little boy, Dylan, for this long. Previously, the longest time I had spent away was a little less than a week. This time, he came to the airport with me to say goodbye, but in the name of increased security, he couldn’t see me get on the plane or watch my plane take off from the terminal.

A few days after I left, I got a phone call from my wife at an unscheduled time. The realization had hit Dylan that Daddy was a long way away, and he was worried I wouldn’t be coming back and I had to calm a crying child from more than 2,000 miles away.

About two weeks ago he called me to ask how long would it be before I came home. “How many days?” he asked. “Twenty-one,” I answered.

But for the most part, he’s taken it well. We talk on the phone and he ends every conversation with, “Be careful coming home,” which is his way of saying good night, just like he does each night when I’m at work.

But two days ago my wife threw me a curve. As it is, I think she sends me e-mails and writes blog posts with one specific goal, to see if she can make me cry. And sometimes she does. But this was new.

I opened my e-mail inbox and there was a surprise for me: an e-mail from an address with my son’s name attached to it, rather than my wife’s. I opened it, and this is what it said:

dear daddyy,
i hope you are having fun in nevada. i am haviing fun with just my mommy aand eella.
My son, not yet 5, is sending me e-mails, with mom’s help I’m sure. But still …
It’s time to go home. I’m missing too much.