Between the end-of-year holiday season and traveling for work I have been away from these e-pages for just over a month. A quick three-part recap of key events during that time period for your reading pleasure.
daughter’s gymnastics career 2: McGill home internal aesthetics 0
Three years ago we purchased Caroline a “Tumbl Trak.” It’s an inflatable pad that allows my daughter to practice back flips, handsprings, layouts etc. within the comfort of our home. Cara and I congratulated each other on being such wonderful parents, the excitement of offering our daughter the possibility of 24-7 home acrobatics center temporarily impairing our faculties.
Upon its arrival and much to our mutual chagrin, we realized that only one room was large enough to house this monstrosity: the den, which sits right off the kitchen and is the most natural place for the family to gather together. Walk into the room today and the dominant feature isn’t the brick fireplace, wood mantle, two couches or TV, but rather, what looks like a bright blue inflatable mattress for 14 people. We keep it tilted up against the wall, only dropping it onto the floor when Caroline actually uses it, but it’s still an eyesore, an ever-present reminder that you ignore the measurements of an item you purchase online at your own peril.
With that history behind us, you’d think we’d learn. We do not.
A “kip bar” has now joined the Tumbl Trak in the den. I lovingly assembled it on Christmas Eve, thrilled that I figured out how all the pieces fit together in less than 10 hours. Because of the force that Caroline generates when swinging on this new piece of equipment, I was forced to add an extra 6-8 feet to the base – “the extension package” – within days of her starting to use it. So now I have two enormous pieces of gymnastics-related gear swallowing up the best room in our house. I should charge Caroline a storage fee.
Totally unrelated aside, other than the fact that it involves Caroline: she has started calling herself, inexplicably and out of nowhere, “Bambles.” I’m afraid to even ask.
shoveling rocks: just as much fun as it sounds
We went up to Connecticut to visit my parents a few days after Christmas. Upon arriving, I learned that my dad was somewhere out on the property doing yard work. Knowing that he had just had a nerve block in his back for progressively worsening pain, I tossed on my coat and located him behind his garage. As I scanned the barren landscape that is northwest Connecticut in December, I realized that about a third of his stone driveway sat on the lawn, the result of snowplowing a month earlier.
After confirming with my dad that he in fact preferred the rocks on his driveway as opposed to in the vicinity of it, I began returning them to their natural habitat. I quickly determined that a plastic leaf rake was ineffective, as the rocks were simultaneously too small and too heavy to move with that piece of equipment. I opted instead for a metal garden rake turned upside down to pull the rocks into large piles, which I then tossed into the driveway using a shovel.
Max ran out shortly after this effort began to try to convince me to buy him tickets for Louis C.K. at Madison Square Garden. I declined and put him to work, a double whammy that will probably cause him to reconsider asking me for anything while in the state of Connecticut as long as he lives. (I cut him loose after 30 minutes. He must have complained to his mother, because Jackson got sent out shortly thereafter, no doubt instructed to help his back-pain riddled grandfather and one-legged dad.)
After roughly 90 minutes we had returned the majority of rocks back to the driveway. As I sweated in the sub-freezing weather, my arms and sound leg aching – when shoveling, I’ve learned that I put almost all my weight on my non-prosthetic side, a tendency that has distinct and immediate ramifications when lifting heavy things – I congratulated myself for being a good son and completing this rather large task. I declined at that time to wallow in the all-too-real probability that the next snowfall would redistribute the stones back onto the grass again, making me an actual Sisyphean character.
Phoenix Skyharbor Airport: still hate it
I had the misfortune of visiting the Phoenix airport not once but twice last week, as it was the layover point between New York and Cabo San Lucas, which is where our company had its annual sales meeting. Skyharbor holds the dubious distinction of being my least favorite airport in the country, as detailed in my highly scientific analysis here.
My previous criticisms of the airport have always been from the perspective of a traveler arriving there from within the U.S. But on my return from Mexico, I had the opportunity to experience Skyharbor from the international side of things.
It was not an improvement.
I got off the plane and walked a not-entirely-unreasonable distance (by Phoenix airport standards (i.e., less than 3 miles) to customs. There, I was greeted for the first time in all my worldly travels by new U.S. Customs kiosks. Looking similar to an ATM, these machines involve a two-step process. (1) You place the picture page of your passport in the machine, which then shows you that image on the main screen. (2) You stand in front of the machine while it takes your picture, placing that real-time image next to the older passport photo.
I heard several passengers exclaiming, “Wow, this is so efficient,” and “Isn’t this technology great?” I might have agreed if these machines replaced actual human beings, thereby streamlining the customs experience. They do not. The kiosk spits out a boarding-pass size piece of paper with the two images side by side. You then get directed to go stand in line for a customs agent, just like on every other international flight. Word to my fellow kiosk-loving brethren: if the old way of clearing customs required one step and the new way requires two, the new way is not more efficient.
After getting waved through – only after a lengthy delay due to a guy who it appeared had knowingly traveled to Mexico with an expired passport – I then walked about 14 miles to the main terminal, followed by a relatively quick 5 mile jaunt to my gate. I’m thinking that the key consultants for the architectural firm creating Skyharbor were members of the Tarahumara tribe. Either that, or someone accidentally drew up the original plans in yards rather than feet.
Seriously, it’s crazy out there in Phoenix.