Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Long Journey Home

The privilege to travel to different cities is one I frequently take for granted and often resent. I am a homebody at heart. The call of the open road doesn't resound in my soul the way it does for others.

That doesn't mean the experience is completely wasted on me. This recent trip to Phoenix is a good example. Did I want to travel all day to Phoenix on a Saturday without My Lovely Wife and children? Of course not. Did I want to sit though several days of meetings? Certainly not. However, it needed to be done and, under such circumstances, one can choose to be miserable or one can make the most of the situation. 

Outside the lovely hotel our company booked for us stood a small hill with a reasonably steep climb to the top, from where the intrepid could take in the breadth of the city skyline and the desert mountains beyond. Returning to the bottom following a hasty, gravity-fueled descent, we allowed the momentum to carry us to the open air market of the Aloha Festival a block away. The connection between Arizona and Hawaii was lost on me, but the sun had only just begun beating through the mild morning air and it felt refreshing to wander aimlessly a bit longer amongst smiling, sunburned faces as someone not quite far enough away sang of the many glories of spam. 

After a shower and change it was time to visit the local spring training baseball stadium of the Los Angeles Angels, a team whose name I struggle with because I understand it directly translates to "The The Angels Angels." If one could pre-order a day suitable to an afternoon baseball game, it would be the kind we experienced on Sunday. The sun was hot, a mild breeze provided occasional relief, and the sunscreened crowd was a sea of red caps and jerseys that cheered in unison at every quickly turned play and home run. We exited the stadium with a couple innings remaining to avoid the long lines for the trolley ride back to downtown Tempe that would surely form once the game ended. After another quick shower and change we gathered for the official start of our corporate function, a poolside reception with good company and lively conversation. 

There were other entertaining activities in and around the scheduled meetings of the subsequent days, such as when a small gang of us invaded a nearby dueling piano bar and lost our voices shouting along to one of the best shows for which I've never paid, or watching my coworkers ride a mechanical bull after an evening of cornhole and ladder ball. I managed to avoid the peer pressure being applied to those choosing not to ride the bull by adamantly adhering to the philosophy that I will not participate in any activity requiring my signature on a waiver, particularly when the waiver is handed across by the same guy serving fireball shots. 

All these are pleasant experiences I will long remember and about which I will reminisce with coworkers at future meetings, which is their purpose -- to provide a few common, unifying experiences for people who otherwise are distanced from each other by hundreds of miles or the deafening silence of cubicle walls. Beneath each experience for me, however, is an undercurrent of regret over not sharing them with those who matter most. The kids would have loved the ballgame and the festival. The wife would have loved the hike, the hotel, and the chance to tour a strange new city. 

I've heard it said your loved ones travel with you if you carry them in your heart, but it really isn't the same. From my vantage point, I didn't leave home for an experience without my family. Instead, each experience I've had since leaving was one more task completed before being allowed to take the long journey home to the place and people who hold my heart. 

2016 Mark Feggeler

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

I Don't Get It

Some things make no sense to me, like thong underwear or Donald Trump. Isn't it the purpose of underwear to serve as a barrier between your butt and your pants and not as crack floss every time you take a step? Doesn't seem to me like a very comfortable way to make it through your day. As for Donald Trump, the only difference between him and Charlie Sheen is it took decades of alcohol and drug abuse to make Charlie Sheen incoherently delusional. Trump comes by it naturally.

I don't understand my son walking across the house flashing cash like a pimp and telling us he's paying us back for games he ordered on his Nintendo DS. He's fourteen. When I was fourteen I was scraping together quarters so I could ride my bike a mile to the local video arcade next to Pathmark to play a few rounds of Centipede or MACH3. Maybe there'd be enough left for a slice of pizza from the storefront around the corner before heading home for dinner.

I'm confused by what's happened to cable television. Fifteen years ago, back when TLC still considered itself The Learning Channel and the Discovery Channel actually cared about science, it was possible to find a fair amount of proper programming to balance out the crap. These days we're accosted twenty-four-seven by inbred rejects and talentless celebutants presenting poorly scripted scenarios so cartoonishly ridiculous they make Gilligan's Island appear Shakespearean by comparison. Somewhere along the way society stopped laughing at these implausible idiots and started celebrating them. No offense, but if your vote in the upcoming presidential election will in any way be swayed by Duck Dynasty or the Duggars, then I'm not sure we're swimming in the same gene pool.

I don't understand why Chick-Fil-A -- probably the most uber-religiously homophobic restaurant chain in the United States -- installed outrageously phallic door handles in its public bathrooms. I can only imagine what Freud would have to say about that. It's as though a set designer from "Will & Grace" went through conversion therapy and found employment in Chick-Fil-A's design & construction department where he unsuccessfully tries to quell his latent-homosexually-inspired design sense. (That actually sounds like a pretty good premise for a television show.) No matter how thoroughly I wash my hands, or how clean the handle appears to be, I can't help feeling dirty every time I open the door. If only their sandwiches weren't so sanctimoniously delicious. 

I'm frequently bewildered by ear and nostril hair. When I was a young man, I had a considerably thick mane of blonde hair atop my head and practically no visible hair in either my ears or nostrils. These days I could braid my nose hair and mousse back the stuff growing out of my ears to cover the ever-thinning areas above my eyebrows. Speaking of which, the eyebrows are getting out of control, as well. Apparently, as traditional top-of-the-head hair abandons us, the ancillary hair areas kick into high gear. I can't wait to see what my armpits and lower back produce as I enter my fifties. 

I don't understand German. Nothing more to say there, really.

I'm bewildered by what's happened to the Republican Party. It sold its soul to the ultra-right-wing lunatic fringe back when the Tea Party movement rose to prominence and has never been able to buy it back. Rather than saying, "Thank you, Tea Partiers, but you'll need to run along and do your own thing somewhere else," Republican Party establishment embraced the upstarts and allowed them to corrupt what it means to be Republican. They even misrepresent the party's patron saint Ronald Reagan, misquoting him at every turn. In 1981 Regan wrote: "Illegal immigrants in considerable numbers have become productive members of our society and are a basic part of our work force. Those who have established equities in the United States should be recognized and accorded legal status." That sure doesn't sound the Republican message I've been hearing lately. I wasn't sure I would live long enough to witness a major political party being torn to tatters, but now I feel certain the Republican Party has only an ugly, lingering death in store. That's okay, though. Our country wasn't always divided into Republicans and Democrats. Some of our past Presidents belonged to the Whig Party, some to the Democrat-Republican Party, one to the Federalist Party, and George Washington didn't belong to any party.

I don't understand why, when only four people presently live in our house, there always are at least seventeen filled water sippers chilling in the refrigerator. I'm all for hydration, but it's gotten a little out of hand. To drink that much water on a daily basis would require mandatory catheterization. And, they leave precious little room for leftovers and other food items, which are the reasons we own the refrigerator in the first place.

Mostly, I don't understand where the years have gone. With one child in college and two preparing to take driver's ed this spring break, I'm having to come to terms with the fact that fart jokes and cartoon voices no longer make me a cool Dad. Our kids are turning into adults before our eyes and they're doing it without my permission. As their father, shouldn't I have some say in this matter?

© 2016 Mark Feggeler