Category Archives: Uncategorized

Washington Trip

We recently embarked on our second family road trip—the first since our trip to California in 2011.  The primary purpose of the trip was for my wife to attend the wedding of a growing-up-time friend, with secondary purposes of seeing other old friends and the attempt to convince me that Washington and Oregon were better, prettier places to live than Utah.  I learned a few things on this trip:

  • Even the older kids got sick of DuckTales the Movie after the youngest wanted to watch it several times.
  • Our Kindle Fire HD is a godsend.  The only downside is that we only had one to share among three children.
  • The same city names are repeated in many states.
  • Driving a long way is still not that fun, but we had no diapers to change this time.  Huzzah many times!

Thursday, September 25

We headed out after the older kids got home from school, having planned our first night’s stop in Boise.  Our daughter was under the impression that we would stop in Salt Lake City for dinner at the Olive Garden, and was a little dismayed when I told her that it wasn’t in the cards for that night.  I told her we’d find some night during the trip, assuming there was an Olive Garden to be found somewhere in our various destinations.  We ended up stopping at Del Taco in Ogden, which (Ogden) is closer to home than I thought, and the kids got some of their energy out in the play place.  Afterward we continued on our way, pausing for gas outside of Twin Falls, and eventually stopping in Nampa, Idaho at a Shilo Inn.  We, the parents, were both tired and cranky and determined to spend as little as possible on hotel rooms during the trip.  After our first night, we decided that was a stupid policy.  The beds were uncomfortable and the neighborhood a bit sketchy, but we were too tired to care by then.

Friday, September 26

The smell outside the hotel in the morning was quite unpleasant.  We loaded up our van and found a nearby grocery store to buy some water and paper bowls and plastic spoons and milk, then found a park to sit in to eat some cereal and doughnuts.  The kids had a good time at the playground for a bit, and then we headed back on the road.  As we crossed the border into eastern Oregon, I began to humorously (and sarcastically) remark about how green Oregon definitely was compared to Utah, which caused much eye-rolling by my wife.  We stopped in Baker City for gas and some lunch at Dairy Queen.  Our older boy was pleased at the prospect of a hot dog, while our younger one ordered some chicken strips—something he ordered at every meal possible, since he’s such a picky eater (that we love, of course).  The pairing of Dairy Queen and Orange Julius is a plus, as it meant I got to enjoy a Berry Pomegranate smoothie.

We continued along I-84 until it split off to head to Washington state.  We stopped near the border for a bathroom break and then again at the Wild Horse Monument near the Columbia River, just off I-90.  We took some pictures and enjoyed the beautiful view overlooking the Columbia River, and then continued on until we reached our destination of Wenatchee.  As we drove the countryside became more and more beautiful, with lots and lots (and lots) of orchards.  We found our hotel, a room in which the wedding party had generously offered us for two nights.  It was a definite step up from the Idaho stop the previous night.  We unloaded our baggage and set out for some foodstuffs.  We ended up at the Olive Garden on the east side of the Columbia River, where we enjoyed a nice meal with a really nice server, at the end of which the elderly couple next to us unexpectedly picked up the check.

We left a tip for the server and then went to thank the couple, who told us we were raising a nice family, God had blessed them their whole lives and now they were happy to be able to share some of that with others.  After we thanked them again, as we left the restaurant to get back in the van, I remarked to my wife, “I’m sure glad I opened the door for those guys.”  I also need to remember to buy young people’s dinner when I’m old, assuming I retain some sort of non-crankiness.  We headed back to the hotel for some sleep.

Saturday, September 27

This was the day of the wedding.  We had some breakfast in the hotel room while the kids watched cartoons, and I was baffled at the cartoons these days.  Eventually we left for Leavenworth, somewhere outside of which the wedding was to be held.  We stopped for gas in a small town outside of Wenatchee, and I headed into a grocery store next door for a small jug of milk.  I also found Dr. Pepper and Orange Crush flavored licorice, so of course I had to buy some of that, as well.  The countryside continued to be very beautiful during the drive, and we stopped at one of many fruit stands to buy some local apples, peaches, and a pear.

Upon arriving in Leavenworth, we did not have the exact address of the lodge where the wedding was to take place, and my wife frenetically attempted to get in contact with someone who was in the know.  Eventually we got it, several miles into the country outside of Leavenworth.  We worried that we might be late, but we ended up early, as it turned out.  After dropping my wife off for the festivities, I took the kids a few miles farther down the road to Wenatchee Lake State Park.  We had some snacking in the back of the van with the tailgate open, including some of our recently acquired apples, chips, milk, bread, and licorice, and then set out for a little walk in the forest around the campground where we were parked.

Within just a few minutes we discovered a very large rock that the kids wanted to climb.  I worry entirely too much, as I expect many parents do, and cautioned them many times to be careful.  Of course I was the one that ended up getting hurt.  I took a few pictures of the kids up on top of the rock, then climbed up myself to join them.  The top had a few crevices, and my foot got caught in one for a moment and I lost my balance.  Thinking I was about to fall, and in an effort not to take my youngest son, whose hand I was holding to steady him, with me, nor to drop my dad’s camera he had lent us, I ended up twisting my ankle and limping about somewhat painfully for the next few days.  I was sad to cut the excursion short, because the kids were having a great time, but we had to head (slowly) back to the van and from there back to the lodge.

The wedding had ended and foodstuffs were now being enjoyed.  The kids went in with their mother, and got to play with their cousins, who had also made the trip up from Utah, while I sat in the car, relaxing and playing on my phone.  My wife brought out one of her friends to meet me and chat for a while, and eventually we packed everyone back into the van and headed back to Wenatchee.

The kids were dying to swim, and I hoped the hot tub would alleviate some of the pain in my ankle, so we spent some time at the hotel pool.  Our family loves to go swimming, so we had a good time.  Afterward, we still needed some dinner and ended up at Jack in the Box.  The last time we had eaten at a JitB was on our California trip, which the kids didn’t remember, and I only remembered because of the chocolate milk that got spilled all over on that occasion.  The children ordered breakfast items for dinner (well, the older two did; the youngest got chicken strips, of course) and raved about how wonderful it was and how we needed to eat there every day now.  I got a chicken and rice bowl.  When we ordered, one of the workers heard me and came up to the person taking our order and said, “No chicken bowls after 10!”  It was 8:45.  Must have been a long shift.

After dinner it was back to the hotel for bed.  The kids asked for a little more cartoon watching, but Cartoon Network isn’t exactly kid-friendly at that hour.

Sunday, September 28

Sunday morning we left Wenatchee and headed for Seattle.  We had a nice drive through some more beautiful country.  We met up with an old friend of my wife’s and spent most of the day walking (and me limping) around a few blocks of the city.

After finding a parking place, the first stop was a small coffee shop for one of the boys to use the bathroom.  Then we headed up to Pike Place, where we wandered a bit through the various fruit stands, taking pictures and buying a small carton of golden raspberries, which I’d never seen before and were very good.  My daughter loves raspberries almost as much as, or possibly more than, me, and ate the majority of them.  We had lunch at a little place called Three Girls Bakery, where the sandwiches were quite delicious.  I had a turkey cranberry sandwich on some sort of heavenly wheat bread.  I’m not sure what the others had because I was so focused on myself and my yummy sandwich.  Actually, our daughter had tuna, the older son had ham and cheese, and the younger son had chips and then fell asleep on my lap.

After lunch we wandered more around Pike Place, including seeing some fish throwing and visiting a small shop that sold mostly small wind-up toys.  There was also a quilting shop, outside of which sat a folding chair with a sign taped to it, declaring something along the lines of “Seat for bored husbands or other disinterested family members.”  Should have gotten a picture of that one.  We then stopped in a chocolate shop, one of which apparently is also in Provo, Utah, for some treats.  The kids tried some candied apples while I had some rocky road ice cream.  I’m convinced I got the better treat.

After some more wandering, we stopped at the same coffee shop as earlier for another bathroom stop, and the kids got some hot chocolate.  There the following conversation took place:

Older son: “Dad, what if people think we’re drinking coffee?  That would be crazy.”

Me: “You’re kids.  I think they’ll know you’re drinking hot chocolate.”

Him: “But what if they think we’re tiny grown-ups?”

Me: “That’s a different problem, I guess.”

After the kids finished their hot chocolate we headed back to the van, where we said our goodbyes to my wife’s friend.  We then drove to Tacoma, stopping on the way to eat at Jack in the Box again for dinner, but this time without the breakfast items.  After dinner we drove the rest of the way to Tacoma and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express.  It was definitely the nicest room overall, for the mere fact that it had a pull-out sofa bed, so for one night we didn’t have to cram all three kids into one bed.

Monday, September 29

Monday morning began very dramatically.  We got up early so that we could try and make the ferry to Vashon Island, where my wife spent some years of her childhood.  I loaded up the van while the rest of the family went down to the breakfast area of the hotel for a quick bite.  Our daughter had a minor meltdown that lasted for a good portion of the morning because she forgot her pear from Wenatchee in the hotel room fridge.  We had already checked out and were running late for the ferry, so we left the pear, much (much) to her chagrin.

We missed the ferry by a few minutes, and tensions built as my wife was now unhappy.  We decided to just wait for the next one, which was due in an hour or so, and so wandered through a nearby park.  There were ducks swimming to look at (but not feed, by threat of fine, apparently) and some botanical gardens.  We spent too long taking pictures of flowers and so missed the next ferry as well.

By this time it was too late to wait for another ferry and still make our lunch appointment with another friend of my wife’s, so we just drove around, killing time for a bit.  We arrived at the restaurant where we were to eat a little early (and it was in the same parking lot as the Jack in the Box we’d eaten at the night before), so we took the kids into a nearby GameStop to keep them entertained for a few minutes.  We walked out 20 minutes later with Pokemon cards and mystery Mario and Link figures.  (The Mario series figure turned out to be Donkey Kong.)

Lunch was at a place called Round Table Pizza, which is apparently a chain, as we saw a few others on the drive, though I’m not sure if it was a local chain or not (and I’m too lazy to look it up).  It’s a buffet-style place with a pizza bar and salad bar.  I settled on just salad, while the kids enjoyed both.  After lunch we got back on the road, heading for Portland for yet another friend meet-up.  We stopped for gas somewhere along the way.

Upon arrival in Portland our first stop was Voodoo Doughnuts, which is apparently famous, I guess.  We met my wife’s next friend there and enjoyed some baked goods.  Being a man of simple taste, I got a plain maple bar.  The two older kids decided that a doughnut with bubble gum flavored frosting was the way to go, while the youngest wanted a chocolate frosted one.  The doughnuts were all a good deal larger than the ones we normally get at the grocery store, and my young son stared wide-eyed at his when he got it, exclaiming happily, “Is all that for me?!”

After doughnuts we visited Powell’s City of Books in downtown Portland, which is a very large, very cool bookstore.  I would have had more fun, but I was feeling very grumpy from my ankle still hurting and so the wonder was a bit lost on me.  I’d like to go back another time.  We then had dinner at Noodles & Company and tried to find our way back to the freeway (which took a while).  We ended up staying the night in Salem at the La Quinta Inn.

Tuesday, September 30

The wife and kids grabbed some breakfast in the hotel and we packed up our things and headed out.  We decided to head for the ocean so the kids could see it; the last time was when all but the oldest were too young to remember.  Our other objective for the day was to see a covered bridge, of which there are apparently many in Oregon.

We stopped at an A&W restaurant south of Albany, just off of I-5, for lunch.  It’s hard to beat their root beer.  After food we headed west until we hit Corvallis, then turned south for a ways until turning west on state road 126 toward Florence.  We queried Google Maps for the nearest covered bridge, and it told us there was one about a mile off of 126.  When we reached the turn-off point, we were greeted first by a sign that said, “Gate 1000 ft.”  After reaching the gate another sign declared, “End county maintenance.”  That sounded ominous.

We found ourselves on a narrow dirt road that we followed for a little more than a mile with no sign of the bridge.  As we drove a bit farther we saw a pickup truck coming from the other direction.  We waved the driver down and met an older couple with a dog.  We asked if we were anywhere near this supposed covered bridge, and the man said that it was another mile or so down the small road, where we then had to drive through it and end up back on 126.  We thanked the couple and kept driving, and sure enough, we made it to the bridge, which went over the Siuslaw River.  It seemed where we stopped was a day-use recreational area, so we let the kids out of the car for a bit and they had a great time on the river back running around and throwing rocks in the water.

The older couple showed up again and started chatting with us, telling us that the small road we had driven on was part of the old stage coach road, and a little about the surrounding geography.  Eventually we got the kids back in the car and started west again.  We drove through the covered bridge and wouldn’t you know it, it was literally right off the main road.  Google had led us the unnecessarily long way around, but at least we got some nice scenery and conversation and river play out of it.

Speaking of scenery, it was gorgeous all along the main road.  There were many, many green trees, which delighted my wife to no end.

When we arrived in Florence we stopped at an auto parts store for some glass wipes to clean the inside of the van windows.  We were mistakenly sold standard cleaning wipes instead, which needless to say, do not work well on glass.  There was a Fred Meyer in the same parking lot and we stopped in there for a minute to get some actual glass wipes, plus another jug of water.  We then stopped for gas, where I learned that you do not get to pump your own gas in Oregon (or New Jersey, apparently).

We headed north up highway 101, having earlier hoped to stop at the Sea Lion Caves, but by this time they were almost closed, so we opted just for a beach visit.  We found a wonderful little beach just a bit north of the Sea Lion Caves, right before the Heceta Head Lighthouse.  The kids were delighted to get out and play in the sand and shallow surf, and explore the small caves.  I found it quite peaceful, staring out into the ocean and watching the waves crash against the rocks as the sun was coming down.  As the tide was coming in, we didn’t get to stay as long as the kids would have liked, but they still had a lot of fun.  We also got a lot of sand on us, and so it was lucky I had bought the water jug earlier so we could use it so clean our hands and feet somewhat.

Once the sun was almost down we began our trip back east, intending to stay in Eugene for the night.  When we eventually got there it was quite late for anything decent to be open, food-wise, so we stopped at a Carl’s Jr. to get some food for the kids and then went on to a hotel, with my intent being to hopefully find us parents some better food after settling in.  We stayed at another La Quinta Inn, and after getting everyone into the room queried Google for some decent food that would be available so late in the evening.  Alas, all I could locate was a Subway.

It was easy enough to find the Subway, following Google Maps, but due to the many one-way streets I got quite turned around on the way back to the hotel, including missing the turn to the road the hotel was on, which required taking another five or ten minute detour to get back to where I was.  I grew quite frustrated and even accidentally ran a red light when turning left.  Finally I made it back, we had our sandwiches, and then went to sleep.

Wednesday, October 1

This was to be our last (very long) day of our trip, as it was our intent to make it all the way back to Utah.  Rather than driving back eastward from Eugene till we got to Idaho and return the way we came up, we opted to drive down to Grant’s Pass, across the bottom of Oregon, and down through Nevada along I-80.  This turned out to be more interesting than we expected.

It took a couple of hours to get to Grant’s Pass, where we stopped for lunch at Dairy Queen.  The older two children got some sort of ice freeze drink with their meals, but the youngest was insistent on a smoothie—that is, of course, until he saw what the others got.  I went up to get him his own, digging through my pocket for change to pay the sales tax on $1.99, when the cashier told me the total was $1.99.  Praise Oregon’s lack of sales tax, at least for that moment.

After lunch we filled up the gas tank and began our journey eastward.  We noted that, at least this year, southern Oregon seemed to be quite a bit dryer than the northern part of the state, and thus “browner,” which is to say much greener than Utah.  We eventually stopped at a gas station for a bathroom break and to get some water bottles for everyone.  My wife and I each independently noticed that the gas tank was about half full, and thought maybe it should be filled, but there would be another place to fill up soon enough.  We neglected to mention our thoughts to the other, and regretted it later, but had we filled up then, we wouldn’t have had our next experience, which was almost running out of gas in the middle of nowhere.

As we travelled east, Oregon began to look more and more like Nevada.  We stopped a couple of times to take pictures of the sun setting in the vaguely mountainous desert, because it was pretty. The fuel gauge was starting to get pretty low, but signs assured us that a town called Denio was close enough to make it to without running out of gas.

We reached Denio to discover that it was devoid of gas and we were definitely not going to make it 80 more miles to Winnemucca.  Our phones’ data coverage was pretty spotty, so I ended up calling 911 and spoke to the County Sheriff’s Department, asking where the nearest gas was.  We were informed that Winnemucca was the closest.  Of course I had gone about five miles in the other direction of Winnemucca to get to Denio in the first place, so there was that plus 5 miles back that I had wasted.

I decided to drive as easily as I could, hoping to get as close to a gas station as possible before being required to walk, and hoping that any gas station I walked to was open so I could buy a gas can in which to store the gas.  The other option as presented by the Sheriff’s Department was to call a towing service and request they bring some gas out, which would probably be not cheap.  I started driving 55 mph, hoping to make the fuel last as long as possible.  Further querying of Google indicated that there was a gas station about 75 miles from our current position.

We crept along for what felt like forever, and about 15 miles before we were supposed to hit the alleged gas station the fuel warning light came on.  I figured we had another couple of miles and then I would be walking at least part of the way.  But lo and behold, we made it to the station with 0.3 gallons to spare.  I pulled up to the pump, shut off the car, and got out, only to be dismayed at the sign: pump shut off.  I checked the next nearest and it, too, said it was shut off.  Losing hope, I walked over to the next one.  No sign!  Getting back into the car, I turned the key, hoping there was enough gas left to drive over to the next pump.  There was.

We paid $3.99/gallon, then continued on our way.  About 20 minutes later we pulled into Winnemucca, where there were of course more gas stations, and of course they were charging $0.60 less per gallon.  But I digress.  It was late enough by this point that there were very few food options left to us.  We stopped at a travel stop for bathroom breaks and to decide on food.  We ended up at… Jack in the Box.  The kids settled in for food and a last movie on the van DVD player before we told them to go to sleep.  I also slept after eating for an hour or two, until waking up some time before reaching Wendover.

We stopped for gas in Wendover, having learned not to leave that sort of thing to chance, and then I took over for the remaining drive home.  We finally got back home just before 6 a.m.  Luckily the kids were still tired, having only slept a couple of hours, so we got them into bed, carried the luggage into the house, and dropped into bed ourselves.  Thus ended our family vacation.

 

Yet another really silly blast from the past

I just found this gem on my hard drive.

twelve fluid ounces 2

been away so long
missed you while I was gone
so dark so liquidy so sweet
so really very very neat
when I can’t sleep at night
I know the next day you can make me all right
caffeine my friend my lovely companion
you’re better looking than the grand Grand Canyon
dark and moist
the only choice
juicy and Peppery and yummy
feels so good inside my tummy
maroon can with a new wide opening to make taste satisfaction even better
can’t get any wetter
all that is good
it’s only Pepper in my neighborhood
twelve will live forever
what a wonderful endeavor
we love your ouncy fun

So that makes a series of twelve fluid ounces 2, twelve fluid ounces (spidey remix), twelve fluid ounces (special haiku remix), twelve fluid ounces (alternative dark), and the spin-off a change in seasons of my life.  I wonder if I will ever find the original twelve fluid ounces.

Another really silly blast from the past

When I found some old poems I wrote for a BYU French class I also found printouts of silly soda-related writings I sometimes did back when I worked with my cousin doing customer support for a smallish company.  I posted one of them a few years ago here.  Here is the other:

twelve fluid ounces (spidey remix)

twelve fluid ounces
you’ve always been my friend
even past the expiration date tattooed on your end
now in recent months I see
you have pictures on your face
pictures of Spidey
he’s in so many poses: swinging, hanging upside down
crouching, crawling all over the town
so I build a house from you, twelve fluid, a house for the homies
even though some people made fun of you and called you bologna
it has a dance room and a make-out closet and even a big screen TV
even if the TV is invisible and maybe imaginary
then the spidey phase passed
but I still drank you up
I poured you in a red plastic cup
sometimes ice, sometimes no ice
whichever way I go, you still taste nice
and then came a glorious Pepper day
you have rogue on your can
yippee hooray!
some of the spidey house had to come down
but a hot girl took his place so I sure didn’t frown
we moved the make-out closet to rogue’s wing
so the homies can go there and do their thing
twelve fluid ounces you really are my life-long friend
I hope that our friendship will never end
if it does I’ll kick your scrawny little Pepper butt

The backstory, if it isn’t clear from the masterful prose, is that we built a “house” in our cubicle space out of empty soda cans that had Spider-Man on them.  These were, I assume, promotional tie-ins to the movie Spider-Man.  Then when X2 came out we replaced part of the house with new X-Men cans, specifically those featuring Anna Paquin’s Rogue, because she is hot.  I still haven’t had to kick Pepper’s butt, which is good.

“Twelve fluid ounces” is also the title of a couple of my haiku: twelve fluid ounces (special haiku remix) and twelve fluid ounces (alternative dark).

Las Vegas Trip

On Monday, October 24, 2011, I took my first ever trip to Las Vegas, for a reason no less noble than to see Paul Simon in concert again.  (I have actually been to Vegas once before that I can remember–on our honeymoon we were passing through and stopped to go to church.  I’ve probably passed through on family car trips when I was younger also, but this seems to be the first time that counts, as it were.)

My dad helped us out a ton with various projects in our house over the year (mostly the bathroom), and we felt like we should do something nice for him, so for his birthday we bought him a ticket to the Simon concert in Las Vegas.  Of course, I couldn’t let him go alone, so I bought a ticket for myself also, for purely unselfish reasons.

Monday, October 24

We got in the car and left around noon, driving south.  We stopped at Quizno’s in Nephi for some food, a few times for gas, and eventually reached LV without incident.  We checked in to our hotel (the Paris) and then walked over to Caesar’s Palace for the concert.  Our seats were next to an older couple.  It turns out that the man’s brother was a teacher at the school in the small Alaskan village where my dad lived and went to school, and they had a grand old time talking about that before the show.  The woman assumed that due to my relatively young age I would probably being hearing some older songs that I didn’t know.  Har har.

The setlist was similar to the previous concert I attended in April; this time he added Graceland, Mother and Child Reunion, Cecilia, Still Crazy After All These Years, and Pretty Thing, while omitting The Afterlife and Father and Daughter.  The setlist was as follows:

  1. The Boy in the Bubble
  2. Dazzling Blue
  3. 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
  4. So Beautiful or So What
  5. Mother and Child Reunion
  6. That Was Your Mother
  7. Hearts and Bones
  8. Mystery Train
  9. Wheels
  10. Slip Sliding Away
  11. Rewrite
  12. Peace Like a River
  13. The Obvious Child
  14. The Only Living Boy in New York
  15. Cecilia
  16. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
  17. Gumboots
  18. The Sound of Silence
  19. Kodachrome
  20. Gone at Last
  21. Here Comes the Sun
  22. Crazy Love, Vol. II
  23. Late in the Evening
  24. Graceland
  25. Pretty Thing
  26. Still Crazy After All These Years

Cecilia was an audience request, and the performance was nice, but apparently it was substituted for My Little Town, which I think I would have liked to hear more.  I loved hearing Dazzling Blue again, as it has become one of my favorite songs from his new album.  So Beautiful or So What has also grown on me quite a bit.  Hearts and Bones and The Only Living Boy in New York are, as always, some of my absolute favorite songs.  I paid more attention during Here Comes the Sun this time, and I was struck by how beautiful the accordion part was.  One other interesting thing I noticed is that during one of the choruses of The Boy in the Bubble the words “arrogance and ignorance” were substituted for “miracle and wonder.”

Really, I can’t think of a bad moment from the concert at all, except that it was too short.  I would have liked to hear a few classics such as The Boxer and America, and (one can dream) Kathy’s Song.  I hope that Paul has another tour or two in him because I would love to go again.

After the concert we walked around the strip for a couple of hours, since I had never seen all the lights and hotels.  It was cool to see one time, and maybe go back and see again someday.  I was wearing one of my Superman shirts and there were some girls dressed as Supergirl and Wonder Woman who asked me for a picture with them.  I had to decline, because really?  Another guy asked me why I wasn’t using my super powers to rid the streets of smut, to which I could only reply it was my night off.  We found an open restaurant and had some (crappy) food, then headed back to our hotel for bed.

Tuesday, October 25

The next day we checked out of the hotel and stopped in one of the shops for some French pastries, which were pretty tasty, but not quite like I remember from France.  Then we headed over to Fry’s Electronics, which we don’t have in Utah and which I wish we did.

We then headed to visit a potential client (call it a business trip FTW) and on the way the clutch in my car stopped working.  I was sad because I had just had it worked on a couple of weeks before.  Luckily it turned out that the fluid was just drained, which means I have a slow leak somewhere, but at least we were able to put in some new fluid and keep driving.

After the client visit, we headed back to the strip to go on the roller coaster at the New York New York hotel.  It was great the first time (in the front car) and not so great the second time (in the second car).  You wouldn’t think there would be that much of a different between two adjacent rows, but man alive were we thrown around in that second row.  I also got a picture with someone dressed as Mario, which delighted my children.

For dinner we decided on the French restaurant attached to the Paris hotel, and boy was it the best food I have had in a long, long time.  I had some yummy escargot as an appetizer, and got my dad to try one.  The steak was one of the best I have ever had, and the french fries and green beans were the best, bar none.  So, so, good.

After dinner we drove back home, where we arrived sometime after midnight.  All in all, it was a great trip.

 

California Trip the Second

About two months ago Paul Simon’s new album came out. It is spectacular. One night, a few days after I got it from Amazon, I was listening to it at home and apparently appeared bummed out that Paul would not be coming anywhere local on his tour. Having already seen him in concert twice, I was in fact bummed but resigned that I wasn’t going to see him this time and that was that.

My wife, bless her, had other plans.

I was putting Oliver to bed a couple of nights later and he was giving me extra trouble and I was a bit crankier than usual. Once he was finally asleep, I went back upstairs, where I was greeted with a backpack and the question was it packed well enough for Leslie’s friend, our neighbor, to take with her to the hospital once she had her baby, which was due rather soon. Perplexed (read: annoyed), and thinking she’s had two kids already, she can pack her own bag, I’m certain of it, I attempted to brush the matter aside, but Leslie insisted I check the bag anyway. What was inside was not fit for a hospital trip at all, but rather a note that said, “Pack what you need to visit [your sister] in this bag.” My wife and her cohorts apparently love me far more than I deserve, and had arranged for me to fly to San Francisco the next week, stay with my sister, and see Paul Simon in concert there.

Because I wouldn’t be me if it wasn’t said, “arranged” means that I still paid for it, I just didn’t type in the purchase information for the airline or concert tickets.

So, here is an account of my trip.

Monday, April 25

I slept too little the previous night, and was tired most of the day.  The family dropped me off at the airport, and there was much tears-shedding by the children, who professed that they could not, at the last moment, let me go.  After several failed attempts to calm them, I was forced to walk away from the crying to get to the plane.  My consolation was that I wouldn’t actually have to hear any other crying for two more days, huzzah!

It had just shy of ten years since I had been on an airplane, a few months before 9/11, and thus all the new-fangled security was new to me.  I printed my boarding pass at the check-in counter and was off on my way to stand in the security line.  I navigated it without too much trouble, as I can read signs and follow directions.  I was one of the last passengers to board the plane, and got the last remaining overhead bin space and a seat in the very back row.  A few people came on after me and since there was no bin space a bag or two was stuffed behind my seat.

The initial flight was to Las Vegas, and I finally got around to reading I Shall Wear Midnight, which I borrowed from Ben too long ago.  I started on the first flight, and passed it and the other flights reading, accompanied by my box of Junior Mints.  Upon landing in Las Vegas, I was amused to be greeted by slot machines immediately upon deboarding the plane.  Nevada was not about to let me forget that I was, in fact, in Nevada.

My connecting flight to San Francisco was delayed, so I wandered the airport a bit, debated whether to pay for overpriced airport food (spoiler: I didn’t), and read some more.  Eventually I got on the next plane and landed in San Francisco, where I was picked up by my recently-wed sister Cherish.

She took me first to the tanning salon she owns, giving me the grand tour that I did not get the last (cursed) time I was in the city, then back to her apartment, where we met her husband Joey and unloaded my things.  We hung around the apartment for a bit, chatting and deciding where to eat dinner before the concert.  I (reluctantly?) handed over the money for my ticket, Cherish having paid for them up front.  We ended up at a fancy Asian place with fancy Asian food, which was yummy, and fancy.  I had a lemonade that at first I feared might be alcoholic, but it was not the case.

After dinner Joey dropped us off at the Davies Symphony Hall, where the San Francisco Symphony plays and the ushers are tuxedoed and stuffy (at least in view of a concert).  We laughed as we observed several people being told not to drape their jackets on the rails in front of their seats, for example, in case, I don’t know, the paint job couldn’t take it?  I decided to hand over too much money for a concert t-shirt, and then we settled in to enjoy the show, which was very nearly fantastic.

(I say very nearly because the show was cut short a couple of songs due to what Paul described as having only about two-thirds of a voice that night.  He sounded great to me.)

The setlist was as follows:

  1. Crazy Love, Vol. II
  2. Dazzling Blue
  3. 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
  4. So Beautiful or So What
  5. Slip Sliding Away
  6. That Was Your Mother
  7. Hearts and Bones
  8. Mystery Train (a Little Junior’s Blue Flames cover)
  9. Wheels (a Chet Atkins cover)
  10. The Afterlife
  11. Rewrite
  12. Peace Like a River
  13. The Obvious Child
  14. The Only Living Boy in New York
  15. The Boy in the Bubble
  16. Father and Daughter
  17. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
  18. Gumboots
  19. The Sound of Silence
  20. Kodachrome
  21. Gone at Last
  22. Here Comes the Sun (a Beatles cover)
  23. Late in the Evening

It’s very hard to pick stand-out moments, because everything was made of awesome, but my personal favorites were Crazy Love, Vol. II; Hearts and Bones; Rewrite; Peace Like a River; The Obvious Child; The Only Living Boy in New York; Father and Daughter; Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes; and The Sound of Silence.

I had never heard Crazy Love live before, and it was a treat.  It’s long been one of the songs that I just like for some reason, and the subtle changes in the live performance compared to the album recording were great.  I love how Paul changes the way his songs are performed every now and again, e.g. the wildly varying live renditions of Kodachrome.

Hearts and Bones is among my top favorite Simon songs ever, and so I was very glad to hear it live.

Rewrite, along with Dazzling Blue, are my two favorite songs off the new album, and I was very much looking forward to hearing especially the former.

Peace Like a River is another song that has long been one of my favorites (of course, realistically I could say that about many, many Simon songs), and the piano part toward the end was nice.

The Obvious Child is another one that I enjoy.  I include it in my list here because of the drums at the end.  The audience would start to clap at the end of each set of drumming, thinking the song was over, only to be greeted by more drumming.  Having heard a live version from The Concert in the Park a million or so times, I was prepared for this, and so knew it wasn’t over, and I giggled at the audience.  Because I giggle.

The Only Living Boy in New York is a strong contender for my absolute favorite Paul Simon song, and as it began to be played I felt a ridiculously big grin spread across my face.

Father and Daughter is a special song because it sums up how I feel about my own daughter (except for the part about a golden retriever).  I love to sing this one to my daughter and (I think) she loves when I do.

Diamonds is another song I really love, and it’s one that my kids are very familiar with, as it’s one I’ve sung to them often while rocking them to sleep as infants (they’ve got to start life out right, right?).  During the first verse Paul messed up the lyrics and then stopped the song.  He then proceeded to say, amusedly, how the spotlights flashing across the audience were making him laugh and he was having trouble concentrating on the song.  He asked that they be turned off and then said, “Okay, from the top,” and immediately the band perfectly restarted the opening.  It was one of those moments, you know?  It was also during this song that everyone on the floor decided to stand up and dance, converging on the stage as best they could.

The Sound of Silence was the first song of the first encore, and it was just Paul and his guitar, and simply beautiful to hear.  It seemed like he played each verse in a slightly different style, and of course gave the whole song a little change-up to make it unlike any version I had heard before.  To think that the song was written 47 years ago and is still so wonderful is amazing.

After the concert the we stepped into the hallways to hang out for all of three minutes before the snooty ushers scooted us out of the building.  Joey came to pick us up and we headed back to their apartment for some late-night snacking and Netflix viewing.  We ended up watching a Grown-Ups, which I had not seen based upon my general loss-of-interest for Adam Sandler films post-50 First Dates, but which I was assured was hilarious.  While not as hilarious as I was led to believe, it was also not terrible, and I did laugh, but was also sad to think that Chris Farley would have been in the Kevin James role had he still been alive today.

My sister kept mentioning that the Kinnect being constantly on creeped her out, which I thought was funny, because I’m a jerk.  After the movie it was bed time.

Tuesday, April 26

The next morning I was greeted by sounds of across-the-street construction at what was probably far-too-early an hour, but I was helped in small fashion by way of being one time zone behind, causing my body to rebel slightly less at being accosted by the sun at such an hour.  After a breakfast of weird organic yogurt, granola, and berries, Cherish and I got a latish start toward our destination of the day: Six Flags something-or-other.  First we drove a little farther to the Jelly Belly Factory for to acquire many bags of Belly Flops to take back home to the family.

After the JBF, we headed across the freeway to the mall, where there was a Chick-Fil-A, which serves the most delicious chicken nuggets in existence, so of course we had to eat them.  Chick-Fil-A is also the home of the most awesome ketchup packet/dipping containers known to man, so there’s that.

We enjoyed our satisfying lunch on the short drive back to the Six Flags SOO, where the walk from the parking spot to the front gate was quite longer than it looked.  The day was about as perfect as any I could have asked for–sunny, but not too hot, and very few people at the park, so the lines were very short.  The longest we waited in line for any ride was about five minutes, and that was in the line for the front seat.  (The one exception was for a ride whose line was strangely long, as the ride itself was fun, but not as good as any of the others.)  We spent the day riding roller coasters and other rides, with me screaming delightedly like a little girl.  We also watched part of the killer whale show, saw some dolphins and tigers, ate kettle corn and cotton candy (mmmm…. cotton candy).  One of the rides was too intense for Cherish to go on more than once, so of course I rode it a few more times, ultimately in the front seat, which is the only way to ride a roller coaster, really.

During the prep for that final ride, the operator asked over the microphone if we were excited.  I shouted back, “Yes!” and then he asked me my name.  I told him and he went off into this spiel about the prophecy of Steve riding the ride in the year of 2011 and it was very amusing and weird and then suddenly the ride started and we shot into the sky and fell back down again and it was blurry and crazy and awesome.

A few weeks before my trip, some of my family had gone out to visit Cherish and had procured season passes to the park, because buying some certain number ended up being the same price as a single day’s admission.  My dad let me use his pass, so I got in free, but I made up for it by spending moneys at the gift shops.  I also took pictures with the life-size Batman and Superman statues, as well as some with Daffy Duck and Marvin the Martian.

After the park closed, we walked the long walk back to the car, and then headed to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner.  Apparently we have one here in Utah, up in Salt Lake, but I had never been, and was excited at the prospect of yummy food and cheesecake.  I had delicious pork chops sided with rice and yummy, but entirely too much, spinach.  After dinner I had trouble selecting a cheesecake flavor, and finally settled on Mango Lime.  It was quite good.

After dinner we headed back to Cherish’s place and, upon discovering she had never seen Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, I insisted with much insistence that we watch it immediately.  Its profound wonderousness was, thankfully, not lost on Cherish, and another convert was made.  Nathan Fillion and cheesecake is also a good combination.

Wednesday, April 27

My final morning of being away arrived, and I took several pictures of the city from the roof of the apartment building, which afforded spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the bay, and other parts of the city.  We went down to Pier 39 to see the sea lions, take more pictures, and walk through some touristy stuff.  Then we drove up nearer the Golden Gate Bridge to take some more pictures, and then ventured off to the Presidio Park to find the Star Wars statues that apparently litter the Lucasfilm campus.  We only found the Yoda fountain before it was time to head to the airport, and took some pictures of and with it.

Cherish dropped me at the airport where I boarded a plane which landed in Las Vegas, sat for a while, and then continued on to Salt Lake.  My family greeted me at the airport and then we headed to Carl’s Jr. for the kids, while Leslie and I got some Cafe Rio from across the parking lot.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a real trip without some sort of child-poop-thing, so of course Oliver filled his diaper rather fully with us somehow not having any wipes.  We found a nearby grocery store, bought a small pack of Huggies wipes (because yes, we are brand snobs, even in these situations) and then I had to run across the parking lot to an Arctic circle to find bathroom to wash my hands so I could eat my burrito.

Overall, I no longer despise the city of San Francisco, and would even visit there again, assuming that Paul Simon and Six Flags were involved.