Tag Archives: travel

Close but no guitar

Just got in from Nashville. Music City. Capital of Tennessee. Home of the Predators (now that I’m a hackey mam I know this), the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

I hadn’t been to the “Athens of the South” since 1990, when I attended a conference at the Opryland hotel. I didn’t see a thing then and didn’t see a thing today. Correction: I saw meeting rooms both times.

Nashville is on my husband’s bucket list. He wants to see the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. I’ve been walking the floor over someone wanting to go such a long way to buy records. Tripadvisor lists 113 things to see and do there–including the record shop.

Today I was within arm’s reach of Music Row; I passed the sign on my way to the airport. As with Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo, I took a mental picture at 35 miles per hour.

Finally, this afternoon I managed to hear some budding country artists as they strummed and sang and sought to make it big—from the C concourse at Nashville International. I imagined Ernest Tubb getting his start right there across from Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.

So, I bring you no good stories from Nashville today–though I do have one from 1990. As I was riding to the Opryland with a colleague from Brooklyn, New York, she recounted how she had called the hotel the day before. She asked the operator, “Do you have a gym there?” The operator said, “Honey, we have thirty-five hundred people in this hotel. You’re gonna have to give me a last name.”

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Filed under Music, Travel

Change of address

When my son was six, he lost a tooth on Christmas Eve.

What are the chances that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy would visit on the same night? Pretty slim, feared my son. The problem? We were 2,500 miles from home.

Suddenly the idea that the Tooth Fairy wouldn’t be able to find him was troubling. This fueled further doubt that Santa himself would be able to find us in Arizona. My child slept anxiously that night, but awoke to abundant reward.

As my son wondered how both Santa and the Fairy were able to find us in a nondescript condo we had rented for the week, I offered a plausible theory:  Mr. Claus and Ms. Fairy had both gone to our house in Maryland to find no one there. Santa had a full bag and the fairy had some heavy coins to leave, but they wouldn’t dream of making their drops in an empty house.

The two teamed up and searched for clues as to where Joseph might be. They noticed three suitcases were missing, and very little food in the refrigerator, and no cookies left out on a plate. Just then they happened upon a copy of our itinerary. When no hotel was listed, they followed clues–souvenir coffee mugs and refrigerator magnets to home in on the city and state, perhaps a return address label from a Christmas card–to Joe’s grandmother’s condo, right next door to where we were staying. Bingo, working as a dynamic duo, they solved the mystery and deposited the treasure.

We returned to Arizona 15 months later. Just before leaving for the airport, as my husband and I checked to be sure the stove was off and all the doors and windows were locked, I found a small piece of blue notepaper, marked in my son’s printing:

Dear Easter Bunny,

We are at the Hilton East in Tucson.

Love,
Joseph

It’s almost Easter; does the bunny know where you are?

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Filed under Family and Friends, Holidays

Ashes, ashes

I started today a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to attend Ash Wednesday services at our church. I had a plane to catch, so it just wasn’t possible.

As for many Christians, Ash Wednesday serves as a definitive and dramatic crossover into the contemplative season of Lent. The hour-long service at our church bathes me in an almost magical blend of prayer, music and liturgy that sends me back out into the world calm and unhurried and inspired for the next 40 days.

Before heading to the airport this morning,  I went online and tried to find an Ash Wednesday service—of any denomination—in my destination city. As best I could see, none of the churches in the area had services posted. I had no time to call any of them, so I acknowledged sadly that I’d have to sit it out this year.

Just after clearing security at National Airport’s Delta terminal at 10:55 a.m., an announcement sounded over the intercom that there would be an Ash Wednesday service in the airport chapel beginning at 11:00.

I didn’t have to board my flight until 11:25, so I exited the secure area and hightailed it to the chapel, tucked behind Dunkin’ Donuts.

I was the second worshiper to arrive and the only passenger; the rest of the 14-member congregation were airport employees and crew members.

Granted, it wasn’t the hour at St. Alban’s I had hoped for. Still, we recited Psalm 51, read two verses from Hebrews, heard a bit of Mark’s Gospel and sang along to a boom box blasting out “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.” A swift imposition of ashes, and we were out in under 15 minutes. I went back through security, where the TSA agent spotted my ashes, scanned my ID and remarked how fitting that my name is Monica Bernadette. I was at the gate five minutes before boarding.

No, it wasn’t the hour of contemplative prayer and soothing Taizé music I might have enjoyed at my home church. But considering I had already written it off, the Ash-n-Dash was an unexpected blessing.

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Filed under Holidays, Travel

Tools of the trade

A friend of mine—a Renaissance man of sorts—writes a blog about fishing.

His latest post, entitled “The Right Stuff,” examines the equipment people need for their various hobbies and professions. Also a musician, this man likened fishing rods to guitars, as far as the selection of equipment based on one’s goals and skill levels goes.

While I know as little about casting a rod and reel as I do about playing the guitar, I found his post thought provoking. He discusses why a beginner shouldn’t begin with the most advanced—and often, most expensive—equipment and what considerations go into proper selection.

I know a fair number of golfers and have overheard my share of debate over the need for expensive equipment. My husband, a marathon runner, spends what he considers a lot of money to buy shoes and enter races and participate in running clubs. A cyclist friend pours his spare change into bikes and flying to Hawaii to watch the Ironman triathlon up close.

My friend’s blog got me thinking about my own hobbies.

In 1977 I got into crocheting. I spent about half of the $2.35 an hour I earned at the yarn store on acrylic yarn. Once I spent an exorbitant sum of $6.99 on a complete set of crochet hooks, which I still have but no longer use.

That’s it. Except for a couple of style guides, I don’t spend anything on my hobby. Perhaps it shows.

I suppose I could take up more hobbies, and then I could blog about those. Golf is out, as plaid does not become me. We’ve already established I lack musical and athletic talent, so neither a violin nor a tennis racket is an option.

I don’t care much for stamp collecting (sorry, Dad) or bird watching or scrapbooking.

As I look back on some of my most popular blog posts, I notice (and WordPress confirms) that the best stories came from travel experiences and mishaps.

Therefore, would it be reasonable to conclude that I’d be a better blogger if I had a bigger travel budget?

As I see it, my choice is either to buy more style guides (and new bookends!) or a plane ticket.

With any luck, things will go terribly wrong.

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Filed under Sports and Recreation, Technology and Social Media, Travel

El camino

Wow. Just wow.

To be bold but unmistakably certain, I tell you that I saw the best movie of my life on Saturday afternoon – The Way.

You know how I get. I experience something great and must shout it to the world. Some say I exaggerate.

The first thing I did when I got home from seeing The Way was to call my mother and order her to grab her purse and head to the theater immediately. I sent enthusiastic text messages to a couple of people.

At a dinner party that night I cornered everyone in the room, one by one, and gushed, imploring friends to go and see it right away.

The same thing at church on Sunday morning. I had heard about the movie from several church friends, so I tried to avoid preaching to the converted.

People first asked what it was about, then urged me to not reveal too much: “What was it about? No, don’t tell me,” was how each exchange typically went.

One person said, “Tell me in just one sentence. No more.” Me, one sentence? Are you kidding?

I hadn’t seen a single preview for The Way before the lights went down, so truly I knew very little. In fact, going back just now and viewing the trailer online, I’d suggest to anyone who hasn’t seen a preview to refrain. Just go.

Also, see The Way with someone if you can. My father had invited me to go with him last weekend and I had to decline. I wish I had gone with him. I’d still have seen it again with Saturday’s companions.

I will tell you I cried many times in two hours, once or twice with sadness but mostly with a full and happy heart.

I won’t tell you what it’s about, or even the premise. I’ll simply tell you what came to light for me, what I observed about life. If you don’t want to know even that much, stop reading here.

  1. The world is a journey on which we encounter those from distant places and differing mindsets, carrying a vast array of burdens, dreams, goals and vulnerabilities. This seems haphazard, but it could not be more deliberate.
  2. As we travel the journey—sometimes walking alone, other times huddled tightly together—we must take turns carrying each other’s baggage, lightening each other’s load.
  3. There are times when we need to rest before the next scheduled stop; other times when we need to feel our momentum and blow right past it.
  4. There will be times when we hurt or disappoint each other; times when we hurt or disappoint ourselves. Times when we surprise each other and ourselves.
  5. Sometimes when it appears we have failed, we have really prevailed.

Buen camino.

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Filed under Movies, Television and Radio

Well connected

This was my first full week at home in a while. In the last month or so, I’ve spent 15 days in airports, some 20 airports in all, counting connections. You might say I’ve been going at terminal velocity.

Or you might say I’ve been on an extended hub crawl. (Okay, I stole that pun from a recent issue of the US Airways in-flight magazine; being that they graciously plugged my blog last year, I owe them attribution.)

This last wave didn’t yield epic tales, as previous trips almost always have. Thankfully, this time I’m left with just a few bits of footage, which remain stored in my mental DVR:

  • There was a medical emergency mid-flight. The crew called for a doctor to tend to an ailing passenger. The woman beside me—who had noticed the clinical trial data I was reviewing in preparation for moderating a medical program—tried  to volunteer me. “Aren’t you a doctor? Can’t you do something?” I wanted to tell her that if a doctor emerged, I’d be happy to introduce him, but that’s all I was qualified to do. Instead, I said nothing.
  • Before an early flight, I watched as a woman poured Starbucks coffee into a child’s sippy cup. I was horrified, but didn’t say anything.
  • One morning I stopped for breakfast at an airport restaurant called Real Food. I ordered a pancake and bacon. When I went to cut into the pancake with a knife and fork, it was so hard that it snapped my fork in two. I couldn’t even get my teeth through the bacon. I was tempted to accuse the manager of serving Pretend Food but instead I threw my breakfast Frisbee in the trash without saying a word.
  • At what I assume was a pet-friendly hotel, I watched a dog drop his business in a carpeted corridor and walk away nonchalantly with its owner. Not a peep out of me.

No, I’m just a frequent flyer who sits quietly in the gate area listening to the Bluetoothed blowhard (there’s one at every gate) loudly putting together the big corporate deal. And I shake my head at the Smartphone Sallies who fight over the last available outlet, scrounging for electricity as if it were crack cocaine.

My personal addiction? Airport jewelry kiosks. This credit card bill’s going to be a doozy. I already know these impulse buys are irresponsible, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t say anything.

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Filed under Travel

Size matters

When the alarm sounded this morning, there were visions of lumens dancing in my head.

It was obvious that I hadn’t adequately cleared my cranium following yesterday’s marathon search for a new portable LCD projector. After hitting six stores, I came home empty-handed and light-headed.

You see, I have immediate need for a teeny-weeny portable projector to show presentations around the country. The most striking lesson I learned is that one man’s portable is another man’s albatross.

1000-lumen bulb

You might already know all this, but here’s what else I’ve learned:

  1. It’s all about the lumens. For the unenlightened, a lumen is a unit of luminous flux, or brightness. The more lumens the better. Any fewer than 1,000 is considered impotent.

  2. The challenge is finding mega lumens in a small package. Two pounds—about eight inches in length—is an ideal size, yet a portable projector must be able to be stored in a small space, and not arouse suspicion at the airport.

  3. They actually make a “pocket projector.” One salesman boasted that, at 50 lumens (pfft!), his packs as much punch as a thousand. Nice try, mister.

  4. There’s a difference between an LCD and a DLP display. Apparently, looking at a DLP can give you a headache of not-tonight-honey proportions.

  5. While I can grasp such measures as resolution, contrast ratio and viewable screen size, I’m puzzled by something called “throw ratio range.” I gather that’s the distance it’ll go when it suffers performance anxiety in front of an audience and I hurl it across the room.

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Filed under Technology and Social Media, Travel