So here I am, sitting in AA's Flagship Lounge in LAX, waiting for a few hours for my red-eye flight to DFW and then home to Lubbock. I promise, one of these days I'll explain these convoluted itineraries, but not now.
Berlin is in the past. I left this morning, after a smoky week, much time with family members, a whole bunch of beers in brewpubs memorable and not, and a wonderful reunion with a person who had a significant impact on my making it to Lubbock 33 years ago.
Visiting family is always emotionally charged and carries the risk of disappointment or worse. We've all been there. Seeing my mother's remaining family members yesterday was certainly not what one would call the highlight of a European vacation. But, of course, these trips are never meant to be a vacation.
I'll most likely be back in May, as far as I can tell. I'll have some business to take care of, and it looks as if I have a few weeks without commitments in my calendar. The weather will be better (maybe!), the days longer, there may be more breathable air because the windows can be opened. Sorry, but I have a very hard time with the thick cloud of cigarette smoke in both my father's and my brother's apartments. Tomorrow, everything will be thrown into the washing machine, and the luggage will air out for a day in the sun. Yes, it's that bad.
Meeting up with my old mentor from the University of Trier was a special treat. We hadn't seen each other since I had left for the US back in 1977, and catching up with him was what I really had been looking forward to. If you get a chance to reconnect with an old friend, better do it. I'm grateful Dennis came up from Jena, where he now lives, even though travel is not his thing.
And now I am still half a continent away from home. I'll spend a week going through mail, trying to tidy up the house, riding the bike and losing maybe a pound or even two of my beer-fat, visiting friends, and planning the upcoming trips and races before I travel to Europe again. Without Judy, the house will continue to be empty, but I am getting slowly used to it. There's some bike club stuff that needs to be taken care of, and the first races of the year are coming up fast so I have to send e-mails and make travel arrangements. Before I know it, I'll leave again and be back. My, what a busy life it is. I promise, one of these days I explain why I don't just stay "over there."
For just the heck of it, here are a few more impressions from Berlin—super cheap restaurant food, the dreary Brandenburg Gate, the mascot that Judy always greeted when she arrived in my dad's neighborhood, and a whiff from the past in the form of wall fragments.