Friday, April 29, 2011

Two days in Hawaii and not bored yet ...

... and that despite the slower pace, the lack of responsibilities, and a general sense of aloha. Forty-eight hours into my stay on the Big Island I can proclaim that I don't come across as a mainland tourist: Jenny and I had a Happy Hour margarita (not the regular lime variety but rather lilikoi, one of those funky tropical fruit, closely related to passion fruit) one finds in these parts in a small place up in Kawaihae. The waitress right off pegged us as locals. Well, that's an easy one for Jenny, whose Indonesian background is easily interpreted as kamaaina, but what about me? The beautifully green-eyed waitress opined that I did not show any stress and seemed to be so relaxed. Well, I told her that I was hanging nine, but that I intended to hang ten by the end of the day. Tourist, after all, I guess.

Lilikoi margarita in Kawaihae
After pleasant flights on Tuesday I arrived an hour late at the open-air Kona airport, and Jenny (who had arrived six hours earlier) was there to pick me up. The "apartment" where we are staying is actually a condo in a gated part of the Waikoloa Beach Resort complex, and it is as big and definitely much nicer than my humble Lubbock abode. Jenny is buds with Bill (aka WEO) who not only owns this condo but has been building a multi-million home just north of  Kawaihae for the past few years. Damn, the infinity pool (see below) is having a leak.

Jenny inspecting the leak of Bill's (background) infinity pool

So far, we've been spending our time riding the bike (moi) and hitting dimpled balls (Jenny). As a golfer, she enjoys being here right on the 15th green, even though the fees are a bit on the steep side—but you do get a break after 2 p.m. when the fee drops from $135 to a mere $85. You cyclists out there, don't you ever bitch again about steep entry fees!

The only sucky thing about the condo is that we don't have a direct view of the ocean. Oh well, I can get over it, but it'll take another 23 minutes. Seriously, this is heaven. I feel like the poor kid on the block among the privileged. We took a walk around the compound yesterday, hitting the beach after a 10-minute stroll. The anchialine pools hold water similar to tide pools, and their colors are totally mesmerizing.

Anchialine tide pool close to the condo
Another few steps, and here we are: The beautiful ocean that brings the occasional tsunami and the migrant whale. Tomorrow we'll dive in the pond. Jenny knows the local dive mistress, Denise, who will take us for a two-tank dive in exchange for serious dollars. The zodiac probably won't allow my taking the camera along, bvut maybe we can mooch a photo of one or the other paying tourist.

Lubbock looks better by the minute, no?
And thus it ends, my first Hawaii update. Stay tuned for another one, maybe with a photo of Happy Hour at Kona Brewing Company. Oops, that was yesterday already, and here's the pic:

Having a beer or five after damn near dying trying to pedal 26 miles—Kona Brewing



Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mystery Airport of the Day sweepstakes

Now, wouldn't that be a cool feature for a blog? The "Mystery Airport"? You guess right, you get a trinket? Get three right in a month, and I'll take you along (you buy your ticket, I use my upgrade stickers to get you to the front)? Get six right in a year, and you get a signed t-shirt. Wow!

So let's get started now!

Today's mystery airport ... get both aircraft right and you'll be entered into the sweepstakes!

You dang cheaters know that I was flying to Hawaii today, and obviously you don't go through St. Louis (bad roof!) or JFK (bad thugs, always), so the right answer is of course: LAX.

My good buddy Carl picked me up this morning with all the crap I am lugging along. I feel like the Crumpets: three full-sized bags, the regular carry-on, and the Patagonia backpack with all the reading materials and electronics. What's up with that, you ask. Easy: #1, the Ritchey; #2 my dive gear; and #3 a few shorts and shirts and four bottles of vino tinto for the savoir vivre. Obviously I know how expensive really decent wine is in HI.

The first two flights (LBB-DFW and DFW-LAX) were rather pleasant—both on time and with fine service. Had an odd dude next to me on the LAX flight; the guy had never been in First and was playing with all the knobs and levers and ports there are in one of these seats. Good thing the flight attendant wasn't close by, what with the knobs and ..... It was bit embarrassing and I tried to keep my headphones on to avoid idle chatter as best as possible, but then he fell asleep after his second Coke. TGM!

The LAX Admirals Club has spiraled precipitously since my last visit. Used to be, you could get three decent draft beers, but now we're down to Gordon Biersch's Hefeweizen. Mind you, that's  not bad, but as the only choice (apart from bottled brews and non-beers such as Bud, Bud Light and MGD (no kidding, MGD!)? In an AC? Lokk at this array:

Admirals Club? WTF! Grrrrrrr.....

So, with alligator—or is it caiman?—tears in my eyes I'll bid you farewell until the next update.


Friday, April 22, 2011

My buddy Keebler

No, I've not become a sudden follower of the merry Nabisco elf—I'm talking about my good buddy Wes, who over the years advcanced from being my neighbor to being one of my closest friends.
When Wes and his wife, Susan, moved in next-door seven or eight years ago (heck, I can't keep timelines straight), they were pudgy West Texas bubbas who thought that Judy and I were nutty folks because we rode our bikes everywhere, recycled, gardened in the buff, and didn't drink Coors Light. What an education those poor guys had to go through! I think the photo explains why my friend Scott nicknamed Wes "Keebler," which stuck.
The Keebler family, a few years back—sis, mom& dad, Susan, and Wes
The male branch of Wes' family has had an ongoing losing feud with heart disease, and after I told him that he "was too young to be so fat" (you know me and my diplomatic language, that's what I said to him, early on); after he and Susan had a beautiful little daughter, Anna; and after recognizing the real risk of croaking prematurely, Wes started to train. We'd ride down to the brewpub, and the few miles damn near killed him, but he stuck it out. Then he and Susan witnessed (as temporary officials) the feats of all those athletes at our local Ironman qualifier, the Buffalo Springs Triathlon, and their fate was sealed: They applied themselves and now here we are, a few years later and 50 pounds lighter, and Wes has completed several half-Ironman races (among them the World Championship in Florida last year) and Susan runs half-marathons.

Wes finishing his first half-Ironman, the 70.3 in Oceanside, CA

So why am I writing all this? This morning, Wes gave a speech as part of the dedication of Covenant Hospital's new Cath Lab Waiting Room, which is named in honor of his late dad, JD, who—unfortunately you guessed it right—died two years ago of heart failure. Ever since, Wes has dedicated his racing to his dad's memory, raising more than $26,000 in donations which in turn helped open this waiting room. It was a passionate, hopeful talk that Wes gave to the admittedly mainly septuagenarian and octogenarian crowd—he must have come across as the über-Mensch that he definitely is not when he talked about how training changed his life. But the message was clear: We are the ones who determine whether we want to try to better ourselves, or whether we just accept the cards that we're dealt. Wes didn't like those genetic cards, and he has done (and is doing) his part to make sure that he breaks the cycle.

I can't tell you how proud I am of him and his family.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Bye-bye, N'Awlins

With a 50-minute public bus ride out to the airport, I have a bit of time to start my latest blog update. It’s Monday, and another race lies in the past. Last week I had written that—after fires had cancelled our road race in Ft. Davis halfway through the weekend—I would like to not have to deal with hurricanes or similar. Well, as it turned out, very strong winds (around 25 mph) from the north-east rendered the conditions on Lake Pontchartrain unsafe enough that race management was forced to make the very unpopular decision to cancel the swim portion of the triathlon.

Things really didn’t look all that bad, but when WTC’s Tim Johnson says that he cannot guarantee the safety of all participants, then things are indeed bad. If many of the folks who are in charge of the swim in a triathlon are like well-trained dive masters, then Tim is the equivalent of the exceptional dive master who takes people into caves—totally professional, no-nonsense analytical, always focused on 100% risk management. You don't second-guess a guy like Tim.

The swim start on the day before the race
The race thus was reduced to the bike and run portions of a triathlon, and a lot of people were pretty upset. By this morning Slowtwitch, a triathlon internet forum, had well in excess of 150 posts concerning the cancellation. I feared the worst regarding the bike portion since the Pros were supposed to go off at one-rider-every-three-seconds intervals, and the age groupers were to leave two every three seconds. Fortunately this was changed to 30-second intervals for the Pros, and the feared packs didn’t materialize, at least for the first 75 racers. Actually, I think our job up front was made easier thanks to this staggered start. In the back of the field (about 1,800 athletes) things were different—it was most definitely the most dense race we’ve had here in New Orleans.
Some of the leading Pros perfectly spaced
As Head Referee I usually stay with the Pros all the way to the finish line, and at that point I really can’t go back out on the course but rather wait for my draft marshals to arrive and debrief with me sooner or later. The atmosphere at the finish was as exuberant as always. Just imagine, Decatur is completely closed to traffic in front of Jackson Square, and there are a gazillion curious tourists who are attracted by the spectacle. It must be one of the most exciting finishes on the circuit, I believe, if for nothing else than the crowds. 

Finish lines don't get much better than this
The race course itself is also a thing to behold.  It’s less the scenery that’s impressive—although the dead-flat bike ride does go out into some of the bayou land—than the fact that similar to the Tour de France practically every intersection and almost every major driveway has a law enforcement officer secure the course. The first year, the budget for law enforcement alone was in the six figures, and I was told that outside of Mardi Gras this event features the largest police deployment that NOLA sees every year. The run has been improved year after year, and it leads through one of the finest city parks in the nation. As an (almost unrelated) aside, the city park also features “City Bark,” a park section where owners can unleash their dogs and let them play with other canines. What a cool concept!

One of the aid stations along Esplanade

Original architecture on Decatur
After my debriefing all my draft marshals and handing the head timer the list of DQs (two racers did not show up in the penalty tents after seeing a card, and another blew it by running with his young son across the finish line, which is an absolute no-no in WTC events) I headed over to the awards just a few blocks away in Woldenberg park. The steamboat Natchez is based here, and much to everyone’s delight the ship's steam organ played some merry songs before she left the dock. Live music, free Abita beer, and large, grassy areas right on the Mississippi make this an ideal spot for the after-race party.

The Natchez' home port is New Orleans
Huck Finn would have felt at home
By the time I got back to the hotel it was 5 p.m., and I was pretty much tuckered—I had gotten up at 3:45 a.m. after not even sleeping well. Still, after snacks in the lounge and talking to various athletes (who all seemed quite happy—but most were all “normal” folks who had been worried about the open water swim in the first place) I hit Bourbon Street one more time. Unfortunately, it seems that most jazz and Zydeco are replaced by silly karaoke and way-too-noisy rock’n’roll bands. So I had myself another Abita beer or two and slowly soaked in the atmosphere while strolling around before finally returning to the Hilton and a good night’s sleep.
No caption needed, eh?
This morning I went for a final walk around town, checking out the market next to the Cafe du Monde (honestly, I was going to have a beignet, but that line was just too long) where I saw this glorious display of hot sauces:
Shortly before I made it to the bus stop I saw this fine mural that converts an ugly facade into a memorable sight (and almost site):
And now I’m saying good-bye to the Crescent City. The bus is getting closer to the airport, where another upgraded flight is waiting for me. I should have enough time in DFW between flights to post this update with a few more photos. ( I did!)

Ahead lies a week in Lubbock before I’m heading west next week—to Hawaii. Yeah!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Breakfast in the Crescent City

I wish you could share with me live the view I am enjoying: I'm sitting in the 29th floor Executive Lounge of the Hilton Riverside, overlooking the Mississippi as it curves around to the south, toward the Gulf. There is not a cloud in the sky, the waters far below me sparkle in the morning sun, and I am getting ready for a day of meetings and training sessions. Oh, what a wonderful life I lead!
My "office" on the 29th floor

I arrived in NOLA very late Thursday night and stayed in the Doubletree at Louis Armstrong Airport; yesterday morning I took the bus and cable car down Canal Street to the Hilton, which is the race headquarters for this weekend's 70.3 half-Ironman triathlon.After picking up my credentials as Head Referee, meeting a number of people, and being present for the first of several Athletes' Briefings I had some time off and walked over to the French Quarter, which is just a few minutes away. Even on a non-Mardi Gras Friday afternoon, Bourbon Street is hopping. Tourists mill around from bar to bar, clutching "Huge Ass Beers" and "Hand Grenades." Music (most of it live) blares from the various establishments, while hawkers advertise the current Happy Hour special—two for one, three for one, $5 Hurricanes. A group of at least 25 motorcyclists who had been partying hard, it seemed, laid down some serious rubber when they took off, much to the delight of those around. Street musicians, pantomimes, and panhandlers all try to squeeze a few cents or a buck out of you. A fat fella's T-shirt provocatively asks "Got KY?" What looks like a well-dressed, middle-aged business woman stumbles down the street, drunker than a skunk What a scene!

The bikes at rest before a crowd-pleasing exit
I ended up first in the Maison Bourbon, where a traditional jazz band was playing to a dozen of us. The Abita beer wasn't cheap at $7 for a pint, but that's to be expected. "One drink minimum per set" proclaims a sign on the wall. After a few tunes I ambled on, to the Old Opera House where a four-man band, The Bonoffs, played some very, very hot Zydeco. If you've never heard of this Cajun-style music, man, you've missed out. I will most definitely post some YouTube link before long. Zydeco makes heavy use of the squeezebox and the rubboard (similar to a washboard that the player wears and plays with spoons and other implements), and these young artists were really, really talented and had everybody going. Tunes like "Vibrator" and Dr. John's Aiko (not really Zydeco) were good, but "Who Stole my Chicken?" was outstanding.

From traditional jazz ...
... to hot Zydeco
For a late lunch I had a muffaletta, one of those archetypal huge sandwiches loaded with meats, cheese, and a tangy olive spread. Even Judy had loved the muffuletta, and she had taught herself (thanks to Google) how to make them. I picked one up at—where else?—Johnny's Po' Boys, just as traditional as the muffuletta itself.

Inside the always-hoppin' Johnny's
The remainder of the afternoon and evening was spent first up here in the lounge, catching up with some e-mails and work (while sipping wine) and later the VIP party. It was a late night, with good folks.

And now I better stop this post and get going as it will be a busy today and again tomorrow. Hope you guys have as good of a weekend as I am having!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

May I introduce myself: I'm the new camera

Hello there—I'm the new camera. Yes, the one that is supposed to stand in after Jürgen lost sight of my sister. Hard to believe, isn't it? And he claims he didn't even have any beer at that point! Anyhow, here I am, in my full mirror-incorrect glory.

We had to take that self-portrait in the bathroom of an Admirals Club in DFW. My oh my, I can already sense the life I will lead!

We're on the way to New Orleans. Jürgen supposedly will be "working" some big ol' race, or so he says. Seems to me like a good excuse to check out the Big Easy. I'm just along for the ride. We took off really early and stood by for a flight out of Lubbock. The wind was blowing at 40 mph, with lots of dust, so I stayed all cocooned-up in my cozy case. Jürgen was worried that a 45-minute connection time for the last flight to NOLA would be a bit tight, with all that weird weather, so that's why we left early. Worry wart! Well, we got out of Lubbock on a very bumpy flight (I think my self-portrait still shows some wobbliness), and now we've been making the rounds of the Admirals Clubs here in Dallas. Jürgen seems to know a lot of the people who work here, and they keep giving him these little coupons for nice drinks. Whatever!

Anyhow, just wanted to introduce myself so that you won't be surprised when you see really pretty pictures on the blog again. I have a certain clarity about me, am tiny, and sport a certain foolproofness that makes me very attractive. And I know that Jürgen falls for all that!

See you around!

The Lumix DMC FH-20

Monday, April 11, 2011

So scary!

How quickly fortunes can change. We all know it, but we do need the occasional reminder and reality check to remember that we ourselves are subject to life's sudden turns and twists.

When I updated the blog last time, after stage 1 of the Ft. Davis Hammerfest on Saturday, I had no idea that by late afternoon we'd all be scrambling to flee the flames that came from seemingly nowhere and invaded the town of Ft. Davis and burned dozens of homes. It was a surreal scene for me, and I know that others were much closer to the action than I was and experienced everything even more intensely—thankfully.

Here's the story: We started our second the stage as scheduled, at 2:30 p.m., with me as the starter who would give the final countdown for each of the 300+ racers who were going to leave the line in 30-second intervals. I love this job, as it is extremely intense—screw up on one rider, and the final results will lose their integrity. I thrive on this pressure and had asked for this assignment. What I had not asked for was a 30 to 35 mph wind that almost knocked the racers over. I am used to wind, but this was brutal. Yet, all the racers (except one) who had raced in the morning lined up. The other officials were excellent at making sure that the start order (which was based on the results of stage 1) was maintained, and all I had to worry about was a final check of the riders' identity and then giving them their countdown.

At the start line, after we had to cancel the race—can you sense the wind?

Positioned close to us at the start line was a paramedic, who had radio contact with law enforcement, and shortly after the first rider was off we all overheard the news that a fire had developed far south of town, west of Marfa, at least 20 to 25 miles away, but that it was rapidly increasing in size and advancing in the direction of Ft. Davis. It was at that point that we saw the first clouds of smoke and could smell it, too. I continued to send racers off, one every 30 seconds. The radio communications continued and seemed to take on more urgency, and half an hour into the race we were told that we might have to stop the race if the fire continued to advance. You need to realize that grass fires are different from forest fires—there isn't much bio-mass to burn, so they don't last very long, but they advance very quickly because of the nature of the tinder-dry vegetation. Add to that a wind that reportedly gusted up to 50 mph, and you can get an idea how that fire suddenly was closing in on our finish line, which was about 2 miles south of where we started the racers. About an hour and a half into the race I was told to stop since law enforcement had closed the two highways south of Fort Davis. I think we were all still hoping that we'd have a race on Sunday.

Smoke advancing on the plain between Marfa and Ft. Davis ...
We packed our supplies at the start line, with darker and darker smoke engulfing us. We left the area and I drove to Prude Ranch, the race HQ located about 5 miles north-west of town to wait for the Chief Referee and the Race Director. And this is what the sky suddenly looked like:

... and positively frightening on the mountains' backside
Once the Chief and RD got to the ranch, telling us that they had not only seen the flames but felt the heat at the finish line, it was an easy decision to cancel the remainder of the race weekend. Then we heard that Ft. Davis was being evacuated and that the fire was about to enter the town. It all happened so fast. The roads to the north, east, and south were all closed, and even though there didn't seem any imminent danger to Prude Ranch I decided to pack up the Miata and get the hell out of there. (As i later learned, the ranch was later evacuated as well.) I had to take the one remaining highway leading north-west toward Kent and thus make a 50-mile detour, but at least for a while I didn't have to breathe any more smoke. Once I made it to the Pecos area, I could again smell the smoke and saw the brownish clouds of smoke. I just kept going, letting the little Miata hum at 85 mph (the speed limit out there is 80 mph) with a huge cross-tail wind. I reached Midland around 9 p.m., and it was of course dark—and that's when I saw the fires just south of I-20 between Odessa and Midland. In the dark the red-orange flames were all over. Add to that the emergency flashers of fire trucks and law enforcement, and it looked like a war scene. It was frightening. This of course was a different fire, and fortunately it was contained before it could reach the city, but nobody knew that at this point. More smell of smoke, more scariness.
Looking toward Ft. Davis from Prude Ranch

Fortunately for me, Mike and Candi were at their house on the NW side of town. I had planned to spend Sunday night with them, so they were surprised to see me on Saturday. We had a very nice evening together, and I finished off my drive home to Lubbock on Sunday morning. More wind—hard again, this time out of the north-west. I tell you, it blows all the time! It was so strong there was sand blowing across the road. I didn't get a photo of the worst part, right around Patricia, a place where nobody would want to be buried! Still, maybe the photo gives you an idea of what it looked like, though.

Blowing sand and dust close to Lamesa
So, after two fabulous races in the tropical paradise of Puerto Rico it was back to West Texas reality, plus more. The entire weekend was a bit surreal. Amazingly, it appears that there was no loss of life or serious injury to humans, although the Big Bend Sentinel reported that cattle burned to death and dozen's of homes in and around Ft. Davis were lost. (You may want to check out the article as it provides more pictures.)

A cold front blew through Lubbock yesterday, and this morning the sky is blue and clear of dust—who knows how long this will last. And who knows what awaits me this upcoming weekend when I travel to New Orleans for the half-Ironman event there.... Good thing it's not hurricane season, yet.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Finally a race in my "backyard": Ft. Davis Hammerfest

These days, I don't get to officiate too many races in Texas, so when I do, it feels almost like staying at home. Before I headed out yesterday morning from Lubbock, I even got a chance to ride a few miles. The day was gorgeous, with relatively little wind, so I dropped the roof on the Miata and drove the 5 hours or so south to Ft. Davis, just about 90 miles from the Rio Grande and the border to Mexico.

The drive leads through Midland, then west on I-20 to Pecos (known for its super sweet cantaloupe), and from there across a desolate plain before one enters the Davis Mountains. In this plain is located the tiny hamlet of Saragosa, which was wiped out by a tornado something like 15 or 20 years ago. I still remember driving through this town of maybe 100 souls, marveling at the snapped-off trees and electricity poles. So, seeing uncounted dust devils in this region on the drive yesterday brought back certain memories as this odd phenomenon is somewhat related to the tornado. Dust devils are small whirlwinds that pick up dust and rocks and vegetation and dance along the plains for a few minutes before they collapse. Get caught in one of those in a roadster and you'll taste dirt for days.

Dust devil near Saragosa, TX

I made it down to the ranch, which is the headquarters for this weekend's three-stage road race, just a few minutes after registration had opened at 4 p.m. No problem. I spent the afternoon helping out as I am not the chief down here. Still it seemed to me that my experience and expertise were appreciated. As is always the case when I go to a race in Texas there are lots of people I know, and it is nice to catch up with old buddies with whom I used to race. Quite frankly, I do miss the camaraderie of racing, but my officiating life now is so much more fulfilling and, honestly, so much more fun.

This morning I was in charge of the first group to go off on the hill climb up to Mt. Locke, a 16-mile slog with grades of around 20% in the final two miles. I was the accompanying referee for the Professionals and Category 1 and 2 racers.

The P / 1 / 2s struggling up Mt. Locke
Up at the top I helped out with the scoring; the chief Judge was Jim Yahr, and Mike Hester from Midland was one of the other officials. The wind was blowing like crazy, and we felt sorry for some of the Junior and Women racers who had an awfully tough time in the final few meters. This afternoon we'll have a time trial, off the mountain, which should be brutally windy, too. My task will be to start the 300+ racers in 30-second intervals, and I'm looking forward to that.

Scoring at the top of the hill climb

I had a few minutes here at Prude Ranch and really wanted to get this update going before heading to the Limpia Hotel for lunch and then the start of the TT.


Monday, April 4, 2011

It's Sunday night, and I am at home ?!?!!!

What a great feeling it is to actually spend a weekend at home! I had really been looking forward to this for the past three weeks of traveling. The highlight of my weekend was going to be to fire up the Kamado and cook for some of my friends, whom I had invited to come over last night.

One of my favorite meals is Argentine steak, and that's what I fixed for Wes & Susan, Martha & Alan, and Liz. I had bought a boat load of good-looking sirloin steak, and Friday night I spent some quality time with myself and a mojito preparing the chimichurri sauce that is used both to marinade the beef as well as to later pour on the finished meal. Judy and I had found the recipe for the chimichurri years ago in the American Airlines in-flight magazine, and I dug out the oft-folded original copy. Before you start begging me to send you the recipe, here it is:

  • 2 cups chopped parsley
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 red jalapeno (or other fresh red chile pepper), stemmed, seeded, and chopped

Process the parsley and garlic in your Cuisinart with a little bit of the olive oil until it has the consistency of a very fine paste. Add the other ingredients and taste for seasoning; you may need to add a bit of salt. Feel free to adjust the level of garlic. Pour the sauce into a bottle or simply serve it in a bowl with a spoon to dribble it over the meat once it is cooked. (The meat is marinated in a mixture of chimichurri sauce, black pepper, more sea salt, and red pepper flakes.)

Liz in hot anticipation of Argentine steak night

The Kamado is perfect for grilling meat at high heat, searing and sealing it to capture all the good flavors. Oh so yummy! Martha had brought a very tasty three-bean salad, and Susan's guacamole was a perfect appetizer. As a side dish I fixed oven-baked potato wedges Creole style. Add three bottles of fine Cameron Hughes reds and you make it a meal!

The Keeblers
So, we had a great evening. Wes and Susan's two little girls were as sweet as they come, we managed not to break any dishes, and nobody got sick, as far as I know. Add to that 59- and 55-mile weekend rides (the latter in 30 mph winds!), and it was the perfect way to spend some time at home.


Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools'/Fool's/Fools Day

As a linguist, I've always been intrigued with the various ways of spelling this day's official moniker. But tonight, I really don't care whether or where the apostrophe is placed.

April 1 has held a special meaning in my life for the past two decades—mas o menos—because it was on April 1 that Judy and I got married.

If you expected another travel-logish post, skip this one. It's about more important stuff than flying around the globe and experiencing cool stuff.

We were married on April 1, 1989, after living in sin for more than three years. What did you expect? We were friends first, buddies second, and then there was the marriage thing. We always joked that we could renege since we did it (no, we did it much earlier, after those ominous seven dozen oysters!) on 4/1.

Why do I bring this up, you ask? Well, tonight, I had a bit of a tough time dealing with not having Judy around. You see, tomorrow night Alan and Martha and Wes and Susan and the two lil' ones will come over for dinner, and I had to prepare my Argentine steak and chimichurri sauce and a few other things. Some of you may think that Judy was a hell of a cook. Well, you're just patently wrong, because she simply was one of the best out there: Seriously, I would have wagered putting her up in a cook-off against the likes of Emeril and Wolfgang, and it would have been a tight one. Really. Those of you who knew her intimately (and intimate always meant "close to her food") know that I'm not bull-shitting. But—and few people know this—I've always been far superior in cleaning the dishes! Oh my—some of you may know what I mean.

So, tonight I prepared tomorrow's dinner by driving the Cuisinart, as Judy would have called it (and cleaned up), had myself a beautiful little mojito with the mint that has just come back from winter's attempt at general herb genocide, and was getting ready to fix my own Friday night dinner (remember, we're in Lent, so it's gotta be fish) when it suddenly all hit me. Damn. Guys are not supposed to cry.

You may think I have the world's greatest life. With all that jetting around, working truly cool races, meeting exceptional people, having reconnected on so many levels with someone very dear in Europe and having established a great relationship with someone equally important on our shores, riding my bike, being retired, being (thankfully!) fairly healthy and fit—hell, you might even envy me. Don't. Don't if you have at your side the one who is your mate, the one you chose to be with in the first place. I'd give anything to be with Judy. Anything. So, please, don't envy me as you're the one who has it all, maybe not even realizing it.

And that's it for the message.

My promised post about Puerto Rico, in general, is still going to happen. But his one was more important, because this blog is a journal, of sorts, for myself, and I wanted to remember. I hope you'll do the same, remembering the truly important things in your own private way.