I haven’t been to one of my father’s birthdays that I can remember. I know that with this being his 93rd, there can’t be too many left. I had planned a trip this spring to the International Heritage Rose Conference in Japan, which, of course has been cancelled, or at least, postponed till next year. Once I had been assured that the money spent would be refunded, I decided I should visit Dad for his birthday. He and his wife live at the Aero Club in Wellington, near West Palm Beach. My brother lives fairly near there, so I sent him the flight info to pick me up at the airport late Tuesday night.
This is a sort of diary from the trip:
I quickly made it through security at San Jose airport Tuesday morning, got a cup of Pete’s and sat down to wait for an hour. Played solitaire on my PDA. Got on the plane, row 35, seat A. No one else was in my little 3-seat group, so the guy in the row behind with his wife and son decided to move to seat C. We took off and I watched out the window as we circled to gain height. The plane must have gone right over the Rose Garden, because I couldn’t see it, although I could see the airport and some other landmarks. For all the planes I see from the Rose Garden, it would only be fair for me to be able to see the garden from the air, but not this trip. When I fly back, I land at night, so it won’t happen then either. I can look out at the scenery from the plane window all day long. I create geologic maps in my mind as I fly over the Great Basin and Canyonlands. We flew right over the part of the Sierra Nevada foothills where Frank and I had just spent our anniversary last month. Less snow now. But the guy in seat C was a talker, so I had to keep turning around to be polite and not ignore him altogether. Now, I have worked hard at creating a look that says, “I’m really not interested in what you are talking to me about” because I try to discourage my family members from telling me all about a radio talk show one listened to or the minutest details of a baseball game another watched, but that look was not working on this guy. Oh well, it hasn’t worked that well on my family, either. So by the time we were flying over the West Texas hill country, I had learned far more about this man than any stranger ought to know, including some things about his early love life, and that his son was named Sebastian after the crab in the Little Mermaid. Eventually, we landed in Houston where I changed planes. As I got up to get ready to leave the plane, he introduced me to his wife (“She can cook in twelve languages” which he had written down to show me an hour earlier) and his son (no, I didn’t make a comment about the crab, although I was tempted.)
In Houston I had to walk from the far end of terminal E to the far end of terminal C. It took 20 minutes. Fortunately, I had an hour. The next flight was SOOO much better. The woman next to me was returning to Boynton Beach from Bali, via Moscow and Houston. She promptly fell asleep for the entire 2 ½ hours. As we were flying over western Florida, we flew around a huge thunderhead. There was near constant lightning going on within the cloud. I tried a bit of video out the plane window, but it turned out much darker than the event appeared to view. So, finally in West Palm. Jimmy greets me with, “Welcome to Swampville.” Need I say more about the weather?
Wednesday, one of my North Carolina cousins and his kids were also visiting. I hadn’t met the kids, now about 12 and 15, so it was great to see them and catch up with Jeff. We talked about some of our early memories growing up in New Jersey. I’d forgotten that I still had a relative with some of those same memories. As we grow older, there are fewer and fewer people who share certain memories. Nanny, our great-grandmother, is probably only still remembered by my Dad, my cousin and me. I also spent much of the day getting computers working right. They were worried about Dad’s hard drive on the tower, but the problem turned out to be a bad monitor. My brother found one on Craigslist at a good price and Dad’s back in business Well, as much as you can be with 8-year-old XP). Set up the laptop to work with the webcam and printer, so that’s in business, too. Both my Dad’s cameras had full memory cards with pictures going back several years. I found the cords (finding one required a tour of all Dad’s old cameras and stories about the Leica) and uploaded all the pictures to a folder on the computer and deleted them from the cameras, so all technology is now functional. Yeah! At night we had dinner at Dad’s favorite restaurant. They gave Dad a piece of very chocolate cake with a candle for him to blow out, and sang Happy Birthday to him. Nice people at that restaurant. They know Dad well enough that they start making his drink as he walks in the door.
Thursday afternoon, I decided to take a walk before dinner, as it had cooled down a bit and I hadn’t gotten any exercise since I left Houston airport. The plants and animals in Florida are mostly different from the ones I’m used to. Mockingbirds are about the only ones in common. They have Blue Jays that don’t sound at all like our Stellar Jays and Scrub Jays- even less pleasant to listen to.
They have a lot of imported trees, like the Flame Trees. The houses at the Aero Club are mostly very similar- tan or white stucco with tile roofs. In California, most houses built like that have some amount of Spanish Colonial Revival to the design, but not these. And most of the landscaping is lawn- Bermuda Grass, at that. There’s a dog park near Dad. In fact, it’s about the only thing near Dad if you don’t fly. I walked over there and petted a lot of dogs. Their owners pretty much ignored me, not making any effort to include me in their conversation. In California, people talk to strangers in public settings, but I remember growing up in New Jersey, people are more reserved in the east.
Friday we had weather conditions I’d never experienced before. Rolling thunder that lasted for an hour and a half, nonstop, no lightning. I sat on the screened in patio and watched a young anole on the screen. (If you aren’t familiar with anoles, there’s a picture of one on this webpage, partway down: http://floridainvasiveanimals.pbworks.com/w/page/494755/Brown-Anole ). On my last day there, I was able to catch the young anole in a container and release it back into some hibiscus plants.
Later, we had a nice birthday dinner for Dad, with cheesecake for dessert.
Saturday- another storm with nonstop rolling thunder. Between storms, I took another walk to the dog park. This time some of the same people were there and we talked together for about half an hour. When I left, one said, “Come again, we’re here every day about this time.” Of course I wasn’t a stranger anymore. But I didn’t get beck there due to rain most days. They really needed a lot of rain!, and were getting a fair amount.
Sunday was Dad’s wife’s birthday. For my brother, this was three birthdays in as row, because his girlfriend had a birthday Saturday. We went back to the favorite restaurant. Dad got a surprise- my brother-in-law had sent a gift certificate to the restaurant for him, so they surprised him with that, then the manager said if anyone could guess the first year he actually voted, that person’s dinner would be free. He’s a year older than me, and I first voted in 72. So I guessed 2008. I was right, so I decided to get something more extravagant than I had originally planned. So Dad bought dinner and drinks for 5 people for $30. So he was pretty happy, too.
Tuesday, my brother took me to Morikami Gardens (http://www.morikami.org/), which we both really enjoyed. Some large, 30 or more years old and very interesting bonsai. Every tree in the place had its branches trained. Some tied to pieces of bamboo, some weighted down with rocks. We felt quite feng-shuied after a while.
They have a nice loop trail with smaller side loops, rock sculpture, ponds, trees trained into arches.
Really nice place to walk and relax. Had lunch there too.
Also quite nice.
Highly recommended if you’re near Boca Raton. Every place in South Florida got rain during the day, but we just got a sprinkling that didn’t make it down through the trees. Timing.
Wednesday, I was supposed to leave for the airport about 4:30. Had packed and printed out my boarding passes. Then I checked that the plane would be leaving on time. Nope. The incoming plane was delayed in Houston. My plane would be first 1½ hours late, then 1¾ hours. I wasn’t going to make my connection in Houston. So I got on the phone and called Continental. After 5 minutes, a very nice man came on and agreed that I didn’t want to spend the night in Houston airport. No, he couldn’t reroute me, at least not today. Thursday, he could get me on at 11:53 am or 3 pm, and either way I’d be on the same plane out of Houston to San Jose. Of course the 3 pm would be better, but my Dad’s got a couple of appointments tomorrow and so does my brother, but they plan to give someone else a ride to the airport for an 11:45am flight, so that was the more convenient choice. If something goes wrong with that, I can probably reschedule for the later one, but not the other way around. So I made arrangements with my son-in-law who was planning to pick me up at the San Jose end, and called my husband to let him know. Then I had a couple of glasses of wine, and started some laundry. I only brought as much underwear as I was going to need. Now I’m going to need one more. Later we went out to Applebee’s where I tried their new “Perfect Margarita” which was pretty good (their regular one I had 6 or 7 years ago was awful, and the waiter implied that the description I gave him of it was still pretty accurate.) So, well drunk by the time we left, I settled in for one more night in Florida.
Things started out well on Thursday, but my plane to Houston had one stop first, and while on the taxi-way to leave that stop, a plane a couple in front of us had smoke in the cabin. We were stuck on the taxi-way for an hour.
This was going to make for a tight connection in Houston. All my luggage is with me in the cabin, so if I make it the bag will, too. Glad I didn’t need to check it for this flight.
I am eternally grateful to the flight attendant on that US Air flight for getting me and my bag and pack to the front of the plane just before we landed. No way would I have made the connection if I had to wait for the entire plane in people in front of me to exit. I was then at one end of Houston airport and the plane I needed to get on was at the other end. I had 22 minutes to get there. With my pack on my back, pulling the rolling case, and my jacket over the other arm, I ran as much as I could to the monorail- 5 minutes. Rode the monorail- 8 minutes. Run through terminal D, past the International terminal around the corner and I could see the gate. Got to it with 4 minutes to spare, huffing and puffing. (Later, I was describing this race to my son-in-law. He said I must have been a sight.) But actually they were still loading the plane for another 10 minutes, so they might have let me on even if I got there after the so-called departure time. The reason it was taking so long to load the plane is that it costs $25 to check a bag. So everybody has all carry on luggage, including me. The overhead compartments can’t hold everybody’s bags. People are wandering around the plane looking for places in overhead compartments. So they do a lot of bag checking at the door to the plane. It’s free when they run out of room in the overheads. (After I got home, I sent an email to US Air commending the flight attendant who saved me from a night in Houston Airport.)
I wish I’d had the window seat on the way back. It was cloudy for a while, but cleared around Arizona. I could see fairly well if the man in seat A was sitting back, but sometimes he was leaning forward. I didn’t recognize as much looking south as I’d seen looking north on the way east. Usually, I’ve flown over the Sierra Nevada, but this time we came around the south end, and, looking to the south, the first place I recognized was the Pacific Ocean. I was looking toward Santa Barbara and the Transverse Ranges. Then I could see Morro Rock as we turned northward. I could see my neighborhood in Santa Cruz a little before we got to San Jose. Alas, I still couldn’t see the Rose Garden in San Jose. It might have been visible if I could have looked out the other side of the plane from that window seat, but we probably flew right over the center.
I was pretty tired and sore Friday from the running, lifting and sitting on the plane for hours (such uncomfortable seats after a while). Not much time for relaxing at home- Fourth of July weekend has two birthdays at our home, one reason I don’t make it to my Dad’s birthdays. My mother-in-law is just 8 days younger than my Dad, and one daughter was born on the 4th. Anyway, nice to see my garden. Nothing died in my absence, and my tomato plants doubled in size. Leaving again the 5th on a shorter trip to Chico area. Next blog.