Wednesday, August 29, 2007

When the heck am I?

It’s 6:50 p.m. Tuesday in Chicago, 7:50 p.m. in Raleigh, still Tuesday of course, and 8:50 in the morning Wednesday in Tokyo, where we’re heading at about 560 miles an hour airspeed. We’ve got about six hours to go and have been traveling about six hours.

I know all this courtesy of the MacBook Pro in whose glow I am illuminated, some basic math, a nice tracking display that American Airlines provides, and a friendly flight attendant.

My body, however, knows none of this. It knows that it is mightily confused. I slept a little less than 2.5 hours last night. I’ve eaten heavily and surprisingly well--aside from the overcooked mini steak, all the food on the plane has been reasonable. I’ve dozed what seemed like a fair amount in my plush first-class seat, it the product of years of accumulated airline miles. The covers are closed on the windows.

I have no clue what time it is, even though I know what time it is.

Interesting sensation, and one I expect to get only weirder. I didn’t particularly care for the movie, Lost in Translation, but my friend Jorge has told me that I’d appreciate it a great deal more once I’d traveled to Japan. I’m beginning to wonder if he might not be right.

This experience has convinced me that I wish I were rich enough to fly first class all the time and not break my personal bank. The seat is spacious and reclines fully into a bed. The flight attendants are great. We get Bose on-ear, noise-canceling headphones, and so on.

And now to take my increasingly disoriented brain and focus it by working, first on PT stuff, then on Slanted Jack marketing tidbits, and finally on Slanted Jack itself.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

And the luggage winner is...

Jennie! In a surprise development, Jennie, owner of perhaps the largest wardrobe in our group, won the weight contest at the American Airlines counter this morning with an astonishingly light 26-pound suitcase. I collected the embarrassing award for heaviest bag, with a 47.5-pound monster. I plead a heavy suitcase to start with, a ton of electronics, and packing at 1:30 in the morning the night before the trip. Still, it's clear: Jennie FTW in packing, me FTL. (Gina's bag came in a full 3.5 pounds under me, though still way over Jennie's.)

The shame of it all.

Monday, August 27, 2007

On the road again

Tomorrow morning, I have to get up at the unholy (to this night owl) hour of 6:30 a.m. to shower and head to the airport for the long trek to Yokohama, Japan, where I'll be one of the U.S. SF writers speaking on panels there. Thanks to the miracle of the international date line and the sheer length of the trip, I'll reach the hotel in Yokohama about 24 hours after I get up. I expect to be very special at that stage, in that nasty, no one wants to be near you sense of special.

My first panel is the next day at 1:00 p.m., so I better acclimate fast.

Sometime late tonight, I'll start packing. I wish it could have been different, because for a trip this long--I won't be back until late on Sept. 13--I would have preferred time to go, but that's not the reality of my life.

Tech and stamina permitting, I hope to send updates from this journey, my first trip to Japan.

Watch this space.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Farewell, Arrows

This weekend marked the start of soccer season for the Capital Area Soccer League (CASL), the huge youth soccer organization in our area. Scott played on CASL soccer teams from his first year of eligibility, back when he was four or five, until this spring. This fall, he decided to stop playing soccer, both because he wasn't enjoying it as much as in the past and because he wanted as much time as possible to focus on doing well in ninth grade. I respect his decision.

I also gain in some ways from his choice. I don't have to get up early for games on Saturday. I don't have to sit in the heat for a few hours on sweltering Saturday and Sunday afternoons. I neither have to coach nor feel guilty for stopping coaching after doing it for over three years. I also don't have to feel bad about being such a poor coach, because though I thought the world of the boys on the team and I did my best, I just don't know that much about soccer.

All that said, I'll miss it. I'll miss Scott's team of many years, the Arrows. I'll miss seeing him in his number 17 shirt, first with his first name on it and then, as he grew older, with his last. I'll miss the moments when the boys were clicking and their efforts from practice paid off during a game. I'll miss the excitement of watching them stop a goal or score one.

I'll also always remember a great deal from these years of soccer: the boys, the great plays, the silly moments in practices, the time Scott scored a goal from about forty yards out on a penalty kick, and so much else.

I was and am proud of Scott and all the other Arrows for trying hard, week in and week out, and for being first good boys and then good young men.

Most of all, I'll miss watching with so much pride my heart could scarcely contain it as number 17, Scott, my son, who for years was the leader and center of the defense, ran across the field at full speed to confront an attacker, give his all though he could not know the outcome, and play the game as best he could. In soccer or in life, a father can ask no more of a son than that.

Here's to the bellydancers and singers and artists everywhere

Last night, we went to Fourth Friday, a local performance event in a small venue in the back of Ruggero's piano store. My friend, Eric, is the master of ceremonies, and he also sings a number at the start of the show. The one he sang this time, "The Gasman Cometh," was fun, and he did his usual good job with it. Sarah and her friend Lucy were also playing, Lucy two long violin pieces, and Sarah the piano accompaniment for one of those songs.

Tonight, several of us went to see a local bellydance performance, or hafla, that took place in a community center. Jennie's teacher was organizing and hosting the event, and Jennie was one of the dancers, so we went primarily to support her. She danced in both a group number and a solo, and she did a very good job and was lovely to watch in both.

As I sat in the audience on these two nights, I was struck again by the need that so many of us have to do some kind of art, create something, be it singing or playing music or dancing or writing or painting or carving or sewing or whatever. Most of us will never be very good, much less world-class, at the art we love, but we persist. The world is, I truly believe, a much better place for our efforts.

I was also struck by the bravery of it all. In a world with professional music available all around us, the singers and pianists and violinists at Fourth Friday all took the stage in front of strangers to do their art. In a culture obsessed with perfect female bodies and flawless performances, women of all shapes and sizes walked in revealing costumes onto a stage in front of strangers and did their best.

I'm richer for their efforts. We all are. Here's to them, the bellydancers and singers and artists of all stripes, those in my extended family and those I've never met. Long may you practice your art.


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