The Thin Yellow Line

It was one twenty in the morning and I was staring at a band of yellow police tape across the closed-door of my hotel room. “Thats funny” I thought, ”I don’t recall committing a crime before going to work. I would remember that”. Glancing at several other doors down the hall it appeared like the crime was part of a wave that  hit several other neighbors. The security guard parked unceremoniously on a chair outside my door eyed me with suspicion.

Taking the risk of raising the ire of a retired cop with hemorrhoids , I think I saw his posterior resting on a donut (no sprinkles), I smiled and said good morning (part of my killing with kindness persona) and pointed out that one of the taped rooms was mine.

“No it is not sir”. Now I was extremely tired and in that state I have been known to search the wrong side of the airport parking lot for my car but I was looking at my little hotel envelope , the one that accompanies your card key  you when you check in, and the room number on it definitely matched one of the  taped ones.  Proceeding with caution I  showed him the envelope and my key and uttered “Um I am sorry  but when I checked in I was issued a key for this  room”. Seeing the envelope and with the reluctance of a cop not wanting to leave his donut behind he slowly stood up to get a  closer look at the number. He brought out a list for comparison and blinked several times to insure the number remained the same. “Well you will have to talk to the front desk. I have orders to watch these rooms as they have minors on a field trip”.

Wow a field trip to see other people’s hotel rooms! Must be a private school. “Ok,  I know you are just doing your job” I said as I shuffled towards the elevator.

I appeared at the front desk, a tired beaten man incapable of any anger except for the small amount saved up for the snoring that  I hoped would soon be assaulting the neighbors. I explained my plight to the front desk clerk but  it was hard to ignore the fact that  he looked like several of the Star Trek Ensigns that never lasted more than an episode before they were killed off. Perhaps that was why  he  seemed a little extra jumpy. He grabbed the master list of student rooms with all the energy of someone who knew this was their last mission and returned to my floor to confront the hemorrhoidal Bones McCoy from episode whatever and the dangers that lay behind my door.

The security guard snapped to attention accidentally taking the donut with him.

Studying the list together they concluded that my room should not be on the list but they could not guarantee that there would not be a couple of 13 year olds rummaging through my shave kit playing grown up.

Ensign front desk clerk decided that if the was his last mission he was going to carry it out all the way to its conclusion. Gathering his courage he slowly opened my door and throwing caution to the wind flipped the light switch. There at 2 am on a Tuesday night in a hotel in D.C. standing alongside  Ensign  Hotel “ last episode” Clerk and Bones “I’m not a cop I am  a security guard Jim”  McCoy, my eyes fell upon my hotel room devoid of any signs of teenage mayhem.

Twenty minutes later I was unconscious on my bed adding to the stories the school kids would be able to tell their parents about their field trip to DC , the cool stuff they saw and whatever they made up to explain the horrific noise next door that woke them up in the middle of the night.

Bring Plenty of Tortillas and Relax, Its Going to Be a Bumpy Ride.

California Highways are notorious for traffic but not known for the endless  entertainment they can provide. Now my California peeps will read this and think I am out of my mind or “…and he hasn’t been institutionalized yet? Imagine that”.I have spent a few years recently in Southern California but I also lived in  DC and Northern Virginia (NOVA) for fifteen years and I contend its traffic situation is worse. The NOVA traffic was nowhere near as predictable as Southern California and that is why it was more painful. Now if you have followed my adventures here you know that I was back in Southern California recently for the funeral services of loved ones. I won’t recount that here, please read “Family, Much Harder to Say Goodbye Than to Love” for the riveting details.  What I will reveal is just how entertaining a Southern California traffic jam (SCTJ) can be. No really, I am sober and my room has no padding. If you are a passenger and a people watcher then I highly recommend the SCTJ experience. It rivals LAX in people watching*.

“Floppy Hat Girl”. She was the first person of interest we spotted in our SCTJ experience from LA to San Diego on a holiday weekend. The traffic was expected, the entertainment value was not. I was alerted to Floppy Hat Girl when my sister had pointed her out by saying “how can that girl see where she is driving?”. Turning around I spotted her pulling up along side of  us. To this day I still have no idea what she looked like. If I was an eye witness to a crime she committed my only response in the interview would have been, “I think the perp” , too many cop shows, “ was a female. Her cheek bones gave me that impression. It was hard to tell . She had this blue floppy hat that obscured the rest of here features. Honestly I don’t know how she drove the get away car”.  Floppy Hat Girl provided us with some good moments along the drive. I even wrote a little song dedicated to “My Floppy Hat Girl”. I am working out the chords on my guitar. I will let you know when it drops.

Next up in the cavalcade of characters was the cliche Southern Californian. In this case a shoeless female looking totally chill in the parking lot of an SC traffic Jam. How do I know she was shoeless you ask? The bare foot propped up on the driver side window was a big clue. I figured as a fashion conscious California girl her shoes or lack thereof were matching.

The driver that made me laugh the most was one that I did not see first hand but was witnessed by my cousin-in-law in our caravan. Apparently this particular driver had gotten hungry during the drive , or the park in this case, and was spotted warming tortillas on his dash board. It appeared to my cousin-in-law that once warm he was eating it plain. This led to all sorts of speculation as to whether he preps his dashboard with any cooking spray or special spices and what types of dashboards make the best warmers. Does it only work for tortillas or can bread or buns be substituted?  You can take it from there I am sure.

The commute to San Diego from LA took over four hours and as experiences go I would not intentionally seek it out. But if you find your self in this position make sure you are a passenger and pay attention to those around you. It will make the experience a little more  bearable.  A package of tortillas and a can of Pam couldn’t hurt either.

* While flying out to LA on a weekly basis  few years back, I invented a game that I played with a business colleague called “Guess What They do for a Living”. I have played it in airports all over the country. LAX is the best place to play it , although no matter where its played it never fails to entertain.

Uncle Bingo’s Travelling Road Show

It is strange how sometimes life’s paths seem to take us away from our initial goals, but if we just give them a chance and play out the hand,  we may get what we wanted in the first place.

It was the year 2000 and the world had just survived the current disaster de jour, the millennium had come and gone and the various tools of its destruction had failed to cause a nasty smell let alone bring on the four horses of the apocalypse.  The biggest hammer, the millennium bug, the software version of the plague  had come and gone with very few casualties save for the Japanese man who had feared nuclear destruction and fled to Australia with a blow gun, a flak jacket and a chemical warfare suit.  It’s true folks . I couldn’t make that up.  I am not sure that qualifies as a casualty but I am sure his friends missed him.  It was also the year that I finally got off my butt and did what I had been talking and thinking about for some time, Uproot myself from Northern Virginia where I had landed after graduating from college. I had been there for fifteen years and I had made some really great friends but I wanted to be a little closer to my family. I had two nephews who I saw once a year and I had a niece on the way. I wanted to make sure that she did not know me as ” the uncle that showed up at Christmas, brought me a present and whose name I had to be reminded of”. Of course when they’re young they probably would take two out of three as long as one of the two are “present”.   Ok , not to fully take the air out of the “ he is such a family guy” sails but I also wanted to be in a place where I could enjoy the outdoors and ski more. I had taken up skiing several years before and I needed to make sure my jones could always be met.  Hey, when the knees are gone I am going to have to lean on my family.

I found a job in Boulder Colorado and in June of 2000 I jumped in my Mustang and took the long way to Colorado via Michigan to visit my brother. While I was there my niece had entered the world. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that I was leaving for Kansas the next day and would see her soon. Perhaps not. Perhaps it was her way of insuring that I would never forget her birthday.  Six hundred and some odd miles later I was visiting with my newborn niece.  While I was experiencing some trepidation at starting my new life, I completely forgot it while contemplating her new life. Funny thing about birth , it tends to put things in perspective.

Its strange, now that I live in Colorado I do more traveling then I ever have in the past but I see my family more often.  Usually I can arrange my travels so that they take me through Kansas for a visit. If I am not traveling I have been known to jump in my Mustang (yep the same one) for a short cruise , they are only 7.5 hours away when there is no construction on I-70 and the highway patrol cooperates.   It was during one of those “short cruise” visits during the fourth of July where my niece gave me the nickname that I love and will go with me to my grave*. Out of the blue one day she said to me “Your not Uncle Dan, You’re Uncle Bingo”. Of course her logic was solid when I asked why, “I dunno just cause you are”.  Works for me.  It also seems to work for the rest of my family who affectionately call me  , I am sure its with affection, Uncle Bingo or just Bingo.

So if you hear the sound of fun coming your way it may be the circus or you may just be getting a visit from Uncle Bingo’s Traveling Road Show. Don’ t worry, it will be entertaining and I hardly ever leave a mess. Well nothing that can’ t be cleaned up or forgiven by the next visit.

*Oh sure ,when I am an 80 year old man “Uncle Bingo” will sound kind of weird but when that time comes it will just be “endearing” or creepy. I’m betting on the former.

Family, Much Harder to Say Goodbye Than to Love

   Family reunions come in all shapes and sizes and for many different reasons.This particular one happened because of the passing of two members. To know the Oneills is to know chaos. Rarely any gathering happens in this family without parts of the group getting lost, showing up late or leading the entire group on a path that not even GoogleMaps, MapQuest and even GPS could lead them back from.

   The passing of loved ones often leads to the pondering of ones own timeline. Specifically how short it is. I am somewhat relieved to report that due to one of the funeral services I can check off two items from my bucket list. Item number 372*)Spend a confusing hour in the basement of a mausoleum and number 373) Be chauffeured in a golf cart through a cemetery. Yes, conveniently I have planned consecutive items for the same location. The Oneill’s may not know where we are going but we are organized on the way to not getting there.

    Items  372 , and 373 were achieved during my Grandmothers life ceremony. I call it a life ceremony. It was about the celebration of her life and wonderful family and friends. All of the people to be in attendance showed up early for the ceremony. This should have been a harbinger of things to come. We had all  formed a motorcade to Los Angeles from San Diego where the previous day we held the life ceremony of my Uncle. That ceremony was a beautiful tribute to a veteran in a military cemetery and went off without a hitch. Perhaps that was due to my Uncle not being an Oneill by blood.  Members of the family were concerned for those that would have to brave the 405 , the 5, the 805 and  whatever 05 was involved in leaving LA during rush hour on a holiday weekend. Since we had all arrived at the cemetery ahead of time an effort was made to start the ceremony early.  Now if I had claimed I heard the strains of Beethoven’s fifth symphony when this decision was made I would have been label “nuts” but I swear it happened.

   Which leads me to bucket list items 372 and 373. From the main building of the cemetery or the “greeting area” ** we caravanned over to the mausoleum section of the cemetery. Rolling up to the mausoleums, yes plural queue the Beethoven, we entered en masse. Now as is usual with this group , someone ( we are never really sure who the someone is in these family debacles) suggested that the ceremony was on the basement floor. To be fair there was no official “greeter” from the funeral parlor, perhaps they themselves were confused as to where they were supposed to be doing the  greeting.  Perhaps back at the “parlor” . In any case a majority of the group decided that was a good idea which is how I found myself checking off number 372. After close to an hour, during which several party members went to find out what was going on and never returned*** and some official funeral types never showed up  to smirk and tell us we were in the wrong place, we decided by ourselves that such was the case and the best move was back to ground level. I for one hailed any decision in a cemetery that moves me back to ground level. Returning to the main floor we were greeted by official funeral types who were ready to take us to a different mausoleum via golf carts. Check off number 373. My sister and I jumped into a golf cart while my niece caught a ride in a limo. I am not sure how she wangled that. She’s only eleven. I have never ridden in a limo and that is a lot higher on my list. After a distance that was so short it was comical we arrived at the proper mausoleum for a ceremony at ground level.

    The ceremony itself was simple and beautiful. Memories were shared , kind words spoken and tears were shed. In a little over an hour we had experienced a lot of what life has to offer, grief, confusion, love and laughter. Now some of you may be thinking that  I am a sick individual for making light of the death of loved ones. Those of you thinking that do not know me and my family (either side) very well. This is how we deal with grief , confusion and life in general, we laugh. When my father passed away ,  my mother , my siblings and I had to make the arrangements. The experience can be a bit macabre  and at some point we grounded ourselves with our usual coping mechanism. We laughed. After looking at caskets and making ceremony choices we had completed the arrangements to the sound of an accompanying old-fashioned credit card reader, the kind that slide with an unmistakable “ch ch” sound. To the chagrin of the funeral directory we likened it to the sound of another angel getting his wings and broke out in laugher while the director looked on in horror. Imagine that, surrounded by death and he was aghast at laughter.

    It was said by several family members that , while the funerals were an occasion of sorrow, they did bring us together once again for a family reunion and we were grateful to be in each others company. Once back in San Diego, more memories and laughs were shared until it was time to bid adieu and anticipate the next occasion the Oneills will wander confused but together.

*Yes its a long list. How could it not be, It covers a lifetime.

**Confusing enough. Anywhere two live bodies can congregate in a cemetery could be a greeting area.

*** Now to be fair they may have returned but it was the basement of a mausoleum. It  was dark and damp and I was perhaps a bit cranky.

World News Outage

Zaphod  Muhamin , a  prominent member of the Iranian government, was relaxing with his laptop when a trusted aid burst into his office.

“Excuse me honorable one for the interruption in your busy schedule , but I just received word that one of our prime sources of news is going out of print and will only offer news online. ”

Zaphod  hid his laptop and was about to berate his assistant when the realization of what was said sank in. “Which one, The New York Times or the Washington Post?”

“Neither sir. The Onion sir.”

“Oh not “The Onion”, that is our most trusted news source of all.”, exclaimed Zaphod.

“Do you think the Council on Western Culture could see its way to allow online access to the Onion sir”, asked the assistant.

“No I do not. The Council is most emphatic on its ban of the internet to guard against the influence of the Great Satan”.

“Microsoft sir?”

“No. America you fool.”

“Oh, of course sir, I um, was just poking fun.”

Zaphod ignored the lie and pondered this unfortunate turn of events. “Where will we look to fill the dark informational chasm that will be left behind?” , he asked.

“That is a conundrum sir but  more importantly what will we do in those “quiet” times when men need reading material when they “think”?”, asked the assistant.

“Oh my that is a dilemma but I do know of the existence of a stash of Penny Savers from 1974 that may be of some use in that regard.”

“Most excellent sir”, replied the assistant.

“Well it will do until we can find other material. I may have a line on the most holiest of holy of reading materials”, said Zaphod.

“You’re not kidding? “, exclaimed the assistant. “You don’t mean ..”

“ Yes I do “ , replied Zaphod. “ I just may know where a stockpile of People Magazines are located”. “Oh that would be most desirable sir,” replied the assistant.

“Now go to your rolodex and put in a few calls to the people we know in the Chinese government.”, ordered Zaphod.

“Oh, for the People Magazines?”, asked the assistant.

“No you dolt. The Onion is also their source for hard news. Find out what they will use for their alternative source.”

“ Of course sir. Consider it done sir. “

A Place To Share Some Grins