Monthly Archives: January 2014

Florida, Briefly

Dawn, Coral Springs, Florida

Dawn, Coral Springs, Florida

Travels began on Wednesday, January 22.  I hadn’t been on an airplane for more than a month, and although it was a quick work trip, I was still excited.  Took the Metro to Washington National and flew in late afternoon south to West Palm Beach, Florida.  Before we boarded, I noticed a young man standing by a counter, holding a white plastic bag that I see fairly often in airports, a bag that read “International Organisation for Migration.”  The IOM is an independent NGO founded after World War II to resettle people who literally cannot go home.  I looked at the fellow, wondered about his story, and prayed that he was on his way to a safer, better place.  It was, I thought, another example of the transformative power of the jet airplane.

The refugee is behind the pole, with the orange backpack

The refugee is behind the pole, with the orange backpack

It was 15° F. in D.C., and 38 degrees warmer in Florida, which meant people were traipsing around in down vests and gloves – it’s all relative.  Picked up a rental car, pedal to the metal south on I-95, then west to Coral Springs.  I missed my exit, but zipped back around to the dinner venue I found on the Yelp website.  Spiky Ty’s was a Chinese-owned place in a strip mall, with something Asian for everyone.  I tucked into a Thai curry and a beer.

At the table next to me was a family of four, two teenage daughters, having a good conversation.  When they got up to leave, it was time for the first Talking-to-Strangers of the new year.  I told the older girl I liked her hoodie, navy with the name “Georgetown” in white, adding that I taught there.  “You teach there,” said her dad, “that’s cool.  We visited the campus last summer, what a place.”  I agreed, and the conversation unfolded.  Though his daughter had just started high school, he wanted her to see “an old campus, a place with history.”  We had a nice chat.  When I got to the hotel, I pinged the editor of American Way, the American Airlines inflight magazine; Adam and I have become friends over the past several years, and he has commissioned three stories.  Would you be interested, I wrote, in an essay on the joy of talking to strangers?  He answered immediately and enthusiastically, and I got an assignment.  Cool!

Was up at 6:15 the next morning, down to the hotel gym for a ride on an exercise bike.  When I finished the eight miles, I walked out to the pool.  The soft gurgling of waves from a swimmer met with the soft rustling of palm fronds, silhouetted against the dawn sky.  Sometimes I wonder if I should record those audio vignettes and post them here, in addition to photos and words.

I showered, dressed, and motored a few blocks to a Publix supermarket for breakfast fixings, and to Dunkin’ Donuts for a large coffee.  When I promise consulting clients that I’m careful with expenses, that’s what I’m talking about!  And it was just the right amount of food.

Breakfast

At 8:45 I met a new consulting client.  She and I worked at American years back, and when she took a new job in aviation supply, I reached out, both to congratulate her and offer my B2B marketing expertise, which was the purpose of the visit.  We had a good yak, then I met a few more people from the company, ate lunch, and departed.  It will be an interesting assignment.

I had plenty of time before my flight, delayed to 7:35, so I drove over to say hello to a friend who lived in Boca Raton.  Rang the doorbell on Sugar Plum Drive, but the lady who answered told me that Jim and Michelle had relocated to Mount Dora, in Central Florida, 14 months earlier.  I thanked her, got back in the car, Googled, and called Jim from in front of his old house.  We had a good yak, but Mount Dora was three hours away, so I said I’d see him on a future trip.  Drove north on I-95, dropped the car, and flew home.  A long, good day.

Sugar Plum Drive, Boca Raton; this is quintessential middle-class Florida, a scene that has attracted people south for more than a century

Sugar Plum Drive, Boca Raton; this is quintessential middle-class Florida, a scene that has attracted people south for more than a century

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A Short Personal History of Sledding

Dylan, a true sledder

Dylan, a true sledder

It snowed a few days ago, just enough to enable kids to go sledding.  So, naturally, granddaughters Dylan and Carson bundled up, and we headed out.  Tryouts were on a five-foot hill on our side yard, but soon I towed then down the street to a neighbor’s yard, with a much better hill.  Trudging down Bridle Path Lane got me thinking about the joy of the slope.

My earliest memories of sledding were on the big hill at the Edina Country Club, about three blocks from our house.  Minnesota winters were reliable in the 1950s, so there was never a shortage of snow from about the first week in December through the end of February or perhaps even to mid-March.

Getting to the hill required crossing some busy streets, so it was too far to go on our own when we were really young.  Because our father was a traveling salesman, gone Monday to Friday most weeks of the year, sledding was a weekend affair.  So on Saturdays or Sundays (or if we were lucky both), dad, brother Jim, and I would drag the toboggan, Jim’s Flexible Flyer sled, and my Silver Streak sled down 50th St. toward the big hill.  My dad wanted to instill a certain bravery, and never believed in coddling, so we would take the toboggan down all together, at what seemed like breakneck speeds.

By the time we were nine or 10, we could go to the hill by ourselves, but about that time I also started playing fair bit of hockey, at the rink at the end of Arden Avenue, a few blocks from home.  And a few years later, we took up a different version of down-the-hill, when we began to ski.

Not long after skiing began, we returned to the sled, discovering an even more thrilling — and certainly more dangerous — form, when we would rope Ward Brehm’s toboggan to the back of his mother’s Dodge station wagon.  It was the year before Ward got his drivers license, but no matter!  There were some thrilling sorties on that motor-driven toboggan.  The one I most vividly remember was when we reached a high speed of 46 miles an hour (velocity later reported by Ward) on Woodcrest Drive.  It was a typical suburban street, meaning that it was not straight, and as the toboggan arced further away from a straight line behind the car (not unlike the waterskier pulled outward and over the boat wake), Ward’s younger brother Stephen, who was captaining the sled, barked “Bailout, bailout.”  We rolled off the toboggan, along the icy street like human hockey pucks.  And just in time: two seconds later the toboggan rammed a fire hydrant, and was instantly reduced to splinters.  Almost 50 years later, I can remember that episode like it was yesterday.

A couple of years after that, the 1968 Winter  Olympics inspired us to build a crude version of a luge run, not coincidentally on a 40-foot hill above the Arden hockey rink mentioned above — “not coincidentally” because Ward (are you seeing a pattern here?) had a fire-hydrant wrench and access to the hoses used to flood the rinks.  The run became instantly popular, and was the site of countless injuries over its two- or three-week life, including the last concussion sustained by your scribe.

Between then and now, there really hasn’t been much sledding.  Going down a hill on snow meant skiing.  I do clearly remember, about 20 years ago, a fun afternoon spent on inner tubes, sailing downhill with friend Mark Miller in Egan Minnesota.  Tubing on snow is a wonderful experience, because the ride is so smooth.   So we fast forward to two days of sledding with Carson and Dylan, who likes it way more than her younger sister.  And the like is so elemental: the joy of gravity.

We’re hoping for more snow this winter!

The two sledders after a fast glide

The two sledders after a fast glide

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