Graduation Trip – done

If I ever had any doubts of my feelings towards babies, airplane rides confirm to me why I don’t like them…

The plane was small to begin with, the aisle barely large enough to walk down without turning sideways. Wailing baby infront of us, wailing baby somewhere behind us, and the stereo typical movie brat directly behind me kicking my seat.

I am exhausted. I have barely slept all weekend and the 2 hour plane ride was mean’t to be a chance for some sleep. But that didn’t seem would be the case with junior soccer star behind me.

And if I thought trying to fall asleep with the five nursing babies and toddler from hell was bad, I was not expecting the 20 minutes of violent, stomach dropping, head thrashing turbulence. Later spoken of as “the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced,” by other passengers.

And it was bad. The last time I’d experienced turbulence like that, I was barely just a teenager. It was a band trip to another small city in Southeast Alaska, though I can’t recall exactly which. I remember the plane dropping violently, my stomach leaping into my throat, and grabbing onto my best friend. He laughed at me, always the rational one. But I was the one with the wild imagination. Years later, I would follow him to college. He stuck with band, I would simply flounder. Like a fish out of water. An Alaskan, finding herself in Idaho…

I feel the plane turning figure eights as the pilot tries to navigate the turbulence. Ironically, the brat behind me is silent. But each time I close my eyes, the plane jerks sideways knocking my head about, and I see William Shatner’s monkey on the wing. I see the cast of Lost, just trying to survive. I see snow capped mountains, with nothing around for miles…

We land safely, obviously.

I am awash with more relief than I realize. Not just to be back on solid ground, but because in a matter of hours, I’ll be back in my bed. I’ll be in my pajamas, surrounded by my pets, and no agenda. Just back home.

We stand at baggage claim, joking about their promise to provide discounts on your next flight if your bag arrives 20 minutes late. We watch our watches. 18… 19… 20… and then the conveyor belt stops… There is a moment of confusion, where are our bags?

…We received the discount on our next flight, and the promise that when our bags returned from their wayward trip to Portland, they would be delivered back to us at home… Pajamas and all…

It rained the whole 2 hour drive home. But some 10 hours after waking up that morning, we made it home. And some 108 hours after starting the most arduous graduation weekend, it ended…

Small consolation: Unpacking was easy…

Graduation Trip – day 3

To wait, or not to wait…

Today we got to sleep in. No graduation ceremonies to go to, no fireworks, just a leisurely day. Which was fine, cuz it rained…

And it was an oddly timed day. In that, we drove to a lovely breakfast place, The Broken Yolk (known for their Man vs, Food food challenge of a 12 egg veggie omlette, side of hashbrowns, and 2 biscuits in under an hour.) And there were people out the door waiting. We were told we’d have about a 30 minute wait, so we went outside to wait… and were seated 10 minutes later…

Where as, the wait for 4 coffees…

We went to the well talked up Urth Cafe. A place that touted its fair trade and heirloom product. Matcha Lattes, Boba Teas, and Italian Style Coffees. And some pretty delicious looking food. There was a line out the door. When we finally were granted admission we ordered our drinks. And 30 minutes later, we walked out with them.

The one time sensitive item of the day, the appointment to pick up the graduation cake. We got to the shop maybe 20 minutes past the hour. The shop was bustling with customers coming and going, with their custom made graduation cakes. But ours wasn’t ready yet..

The town of Orange seemed almost confused as what to do, with all the extra people around for graduation weekend. We popped into the soda fountain shop for a milkshake, and they seated us in a booth and then ignored us. When we finally got someone’s attention they were super apologetic and then we had about 4 people waiting on us. For a milkshake. One.

The biggest worry of the day was dinner. Sunday night, post graduation weekend dinner. Everywhere was going to be jammed. We’d popped into a little Italian place in the afternoon, wanting to put in a reservation, but they didn’t accept reservations. We’d have to try our luck at dinnertime like everyone else. It didn’t look promising, as the restaurant was hardly larger than a downtown clothing shop, and had few enough tables to count on 2 hands.

But we tried anyway, we weren’t in a hurry. There were people outside the restaurant when we walked up. We went to put our name down on the list… and they told us they had a table…

It was a strange sort of day. A day we had given ourselves to take our time and not rush, but the fates had other plans for us. Perhaps it was all so we could really enjoy ourselves. See and do everything we wanted. Or perhaps everything was just turned on its head this weekend. Either way, after the hustle and bustle of the last couple days, it was a nice change.

Slow down and enjoy your coffee. Come right in and eat some food. Spend more time with your family…

Graduation Trip – day 2

Are we done yet?

Another early morning. Another stupid, early morning. And it still wasn’t early enough. It was floor seating for graduation attendees, and for short people, that meant prime view of the backs of people’s heads.

Ceremony began with a video with students thanking their families, and then a brief run down of the rules. No food or drink, no standing and blocking people’s views, no going into the aisles to take pictures, etc. The music began, the graduates began their walk, and everyone jumped up and ran into the aisles to take pictures…

This is the part of the graduation that is the most important, and yet, the most boring. A total of 10 seconds from the moment they announce a student’s name (with the most epic, sports announcer voice ever!), to walking over to accept the diploma, get a picture taken with the dean, and vanish off stage. 10 seconds, and a hundred other students to go.

Needless to say, it was boring. The sun was beating down (between the clouds) and one woman ahead of us kept standing up. Not to take pictures, simply to stand. I might have yelled at her to, “sit the fuck down!” at some point. I had yet to have a cup of coffee…

It was stupid early…

At some point, we resorted to mid-ceremony selfie taking. At some point, we went over to the table with water coolers. At some point, we left and got coffee. When we had coffee in hand, some 20 minutes later, the epic, sports announcer was still announcing names…

It ended, eventually. More pictures were taken. And then it was lunch time.

Margaritas and molé, valet parking, and twelve dollar guacamole (that we did not get.) And a gigantic scoop of fried icecream.

Afterwards, the sun was finally shining in earnest, the jacaranda trees were blooming, and all of Southern California was headed to the beach. So we did too. It took us about 10 minutes to drive there, and about 10 minutes waiting behind cars sitting around blocking traffic to get that spot when that family has finished packing up and leaves…

But the sand was warm, and the sky was blue. It smelled like dead fish, but hey, it’s the beach. Families fishing off the pier, and it must have been good fishing, cuz a pod of porpoises were boppin’ about, and a lone sealion swam about near the pier.

Dinner was a casual affair. All the celebration and energy expended. But the restaurant we found, we discovered we quite liked. The Lazy Dog brewery that touted itself as dog friendly, even going so far as to have menu for dogs. The food was delicious, though no one could manage to eat very much.

Back to the hotel for a blessed early night. We all settled into bed, before the sounds of banging started. As much as I tried to ignore it, I could not and only grew more irritated with each bang and pop. Until it finally dawned on me. The Los Angeles Angels had won their game, and the stadium was letting off fireworks.

We went to the window and watched. And oddly enough, it was a pretty spectacular end to another long day.

Graduation Trip – day 1.5

The alarm went off at 5am. This was how the day started. Perhaps you’re thinking, that’s not so bad, plenty of folks rise with the sun. Except there was no sun. It was gray and rainy. And I’d not long finished a 5 hour drive up the day before. 324 miles with two cats on my lap.

I tried to roll over and ignore it, to find a huge dog taking over more than half of the otherside of the bed. I wasn’t going to fall back asleep anyhow. No matter how tightly I squeeze my eyes.

We left the house at 7. Reached the ferry terminal at 7:50. Docked in Seattle at about 8:30. And promptly hit Friday morning rush hour traffic… I closed my eyes, and when I opened them we were pulling into the long term parking near the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. I hopped out of the car just as 2 other cars pulled up spewing out a sleep deprived gaggle of girls. Loud girls. Who squeezed into the same shuttle as us to the airport, despite there being too few seats… We arrived at the airport at about 9:15. Literally ran thru security, and were ready for coffee by 9:30.

This was our chance for a breath. Coffee, and food, and some random but wonderful music.

By 11:00 we had squeezed onto the airport subway train, and were shooting off towards our gate.

Inside the ENTIRE Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and I look over to see (and hear) the gaggle of girls eating breakfast at a restaurant next to our gate. Thankfully, at 11:45 we began boarding.

12:20, we left Seattle.

1,165 miles.

At 3pm on the nose, we arrive in Orange County, CA. And promptly hit Friday afternoon rush hour traffic…

Hotel by 4:30. Quick change from easy travel wear, to semi-fancy wear. (And some rescue sandwich nomming.) And back out at 6…

The graduation was scheduled for 7pm. Nothing really ever happens on time, but it wasn’t too late in starting. It was cold, the sun went down and the wind was persistent. The Duffer Brothers, alumni of Chapman University waxed inspirational to the graduates. Telling them how amazing they’re all going to be… just not right now… Maybe in like a decade.

And at 9 there was this brilliant idea of champagne on the lawn. The sort of soft lawn, in the dark, save for the random spotlights that didn’t so much as illuminate, as shine directly into your eyes. But there were celebratory fireworks, and that’s what the whole thing was really about. Not the fireworks, or the selfies with the Duffer Brothers (much shorter than you’d think..), but the celebration.

I traveled 1,557 miles (there was a random 70 miles in there to get to the STIA) in 2 days, and have been awake for 18 hours straight. I endured wonderful singing, and obnoxious singing, saw 3 people leave items behind in their self absorbed haste (but then found them again, with some help), sat in a cramped plane with screaming babies and a yowling dog, slogged through rush hour traffic twice in 1 day, and listened to a biochemist give an inspirational speech about… I’m really not sure… but I did it for family.

Today, my cousin graduated from College, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

(…she’s also apparently graduating again tomorrow… at 8am 😫)

Graduation Trip – day 1

-The God’s Eye View-

The airport is busy. Lines spilling out of the bathrooms busy. But we still manage to find a table, and drink some coffee. A woman is playing guitar and singing. Songs I know. I can’t recall their titles, but I know the tune of them. She puts her own deep, somber twist to them. I put some money in her can. She smiles at me while she sings, and I smile back.

We make our way to our gate. We take the underground subway to another building. It is far less crowded and we settle into the short wait. We hear some more singing. A sort of humming, opera moaning. A man with an epic mustache and a twinkle in his eyes is walking around the seats at the gate, singing while he also waits to board. “He better not be doing that all thru the flight…” I mutter to my father as the man does a fly by of us.

The plane is hot, and small, and I immediately take note of all the kids. Toddlers and babies. Baby in front of us. Baby behind and to the right of us. Toddlers across from us.. Its like my worst nightmare. Surrounded by kids in a small confined space.. We can’t take off soon enough.

The plane finally starts moving. Slowly. Out my window I see plane after plane take off. I realize we are in a circus parade of planes, waiting in line to take off. I watch maybe 10 planes in front of us shoot off before we finally turn the corner for our turn. As we do, I see some 10 more planes in line behind us, all different sizes and colours. The grass ripples as the last plane before us rumbles skyward. And then we do the same.

And the rumble of the engine isnt enough to drown out the wailing babies and screaming toddlers and somewhere… somewhere, a yowling dog…

I lose myself out the window. …around the wing, cuz we have a perfect view of the wing in all its glory. And I can almost imagine the creepy faced monkey in one of the William Shatner episodes of the Twilight Zone. But there is no monkey on this plane, to wreak havok and tear apart the wing.

We shoot towards the clouds, resting on top of the atmosphere, like île flottante, floating islands. They are whipped and wispy, like cotton candy for the Gods.

And then, once above them, we even out. The crying and wailing subsides, and it is here, 35,000 feet in the air, defying the laws of nature, that we see our world from a God’s eye view..