The Great Alaskan Adventure – Post Script

I don’t mean it to sound like I really hated my childhood.. Honestly, the older I get, the more I realize it’s the opposite.

This town sheltered my childhood. I grew up around complete families. I grew up surrounded by culture, and diversity. I grew up in a community of adopted children, and through that, my eyes were opened to the huge world outside my little island. I grew up enmeshed in the local Native culture, and through that understood the concept of respect. And I grew up in a town that is probably 75% wild nature, and through that I developed knowledge of more than just human culture. I watched our beloved Glacier slowly melt away, and understood that what we do really does matter. Climate Change is real. I remember the Exxon Valdez oil spill in ’89, and understood that life is more than just we see on land. I saw a wolf on the ice, I watched from a distance as it tipped its head back and howled, and I realized some things TV and Photos just can’t capture. That there is a real world out there, and first hand is sometimes the only way to really experience it.

It took me years to realize. But it all soaked into my development as I lived and grew. No one had to teach it to me. Like my mother never tought me her Spaghetti recipe, but I know it. Like my father never tought me how to shell fresh shrimp, but I know how.

I ran away from my childhood once I finished High School. I washed away the memories and never wanted to go back.

Juneau, Alaska was where I spent 20 years of my life. It is my childhood. I knew culture, I knew nature, I knew Love.

I simply mean to say, that through this return, I have realized that it is no longer my home. All things continue to move, and I had moved on. It wasn’t for me to stay there.

(Photo credits from 11 years ago.)

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Epilogue

Parting Shots..

The entire city of Juneau, Alaska is covered in a thick haze. Smoke from wild fires up north. It distorted a lot of the views. The mountains in the distance, standing like sentinel ghosts. And the heat was record breaking. These aren’t the way things are supposed to be there..

And maybe it was fitting for my return. All of my memories got distorted and turned on their head..

The truth is, Juneau is no longer my home. I don’t know it anymore. Everything is different. The shops, the people, the Glacier, the trees! Some things are the same. The beaches.. But none of it felt like “home.”

We spent so much time playing tourist, and seeing as much as we could see.. It wasn’t like I was returning to my home.

I’ve lately spent so much time confused about who I am and what I should be doing. The two people I reunited with, so head strong and assured in what they are doing. Why couldn’t I find that?

I don’t really know what I had been expecting. Some grand revelatory moment? Some golden answer to all my quiries?

Instead, it was like opening a box, to find it’s empty inside..

I had never believed or felt that I was really an Alaskan. Not the way some people do. But I suppose this trip confirmed it for me. Alaska is not my “Home.”

“Home” is still a place I’m searching for..

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Chapter 5

The Case of the Murdered Raven..

In the wee hours of the morning, a raven was murdered on the grounds of the Sacred Shrine of St. Theresa.

All the other ravens were up in arms. Squaking and crowing at any who passed by.

Crime scene photos were taken.

But no trace was left behind. It seemed the culprit had made a clean get away.

Was it Great Bald Eagle? Known for laying the smack down on smaller birds getting in his way?

Was it Big G Bear? Who possibly happened upon this straggling raven and had him for a snack?

Or was it possibly Mr. Wolf? Not typically know to these parts. A traveler. Passing thru. Murder and mayhem left in his wake.

Who could know? But the ravens demanded answers.

The heat was on, and the tide was rising..

Who would solve the crime.. of the Murdered Raven..

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Chapter 4

(You’re not going crazy. There is no Chapter 3.)

The Day After..

I don’t know about you, but 16,000 steps sounds like loneliness to me.. 16, 192 right now, as I type, sitting, perched in the window..

Yesterday, the world came together to celebrate the Birth of our nation.

Today, life goes on. The sun comes up. Stores open as usual. Crew ships dock. Life goes on..

Candy wrappers litter the streets. Orange cones still linger from blocking off streets. A woman in a police car drives block by block, stopping each time to pack up the “No Parking” signs..

I walk the streets, and I don’t recognize anyone. I don’t recognize the stores. I don’t recognize much at all. It’s like a dream you’re trying to remember, but can’t quite pull it out of the fog. My heart feels confused..

I reunited with a childhood friend, and I didn’t know him anymore. He looked different, but the same. He knew me, and I knew him, and I smiled… but I didn’t have the energy to meet a stranger..

Even the trees are strangers. The freakin’ trees!

How can a place be so familiar, yet so different? Was it like this for my father? Who moved from his home across the world to be with the woman he loved.. was it like this when he came back to his childhood home?

A teacher once told me that “Nostalgia,” is the longing for a time, not a place. Places change. This place has changed..

And 9 stories in the air, I watch a small tour ship, docked away from the other massive crew ships. I watch as it toots its horn and pulls away from port. I watch it disappear behind a building for a while, a long while.. I watch it reappear, turn right.. turn right again. I watch it go around it unsure circles, before finally finding its way and heading off, and I feel a profound sense of… loneliness…

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Chapter 2.5

Sky Flowers..

When she was younger, she’d been a little in love with him.. But then, what young girl isn’t a little in love? Something about him drunk dialing her and serenading her a song by Poison. Or maybe it was something else.

On this night, the docks were crowded with people. Drunk, and rowdy, and jostling everywhere. Everyone shuffling around, looking for someone else..

And then BOOM!!

And the sky sparks to life. Everyone stops, turns, and looks skyward. The night fills with colourful explosions. One after another. The next bigger than the last. It is the event of the night. 4th of July Fireworks show.

And yet something pulls her attention to the left. And there he is, standing alone, head tilted up in awe. The sparks of light illuminating his most likely drunk, and relaxed features. The slightly amused twitch in his lip.

The show was in front of her, but the heart stopping sight was to her left..

And then someone says his name, pulling him from his revery, and he is engulfed into the crowd..

———————————————————

I never liked loud sounds. Booms of explosions, banging of drums. It always hurt my chest. The deep sound bouncing around my empty rib cage..

I always avoided parades because of it. And thunder would cause me to cry. I couldn’t handle the echoing in my chest..

Tonight, the explosions are loud. They are numerous. Sky explosion after sky explosion. People cheer and clap. The sounds carry and bounce off the mountains.

BOOM! ..boom! ..boom… BANG! ..bang! ..bang…

It is a trick. It makes the night full of flashes and rumblings.

And I wonder if it also makes Juneau cry. The sound echoing around her rib cage..

Or if she feels happy. Because tonight, her chest is full with the people who love her..

———————————————————

George A. Romero was called the Godfather of the Dead. He wrote and directed the classic Night of the Living Dead.

He had this idea, in one of his films, that one could distract a hoard of zombies by lighting off fireworks into the sky.

(I think, another nod to what Romero thought of society..)

In the movie Land of the Dead, you hear the boom, then see the masses of zombies all stop, turn, and stare skyward. Awe-struck by the sparkly sky flowers..

At which point, the group of survivors either make a run to safety, or bash the zombies in the brains..

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Chapter 2

Today we played Tourist..

I’m trying to remember my childhood. How we’d walk our dogs all around the Mendehall Glacier. I see the old grainy pictures of them in my mind, but the glacier today is not that place..

It is verdant green and lush. Even the water from the falls and the glacier seem a tint of green. At first, what hits you, is the smell of exhaust. There are some 5 buses when we arrive, and more coming and going. We take the standard photos. I squint, and I’m not sure if it’s because my contacts are dry, or if I’m trying to see the glacier. My heart breaks a little over how far back it’s melted over the years. But hey, “Global Warming is fake news,” right?

2019

There is about a mile walk out to the epic waterfall. We fall into the stream of traffic and are whisked off, like spawning salmon. And no matter how many waterfalls you’ve seen, this one still takes your breath away..

From a distance it seems standard. Meh.. But as you get closer, you hear it before you can see it. A distant, tickle of laughter in the air, followed by a cooling in temperature. And then when you break through the trees and are finally upon it, it towers above you like a God, laughing its great, crashing laughter. Your feet sink into the dry sand as you approach its base. Like a traveler reaching an oasis, you reach the fall. You are met with the cool, spray of water. And words escape you..

It is a very touristy thing to do. What was once a peaceful, leisurely place to go, now a place people from around the world flock to see. After all, perhaps one day, there wont be much to see anymore..

In keeping in the spirit, we go to the local fish hatchery. Not some place locals would go to for fun, but somewhere your second grade class might take you during Ocean Week. Inside, one giant cylander with warped glass the induces a sense of dizziness, is full of huge fish you’d never just see. Giant, lazy rock fish. Huge, spiney king crabs. Anemonies that could suck your face off. Barnacles the size of walnuts.. And of course, to one side is the touch tanks, where kids can poke starfish and sea cucumbers.. And for a good 10 minutes, I stared at a hermit crab as he contemplated moving to a new shell. I had my camera poised, ready to snap a shot of his naked body as he made the half a second change. But also felt a little bit like a peeper, looking thru the window of a stranger, and eventually left to reunite with my party..

And finally, dockside, the oddly ellusive, bronze whale sculpture. Nothing quite so awe inspiring while I was living here. Huge, with fountains and spraying water shooting up. Really, it was pretty fantastic (if a little oddly located..) Humpback Whales, such amazing and magestic creatures. They’ve always struck me as so Alaskan. The way Rhubarb feels Alaskan. Yes, you can grow and buy Rhubarb anywhere. But Rhubarb in Alaska is like palm trees in California..

…I’m not really sure where that analogy came from. It’s coming on 10PM on July 3rd (11PM down south time.) And I am contemplating the feasability of going to bed and skipping the festivities tonight at midnight. But, you see… it is a big thing here. Cars are already lining up along the main road, finishing boats are clogging the channel up, and with the fire warning pretty high up here and a possible water rationing soon, it is a really big deal that the city has even allowed fireworks at all tonight..

And so it is..

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Chapter 1.5

The midnight streets of downtown..

I still sometimes dream of Juneau. It’s always downtown Juneau though. I suppose there are the random dreams about the old houses, but usually it’s downtown. At night. I’m walking, and it’s empty, but all lit up. It’s almost like the scene at the beginning of Spirited Away, where there’s no people, but everything is open..

Maybe it has something to do with the night my brother and his friends were throwing a Christmas party. He was living downtown, in an apartment above one of the tourist shops. I honestly, don’t really recall the party, but I remember, as I was getting ready to go home, looking out the window over the downtown streets..

Snow covered the streets and buildings, cuz in Alaska, that’s what happens in the winter. All the shops were long since closed. But all up and down the streets, it seemed the entire high school senior class had decided to have a giant snowball fight..

Imagine streets, usually crowded with tourists all bouncing from shop to shop. Now suddenly empty. Bright, and beautifully blanketed in virgin, fluffy white. The streets aren’t large, but all along them, the largest, organized, bloodless war I’d ever seen..

I don’t really know why these two memories pop into my head… We used to joke that Juneau had 2 seasons, the Rainy Season, and Tourist Season. “Going Downtown,” mean’t you were taking your life into your own hands by jumping in with the non-locals..

I suppose I’m probably being dramatic. But I was always very small and easy to step on. I also, never knew what downtown was like after it all shut down for the night..

Now here I am, head hanging out a 9 story window, breathing in the fresh, sea air and embracing the silence. It is profound. It has taken me 3 decades to realize, underneath it all, Juneau is beautiful…

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Chapter 1

And here we are..

I remember the first time I’d spent an extended time away from here, Juneau, the town I grew up in. It was my first year away at college. I’d gone to Idaho. I went for the writing program. And had followed a boy. It was yellow. Fields and fields of yellow. Wide, open fields..

I came home my first summer. I landed in the small airport and was picked up my my parents. Unsurprisingly, it was a grey and drizzly day. I hit the ground running, we immediately drove to a friend’s house for dinner or some such gathering. I remember the sudden claustrophobia, fighting back tears in the back seat. Juneau is surrounded by mountains, like a giant, green fishbowl. And on overcast days, of which I had grown up with frequently, I had forgotten how thick and low the clouds sit. Right on top of the mountains. I felt immediately closed in..

I spent the summer with my dog, driving to the ends of each road.. then turning back, and heading home..

Juneau is essentially an island. Travel only happens via plane or boat. I had had a taste of freedom, and the small island was too small for me..

Flying back in today, I didn’t feel homesick, or welcomed. In fact, I really couldn’t see much at all. The wildfires up North had created a thick smog, Juneau’s beautiful mountains, smudged out of view by Climate Change.

And I’m not sure what I had expected, I walked out of the bathroom and down to baggage claim and I had no idea where I was. It definitely was no longer the airport of my childhood. Where was the giant, stuffed grizzly? And the standard cafe style restaurant we’d always eat breakfast at? I felt like a stranger in a strange land..

We drove down the familiar streets I used to stomp on. The bones felt the same. The street names were the same. I think I remember that house..

We passed by my two childhood homes. One was exactly the same. Same green shutters, same fence, same vent in the attic I had butchered to help vent my clubhouse… The other house looked dramatically different. The paint seemed dark, and since when did they need that fence?

It was all alot to take in. To slam your brain with memories. Memories of a childhood, you never really bothered to hang on to. It was just Juneau. It was the bosom that nurtured me while I grew. I was a fierce grizzly growing up, and an Eagle. I needed to fly.

I am sad by how weird it feels to be here. It’s like a fuzzy dream I’m trying to remember.. but I’m not remembering it quite right. I’m not supposed to be here in a rented car. I’m not supposed to be sleeping in a hotel on a couch. And it is definitely not supposed to be 80°! People laugh at me when I cry over 70° down south, and I justify my precious tears with the explanation that, “I grew up in Alaska!”

WHAT THE FUCKOCALYPSE?! Is no place sacred anymore?..

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Chapter 0.5

The light goes on at zero dark thirty and I moan. I’d forgotten how much hotels suck. It may be a fairly quiet hotel, no wooshing of the tram-line, and the rumble of passing jets, like the distant sounds of an eager neighbor wheeling their garbage can down the driveway… over and over…

The hotel room, for all its wonderful design, its light blocking curtains and its hip, raised sink… it is not designed for comfort and relaxation!

One light switch, that illuminates the entire world! A thermostat that has to be operated by the greatest bomb defuser in the nation. The bathroom door that is a little too oiled on its tracks and slams shut. The shower door that isn’t oiled enough and groans terribly when opened or closed. The toilet that acts like this is its first job, so eager to please, and almost seems to flush itself before you can even push the button with the most extrordinary WHOOOOOSH!!! The coffee maker, brewing away, until, like a washed up stage actor taking his dying breaths, puff… puff….. puuuff….. PUUUUUUUUFF! And don’t even get me started on the pillows, so puffy and inviting, until one’s head approaches, and they immediately deflate to sad pancake pillows…

I hadn’t been able to sleep anyway. I eventually tried thinking about sheep. Then began thinking about a story about sheep. Then couldn’t stop.

I put in my headphones and cued up a monotone voiced crime reporter podcast, and did, eventually, somehow, fall asleep…

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Prologue

The View From Here…

After a night waking up with some sort of strange full neck/throat muscle spasms, in which I could barely move my head or swallow (I took a sleep aide, and magically woke up semi-cured…), I journeyd down to town for a quad shot latte at my favorite coffee shop. Sadly, my barista boy was not working today. I watched as the patrons all seemed to know each other. This table jumping up to say hi to this table. That person walking in and saying hi to that table. Not me. I sit alone in the corner, but the sweet sounds of Edith Piaff and Pink Martini, and an old school English crime novel kept me company.

Afterwards, it was alot of hustle and bustle. The last minute sort of stuff you do before a trip away. My fur sister looked dejected, someone had said the word, “walk” and possibly the word, “beach?” hours ago… My big cat naps. It’s one of the many perks of being a cat, naps, whenever. I try to feed the small tortoise a fresh raspberry from down the way, envisioning the memes of the small tortoise, face covered in murdered raspberry gore. I have my camera at the ready, but his head just bobs up and down dubiously. So I take him outside in the sun. He opens his mouth, then bobs his head up and down dubiously..

Dinner of Safeway Chinese take-out. A total guilty pleasure (don’t judge me…). Dad chokes near to death, mom continues to hustle and bustle..

At some point, our chariot for the 70 some odd mile ride arrives. It’s gonna be long, smashed in the middle seat. I put my head phones in and the noise drowns out, like those movie scenes where the music turns up loud and all the outside noise goes away. I see lips moving, and hands bouncing up and down, occassionally a laugh breaks thru, but it’s just me..

Our hotel feels confused. It’s retro, with loud music, and at any moment you expect strobe lights to start flashing. Outside our window is a building under construction. We close the curtains. Though, it’s surprisingly quiet, for being right on the tram-line and close to the airport. It’s only one night though..

We get drinks at the bar. At the next table over is a small party of an older man, and a couple Jack the Lads. They are loud, excited. Apparently, of all the million destinations in the entire world, they are destined for the same, small town as us..

I spent 2 decades of my childhood growing up in Alaska, calling it home, not really knowing anything else. Apparently, 11 years ago, we up and emigrated to the lower 48. 11 years ago was the last time I set foot in the motherland..

Tomorrow, I board a plane to return..

———————————————————

PS. She totally made it to the beach..

Hashtag: Happy Mermaid Dog

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..