My family returned to Japan this summer to visit Baba. It was long overdue since we couldn’t go last year due to COVID, and me, being the only one who doesn’t hold a passport am not allowed in this year either. That means I’m a free man all summer. It suddenly dawned on me a few days before Father’s Day that I could actually get back to celebrate the day with my Dad and so off I went.
I work for an airline and we can fly free if seats are available. This summer however, everyone wants to travel somewhere having been cooped up for so long due to the pandemic. This meant that almost all the flights were full but I was going to try. Luckily I made it to Ohio without any problems. Getting back was a bit more hectic but I’ll tell that story at the end of this post.
The week went very quickly and now that I’m back here writing these words on my second-story perch the trip seems almost surreal, as though it were a dream. At 44 years old my trips back home have taken on a different flavor with the main difference is that for the past 23 years I’ve always contacted friends but now no longer do so.
There are two main reasons: Trump and time. Trump was the catalyst so we’ll start with that one. I remain appalled that so many of my former acquaintances and even family could support such an awful person. The straw that broke the camel’s back was him calling the virus “Kung-flu” which put a target on the back of Asians in this country. It was a direct assault on my own family and I suddenly had to worry about some moron in a MAGA hat saying something to my own family. Then I look at my old friends and see them enthusiastically cheering him on. When I stated my opinions on Facebook I got some pretty nasty responses and so you know what? Friendship over.
That is a shame as I was the one who pulled everyone back together. Most live in the same town but never meet up! I started the class Facebook page, I got the 20 year reunion going and I called many of them for beers at the bar whenever I’m in town. Well, I no longer want to do that because Trumpers always want to talk about Trump. I went for 20 years without speaking a word about politics although I write much about it on my Global Citizen blog. All of a sudden those that know nothing except for what they hear on Faux News cannot help themselves but bring it up. The conversation starts normally enough but then in wild eyed exasperation they cannot believe we are not as brainwashed as they are and there the evening goes. Bye-bye evening and bye-bye any get togethers where I am a participant. Why don’t they call their local Proud Boy chapter to arrange them from now on? Standing by!
The second reason is that time is passing quickly: my parents are aging and my young niece and nephew are growing quickly. I now prefer to spend all my time just being with them. I divide my time between the generations. For the adults we spend a lot of time on the porch or patio conversing and drinking wine while the kids play games. With the kids, I’m the only adult that can enter into their worlds through games as I know all about Animal Crossing, Fortnite and Roblox. And yes, I have accounts in all of them and can participate.
The activity we all can enjoy is going to the Grandview pool and we certainly did that. The pool is not just a place to cool off but is a gathering place for my niece/nephew’s friends as well as a reservoir of nostalgia for the adults. My Dad went there when he was a kid and so did I. The pool was renovated and so looks completely different with three separate pools instead of one big one but what hasn’t changed are the trees. I look up at those timeless trees and think about all the generations they’ve seen passing through time at the Grandview pool. I then look down and it is filled with new people, most likely none that were around 30 years ago when I was a boy.
In these memories I see shadows of the past, scarcely visible behind all the newness. I see Mrs. Henderson and Mrs. Saturn lying in the pool recliners smoking their cigarettes. I see young adults in their ’80s short, shorts playing basketball in the cage and I was too afraid to go near. I remember the ambulance coming as someone fell off the slide, again, and hit the pavement. Safety wasn’t a big thing in the ’80s was it? I remember diving off the boards, then swimming down 20 feet to try and find change at the bottom of the deep end. We didn’t have much money so the concession stand was for the most part out of reach unless I could scrounge up change that had fallen out of other swimmers pockets. And I remember being so completely exhausted that upon returning home I would like down on our orange shag carpet right in front of the fan and fall asleep.
Well, I got to experience that exhaustion once again. It has been a long time since I spent all day at the pool in the sun. I went down the new slides many times with my nephew and showed off my new ability which is a one-and-a-half (flip to dive) off the high dive. I gained the courage to try when I was 42 and although my heart still races I can do it consistently now. Going off the high dive, like swinging on those 12′ swings at my elementary school, are childhood joys which I love even at 44. These are things many adults do not do for fear of feeling silly. Those adults become boring and age quickly.
At this same pool I was also able to see my niece and nephew participate in a swim meet. Grandview has come such a long way since I was a kid and I think it is wonderful. It was at the swim meet that I ran into Meredith, the only acquaintance from my past I saw during the trip. She was one grade above me in elementary school, we went to the same high school and her daughter was also participating at the meet. She asked if I was getting together with anyone but I said no, and gave her the completely honest reason in that I don’t want to due to the nastiness on Facebook because of Trump. I could see her face darken and I thought it really was a shame as she had also participated in a previous get together which was a lot of fun. The combination of Trump and social media really are poison aren’t they?
Another activity I used to do with friends and now enjoyed with my Dad was going to Roosters. I have a few favorite foods in Columbus and I love those wings.
This was one of the few and precious times I could just be alone with my Dad and talk about deep subjects such as religion, philosophy while having a couple of beers and enjoying unhealthy food. Spending time with family has now become the most important activity on my trips home and is all I really care to do whether it is at a restaurant or just sitting on the front porch. There is no need to go anywhere, no need to see anyone, just sit on the porch with family and savor the moment. In fact, my sister enhanced that savoring by breaking out the Veuve Clicquot one evening. 🙂
As this very blog is a testament I’m acutely aware of the passage of time. So sitting on the porch with the adults, especially my parents is extremely important but so is spending time with my niece and nephew. Every time I see them they have aged a year so on my return trips I’m seeing a version of them that I’ll never see again. On this trip it was all Roblox and Animal Crossing which I happily participate in. We also took a trip to a new place called Miner 49er, also in Grandview. The entertainment options in Grandview have improved immensely and it is fitting that it is right there on W. 3rd Ave as those few blocks have the same shadows of the past as the pool. My Grandfather drank on that corner at a place called Martini’s. My Dad dated a girl just a block away and I drank there at the same place as Martini’s although it is now called Byrne’s Pub. Byrne’s now also holds its own, much newer shadows of the past as this is where I would call everyone together when I was in town. Instead of Byrne’s it was Miner ’49er with my sister and her kids playing mini-golf.
Miner ’49er is not only mini-golf but has little sections where you can drive a ball into a screen and seems like the baby brother of Topgolf doing what it can with limited space. I thought I would do well with this mini golf as I am an actual golfer but in not knowing the course I made many mistakes and got last place.
Speaking of golf I did make it to Wilson Road for my traditional, spiritual, commune with chapters of my life that took place long ago. I get there before dawn and tee off in the dark so I’m well into the course and can enjoy the solitude and memories before anyone shows up, even before the maintenance people. I catch the sunrise on the 6th hole which is always a deep experience for me.
I worked on this course during high school on the maintenance crew. So when maintenance crew does show up I look for the two that are still there so I can say hello, and say hello I did this time as well. I saw Bill on the 7th hole and we had a nice chat. Then I hit my ball, when to the green and Bill let me know Arin was on the other hole cutting the green. He drove me in his cart over to say hello and it was a nice reunion. I told him how great the course looked and that if business travel doesn’t come back to please hold a spot for me on the maintenance crew. It is hard to believe that 25 years have passed since I worked there.
Finally it came time to say goodbye and return to California. The return trip was an exhausting adventure in itself. As I mentioned, as an airline employee I can fly free but only if space is available. Well, I can see how many empty seats there should be and the plenty of empty seats just a few days before disappeared. There were throngs of people even at 6 AM at Columbus airport. This made me very worried but I had to try as all planes and routes looked full for the entire coming week so it wouldn’t be any easier if I were to wait.
The one seat we can get as an employee is the jump-seat which is where the flight attendants sit. The plane was completely full and so I had my first experience in the jump-seat.
Riding in the jump-seat comes with a lot of rules and restrictions and, as an airline employee you must also be ready to assist or do whatever the crew needs of you. The first thing you must do is introduce yourself to the captain and get his permission to ride jump. Then you introduce yourself to the crew. You cannot sleep or wear earphones. I really enjoyed speaking with the flight attendants and I learned so much from them. It was a great experience.
However, Columbus being a medium sized city cannot keep a non-stop to the Bay Area unfortunately so it was to Phoenix to make the connection to OAK. Again, the planes were packed and I was getting nervous. There were other airline employees listed on the PHX-OAK flight so I might not get jump, and I might not even make it back to OAK that day. So in speaking with the flight attendant on the way to Phoenix she mentioned that when in a jam one could use points and buy a ticket. Well, for the first part of the trip there were no empty seats but checking again an hour before landing in Phoenix one opened up. I was able to grab that one and use points to purchase it. Once you buy a ticket you cannot cancel 24 hours before the flight and use the free standby method because that would take money from the company as well as deprive a paying customer from the seat so is a big no-no. I didn’t bother to check if those jump seats available because I was so relieved I would get back to Oakland that day and not spend a day or two stressing in the PHX airport about when I would get home. Those were the best 18,000 points I ever spent and was so glad a seat had opened up.
And so, my trip to Ohio has concluded. I’m really glad I could get back and as I’ve explained, things have changed. Well, all of life continues to change and as always, this very blog is one of my greatest treasures as I enjoy reading the chapters of my life.