January 07, 2014

Florida

Recently heard the great and wonderful Fr. C at the Dominican parish. It's like magic hearing him talk, he's so conversational. I won't do justice at this remove but he mentioned how many are coming back to church due to the influence of Pope Francis and said some Catholic theologians like himself wonder why it is that they expound on abstruse and very deep things while Pope Francis says very simple things and people love him and want to come back to the church. He said that people just want to know they're loved, that God loves us, and they see that in Francis. 

It made me wonder about Fr. T's theory of secular types not wanting a God who loves us since Francis is popular with some seculars precisely because of that.  The message I think is not all secular types are the same, duh. 

SATURDAY: 

Headed to the airport just before 10am for an 11:30am-ish non-stop.  On the plane read a lot of a Margaret MacMillan book trying to figure out how/why a prosperous Europe decided to destroy itself via World War I.  Just a fascinating topic and a hot one now given the spate of WW I books on that very subject.

So then it's 2pm, I'd just gotten off the plane in Orlando and walk in a direction that looks promising towards the goal of locating Mom & Dad's plane, scheduled for 3:15. My phone battery was dying, as Apple iphone batteries are wont to do, and so I looked for a place to plug in. First I went through my shoulder bag looking for the charger when it occurred to me: shouldn't I have more luggage? Yes, I should have more luggage! I had left my carryon suitcase stowed away in a bin above seat 17D. I ran back through the terminal and located a flight attendant and - relief! - had my clothes for the week. 

Soon a comedy of errors ensued that it really was sort of funny, or at least you could only shake your head: my sister Jean arrived and tried to upgrade to a bigger vehicle to accommodate us.  Only $75 more, though eventually it became clear that was $75 more *a day*.  The killer bug of rental cars is how endlessly sssllloww it is to actually acquire one.  Even though Jean and Dad had conferred at the Budget car counter for a good long while, it wasn't that simple.  Somehow they didn't have the car promised, and Jean had to spend yet more time in the Budget garage area.  Worse, my nephew had accidentally picked up the wrong luggage, an identical purple bag.   

Finally we get a car, a pitifully small "full-size" Infinity, and we crowbar four of ourselves in the back.  We also manage, some how, some way, to NOT move all the bags in.  When we finally got to the house around 7:15 (after Jean blew past a toll without paying) we found Dad's bag was AWOL.  Instead of going back that night, which in hindsight might've been a good plan since Budget DOES NOT MOVE THE BAG until the next day at which point the bag goes to an unknown facility somewhere probably within a hundred mile radius of the airport called, informally, as the "Budget Rental Lost & Found".  No civilian has seen this Lost & Found; it exists perhaps only as definitively as Area 51.  It is as difficult to penetrate and it took 20 minutes just from the time they said "the bag is being sent over to the Budget counter" till it got in my hands.  Was the Lost & Found twenty minutes away by foot? Or is that just long enough to get it from Langley, Virginia, the CIA headquarters, via military jet? 

One thing's for sure, they don't take their Lost & Found lightly.  I called while waiting in line the main Budget number and asked the location of the Lost & Found and they would not tell me, preferring I wait in line for at the Budget counter (where, despite having a large room behind them, they don't apparently store lost & found items as I'd errantly assumed).  Initially they simply said they couldn't find it but as a concession to my withering look told me they'd get back to me after they physically looked for it.  Then they wanted a "reference number", given to anyone who loses luggage but not given to my sis-in-law last night apparently.  Eventually they decreed me worthy to take possession of the Precious suitcase, but only after the courier checked with a Budget person at the counter.  I was  tempted to take the suitcase and run, run like the wind! Sort of like one of those Bourne Identity chase scenes.  

Other problems were legion:  I'd left Mom an extremely long time at Terminal B's Budget counter, hoping that we'd save time by not waiting in the same endless line.  I assumed Mom would call me if there was a problem, but I'd never told Mom to bring her cellphone in with her that I can recall.  Obviously I'd like to have that moment back.  I sure had plenty of opportunity to remind her to bring her cellphone and ask she turn it on since it seemed like it took at least an hour to get to the 'port.  

I thought I could get through my line before she did hers and still get back before she reached the start.  Terminal A seemed to be the place to be since it's where we lost the luggage, so it was hard to leave the airport's lost & found in the middle of the complex, head back to B and get Mom, and then head all the way to A.  The other issue was that Dad was circling the airport endlessly when he wasn't getting chased off by cops intent on preventing him from parking.  Eventually he gave up and parked and headed in the airport apparently around the time we were departing, so we waited seemingly forever for Dad to reappear.  "You ever heard of cellphones?" asked the cop of Dad but unfortunately mine was the only cellphone in use, which does no good at all. One cellphone is less useful than one beer.  Mom left hers turned off in the car, which was a double trick:  not only was there no way of her communicating with me but also by preventing Dad from hearing my phone calls as well.  

In retrospect, I'd have just headed directly to the Budget counter and effectively cut in line.  Or we could have all stayed together so at least we all knew what was happening. 

But all of that nonsense happened the next day after the "strip mall church" and breakfast.  Saturday night we were ready to relax after the sardine-packed Jeannie joy ride.  

SUNDAY: 

A trying day that begun nicely, with Mass at St. Faustina's, a tiny strip mall makeshift church that was so crowded that Jean spent half the service trying to park and where all of us sat in an annex completely removed from the sight of liturgy - we saw nothing of altar or priest, an auditory Mass.  As Mom said, it felt like we were praying to Pope Francis since his picture was on the wall in front of us.  

Then breakfast at a jam-packed buffet ("Golden Corral" or something like that).  It didn't look particularly clean or smell great but there were 150 buffet items which helped, and the bacon was delicious.  Instant food. An all-you-can-eat after last evening's early meal was just the ticket. 

After eating we began our miasma of misery, our period of poncitude. Drove to airport to get Dad's luggage, and the traffic was skin-crawlingly slow.  Disney was the reason, of course, we were heading into *that* stream of park visitors.  Apparently prime time.  It took maybe 40 minutes to go one five mile stretch.  Eventually to the airport and Budget Rental (now a curse word in my lexicon), which turned out to be a comedy of errors.  Funny for awhile - what else could go wrong? - but eventually it slipped into being more frustrating than funny.  The Magic Kingdom I was interested in was not at Disney but the Budget Lost and Found, a place seemingly as rare as the unicorn.  Long lines, of course, at the rental car counter.  It's kind of surprising that given the cost of human labor it still takes as long as it does to rent a car.  I believe it's now quicker to buy a home mortgage.  And almost cheaper. 

*

Back at the house, I went on a blood pressure-deflating run, a healthy 30 minutes down a blocked-off road in the wonderful warmth, a strange enough sensation after a colder than normal November/December in Ohio. It was humid and the whole day was off-and-on light rain despite the reputation of this being "the Sunshine State".  An aside: I heard on the radio one of the hosts refer to this as "paradise", something I heard in the Caribbean, Fort Myers and now Orlando.  Seems we're watering down the term "paradise"? Orlando as paradise doesn't quite fit for me and I wonder how far north they dare use that term. Tallahassee? Southern Georgia? Middle-Tennessee? 

Soaked with sweat, went back in took a shower, came back out and planned on a little bike ride with Mom.  Tried to put air in tires, began sweating profusely again from the effort and broke pump.  Now we have to go target Target and buy another one. 

The Big Decision tonight was movie or Outback and I went with movie option. We made a wrong turn (surprise!) and we ended up stuck in surreal traffic, literally inching our way up the last few hundred yards. 

We missed the 7:30 showing so settled for 8:30, eating a dinner of hotdogs and popcorn. We were seeing "The Secret Life of Walter
Mitty", starring Ben Stiller.

A couple of future movies held my interest: "Winter's Tale" because of the uncommonly beautiful Jennifer Connelly, so affecting in "A Beautiful Mind" and a film about Jesus, at least the scene where Peter is asked to walk out of the boat, no small thing given that in those days in a storm getting out of the boat often meant death.  It's was pretty dramatic cinematic moment as depicted there. Pretty bracing corrective to my whining. 

The movie Walter Mitty wasn't bad at all.  I give it 3.5 or 4 out of 5 stars. Read a line from the Charles Krauthammer book earlier in the day which applies to movies for me but could also be applied more broadly: "Where there are no expectations, there is no disappointment."  

I liked the female lead and the vistas of distant realms (Iceland, Greenland) made it particularly attractive to this would-be traveler. I was also pleasantly surprised by the message (courtesy the original Columbus author James Thurber I presume) about the beauty of the unseen.  The key quote is when Sean Penn's character says "Beautiful things don't ask for attention" and how at the end the beautiful thing is not a snow leopard but Ben Stiller's character's diligent behind-the-scenes work ethic at Life magazine.  It's sort of St. Therese of Lisieux's message of the "little way". The elusive "image 25" that Stiller spends the whole time seeking and was as thought to be as grand as the leopards in the mountains of Afghanistan turns out to be that of his humble Stiller self.  

MONDAY:

Fun, relaxing day.  Overcast morning but one made infinitely better by not having to rush-rush-rush to airport or anywhere else. Coffee on the pool deck, a bit chilly for shorts at 60 degrees but still an electric feeling.  Beautiful pool area and so big!  Plenty of comfy chairs and recliners and the screen around the pool area went sky-high and thus felt airily spacious, especially compared to to the more pinched ones you see on most Sanibel lanais. Later a cigar on the patio, what could be amiss? 

Well...the house conditions were slightly sub-optimal.  Very few towels and those quickly became soaked from the frequent kids' pool usage.  I only took one shower all four days to save time and avoid towel usage.  There also looked to be crumbs in my bed (although no forensic research was done) adding to my suspicion the sheets hadn't been washed. The rental house was pretty dirty: hair in the bathtub that clogged it, very few cleaning supplies if any, broken bottles on the driveway, lame bikes, trash scattered around the yard.  We saw an eerie-looking bird, presumably a black vulture, atop the garbage can this morning, gigantic-sized with a grey, smooth head.  Like something out of Poe's "Raven", I assume that was the fellow rooting through the trash nightly and creating a mess around the can. Fortunately no bedbugs since I'm sure I'd be itching by now, and it was a good sign when a pool cleaner guy stopped by to do his thing. 

Afterward we headed to Target (Steph calls it "Tar-jay" as if it's French). We needed to buy a bicycle pump to replace the one I broke while trying to put air in the lame free bikes with no air in tires and missing pedals in the garage.  

Spent afternoon lazing around the pool, reading, drinking.  I even got in the pool, doing a cannonball that must've sounded like the crash-landing of a 747 jet.  Nice to get in the water a bit -- I'd waited for the sound of a whistle and the announcement "Adult Swim!" but not hearing it for a long time figured I head in anyway, ha.

*

Around 6 we all went to dinner at Joe's Crabshack and had a seafood feast. Fun to have everyone together looking sharp and enjoying the camaraderie. Took pictures of the girls wearing funny balloon hats. The only downer was when that evergreen topic of how much we fought as kids reared its ugly head and my sister almost convinced me she had been conceived without sin and had been innocent as a lamb during our quarrels.  I thought: "mea culpa" but, alas, my repentance was extremely short-lived and I said basically that she was no picnic either.  Graciously she allowed that she knew how to "press my buttons" and did so that was progress. She said her defense was out-running me, which I don't recall happening but then memories and gospels differ. But I did appreciate her saying that about her having a role in fighting. There's no objective measure of sibling fighting, no scorecard that says if I fought more or less than all the legions of brothers and sisters before me. Not that that should matter, of course. 

Back at the place we played the card game spoons and my brother had a funny line about Mom & Dad not playing: "If you're still able to use a spoon, you can play spoons."  The older kids won;  I made poor Aaron cry by supposedly stealing his spoon and Doug humorously said, "if you cry during spoons then you're too young for spoons." 

That night we started to watch a brand new DVD at the house but, hilariously, the DVD player started breaking.  This was comical, especially for me since I didn't think the movie was all that good based on the first 20 minutes when the DVD player was working. 

TUESDAY:

Ride to the airport was uneventful - cabbie was about 15 minutes late but it was an easy 30 minute ride.  Started off visiting the closest restroom where I shaved and brushed my teeth, not having done so yet today.  I'm getting to know this Orlando airport almost better than Columbus's. 

I checked my ol' trip logs and found the last time I'd been to Orlando was April of 2006, so almost eight years ago!   The difference this time is I made Aaron cry and Mom almost cry.  Budget Rental made me cry. 

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