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OCT
30

Scotland

Since fiction has thus far proved to be out of my wheelhouse, all the characters in my books are real people. And there’s a character in my latest book who passed away before I had the chance to visit him in Scotland. I made a promise when he died that someday I’d make the trip, and while there were other reasons why I wanted to go (the beauty, the piece of my heritage), I found myself thinking about this person the most. I’d wonder if I was walking down any of the streets he walked or seeing any of the things he’d seen. Weird, isn’t it? This person who has been gone from this planet for almost a decade. This person with whom it probably never would have worked, as it hadn’t in either of our previous attempts. But there’s something about the unfinishedness of it all that made me extra pensive as I strolled along Scottish sidewalks.

Scotland was, in a word, breathtaking. I kept trying to define the bright shade of green that covers all the hills. It’s in the kelly family, surely, but so much more striking than any kelly you know. And complemented perfectly against the rich aquamarine tones of the sea that hug the shoreline. So if you get high enough, the combination of green against blue is one you’ll wish could be re-created in your regular life. It won’t be though. And that’s what gets me about this trip. See, someone close to me explained it once. After having witnessed something beautiful, she wept when it was over. This happens to many of us from time to time, being moved to the point of tears. But her explanation for the tears has stayed with me, in that she said she was crying for herself, for the fact that she would never witness this thing again. In that moment, it seemed too much to bear; that there could be such beauty in the world yet her exposure to it so limited. And that’s really the only way I can describe how it felt to drive away from the Highlands, having just stood alone in the Quiraing, nothing but a sea of this unnamed electric kelly green all around. Gaelic music played as I followed the path of the Loch Ness back into town, a few tears hot on my wind-burned cheeks. Because I would never see this again. And how was that fair? How could I exist knowing it was there and I wasn’t seeing it?

It’s a question I would have asked my departed friend, over pouches of greasy food and a couple of weathered notebooks open between us. And while it doesn’t make me wish any less that he were still here, I suppose the upside is that he never has to stop seeing it. And I bet the view is spectacular.

DEC
31

On Waxing Pensive at Year End

I remember in high school being asked by an English teacher to make a list of things I wanted to do before I was 30. It was an interesting exercise for a class of teenagers from a very small town, where dreaming big wasn't something that always came naturally, but I took it very seriously. I was one of those who could always be counted on to dream big.

Some things on the list I accomplished in time (publish a book), others I did not (have a baby), but I'm a firm believer that showing up late to the party is better than never showing up at all. Besides, on this New Years Eve of goal-setting and course-correction, aren't we always sort of working on becoming who we want to be, regardless of when we thought we'd get there?

The thing I remember most vividly about that high school list is the following item: "Fly over the ocean." I put this down because it was a big deal to me. Something, again, being a from a small town, that seemed epic. I also put it down because it scared me. And giving myself until I was 30 to do it felt like a nice far-away cushion. Probably the easiest on my list to actually accomplish (one need only buy a ticket), I didn't get there before I was 30. I'm embarrassed to admit I've been avoiding it. The long plane ride, the jet lag, the language barriers, the world being so messed up. It was easier to just stay home.

While 2016 was a year of many epic things--Cleveland won the NBA Championship, for crying out loud--I'll remember it most for being the year I finally got my sweet and sour off this continent and flew over the ocean. It probably doesn't mean anything to anyone else, this single stamp in my passport, these photos of cathedrals, the leftover foreign coins in my pocket. But to me it means a great deal. It means that the items on our lists are more important than our timelines for them. It means that whenever we're ready, even if it's not this year, the world is waiting for us. Whether you're ahead of schedule or years behind, the view is equally spectacular. 

MAY
12

The Call for Customer Service

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I consider myself a reasonable person. I don't lose my temper at the retail counter. I pay a higher price when something is rung up incorrectly (except the NYC toilet paper incident a few months back, which was so humiliating to me that I will likely never speak up again). I've never sent a meal back, even when something was incorrect. I don't chew out the postal workers over how few counters they have open at one time. True that I don't like confrontation, but mostly these things just aren't that big of a deal. While I may have to eat a salad with onion or miss the train I was hoping to catch or pay a little more for cat food, life goes on.

There is one area, however, that gets the better of me almost every time there is a problem, and that's air travel. Granted, for as often as I travel, I've had what I would consider disasters only a handful of times, but this past weekend I experienced a doozy when a particular airline, we'll call them Shrontier, changed my departure time by a whopping 6 hours and didn't communicate it to me, causing me to miss my flight. What shocked me even more than Shrontier's lack of communication was their lack of willingness to own up to their mistake, their lack of willingness do to anything to help me. And most shocking of all, they expected me to buy a replacement ticket! I fine scheme that is, and even as I've tried to report the incident after the fact, Shrontier's stance remains, "It wasn't our fault." Some system on their end shows it was communicated by email (not sufficient, if you ask me) even though there is no such email in my inbox, trash, or junk mail.

I'm just wondering what happened to customer service. What happened to taking care of your customers, to the Nordstrom-like attitude that accommodates customer complaints and makes things right at even the vaguest hint of dissatisfaction? Especially since in this case, there was nothing vague about it. Shrontier was blatantly at fault, and it's disappointing that airlines don't try harder to cultivate loyal customers. So this is me, openly shaming Shrontier. For losing me as a customer, and for failing to do the right thing.

APR
30

Coast to Coast

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When you live in New York, a trip to California is, well, far. Especially when you'll only be there for 32 hours. Not that I mind. Plane rides give me lots of uninterrupted reading time, not to mention the chance to wax poetic about the beauty to be seen between coastlines. And I'm not just talking about the plane's-eye view of mountains, lakes, and perfectly divided crop squares, but also the variance in the destinations themselves. The night before the trip, I took a sailboat (I think the actual term was "tall ship," but whatever, it had sails) out to the Statue of Liberty at sunset and then sailed along the skyline as it darkened and the buildings began to sparkle, and the next night I was driving along the palm tree lined California coast. I guess what I'm saying is that experiencing a laidback beach town and the busiest, most populated city in America within such a short timeframe sure makes you grateful that we can experience so many different kinds of beautiful within this country of ours. That one of these kinds of beautiful comes with an In-N-Out Burger, well, that's just a bonus.

SEP
19

How to Move a Cat

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I know, I know, there are certainly more important (and time-consuming) aspects of this move, namely the gargantuan task of getting rid of 90% of my possessions, but as the only living thing I am responsible for other than myself, Clementine is very much on my mind as I plan this move. And I'd like to not only get her there, but get her there in such a way that does not cause her to be scarred for life...or crap repeatedly in her pet carrier.

So, naturally, I'm going to drug her.

I have secured the necessary pills from the vet, have an airline-approved pet carrier on the way, and got her a little collar and pet tag in case she manages to slip out the apartment door and ends up wandering the streets of Manhattan.

New York will be an interesting experience for both of us. Not only because we will both surely pine for all the square footage we have enjoyed in Cleveland, but also because we have never slept in the same room. She goes nutso at night, bringing me her toys, jumping on my feet, basically doing whatever she can to demand my attention. So I close my bedroom door every night. Something you can't do when you live in a studio apartment. Lord help us.

NOV
23

Road Trip

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I was on the road this week for work, and while I did decide to fly for the longest stretches of the trip, most of the week I was driving. In fact, I feel like that’s all I did. Drive. You have to know me and my relationship with driving to understand how truly significant this is, but after a week of driving all over 4 states I am by and large unfamiliar with, I managed to always get where I was going. Not only without incident, but without so much as a wrong turn. It was unprecedented. And considering one evening found me in the thick of NYC rush-hour traffic, my ultimate goal being Long Island (um, has anyone ever tried driving to Long Island?), actually getting there—and in the dark of night, no less—made me want to fall to the floor of the blessed Marriott that housed me that evening and weep for having arrived in one piece.

Instead I wept when I got home last night. I’m not sure why. Partly because I was exhausted. Because the NYC drive surely took years off my life. Partly because I got to meet up with my Airman brother while on the road, and I’m so incredibly proud of him. Partly because the world is such a beautiful place, and one you can only see close up when you do exactly what I had done—drive. And perhaps partly because I returned to Cleveland full of tales from the road, and the only one here to greet me was my cat.

Since there is no one on hand to listen, I’ll have to tell you, dear readers, that a detour in Maryland took me through the most beautiful patch of land I’ve seen in years. I stopped in the middle of the winding country road just to take it all in. I glanced over my shoulder with a smile as I passed Coney Island and drove across the Verrazano Bridge on the clearest and most beautiful day imaginable. People had pulled off the road and gotten out of their cars just to look out and sigh for a minute before rolling on. And when I crossed the Susquehanna yesterday, I thought about Billy Collins and his poem about fishing in July. Not because I’ve ever fished the Susquehanna, but then again, neither has Billy. In any case, I’m grateful for the trip, grateful to be home, and grateful to now put away the GPS.

FEB
22

Plague

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I've been out of town for a week, and I really have nothing literary to say other than that I read a book on the plane. 'She Got up off the Couch,' which is the sequel to 'A Girl Named Zippy.' I didn't find this one quite as delightful as Zippy, which oddly enough is one of my favorite memoirs of all time, but Couch certainly kept me entertained, and I was sad when it was over. Three cheers for small town America.

As for the trip itself, it's hard to believe I'm still standing. What started as a few days of a 102+ degree fever before I left (and what I thought would get better quickly) turned into a horrible cold, an unbearably painful sore throat (which I still have, by the way), a few days with no voice (on days when I was supposed to be interviewing potential recruits), and to top it all off, my first ever case of pink eye. It's the most miserable week I can recall, healthwise, in many, many years. And being on the road made it that much worse. I had to resort to a walk-in clinic, for crying out loud. Whatever, we all get sick. This one has just really sucked a lot out of me, and I haven't gotten a good night's sleep in a week and a half. TGIF.

And F to the YI, pink eye is horrific.

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