It’s a long way home

A better way to fly?

A better way to fly?

The other morning a friend of mine told me about his recent trip home from a convention in Denver. He had to wait three hours in Minneapolis for his connection. I really don’t like sharing stories about travel horror, but that one was far too easy to top.

We had been in Denver for a wedding. My brother Eric and his wife Anke were there, too. After all the festivities, we left Denver in the morning. Eric planned to drive back to Rochester and we took the airplane. We dropped off the rental car at Denver International about the time Eric drove past the airport east of Denver. We breezed through security. There wasn’t much for security in the Nineties. The flight to Minneapolis was uneventful. We arrived in plenty of time to catch our flight from MSP to Rochester. There was a layover of more than two hours.

We called Eric. He was in Omaha. We’d beat him home easy. They announced boarding for our plane and we dutifully lined up to get on board. We stood patiently. One moment, please; a mechanical problem with the airplane. Sit and wait. No problem they said. There’s another airplane available and we’ll get it right out for you all.

In two hours. They moved all the luggage, the food, the crew and all the freight from the hold. Again we dutifully line up to get on board. Nothing to it. We get settled in and wait. And wait.

“Sorry folks. There’s a problem with this airplane.” A cracked windshield. The airline can handle this. Believe it or not, there’s another airplane available for us to go to Rochester. They herded us off the airplane to wait in the concourse for the next bird. They find an airplane, get it into position, move the luggage and freight, wait for a new crew and get everything ready. We are now over six hours late.

Finally the ground crew finished fueling the airplane and hundred or so grumpy people get on board and wait for the plane to back out of the gate. It does! We’re on the way! Takeoff is easy. It’s a short flight, maybe twenty minutes total if there’s a headwind.

A half hour into the flight the pilot comes on the PA. Continue reading

Christmas Letters

1995 Christmas Letter

1995 Christmas Letter

Not that long ago I was cleaning out a file drawer that hadn’t seen daylight in years. I found a treasure trove of paper, including our Christmas letters from the nineties. Better yet, there were letters from our friends with their Christmas news. What a joy to read through some of those old letters, partially renewing friendships that have long since faded.

When we first got a computer in the house, in the early eighties, one of the first tasks I gave the machine was an address book application, primarily to keep track of our Christmas card list. We sent and received dozens and dozens of cards each year. We spent hours fretting over what to put into the letter, much as I do today writing these blog entries.

Differences in Christmas letter style were obvious then, and stark today. Far too many were the stereotypical good news missives. Some letters were all about how their award-winning son was traveling through Europe this semester, with news of their intelligent daughter giving a concert for the fund-raising gala. Reading them now gives me a chuckle, they apparently felt the need to upgrade their status. Other letters were replete with whining. Daddy had a stroke, daughter broke her arm, grandma had surgery. They needed sympathy more than the average Joe, maybe more than we had to share.

My job was writing the Christmas letters, with the direction that I neither brag nor complain. As Joe Friday used to say: “Just the facts, ma’am.” It was a tough balance, but we had both joys and challenges to fill our lives, just like today, and just like the families who highlighted the good news or wallowed in their sorrows.

The attached letter is from 1995, just twenty years ago. On one hand, I am shocked at the amount of change in our lives since then; although I shouldn’t be, it’s been twenty years, for God’s sake! You be the judge on how well I did avoiding the stereotype good and sad versions of Christmas letters.

Continue reading

Meeting Anke

Meeting Anke

Eric writes:

Eric

Eric

It was while working in Dallas, Texas at the Redbird Airport project that I met Anke. She was working in the airport restaurant when I came in for coffee. I would sit there reading my book and drinking coffee. I guess she got curious about me and asked me out. Since I was getting a divorce, I saw no harm in it.

We were together for about ten years. More about our time together later.

— Eric H

Spelunking with Joel

Spelunking with Joel

Eric writes:

I was interested in caving for many years of my life. My favorite cave in Colorado was Fulford Cave near Eagle, Colorado. One of the best visits was when Joel was about eight years old. He was in Cub Scouts and was going to go caving with me for the first time. This was a public access cave that a person/group could spend from four to eight hours to see. We drove up to Fulford campground the day before and camped with friends that were going caving with us the following day.

Joel - Then and now

Joel – 1995 and 2007

The hike up to the cave entrance was about a mile up the mountain. Joel and I were getting more excited with each step. When we got to the entrance we all sat for a pre-caving photo. It was a busy cave that day. Some other group was climbing up the ladder, as we were ready to climb down. The entrance consists of a metal culvert dug into the ground at about a 50-degree angle with a metal ladder welded to the inside for climbing down into the cave. When it was our turn, Joel started down in front of me. As we went down the ladder, Joel started to have second thoughts and a little claustrophobia.

He said he wanted to go back up and not do the cave. I kept encouraging him to go on down to the bottom of the ladder because there were people above me on the way down. We had to go to the bottom before he could go back up. When we got to the bottom, I told Joel that he should let me show him around a little before he went back to the surface. We walked around in a couple large chambers for a few minutes as I explained about the rock formations. When I asked Joel if he still wanted to go back without doing the cave, he said he would like to continue for a while. The farther we went into the cave, the more fun we had. We spent the day in the cave. This was a wonderful bonding experience for Joel and me.

I will never forget sharing this wonderful time with him.

— Eric H