My wife gave me a gym membership at Christmas. My doctor is threatening to put me on high blood pressure medication In addition, I'm dealing with various other quirks of middle age. So, I started going to the gym semi-regularly again. I'd been doing basketball twice a week, but they keep cancelling. The guys in the group are just getting too old, I suspect. A few years ago, I was riding my bike very regularly, but stopped because I was having trouble with a strained neck muscle and I kept getting flats.
The exercise bike at the gym has one of those screens that shows a cartoon version of some bike trail. If you go too slowly, animated bikers leave you in pixellated dust. On Saturday morning I had this urge to ride a real bike. Before I left the house, I made my usual fateful decision, “It's just a short ride, I don't need the patch kit, wallet, or cell phone.” I did take my MP3 player and spent two hours listening to a book called the Fruit Hunters which consists of endless descriptions of exotic fruit and the wonders of taste. I usually go seven miles out and then back home. Naturally, I go the flat at the seven mile mark.
I walked the bike to a shopping center, found a payphone (they do still have them), and tried to make a collect call to my wife. Everything's automated now and I'm not sure what happens when you make collect calls to a cell phone. Bottom line, the payphone company kept reporting that my wife wasn't accepting my collect call. Virtually no one in the shopping center spoke English. Most of the businesses were Hispanic, the doughnut shop was Cantonese, and the abandoned restaurant was Filipino (I never got to try it). As I pushed my bicycle around the center, I kept listening to the fruit book and discovered that every other store front had one of those outdoor barbeque things filling the air with the smell of grilled chicken. I waited for my wife for about 45 minutes, hoping that she understood my cryptic message “flat tire Dutton plaza”... I later learned that the message from the payphone company was getting to her as “flat tire duh”...She's lectured me a few times about flat tires being inevitable.. Naturally, I only get flats when I forget or refuse to take my patch kit and pump.
I was then about five miles from home and there was the small matter that we were taking our daughter to the airport that night. I walked another half mile, found a gas station, and the guy behind the counter there actually let me use the phone. My wife answered and said “Where the hell are you? I've been driving around Santa Rosa looking for you for the last forty five minutes.”
We got home, I collapsed, took about a forty five minute nap, helped pack the car, and we then headed to the city. For most of the last twenty years, we've treated our trips to San Francisco Airport as get there as fast as possible then drive home. For some reason, we've lately taken to going out to dinner (Cafe Pelligrini this time), staying in a hotel near the airport, dropping family member off at airport for early morning flight, going back to hotel near airport to go back to sleep and other stuff, stopping again on the way home, etc. You might say we're turning these excursions into a mini-vacation.
The one difference this time was that we unsuccessfully tried to see Norm McDonald at Cobb's Comedy Club (sold out) and only had fifteen minutes worth of patience for the standby line. Our daughter wanted to get her ears pierced. Since it was near nine, the only things nearby that might pierce ears were various North Beach tatoo parlors. My daughter then announced that she would not ask for a car (her current obsession) if I would get a giant tattoo. I didn't do it and the tatoo parlor people seemed horrified that we'd asked them if they did piercings. We wound up at the Stonestown Mall just before closing time and my wife (who's very ingenious about these things) actually found a jewelry store willing to pierce ears ten minutes before the custodians and security guards closed up the mall.
On the way back, we stopped at the Vista Point on the other side of the Golden Gate bridge. For the last twenty years, we've insisted that that's what the tourists do, but this was a gorgeous day and we were reminded just why the tourists go there. I think we heard at least five different languages as various people took photos with digital cameras and posed in front of the statue of the lone sailor that sits atop the Vista Point.
Once we got home, we realized that it's fairly simple. Our daughter was home for Christmas Break and at the end of three weeks, she was actually looking forward to getting back to school, her friends, and maybe even her classes. For the first twenty years, we've spent all this time trying to get our kids to various places. Suddenly, we have all this time and we're not exactly sure what you do when you actually plan your days off around each other instead of the kids.