Happy New Year
at the Lazy KT Ranch in Texas.
Christmas Day, 2010.
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Tinsel Time in Texas
I hope that everyone has a nice holiday season as 2010 winds down and we get set to stride, stroll, tiptoe, stumble, fasll, and otherwise make our way into 2011.
Made it to the US without too much fuss or bother, arriving this past Monday afternoon, only a bit over an hour late despite a snow delay of nearly 2 hours on the last leg.
For those who were aware of the background before my departure from Bangkok, I ultimately had little trouble at the Bangkok airport, helped along to a considerable degree by airline personnel. (Too bad their personnel in the other airports weren't much to be seen, let alone helpful, but never mind.)
There were a couple of burps.
In Bangkok, I decided to take a book from my checked baggage, a hard-shell suitcase, to carry aboard with me. Fine idea -- until the lock groke on one side and the other one jammed. Fortunately, there's a service that wrapped my bag in numerous layers of plastic to hold it together by placing it on a machine that automates the process, for which I paid a very reasonable 120 baht (about US$4.00).
I did, howeve4r, fail to think about removing a jacket or seater from that suitcase, not considering that one stop would be in Minneapolis, nor that the walkway from the plane to the terminal isn't heated. So, off I took in my slacks and short-sleeve shirt.
It was about -5.6 degrees (C -- or 22F for my metric-challenged fellow countryfolks) when we landed, and you can be sure that despite a sore leg (another story), I fair scampered up the walkway, rather eager to get out of the shock of what was, for me, intense cold -- it was a 22C/72F when I left Bangkok, and only a few degrees cooler in Tokyo.
Which reminds me that when I got up this Christmas morning, it was a rather crisp 1.3C/34.3F -- just above freezing. And it has been overcast since late Tuesday, with somerain -- but id miserable, also badly needed rain. Even my Sister and Brother-in-Law allow as that's a wee bit on the chilly side. Me? Well, it's getting better - or "less shocking," more accurately -- but if I felt like I was at the South Pole a couple of days ago, I still feel I'm no closer to warmer climes than, say, the Anarctic's shore!
I called a Thai friend a couple of days ago and mentioned along the way the temperature at that moment, and if it's possible to actually hear someone nearly faint, well, I did. Yes, it gets about as cold in the mountains up north around Chinag Mai, Chiang Rai, etc. -- but she's from Bangkok and has been to those areas only during the HOT season. So, as is the case with most Thais, she can no more imagine temperatures around freezing than she can imagining what it must be like at the bottom of the Marianna Trench or some such.
We had our family Christmas early, on Tuesday, due to different folks' work schedules, my Niece's, Nephew's, and Brother's-in-Law in particular. My Niece is a specialized LVN and lives in southwestern Missouri, while my Nephew is a police officer here in the county and his Father a jailer with the county, so they all three work the sorts of schedules that medical and law enforcement folks work. BUT -- they all three managed to be off at the same time. Sis, as a school teacher, is off anywa, and Mom and I are both long retired, so footloose and fancy-free. My Brother's-in-Law grandaughter and her kid came (these are via an earlier marriage), and my Niece's roommate, whose own family are too far away for her to have joined, were also here.
So, we had a nice gathering, big enough to get into the holiday spirit, but small enough to be actually enjoyable, even for Sis, Queen of the Kitchen, and Mom (who, as Mothers do, tried to help).
I'm pleased to learn that my Nephew and his girlfriend of the past few years have announced their wedding in 2012. They've both been down the aisle before, so maybe they'll manage to do a bit better than before -- truth is, I suspect they did okay before, but lost out. Anyway, he has no kids, but she has two lovely daughters; I met all three when I was last here, in mid-2008, and took a rightr strong shine to them right away.
(I did joke with my Sister that they should be sure to wed before December 21, 2012 -- the day that some New Agers are convinced the world will end, since the Mayan calendar foretells such a fate -- according to them, the New Agers and their fellow travelers. Only problem is -- the Mayan calendar foretells or predicts no such thing. It's complicated as the dickens, so I went get off onto it here. My Sister had no idea what I was talking about, so I told her. She listened, clearly becoming increasingly nonplussed -- not at me, but at people who so uncritically buy such stuff. She didn't rush to the phone to give her Son an early warning!!! ;-))
I expect the rest of the holiday season to be pretty tame, as New Year has never been any big deal in my family, other than Mom and Sis like to watch the ball at NYC's Times Square drop -- on TV in Texas, mind you.
It's high noon here, or 1:00 A.M. Boxing Day in Bangkok, where most of my friends are, so Christmas is over for them. I've about finished Christmasy stuff anyway --
12:00 P.M., Saturday, December 25th, 2010
Practicing "The Long March"
I can say with absolute certainty that I've never had to walk so faqr as I did on this trip. By the time I finally joined up with my Sister at DFW airport late Monday afternoon, my bum leg was feeling every step of my strolls, reminding me I'm nearing 60, not 16!
It was all coincidence, fo course; it just happened that my next departure gate was just about as remote from where I was as it could be and still be in Airport X. Even so, by the time I gratefully crawled into Sis's truck -- parked directly across the street from the terminal exit, thank every diety there is! -- I felt as if I had walked a good 10,000 li, the distance Chairman Mao's troops covered in their historic retreat in the 1930's. (A "li" equals just over 1/4th mile, or 4/10's of a kilometer.)
I was a little confounded by customs, through which I passed in Minneapolis. All I had was used clothing, a couple of books, some over-the-counter blood-pressure medicine, and my computer stuff -- the computer stuff all bought in the US during my last trip, so exemopt. (Yes, I had the paperwork.) Anyway, I made a wild guess and put down $225, well within the permitted limit.
I went through passport control first, of course, and was somewhat surprised when the immigraqtion officer asked for my customs declaration. He looked it over and asked me a few questions, and once he dercided I had nothing worth taxing and wouldn't be here over a year anyway, he scratched out the $225 I had written, wrote in "$0.00," initialed it and sent me on my way. Nice guy.
I barely slowed at customs, just handing off the declaration and getting waved right on. That was nice, especially since I was fretting (with good reason, as it turned out) catching my domestic flight on to DFW.
The only burble wasat the TSA checkpoint. Went to the conveyor belt ro send my carry-on and suitcase through, along with my belt and hat. The nice TSA guy there told me to keep my hat and belt. Then I started to the metal detector. A TSA officer on the other side told me to step through with my arms raised -- but then praxctically shotued at me to go back and leave my hat, belt, and sandals. Which I did. Then I stepped back and asked him what to do, and he waved me through with his magic wand -- but then sanpped at me to halt before I had completed my first step. Almost immediately, another officer approached from my right read and told me to step back. Which I did. Then he asked me what I was doing. I told him I wasn't trying to be uncooperative, but I didn't know what I was doing
but would do whatever he and the other officer told me to do, since I was unsure.
He told me to go on, so I did. Waved through again, this time actually making it through the metal detector. But the officer there stoppe4d me after he had made a cursory pass with his magic wand and told me to step back. I did -- but he said nothing. After a pregnant pause, I asked, "What should I do now?"
He just looked at me, then impatiently said, "Uh! Well -- go on out or go catch your next flight! You're through here!"
Off I went, puzzled. And I still am. I do NOT hassle authority figures, since that's a losing game. Anyway, I got past it, so mai pen rai ("never mind." for those unfamiliar with the Thai expression).
On the up side, as I was frantically trying to get to my gate, a stopped to ask someone wheren Gate such-and-such was, adding that I was perhaps running a bit short on time. He immediately hailed a tram car, and the driver looked at my boarding pass and told me he would take me all the way, adding that I never would make it walking. Apparentlty, he wasn't supposed to take me right to the gate, but he did, and was I ever grate4ful; I felt I could have taken a tour of Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul in the same distance -- and that was on top of the leg of my "Long March" I had already made in the trerminal before boarding his car!
Since getting to the ranch, the furthest I've walked is out to the detached garage -- a long, long ways: about 40 feet from the back door! ;^)
8:34 P.M., Saturday, December 25th, 2010
Mama Got Famous -- But It Plumb Pissed Her OFF!
Mom has runn a commercial garden for many years, and for about the past 20, has had an October garden with a Halloween theme the entire month, complete with pick-youtr-own-pumpkin, hayrides, an outdoor "haunted house." and so on.
This year, a reporter at the main paper in the county, the Denton Record-Chronicle. got wind of it and approached her to write an article about her and the Pumpkin Patch. Mom agreed, rather to her regret.
Mom is very private about some things, including her age. That translated in the article as her beuing "adamant about hiding her age." Mom objects to the "hiding," and I don't blame her. She simply declines to state it, out of a sense of privacy, not pride -- she's clearly long past her debutante days. (Um, no need to tell her I said that, mind you!) There's also a reference to her "gnarled hands," which is flat wrong. She has no trouble working in the garden with her hands -- at all.
Then there is the significant factual error, the article saying that the Smith family started farming here in 1952. Well, no -- the *Francis* family -- my biiological parents and me, at the time -- Sis canme two years later -- moved here. Dad and Mom divorced in the early 1970's, then she re-married Bill Smith in the mid-1970's. All of which she apparently told the reporter, but it got mangled between interview and seeing daylight.
There's another factual error, a comical one revealing the reporter's lack on knowle3dge when it comes to raising peanuts. AShe mentioned planting "peanut bushes," which would be okay -- except there's no such thing as a "peanut bush"!!! (Tom raise peanuts -- oh, hell, never mind. I'm not Farmer Kurt giving peanut-growing lessons!)
Mama'll get over it. Just give her, oh -- around about 10-12 years ought to do it.
9:02 P.M., Saturday, December 25th, 2010
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Enough for one go --