Tag Archives: travel

More Drugs!

Question:  What does an addict do on vacation?  Answer:  More drugs!!

And so it was that I tacked an extra hour today onto my normal training time, once I found an empty hotel banquet room with high enough ceilings to accommodate my staff.

The timing on The Walk is making me crazy.  So of course I keep taping myself to see if I’m getting it right, which I’m not. The failure compels me to keep trying… and taping.  What’s an addict do on vacation again?  Witness a few seconds of my madness.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the International Speedway, there’s a world dedicated to flight welcoming dozens of math and science whizzes – all of them girls this week (though several brothers came with parents for pick-up).


Just driving through campus for drop-off and pick up made me want to get another degree.  Some shots of the sculptures and views, indoor and out:





Tomorrow, off to old stomping grounds at day’s end.  Maybe I’ll have gotten The Walk by then.

Cookies and Curses

It finally happened.  My family and my clothes arrived at a destination on time, but my long staff did not.  It makes sense that it would happen in Orlando.  As good at their game as Southwest is, they still have no control over how long it takes TSA to inspect a plethora of oversized baggage coming into one of the tourist meccas of the country.

I’m deducing that that’s why my staff didn’t come in on my flight.  But it also didn’t come in on the next flight from Baltimore.  I know because I was still in the airport when the next flight arrived.  I was told to get out of line at the lost baggage office and go look for it in the next drop of Baltimore luggage.  So I had to spend another half hour in the airport when it didn’t come on the second flight, and I still needed to report it.

The night felt ungodly at times.  It included: landing in a thunderstorm with my stomach in my throat; temporarily losing my beloved staff (it arrived this morning); experiencing one of the longest car rental processes ever; having the GPS on my phone insist that my motel was thirty-two minutes away when I knew it should be less than ten; having the front desk man be nowhere near the office and having to track him down by website and phone in order to check in; and, finally, having a cut-rate bar as the only open source of food at midnight that didn’t come in a cellophane bag.

What saved the night and my sanity was an adolescent daughter who’s as impatient and demanding as I am – only she doesn’t have the necessary filter we adults all know we’re supposed to act like we have.  At one point in the airport, after the second flight didn’t deliver my staff, she looked at my dejected face and just silently reached out and bear hugged me.  I thanked her and told her she was being great, even though I knew she was hungry.  With a grin and in a why-are-you-surprised tone of voice, she said, “That’s because you gave me cookies.”  Bringing cookies for the flight may have been my smartest decision in a long time.


Later in the rental car, sitting in darkness by the side of a highway ramp trying to figure out what was wrong with my GPS, the hungry girl I would have expected to finally be flipping out through no fault of her own just looked out the window and said: “It’s like we’re cursed or something.”  Her delivery was priceless.  I had to laugh.  And with tension relieved by laughter, I cleared out the address, re-entered it for the third time, and for reasons only God understands, it finally gave me a route that was seven minutes away, not thirty-two.

It was remarkable.  I remembered the cookies, but she remembered that sometimes I need her, too – to do the best she can not to add to a problem.  She remembered, and she came through.  What a blessing on a cursed night of travel.

The Now

Next week I take my soon-to-be-teenage daughter for a week-long program at a Florida university that will hopefully feed her love of science and technology.  At the very least, it should make use of her aptitude for the two.  It could be the beginning of an ongoing relationship with a college that has multiple summer programs for middle and high school students who may be a good fit to eventually attend the university.  But the closer we get to departure, the more my mind wanders away from the matter at hand.

This will be my second trip to Florida this year; the first was for the kung fu tournament in Fort Lauderdale back in February that I celebrated at length in this past post.  It will also be the second since the trip to clean out my mother’s closet back in November of 2007, four months after she died.

We will be about twenty-five minutes from her old house, in a city where I spent a fair amount of time with mother before my daughter was born.  The last time the whole family was there together, my girl was barely four years old.  For her, this trip is mostly about the now.  For me, it may be as much about memories as anything else.

I’ve entertained doing my best to stay in the now by having a good time with my girl when camp lets out for the day and auditing a local kung fu class while she’s occupied in the lab.  But a good time with her would have to include trips to the beaches and piers she remembers almost as well as I do.  It will require a little frolic in the past.  And frankly, I’m a bit scared.

I’d rather not be reduced to a puddle by nostalgia.  That would be incompatible with the well-honed image and attitude of rock-solid Mama Bear that my daughter sees in me – as I saw in my mother.  Mom lost hers only days before the coma.  I’ll be grateful to have mine hold up through the week.

The Payoff

Just when I thought there was nothing left to surprise me about tournament competition, along came a trip to New Jersey, where the United Martial Arts Referee Association is based.   Yesterday in Mount Laurel was the first tournament competition for my better half, after spending two road trips being the keeper of the camera while nursing a torn meniscus. IMG_20140531_105323 IMG_20140531_120757 She came home with two silver medals, though one should have been gold (and yes, I know I’m biased).

We were the only “elderly” women in the room, and initially thought that as the only members of the oldest competitor age group, we’d simply be competing with each other.  We thought wrong.  It turns out that in New Jersey, black sashes and belts only compete against each other; the “advanced” category is composed of solely of brown and red.  So both Merle and I were competing against much younger folks who matched our sash color – and still we both lost the gold by two-tenths of a point or less.  Not too shabby for a couple of old girls in a room full of competitors and judges who all knew each other.  Additionally, we seemed to be the only ones in the room doing the Northern Shaolin style of a Chinese martial art.

I had the whiplash-producing experience of competing in the “open” weapons division.  At this particular tournament, that meant the event contained all ages, all styles and both genders all up against each other with radically different weapons and forms.  Everyone over thirty-five got creamed in points by a twenty-two-year-old guy who pretty much seemed to fly.

The biggest surprise of my day was tying my all-time high score not with a weapons form but with the killer open hands form of Lian Huan Tui! That surprise alone was worth the entry fee. Gym training is definitely paying off.

Swapping Strangeness

Waiting with fatigue and frustration to get back onto the plane I just got off of….


I was supposed to have to change planes in Denver for the one going to Baltimore, but then the airline gods decided to do a plane swap.  My connecting flight is on the very 737 that delivered me here.

Why, then, am I waiting, you may be wondering?Because the swapped-out flight crew isn’t here yet. Just the plane, the pilot and the passengers. This would be funny if I didn’t want so badly for this trip that I dreaded for a month to finally be over.

With all this swapping strangeness, my great concern is that my staff is either going to be left in Denver or shipped off to Kansas City, the original destination of the aircraft. In any case, my butt will either be in the yoga room or on the squash court with my spare about fifteen hours from now.

Yes. I’m counting.

Prayer for an Unhappy Man

Back in 1999, Winnie Mandela backed out of a Saturday interview by satellite an hour after we were supposed to start.  The executive producer called in a crew on the weekend on my assurance that we had the interview locked down. The overtime costs for him were considerable at a time that the show was struggling for sponsorship, and I thought I was going to lose my job. The stress of that workday made it the worst of my career. But yesterday now runs a very close second.

Friday began with a crew member I’ve never worked with before ignoring explicit, repeated instructions from three different people (myself included) to wait at a specific place and time to be escorted to the interview site by our contact. It was important to the contact, the person facilitating our interviews with ten different authors; that’s all I needed to know to do as I was asked.  She, rather understandably, wanted to know why a person working for me hadn’t complied. Nothing prepared me for the answer I received when I politely asked him.

He unloaded on me with anger and profanity that all amounted to: I knew where I was going; how dare you three tell me what to do. It may be worth noting that the three of us telling him to wait were all women, but I digress. It was an assault that left me in a state of shock, shaking with tears of anger. Since I was alone on an elevator with him as he screamed at me and leaned across a dolly of equipment to get in my face, I thought it best to simply get away from him as soon as possible.

I spent the rest of the day speaking to him only when I needed to and with an unmistakable smile in my voice, but the need to walk on eggshells upset me – particularly in a 10-hour day elongated by the delayed flight of one of the authors and an impending 45-minute drive to a new hotel for our next show. My first impulse was to let the Sijeh in me have her moment with the man, put him in his place, take back my power. After all, I had the staff in the equipment van. I could’ve just brought it out and done a few dozen spins and stabs with it to make a point. But there’s no real way to intimidate the unbalanced, and even if there were, a pissing contest is unseemly for my age and gender. So I simply did the professional job I always do, willed the clock to move faster and said a prayer for an unhappy man.

Up next on this trip that can’t end soon enough is the beauty and eloquence of an award-wining author in the small bookstore he founded. Hopefully that will dull the memory of Friday’s craziness.

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Skycaps, Toddlers & Wedgies

“You’re going to have to pay for this one,” the skycap said, looking at my staff in its carrying case like it might be an extra-long rifle in disguise.

“Why? I didn’t pay to check it when I flew with it in February,” I answered with an edge in my voice, realizing too late that the poor guy had no idea I didn’t want to be standing in front of him in the first place.

“All right. Take it easy.” He signaled for a superior while I replayed my response to him in my head. I didn’t think I’d been as indignant as he was acting, but whatever made him call for back-up was fine by me. After a bit more of him feigning offense and asking if I was that hard on my husband (I left that one alone!), I was off for almost five hours of three and four-year-old siblings taking turns keeping me awake with piercing screams and even more piercing kicks to the back of my seat. I was ready to sign them both up for my class by the time we landed.


At the posh hotel with the unfortunately low ceiling (practicing spins would turn out to be tricky), I discovered that the Transportation Security Administration had been as threatened by my staff as the easily-offended skycap. When I unzipped the carrying case, there was a note wrapped ominously around my white wood baby notifying me that Big Brother had checked her out. I guess for safety’s sake I should’ve been happy, but I couldn’t help but feel a little creeped out.


The travel day to the city where young women apparently don’t wear underwear (I would have snapped photos of several unattractive, unnecessary pants and shorts wedgies, but that seemed ill-advised for a number of reasons) ended with me pigging out in the kind of Mexican joint that I just can’t find at home.


All things considered, it was an entertaining start to a trip that has hints of impending hair pulling.  My boss arrived without the part of his luggage that holds his interview prep materials and his beloved cuff links; so tomorrow is going to be challenging.  Good thing I can finish enjoying today!

Not for Anything

In the fall of 2000, right around the time then-Governor Bush’s drinking history became the October surprise of the presidential campaign, my three-year-old boy was earning the nickname “the littlest techie.”  I was one of the senior producers for an entertainment company that was starting a news division, and shortly after the job began it came with the unexpected twist of requiring that I commute back and forth from DC to NYC for several months.  They let me bring my son to New York and into the studio with me for part of that time, after I tore into an underling over a minor mistake and apologized with the tag line, “I miss my son!”  That was the first business trip of motherhood for me.

While it was a nightmare in many ways, it also enabled me to live well in Manhattan – a place I’d always wanted to live, having grown up right over the state line in Connecticut – on someone else’s dime.  It’s certainly been true since then that all work travel comes with similar fringe benefits.  Still, as time moves on and the children need me less, these trips remain hard to make – and I couldn’t be more grateful for the difficulty.

For nine years now, the four of us have engaged in martial arts training as a unit. There’s never been a time when just the children attended or just the parents.  One of the four has taken leave to either physically repair or mentally regroup, but we have always returned to our place in the family ritual.

Kung fu is at the center of our life routine.  It is the thing all four of us plan around.  It is the reason we’ve spent an enormous amount of time together, been present to watch each other grow and change, hurt and celebrate.  There might have been another activity to bind us, but I can’t imagine what it would have been.  I share love of baseball and football with my daughter, love of fine dining with my son, love of all three with my partner.  But we couldn’t afford to do any of those things outside the home three to four times a week, and at least one family member would probably want to sit out.  Martial arts was the activity we wanted to do that we could do, and it’s helped maintain an amazing relationship that I wouldn’t exchange for anything.

Tomorrow I leave on a business trip that includes a free evening in Beverly Hills to do as I please, and I’d rather stay home with my family.  I’m sure that’s crazy to some.  It feels awfully lucky to me.


Smile Therapy

I woke up with a sore throat from the cold I’ve been fighting off for a month with endless horse pills of vitamin C. So I took the day off to give my body much-needed rest.

I have to work this Sunday to cover for a producer who’s on vacation. That would have been my second one-day weekend of the month, if I hadn’t called in today.

I have to spend four days in Los Angeles next weekend working on a show that I don’t think is worth crossing the country to do. I would have flown the author to us as normal, but the call wasn’t mine to make.

My computer stopped working last night. I found out from the tech person at Office Depot that my hard drive is shot, and it would cost less to buy a new laptop than fix the hard drive.

I drove across town to the martial arts store to replace my staff only to find a “back at 3p” sign on the door. It was 2 o’clock at the time.

In short, mind and body are dealing with more than a few annoyances today. So I’m smiling broadly – at every stranger I pass on the street, at every customer service rep and cashier working with me. And you know what? They’re smiling back, adding warmth to the day, making me feel good about having the presence of mind not to be dragged down by ankle biters.

Each day turns on the little things, it seems. I’m rarely let down when the part that I play is a positive one.


Practice Space

The first time I booked a room in a hotel recommended by tournament organizers, I knew I would never do it again. On this trip, I’ve been well rewarded for ignoring advice that probably comes with a kickback. The room we three girls are sharing – for a notably lower price than where the tournament folks are staying – is so big, I brought the staff inside to practice. Last time, I just left it in the car until the next day’s competition.


Now, did my girl take advantage of the practice space? Of course not. She took a soak in the tub. We’ll know soon enough how that choice plays out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it works out well for her.

On the Circuit

Tournaments are scheduled to be an all-day affair, but I had never personally experienced one that was.  Until Saturday.

At the Fort Lauderdale tournament last month, I spent four hours warming up and cooling down over and over and over again, before my event was finally called.  It was a factor of having dozens of competition categories all slated for the same ring and not knowing exactly how many were ahead of mine.

In Charlotte on Saturday, rings were assigned on an ongoing basis, with none pre-assigned before the competition began. None.  We waited more than four hours for the first of the three of us to be called for an event; it took an additional two and a half hours after the first call for all of us to be done on the floor. So from first stretch to last bow, we spent almost eight hours warming up and cooling down, over and over and over again.


I did a lot of quacking in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The extreme test of patience made Saturday my best day yet at being a duck.  Most surprisingly, I was not alone.

I like to say that my daughter is me without the filter.  That missing filter is usually a very big deal.  But with a little late-in-the-day help from a smart phone, her complaints numbered exactly three and lasted a matter of seconds.  That’s in a day that was eight hours long – and followed immediately by a seven hour car ride home!

What keeps an experience that looks crazy on paper from being as insane as it sounds is being in a room with a couple of hundred other like-minded enthusiasts who’ve driven just as long or flown just as far as you have.  A Florida man I made friends with in Lauderdale greeted me like we’d known each other for years, and my son left the building with plans to meet up early in the summer with a fellow competitor he spent most of the day talking with.  It’s not just a competition circuit; it’s a community all its own – much like any professional sport.  And that community is a fringe benefit to an experience that can otherwise try the most passionate of martial arts souls.

Next up Pittsburgh.  I’m sure the gang – or much of it – will all be there.

Tournament Eve

It was a beautiful evening in Charlotte, North Carolina – especially from the top of the university campus at dusk, at the start of a track meet.



Tomorrow morning, the family and I will be pacing and warming up in the winding corridors of this building, awaiting the call of our numbers to show what we know in each of our events.


As luck would have it, I strained, sprained, pinched or otherwise aggravated the arm and shoulder that the staff demands the most of while sparring in Thursday night’s class.  So the jury is out on what I’ll be able to do tomorrow.  Meanwhile, my daughter has decided to get out of the audience and onto the competition floor, which made the trip extra special before we’d even put the weapons in the car!

It’s feeling a little like waiting for Santa….  A pretty nice feeling on the second day of spring. 🙂