Flying up front.

I was reading MichaelG’s vivid account of his trip to Barcelona in the previous thread, feeling, as the kids on the internet say, all the feels – happiness, envy, nostalgia. It was the comment about flying first class that did it. I’ve done so exactly once, and it came via the way many people who don’t generally fly first class get on the other side of the curtain.

I was leaving Key West in September 1980. You Floridians know what September is like at that latitude. Miserable. It’s hurricane season, the islands drenched in the hot breath of the African coast, and even though there were no storms that week, I vividly remember thinking I have never been this hot before, and if I have anything to say about it, never will be again. I went down because I had vacation time and no plans, but two friends in the Keys. Gay men, of course. One, my dear old friend Jeff, is now dead and I expect the other one, his roommate Dennis, is too, but you never know.

Our last night, we stayed up all night, doing what you do in Key West, what we did all week: We started at one bar with all the other gay men and fag hags in town, then, as if on a signal, decamped for another bar, and then, as if on another signal, left for the place everybody closed down: The Monster. We danced and danced and danced and partied and partied and partied with the people who had become MY BEST FRIENDS EVER in the course of a week. They included one sweet young man, who’d come to the Keys from Wyoming, thinking he’d find an easier place to be gay there. He was hanging with some German guy, and there was a real cutie named Les, who worked as a bartender at the in-between bar and called me “baby.” Wyoming man paid me the ultimate compliment: “If I were straight, you’d be the woman for me.” How can you not love that? I did, but then, it was a very strange week in all ways. (I see now that he probably said that to all the girls.) Several nights in a row, walking home from the Monster, Jeff would see me to the door of their rented hovel and then peel off to have a nightcap in the baths, no doubt nurturing the virus that would kill him a few years later.

On this last night, we decided to stay up because my flight was at 8 a.m. and why not? What, you’re going to bed at 3 and then getting up three hours later?

I don’t even remember what we did, only that it was the hottest night ever, and Jeff dropped me at the airport around 7, with the sun rising on another steamy one, and I stumbled aboard the plane wearing sunglasses and the next thing I knew, the stewardesses were asking one another, “Do you smell jet fuel?”

Something was wrong with the plane. They had to send another one down from Miami, and I missed my connection back to Ohio, and in the rebooking, I heard those magical words: “We can get you there, but you’ll have to fly first class.” Have to! Really? I guess I can manage.

I don’t think I took off my sunglasses the whole time. Staying up all night does odd things to your perception, especially when you’ve been drinking for hours and hours. I wasn’t drunk, though — I’d gotten to that place where I seemed to be burning the alcohol at the same rate I was consuming it, the highly sought-after state of equilibrium.

The stewardess kept bringing me bloody Marys, anyway. Bloody Marys and food that was sort of edible and real silverware, not plastic. Plus pillows and blankets and a nice seat mate who could talk about this and that. It was all sort of “Miami Vice” years before the show appeared, and when they announced our descent into Columbus, I was sort of sad. I could have stayed on that flight forever.

Have a great trip, MichaelG. That ham you spoke of? I had a tiny scrap of it in Ann Arbor, at a snooty wine store that kept a couple in the back room. Don’t think of the per-kilo price, because all you eat is a little at a time. Just enjoy it.


Today on the bus, I overheard two guys talking about bike routes from the Pointes to downtown, and I butted in and made some suggestions. They seemed surprised that this old bag was the one whose bike was on the rack on the front of the bus, and maybe this is why: There’s a gender gap in cycling. Well, damn, there shouldn’t be. Especially during a week like this.

I guess by the time you read this, the Scottish independence vote will be in full swing. I don’t know a lot about it, but my gut is with the No faction — the better-together people. Someone, make the case for independence, because I don’t see it being good for anyone now.

The blogger at Gin & Tacos lives in Peoria, and his local paper sounds a lot like the one I used to work for. The one I’m embarrassed to even acknowledge now.

Enjoy the rest of the week, all.

Posted at 9:26 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

93 responses to “Flying up front.”

  1. Deborah said on September 17, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    I am an ardant reader of Gin and Tacos as of a few months ago when someone here linked to them, maybe Nancy. Now I follow it regularly.

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  2. alex said on September 17, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    Those Peoria freaks ain’t got nothin’ on Fort Wayne. At the News-Sentinel, the columnists and opinion page editorialists make Peoria’s letter writers sound eminently sensible. And their unpaid regular guest writing gigs feature some moonbats whose work might as well just be photographs of their own turds smeared on the walls of a padded cell. If you want a true barometer of contemporary American cray-cray, this rag is it.

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  3. Dexter said on September 18, 2014 at 1:47 am

    I wrote this here before, but it’s on-topic, so…back in the 1970s anyway, the airlines that had aircraft at west coast airports sent as many as possible back east overnight where the population is heaviest, natch. They did not focus on trying to consolidate flights in order to fill the planes, the point was to fly them back east empty or whatever , just get them back to New York and Chicago and Atlanta. Twice during my year in Monterey as a soldier I flew those red-eye flights to Chicago and connected to Fort Wayne. Both times the flight captains asked me if I wanted to fly first class to balance the weight of the nearly-empty aircraft. Maybe they were just rewarding a soldier boy, helifino. It was indeed sweet. I was served a few bourbon & sodas, a tasty late-night sandwich, and then given a pillow and a blanket and told to stretch out across both seats and sleep if I wanted to. The booze knocked me out and I awoke only as the attendant was telling us to prepare for landing, seatbacks up and all that. And I had flown standby, cash ticket, half-price military fare, very cheap.

    Many times I have been so damn hot I was miserable…catching (and I mean I was the catcher) a day baseball game with a hangover in Jackson, Mississippi in 99 degree 100% humidity was one of the worst. We went to Charleston, SC about 15 times in the 1980s and 90s, always at the end of July , to see wife’s sister and family. That’s a hot ticket too. Nothing was worse than the whole summer of 1988 though. 90 degrees at 4:00 AM? Yes it was, days-on-end. It was horrid. None of these drove me nuts like being in Vietnam for just under a year, though. For months I worked 7:00 P to 7:00 A and tried to sleep day-times in a bright hootch that was like a fucking broiler oven. Finally I got an 18-inch electric fan which prevented my brains from boiling out-my-ears.

    Carla Lee is making me a steak dinner tonight. I also get a chocolate cake. 100 minutes ago I entered old age officially. I am now 65. Fade to black nothingness…the abyss beckons me! Last one out turn off the lights….

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  4. Deborah said on September 18, 2014 at 4:38 am

    Happy Birthday Dexter! I turn 64 next month.

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  5. David C. said on September 18, 2014 at 6:44 am

    The Scots won just by getting the chance to vote for independence. More powers have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, every English politician has had to go up to Scotland and kiss their asses, and David Cameron looks likely to lose in the next general, although if they end up with another Tony Blair like Labor PM what’s the difference. In the end, no will likely win, but it’s going to be a squeaker.

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  6. Dave said on September 18, 2014 at 6:46 am

    Happy birthday, Dexter, I’ll be there in (gulp) under seven months.

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  7. brian stouder said on September 18, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Happy birthday, Dexter!

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  8. Kim said on September 18, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Wait until Heather Olsson’s seven children start to chafe at the idiocy that binds them. Illinois’ tax system is supremely effed up, precisely because of all the taxing authority layers. But still, these things are all out in the open and you only need to open your eyes to see ’em. No special decoder glasses required.

    We always called Peoria a hole above ground.

    MichaelG, sounds like you will have a grand adventure. Check out the Picasso museum – it has thousands of works by the artist, lots of context from his life and times, plus it is gorgeous and feels small. It’s just off Las Ramblas, if I recall. Free after 3 p.m. Sundays and I checked the website and it’s free on Sept. 24. Also, La Sagrada Familia, the amazing work of Catalan architect Gaudi and a monument to Spanish culture (dream big, work slowly), has to be experienced. There’s also Barcelona FC, I think in town in about a week.

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  9. Deborah said on September 18, 2014 at 9:12 am

    And see Parc Guell, MichaelG. Another fabulous Gaudi place.

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  10. Judybusy said on September 18, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Happy birthday, Dexter! I too remember 1988. No AC, and my ex and I had begun providing adult foster care for two developmentally disabled men coming out of decades of institutionalization. We drank a lot of tequila that summer. Just us, not the guys! That foster care gig set me up for graduating without debt; we did it for nearly five years. It taught me many things about what to means to be human and participate in our society when you are profoundly disabled.

    And biking! I was able to bike to work a few times this week. It’s such a glorious way to begin the day.

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  11. brian stouder said on September 18, 2014 at 9:53 am

    The Peoria piece was interesting, and it dovetails a bit with the Scotland/secession vote happening today. A few summers ago, as the ’08 elections loomed ahead, I was at a trade show in Illinois (Bloomington), and spent several days around many hundreds of mostly-white/mostly rural-men with mostly-buzz-haircuts and mostly-certain political views, which corresponded with Oxy-Rush/Shit-for-brains-Sean’s daily blather (in fact, you could go from one end of the mid-day radio dial to the other, and never hear anything but 30 year old country songs, and local or national lunatics blathering on about God-knows-what, all the live-long day)

    More than a few of these guys were parroting the “47%” line (the ‘takers’ versus ‘makers’ trope) which was then ascendant, before Mitt’s video-taped meltdown on that same subject. And – more than a few could be heard yapping about how Chicago should be broken off of Illinois, as a separate state…which (of course) would mean at least two more Senators for the buzz-cut/white/know-nothing crowd.

    Fast-forward to today, and the same kind of talk seems to be coming from California, about breaking the state up into maybe a half-dozen new states – and it’s gotta be all about more senate seats for places where relatively few people – and mostly white folks, at that – live.

    By way of saying, I’m rooting against Scotland breaking apart from the UK, if only for the selfish reason that it will encourage the chuckle-head crowd hereabouts.

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  12. Julie Robinson said on September 18, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Dexter, I hope you have a wonderful birthday.

    Kim, while I was in Iowa for my aunt’s funeral I was able to catch up with extended family, and most of them could have written that letter to the editor. However, one of the granddaughters just went off to college, where she immediately horrified her family by getting a tattoo and joining the National Guard. Take that, years of repression!

    Judy, thank you for your service. My cousin has Downs and is now in a group home, where he is flourishing after a lifetime of isolation on the farm.

    I’ve flown first class once, eons ago. I was still in high school, visiting my sister at college, and the plane didn’t have any seats in coach so they upgraded me to first. Of course, these days the coach seats would probably look great.

    Having just experienced Florida in August, I heartily concur with the views of the Proprietess.

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  13. Jeff Borden said on September 18, 2014 at 10:06 am

    I’ve been rewriting a lot of stories relating to the Scottish vote for Handelsblatt’s Global Edition and the Scotland vote is going to be painful regardless of how it turns out. The referendum has split the country down the middle –polls were calling the vote neck-in-neck in recent days– so a large percentage of Scots are going to be pissed off.

    Worse, this emboldens separatist dreams from eastern Ukraine through Spain (Catalonians and Basques) to Belgium (Flemish) and fuels the fever dreams of far-right nationalist parties, which have been growing in popularity in France, Italy and Germany.

    The Scots are drunk on oil money from the North Sea, but geologists estimate those oil fields will be tapped out by 2050. They’ll have to export a helluva lot of single malt, haggis and bagpipes to make up the difference.

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  14. MichaelG said on September 18, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Put me in the No on Scotland camp as well. I love the talk of the California secessionists. I was in Alturas last fall and they had posters up in the bar of the Niles hotel seeking idiots to join a militia. Modoc county, one of the secessionist counties, has a very high welfare rate. Half of the people there are on welfare and the other half work for the State or the feds. If they seceded, they would all starve. What a bunch of idiots.

    No big report for today. Went to a couple of museums and enjoyed them. The walking is building up and the legs are getting stronger. Guess I’m sort of playing myself into shape.

    I’m going to post the mammoth airplane ride thing. Nance, delete or cut or whatever if it is too big or offensive.

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  15. Joe Kobiela said on September 18, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Come fly with me and it’s always first class.
    Back in the day, when my wife and I would fly to Fla, I would go talk to the gate agent and show my commercial pilots license, and usually get us bumped up to first class, now with most planes at capacity it doesn’t happen any more.
    Pilot Joe

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  16. MichaelG said on September 18, 2014 at 10:25 am

    So on Sunday night, the 14th, I got an email telling me that my flight from Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Barcelona (BCN) had been cancelled and that heaven and earth were being moved to secure me an alternate ride to BCN. Monday AM I left early for the airport so as to have plenty of time to snivel at the Delta person about rebooking. They were very nice but the best they (the agent and her supervisor) had to offer after over an hour of floundering, was to have me come back the next day and try again. I wasn’t about to do that. What we ended up doing was checking my bag to CDG. I would fly there and figure out what to do next after arriving. I flew as scheduled to Salt Lake City (SLC) in first class. It was a nice, if unremarkable flight.

    When I decided to travel To Spain, I thought I would look at first or business class. Turns out Delta only has two classes on their int’l wide bodies to Europe, steerage and business plus or business elite. Something like that. On the narrow bodies it’s first class. The whole shooting match, SMF to Spain and back to SMF was only $4000. I grabbed it. This was two months in advance. The price goes up quickly as the day approaches.

    I sat right in front on the way from SMF to SLC. The connection was tight. I was the first one off the plane at SLC and hustled to the other pier where my flight to CDG was already boarding.

    In addition to the seat, first or business class gets you through a special line at security where you don’t have to disrobe and all that. Saves lots of time. There are special lines at the counter and for boarding.

    The ride to CDG was on an A330 which is a French built wide body. My seat was right in front again. The seat is in a little box so each person is pretty well isolated. There is a seat at each window and two in the middle. The seat reclines totally so that you are actually in a bed. There are buttons just like for your car seats. Blanket and pillows are provided. They made a real effort with the nice wine in a real glass (I won’t tell you how many glasses I had) and food was served on china and all. It really is a great way to fly. After a 10 hour flight we landed at CDG feeling good after sleeping well. Not especially tired. Jet lag is easy East bound.

    The airport was quite a sight. Air France metal every where. There was one taxi-way that had a line of what must have been 20 ea A-320s parked nose to tail. At another terminal there was a line of four huge whales – double decked A-380s parked at the gates. The odd looking thing was that they were deserted. No catering trucks, no fuel vehicles, no honey bucket trucks, no baggage carts no nothing, nobody.

    Inside, the terminal was deserted. Empty – you could have shot a cannon through it. Given my elevated class status, we had a special exit door and again I was first off the aircraft. I walked down a huge long hall, turned left, walked down another huge hall, turned left again (there was nothing in these halls which were long, wide and high ceilinged). This was all in order of following signs for baggage and connections. A long walk led to a small Air France counter near the stairs leading to baggage and connections. Again a special line for first class passengers. The young lady was very nice and spoke fairly good English. She was also extremely attractive. Blonde and six feet tall. Unfortunately she must have also been new because during the whole interaction she kept asking questions of the woman next to her, of her supervisor and of somebody in the back room. Oh well, she was trying. When finally hand writing a ticket for me she kept looking back at the carbons to see what to do next. What she did was find me a two hour bus trip to Orly and a seat on an airline called Transavia out of Orly.

    With ticket and bus voucher in hand, I went down the stairs, along another long hall, down some other stairs and down another hall and arrived at a typical airport tram. Down two stops, off the tram, down another hall, down another stair, left down another hall, right into the baggage area. The only people in these long hallways were people who had been on my SLC flight. Picked up my bag and headed through the baggage area to immigration where a bored guy stamped my passport, down a hall to customs where two other bored looking guys were bullshitting while they watched me walk right through to the exit. As far as I know, CDG consists of nothing but long hallways. Once outside, I found the bus stop followed by a tour of Paris freeways. Not bad in my direction but traffic going the other way was at a stand still.

    If, as some people have described it to me, CDG is a toilet, Orly is where things end up when CDG flushes. What an absolute third world horror. Orly Sud is a huge, long, narrow, low ceilinged, dimly lit hall with something like 150 stations along the back and right walls guarded by miles of mazes of that barrier tape stuff that they use in banks. The front wall has booths for all sorts of African and Arab airlines including Syrian, Iraqi and others. The place is packed with a seething mob of people including zillions of Africans and Arabs wearing the most outlandish costumes right out of National Geographic. It’s a wild and colorful place. By then I just wasn’t in the mood for colorful. Boring would have been just fine. Did I mention that there is no place to sit? No chairs no benches, no nothing. Everybody stands. It took me an hour and a half to check in. No first or business class on Transavia. Only cattle class. After another hour or two, the plane boarded. Everybody had assigned seats but the whole plane load charged the gate at once with everybody pushing and shoving to be the first on board. What a bunch of idiots. I hung back to the very end and then just walked on. I mean the plane wasn’t going anywhere before everybody was loaded and everybody had an assigned seat so …? It took twice as long as boarding a Southwest flight in California. By this time I was pretty tired and slept all the way to BCN. BCN is a nice airport, clean and like a huge shopping mall. Taxi to the hotel was pleasant and I got to the hotel at about 8:30 local time Tuesday evening after leaving the house at 10:00 in the morning Monday.

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  17. Dorothy said on September 18, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Happy birthday, Dexter. Maybe it’s because my birthday was about 3 weeks ago, but I get the sense that an awful lot of us regulars here are Virgos. I’ve lost track so help me out – who else besides Jeff (tmmo), me and Dexter have a birthday between August 21 and September 20? (Those dates are approximate – I’m not sure of the specific dates for astrological signs.)

    I also can’t remember if I mentioned that after being off work for only a week, I am back at UD, but not as a full time employee. I’m working full time hours, but hired as a temp in the College of Arts and Sciences. They are trying to keep me busy and I’m hoping to have work through the end of the year. I continue to apply for open positions. I really love it in A&S. Everyone is so great. I keep hoping they realize they can’t live without me and have to create a position just for me.

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  18. brian stouder said on September 18, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Dorothy – hear hear!

    (and I fly the flag of Pisces)

    (hope I spelled that correctly)

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  19. Peter said on September 18, 2014 at 11:46 am

    Michael G, hope you have a wonderful time in Barcelona. I haven’t been there in over 20 years, but Im sure it’s as cool as ever.

    I know everyone says to visit Sagrada Familia, but the back story for me is disgusting – I wish they’d have left it unfinished.

    Montjuic is fantastic, and Mies’ Pavilion is unbelievable. And the market off of the Ramblas is outstanding. If you’re in the old town you should check out the Palau deal music catalana – I think Puig is just as good as Gaudi. And not to brag too much – but one of my relatives did the sculpture that’s holding up a column on the addition to the building.

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  20. Basset said on September 18, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Virgo here, Sept. 2. Never been to Barcelona, though.

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  21. Jolene said on September 18, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    I earned my one first-class flight by breaking my ankle while far from home. Years ago, I fell during a summer I spent doing research in NJ. When it was time to fly back to AZ at the end of the summer, I did all I could to elicit the sympathy of the gate attendant, and it worked. My trip back to the desert was greatly eased by the comfortable seat– even more by the free gin and tonics.

    I, too, am a few weeks from crossing the great divide into post-65 land. Seems unbelievable, really. Yesterday, I came across this great article by Zeke Emmanuel, healthcare guru and brother of Rahm and Ari. He’s hoping to die at 75. Can’t say I share his perspective, but he makes a strong case. Worth thinking about even if you are much further from that age than Dexter, Deborah, Dave and I.

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  22. Connie said on September 18, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Virgo here too, September 3.

    Many years ago when my kid was five we arranged to fly to San Francisco from Flint so our kid could stay with relatives. So one day we drove from southern Indiana to Flint. The next day we went to Bishop airport and were informed that our flight was cancelled and we were being flown to a new flight in Indianapolis where we would have first class to SF. We fund it very humorous that we had driven past the Indy airport the day before.

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  23. sue m said on September 18, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Virgo. Aug. 26, 1958

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  24. brian stouder said on September 18, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    One thing I did not know, and which may (or may not!) make a huge difference in the Scotland secession vote, is this nugget, from the following article:

    For the first time, the vote has been extended to 16- and 17-year-olds living in Scotland. Nearly 110,000 people younger than 18 have registered to vote.

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  25. fuzzbo said on September 18, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Long-time lurker, first time poster.

    Here’s a good article with regards to the Iberian ham mentioned yesterday. I’d love to try some myself someday.

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  26. Deborah said on September 18, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    MichaelG, good story. Are you flying out of Madrid back to the US? If you are you’ll love the Madrid airport, it’s relatively new and has interesting architecture. I forget who the architect was? Someone British I think? Richard Rogers or Norman Foster?

    The last time I went through Heathrow in London I thought it was positively a toilet. Really awful, nothing but falling apart retail spaces, bad food and smelly. One of the nicest European airports I’ve been through was in Frankfurt, super clean and sleek. I’m always surprised how bad airports look. You’d think cities would go out of thier way to spiff them up since they are gateways to the cities themselves. Train stations in many European cities are glorious.

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  27. nancy said on September 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Detroit’s airport regularly makes 10-best lists, even while the county tries to make its directorship yet another hack position. I hope they can put off screwing it up for a while; after 20 years in Fort Wayne, one of the things I like best about DET is being able to fly out of my actual city and not having to drive to goddamn Indianapolis first.

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  28. brian stouder said on September 18, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    OK – I’ll be the hometown home-boy defender of the status quo here in the Fort, but not before I undermine my opinion by confessing that I’ve only ever done the flying thing maybe 6 or 7 times…and one of those involved a car trip to Columbus for the best flight.

    Nowadays they have a daily direct to Philly, as well as Chicago and D-town. When we went to San Diego, we flew a hop out of FTW to Chicago, and then from there to LAX and then another hop to San Diego…which beats having to drive to Indy and then pay for a week of parking

    and when we returned, we got the Fort Wayne cookie, too!

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  29. MichaelG said on September 18, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Peter, I was at a wonderful small museum today that had a lot of stuff about Gaudi and the design of the Sagrada. Hyperbolic parabaloids and all that and how the place is a carefully planned series of arches. I don’t know the back story. Please enlighten.

    Jolene, I’ll be seventy in a couple of weeks and don’t have a prayer of making 75. Forgive me if I pass on your link.

    Excellent link, fuzzbo. It looks like the ham you encountered is even more rarified than what I saw. The article describes the taste, though. It is subtle and very satisfying. It’s a taste that makes you sigh and recognize that you have just had something rare and wonderful.

    They have a new terminal at LHR, Deborah. I don’t know how big a change it makes. The first time I landed at JFK from Europe many years ago I had the same thoughts you did. “What a toilet! And this is the first impression millions of foreign visitors have of the US.” I thought it was a national disgrace.

    Parc Guell is on the agenda for tomorrow. I’ve been advised that it’s pronounced “Nguyen”.

    And finally, Dexter, my RVN brother. Have a Happy Brthday. File for your SSA. It’s really easy. Lord knows you have it coming.

    Boy, am I a Chatty Cathy these days.

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  30. MichaelG said on September 18, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Jolene, I just reread what I posted. It made me sound like a churl. Sorry. I didn’t mean it that way. The link just pushed my “Elitist” button.

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  31. Sherri said on September 18, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    The new terminal at Heathrow is quite pleasant. My flight home from London was delayed several hours last fall, and so I spent longer than expected there, and found it clean and airy.

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  32. brian stouder said on September 18, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Michael and Jolene – I think I made it about 1/3 into that ‘I wanna die at 75’ piece, and then hit the eject button.

    It left me cold (so to speak)

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  33. beb said on September 18, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    Any brother of Rahm Emmanuel, I think, would be happy to have died yesterday. $350 million food contract for school lunches for food food and terrible service…. Thank god he’s no longer the president’s chief of staff.

    Dexter four months away from catching up with you. Congrats.

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  34. Julie Robinson said on September 18, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Don’t forget that we can now fly direct to Orlando, too! Since that’s where our daughter lives, I’m pretty excited about it, even if it’s Allegiant. OTOH, the seats in their planes do not recline, so at least you don’t have to fight with that. There are other drawbacks, but it’s darn convenient for us.

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  35. Scout said on September 18, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Barcelona is my favorite city. I could easily live there. Besides La Sagrada Familia, Michael, don’t miss other Gaudi wonders like Parc Guiell, La Pedrera and Casa Battlo. I took several thousand pictures there.

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  36. ROGirl said on September 18, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    When in Spain, try the hot chocolate. It’s thick and delicious.

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  37. Jolene said on September 18, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    Sorry you found the Emmanuel article upsetting, MichaelG. For me, it resonated, in part, because of our experience with my parents. Although, like everybody, they had their issues as parents, they were in lots of ways and as I’ve said before, terrific people–sort of post-war prototypes, really. They married in 1946, completely broke, with less education than they wished they had. But they were smart and strong; they worked hard and were lucky. In the end, they’d had a lot of kids, made a lot of money, traveled to lots of places, made a lot of friends, done all sorts of good things in their community, and had a ton of fun.

    But, despite all that, their last five years were really tough–for them and everybody. Dad died at 90, mom at 86 after experiencing, between them, life-threatening kidney failure, strokes, heart disease, diabetes, broken hips, and dementia. There were knee replacements, hip repairs, cardiac stents, cataract removals, and lots and lots of medication. I can only imagine what they, their insurance companies, and Medicare spent on treatment, assisted living, and nursing home care.

    Would anyone have been worse off if they’d said no to some of this treatment? More important, since that can’t be changed, what will I say as problems arise in the years ahead?

    Emmanuel’s article is, in some ways, elitist, as he is disinclined to live if he can’t go on in the fast-paced, high-profile life he’s lived. He doesn’t approve of euthanasia or assisted suicide, but does have quite fixed ideas about what sort of tests and treatments he’ll seek or accept in the years ahead. No colonoscopies after age 65, for instance.

    Not having lived quite such a colorful life, I might be more satisfied than Emmanuel if my main activities are reading books and working my way through the Netflix catalog. But, even so, I will likely have to make some decisions or someone will have to make them for me. Seems wise to think about those decisions in advance. As Zeke says, I can always change my mind.

    My best wishes to you. Enjoy the sunshine and the tapas.

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  38. Jerry said on September 18, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Sagittarius here, and 70 at the end of November.

    Following up from Dexter’s comment yesterday about his wife not flying for years. My wife was completely uninterested in foreign travel until one of our sons went to work in Brazil and we visited him there. Now we are in Melbourne on our eighth visit to Australia visiting a different son and our only grandchild. We’ll be glad to be home but desperately sorry to leave our son and his son..

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  39. Charlotte said on September 18, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    I’d have voted Yes if I was a Scot — and I find the descriptions of the town meetings and the energized populace trying to figure out how to build the society they want, one with free higher education and a non-privatized NHS, really exciting. They’ll still be at the mercy of Merkel and the EU, but I’d be fully on the stick-it-to-them bandwagon.

    As for the Emmanuel article — I might push the age limit up to 85-90, but I’m with Jolene. Having watched my grandmother chug along to 102, well, the last 10 years her quality of life wasn’t great. And this was someone who refused most interventions. But once she couldn’t ride anymore, or see, or hear, and when her comprehension started to slip … there was a lot of restless walking in circles in the living room because the hip she hadn’t had replaced hurt her, and because she didn’t have much else to do.

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  40. David C. said on September 18, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    I feel fortunate that so many here share their travel experiences. I’m afraid I don’t travel too well, and my wife less so. Yet I’m very interested in other cultures. So I’m one of the world’s best armchair travelers. It’s nice to have others fill in some of the cracks.

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  41. Dexter said on September 18, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Thanks for all the thumbs-ups , fellow nallers. 🙂 I keep thinking of Bruce Springsteen, who is just five days younger than me. He walks straight, he runs the stage wings and does the knee-slide to punctuate a song verse, and he has black hair piled high on top of his head. That can’t be real, Bruce! So yeah, we’re the same age, both born in 1949, but I am at least twenty years older than Bruce in agility and mobility.
    OK, I’m coming…I am being summoned to the dining room for chocolate cake, can’t wait!

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  42. Sherri said on September 18, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    The outrage is spreading beyond athletes:

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  43. Joe Kobiela said on September 18, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Well I never been to Spain, but I kinda like the music,sweet lady’s are insane there but I really don’t remember.
    Pilot Joe

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  44. alex said on September 18, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    I’d forgotten about this Hungarian pig driven to near-extinction by the Soviets and saved by the Spaniards because of its decadent lipidy-liciousness.

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  45. Deborah said on September 18, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Mmmm chocolate cake. I’m envious, Dexter.

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  46. beb said on September 18, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    Why should AScotland vote yes to independence? Because the English has regarded the Scots as morons for centuries.

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  47. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 18, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    Fuzzbo, thank you.

    Happy birthweek, Dexter!

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  48. Bill said on September 19, 2014 at 12:52 am

    76 here. I had a colonoscopy in July. 5 polyps. Due for another one in 2 years. Got a knee replacement in 2007. Will probably get another in 5 years or so. Get a flu shot every year. Take blood thinner because of afib. Take cholesterol meds, hypertension meds, exercise irregularly. On the plus side, I feel great most days. I’m active in community theater (set design, stage management, set construction). I love seeing my granddaughters grow up; ages 22, 20, 15. Love our lake house and all the friends and parties we have there. Love going to Florida for a few weeks in the winter. We volunteer in the local food pantry and try to assist others as we can.

    I’m overwhelmed with our good fortune and don’t want to miss a minute of it. I can’t agree with Emmanuel about 75 and out. I’m having a good time and intend to keep it up.

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  49. coozledad said on September 19, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Two comedians who really know their crowd. Once you know the trigger words, the rest is rhythm:

    I like how Walker doesn’t even have to shy away from the original German, and he’s wrapped in a flag and a toting a cross.

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  50. beb said on September 19, 2014 at 8:23 am

    Now that the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News have both remodeled their web sites after Windows 8.0, is there a decent site for local Detroit news? I ask because rows of tiles does nothing for me, in fact it repels me because it seems so information-free.

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  51. MichaelG said on September 19, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Talk about weasel words. That judge’s “apology” is a joke.

    “This incident has been very embarrassing to me, my family, friends and the court,” Judge Fuller said in a statement. “I deeply regret this incident and look forward to working to resolve these difficulties with my family, where they should be resolved.”

    That’s the thing that pisses me off. Other than a little touch of lung cancer, I’m in great shape. Heart, blood pressure, cholesterol, joints, everything. I do take a thyroid pill. That’s it. I’ve always felt great. But I’m still suffering from that chemo. I can’t believe how that stuff kicked my ass and continues to do so five months later.

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  52. Suzanne said on September 19, 2014 at 9:56 am

    That Hungarian pig is fabulous!

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  53. brian stouder said on September 19, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Eva Gabor?

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  54. Wim said on September 19, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Happy belated birthday, Dexter! And thanks MichaelG for the long-form reporting.

    Funny thing, I haven’t really flown that much, but I can count three times I’ve flown first class. The last was when a publicist took pity on us and upgraded my wife and I on a flight from San Francisco to Washington DC. (At least I thought it was a nice gesture at the time, until I discovered that like every other tour expense, it came out of our eventual royalties). We had caught some kind of upper respiratory crud out on the Left Coast, and we weren’t really in any condition to enjoy the perks. My wife passed out and I tried to watch the in-flight movie, which was…Groundhog Day. I would watch a few minutes, pass out a few minutes, and wake to the exact same goddamned thing again and again and again. I did not so much watch that movie as live it.

    I just saw a sad Raw Story:

    But then I saw the victim’s name was Marc Carrion. And I had the thought, if anyone had brought this story to the old alt.folklore.urban, that name would have convinced all of us that this was some made-up bullshit. Right. His name was Carrion. SURE it was.

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  55. Sue said on September 19, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Can’t believe it took until the 43rd comment for the ‘never been to Spain’ reference.
    I’ve been rethinking my retirement options lately as I’ve come to realize over the last 10 years or so that I seem to be a self-healer. I don’t know if there is such a thing, but it sure seems odd, some of the things that have happened to me. I’m not on any meds; the cholesterol is beyond perfect and the blood pressure is sublime. I’m one of the 15 – 25% of ‘the affected population’ who self-healed from Hepatitis C. When I started my cleaning job almost a decade ago, I was in such pain I thought I might be working on a repetitive-motion injury from the vacuuming, then – poof – gone. Other weird things have happened over the years as well, major and minor. Something starts, then works itself out, and age doesn’t seem to have diminished that very much. Except for my eyes which haven’t gotten the memo, apparently.
    I do hurt just like every other getting-older person, but have recently discovered yoga and that makes quite the diff.
    So knocking on a lot of wood and barring anything unforeseen, I fear I will be like Charlotte’s grandmother, elderly and in lots of joint and muscle pain, waiting things out. So I damn well better be responsible about this, keep working and stash more bucks away than the average joe or joe-ette.

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  56. Connie said on September 19, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Beb, you can try, which is Channel 4 news. Always the best place for metro area school closings.

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  57. brian stouder said on September 19, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Beb, a few months ago msnbc drove me away with all that new-look garbage on their internet portal. It drove me back to for national headlines at a glance

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  58. Dexter said on September 19, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Way off topic, but this is for my long-time friend-in-recovery, Robert H. of Los Angeles, who has the same length of time in sobriety as me, whose mission of service is aiding the downtrodden on LA’s skid row.

    It’s Tom Waits, singing about 5th Street (The Nickel). Waits is a native SoCalian.

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  59. Deborah said on September 19, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    I can’t believe we are finally very close to breaking ground on our building project in Abiquiu, NM. We bought our land in 2000, got married out there and soon started designing. 14 years later we’re finally about to get something in the ground. We were pretty close in 2007 too, but then the economy tanked and architecture took a big hit, so we totally rethought our approach and came up with a different way, small phases that don’t incur a mortgage. Back to the drawing board we went. Then we had to engage with a structural engineer because of our design and the fairly windy area. That process took a couple of false starts but we finally got what we think is a good solid structural plan. Now we are trying to get the foundation of phase 1 excavated and poured before the end of the construction season this fall. The rest of phase 1 won’t be built until the spring. Fingers crossed that this will actually happen.

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  60. MichaelG said on September 19, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Went to the Sagrada Familia this AM. My God. It was like Elvis, the Beatles and the Stones all showed up along with a seventh world series game between the As and the Giants. What a mob. Unfortunately, there was no chance of my getting inside. I did walk all the way around the building taking pictures as best I could what with the sun, the crowd and the trees. I wouldn’t want to live in that apartment bldg. across the street.

    First impression was that it is much lighter and cleaner than the pictures I’ve seen would suggest. The old part is darker but not anywhere as dark as I had expected. Second impression is that I wasn’t prepared for the scale of the current construction or the amount of work that remains.

    Overall impression is that this is a stupendous building. A cathedral (if it were) worthy to stand next to any in Europe. Chartres, the Duomo, the Barcelona cathedral, you name it. I wish I would be able to see the finished work. I won’t go into any detail here about the place, you can look it up. It’s funny that so many famous buildings or places, etc. seem so small when you see the real thing. The Sagrada Familia was much larger than I had expected. It’s magnificent.

    I also hit the Picasso museum today. The Spanish seem to have a knack for repurposing old and ancient buildings. Here they sited a new, modern museum inside an ancient stone building. It was very well and very sensitively done.

    The problem I had is that the place was packed and any sort of atmosphere conducive to looking at pictures was regrettably absent. How can you look at a painting when three people are parked in front of it with those self guided tour things stuck in their ears. It was like looking at advertising posters on a rush hour subway platform. Still, Picasso is Picasso. Two things struck me. One was the progression of his ‘style’, for lack of a better word, from an almost Norman Rockwell realism to a sort of impressionism to cubism. Don’t shoot me for misnaming things, my ignorance betrays me here. You could almost see his progress and growth from painting to painting. The other was the concentration on a particular subject, from pigeons to Las Meninas by Velasquez. Excellent museum. I only wish it had been less crowded. I found myself as interested in the building as the paintings.

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  61. MichaelG said on September 19, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    A few observations:

    The cost of things seems to be generally a bit higher here in Spain. Some things, however, are cheaper. Wine, for instance. Thank, you Lord. A decent wine can be had for E4 or E5. Add your exchange and it’s still reasonable. Food in restaurants is also reasonable. And very good.

    On the other hand, I was scoping out a department store the other day and they had a Kitchen-aid mixer, the less expensive one with the pointy bowl that sits on a metal plate, not the one with the bigger bowl that fits on the cradle you raise and lower with a crank. It could be yours for 599. Euros that is. $800 for a mixer. Think of that next time you’re at Costco. I don’t know about the price of housing and utilities but I have my suspicions.

    I saw a pair of Clark desert boots for E149. The exact shoes I bought at Arden Fair Mall a couple of weeks ago for $110.

    One more thing about the women. Posture. They walk and stand erectly, shoulders back. They walk with a real stride, like they are heading somewhere. I suppose it goes back to the walking all the time rather than riding in the car. That posture adds several percentage points to a person’s attractiveness and it’s free to all. Men and women. I’m trying.

    I’m walking my ass off here, something I don’t do at home, and I feel better and stronger every day. There’s definitely a lesson there. I read someplace that walking is the best exercise. If so, Deborah holds the secret to perpetual life. I will do my best to emulate her when I get home.

    This place is overrun by Ozzies. I remarked on this to one the other day and he responded with a grin, “Yes, we travel well.”

    You see almost exclusively European cars. Mostly Skodas, SEATs, Opels, Renaults and Citroens. With some Peugeots thrown in. Not a lot of the German premiums and not a lot of Japanese cars. The exception is that there are a whole lot of Prius taxis. Skoda is a very old and honorable Czech brand and SEAT is an old and honorable Spanish car maker. Both are owned by VW which probably explains why there aren’t a lot of V-Dubs to see here.

    I stumbled into a mask store and bought a mask for my grand-daughter. It’s an all white thing with a long snout – from some play I think. I had it shipped because I was afraid to carry it myself. The store was full of really fabulous masks and puppets and that sort of thing. The thirtyish young woman who helped me was friendly, smart and engaging.

    Next, I fell into an official FC Barcelona stuff store. None of these store visits was planned. They just happened within a couple of blocks. I bought some stuff for my grand-son. A hoody, a tee-shirt … The clerk was an 18 year old air head. The exact same girl you would see in the States. There really is a difference between a girl and a woman.

    SoCalian? Jeezuz. I retract all the nice things I may have ever said about you, Dexter.

    That’s wonderful, Deborah. You’re one of my heros. Do you have any renderings of what you plan to build?

    Tell me to stop if I’m imposing. I’m kind of having fun.

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  62. Little Bird said on September 19, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    The Museo de Miró is worth checking out, and there’s a restaurant called Citrus that Deborah and I much enjoyed!

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  63. MichaelG said on September 19, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    That’s E4 or 5 for a glass of wine in a bar or restaurant. Decent wine. You can get E2 or 3 stuff. I love the European bar and restaurant format. Have a coffee or mixed drink or glass of wine and small plate or sandwich at the bar or sit at a table and have a full meal. They have the sandwiches and the makings for small plates there on the bar and the bar tender serves it right to you. Or even have a full meal at the bar. It’s a very comfortable format and I would love to see it in the States. Things run all night here but I tend to poop out around eleven. Which it is now. We’ll see next week. This weekend is the festival of Barcelona’s patron saint. Merse’ There are free concerts, etc. everywhere. It’s a big deal. The very nice young lady at the desk here recommended the Flamenco dance performance scheduled for 12:30 AM on the huge temporary stage in front of the cathedral which is about 100 meters from here. I think I’ll go to bed.

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  64. Sherri said on September 19, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Please don’t stop, MichaelG! Let us vicariously enjoy your trip!

    I watched Roger Goodell’s press conference. I can’t believe he was so terrible. Big points to the media, though, who asked good questions for the most part. Nancy’s college mate Peter King threw up a nice fat softball, but Rachel Nichols from CNN more than made up for it. She was awesome. In fact, they should have just let the women ask the questions; they did a great job.

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  65. MichaelG said on September 19, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    The Museo de Miró is on my radar. I’ve always liked his stuff and read about the museum the other day.

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  66. MarkH said on September 19, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    What Sherri said! MichaelG, keep the great travelogue notes coming. And all the nest to yo on the recovery!

    Add me to the never been to Spain group. One of my old high school buddies married a (much) younger Spanish girl some time back. Actually, she is Basque, but she must be something. Scotty is a terminal smart-ass and unrelenting punk, but she is the only one any of his friends know that can shut him up in an instant. Thank you, Suzanna!

    I saw the Goodell presser as well. If this is the best we see of a Goodell Grovel, well, no guarantee of his longevity as the commissioner. As Sherri is, I have become severly disappointed in Peter King. He promised his readers to do better. Not today, Pete.

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  67. MarkH said on September 19, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    That should be “best to you”, of course.

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  68. Deborah said on September 19, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    Yes, me too, MichaelG, I’m really enjoying the travelogue. One other fun thing we did when I went to Barcelona with my daughter was that we went to the zoo. Normally I would never have thought to do that, I usually travel with my architect husband and we look at buildings, museums and art in general. But Little Bird had the zoo on her list so we went and it turned out to be fantastic. The main event was an albino gorilla that unfortunately died a few years ago, but the place was beautiful and a very please t divergence from all the other touristy stuff. Mostly we just strolled around the city and stopped at cafés for a drink and olives, so lovely.

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  69. Sherri said on September 19, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    On top of that terrible press conference, ESPN breaks the story of how the Ravens mishandled the Rice incident, including working with his lawyer to get him into the diversion program, despite knowing exactly what happened within hours of it happening:

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  70. Dexter said on September 20, 2014 at 12:36 am

    Yeah, Socalian. You gotta prob-lum wit’ dat? 🙂 (I made it just then!)

    Nice travel reports, MichaelG.

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  71. Kim said on September 20, 2014 at 9:43 am

    MichaelG, keep up the dispatches – I’m taking a vicarious vacation. You nailed the Sagrada Familia description, which would have been appropriate 30 years ago when I first saw the thing. Deborah’s recommendation to see Parc Guell (a short bus ride from downtown and past some Gaudi apartment buildings) is a good one, I think (and if you’ve written about that, apologies – slammed at work on my end). Too bad the Picasso museum was so crowded but your takeaway of the spectrum of an artist’s progression through life is what I felt. It’s an impressive place (a former olive factory?)

    The market off Las Ramblas is another wonderful place to get coffee and a small plate. You can just sit at the counter, practice your Spanish with the proprietor/tress and enjoy.

    As Deborah said, the zoo is wonderful. And if you want to go out of town to check out a fabulous beach, take the train about an hour south to Sitges. It’s popular with gay travelers, I’m told, but don’t let a lack of reciprocity from the beautiful ladies dissuade you!

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  72. alex said on September 20, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Belated birthday wishes to Dex! And I’m enjoying the travelogue by MichaelG!

    As regards what plays in Peoria (or doesn’t–remember the top of the post?), forget satire. It’s evidently a pretty humorless place.

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  73. MichaelG said on September 20, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    The Spanish don’t believe in toothpicks. Bring your own.

    I also just realized today that there is no street food.

    I went to the Joan Miro Museo this AM. It was a very quiet, peaceful place. There was hardly anyone there and wandering through it was a joy. Both this place and the Picasso Museo were very well laid out so you could follow a nice, coherent way through the collection. I’m not entirely sold on the Sert building. The architectural models look good as you can see the building in its entirety, but on the ground all you can see is a bit here and a bit there and the bits don’t look so good out of their context. The view from there out over the city is spectacular, though. I loved the museum and you have to respect a guy like Miro who relentlessly followed his dream. There were a couple of his things that I really liked. The museum also featured an exhibition by an American artist named Roni Horn. Her stuff left me cold. I just couldn’t bring myself to like it.

    I’m not usually a museum gift shop type of guy but the one here is wonderful, far and away the best I have ever seen. It features a lot of really clever stuff and a lot of really nice things. The place is decidedly up scale. I, who have never bought anything in a museum gift store, bought a bracelet for my wife. I’m embarrassed to think of how much I paid for it but what the hell. It’s a gorgeous bracelet and I still love her.

    I wandered around up on the mountain for a while and then took the underground cable car back down to town. The idea was to go have a late lunch and then walk back to the hotel. There are two similar sounding streets and, of course, I took the wrong one. Pretty soon I lost track of where I was. It was very hot and I was sweating like a pig and had been walking too long when I stumbled onto the St. Antoni market. It’s one of those very large markets with zillions of stalls selling everything. Fortunately, it’s indoors and air conditioned like everything in Barcelona (thank God). I realized it was time to do something smart before I got heat stroke or something. It wasn’t there yet but I could see it on the horizon.

    So I wandered through the market. The produce was excellent, looking as good as what we have in Sacto., which is the best. They cut their meat differently but the beef seemed awfully lean. The place was very clean and, in fact, smelled clean and sweet. I wish we had a market like this at home. I love these places. I stopped at one of their little bars and had a bottle of water and rested for a bit.

    Then I did something else that was smart. I went outside and grabbed a taxi back to the Cathedral, fell into a restaurant and had lunch.

    I don’t particularly speak Spanish but I am from Sacramento and get my daily earful. I’ve noticed that the Spanish here is different and sometimes very different. Then I realized that some of what I’m hearing is not Spanish but Catalan. In the museums the little explanations next to the paintings are in three languages, in a specific order. Catalan is first, followed by Spanish and English. There are Catalan flags everywhere. The big vote is in Nov. I have a feeling they’ll vote to secede. Especially since it’s advisory only and has no immediate consequences.

    One night at dinner, after having eaten at a table, I moved to the bar for another glass of wine. The place was crowded so I sat right next to a gent who was reaching for his wallet to pay his bill. He laid his credit card on the bar next to me. It was a Southwest card with a picture of the airplane right on it.

    “I see you’re American, where are you from?” I asked. “Sacramento” he responded.

    We only spoke for a moment since they were leaving. Next up was couple who spoke English with a strange kind of English accent.

    “Australian?” I enquired. “No.” said the nice lady. “We’re from Wales.” I had to ask if they were from a town with a name this long, spreading my hands.

    “Of course.” She said.

    “Can you say it for me?” I asked.

    “Cardiff.” She said with a grin. Got me!

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  74. MichaelG said on September 20, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    A word popped into my head to describe BCN. Civilized. It’s a very large city and I’ve only visited a small part of it, but still.

    There are so many ‘must see’ attractions here that one can never see them all. My foreign travel has been limited compared to some of you and has been done a little differently. I’ve always spent a couple of weeks in the same place and walked and taken public transportation around town. Milano, Lisbon, Brussels, Saigon, Puerto Vallerta (public transportation there is, or was, taxis and busted up old VW vans with no door. Hop on and hop off. Then there are or were the ancient, clapped out school buses). Also other places but the point is that I’ve always simply wandered around for a week or so and happily gotten a feel for the place and how it works.

    All of a sudden here in BCN I realized that I’m spending too much time chasing ticket punches and not enough time just wandering and enjoying. It’s taking some of the fun out of things Tomorrow is my last day here. No goals. I’m just walking out the hotel door and wandering. Monday it’s the Jerry Brown Crazy Train to Madrid.

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  75. MichaelG said on September 20, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Oh, and the guy from Sacramento informed me that one can purchase a ticket for the Sagrada Familia in advance and get right inside without waiting in line. Smacks forehead.

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  76. Deborah said on September 20, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Marvelous, MichaelG. Keep it up, I can’t wait to read your report tomorrow of your last day in Barcelona and after that your reports of Madrid.

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  77. Jill said on September 20, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Another Virgo here (9-11). I hope your birthday was happy, Dexter.
    MichaelG, I’m enjoying traveling with you.

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  78. Dexter said on September 20, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Michigan Wolverines are horrible on the 2014 gridiron and Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Milwaukee lager, and Colt .45 Malt Liquor were purchased by the Russkies. One of these comments depresses me and one is just kind of funny. “Red Necks, White Socks, and Blue Ribbon Beer”, made by Russians!

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  79. basset said on September 21, 2014 at 2:57 am

    I remember when Blue Ribbon… well, wait a minute, I do but it makes no difference. Too old, too unhip, too boring, you all do not give the slightest shit about it and if I posted something it would just be one more no-answer, no-response, nobody cares and just ignore it till something more interesting comes around post so I will not throw it out there to get knocked down once again. Maybe if I could find a way to reference some recent movie or TV show it might qualify for a response but the hell with it.

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  80. Jolene said on September 21, 2014 at 4:26 am

    Wow, basset. Are you OK? Sounds like you are feeling really low. I certainly notice and appreciate the things you post. I’m sure most of us have had the experience of posting something that didn’t elicit a direct response. I know I have. I hope tomorrow will be a better day for you.

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  81. MichaelG said on September 21, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Please buck up, Basset and have a PBR or something else if you prefer. Colt 45? Not me. And don’t forget, the Belgians bought Budweiser.

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  82. brian stouder said on September 21, 2014 at 9:14 am

    My dad always had a case or two of PBR in the house; those smaller (10 ounce?) returnable bottles that came in a heavy-duty cardboard container with a double-hinged top (opened like two doors).

    I could never see the attraction; the very few times I ever tasted it, it tasted awful. (the saying then was “you have to develop a taste for it” – which struck me as the stupidest concept in the world)

    Dad also smoked more than 3 packs of Winston 100’s (gold package with red) per day; we had an end table with a drawer that was always stuffed full with a dozen or more packages of his cigarettes, plus two or three packs of Chesterfield unfiltered, which was my mom’s brand (She quit the habit sometime shortly after my dad’s death in 1983, and never went back), plus dozens of packs of matches.

    I could have consumed a bottle or two of beer a day, and smoked a pack of cigarettes, and they wouldn’t have been missed.

    Luckily for me, that bug never bit me (‘course, hearing my dad cough and hack and wheeze for awhile each day, and then light another one up, sort of knocked off any ‘shine’ that habit could possibly have)

    But what I was going to say was – dad also salted his beer, which I thought was odd at the time. I suppose people also salt their tequila, so maybe the idea there is the same.

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  83. coozledad said on September 21, 2014 at 9:55 am

    In a sane society, stories like these would put a halt to all that idiotic worship of the armed services. But this society has succumbed entirely to authoritarian cultism.

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  84. Sherri said on September 21, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Bassett, I’m sorry our last interaction was sharper than it should have been. I got too defensive about football, and attacked hunting, and I shouldn’t have, and I’m sorry.

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  85. Joe kobiels said on September 21, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    I may have miss read bassets last post but I think he was being sarcastic about how pbr is a hipster beer now, and how fast things go from being just a beer to the latest greatest thing.
    Pilot Joe

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  86. Judybusy said on September 21, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Bassett, I often appreciate what you have to say–as I do most folks in the conversation. However, there just isn’t time to respond to everything, and I always don’t have something smart or salient to add to the discussion. (And when it comes to sports and cars, I have absolutely nothing to say!) Most of the time I just sit back and take it all in.

    I will take a quick minute to tell MichaelG how much I appreicate his travelogue of Spain. In 2016, we’ll be taking the last niece on a graduation trip. She is talking about Spain, Barcelona in particular, so it’s been really fun sharing your travels! (In 2015 we’ll be taking her sister to Costa Rica–we talked this weekend, and she is so excited. “I want to do all the really touristy stuff! Like, if I have a monkey sitting on my shoulder, that would be so cool!” Ziplines and snorkeling are also on the dance card.)

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  87. Deborah said on September 21, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Judy Busy, you are one cool aunt. I never did anything like take a niece on a trip abroad. We did take one of my nieces on a car trip to New Mexico with us once when she was going through a rough time in her life, but I never did anything like that for her 2 sisters because their lives were smoother. This was the youngest who just got married recently, my right wing sister has always treated her like the black sheep of the family and favored her oldest daughter to an embarrassing extent.

    Basset, I always read your comments with interest.

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  88. MichaelG said on September 21, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Judy busy, zip lines sound like fun but I’ll pass on the monkey.

    I saw the Palau Guell today. Pronounced. ”Palau Way” Don’t ask. It’s gorgeous, sumptuous and luxurious in a way that wouldn’t fly today. I couldn’t live there and it’s only a hundred and twenty years or so old. I mean one toilet? And the walking up and down. They do have two, count ‘em, two built in organs. I honestly don’t know how one would update the place without destroying it. Guess it’s going to stay a museum.

    This weekend is the festival of Merce’. The celebration of la Mercè has religious origins, honoring the Virgin of Grace (Mare de Déu de la Mercè), patron saint of the archdiocese of Barcelona, and co-patroness—along with Saint Eulàlia—of the city. Stolen from Wikipedia.

    This is a Big Deal here in BCN. There’s stuff going on all over with stages and action in front of the Cathedral and in other venues. Including the CERCAVILA DE CASTELLERS I FESTA CASTELLERA in the Plaza del Saint Jaume. Means human pyramids or castles. Run the capitalized stuff through Google and hit images.

    My favorite lunch place for last few days is just off the plaza and somehow wasn’t overwhelmed with people when I snaked through the crowd to the door. From my table I could see (barely) that big official looking building with the banner in front and the swells observing from the balcony but I couldn’t see the pyramiders themselves. But! There was a big screen HD TV carrying the proceedings on the wall in front of me. They had great pictures and replays and it perfectly captured the same point of view I would have if the wall had been eliminated. I would watch for a while and then step outside to see the real thing, then back inside. Only once did I have to evict a fat German lady from my seat. Screw her. She was obviously having a crappy time anyway. She and her mousy little hubby guzzled their beers and left. The Plaza was filled with thousands of people.

    The pyramids are put up by various groups. Each group wears its own colors. I don’t know if there is any competition or if there is a winning group but I spent a wonderful hour and a half watching the Castellers. There must be 50 people involved in each group’s pyramid or castle. They all make the same castle as if there is a standard or as if there are rules. It’s quite broad at the bottom and the lower levels are all men. As the levels rise, women and youngsters (there is a surprising number of women involved) take over and the final level is kids wearing helmets. They go to six levels or six humans high. That would be thirty feet if everyone was five feet tall.

    The youngsters at the top level look to be around six or seven years old. Three of them huddle together and a fourth crouches on top. The last is a little kid of about five who shins up the whole thing, crawls on top of the last sixth level kid and over him or her while raising an arm in triumph and down the other side as the crowd roars and applauds. Then he or she slides down the whole shebang to the bottom followed by the other youngsters and finally the adults. It’s a lot of fun, quite stirring and, really, rather dangerous. As a family activity, I think it’s passed me by.

    I especially enjoyed watching the kids climbing their elders like monkeys with such determined looks on their little faces, some of them obviously scared shitless but climbing anyway, and then the looks of triumph and relief as they reach the top followed by the big grins as they slide down. About two minutes after the castle was all on the ground the men and a few of the women would come swarming into the bar, high on adrenalin and fun and all loud and needing beer. I told one guy it was beautiful and he hugged me saying, “yes, yes, beautiful”. Talk about your happy people. After I finished my second beer, I wandered outside and weaseled my way toward the front to take some closer pictures of the real thing. Then back to the hotel for a nap.

    I also saw a wonderful, very medieval looking procession with those big figures on sticks and dwarf figures and marchers and ancient sounding bands with squealing pipes and drums and the whole thing.

    The human pyramid thing and the procession are the kinds of things that reward wandering around. Museums are terrific in their way but this was genuine fun

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  89. MichaelG said on September 21, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    A couple of ‘Where the hell are we?’ vignettes:

    An Australian woman with a hubby and two kids:

    “Let’s find a clear spot where we’re not blocking anybody and I’ll show you.”

    They all stopped behind me while she whipped out a paper map and proceeded to explain to hubby that they were here at the corner of this and that and were going to go this way and so forth. She had the right corner.

    Next there was an old (as in even older than me) Australian couple. She had a full sized iPod and was instructing hubby as to their whereabouts and destination stabbing a finger at the map on the screen.

    Finally, I was sitting in a corner restaurant and an older couple approached a cop. Hubby hung back while the wife spoke to the cop. The cop nodded and pointed down the street to the East, waggling his hand, probably telling her to turn this way at that spot. She thanked him. Hubby took her hand and led off to the North. She held back but they moved out of my field of vision. Seconds later they reappeared with her resolutely leading him by the hand and they turned the corner heading East.

    That’s it. Off to Madrid tomorrow.

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  90. Deborah said on September 21, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Bravo MichaelG, bravo!

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  91. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 21, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    MichaelG, you’re giving us the full Rick Steves treatment; thanks for the mental vacation with you.

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  92. basset said on September 21, 2014 at 10:55 pm

    Jolene@80, thanks for the support.

    Sherri@84, no problem with our last exchange, didn’t bother me a bit.

    Joe@85, not sarcastic at all, just venting.

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  93. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 21, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    Basset, I thought Red, White, and Blue was the true hipster brew. (Ah, the obscure joys of the Post Exchange.)

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