Scarlett’s Letter October 13, 2013

Driven.

I have been described as driven. A lot. I suppose I am, though I always feel as though I could be more driven. I certainly don’t sit still long, I gather no dust, and I am always making an effort to evolve into the person I want to be, in every role I serve in life. For these reasons, I write, with the hope of offering inspiration and insight for others who may be looking to advance themselves in some direction, distant, perhaps, from where they currently are. Anything is possible, but you may have to drive yourself to get there. There truly are no free rides.

My new favorite saying; nothing ever gets better that stays the same. So, if you want to be better, in any respect, however small, however large, then don’t. Don’t stay the same. Embrace change.

On a related tangent; I love to drive. I love cars. I love to drive cars. I love to ride in cars. As a small child, my dad, for several years, was a traveling salesman for a couple of different bicycle suppliers, before he bought his own bicycle shop. He had a company car and for many years, that car was a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. We had several over the years and eventually, my mom acquired one of the Chevrolet Monte Carlos and I thought it was the bomb. She called it “a bomb”, which had only a slightly different meaning in the 1970’s, but related only to cars. As a child, I remember making the weekly trip from Napa to Oakland for my allergy shots. Grimace. I would sit in the front seat, probably not buckled in, and count the other Monte Carlos on the road. I could identify them from almost any distance, at almost any rate of speed, headed in any direction. Anyone who knows my son now knows where he gets his passion for cars and his ability to identify year, make, model of nearly anything that rolls down the road.

My first car was a 1966 Mustang, my seventeenth birthday gift. I loved that car. I kept it forever and only sold it, a few years ago, because I wasn’t in a position, figuratively or literally to provide it the love, care and ground up restoration it deserved. I sold it to a seventeen-year-old girl with resources and passion and, well, the drive, to get the job done.

After high school I moved to Sacramento to go to college at “Sac State”. I worked for my dad for most of college, on the weekends, as a mechanic in his bike shop. My steady boyfriend through most of college lived in my hometown, Napa. So, needless to say, that little Mustang and I drove up and down Interstate 80, Highway 12 and Highway 37 thousands upon thousands of times. And in that car, on those drives, I discovered the blissful solitude of being alone in one’s car, the luxury of getting lost in creative thought, meditative problem solving, and the challenge and satisfaction of “playing the game”. The game; driving faster than the posted speed limit and not getting pulled over. It is a game of predator and prey, and, still, I excel, or should I say, accel, at his game.

After the Mustang, being a young mother and a budding career woman, I was given a very practical hand-me-down Honda Accord from my mom. An ordinary, gray, 1985 Honda Accord. I remember chiding her when she bought it, “it’ll fit in a dumpster when it falls apart”. I ate my words. Mighty Mouse, as the car was named, was one of the best cars I ever owned. I drove the wheels off of it and after 285,000 miles, I traded it in on another (used) Honda Accord.

When I became involved as a scout leader, both for boys and girls, and after purchasing a remote piece of recreational property, forty acres, outside of Foresthill, California, the Honda Accord made a little less sense. Gas was less expensive back then and driving to remote locations on dirt roads with a ton of kids and gear became a priority. I bought a 1992 Ford Bronco, Mighty Mo, and I have never loved a car so much. I drove the wheels off of that car, too, and gained recognition and notoriety in that vehicle. I retired it and passed it on to my son after 225,000 miles. We kept Mo, sort of jointly, for as long as we could, but, expensive to operate and a little out of our means to keep in top running order, we sold it, and, sadly, Mighty Mo was spotted, abandoned in a field, dead beyond repair, only months later. We are still in mourning.

In the middle of the Mighty Mo years, because we’d moved to the country, to another forty acre piece in El Dorado County, and I was commuting the hour plus, per direction, every day for work, and, again, every evening for kid activities, logging 3,000 miles a month, I bought a very used pewter gray 1991 Honda Accord to reduce my gasoline expenditure. “Scooter (the pewter commuter).” I drove the wheels off of it. At 358,000 miles and a great deal of neglect, it required an engine and transmission replacement. Fortunately, though due to unfortunate circumstances, we had an extra (totaled) Honda Accord in the yard, the one my mom bought to replace Mighty Mouse, and since replaced with, yes, another Honda Accord, which she still has. I was given the “in-between” Accord, in pristine shape. I bequeathed it to my sixteen-year-old son, as I already had Scooter. You can put two and two together, I’m sure. So, we took the engine and transmission from the smashed Accord and put them in “Scooter”, and though I’ve since given the car to my ex, it, to my knowledge, still tootles about town under it’s own power.

When I decided to leave my husband for a list of reasons longer than most of my articles, I also left behind a life where we had ten cars and three boats, none running, none maintained, in an overgrown yard. And with my quest for my own minimalist, healthy, life without limits, I liberated myself further by buying my own car, not a hand-me-down, and not a terribly used car with 100,000 plus miles in need of more than routine maintenance and a mechanic on staff, a role my husband happily and willingly played, for a while, until the Internet was invented and he no longer had the ambition to remove himself from in front of it. Instead, I bought myself a very practical, nearly new, Honda Civic, only a couple of years old and with only 15,000 miles on it. “Meep.”

Meep is now six years old and has nearly 92,000 miles. My warranty expires at 100,000 miles. Yes, I could buy another warranty, but I am driven to buy a newer car at some point in the not so distant future. For two reasons; to have a newer car, with a warranty, and to continue to build myself a personal credit history after the aftermath of, well, some of the things I mentioned above.

Last week, my car crazy son, presently carless, by choice, a difficult choice, and living in Honolulu, a not so difficult choice, sent me a Facebook link from Tesla Motor Company, offering a test drive of the Model S at a winery in St. Helena. Because I am wired the way I am and because I believe in taking advantage of every intriguing thing that crosses my path, I clicked on the link and signed up. I messaged my son back and told him I’d signed up. I honestly don’t think he expected me to, but his response was that he “had to swallow a jellysickle”. LOL.

Today was my test drive. I drove the top-of-the-line model, the P85+, and, after spending a little time educating myself on their website, I was completely blown away by this car. Even though I drove it like a grandma on the winding, narrow mountain road, I could feel the amazing weight balance and stability and could easily imagine how it would feel at higher speeds, with it’s 416 horsepower engine, cornering the tight s-curves on this road. Had my nearly 90-year old mother not been in the backseat, repeatedly asking the Tesla sales rep in the passenger seat whether anyone had ever gotten car sick on the beautiful Nappa leather interior before, I may have been a little more assertive cornering, a little more aggressive accelerating. I’m glad Mom went. Really, I am, otherwise I might have done something terribly irresponsible, and bought the car on the spot! She served her purpose; to subdue me into boring, mind-numbing practicality.

More about the Tesla; I loved, loved, loved the regenerative braking. In the extensive mountainous road driving I’ve done in my life, having lived for several years in the Sierra Foothills and spending most of my weekends recreating in the nearby mountains, I always used the transmission to brake on downhills, rather than replace brake pads every other weekend. This car, without a transmission, required no braking, even on the tightest, downhill, hairpin curve. My foot hovered over the brake pedal, but as soon as I lifted my foot off the accelerator, the car slowed smoothly and adequately. The regenerative braking, by design, not only slows the car but sends energy back to the battery for storage and later use. How cool is that? I applied the brake only to stop, and, reluctantly, turn around, when directed to. It drove effortlessly back up the mountain, how curious to not hear an engine strain with the grade, how bizarre to never feel the car downshift to manage the climb. It just went. I admire that, I like to think I’m that way, I just go (link). The car and I, as one, just go.

And so, having driven a car that I have only ever admired from the safe and practical seat of my Civic, I am driven, in more than one way, to have such an acquisition not seem irresponsible, but, rather, practical. The numbers support themselves, it is a practical purchase, if you apply creative mathematics and time, and if you are at a certain income level to afford the initial outlay, or the monthly income to afford the inventive lease program, which, technically, I do. And, for me, it is not a matter of whether I want such a car, or not, certainly I do. And for the few who tell me I can’t, poo on you. For every one of you naysayers there are four people telling me I can, and this, I know. However, the real question, for me, is whether I am willing to realign my goals, based on my roles, in order to make such an acquisition, whether it is a long-term practical move, or not? The question is, what am I currently working towards and would I have to abandon current goals, or maybe even roles, to make owning this car an eventuality. Certainly, I would have to. But will I? No, not now. I have a clear vision of what I am evolving towards right now, and abandoning or even reprioritizing any of those goals right now would not be my path to happiness. I am prepared to say, though, “never say never.” If the Universe and I are on exceptional terms, then perhaps I can “have it all”. For now, though, I am content with what I have and with what I have planned.

Sometimes in life, we have to take a look around us, perhaps take advantage of unique opportunities, to step out of our present roles and place ourselves in another role, temporarily, to inspire ourselves, to motivate ourselves to take another step in a direction we’ve been hesitant to go. Or to just take any kind of step. At the very least, I had an incredible experience driving a car that is at the pinnacle of engineering excellence. I believe it is truly the shape of things to be and I am grateful to have had this opportunity. I look for inspiration, in order to keep myself motivated in my effort to evolve, and this experience, the actual experience of driving the Tesla, and the experience as a catalyst for thought and reflection, certainly did not disappoint in either respect. I continue to be driven.

To be driven, you just have to drive. Drive it for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scarlett’s Letter September 28, 2013

I was up early and ready for the flight home. A direct flight from Newark to San Francisco. I slept mostly, blissfully. And I dreamt of reusable Taco Bell burrito wrappers. I can’t explain that.  I still marvel, after all the frequent flier miles I’ve accrued, at waking on one side of the country and having lunch on the other. It still amazes me.

It was an excruciatingly slow drive home from Sacramento, I almost wished I was back in New Jersey, where at least the traffic moves. I identify with Jersey drivers. Like me, they drive with intent, and if you ever spend any time in a car with me at the wheel, you will hear me encourage, implore, even beg other drivers to “drive with intention!” It’s a lot better than some things I could shout at them, am I right? I will happily let people in front of me from driveways, I allow people to merge. Yes, I’m a defensive and sometimes aggressive driver, but I am courteous and safe. I have little tolerance for those who drive fearfully, those who don’t show some assertiveness and especially those who don’t display courtesy. I think drivers should show “assertousy”, equal parts assertiveness and courtesy. And, really, is life itself any different. We should live with intention, pursue our goal assertively and always show courtesy. That’s the lesson in life I considered today, as I listened raptly to Jillian Michael’s on Audible reading her book “Unlimited”. I feel inspired to reevaluate my goals and my methods for pursuing them. I feel energized by her words and energy. She makes sense, and not just related to fitness, food and health, but to life, the universe and our place in the universe. Another book I highly recommend.

When I got home all I could think about was food, like a big, fat hamburger or something equally appalling, especially after spending the last couple of hours immersed in Jillian’s Audible aura. Mom and I decided on Downtown Joe’s, a restaurant and brewery at Main and Second Streets in Napa, right along the Napa River. It was quite warm today, but we preferred sitting outside, along the river, if possible. We were offered a seat with a little umbrella, it needed bussing, first, but was ours immediately thereafter. I let Mom have the two square feet of shade provided by the small market umbrella, the small, poorly designed market umbrella that did not have the option to be tilted so as to provide more shade based on the angle of the sun. I like the sun. I sat in the sun. Mom has had chunks of face and appendages carved off of her in an endless catch up battle with skin cancer. I am probably going to suffer the same plight, but for now, I’ll soak up the sun, but only because of the stupid, little, inadequate market umbrella and because I always have about three layers of SPF on my face.

When I was younger, but old enough to drink, this was called the Oberon. We called it the "Slobber On", because we knew we would probably be slobbered on by some guy at some point during the evening.
When I was younger, but old enough to drink, this was called the Oberon. We called it the “Slobber On”, because we knew we would probably be slobbered on by some guy at some point during the evening.
A sunny seat next to the Napa River.
A sunny seat next to the Napa River.

An Effort to Evolve

Sounds good to me!
Sounds good to me!
The "Slobber On", I mean Downtown Joe's bar inside.
The “Slobber On”, I mean Downtown Joe’s bar inside.

Being a brewery, I perused the beer list with great enthusiasm. I decided first on the stout, knowing I’d have to have the porter shortly thereafter, it was impossible to decide on only one at the exclusion of the other. I’d really planned on a burger, but the “Steak and Fritz” caught my eye, a rich sounding mélange of steak, steak fries and gravy. It all lived up to my expectations; the stout, the porter, the very rich and fattening meal. Jillian would probably throw insults at me until I cried if she observed what I just did to myself. Ah, but she is human, too, and I know my limits and I know when, and how, to repent for my occasional sins. And I shall.

BEER MENU!
BEER MENU!
The Old Magnolia Oatmeal Stout, first. The porter next.
The Old Magnolia Oatmeal Stout, first. The porter next.
The "Steak and Fritz", more commonly known as SIN!
The “Steak and Fritz”, more commonly known as SIN!
The Overdue Porter behind a wall of fries.
The Overdue Porter behind a wall of fries.

Just not today. It was a simple, but sedentary day. I’d had every intention of working out when I got home, but the two pints of beer and large meal, a very early morning after a fairly short night, a long flight and detailed expense report all interfered. I can do a long, detailed expense report after two pints and little sleep, I could probably run, too, so, I guess it was just a matter of priorities. Running wasn’t going to reimburse me nearly $3,000 for travel expenses this past week. I considered the day a success, at these accomplishments and, my dietary indiscretions still weighing heavily on my mind, I decided to make my late lunch at Downtown Joe’s dinner, too, as I had no desire, initiative, or caloric budget for any semblance of an actual dinner. I just let it go, and sometimes there is wisdom in that.

There are days, most days, where we tirelessly do everything we are supposed to, follow our rules, our plan, accomplish all the things on our never-ending list. Then, there are days where we let a few things go. And that’s okay, if it’s the exception and not the rule. Even highly effective people let things go and they realize the wisdom in that. The “stop and smell the roses” theory. We can be so driven, so on task all the time that we miss the point of our all or action, our activity. The point being, life, and living it. Every now and then, living life to its fullest is sitting still and just breathing, sitting still and just listening, sitting still and just thinking. Just letting it go and gathering it all up again, tomorrow, after some reflection and refreshment, some rest and rejuvenation. And that was this evening’s wisdom. This evening’s to-do list. Nothing. Check.

Scarlett’s Letter September 23, 2013

Travel day. OMG. Already. Weekend? What weekend?

My alarm went off at 12:30 AM. Hello? 12:30 AM. I got up, got ready and was out the door. It’s not like I even blow dried my hair and curled it, I wrapped my dripping wet hair in a ponytail and wore my clothes from yesterday. Seriously.

Regarding my clothes from yesterday. I felt absolutely rockin’ hot yesterday. As the Chelly song goes, “my hair done right, my dress real life, all eyes on me, I took the night.” Google it. Ever have one of those days where you just feel totally put together and you can see people see you? That was yesterday. So, after about no sleep and in the midst of the usual morning “what shall I wear today”, though technically still the middle of the night, I decided on yesterday’s outfit, because it was all that! And it was right there, folded neatly in a little pile, next to my bed, where I left it a few short hours ago. The only revision, the bra. Yesterday I wore my miracle Frederick’s of Hollywood bra that is just so amazing. But, truthfully, the price we women pay for that kind of amazing, it is a little less comfortable than my pretty little floral and glitter number from Victoria’s Secret, and considering my cross country flight and all, I opted for Vickie over Freddy, and, well, the results left me feeling a little less than all that. It’s kind of frightening what a minor wardrobe change can do to one’s self esteem. I was all that yesterday and ho-hum today. In my mind.

Oh, but I’m not a bus driver at Sacramento International Airport! I am all that, and even in a lumpy and less than supportive bra. I have a following. I don’t know what it is about bus drivers at the airport, but they LOVE me.  Every bus driver from the economy lot, where I park Meep (my Civic), to the terminals, absolutely loves me. Except the Caucasian guy. Most of them love me. It may have something to do with the fact that I always sit right by the driver’s seat, but, only because I am quite soft spoken and it’s just so much easier on everyone if I can, conversationally, tell the bus driver where I need to stop, rather than shouting it from the back of the bus only to not be heard and then having to walk a half a mile to my car. Right? So, I sit right up front. Ok, so I also tip. Not a lot, just a couple of bucks. But I always tip. Always. As a result, or the reason I tip, sort of an egg and chicken first kind of scenario; the bus driver jumps out of his seat and lifts my bags onto the bus, which, by the way, I am perfectly capable of doing. Heck, I’ve already hoisted them down two flights of stairs and loaded them into a Civic, not a Lincoln or a Cadillac, a frickin’ Civic. After parking the Civic, I’ve hoisted the tightly wedged suitcases, yes, multiple suitcases, each very carefully packed so as to fall just below the fifty pound limit, but barely, out of the car and onto the pavement. At this point, I very cleverly and handily wheel them to the bus stop. Wheeling multiple suitcases should be an Olympic sport. I’d win. No doubt. So, yes, if I had to lift them onto and then, again, off of the bus, myself, I could. And, in fact, since I am kind of a fitness freak, I could probably, actually do so more handily than the bus drivers, but, sssshhhhhhh. Before I have a chance to even grab the handles on my suitcases, they have been snatched from my grasp and placed carefully on the bus. I take my seat by the front of the bus, immediately adjacent to the driver and take up small talk with him, and, yes, occasionally, her. This is not something I initiate, but I do speak candidly with the bus driver if and when the bus driver initiates conversation. No one else on the bus, by my observations, has ever spoken to the bus driver. Whatever; sports, the weather, traffic, kids, travel. It matters not the topic, I will happily talk to the bus driver while I jot my parking space down on my ticket so I’ll be able to refer to it upon my return, and while I check in on Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook and Twitter. So, the bus driver has 98.3% of my attention because I am multi-tasking. I am also, surreptitiously, pulling a couple of bills out of my wallet to have handy as a tip when the bus driver helps unload my suitcases. And, I am certain, they have surreptitiously spotted me doing so. No matter. It’s only a couple of bucks, and I can expense it on my company expense report. And when I do travel for pleasure and can’t expense it, I still tip. I appreciate their assistance and they appreciate the recognition. It’s a win/win.

In fact, on one trip home, as I was met, with jubilation, by my favorite bus driver and he hoisted my two ultra-heavy suitcases on board, and then, when I arrived at my stop, jumped up to help me unload them, an angry and belligerent looking, middle-aged (my age) woman, overweight, unmade up, wearing ugly, unflattering sweats and a bitter expression and a pretty much pissed off at the world attitude, made some snide remark about how the bus driver helped me with my bags, but not hers, because I was “pretty”. I was pretty human, that’s all. Well, I’m 99.9% certain the bus driver would’ve helped her with her bags had she had the patience, but, yes, my bags were first, not because I was “pretty”, as she complained, but because I was fucking NICE to the bus driver. Hello? Hostile woman person, try being nice! Golden rule, love! Golden rule. Pretty has nothing to do with it. Be nice and get nice in return.

Pretty has nothing to do with it. Really, because I was not feeling it today, and, still, for my two dollar tip and a little small talk, I got my bags loaded onto the bus and off. And, I was told I don’t look a day over thirty, and, am “hotter than most twenty-somethings”. Two dollars. My customary tip is two dollars. Buy yourself a compliment for two dollars and you feel like a million the rest of the day even if your bra makes you feel deflated and lumpy.

I had a short and miserable flight from Sacramento to L.A. on AmericaWest, a contractor with United. My dear friend, who I’ve known, literally, since kindergarten, is married to a man who has worked for United maintaining their aircraft for, well, since we’ve been out of high school. A hell of a long time. Whenever I see him, which is not nearly often enough, I tease him, “Peter, are you taking good care of my airplanes?” He reassures me. “Yes, just don’t fly AmericaWest”, or this airline, or that, or any other airline other than United. I try, really I do. But I fly out of Sacramento, not a major hub by any stretch of the imagination. I am, more often than not, going to have to fly AmericaWest to San Fran or L.A. to make my connection to the real world. Peter says nothing, just widens his eyes a little, which, I’m sure, makes me widen my eyes. A lot.

So I boarded my AmericaWest flight to L.A., crossing myself, and I figured, whatever. Whatever happens, happens. Of course, we make it without any drama, except, where everyone, except me, tries, in vain, to stuff their too large of a carry on into the overhead compartment of the small regional jet with microscopic overhead compartments. I couldn’t even fit my tiny cross-body purse in, if I tried. I don’t even try. Everyone is frantically trying to stuff their crap into the overheads before the flight attendant confiscates their luggage and has it gate checked. Don’t look at me, I check my bags. And so, we are delayed.

Getting up at 12:30 AM, obviously, I did not make it to the gym before departing. Now, I used to belong to 24-Hour Fitness, when I lived in Sacramento, and I could have, technically, made it to the gym before heading to the airport. You know, and I know, that never happened. But it could have and that was worth paying extra for; a 24/7 gym. In Napa, there is no 24-Hour Fitness, much to my despair, and the gym I did join has, by comparison, extremely limited hours. So, my point, no, I didn’t go to the gym today. So, the sprint I made between Terminal 8 and Terminal 6 at LAX with my forty-pound computer backpack and my electronic laden purse in order to even make my flight to Newark was my workout for the day. I arrived at the gate for my Newark flight in need of oxygen and defibrillation.

I made it, though. I didn’t get a free first class upgrade, which, truthfully, kind of pissed me off. But, I am on the commuter flight; L.A. to NYC. There are people sitting in first class that make this flight multiple times a week, who am I to think I rank in their numbers. I only do the west coast to east coast thing a couple of times a month! So, I take my seat in coach. Well, and God love United for this, not exactly coach, I get “Economy Plus” seating for no extra charge. I have status. Economy Plus is five extra inches of leg space, which also equates to tray table/laptop space even when the jerk in front of you reclines all the way. And, as a karma thing, I NEVER recline, it’s just not nice. Ever. There is nothing worse than having your red wine and your cheese, fruit and crackers perched on the flimsy tray, almost on top of your laptop, which cost almost as much as a semester of your children’s’ college education, and the asshole in front of you reclines their seat six inches. It doesn’t just thrust your laptop, wine, fruit and cheese towards your white, dry-clean only blouse at an alarming rate, it, 9 times out of 10, pins your laptop in a manner that it takes all of the gay, male flight attendants’ brute strength, combined, to try to dislodge it. Then the hetero female flight attendant comes along and deftly snaps it free, single handedly, while demonstrating the finer points of using the emergency oxygen mask. I really just want to know how to score oxygen even when there isn’t a sudden loss of cabin pressure. Do you think a two-dollar tip and a chatty conversation would suffice? How well does red wine and a healthy dose of oxygen mix?

Anyway. I’m in Economy Plus, thank God, for the next six hours, from L.A. to Newark, NJ. I really prefer booking my cross-country flight from Sacramento to Chicago, or Denver, both United hubs, then to my east coast destination. I like being able to get off the plane after three or four hours and eating real food, peeing in a real toilet, and walking on real ground. But, because of the nature of how my company has been scheduling my work lately, I have been booking flights within a week of departure. I have no options. When you require your employees to travel 70% of the time, best to take into consideration their likely travel experiences, because the more their travel experiences suck, the more likely they’ll quit, via email, while stranded in an airport in the middle of the night, without their luggage. Just saying.

So, I’m on this flight for the next six hours. I boarded late even after sprinting through the airport. The two seats next to me are vacant and I don’t dare hope they’ll remain that way. But I do. I scrutinize every person that boards the plane, I watch them as they negotiate their way down the aisle, reading the row and seat number, and hoping, against all hope, that they aren’t seated next to me. Rare, but lovely, are the flights where I have the whole row to myself. I don’t mind small talk, as evidenced by my bus driver entourage. Six hours of small talk, though, on only a few hours of sleep, is a bit more than I can consent to. I am hoping for an empty row, something alcoholic and uninterrupted sleep until I feel the jolt of the wheels hit the ground in Newark. Hey, a girl can dream!

They’ve made the “doors closing” and “electronics off” announcement, a couple of times. They’ve briefed the exit rows, even. And, still, the two seats next to me are vacant. I am hopeful, but still vigilant in watching for more passengers to board. I am in the aisle seat, of course, that is my preference. On a six-hour flight, I’d die if I didn’t have the aisle seat. Die. I’d die a horrible and very theatrical death, I assure you. I might make headlines, “passenger goes crazy, (insert newsworthy behavior here)” if I didn’t have the aisle seat.

A foreign couple boards the plane within seconds of the door actually being closed. In the slowest motion possible, they walk down the aisle. I’m only in the third row from the door, so it is extremely slow motion. They are looking left, then right, at the row and seat numbers. I marvel at that, once you’ve got the ABC’s and the DEF’s down, it’s all numbers, and in sequence, but, still, their heads swivel, in unison, right, left, right, left. They arrive at my row and, in unison, look at their tickets, look at the placard over my row, look at their tickets, look at the placard. They finally figure out it’s a “bingo”, they smile and, rather than letting me stand to allow them access to their seats, which I am happy to do, and, in fact, prefer, they insist on climbing over me. I hate that, it just feels so, lap dance. I’m all for lap dances, but I’d prefer to choose my participants, thank you. And, there is only one person I’d really like to give a lap dance to, and he isn’t on this flight. Sadly. Newark isn’t his kind of town. Nor mine.

They take their seats and my dreams of a row to myself are quashed. Worse. They begin snuggling and canoodling and displaying all kinds of PDA, which, again, I’m a fan of, if it’s me and my guy, but for anyone else, and especially people I am within inches of for the next six hours, um, ew.

We finally take off and as soon as is allowed, I have my defense shield up. My defense shield; devices that require my attention so as not to have to pay attention to anyone in my immediate proximity. iPod, iPad, Kindle, iPhone, heck, iPhones (2), and ear buds. I know, ear buds are weak. If you really want immunity you need noise cancellation. I’m just torn between Bose and Beats by Dr. Dre. Truth, I’m torn between Bose, Beats by Dr. Dre and paying my bills next month. And let’s not even talk about where in my forty pound electronics backpack, also known as my personal Best-Buy-in-a-Bag, I am going to be able to wedge these much larger than ear buds noise cancellation headphones! But how many flights have I endured where I could have blissfully sat, in silence, or listening to something wonderful, more wonderful than fucking screaming children!? Worth the price, for certain. But, I still haven’t invested. Why? Because every flight, I swear, is my last. Although, as I think about it, those noise cancellation headphones would, indeed, cancel out noise at home, too, right? Like television? And ringing telephones? And …

With my defense shield up and the couple next to me likely conceiving their first child, in flight, I manage to get a whole bunch of shit done! I am just on fire! Ideas are coming to me, I am jotting them down in Evernote. I am drafting emails that will magically fly off into cyberspace as soon as I turn off “plane mode” when we land. I am reading, writing and quasi-communicating, all the while, not paying attention to what is happening in the two seats adjacent to mine. I am grateful that they are speaking a language I do not understand, nor a language I can almost decipher. They are not speaking a romance language. I’m glad. I don’t want to know.

Wherever they are from, they have incredibly small bladders. They are up and down, climbing over me before I can move, in order to use the restrooms. I did notice, they went individually, otherwise, had they gone to the bathroom together, I might have forced my way up to the first class bathroom to pee, again, likely making national network news for my abhorrent and deviant behavior.

After a period of time that seemed way too long, by my estimation, the flight attendants rolled their little carts down the aisle. I’d had my customary oatmeal, banana and coffee from Starbucks at SMF (Sacramento International Airport) at 4:15 AM, in spite of the fact that they open, officially, at 4:30 AM. This is my secret, this is why I am always first in line; I know they will open early, so I start the line at 4:10 AM. But it is now after 9:00 AM PDT. So, I’m hungry! I read the menu carefully. The menus on airlines are intended solely for highly literate people! Only certain selections are available on certain flights based on any of several factors, including, but not limited to, flight duration, flight direction, flight destination and time of day, although it does not specify time zone. I like the cheese, cracker and fruit tray, even with the nasty glob of wilted greens, I don’t eat them, of course, I scrape them off the cheese and pretend they aren’t actually moving on the plastic wrapper where I’ve discarded them. The fruit and cheese platter, for whatever reason, is not available on this fight, some algorithmic function of time, duration, destination, direction and an unpublished and unquantifiable variable applied arbitrarily by someone at Skychef.

I find, instead, the “high-energy breakfast” consisting of a whole-wheat roll, Justin’s Nut Butter, and you know I’m a fan of Justin and his Nut Butter! There is also a chunk of cheese and some grapes. I wait, somewhat impatiently, for the flight attendant and the food cart. Everyone seated in the rows ahead of me are 1) non-English speaking and/or 2) are obtuse. They don’t know to look at the menu in the damn magazine even after the flight attendant announced it three separate times. It takes forever, but, finally, I am asked the ever-important question “food?” Yes! And I place my order. I also ordered a red wine to go with my “breakfast”. This raised many an unmanicured eyebrow in the surrounding seats in coach. Oh, sure, if you’re in first class there are more bloody marys, screwdrivers and mimosas than passengers, but in coach, this is brow raising? Firstly, this is not my breakfast, I had breakfast, with coffee at Starbucks five hours ago. Second, is this flight not landing in the Eastern Time zone? So, maybe I set my watch ahead three hours at boarding rather than landing and this, is, in fact, after noon (EDT). Wine with lunch is acceptable, right? Whatever. I enjoy my wine and my boxed airplane food.

Airplane food and wine. Flying coach at its finest.
Airplane food and wine. Flying coach at its finest.

My productivity continues for a bit, I am enjoying my Kindle book, I read the WSJ on my iPad, jot down a few more ideas in Evernote. I am blissfully productive. The couple next to me have fallen asleep, intertwined. I order another wine and stick my tongue out at the people across the aisle staring at me. Okay, I didn’t actually stick my tongue out, but I thought about it. Airline wine is not so fine, but it is nearly palatable, though, for red, a little too chilled. It is better than nothing.

Airplane food and wine. Flying coach at its finest.
Airplane food and wine. Flying coach at its finest.

We arrive in Newark on schedule and deplane. Now my week in New Jersey officially begins. Considering I was originally supposed to be in New York City this week, I am pouting at the relocation of our training session. I always say I hate Jersey, and I actually don’t. I hate Newark. I’m working twenty miles outside of Newark in Saddle Brook, an area I’ve been to before. But, still, it is a far cry from NYC. I’m still going to pout. I make my way through the airport, claim my luggage and take the train to the rental cars. I choose my car, nothing spectacular, a Chrysler 200, and I mentally prepare myself for my drive through Newark at 5:00 PM. New Jersey driving is, if you’ve never experienced it, a whole new ball game. I know the rules, now, and I adopt my best Jersey Turnpike sneer and my take no bullshit attitude as I turn the key in the ignition, put the car in drive and head for the highway and Jersey traffic. I can do this, it’s all in the attitude.

And, so, that’s my take away for today. We really can do anything we set our minds to. We can get up at 12:30 AM and function. We can live by the golden rule and make our way through life being charming and as a result, lead a somewhat charmed life. We can get a lot accomplished in confined quarters without Internet, if we just put our mind to it. We can have wine at nine because it is noon, somewhere, after all. And, most importantly, we can overcome fear and intimidation and drive with the best of them in New Jersey. Anything at all we want or need to accomplish is within our grasp if we just have some resolve. This applies to long-term goals, short-term goals, wishes, wants, hopes, desires and dreams. “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” ― Napoleon Hill.

Scarlett’s Letter September 27, 2013

I’ve arrived at my hotel for the night, a Marriott, of course, at Newark Liberty International Airport. I like it here, I’ve been to this hotel before. As long as you make a point of eating at a “real” restaurant before arriving, this is not a bad place at all. Okay, so I’m an “Elite Member” with Marriott, so maybe I’m a bit biased and probably a little spoiled. As I sit in my 9th story room on the corner of the building with the curtains to both of my windows opened, I am enthralled with all the hustle and bustle surrounding me. Yet, I hear only the fan in my room. I can see three airplanes on final approach, beacons blazing, headed right for me, it seems. I hear nothing. Out my other window, I see one of the terminals and behind it, airplanes taking off every so many seconds. I hear no noise. Beyond the runway, off to the left, I can see the skyline of Manhattan, the Empire State is easy to pick out from the line up and all the lights sparkle like the sun on moving water. Of course I’d rather be THERE, in Manhattan, but as I have an early flight from HERE in the morning, this is where I’ll be. I can also see cars and trains and buses, all scurrying about on surface streets and elevated routes at several levels from my windows, yet, I hear nothing. This excites me. I like it here. Temporarily, of course.

For as much as I complain about New Jersey, other than jughandles, I actually rather like it. Well, we’ll include downtown Newark in the icky pile with all the  jughandles. But, for the most part, the suburbs of Newark that I’ve frequented are pretty nice, once you get off any of the several highways, the Interstate, the Turnpike or the Parkway that all criss-cross, intersect and merge and divide into and apart from each other. Repeatedly.

The people here are nice, once you get used to their general forthrightness and their accent, they are, for the most part, very accommodating and very pleasant. I still marvel at how a single syllable word anywhere else is four syllables here. It humors me. Maybe they’re all nice to me because I’m always smiling at them, and I’m always smiling at them because they talk funny.

I won’t say I’ve mastered driving here, by any stretch, but I get where I need to go and usually on time, though I do allow a little extra time for travel than I might otherwise. And it is comforting to know that the residents struggle with it nearly as much as I do. Traffic, routes and dialogue about driving occupied the first ten minutes of every morning before my class began. The weather was only mentioned once in four days, navigating Jersey style was discussed four times every day. I spoke with a nice young waiter at an Indian restaurant the other night, originally from Dubai, and he admitted that he has no idea where anything is in relation to other places. Being a backpacker, I usually have a fair grasp of direction anywhere I go, I orient myself  quickly. Here, I don’t know which way is which and since it takes twelve turns to execute a direction change, getting one’s bearings is next to impossible. I do know Interstate 80 runs east and west, but only because it originates on the west coast and ends up in Maryland. The young waiter from Dubai says he just follows directions and eventually gets where he needs to go. So do I. Thank goodness for my Nuvii, top of the line Nuvii, and worth every penny with lifetime updates and three-dimensional graphic lane assist with a split screen showing a graphic of the exit, a map with my route highlighted, and a diagram as to which of the several lanes I should be in when I exit. Only occasionally do I have a hard time glancing down and taking in all the information in time to execute the correct turn, merge, or lane change. The poor narrator, though, simply cannot narrate the turns, twists, and “jug handles” quickly enough, sometimes causing me to miss a turn or exit.  He will say something like, “take ramp right, now turn left, GET OFF ON THE RIGHT!” He yells, in rapid succession, with genuine and sincere alarm, perhaps even concern, for my navigational well-being. And not because I’m not following his directions, but because there are that many points of navigation in mere feet. No worries, if I miss the turn it only takes 57 additional turns to correct it.

Jughandles; to turn right to make a left hand turn or a U-Turn. Only here can a U-Turn be a two-mile detour. And I say I like this place? It’s what’s at the end of the navigational nightmare that makes it all worthwhile; amazing shopping venues and even amazinger restaurants. The only bad meal I had all week was at my hotel the night of my arrival, and I consented to it only because I was too tired to go anywhere else. I’d planned on driving to my clients’ office, to get an idea of where it was and what I was up against to navigate there in the morning. I figured I’d grab a nice meal while I was out. I turned on my Nuvii, plugged in my clients’ address and found they were immediately across the street from my hotel and I could walk. Which, by the way, from what I can tell, no one does around here. Since I didn’t have to leave the hotel to make a “dry run” to my clients’ office, I opted to stay in for dinner, too. I’ve had good food in hotels before, just not in Marriott’s. Seems like a missed opportunity J.W.

It is a nice place to relax and just take in the activity outside my picture windows. My only agenda for the night; to write, to relax, to charge all my devices and to kill this last bottle of wine so I don’t have to schlep it home. It won’t fit, anyway. You recall my mention of those fab shopping venues, right? Oh. Yes. I did.

Driving in New Jersey leaves me completely and totally directionally challenged.
Driving in New Jersey leaves me completely and totally directionally challenged.

 

Scarlett’s Letter August 7, 2013

Magic sprinkles and sparkles today!

We received a letter from the gas and electric company a month or so ago, stating that they were planning a power service outage in our neighborhood, today, for maintenance. I made special arrangements with my manager to be assigned to a “project” today, rather than a teaching session. My plan was to get up, get ready, and head to a coffee shop or other free power/free Wi-Fi venue to work. Then to a late afternoon doctors appointment.

So, according to plan, I was up, coffee made, hot shower done, curly hair clipped back. I didn’t want to risk having the power turned off mid blow-dry, straighten and curl, so I just went curly today. I bundled my stuff up and plugged in the vital electronics to charge until the big switch was turned off. Which never happened. Two hours after the planned shut down, lights were still burning bright and my electronics were fully charged. Mom was huddled in her room with a candle, reading a book, assuming the power had been shut off according to plan. She was pretty pissed to find out otherwise. She called the utility company and was informed that their plans changed and there would be no power outage. She was even more pissed. I had a plan, power on or power off, I carried on. I needed therapy, anyway. Therapy being time in my car at high speeds with music blaring. I headed east, to Sacramento.

I have to admit, I was having a bit of a pity party for the first, oh, three quarters of my drive. But then I talked some sense into myself. Why is it, even though we know better, we tend to lapse back into the thought pattern that things external to us are responsible for making us feel happy and fulfilled. I talked myself down off the ledge and am once again, feeling solidly grounded. The result, of course, being an article.

My doctor’s appointment went well. For being fifty and all. I haven’t had a real physical in about three years and boy, has my doctor aged! My cholesterol levels were off the chart. Are we surprised? But my overall cholesterol is only elevated because my HDL cholesterol, the good kind, is freakishly high. My LDL, bad cholesterol is normal. So, in all, even though the numbers look scary, it couldn’t be better. Considering I eat pretty, darned well, and in restaurants more often than not, I was told that “running was my salvation”. So, I’ll keep running.

I met my son and his friend for a pint, or two, afterwards at Capitol Beer and Tap Room in Sacramento who features a fantastic and revolving selection of awesome brews. And after a pint, or two, the logical progression is, of course, pizza at Hot City Pizza in Sacramento, also home to a fantastic, eclectic selection of beer. We had a nice visit, some interesting brews and a scrumptious pizza. My son is headed off to Hawaii, as in moving several thousand miles away, in another week or so. That means both of my kids will be a four or five hour plane ride away, in opposite directions. Good thing I have lots of frequent flier miles!

So, all in all, for a day that was supposed to be powerless, it turned out to be pretty powerful. And magical. And good.

 

Left Coast Una Mas Vienna Lager which won Best of Show at the California State Fair this year. Fantastic! At Capitol Beer and Tap Room in Sacramento
Left Coast Una Mas Vienna Lager which won Best of Show at the California State Fair this year. Fantastic! At Capitol Beer and Tap Room in Sacramento

We also tried the Stone Farking Wheaton Woot Stout. Again, fantastic, one of the best stouts I've had in a while.
We also tried the Stone Farking Wheaton Woot Stout. Again, fantastic, one of the best stouts I’ve had in a while.
The Bruery Tart of Darkness. It was sour, but good. I thought I might like it better on a salad.
The Bruery Tart of Darkness. It was sour, but good. I thought I might like it better on a salad.
The Bruery Bois was, again, fantastic, dark and sweet. You could taste the whiskey influence from the aging barrels. I thought it had a rich, maple syrup finish and would go very well on "drunk waffles".
The Bruery Bois was, again, fantastic, dark and sweet. You could taste the whiskey influence from the aging barrels. I thought it had a rich, maple syrup finish and would go very well on “drunk waffles”.
Best "dive" pizza place in East Sacramento, Hot City Pizza. Here, half Pepperoni Bliss and Spicy Veggie. Both excellent!
Best “dive” pizza place in East Sacramento, Hot City Pizza. Here, half Pepperoni Bliss and Spicy Veggie. Both excellent!
Hot City Pizza also has a fantastic selection of beer. My son and I are fans of the Knee Deep Brewing Company's Tanilla
Hot City Pizza also has a fantastic selection of beer. My son and I are fans of the Knee Deep Brewing Company’s Tanilla

 

Just Go!

My sanity may be questionable. I got up at 4:45 AM this morning, got dressed, jumped in my car and drove 80 miles to run eight fast miles with my running club. My running club is awesome and there isn’t anything quite like it in my new locale, so I commute Saturday mornings to run. At 5:30 on a Saturday morning, in the spring, there is virtually no traffic between the north San Francisco bay area where I live and Sacramento, where I run. Wintertime is another story, with snowboarders and skiers all heading towards the Sierras, but though there are many of them, they tend to be very efficient drivers. Today? It was a breeze! A nice consistent speed between ten and fifteen miles in excess of the speed limit. My highway motto is “I just want to do 72”, sort of a variation of Sammy Hagar’s “I can’t drive 55”.

After my run, and three delicious street tacos for lunch, I headed back home. Westbound. Late morning. Things were looking really good, we were all doing about 72 miles per hour, or so. I’m just happy. Blissful, even. Full of endorphins from my run, sunroof slanted, music on and I am singing at the top of my lungs. I do love to drive when thing are going my way! Then, it happened. Brake lights. We all came to an abrupt halt, then crept along for a bit, and then we were all back up to speed. Then brake lights, an abrupt halt, creeping, then back up to speed. This cycle was repeated for most of the 80-mile drive. I was still singing at the top of my lungs, but there were explicatives being mixed in here and there. I just wanted to go! There was no good reason for the slowing, no wrecks or stalled cars, no cops, no cows on the highway, nothing that could explain the behavior of the traffic. At least the last time I made the same drive westward and we all came to a screeching halt it was for a good, well, actually, an awful reason. A truck driver choked on something he was eating, blacked out and took out a BMW, killing the occupants, and mangled a couple of other cars. All lanes of the highway, in both directions, were closed. It took me two hours to go ten miles to the detour, where we were rerouted around the charred remains of the big rig and the BMW. It was gruesome, but a really valid reason for halted traffic on an interstate. I get a little claustrophobic when stuck in lanes and lanes of traffic for hours on end. Just a little cray cray. I just want to go!

Yes, I am one of those people you see in the rear view mirror gesturing, urgently, but politely (I don’t use the one finger salute, ever, I have a story about that, for another day). I really just want to go! I like moving forward quickly and efficiently. I will gladly pull to a lane to the right to let a faster car pass, and I appreciate the same courtesy from other drivers in my way. My ideal day driving is one where I can, like a bicyclist, maintain my cadence, or speed, unimpeded. I just want to go!

My habits and preferences driving are very much indicative of my general attitude in life. I just want to go! I am a very high energy, highly motivated individual and anything that slows or impedes progress will make me a little cray cray. This applies to all things, great and small. Fixing dinner to career paths. Doing dishes to training for a marathon. If you’ve read any of my material, you already know my philosophy on wasted or squandered time; it is a crime and a sin, in my eyes.

Everything I approach in life is with a “let’s do this!” kind of attitude. As an example, when I started the job I currently have, training accountants how to use specialized software to help them organize their workpapers and financial data, I was expected to learn to teach the “core” group of classes our team teaches. Our team teaches a total of about thirty different sessions, the core consists of maybe six or eight classes. Every time an opportunity came up to learn a new session, or when a brand new session was added to our curriculum, I would request to be one of the instructors. I would tell my manager, in these exact words “bring it”. Of the thirty classes we teach, I am the only person on our team that can competently perform twenty-nine of them, and if I had to teach the thirtieth one, I could be ready to do it by the end of this week. That may explain a little bit about my nature. I just want to go!

I just started running about a year ago. At the beginning of 2012, I was contemplating the feeling of freedom. I was emerging from a time in my life where I felt imprisoned by certain circumstances and I wanted to do things that would make me feel free until I was physically able to free myself of those binding, imprisoning circumstances. I thought about being a kid, I always remember the feeling of freedom as a child, at recess, running around the playground. Remember, as a kid, you ran everywhere. Ok, I did. Truthfully, I usually galloped; I was one of those horse crazy girls. Three things came to mind that I felt represented a similar feeling of freedom, and, ironically, there were all three things I felt I really sucked at. Dancing. Singing. Running. And those became my goals for 2012.

I took some salsa, tango and merengue dance classes. I became proficient enough to really enjoy it! I couldn’t find any singing lessons that were affordable that would work well with my work travel schedule, so I bought a DVD/CD series on learning to sing and, admittedly, I still suck, but I’m still trying. Running. I joined a running club on the recommendation of a good friend. I hadn’t run since junior high, that I can remember, anyway. Parts of high school and college are a little blurry, but if I ran, I don’t think it was far, or very pretty. The first day with the running club we were asked to run a mile to see what pace group we’d fit into. I’d been doing a lot of cardio at the gym, but I decided I’d take it a little easy. I didn’t want to be placed in a pace group that would kill me mile two! I ran the mile, without walking once, and finished at just about the time I figured I would. I was placed into a pace group and the following week I ran with them. It was excruciating! We run on a very busy multi-use trail; cyclists, runners, walkers, strollers, dogs, horses. The cyclists are murderous, rogue gangs of high-speed killers when you are a person jogging along on the shoulder! Terrifying! Since there are so many folks using the trail, we run two abreast in groups numbering anywhere from eight to maybe twenty, depending on attendance. We look very much like soldiers in a running exercise, minus carrying rifles. Our pace is monitored using expensive, sophisticated GPS watches. I could’ve walked faster. We weren’t running, I would call it more of a shuffling. But we only ran a few miles and the prospect of piling more miles on intimidated me a bit, so I stuck with the group for a few more weeks. Nope. I just wanted to go! I was getting kind of cray cray shuffling along with theses folks. I promoted myself another thirty seconds. Then another. I jumped to a whole different color group and finished the training season a full minute faster per mile than I’d been placed. But we were still shuffling. I competed in my first half marathon a few months later and ran the entire 13.1 miles a full one and a half minutes faster than the pace I had been training at. This season, I’m running with that pace group and have sights on jumping another color group for next season. I just want to go! Farther, and faster! You see how I am?

So how does my need to just go apply to my evolution? Simple, I am driven in all I endeavor to do. Not by money, not for prizes, not for notoriety. Just for the sense that I am improving myself in ways I consider meaningful. My free time is scarce, so I try to take on only those endeavors I think will provide me the best avenue for growth, for learning, for development, for improvement. Evolution. I just want to go. What could this possibly have to do with you? With your evolution? How am I trying to inspire you by telling you that slow drivers and shuffling runners make me cray cray?

I guess my point here is, with time being of limited supply, and more in this world to accomplish, to try, to learn, to experience than we can even list in a lifetime, let alone do, we really need to focus on what endeavors are meaningful to us, personally, and then just go. Any time you allow to go fallow, time that is idle or wasted, squandered, is time that could be used in an effort to evolve. Any effort we make to evolve into a stronger, happier, more balanced person is worthwhile. The trick is deciding which avenue to take when there are so many. Which interstate, which pathway will open up before us and let us just go?

The world would be a much better place if everyone knew how to execute the perfect, high-speed merge; check mirrors, glance over shoulder, two blinks, make sure you’re going at least the speed limit OR the speed at which traffic is moving, preferably a bit faster, adjust acceleration to easily fit between cars and go. I find leaning into it with your shoulders and giving a directional purse of the lips and a serious sideways glance helps.