Archive for the ‘travel’ Category
Part I: Getting There is Half the Fun
The train ride out of Dresden was pleasant enough. The scenery was green and lush. Prague waited at the end of the line—a line wrought with the romance and tragedy of other people’s history. So much had happened on those tracks, blood and love and metamorphosis.
In contrast to the old that engulfed us was the bright youth of our day. It was young, and so were we. I was traveling with two friends, D and M, and we were full of promise and adventure, our heads heavy with lust and liquor. We carried them high with the occasional nodding.
We met some American girls on the train and found comfort in their kinship while drinking lazily between sunbeams and darkened tunnels. There was much in the way of eyelashes and laughter, a tango of social graces that started at their smiles and drifted gently downward. We spun. We dipped. It was an afternoon on a dance card, and the songs were softly humming.
There were two stops in Prague and ours was the second, which appeared to be the case with all of the tourists. The car echoed with the heaving of countless backpacks, and the finishing of liquors that had got them this far.
A man appeared, then many more. They boarded at the first stop, and it was easy to see that this was their livelihood, the constant commute between two stations, rubbing against the wanderers of the world and selling their wares. In the case of our visitor, it was the goods of lodging.
It startled us to have someone offer us a room in a private flat, but a quick aside and we agreed to the terms. The previous unspoken plan had been to get off the train and track down one of the many hostels that filled our traveling books, and then to woo women. We had gone further on less.
The American girls, as women are prone to do, were already prepared and had a hotel room booked in advance. They were much more organized than we had ever considered being.
The apartment in question belonged to a jazz musician that was currently on tour. The room had three cots, one for each of us, and access to the kitchen, which we used as a place to sit beneath low-swinging lightbulbs while drinking midday beers out of old, glass jelly jars. There were good, long talkings there.
We decided to get something to eat and stepped outside with nowhere to go and all the time to get there. We took the first right and ran into the American girls stepping from their hotel. They smiled again. Our eyes wandered.
Together we ate some bland food, drank heavily, and made our way to the main square in old Prague. It breathed deeply of pain and fairy tales, not much different than what Kafka would have walked through, but with less bugs and slightly more neon.
There is a clock there, in that old square, that is the most beautiful timepiece I have ever seen. In fact, the story goes that upon its completion, the monarch that sanctioned it had taken the artist and cut his eyes out so that he could never create another clock that might surpass its grandeur.
I can’t help but think that the artist found his loss well worth it. Read the rest of this entry »
It had been a long day full of sunshine, sweat, and shoes soaked from the rapids of a raging theme park river. The boys were 20 minutes away from passing out with bellies full of pizza and the constant construction of lifelong memories being built inside their heads. We had said goodbyes to friends, taken last photos of the wondrous everything, and walked out of gates that are better rushed into. There was nothing left but a tram ride and the taking of it.
We walked across the bricks of the courtyard until we reached the one that we had purchased the week that Zane was born. That was over six years ago. It still rests where it always has, and until progress takes it away, always will. It is a tribute to trips taken, and it will one day serve as a memorial to the trips we had, our names etched beneath the feet of pending grandchildren and those that follow, but today it a big dot on the map of our existence announcing, “YOU ARE HERE,” and our happiness is greatly implied.
The man was old by most standards, though he seemed quite spry, and the twinkle in his eyes was as soothing as it was contagious. He stood beside Zane who was kneeling on his bare, tan knees in a sea of similar stones — an expanding forest of cement stumps with names carved upon them by those in various states of returning, and those that may never come again. The old man stood and watched with a smile both knowing and amused, and from time to time he glanced to me, my wife, and our older son, Atticus, who was watching Zane just as intently but twice as oblivious.
Finally, Zane looked up and noticed the man dressed in white as he stood leaning on a dustpan with a broom pressed tightly against it.
“Is that yours?” asked the man as he nodded toward the brick.
“Yes,” said Zane, and then he looked at the names once more. He traced each letter with his finger as he read them aloud.
“You know,” said the man, “they say that everything at Disneyland is magical.”
The boys didn’t move. My wife only nodded.
“These grounds are part of Disneyland. That means your brick is magic.”
We thought about that for a moment. Then the old man took something small and bright from the apron at his waist and held it between his thumb and forefinger for all to see.
“I found this new penny on these grounds. Right here. That makes it part of Disneyland, too. That makes it very magic.”
He bent down and held the penny in front of my son.
“Take a little bit of the magic home with you,” he said.
He handed the penny to Zane who took it without hesitation, that in itself a rarity for a little boy that always turns sheepish at the word of a stranger. We sat there for a minute and watched him roll the penny around with his fingers before squeezing it tight in his palm and burying it at the bottom of his pocket.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
The old man nodded and swept at something that only he could see.
We walked away a little lighter, somehow fresher and somewhat new. It never dawned on any of us to turn back around.
I suspect that if we had the old man would not have been there. Magic is full of tricks like that, and there is plenty enough for everyone.
If you live in Southern California (or like to visit) then you probably know all about Knott’s Berry Farm, home of family fun and some pretty amazing roller coasters.
It is also home to the Peanuts gang. They’re good kids (and dog).
The greater Knott’s Berry Farm property includes the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park , the Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel, Knott’s MarketPlace shopping and dining area, and the 13-acre Knott’s Soak City Water Park. There’s a lot to do.
Better yet, it’s affordable —a Season Pass to Knott’s Berry Farm offers 160 acres of rides, shows and attractions for only $69.99 for adults and $64.99 for seniors (62+) and kids (3-11). That’s less than a single day ticket to a lot of other theme parks, which is nice.
Also nice, I’m giving away two(2) tickets to Knott’s Berry Farm to one lucky reader. You’re welcome.
Leave a comment below about your favorite ride at Knott’s Berry Farm by 11:59 p.m. PST on Tuesday, June 12. I will pick one winner at random. Please note that this is for two (2) single day tickets and does not include parking, lodging, or transportation. I will send an email to the winner from my personal email account. If the winner does not claim their prize within 24 hours of notification then I will pick another winner at random and so forth and so on.
Knott’s Berry Farm is providing the tickets for this contest. I was not reimbursed for this post.
Blogging hasn’t made me rich, unless you’re one of those saps that thinks friends make you rich, then sure, I’ve made a few bucks. But here’s the thing, friends don’t pay the rent, unless they are really great friends, which I’m sure some of them are. Call me!
What blogging has done, in addition to the many friends I’ve met (especially the great ones), is allow me opportunities that I never would have had with a regular job like a job. For instance, in the past year I’ve drank too much whiskey while talking to Bog Iger in Hawai’i, chatted with Steve Whitmire (Kermit the Frog) while hanging out at Jim Henson Studios (get The Muppets on DVD/Blu-ray tomorrow!), and watched my oldest son get his Jedi on at Skywalker Ranch. All of these experiences (and more!) have been incredible opportunities and I am thankful for them. Sure, they were the result of lots of hard work, and they themselves resulted in even more hard work, but every single one of them has been worth it. And then some.
Which leads me to my next great adventure: Next month I will be Disney’s guest at Pixar Studios in Emeryville, CA, and all will be right with the world. Well, my world anyway. I don’t know what you’re into.
I’m fully aware that you probably hate me a little bit right now, and I can say, with all honesty, I’m okay with that.
The trip includes a tour of Pixar Studios, a screening of Disneynature’s Chimpanzee (in theaters on Earth Day), a sneak peak of Pixar’s Brave and La Luna (the Oscar-nominated short to be shown before Brave), and a day at the wonderful Walt Disney Family Museum, which I just took my son to for his report on Walt Disney because I’m THE. BEST. DAD. EVER. True story.
You still hate me. I can feel it.
Here’s where you, the reader, come in. If you have any questions for Mark Andrews, the director of Brave, or any of the film’s animators, then please leave them in the comments below and I will ask them (unless your question sucks) during the interview process. It’s just like being there! Especially for me.
Disclosure: This trip is on Disney’s very kind dime, but the opinions will be mine (something they know quite well).
It was four hours past the the day I turned 41, and I stumbled into a dark hotel room covered in the smells of whiskey, Texas, and things best forgotten. The night had grown stale and suddenly quiet. I threw my clothes on the floor and I fell asleep immediately.
The morning found me relatively fresh and thankful for it. I was at the Dad 2.0 Summit in Austin, Texas, and I had a reputation to live up to — the drinking was only part of it.
The other part was crying in public, which is something of a running joke among those that have seen me speak on the topic of parenting. Turns out I’m a freaking sap. (Also a sap, Robert Candelino of Dove Men+Care, a sponsor and speaker that lost it on stage. I’m only bringing it up because a) it was quite touching, and b) hello? When Doves Cry). Luckily, I managed to forgo my own tears this round (barely), much to the chagrin of those that enjoy such things. Rest assured, I didn’t let them down on the drinking.
But it wasn’t all beer and bourbon.
The Dad 2.0 Summit was an amazing meeting of parent bloggers and brands — a public place for parent relations, which sounds weird now that I typed it, but I’m leaving it in. Somewhere in the distance that’s what she said.
Blogging conferences seem to appear at just the right moment. I have been in this space for a long time by most standards, and I find that my passion for it tends to wax and wane like so many moons and other things that cows jump over. It is safe to say that recent events and the lack thereof had me on the wane. There was thought of turning away.
I am as unemployed as I have ever been, leaving me embarrassed, stressed, and flirting with depression. I thought about skipping the conference. It was only due to a series of phone calls with an impassioned Doug French, one of the founders of Dad 2.0 (also, John Pacini), that I somewhat reluctantly decided to make the trip despite the funds involved and the lack of them coming in. I’m glad I did.
I was greeted by familiar faces (lots of the DadCentric team!) too numerous to mention here (plus I know I would forget someone and subsequently feel like a jerk), and many new faces that became fast friends. What can I say, I’m a people person.
There were engaging conversations about parenting, dads, writing, media, brands, and peanut brittle. Who decided it was a holiday thing? Peanut brittle is awesome all year.
There were things to do, things to learn, and things that I will never forget. There were also plenty of things that didn’t apply to me at all, which is fantastic, because they were presented in an open and honest manner, allowing for curiosity and contemplation when needed, or judgmental silence where warranted. And sometimes I was just looking toward the distance and thinking about my family.
I managed to find room in my bag for a big box of Legos and pinned my newfound focus next to the heart on my sleeve. I had gone to Austin in hopes of finding what I wanted, a job, which didn’t happen, but I came home with something equally important (though less help financially) — I came home with what I needed, and that feels pretty damn good.
No, it wasn’t peanut brittle.
This is the only picture I took. It is the only picture I needed.
And a couple of photos that Charlie took so that he could enjoy me at his leisure:
Here I am blowing (save it) out the candle on my birthday cake thing which I then shared with the 10 other bloggers at the table. Yes, I’m eating soup and salad. I believe I have already established that I am sensitive like that. Special thanks to Bruce and Charlie for buying my birthday lunch!
And this is what Andy (Betadad), Charlie (How to be a Dad), and I do when we sit outside a gas station for two hours waiting on a cab. Yes, we were posing for album covers. So what? The band is called DadShart. We’ll be touring this spring. Mostly smooth jazz.
For the purpose of total transparency, let me say that I stole the following thank you list of sponsors from John Cave Osborne. Literally, I broke into his blog when he was out grilling eggs or whatever the hell they do in Tennessee and just took it. He had it coming.
Also, I got shot. Thanks to Stacy for reminding me of what was, obviously, a very dark time for me.
Don’t worry, I’m okay. Relatively.
Photo by Caleb, who was, as always, exceptional.