Friday, January 22, 2010

Alright. Here I am a few years later. I'm still in Madison and I still think that it was the right decision to move here. I'm glad this blog (although not actually online for a few years) is becoming my long term sounding board. Every time I come back and take a look. It's after having been nearly forgotten about, again! Each time it's like getting a letter from myself. I like it.  I'm almost tempted to NOT start making regular entries, but conversely, I AM tempted to start making regular entries.  For now, I'll satisfy my blogging urges with a new blog I'm making to cover my NASA road trip.  I want to share my experiences as I prepare, and then go on an old school road trip to 'cover' the last night time launch of a space shuttle.  Check it out.

As I said, I'm still in Madison and have been here the whole time. I still miss traveling in the same way I miss smoking (which I was still doing when I started this blog). I know that I could probably pick either of them right back up again, if I'm weak.  I just got back from a week in Acapulco with my entire immediate family. It was great! I love my parents so much. Much more than I disliked them when I was a kid.

My folks, being the suckers they are, own a time share vacation property there. Three years ago they arranged it so they had a couple rooms and invited everyone to come down for a week. We were our own as far as travel expenses to get there. Other than that, they would cover the cost. How nice huh? We all did it. It was the first air trip I had taken (I think) since moving to Madison. My well used passport was just about to expire (my how time flies) and the US government had decided that now, a passport was required to get back from Mexico. On top of that, I was prospecting for Madison's premier motorcycle club, The C.C. Riders. (more on that later). I mention it because being a 'good' prospect was important to me, so I arranged my travel to and from Mexico, so that I wouldn't miss either the Friday (Jan 12 2007) meeting, or the following one. I also was concerned about the plants growing in my former bathroom being left un attended, but that also, is another story (a historical story).  Anyway the trip turned into one of those travel horror stories. Me, the former globetrotter, was nearly reduced to a quivering mass by American Airlines. I cant remember (or choose not to) all the details of the mess, but the gist of it was this:  I was delayed by almost two days, and then when I finally got there, on Monday afternoon, my luggage didn't! Of course, I didn't have anything useful in my carry on (I'd obviously gotten way out of practice) so I had to depend on a cab driver to take me shopping at the Acapulco Walmart. (yes, they ARE everywhere) There, I picked up the essentials, which amounted to shorts, a tee shirt or two, and a toothbrush. (I still have the shorts). Now, knowing that my flight home was on Thursday (to make the Friday meeting) I only had two full days there, and without my stuff.     I assume I had some fun, but I honestly don't remember it. The trip home was a blur. A horrible trip.  Imagine my joy, when, last year, I was informed that we're doing it again. Uhhhgg.

So,  now it's January of 2010 and we were about to do it again. Same set up. The folks are covering everything except airfare. (God bless 'em). This time however, it all went perfectly. Maybe I got my own karma payback from the last trip (is that how it works?) I still stayed for the Friday club meeting (but now I'm a full member), and flew out early Saturday morning. My flight took off from Madison, for Chicago, at around six am. The temperature was something like negative five (Fahrenheit, not that wussy Celsius scale either). I broke my 'no fast food' oath in order to enjoy some Mickey Deez in the terminal. My layover was long enough to enjoy my breakfast, do some awesome people watching, and get started on the book 'The Good German'. Finally, I went to the gate so that I could keep watch for my brother and his family to show up. See, we were all on the same flight to Acapulco. They live in Lisle, IL so no connection for them. Sure enough, here they come. The lovely family. There is my Brother, his wife, and their two beautiful kids, the oldest, at almost three, was a big bump in her mothers belly the last time we were all in Acapulco. The youngest, a boy, had only turned one a few months ago. (I know because I was there at the party, and helped to keep the bouncy house inflated). So there we are, the modern family, having a reunion in a airport terminal. It was really nice. They ended up sitting right behind me on the four+ hour flight. I didn't even mind the small amount of kicking and screaming that was inevitable. I'm so glad that my brother is a good dad. He loves his kids a lot. This time, with the exception of some abnormally rough turbulence, there was not a single hitch in the travel. Not only for me and my brother's family, but EVERYONE got there without incident, even my other sister's family, who had like three connections to make.  I'm not entirely sure if the good service myself and my family got, was quite good enough for American Airlines to be absolved of the horrible previous trip, but they've definitely gotten very close. There was even a good movie on the flight that I hadn't even heard of: "Shorts" it was fresh and good. They must have someone very cool making decisions there. Good job!

On that flight I also popped the cherry on my very first American Express card. Again, this is would probably be best in it's own entry but the gist of it is: The couple bad marks on my credit, both expired (after 7 years) in December of '09. When that happened, my FICO score shot up (to 785) and I decided to take it out for a drive. I applied for two new credit cards. A Costco American Express (for the 3% cash back on any gas purchase, and no anual fees), and a Simmons Platnum Visa (with a low 7.25% interest rate). I got both (although the Simmons didn't show up until after I was back home) Both of these cards are pretty exclusive, and I'm honored to carry them, but plan to not use them much, for fear of my irresponsibleness (word?). Wish me luck. So, even though I've never been a fan of buying things on airplanes (especially SkyMall), I decided to break in my Am-ex, by purchasing, for 4 dollars, a cheese and nut assortment. I just thought it was a cool thing to do.

I also used that 785 FICO to refinance my condo. I was 5 years into a 15 year fixed rate (5.0%), so I decided to refinance to a ten year fixed (4.4%) and roll the balance of what I owe on my awesome new car (A 2008 BMW 135i convertible. But that also is another story). I put a lot down on the car, so I don't owe what I'm sure people think I do on it.  I still, would rather have the title in my name. (thanks for the values, dad). Plus, I do have to admit, I did over extend myself a little bit financially to get it.  I found myself without cash in my pocket, which I didn't like. After a lot of thought I decided it was the right move. (I guess, we'll see how that works out.) I close this Friday. The appraisal was Wednesday and my home was a mess, but even in this shit economy, it was appraised for about 20 grand more than I paid for it five years ago. Whew! (that's funny, as I wrote that my phone buzzed telling me I had a new email. Upon checking, I see the appraiser has sent me a copy of the appraisal)

Anyway, my brother's family and myself made it to the Grand Mayan resort just as planned.  Although the driver at the airport wasn't holding a sign with our name on it like we were led to expect, we found him anyway. There's way too much to write about how splendidly nice and relaxing that week was, so I'll just list who all was there. Without using their names, just for fun:

  1. Me
  2. My brother
  3. His wife (no bun in the oven as far as I know)
  4. Their oldest. A precocious, adorable, blond haired, blue eyed, future heart breaker.
  5. Their newest. A baby who is destined to be quite a handful, I think.
  6. My oldest sister. Who lives in McFarland near here.
  7. Her life partner. Yep that's right, and we're all cool with it. She's cool.
  8. My other sister (she's older than me)
  9. Her partner. No she's not gay too, but she's not married. Although you couldn't tell by watching. He's a good guy, with a good heart.
  10. His daughter from a previous marriage. She's 16, pretty, and had never been out of the country before. She, with her wide eyes and bright smile, made friends with surfers on the beach. She doesn't live with my sister and her man.
  11. My sister's son. He's nine and thinks I'm the coolest guy in the world. How could I not love that!! We spent a lot of time together.
  12. My mom. Nuff said
  13. My dad.

I feel so blessed, and I'm not even religious (it didn't take). The trip home (this time on Saturday afternoon) was just as perfect as the trip there. At least for me. My brother and his clan were, again, on the same flight as me. Unfortunately my sister in law had gotten sick (but not from the coconut juice I got by sawing open the coconut my sister found somewhere, because she didn't drink any).  She had a miserable start to the trip home. Afterward she said in an email that I deserved an award for what I had seen (what that was; I'm not saying). Fortunately they had a entire row of seats on the plane, and she was able to lie down and get some rest.  Amazingly I also had my own row of seats, as well as my Brother (shared by the kids, of course).

OK, obviously a lot has happened since my last post. Another thing is I've met a girl. Well technically I haven't met her yet. Again, it's a whole story as to how we were introduced which would, again, take way too long to write. The summary is that a real person that I met in the real world got her to contact me, on line(back in 2008). Since then (with a long break of almost a year) we've been corresponding via email. We're about to meet this Sunday for the first time. We're going to go see a matinée of Avatar, and then who knows. I hope to have good things to report the next time I write on here.

I still ride my bike to work (though not today because, again, I broke my rule about eating out by going to Mickeys Dairy Bar for breakfast. But that too is probably another story).


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