My Best Parking Ticket, Ever.

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So I had just sat down to lunch at a window seat at a down town eatery. The city I live in has a great old section that is well preserved and view from my second story perch was of a cobblestone street running like an orderly riverbed around granite foundations and street lamps. One of the difficulties of old cobble stone streets and 200+ year old buildings is the “picturesque” to “usable” ratio. In short, these street’s don’t accommodate modern vehicles well. Especially if you drive a soccer-mom mobile. As I munched away on my sandwich I spotted one of our many, MANY meter readers, doing his thing up and down the side of the road. In a city with such limited parking, they have to really be on top of the parking meters and believe me, they are. One vehicle he stopped at stood out. It was exactly the kind of vehicle that makes fourteen year old boys go “Oooh, MAN! Cool!” but should make any adult roll their eyes. The meter reader stopped, walked around, ran the plate number, wrote something down in his book and then waled briskly away. A minute or two later, he was back with his little truck… and a boot. This must not have been his first ticket because he immediately got out all the tools and started to clamp on the boot. It’s funny. If it was a small sedan or something I probably would have felt bad for the owner, but because it was a too-big-for-the-city, pimped-out mobile with tinted windows and fat tires, I confess it made me giggle inside. Buddha would not have been proud of me.

I watched the cool-mobile get the boot and then watched over my plate of french fries as the owner came out to find his now immovable vehicle. He didn’t look like the type I expected. Nothing too outrageous in his dress or manner but he did have one notable… eh… accessory. His car wore it’s boot on the left front tire. His left leg sported a full air cast. Both of them it seemed, had been booted. He took it in good stride, took the ticket off the windshield and pulled out his cell phone to call the city.

My fries were done and the check was paid and I made my way to my car. As I rounded the corner back to my parking spot, there on the sidewalk was the same meter reader, just finishing the ticket on my car. No boot, just a ticket. I let out a “Aw, drat” as I walked up. I try really hard to keep my profanity “G” rated now that I have a miniature human with an ear for repetition in the house. I plucked the ticket off the wind screen and glanced back at the guy and I saw him cringe a little bit. I can only imagine how much vitriol he’s had directed at him over the years. Talk about a thankless job. I kind of smirked and shrugged with a bit of a pained expression. He brightened almost immediately at my lack of expletives and said “Is that your first ticket since January?” I said that it was and he explained that I didn’t have to pay that one provided I didn’t get another until June. Actually, he called it “complimentary”. I laughed at the idea of a complimentary ticket and he quickly stated that I could put it in a scrap book and leave it for the kids. I laughed again and thanked him for the tip. Unexpectedly, he came back with something I never thought I’d hear a meter reader say. “Hey, if you want, just put the ticket back on your car and I’ll give you another two free hours.” That stopped me. I thanked him again but said that I really did need to get back to work. I unlocked my car and he added, “Don’t be hatin’ “. I tuned back and replied, “Hey, we all gotta work.” and waved good bye to him with my ticket.

We do all gotta’ work, and we could all use some slack for just doing what we’re supposed to do. It’s important to remember that sometimes. Here’s hoping I have enough change to feed the meters for the next three months so I don’t have to chat with him again, though.

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Computers, Classical Music and “Tough Guys”.

I swear I’ll try not to let this chapter deteriorate into a rant… But it’s going to be hard. The reason it’s hard is because it’s partially about a place I once worked at where I did my best to do my job and got “right sized” for my trouble. I say partially because to illustrate my point, I will be specifically be referring to an idiot who works there. To set the stage for this particular scene, here are the two main characters. First there was me. The second was the idiot VP who I’m sure, thinks he is the hottest shite out there.

First something about me..I like to think of my self as fairly normal in most ways. There is one major difference between me and most of male-dom that puts me on the out side of the main group though. Sports. More than not caring one whit about them, I actively avoid them. They bug the hell out of me. I like watching kids play a game, but when it’s adults (no matter how intellectually stunted they may be) get paid actual money to play with a ball… well that just sets off my bull crap alarm. The last bit that turns me off completely to organized sports is that the players have no connection to their team. If the Boston Red Sox actually came from Boston (or even New England), I might get interested in their games, but they’re not. There from where ever and the second they can make more money playing for the Denver Squirrels or Kalamazoo Kangaroos or what ever, that’s where they’ll go and the fans there will cheer for them like they’re home town boys. Which they’re not. So I’m not even slightly interested in men playing with their balls, and to top it off, I’m an artist, a computer junky, a classical music listener and fairly soft spoken. I’m not a 98 pound weakling. In fact I’m about six foot and 175. I’m not bulky in terms of musculature, but I stay active and like to do things like rock climb and mountain bike. I do not however, exude “athlete” or wear AXE body spray.

The Office Idiot was one of those people who immediately irritated me. Loud, pushy, arrogant, loved to point out faults in others in the office, and sucked up to the boss like a remora on a sharks hooha. He’s a HUGE football fanatic and talks about it constantly. He obviously spends a lot of time at the gym and likes to pretend that he’s Scarface and quotes him often. This is made all the more irritating by the fact that ethnically, he’s about as far away from that as you can get while I’m a healthy chunk Sicilian. He also sports a wicked combover that is just begging for a good breeze and apparently bought all of Bill Cosbys’s sweaters from his “Cosby show” years, and wears them often. 1986 would be proud.

So, I avoided him the best I could. The office was open concept so this was trickier than it sounds, but I tried my best. One day, things were apparently on the slow side for him, either that or he was working hard at not working much. Both have the same probability. He was dealing with the “stress” of nothing better to do by putting a golf ball around the office. What I mean by this is that, in an open concept office with no cubes or offices, he was hitting a golf ball with a putter, around under and sometimes through everyone else’s work space while they, the underlings, were actually trying to do work. Great for moral. The ball came my way and since I was actually being productive at the time, didn’t notice the ball until it bounced off my foot. I tried not to roll my eyes, which took immense effort. As The Office Idiot walked over to retrieve his ball. After regarding me for a second with arched eyebrow, he snapped, “You play golf?”. I replied that, no, I didn’t. It wasn’t really for me. He paused and folded his arms, I assume to make him self look important. Unfortunately for him, his Bill Cosby sweater rather undermined the attempt. “You play

    any

sports?” he barked with incredulity. This is the part where I should have said “no”, but my back got up instead. Having to deal with him on a daily basis was bad enough but to have him question me like this was just… Grrrrr.

I don’t usually bring up guns as a topic, let alone at work. It makes people jumpy, which is unfortunate since they’re so dang fun to shoot. In this case though, I made an exception. “Well, yes. I do actually. I compete in high powered rifle marksmanship.” This stopped him. I love shooting and though I don’t compete in shoots professionally, I do like to try my hand at matches from time to time. Mostly it gives me an excuse to go to the range and talk with other gun collectors.

“I’ve got a set of clubs in my car” he added. I’m not sure what this was supposed to mean. I guess he was inferring that his sport was easier to carry with you. “I’ve got a high powered rifle in my car.” I helpfully added. This was true. I had visited the range that morning before work and in my trunk was my well loved 1916, BSA Lee-Enfield. On top of being a wonderful piece of history, possibly having been used in the trenches of France by a fresh faced Tommy, it also fires a .303 sized bullet that, with the shell case, makes an imposing looking round and a heck of a hole where ever it hits.

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Picture via world.guns.ru

There was another uncomfortable pause from the Office Idiot. With out another word, he turned around and walked away. Not a great move on my part but, my God, it felt good to shut him up. I had not made any kind of threat or intimidating statement of any kind, but I had ended the pissing contest in one fell swoop. After all his bluster, all the time at the gym and all the crap he gave everyone around him, it boiled down to the fact that he was the one tapping a little white ball with a stick while I was shooting targets at 300 meters with a battle rifle. Normally, I wouldn’t try to out “macho” anyone, but I must confess that it was a heck of a lot of fun to do, just this once. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some ammo to make. There’s a match coming up next month and I have some practicing to get in.

Epilogue: About six months later I was down sized along with about half the office. I doubt that this incident had anything t do with it, but it probably didn’t help my case either. All in all, not being there anymore is a blessing. I’m much happier away from tools like the Office Idiot.

Click, click, click… Bang!

Today Action Girl asked me a question that lead to another question that led to a show tune. The show was “Oliver”. The tune was “Wouldn’t it be Loverly”. The questions that got us there aren’t terribly important, but the fact that I could summon up small facts about this moldy oldie made Action Girl give me a look that said, “And you know this… why?”. I love knowing obscure and mostly useless facts, and Action Girl knows this, but my ability to pull up character names and individual scenes from a Dickens’ classic come musical was a bit extreme, even for me. The reason I know so much about Oliver, is that I was in a limited, off Broadway production of it. Very off Broadway, in fact. It went for three nights only at St. Joseph’s primary school. Admission was, I believe, free or perhaps a dollar. I was in 5th grade and I got the roll of “Fagin’s boy #6” and “Bystander”. I also had another crucial roll. I was a prop provider.

I won’t go through the whole story. You may or may not know it so I’ll just skim through the characters and setting.

Setting: Victorian era London
Hero: Oliver (duh!)
Anti-hero and father figure: Fagin
Evil Bastard: Bill Sikes
Heroin: Nancy

So to cut right to the chase, right at the end of the story after being dragged through so much merriment and mirth like most of Dickens’s writing, Bill Sikes (the evil bastard) is hell bent on killing Oliver for various reasons possibly including stolen… cakes, or jewels or… something. My memory fails me here. It’s not really important. The scene however, I recall. Bill, mad with bastardness, lunges at Oliver with a knife and Nancy, who has been the only really nice person in the story other than Oliver himself, leaps in his path to shield our favorite little street urchin. Nancy skillfully blocks about 5 inches of rubber stage knife with her chest at the moment the police come on the scene and shoot the murderer as he turns to face them. Oliver escapes and becomes Prime Minister… or possibly a super hero.

The run down of of the props needed for the scene goes something like, “Bobby uniform? Check. Rubber knife? Check. Fake gun? Hmmm.” Keep in mind, this is all taking place at a small Catholic school and having a cap gun, if not actively forbidden, was defiantly frowned upon. Even at this age though, I had a thing for firearms. I would never have brought a toy gun to school but this was my chance to save the day! I didn’t have a cap gun that looked like something a 1850’s bobby might have, but I did have a fairly realistic snub nosed .38! I loved it! It looked like the real thing and best of all, it had a cylinder that actually rotated. It took those special caps that looked like little, red plastic cups and fit over a metal bit in the cylinder. It didn’t fit the Dickensian era exactly, but it was the one that would be used for our play. I was so proud.
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Back in the dressing room (actually the second grade classroom), they would have the P.A. speaker on and switched to the microphones in the auditorium. As various “actors” got ready for different scenes, we could all listen to the play for our cues and hear how it was going. By the time the final scenes were being played out, most of us were in the dressing room listening and waiting for our chance to go take a bow with all the others. I was listing for my cap gun. Finally, I heard Nancy’s shriek, the police barge in and then nothing… more nothing… BANG! Then stifled laughter from bemused parents. I didn’t know what happened but I knew something unplanned for had transpired.

After our bows and grateful applause, I found out what the deal was. A very unhappy school mate who played the bobby came up to me and reported that there was something wrong with my “stupid gun”. Apparently the cylinder had gotten off time with the alignment of the hammer and it wouldn’t hit the cap. What the audience had witnessed was the murder of Nancy, right on schedule followed buy the police breaking down the door and pulling their gun. Sikes recoils and… click. The bobby advances, aims and… click. He advances again, Sikes is now prone on the floor and… BANG! What the audience saw was in essence, Sikes getting a cap popped in his head Dirty Harry style. Rather changes the flavor of the story a bit. It took a while to live down, but I was still proud of my cap gun. She might not be 100% reliable in a fire fight, but if you need to whack a bad guy, she did the trick. You might just need to get closer than you planned. It also helps if he’s armed with a rubber knife.

Brothers, Sisters and Animal Crackers

In just under two weeks, our son Short Stack’s life will never be the same. You see, on the 4th of April, his status as an “only” will change forever to “Big Brother”. On the 4th, Action Girl is scheduled to go in for a routine c-section and bring our daughter, Lulu Belle into the world. Her name won’t legally be Lulu Belle, but it’s what Action Girl and I have been referring to her as for months, so I’m betting that like it or not, that’s going to be her nick name. Here’s hoping she doesn’t mind.

It’s funny though. Action Girl and I both are feeling kind of guilty about turning our son’s life upside down. He’s been the center of our world for his entire life and the idea that the lime light will no longer be all his makes us feel a little mean. I mean, being an only isn’t just good… it’s awesome. I know. I am one. Action Girl isn’t but she’s the youngest by a good bit in her family, so she never knew the fun of having a little sibling driving her nuts.

My folks had decided to have only one child. Back then (gawd, don’t I sound old), it was fairly unusual to have just one child and they had to put up with a fair bit of questioning about their decision from their contemporaries and especially their elders. There’s that strange rarified position that old folks have (or at least believe they have) that makes them think they can say what ever the hell they want to because they “know” it to be true. If it hurts to hear it, well then, that’s just too bad. This is a symptom of what I call C.O.M.S. or Crazy Old Man Syndrome. One of these individuals suffering mightily from C.O.M.S. even told my parents that, “Three people wasn’t enough to be called a family”. Some people have just amazing quantities of nerve.

I can remember a time long, long ago when I was asked about a sister or brother. I must have been around four or five and my Mom and I were in a grocery store. My Mother had stopped to talk with some old woman she knew. I was mostly interested in a box of animal crackers I was about half way through. Suddenly, I was aware of the old woman bending down over me and asking me if “Wouldn’t I like a little brother or sister?” My Mother must have been mortified. She’s a very private person in a lot of ways and the idea of her bearing more children as a topic of conversation must have been hard to take.

So, here was this pushy old woman, trying to use me to convince my parents to have more kids; just about bludgeoning me with a big, leading smile. The correct answer was obvious, even to a half pint. I looked down at my half eaten box of animal crackers, thought for a minute and then looked her in the eye, arched an eyebrow and replied “No.”

If I was more eloquent at that age, I probably would have said “What on earth for? The crackers are all mine, my parents are all mine, the toys on the bedroom floor (which is also mine) will be right where I left them, waiting for me to get home a play with them again. Good Lord… No!”

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t a selfish kid. “Only” children get that reputation (rather undeservedly, I think) but I just didn’t see the logic in introducing a new variable into a very happy childhood. Things were good and why change that, possibly for the worse?

Well, as an adult things have begun to cut the other way. When I was a kid, having Mom and Dad all to my self was great. Now, I still have Mom and Dad all to my self, except it’s me trying to help them. They’re getting older and even though they are still both very capable, it will get harder and harder for them to manage daily life and I have no one to call for help. That’s the other side of being an “only”.

I hope that Short Stack won’t mind the new addition to our family too much and the good news is that since he’s only two, he’ll never remember a time before; back when it was only the three of us. We can’t wait to meet Lulu Belle. I hope that Short Stack likes her too. In time, anyway.

In the mean time, I promise that I’ll get you both your own box of animal crackers.

I promise!

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Do not take the night train from Munich to Prague. Conclusion.

…So we had gotten seats and the train was just about packed. Not only were there no open seats to be seen anywhere, It became increasingly obvious that there weren’t any anywhere. Slightly and not so slightly panicked looking Koreans drifted by our doorway, each with a look like that of a child looking for their lost mom. The whistle blew, the train lurched and we were on our way. As I sat in my lucky seat, I very shortly became aware of a few things. First of all, this was a nine hour train ride on which I would be surrounded by nothing but the Korean language. I prayed that SOMEONE here spoke english and wouldn’t mind chatting a bit. Second, that with the heat and the humidity and now the crush of an overloaded train car, it was turning into sauna here. Fast.

I still wasn’t too keen on getting out of my seat even for the thirty seconds that it would take to open the window lest someone leap into it behind me. The seatless still prowled the hallway looking for the weak of bladder or the very, very foolish who went looking for the snack car. Eventually, I asked out loud if someone could open the window. The guy across from me quickly replied in flawless english, “Good idea” and nodded to the guy on my left, who looked a bit like an Asian Elvis. The hair product alone was impressive, but the clothing choice of unbuttoned while shirt, necklaces and tight black pants really set the image off nicely. Being closest to the window, Elvis managed to get it open and back to his seat before a squatter moved in on the vacancy. The stagnant hot air was replaced with blowing hot air and we listened to the train groan its way out of the marshaling yard. After tickets were checked but before we all got too comfortable, I decided to see if we could improve our seating arrangement. I turned to Elvis and explained that my wife was in the next car and would he be okay with switching? We’d all have seats but that way Action Girl and I could be together. He looked at me from under his moussed mantle and quickly responded, “Okay.” I was delighted. I smiled. He smiled.

He didn’t move.

Uh Oh.

The english speaker across from me started to laugh and then quickly explained to Elvis in Korean what he had just said “Okay” to. Elvis’ smile vanished. Apparently, Elvis didn’t speak english and had been bluffing with his best “Okay”.

He was a man of his “Okay” though. The switch was made and Action Girl joined me in the compartment that was the lap of communist comfort. About this time, the sky could hold the humidity no longer and suddenly, it was like we were traveling under a waterfall. The open window let in sheet of rain and someone sprang up to slam it shut, whereupon he compartment quickly reverted to a steam bath. Ugh!

After about five hours of this joy we finally pulled into a siding and awaited a new engine to take us the rest of the way to Prague. I dared to leave my seat and go out into the hall to stretch my legs and my translator came to join me. The hall way was disgusting. The floors were soaked from the rain and up an down them there were Korean students sleeping or trying very hard to sleep, mostly lying on bits of soaked cardboard. Oh and did I mention the bathrooms? You don’t want to know the state of the bathrooms. Honest.

As it turned out, the nice guy / translator spoke perfect english and had previously spent quite a good amount of time in the states. He explained that this was a package trip from his university and that they had been traveling together for about a week. He was really a nice person to chat with and as my wife did her best to convince her self that she was sleeping, the Nice Guy and I had some good chats. Most of them started with a, “Holy Sh1t! it’s hot in here!”. After an uncomfortable hour or so, the train wobbled with the coupling of the new engine and we were off. I had really gotten to like the Nice Guy. He was a chess player, a scholar and had a really good wit. In short, just the kind of person you’d want to be trapped with in a smelly, wet, steel tube for nine hours.

We were in the home stretch now. The Koreans however were in trouble. Czech ticket agents came through the cars with way too much bluster. They did not look happy and other than the fact that it was something like four in the morning, we quickly found out why. The Koreans had the wrong tickets. All of them. Everywhere you looked, panic was spreading. They all needed to buy new tickets for the Czech part of the trip but to do this you needed money, and money is what most of them didn’t have. They didn’t have it in droves. Our tickets, thankfully, were correct and the ticket collector let us off with only a severe glare. We were, after all, foreign. There was much horse trading and begging amongst the group for loans and the tour operator trying to get the ticket collectors to see reason. It must have all worked out because the collectors finally disappeared and only came back to bother us seven or eight more times. Essentially, just enough to keep anyone from sleeping.

As we rolled into the outskirts of Prague, Action Girl pointed out bonfires dotting the woods. Gypsy encampments, we decided. A little over an hour later we squealed our way into the train station and squirted off the Hell Train on to the main platform. We looked around in a haze made of sleeplessness and being in an utterly unfamiliar place. All the signs were written in cyrillic and we had no idea where to find The Doctor. Then his voice piped up behind us. “Right now,” he stated dryly, “You are saying to your self ‘What the hell did I do to deserve that?'”. We boggled. Did we look that bad? Well… yes, I suppose we did. He took us to breakfast and over what was possibly the most lovely food we had had in months (or at least the most appreciated), we told him our story. He smiled and took a drink of orange juice. “That’s interesting.” he finally said. “Because for me it was exactly the same except for the Koreans. On my train, they were all Japanese.”

I will never take the night train from Munich to Prague again. I don’t care if I have to walk. The really best part of all this is that a friend of ours went to Prague via Munich just a few years ago. She told us her itinerary before she left and we warned her in the strongest possible way. She naturally did it any way and though her experience didn’t include the asian tour group, she told us later that she regrets not following our advice. It’s refreshing to know that some things in the world never seem to change.
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I’ve run out of room to get to the bit with the Evil Eye, but I’m sure I’ll mention it later in another post. Suffice it to say that gypsy’s can be a real pain when they are trying to rip you off but if you shoo them away with too much vigor, get ready for a hex.

Any way… That was the worst night ever for us. A cranky two year old at three in the morning is the minor leagues in comparison. I just have to remind Action Girl about it from time to time when sleep seems to be illusive. “Well, at least we’re not going to Prague by train”. That usually adds some good perspective.

Do not take the night train from Munich to Prague. II

… So the next day Action Girl and I spent a lovely day waltzing about the town that had started to become familiar. We admired the scenery, the cow barns in the middle of town, the toy shops and the beer. Finally, after checking out of our home of the last three days, we rather reluctantly made our way to the train station. The ticket agent smiled to us, having remembered us from the previous day. We smiled and got on board or train. It was early evening now and we watched pasture give way to city as we slid in to Munich’s suburbs.

Here’s where things started to get… difficult. First, the little village we had just been in didn’t have a lot of train service. This meant the we had to take a train that got us into Munich too early to just hop on our next train, but not enough time to go poke around. There was also the problem of out giant back packs. Though handy to carry all your worldly possessions in, they also are a sort of nylon ball and chain. The bags are too large to fit in a standard storage locker but far too big to take for a jaunt into the city. Shop keepers are particularly loath to see you coming since you might as well strap on some horns and start pawing the ground and grunting. I wonder how much loss the average shop looses in breakage in a year due to huge back packs?

So, with out enough time to do anything and no place to put our bags anyway, we sat and waited in the Munich Hauptbahnhoff. Oh, and the heat. Did I mention the heat? No? Well, it was oppressive and had been, apparently, for days. What this means is that everything, every surface on every object, was warm to the touch. Just to add to the heat, we couldn’t have been more than a couple of degrees from the dew point. Hot and sticky. What fun. The walls of the train station glistened with grimy condensation and everywhere you looked were wilting travelers. Everything wilted, no one was comfortable and the two hours until our train arrived dragged on like a weasel pulling a gazelle carcass.
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Then, it was here! The train pulled in and after the wait for the all clear from the conductor, we bent our backs under our nylon loads and hustled to the train. Now, it was a long train, and I wanted to make sure that we were going to the right bit of it. Some times, trains get split up at stations later down the line so half of the cars go to the place you are hoping to visit and the other half go to Smelters-burg or something. I asked the conductor if this was the right car for Prague and he brusquely motioned down the line. We continued on, longingly looking through the windows of the first class sleeper cars until we were about half way down the train. “Prague?”, “No.” Point, point. We continued. “Prague?” “No. point point. But were are almost out of train! Then we saw them. The last four cars looked like they were refugees from some Soviet train depot and for good reason. They were. And, they were going to Prague. We hastened in to grab two seats and I quickly got panicky. Not only were the cars quickly filling, but all the seats seemed to be reserved. Not good. Not good at all. We were racing through the cars now trying to find two seats for the nine hour ride. The train was really filling up now. Then, in one of the cars, I spotted an empty, non-reserved seat and quickly gave it to Action Girl. Before she could ask about what I was going to do, i raced off to find another. One car down, the last one on the train actually, I found it and practically dove in. I was a ball of sweat, I was out of breath, exhausted and… now that I looked around, surrounded completely and utterly by nothing but Koreans. All of them. every last passenger.

“Well, that’s different.”

Conclusion tomorrow including the “Evil Eye” and angry Czech border guards!

Do not take the night train from Munich to Prague

Last night was one of THOSE nights. The reality of having a baby or toddler is that you don’t get a consistent, good night sleep for… well, I don’t know… It’s been two years now of sleep being interrupted, sometimes several times a night. With Lulu Bell on the way, we know that this is only going to get more entertaining. To this mix, add that I am a far lighter sleeper than Action Girl and as of this writing, far more mobile, seeing how Lulu Belle will be joining us in about three weeks. So the up shot is, I am almost always the one who gets up to attend to the two AM call of our son. When I’m away from my family overnight, it almost kills me because I want to be there with them. On the other hand, during such occasions I sleep like the dead. Sometimes when I know I’ll be alone for a night, the anticipation of a full night’s sleep is almost like the excitement before going on an adventure… but far quieter. My definition of a good time has defiantly changed with age.

All this makes last night far more painful. Last night, Short Stack was sound asleep, yet Action Girl and I were wide awake… for hours… and hours. It was awful. We had initially woken up to deal with our kiddo, who needed a pants change and a fresh bottle, but he was quickly back in bed and playing with candy penguins and dump trucks full of cookies. I actually heard him laugh in his sleep at one point. For various reasons, neither of us could manage to fall back to sleep. It was crazy-making. Action Girl gave up first and moved to the sofa down stairs. I shortly followed and took up residence on the other sofa. As I sat there sipping my warm milk and looking out at the front yard, I remembered the worst… by far, WORST night we had ever had together.

About seven years ago we had been traveling through Europe on the cheap. It’s hard to imagine, but you used to be able to do that. We were traveling cheap partially because funds were limited but also because we were with with my best friend and “brother”, The Doctor. The Doctor is a year younger than I and we have been best friends since we met in a combined 3rd/4th grade class room back during the Velour Shirt Age. We are both only children and we have always referred to our selves as brothers. He has always been part of my life. I can always count on him. He has a heart the size of the moon, an intellect that astounds me on an regular basis and he can be unbelievably cheap at times.

We had traveled together, the three of us, for about two weeks. We had been having a great time and seen a lot. Mostly we had stayed in youth hostels and for those who have never tried this, they they can often be pretty awful. The noise, the crummy beds, the drunk fifteen year olds. Ahh, good times. We had endured quite a few of this sort of establishment when by accident, we happened across the best B&B ever in Oberammergau, Germany. It’s called der Gasthaus Rose. It’s been tarted up a bit since we were there, but even then, it was like an oasis of civilized living, and back then, very inexpensive to boot! After all the fun and excitement of hosteling, this place was heaven. We were going to spend one night. We spent three.

The travel plans were to go from Oberammergau to Munich and from there to Prague. The Doctor was getting impatient sitting in a sleepy, little alpine village and wanted to get on the trail again. We elected for just one more night of down duvets and pastoral serenity. His offer was to head out a day ahead of us and secure lodging for the three of us in Prague. We’d get one more night in Oberammergau and he’d greet up at the train station when we arived. His insistence was he would take the night train and thus, not miss out on a day of exploration that would other wise be lost in travel. We would take the same train the next day. We agreed and he pushed off, traveling pack attached to his back like a giant nylon tick. The two of us walked into the town, spent too much money on a wonderful day and shuffled off for a happy evening in the shadows if the Alps. We had no idea how much we would be cudgeled by fate the next night. The Ammer river snaked through the village, looking for all the world like it was made of Sapphire Gin and the cow bells could be heard up in the low pastures. It was so beautiful just then. It was going to get ugly tomorrow.

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(Oberammergau in 1900. It isn’t all that different today. Just more tour busses and fewer horses.)

More tomorrow.

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