After breakfast on another spontaneous workday for Liesel, we picked Suvan up and drove to Amrit’s office. I don’t really know what it’s like to work in there, but the view from the window is magnificent. A park outside and, of course, mountains in the background. I was tempted to fiddle with the office equipment, but I didn’t touch anything. Instead, leaving Suvan and Liesel to work, I went for a walk on yet another sunny day. I don’t know why sunny days in Anchorage still surprise me, but the word ‘Anchorage’ itself, I think, has a sort of synaesthetic link with cold and snow and discomfort.
The Cuddy Family Midtown Park has a playground and a pond and was very pleasant to walk through. Canada geese expect to be fed.
Not on my watch, baby! I didn’t have any food on me at all.
Which is why almost as soon as I found the café in the library, I bought myself a muffin to go with the coffee. I made myself comfortable and spent the next few hours writing.
A few other people were there too, mostly studying or reading the newspaper. The homeless man used the facilities and made aggressive noises as if looking for a fight, but nobody paid him any attention and he soon wandered off.
I went for a longer walk, visiting New Sagaya for a coffee, that was good, but they had no WiFi, outrageous!
I passed by this telecommunications centre and checked, but no, my 4G signal was still not working properly. It comes and goes. Maybe I should have forked out for a local SIM card for these few weeks.
The signs of homeless people on streets or even in amongst the trees near the park is always distressing. But the family flying the kite in the park cheered me up. Just as I arrived back at the office, I received a message from Liesel asking me to bring back an iced coffee. Well, if I’d had a decent signal, I might have received the message in time. Sorry, Liesel!
It was nice to see Amrit in the office now too, keeping an eye on Suvan and Liesel.
Back at home, after everyone else had gone to bed, I watched Spelling Bee on TV. This is a national contest for children aged 15 or under, and they do indeed have to spell some very unusual words. Just my thing, you’d think. And so it should be, but the TV presentation was awful. You see two contestants, then some waffle then a load of adverts. And I mean a lot of adverts. The interesting part of the show accounted for less than ten percent of actual broadcast time. What a shame for those children whose moment of glory was squeezed out by an advert for prescription only laxatives or something.
There are several channels playing music, called Music Choice. I found one playing Tiny Dancer, probably my favourite Elton John song, which I enjoyed before going to bed myself.
Woke up and got up early and had a jolly good stretch. Other than that, and a spot of packing, what a lazy day.
Mom drove us to the airport for the start of our next adventure. We flew to Seattle. But, before boarding the plane, what a palaver.
Going through Security, my Passport and boarding pass were deemed acceptable. Then the queue split into two: Liesel went to the left, I to the right. Ok. Liesel was processed, scanned, bag X-rayed, no problem. Me? I’m just a trouble-maker.
I started to remove the electronics from my bag, as usual. Officer #1 aggressively: ‘Leave everything in your bag. If you want to take your things out, go to the back of the other line’. So I put my stuff back: Kindle, keyboard, and the pedometer which has caused so much concern on other occasions.
Do I take my shoes and belt off? ‘Yes, of course’. Was I beginning to get flustered? A bit. By mistake, I left the phone in my pocket, so that raised alarm when I went through the body scanner. (Meanwhile, nobody seemed at all bothered by the two trays with bags that nobody claimed ownership of.)
Officer #2 frisked me, and found the phone, which then had to go back and through the Xray machine in the other line. But wait, there’s more! The metal poppers on my pockets always set off a klaxon. Maybe your machine is a bit too sensitive?
So now I’m waiting for things from both sides: my bag, shoes and belt from this side and my phone from the other side, from where Liesel had emerged unscathed about three decades earlier.
I notice that the tray containing my bag has been pulled to the side. Officer #3 is going through another, female, passenger’s bag. Her problem? The ice pack keeping her insulin cool had thawed during the day. So it’s now full of liquid water. I expected Officer #3 to go through my bag, for whatever reason, in the fullness of time. I saw Liesel waiting patiently and tried very hard not to make any signs that might cause suspicion here in Paranoia Central. Officer #3 told me and the others waiting here to go behind the screen over there, which we did, about 5 or 6 of us. She looked through someone else’s bag first, but this was a quick process.
She then began to chat with a colleague.
Officer #4 (at last!) held up my my tray. ‘Is this anybody’s? No?’ Not giving me a chance, he started to take it away again. I had to shout that it was mine. I don’t like shouting at the best of times. But here? In a high sceurity zone? Where I really don’t want to attract any attention? If #3 hadn’t sent me so far away, I would have been on the spot when #4 picked up my bag.
He looked inside, and picked out my water bottle. Oh no. I think even he was surprised at how few drops of water there were inside. I wonder if he too thinks that this new machine is a bit too sensitive? Maybe we should leave our electronics in the bag and take out the water bottles? He was very polite as he gave me my tray but I was still stunned by the whole ridiculous process, I almost forgot to take it with me.
Still a bit war-weary I started to unhitch my hat from the bag, something I really didn’t need to do. I only tied it up there because it was a big deal last time, when it was perched on my head. What I should have been doing is putting on my shoes and belt. And breathe.
I know the rules change from trip to trip, from country to country, from airport to airport, but I think the rules should be consistent in the same place at the same time. And, if the new equipment being tested (in place of the well-known Xray machine) can’t ignore a few drops of water in a bottle, then it would be no hardship for us to remove bottles from our bags, honest.
Liesel tweeted a complaint to TSA but has had no response. And having written it all down, I now feel purged of the whole sorry incident. Grrr. Whinge of the day.
What a relief to finally be able to sit down on the plane, a small QX E175, built by Brazilian company Embraer, although they’re now pretty much owned by Boeing.
There are no middle seats, everyone is by the window or by the aisle. And, according to the Alaska Air site: the E175 maximum takeoff weight is equivalent to approximately 10,000 Copper River salmon.
I read my book and did some puzzles but the main entertainment was provided by the gentleman sitting behind me. He had trouble stowing his bag under the seat in front. The steward was very patient as he spent several minutes trying to explain the concept of turning the bag sideways!
The flight was pleasant and what a surprise to see it turn dark outside after the Sun set.
I suspect this is not the best photo ever taken from an aeroplane, of Seattle at night.
From the airport, a short bus ride took us to the car rental facility. The car was waiting for us and after a long, long day, Liesel drove us to our beds.
Red Roof was alright, and our room had been cleaned by Eulogia, which I thought was a beautiful name, specially since it contains all five vowels!
And you’ll never guess where we had breakfast the next morning? IHOP was a better bet than Denny’s, we felt. Neither of us could finish our omelettes. American portions win again.
We drove south through the state capital, Olympia, but I blinked and missed it. Apart from a couple of showers, it was a nice sunny drive to Portland, Oregon. We commented on how much longer the trucks and tankers are here compared with what we’re used to at home.
So: what did you think when you first saw this number plate? Liesel thought ‘squirt one’ but even though this isn’t an imaginary car, I read it as ‘square root of minus one’.
Our rental car on this occasion is a Toyota Prius and whenever we turn the engine off at the end of a trip, a message flashes up on the screen: ‘Check rear seats’. And every time I turn round to look, I see that they are in fact still there.
Also, it gives you a mark at the end of each journey telling you how good or bad a driver you are. Liesel was typically getting 70+ out of 100. (Once, later on, I sat in the driver’s seat trying to change the speed display from mph to kph. I was unsuccessful, drove absolutely nowhere, but was given 95 / 100!)
The plan was to meet people at The Rose Garden but we arrived a bit too late. Nevertheless, we had a good workout here, walking up and down some of the steeper inclines.
The Oregon Holocaust Memorial was incredibly moving. As it should be.
The children’s toys are especially poignant. Such a contrast with the colourful roses just a short walk away.
We found our Airbnb in Portland, and it was no coincidence that we were greeted by Jyoti, Suvan, Gita and Troy as well as some of Jyoti’s relations who we’d not met before: sister Preeti, cousin Guddu, nieces Simran and Suchi.
We were gathered here for a few days to help Gita celebrate her graduation from Lewis and Clark College. She is training as Family Therapist and we’re all very proud of her.
Guddu put together a wonderful charcuterie but the main debate was on how to pronounce it. I think we spent most of the rest of the day chatting and eating and eating and mixing and chatting and eating. And dancing, although I still have this phobia of stomping on other people’s feet.
It’s the first time we’ve shared a b&b with lots of people we know, and there was a bit of a party atmosphere.
It was a bit overcast and even drizzly as we drove over to Gita’s house the following morning.
I think this literal splash of colour is celebrating June being LGBT Pride Month.
We walked to a nearby street food market on the site of Hawthorne Asylum. There was almost too much to choose from: food from Guyana, Korea, Japan, South Africa.
The canopy over the table kept us dry: yes, it was still raining a bit. Despite this, we walked the long way back. Jyoti wanted to introduce us to Urbanite, a shop that sells everything, lots of old stuff, vintage items, treasures, works of art, things you don’t even know you don’t need.
This bluetooth speaker is bigger than usual, being based on the design of a drum. Try me! I did. I treated the shop to David Bowie singing Everyone Says Hi! What I really wanted to play was a recording of Martha and William laughing, but such an MP3 doesn’t exist on my phone. Yet.
After the fun and games in the shop, it’s despressing to see sights like this.
Homeless people are living in tents all over the city. You might wake up one day and find someone camping on the pavement outside your luxury apartment. There are even ‘tent cities’ in some locations.
Back at Gita’s house, it was party time, party number 2! We met Gita’s housemates Jessica, Mark and Jackie. Many, many other people turned up, fellow students and tutors and family and friends. Music was provided by Abba, until the record stopped.
What a noisy, busy, happy hubbub. But so many people. Do something scary every day. OK. My opening line was something like ‘You’re not a big fan of big crowds. either, then?’ After which, Jan (I think that was her name, hard to be sure with all that background noise) and I had a really nice chat. I don’t why I find it so hard to talk to new people. Probably being told ‘you should be seen and not heard’ too often doesn’t help.
A large truck pulled up outside and delivered a mountain of pizza, from CostCo, one of Liesel’s favourite places.
I spoke to Gita’s mentor about Prince and music and not at all about Gita, although I think I may have accidentally told Gita otherwise later on!
In the evening, there was the option of going to a parade, or going dancing, or going to bed. You have one guess…
In the morning, Liesel drove Guddu to the airport while I slept on obliviously. Liesel came back to bed but when we rose at about 9, there was nobody else around to say goodbye to. Today was the day of Gita’s Graduation ceremony, which looks like a marvellous affair.
A rightly, very proud family, Gita’s worked really hard and I’m sure will continue to do so. Congratulations to you all.
Meanwhile, Liesel and I were driving north on Interstate-5. And that’s another story…