My grandson is too young to appreciate the zoo. But I think the time spent at the San Diego Zoo, was decidedly beneficial for our son and his wife, to get a little time to themselves, and for Gramma (and Grampa) to have time with the little one.
A toddler, now in his third month of real mobility, enjoys hustling around out of the stroller. Under the watchful eyes of grandparent a half-step behind, of course. Fortified with cereal ‘puffs’, he finds plant fronds and shredded bark satisfy -for a time- his need to be touching everything.
Maybe in a couple months he will find the animals fascinating. With the petting zoo under construction for the next 18 months, we may check out other sights around San Diego. But all of us will be back soon. While I enjoy being out and about on weekends with the grandson, we now have annual passes to the Zoo. And for Grampa’s exercise plan, there’s nothing like pushing a toddler in a stroller from the far end of the park, up the long hill to the Zoo entrance.
Driving north into the western Mojave desert in early September had not been on my “bucket list” of places to visit. Had it not been for our now four-month old business, I would not have gotten to chat with some interesting people living and working in “the middle of nowhere”. And I wouldn’t have taken a scenic tour of the western Mojave.
A trip to Lancaster, near Palmdale, California was on company business for my spouse and me. Surprisingly, it became a “road trip”. For those unaccustomed to visiting the high desert, the most expeditious way to visit Lancaster is coming from the east, from the I-15 ( in the vicinity of Victorville). But those we were spending three hours on I-15 from San Diego were likely heading to Las Vegas. They pass completely by Antelope Valley and missed the rock formations, pinyon pines, Joshua trees, and the classified military-industrial complex in Palmdale. For nursing students this weekend, successfully completing their written and practical skills exams would be their ticket to immediate employment in California. For these kids, who were no older than toddlers when the area was known for the last landings of the Space Shuttle at Edwards AFB during the ’80s and ’90s they had the “Right Stuff”. No spaceship needed.
How many residents of a place that boasts dozens of “touristy” things to see and do, in of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States, frequent them on weekends? And particularly on a beautiful Saturday in the middle of summer? If seven sat at the same table in Seaport Village during the noon hour bustle there may be more than I imagined.
Living twenty minutes to the east of San Diego (judging by Sunday morning traffic), with our kids grown, we have gone to restaurants there for special occasions. So it was a special treat for another married couple, and my wife and I, friends for many years, to go to Seaport Village. Many people may visit San Diego for conventions (Comicon is coming soon), and the Gas Lamp district bars and restaurants is popular with a crowd thirty years my junior. A few minutes away from these, Seaport Village, in years past for my wife and I was a “date destination”. Little craft shops, boutiques, and ice cream and sweets – I admit, I prefer the ice cream to the shop selling handbags – but we enjoyed today as much as in the past. A photographer displayed some captivating images of the area with touches he described took thousands of images and a full day sometimes to capture and then superimpose.
Today the big challenge was finding seating with one of our party in a wheelchair. While the two husbands waited for the burgers, our wives were fortunate: a family invited us to join them. They were also “locals”, which to all of us (except my spouse, a native San Diegan) meant we came from other parts of the country and settled down.
One of the favorite areas that has been restored and re-purposed, is the former San Diego Police headquarters (dating from the 1930s) adjacent to Seaport Village. Though I have been in San Diego more than 20 years, I never noticed what it would become in the last couple years. It was at the suggestion of our lunchmates that we went over to see “the Headquarters” shops, and see what the old jail cells looked like seventy years ago. Where a board has dozens of mug shots of former burgulars, “weedheads”, and petty criminals on display, we all took turns getting a photo op.
There is a lot of San Diego worth visiting for first-time visitors, newlyweds, convention-goers and even some curmudgeon retired Navy people. As long as Haagen-Dazs ice cream is available afterward.
The “San Diego Chargers” jersey worn by a twenty-something man I met near the summit of Angel’s Landing trail prompted me to ask whether he was a Los Angeles -based fan or one from San Diego. From Temecula, Californi, he and his buddies were up in Zion for a “men’s retreat”; among the faith community, that is “code” for a spiritual bonding time. We talked about our respective churches and our military service. As a Navy veteran, he asked me whether I had been to the Philippines; his father had joined the Navy from there. Eugene was an Army veteran. I told him about my son, an Army veteran. Eugene knew Fort Bragg. He and my son, were sort of, but not quite, following in each respective fathers’ footsteps. One of his companions was a veteran of the Iraq war. Both were now college students. As we talked, I encouraged him to endure the bureaucracy of the VA medical evaluation process (he had gone once and was discouraged by the red tape) to get service-connected injuries treated – or compensated. Being young men of faith as well as warriors, these newly encountered Brothers encouraged me. Like me, though my friends and several dozen people attempted the narrow and very physically-demanding ascent to the “Landing”, I knew these guys had nothing to prove to themselves. Military services do the difficult every day. The impossible generally takes just a bit longer.
There weren’t but one or two available seats on the crowded shuttle bus from the Temple of Sinawawa stop in Zion National Park. It was a thirty-minute ride back to the parking lot. Looking tired and a little irritated, the large man ( solid, not stocky) squeezed into the last available seat, directly across from me. He looked at my ballcap and thanked me for my service. We chatted. He was taking in Zion while his wife was at some military event in San Diego. He is a civilian archivist for the DOD, which lead to talking about history, this blog, and travel. Apparently, Lake Powell should be on my “bucket list”. One of the things that all this military reminiscing lead to was to get some coffee prior to starting back to the hotel in St. George.
On Saturday morning, the motel cafe was busy. All eight little tables were occupied. At one table, a man about my age wore a Desert Storm veteran ballcap. I asked him what service, and he responded Navy. I was also a Desert Storm veteran. He offered me a seat. Mike had been an Navy “airdale”, the Navy nickname for a member of the aviation support community. An aviation ordnance technician, he served a carrier airwing in the Persian Gulf during the conflict. We chuckled about engineers who design but never actually tried to use some things in aircraft he worked on; trying to remove an assembly where you could neither lay flat or reach overhead comfortably, but in one case having to crouch the whole time removing it. My companion, a retired DOD engineer, feigned dismay. A couple of comments he made, however, suggested he was a little more ‘dismayed’ than he let on. The trucker at the table across from us was also a military veteran, though from the prior conflict. As Mike and I chatted about the Navy, missed advancement opportunities (if only those darn Master Chiefs would retire so others could move up the career ladder!), and life after the military, the more I got to thinking how a community, a brotherhood, sisterhood, or more accurately – a large extended family one can meet all over the country.
Community. Often it starts with a ballcap, a veteran-themed t-shirt, or other, and an interest in getting to know someone.
A Thursday evening discussion with an acquaintance over cigars, as retired Navy Chiefs, we were amicably discussing the Navy “salty” life, adventure, and places familiar to each of us around the world. With a lifetime of experience including travel to the same parts of former Soviet bloc countries, we then opined on 21st Century socialist nations. While rigid politically, some tacitly approve of workers ‘capitalist’ use of an underground economy to support their families. He illustrated discussing the merits of fine Cuban cigars he obtained. Skilled cigar rollers have access to tobacco, paper and other accessories to make – after the day’s production was completed and inventoried – some personal cigars to provide under-the-table income. He learned of accessing such side channels during global business travel. And tonight, the ‘entrepreneurial’ wheels in my mind started turning. In a Progressive future, there will always be those who obtain – and those who will then purchase – a premier cigar.
What was your biggest accomplishment when you were a teenager? When I was fourteen, I was responsible enough to arrive at my assigned work at 4:45 AM daily, load a hay wagon, and then feed 80 horses. And in the late afternoon, repeat it all again. I was determined to trade labor for horseback riding lessons. That was on a dude ranch in Arizona where I learned responsibility, animal psychology, ranch operations, and customer service. That was forty years ago. Every generation hears how their predecessors “walked uphill in the snow, both ways, to school and back”. In an age where many are fixated on social media, feel subject to hardship and discrimination without government mandates, and may be emotionally scarred because of others’ contrary views, it is not universal. It may only be a minority opinion.
Becoming an entrepreneur at the age of ten, Noa Mintz, at age sixteen founded a New York City childcare agency, (vetting nannies)and was among those entrepreneurs under age 18 featured in Fortune magazine (2016). Eugenie de Silva, starting at the University of Leicester (UK) in 2015, graduated age 16, from Harvard, through distance learning, with a Masters in Liberal Arts. A pilot, Mason Andrews, completed a circumnavigation of the globe in 2018, as the youngest to do so – at age 18.
And then there is the young Dutch woman, Laura Dekker, who at 14 set off in a sailboat to circumnavigate -solo- the world in 2011. She had been born to a sailing family, and had been dreaming of sailing the world since the age of ten. She had the support of her parents, but had to fight the Dutch authorities in court to be permitted to get underway. For more than five hundred days she navigated and explored the places along her route. A film produced by National Geographic presents her video record of her travels.
And finally, there is Jordan Romero, who at age 13, with his father, reached the summit of Mount Everest, in 2009, and by the age of 15 years, 5 months , became the youngest person to climb the Seven Summits (the highest peaks in each of the seven continents).
From circumnavigating the globe, climbing mountain peaks, graduating from a most prestigious university, or becoming a successful entrepreneur, children who attempt the difficult, and refuse to have their dreams quashed, demonstrate that if you have a dream and are determined to succeed, you can. Leave the participation trophy to others.