Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thoughts on the road

I have been at home for only 8 of the last 46 days. While the pain of being away from my family sometimes manifests in physical symptoms, I cannot discount one benefit of my job. I am sometimes priveleged to visit some truly beautiful parts of the country, places I would otherwise never see. Sure, sometimes my trips lead me to Walnut Ridge, Arkansas (nothing personal, folks, but that town was noticeably lacking in scenic vistas), but this week's itinerary afforded more photo opportunities.

Monday started in Buckhannon, WV, a lovely berg with a college town feel. It is home to West Virginia Wesleyan College.

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After my day with the good teachers of Buckhannon I hit the road and drove my rental through the scenic hills to Roanoke Virginia. Breathtaking vistas, verdant valleys, and rampant poverty in startling juxtaposition.

I stayed in the Roanoke Valley, where everything is exploding in full bloom during the warm, late August days.

This morning I woke before the chickens to journey to one of my favorite parts of our country. I flew into Portland, Oregon and drove for three hours along the sparkly Columbia River. In the 180 miles the hills went from evergreen to tumbleweed. Along the gorge, complete with rocky cliffs and waterfalls, nature is putting on a fashion show. Arriving at my lodging, Boardman, Oregon's River Lodge and Grill, I was able to skip the treadmill and take advantage of the riverside running trail.

Would I trade the views for my family? Never. But sometimes I feel better when I look at the sun and know that the same rays that dance across the Columbia are spotlighting the peaceful Manatee grazing in our St. Johns. Surrounded by nature's beauty I'm closer to home, even 3,000 miles away.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Confucius Say You Pay First

It was lunchtime in Omaha, about 1:30 PM on this Wednesday afternoon. Ravenous with PMS, and having completed my 2 ¾ hour drive up from Kansas City, I was ready for some eats. Cruising Dodge Street, a main drag in this bustling 'burb, none of the usual suspects inspired me. McApplebee, McFriday, McChilli, McBoring. Raging hormones in my gut and a full parking lot combined to convince me to try a Chinese buffet place. It was the ideal location to provide me instant gratification, and also allow me the opportunity to visually inspect the food before eating it.

The place was about average, clean and well-maintained, but the best part was the great entertainment provided with the meal. As I headed back to the table with my (second) plate of pepper chicken and vegetable mei fun I was caught in the middle of an altercation between two Black teens and the teen Chinese cashier. Evidently, the cashier asked them to pay for their take-out order before they went to the buffet. The young teen argued that they saw another woman walk in and sit down, without paying first. In her broken English the cashier had a hard time explaining their policy, handwritten on a sign behind the register 'TAKE OUT PAY FIRST' while the dine-in customers checked out after eating. The teen insisted that the other lady didn't have to pay first because she was WHITE and they were BLACK. They were CHINESE RACISTS and they could keep their RACIST food to themselves. They created quite a scene before storming out and driving away, wheels squealing and raising smoke.

Full from my exploits I approached the cashier to check out, only to be caught in round two of the Great Chinese Racist movement. A Black family of seven had apparently witnessed the same scene I did. Ruling on the side of the plaintiff, they decided to leave mid-meal, and determined that they need not pay because they left their plates of food and cups of Coke on the table, barely touched. "You pay half, you take the food," the argument began. This one was going to get ugly. I threw my ten on the register and bolted.