The Great Cross Country Caper, Day 4: Las Vegas

Major change of plans today: after double-checking drive times to Yosemite and thence to Las Vegas, we realized that even if we hurtled past El Capitan at 80+ mph, we still would not pull into Sin City until the wee hours of the morning.  Blergh.

So we are regretfully bagging Yosemite until our next trip out here.


The driving. The driving. Sweet Cthulhu, the driving.

It’s a good thing that the 9.5 hour drive is through ungodly beautiful terrain.  Otherwise, I would have pulled a Reggie Perrin and walked into the Mojave River, never to be seen again.  If the river had actually had any water in it. Which it didn’t.

<photos later>


Las Vegas is not where the pretty people come, not even those who are paid to be pretty.  Of course, we’re staying on the “old” end of Vegas, at the Four Queens.  Completely adequate, although it’s nearing midnight and our room is directly over one of the two stages of the Freemont Experience, occupied by quite capable rock musicians who are covering some other musician I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to know.

Anyway, for starters, the man who checked us in has a nephew who is the theatre teacher at East Coweta High School.  Damn.  Just damn.

Free meal at one of the restaurants in the casino, but of course we opted instead for the nice restaurant.  Very good food, and not as expensive as meals we’ve had in Newnan.

Here’s the first problem for me:  if you want me to toss money into your system, don’t you want to make at least the part where I say, “OK, I’ll give you money,” easy for me to understand how to do?  They do not.

I couldn’t figure out at any of the slot machines how to do that.  I finally found one that allowed me to insert an actual dollar bill, and then I just pushed buttons until it told me I couldn’t do that any more.

This is not a formula to addict Dale Lyles, just so you know.


A couple of Christmases ago I “gave” my lovely first wife a trip to Las Vegas, which because of scheduling issues I was never able to deliver on.  This was completely a gift of love and adoration, because I have never had a desire to see this place. I feared in fact that I would find it tawdry to the point of revolting.

I do.

I am as able to enjoy a place ironically as much as the next callous sophisticate, but Vegas kind of pegs the meter on that measure.

Perhaps it’s the effects of driving through the desert without an unnamed horse for 10 hours.  Perhaps today, it will all look delightfully trashy and not as if America’s sad and pitiful had tried to dazzle themselves with freakishness.

The Great Cross Country Caper, Day 3: San Francisco Opera

Dear Mr. Pickett,

I got to see the San Francisco Opera’s production of your new show, Delores Claiborne, last night. I bet lots of people have offered you their thoughts; here are mine.

First of all, I think you were entirely correct in thinking that Stephen King’s novel would make a good opera, and for all the reasons you talked about in the program. The characters had issues, big issues, and the ways they chose to work through those issues are no more ridiculous than Rigoletto or Lucia or Tosca.

My personal taste for opera is that it must be theatre first, to which the old argument about words and music must defer. I’d like to talk about all three, if you don’t mind, starting with your music.

It seemed to me that in the preshow lecture, when you were asked about Michael Daugherty‘s comments about your student work back at Julliard, you were a touch defensive about being influenced by Elliott Carter and Charles Wuorinen. I’m sure if they had been my teachers, I would have gone all 12-tone and atonal as well; after all, one has to make good grades, and all that midcentury nonsense was the fashion of the time.

However, I think you still resist your natural affinity for tonality, and to the detriment of your opera. To really break our hearts, you have to engage our emotions, and my experience has been that you can’t do that if you’re challenging our heads. I followed your patterns last night, but sometimes that just devolves into bean-counting, you know?

Some of your atonal work last night was effective and appropriate, but more often your better work was lyrical: “Six pins not four” and “Accidents can be a woman’s best friend,” for example. (Was that a Siegfried joke in Vera’s aria? If so, it was delicious.)

In general I disapprove of the modern fashion of writing vocal lines consisting of nothing but whole notes. It must be easier to sing, but it makes hash of the language and therefore of the character’s motivation. How many times did you have a character singing a preposition on a longer note than its object? It was silly. It also makes your work sound academic, and that is not a compliment.

Another aspect of the long note vocal lines may sound ridiculous to you, but if you picked up the pace of what your characters are saying, then you can pack a lot more in. The show was only two and a half hours long, and as I’ll discuss in a moment, it could have been longer, but you could have given us a lot more in that two and a half.

So let’s talk about the words. Sandy McClatchy had some effective work as well—I really liked the line “There should not be stars” in Selena’s aria during the eclipse—but on the whole I found the lyrics shallow and not up to the task of portraying the complex inner lives and motives of the characters.

I realize that audiences have a hard time accepting in English the kinds of over-the-top lyrics they regularly enjoy in Italian. But it is still possible to give us the fire and ice of a Tosca in words that make us thrill to the metaphors and poetry. Sandy’s libretto mostly failed at that.

Finally, let’s talk about the theatre.

I didn’t see a dramaturg listed in your creative team. You need one.

Let’s start with the biggest problem, the ending. We’ve been promised a “shocking revelation” from Vera on the night she died, but I’m here to tell you that there was no one in that audience who thought she actually had children. Her confessing to that lie was not shocking, it was sad. That one flaw completely deflated the denouement.

Nor are we given a reasonable explanation of why Delores harps on how much she hated Vera when we’ve just seen her behaving in a tender, if resigned, manner to the old woman. We were anticipating a big reveal in that scene which would have triggered some kind of anger/hatred in Delores. We didn’t get it.

So here’s your alternate ending, free of charge:

  • Vera starts with her “I lied” lyrics, confesses that she had no children. Delores is not surprised. Just as Andy says that the whole island knew that Delores killed Joe, everyone knew that Vera invented adoring offspring. Not a shocker.
  • Vera repeats, “I lied,” and we assume that she’s going to keep on about the kids, but no, she confesses that she never killed her husband, she just told Delores that to goad Delores into killing Joe. If you want to get really tawdry, Vera can have had an affair with Joe and needed to get rid of him. (Why does she keep seeing her husband in the corner? She’s delusional—it’s all ambiguous.)
  • Either way, Delores now realizes that she might have had other options to rescue Selena and herself. Acrimony ensues. Vera’s confusion mounts. She flees to the stairs. Delores does not push her. She falls.
  • She begs Delores for deliverance, but Delores taunts her: she wants Vera to suffer. Vera dies. Delores breaks down, cradles Vera’s body, sings a tortured farewell.

Screw Stephen King. Go with this version.

I will say that we were shocked that Delores’s final aria was so short. This should have been her “Mama Rose” moment. The current lyrics are an acceptable coda, but the body of the aria should have been a showstopper.

If you shortened your vocal lines and/or added 30 tight minutes to the show, you could show us more of the relationship between Vera and Delores, adding some truth to Selena’s complaint that her mother didn’t help as much as she thought she did. You could show us more of Delores and Selena’s inner lives.

By the way, were you aware that Selena was a name for the Roman moon goddess? There’s some metaphor in there. Poetry. Mythos.

This has been rather long and perhaps a little harsh. Let’s end with the good stuff.

The cast was very very good, weren’t they? I’m writing this on the road and don’t have my program with me, so forgive my failure to remember their names. You were fortunate to have such wonderful singers for whom to write, and their commitment to your music was obvious.

The staging was brilliant, beautiful, and impressive. I’ve never seen projections used so beautifully.

Act 2 was theatrically sound; your music was much more powerful and propelled the action much more effectively, up to the point where Vera failed at shocking us. But even then, that was the script’s fault, not yours.

And finally, at the end of the show, I found myself wanting more of Delores. Part of that was the failure of the scenario to dig deeper, but largely it was due to your ability to create interesting characters who engaged the audience. (I haven’t talked about Joe: great character, great actor/singer. Kudos all round.)

If you were preparing this show for Broadway, you’d find that you as the composer had a little more power over how it looked, but even moreso, you’d also have the support of a more powerful director and a dramaturg, and when audience surveys showed that the ending was flat, you could avail yourself of a show doctor to advise you. It is very unfortunate for Delores Claiborne that the world of opera does not afford you that power.




On the way to Hoover Dam (Day 5), I read the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle reviews.  <georgetakei> Oh my. </georgetakei>

The Great Cross Country Caper, Day 3: San Francisco

In which a Woman fulfills her Dream of Driving across This Great Land of Ours, accompanied by her Husband, who Hates to Drive

For those who have laid bets, my lovely first wife is still alive.


Here we are on the cable car.


The cable cars of San Francisco are a wonder, to be sure, but if you had to choose between riding them and going to Muir Woods, go to the woods.

Here’s our car being turned around:

One is not really sure whether the turntable is powered or not, because the cable car guys make a big show of pushing it around.  However, since one has electricity, why not use it while simultaneously making the grandmothers squeal for the children to watch the strong men?

On board, the view is half parts riding a bus and riding a roller coaster:

We never did get to ride on the outside benches, or to hold on outside.  And this is the closest we ever got to the TransAmerica building:

I discovered later in the day that getting off at one of the stops would have put us at the doorstep of the flagship Apple Store, but that’s the kind of thing that one plans in advance.  Which we have largely not done.

So we rode from the Fisherman’s Wharf station all the way to the other end, on Powell Street.  I have spared you the early part of the morning where we drove all over that area trying to find that terminus.  It was nowhere near parking that I could see, so it’s just as well that we gave up and went back down to the piers.

Then we rode back.

The next thing on our checklist for the day was to eat at The Codmother:

My lovely first wife has developed a taste for the Top 10 series of travel books, and this little food truck was in the San Francisco volume.  (Yes, we have volumes for every stop on the way.)  She even went up and got the lady/owner to autograph her page, which made the lady’s day, since no one had ever done that before.

I pointed out that this officially made her a crazy person, but that did not seem to bother her.

The fish and chips were indeed very good, so that was worth it.

Finally, we had to trek over to Ghirardelli Square, which is simply, only, merely a shopping complex.  You may avoid it in its entirety, no matter what your travel volume tells you.  Remember, those writers take bribes.

In case you doubt me, here’s a nice place to buy art there:

This is where you are all very grateful I did not win the lottery, because if I had zillions to burn, you’d all now be proud owners of a big-eyed waif paintin’.

There is a shuttle between Ghirardelli and Pier 39, another clue that the locale is more shopping than special.  It runs every 20 minutes, and so since it’s just a 15-minute walk, we hoofed it.  On the way, we stopped to buy some tacky postcards, and on an impulse went into Frank’s Fisherman, a gentleman’s clothing store.  Much to be admired, and I came out with a couple of lovely things.

SIDE ESSAY: It is interesting that this new job has presented me with yet another wardrobe change, and it’s a change that is emblematic of the differences between my previous and upcoming work environments.

This new shirt, for example, is a faded corduroy plaid, grays and yellows and blues, and the tie I bought to go with it is mirrored mermaids on a yellow background.  With a nice pair of jeans and my TOMS shoes, I’ll be appropriately dressed for the office.

Whereas at the DOE, I was always in a dress shirt and tie, even on “jeans and sneakers” days.  When the Board met, or when the circus was in town (I’m looking at you, Gold Dome), it was full business attire, i.e., suits and ties.

Remember, I didn’t mind this attire at all.  GHP was my dream job, and them’s the rules; also, I’m quite comfortable in a formal setting anyway, so I liked dressing for work every morning.  Now, I get more leeway in what I wear on a daily basis, and that’s fine too.

Also while we were walking back, the winner of the America’s Cup race—which we had just missed seeing earlier in the afternoon—came gliding by, its sails furled, but now trailing an impressive U.S. flag:

Traffic was beginning to be heavy on the way back to the hotel, so I turned off the path on which my phone had set us.  This annoyed Siri, and so she deliberately took us on a fabulous zig-zag path back to Stanyan St., the steeper, the better.  Eventually we arrived, ordered a cab for the opera tonight, and went to the room to crash.  There will be a separate post about the opera, which is the San Francisco Opera’s world premiere production of Tobias Pickett’s Delores Claiborne.  Yes, that Delores Claiborne.


In the meantime, here are the photos of our hotel and room.

Here is the Stanyan Street Hotel in all its Victorian splendor.  It was built before the fire, but it’s over near the Golden Gate so missed destruction.

Those of you who are of a certain age are now puzzling over why the name is so familiar.  Here. You’re welcome.

My lovely first wife booked a two-bedroom suite, because it was the only room in the city unoccupied by sunburnt men wearing Under Armor shirts or by Cheetohs-stained geeks.  However, when we opened the door in the wee hours of Monday night, we found an apartment.

A full dining room with Craftsman china cabinet, with a full kitchen beyond.  (I just discovered full ice trays in the freezer.)

The view from the master bedroom: the second bedroom, and a full sitting room with bay window.  All the windows are counter-balanced and work.  In fact, all of the windows were half open when we arrived.

Bathroom and closets, and we’re set.

We drove by the hotel we were originally booked in till we read the reviews—generally a gross place, managed by surly staff—and boy, did we luck out!

The Great Cross Country Caper, Day 2: San Francisco

In which a Woman fulfills her Dream of Driving across this Great Land of Ours, accompanied by her Husband, who Hates to Drive

A note about last night’s flight: I joked that there would be nothing to blog about because it was night and there would be nothing to see out of my window.

But there was always something to see out of my window. No matter when I looked out over this continent, there were always lights out there somewhere.

I noticed this last year when the Lichtenbergians flew out here for our Annual Retreat. That flight was during the day, and the landscapes were stunning, phantasmagorical—but they were almost never without the footprint of humans. Roads, power lines, hiking trails, small tracks carved into the hills, all proclaimed the presence of humans.

And last night, even in the pitch black of a transcontinental night flight, we were there. It might be only a couple of specks, widely separated, but our presence was unmistakable and inescapable.

When we finally began our descent into SFO, then, the display was dazzling: huge quilts of light, spiderwebbed across the entire landscape, and in constant motion. It was sobering.


It’s morning now, and we’re slowly moving out of the door.  I have photos of our hotel, the Stanyan Park Hotel, but I have to wait until I download iPhoto for the iPad so I can rename photos before uploading them.  I don’t have to; I could simply let WordPress upload them for me, but then they disappear into WordPress’s filing system.



Incredible day, folks.  We started out by driving to Fisherman’s Wharf, via Lombard Street.    I had driven down it last fall with the Lichtenbergians, but my lovely first wife was completely unprepared for the exhilaration of twisting our way down those hairpin curves.  What neither of us can get over is that people live on that street.  Is it more expensive or less to live in the most photographed place in the city?

I noted that, like last year, I was the only one driving down it.  One’s paranoia kicks in: is it bad form to do so and everyone but me understands this?

And so we get to Fisherman’s Wharf.  It is amazingly touristy, of course, so we plunged right in.

One must-see is the Musée Mechanique, a fabulous collection of old coin-operated automatons: fortune tellers, dancing minstrels, scenes from farms and fairs, and an amazing number of executions.  There are also a number of old peep-show “movies” which were very tempting, although only one of us succumbed to their allure.

Here is the lovely first wife sitting in a device called The Passion Factor.  (Hush Jobie.)  The glow behind her head is the light of the heart labeled “Uncontrollable.”

You might very well think that, but I could not possibly comment.

Obligatory shot of Alcatraz:

Since this was a spur-of-the-moment trip, we were unable to get tickets to go out, but I think next time we must do this.  Do they let you walk naked down the block, I wonder?

We moved on, as good tourists do, to Pier 39, where one of us fell in love with the sea lions.

I think we would have stood looking at these animals all day.  They were incredibly amusing: basking, lolling, flopping, barking, chest-bumping.

http:// (I don’t know why this isn’t embedding.  Click it anyway.)

Eventually we tore ourselves away and spent some money as we were required to do.  It is interesting that both of us seem to have reached a point in our lives where the lure of more stuff is simply not there. The fact that most of the stuff being offered was not gorgeous also helped.

But then we entered the Spice & Tea store.  Oh my.  Salts, teas, spices, sugars, and accoutrements.  I spent lavishly, including a bamboo salt cellar with four compartments.  Also, salts to go in them.  And sugars, mostly to rim cocktails, naturally.

Lunched at Fog Harbor.  Good food, but the cocktail list was unadventurous and the bar didn’t look well-stocked.  I stuck to wine.

Outside our window, the U.S. and New Zealand were preparing for the next two heats of the America’s Cup race.  The U.S. yacht was being skippered by the CEO of Oracle, who clearly decided that since he was going to be in town, his company needed to have their international get-together the week following.  Which is why we found it so difficult to find a place to stay in San Francisco: 30,000 geeks have clogged up the place.


Everyone said, “You’ve got to go to Muir Woods!”  Literally everyone who had been to San Francisco said that.  It’s about an hour north of the city, and since it would take us over the Golden  Gate Bridge, we began to plan getting there.

You would think in a city swarming with National Recreation Areas, most of which are named Golden Gate, it would be easy to get a National Parks annual pass.  You would be wrong.

The store at Pier 39 had closed.  We spent the better part of an hour driving around the Presidio—impressive, so not time wasted—trying to find the office there, only to discover that it was open Thu-Sat only.  Feh.

Finally I checked the list online, and it seemed that Muir Woods itself could sell us the pass.  So off we went.

Here’s the deal: if you are ever in San Francisco, YOU HAVE TO GO TO MUIR WOODS.  Forget the trolley cars.  GO TO THE WOOD!

It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  Even the usually empirical lovely first wife was overcome by spirituality.

Silence—lush, lush silence—chaotic green—and those giant gods, the redwoods…

There were Others there.

Go to the wood.


On the way back, we stopped at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area so we could go watch the setting sun light up that beautiful bridge.  That was our second mistake.

Our first mistake was not packing a USB cable to charge the phones with.  Mine died as we approached the bridge.  The lovely first wife’s phone was at 20%.

So when—as we set out past the old fortifications on our way to the top of the headlands—we were stopped by a vaguely Scandinavian gentlemen who asked us to assist a Chinese couple who had locked their keys in their rental car, we were limited in our abilities.

Oh, and they spoke no English.  The Scandinavian disappeared, leaving us trying to figure out how to do this.  We called 911, but they don’t do that, of course.

We called Avis and got through to their roadside assistance, but since I was not the renter, they found it difficult to respond.  Finally they offered to get a translator on the line if I could hold, but of course I couldn’t.

The Chinese couple had a phone, but it kept dropping calls.

I finally called my AAA and explained the situation (after I was transferred from our own Club South to someone closer to the situation).  They could send someone to unlock the car, but it would take 45 minutes, and we would have to be there to accept the help.  I explained that in 45 minutes, we would not have a phone for them to contact us through.

But there we were.  I drew little pictures to indicate that help was on the way, and we gestured that we would go ahead and walk up to the view while we waited.

Up we went, and when I saw a quartet of Chinese college students, I hailed them.  Did they speak English?  Yes.  Did they speak Chinese?  Yes.  I explained the situation to them and asked if they would see if they could help the couple at the bottom of the hill.  Sure…

<long story snipped>

It took only 15 minutes, and after clearing up some confusion with the roadside guy (Calvin, also of Chinese extraction though not a speaker) about where we were—no one to whom I spoke seemed to know there was a park/overlook on top of the headlands on the north side of the bridge—he arrived in his bright yellow truck and unlocked the hapless couple’s car.

Hotel, dinner at Cha Cha Cha, right around the corner on Haight Street, and yes, some hippie kid offered me drugs (I think: his exact words were, “Are you looking for something?”  I think he was having the straight people on; I wish I had turned and said, “Yeah, how about two eighths of shrooms?” just to see his face.)

Great tapas, and then further down Haight to Alembic, a noted bar whose stock was awe-inspiring.  Bottles I didn’t even recognize, you guys!  I had their Mexican Radio: tequila, pineapple gum syrup, lime and their special combination of sherry, kahlua, and Fernet Branca.  Tasty, but not one I’ll add to my list.  I followed that with a Sazerac, and that was awesome.

The lovely first wife, who had been nursing a simple bourbon, decided we’d close out by sharing a Cinnamon Twist, a yummy little dessert drink that is nonetheless a sorority girl drink.  So I pretended to be embarrassed in ordering it.  Then I pretended not to be embarrassed when our bartender said he couldn’t make it because he didn’t have a single ingredient.

That’s how cool this bar was: it did not have on its shelves butterscotch schnapps, Goldschläger, or Bailey’s Irish Cream.  Mercy.

The Great Cross Country Caper, Day 1: Out of ATL

We’re waiting for our flight—I have surprised my lovely first wife with an upgrade to first class, so there’s that to be excited about.

We ate at trendy little place on E Concourse called One Flew South. Nice food, and I got a cocktail called Rise of the Phoenix: mezcal, yellow chartreuse, lime, strawberry, and black pepper scattered across the top. Wonderful musty flavor with the layers of fruit, nothing overpowering, and the scent of the fresh cracked pepper added another assault on the nose with each sip.

I neglected to take a photo, but I’m still developing my workflow here.

The flight is already late on its ETD. We’ll be pulling into San Francisco closer to midnight than previously thought. That is of course 3:00 in the morning our time. There will be some adjustment.

By the way, there are some in our party who are worried that by blogging about our Great Cross Country Caper, I am revealing our absence from home to the scores of my readers who monitor my blog in order to rob me. To those people, I say NUH-UH: we have a hireling living in our home while we are away YES WE DO TOO SO DON’T EVEN TRY IT I’M NOT EVEN KIDDING.

They have started loudspeaking at us about boarding. I would promise to blog more as we fly, but what on earth would I be blogging about? I have a window seat, but it has been pointed out to me that it’s going to be night-time. We’ll see.

Here we go.

LATER:  It is 9:00, CDT, and some thoughts have occurred to me.

First of all, we are not seated in first class.  We are in business class.

There’s a distinction, I’m sure, but I am not far up enough the food chain to know it already, and I doubt it would be worth my while to research the difference.  I thought first class was extinct, but somewhere up here in the stratosphere it must still exist.

I thought maybe they had killed it off because of the associations with this old Southern Airlines ad:

Because no matter what you call it, those seats up front are better than those behind us.  We have wider seats, more legroom, free beverages, not to mention the dancing girls and lobster.  (There is no lobster.)

I am tempted to go full-bore Marxist here and say that of course first class morphed into business class:  they are still our lords and masters, are they not?  I feel like an interloper, although I daresay I am as well-educated and/or employed as most of my fellow overlords up here.

On the one hand, it’s a comfort to know that I’m seated in business class with my free gin and tonics simply because when I went to choose our seats last night, these were available and I felt comfortable (economically speaking) to splurge on the upgrade.  (Full disclosure: the upgrades cost almost as much as the flight itself—deep discounts on the flight.)

On the other hand, that’s what it all boils down to: the ability to pay.  Those who have the cash (or in my case, the credit limit)  can move up to the Empyrean of business class.  The rest of you have to suck it.

I think it’s worth pondering, too, that there are only twelve of these seats. Even if everyone on this flight could afford the upgrade, they couldn’t get it.  Selective scarcity.  Perfect Marxist metaphor.

Do not get me wrong: if you’ve got the money, spend it.  There’s no point in being ashamed of having earned it, even if you’re the shameless overpaid CEO of some company that’s giving you an 8-figure income just to go away.  Okay, in that case you should probably be ashamed.  But on the whole, go for it.  Have multiple homes on several coasts; fly to NYC to catch the opening night at the Met; fly business class.

However, it is a sad truth that, as Anouilh put it in Ring Round the Moon, “Money is magic.”  Because I can afford it, I can stretch my legs on this five-hour flight.  I can afford health insurance.  I can afford tickets to the San Francisco Opera.

Here’s another implication of the Marxist metaphor:  recently, we spent a lovely very long weekend in a friend’s second home in Beaufort, SC.  It was a gorgeous home in a very nice neighborhood on a practically private island.  I noticed when we drove out onto the island that the end of the county-maintained road was clearly announced—and that the road immediately improved.

I mused at the time that our friends at FOX News or The National Review  or The Heritage Foundation would lecture us that of course the road was better when it was maintained by the private sector, but the truth was somewhat the inverse: when we don’t pull together as a society, taxing ourselves enough to maintain our infrastructure, then only the wealthy will  have nice roads.

Business class, baby, business class.

The Great Cross Country Caper. Together.

In which a Woman fulfills her Dream of Driving across this Great Land of Ours, accompanied by her Husband, who Hates to Drive

In another three and a half hours, my lovely first wife and I will be driven to Hartsfield International Airport, and at approximately 9:00 p.m., we will board a flight to San Francisco. Here’s how this happened.

About two weeks ago we were dining on a lovely dinner of grilled salmon, and I asked again what she truly wanted for her 60th birthday. I had struck out previously, so much so that rather than taking her out to a very nice restaurant, we just all gathered at Taco Mac for a meal and then came back to the house for cake and ice cream.

Also previously, she had decided that we would go visit friends in Florida and with them we would go to Harry Potter World in Orlando sometime in October.  Kind of odd, I thought at the time, since I’m the Harry Potter fan, but she was intent on saving money by staying with our friends.  (We were both retired/unemployed at the time.)

So as we were dining on our salmon (balsamic raspberry glazed) she said something that led me to believe that she was not as excited about HP as she had led people, i.e., me, to believe.

I asked again what she truly wanted for her birthday, and she said, “All I’ve ever wanted to do…”

…at which point I found myself thinking, “I wonder if I’ve ever heard this one”…

“…is to fly to San Francisco and then just take our time and drive back across the country.”

…No.  I had not…

All righty then, I said, and before this decision could dissipate in ifs, buts, and we coulds—which sometimes maybe could happen sometimes in our married life—I booked a one way flight to SFO right there at the table, followed by a rental car due in New Orleans on October 4, and train tickets back to Atlanta.

There.  We were committed.  The last two weeks have kept us, i.e., her, busy finding hotel rooms and mapping an itinerary that includes every single national park between SF and NOLA, plus Vegas.  And maybe Austin.

So here I am, packed and ready to do this.  Let’s do this!  Follow along here on my blog; it will be very exciting, like a reality show only with side bets on where I dump her body in the desert.