Honorable Mentions

Holy smokes….how did we get to the end of June so quickly?

As I umpire high school and miscellaneous baseball games around the area that I reside in I come upon various situations that I find notable if only for the way that they stand out.  They are as follows:

  • I was working a 13U AAA baseball game as plate umpire where a parent had set up a Bluetooth speaker at the back stop directly behind home plate.  It blasted classic rock anthems between innings and made the game more enjoyable, in my opinion.  After the game I saw the parent retrieving the speaker and thanked her for sharing it with the rest of us.  Her reply “Oh thank you.  Sometimes umpires don’t like it played.”  Well lady…THIS umpire enjoys AC/DC so keep doin’ what you’re doin’.

 

  • I was working another 13U A baseball game.  “Long hits to the gap where sure doubles are turned into singles” is what I thought as the entire line up could hit the ball well…they just couldn’t run to save their lives.  Dead serious…I think I out ran them on several occasions.

 

  • I’ve completed three complete seasons without getting hit in “the danger zone” with a wild pitch or foul ball.  It’ll happen eventually…again…but until then I say a simple prayer of thanks.  #deadserious

 

  • On that subject….I was hit hard in the inner thigh with a foul ball earlier this season.  A “son of a b*tch!!” escaped my lips before I knew it.  After regaining my composure I apologized to the batter and catcher.  “Don’t worry Blue…” the catcher replied.  “I hear it all the time from Coach.”  #bruisedbutforgiven

this bruise is typical for umpires…

  • I was squeezed into a concession stand for an hour with a bunch of ten-year old players waiting out a torrential rain (without much luck).  Firstly…ten year old’s are still children…acting like children except when its something that they’ve totally bought into.  “Yeah…we’ve got football camp coming up next month” one told me.  “Is it pretty intense?” I asked the group.  “OH YEAH!!  Two hours a day for a week!” replied the ringleader in a serious tone normally reserved for only the most important subjects.  “How’s the coach?  He usually work you guys hard?” I continued.  “Yeah.  That’s him over there selling Laffy Taffy at the window.”   The coach was a rotund man in his fifties…selling concessions to keep the boys in uniforms, equipment and baseballs.  #laboroflove

 

  • Secondly….ten-year old’s sometimes have little sisters who have to tag along.  This group had a little blonde kindergartner sister who wasn’t satisfied staying on the fringes of this group of boys….she had her nose stuck in their business whether they liked it or not.  From what I saw I think that most of the boys were fine with it….or just totally ignored her altogether.  Later in the day an opposing team was chanting “we got spirit!  Yes we do!  We’ve got spirit!!  How bout you?!”  but before anyone could answer them they’d shout “WE’VE GOT MORE!!”  This didn’t sit well with little sister and she’d yell back at them from the safety of sitting on a blanket in front of her parents lawn chairs.  In-between innings I walked over to her and asked “you know that kid shouting that stuff…?” She looked up at me from behind the back stop.  “I think he’s flirting with you…”  I’ll say this…kindergarten girls know what that means because she just about cut me in half with her icy glare!  Everyone else enjoyed my little jab….but her.  #shehasthelooksthatkill

 

  • Coach Talk: “YOU STRUCK OUT THE SIDE!!” to his pitcher.  Technically speaking the pitcher being praised did strike out three batters...but he’d pitched through the batter order twice in the same half inning, allowing a ton of runs.  Needless to say the game ended at the bottom of the third inning due to mercy rules.  #18-0

 

  • There are times during the baseball season when our sweaty equipment doesn’t dry out.  Working day and night games…it gets old.

 

  • “Hey Blue!  Can I have a new ball?!”  calls the pitcher.  “Sure thing sport!”  I reply.  As I empty my ball bag into my hands I ask “do you want the one with grass stains or the one with a crease from hitting the back stop?  I got this one that’s almost as dirty as the one in your hand.”  Two pitches and a foul ball later he’s back to his original ball.  #summerball

 

  • “We’re looking for only the BEST umpires….” read the opening line to an email looking for help at a tourney that was sent to me.  “How the hell did I end up on this list?”  is what I openly asked no one in particular.  There’s more games to umpire than umpires to work.

 

  • Between rain-outs and a nagging injury that started in January with the basketball season, my umpiring season has fizzled out.  I love to officiate basketball.  LOVE.  IT.  Baseball is a springtime whirlwind affair.  Assigners email, text and call…begging for open games to be filled with umpires.  I get it….but I’m tired, sore and trying to figure out what’s in store for me with this injury hanging on.  I’m serious enough to see my doctor about it for the second time.  This….is unchartered territory for me.  #gimpy

 

  • My last game of the season.  I enjoy being the plate umpire.  I like being there for every pitch.  Involved.  Maybe its the showman in me coming out.  I know that much about myself, I like the limelight.  I’ve learned when to let the game go about its business and when I need to take charge and use my voice to keep things in order.  When I’ve kicked a call I’ve admitted it.  There’s a fine line between being arrogant and being confident.   While I’m no where close to being what I could be….I’m still better than what I was.  #workinprogress

 

  • Sterling was one of my catchers yesterday at my last game.  He’s a gamer.  Loves the sport…I didn’t need to ask…I can tell.  He’s a left-handed catcher…which is a rarity.  His throwing style was to catch the pitch and then whip it directly in front of the right-handed batters noses.  I could see that the batters noticed this…and I think it may have unnerved a few of them…being more afraid of being hit by the catcher than the curve ball missing pitcher.  Did I mention that Sterling had a mullet?  You just don’t see many mullets these days, and as far as mullets go…it was a good one.

 

  • One of my pet peeves is players not hustling.  I’ve been known to growl at players unnecessarily holding up a game.  The hotter it is…the shorter my fuse.  On more than a few occasions this season, as courtesy runners walked onto the field, to replace a runner at first, then slowly half-assed jogged towards first I, more than once, hollered “IT’S COURTESY RUNNERS NOT COURTESY WALKERS!!”   The message received, their pace quickened considerably.  #grumpyump

 

  • My last game of the season had a temperature at game time in the high eighties.  With all of my equipment on…I was sweating my ass off.  True to form…the baseball gods sent the game into extra innings.  

 

  • For the second game of yesterdays doubleheader I took the field as the base umpire.  As I placed my bottles of water along the fence I spied an elderly lady prying open a can of Pringles.  I inquired “did you bring enough to share…?”  “Of course I did.  I’m a grandmother!” she shot back.  (she didn’t offer up any for me either….)

Our games ended without fanfare…as most do.  My partner and I fist bumped and headed our own separate ways until next spring when baseball is again played in weather much too cold, on fields that have just lost their frost, by boys who are still learning the game from men too old to play.  I hope that I’m there.  #Hiswillnotmine

Thank you for coming along,

God bless…

R

Lessons learned on gravel roads

How I came to love pick up trucks so much probably lies in the way in which I learned to drive.  I grew up in eastern Iowa amongst some of the richest soil that God blessed Earth with.  Mile upon mile of mostly flat prairie that had been plowed under and replaced with hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of acres of corn and soybean fields interrupted by occasional rolling hills, all connected by gravel roads.  One afternoon while riding with my father on those gravel roads he stopped our truck, asked me to sit on his lap and while he controlled the accelerator pedal and brake, I steered.  It was a simpler time to be sure…in the late 1970’s and I was probably around eleven or twelve at the time.  At first I was terrified, not wanting this responsibility nor wanting to crash.  I learned how to counter-steer when the truck started to fishtail.  How to keep the tires in the “path” and not in the loose gravel along the sides of the road…and how to get over when you met a big old John Deere hauling a disk towards you.  While all of these lessons were unnerving I grew to love driving trucks.

“Truck One” was my Dad’s truck.  Fairly basic.  It had an AM/FM radio and shifter on the floor.  I drove this truck on my very first romantic encounter with a young lady from a neighboring town named Becky (the girl…not the town).  I won the girls affection and attention for a few short-lived months.  Truck 1.  Car 0.

Dad’s truck. I treated it like it was my own.

“Truck Two”.  I had turned sixteen years old and the first car of my own to drive was a pick up truck.  If I’m remembering it correctly it was a 1972 Chevy LUV.  Basic transportation.  Rusty.  Needed new brakes.  Manual stick shift and no power steering.  AM radio.  Would hold exactly three high school sophomores.  Dad and I bought it for $800 as a “project” for him and I to work on, grinding out the rust, filling the holes with Bondo putty or cutting sheet metal and riveting it to the body then spraying with gray primer.  After a $99 Earl Scheib paint job it was sold.  It was a safe and reliable means of transportation.  Truck Two was tough to drive and ride in and a pleasure to get rid of.

I found out quickly that I didn’t like sanding and grinding rust off of metal. I must have had a grayish pall during my sophomore year since I was constantly applying primer to this heap.

Here’s that same 1972 Chevy LUV after A LOT of sanding, Bondo and a $99 Earl Scheib paint job. Firecracker Red.

 

“Truck Three” came in 1987.  I had my first full-time job. I was making $300 a week and was rolling in money.  Literally…rolling in dough.  Single and wanting a new, more reliable vehicle (one that would start when I wanted it to start) I traded in my 1975 Ford Maverick and bought a brand-spanking new Madza B2000 pick-up.  Small four cylinder engine, stick shift, heat, bench seat and no radio (though I added one in the months to come).  A short time later I took out the future honorable Constance Sue Ripley in this truck.  After the vows were spoken (and not to be taken back) the Mrs. admitted that she wasn’t exactly beholden to me at first glance. “You showed up wearing cowboy boots and driving a truck…”.  Its a good thing that I still had a full head of brown wavy hair back then or else I still might be single.  Dead serious.  Anyway…romance won out.  Truck 2.  Car 0.  I also took Connie to the hospital in this truck when Jordan was born.  Cold, dark and windy in the predawn hours of a December morn…bucking snowdrifts along the way.  Sturdy and reliable we eventually traded in Truck Three on a minivan for a growing family once Kid Two came along.

Truck Three was my first new “car”. No radio or AC. Bench seat. But it was all MINE

 

Truck Four was my Dad’s truck…again.  This time around it was for a drastically different reason.  My folks were moving off of the farm and didn’t need their truck.  A 1999 Ford F250 three-quarter ton with a V10 engine.  I bought it because we needed a another vehicle at our household.  Dad had kept it in awesome condition and it gave me considerable consolation after his death.  At times, while driving it, I could hear him speak.  I know that sounds stupid, but that truck helped me some days when I missed him a great deal.  I eventually sold that truck to my brother who still drives it to this day.

Truck Five was my nicest truck.  Purchased brand new in 2007.  It had many nice things that I didn’t have in most of my early trucks.  Air conditioning.  AM/FM radio with CD player.  Crew cab so that we could fit the whole family and go on vacations.  ABS brakes, power windows and door locks….all pretty standard stuff but for a guy who remembers using the hand crank to roll down his windows on a hot summer day it’s almost an extravagance to have something like power windows.  We moved all three daughters out of our house and to college in these last two trucks.  I started officiating basketball and baseball games in these two trucks.  I’ll tell you something….a truck makes a great umpire vehicle.  Just park it, drop down the tailgate, sit down and get your equipment on for the game.  I really loved Truck Five and didn’t see an end to its service to our family but things change.  We’re empty-nesters now.  No kids to ferry about (and no grand-kids on the foreseeable horizon…).  Warranties expire and things are going to need fixed or replaced eventually.  We usually keep our cars and trucks until they die or cost us too much to keep up.  I debated for several months on what I should do, if anything.  It seems to me that you’re either making a monthly payment on a new vehicle or paying to have the older one fixed.  This is why I reluctantly traded in Truck Five on a new car.

Ed…my 80+ year old neighbor said that my Silverado looked like a fire engine. What a great compliment!

Our new car has so many features in it that I may have to hire an eight year old to show me how to use them all correctly.  A six speaker music system that’s pared through Bluetooth with the ITunes on my phone (good-bye multiple CD’s in my armrest!!).  It has Sirius radio for several months!  Instead of a gear shifter it has a dial near my arm rest that I turn to select a gear.  It has a back up camera.  I can call folks while driving. It doesn’t have keys and I push a button to start it.  While the engine is half the size that I’m used too its turbo-charged and very responsive.  I actually have to “think” to use this car because its so simple to drive.  I’m not saying that its idiot-proof…but its a big step in that direction.  It’s also a really sharp looking blue.  Electric Blue….to be sure.

This car is too nice for me. Sporty and fast…it’ll take some time to get used to it. Maybe listening to some Johnny Cash while driving it will help

I’m going to be honest…I got a little misty when I turned my truck in.  While most folks view their cars and trucks as purely utilitarian objects I’ve come to love each and every one of my trucks.  Each time that I’ve driven them they take me back to a time in my life.  A first date.  Going to basketball practice.  A time in our garage working with Dad on a repair.  My last date as a charming single guy.  A trip to the hospital with a very pregnant and uncomfortable spouse.  Moving our kids around.  Road trips and vacations.   A time when I could still sit on my Father’s lap and steer his truck around those winding gravel roads of my childhood.  I miss many things in my life that shiny new buttons and whistles will never, ever replace.  I guess I’m still just that farm kid at heart.

The Ripley boys after a day of painting.  From left to right.  Brian, Dan, Me and Dad

 

 

The journey home

As previously mentioned on RICH RIPLEY, the blog, I traveled to Berlin Germany to visit our youngest daughter.  The sights, the food and drink, as well as getting to visit Macy, was well worth the price of the tickets.  I’ve traveled alone to Japan and Germany in the past few months, and what I’ve discovered is that there are friendly folks all over this planet.  Getting through international airports, from one terminal to another and finding my next flights gate can be a daunting task.  I’m not necessarily the smartest guy around (stop and take that in….it just blew your mind!) but I’ve usually been able to find someone along my path to guide me to where I need to go.  Politeness, common courtesy and a friendly smile go a long way in most situations.  The following are some notes that I jotted down during my vacation, flying to and from Germany.

  • At O’Hare airport in Chicago: the rule of thumb for any Starbucks situated in a big, busy airport is to only have two employees working behind the counter while a third is seemingly constantly on break (standing on the customer side of the counter-talking to the two that are working).  Scheduling any more than two, or three, would mean that the line waiting for coffee would become shorter than twenty customers.
  • At O’Hare airport in Chicago: It amuses me what folks choose to wear when traveling.  I usually wear nicer, but comfortable clothes.  Other folks wear suits or nice dresses, whereas some folks wear wild, brightly colored jogging suits from the 90’s or a combination that looks like they got dressed in the dark at a rummage sale.  I call these travelers wardrobe  “flea-market circus”.  I like the name so much that I might trademark it and start a clothing empire.  “Flea-Market Circus.  When you want to stand out from the crowd but blend in with the clowns”.  Coming soon to a strip mall near you.”
  • While flying into Charles De Gaulle airport in France on my way home:  The French countryside looks stunningly beautiful, so did the English countryside when I flew into London coming over.  I realize that even though I’ve traveled quite a bit there’s more of God’s green earth that I’ll probably never see in this lifetime…but I’m okay with that.  At least I got to see it from “up here”.

I was supposed to fly into Paris Thursday morning, then waltz over to another terminal and make my connecting flight back to the good old U S of A at noon, BUT the early flight to Paris was sold out (remember that whole computer glitch thing at United Airlines when I started this trip?  It was still kind of biting me in the butt.)  The next morning flight into Paris left a 70 minute window for me to: land, get my bag, find the train to the other terminal, find my gate and check in….and totally freak out when this didn’t happen.  Sadly I had already purchased that ticket from Expedia.com (w/o insurance of course) and spent roughly forty minutes on the phone with them (without an international phone plan=$78 phone call).  Long story short I bought a ticket that would leave Berlin early in the evening on Wednesday and get into Paris around 8 at night….where I’d have a SIXTEEN HOUR WINDOW of time to really, really get to know Terminal 2A at Charles De Gaulle airport.  I’m glad that I did since it took me over an hour to make it to the correct terminal on Wednesday night.

Once on the ground and in the correct terminal I noticed that the shops and food stands were shutting down, at nine at night.  I hastily made a purchase of some junk food to stave off hunger though the long night, and connected to their free wifi.  Thank God some of my friends kept me awake by “talking” to me through Facebook Messenger, where it was 8 PM their time in the States though 3 AM my time in Paris.  Connie, the honorable Mrs. Ripley, decided to do our income taxes that night as well…so there were more than just a few messages sent across the Atlantic that night regarding that.

Terminal 2A at 2 AM. Not. Much. Going. On.

Do you wanna know what happened in Terminal 2A the night of my overnight stay?  Here’s a quick rundown:

  • The guy riding a big floor scrubber did hot-laps for three hours right past where I was sitting.
  • They changed the ceiling light bulbs right outside of the McDonald’s.
  • The soldiers armed with automatic machine guns disappeared.  Apparently once they saw me they figured “old Rowdy” had this area under control.
  • Late arriving flight crews walk past, laughing…headed off to a hotel for the night.  Their work is done for this day.

3:13 AM…Hey hey!!  I’m at single digits until I’m taxi-ing down a runway…headed westward home!!

4:17 AM…Hot dog!!  Foot traffic is picking up.  Airport employees and blurry-eyed travelers getting to their gate for their early morning flights are arriving.

5:25 AM….Screw it.  I’m headed down to customs to see if they’ll let me through to my gate.  So tired.  So.  Freaking.  TIRED.

6:10 AM….At my gate.  Six hours til boarding.  This gate is totally sweet!

Breakfast of Champions

 

7-8 AM…Dozed sitting up.  Bobble-headed it.  I don’t recommend it.

8-11 AM…Cannot remember anything.  Been awake for the most part since 7 AM yesterday.

11:30 AM…The gate crew is very nice.  Total professionals and very patient.

12 AM…Got a seat on the flight.  THANK YOU JESUS!!  This planes a beauty.  787 and the seat next to me is empty.  SCORE!! 

I have a glass of white wine.  Then I have another, then a third.  I watch a movie.  Start another and have supper.  I wind up sleeping four hours, which is a record for me on a plane.

Blazing Saddles. One of my all-time favorites

We land in Chicago a little after two in the afternoon.  I travel to the correct terminal, find my gate, get some pizza and root beer then settle in until they call my name for a stand by seat, which I’m told “isn’t available”.  They board the plane.  “Dear God…I’m going to be stuck here until the next flight at 9…and even then there’s no guarantee that I’ll get on it.” Everyone’s boarded…then…my name is called.  They have a seat for me“Do you mind an emergency exit seat?” they ask.  “I’ve been traveling for around forty hours.  I don’t care where you put me, Ma’am.  I’m just happy to be on that airplane of yours” I reply.  I get a seat and a little over an hour later I’m walking to my pick-up truck.  She’s never looked better.  The air is fresh and crisp.  Someone near is plowing, I can smell that unmistakable scent of freshly turned soil as it hits the air for the first time since last spring.  I’m home, and soon I’ll be in the arms of the woman that I’ve missed.  It’s been a glorious week.  Its about to get better.

Thanks for coming along.

God bless,

R

Its in the books….2016-17

Unless the folks in charge of officials suddenly realize that they’ve left me out of sub-state or state action, my high school season of officiating basketball is over until November.  Its kind of a melancholy moment, realizing that you’re not thought highly enough of to get the “great games” but honestly….I’m sore and tired.  My whole body hurt by the time the season ended.  Oh….by the way…yours truly got three post-season games.  My season ended with a flurry of six games in six nights, with the furthest being an hour and a half away on a Monday night.  Regardless…here are bullet points of my season:

  • Last season I assigned five technical fouls.  This season only one.  I could have had three more very easily but chose instead to talk to the coaches, to calm them down.  In hind-sight…I should’ve whacked ’em.  All three were sub-varsity coaches behaving poorly.  I did the game no favors by letting them pace the sideline, holler like they were coaching the Bulls and question every call.  I applaud their passion, though want the game to be the show…not the coach.
  • I had a (wait for it….) good season.  Only one regrettable moment where I put the ball into play without my partners being ready.  Sounds innocent enough….right?  WRONG.  DEAD WRONG.  I lost sleep over that brain fart.  Lesson learned.  It won’t happen again.
  • I worked a game with the flu.  I thought that I was going to die on the way home.  Didn’t. 
  • I worked a weeks worth of games with a cold.  It felt like my legs were tree stumps. When I work games with a cold I don’t take cold medicine….I gotta keep my focus,  even if I feel like a baby treats a diaper.
  • We have a new partner on our three-man crew for next season.  His name is Jon.  Jon works out and eats right.  Jon’s built like a brick ****house.  Our other partner is fifteen years younger than me and works out too.  I think that I’m in for some serious body-shaming this upcoming season if I don’t lose ten pounds and get into the gym soon…and stay there.  (dammit!!)
  • No sooner does my high school season end for 2017 when…eleven games for 2017-2018 show up in my email.  Eleven!!  (This is how nerdy I am…) I’m looking forward to them already.  Most are teams that I’ve done before though there are a few new ones there.  Good road trips type of games.  I.  Can’tWait!!

Photos gallery of this past season:

Post game meal waiting for us in the locker room. Hot dogs, pretzels, Gatorades, Snicker bars and Doritos. This school takes great care of officials. Others give you a bottle of water and that's it.

Post game meal waiting for us in the locker room. Hot dogs, pretzels, Gatorades, Snicker bars and Doritos. This school takes great care of officials. Others give you a bottle of water and that’s it.

After the game. Do you see all of our groupies waiting for us...at center court? I didn't think so

After the game. Do you see all of our groupies waiting for us…at center court? I didn’t think so

Pregame....just waiting for the sophomore game to finish. Joel stretching out and Dan reviewing the rule book.

Pregame….just waiting for the sophomore game to finish. Joel stretching out and Dan reviewing the rule book.

This night we're in the coaches office. Not too glamorous but at least its warm and roomy.

This night we’re in the coaches office. Not too glamorous but at least its warm and roomy.

Never leave a music teacher alone in your back seat with frosted windows. Never....

Never leave a music teacher alone in your back seat with frosted windows. Never….

On our way to Cedar Falls

On our way to Cedar Falls

At our first tournament game.

At our first tournament game.

An hour and a half drive. Great sunset...again.

An hour and a half drive. Great sunset…again.

Did I tell you that leaving a music teacher alone is a bad idea?

Did I tell you that leaving a music teacher alone is a bad idea?

An hour + drive started out with Joel playing C.W. McCall's Convey three times in a row. Loved. IT.

An hour + drive started out with Joel playing C.W. McCall’s Convoy three times in a row. Loved. IT.

Baseball starts in two and a half months.  Time to get into the rule book.  Sadly…my real love really begins on December 5th….for now.  More games should be assigned soon.  Thanks for coming along.  God bless!

R

On this hallowed eve…

Ahhh….turning 51 tomorrow.  What can I say?  My celebrity pals have been all over it.   Brad Pitt sent me a pair of mittens that he knitted himself (or so he says…).  Beyoncé dedicated a song to me at her last concert (or so she says…I wasn’t there.  Her concerts are past my bedtime) and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said that the first touchdown pass that he throws in tonight’s Super Bowl will be for me (he always says crap like that…).   Anyway…celebrity notables aside, here’s what’s on my mind as I turn 51:

  • You know that you’re getting older when the gifts that you receive become more and more about comfort and “socks” are mentioned as your number one item.  Instead my beloved bride bought me a really nice chair to sit my dainty derriere into whilst I sit in front of the computer, making funny for you folks.  Nicely played Connie Sue.
  • Failure isn’t fatal.  If I had come to this realization forty years earlier I can’t help but think just how different this life would be.  In high school I would have danced my ass off at homecoming and prom.  Ass….OFF.  I would have shot the ball constantly in basketball.  You can’t score if you don’t shoot.  I probably would have started down a different career path.  It’s not that I don’t like what I do now, it’s just maybe these talents would have been better suited elsewhere.  At the age of 51…its probably too late to try something different.  Everyday I’m around many young people. I encourage them. I let them know that while I am their boss and hold them accountable for their actions that they are valuable and there’s no such thing as a “perfect life”.  That todays culture doesn’t put enough importance on being: honest, trustworthy, friendly, moral, having a good work ethic and playing nice with others.  That you don’t have to agree with everyone. That life is oftentimes a grind of the boring and mundane.  That it’s up to you to make it happen for you.  And while I’m at it…making work fun and stable for those under my watch.  I really appreciate those tried and true stalwarts of my work day.
Failing...?

Failing…?

  • Are you like me?  Old enough to remember the days when you had to buy a rock groups whole album just to get the ONE song that you really liked?  Albums were like ten bucks or more, and unless the group was really good you had just paid ten dollars for one song.  That’s why I think ITunes is the bees knees.  $1.29 for one song.  Just a couplea clicks and its downloaded into your computer.  A few more clicks and its burned onto a blank DVD-R for the CD player in my old Chevy truck.  Quick survey…who has AC/DC AND the Statler Brothers in their ITunes library?  Anyone…?  Anyone…?  Just…me?  Figures.  The Class of 57 is GOLD people.  GOLD.
  • Yes, I will be getting back into the gym.  Officiating basketball doesn’t really keep a guy fit or build the upper body.  Goals set.  Failure looms.  Let’s see what happens.
  • At this age I’m probably more apt to call a spade a spade, a drama queen a drama queen and walk away from idiots rather than waste my time and energy.
  • I traveled to four different countries this past year.  Headed to Europe this year.  I’m pumped.  I’m also pumped to take a two-day road trip, camera in tow,  of the back roads of my beloved home state…Iowa.  I might even make it a three-day trip.
Hanging Lake is stunningly beautiful....but when your daughter asks you to do a pano selfie you jump ALL OVER IT!!

Hanging Lake is stunningly beautiful….but when your daughter asks you to do a pano selfie you jump ALL OVER IT!!

Rooms next to the river.  Nuff said

Rooms next to the river. Nuff said

  • I haven’t gotten any post-season officiating assignments.  There’s still time, I suppose, but I’m skeptical.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you do your best, get a glowing evaluation from a state clinician at a big time game, love the sport and work on it daily to get better only to be on the outside looking in…left out of the tournament.  I had a great season, nothing can diminish that.  I’m a good official, and so are the guys on our crew…but it wasn’t meant to be this season.  Failure isn’t fatal, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lesson to learn from it.  I just don’t know what that lesson is, yet.  I’ll have all off-season to mull it over.  All.  EightMonths. 
It could be a long offseason....

It could be a long offseason….

  • I’ll be published!!  A magazine contacted me about writing an article for them.  Dead serious!  I signed a contract and am getting paid to write.  I had my right-brained wife (who’s real anal about being smart…cause she is…) proof-read the article prior to submission.  She had me add a couple dozen comma’s and apostrophes.  Nuff said.
  • It’s a time of transition.  My old classmates are becoming grandparents.  Those big-haired, sexy vixens from the early nineteen eighties are now grannies…and are totally rocking it!!  I love seeing them with their grandkids on Facebook.  It’s also a time when some of my older friends are retiring.  What.  The.  Hell?!  I can’t have friends that old…can I?  Good for them.  AARP has been blowing up my phone trying to get me into their stable of older celebrities.  I’m not buying…for now.
Ooo...touch tone phones?!  Why didn't you SAY so?

Ooo…touch tone phones?! Why didn’t you SAY so?

  • This next year I’ll try to shore up some long time friendships that have gotten on the cool side of luke-warm.  You may never know what kind of journey someone’s on until you park their ass on a bar stool and buy them a beer, or three.

Thanks to all of you for your friendship, for reading along and commenting.  I count myself truly blessed to have each of you in my life.  God bless.

R

 

 

Why I’m loved the most…the letter

Five years ago this weekend, in the early morning hours of Sunday, my father passed from his life of pain into Heaven.  It was expected.  He’d been under Hospice care for a week, at a nursing home.  He couldn’t communicate very well, if at all.  Struggling to be comfortable.  Struggling to breath.  Struggling to live.  The call came in around 2 in the morning.  “Your Dad is dying”.  I didn’t make it there in time to say good-bye.  At peace…finally.

By the time I came along in 1966 (I was an “oops baby”) he and Mom had two sons ahead of me.  The closest in age is Brian, seven years my senior while Dan’s at the top of the batting order being eleven years older than me.  By the summer of 1977 I was pretty much an only child.  Just me, Dad and Mom.  I got spoiled. (if you couldn’t tell that already…)  I didn’t wear my brothers hand-me-downs like my next closest brother did.  It was Dad who told me repeatedly “You should be a comedian!!”  He was always telling us boys how proud he was of us, our wives, our children and how much he loved us and Mom.

Dad was ahead of his time.  He communicated really well.  Part Archie Bunker, part Mister Rogers, Dad could let you know exactly how he felt.  Sometimes bluntly (that guy is as worthless as tits on a boar) or softly when I was old enough to drive myself to parties where prior to leaving for the night he’d square up with me, look me in the eyes and tell me “If you need a ride home tonight…call us.  WE LOVE YOU.”  I took that seriously.  I had a reputation as being a “mama’s boy” in high school.  When you’ve got parents as cool as mine…YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT. 

Sometime in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s all of us were at Mom and Dad’s for Christmas.  All three sons and their families at the same time.  Dad and Mom were loving this day.  In the tree there were three envelopes.  One for each son, a letter in each.  I started to read mine, but really didn’t READ it until a day or two later.  It was nice.  I filed it away in my dresser drawer.  I might want it someday.

As we approached the day leading up to Dad’s visitation and funeral I had a strong feeling that I should share the letter that he had given me many Christmas’ ago.   I put a copy of it in my pocket and went off to his visitation.  I ran into his Pastor, a lady who farmed with her husband in a nearby community.  “They’re good people” Dad used to say of them.  I gave her the letter and said something along the lines of “if you think this will apply to tomorrows sermon…feel free to use it.”  She took it without looking at it, or commenting.

At Dad’s funeral the next day things were progressing along as well as could be expected when the Pastor pulled out Dad’s letter and read it aloud.  While I’m glad that I shared it, it was extremely hard to hear it being read and not become emotional.  Here it is:

THOUGHTS AND MEMORYS OF THE THREE

GUYS THAT MEAN THE MOST TO ME

Dear Daniel…I’ve loved you the most because you were our first born.  You were the beginning of a marriage, a fulfillment of our Love for each other.  You held us together through our first years, the first apartment in Furth Germany, our first mode of transportation, FEET.  You were new, BOY, we were too.  You were the prototype model.  You are one of a kind, and you are OURS.

Dear Brian…I’ve loved you the most because you were the center of our family, a tough position.  I believe you’re stronger because of it.  Your clothes were someone else’s, as were most things.  You were the one we started to realize that you were not made of eggs and had a personality of your own.  You came at a time of life style change and marriage routine.  You were the love of our ambitious years.  Our Love for you is SPECIAL.

Dear Richard…I’ve loved you the most because while your Mother and I have grown more experienced we’ve found that things in the beginning thought to be important aren’t necessarily so.  Generally endings are sad, but we are not sad, you give us much happiness.  You are our link with the past; dates, girls, ballgames, cars, beer, and troubles, and our hope of the future.  You’ve quickened our step, lightened our heart and straightened our shoulders and given us a humor that maturity doesn’t provide.  You are our Love of Life.

We miss Dad dearly.  If there’s a lesson, a take-a-way, from his letter its that you should let your loved ones know how you feel about them. Whether in spoken word, a letter that gets stashed away in a dresser drawer or some other means.  Say it.  Write it down.  Whatever.  Do it.  They’ll want to hear it.  If not today…eventually.

Dad and Mom Ripley

Dad and Mom Ripley

God bless.

R

 

2016 Ripley year in review

The highlights and lowlights of 2016 (make yourself comfortable….I might go on a rant)

February…I was assigned three post-season basketball games, a personal high for me.  It’ll be a tough number to beat but every night on the court I try not to suck.  So far….so good.  I used to get butterflies before each game, hours before tip.  Nowadays I get a little nervous, but only to get the game started and start having fun.

April…I took a cruise in the Caribbean with my best buddy.  It was a banner year of travel for yours truly.  Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico and Japan.  Some of my favorite photos of the year were taken during this cruise.  Dave’s my wingman.  Has been since August of 1984.

KICKIN' ASS SINCE 1984

KICKIN’ ASS SINCE 1984

The Tequila Kid and The Ripper

The Tequila Kid and The Ripper

June….a family vacation to Colorado.  All five of us.  Again…lots of fun, great food and a few memorable photos.

Hurricane Pass

Hurricane Pass

We were all over those rapids like a hobo on a ham sandwich

We were all over those rapids like a hobo on a ham sandwich

August…the unexpected death of a young friend.  I miss him.  I was working yesterday when a young man wearing a hoodie turned towards me asked a question, he looked like my friend.  It took me aback.  His death has affected the way that I manage our young employees.  I can’t say that its a better way of managing, but more aware of what’s at stake.  Over the course of 27 years I’ve known five employees who’ve taken their own lives.  I’ve never come to a reasonable answer for any one of them.  As I said before…I miss him.

2016...With our friends daughter, Lilly. She'll never know...

2016…With our friends daughter, Lilly. She’ll never know how great of a person Jordan was.

 

August…..they flew the coop!!  Our two youngest daughters left…in a big way.  One to Germany.  The other to Japan.  Our closest daughter is in Miami…1500 miles away.  My wife and I are all alone.

September….we’ve lived in this neighborhood since 2002.  We’ve been the “new” neighbors for almost 15 years to our next door neighbors.  With Pat and Ed moving into an assisted living apartment and our other neighbor moving to a nearby town…Connie and I are now “old” neighbors.  The young couple living next to us put up a privacy fence and don’t let me pet their dog (of all things…?) but at least Jerry and Claire seem more like our kind.  Nice…wave if they see you…stop and talk.

October...at my workplace, I started posting videos on our stores Facebook page with the charge of “engage our customers”.  Many of the videos that I see on Facebook for our company are…professional though fairly bland, in my opinion.  What I did was become Rowdy Rich.  I  started putting stuff out there with the idea of trying to catch our customers attention with #1…a gimmick (me wearing a pig nose for National Pork Month or something else) and #2…a great price on something that our customers may want.  Its resulted in folks enjoying our Facebook videos but as far as driving us towards a sizable sales increase, don’t hold your breath.

November….I traveled to Japan to visit our daughter Karalee.  Its a long-ass flight…dead serious, but quite an adventure…and I totally enjoyed myself.

At some falls in a gorge with Karalee

At some falls in a gorge with Karalee

December…I read my Facebook “Year in Review”.  Can’t say that I liked it, so I didn’t post it.  What I did find interesting is that I “liked” 5300 times.  REALLY?!  Am I that promiscuous with the “like” button?!  Broken down daily…that’s like 15 “likes” a day.  I was wondering if I was being too liberal with it, then I realized that I was being totally stupid because I’m always going to “like” or react to dog and cat videos, beautiful sunrise/sunset photos, memes that are probably inappropriate and a friend of mine posted her Facebook in review and she had over 10,000 “likes” (BTW…she rarely posts, what she does post isn’t funny and she’s a fairly quiet person….so if anyone has a problem it’s her….not me, cause I’m normal).

Connie left me alone for the holidays.  Dead serious.  For the last week I’ve been totally alone.  Christmas Eve…alone.  Christmas morning…alone.  Thank God my brother and his wife had me over for Christmas dinner (where I was fed like a King!!).  Before you get the tar warmed up and feathers ready, she’s visiting our two daughters.  One in Germany and one in Japan, with a quick visit to Sweden where she’s touring where her ancestors lived, not to mention the moose burgers she ate and wine she’s been drinking…all the while “missing you sweetheart!!”  That old ruse!!  Someone needs to start a business where you can rent a pet for the duration of your wife’s vacation.  Her absence would be greatly eased with either a puppy or kitten greeting me every nightDead serious. 

My boss had a baby.  So I’m trying to do my job and hers.  I can’t really half-ass either and get away with it…so I’ve been going into work on my days off for a few hours and working.  I’ve worked 25 hours in two days so far this week!  Its okay…I’m just getting a little grumpy towards the end of my work day…especially with no puppy or kitten or wife to greet me at home.  Also…since its Christmas break there’s no basketball games to officiate to work off my stress.  Honestly…that brings me down as well.

I’m part of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, an organization that pairs at-risk kids with mentors.   I’m a Big Brother to a 14 year-old young man.  I try to be a good influence on him, take him to movies, dinner, games, try to teach him life-skills, etc.  We’ve been together for 2+ years.  Recently his mother (and him) won’t respond to me taking him out like we used to do.  I’ve been trying for two months with nothing happening.  If his mother does reply she says that “he’ll get back to you”.  I understand that he’s 14, probably doesn’t think replying to my texts are a big deal…but I wonder if we’re “done”.  It kind of made me mad, at first, but perhaps I was only to be a part of his life for these past two years and that’s his journey, not mine.  Our case worker is reaching out to him…but I have a feeling that its “over”.  If it is…I’d be sad.  He doesn’t have a good male role model (not that I’m a Boy Scout by any measure….) in his life.  His friends are shoplifting and such, I told his mother that. He might be done with me.   I’ll just wait and see.

Ripley's...jumping for joy

Ripley’s…jumping for joy

I hope that your year was a great one.  Take care and thanks for coming along.

God bless…

R

 

The trip home…

My trip back to good old America started with me being dropped off in Miyazaki for my overnight stay prior to my flight out the following morning.  Miyazaki’s a large city and I readily looked forward to an afternoon to walking around and exploring the sights nearest my hotel.  It was a Sunday so not a lot was going on but there was still plenty to take in.  Firstly…I loved it.  It’s not too often that a middle-aged guy like me anticipates an afternoon of just walking around and looking.  I didn’t have my interpreter with me (our daughter Karalee) so finding my way back to my hotel after walking quite a ways from it would be my biggest challenge.  I had booked my room through Travelocity.com and was pleasantly surprised how nice it was for only $58 a night (The Sky Tower Hotel).  Here are some of the local sights that I found interesting.

McDonalds Halloween Witch's Fries.  Purple sweet potato and chocolate sauce OR pumpkin and chocolate sauce.  I didn't try any.  What I did find out was that McDonalds makes the same bland burgers for the Japanese as they do for us in the States.

McDonalds Halloween Witch’s Fries. Purple sweet potato and chocolate sauce OR pumpkin and chocolate sauce. I didn’t try any. What I did find out was that McDonalds makes the same bland burgers for the Japanese as they do for us in the States.

The "thing" in the refrigerator was a bottle of water.  Did you know that beer cans in Japan have braille on them?  True story!

The “thing” in the refrigerator was a bottle of water. Did you know that beer cans in Japan have braille on them? True story!

A traffic light.  This hat-wearing dude is EVERYWHERE in Japan...

A traffic light. This hat-wearing dude is EVERYWHERE in Japan…

No need to get spooked.  There's only a mafia hitman standing behind you as you wait for the light to turn green

No need to get spooked. There’s only a mafia hitman standing behind you as you wait for the light to turn green

...and now he's stealing your bike...

…and now he’s stealing your bike…

A rare photograph of the fedora-capped stranger behind me.  I tried to alert the proper authorities...in vain.

A rare photograph of the fedora-capped stranger behind me. I tried to alert the proper authorities…in vain.

So I walked around for a few hours, into the late afternoon, up and down streets and avenues packed with all kinds of shops.

The Colonel's kind of a big deal in Japan...

The Colonel’s kind of a big deal in Japan…

I found, of all places, a “Celtic Sport Pub” where I had a delicious American Blue Moon bottle of beer…for close to $9.  Regardless of its high price it tasted awesome.  I headed back towards my hotel where I contemplated eating in their hotel restaurant.  I hedged thinking that I didn’t fly halfway across the world not to take a chance at a local place.  I chose a place and took a seat.  Thank goodness that the menu had photos and between me and my server my selection was made without any international incidents occurring.

...uh...yeah...the deep fat-fried thing stuffed with...cheese?

…uh…yeah…the deep fat-fried thing stuffed with…cheese?

…and….

Delicous-ness!!  Basically a fried pork cutlet, prawn, soup and rice.

Delicious-ness!! Basically a fried pork cutlet, prawn, soup and rice.

Tommy Lee Jones is the spokesman for Boss Coffee in Japan.  Dead serious.

Tommy Lee Jones is the spokesman for Boss Coffee in Japan. Dead serious.  He looks none too happy about it.

Fast forward to the next morning.  I had set up a taxi ride to the airport in the morning.  That went great.  Once arriving at the airport the ticket counter couldn’t “find” me.  Literally…they had my passport and couldn’t find me on the 11 o’clock flight to Tokyo…and the lack of them understanding English and me Japanese didn’t help.  We were about ten minutes into this dilemma when I said “listen…I gotta be on that flight.  I’ll buy a ticket and settle up with Travelocity.com when I get home”.  The third of the three ticket counter ladies just smiled at me and continued typing away.  Sweat beads ran down my back…it was warm and I was stressed.  Finally one of the ladies asked if I had kept my old ticket stub from when I had arrived.  CHA-CHING!!  I had kept it!!  I gave it to her and literally (LITERALLY) two minutes later I was walking away with my new ticket.

Fast forward again…I landed in Tokyo’s Haneda airport on time.  I had to transfer to Tokyo’s other international airport via a shuttle bus.  I had somewhere like six hours before my flight to Chicago boarded.  PLENTY of time (or so I thought).  I hustled to the shuttle bus ticket area and found…CHAOS.  Okay…not chaos…but an alarmingly large selection of transportation venues.  I was kind of “oh…sh*t…” (ever been there?  Not a good state of mind…am I right?)  Anyway…if you believe in God (like I do) you’ll like this.  I saw an airport employee, a young 20-something, walking towards me.  I got her attention, without looking like a crazed middle-aged American, and asked her where I could buy a shuttle bus ticket to Narita.  Get this…she was friendly, she took me to a ticket kiosk, changed its screen to read English, helped me buy the right ticket then led me to the bus stop and put me in the right line (mind you…there’s many buses coming and going by the minute).  She was an Angel.  Dead serious.  My wait for the bus was like two minutes before I was boarded and heading the right way.

Second Angel.  As we began our drive to Narita airport, which I thought would be a twenty minute ride, I struck up a conversation with a guy who I was pretty sure would understand English, Thomas.  Thomas is black.  There aren’t many black people in Japan, like he was the only one in Japan at the time.  Anyway…I asked Thomas how long the ride was.  He replied “an hour and a half.”  Holy cow!!  I hadn’t planned for this at all.  In my rush to find a ticket counter and thinking that the ride would be a short one I didn’t buy or bring something on the bus to drink, and I was parched!  Get this…Thomas not only calmed me down (I’m a little high-strung when traveling…) he gave me his unopened bottle of apple juice (I’m not a big fan of apple juice BUT this one tasted wonderful!!) and gave me a great person to talk and listen to during the ride and told me which stop to get off at once at Narita.  Thomas was great.  He’s Methodist by the way.

Once I found my gate I had a couple of hours to kill.  I was flying back in economy…not quite the business class that I had hoped for…but I was going home.  The plane would take off at 6 PM Tokyo time with a 3 PM landing in Chicago.

So long Japan!   Its been fun.  Let's do it again soon.

So long Japan! Its been fun. Let’s do it again soon.

I used to be a nervous-nelly on flights.  Twitching at every little chime, buzz or sound.  Not anymore.  Old Rich Ripley is a world-traveler.  I write.  I read.  I have a few drinks.  I watch TV.  Flying over an ocean…? No problem.  Forty minutes into our flight we had turbulence.  I mean real-live roller coaster, people shouting, plane shaking, pilot telling the flight attendants “ATTENDANTS GET TO YOUR SEATS”.  It was scary.  I thought to myself “this is the way that Hollywood portrays the moments before a plane crash.”  Surprisingly enough…I didn’t get overly concerned, but enough to have an impromptu chat with the Lord concerning aforementioned flight over said ocean.  The turbulence only lasted a few minutes…but long enough to leave a lasting impression.

We reached Chicago unscathed.  I had to really hustle to make it from my “big jet” gate to my little old “regional jet gate”.  I had less than 70 minutes to find my way through customs and on towards my new gate…which I didn’t know where it was…yet.

After clearing customs (when you’re a bigshot like me, they’re just happy to have me back in the States…you feel me?) I was starting to find my bearings as to where I needed to go next.  I saw a couple of the flight crew from my flight walking next to me.  I made a remark about the turbulence that we had experienced, had a nice laugh and I asked them if I could go out the door that they were exiting by…..and my next Angels were there.  They asked me what gate I was flying out from and once they heard that they replied “we’re walking right past it.  Come along with us!”  Dear Lord…these two attendants made the fifteen minute jaunt through a major international airport, onto a shuttle train, through security and right to my gate back to Iowa so easy.  I mean it…our Good and Gracious Lord made coming home so easy.  From the girl in Tokyo to Thomas on the shuttle to these two attendants walking me to my gate after working an eleven hour flight…just AWESOME.

My flight back to Cedar Rapids from Chicago is barely thirty minutes long.  I look down on the lights of Chicago fading to the east as the darkened farm fields of rural Illinois and Iowa slip under us.  I see the Mississippi River, the moon reflecting on it…it won’t be long now.  A combine illuminates the corn rows ever so slightly before taking them it.  Its funny what a person recognizes, if even from thousands of feet in the air above it.  I see a farm houses stretched down rural roads every so often…shining like little warm mercury-lit beacons…like bread crumbs left along a trail…guiding this Iowan back home.  We land, the cool early November air washes over me in the jet-bridge.  Dear God…what a journey.  Thank you for carrying me home.

Thank you for coming along with me.

God bless,

R

 

You’re not here….

I stopped in to see you today.  I was minding my own business when Gun’s & Roses “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” came on the radio.  I’ve heard that song three times since you chose to leave us.  On the drive to your visitation.  Once in September when I was a block away from you and I stopped in, and this morning when I was three blocks from you.  Its like you, or someone else, is nudging me towards you, again.

I honestly don’t know why I stop to see you.  You’re not there, just a marker with your name, date of birth and the day you left us.  A relatively fresh bouquet of red roses, and one withered arrangement of lavender roses.  Some autumn decorations and one heartfelt Ziploc baggie with hearts drawn on with a few cookies in it.  We still miss you bro.

As if the holidays weren’t hard enough, a cold cloud of melancholy sadness lies over many of our hearts.  “What if…?” still crosses my mind.  I’m not alone. 

December 2013 you and Dalton asked if you could stripe the mannicans of their holiday clothes and wear them that night.  I said "why the hell not..?"  You were always looking for a laugh.

December 2013 you and Dalton asked if you could stripe the mannequins of their holiday clothes and wear them that night. I said “why the hell not..?” You were always looking for a laugh.

I looked forward to you rolling your eyes at me as you flashed across the front end of our store, on your way to another supervisor call.  To you sarcastically telling me how amazed you are at me being able to navigate from one country to another.  To you telling me to “get to work”, to how much I looked forward to discussing my trip to Germany with you.  I miss your work ethic.  You left a huge professional void at our store.  I miss talking football with you…and movies.

Probably being naughty...but nice around Santa this year

Probably being naughty…but nice around Santa this year

I’ve wondered why I visit your grave?  Throat tight, eyes watery, chest heavy…I guess that I’m no good at grieving someone who shouldn’t be dead…someone whom I love.  Do me a favor, Jordan, the next time that you nudge me…nudge me somewhere happyThanks bro.  Until then…rest my brother, rest. 

Rip

Sleep deprived is where its at!!

If you had told me just a few months ago that I’d be traveling to Japan this November I’d have thought you were crazy.  Not only is Japan a country that I wasn’t interested in its also a long-ass ways away from Iowa.  But…when your middle daughter (whom you love dearly) moves to Japan to take a job you find that your interest in all things Japanese rises significantly.  Karalee, our middle daughter, teaches English in a school in southern Japan.  Fortunately I can afford the time off and expense of travel to visit her. (remember all of those games that I referee…?  Yeah…some of that money went to this trip)

I decided to make this trip a couple of months ago.  My wife, Connie, wouldn’t be joining me since she was working and also had a trip planned in December to visit Karalee.  With the help of our daughters we planned out what I had to do, when I needed to do it and where I’d end up.  Without their help and expertise I don’t know if I would have been able to make this trip as easily as I did.  Granted…there were some well-place angels along my journey who pointed me in the right direction, and for them, I’m very grateful.

I left Iowa before six in the morning on the 31st, flying first to Denver then onto Los Angles.  I fly stand-by quite a bit.  What that means is that if there’s a seat left empty on the plane, yours truly is in line to buy that empty seat at a reduced price.  There’s no guarantee that I’ll even get a seat on the flight, but there’s a chance I might.  I’ve been left behind before, multiple times if the flight fills up. The bigger the plane, the better the chance to get on.  On the 31st there was a seat in Business class left if I wanted to pay the higher price for it (more than Economy, less than face).  I hadn’t ever flown Business Class before and it was a 12 hour flight to Tokyo so I asked for and got it.  It was over-the-top SWEET!!  My own space.  A totally reclining seat.  Bose noise-muffling earphones.  A top of the line menu (I had the salmon and a hot fudge sundae).  Alcohol, nuff said.  Midnight snack bar. A larger TV monitor.  A better selection of “free” movies and TV shows!!  I was like a kid in a candy store!!  Our flight attendant was Carter…and he was the bomb.  “Another bourbon Mister Ripley?”  Why yes Carter…that’d be excellent.

5489 miles til we land heh? I guess I've got time...

5489 miles til we land heh? I guess I’ve got time…

...for some nuts and adult beverage...

…for some nuts and an adult beverage…

..and an excellent meal. I had the salmon. The whole meal was wonderful

..and an excellent meal. I had the salmon. The whole meal was wonderful

The hot fudge sundae was the bomb!

The hot fudge sundae was the bomb!

The whole experience was wonderful.  I knew that I’d have time to kill during the flight because (wait for it….) I can’t sleep on planes.  Tried it, won’t work.  I always hear someone coughing, or the toilet flushing or a chime or something.  I can’t sleep.  So I was especially excited about the upgraded entertainment options.  After I watched Star Trek 2 I opted for a Melissa McCarthy comedy.

Who doesn't find this funny...? Anyone?

Who doesn’t find this funny…? Anyone?

I watched TV show after TV show.  Read.  Wrote in my journal.  Laid my seat down.  Tossed.  Turned.  Read some more.  Raided the midnight snack island (my take was six lady-finger sandwiches and a handful of delicious cookies).  Anyway…no sleep.  Even in the comfort of Business Class yours truly cannot sleep, but the guy next to me fell asleep shortly after taking off.  I resent him for this. 

Tokyo?! Its getting all real up in here people!!

Tokyo?! Its getting all real up in here people!!

Eventually….we get close to Japan and they serve us breakfast.  It doesn’t feel right eating breakfast when you haven’t slept and you’ve traveled fourteen hours INTO the future.  Towards the end of this day I figure that I stayed awake almost 29 hours straight. (I would NOT recommend it)  At Tokyo I breeze through customs (they’re thrilled to see me, who wouldn’t want to bask in the warm glow of my presence…?) and try to locate the ANA ticket counter for my connecting flight to Miyazaki where Karalee lives.  After several false starts and stops (mostly stops) one of the lady’s at the ANA luggage counter gives me easy to follow directions to the their ticket counter.  I need to stop here and say that the Japanese folks that I ran into were always very polite and courteous, my whole trip.  The ticket counter ladies found my Travelocity reservation and got me my ticket, then referred me to the shuttle that would take me to the correct terminal.  I breezed through a Japanese security check point then onto a shuttle bus where I struck up a nice conversation with two Germans from Munich.  Great guys, too bad we didn’t have time for a beer, but I had to find my gate.

I found my gate!!! I think. Hold on...what's that say...?

I found my gate!!! I think. Hold on…what’s that say…?

Fortunately the sign above rotated between English and Japanese every few seconds and the gates were easily found.

These were all over Japan. Earthquake bars? For the handicapped? Just in case you have a strong stream and need to brace yourself? Not willing to find out...I don't use them...

These were all over Japan. Earthquake bars? For the handicapped? Just in case you have a strong stream and need to brace yourself? Not willing to find out…I don’t use them…

I was feeling kind of sick now…just not right, so I walked around the terminal until I found a place where the food looked good.  I viewed their menu board and hoped that I could make enough sense to them so that I’d get some food.  The young man behind the counter beckoned me over and showed me a menu with photos of the food.   I just pointed to a sandwich and drink and hoped for the best.  It was delicious.  I’m sure that there’s a Japanese word for these sandwiches but in American lexicon it was a cold cut sandwich with avocados and egg salad on it served on a delicate sweet bread.  As soon as I stood up the young man returned and picked up my tray and thanked me (I think…he was smiling and nodding).  Regardless…my first real experience interacting with the locals.  Speaking of locals…they turned out in large numbers to see me off to Miyazaki!!

Its a PACKED HOUSE to see me in Tokyo!! PACKED!!

Its a PACKED HOUSE to see me in Tokyo!! PACKED!!

Once boarded on my flight departing Tokyo we waited…and waited.  Not too long…but a busy night at Tokyo’s International Airport in Haneda.

There's at least two planes behind us out there in the dark...

There’s at least two planes behind us out there in the dark…

My flight to Miyazaki went well, only taking a little over an hour and a half.

Sweet Jesus!! Finally here and headed to Karalee's apartment. Thank you Lord!!

Sweet Jesus!! Finally here and headed to Karalee’s apartment. Thank you Lord!!

Karalee was waiting for me at the airport.  I was so tired and thank goodness everything went well.  One thing that really played with my head is that in Japan they drive on the opposite side of the roads, that combined with going through some mountains, twisting and curving our way there…left me a little weirded out.  Not by her driving….just the whole being sleep deprived and seeing someone in a big truck in what I thought was our lane coming right at us.  Ah…good times being too tired to be totally scared out of my mind.  Once at her apartment I shower and hit the sack.  Too tired to roll over I fall asleep with my body halfway off the mattress that’s laid on the floor for me.  Karalee snaps a photo and sends it to Connie letting her know that I’ve arrived safely…even if I look like I’ve been murdered on her living room floor.  A fun week ensues.  Come along if you like, we won’t be talking politics.  That’s my promise to you.

God bless!

R