Sunday, October 7, 2012

4 Days in the Land of Oz

Rushing off from work I had a 6 p.m. flight from Fort Myers through Atlanta into Kansas City.  It was my first trip home in more than a year.  Despite a bumpy ride across the southeast I was more than happy to touch down at KCI at 11:30 p.m.  I was struck by the ghost town that the airport had become.  Sure it was late, but gate after gate had been abandoned.

As I glided into Hertz to pick up my rental car the agent noted my Fort Myers address.  He said, “You know your airport has more traffic now than ours.”  We kibitzed about the advantages of winter living in Southwest Florida as he finished my paperwork in record time I hustled to my car and off to a nearby airport motel that came complete with bugs in the room.  I didn’t care.  I just wanted to sleep.

The next morning I managed to time my arrival at Bryant’s for a lunch with Chris Ronan.  It was a good time to commiserate about injuries while enjoying one of the best barbeque beef sandwiches ever.  Chris went for the pulled pork.  I’m betting Chris rode an extra 50 miles on his bike over the weekend to work off the excess fat.

Friday was spent with my sister Dianne and my brother-in-law Bob.  The evening turned into a music fest with Bob running through memory lane of the San Diego music scene in the mid to late 60’s where the various bands he played in would open for some pretty amazing acts.  The evening included a slate of bawdy rock and roll and country tunes that were in the vein of Jimmy Buffett’s epic “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw.”  It was awesomely naughty.

Saturday morning Dianne and I took a trip out to the family farm.  We walked across some beautiful pasture that I had never bothered to visit before.  It sits east across a creek from our fields that are normally teaming with corn and soybeans.  Needless to say the drought did a number on the crops this year.

The toughest moment came at the main farmhouse where a massive hay barn is showing its age.  It nearly brought tears to my eyes to see it in such a dilapidated state.  I doubt that it will be standing in another five years.  It had served as a mysterious playground for me as a young boy.  I used it to host an epic high school party in which we were allowed to tear down and set fire to an old chicken coop.  The barn’s current state is just too sad to put into words.

 I spent an hour on Saturday afternoon with Phil Wedge, an old friend from high school and college.  He’s been teaching English at the University of Kansas for more than 30 years now.  I think he’s more proud of his two sons, Roy and George, than he is about his teaching, his years of softball, or any championship he’s managed to snare playing ball park baseball.

That night I went to my sister Karen’s beautiful home south of Lawrence to spend an evening celebrating my late mother’s birthday.  It was a chance to catch up with the cousins and hear their latest triumphs and tribulations.  The crowning moment actually came the following morning when I got to see my 89-year-old Aunt Betty, a lovely woman who is everything a family matriarch should be.

Monday was spent on the K.U. campus where the television news program appears to be in a shambles.  All the work that folks like Max Ustler, John Broholm and Dick Nelson had done to build a very good television news learning environment has been torn apart.  I won’t go into details but it’s a mess.

I took a trip to the Booth Family Hall of Fame that was built into the front of Allen Field House.  It is a beautiful tribute to Kansas athletics.  Gib and Betty Booth, my old neighbors, would be proud of what their children and grandchildren brought to the University of Kansas.

The trip back home was a nightmare.  An hour on the tarmac at KCI before a rushed arrival into Atlanta and another half hour on the tarmac before arriving home nearly an hour late with plenty of turbulence in between.  At least I made it home. 

The result of the trip and the lack of sleep that came with it was a nasty sinus infection.   As I sat quietly suffering Friday night at my assigned high school football game wearing my Jayhawk polo shirt, the audio operator leaned over and told me I’d like St. John Neumann’s new fight song.  Sure enough, “I’m a Jayhawk” blared out of the stadium speakers as the Celtics jogged onto a rain soaked field.  Too bad they didn’t win. But that’s another blog for another time.

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