If you didn’t start reading on Day 1, you might want to start from the beginning …
Long travel days suck me dry. Today started with an early ride on the metro to the airport. Of all the travelling I’ve done, Barcelona is the easiest and most affordable city for airport transportation. Most places will rake your wallet for a ride to get to and from the airport, but in Barcelona a standard inexpensive metro pass gets you there no problem.
Our first layover was in Brussels and for Aubree that meant one thing, Belgian Chocolate. She wasn’t too happy, however, to see it stuffed and sealed in the customs-friendly bag. She was even less happy when I told her we couldn’t open it until we got home. After all, her argument to buy it was “Curti wants chocolate, that’s all he asked for…we have to get some for him!”
I tried to sleep on the flight to Philly but it wasn’t so easy. At least we had 3 seats between the two of us, which gave us a bit more room. Dramamine didn’t even help, normally that stuff knocks me right out. I think I was just too excited to get home and see Sandi, Curti, and Mikayla than to catch Z’s. We made it to Philly and had to hang out for a couple hours.
Normally I hate the last leg of a flight, especially a 5 hour one. By that point I’m ready to be home and I get anxious and jittery. The seats seem smaller and it’s all I can do to keep from jumping up and screaming “Get me off this Plane!” But as Aubree and I were waiting for the final departure, Keefer, a stocky guy sat next to us and gave us a hearty greeting. We ended up talking for the entire flight, it was really cool. He was a fascinating, old-fashioned tough guy who spends his retirement fishing the world. In fact, he was just returning from the North Pole where they canoed hundreds of miles fishing the wilderness.
When I say Keefer is an old-fashioned tough guy, I’m not using a metaphor. He’s a Harley riding, bar brawling, tattooed black belt, former special Ops sniper who could give Jack Baer a run for his money. Several scars on his Clint-Eastwood-like face were like a billboard saying “Go Ahead, Make my Day.” As we talked, and he told me of a fight he once got into on an airplane, I said, “You know Keefer, I’m totally opposite of you…the only fights I ever got in I didn’t even fight back. I wish I would have, and if I ever get assaulted again I’m not going to take it. But back in 5th grade, I didn’t.” He nodded and said, “I could learn a lot from you Warren, and you could learn a lot from me. Somewhere in the middle is the ideal balance. So if it happens again, what are you going to do? Have you thought about it?”
So he gave me some pointers and, right there in the coach section of a 737, and showed me how to kick somebody’s ass (lol, as if it was that easy). He said most fights are over with the first punch, always get the first punch. But I struggle with that. It goes against my nature to take the aggressive stance like that. By the end of it he was all pumped up and said, “#@$%%%! Now I want to get in a fight!” I laughed and said, “Dang man, I hope nobody accidently bumps into you on the way off the plane!”
He left home and school during 7th grade and forged his own life which led through a GED, the military, and a multimillion dollar construction business that allowed him to retire at 50 and travel the world fishing. A fascinating life.
I don’t get the sense he generally tries to start fights. All the brawls he told me about were cases where he stepped up to defend either himself or somebody else. But I don’t think it takes much to antagonize him. Although I don’t want to be quite as aggressive as him, I do want to rough up my edges in some places. I admire how direct he can be with people. Like the woman who kept kicking the back of his seat on one plane ride telling him to put his seat up. He told her he was tired and needed to sleep, so she started hitting his head with her magazine. He grabbed the magazine and turned around and said “If you do that one more time, I’ll put your head through the back of that wall.” (This wasn’t the plane fight I mentioned earlier, no old ladies were hurt or injured in that story.)
I don’t want to be that aggressive, but knowing me, I would have just put my seat up and let that grumpy old woman push me around. I don’t like that either. And he said, “You know, if she would have just asked nice I would have compromised, but she was a total @$$.” Personally, I prefer to work with people and compromise but I’ve let bullies intimidate me too many times. It doesn’t happen very often in my life anymore, but there are a lot of real dicks out there in the world and I still run across them from time to time.
It was exciting standing on the curb watching for the RAV to come around the corner when Sandi and Curti picked us up. Mikayla was in California with her friend and we wouldn’t get to see her for several more days. We got hugs, went home, gave out our presents (Sandi loved her jewelry), and I finally got to sleep in my own bed. I remember the night I slept on the sidewalk that was all I could think about, how comfy my own bed was. Course…I couldn’t sleep. Exhausted…but unable to sleep all night. Dang jet lag.
The trip was awesome. It was a nice blend of different types of experiences and I wouldn’t want to change anything about it. Not the heat, not the long train rides, not the night on the streets…I really had a great time and expanded my view of life and the world. It was neat to spend so much time with Aubree. She is sure a wonderful young woman; smart, witty, vivacious, and sensitive. I appreciated how flexible she was with our plans. She rolled and adapted with all our struggles and pushed through the exhausting moments. I know there were times she was frustrated, but she didn’t take it out on me. Especially with how tight I can be on when it comes to money. My old high school buddy used to say “Nobody can stretch a dollar like Warren.” My enemies say “Warren is a selfish old miser.” They are both right.
I just feel fortunate that I have a 17 year old daughter willing to spend almost two solid weeks on a vacation alone with her old man. It’s the type of thing I think a typical 17 year old might see more as a punishment than a gift. But not only did she agree to it, she did it and together we laughed, hiked, sweated, explored, got lost…just the two of us, in Europe. Awesome 🙂 The only sad thing about the trip is that it is over now. I’ll never have a chance like that with my oldest 17 year old daughter again. She’s going to go her own way in life very soon, it’s already happening. But the good thing is the memories and pictures will be with me forever.
Stay tuned for a large collection of Pictures from the trip…