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Greetings, my fellow port-swillers! I am back from my latest round of travels.  A few highlights and observations for you:

♦  My flight out of Dee Cee sat on the runway for an hour Wednesday morning waiting to be de-iced, resulting in my having to make a mad dash in Chicago in order to make my connection, which of course was waaaaay at the end of a different terminal.  Also, of course, when I got to the next gate, I learned that flight was temporarily delayed owing to a “maintenance” issue.  Half an hour later, they announced the flight was cancelled altogether.  The next one out (which I was lucky to get) didn’t leave for another five hours.  Thus, there came a point Wednesday afternoon when I felt I had spent all my life at O’Hare and was destined to spend the rest of eternity there as well.

♦  My abject fear of flying still haunts me, but more and more I find it getting trumped by sheer impatience to just get the damned trip over one way or another.

♦  Speaking of my white-knuckledness, I have stopped praying, as we accelarate down the runway, for a safe trip.  Instead, I find myself praying, in the event something does happen, for Jesus’ intercession on behalf of my sinful self (and on behalf of my fellow passengers) when we’re hauled up in front of the Celestial Magistrate.  (What is the line from St. Ambrose’s prayer about desiring His mercy because  I cannot face His judgment?  I have taken to saying both that prayer and the prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas before Mass.)  I think this is closer to the right idea in terms of understanding Faith.  Nonetheless, I still do cross myself in thanks once the wheels are safely back down on the tarmac.   

♦  Sitting in O’Hare, I found myself listening to a conversation behind me between some grungy young guy and his older travelling companion.  The young guy appeared to be the owner of some kind of business (what, I could not tell, but it had something to do with customized cars, I think) that farmed out a lot of sub-contracts.  The older guy was an accountant who obviously worked for him.  The older guy was trying, very patiently, to explain some budget irregularities to the younger guy.  These irregularities centered around some very sloppy book-keeping with regard to scope of work and money allocated for discrete jobs within the budget.  The younger guy, who didn’t really want to hear it, became increasingly dismissive and sarcastic, in the end saying something like, “Why do you always make things so complicated, man? You’re just going around in circles!  I know what I’m doing and I know I’m right!”

I found myself hoping the project, whatever it is, blows up in the young guy’s face.  Serve him right, the whippersnapper.

♦  A cautionary note for you:  Stay clear of the Marriott Courtyard in downtown Oklahoma City – the management there seems quite incompetent.  It took half an hour to dig up a valet to take care of my car.  It took three calls to get room service to deliver a lousy cheeseburger and fries.  The next night when I went down to the restaurant, the staff seemed eager to chase me off even though I was practically the only person there.  (Perhaps it was the crossword puzzle I was doing that freaked them out.)  There was no newspaper delivery to my room, despite its being advertised.  (Yes, it’s only USELESS Today, but headlines are headlines.) And housekeeping only restocked decaffinated coffee in my room, not regular.


♦  And now, a nicer note.  Some of you might suspect from my post regarding the Sauratown Mountains last fall that I have discovered a taste for geological relics.  Well, that suspicion is correct.  And as I tooled down I-35 on Thursday, I discovered a new one, namely the Arbuckle Mountains.  Here’s what  the USGS has to say about them:

The Arbuckle Mountains are an area of low to moderate hills in south-central Oklahoma. They contain a core of Precambrian granite and gneiss formed about 1,300 million years ago; in the western Arbuckles, Precambrian rocks are overlain by at least 5,000 feet of Cambrian rhyolites formed about 525 million years ago. Most of the Arbuckles consist of 15,000 feet of folded and faulted limestones, dolomites, sandstones, and shales deposited in shallow seas from Late Cambrian through Pennsylvanian time (515-290 million years ago). Folding and uplift of the mountains occurred during several mountain-building episodes in the Pennsylvanian Period. The complex mountain area probably was never more than several thousand feet above the surrounding plains and seaways. Relief in the area now ranges from 100 to 600 feet, and the highest elevation, about 1,415 feet, is in the West Timbered Hills, about 9 miles west-southwest of Davis. Although the relief in this mountain area is low, it is still impressive because it is six times greater than any other topographic feature between Oklahoma City and Dallas, Texas. Two significant features in the mountains are the deep road cuts on Interstate 35, and the “tombstone topography.” The road cuts are as much as 156 feet deep and provide spectacular exposures of rock units that are of strong interest to geologists, partly because they yield great amounts of oil and gas and other mineral and water resources throughout the southwestern United States. “Tombstone topography,” which looks like rows of tombstones in a field, results from differential weathering and erosion of alternating layers of hard and soft limestone that dip steeply into the ground. Important scenic sites in the Arbuckle Mountains are the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Turner Falls, Price Falls, and the Arbuckle Wilderness Park. The Arbuckles contain the most diverse suite of mineral resources in Oklahoma: limestone, dolomite, glass sand, granite, sand and gravel, shale, cement, iron ore, lead, zinc, tar sands, and oil and gas; all these minerals are, or have been, produced commercially.

And there you go.   In layman’s terms, the Arbuckles are a ridiculous little knot of short, steep hills surrounded by the rolling prairie.  When I first saw them, my inclination was to exclaim, “What the hell are those doing here?”  On closer inspection, I become fascinated with the “tombstone” effect mentioned above.  Indeed, I actually stopped at one of the scenic overlooks at the edge of the range where the highway passes through it.  As I stood there, I was overcome with the sense of age.  These hills were never very big.  Not like the Blue Ridge, for instance, which I read somewhere were once as tall as the Himalayas.  But they’re old, the remainders of a bygone era pretty much incomprehensible in one’s personal timeframe.   As I thought about it I got the shivers.  You may call me strange, but it was a nice feeling.

♦  To get where I was going, I had to get off the interstate and travel for about an hour along a number of secondary state highways.  I had brought along some CD’s to pass the time.  As I drove along I began to wonder whether Telemann had ever been heard along those roads before.  My guess would be probably not.

♦  I stopped off for lunch in Ardmore, OK late on Thursday afternoon.  It was a cold, clear day, very typical of February in that part of the country.  Looking about, it was extremely difficult to fathom that just a week before a tornado had ripped through the area, killing a number of people.  My sense from listening in on the conversations was that the area is still somewhat in shock about it.

♦  Coming back to Dee Cee yesterday, I sat across from a military man who was headed from one post to another.  As it happens, part of my job involves helping servicemen with their legal rights.  I also try to engage in what are called “little acts of unremembered kindness” for them when I can.  So do not come away with the impression that I don’t take service members’ comfort to heart.  But we were sitting right at the bulkhead for coach and there was a fellah in 1st class who kept bounding back and pestering this guy, wanting to know all about him, asking him over and over if there was anything he could do, anything he could get for the man, any way to help.  It seemed to me that what the poor soldier wanted most after a while was just to be left the hell alone.

♦ Despite the fact that I had conducted interviews in the morning, had spent all afternoon in the air and had not eaten all day, I got home just in time yesterday to take a quick shower, put on a clean shirt and tie and race off to the end-of-the-program Parents’ Night at the elder gels’ cotillion.  The first session was with the nine year old.  As we waltzed and foxtrotted around the gym at my Church, her eyes sparkled and the smile on her face almost brought a tear to my eye.  The next session was with the soon-to-be eleven year old.  Dancing with her, I had the curious sensation that at least 65% of her wished I was somewhere else and that she could dance with the boys instead – and here’s the key part – without me watching.   I am seeing more and more of these breakers as I sail ahead, indicating the rapid approach of shoal water and a lee shore.  As of yet, I’m not quite sure how I’m going to claw off.

♦  After a moderately stressful trip and an especially heroic (if I may use the term) day yesterday, I was determined that whatever the Prohibition laws at home, I had earned myself the right to a beaker or two of the blushful Hippocrene, dammit.  But when it came to the question of whether to stop at Total Bev on the way home from cotillion, I realized that I was just too tired to care.   So I came straight home with the eldest gel, changed into something loose, ate a scratch dinner and immediately dozed off over the novel I’m trying to finish before Lent.   Today I still firmly believe that I earned my drinks ticket.  The only question is whether it was only valid yesterday or whether I can successfully argue that it ought to be redeemable at my convenience.


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February 2009