Transylvania 6-5000

Remember the movie “Borat?” The village at the beginning of the film was supposed to be Kazakhstan, but the producers couldn’t find a place in Kazakhstan backwards enough to be Borat’s home town. So they went to Romania. And Romania is where I may be going next summer.

My wife’s family escaped from the Transylvania region of the Eastern European country before the communists took over —but she’s quick to remind you that her people were ethnic Hungarians, not Romanian. After all, Hungarians would never allow their trains to be a mess like those described here in the Rough Guide to Romania:

Tickets are incredibly cheap, but this is offset by the habitually derelict carriages, bizarre timetable and sweltering/freezing conditions. Often crowded, trains frequently lack light and water, making long journeys somewhat purgatorial.

OK, so the trains aren’t great —but how about the food? I’m looking forward to trying the muschi ciobanesc, which is pork stuffed with ham, covered in cheese, and served with mayo and cucumbers on the side. Mmmmmm… pork stuffed with ham.

Anyhow, an adventure like this takes planning so I hope you’ll join me here as I prepare for my journey to the armpit of Europe.

Thank You For Flying Delta

As a safety geek I take the emergency exits in airplanes very seriously. Whenever possible I sit in the exit seat. And if the exit seat is not available, the exit row. No seats in the exit row? Put me in an adjacent row.

During a flight to Atlanta Wednesday I was in the hot seat and prepared to do my duty in case we needed to evacuate the plane. All was good with the world until I looked over and saw this lady sitting in the opposite exit seat. No offense to grandma but I don’t want to count on an 85 year-old-woman to help me get out of that airplane.

When the flight attendant came over to instruct us on our duties I pointed this out to him.  At 47 I haven’t quite mastered keeping my trap shut. “That woman won’t be able to handle  the door,” I said.

He completely ignored me.

Just in case you’re curious there’s a full page of things the flight crew are supposed to do to make sure passengers can handle the exit. He did none of them. I don’t blame him for not wanting to create a hassle —and who knows, may that old lady is in better shape than I am. I will say this though: if it comes down to me or her it’s gonna be me.

Lucky Catch

Even if you don’t believe in luck you have to admit it’s pretty lucky to find a full beer wash up on shore. This can of Lucky Lager made landfall on Wolfe Island, Ontario recently —slightly dented and tarnished but brimming with 355ml (Canada, remember?) of golden goodness.

Lucky Lager seems to be Ontario’s answer to Milwaukee’s Best or Pabst Blue Ribbon: a working man’s brew for folks with few airs and fewer dollars. Fewer Canadian dollars.

You can’t help but wonder how it ended up in the water, eh? Maybe it fell off a fishing boat or drifted away from a vacation cottage. And where are it’s five brethren, anyway? Maybe this can of beer was involved in some sort of Great Lakes maritime tragedy —a small scale Edmund Fitzgerald involving cheap beer, a little boat, and a terrible lapse in judgment.

One thing is clear: you don’t find a can of beer labeled Lucky Lager and not drink it. So drink it I did.

I’m happy to report that the Lucky Lager held up well to its indeterminate time spent floating in Lake Ontario —and had a taste as good as you might expect in an inexpensive canned beer.  Never found the other five. And believe me I spent all week looking.

July 4, 2009

In the past if you travelled to Canada or Mexico or even  places like Bermuda you haven’t needed a passport. Until now. Due to new rules our family needed to get passports to avoid a hassle during our vacation this week in Ontario. But the funny thing is you don’t need a passport to get in to Canada, you need one to get out.

The Canadians are very casual about who comes into their country which these days is sort of quaint. Or could it just be that people don’t want to sneak into Canada the way they want to get into America?

Nobody will argue that the last twelve months have been a great time. People have struggled with real hardship and with fear and uncertainty. And if you watch cable news you’d think that Michael Jackson is more important than the US troops fighting in Afghanistan. Yes, we’ve got issues but today if for nothing else you should celebrate this: you still live in a country that people run to, not from. And that’s really saying something.

Miracle Man

Have we exhausted the use of the word miracle yet?

Yes, the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 was amazing and astounding and unprecedented —but a miracle? I’m not sure pilot Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger would describe it that way. Here’s a guy who’s been flying since he was 14-years-old and went on to earn an appointment to the Air Force Academy. He flew F-4 Phantom jets, has been a commercial airline pilot for more than 25 years, and is a recognized expert in flight safety and accident investigation. Calling what he did a miracle cheapens its significance.

Hey, I go to church on Sunday but lets face it: God has nothing to do with whether your plane stays in the air or not. If he saved this one does that mean he made the others crash? Or does he just reach out occasionally with his big God hand and pluck you out of danger? No, he does not.

We are human and we make mistakes and things break —and when stuff goes wrong it does so in a spectacular fashion. And sometimes we are lucky enough to have somebody around who will keep his head in an emergency. Someone like Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger.

Quotable Moments On the Road In Syracuse

I’m not hungry, I feel like I’m going to throw up. Maybe I’ll be hungry after I throw up.

You’re like a human GPS. Except with no sense of direction.

I’m not taking a nap. I’m 13, not 48.

No, you can’t see the map and yes, I do know where I’m going.

What, you can’t eat lunch while someone’s talking about colonoscopies?

Sure, we could stop at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que if you feel like waiting five hours for a table.

If someone gives you a scratch-off ticket and you win $1 million? Keep your mouth shut and put it in your pocket. Don’t say a word.

Three Interesting Things About Vermont

Hemmings Service StationThere’s no doubt about it, Vermont is a fascinating and exotic place. Drive up Route 7 and it’s like you’re crossing into a different country. For example:

1. Gun laws. In Vermont they’re virtually non-existent. They require no permits or registration and you can pretty much buy as many as you want. And in Vermont you can carry a concealed handgun as long as you don’t do so in a school or government building.

2. Vermont’s civil union law. You want to spend your life with someone of the same sex, go right ahead, it’s Vermont. Sure, the federal government still withholds certain benefits, but you can thank Bill Clinton for that.

3. Cheaper gas. That photo was taken on Sunday, May 26 after I filled my tank at the Hemmings service station in Bennington. Actually, since it’s full service, I sat in the car while someone else did the work. It felt like 1979. If I’d said a year ago that $3.89 was cheap, you’d have thought I needed my head examined.

Guns for everybody, same sex unions, cheap gas. Throw in a case of beer and you’ve got yourself a party.