Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Visiting the Heartland

By "heartland" I mean the so-called "mid-west".  Because of how the Anglo-Euros migrated, from east to west, one has the mid and far west, with the east a kind of home base, like Greenwich in England.  Nowadays, an unkind term for the mid-west is "the flyover states" because so much air traffic is from one coastal region to the other.  Many business class travelers only see the mid-west from an airplane window, if at all.  But then O'Hare in Chicago is one of the busiest airports in the world to this day, so "flyover states" is hardly an accurate phrase in jet travel world either.

Anyway, our connection from Portland to Detroit was through Phoenix, leaving at 5:20 AM, meaning getting a taxi at 3:30 AM.  Some large sports teams, each with matching packs and uniforms, were sprawled around the Portland airport (PDX).  Carol checked her bag just in the nick of time as the line grew tremendously behind us while we checked in at US Airways, still in the process of merging with American Airlines.

Had it not been for the wheel chair pushing guy who met us at the gate in Phoenix, we probably would have missed the connection as Terminal 4 has two separate concourses, both with A gates.  We came in near A4 but left through A27. The plane was was boarding when we finally got there.  Carol isn't allowed to use moving sidewalks with that walker, so left to her own devices, she's pretty slow.  The Portland trek was also long, to C18.  I almost left the Mac Air at the security choke point.

I thought Expedia said the Hertz counter was in the airport, but none of the rental car companies have that in Detroit.  We grabbed the free shuttle, with the bus driver warning he would be singing to his music, which he did, but quietly and in tune.  "This is Motown, this is what we do" he said.  Very friendly and helpful.  Melvin I think was / is his name.

While waiting in line at Hertz, my Android asked if I wanted to upgrade.  I've been saying "no" for over a month but this time my fingers got confused and I paid the price in terms of time and stress (the upgrade was free), waiting for the new system to download and optimize my 233 apps, media and contact databases.  All before I could use Google Maps to steer us out of the parking lot.  I've come to rely on my smartphone's GPS and Google Maps quite a bit.  How else would I know to get to I-75 down to I-70 just north of Dayton, Ohio, then another 50 miles or so to Richmond, Indiana?  The queue for getting out of the Hertz parking lot moved very slowly, giving my phone the additional minutes needed to finish the upgrade process.

After so many hours of flying with only expensive snacks on the plane, both Carol (my mom) and I were hungry.  She and my sister are used to eating at Denny's a lot so we went to one of those, somewhere between Detroit and Toledo.  They were out of Caesar salad dressing, so I went with the Cobb salad as my second choice.  Both meals were ample.  Yelp comments had been mean to this Denny's but I found nothing so objectionable.  People tend to have a lot of "first world problems" around here, a phrase my daughter says is a commonplace nowadays.  I'd just seen the Weird Al take on it.

Also according to my daughter, in its former glory days, Richmond had been famous for manufacturing pianos and coffins.  Neither are mass produced here now I gather -- or am I wrong?  There's a big Purina dog food plant.  Richmond High looks substantial, as does Seton Catholic High.

We toured her college campus, checking out the new science hall (Stanley) and admiring the lasers she'd been working with, careful to not touch anything.  She assured as the main laser was sparkly / pretty when fired but she didn't switch it on, saying that was only done with proper permission and supervision.  We were understanding.  Just seeing the equipment as thrilling enough.  She had been working on a kind of laser-based camera that analyzes the reflection patterns to assemble a picture of the original object, using various advanced mathematical techniques for which Python, the computer language, had proved useful.

During our visit to the campus library, mom got interested in a new book on the Vietnam War years and in the car back to the hotel we talked about Kissinger and what level of war criminal he was, along with Nixon.  The book is about the formation of Bangladesh, where Carol used to live. I turned devil's advocate and said we should scapegoat the Quakers instead, as they always talk about ending the conditions for war but never seem to come through.  Lay these war crimes at their door then.  This was just banter / debate-talk (pro and con).  My daughter was a national champion in Lincoln-Douglas style debating.  She just listened to this conversation though, riding in the back seat of the Mazda 2.  Then we all went to Red Lobster as mom had been thinking about having a crab feast for some months and here was a golden opportunity.