Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Notes from a Trip – October 2015

For a variety of reasons, I don’t travel as much as I’d prefer. But, when the opportunity arises, I make the most of it, as I did last week when I visited my family across the country.
It’s been almost two years since I reconnected with my late brother’s sons in Arizona from whom I‘d been long estranged. Not only has it been a welcome chapter this late in life, but it has opened a new door in familial relationships that had been deficient.
Eric, Gwen, Heather and me
My second visit to Phoenix was as heartwarming as it was exhilarating, though a bit exhausting. I spent most of the time with my nephew Eric and his family — his lovely, effervescent wife Heather and their beyond-adorable 20-month-old daughter Gwen.
Apart from photos on social media, I didn’t get to meet Gwen until last October. Not producing offspring of my own (that I’m aware of), the only children I’ve ever spent time with or watched mature were my friend’s. So, seeing the dramatic change in Gwen over the last year was evident as soon as I laid eyes on her last Tuesday. She was a little skittish — as was I to a degree — of this stranger last year, but this time she progressively warmed up to me, even allowing me to pick her up when she was in the rare mood. By the end of the visit, with a little encouragement, she gave me a soft kiss on the cheek when I said goodbye.
THAT was a treasured moment for what I used to assume was inconsequential.
Heather and Eric were more than accommodating and made time for me in their hectic lives, including several meals and just hanging out at their home, as I watched a hyperactive Gwen run around the house on the balls of her tiny feet, acting like a typical toddler.
The adults went to the Musical Instrument Museum on Tuesday and we spent several hours wandering through the exhibits to see the enormous collection of eclectic instruments from dozens of countries around the world.
Saturday evening, being Halloween, we, including my youngest nephew Michael and Heather’s family, escorted Gwen, in her charming cat-lady costume, through the neighborhood for an hour of trick-or-treating.
Sunday turned into a sports marathon as Eric and I watched hours of NFL football before the fifth, and what turned out to be, decisive game of the World Series.
Due to Michael’s demanding work schedule we didn’t spend too much time together this trip. We vowed to remedy that next time.
*****
In addition to family time, I managed to keep apprised of current events.
The presidential election is a year away, though it seems like we’ve been inundated with a year’s worth of presidential politics in just a few months.
Presidential campaigns have gotten longer and longer in the last few decades. While it was never a sprint the “race for the White House” now seems like an eighteen-month marathon. Is there any chance that will ever be reduced in the near future?
Sadly, Donald Trump has cornered the media market, which accommodates him. The billionaire egomaniac, who has a penchant for the spotlight, effortlessly fulfills 24/7 cable news needs to satisfy their requisite “breaking” news quota.
Before the first GOP primary next winter, the Republican field will undoubtedly thin out. Hopefully, Trump, who is beginning to ebb in the polls, will be on the sidelines to cheer lead the nominee.
However, IF (a big one) Trump gets the nomination, the Republican Party needs to regroup  and consider how it has deviated so much in the last eight years to come up with a loose cannon of little substance. Some motives, nonetheless, are as plain as the thinning hair on Trump’s head.
GOP contenders are now demanding greater control over debates. This is utter nonsense, not that anything the contenders have offered in the last six months has been substantial or original. But since when do participants pick and choose what and what shouldn’t be on a debate agenda?
If they can’t respond to the many issues that come up, for which they should anticipate and prepare, how the heck are they going to govern a nation?
In short, if they can’t stand the format, don’t get behind the podium.
Dissatisfaction has steamrolled since the first Fox News debate over formats, questions and, in some cases, moderators. Following last week’s CNBC contest, almost a dozen campaigns met to propose how to stage-manage the process. They even distributed a list of demands for the next one.
Future and past debate hosts are annoyed by suggestions for any alterations. Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, the co-moderator for the first GOP debate in September, who was subsequently berated by Trump, gave a terse, accurate, sarcastic response over any interference from the contenders’ camps, “Oh, yeah, that’s gonna happen.”
Possibly the only solution to resolve the current debate flap would be for Comedy Central to host one. That’s the only channel where this bunch of clowns might feel comfortable. Although I doubt the laugh meter would seldom rise above moderate.
*****
Eric, me and Michael
Though unavoidable, politics was far down my list of concerns last week. Quality family time was the priority. But, there’s a negligible, albeit far-flung, connection because nothing trumped my visit with Eric, Heather, Gwen and Michael.
One hundred and fifty years ago, in an editorial, newspaperman Horace Greeley rephrased an outlook: “Go West, young man.”
I'm no longer young, yet, from time to time, that suggestion beckons me.