Wednesday, April 12, 2006


The Glosser boys and Dad celebrate Aunt Rita's 85th
Larry, Joanne, Ilana & Jeff
Emily, Samantha, Nancy & Rick with Aunt Rita
Marilyn (with "Ben button") and Mike

Dad, Aunt Rita & Jim
(This column will appear in the 4-13-06 THE ALBANY JOURNAL)

DATELINE: Friday, April 7, 2006.

In a Boeing 767-300 at 30,000 feet, 550 mph heading northwest from Atlanta to Seattle.

Traveling used to be an unmitigated pleasure- especially when it involved air travel. I've been flying long enough to remember flying on a United or Eastern flight and having a hot meal served-- free!-- on a plate with real silverware. After domestic passengers were treated to a few too many unscheduled side trips to Cuba in the late 1960's, courtesy of gunwielding hijackers, travelers in ensuing decades had to endure lining up to step through metal detectors.

Shortly after the 9-11 attacks traveling by commercial air became a near nightmare. At one point I considered stripping down to my boxer shorts when I got to the checkpoint to save Transportation Security Agency (TSA) the trouble. One time I got wanded and frisked because I had skipped through the metal detector after a long 6:00 A.M. wait at McAfee Air Terminal. Apparently, skipping is proscribed in the world of Homeland Security. I offered to step back and go through again, walking in the mandated fashion, but the grim TSA guard ordered me into the special glass enclosed booth where potential air pirates and grandmothers got the heavy going over.

But a few years down the road from 2001, savvy travelers and less tense security personnel have become accommodated to the aggravations of shoe removal, emptying pockets, pulling out notebook computers, and the (recently repealed) ban on nail clippers and pocket scissors. Coming home from Seattle on this trip, I made it through the checkpoint at SeaTac Airport in a matter of only a couple of minutes with a startling "Have a great day!" send off from a smiling TSA employee.

But this trip, like so many others, was worth the aggravation. Even though the seatbelt light rarely came off on the flight out from Atlanta, and the cabin service became an adventure as the flight attendant attempted to serve coffee as the plane lurched, my pleasure was unalloyed because I got the chance to see and talk to my Dad. Luckily, his Pittsburgh to Seattle flight was routed through Atlanta (Delta’s new motto: “We’re ready when you are, we’re just going to have to route you through Atlanta no matter where you’re going.”). Looking back at my air travel and other long distance trips in recent years, seeing family has been my primary reason for leaving the comforts of home. This trip was to visit my Aunt Rita, her three sons, and their families as we celebrated her 85th birthday.

We arrived late Friday night- almost two o'clock in the morning Eastern time. It was my fourth visit to Seattle, and there are some enduring impressions of the Great Northwest that I've carried back with me. It's wet, to be sure. Puget Sound to the west, Lake Washington to the east. Rain and clouds almost every day. The gorgeous Cascade Mountains to the east and the Olympics to the west are typically obscured by clouds, as is majestic 14,000 foot plus Mount Rainier to the south.

APRIL 8th and 9th:

When I travel to different places- I've been fortunate enough to visit London, Paris, Amsterdam, New York, Ty Ty and Sasser- I try to get a sense of the local flavor by parking my car and pounding the pavement. Whether walking the streets of Bellevue, Washington, or talking to the residents and staff at my Aunt Rita's beautifully appointed residence (think hotel and condo combined), I quickly discovered that the people are diverse-- Asians, Hispanics, and many other ethnic groups-- and they are friendly. Within one block from our guest quarters I saw restaurants from India, Vietnam, and Thailand. Most everyone I met had a ready smile and friendly greeting.

The civic virtues appear to be a cut above the average American city. The area where we were visiting in Bellevue, just east of Seattle, was so clean that my Dad was reluctant to toss an apple core on the grass as we took a walk around the neighborhood. Like the downtown Seattle area, Bellevue has beautiful, imaginatively designed officer towers in a neighborhood setting.

As I walked up Northeast 8th Avenue past the business district, I noticed a juxtaposition of relatively old (50 years or more) modest bungalows adjoining brand new two million dollar plus mansions. Out of curiosity, I pulled a real estate flyer from the box in front of one new structure to see what the asking price was for a home that might fetch somewhere between $150,000 and $250,000 in Albany. The stunning answer: $2,380,000. As I walked in a light rain, I saw over a hundred homes as nice or nicer-- and with better views-- in the residential portion of Bellevue stretching from the top of the hill down to Lake Washington.

Emily and Rebecca show their maturity as they get ready to pick a college

Later that evening, after talking to my cousins living in the area, I discovered that there is some serious computer money being spent on nearby real estate. Microsoft's main "campus" is located in nearby Redmon, Washington, and Bill Gates has his primary estate on the Medina section of western Bellevue. (I guess if I had $50 billion in the bank, I might blow a few bucks on a nice house or two). Unlike Hollywood celebrities and newly enriched professional athletes the country over, the atmosphere in Northwestern America is not one of ostentatious display or conspicuous consumption- the cars in the driveways were more likely to be conservative looking Lexuses and BMW's than Pimp my Ride Escalades or Ferraris.


I've always felt that in order to appreciate what we have, we have to go somewhere else. I never thought highly of my hometown, Johnstown, Pa., until I lived in Philadelphia, London (England), and Durham, North Carolina. Then, when I came home, I had new eyes to appreciate what I had heretofore taken for granted. The Johnstown area has tree lined and shaded streets, beautiful old homes, some dating back to the early 20th century, mountains, and rivers, all features I'd rarely noticed growing up there. Leaving Albany to travel to more exotic locations has helped me appreciate what Albany has to offer: no traffic jams, easy access to libraries, grocery stores, work, and the several outstanding (and inexpensive) golf courses, with friendly people throughout the city.

However, as much as I like Georgia, Washington State has something that Georgia will likely never have- a woman governor and two women Senators, Democrats all. Somehow, I doubt that their official agenda includes officially endorsed Bible study in the schools, hostility to gays, or delusions about American prospects for "victory" in Iraq. But that's grist for another column and a revisit with my friend Marvin.


Post a Comment

<< Home