The Boy on the Plane and Free Cheese – a Humanist Essay

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 5.55.58 PMI’m sitting in LAX waiting to fly home after doing something I’ve never done before, which was to follow a whim and a gut-feeling to fly from home (Seattle) to LA to hear a live performance by a young talent named Jeremy Buck. But that’s a different post – this post is about the young boy I met on my flight out here yesterday. I never got his actual name because conversations between adults and children of speaking age, but not yet of an “age of reason” can be tricky things. You don’t want to come off as creepy.

So let’s see – the airline was Alaska, so I didn’t witness any pets being “accidentally” frozen to death or passengers bloodied whilst being dragged from their seats (sorry United – you know you suck). But what I did see as I approached my aisle was a young Hispanic boy, probably 8 years old – that wonderful-terrible age for boys where they are just beginning to get a whiff of machismo which makes them insufferable, but not so much they don’t still openly love their moms and want soft things to cuddle when they sleep. So this is our little guy – the main character of this story-post. Small, brown, wiry. Wearing a Seahawks cap that appears to be stiff-new over neatly trimmed black hair – finishing off the picture, a nice pair of cross-trainers, and clean, neat clothing.  I could also see he also had a blanket and Seahawks plush bear in his lap as I approached.

I was in the window seat, and our young man was sitting in the aisle seat, looking down at his lap with the bear and blanket. I tapped him gently on his shoulder and told him I was in the window seat. He looked up at me with innocent, and impossibly black eyes that looked so sad. I thought perhaps he didn’t understand because he just sat there. Then I said, “could you please stand up so I can get by?” and he quickly unbelted and complied. (I found out later that children who are traveling on their own are instructed to stay in their seats at all times – I did not know this when I first met our young man. Nor, for that matter, did I realize he was traveling on his own at this point.)

So I thanked him, and seated myself next to the window. He sat back down and pulled out an iPhone 7 Plus and proceeded to make a phone call. There was not a lot of talking happening on our end so not much found its way to my ear, only a few sentences. I was trying to not pay too much attention. Then, I began to hear the distinctive sound of reluctant crying. At this point, it’s just beginning, so I can’t yet tell it’s coming from him. He’s trying to be so brave. After about another two or three minutes, I am able to tell that the distressed and distressing sound is issuing forth from my young row-mate. I hear him say into the phone, “what are you trying to say to me right now? I can’t understand…” through hitching sobs. He says “okay” and “okay” again with a sad resolve and disconnects the call. At this point, I look over, touch the top of his arm and ask if he’s okay.  From the call, I gathered that he has lost something so that’s what I say. And that’s all he needs to give him permission to just go ahead and cry it on out! Apparently, his Dad was putting him on the plane to LA (final destination Puerto Villarta)  from Seattle, and in the confusion at the security check point, his backpack was left behind. I never got all the details of what was IN the backpack, only that it was very important. At that age, it’s not a big stretch to imagine it probably contained all his most valuable treasures. Especially since this looked like a parenting exchange or a visit to Grandma’s or something for which he would have packed his very best stuff.

He told me his tearful story, at one point producing a pic on his phone that was taken of him earlier by someone standing behind him.  Probably his mom. And there it was in the photo – almost bigger than the boy himself, his backpack in all its glory. The bewilderment in his eyes from the juxtaposition of the image of his beloved object overlaid onto the horror of its loss was painful to witness as he helplessly angled the phone so I could see. I assured him that most things that went missing at airports were simply going off on an adventure of their own and that his backpack would likely make its way back to him soon. I regaled him with tales of my past trips and lost luggage, and how things had actually been returned to me after having gone walkabout for days and traveling to places I’d never even been. His eyes grew really wide when I told him about how one time, the airline even had someone drive the lost article to my house. I saw a flicker of hope before incredulity took over, but I deftly countered his disbelief with an assurance that I was, in fact, a nobody and that the airlines did this any time something was lost – no matter to whom it belonged. Even if it was a kid, and maybe even ESPECIALLY if it’s a kid. About this time a young flight attendant came back, looked me in the eye and said “can I help you?” and I just sort of looked at him, then he looked at the attendant call button, which was definitely on, unbeknownst to me. I looked at it and said, “Oh! did I press that by mistake!? I’m sorry.”  But our little guy spoke up softly then. “I pushed it.”

Flight attendant asked the boy what was wrong, listened for about a half-second, then said he’d make a call and see what he could do. I knew this was code for “I’m outta here – there’s nothing I can do.” But of course, I didn’t say that to our boy. Another flight attendant came back and assured him that if he had his parents call, they could get with lost and found and hopefully get the bag back. The boy looked even more despondent as he explained that his parents didn’t speak very good English and it was probably not going to happen. She patted him on the arm and left.

When she was gone, I wrote down my business email address and my phone number with the words “lady on the plane” and gave it to our little friend. I told him that if he had any trouble getting his bag back, to have his mom or dad text me that photo of him wearing it and I would make as many phone calls and send as many emails as it took to see they were reunited. I figured if it came to that, I would get his name and other important details from his parents as I was still hesitant to ask the little lad his name because of the times we live in. Anyway, I guess after all of my ‘luggage tales’ this made him feel a bit better and he went to sleep shortly after take off.

About an hour later, the snack cart makes its way back to us. Our little guy is sleeping now. I order a cheese and fruit tray and go to pull out my credit card to pay. The Alaska Airlines flight attendant looks at me with a big smile and says, “I’m buying this for you today to say thank you for helping with our young passenger.” I’m a little stunned and kinda shake my head a little – I don’t really understand. I didn’t DO anything. I was kind to a child without being creepy. And for that, I get free cheese? I don’t say this, of course, only say “that’s not necessary” and continue to go for the wallet, but she makes a little “shaky shaky” of the cheese tray as if to say, “please” – so I pull my hand back from going for the wallet and take the tray with a thank-you instead. She also leaves a snack pack for our boy. He groggily looks at me later and I point it out. Uninterested, but wanting to be polite, he picks it up, rests it on his leg and goes back to sleep.

We enjoy an uneventful remainder of our morning flight into LA. We land safely and begin the lengthy process of taxiing and de-planing.  He’s going on to Puerto Vallarta, as I find out while sitting there, and he’s been instructed strictly to remain in his seat this time. He gets on his phone for a bit as we wait for the 31 aisles in front of us to deplane. He’s speaking Spanish, so I don’t know what he’s saying. When he disconnects his call he looks at me with the biggest, warmest and most beautiful smile and says “they found it!” I smiled back at him, genuinely happy that all was right in my new little friend’s world. I called back the flight attendant who gave me the free cheese to tell her the happy outcome as well, and watched as that same smile cross her face too. Then he added, still beaming from ear-to-ear, “the only bad thing is, I’m grounded!” The flight attendant and I looked at each other and shared a little laugh. And there we all sat together for a “moment” that seemed somehow unhitched from the wagon of time. Tightly knit strangers connected by the wanderings of a little boy’s backpack. It was a beautiful mini-moment of rightness.

I felt so blessed by it. I almost felt badly for taking the free cheese.

Almost!

 

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Back to Russia – Where Was I?

So last post I left off getting off the train in Veronez and meeting a burly taxi driver carrying a sign with my name on it. Which he gave me and which I kept. We drove for a while, about 20 minutes, to get to the hotel and didn’t talk much along the way. Other than I was able to tell him I was too warm, which surprised him. Russians really bundle up against the cold and keep the heaters blasting in their cars. He seemed like any other bored taxi driver, and let me off at the hotel without incident. The hotel seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, but was very close to the concert venue for the Grigory Leps concert. I thought I was going to have a spot of trouble checking in because they asked me for the pass I was given at Hotel Vera, and I thought I left it locked in my safe in that room a full 12 hours behind me. My room was pre-booked but not pre-paid and I paid in cash with rubles. The hotel was an artsy affair that reminded me of a couple of them here in Seattle. Not a ton of rooms but the ones it had were really nice. The lobby was somewhat dark, but the rooms (at least mine) was nice and airy and had a patio. Here are a few pictures.

The parking lot outside was empty, but filled up later as the concert got closer. I lay down for a nap before getting dolled up to go out. I don’t think I have even a single selfie, but was dressed to the nines in a form fitting black swing coat, leggings and cotton top. I walked over before the concert to check out how far it was, and also the mall that was in front of the concert venue. It was pretty nice.

Could be in almost any city except for the Cyrillic lettering peppered everywhere. I bought some cheap yarns and stuff at a home store there before I had sufficiently walked the rest of the mall. Later, after the concert, I found a HUGE yarn shop in this mall and bought a few things to keep my hands busy on the train ride back.

The Grigory Leps concert was quite a show and I had WONDERFUL seats – thanks to Galena, my friend’s Russian Mom who had purchased them for me some time before. Grigory Leps is a wonderful showman – my age, and just as handsome and vigorous as anyone could like. He didn’t use teleprompters for his songs, but had them written out on continuous long sheets like short wrapping paper rolls and his lackies would come out and change the papers for each song set. Here are some photos:

The concert ended by about 9:30 so I meandered back to my hotel room and basked in the memories of it.

 

 

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I went to Russia Last Summer

One of the most interesting things I’ve done in my adult life I did last summer in June of 2017. After a lifetime of affinity to Russian things, Russian people, Russian language, etc… I finally decided to go to Russia. Of course the decision and the outlay of money happened nearly an entire year before I actually went there – which helped me prepare – at least insofar as I was able to do so. I didn’t go with a tour or a buddy. I went alone. A 55 year old American woman in St. Petersburg all by her onesie wouldn’t sound so bad if that 55 year old woman had ever been anywhere other than Canada or Mexico – but this 55 year old had not. Even so, I managed. I got my visa after a couple of tries, and got my travel insurance and shots. My friend here who is now a Russian-American had her mother meet me at Pulkova when I landed. She also took me quite a few places and fussed over me a few of the days I was there – but overall, I was on my own. It was quite an experience.

First things’ first – the flight there. I had never been on an international flight other than Air Mexico (which was a harrowing experience for another blog post) and I was pleasantly surprised by the service and quality of the FinAir flight to Helsinki. Check out the airplane food.

And yes, that’s a real butter pat there! And the sweet potatoes and beef thingy were tasty if I recall. Anyway, you didn’t go hungry on this 17 hour flight. We landed in Helsinki late the next morning, but of course the time zones had done their weird thing while I was there so I think I lost a day or gained a day or something…..at any rate, first Helsinki, then a short hop flight to St. Petersburg’s Pulkova airport.

I didn’t get pictures of Pulkova. Why? Because it didn’t seem like the kind of place where taking pictures would have been okay. After the plane we were shuffled into Passport Control which was about as scary as anything you’d care to see. High steel walls and booths where you walked in and were closed behind a steel door to answer questions about your Visa and Passport. Although I spent two years studying Russian off and on, I didn’t have enough of the language to feel comfortable in any of these sort of questioning confrontational type situations. But I made it through passport control and my friend’s mother was there to get me. I daresay I’d have gotten a cab to the hotel had she not been there, but I was grateful nonetheless.

However, her “picking me up” at the airport was a misnomer. She was actually “meeting” me at the airport and we were to take public transport all the way to the Hotel Vera. Which we did. It was a couple of different busses and a good-sized trek to get to the Hotel, but we managed. She’s about 64 years old but could run circles around me in city transit. By the time we arrived, I felt very badly for not just getting us a cab. But I had no way to know. Did I mention that my friend’s mother speaks almost NO English? Well, that’s a thing. So after checking-in at the Hotel Vera, and getting my verification papers (you must carry around verification papers on your person at all times showing where you are staying, etc…)
HotelVeraThis is the Hotel Vera. Smack dab in the middle of Nevsky Prospekt. (That’s the big shopping and activity district in St. Petersburg) It was a beautiful old building. I’m sure it was haunted too.

Anyway, after arriving at the Hotel Vera, dropping off my bags and getting a wee bit settled, it was time to go find some sustenance. But first, I needed to change some dollars for Rubles. You can’t spend American dollars in Russia and I wasn’t too keen on breaking out my credit card all over the place there either. So we went to a money exchange. Oh my….. Armed guards and more stainless steel booths. My friend’s mother, Galena, is a take-charge kind of gal and grabbed my cash and went in to change it. I sat in the lobby area with the hunky Russian guy with the AR15 who said the same thing over and over – “only one at a time”. It was an experience. Definitely nothing more than mental pics of that.

Once I had some cash, Galena was all for us finding some soup, and so that’s what we did. I think we walked a mile in the rain in search of said soup, but in the end, it was worth it.IMG_0387

So what you see in the picture here is considered “soup” – which was about three crab cakes, assorted chopped vegetables and mashed potatoes, a cheese bread thingy and some amazing chicken soup with real chicken and dill – it was lovely. After that it was time to get me onto a train. Yes…that’s right. A train.
A big part of my trip turned out to be about going to see a Russian pop star named Grigory Leps. I found his music and really came to like his stuff when I was studying Russian in preparation for the trip. I looked up his concert schedule and he wasn’t going to be in St. Petersburg while I was there, but he was going to be in a place called Veronez. So after “soup” we trundled off back to the hotel so I could pack a smaller bag for my overnight train trip to Veronez where my friend’s mother was actually born.

So by 6:00 p.m. on my first day in St. Petersburg, I was accompanied to the train station and installed on a “Women Only” train car for a 12 hour train ride to Veronez (the English translation does nothing for this town’s name – it sounds really pretty in Russian). Galena had set-up the train transportation for me several months in advance. I was very much travel “shell-shocked” at this point, and took very few pictures. A good bit of the reason I took so few pictures on the train is that I didn’t want to stand out any more than what I already did. I had some nice bunk mates even if they weren’t overly friendly. Of course they COULD have been extremely friendly, and I just didn’t know it because of the language barrier. One of them was a young working mother in her thirties and her 12 year old daughter who was happy to practice some English on me. She learned that her daughter knew less English than she believed after some attempted conversation.  But they were very nice. The third bunk-mate was a young pregnant woman who was going to see her family. I had seen her saying goodbye to her young man on the platform before we rolled away.

I didn’t take pictures of the people on the train, but I did take pictures of the goodies they gave you for your train trip. Slippers, a train cookie, ear plugs, a shoe buffer and some other shit. I dunno. I thought it was cool. Wish I’d taken pictures of the girls in my berth – I just didn’t have the nerve nor the words to ask them!

The experience of the overnight train trip was wonderful. I wish we hadn’t just had one of the most horrific train accidents in modern memory here in Washington recently. I might be thinking about a train vacation if that hadn’t been the case. Anyhoo, the Russian train is AWESOME. The beds are comfortable, and there’s a “Conductor” for each car (yes, they call them “Conductors”) and they are responsible for seeing to the needs of the passengers in that car. Ours was a guy who brought us coffee and tea. I ordered a coffee and it had so many grounds in the bottom of it, I had to send it back. I hoped he wasn’t offended but the other passengers thought he might be.

I awoke the next morning to early and went up to the dining car a level above where we were sleeping. I don’t remember what I ordered but I got something. There was a Russian comedy movie playing on the television in the dining car, but other than that, it was quiet. I was alone looking out onto the Russian countryside. Vast and beautiful it was too. The sky went on forever. But soon we came into Veronez and I had to leave the train. My friend’s mother had made certain to have the cab driver arranged (she was SO worried I’d be ripped off – probably would have been had she not been looking out for me). Anyway, the taxi driver took me to my hotel in Veronez. It was an artsy affair and very pricy. More than twice what I was paying at Hotel Vera…..

More in tomorrow’s installment.

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Got romantically rejected for having tattoos…..

I’ve been rejected by guys for being too strong, too independent, too smart, too fat, too tall, and too bossy. But never in my life have I been rejected by a man based on some tattoos on my body. Now I’m an older, professional woman. All of my tats, and I think I have six now, are in places that can be covered with normal work clothing. I have none on my arms, neck, hands or face. I have none on my breasts. I have one on each side ABOVE the breasts, and they are the ones I’m being dumped for.

One of them is a “green man” tat which has a religious meaning, and the other is a cornucopia which also has a religious meaning. They are both beautifully done and cost me a butt-load of money because I had them done by a well known artist. When we were rather intimate, he kept looking away from them. I could tell he was bothered by them. But we had a great time together – we have so so many things in common. Yet he simply cannot seem to get over his prejudice about tattoos.

It’s amazing to me. He’s been divorced for six years. Finally managed to find some ring-hunter to date him three years later. She wanted an engagement ring four months after they started dating. When he told her that he couldn’t manage that for a few years, she dumped him. And then, he met me three years later. I’m a loving, caring person – self-sufficient with a great job, my own home, etc… And yet, hear we are… He can’t decide if he wants to be with me because I have tattoos. He says that “they rob a woman of her beauty”. wow. just wow.

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Ideal Protein Weigh Day! Can I Get a Woot! Woot!

Okay… let me first say… there is a Goddess and she LOVES ME! I had a weigh-into today, and I was 7 pounds lighter than last week. YES! OHHHHHHH Yes! So, I must’ve been retaining CRAZY water last week.
Insert Drumroll Here:
Total Loss to date: 49.2 pounds!

Next week, it will be 50. 50 pounds. A milestone that even I will recognize. Yay for me!

Woot Woot Wootie Wooooot!

And the Mister-man and I will then go out for some sushi-foods. 🙂 That’s the 50-pound victory dance I decided on 15 pounds ago. It’s on to the remaining 35 to 45 pounds. Originally, I decided to to lose 95 pounds. We’ll see how I look and feel when I lose a total of 85. I want to be smart about this and and now wind up looking like friggin’ skeletor. 😉 Maybe I’ll split the difference and make it 90. But one thing is certain, 85 is the minimum and I’m on my way.

So, next week, I guess I will also be taking the 50 pound milestone pictures. I’ll make my decision on whether I’m actually going to publish them AFTER I take them. I may wait until I’m down as far as I’m going.

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Ideal Protein – Bad Weigh Day….

So, the unthinkable has happened. I had a weigh-in today and I had gained 2 pounds! OMG! What the HELL??? I have been over my food log a few times, to say the least. And the only thing I can figure is that last week I ate three apples. I must not have been in ketosis for the entire week. It’s all I can figure because it’s not about caloric intake as I’ve intakend WAY more calories than that during the holiday weeks and still showed a weight loss for my efforts. So that’s the best I can figure. Well, THAT and the fact that I started day #1 of my period today, and that I had decided over the weekend that I had not been drinking enough water and had damn near flooded myself today trying to make up for it. So there are quite a few factors.

But stay tuned, because whatever small amount of fudging I’ve been guilty of this past week will not be repeated. And next Monday, I am looking for the loss that was stolen from me this week as well as next week’s loss which is rightfully mine too! Grrrrrr.

Believe me when I tell you, Mr. Scale…..this is WAR.

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Hello! I’m Asradel

I’ve been blogging using “Blogger” for about five years now.  I’m taking a 400 level class at the University of Washington on Blogging and the instructor has us using WordPress.  I really like all the tools here, so I started a blog on my experience with The Ideal Protein Diet.  It should be a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to keeping it. 

So that’s about it.  I didn’t want you to think I was a numb-nut and didn’t know how to change the friggin’ post on this thing.  🙂

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