At The Movies: A Walk In The Woods

If you’ve ever wanted to wander the majestic beauty of the Appalachian Trail but without the hiking, camping, cold, heat, bugs and bears — then try “A Walk in the Woods.”

Robert Redford stars as Bill Bryson, a travel author facing his twilight years. Bryson decides he’s got one more adventure in him — to hike the 2,200-mile-long Appalachian Trail.

His wife Catherine (Emma Thompson) quite rightly thinks he’s gone mad. She tries to dissuade him by leaving him news articles about people who have died on the trail. When this doesn’t work she tells him he cannot go alone.

11191379_oriBryson reaches out to old friends but no one is interested. But then he hears from an old colleague, Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte), who takes him up on the offer. They were never best of friends, but anyone will do in a pinch.

Katz shows up looking like he could barely walk across the street, let alone make an arduous 2,000-mile hike.

What follows in a 90-minute episode of “The Odd Couple Go Hiking.” Bryson is determined and knowledgable; Katz is unkempt and befuddled. They encounter bears, a blizzard, a chatty hiker and manage to fall down a cliff without breaking any bones. It’s all intercut with scenes of nature’s glory.

Directed by Ken Kwapis and based on Bryson’s book, “A Walk in the Woods” is a pleasant if predictable diversion. It has heart, humor and glorious cinematography. It’s also pretty corny and by-the-numbers.

The film’s greatest strength — aside from the beauty of the trail — is its cast. I’m sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed this movie as much if the lead roles were played by Tim Allen and Larry the Cable Guy. But having A-list talent like Redford, Nolte and Thompson on the film takes it to a higher level.

I’m probably also more inclined to favor this movie for having just come back from my own travels to majestic country. In fact, if you made it all the way through my LawyerCon report and were wishing someone would’ve filmed our adventure climbing to the lake atop Mount Doom, this movie gives a pretty good impression.

I’ll leave it to you to figure out who was Redford and who was Nolte.

 

A Wet, Wild Weekend With The Roys

My family doesn’t visit a lot. It’s a long drive. They’re older than me, even.

Cindy and Chuck would usually come up once a year. Once Pa got sick that ended. Now that Pa’s gone Cindy gets out more, and that combined with the fact that Brenda had never been to the Festival of the Little Hills, combined with the fact that I had some inheritance coming due, and lo and behold, two siblings and two siblings-in-law converged on my house over the weekend.

Laurie was practically giddy. Who knew she loved having company so much? Now we only have one guest room so having four guests is an issue. Especially since we long ago did away with our couches that turn into beds. Apparently that’s not stylish anymore. If it ever was.

“Cindy and Chuck can have the guest room and Randy and Brenda can have our room and we’ll sleep on the air mattress.”

“What? Why do we get the air mattress?”

“Because we’re the hosts.”

“Right. We’re the hosts. As in that’s my bedroom. I don’t recall Randy ever giving up his bedroom for us.”

“They have two guest rooms.”

“I’m pretty sure Randy wouldn’t give up his bed regardless.”

“You’re sleeping on the floor and you’ll like it.”

R&B had business in Kansas City on Friday morning so they didn’t hook up with C&C until 8:30 p.m. in Springfield which meant they didn’t get to St. Charles until after midnight. After some obligatory chit-chat everyone was ready for bed. Laurie pulls the unopened air mattress out of the box.

“I’m not blowing that up.”

“You don’t have to, it has its own pump.”

I locate the mattress’ internal pump: Requires 4 D batteries.

“Do we have any D batteries?”

“Of course not. Who uses D batteries anymore?”

That night I slept on a sheet on top of my Spider-Man blanket on the basement floor. Or rather, I tried to sleep. At some point I ended up on the upstairs couch and Laurie ended up on the basement couch.

After the long day and late night I wasn’t expecting anyone to be up early, but you know country folk. R&B were the first up. Laurie made coffee while I made a donut run. The festival begins at 9:30 a.m. and it’s important you get there early to get a parking space. Otherwise you’re stuck dealing with shuttle buses.

Looks like rain. Funny. I don’t remember rain being in the forecast. As we step into the cars it begins to rain. You know how with some rains it will come down hard for a few minutes and then clear up? That was not this kind of rain.

This was a soaking rain. Cold and wet and constant. Light to hard to harder. Occasionally it would lighten up, but that was just a tease to get you out of the stores and back on the street, at which point the rain would start up again.

For the festival-impaired, the Festival of the Little Hills is a giant craft fair. It runs the length of Main Street and then spills into the park on the riverfront. 300 vendors or so I’m told. It’s the kind of thing where after an hour you stop in the middle of the street, throw up your arms and yell, “Who would buy all this crap?”

IMG_7661Now you would think the rain would’ve deterred people from coming downtown but no. There were still plenty of people, and now all of them were toting umbrellas and poking you with them. It was a soggy morning and after 90 minutes we had pretty much had enough. We decided to have lunch and maybe the skies would clear while we were eating. Too many people had the same idea as we headed towards Lewis & Clarks, so we wound up at Undertow. They had a limited festival menu but they had burgers and chicken strips and wraps and what more do you need?

Sure enough, by the time we finished eating the sun was peaking through the clouds. So off we went, as if the entire morning had never happened. The street was still quite damp, and deep water in spots, but we made it from one end to the other, then down to the park. The wet, muddy, muddy park. Oh, and since it wasn’t raining any more — all the idiots showed up. Thank you, idiots. Thank you for showing up in force. I was afraid I might have some breathing room as I walked from craft tent to craft tent. I was afraid I wouldn’t be forced to stop in a puddle of water and stand still because no one is moving.

We eventually wound our way to the main stage which meant we’d seen it all. I was more than ready to go home.

“We need to make another loop around the park,” Cindy says. “I was only looking at the booths on the right. Now I need to look at the ones on the left.”

“You have got to be joking.”

“I’m not tired. I could go another round.”

“I’m never too tired for shopping.”

And so it was that Andrew, Chuck and myself made our way back to the house while Laurie, Brenda, Randy and Cindy continued to enjoy the festival.

An hour or so later the phone wakes me up.

“Put the pulled pork in the oven. We’ll be home later”

“You’re still shopping? What more was there to see?”

“There’s always more to see.”

They finally got back around 6 p.m. Insane.

After dinner we filled up the Mizzou cooler on wheels and headed to New Town for a free concert starring popular local rockers Trixie Delight. They rocked pretty well and it was a good evening.

The next morning Randy was getting antsy so it was time to pull out my list of chores. Randy is quite the handyman, you see, while I am whatever the opposite of a handyman would be. handlessman? incompetent boob? either works.

First order of business was a cabinet under the wet bar that Laurie and I have not been able to get open. Something had got stuck in the drawer making opening it impossible. And trust me, I had tried everything.

Randy pulls on it. No go. then he pulls out the drawer next to it, reaches in from the side and moves the offending item. Door opens.

Why didn’t I think of that? I have two college degrees. Randy has a high school diploma. And yet he’s 100,000 times smarter than me. It’s not fair.

But then, the person with the Juris Doctor didn’t think of it either.

IMG_7672So then I went down to the basement and pulled out the metal horse-head hat rack that Laurie bought in Kentucky 20-or-so years ago and has been sitting in the basement because I didn’t know what to do with it or how to hang it without it looking lopsided.

We take it out to the garage and Randy starts knocking on the wall looking for something called a “stud.” Four nails later and success. My caps finally have a home.

I’ve only got one more chance to make my brother look like a stooge, but it’s my secret weapon.

“Here. Open this jar of salsa.”

Several months ago my wife picked up a jar of Over the Border brand (or South of the Border?) salsa. She could not open the jar. I could not open the jar. We tried hot water. We tried the gripper things. I turned and stressed and strained and almost gave myself a hernia. That lid absolutely would not budge.

Randy gives it a twist. No go. He tries harder. Nothing. Pretty soon the peanut gallery is getting into the act.

“Pour hot water on it.”

“Use the gripper thing.”

I sat there smugly as Randy stressed and strained and tried to no avail to open that jar of salsa. Finally — something he can’t do.

“Where’d that hammer go?”

He starts tapping around the lid until POP! the damn thing opens.

Sigh. Using a hammer on it. Why didn’t I think of that?

By now it’s lunch time. We were going to grill but as soon as someone mentioned grilling it started to rain. So we had lasagna.

After lunch it was time to make the long drive home. There was talk about making the festival an annual trip. Fine with me.

But Randy’s not getting my bed next year.

003

LawyerCon 2015: Snowbird, Utah – Part V

Or, I’m Not Paying For That

Thursday marks the final day of LawyerCon. Laurie has class in the morning and a banquet that night. Me, I’m not doing a damn thing. I’m not climbing up a mountain or flying down one in a metal tube. I’m taking my son to the pool and chillin.’ He will swim all morning until lunchtime, then we’ll get something at the poolside snack bar (that will be open for the first time since we arrived), then swim until dinner. Grab a pizza, and if there’s time, go back to the pool.

At least, that’s the plan.

Day Six

Get a late start, as usual. Put on our swim trunks and walk down the hall to the pool. There is yellow “Caution” tape all around the pool. Dear Lord, now what? The hot tubs are open but we can’t sit in the hot tub all day.

No problem, we’ll go use the rooftop pool. I’d been meaning to check it out but it’s so much easier having a pool right at the end of the hall. No excuses now.

We take the elevator to the 9th floor. We step out and are greeted by a large room with the words THE SPA hanging above. Nice young woman at the front desk.

“Do you have a pool?”

“Yes. Do you have a card?”

“Uh, no.”

“That’ll be $12.50 a person. Would you like to charge it to your room?”

“Let me get back to you.”

We return to the elevator. I’m not paying $25 for pool privileges. Why are they charging for the upstairs pool? That was not in the brochure. I don’t think. I really should read the brochures.

Now I’ve got to drag Andrew, still dressed for the pool, back downstairs. On the elevator I tell my sad story to one of the lawyers.

“Oh, just go to the front desk and ask for a pass. If the main pool is closed they should have to let you use the spa pool.”

Lawyers. Is there anything they can’t figure out? Is it any wonder we love them?

We get to the lobby and there is Laurie. She’s finished for the day. I tell her our sad story. She goes up to the front desk and next thing you know we have a pass. Since she’s done for the day, Laurie decides to join us. So now we have to go back to the room while she changes. I swear, Andrew, I will get you to the pool.

utah22We return to THE SPA where I give the young lady our pass and she points us in the right direction. Nice pool. Lovely view. Large hot tub. But the best part — no one under the age of 18 can use it! Adult swim! All day! It was glorious.

Of course, after a few hours I’m bored. But then it occurred to me — Laurie’s here. I don’t actually have to stay here all day to watch Andrew. Let her do it for a change. And so I take off for a couple of hours of the only me-time I will have all vacation. It was glorious.

utah21Well, not that glorious. I walked through a couple of the shops on the main floor before going back to the room. Watched some of the “Daily Show” marathon, maybe part of a movie, surfed the web.

Wife and child returned around 5 p.m. Laurie got ready for her banquet and Andrew and I made a final trip down to Snowbird Center. Got a large pizza with various meats on it. It was OK. Better than Little Caesar’s, not as good as Pizza Hut. Still, it was pizza. We ate it.

Got back to the hotel and the main pool had reopened. Took Andrew there for one last swim but it was so cold outside that I eventually had to bring him in. Watched the final “Daily Show” and despaired for the future of our nation.

Day Seven

Travel day was uneventful. One last trip down the mountain to the airport. The airport had a Popeye’s Chicken, so that was awesome. Sadly I had filled up on pretzel before Laurie found the Popeye’s. The person in front of me did not put the seat back all the way, which was good, because my knee was now too damaged to spend any time kicking the seat in front of me. The pain that had surprisingly eluded me on the descent into Utah came back with a vengeance as we landed in St. Louis. I’ll never understand me.

Laurie was sad to leave the majesty and grandeur of Utah but I was glad to be home. As LawyerCons go it was a pretty good one. I wouldn’t put it in the Top 5 but I wouldn’t put it in the bottom 5 either (Not having a comic shop really costs you points). But then, I would never sit down and chart them all out anyway so what does it matter?

090

LawyerCon 2015: Snowbird, Utah – Part IV

Or, And The Gold Medal For Clumsiness Goes To…

utah15

The last big event of LawyerCon 2015 was a visit to Park City, home of the 2002 Winter Olympics. The highlight was to be a ride down the same 4-man bobsled course that the Olympians did in 2002.

Once again, Laurie had signed us up for this in advance. She was so excited. “Riding in a bobsled on an Olympic track? This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!”

Laurie’s very big on once-in-a-lifetime experiences, especially ones that involve climbing up a mountain to see a lake or careening down a fiberglass chute in a metal coffin.

My bucket list is more like “go to Comic-Con” or “eat a burrito in all 50 states.”

I know my limits.

Still, riding in a bobsled sounded like fun. Until we got there.

Day Five

utah12Back on the bus, back down the mountain then out several miles to Park City. We didn’t make the first round of people to go up the hill and ride the bobsled so instead we hung out in the Olympic Museum where Laurie tried her hand at simulated ski jumping. She was pretty good at it. There were people walking around with appetizer plates but nothing looked too appetizing.

utah13Andrew did some downhill skiing and then looked a bit stressed so we found a quiet room and played with the iPad. It was time to eat but I didn’t want to eat before careening down a fiberglass tube in a metal coffin, so I said I’d eat when we got back. Eventually the bus came to take us up the hill.

The first thing when we get off the bus is they herd you into a room where they make you sign a waiver that you will not hold them responsible for your upcoming concussion, abrasions and who knows what else. Is this a joke? Oh no, they were not joking. In walks Jeff Spicoli in snow gear. As usual, the lawyers were all talking and laughing it up. Jeff would have none of it.

 “Listen up, people. This is serious. This will be the most extreme, intense thing you have ever done. If you don’t do everything just right you will be injured.”

He then proceeded to list all the conditions you shouldn’t have if you’re going to ride a bobsled. I only had two of them. No, I was not pregnant. Now I’m getting scared. I thought this was going to be a fun little amusement ride. They’re making it sound like some kind of dangerous sport.

I don’t need this. But I can’t wimp out now. Again. Not two days in a row. My manhood card already looks like it’s been through the wash a dozen times. How much more can it be tattered?

But I really don’t want to die. Not in a bobsled. Why is my wife out to get me?

“Honestly, officer, I can’t believe this happened! Who knew he had low kidney function and high blood pressure? He never tells me anything! He just kept saying how this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and he just couldn’t miss it. Oh, tragedy! How will I go on?”

I’m looking for an out. He’s sitting right next to me.

“You know, I really don’t think we should put Andrew on this. He’s not going to understand the rules. He won’t know to keep his head up and his arms a certain way. I’m afraid he’ll get hurt.”

“You think?”

“We’d better ask the experts.”

utah16We go over to Spicoli’s aide and tell her our concerns. She agrees that Andrew should not ride the bobsled.

“Dammit. Well, I don’t want you to miss out. I’ll stay up here with him.”

“Are you sure? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

“Well, I’ll admit I’m disappointed, but you deserve it more than me.”

Laurie finds a team that’s short a person, grabs a helmet and joins them. I sigh with relief and go sit on the picnic table with Andrew.

utah17After a couple of teams go down, Spicoli announces “We need volunteers to push the sleds to the takeoff point!”

Sigh. Well, I’m up here and I’ve got nothing better to do and at least this way it will look like I did something. So I bravely go up and join two younger, stronger men behind the bobsled. We start to run. I forget that I don’t run. The sled pushes off, I lose all sense of balance and slam into the cold, hard surface below.

Ow.

Needless to say, I was the only person injured that night.

utah18Eventually it was Laurie’s turn to ride. I managed to get off one shot before it was out of range. She came back all giddy. “That was the best thing ever!” she said. I smiled and nursed my bleeding knee.

When we got back down the hill the food was mostly gone and mostly cold. They had some professionals put on a show where they ski jumped into the Olympic pool. It was pretty entertaining.

utah19Afterwards it was time to go home but first we had to stop at the gift shop (The Olympic people were smart enough to know to keep their’s open. And did they make a lot of money? You bet they did.)  so Laurie could buy a shirt that brags about how she survived the bobsled ride.

“I was going to get one for all of us but now I can’t,” she said.

I was fine without one.

Tomorrow: The anti-climactic conclusion

Not exactly Olympic form

Not exactly Olympic form

LawyerCon 2015: Snowbird, Utah – Part III

Or, There’s a Lake on Top of Mount Doom

utah10

Once upon a time I was a walking fool.

As a lad I would wander the fields of my father’s farm. I’d follow the branch to where it emptied into a pond. Gates and barbed wire, effective at keeping the cows in their place, did little to deter me.

When I mastered the bicycle I expanded my range. Dirt roads, lake roads —  I knew every curve and hill from Cane Hill to Stockton. In college I walked the campus and on into downtown. Day and night. “Long, aimless walks” were what I called them. Didn’t keep track of the mileage and post it on Facebook. Didn’t care how far I’d gone. Just wanted to walk.

Once upon a time I was a walking fool.

Once upon a time I was 10 years old. Then 15. Then 20. Then 30.

Once upon a time walking was a way to clear your head, take in the world, move at your own pace. At some point walking became exercise. And then it became a chore.

Day Four

Long before we left for Snowbird, Laurie had informed us she had signed us up for a nature hike. I misheard her as “nature walk” and figured it would be fun. There was probably a nice nature trail somewhere around Snowbird Center and we’d have a leisurely stroll through the mountains. Maybe we’d see a moose, like when I went on the nature trail in Alaska.

As you may have noticed by now, nothing is ever easy at Snowbird, Utah. This wasn’t going to be a walk — it was going to be a hike. One vertical mile up a mountain. We were currently at 8,000 feet elevation. We would take a van to another mountain another thousand feet up. From there we would walk up another 500 feet or so.

There would be a lake at the top of the mountain where we could eat our box lunch. The view would be breathtaking.

Unfortunately, at this point I’d had enough of breathtaking. I’d like to keep my breath, thank you very much. Just walking 10 feet from Snowbird Center back up to our hotel was taking my breath away. Did I really want to hike a mile uphill in an even higher elevation?

Well, we prepaid for the excursion and the box lunch. Suck it up, Roy. Be a man for a change. Besides, someone has to be there if you-know-who has another you-know-what at the mountain.

utah8We ride in the cramped van up the rocky, curvy road to our destination. The smart people ate their lunch on the van so they wouldn’t have to carry it along the trail. I wasn’t in the mood to eat. We began the hike. Not too bad. It’s all in my head. Laurie and Andrew waste no time in not waiting for me. As usual. They do stop occasionally for a photo-op.

We’re over halfway there and I’m feeling pretty good about myself and Andrew isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Then we reach our destination. Or rather, a ridiculously steep incline at the top of which must be Lake Mountain.

There’s no f-ing way I’m going up that mountain. It’s too big, it’s too steep, there’s no decent path, there are no banisters.

And then in occurs to me: My wife has finally had enough of me (and who could blame her?). This has all some elaborate means of killing me so she can move to the beach with her girlfriends and open a food truck. I mean, she can’t just shoot me, she might get arrested. But were I to have a heart attack and die climbing a mountain surrounded by her lawyer friends?

“Honestly, officer, I can’t believe this happened! He loves to walk! He walks all the time! He used to brag about his long, aimless walks! Oh, tragedy! How will I go on?”

 There’s a nice horizontal rock shaped like a couch at the bottom of the cliff. It is here that I end my journey. I bid my family well as they press onward and upward. I’ve seen enough of the beauty of nature’s splendor from right here, thank you very much.  Besides, I’ve seen lakes. Hell, I grew up next to one.

I sit on my rock and watch. I watch the little kids scamper on by me. I watch the old(er) men and women walk past. I watch young couples go by. I see a mother carrying a small child pass. I see a young man carrying a child in a backpack go on.

I eat my lunch.

utah9After about an hour I wonder if they’re ever going to come back down. Then I remember that Laurie is always one of the final people to leave any LawyerCon event. She’ll stay on that mountain until last call. If I wait for her to come back down, they will inevitably get ahead of me and then I’ll be the one that everyone is waiting on at the bus stop. So I begin the long descent back to civilization alone. It was downhill and at my own pace, which was much nicer.

Return to van central and have a seat on a nearby rock because God Forbid someone put a bench around here. The first van leaves, then the second. Finally in the distance I see Laurie, Andrew and a few other stragglers. She assures me the view was breathtaking. I assure her I’ve enjoyed keeping my breath right where it was.

“Did you take pictures,” I ask.

“Several,” she says.

“That’ll do.”

Turns out Andrew is quite the mountain goat, he had no trouble navigating the mountain. And he was still in a good mood. Go figure.

As we are riding down the mountain, Laurie is chatting with someone and the topic turns to riding the tram up to the top of Snowbird Mountain.

“We should do that when we get back!”

“Yes, let’s!”

 Dear lord in heaven. Must we do everything in one day? It’s just Tuesday. We get back to the hotel and I collapse on the bed. “Just give me a half-hour. Just 30 minutes…”

Thirty minutes later we’re back in the lobby. From there it’s back down the hill to Snowbird Center. Then onto the tram and up, up, up to the peak of Snowbird Mountain (I don’t think that’s its real name).

utah11What’s the opposite of claustrophobia? I was kinda freaking out at the top of that mountain. I know it was highly unlikely that I would fall off of it, but fear is not a rational creature. After the obligatory photo-op, Andrew and I caught the first tram back down. Laurie and her friend, of course, caught the last tram.

By now it was dinner time and with nowhere else to eat, we returned to the Mexican place. You-know-who, realizing he hadn’t done you-know-what yet today, begins to have a meltdown. I take him back to the room and he chills out enough that we are able to return to the group for dinner.

I had the burrito this time and no, it was not as good as the Mexican Villa burrito.

Coming Up: If at first you don’t succeed…

LawyerCon 2015: Snowbird,Utah – Part II

Or, Dinosaurs Make It All Better

Day Two

Sundays at LawyerCon are pretty routine. Laura has a business meeting in the afternoon, followed by drinks/appetizers (which we load up on so as to avoid buying dinner), followed by an auction and slide show of photos from last year.

Got up late-ish and walked back down to Snowbird Center. Had brunch at same place we had supper the night before. It was good. Went back to room, Lar went to meeting and Andrew and I went to pool. Pool had lovely mountain views. Nice. Pool was heated. Also nice. Pool had three hot tubs. Very nice. Pool had working wi-fi so I could surf the net and read my comics. Perfect. Pool had lots of noisy, splashy kids. Well, you can’t have everything.

Scan_Pic0006

Returned to room around five and got ready for happy hour. This year they were serving actual FOOD — not just appetizers. Excellent. Made our way downstairs and hit the drinks line and checked out the auction items. Nothing of interest. There was a photo booth that Laurie dragged us to. I would’ve had nothing to do with it but they had a Batman mask.

Enough foolishness. Time to eat. I help Andrew get a tray of food. Not a bad spread. We return to our table and begin to eat. Then Andrew begins vocalizing. Uh oh…Then the shaking starts. We go out to the hall. I ask him to calm down and maybe quiet down. “QUIET!” he yells in a voice so loud it would’ve caused an avalanche had it not been August.

OK, time to go to the room and chill. Get inside and he takes his shoes off. I’m sitting on his bed watching “Edge of Tomorrow.” Now, one thing you have to understand about Andrew is that he won’t do anything without prompting. He won’t get out of the car, he won’t get out of the bathroom, etc. So there he stands in near-meltdown mode…He picks up a shoe. He looks at me.

“Throw it if it makes you feel better.”

He tosses it to the floor. He picks up the other shoe. He looks at me.

“Do what makes you feel better.”

He tosses it to the floor. He goes over to the phone and other cords. He picks one up. He looks at me.

“Now that you have to put down.”

He puts it down. He goes over to the couch and sits for a bit. Eventually he joins me on the bed. He’s pretty chill now.

“Do you want to go back downstairs and eat or do you want to stay here and relax?”

“Relax.”

LawyerCon 2015: Not off to a great start

Day Three

 Lar is up and out and off to class before we wake up. I eventually wake and stumble for the remote. Static. Huh, that’s odd. Change channels — all static but three or four inconsequential channels. Great. Oh well, we were going to spend the day at the pool anyway.

Get out of bed, open large curtain. It’s raining. Great. The pool is outdoors. We have no TV. At least the wi-fi was working.

Spent the morning surfing the net and reading comic books on the iPad. Andrew slept all morning. We finally get up around noon to get lunch. Since it’s raining we can’t go down to Snowbird Center — not that it matters since most places there aren’t open on weekdays.

That leaves us with the hotel restaurants. There are three. One is only open for dinner, one is only open for breakfast. That leaves the Mexican restaurant. Andrew’s not big on Mexican so we’ll have to wing it.

Turns out they had a kids’ menu with chicken strips so all was well. We spent almost two hours there — in part because service was slow, in part because it took forever to pick all the corn and peas out of Andrew’s Spanish rice, and in part because — well — what the hell else did we have to do?

On the way back to the room I stopped at the front desk to ask about the TV situation. Turns out they had changed providers overnight and there was a glitch, so they had to have a technician come in and go room  to room fixing things. They started on the top floor, of course, and we’re on the third floor.

The tech showed up around 4 and when he left we had about a dozen HBOs and two or three Cinemaxes. Worth the trouble, I suppose. Of course, there wasn’t anything on worth watching.

071That night was our first big outing and what I was sure would be the highlight of the whole trip — an evening at the Utah Museum of Natural History. In addition to Mormons, Utah has lots of dinosaur bones. We boarded the bus and rode down the hill and off for several more miles to the University of Utah and the history museum within.

First we had to eat. Sigh, always with the food and drink with these lawyers. Again, a pretty nice spread. Again, I’m now worried about how Andrew is going to react. We eat and then he starts getting that anxious look.

076This time I came prepared with the iPad. We made our way to the dinosaur hall and sure enough, Andrew is getting more and more flustered. We sit down by some skeletons and he starts banging on the iPad. After a few minutes he’s fine.

The museum had a large room with a very nice collection of dinosaurs and whatnot. Many allosaurs and some very creative displays. Spread out over two levels. One highlight was the wall of ceratopsian skulls. Laurie even figured out which one was the Triceratops without a hint. I was so proud.

utah5There were other things in the museum but who cares? We rushed through the Indian exhibit and some other geological stuff and went out to the top deck which had a nice view. Next stop was the gift shop which was CLOSED. Whose bright idea was that? You don’t invite 100+ lawyers with money into your museum after hours and not pay some poor schlub to work extra hours at the gift shop. Oh, the money you lost, Utah Museum of Natural History.

utah7Back in the main hall people were still eating and drinking so Laurie had another glass of wine and Andrew had some snacks and I made my way back to the dinosaur hall. When I got back I had a snack myself and then Laurie wanted to see the dinosaurs again so I forced myself back for a third visit.

After a rocky start, LawyerCon 2015 was making a strong comeback.

Tomorrow: And then Laurie tries to kill me. 

utah6

LawyerCon2015: Snowbird, Utah — Part I

Or, The Year My Wife Tried to Kill Me — Twice

Prologue

This year the Forty-Second Annual National Conference of Appellate Court Clerks, hereinafter referred to as LawyerCon, took place the first week of August in Snowbird, Utah. We stayed at The Cliffs, a ski lodge up in the mountains. I’m not a skier but it was August so it didn’t matter.

The good news was we had scored a direct flight to Salt Lake City and from there it was a 45 minute drive up the mountain to our hotel. The better news was that I would not be the one driving up and down the mountain. I love mountains, but mostly from a distance, and definitely not from the driver’s seat of an automobile.

While we were looking forward to getting out of Dodge, there were some concerns. Andrew has taken to having small, let’s call them ‘anxiety attacks,’ where he begins to vocalize loudly and get very stressed. Did I mention how living with an autistic person is like living with a time bomb that you’re never sure when — or if — it’s going to go off? Yeah, makes life fun. Not.

Day One 

Arrived at the airport in plenty of time. Boarded flight in plenty of time. Voice on intercom says there’s a problem with communications with the tower so they’re going to turn everything off and reboot.

Isn’t that what they did in “Jurassic Park?” How did that turn out?

The lights go out, it’s getting warmer (did I mention it’s August in St. Louis?) I’m having nightmare scenarios about people trapped in planes on the tarmac for hours. Thirty minutes later we are cleared for takeoff.

As is always my luck, I wind up in the seat behind the asshole who feels the need to lean his seat back the entire flight. Why? Why do airplanes make chairs that lean back? I have no leg room to begin with. I decide I’m not going to let this jackass get any sleep anyway and proceed to kick the back of his chair on a regular, and frequent basis. He doesn’t get the hint. But he also doesn’t get any sleep, so small victory for me I guess.

 The descent was surprisingly painless, and as you know that’s a big deal for me. We boarded the van to take us up Snowbird Mountain, or whatever it’s called. The driver is friendly and tells us to drink lots of water or we’ll get nosebleeds and altitude sickness and I’m like, whoa– this wasn’t in the brochure. Granted, I don’t read the brochures but still, you’d think my wife would’ve warned me about all the dangers we were heading into. I just thought high altitude meant your ears popped.

Got to our hotel and our room was on the third floor. Same floor as the outdoor pool and three hot tubs. Good. At the end of the hall, right across from the ice machine. Even better. Checked out the television. HBO and HBO Family. Not great but good enough.

It was a much nicer view before the rain. Shouldv'e taken this photo on Day One.

It was a much nicer view before the rain.
Shouldv’e taken this photo on Day One.

The view out the giant window that was our far wall was outstanding. Usually hotel room views suck, but this was not the case for a change.  Second order of business after checking out the TV was using the bathroom. I go inside and notice there’s a giant mirror next to the shower so that I can see what’s going on in the main room. “That’s odd,” I thought. “Why would they put a 1-way mirror like that in the bathroom? Why would I want to spy on my family as I’m using the bathroom?” Still, it felt like I was outside the interrogation room at a police office, so that was cool.

utahBI get out of the bathroom and come back into the living area and realize that it’s not a 1-way mirror. It’s just a giant window. Laura and Andrew can look in on me as easily as I can look in on them. A giant window in the bathroom, next to the shower. Why, Utah, why? Is this a Mormon thing? Fortunately there was a curtain you could pull closed, but now I’m kinda creeped out.

We’re hungry by now so we decided to walk down the hill to Snowbird Center — where the action is. Now, the problem when you go to conventions where you’re at a ski lodge or a golf course is there isn’t a lot to do. You’re basically stuck in one spot for a week and wind up spending all your free time at the pool because that’s all there is to do. Great for Andrew, not so great for me.

058Snowbird Center was supposed to be the ‘get away from it all’ place on the mountain — restaurants, shops, etc. In reality it was one large building with a half-dozen expensive (and usually not open) restaurants and a half-dozen shops that sold (a) souvenirs and (b) ski supplies. At least there’s a pool. And Free HBO.

Did I mention the food was expensive? Like $13 for a hot dog? I guess if you’re stupid enough to spend the kind of money it takes to be a skier, money is not an issue. We had a nice dinner and saw all there was to see at Snowbird Center. It didn’t take long. There were a half-dozen rides that I was never going to ride. A couple of them were one-person rides which meant Andrew couldn’t ride them. We wound up not taking advantage of the amusement park nature of Snowbird Center.

There was live music that night which was nice. Walking up the hill back to the hotel was unbelievably hard. It wasn’t that steep or big a hill but I was gasping for breath every time I climbed it. That night I got no sleep because I couldn’t stop listening to myself breathe. Just making sure.

Tomorrow: No pool. No free HBO. But…Dinosaurs!