Jul 22, 2006

At Rest in Ohio

Where is this pastoral scene? It's the view from the front door of Barbara's parents'--the Leen's-- home. It doesn't get more restful this.

It's nice to be here in Ohio. I love being here. It's one of my favorite places in the world. My wife doesn't find the suburbs of Dayton very romantic but I always do. I guess because it's all connected to her. I remember spending our first Thanksgiving and Christmas here. And I've never worked here. Ever. Everytime I'm in Ohio, I'm on vacation. So it's become just about the most restful place on earth. Bab's folks live in the greatest neighborhood. It's an older neighborhood, and the best thing about it is that all the houses have huge, massive yards. The homes themselves are generally middle-class: 70's era ranch homes, mostly single story brick affairs with two car garages . But the yards are the yards of the rich. Vast green vistas, towering trees and long blacktop driveways.

I like that when I'm in Ohio there is no one I have to see, nothing I have to do, nowhere I have to go.

It's very quiet here. In the morning (when I wake up early enough), lying in our bed in Bab's childhood bedroom, I can hear the gentle whisper of the breeze, and birds chirping through the open bedroom window. And that's all. Looking out the window, I see green, and sunshine. A bed's eye view below.

A view of the house from the road

Another shot from the front porch, looking towards the driveway.

So what have I been doing? Well, for the last week I've been socializing, I guess. Last Weds I drove up to Columbus and spent a couple of days with my best friend J. He and I go all the way back to freshman year of high school where we both had Earth Science together. I guess we had a lot in common. We both came from mixed racial/cultural backgrounds (he's half black/half Japanese). We both were "black" guys who had mostly white friends (which meant in those days that we didn't date much since our friends didn't cross the color line when it came to dating). We really bonded during a 94 mile canoe trip we took during our sophomore year and we've been best friends ever since. We graduated from high school together, and though we went to different colleges, he and I took a year off of school to be student missionaries on Chuuk, a remote Pacific Island. We toured Europe together as well, and then when we both had degrees, both of us ended up moving back to the Pacific, him back to Chuuk and then Guam, and me to Saipan. Two years ago, he and his wife moved back to the States.

We talk on the phone maybe once a month or so (depending on what's going on with Survivor, Amazing Race, Big Brother, or Lost--the shows that we both watch relgiously and can spend HOURS analyzing) when I'm in Saipan. And in the summers we always try to get together to hang out for a couple of days. Providentially, the year after our student missionary year in Chuuk, his family moved from Florida to Dayton, Ohio; the same year that I met my wife who's family happened to live in Dayton as well. So since then, every time I've come to Ohio to see her folks I've also been able to see him as well.

So anyway, he and his wife Evelyn are in Columbus now, and so I went up to visit. We spent our time talking--A LOT--about life, politics (both of us lean more towards the left), religion, and TV (mostly Big Brother, which we're both huge fans of). We stayed up late, watched a lot of TV, spent hours on the internet. traded music (another ritual whenever we get togther). It was good times.
How J and I spent most our time in Ohio

The New "American Gothic". Proud homeowners, J & Evelyn Carlos stand in front of their brand new home in Columbus, Ohio.

On Friday evening, Keisha Paez (a.k.a "Bono Girl", one of the students from REAL Christian Theater) flew into Columbus from California where she's working as a nanny for her aunt this summer. I left J's, picked her up and we drove back to Dayton. On Saturday, she did a series of presentations about our theater club and the SDA School in Saipan (where she attended from 1st to 9th grade). There's a group of people in the church who have been regular financial supporters of REAL Christian Theater (or REAL for short), the drama club that I founded and she joined the first season when she was in fifth grade. So it was nice for them to meet someone in person, a "native" if you will, of the islands and hear her stories first hand. Just one of the great things to come out of that is that one of our supporters wants to fundraise for us to have our own sound system (something we've wanted for a long time)--mixer, amp, speakers, lapel mikes--the works! I'm so excited about that. Anyway, Keisha did a great job, and we enjoyed having her with us for the rest of the weekend too.

Keisha telling the children's story during second service at Centerville SDA Church

Keisha stands triumphant,in front of the Centerville SDA Church after a grueling morning of Sabbath School presentations and children's stories.

Babs, Keisha and Mom Leen.

Sabbath lunch on the Leen's patio. Isn't their backyard beautiful! From L to R Mom Leen, Babs, Keisha, and Dad Leen.

So I'm glad Keisha was able to come out. She was here until Monday. We took her shopping, out to eat, for ice cream, to a dinner theater being put on by a local church youth group, anything to keep her from being bored!

Making the pilgrimage to the best restaurants in Ohio. First it was LaRosa's Pizzeria. This hometown restuarant has the best pizza and the best wings in the world. I look forward to going here all year long.

Babs and Keisha at the counter of Graeters on Saturday night, July 15. Graeter's, another Ohio only store est. in 1870 has the Best Ice Cream in the World. Even Oprah agrees! She had the opportunity to come here during a visit ot Ohio and ended up ordering something like 400 pts for her audience members back in Chicago. I had the summer peach. Sublime!

Note the chocolate chunk Bab's Double Chocolate Chip cone. It's more like a slab of chocolate!

Monday morning Barbara's Aunt Judy and Aunt Sarah, and her cousin drove came to visit and we had a nice lunch before we drove back to Columbus, deposited Keisha at the airport for her flight back to California and then spent the evening with J and Evelyn.

Right before we left for Columbus, we took these pictures on the front porch of Barbara's parents home. From Left to Right: Dad Leen, Aunt Judy, Aunt Sarah, Mom Leen, Keisha, Me and Babs.

Here's J, Evelyn, Babs, and I in the parking lot of P.F. Changs in Columbus, Monday evening right before we drove back to Dayton

One of my other vacation actvities! Mowing that vast lawn, every Tuesday while I'm here. Dad's sweeping the driveway in the background

So that's what I've been "busy doing" but truthfully there's something else that's really been sucking up my time:

Free Your Mind.

That's right, if you were to go to the Free Your Mind forum on Interference.com (a website for U2 fans) you will find that I've actually been writing quite a bit. It's such an addiction. And like any addiction, the high is wearing off, but the addiction remains. I mean, I like going in there and all. It's always interesting and always thought provoking, but sometimes your thoughts get tired of being provoked, you know. It get's stressful sometimes. People can get so worked up--so angry, so hurt, so self-righteous, so stupid, and sometimes just downright NUTS! And I've never been comfortable when people "get mad." I'm not a shouter. I don't throw things. I don't curse and slam doors. Likewise on FYM, I find myself getting stressed when tempers get hot.

And I feel compelled to read like every thread. I don't know why. And like yesterday, when I come back after being gone for awhile and have to get "caught up" it can take hours. I spent a couple of hours slogging through a dozen pages of recriminations and lengthy, repetitive arguments about the Lebanon/Israel crisis. You'd think I just skip ahead, or just forget the thread. But no. . .I had to read it all.

So, yeah, I have a problem. And of course I'll be going on FYM right after this. Sick, huh.

Oh, and I'm working on my novel again! Very proud about that. So when I'm on the computer, Free Your Mind isn't the ONLY thing I'm doing.

My only complaint is that the time is going by too quickly. I feel like I haven't even had a chance to really start to enjoy my time here and it's almost over. We arrived here Friday, July 7. We leave this Wednesday, July 26 (the day before our 9 year anniversary).

I missed this (I stayed home, probably on the computer). Babs and her parents at the Dayton Art Institute.

Jul 8, 2006

Love Lights & the Fourth of July

The sky was exploding with lights, and my heart was overflowing with the warmth that comes with being surrounded by people who have known me my whole life, people who I love and who love me. We all crowded out on Dawn’s balcony on the 18th floor and watched the fireworks—the show was actually not as spectacular as last year when we watched from a friend of Dawn’s apartment six floors down (Dawn had not yet bought her condo then, though I’m sure watching the fireworks from that vantage point figured into her decision to buy), but the special day with family made that not matter so much. For almost a year, since she’d moved in, Dawn had been planning a huge 4th of July party at her condo, and it turned out to be just what she’d hoped it would be.

Here’s the party in high gear, as seen looking from the kitchen into the living room and out to the city skyline beyond. Note the raspberry/blueberry “champagne” glasses, which would be filled later on in the evening. A nice touch to the evening courtesy of Jim, Dawn’s wonderful boyfriend.

I made two apple pies (unfortunately they weren’t my best pies—the crust wasn’t as light and flaky as it should have been). Babs made chili. Dawn provided hot dogs, red potato salad, and corn on the cob. We swam in the pool a couple of times throughout the day, lounged in the lukewarm Jacuzzi. At around 2:30 we all rushed upstairs to watch the space shuttle Discovery launch. We watched the countdown on TV and then rushed out to the east side balcony to watch it shoot like a flare into the sky. I was surprised to find myself a little moved by the sight of the bright flame and the stream of white smoke representing the small group of brave men and women hurtling into space. It seemed somehow very American, what they were doing, something very appropriate to Independence Day, and as I watched the shuttle go I felt a strange sense of patriotism.

Guests arrived between 4:30 and 6:00. They included Dawn’s remarkably good looking and trendy friends—Selena, Cara, Jade (whom I’d last seen exactly a year ago in this same building on the 4th) and her boyfriend. Krishna and her man arrived at the figurative “9:55” just as the first fireworks lit up the sky. One friend of mine, Greg, was there as well. He’s spent so much time with the Thomson clan this summer, he’s almost become an honorary family member! (There is one picture of our Fourth party with him in it, but I can’t post it because he refuses permission for his picture to be put on the web! I don’t know what secrets to his identity he has that might be dug up by an intrepid web investigator but they won’t be revealed here!) And of course there was family—just about everyone except for my cousin Landon who had to work, his sister Nicole who was in Michigan just weeks from giving birth, and Jill, my cousin Nabih’s wife and their daughter (who would be arriving from Colorado the next day.

The late afternoon passed into evening with people swimming at the pool, hanging out on the balcony, and lounging in the living room as Jason Mraz, Keahwahi, and (as shown in this photo)Diana Krall Live in Paris on DVD played in the background.

Nabih had the latest, sleekest version of the PSP, and he and his cousin Glenn huddled in a corner playing intently (see below).

As the sun sank below the horizon, we all moved towards the balcony, jockeying for the best spots along the railing. Here’s Babs silhouetted against the darkening sky and the city lights,
My cousins, siblings (foreground to back) William, Yvette, and Nabih waiting for the light show to begin.
It seemed every west side balcony was filled with those lucky enough to have family or friends living in the building. From our vantage point we could look out at the fireworks, and down upon the huddled masses in the jostling, sweating crowd all along the banks of Lake Eola.

The fireworks were spectacular of course—here’s Babs and I (more silhouette than actual portrait) with the fireworks lighting up the sky behind us, but best of all was the love light all around us, those of you so far from us for so much of the year, now near and “shining like stars in the summer night.”

The remaining days in Orlando passed quickly. Wednesday we did a little shopping—actually Babs did—mom and I sat in the car and talked while Barbara browsed Barnes and Nobles and the Lifeways Christian Bookstore. Then we went to Long’s—every summer we make the pilgrimage to Long’s Christian Book Store, the biggest Christian bookstore we’ve ever been to. While Barbara conducted her annual search for Christmas cantatas, Mom and I browsed the Christian fiction shelves finally settling on a book, Eli, that we’d read together. Look for our soon to begin ongoing discussion on the book on the Maycock Media Mix page.

When our shopping was concluded (the book mom and I bought ended up being the only purchase of the afternoon) we drove back to Mom’s place to say goodbye to grandma, and then over to Uncle Roland and Aunt Colleen’s house to say goodbye to them. Lucky for us Landon was there too, so we got to see him briefly. We looked at Aunt Colleen’s fascinating collection of photos she’s received from celebrities including Bill Cosby, Ronald Reagan, Mary Tyler Moore, Julie Andrews, and many others. I also came away with some new music—Uncle Roland burned me a copy of his Matt Bianco CD.

After that we went back downtown to meet Dawn for a late supper at Dexter’s, yet another trendy downtown eatery. But I judge a restaurant by its food, not by the pretentiousness of its clientele, and the food was excellent.

Thursday, Babs and I spent our final full day of vacation doing exactly that—vacationing, lolling about Dawn’s fantastic apartment, watching her massive plasma flat screen TV, gazing out at the cityscape, just soaking in the luxury of it. The photo of me above is pretty much what I did for most of the vacation!

In the evening we were supposed to go to my cousin William’s house. We called his wife Mara around six, foolishly thinking that an investment banker who is raking money in hand over foot would be off work by that time. As it was, he had a meeting that lasted until after 8. Despite our best efforts, we weren’t able to get together with him, and in the end our Last Supper in Orlando was at Chari’s (sp?), a trendy sushi joint around the block from Dawn’s condo. Babs and I shared it with William’s wife Mara, William’s sister Yvette, Dawn & her boyfriend Jim. Some pics of that below.

Mara, our "cousin by marriage"
(William's wife), Me, and Barbara

Friday morning, mom came over, we had breakfast together, and then loaded up the car and it was off to the airport, our sojourn in Florida come to an end. It seems like no matter how long I visit in Florida, it’s never long enough, and it gets harder to say goodbye every year. In the past, we’d pop down to Orlando for maybe a week or ten days and I’d always leave wishing I could stay longer. Now the visit has extended to over three weeks, and the leaving is harder still. I must confess I was pretty depressed upon my arrival in Ohio yesterday (though I was happy to see Barbara’s parents, of course). Though I’m feeling better today, I still miss my family a lot, and a year seems like a long time to wait. But I’ve made a commitment to more regular communication with all of you, and perhaps that will make the distance seem a little smaller.

Some faces I will miss:
Dawn, thanks for being such a gracious host (and being patient with me messing up your place). It was so nice to spend some quality time and I'll always treasure those great late-night brother/sister chats we had. I love you!

Jim, you gained something very valuable this summer. The Big Brother Seal of Approval. Take care of my sister, ya hear.

Yvette, I enjoyed all our "book" talks--let's continue to stay in touch this year.

Bambu! Dawn's charming Daschund, and Kimo's "cousin"

Jul 6, 2006


This will probably be my favorite memory of the summer. Sitting on the porch of my uncle's unfinished home for a couple of hours on a lazy Sabbath afternoon.

Perhaps the best memories, the most precious times of this trip so far, have been the Sabbath lunches with my family. Two Saturdays ago we all sat around the table at mom and grandma's apartment after we'd eaten for an hour or two, listening to my uncle's telling stories of their motorcycle-riding days. Last Saturday, we went to my Uncle Robert's new house which he and my very pregnant aunt Diana just finished building. Everyone was there. . .or almost everyone, and after lunch we all drove out to the new house my Uncle Sy is building. It was still under construction and we wandered the rough, empty rooms imagining what the finished product would be like.

It was a day of new homes. We had lunch at Uncle Robert and Diana's brand new home in Apopka before heading over to Uncle Slimen's place under construction.
One of my favorite pictures.
My sister Dawn, my grandma, and my cousin Yvette

Diana poses in the doorway of her new home.

Looking down the stairs of Uncle Slimen's new home.
Uncle Slimen gives the grand tour. Here I gestures towards what will soon be a luxurious hot tub on his patio. I clumsily referred to it as a "one-man pool."

Babs and Dawn.

My mom...isn't she lovely!

Yvette and Me

Picture of a picture.
Dawn takes a snapshot of Uncle Robert and Diana.

My brother Vince and me.

Yvette and I looking at her notes in Phil Yancey's book Soul Survivor, while grandma looks on.

The view from Dawn's balcony across from the front door, next to the elevators

Babs and I spent about two quiet hours on Monday afternoon, July 3, browsing this trendy bookstore, UrbanThink, in Dawn's neighborhood. Before that we had lunch at Hue, a highly lauded restaurant, also in Dawn's neighborhood. The decor was very modern with towering ceilings, padded wall benches with 15 foot backs, and a vaguely industrial air. The pretentious atmosphere notwithstanding, the food was quite good. I had an excellent Mediterranean pasta, and Babs had a mahi mahi sandwhich.

Walking back to Dawn's place, approaching the back entrance.

I've done a lot of reading this summer. Check out the new reviews by clicking on the Maycock Media Mix link. Maybe you'll find a book YOU'D like to read this summer.