By Greg Price
It was a nice break re-connecting with family over the Christmas holidays as my parents also made the trek to Allentown (yes, from the Billy Joel song), PA., to visit my sister, brother-in-law, nephew and niece.
The trip made for many fond memories — and some humourous ones as well in times of reflection as we venture into 2019:
AIRPLANE MODE: I’ll admit, in my younger days, I used to smirk at the people who used to lug those neck pillows around airports, thinking it was an ‘old people’ thing. Having received one of them as a Christmas gift, my thoughts have been ‘why haven’t’ I used one of these earlier?’ With airlines cutting down on leg room to stuff more seats in, it’s a great accessory for someone like me who is 6-foot-2 and pleasantly plump (i.e. fat). Another observation I have of people at the airport is the absolute panic of many to try and get on the plane as soon as possible. Do they think they are going to run out of seats even though you have a confirmed ticket? Dimes to doughnuts there are always a few people who try to get on the plane before their zone is called, as if the flight attendants will all the sudden have a case of amnesia as you approach the booth. Flying out of Toronto, there I was with a few other guys making small talk, standing near the end of a long line that had formed after they called for Zone 3. After awhile we noticed the middle of the line was not moving, a guy in front of me asked a group in front of them if they were Zone 3. ‘No’ was the response, mouth agap and bewildered that he would ask such a dumb question of people standing in the check-in line whose zone hadn’t been called yet. I do not know what the desire is of people to get onto a tight, cramped space as quickly as humanly possible. Relax people, the plane isn’t leaving without you.
ALEXA, DON’T BECOME SENTIENT: I am not a tech guy in any way, shape or form. When I’m having problems with my work computer, it’s like a scene out of Quest for Fire. So it was with some trepidation when I was introduced to Alexa, the virtual assistant at my sister’s abode. It of course has its neat features like adding items to your shopping list that you command it to, turn on and off house lights or to do research. But I find it funny with all the nutbar conspiracy theorists out there, posting their blogs from their mother’s basement as their hot pockets brown in their respective toaster ovens, why not a whole lot more concern is being voiced with technology like this of ‘The Man’ listening. Although it was Greg Price 1 and Alexa 0 when I asked it to play The Real McKenzies ‘Pour Decisions’ and it could not. I just hope one day when it is being asked how much cinnamon is needed for a spaghetti sauce recipe, Alexa doesn’t reply ‘launching nuclear strike now.’
BONDING TIME: I got a lot of quality bonding time in with my sister, brother-in-law, mother and father. What sort of stood out was time with my niece and nephew. Both are quite skilled at the violin, practising diligently over the years they have taken up the instrument in their own private time. That unfortunately cannot be said for my niece’s musical counterparts during her Christmas performance at her elementary school. I get it, these kids are just learning their instruments as mandated by a school band program. But ever the perfectionist, even my niece said ‘it’s not going to be very good Uncle Greg.’ Well, I’d say the performances gained strength as the night went on, but the first couple of pieces were akin to feral cats having their legs caught in bear traps, howling for the sweet embrace of death. All kidding aside, it was a great concert overall, and it was my constant kidding that seemed to draw a remark from my nephew to this day that I don’t know if it was good or not. ‘You’re interesting’ said my nephew Trystan. Like ‘interesting good’ being able to bring constant laughter and smiles to my niece and nephew or ‘interesting bad’ where I give off the weird/creepy vibe that there’s something in my freezer that shouldn’t be there? He had a big smile on his face as he said it, so I assume it’s the good type of interesting. I also found out my nephew is as competitive as I am as he advised against me doing a certain strategy in the game of Risk which I hadn’t played in a long time, only to do the exact same strategy in his next turn.
FOOTBALL FRENZY: I watched the Dallas Cowboys’ NFC East titleclinching victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at a fantastic pub with my brother-in-law. My sister did some Facebook research for me in where I could watch the game, given it’s Pennsylvania and the Cowboys are the Hatfields to the Philadelphia Eagles’ McCoys. The eventual selection was showing every single game on multiple screens. I was hesitant to enter at first seeing the large convoy of Eagles fans entering the establishment, with fears perhaps my brother-in-law’s tires would be slashed. Nevertheless, I was able to find refuge in a small corner of Cowboys supporters at the corner of the bar where we had to watch the Dallas game on a small screen. One guy had Dallas Cowboys tattoos on his body, another guy I learned named his puppy Dak (after Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott). But what stood out for me the most was a man (Art) who took his son Andres to the pub to watch the game. He had moved his family from Dallas a few years back to pursue business interests. We bantered back and forth about the Cowboys while we watched the game while also having an eye peeled in the Eagles/Texans game which had possible playoff ramifications. Knowing full well we may get lynched if we went all-out hollering and clapping when the Texans scored or the Eagles turned the ball over at a pub in Pennsylvania, we instead gave each other sly smiles and polite golf claps as to not arouse suspicion.
SOMBRE REFLECTION: If you are ever in New York, you have to go see the 9/11 memorial that pays tribute to the 2,977 people who lost their lives in the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, not to mention the injuries to over 6,000 others. However I describe it in these short paragraphs will not do it justice, so I will just say ‘go see it’ and I guarantee you will get caught up in the moment. A tradition has emerged where every day, at least two victims are remembered where a white rose is placed on the name engraved of a victim whose birthday it would have been that particular day. Valentine’s Day has the the most birthdays at 17 with Christmas Eve being 15. It made me think, what were things like for all the victims that morning of that day that will forever be etched in American history? Was it making love and pancakes with their significant other? Were there plans to pick up the kids at sports practice later that day? Working late at the office? Plans with buddies for a beer at the pub? Wedding arrangements or birthday plans? Hitting the gym? Did couples or families fight and leave their residences with harsh words as their last memories? What were people’s final words to those who loved them most before they left their houses/apartments that day? There are high and low moments with all the people we have cared about. But as 2018 has proven with people we have lost, you never know when the next day will be your last. Make your moments count and don’t let your last words of the day be harsh ones to the people you love in whatever capacity. Family and friends are to be treasured, flaws and all the good stuff, too.
And on that note, I wish all my family, friends and readers a healthy, happy and fulfilling 2019.