Greetings from South Dakota, where I’m vacationing with my mom, dad and daughter. Three generations– each with their own agenda and me as the “tweener” in the middle. Here’s how the trip has gone so far.
DAY ONE IN CASSVILLE, WIS.: My folks trace dad’s genealogy, I buy some cheese curds and my teen tunes out with her iPod. We all share a room with a really loud air conditioner and there’s a constant cue to the bathroom. Dusk comes and my folks go to bed and we are expected to follow. We toss and turn until midnight, then settle into a deep slumber that is shattered by the rustling of newspapers and a percolating pot of coffee. “Did I wake you?” asks mom in her most surprised voice.
The accommodations are better on days two, three and four. Our condo on the golf course in Galena, Ill. (home of Civil War hero and President Ulysses S. Grant) has two bedrooms and, more important, two baths. Harmony is running high until dinner, when my teen wants Italian and my folks are grossed out by the huge plates of pasta that are brought to the table.
“How can anyone eat all this?” my parents remark. “We’ve lost our appetites!” The enormous portions come up at least 10 more times in conversation before we get the bill. My dad complains of heartburn half the night and we all wake up in our crabby pants the next morning.
DAY FIVE: The dirty clothes are taking over the back seat of my father’s Buick like a growing living organism. It breathes and it’s threatening to consume everything in its path. My teen freaks out and spends the morning in the Laundromat. We arrive in Pierre, S.D., in time for a Buffalo dinner.
DAY SIX: I would kill for some fog. The Midwestern heat is addling my brain and my teenager swears she can’t go outside.
Mom says she’s chilly and adds another layer of clothing. At dinner, my folks ask us how we can eat such spicy food.
“Maybe it’s why you’re always hot,” they remark.
And so the trip goes, with conflict and compromise as we blend the generations. Club Med it’s not. But I wouldn’t trade the laughter and memories for any vacation on earth.
TAKING CHARGE: A few weeks ago, I mentioned a dangerous section of sidewalk in front of the Blockbuster in Montclair. At least two readers reported tripping on the walkway and wanted it fixed. Well, the wheels are in motion and Public Works is addressing the problem.
But there’s more to the story. There’s apparently a city-operated call center now where you can report stuff like this and have someone take action. It’s staffed by Sabrina Jones, who is described as a truly dedicated employee. The number is 510-615-5565. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
“CADDYSHACK”: It’s a blast from the past at Oakland’s Claremont Country Club. Reader Timmy Fanning says he’s earning money for college this summer as a caddy at the venerable Broadway Terrace golf course.
“I carry two bags and make $90 for four hours of exercise,” he said, adding that you don’t even have to be a golfer yourself — you just need a strong back and legs. And it doesn’t hurt to look good in one of those white caddy jumpsuits they wear, either.
HELPING HAND: From Oakland to Africa — A timely gift is on its way to some of the world’s poorest people.
Local author Susan Urquhart-Brown says she’s sending copies of her book “The Accidental Entrepreneur” to fledgling businesswomen in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. Susan has seen for herself how hard women are working there to overcome poverty. After her last visit, she said: “I was inspired by the women’s enthusiasm, work ethic, generosity and gratitude and their ability to do so much with so little.”
Susan wrote the book after launching her own business in 1995.
E-MAIL BAG: Reader Chuck Harrison (who was instrumental in getting the drop-off mail boxes at Mountain and Colton) is on another crusade. He wants a crosswalk in front of the Montclair Library.
“Young children are especially vulnerable,” he writes, adding that speeding cars have been an issue on this section of Mountain Boulevard. Then there’s the problem of parking. “While it’s possible to slip into parking behind what I still call The Montclair Women’s Club building at Thornhill, it is far safer to go where there is off-street library parking at the Dimond branch (on Fruitvale Avenue) and at the Rockridge branch (on College Avenue).” Anybody for valet parking?
And speaking of the Oakland libraries, the waiting list to check out the newest Harry Potter book is around 400 people. J.K. Rowling could probably write another book in the time it takes to reach the top of the list. But then again, saving $25 might be worth the wait.