On the road

It seems like I’ve been on the road forever. I guess it has been a week. Here is my rough itinerary:
  • Sunday: brunch in the East Bay, drive to Los Angeles (I arrived at 11pm and had so much communication to catch up on that I only went to bed at 1am)
  • Monday: noon flight LAX to BOS; arrive 8:45pm, drive to Vermont through a massive thunder and rain storm … I actually got to hear the emergency broadcast system in actual use! Very exciting … less so was the 1am arrival … sorry to my family who waited up for me!!
  • Tuesday: brunch at home with my family and aunt Laurel (king salmon … SUCH A TREAT!!!!), drive down to Long Island with Ellie (the cat). Arrived at 8pm, ate semi-paleo BBQ at Famous Dave’s (the sauces probably have sugar), played with the cat for a bit, and crashed.
  • Wednesday: up at 5am to take Ellie to the cargo terminal at JFK where she had to be dropped off between 6 and 6:30am. Back to the hotel to drop my bags, then train into NYC where I had brunch with Richard (a friend of my Mom’s), and lunch with Richard (a friend of mine). Hehe. Over to CrossFit Hell’s Kitchen for heaving snatch balances followed by 5 rounds of 200m run + 7 squat snatches (my squat snatch is getting much better… the trick, apparently, is not to pull with your arms!), back to the hotel, drop off rental car, AirTrain to terminal. 10:20pm departure to London.
  • Thursday: about 5 hours and 45 minutes of sleep out of a six and a half hour flight later, arrive in London. Tube to King’s Cross to meet Jean who’s in town competing in the Olympics, and John who lives in London but who we both met in South Africa. A walk around the new King’s Cross neighbourhood, which is now completely different from how I recall it being (which is to say, it was kind of like the Woodstock or Roxbury or Oakland-type neighbourhood), lunch by the canal, and then to John’s house which is a restored Georgian-era row house. Stunning. Then back to Heathrow for a 9pm flight to Cape Town. This one at least had the decency to be 12 hours long so I could get some real sleep!

So everyone’s asking how is it that I have a cat named Ellie. Well, she was already named when I adopted her (her name was one of the things that attracted me to adopt her as opposed to some other cat). I’ve always been drawn to adopting adults rather than kittens. Kittens can always find homes. However, old cats don’t learn new tricks and Ellie resisted my efforts to rename her. I can’t even remember what I tried to name her (Cleopatra probably; … a joke in reference to her regal personality).
But she’s SO SWEET. My little baby. All the benefits of a dog (loyalty, affection), without all the drawbacks (neediness, constant need to be walked and washed). Apparently torties are like that: they bond with their owner and are almost dog-like in their affection. They also don’t play nicely with others.
It’s really a pain that she was not able to travel with me. Here’s the thing: because of all the import-export rules and regulations, commercial airlines really don’t handle pets on international flights. This is why pet relocation companies exist as a cottage industry, charging $3,000-$5,000 per pet. Since I’m no longer made of money (quite the reverse), I opted the DIY route. The paperwork is actually not complicated … in comparison to booking an airline ticket for a cat. The commercial airlines won’t do it, as I said, and this is also an unusual request for the cargo carriers.
Adding insult to injury, if the pet goes through a third country on the way to its final destination it also has to clear customs, etc. there, or at least that significantly increases the complexity of the paperwork from the airline’s standpoint. So, my routing for this trip was CPT-JFK via LHR (that’s Cape Town to New York JFK via London Heathrow for those of you who haven’t memorised a bunch of IATA codes). Because the UK was involved, this was impossible for Ellie. So she flew JFK-CPT via JHB (Johannesburg), a flight that costs probably 50% more than mine.
Long story short my wonderful friend Jo is picking up Ellie from the airport for me. I asked her because she was the first to come to mind as being a cat person, and as a cat person myself, I would totally do the same for any of my friends. I’d pick up a dog too; dogs kinda go crazy over me most times. But a frightened cat is going to want a real cat person, so Jo is a lifesaver of sorts.
Anyway … exhaustion aside (thank God for caffeine …), it’s been a good few days. Especially the drive from San Francisco to LA left me the time to think. About how the American radio has the same over-play issues as South African (if I hear “Call Me Maybe” one more time I might just scream … then again, that one cuts a little deep unfortunately). About how when you’re in Jesusland, California, the best thing on the radio really is the Christian music station … at one point I had had just about enough and was really craving Nirvana. Didn’t find Nirvana, but GnR instead.
About how there’s a shooting in Colorado, and all anyone is talking about in the airports is Penn State. Well, the NCAA is definitely a bit more definitive on the matter than the Pope ever was.
About what I want. I was giving some advice to one of the Richards in New York; telling him to listen to his gut because it always knows. I truly believe that, but sometimes knowing how to listen is the hard bit. On this trip I’ve visited a place I used to live, and two places I’ve always been interested to live in but never actually did (New York and London). As I was telling Richard, I’m not arrogant enough to presume I know where my life is going to take me. However, as he so correctly told me: if we have a sense of where we want to go, we can guide life to suit. That’s a smart, insightful guy, and one of many people I wish I had more time with. But this life isn’t over yet. Not even close. We’re just getting started.
We do live in a global village: as I write these words I am in London, sitting in a garden patio smelling jasmine & honeysuckle. 24 hours ago I was in New York, and 24 hours from now I’ll be in Cape Town. I love that about this world. It’s beautiful. Didn’t hurt that the weather has been stunning in both cities (New York could easily have been stifling and London raining!). Well, it’s useful to reflect on what you want out of life. Who and what you think about on a daily basis. Who you don’t. How easily and quickly this can change.
My first night in Sunnyvale, Cathleen asked me how it felt to be a hardcore intellectual but also a jock. I found it a surprising question, in a way. I can see how from the outside looking in people can see the two as being different but for me they are both the same and complementary. The yin to the yang, the thing that makes me eat and sleep properly, and keeps me from over-working and over-stressing myself. The precision that goes into complex gymnastic moves and Olympic weightlifting, where I am only scratching the surface of competence, and where mastery is far, far away.
But more fundamentally, I love the science of sport. I can geek out talking about nutrition, and the conjugate method, and the hows and whys of programming. That’s why I find the CrossFit coaches more interesting than the athletes. There’s as much intelligence that goes into the optimal way to achieve athletic goals as there is into a business model.
At the end of the day, what’s really most important is being challenged, and learning, and growing. They say everyone has a price. I think this is true. Mine is not necessarily money (although yes, there’s a level at which I have a price, there, too, I’m sure!!), but more experience. I’ve had some amazing ones in my life: east coast prep school, the dotcom boom at a company that made it, watching World Cup, being in the CrossFit Games, living as an expat. I’ve had some horrible ones, where I felt stifled like I couldn’t breathe and hated life. I’ve had at least one near death experience. I’ve made some mistakes, avoided some others, taken some bad risks, and regretted some risks I didn’t take.
It’s been a good vacation. Now’s the time to get moving again, in all senses of the word.
  • “It’s too small to contain you.” – Richard
  • “Don’t question it. Just crush it.” – Richard
  • “The last thing you want to do is breathe when you’re trying to snatch!” – Jean
  • “I’ve learned that the better you are, the more humble you must be.” – Jean 
P.S. – the cat is doing great, and that damned song is now on SA radio too!

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