The End of an Era

In the past few days I had the chance to see the final Harry Potter movie… in 3D, no less.

The word bittersweet comes to mind when I think of the end in a series which I really enjoyed watching.

I hated Snape, wished I’d had a leader like Dumbledore, wanted Ron to be good at Quidditch, understood Hermione, and knew that no matter what, Harry would do the right thing for the right reasons.

Being a wizard (or witch in my case) would have been sooo convenient. There have been times in my life where I wish I could use the “Reparo” spell. Of course “Accio TV Remote” would have been cool, or there are so many times I could have used the “Point Spell” which would make a wand into a compass. These spells even worked their way into my everyday conversation. I remember once telling a friend to stop being mean or I would “… get all Avada Kedavra on their ass”.

Not bad for a franchise that in the beginning I had poo poo’d.

When I first heard about Harry Potter it was the as “The Philosopher’s Stone” came out. I worked in morning radio at an “adult contemporary” station (read women/moms 25-45). It was our job to know the pulse of our listener, and these ladies were talking about a movie their kids had been begging to see. A British flick about some teenager who goes to a school to learn magic.

OK, so how do we “own this” as the jock used to say? Well, we could have a look-alike contest on the opening night. Sure. Who’s going to judge it? Um… none of us, we had NO idea what it was even about, let alone what the kid looked like. So we coupled with a local movie theater to give us a party room before the film, found a mom who seemed to know what she was talking about to judge the thing, got the theater to provide a prize package which we sweetened with some other stuff we had lying around. Alright, that’s settled… now who should go? Crickets.

Let’s send Snooker! Yes ladies and gentlemen, our high-priced talent would not be caught dead darkening such a scene… so they sent the producer who had actually put all the other stuff together, so surely she would be the best choice, right? Yeah, my job was pretty glamorous, haha.

The night of the movie premiere the place was swarming with kids. Out of all of them, there were about 20 who had been creative enough to enter the contest. Some had recycled Halloween vampire costumes and wore a scarf in what I later learned to be Gryffindor-colored stripes. Others had gone all out and found round glasses.

One kid – the winner it turned out – had actually used makeup to make a lightning-shaped scar on this forehead. It didn’t matter that he was blond, the judge-mom said that was the best idea, so he was the winner. (I really wish that I still had the pictures I took at these events) The rest of the kids ended up getting tickets and a free popcorn from the theater, they all received radio station bumper stickers… ’cause EVERY kid NEEDS a bumper sticker, you know.

No, sadly I didn’t watch the movie that night. I headed home after a super long day of work (morning radio starts before people wake up… ahem… dark thirty, so to speak). I came to regret that decision.

When the second movie came out, I allowed my curiosity to get the best of me and did a Dollar Theater visit. This was the Chamber of Secrets, and not a bad movie at all. OK, I said, I will catch up on the first one, and watch the others as they come out, which I did faithfully.

Once I made it to Germany in 2005 I found myself with lots of time on my hands which lead me to perusing my new wife’s book shelf. She had purchased the first Harry Potter and gotten partway through it before coming to the conclusion that she doesn’t really enjoy fantasy, and it had been gathering dust on the shelf ever since. I poured through it and hungered for more (like so many others before me). Not having much extra money, and seeing the waiting list after doing some research at the only English library in town, I realized that my options were limited.

I downloaded the 2nd book, yes illegally… no, I don’t think JK Rowling will be hurt by it. Pre-Kindle days, books could be read on an Palm device, and I had a nice one. I had been reading Gutenberg-downloaded classics for a while, so it made sense to try. Google search brought me to a few places where I could download all HP books to date as .pdf and view them on my Palm, so that is what I did. One after the other, I read them. Carrying around my Palm and pulling it out whenever I had an extra three minutes… waiting for a train, standing in line, waiting for a movie to start, anywhere, anytime. I even read in bed, the backlight feature allowing me to read all night long if I wanted to, if my nose was cold I read under the covers… just like Harry. Well, I didn’t have the cool wand and the “Lumos” spell, but it was a close second.

Of course these .pdf’s were usually simply re-typed by some person with more time on their hands than typing talent, so there were errors, but that didn’t matter to me. Then there was the time I started reading “The Order of the Phoenix” and quickly realized that the writing quality was nothing like the magic of J.K. Rowling. It turned out to be a work of fan fiction, written by someone with a love of Harry coupled with a creative mind. I eventually read it all because it was rather interesting. Harry developed a love of jogging, really got back at Dudley Dursley in an evil way, and eventually got into Hermine’s pants. Whew… that was a wild ride, let me tell you!

Waiting for the last book was the hardest. A friend and I queued at the bookstore for the midnight release. I read the entire book in one weekend, laughed, cried, yelled in frustration, and generally had a lovely time. Poor Sweet No just kind of drifted in and out of my life that weekend, making fun of me as she passed the vacuum cleaner under my feet.

Not to introduce any spoilers, let’s just say that the movies were great but the books were still better. Character development was fantastic and the stories felt so believable. J.K. Rowling is rolling in money, and I am happy for her.

I really WANT to find out that there REALLY IS a Hogwart’s or something like it, even if I wasn’t invited. Am I alone? What about visiting the Harry Potter Theme Park in Orlando? Would you spend your hard-earned money to visit the studio where much of the film series was made?

And what of JK Rowling? There is a 19 year gap to fill, as well as the possibility to write about what happens to the kids of the magical trio. Would she, could she, SHOULD she write more about the adventures of Harry Potter?

Bittersweet indeed. But our ride on the Hogwart’s Express has been enjoyable.

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Dear Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

Dear Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport,

My recent overnight stay in your older but generally uninteresting Terminal 2 due to a canceled red eye flight was not really the highlight of my trip, but it did certainly put an unusual cap on what had turned out to be a rather unpredictable excursion overseas.

Being part of a group of people who have just had their lives changed by those silly words, “Flight Canceled” is not always a nice experience, but at Sky Harbor, at least it wasn’t sooo horrific. It must be said that at least the place is kept clean. Since I was not allowed to stay in the gate area, I was witness to the cleaning crews as they waged war on dust particles all along the “lobby”. As I loitered in what must be the world’s most uncomfortable seats I was treated to one woman “training” two others how to clean. Not really a lot of fun, but was very entertaining since none of the three had a common language.

I’ve been using Sky Harbor Airport since the mid 80’s when jetways were a luxury and disembarking customers were shuttled down steps onto the slightly mushy tarmac which had been subjected to the heat of both jet engines as well as the wilting temps of the Phoenix desert weather.

Perhaps I should let it be known that I think the name Sky Harbor is fantastic. It is a harbor for things which fly through the sky. How simple, how eloquent, how lovely.

Also, the airport’s fantastic location in relation to where my Mother lives has made visiting her oh so very simple. My Mother and brother live 10 and 15 minutes away respectively, how great is that? I can pretty much call my brother right after touch down and know that he will be waiting for me outside after I pick up my luggage.

IF they didn’t live so close, there are great options such as the “Cell Phone Waiting Lot” system which is pure genius! How smart is that? Call your source of transportation as you see your bag pop out of the baggage claim, and BOOM, they drive directly out of the special lot to your pick up point!

May I just discuss another point of genius? Free Wi-Fi everywhere in the airport! How freaking fantastic is this? Flight canceled? Crank up that computer and see what else is available. Bored while waiting for your flight? Play some online video games, catch up on a little work, or simply research your next vacation.

Need to get a message to a passenger coming into Sky Harbor? You can either do this through the Internet, onsite at a special terminal, or by phone. At the baggage claim and at other areas throughout the terminal there are huge signs with PAL (Paging Assistance Location) displaying personal messages such as; “Bill and Judy, we’ll be on the north side exit waiting for you at door number 5”. Wow!

Years ago I had a proposal of marriage in one of PHX’s terminals but perhaps the PAL system would have been better for this. The girl I was dating had been thinking for some time about popping the question to me. We were going to be in the same terminal of PHX within about 12 hours of each other. She called me and told me to visit the ladies restroom closest to blah blah (I say blah blah because I have long since forgotten the details) gate. Then I was to go into a particular stall and get my message. As I had suspected she was asking me again in a new and different way if I would marry her. No, I didn’t take her up on it and later when we met again in Wichita I turned her down again. Moral of the story, never accept a proposal of marriage made in a toilet or from someone who would think that location was cool/romantic.

Then there was the Box Knife Incident. It was fall of 2002 and I was to catch a flight in Terminal 4. I went through security to my gate only to find it was still deserted because I was there so very early. Already seated there and looking bored was a woman who checked me out surreptitiously when I came to sit down. As I neared my chosen area I saw a box knife simply lying discarded on one of the seats. This was much like the weapons supposedly used by the terrorists on 9/11.

I approached it while visions danced through my head of the security detail I had just gone through to get to this supposedly “secure” area of the airport. Once again I met the eyes of the only other passenger in the waiting area. As I looked from her back to the box cutter I got the idea that she had already noticed what I had found and was also unwilling to touch it.

Eventually we talked about it and I told her that I would like to take the potential weapon of mass destruction to the check in desk, but that I would like her to confirm to anyone with further questions that it was sitting there before I had even made it to the area. She concurred and we talked for a minute or two about how that thing could have gotten past security and why on earth someone had abandoned it there. Soon I got up and carried it very cautiously (you know, by the edges to keep from smudging any possible fingerprints – have I watched too many cop shows or what?) over to the desk with three airline employees.

The airline representative took one look at what for me was a dangerous object and simply grabbed it out of my hand (not caring about any fingerprints, let me tell you) and threw it in the trash can at her feet. I nervously told her that it was not mine, that I had found it on a seat in the waiting area opposite, and that I was worried about it. She dismissively told me that I had done the right thing and that now it was safe. WTF? It was safe? In her trash can? To this day I often wonder if that was some kind of test.

Through the years I’ve been in and out of this airport MANY times. So many times that I know which side of the plane to sit on to get the best view of “A Mountain“, and what time of day is best to see shadows on the ridges of the local physical geography. Want any of that goofy information? Simply ask.

OK, enough of airports… let’s get a look at a frustrated kitty.
Oh, you have to watch through to the end. 😉

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Five years ago today…

Five years ago today I left my adopted hometown and moved to Berlin, Germany.

Five years ago
I awakened to the realization that “This is it”. In a few hours I would be on a plane which would carry me across the Atlantic to live with Sweet No.

Five years ago
I gave Frank a “special pill” which would help him remain calm and hopefully help him hold his bladder for over 15 hours.

Five years ago
I called my mother to let her know that today is the day. I explained that my bed was being moved out of the apartment, the microwave was going to a neighbor, the cat box is in the trash (much to the chagrin of the dumpster-diver who crawled in a few minutes later), and “NO MOM, I’m not out of my cotton-picking mind”.

Five years ago
I shoved Frank in a leather gym-bag-looking thing and told him that it was going to be just like our “dry runs”… that he would be getting out soon. (I just didn’t tell him how long “soon” was.)

Five years ago
I walked away from my father and his wife as they stood in the Wichita airport and waved a bewildered good bye. Later my father confided that he wasn’t sure he would ever see me again. This might explain the watery eyes and his strange insistence that I take a twenty dollar bill, “For the way there. You never know, you might just need it.” (I still have that twenty. It stayed stashed in a special compartment of my wallet for over four years. Now it is on my desk.)

Five years ago
There was no way for me to explain to him that I had enough money, that I wasn’t falling off the face of the Earth, and that I had thought this whole thing through many times. “For pete’s sake Dad, I’ve been planning this a year.”

Five years ago
I sat in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport and pondered my situation while the cat loudly expressed his discomfort and irritation at his situation. (Occasionally to amuse myself I closed the flaps on the bag and looked around at other people with interest and curiosity as though I too was trying to find the source of the howl which was at a volume and frequency only a Siamese cat can achieve.)

Five years ago
I was met at the Berlin airport by my Sweet No. For what seemed like an eternity we could only see each other through the glass as I waited in the secure area for my baggage. Eventually no new bags came, and yes as feared, once again Air France had lost one of my bags. GREAT. Now I’m even MORE thankful that I decided to pay the extra dough to keep the cat on the plane as carry on baggage. (The joke was on the guy who later had to deliver my bag – which weighed exactly 50.1 pounds – up four flights of stairs.)

Five years ago
I wheeled a cart out of security which held only one of my bags and a very pissy cat.

Five years ago
I knew the instant No and I hugged for the first time as a true “cohabitating couple” that four years of waiting for this moment was way too long and that my decision to move to be with her had been the right one.

Five years later… I look back on this time spent together and know deep in my heart that I have not regretted any of it, not for a moment.

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Random Tuesday – Halloween Edition

How about another spin on the RTT?

Don’t know what I am talking about? Visit Keely over at the Un-Mom for all the info. She has all the answers… except how to live Drama Free.

Would someone please tell the FDP Berlin that the election is over and that we are all aware that they won more votes this time than ever before? SO maybe now is a good time to take your signs down from all over Berlin. They are detracting from the graffiti. (sorry to the non-German residents… we had an election weekend before last)

Does anyone else read the license plates of the cars around them and make words out of the letters? (crickets) OK, I must be alone here. Oh well, it’s not the first time.

Berlin plates start with a B then have a space and then two more letters and a few numbers. I can usually find something in this grouping such as B OY or B ed or B IG… sometimes BIG is even seen on correspondingly funny vehicles such as BIG ASS Trucks or itty bitty cars.

It really gets fun with some of the other German cities… Frankfurt is a “F”, so I’ve seen a couple “FU” plates. Potsdam is a “P” which can be interesting, but “LDS” for an area around Berlin just has me thinking about the Latter Day Saints, hmm. Maybe I’ll start taking pictures of the more funny versions… hmmm. Could be a blog post.

Recently I’ve been asked by a family member if the Germans celebrate Halloween. As I told her, we really haven’t seen much, although it seems to be growing. Last year we had a few Trick or Treaters but they don’t seem to “get it”. They just ring the bell and then hold out their bags when you open the door. Not even so much as a “Trick or Treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat”. Oh, and no thank you or anything. (I remember this behavior from the four year olds… but here it is the twelve year olds too.)

I keep wondering what the sweet old German Omas (grandmas) are thinking when this happens at their doors…

Are there kiddie costumes in the stores? Not that I’ve seen. Do adults have parties? Not that I’ve been invited to. Will I have a party? No, I’ll be scuba diving in the crystal clear, blue waters of Tahiti for Halloween this year. (not that I’m excited or anything)

BUT I did get the grins as I walked into my local grocery store a few days ago. Storck products, maker of Nimms and Lach Gummies (fruity, chewy candies) had a display of bags with individually wrapped items inside! WOW! This is an improvement.

OK, I should start my work day. Today among other more boring things I will get to go shopping for gifts for clients. For a pregnant woman I’ve decided on some lovely foot and leg revival from LUSH, and another recipient will get a bottle of Veuve Cliquot Champagne. Fun job, eh?

Have a fantastic Tuesday!

Just because:
Uniting American Families Act – I really wish they would pass this bit of legislation. If so, Sweet No and I (as well as hundreds of thousands of other couples world wide) would once again have some rights.

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Where were you?

Eight years later … and still I cry.
On this day it doesn’t matter to me WHO did it, WHY or HOW…
What matters to me are the senseless deaths of that day,
and the deaths of so many innocents since that day.

Been reading:

9/11 as a Lesson, Not a Memory – Where were you when the world stood still? The first set of kids who must be taught about 9/11 are in our schools. What do you teach them? How can we explain to them the pain we felt?

Random Tuesday – Cool Weekend Edition

Hey There! Thanks for dropping in. It’s another Random Tuesday Thoughts complete with semi-scary graphic. If you want to know what that thing is all about… head on over to Keely the UnMom, she started it all. Ham? HAM? Dinosaur head? Pink star? Oh, and WHAT is that grey blob on the left side?

Let’s take a ride on the bullet point express, shall we?

  • I learned a few things in Kansas folks, never dally while passing a semi truck hauling pigs or especially cattle. Perhaps you can imagine what might happen. Those holes on the sides do more than let fresh air in and teh stank out.
  • You should always live to the east of your work. This way as you drive into the office, the sun is at your back… same with coming home. Much more convenient this way, don’t you think?
  • This past weekend was a lovely one for me. Jul (of This non-American life) and hubby popped into Berlin for some museum hopping and general sucking up of the Berliner vibe. Although I’ve been reading her blog for years, meeting her in person was still a surprise. She is very much as I would have assumed, but still there are many aspects I would never have dreamed of – leading to pleasant surprise after pleasant surprise.
  • This weekend we also got the keys to our new apartment! Tee hee hee… Let the work begin! Gosh, I could write an entire blog series on what it is like to change apartments in Germany. Let’s just say that it is not so easy.
  • OK… and to top off THAT wonderful news… I finally got my dream camera!!!! The Nikon D90 has been calling to me since it came out, complete with video capabilities and live action view. Tee hee hee!
  • Sweet No and I are headed to Munich this weekend for We-Bum 2009, which is a yearly get together of expatriate bloggers. Interested in attending? It’s never too late to join. Drop a line in the comments and let’s talk! Watch out Munich, lots of crazy folks are on their way… and I’m not talking about Oktoberfest!
  • My Parents-in-Law are great. They love our cat Frank so much that in order for him to be more comfortable while we are gone, they have offered to move into our apartment (amongst the boxes – I don’t envy them) during the weekend. Sweet, eh? I wonder if I could ask them to box up the kitchen while they’re there? Too much? OK, I won’t do it. No, I won’t… ahem… NO.
  • Our hotel in Munich has Wi-Fi… but it costs 8EUR an hour. WHEN are hotels going to realize that this is a MAJOR selling point for geeks and just give it to us for free? If I had gotten up off my ass and booked sooner, I would have had my first choice in hotels which had FREE Wi-Fi. But ahem, alas… I didn’t get a round tuit until this last weekend. We had airline tix months ago, but only because that part fell under Sweet No’s job description.
  • The teachers union in Kent, WA are on strike. I was a Kentridge Charger for all of about four months in 1984. Seeing this in the news reminds me of my culture shock at this school. I was side by side with Asians and Philipinos for the first time in my life. They had a school-sanctioned smoking area, and covered walking paths between buildings. This is the school where I was first “outed” as a lesbian. Until I moved to the Midwest about two months later (unrelated) I was pointed and laughed at by the students and teachers alike. Nice school, eh? It was a different world. Today I would probably have more friends just because it is now so COOL to be a lesbian. (sarcasm intact)

Been reading:
Taxpayer Funded Religious Bias – Father Geoff is at it again, explaining the truths of the bias of the church and how they get away with being bullies while using your tax dollars.

Been surfing:
Following The Trail Of Toxic E-Waste – 60 Minutes is still doing hard-hitting, in your face news reporting I see. But I guess it is better if they do that OUT of the country. Nonetheless the story has me thinking about how many computer monitors I’ve been through in the past 10 years. Yes, feeling guilty now.

Alright ladies and gentlemen, that’s enough for today. Thanks for reading my rambling.

OK, and because I just think it is sooo cute…
I offer you the Durex Bunnies.
Quite possibly NSFW. Oh, and you should have sound.