Notes From a Trip (part 2 of 2)

(During his month away The Curmudgeon traveled with his bride and stepson to San Diego, where various members of Mrs. Curmudgeon’s side of the family gathered from three cities across the country. The following are some observations from that trip. This is part two; part one appeared here on Tuesday)

The non-stop flight from Philadelphia to San Diego departed at 8:00 – okay, 8:30, it was American Airlines, which, as a descendant of US Airways, views schedules as strictly advisory – and about an hour later The Curmudgeon visited the restroom and was amazed to see how many people had alcohol on their tray tables, leading him to wonder:

What’s the deal with booze at 9:30 in the morning, people?

*      *      *

Same deal on the way home, although in a way a little worse: that flight was scheduled to depart from San Diego at 7:45 and there were people at the airport bar nursing beer and more at 6:30.

Seriously, people?

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The last time The Curmudgeon flew to California was four years ago to bury his father, who died of liver disease. On this trip he was reading the novel Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett. The first scene is set in the mid-1960s and features, among other characters, a burly, 30-ish police officer at the christening of his daughter at his home in Downey, California. The Curmudgeon’s father was burly and 30-ish in the mid-1960s and after he moved to California he spent a few years living in Downey. The next scene in the book is 50 years later, with the child who was christened in the opening scene taking her father, who we later learn is the same age as The Curmudgeon’s, for his chemo treatment, his cancer having spread to his liver. They put her father on a scale and he weighed 133 pounds. At that point The Curmudgeon pretty much lost it and was grateful that at that moment he had a window seat and that both his wife and stepson were fast asleep and did not witness the spectacle.

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The Curmudgeon has always wondered about the signs in airplane bathrooms suggesting that “as a courtesy” to the next passenger, users wipe out the bathroom sink. In what alternative universe do people wipe out bathroom sinks after using them?

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To get from home to the airport, the family used Lyft. The driver was nice and polite and accommodating. To get from the San Diego airport to the hotel the family took a taxi. The driver muttered under his breath the entire way. The next day the family took two taxis that meandered to a distant destination, led by drivers who weren’t quite sure where they were going or how to get there, at a one-way cost of $35 for each taxi. On the way home the Uber rides cost half as much, the cars were nicer, and one of the drivers offered excellent advice on destinations to avoid on the weekend because of crowds and also regaled his passengers with the tale of his guest appearance on a season one episode (“Marine Down”) of NCIS and offered the reassuring news that Mark Harmon is as nice a guy as you would imagine he is.

Lesson learned. From now on, when there’s a choice, it will be Uber or Lyft.

*      *      *

And when there’s a complete choice, Lyft. Over a dozen rides over five days the drivers were almost unanimous about being treated better, and more fairly, by Lyft.

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The hotel room was on the 24th floor – an oversight on The Curmudgeon’s part. He has no fear of heights but does have a fear of fire and his view is that if a fire department’s hook and ladder can’t reach his floor then he needs to be on a lower floor. That won’t happen again.

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The Curmudgeon’s kind of restaurant

After checking into the hotel Mrs. Curmudgeon needed a nap so The Curmudgeon and his stepson set off in search of lunch. The plan was to walk to San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, an area with blocks and blocks of restaurants, but directly across the street from the hotel entrance was a place called Kansas City Barbecue.


While waiting for our food, we learned that the bar scenes in the movie Top Gun were filmed at this place.

The barbecue was outstanding. The brisket? To die for. The Curmudgeon is serious about his barbecue and this was absolutely, positively the real deal.

*      *      *

Message on a restaurant receipt:

Your check includes a 3% surcharge to help offset the cost of state and city minimum wage increases.

Now THAT takes balls – from people who don’t have the balls to put a notice to that effect on their menus or, even better, to increase their prices three percent and explain why on the menu.

*      *      *

Restaurant charge: $5 for an onion bagel.


*      *      *


This was the first time The Curmudgeon ever encountered a Ghirardelli store. He felt like he’d died and gone to heaven.

And when he tasted the brownie he purchased he knew he had lived and gone to heaven.

*      *      *

A member of the family suffered an injury during the trip and The Curmudgeon and that family member had the privilege of spending nearly four hours in a hospital emergency room. They were definitely the ethnic minorities in the ER, several people who spoke very little English, and a young couple from Germany (whose English was very good). There were two people bleeding after getting into fights, two were accompanied, in handcuffs, by law enforcement officers (police in one case and what appeared to be border guards in the other, the latter not so surprising considering that you can pretty much walk from San Diego to the border with Mexico), and a woman who was told that she would need to wait her turn because doctors had determined that she was not suffering a potentially life-threatening problem. Once in the exam area, the woman in the next cubicle was coughing so much that it sounded as if she had TB.

In other words, just like home.

*      *      *

NOT named after Rocky

When he started this piece The Curmudgeon was determined not to offer tourism suggestions but he’ll make one exception to speak to the virtues of a visit to San Diego’s Balboa Park. While the rest of the family visited the San Diego Zoo – The Curmudgeon grew up in a big city with a terrific zoo and has already spent enough time for one lifetime gawking at caged animals – he spent a few hours at the San Diego Museum of Art. Both are located in Balboa Park, as are about a dozen other different types of museums, cultural institutions, and performance venues. You could visit San Diego for a week and never leave Balboa Park. The Curmudgeon may be one of the least-traveled people you’ll ever meet and he’s never heard of a place like this. If he ever flies again – he’d really, really, really rather not – he’d gladly return to San Diego so he could spend more time in Balboa Park.

*      *      *

The Curmudgeon has heard about selfie-sticks and read about selfie-sticks and has even seen selfie-sticks advertised and in stores but until he went to Balboa Park he’d never actually seen a selfie-stick in use. There, he saw plenty of them – all, for reasons he does not know, operated by people of Asian descent.

*      *      *

Something else The Curmudgeon observed in San Diego that he has never encountered in such numbers: people who not only have tattoos but have tattoos covering a significant portion of a limb or their body. He was amazed both at how many people he saw with large numbers of tattoos and that at least 95 percent of these people were women.

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The Curmudgeon has not yet reached an age at which he considers walking to be exercise but the health app on his phone informed him that he walked between five and 9.5 miles every day on his visit.

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The Curmudgeon considers himself as chocoholic. Among his chocolate favorites is a company called See’s, which he first encountered when his father moved to California in 1983. It’s a mostly but not-entirely west coast company and The Curmudgeon is accustomed to seeing See’s stores in airports. When the traveling party arrived they walked for about a minute before briefly stopping for his stepson to use the restroom, and while Mr. and Mrs. Curmudgeon waited, The Curmudgeon complained about not finding a See’s store. Mrs. Curmudgeon looked on sympathetically, humoring her curmudgeonly husband. When they resumed walking they spotted a See’s store within 30 seconds.

Columbus was no less elated, you can be sure, when he spotted the shore of what he believed to India.

*      *      *

When the vacation began gasoline in New Jersey was about $2.20 a gallon – except at Shell stations, where it’s always 25-30 cents more for reasons no one has ever adequately explained. In Pennsylvania it was about 20 cents a gallon more, as is usually the case. In southern California? As much as $3.29.

*      *      *

Everything seemed to cost more in southern California. The climate in San Diego is so wonderful that The Curmudgeon and his wife briefly mused about the possibility of retiring there. Their hotel was just across the street from a series of high-rise condominiums, so a quick Zillow search was in order.

As a point of reference, The Curmudgeon’s bachelor home was a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo of about 1200 square feet, and when he puts it on the market later this month he suspects the asking price will be about $140,000.

A similar condo in the San Diego community that interested them? $800,000.

Another dream dashed.

*      *      *

Mrs. Curmudgeon flies often enough to benefit occasionally from airlines rewards programs, and those benefits are multiplied because she also has a credit card from the airline she flies most often. Some of the upgrades are free, and the day before the return flight home, when she went online to check in the family, she found that all three members of the traveling party had been upgraded, at no cost, to first class – and to seats in the front row, which meant even more leg room than regular first class, a not-inconsiderable benefit for a five-hour flight.

The extra leg room is great but most of the rest of the benefits of sitting in first class are lost on The Curmudgeon: he doesn’t drink, the whole hot towel thing mystifies him, and he has an ironclad rule that if the airlines cook it he absolutely won’t eat it. (And he didn’t need that rule on this flight: the smell alone…)

One thing, though, surprised him about flying first class: they showed a movie! The Curmudgeon hasn’t had the option of an in-flight movie for years. His hopes for an easy way to kill a few hours of such a long flight were dashed, though, when he saw in the movie’s opening credits – he never did catch the title – that Chris Pratt was in it.

Has there ever been a better sign that a movie will be total crap than the presence of Chris Pratt?



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  • Barbara Snyder  On September 7, 2017 at 11:46 am

    LOL A delightful blog. That Mrs. Curmudgeon is good for you. Glad to see her getting you to travel and opening your horizons. Like you, I hate all of the airport stuff when I travel. But the thrill of the destination keeps me going. See the world, Curmudge, it’s fun!

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