Saturday, October 31, 2009

Vienna, the Land of the Missing Glavin's

Vienna, Austria was the best city for a home base and there were plenty of reasons; these are just a few.

1. The transportation system was simply incredible and very kid-friendly. We were impressed at how easy it was to get tickets, and get from one side of the city to the other. The U-Bahn and tram were always on time, and they were straightforward. Anyone could find out how to get to Stephensplatz from Waringer Strasse. The Trams were just small subways (that were above ground). Trams are useful when you were in between U-Bahn stops, and especially trying to not become Closter Phobic in the U-Bahn. Also there was a useful “Hydro-Foil” for people traveling to Bratislava on the Danube River.

2. Vienna was really clean and was beautiful. The streets were cleaned almost every night. The only litter was the millions of cigar butts in the sewers and corners of dark allies. The city of Vienna had great architecture, from churches to government buildings. The St. Stephens Cathedral was our home church and it has the best saying, “Anyone can find St. Stephens.” Which is true to its title because of how large and well know it is. There is scaffolding on the outside of it for reconstruction; therefore they put a tarp over the scaffolding with a picture showing what is underneath.

3. It had a lot of history. Mozart lived in 85 apartments there; the Hapsburg’s dynasty was located in their two overly humungous palaces; the Lipizzaner stallions are raised, trained, and originated there; the Vienna Boys Choir (who are amazing); all in the city if Vienna. They have a museum quarter with ancient rocks (fascinating), animals, art, and documents. In the court yard there is a large statue of Maria Teresa, a Hapsburg Queen.

4. Our landlord, John, was hilarious. He always seemed to overbook apartments. That’s why we went to Budapest, Hungary and Istanbul, Turkey, AND why an 80 year old man stayed with us for a night. He always seemed to pop up during our nightly sessions of 24© or 5 minutes after we have arrived back from a trip.

Experienced and Well Travelled

I came to life in Shanghai, China, unbeknownst to so many Americans. I am sleek with a shiny, silver uni-body and I purr like a new Porsche if you just hit the “on” button. I have many unique features but we’ll talk more about that later. Mine is a journey that will move me thousands of miles through the Far East and into the great American frontier that spawned a failed vice presidential bid in Alaska and from there into the land of smoked ribs and the Blues. I’ll leave the Smokey mountain state after a short stay and its up in the pressurized hold of the purple and orange chariot of the sky and into the land that is the Keystone State, home to the signing of arguably the greatest document in governance history, the Constitution. How cool would it be if I was there some 225+ years ago? Guttenberg who?

The tough legs of the journey are but ½ through but I am close to connecting to my first stop within my new family and as I make the way up I-95, “Is that a sign?” “Does it say The First State?” “Yes, yes” it is and I couldn’t be happier. I saw that DE was on the “shipping label.” I wonder if my new owner will be kind, gentle and smart! You know how these things go, sometimes it’s all about the e-mail, and watching movies but I have depth going for me. I am special and capable of doing so so much more. I hope you’re not one of those that think ½ a terra-bite storage is just for document management. Lassiter made Pixar’s Toy Story come to life during my grand pops hey day, it’s in my genes to make things come together, look I have iLife. As grand pop always says “You got a friend in me.”

I am whisked away from DE, as fast as I arrive. I take a quick glimpse through my iSight as the Toyota van filled with kids, Mary and Catherine, and someone, I think, Catherine asked “Mommy, where are we taking him?” She replies “The Company is sending him to connect with his new owner.” “Is it far?” asks Catherine rocking and swaying to the music. Mommy says “I’ll say, it’s all the way in the Middle East at a place called ‘Israel’.” “WHAT!" is my surprised reaction. Do you know what they use computers for in the Middle East, I think to myself? I’m a lover not a fighter. If I only had legs, I’d be outta here.

After the drop off, I’m waiting on a 6” ledge marked “shipping” while holding on for dear life at a place called “Total Scope Inc”. I remember “processing” stuff about companies like this, filled with big black computing antiquities, and my fast as lightening RAM spits out the image that says “DELL”. Do people still use these things? I guess the “blue screen, please reboot” has some kind of power over corporate people. They must like “pounding the desk” and using words that get guys like me locked in a brief case and labeled “for personal use only.”

Things really get busy around me @ 5:30 and I’m sitting next to some funky stuff, 6ft black bodied snakes, mostly medical things that have eyes on both ends, and I hear that they get used at both ends too, YUK! I hope they’re not in the box with me. As I get moved around from here to there I see the lady in the Toyota was right, the label says Scot’s Hotel Tiberias Israel. You know Shanghai ain’t that far from Israel. You couldda made it a much shorter trip, ya know, but like most things my age “we do what you input.” Just before they close up my box there’s an argument and some kind of tussle. Who is this Denis they speak of? I hear the dreaded words “It’ll be cheaper if we ship’em together” All I can think is “Please, no food or drink in my box, they must know that I’m allergic to shipping peanuts!” In comes another box. I am panning with my iSight just like everyone on a plane hoping the last guy doesn’t take the middle seat next to you and if you have to give up the room you hope he’s not one of those 50” flat screen LCD’s. You can never get comfortable with those gangly things next to you especially on such a long flight. I hope he has some personality but not too much if you know what I mean. He takes the spot next to me, sheds his brown box and what do you know, I knew him at the factory in Shanghai China. Hey, “What are you doing here?” My boxmate says “Headed to Israel” I say “Hey sparky, they put us in the same box I know you’re going to Tiberias.” These 13” guys just don’t have the same processing speed or memory but they have lots of personality. I’ll have plenty of time to get to know this fella, its an 864 mile connector to Memphis and then 6,500 miles to Israel.

It’s a cold trip at 30,000 feet and we make a brief stop for more ribs and music in Memphis, Tennessee. A couple guys, one named FED and the other EX, looked over at us and said “We remember you, weren’t you here 2-4 days ago?” I quip “I just go where they send me fellas and if everything breaks right I’ll have enough frequent flier miles for a free mouse or World of Warcraft game or something”. Into yet another plane we go, boxed in with packages of all shapes and sizes, some to going Tel Aviv, Hebron, and others to Jerusalem. It’ll be cool to “come to iLife” in Galilee, pretty ironic don’t you think?

Israel customs, like passport control for humans, is lots of waiting with a few tense moments as guys in uniform look over all my paperwork. They don’t just let anyone into the country. I’m not an expert but something doesn’t seem right. In China they just scanned and stamped me and in Anchorage they passed a wand over me and I was good to go and was on my way like the “nothing to declare line” that always moves so quickly. There seems to be an issue, first there are 2 guys and then 3 and now a guy with a gun joins them. Hmmm, if I was a marvel cartoon character my “spider” senses would be tingling. I hear the dreaded words “We gotta call the recipient.” I am not an expert but that can’t be good. 13” is sitting beside me, nervous and quiet. “It’s always the little ones that get picked on”, he says. Relax little guy those Total Scope Inc guys are experts. We’ll be fine. I am in ear shot of the conversation and I relay it to 13”, “Something about a VAT and 2 computers in the same box is a security threat.” What do they mean when they say “He has to have an import license to get 2 computers into the country?” We sit a few days and watch everything known to man pass us by and the customs guy just saying “yes”, “yes”, “yes” “yes”. We just need to hear those 3 letters and we’ll be in a van for 90 minutes an then springing to life. "We’re so so so close 13” I can feel it." Glad this warehouse is air conditioned, “Did you see all those guys sweating out there?”

The customs manager and a bunch of guys huddle next to me. Its times like these you’re glad you have a “state of the art microphone.” The burly guy with the olive skin and a 2 day beard says “Put’em back on the plane!” “They don’t want to pay the tax and play by our rules.” 13” looks at me, and I think, did he say 'back to the plane?' So i asked "Come on, did he really say 'back on the plane?'” 13” says let me talk to them “We came from the USA, we’re the best damn friends Israel has in the world.” Nice try kid but we’re headed back to the USA. “Buckle up, turn on your Garage Band and make some tunes. I'm switching my iPod on putting in my ear buds and chillin. As the saying goes “Israel, nice place to visit but wouldn’t want to live there.” I wonder if the Department of Israeli commerce knows how many times this story will be told? I wonder if they care.

My friends FED and EX look at us a bit quizzically as we slide by on the conveyor. The red spiderweb scan alerts them “Priority”. Fed looks at EX and says “There must be some pissed off folks at Total Scope Inc.” We never ship for FREE to international. Let’s get it sorted and on the way to Boothwyn.” 13” says to me “Please tell me we’re no going to be sitting at TSI staring at the black snakes again, they give me the creeps.”

We don’t sit to long and my sensitive Mic picks up passing bites of information “Screw customs,” “If Fex Ex can’t deliver find someone else.” “Call UPS and get it right” I don’t know who’s directing all this but my iSight can see his head is red and he has no hair. 13” needs some air and his prayers are answered as they take him out of the box. He’s a good kid, plenty strong and fast but needs some attention and guidance.

I get jotled and turned around 5-6 times and hear the labels being ripped off like old scabs. “No signs of Fed EX on this box” gets yelled. A new label is coming at me. It starts with an “A” ends with an “a”. Maybe I’m going to Alabama? Hold on “Does that say international? Please not Africa!” I hear they have power issues there; I only have 7 hour battery life. Whew it says “Austria.” I hear great things about Austria, music , architecture, strudel. Wait please tell me, “What about my buddy 13”?” Some guy Jimmy yells to Joe “Make sure that 13” gets the same label. They leave in 15 minutes and we don’t want them to miss their flight. They go to Louisville and then Austria." A quick calculation on my 2.8 gigahertz processor and I yell to 13” across the shipping bay 501 miles to Kentucky and 4396 miles to Austria. Keep your “Control” and “Command” buttons crossed but don’t touch delete." These 13” kids get rammy sometimes and then you get the whole “reboot” thing going.

The “brown guys” pick us up and away we go. It’s Philadelphia to Kentucky and then to Austria. I’m well traveled and glad I’m packed so tightly with a nice foam rook and custom made seat for travel. The UPS guys are “all business”, no chit chat and you see why they are famous for their precision, no movement wasted. Bang bang bang and off the plane in Louisville with a brief wait til we load for Europe. I strike up some small talk with some baseball bats headed to New York. I ask “Who’s Alex Rodriguez?” He’s got his name signed on all these bats. One of the bats says “Plays for the Yankees but we’re not worried, he misses most of the stuff he swings at in the World Series” So that’s what all that stuff was in the boxes in Philadelphia. NLCS Championship clothes. I hope they’re not sending any of it to Israel I thought to myself.

UP we go, no pun intended, with BIG BROWN to Austria. 13” is in the same container. He looks a bit tired but that’s because they didn’t have time to charge him up like they did for me. He’ll be fine once his long life lithium battery gets some juice. Hope they’re ready with an electric converter in Vienna. I noticed a few things got stuck in the box with me at TSI. Sounds like maracas. One says Tylenol and the other says Advil. I’m not a Kindle so I’m glad they gave me something to read on the trip “The 39 Clues; The Black Circle.” Awesome, a mystery book to pass the time and I can connect to the internet with my fast as heck connection for clues to solve the mystery.

Into customs we go. 13” looks good. We wait for Austrian customs, a bit apprehensive given our last experience. I wait pensively and hear the magic word “Cleared”. Down the belt I go, sorting to the pile marked Vienna. Wait “Where’s my buddy?” We’re traveling together. "Hey Mr. Brown guy! Lift me up so I can see my buddy 13. Hey wait a minute! Why is he in the cage marked “HOLD.” “Say it ain’t so?” Down I go to 11 Schubertgasse. No muss no fuss. The air is clear and the lights a welcome sight. Wait a second “Why am I getting put in the closet? Are you kidding me? Where’s 13? Come on someone answer me!" Maurice and Ann are scrambling, I hear them say “Customs issue on the 13.” We need to “declare more value”. I sense that “Oh no” feeling. I smell the tax man again. There’s 20 emails, and 3 trips to Mailboxs Etc 2 faxes and a bunch of phone calls. Please release my friend 13”. The days go by. I hear Ann say 1 more shipping day left or we miss the shipment because we leave Vienna to fly to Spain. I don’t think 13” can make it to Spain, his battery is weak and we all know that you make mistakes when you get tired.

It’s 9:00 PM Thursday, if 13” doesn’t arrive tomorrow, I hear that Team Glavin will be in Spain, flying Monday. The cell phone pings, I can hear it clearly. Maurice jumps at the pause button and some guy named “Jack Bauer” will need to save the world a bit later. Maurice is beaming as he forwards the note to Ann “Package released for Delivery.” 13” is on his way, I’ve missed him. The Friday AM hours tick by 9-10-11-11:30. Rap rap rap on the window, the apartment bell doesn’t work. UPS delivery it’s 12:00PM. Some kid named Eamon signs the notebook computer log. Bitte, bitte, bitte! (please please please) be my friend 13!” The label says from “TSI” USA. He emerges from the corrugated brown box, no worse for wear. He notices that I’ve shed my brown travel skin as well. Now the 2 of us are gleaming, well traveled, white shiny boxes.

“What next?” is all I can muster. “Why aren’t we being opened?” In comes the 8 year old Pearse. He lifts me up stunned and exhilarated, “Are you kidding me?” He is instructed to bring us into the kitchen and say “Look what I found?” He rushes, almost gliding into the kitchen and explodes his quickly rehearsed line “Hey Eamon and Seamus, look what I found” holding me and 13” up as high as his little arms will allow. For the first time I see my new “owner”, his name is Eamon and a wave of excitement hits each of us as I can see it is “’love at first sight.” I was hoping for a partner that was ebullient, smart and multitalented. He’s whopping and hollering “’you’ve got to be kidding me” “Is it really mine?” 13” is looking at Seamus his new owner, excited to have someone that shares his personality and fun loving view of life.
The future is as bright as my Apple symbol when it comes to life. I traveled the world to get here, some 28,515 miles. and I am glad to finally be home and I’ll stay paired with my 13" buddy for as long as Eamon and Seamus travel together, hopefully for iLife.

MacBook "15 Inch" Pro

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Can It be 1/3 Complete?

As the month of October comes to an end we are amazed at how quick it is going for Team Glavin in Europe. It seems like just yesterday that we stood in the driveway, both excited about our adventures and dare I say apprehensive. Was that actually July? We knew not what awaited us but believed that no matter what Europe or the Middle East threw at us we’d survive. All we can say is so far so good.

So here are some “lessons learned” so far:

• Don’t go anywhere without peanut butter.

• You need money for the water closet (aka the bathroom)

• You can reserve seats on the train and you should, Pearse gets heavy after 3 hours

• Take pictures with all 5 of us in the frame so people know Ann actually came with us.

• If you don’t want to be made fun of then DO NOT wear sound-proof headphones.

• Some dinners you just order by the pictures.

• The more you travel the less you pack.

• Don’t believe everything tells you.

• Beware the hotel that says “Oh yes, we have internet!”

• Every tour guide starts with the phrase “We’re the first to …

• Make sure to have ample supply of “Chill Pills” and “Advil’s.”

• It’s easier to travel with smart people but more fun with stupid pepol.

• Math isn’t fun in Austria,Czech, Russia, Turkey, Germany,Israel, Hungary …

• In some countries the Priest reads from his IPod during Mass.

• Some “street” performers should look for different work.

• Pedestrians actually have the “right of way” in Vienna not in Moscow.

• Don’t wear a Texas hat unless you want to answer “Are you from Texas?” a million times.

• Istanbul has more cats than Catholics.

• “Charge it” has nothing to do with a credit cards and everything to do with I-Pods, Computers…

• “Sleeps 5” means someone gets the floor.

• “We are here and you are” is a funny website name in 11 countries.

• “Boys, do you know how lucky you are?” will be uttered 5 million times before July 2010.

• Some water closets don’t have actual toilets and some empty on the train tracks like in Poland.

• The ticket collector used to say”border crossing” but now the cell phone co. does it for them.

• There’s a beggar in Bethlehem that actually owns a bank, true story.

• No matter what the style of clothes or who says it “vogue” purple clothes are still purple.

• When you son says “I have to go to the bathroom” he meant to tell you 30 minutes ago.

• Shop Saturday if you expect to eat at home on Sunday.

• Rally car racing and handball are actually considered sports not hobbies.

• It’s our job to “eat, sleep, and complain” we’re teenagers.

• The first guy who said “Its 100 degrees in the shade” must have lived in Israel.

• Map reading skills are optional but and then again so is breathing.

• Video making is cool and fun unless all you have are PC’s.

• Don’t believe the credit card company when it says “You’ll be fine in Europe, we noted your file”

• Going the wrong way on the Metro, no matter which country, builds character.

• Sometimes the lock to the apartment gets changed while you are away and they forget to tell you.

• Home schooling is an oxymoron.

And last but not least: Everyone has an opinion about America, some good and some bad, but all are glad we exist when needed.