Happy Labor Day!
The ceremonial last day of summer has never meant much to me - too busy putting on the last game of the baseball season, a holiday weekend soccer matchup or something like that.
This year, Labor Day meant a trip to Goblin Valley State Park in southern Utah, enough spare time to read Randy Pausch's Last Lecture, the realization that summer's over and all THREE kids go to school this coming week, an energized debate about the governor of Alaska/Republican Veep candidate, and a fable about an imaginary friend named Freddy who almost caused me to get a speeding ticket. Plus, handball practice starts Tuesday. Phew. Lots going on.
Goblin Valley takes the cake though. Voted one of the best family campgrounds in America, yadda yadda, we went with some friends and their church-going camping friends. Except for a woman named Jackie, who our daughter immediately adopted as her "local grandma", we were the first ones to arrive - an all-time record in the Thomas-Pastorino household since the arrival of kids. We're NEVER the first ones there, but I took Friday off (handball more than got its money's worth out of me in the past three weeks) and enjoyed the leisurely drive to the park about 30-some miles northwest of Moab. Friday night we took in 7,500 stars, the milky way and several shooting stars in one of the darkest spots in the United States. How cool.
Saturday, we set off at 2pm for Little Wild Horse Canyon - a slot canyon with some much-needed shade from the 95-degree waning summer heat. The kids loved it, hiked the 3+ miles without too much incident or complaint and climbed, dug and otherwise explored the canyon to their heart's content. We went scorpion hunting with a black infrared light after dark (and s'mores) - and found two. We're not sure we're excited to have seen them or nervous to know they lurk in the dark in our deserts.
Today we drove home in a wintry monsoon - the outside temp pegged at 55 degrees as we pulled into SLC in a driving rainstorm (snow in the mountains!). Summer is over! (Well, it'l flare up again, but it breaks a 90-ish day streak without more than .01 inch of rain.
I don't know where to start to write about Last Lecture. The book is inspiring. The story is so overtold, it's almost cliched. I felt like I was way ahead of the curve on Bridges of Madison County and Kite Runner but in this case, I feel like the last guy left in America who hadn't read Pausch's account of his opportunity to deliver a last lecture before succumbing to pancreatic cancer. (He passed away July 25.) I'll have to go watch the YouTube video when I feel like a roller-coaster of laughs and tears. Pausch reminds me of one character in my life to an incredible degree. I'll let you guess who. Pick it up, especially if you have a spouse and kids. Think about what's really important.
On another front, I thought McCain's pick was rather forward-thinking and interjected a new (if severely underqualified) voice into the contemporary political scene (and presidential race). Then, I spent the weekend with several educated, liberal, professional women who hold him in utter contempt for daring to reshape the male-female political dynamic by naming such an ill-prepared, "right wing" woman as the "safe, pro-woman choice who would shut up, stay out of the way and let him run his presidency." (And that's editing the words significantly for my family-friendly blog!) Wow, is there some anger on behalf of some women. The more I read about Sarah Palin, the more I might agree. At least if McCain/Palin (Geezer & Gidget, according to today's SL Trib), I'd have a vice-president with a daughter with the same name as one of my dogs, Piper. Can't say much else positive about her. Oh yes I can... I dislike her LESS than Mitt Romney.
Finally, our minivan was driving Mrs. 'Hat Rack nuts around Price this afternoon, severely infringing on her knitting abilities. So after checking our the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Excavation Site ("Follow this dirt road for 30 miles...") and deciding to see it on our next trip to central Utah, I told the kids that we'd picked up Freddy, an imaginary friend for the rest of the ride home. Freddy has red hair, one green eye and one blue, is 8 years old, loves dinosaurs and sat next to our daughter in the minivan. This caused great gnashing of teeth, "Freddy's not reeeeeeallll!" - but definitely killed 20 minutes of the drive, until a cop pulled me over for speeding. (Question - I thought cops had to be still to get accurate radar times, but this guy pulled me over after passing me while he was driving 60 mph himself in the oncoming traffic...) Anyways, after checking our docs and decided we were insured, not running from the law, not hauling non-resident watermelon farmers and otherwise looking like a sad-sack family coming home a day early from vacation due to change of seasons... he let me off with a warning. Thanks Freddy! (Freddy knows some cops apparently).