13 August 2016

Like dad, like son!!

I am often – and of late, increasingly – compared with my dad. Folks who know both of us mention how we look alike, our mannerisms are similar and we apparently, even talk the same way. But when somebody who I have not seen for 34 years, sees me down the street filled with a lot of people and immediately recognizes me simply by how I looked and walked from a distance, I have to believe that there is a lot of truth to what people say.

Yesterday, after all that driving and meetings and getting lost in the trails, it was getting late. But I really really wanted to meet this guy from my past. Unfortunately, I was at least forty minutes from where he was working and he was another forty minutes from his home. You know you were friends with somebody when they say – “Don’t worry. I will be there”. And that meant he had an hour and a half drive back home.

Not knowing how he would look – I had vague memories of Raja (Rajarshi) – I was looking around in the middle of all the boisterous crowds in Reston Towne Center on a Thursday evening – to see if I could spot him. Like I said, I had no need to worry. Even if he did not remember me, he remembered my dad.

The familiar “Bachchuda!” cry (incidentally, Bachchu is what my nickname was in Durgapur – actually still is – but nobody calls me by that name anymore) made me look to my sharp right and there he was – Raja – pretty much looking the same from so many years back. Not losing hair helps a lot!! And his first comment – after seeing me after 34 years – was “Ekabarey Roy-jethur moto”! (“Just like Roy Uncle”).

I was sixteen and he could not have been over ten way back in that February 1982 Saraswati pujo day when I had visited them for the last time. A few years back, we had left the neighborhood. But before leaving the neighborhood, we used to play soccer and cricket together – along with a few other kids from the neighborhood.

I had always wanted to meet him after I located him a year back. In spite of coming to the DC area so often, yesterday was the first time I got some time to meet him.

We told the bar lady that we were meeting after 34 years. She promptly took pictures of us. The rest of the evening, we drew up the neighborhood houses on a napkin and went house by house to see if we remembered everybody from that house and see if we knew where they all were. Many times I would fish out my iPhone, go to my blog and show him pictures of many of those people. In my “Intersection Point” series, I had met them much later, took pictures of and chronicled them in my blog.

The whole evening was like stitching together a rich tapestry of scattered memories from those days. We would recollect something – ask the other – do you remember that? do you remember this? and often would burst out laughing or loudly go – Yes, Yes Yes.

It was a good thing I had told the lady at the bar about our background. Instead of getting irritated every time we got boisterous with our laughter and Bengali, she would come over and take more candid pictures of us on our phones!!

Thank you Raja for taking the pains to drive that long to make it possible for me to meet you. Let’s see if we can pull off that picnic in the same spot from 1980 with all our neighborhood folks one last time in the next few years!!!


12 August 2016

That was a scary run…

Well, the day was filled with meetings in Philly (PA), then Lanham (MD), Chevy Chase (DC) and then finally Dulles (VA). I figured I had earned myself a nice run by the Potomac river at the end of the day. I wanted a new spot instead of the usual places I have run from before. Decided to try the Potomac-Heritage Trail which has a lot of historic importance from the Civil War. After changing into running clothes at a nearby Subway, I drove to the trail head at Seneca.

It was still hot – mid nineties – and sunny when I hit the Seneca Connector Trail. The first 0.7 miles was shaded and easy since it kept going downhill. Then I joined the Potomac-Heritage Trail. After running for another mile or so in merciless sun, it suddenly occurred to me that I had not seen any trace of a river. Stopped to check Google map on my iPhone and realized that I had taken the wrong turn when I entered the trail. Given that I wanted to see the river and certainly wanted shade, I turned around and headed back.

It was a little confusing when I came to the original point where I took a left turn instead of a right. The trail very quickly turned technical on me – barely one person could pass. It was continuous ups and downs and a lot of roots sticking out. I was literally jumping up and down as if I was running on a very hot surface. But I could start hearing the water on my left and that meant I was on the right track.

You can see from the first picture that the trail was steep and worse it ran along the hill – which meant my left and right foot were on different heights on the ground. (see pic) It was very painful. And then just when I thought I was close to the river, things turned real ugly. The trail moved straight up and away from the river. I could not see the river – just a small trail in front of me. But I pressed on.

After a few minutes, I was quite sure I was getting lost. First and foremost, I had not yet seen anybody on the trails except for a couple and two dogs at the very starting point. For a trail to have been on Google maps, I was expecting a much wider trail. Then the trees became dense. And it became dark. And I realized a terrible decision I had made. I had my sunglasses on. I could barely see anything. At one point, I saw a dark something on the ground. It probably was a branch but fear had started taking over my mind. I thought I saw a snake. I cleared it by a foot and a half and just kept going – did not even want to look back.

As I plodded thru the dark – partly out of determination and partly out of fear, I suddenly got some hope – the trail started going down. Which turned out to be worse – because now, with every step, I was slipping an inch or two (it had rained here in the DC area). And then the worst happened. The trail stopped. Whatever little trodden over bushes was guiding me as a trail simply vanished. I had a couple of tall trees ahead of me. I took off my glasses. That did not help.

Long before, I had lost GPS connection. My Garmin had started beeping letting me know that it could not measure my pace since it could not find GPS. My Google maps – in a desperate bid to help me – showed my current position to be in an island in the middle of the river a clear half mile away from where I must have been.

I am not sure what got into me – must be the snake – which I am still not sure it was a snake – but instead of retracing my path, I decided to go downhill and get closer to the water level and walk back along the water. At this point, I had stopped running. If anyone of you have never tried walking thru a forest with no trails – you should try it once. That should dissuade you from ever doing it again. That was a steep hill. I was losing my balance fairly regularly. I tried all the things I could remember from physics – aligned my steps along the slope, crouched to keep the center of gravity low but most of the time I was grabbing onto one or the other tree to not lose balance. Sometimes those trees were nothing but a small sapling – but by now, I was in a different zone. I was willing to take any help. What I missed most was my pair of glasses. And I was hoping against hopes that I was not trespassing on anybody’s property. Yelling was out of the question – first, I had not seen anybody and second, I did not want to warn the owner of the property, in case I had trespassed.

Finally, the trees and bushes started to thin out a little – enough for some light to come in. And I could hear flowing water below me. I looked up and for once, luck favored me. Way up, I spotted a dead tree that I recollected I had kept my phone on to take my first picture. That was the best thing I had seen the whole day. So, I started climbing back up to that spot. I learnt something – climbing up a hill forest is far more difficult that climbing down. I could not even stop to take rest – it was too steep for me to balance myself. My best bet was to keep keep moving and anytime I found a tree, I used it to pull myself up.

Once I reached that photo spot, the rest was easy. I was back on the trail and I was going to go down. The only thing I had to watch out for were the roots. And it was getting brighter and brighter – so the sunglass was not a problem anymore.

Eventually, I got back on the connector trail. And then I remembered that I had climbed downhill in the beginning. Which meant I had to climb back up. But I was very very relieved that I was on a proper trail. Reached the rental car and grabbed my bottle of water and then just lay down sprawled out on the ground. A few minutes later, I heard a car coming. I was thinking – “Hey! Another runner. Would be interesting to see where he/she goes”. I got up to see there was a cop looking at me rather amused from inside his car. I took the initiative – “Does nobody run in this trail?”. “Not in this temperature. No, sir!!”. We exchanged some pleasantries and he went away.

I was a little bummed that the Garmin showed only 4.7 miles. It obviously had missed some distance. The Fitbit had increased the count by a full 10,500 steps. Which means I surely cleared 6 miles. But I wanted to see 6 miles (10K) on my GPS. So, I did something that common sense will tell you not to do – I decided to go down the trail for another 1.3 miles!!

Funny thing – this time as I started going downhill on the connector trail, I saw a trail on my right about 0.4 miles in. I also recollected that it was at this turn, I lost the only two people and the two dogs I had seen on the trail. I figured that it was a legitimate trail since they probably took it and decided to finish my run on that.

And then it hit me like the broad daylight!! After all that drama, I was finally on the right trail!!! In fact that was the real Potomac-Heritage trail! I had taken – not one – but two wrong turns. This one was wide, with proper dirt cover and far less steep slope. I kept laughing at my stupidity and kept pressing till I finally got to see the river (see pics). That was one of the branches of the river that skirts around the island; to see the full river, I would have had to run another couple of miles. It was getting too late for me to do that. I had to check in to my hotel, take a shower and go for a dinner meeting.

One funny incident – as I was running on this proper trail, I came across a cleanly laid tree across it (see pic). For a second I could not figure out whether the tree had just fallen or if it was put down to block the trail. You will be amazed how fear can come back in a hurry. My mind was going – “Why did they put up that obstacle? Could there be a bear?”. That is when I had to slap myself and say “Idiot! You spent way too much time in Alaska”.

After taking in the river for a few minutes and a few pictures, I ran back quickly. I was exhausted by the time I came back to the rental car but I did feel very satisfied. Plus my GPS finally showed 7 miles!!!


10 August 2016

I do not make these things up!

Even for a road veteran like me, this one was unique. I still cannot understand how he got inside the plane after he managed to catch up to it in the tarmac. That was a big plane. They do not have steps. And in any case, the captain could not have given permission to open the doors. You would think the cops would meet him promptly at the tarmac under the plane and the whole airport would have been in shutdown mode.



10 August 2016

Huh? What is that?

Early morning landed up in Atlanta airport not knowing what is in store for me. Delta seems to be limping back to normal. Still a lot of canceled flights. And dislocation of crew. In fact we are waiting for one air more hostess to show up so we can start boarding.

That said, as I walked into the airport, out of curiosity, I checked the departure boards to get a feel for how many flights have been canceled. I was shocked to see that in the very first board, pretty much all flights had been canceled. But I was even more shocked to realize that most of them were headed to Atlanta!! Lest you forgot, I am in Atlanta airport!! And I am looking at the departure board!!!

I had to do some digging to understand what was the bug in the system.


7 August 2016

Teasing Jay Jay

As much as Jay Jay kept screaming at the deer, the deer just did more antics to make Jay Jay mad!! This is inside our property and part of the property was fenced in specifically for this purpose – the keep the dog in and the deer out.