Thursday, December 06, 2007

Two Tales of One City...or Somethin’ Like That (Part VI)

The Long Goodbye — First Movement (continued):
Papa’s got a brand new (used) bag.

Remember when I mentioned earlier that my Pop discovered he had forgotten his luggage — after we’d already arrived in Dallas and were just minutes from Alex and Seraph’s house?

And remember when I said that we decided that the first thing we were going to do was to go visit Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas?

And have you ever heard of the old adage, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry?

Such was Day 2 of this initial latter-day trip to Dallas. However in the long run it was actually a good thing, as it gave us something more to do than just hang out at the house and in the end provided some of the most enjoyable memories of the trip.

I had honestly forgotten about the incident until I started going though my notes I’d written in off-moments while we were there; hence my not mentioning it in the previous post. In my unaided memories of that trip, Dealey Plaza and touring the site of the JFK assassination was the event that really stuck out in my mind. But thankfully, I managed to keep a pretty good, dated outline of all we did during that four-day trip, including our actual Day 2 activity: shopping for a replacement suitcase for my Dad.

The fact that he’d left his clothes behind in Franklin could be remedied. But the course of action we took required that we find a new suitcase — albeit a temporary one — to service him for the time we’d be in Dallas, and to get him home without having to check a Hefty Bag at the airport counter.

The whole thing was a fairly comical circumstance. After arriving at Dallas Love Field Airport, we were shuttled on over to the rental agency to pick up our car. We were happy to find that they upgraded us to a minivan because they were out of the mid-size sedans I had reserved.

So once we’d secured our wheels for the tour-day trip, we were “off like a herd of turtles” as Pop would always say as we’d embark upon a new destination via automobile. We headed northward on the short trek to Alex’s home in the suburban Dallas Metroplex.

About ten minutes out from our destination, I thought it prudent to give Seraph a call to let her know we were on our way, and to have her refresh my memory as to which exit to take from the freeway. This was my first time driving to their new house as well approaching from the south. Although they still lived in the same area, before it still wasn’t all that familiar so I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss a turnoff.

As I broached the subject of getting directions, Pop was quick to go for his ever-present AAA mapbook to see if he could offer some assistance. He reached for the suitcase that he was just certain was in the back seat of the minivan, then suddenly it dawned on him — not only wasn’t it there; he realized that he’d never placed his suitcase in the minivan. In fact, we hadn’t even visited the baggage claim area after we arrived at Dallas Love Field.

Didn’t think about it even once; the subject had never come up in conversation since we left Nashville.

Personally, I hadn’t given my Dad’s luggage a second thought because I never check baggage myself. I always travel as lightly as possible, and if it doesn’t fit into my suit bag and duffel — both carry-ons — it just don’t go, yo. So given the fact that I’m just not normally disposed to even thinking about checked baggage, inquiring about my Dad’s lack o’ luggage when we set off from the rental car place was by far the least of the numerous details that were racin’ ‘round my little head.

So as calmly as possible I began to retrace in my mind’s eye the events of the previous five hours since we’d left my house to head to Nashville International Airport.

On Monday my eldest brother Jack and one of his three daughters had driven Dad down to Franklin from Anderson, Indiana where he’d spent the weekend. They stayed the night and were due to head back home after we left for the airport Tuesday morning.

I clearly remembered seeing Dad carrying his suitcase out the front door, as I was right behind him as we were leaving the house. I went straight to our car, parked in the driveway, to load my two bags into the trunk. However Dad continued on down to Jack’s van that was parked on the street, apparently for one last look-see to make sure he hadn’t left anything behind on the trip down from Indiana.

I left the trunk open and went ahead and got into the car. From that point on I didn’t remember seeing his suitcase at all, nor did I remember unloading it from the trunk when we got to the airport. Apparently in all the excitement we decided that Dad must have left it on the street or sidewalk when he went to double-check Jack’s van.

I quickly made a cell call to my house, where luckily, Jack and my niece still were, waiting for us to contact them, for yes indeed, Dad had left the suitcase behind. But what were we gonna do now? The thing weighed a ton and would cost a fortune to ship overnight.

Being his own problem-solving-big-brother-kinda-self, Jack wanted to help. He offered to take the suitcase to the airport and see if Southwest Airlines would be willing to stick it on a later flight to Dallas. I told him no, I thought that was too risky; he’d have to provide proof that Dad had even taken a SWA flight and the logistics of accomplishing that would have been a nightmare. Alternatively, shipping the suitcase overnight would probably exceed the cost of Dad just buying all new clothes & toiletries for the time he’d spend in Dallas. I asked Jack to just proceed on home and thanked him for his willingness, but that we’d figure something else out. I would look to Michelle for help.

You see, at the time (unfortunately they don’t offer the service any longer) Michelle had the ability, through her work, to ship even personal items via a popular express shipping company at a drastically reduced employee rate.

Once we got to Alex’s I made the call to Michelle, who immediately swung into action. Fortunately she was able to leave work and go home to grab a few items of Dad’s choosing from the suitcase, re-pack them in a lighter-weight box, and then return to work and overnight the package to Alex’s place, to arrive late Wednesday afternoon.


Later on we would ship the suitcase containing the balance of Dad’s things back to his home in SoCal, only we shipped it freight-rate; it would take a week to get there, but at least the cost was reasonable.

Nevertheless, Michelle’s deft action wouldn’t solve the ensuing problem of how Dad would get the clothes and other things she was sending him back to California when we returned home on Friday. He wasn’t coming back to Nashville with me on the flight home, but instead I had booked a direct one-way flight for him from Houston (and oy…I’ll talk more about that scenario a little later…) to San Bernardino, CA, the airport nearest to him.

So with all that said, our primary activity on Wednesday was no longer that originally decided pilgrimage to Dealey Plaza, but to tour the local thrift shops to locate Papa’s brand new (used bag).

Wednesday is ‘Errand Day’
Point was, we could have just gone to Sears and bought him a ‘new’ new suitcase, but Dad liked the one he had, and would still have to use after he returned home to California. Why waste the money on a new case?

So Seraph suggested we try out one of the area thrift stores to see if there was something passable yet cheap enough to be essentially a ‘disposable’ replacement that Pop could use then set out at the curb once it had accomplished it’s purpose.

At that point in his onset, Alex was definitely still able to travel. He was only a few months removed from having his privilege of driving a car removed, having smashed in the front of his cherished Chrysler LeBaron convertible just a week or so prior to our trip to Indy that previous November. So there was no problem with him accompanying Dad and me on a little shopping trip to find a Papa a replacement travel bag.

So while we were out, we asked Seraph if there was anything else we could do. She asked if we’d pick up some coffee. With our mission plan set, we headed out.

We tried two separate thrift stores in the area, but the second one was where we found both a suitcase and a nutcase in the same location.

The Second Glance Thriftshop is a part of (from what I’ve been able to glean from Internet searches) a national network of stores whose proceeds go to benefit Battered Women’s groups and like charities across the country. The local store was just a few miles from Alex’s house and was the one Seraph seemed to be the most familiar with.

After really not finding much of what we were looking for at the first place Seraph suggested, we hit the jackpot at the second. Second Glance had a number of older, but still-sturdy suitcases. It was just a matter of deciding which one was best for the job.

Dad’s decision was based strictly upon performance rather than looks, as the hardy-but-hideous 1970s-vintage brown tweed-like suitcase looked almost new, but set Pop back about eight bucks.
So we came, we, saw, we rubbed our eyes and bought. However it wasn’t until we were leaving the store that we realized how well-spent the $8 actually was.

A man we had seen in the store, wearing a broad smile and friendly disposition was walking out to the parking lot at about the same time as we were. Seeing three men in a thrift store to buy a single suitcase I’m sure tipped him off that there was an interesting story associated with it, so he stopped and thanked us for shopping at the store and asked why we had purchased — of all things — an old suitcase.

We thought it was kinda weird, but he seemed to be a regular guy so we talked to him for a few minutes, explaining the need for the suitcase. He introduced himself as ‘Cap’ Ellis (and yes, I’m using his actual name) and that he did volunteer work there at the store. Cap went on to talk about the work that stores like Second Glance does with Battered Women’s charities and we all kinda looked at each other like, “Hmmm, that’s pretty cool.”

The smalltalk continued, but when he learned that we were all originally from SoCal, his eyes lit up. He related that he used to live in the LA area as an actor/comedian and that he used to do voiceover work in Hollywood on animated shows like Fox’s King of the Hill. He then gave us a sample of that talent, delivering a killer impression of Bill Clinton. We were all in stitches.

Soon thereafter we parted company, but that little meeting stands out as one of the more unexpectedly enjoyable moments we had together. Seeing my Dad and brother nearly doubled over in laughter will always be one of the more prominent freeze-framed images I’ll carry in my mind from that memorable trip.

Next: The Long Goodbye — First Movement (continued):
Such a Deal(ey)
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