On Vacation on September 11

This is the only photo I have where some of us are watching 9/11 coverage. It was probably taken on about 9/21/01.

Everyone who was alive on Sept. 11, 2001, can tell you where they were when it went down. But for me, my location at the moment of the attack colored my experience to such an extent that I feel different than other Americans, even 20 years later.

For most Americans, the 9/11 attacks happened in the morning. For my husband, a few friends and me, because we were in Beijing at the time, they happened in the evening. Most Americans spent the days and weeks after huddling together, checking news updates and worrying. We, too, huddled, with the few Americans we had around us, but because we were thousands of miles away from family and work, surrounded by people who had a different perspective on the event, it felt quite different from what others have described.

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Wrigley Field in the Last Days of the World Series-Winning Cubs

I seem to have good luck catching last acts at Wrigley Field. On Sept. 26, 2010, I happened to attend the last game that Cubs legend Ron Santo ever broadcast — and not only that, but my family and I were sitting at a rooftop club where the radio feed was played. So unlike the fans sitting in the stands at Wrigley, we actually heard Ronnie’s last words to the fans.

Back in 2010, we didn’t know we were witnessing a last stand. Same goes for July 24 of this year, when my family and I took the Metra and the Red Line down to Wrigley to see Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez take on the Arizona Diamondbacks. OK, we knew there was trading talk afoot, especially regarding Bryant. But I did not anticipate that the team’s whole core would be traded away within the week.

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Extremely Large and Incredibly Baroque: The House on the Rock

A central location of Neal Gaiman’s novel American Gods is The House on the Rock, a kooky museum where the characters ride a grandiose carousel in order to access another dimension. But you know the House on the Rock is a real place, right? It’s actually only a half hour from my parents’ cabin, west of Madison, Wisconsin. Last week, I visited for only the second time in my life, with some of my favorite people.

This was a group who had been mightily entertained by a simple commuter train ride the week before, so this place nearly blew all our mental gaskets. The phrase that keeps coming back to me every time I try to describe The House on the Rock Museum? It’s just so much.

When you drive up to this world-famous tourist attraction, all you see is a tasteful-looking visitor center and plenty of parking. That’s because most of the bizarre attractions this place is known for are all underground. When you walk in the glass doors, you’ll be in an airy lobby with bathrooms and a ticket counter. The staff will ask you if you want to tour all three sections or just the “highlights.” We found this confusing as we had purchased “The Ultimate Experience” tickets online for $25 per adult and $15 per kid. At the counter, that was the price of the “Highlights Tour,” including only sections 1 and 2.

What’s the difference? I’m still not sure. Once we went into the exhibits, we never saw anyone being blocked from any section. From studying the web site, it looks like Section I is the original house, Section 2 is the entire museum, and Section 3 is the Japanese garden. We skipped Section 3 as we had already seen more than enough after spending like five hours in sections 1 and 2.

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Return to the Alameda Antiques Fair

I mean, where else can you go thrifting with a view like that?

Although I live in Alameda, I had only been to the famous Antiques Fair at the far end of the island a few times over the past decade. But my daughters have decided that browsing this place is their thing. So I foresee a lot more first Sundays of the month there.

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Flight Canceled By Southwest? Check Your Email

Well, they did it again. After having their outbound flight canceled shortly before heading to the airport, yesterday Erik and Pebbles had their return flight canceled by Southwest as well. This time, they were already at the gate, bags checked, when they got the bad news. And it was late afternoon/early evening, so they pretty much knew they would not be getting another flight out that day.

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Choosing the Right Hotel Card for You

Photo courtesy of Hyatt.

Recently I shared on Facebook that I had booked five nights for free at Gild Hall, a charming-looking hotel in Lower Manhattan, for the erstwhile Sweet 16 trip I was going to take my daughters on to see Broadway shows.

(That trip was supposed to happen in April 2020. Hahahahaha the virus had other plans. Now it will be more of a “You’re turning 18 and graduating from high school” trip.)

A friend wanted to know how I get free hotel nights. I post a lot about my Southwest Airlines miles, but what’s this hotel thing about?

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Our Family’s First Flight Didn’t Happen

If you’re anything like me, you’ve thought a lot in the past year+ about what it will be like when you finally board that first post-vaccination flight. Erik and two of our kids were scheduled to walk through airport security for the first time last week, and they were pretty excited and only a little nervous. Except, it didn’t go according to plan.

Maybe you heard that Southwest Airlines experienced two major disruptions last week. They had some kind of nationwide computer glitch, and ended up canceling a lot of flights. I bet you can see where this is going. I was supposed to take Erik and the kids to Oakland Airport at about noon on Tuesday, and I couldn’t wait to get them out of the house, because Tuesday was also the day that our cleaning crew visited for the first time since March 2020. Fortunately, there was only going to be about an hour of overlap between when the cleaners arrived and the family cleared out. I spent the morning nagging them to please put that document in your bag, yes I know you feel like the counter is the place it’s meant to be right now, but I’d feel so much better if I could watch you put it in there and zip it up. And, hey, did you pack a bathing suit? Did you pack a raincoat? Etc.

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Get Airline Miles While Shopping Prime Day Deals

Amazon’s periodic Prime Day is continuing today, and they have some pretty steep discounts on some items. But one of the many things that I don’t like about buying from Amazon is that I can’t earn any airline miles there.

Fortunately, other retailers are matching some Prime Day deals. The one that appears to be doing so the most aggressively is Best Buy.

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