virtual Home of William Rahal

The Unofficial Guide to Beijing 2008 Olympics & Board Game

Hello, my name is Winter Rain and this is my story about my trip with my girl friend Summer Snow and three others to Beijing China. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Oh hell, who am I kidding, amongst the group, that I went with there with, there is very little innocents and I like the names. Note; the purpose of this trip is to support my sister in a great challenge, to run the Great Wall marathon…a marathon is a 26.2 mile race were all participants are very special (code for; mental, insane, out of whack, not all there). DAY One: Leaving the U.S. Got up around 8:30 to 9:00 am and had planned to work out, hell I plan to work out every day of my trip. Ok, ok the truth is I plan to work out every day of my life, yet most of the time life works me out and dictates to me. Oh, by the way, did I mention this is the first day in the rest of my life, probably not! I usually like to get up anywhere between 7:00 and 8:00 am unless of course, once again, life made me stay up watching TV, drinking wine or any one of a number of reasons, I stayed up to late. The day started out good, I had planned only a few things to accomplish before I had to go. But it seems someone had forgotten one of the things on his pre-trip list, to get all the pictures taken on numerous other trips off of my digital camera and onto a nice disk for storage. So, now on the way to the gym, I must stop off at Albertson's (a local chain grocery store) to download the data from my camera to a disk. Albertson’s has one of those stand alone, do it your self jobs that talks too loud to you and gives me way too many simple choices. Oh did I mention that my lovely girlfriend wanted some coffee from Starbucks, since now that I was going to Albertson's and Starbucks was in the proximity. Okay, okay now my simple solo task of going to the gym before leaving for China now has turned into a list. Short mind you, nevertheless a list. It's not that I can’t remember these few items, it's just when it comes to the whole coffee thing there's a lot of information to understand. When the barrage of nonfat, latte, mocha, peppermint, frap-a-chinos and whipped cream with sprinkles are mentioned and have to be remembered, this followed by the look of suspicion and the words, will you remember that, all come into play. Oh yeah, I need a list. Oh hell, to tell yah the truth, she made the list for me. Did I mention that the single task, the gym and now the list, were in two different directions. Ready to rock with list in hand and dressed in work out attire I head off to the gym via Albertson’s and Starbucks. Oh bye the way did I mention that it was raining? Not that it maters, but we have received a lot of rain this winter and I wanted to keep you in the loop. We only live a half-mile from Albertson's, let me guess, I forgot to tell you that we live together, Summer and I, anyways, on the way there realizing that my time was getting shorter and that my skill level at 9:30 am in the morning with the photo machine was suspect. Ok, closer to 10 am, knowing I had an hour to accomplish my goals I started to brainstorm, as I usually do. I remember there was a wolf camera at the entrance of the shopping center. While padding myself on my back with one hand and locking my truck with the other, I proceeded into the camera shop with my new plan. Knowing this plan is going to cost me an extra dollar or two, I wasn't too worried (code fore, my ideas usually cost someone money). Thinking, I can drop the camera off, have someone else make my photos onto a disk quickly and efficiently pop into the Starbucks order my coffee, head back, pickup my photos all in about 10 minutes. My plan was brilliant, oh hell, I was brilliant… Inside wolf camera, I explain to the lady behind the counter what I would like to accomplish she explains to me that it would only be a few minutes and that I can pick them up in no time. As I found myself doing for the last month, I worked in the conversation that I was heading to China on vacation. Did I mention the reason for this trip? No, I don't think I did. Well I suppose that it would be a good time. My sister who we will call T. Traveler is running the Great Wall Marathon in Beijing. Yeah, that’s right it’s in between cool and crazy, more about that later. That project behind me, I headed over to Starbucks to continue with my brilliant plan. Not being much of a coffee drinker until recently and I’m not really that coffee cafe savvy. I find myself in one of two lines with a lot of worker bees, not on their way to china, and surrounded by way to many men staring into laptops. Oh by the way, did I tell you that, I quit my job yesterday? I'm not sure, but more about that later. The lines and time when fast before you know it was back over at wolf camera, money in hand and ready to rock to the gym. Here's where things slowdown a bit. Thinking I can just pop in pay the lady and go, I find a man standing around the counter proximally four feet away from me and the lady who worked with me minuets earlier an additional ten feet behind him. Well always thinking I'm unforgettable, (well maybe that’s just me) the lady kind of ignores me and the gentleman asks if he can help me, I say, well I don't remember what I said. Probably a long the lines of “no thank you, she’s helping me. She acts like she'd never had seen me before, let a lone waited on me, hell I was her first customer of the day. Well I digress, it seems my disk, isn’t ready, they talk in their sophisticated wolf camera talk and from my impeccable translation skills, I realize that my long time camera card is having a problem talking to my future disk, (code for; photo-matic discourse). Knowing time is creeping in on me, I have to assess the situation and act accordingly and knowing I need the camera to take pictures in China, Red Square and all that. I wait a minute as they tell me it would only take a minute. When the gentleman and the lady break away from the computer in front of me, I realized that my little card, as cute as it may be, had disturbed the natural flow of their computer and that now that computer had been shut off and was being started all over again. You know, I know, this going to take more time than I have, but my friendly wolf camera person assured me that it would be only a few more minutes. As I'm assessing the situation the wolf camera lady is showing me a printout of how many photographs should be on a card of my size. Well not going into any detail, I think my card has the capability conservatively, mind you of holding 40 to 50 photos. Somehow, I am sure my card was trying to prove itself to me. It had, in the ballpark of 194 photos and this had something to do with the reason I now need two disks and something to do with the quality of my photographs blah, blah, blah. And I should buy another one of these cards from her for numerous amounts of reasons. Well knowing I'm leaving for China in now less than one hour, I make a quick decision, I leave them with the data from my card give my name and phone number and tell them to call me when the disk is ready. No thank you, I don't need to buy new card, once again knowing I'm going to China where everything is made and can be purchase very cheaply, well? More on that later. Problem solved, mission accomplished. Now knowing, I can’t take the coffees and go too, to the gym and let them sit in the car especially when, I have to drive right by our house on the way to the gym. Needless to say, I took the coffee's home with plenty of time to spare and never made it to the gym. Transportation to the local airport is always a fun prospect. We live in the bay area, also know as Silicon Valley. Were we are fortunate in the regard that there are three major airports with in a 50-mile radius of our house. The big challenge is the dreaded airport transportation. The road systems are abundant, but so are the cars and traffic. The choices are plentiful and problematic to get us to the airport. The San Jose airport is the closest to are house; it’s about 15 minuets away non-rush hour. San Francisco is 45 minuets to one hour away and Oakland is about the same. Oh hell, I digress we are going to San Francisco and are choices are as follows; drive and park outside in long term parking at 15.00 per day not my fave, or a super shuttle for about 60-80 dollars each way. For some reason, I always feel like I am being kidnapped and taken to a foreign country when I ride in one of those shuttles. Once in the medal trap with the shiny outside, I feel as if I have been thrown into a steal cage and have lost all control. The accommodations are dingy and I always find myself driving thru the scenery that is surrounding my fair city, and me, but yet it never quit seams the same, from back of this iron clad chariot, not to mention the interesting language barriers that always seam to be prevalent and the smell, what is that about? Boy, I could go on forever. Did I mention, I am cheap and I always think I can find a way to do something cheaper and this endeavor was no different? I am thinking train (a two hour, three change-overs ordeal) or the light rail (same deal) or a half-drive, half-taxi combo. This consists of us driving up three quarters of the way and parking the car out on the street at a friend house and securing a taxi ride from there. Did I mention that all but the shuttle idea make summer way to edgy? And last but not least, the cheapest way, a reliable friend or family member. Did I bring up reliable? Well how many people do you know that are available at 8:00 am on a weekday and reliable? This question doses not need answering. You know the airport run, that you love to have done for you, but dread doing for others, because the presser and gilt are two great. Loll-and behold one of our friends was up for the task. This satisfies Summer and when Summer is happy, so am I. Did I mention it was free? Yahoo! The plan was to get to the airport two hours early, as recommended by the travel people, you know the travel people, and as are flight was at 2:00 pm with an hour ride to the airport we wanted are dear friend to pick us up at 11 am. This is a quote “That is fine with me hon, but you know if he’s, (Now my friend) not here on time I’m freaking out” or something to that affect. This I know, hell the cheap guy in me was still in the glow of the 80.00 dollar savings one way and a possible tri-fetca. Whichever one means twice or both ways you know what I mean, with a return ride home. Did I mention that Summer was a consummate planner? Bless her heart, for putting up with me. Ok you guessed it, I on the other hand, not so much, ok; ok for those of you who are keeping score. He is cheap and a poor planner. Hears an example, did I mention that we, Summer and Winter live in a menagerie? Well I am so sorry; I have a lot to cover. This mini-zookeeper has two cats one full-figured dog (but she’s not 100 lbs, LOL) and a ratty. To me this is screaming something but, I can’t say what, and you know why. So anyhow back to the story. Summer has been planning this trip out, ever since we committed to it and by commit too it, lets just say that China was not on Summers top ten list of places to go. I also had to swear to travel to Spain and Portugal in September as well as numerous other things that I have forgotten, but you can bet, that she has written down and memorized to bring up any time she needs to. This is why; I will be writing to you about a yet undisclosed place and time. Were? I am not saying, but can bet it will not be on my top 1000 list (code for; this pâté is delicious). Ok, ok where was I? The animals, well this means that we must hire a sitter. Summer’s sitter saga, To an animal lover the notion of leaving the animals alone is indescribable (code for; you’ll pay buddy). Oh it's one thing to be out of town overnight, even a long weekend, but to have your best friend, your neighbor or heaven for bid a relative like, your mother (code for, LOL) come over and watch your beloved disciples. I don’t think so! I’m still not sure if these animal lovers miss giving benevolent regard and attention to there loyal subjects or is it the unbridled enthusiasm, constant attention or blind devotion these animals pour out upon these maniacal attention getters. Oops, I’m rambling. So, Summer set out to find herself an animal sitter. This person needed to meet with the highest standards and have a long list of recommendations before she and I believe only a she, (code for; men don’t have the heart for it) even gets consideration from her heiress. This lofty individual has to be a saint and a scoop-per (code for, well you know). As well as SBCA, animal control certified, with a minor in zoo keeping, LOL. After several weeks of recommendations and considerations Summer had finely narrowed it down to a woman who was recommended by a personal friend. Finely, a light at the end of the tunnel, a candidate, it seemed, that in her pedigree of a résumé (LOL), was immaculate as well as, she was currently in the neighborhood two too three times a week, so the location and timing would be great. Crossing international borders into what some consider a communist country is not like going down the street or across town were some conversation can be made, if a crisis arises with your loved ones AKA cats, dogs and rats. From my understanding, I did not actually witness this myself; this temporary canine keeper must walk, talk and otherwise live as the queen bee in her absence. As is, in corporate job interviewing it’s stressful, soon as you get along with the first person thinking, boy I got this pegged. You’ve given the answers to the questions like you think they wanted you to answer and now you’re longing for those sweet couple of words saying, you're hired. Animal sitters must go through the same chain of command from what I gathered; once this person passes the human qualifications they must come to the lair and be screened by the disciples themselves. At this point the animals are to be on their best behavior as well as the applicant as to finish the final process of employment. AKA sainthood! This is kin to the dating process, after a few months have passed bye, your loved goggles seem to clear up and you notice things about your new partner that were not there on the first day of delivery. I actually imagine how this scenario went, so I will give you what I think went down. Hello Paid Animal Lover; AKA, PAL, I am Summer we spoke on the phone nice to meet you. Bark! Bark! This is Sophie, say hi (this is code for don’t bark too much, don't jump on our new PAL and please don't bite her). Come in. PAL; what a lovely home you have (code for; YES, you have hardwood floors those are easy to clean up). Summer; come upstairs and meet my other to disciples, this is Zoe and Toby. They have been with me for many, many years (code for; their mine, their old and no one else will take them and the veterinarian is afraid of them, LOL). PAL; oh aren't they adorable (code for; shit, there's carpet up here she must of just vacuum, I bet these carpets never look this good). Summer; propping up and petting the drugged one and remarking the other one is a little frisky (code for; this one hear she has more prescription in her, than I do and the other one, well lets not beet around the bush, he will make you bleed). PAL; they’re very nice (code for; she's hiding something). Summer; would like to come down to the garage and meet our ratty (code for; let's get out before they block the door on us). PAL; what a lovely home ect. (Code for; this carpet is never this clean). Summer; now in the garage, this is Cody say hi Cody (code for; don't die). PAL; he is cute (code for; what the hell did I get myself into, that animal dose not look well). Well the interview must have gone well because; I was told that everyone involved liked her. From this point forward Summer likely went through her list of things to prepare herself, her animals and PAL for the ten days that she would be gone. Somehow this involved me, unbeknownst to me; I was invited out to a lovely dinner coincidentally to Outback Steak house, how ironic, more on that later. After dinner there just happened to be a super pet-mart near bye and it seemed I had volunteered to participate in this bargain bonanza. I must say, I was impressed, she sure new her way around. Just so you know, this is still weeks out. I come home the next day and there are piles and stacks of food, snacks, medicine and directions. Granted I know this needs to be done but boy did she have this house mapped out? Lets back up, I believe, I should take a little blame for this; I believe being around me has affected Summer (code for; dumbing down). Every individual type of food had its own color-coded post-its, with explanation. There was a four-foot space on the kitchen counter with post-its, notes and directions for every occasion. There was even a get out of jail card, LOL. Here's some of the information that I got to look over, read and re-read for two weeks. A lot of it was generic; the dog gets this kind of food, needs to go for a walk, for a certain time and here are several different types of treats. I did this for the rat and all you have to do is this and here's some food, very straightforward stuff (code for; I could even done it). Here is the food for the cats: Oh by the way, one of them must take these Quaaludes. The reason, I feel partly to blame for this is, Summer has to deal with me, so she has learned to put things in the simplest terms (code for; not evening you can screw this up). So, I saw all these bright colored posted notes with directions and arrows and thought it was for me, LOL. I even learned were the mail came from and were the trash went to. But the note that takes the cake was a form of eulogy/disclaimer. Let me explain, when I joked about the ratty not dieing, it wasn't a joke. It seems this rat has nine lives, LOL. A friend of Summer's has a snake or two, I don’t remember. From what I've heard is, this friend feeds live rats to snakes, weird but true. So from what I've heard is, after a week went bye this little white rat was still alive in the cage for reasons beyond my understanding. The information that I received is kind of fuzzy here; the friend said something about if the rat lives this long it deserves to live blah, blah, blah. Anyways summer ends up with the rat. And the expected live of these animals under Summer’s diet regiment has now doubled (code for; doctors around the world want to know how and why). As well as the size of the animal, it has tripled. This woman will feed that rat, anything, (code for; save that, he likes that). Sometime before we are ready to go this poor rat had a heart attack, LOL, hey that rimes. So for a couple of weeks we were on deathwatch for the rat, (code for every six hours, every time we came in or went out, the question was raised (think he's dead?). Well overnight this lovely animal had one bulging redeye and lost half its size, back to normal I might add and he fell over a lot. These are reasons this little rat called Cody is now on deathwatch. Every time Summer came home she felt it was going to be Cody’s last day. The note that interested me, wasn't the one about Sophie the dog, that said generally anytime the mailman is within a half-mile of the house she will bark consistently for an hour, it’s from a deep-seated childhood experience (code for; I don’t remember if that was me or the dog). I digress. It wasn't even a sticky that mentioned that one of the cats needed its Quaaludes daily. It was a four inch by seven inch white paper attached to Cody’s rat treats. I would just like to give you the highlights of the note; Deer PAL, this is to inform you, that I know Cody is in a fragile state, do what you can for him as long as you can and if by the way you come here and find this little animal is gone to mouse haven't please do not worry, for I know this cherished animal will soon be in a better place, blah, blah, blah. So you can see this note was written from the heart to a perspective mortician and sadly, I found lots of humor in this.