Archive for the 'Personal Log' Category

My very first race

I ran my very first official race last weekend, the 11th Annual Trinity River Levee Run. Inspired by my 57-year old uncle who ran in the 2014 Chicago marathon, I accepted his challenging invitation to run in a race too. So, I started training for this Trinity race. Although I have been running since February 2014, I started training more seriously than ever as soon as I got home from Chicago in 2014.

Using a Polar heart rate monitor, Runkeeper for tracking my progress, and Gipis for a suggested training plan, and later Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art for instilling self-motivation, I got to where I ran in this first race. The race was purely against me. I didn’t compare myself with other runners. I knew I wasn’t as serious about running as the serious runners are. I just wanted to see if I could make myself go out and run systematically and perhaps improve my pace. I think one thing the made the idea of running long distance seem possible to me was when my uncle explained the paradox that in order to learn to run far and fast, one must run slowly with a slow heart rate of no more then 150 beats per minute (bpm). This seemed very attainable because I knew that I could maintain such a pace for a long time, even if I were dragging myself at first through the distance.

I am proud to say that since I got on the Gipis plan in November, I did not miss a single planned session except for a couple of weeks in early January when I was horribly ill with a cold, and then the very last session before the race because I feared heart problems after the previous session where likely due to lack of sleep, I think I overstressed my heart to where it fluttered longer than it ever had, not that it flutters often, to where it caused me to cough for a good 10 seconds. Other than that, not even snow precipitating stopped me.

selfie after a run when it was snowing

After a run when it was snowing

The night before the race, I attended a gong meditation session. If I had gone to sleep right after it, I probably would have slept enough, but I stayed up latter than I had planned. There also was a late e-mail stating that the course got altered due to impassable conditions caused by the recent wet and icy weather on the original route, so the race was fewer than 10 kilometers.

By morning, I was still sleepy but when the alarm clock went off at 6:30, I did not hesitate to get up as I told myself, “I trained too hard to show up late for this.” I had a good breakfast of my usual daily Lukasz Goulash, a cereal of Barbara’s Shredded Wheat, Fiber One, some Flax Seed mix from Sam’s, honey, over a generous amount of blueberries, and milk. I put the running bib on my shirt, packed a change of clothes in case I wanted to stay longer at the festival surrounding the run, strapped on my heart rate monitor. I couldn’t find the gloves I wanted to wear during the race protect my hands from the cold 0° C weather, so I got my nicer leather gloves instead and went out the door about 20 minutes later than I had planned, which was still over 40 minutes before the starting time, which was not a problem because I lived about 15 minutes from the starting line.

The drive to the race was a little discouraging because my GPS kept directing me to go over the Margaret Hunt bridge that was closed off for the race, so that made me loop around a few blocks a couple of times before I finally got myself on the street I needed to be. I should have paid closer attention to the driving directions provided in the e-mail from the race organizers. At this point, parking was very full, and I had to park about half a mile away from the starting line. It was 7:50 by the time I left my car to head towards the starting line. I wasn’t completely certain where I was supposed to be, so I ran in the general direction of the starting line. It was cold, so I thought it would be a nice warm-up to jog; however, probably due to my stress due to cutting so close to the start time, my heart rate was already around 170 bpm, so that was disheartening.

Once I got to the starting area, I saw a lot of runners not even close to the starting line. I recalled that there was a sprint across the 400m bridge that was to occur prior to the race, so I was under the impression that was the first event, which it probably was, except it happened at 7:45, not 8:00, like I misunderstood. I also didn’t quite understand whether the 5k race was to start at the same starting line as the 10k race for which I signed up, so I stood back from the starting line.

The fire department was to have a fire truck sound its siren instead of a starting gun, but the truck was not ready and there was no siren sound at the start of the race, and meanwhile, I am still about 50m away from the starting line. All of sudden, I heard the announcer say something like, “…you don’t just get up in the one day and run six miles. You train for this,” which is when I figured out the 10k already started. So, I ran up to the starting line and just ran through it while I started recording with my heart rate monitor and set my phone to start recording Runkeeper data. To my disappointment, my heart rate was already over 165, sometimes around 172, which I worried was way too high to finish the race. Fortunately, the race started on a downhill slope. I wasn’t sure what to make of the entire crowd far ahead of me, so I just focused on my pace because as it turned out, the crowd meant nothing since each person is measured individually based on personal start time.

I didn’t socialize with anyone during the race, though it seemed like almost everyone around me was socializing. After the first kilometer, I had to pee. I hoped there would be porta-potties on the route, but there weren’t any. Some well trained runners passed me who I overheard talking to other runners that they had started late due to a late arrival, so apparently, it’s not a huge deal to start late.

The morning was beautiful, with the sun shining through haze over the water grassy river banks, and the air was brisk. I felt a little cold at the start, but I was warm by the third kilometer. By the fourth kilometer, I took my gloves off and held them in my hand. There were race marshals directing traffic for folks who ran the 10k to separate them from the 5k runners on the same path, so one had to pay attention to instructions while running.

The altered part of the route was on a service road that was rather scenically boring, running along a levee with no view of the river and some unattractive houses flanking the other side. I ended up running very near a lady who must have been in her seventies who ran at my pace. Or, maybe I should say, “I ran at her pace,” since she’s been alive longer than me. I wanted to tell her “good job,” but I chose to stick to my code of silence during this race. I could tell she was in a little bit of pain as she had a hobble and hunched. I kept checking my heart rate as I ran beside her, and my rate was too high to accelerate my pace, so I paced myself with this lady for probably three kilometers. Eventually, she slowed down or traffic on the trail just kind of forced me to navigate with acceleration, so I left her behind and didn’t see her again. I hope she did well because I was proud of her.

As I ran past near the starting line and vendors, there were finished runners standing on the route obstructing the running path, which I thought was both, highly inconsiderate and poorly organized to allow that to happen. There still were no bathrooms that I noticed, so I kept going; however, in actually I had run past them at that moment.

I had put my gloves in my pocket, and eventually one fell out of my pocket without me noticing. As I ran past a trash can after I had noticed I was missing a glove, I threw away the other glove. I liked those gloves, but I urged myself into detaching from this material item, the glove, whose weight was only going to slow me down henceforth and obviously had very little value without its mate. I needed a good excuse to get new leather gloves because these caused a rash on my hands to break out a little bit from some dander to which I am allergic to in these gloves that were getting old. This was the best excuse to get rid of them that I could think of.

By the eighth kilometer, the traffic was very sparse. I stopped a couple of times to stretch briefly and retie my shoes. After the last turn which put us onto the dramatic crossing of the Margaret Hunt Bridge, I started to feel my achievement. My heart rate was over 180 by this time since I just completed climbing and onramp. There were several families walking five or seven people wide obstructing passage as they were part of the simultaneous charity walk. I did my best to navigate around them but loosing some time.

At one point, I stopped feeling my body. It felt like I was running on a cloud without any pain. I checked my heart rate monitor to see if that affected anything, but it did not. I simply could not feel pain or fatigue, but my body was clearly working very hard. After about 30 second of this sensation, I felt my body again.

I took in a little bit of the beautiful architecture as I ran under the suspension structure of the bridge since I felt I deserved to take in the moment. I thought through my achievement: I made it this far by myself. No one told me to run. No one would get upset if I didn’t run or missed a training session. No one was there to hold my car keys or ID. There weren’t any self-organized cheering sections for anyone really, not like what I saw in Chicago, mile after mile of people cheering on strangers as they looked for their loved ones. At that time I didn’t know how many cumulative miles I had run since February 2014 or October 2014 as I don’t think about things like that, but I knew I had run further than I had ever run in my life before.

Then, with fewer than 200 meters remaining, I dashed sprinting for the finish line. My heart rate monitor displayed “out of zone” as I maxed out at 198 bpm. Crossing the line was very anti-climactic. Folks there were there for other people. There were no race organizers to tell me where to go after that. There was no place to sit that I could find. I finally found some water and free bananas. I used the bathroom, and then listened to the band play Beatles songs, which made me think of how I play those songs in a band back in Tulsa. They sounded slightly better than we do, so that means for professionals at a major city event, they sounded like the Beatle songs were too difficult for them.

According to my Runkeeper data, I had run 9.16km at 1:10:20 with an average HR of 170. I achieved three new records: Distance, Duration, and Calories Burned.

I stuck around the festival in case I saw someone I knew for the ‘yoga on bridge thing’ that was to happen later, or just to see who I would run into. I didn’t meet anybody. Only the RFID readers at the starting and finish lines knew that it and my bib with its RFID chip and I had crossed the starting and finish lines. I walked back to my car with soreness starting to settle in my tendons around my knee caps. There was a Saturday flea market near where I parked, so someone followed me to my car in her car to take my spot. Then, I drove home to rest, showered, and then I went to my favorite Sound Meditation class at noon, after which I went to see the new film Chappie in IMAX.

Later I checked online for my official time, which was 01:09:54 for a 9km.

screenshot of official results

Official results

Those 9 or 10 kilometers to the race were actually part of a long road for me to get there. They really were just the final stretch, less than 1%, of a much larger undertaking. To get to the finish line with these stats, including the race, I have ran 210 miles or 338 km since I started using Runkeeper in April 2014, not including hikes or walking. Since my pivotal trip to Chicago for the marathon, I have run 116 miles or 187 km. In 2015 alone, I have run 55 miles or 88 km. All these numbers mean is that it has been a long road.

This experience has taught me that I can do great things on my own.

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Great Social Interaction: Dallas PD joked with me on Twitter

Today I had an interaction on social media with the Dallas Police Department.

I kind of know social media, but I’m no expert. As companies spring up specializing in the art of social media, I learn something new each time I read about their recommendations. I seem to keep getting more and more Twitter followers without much effort on my part. My account, now @Loogle, has been around August 2009, and now I have 112 followers who many of which recently I think are trying to get me to follow them back. I haven’t quite learned the ropes of Twitter, and I used not feel like using it much mostly because I don’t like the completely open publicity of it, and because I never got much interaction back from others, besides this recent increase in followers. However, I think I’m starting to get a better idea about it, and that one piece of advice is like the recommendations I’ve read to popularize one’s blog: comment on other posts.

So today, to be fun, which is sometimes a novel concept for me as a first born, I decided to reply to the Dallas Police Department’s comical tweet about wanting an Apache helicopter for its air division.

I drafted my comment while thinking about when fictional police use to chase me in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV, especially when I was flying in a stolen helicopter. The conversation continued like this:

This was probably one of the richest conversations I’ve had on Twitter so far, and I think I’ll engage more often. This Facebook post by George Takei today inspired me to sort of run my mouth on Twitter. Some of these tweet exchanges between customers and corporations are hilarious.

BOINC: An unexpected heat source that gives in many ways

With the cold weather upon us here in Dallas, I like to turn some typical heat sources around the house into contributing to heat generation. The typical cooking and baking is rather common knowledge as a method to assist with heating, and I always enjoy leaving a hot cooling oven ajar to heat up the house. However, one source that many folks may not consider are home computers. When computers run at 100% computing capacity, they give off quite a bit of heat, enough so that during the hot southern summers, I stop doing what I’m about to start doing now during cold months because it gives off so much heat that an air-conditioner on a hot day cannot easily keep up.

BOINC Logo I participate in distributive computing using BOINC, Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, a system that allows individuals to donate free CPU cycles to a worthy cause. I donate free CPU cycles to several projects but mainly to SETI@home and Cosmology@home, but there are many projects within many fields of study to choose. So, yes, I help search for aliens. SETI@home logo

When I get all of my computers running at 100%, it causes the computers to blow out heat, as well as, typically turn up their fan speeds to help, which is unfortunately a more noisy. As a result, the room is warm, and I get to assist with research. I run this on my Windows machines, on a Debian Linux box, and I want to try to run it on my Android phone.

Weekend at Sweetwater’s Gearfest 2014

A couple of weekends ago, I ventured back to my roots—music. I went to Gearfest 2014 at Sweetwater Music Inc. in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. I went there for no particular reason other than to be around music gear, musicians, and just force myself to get closer to the music industry as I’ve been away from it for way too long. Little did I know what I was walking into. I didn’t really look at that much gear, but across the two days I spent there, I certainly swept across any of the gear that might have interested me. Instead of gear touching, I tried to attend as many seminars as possible. I filled up the days completely. On the second day, I attend the marquee of this Gearfest, which was a panel of mixing engineers. Among the eight or so engineers was Bruce Swedien, the man who mixed Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It was amazing to hear him talk about working in the studio with Michael, and the other most amazing thing was that each of the persons in the panel would arrive at the basically the same answers but independently to questions the M.C. asked. The questions were rather simple but philosophical in nature, questions like, “what is the best advice for up and coming producers,” or “what is the most important gear that a home producer could invest in,” to which the unanimously was, “acoustical treatment [and none of that sexy gear].” And when the questions circled around how to make a good mix, all of the answers rounded back to simply to music itself. Especially Bruce would say, “it’s about the music. Do you understand what I’m saying?” Even if you’re mixing rock music or electronic music, you should still attend classical and acoustical concerts to understand how acoustical music works because that is still the reference for electroaccoustic. Since I went alone, it was easy for me to find seats up close. I could easily find single empty seats the people in the audience left between each other, and so I sat in the second row from all of these rock stars making eye contact with all of them.

At the end of the first day, I sat in at a presentation of drummer Kenny Aronoff who told us the story of his big break when he composed the famous fill for John Melloncamp’s song Jack and Diane. He said it was the first time he decided not to overplay as many young drummers do when they’re still trying to prove something. It saved and made his career because the keyboardist and bassist were already fired earlier during that session. I was impressed with how much preparation he said it takes to play what seems like simple groves, such as when he performed the song Something with Paul McCartney. What seems like a simple introductory fill actually requires a great deal of focus to hit the two first notes at exactly the right time apart. “Beat, time, grove, and creativity,” is what you have to play with as a drummer.

Afterwards, I attended a presentation by Mick Guzauski who shared with us stories behind some of the most famous mixes he did for Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, Eric Clapton, and the latest Daft Punk album that took home all of those Grammys, Random Access Memories. Those Daft Punk boys paid for that entire album themselves upfront and later sold it to Sony, so that means no accountants stood over the project with a stopwatch. After it was all recorded (all rhythm sections were acoustic, something unusual for an electronic band), they rented another studio for the entire summer of 2012 that had one of those amazing $200k+ analog consoles that cost $45k/yr to maintain, and they mixed one song at a time, leaving the song up on the board for many days until they were happy with the mix. Typically, a song gets mixed in less than a day. On those analog boards, you can’t recall an old song after you’ve zeroed the board and moved on to the next song. You can try to get it close again, but it won’t be the same. So, I respect them more now because they took an uneconomical path to get as close to perfection as technologically possible, not to mention the best craftsmen of the industry were selected.

Another cool presentation was by a young guy named Mad Zach who leveraged analog Moog gear to basically “destroy” the sounds he was using and mangled them into something really futurist and cool and almost evil sounding drum beats. He probably had the best combination between being educational and entertaining of all of the seminars I attended.

I also finally met the sale engineer with whom I’ve been doing business over the phone for over eleven years. He sold me my first real synthesize, the Access Virus Rack. I still have it, and you can hear it on pretty much all of my best work. It was really nice finally putting a face to the voice because I can’t imagine a better sales guy who sells the stuff I need. He will straight up tell you “you don’t need that” if you come with a bad proposal to a solution you need. He’ll listen to your needs, and figure out how to best get you there within your budget. I met the CEO of Sweetwater, and he was at a loss of words to describe Jason Koons besides that he’s one of their best out of over 250 people in their sales force. I told the CEO Jason deserves a raise to which he replied that he gets a raise every time sells more stuff, referring to commission.

During the last few hours of the festival, I talked to some of the engineers from the panel. I kept Ed Cherney company while he unpopularly smoked a cigarette next to a trash can. I told him that after attending the panel, I concluded that all of those disciplines take so much dedication that out of all of them (mixing, recording, mastering, composing), I will focus even more on composing and less on the others ones because composing is the only one on which I am willing to make sacrifices like that. To this Ed practically snapped back at me, and this is the kicker of the entire visit. He said, “Composition is where it’s all at. Nothing else here would fucking exist…” pointing to the entire store, manufacturers, festival, and industry, “if it weren’t for the compositions.” We didn’t talk much after that, but that was all of the unexpected validation I needed to finally let go of the desire, despite my utmost respect, for developing good mixing skills, and just focusing on writing. This ties back an earlier comment I heard about mixing from yet another presentation earlier was that if the music is orchestrated correctly and the overtones don’t fight each other, then it makes the mixing process way easier. Otherwise, the mixing engineer has to try to work around those problems. I will focus more on learning orchestration techniques because that’s one thing I’ve always respected but deferred because I thought that was for writing for an orchestra. However, it’s actually about dealing with overtones regardless of the music style, and I remember my orchestration professors in college lecturing on that.

At the very end of the festival, I talked up the producer Fab Dupont and his girlfriend. His daughter kept sliding down the two story slide they have a Sweetwater. She counted thirty slides in all. His girlfriend was intrigued why a non-musician would go to Gearfest, but she later understood my struggle and why I was trying to be around musicians. There was a nice French-Polish connection going there between Fab, his girlfriend, and me. After about a nice thirty minute conversation Fab gave me his card, and I walked the family to the parking lot.

It was a great trip and was well worth it. See the press release about the producers panel.

A Life Lesson in networking to get what you want

One of the most pivotal times of my life was my internship with BT, the composer. I learned a great deal during that internship, but in retrospect, as a professional project manager today, the greatest lesson and achievement was landing the internship more so than the internship itself. It was a true venture into the unknown beginning with step one.

After making the decision to purse the internship, I knew that I essentially had to make my own way in because there weren’t any applications or listings of any internship positions publically posted. So, for guidance, I turned to Mr. Sanchez, an adjunct professor of music business. I asked him for help with networking because I knew he believed in me. He told me, “Sure I can help you, but I won’t. Basically, I’ll tell you what I tell my music business students. Not only will I not provide you with any contact information, I’ll give you a five day deadline to meet your goal. That way, you’ll never have to rely on someone like me to provide you contacts. You’ll learn how to get them yourself.” I accepted the challenge.

First step I came up with was to start with any contact information for BT I could find to proverbially weasel my way in. I found an e-mail address to his webmaster in some little print at the bottom of his website. So, I composed an e-mail to the webmaster with my intentions. I heard back within a day that he had forwarded my e-mail to BT’s manager. That manager forwarded my information to BT’s personal assistant who was vetting all of the applicants. Apparently, I was one of about a hundred applicants, which amazed me because there was no public portal to submit applications.

Then, one day about a week later, his assistant called my cell phone, the very first cell phone I ever owned, a flip phone with a black & white LCD screen. She told me where to e-mail her my resume. A few days after that, I got another call from her stating that I was a candidate of interest but that I would need a place to live in Los Angeles in order to be considered. So she flat out asked if I had a place because the internship would be unpaid. I had no clue what I would do for a dwelling, but due to my nativity, I thought that securing a dwelling must be a minor obstacle, so without any hesitation I replied, “Sure, I’ll find a place to stay. No problem.” Being from a small town, I had no idea that this could potentially be a problem in the city of Los Angeles.

Later when I talked with her in person, she said she was impressed with my confidence that I would secure a place to stay, but my confidence only stemmed from the fact that my desire to land this internship was so great that I would not let a common obstacle, like a dwelling, prevent me from pursuing my dream. A week or so later, BT called me himself, and I was a little star struck talking to my hero. But I think I stayed rather professional and asked how to best prepare myself for the internship, which was basically reading all of the manuals cover to cover for the software he uses.

That’s how a dream came true for me and learned how to network better. I found a place to stay. A friend subleased a room to me. I worked for BT for free for 11 weeks during summer of 2003. The internship came and went. But I still remember the most how Mr. Sanchez helped me grow by not helping me but my challenging me. I’ll never forget it because today, I would never be afraid to have the audacity to find contact anybody with whom I want to do business, even if that person is difficult to contact.

Since the internship, I’ve lost touch with BT, but when he tours, I still try to get in for free to his shows, so I’ll do the same tactics. I’ll look up the tour manager and try to contact them. After all, their contact information is plastered all over the net as they try to network themselves. I have successfully gotten myself on his guest list every time, with no direct help of BT’s to my knowledge. Sometimes when one encounters a “no,” one must continue to plow ahead.

Uncle visiting from Poland

This past weekend, my uncle from Poland visited me in Dallas. He is retired and has been in the U.S. for a couple of months now visiting family. He decided to make a short tour of the South and Midwest by taking Greyhound bus from Tulsa to Dallas, and then the Amtrak train to Chicago, and back to Tulsa, his home base while in the U.S., by plane. Being very well traveled, the bus and train were modes of transportation my uncle was experiencing for the first time on this continent, and he enjoyed comparing these modes to their counterparts in our native Poland.*
Google map with numbered markers starting from Tulsa, Dallas, and Chicago

The trip from Tulsa to Dallas

To my surprise, my uncle is quite well versed in navigating the Tulsa Transit system and has been leveraging the system to transverse the city. Luckily, a bus line runs directly in front of the apartment complex where my parents are living while they are migrating back to Poland and where he is staying during most of his visit in the U.S., so he conveniently caught a bus to the Greyhound station in downtown Tulsa (marker A) for the 10:45 bus to Dallas (marker D). At that moment, the trip already got delayed as the Greyhound bus waited 45 minutes for another Greyhound bus that was delayed and carrying a transfer passenger. The route was essentially down Hi-way 75, the typical route I take to Dallas, but the bus first stopped in Muskogee (marker B). He tried to send me an SMS about the delay, but due to a much unfounded miscommunication, he sent the messages to an old cell number of mine. I understood he did not have a cell in the U.S., but in fact, he is roaming on his Polish cell service in America, and each SMS text message costs roughly 60¢; nevertheless, it is a worthwhile cost for such critical communiqué.

Google Map of Oklahoma and Texas region with markers on Tulsa, Muskogee, Richardson, and Texas.

By around 17:00, Friday the 9th, I left my home for the Greyhound bus station in Dallas for my uncle’s planned arrival time of 17:25; however, his bus further encountered a second delay due to lane-closure and traffic congestion before Richardson (yellow marker C) resulting in, to the lack of my knowledge, a total of hour delay, about which he texted me again to the wrong number with an updated time. Naturally, first I pulled over in my car in front of the station hoping he would come out and see me, as he is familiar with my car. I noticed a dozen or so passengers exit the station, shortly after which security shooed away since they just stood in front of the station.

Street view of Greyhound Station in Dallas

Street view of Greyhound Station in Dallas

After ten minutes, I decided to circle the block and eventually parked and went inside. Inside, first I noticed a mucky smell of cheap deodorant in the very crowded terminal and that there was no time table board anywhere, and the only person who could help me, after a short investigation, was the gentleman whose job was to help passengers between the bus and terminal and who updated me about a 26 minute delay, which turned out to be obsolete information but better than nothing. Thirty minutes came and went, and rush-hour traffic got heavier outside the station as I decided return to my car thinking it was wiser to stay with my car. This resulted in me accidentally cutting off a pedestrian as I made a right turn in front of a police car, so I got pulled over but only given a warning. I circled the one way streets to find a parking meter somewhat in front of the station where I ultimately parked.

Finally, around 18:30, I noticed my uncle enter the terminal a little bit disoriented, so I yelled out to him, greeted him, and we walked back to my car. I was happy to learn he had the privilege to ride on one of the new Greyhound buses. First order of business was to acquire dinner to bring home, so we drove straight to Szechuan Chinese Restaurant on Lemmon Avenue where at 18:53, we ordered egg-drop soup to split between him and me, garlic pork for himself, chicken & shrimp fried rice for Monica, and sweet & sour chicken for me. Monica was very hungry by the time we got home after 19:00. We had plans to visit the NorthPark mall that evening to avoid the tax-free weekend rush the next day, but the travel delays postponed that plan. We spent most of what was left of the evening planning the following day.

New Greyhound bus

New Greyhound bus

A Saturday with my Uncle

We all woke up around 7:00. One of my uncle’s quests on this trip was to go native and share our normal routine in a condensed format. At 8:24, we got a couple of good and inexpensive breakfast burritos to go from La Victoria, a nice little restaurant in our neighborhood.

After breakfast, as we were loading my car, Monica noticed some desperate meowing, which turned out to be one of our cats crying on our balcony where we were spraying sunscreen on ourselves earlier. So, Monica ran back upstairs to let the cat back in. Fortunately, a mother always hears her baby’s cry because it was too hot to leave any animal outside, especially once the direct sun would hit.

We parked at my work parking lot downtown about 9:45, and went inside of my office to see the 360-degree view of the city from the 28th floor. Then, we walked over to the new Klyde Warren Park where we admired the surroundings and started a mission to find ice cream for Monica. By 10:45, we were ready to get out of the sun and go inside the Dallas Museum of Art to which admission is now free as of this year, but since the museum opened at 11:00 as did all the food trucks at the park, we waited in the shade of a tree on the west corner of Woodall Rodgers Fwy and St. Paul until opening time.

To our dismay, we had to throw away our water bottles to enter the museum, which was a bitter but fair trade for the nice, cool museum. We viewed the Hotel Texas exhibit of the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy that reunited “works that were installed in the president’s suite at the Hotel Texas during his fateful trip in 1963”.* For Monica to warm up again, we then viewed the sculpture installations in the museum’s garden, and then went back inside to view several more floors and sections of the museum. We saw art from almost every old continent, but we enjoyed the European Art the most.

Finished with the museum, we walked to the Pyramid restaurant at the Fairmont Hotel where at 12:42 my uncle ordered the salmon I recommended, Monica ordered the lobster bisque soup, and I ordered a deli turkey on pita bread. My meal was refreshing, but Monica was quite disappointed of her soup due to comparing it a similar dish from Bodean Seafood Restaurant in Tulsa, so after the fact, the manager gave her a free desert, an apple crumble, to go, which, although good, turned out to be more apple than crumble. The salmon was good, but my uncle was not as thrilled by it as I typically have been, though the dish was different than it used to be.

After lunch, we walked a block and caught the free M-line tram to Uptown at 14:00, and unfortunately, the air-conditioning on it was not working. We rode to West Village in Uptown to get some dessert, gelato from Paciugo at 14:27. The gelato was quite fulfilling. We took the next tram at 14:57 back to the my parked car.

At home, we freshened up and rested a bit to leave for dinner and the mall. We chose to eat at Velvet Taco, which was received very well by everyone mostly due to its originality and freshness. Afterwards, we went to NorthPark mall where we were on a mission to find my uncle a postcard, from Texas Treasures, and a bucket hat for his photographic expeditions. At the store Texas Treasures, he also purchased a personalized keychain which flashed his name on one side and had the Texas flag on the other. I also purchased for him a gift set from the Art of Shaving store. We circled the entire mall observing the art from the Nasher collection, and despite visiting several department stores, we only really found one bucket hat, which was by Lacoste but in a bad color at Macy’s. It was Monica’s keen sense that directed us to stop in the Lacoste boutique on the way back to the car where a white hat in the same style was on sale. The clerk had to pull it out of storage, it was the last one, and it was marked down, a remarkable find. Then, we drove home, drank some blueberry tea and called it a night.

Sunday with my uncle

True to my uncle’s tradition while in America, he and I went for a run Sunday morning, though we walked most of the time during our run due to talking. I let him use my heart rate monitor, and he put me to shame with it because he is in such great shape, for any age, that he barely entered into the aerobic zones. He had a top BPM of 133 with an average of 98 over 35 minutes. I could tell my BMP was hitting 150s sometimes, but he runs every day.

"Breakfast #2" with ham from Allgood Cafe .

“Breakfast #2” with ham

Afterwards, he wrote his post card, I stamped it for Poland, and we dropped it in the mailbox on the way to our favorite breakfast place, Allgood Café in Deep Ellum. There was a thirty minute wait at the diner and was quite warm inside, but we all thoroughly enjoyed the food and each others’ company. Each of us ordered renditions of their “Breakfast #2”, which is scrambled eggs, short stack of pancakes with fruit, and sausage though he ordered the ham. The coffee was excellent too.

On the way home, my uncle summarized his dining experience, as this was his last one with us, to that he enjoyed all by the Pyramid very much because all of the food was original. The Pyramid did not seem worth the money we paid, but it was not bad but nothing special in his opinion, to which Monica concurred. We all agreed the old menu from the previous chef at the Pyramid was better than the new one.

From the moment we got back home, it was a brief time until the train. My uncle finished packing; we had some tea and talked for a while. Soon, 15:00 came, so we all got in the car to drive to Union Station for his 15:40 train. The parking there was less than optimal as there is practically no short-term parking, and I reluctantly paid $5 for parking at 15:33. The train was about 10 minutes late; it was supposed to arrive 15:20 but arrived around 15:40. We waited inside the station for a short while, too short for me to take in the historic element of the place. We moved with the crowd to the platform—in the heat. An attendant scanned my uncle’s ticket and direct him to the last car on the train. There, we listened to another attendant explain a few things about the train. My uncle stepped inside to drop off his luggage, and then came back out to take final photos with us and say good-bye.

We began to miss him immediately. The following day, my uncle sent me an SMS that he arrived to Chicago and went looking for the metro to the airport, and I queried the Amtrak website to learn that his train arrived to Chicago 6 minutes early. Late that evening, I received an SMS from my mother that he was back in Tulsa safe and sound.
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* He noted that on Greyhound, the bus driver announces all of the stops, including listing all stops at the top of the trip, and knows exactly how many passengers to expect at each stop. In Poland, the PKS bus drivers do not know how many passengers will board at subsequent stops.
Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy. Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2013. Print.

Our First Independence Day celebration at Dallas’s Fair Park

This was our second Independence Day celebration since we moved to Dallas, but our first to go watch fireworks. Not knowing the too much about how the annual celebrations look like here in practice, we thought that one can’t really go wrong seeing “the city fireworks”; plus, entrance to the celebration was free. We were going to go with a friend who unfortunately had to bow out the day of due to a late deliverable at work.

Planning how to get to and from the celebration without a car took some effort. We figured it would be too crowded to deal with a car, but public transit should be alright, especially a train. Since the nearest station is not walking distance, I decided that we will park Downtown in a covered parking, and take the green line DART train from Akard to Fair Park. We brought lawn chairs, though we debated whether it was worth our while, but I think eventually it was proven to be worth our while. Thankfully, we were able to bring in our own water bottles. I wore sunscreen and a ball cap, but it didn’t feel like it was necessary starting at 7:30 pm Downtown. We worried that we may regret not having bug spray, but bugs did not bother us all night.

Our Green line DART train appraching Akard Station.

Green line DART train appraching Akard Station.

When we got to Akard station, I purchased us two Day Passes. After about a 10 minute wait, the train arrived, and most seats were taken after our stop. At the next few stops, many more passengers and kids got on to make it standing room only. At Deep Ellum, a seemingly nice name but with bad body order stood next to us until our destination.

When we disembarked the train along with the large crowd, we had to wait for the train to move, so that we could cross the tracks and walk towards the Fair Park. There was one police officer watching all of the people walk in, mostly checking for what they were carrying, but he did not stop or talk to anybody. We made a round around much of the park, down alongside the 700 foot reflecting pool toward the Hall of State where in front a stage was set up. We perused to identify a good vantage spot for the fireworks later and to evaluate what sort of food vendors were on site.

After walking around toward the lagoon with swan boats, we stopped at one vendor near the Cotton Bowl main entrance who was selling ice cream sandwiches where I ordered a Nutella and almond ice cream wrapped in two “hot cake” cookies that tasted like pancakes. It was an overload of sugar, and I got some of the melting ice cream on my shirt and camera case. We walked back around to the reflecting pool, near the entrance to the park. We purchased a couple of beers and set down our chairs to wait for the show to begin. We were surrounded by a significant crowd in our area, and some individuals had to sit down on the concrete because their feet were hurting. I’m glad we brought chairs, and it wasn’t too hard to carry both chairs the entire time leading up to then.

The fireworks show began a little bit late. Allegedly the show was timed to live music, but I we were too far away to hear anything. We were one of the few people sitting, and many standing were blocking our view slightly, but we saw enough. As soon as the show began, the large swarm of people adjusted their standing location, walking past us, because some of the pillars, trees, or monuments were blocking their view. I thought the fireworks would go higher into the air, but from our vantage point, the fireworks got up between pillars and buildings. I thought the fireworks show was a little thin, which later my observation was supported by a news report that half of pyrotechnics did not launch.

Immediately after the show, people started walking to the gate. I honestly started to get a bit worried how we will get home in such a crowd, which I extrapolated could last for at least an hour. Fortunately, it was relatively under control. Nevertheless, we walked back to the Fair Parks DART train station where it was like a mosh pit at a rock concert. The train arrived on time, and it approached the station extremely slowly probably because many people were standing too close to the edge of the platform.

Crowd swarming train at Fair Park

This is just a portion of the massive crowd attempting to enter the train.

People flooded the train, and yet still the vast majority remained on the platform. I was disappointed knowing that the next train was not supposed to arrive for another 30 minutes. So, we turned around and walked back into the park to use the bathrooms. At least 15 minutes have passed; we walked back to the station where a Red line train pulled away with people. This surprised me because only the Green line goes this way. Shortly thereafter, a green line appeared ahead of schedule. I also noticed DART busses running as Shuttle Busses, and my interested piqued trying to understand where those are running, many of which were mostly empty.

We got on the Green line back to Akard. It felt a little weird because the voice that announced the stations was turned off until about Pearl station. At our stop, I tried to be vigilant, but it was kind of deserted. A large party walked behind us, and a squad car and what probably was an undercover car were parked in a parking lot talking, so the walk back to the garage felt safe.

The beer and the massive amount of sugar upset my stomach. I also really wish there would have been some announcement on the DART website that there was going to be special event service running because that would have lowered my stress about getting home.