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The Little Clock Radio And the Plastic Palm Tree

January 20, 2004

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Well, I tried to listen. Mr. Sundberg had received a call mid-week to be a substitute motivational speaker in Chicago (one of his friends came down with the flu). He agreed to go, and since we had no real plans for the weekend and the furnace wasn't kicking out any heat to speak of, the kids and I went along.

It was the kids' first airplane ride and things went fine. Nobody threw up or had a panic attack; they were amazed by the view above the clouds and didn't say much of anything. Our hotel was right downtown and after we checked in Mr. Sundberg went to work and I took the kids exploring. We walked along Michigan Avenue, took a cab to a museum, and ate some pizza that was so good I tried to get the crust recipe from the owner. He was friendly enough, but said it was a family secret and he just couldn't do it -- not even in exchange for my cream cheese coffee cake recipe.

We got back to the hotel just as the show started with Pat Donohue and his train song. The kids had been talking all day about swimming in the hotel pool so I could hardly say no. I unplugged the clock radio and took it down with me. Of course there was no outlet, so I ended up watching the kids swim through a window -- from under a plastic palm tree in the courtyard where there were plenty of outlets. The reception was a bit weak but I found if held the radio up near my head and tilted it a bit I could hear just fine. A group of teachers from Michigan on a "girls' weekend" sat nearby and looked suspicious when Mr. Keillor belted out "It's hog feeding time in Nebraska!" over and over again, but they seemed to relax later when VocalEssence did its thing. Mr. Sundberg showed up in time for the credits -- his briefcase in one hand and his swimsuit in the other.

On the flight back I thought about trains and how next time a train ride or even a long bus trip would be something to consider. As we left the plane and walked up the corridor to the gate and the lights through a rush of Minnesota air, one of the kids asked, "Is this what coming home feels like?" I thought of all those people and things we saw over the weekend, and the smell of the air along Navy Pier, and how I held that little clock radio up to my ear for nearly two hours under a plastic palm tree. Yes, I said. This is what coming home feels like.

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