April 23, 2010


   I think there are a lot of things in the popular culture that say that time spent with you family is wasted time. There is fighting and old scars. There are any number of things that they infer that time spent with family is. The one thing that seems overlooked is that it is usually very refreshing as well.
   As I write this I am on an airplane flying home from Iowa where the wife and I just spent a wonderful weekend with my sister. Before I left Orange County my coworkers asked me why I was going to Iowa. Every time I told them, “My sister lives there.” It is as if there is some kind of expectation that when someone takes vacation from work that it should be to go somewhere to party. The follow up question is always, “Other than your sister, what's in Iowa?”
   Contrast has been on my mind a lot over the last few months. This trip has definitely been one of contrast. We left from Los Angeles International Airport. The security was impersonal and in a hurry to get everyone through the security. There are something like 9 terminals at LAX. The drive to the airport was nothing but city.
   Landing at Des Moines International Airport was quite different as you can imagine. There is only basically one terminal/building. There was one other plane on the ground when we landed. The drive from the airport was wide open country in comparison. We could see the tall buildings of downtown Des Moines in the distance but the freeway we rode along had no city or buildings nearby. We saw a deer standing by the side of the road within a few miles of the airport. Security at the airport was also very simple and friendly.
   My sister lives in a small town about 40 minutes North of Des Moines. Small by my reckoning at least. They have a couple of grocery stores and a couple of other things that makes them reasonably large. I live in Anaheim, California. Orange County is like one large city with no clear demarcations for when one city ends and another begins, a fact that is further confused by the odd shapes of cities like Anaheim.
   I suppose the message is clear enough. We live in two wildly different places. I know that most of the people I associate with would not think of Iowa when they think of great destinations to spend that precious time away from the office.
   But we didn't go there to sight-see. We went because of family.
   Growing up in Northern California I had some really close friends. Perhaps my closest friend was my sister. She is a few years older than I am and was a bit more sociable than I ever was. When I became a teenager I didn't have too many friends yet. But because my sister and I had many years to build a close relationship I never had far to go to find something to do. My sister always took me along with her friends to movies and parties until I had a few close friends of my own after a couple of years. My friends easily became her friends as well.
   When you have a relationship like that it can be kind of hard to live so far apart. Over the last 10 years we have only been able to see each other once every year or so. In that time she has had basically 4 kids grow up and it has always been hard to not be a part of their lives except upon occasion.
   Now I have as many issues with members of my family as any stereotype. My sister and I have had enough fights over the years for me to lose count. But when it comes down to it we are family. When it comes time to have fun and leave the every day behind I can't think of a better place in the world to go. Las Vegas just can't compete no matter how many lights and shows they put up. Nothing can quite put that smile on your face like little Annika. I can laugh harder watching Animaniacs with the kids than any comedian can produce from my belly.
   I think it's very clear how Iowa has exactly the right things to make it the perfect vacation spot.