Why Me? Why Write? Why Now? Why Not?

The Me is Doug Curran…Douglas M Curran…Douglas Metcalf Curran. Douglas is Celtic for “dweller by the dark stream”. Curran in Gaelic means “little spear”. And Metcalf? Scottish for “I met a calf”? Hey I don’t know! I don't have all the answers. I'm still trying to get the questions right. At least I seem to be a spear fisher by some dirty water. Or maybe I'm a Druid. And that Curran thing may not even be as Irish as my Irish American wife, Colleen Fitzsimmons, hoped it was when she married me. Ok, I might be a Viking. It's like this. I was reading this book, The Lion Of Ireland, see, and the author, Morgan Llewellyn, recounts a last battle between Brian Boru and the Viking invader king, to regain Irish dominance again throughout the island and kick the fureners out. The Viking king's name? Olaf Cuaran? Cuaran? Curran? I'm a Viking now, so I am? And a descendent of one of those marauding and murderous pillagers and plunderers? I've never pillaged a thing in my life...well, maybe a book or two from somebody. I'm really just a gentle giant who loves books and music. Ok, I bought a sword recently, but only as a wall decoration to enhance my Irish family history coat of arms! Honest! Viking, Schmiking, so rest my Irish soul! Or my wife will have my old bald Irish head!

June 8, 2009

Taking a vacation? Here's one for the books...

The 24-hour Vacation(My Seattle Daze) – By Doug Curran

Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like, is it possible to take a vacation in 24 hours? And feel like it was a week long? When our oldest daughter Megan worked for both Marriott and Morris Air(now Southwest) one year, and a four-day weekend was coming up for my school teacher wife, we got the crazy idea to fly to Seattle for a day with our four youngest– and do it on about $100 and Megan’s benefits, which gave us free flight and discounted hotel. Yes, we didn’t think it was possible either. But it took some careful planning and rising early Thursday morning to fly standby – always stressful and potentially strand-ful. It was October and we were up for it.

So off we went, sitting in separate seats because of our standby status, but while soaring over Oregon, indulging our jocular pilot while he passed over still-smoking Mount St Helens, promising not to dip a wing into the bubbling cauldron. I just wanted him to keep it going down the road between the lines and not get off on the shoulders. I don’t fly that much and am not all that comfortable doing it, but with my wife Colleen and Shannon 14, Caitilin 12, Sean 10 and Conn 8, I felt a little safer. Funny how a grown man needs his wife and kids for a security blanket. Within an hour or two, we were angling for the Seattle airport, looking down on a city that was half enveloped in a big dark rain cloud and half drenched in blinding sunlight. We wondered which weather we would experience.

After a slap happy landing, we took a cab to our Marriott in Tukwila, then ditched our light luggage in the lobby so we wouldn’t have to check in till later and not spend money for an extra day. Then we hit the streets and caught our first-ever electric accordian bus, the kind with the bend in the middle, separating two whole buses. The kids were restless and didn’t know they were actually supposed to sit down on the bus, so we tried not to act like we were their parents as they ran restlessly back and forth, looking for different seats, never staying in them very long, fighting for windows, playing hide and seek, getting thrilled by standing in the “bend” – all while commuters patiently tried to read their papers and listen to their Walkmen...uh Walkmans...uh Walkthings (I’m talking pre-Ipods here).

We didn’t see the electric arm go up and hit the wires until we were ready to go under the city – and then we were “electrified” by the new world we discovered underground. It was only about 10am now and we were ready for the big city. And that meant a lot of walking. We started from the city center after we eventually found it right above our heads. We went for the Space Needle first, one of Seattle’s best known markers, invigorated by the fast pace and smell of sea in the air. But alas, climbing the Needle was a little beyond our meager budget, and no one would throw down ladders, so all we could do was look up and drool at the folks in the revolving restaurant. The kids were ready to eat.

So we headed for the wharf, me with the vision of unending seafood to consume, all this without a plan or purpose, just meandering, but now with more panic as the kids’ tummies rumbled out loud. As we approached the street where the open fish market was, everyone suddenly lost their appetites, seeing the fish catch out on display and smelling strange stinky aromas wafting across their noses. Nobody wanted to eat fish, while I could have gone into any number of places opening for lunch and devoured a big halibut whole. But looming on the near horizon right next to the wharf was the ferry port. There were ferries everywhere and we had finally found something to divert the kids' attention with and get them to get on board – literally.

Although we had lived in Hawaii for ten years, we had never gone out to sea. We were always sitting right in the middle of it. Now here we were, sitting on the edge of Puget Sound and ready to ride the water. And we were tired of walking too. Well this turned out to be an amazing experience we’d never forget. The day was beautiful, the storm clouds had dissipated, and the kids were making friends with seagulls which flew along side of us.  They were also transfixed by the waves and wake made by this very large floating thing. My wife was a little squeamish at first, never feeling secure on the open water. But it was only a half hour ride to and from the nearby island we were charted toward, so we had time to lose ourselves in the fantasy and even finally indulge in a little light lunch at the snack bar.

The ride was over too fast and so memorable for all of us. How we’d love to go back and take longer rides and see how the other half lives on those beautiful islands. But the kids were already getting tired and we had a lot of walking to do to get back to the underground and find that electric bus again that would take us back to Tukwila. Back to Tukwila - sounds like a song title. The kids didn’t run around the bus either – still hadn’t lost their sea legs and the bus was rocking and rolling. But no barf bags needed. It was only three o’clock and we felt we had had a magical vacation already.

Once back at the Marriott though, the kids got renewed energy and wanted to hit the pool, which we were happy to encourage, while Colleen and I just lounged poolside in relaxed reverie and rested out tuckered feet - more walking than we had done in a long time. Water soaked and hungry,  these now-famished little travelers didn't take much time to settle for some tv and pizza in our double suite room and everyone was ready for bed by 8pm – done! No I mean they so were exhausted, it took nothing for us to get them to sleep – no, they fell asleep without us even mentioning it – no, they were falling asleep with unchewed pizza sticking out of their mouths. And it didn’t take much for us to follow very soon after.

The next morning, we were up early for the first Morris Air out of town, enjoyed more unique captain banter and sightseeing talk as we flew back over the sights of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Nevada before finally landing in Salt Lake City Friday morning. We got to our house in Orem before noon, worn-out but seasoned travelers and vacationers with a memory together we’d never forget and haven’t enjoyed the likes of since. Not a bad little 24-hour out-of-towner. Cheap too - but priceless..


  1. I'll never forget that little va-cay to Seattle. I loved it!

  2. I'd heard mention of that trip, but never all these details. Sounds like it was some real sponteneous fun.