I just got back from a quick trip down to Arizona to see my brother David. This trip was no different than many of
the others I've taken to see David in the last few years in that I went not only to hang out with Dave and his
family for a couple of days, but I also needed some dental work done and David is a great dentist who takes good
care of me. So, while I wish I had the luxury to just take a couple of days to hang out with my brother for no
particular reason, at least my needed dental work serves as an excuse for both of us to set our regular duties
aside for a bit and try and have a little fun together.

David and Natalie have moved into a new house since the last time I was in town, so I was excited to check out
the new digs. The new house is near their old one so I'm not completely unfamiliar with the area. I was able to
find it right away with Natalie's directions. Normally I would fly in on a Thursday and Dave and I would play some
golf on Friday since that is one of his regular days off. This time however I had to fly in on a Friday and decided
not to bring my clubs. Since it was Friday David was at home to welcome me, and I immediately asked for a tour
of the house. Cool place! Large rooms, high ceilings, nice fixtures, and a great home theater as well as a great
pool and lawn area in the back. It really seems to suit them and they seem very happy.

Dave and I wasted no time in getting down to the dental office and getting the "business" part of my visit over
early. The office was closed for the day so we entered from the back and had the place to ourselves. All of the
dental work was done in a matter of minutes and I felt comfortable that David had fixed my problem. He was even
generous enough to give me a new sonic toothbrush kit. He showed me some of the behind the scenes elements
of the office and talked to me a bit about the business and of the good people he has working for him.

We still had some time to kill before dinner, so David took me to the driving range at the small executive course
near his home called
Greenfield Lakes. I hit with Dave's clubs and seemed to hit them about the same way as I
would my own, although I must admit I still like the feel of my clubs even after all these years. The weather was
absolutely perfect, with sunny skies, a slight breeze, and a temperature of 73 degrees. We hit a large bucket of
balls and because I didn't have a glove my hands had had enough by then.
David suggested we check out a nearby sushi/sports bar called KC's T.V. Sushi Bar. I had actually stuck my
head into this place before when I was in town, although I had never eaten there. Dave had been there a few
times before and said it was his brother-in-law's favorite place to go when in Phoenix. The place turned out to be
pretty much as I had expected. That is to say that it was a comfortable place to eat and watch sports, but the
sushi wasn't anything special. In fact, I was a bit surprised to find that most of the nigiri pieces were quite good.
Unfortunately the couple of kitchen items we ordered were absolutely horrible. The other downside was the fact
that there just weren't any sporting events on worth watching. The best we could do was to watch some NBA
highlights (yawn!) on ESPN. That did give us a chance to talk a bit more however.

We got home in time to hang out with Natalie and the kids for a bit before bed. They have four kids and one on
the way. I can honestly say that Dave and Natalie have one of the best looking families you're likely to find. Not
only are the kids cute as can be, but they are fun, smart, good kids as well. I always have a good time hanging
out with them (even if they don't feel the same about Uncle Brad). Each of the kids is a real treasure and I feel
lucky that Henry and Gwen will have such good cousins as they grow up.

After a while David and I retired to the big, beautiful hot tub in the backyard. Initially I think we thought that we
might sit in the hot tub for a 1/2 hour or so, but once we got talking the time really started flying by. We finally
got out having chalked up a good couple of hours! I really enjoyed catching up with Dave. I not only feel
comfortable talking with him, but I have a lot of respect and admiration for him and I'm grateful for the fact that
we get to spend time like this together every now and then.

Natalie had asked us not to forget to take the trash bin out to the street for pickup the next morning. We
assured her that we would do it before bed and then (thanks in part to our long, drawn-out conversation in the
hot tub) proceeded to forget about it completely.

I had told David when going to bed that night that I would wake up between 8 and 9 the next morning, but
ended up first opening my eyes at 11:15! Wow. I guess I needed the sleep! I figure the whole trip was worth it
just for that!

Again I hung out with the family for an hour or so then headed off to visit my sister Kara and her family who had
recently moved into a nearby neighborhood from Wisconson.  I had also been sent down to Phoenix with a
delivery of air matresses for Kara by my mother. So it was off to make my delivery, visit with my sister and her
family, and check out their new digs.

Kara and Paul's new house is beautiful, with a similar layout as David and Natalie's, and only about a three
minute drive away. I arrived to find everyone at home including Paul. It was also the first time I was able to meet
the family's newest addition, baby Nora. She is about the sweetest little baby ever; so happy and smiling. After a
tour of the house I sat with Kara as she made lunch and fed the kids. It was great catching up with her since it
has been such a long time since we've seen eachother. We talked about our kids, the new home, our own
growing up, and even some politics (we share very similar views). It was then time to help Paul put the Christmas
lights up on the house. Again it was a glorious day, so it didn't seem like much of an effort to visit with both Paul
and Kara as we did what we could to help Paul out. The time flew by and the next thing I knew it was almost
5:00. I originally had planned to go by the gym (24 hr. Fitness on Val Vista Rd.), but realized I now didn't really
have time to do that and be back to David's in time to head out to dinner at 6:00, so I headed straight back.
Just after 6:00 the babysitter was ready to take over and we headed out in Dave's BMW to pick up Paul and Kara.
Thanks to Kara's suggestion we went to eat at a restaurant called
Kona Grill. The restaurant is located in
Chandler, a neighboring suburb, and is very common in Phoenix it was situated as part of a mall/shopping
complex (Chandler Fashion Center). In fact, I'm always all too keenly aware of the predominance of what I call
"strip-mall culture" in the Phoenix area and if anything else, this alone would keep me from ever wanting to live
there. That having been said, Kona Grill turned out to be a thoroughly tasty and enjoyable place to have had
dinner. The restaurant is spacious and clean and at the same time cozy and comfortable. The menu is "pacific
fusion," which includes Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, and Hawaiian inspired dishes. They also have an
extensive sushi menu. Everyone was curious about the sushi and what I might think of it. I think everyone else
had been here before and seemed to like it. I'm always a bit suspicious about sushi in a place that doesn't
specifically concentrate on sushi, especially when the menu is as diverse and varied as this one was. Well, we
ordered a plate of several sushi pieces, which included Hamachi, Saba, Uni, and a roll. I was pleasantly surprised
to find that the sushi was very good. Kara loved the Hamachi, and Paul gobbled up a piece of Uni without even
knowing what it was. He seemed to be OK with it.

As I wasn't feeling terribly hungry I thought I would just order a fish taco appetizer in addition to my couple of
pieces of sushi from the communal plate. When my order came I was shocked. The appetizer was only about $8
but the portion was about enough to feed my whole family! It also happened to be delicious. We all seemed to
enjoy our food as well as the company. It is certainly a group of people that I miss seeing and haven't been
together with in far too long a time.

As we were eating Paul started to tell us in a low voice that he saw a guy who had just been seated with his
family in the booth just behind us who he recognized as someone who happened to have been on his mind all
week. He told us that the guy was
Freddy Sanchez, 2006 National League batting champion and third baseman
for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Paul, who is a recently established oral surgeon in the Phoenix said that Freddy
Sanchez had come by his office a week prior to get some advice on a bad tooth. Paul didn't recognize him despite
being a baseball fan, and just so happened to be very distracted at the time by another patient at the time and
ended up making Freddy Sanchez wait in his office for 20 minutes after their initial conversation. Paul felt bad
about having to make him wait and when he went back to speak with Freddy again he was gone. When Paul
happened to see on the insurance form that this was the baseball star Freddy Sanchez he felt even worse. He
ended up calling Freddy and apologizing to him and following up his consultation about the tooth over the
phone. Paul said that although Freddy was very friendly and polite that he still felt bad about how he had
handled the situation. As we were leaving Paul decided to take Kara over to their table and apologize to Freddy
again in person. I'm sure it was appreciated, especially after Freddy realized at the end of the meal that Paul had
already taken care of the bill.

After dinner it was time to enjoy my family's equivalent of an after dinner drink, ice cream! We went to Maggie
Moo's where everyone indulged their sweet teeth on the ice cream/candy concoctions. I passed on the ice cream
because not only don't I have a sweet tooth but I was stuffed from those fish tacos (two of which I still had in the
doggy bag I was now packing)! Again it was fun to stand around talking together and enjoying several minutes of
peace and adult conversation.

Once back home Dave, Natalie, and I continued to hang out in their kitchen as Dave played musical selections
from the I-tunes site. Dave and I went on and on about music to the point of thoroughly boring Natalie. We said
our "good nights" at about 1:00am.

When I woke the next morning at 9:00 Dave and the family were already at church. I packed up my things, wrote
a little note to Dave and Nat, and headed off to the airport. All went well on the trip back and I now can look
forward to seeing Dave, Nat, and the rest of their family when they come to visit Salt Lake for Christmas!
Dave and Natalie's new house in Gilbert
Andrew playing computer games
Hannah, Andrew, Ashley, and Lauren
Paul and Kara's new house in Gilbert
Kara and Nora
Jack helping hang the lights
Paul hanging Christmas lights