Saturday, December 26, 2009

Let the bells ring out for Christmas at the closing of the year

The couple in line behind me to buy coffee look nice and normal enough, then I noticed he (yes he) was wearing a jean mini skirt, tights, and high heeled boots. That's the sort of randomness that really is the mark of the past week. And it also makes me think I may be a bit too... well I was going to say normal but I don't think that's the right word, maybe mainstream... for my neighborhood. Then a man who I can identify as a pilot just walked in. How can I make such an inference you ask?? Was he wearing wings on his shirt??? Nope. In a uniform??? Well, or sorts I guess yes. Is he carrying a bunch of manuals that have "For Reference Only" or "Boeing" on the front?? Nada. He's decked out in the universal costume for off duty pilots... knit shirt with a collar, tucked into jeans, and the real indicator... bright white sneakers.

That's enough distraction from what I actually came to write about, this past week. I normally feel kind of blah and indifferent about Christmas for most the month of December. The shopping throngs and bombardment of Christmas sales doesn't help. Add to that, most my adult life has been spent working in an industry that does the heaviest business by far this time of year. That brings with it longer hours, less days off, and general chaos and confusion at the office. Given my current feelings about my current employment situation, I'm not terrible thrilled to be spending more time with over stressing managers.

When an opportunity came up to take an extra day off during the busiest, and most stressful, week of the year. I jumped on it. It would have been a bargain had it cost me 3 times the price. And armed with my extra day off, I whisked off to the south. I'm not a big fan of the drive, especially the Tennessee part. There always seems to be a interstate closure for an accident when I roll through. And not that I don;t enjoy spending extra time in the Nashville area, I would rather be at my destination so much more.

I rolled into Atlanta about 7:30 PM Monday night. I left Louisville in a flurry of activity after only a couple hours of sleep. And it was this week really when i started feeling a bit Christmas-y. If only because gifts were being dropped off by various delivery companies or I got to do my version of wrapping, which involves a lot of irregular folds and copious amounts of tape. I rolled into Grace's apartment and was we began working on what was to be my Christmas present. I thought it was an odd request to bring with my pin collection, gathered from around the world. Mostly of the Hard Rock Variety, I've quite quite the collection. Most I picked up but a few friends have been very kind to make a point to bring me pins back. For most of the 90's these pins resided on my Southwind member jacket, only to relegated to a short lived and ill conceived display at my last apartment before being banished to a Crown Royal bag. Now, thanx to Grace's skill at making things, I have a more fitting and fabulous display case for them. She rocks! And if that wasn't enough, it was accompanied by a scarf for the the hash Louisville winters.

After shopping around for some additional items to complete TanJoe's gift basket and Jonathan's gift from Grace, we spent the evening drinking beer, arranging pins, and waiting for the last Holby to arrive. Well, she's not the LAST Holby per see, just the last one I had yet to meet. The rest of the night was spent conversing and being sociable with Christine and Scott, lasting until about 4 AM. I also made my first Gin Martini. I specialize in vodka, but I'm branching out. Thinking of a career change maybe :-). It seemed well received, so maybe there's a future for me.

The next day, grace and I began scouring the city for a specific coffee mug from Starbuck's. I think we hit 8 or 9 on Wednesday, and they all seemed to look at us as if we were asking for the Holy Grail itself. We knew the mug existed, as we had seen it before, not in a vision but at the Starbuck's in concourse A at the airport. We eventually gave up the quest (it was 9 pm after all) and met Christine and Scott for drinks with some acquaintances of theirs.

That led to one of the most random and interesting nights in recent memory. At least in this country. The setting is a well appointed and friendly feeling pub on the square of Decatur. We walked in to a packed house and found Christine and Scott, who then found their friend at a table in a back corner upstairs. The Brick Store pub has taken a new approach to being a pub. Well, it's more of an old approach. No TV's or neon. No lite beers, no domestic big label beers. You're not going to find Budweiser or Coors light here. What they do have is a wide variety of foreign (including a huge selection of Belgians) and microbrew beers. The feeling in the place was definitely old Europe, especially back in our corner. Not at all like you were in an imitation pub some one tried to mimic. They pulled it off.

More interesting than the wide variety of tasty beverages and charming decor were the cast of characters squeezed around the table. I'm not sure what occupation they came from. I know some one was in marketing research. there was a Magazine editor (Josh), and author/actress/waitress/chief happiness officer (Mary Jane), and Jim and John and Jim and other people I just can;t remember. I should really learn to be better with names. Of course, there was Grace, Christine, Scott, and I. Roughly 8 or 9 of us around a table made to comfortably seat four.

And this is how we celebrated Festivus. There was a pole, feats of strength, and many airing of grievances. But the conversation was just great. It didn't center around airplanes or work or holiday frustrations. Before the end of the night, through conversations with the group, I was feeling much happier about life in general. Work issues have been weighing on my mind a lot lately, but I'm feeling much better about it now. If i lose my job, then I'll find another. Maybe it's time for a new beginning anyway. Change can be scary, but it can be invigorating at the same time. And meeting and talking to such positive people over fantastic beers really brought it into focus that I can be down about this crap.

Mary Jane had recently published a book about the very establishment we were occupying. And after the conversations with her and the others, I felt it was a book I would want to read. Luckily, they had copies for sale. And being at the table with such a celebrity as the author, I had to purchase one and get it autographed. One day I think she'll be famous and get tired of people asking for her to sign the book while she's trying to enjoy a cold beer, so I felt I should get mine personalized while I could. I just started reading last night at work, and I'm enjoying the story thus far.

Grace and I ended the night at Josh's house with Mary Jane, discussing family and kids and travel over homemade Limoncello. (FYI, before anyone makes a crack, "discussing with Mary Jane" is not a euphemism for doing something a random drug test would reveal). After a variety of topics and a few drinks of limoncello (it's like drinking a lemonhead candy... yum), we headed home.. again at 4 AM.

The next day we continued the quest for the Holy Grail. And resolved that the only place the mug would be found was at the airport. The followed a trying day of attempting to locate a shipping center and get the item off to make the journey to California by Christmas. Grace decided a nap was in order, and I agreed completely. That night was going to interesting too.

Grace took off to her family lands in New-Nan. I headed to Taco Mac. I was informed last week that I would have plans Wednesday night. My ladies had spoken and I was obliged to attend. And I was to finally meet the person known as Genevieve. Until this point I had only heard tales of this person. Prior occasions when a meeting was to occur, something happened to prevent it. I was beginning to think she was shunning me or, far more likely, she was an imaginary friend of the harem. Turns out she does exist. I was told by Charity, who was running late, to look for her at Taco Mac. Fantastic... I'm searching for some one I've never met with the description of "she's blonde to the shoulders with blue eyes about my height". Turns out, that attractive blonde's are sort of few and far between in New-Nan. It also turned out I got there first and she walked in with Jersey so I didn't have to search her out... and risk being pummeled by a redneck for making a move on his woman should I have chosen the wrong blonde. A serious risk in New-Nan, and I have a history of choosing the wrong blonde.

And shortly, Jersey, Genevieve (who, due to my problem with spelling words with more than one syllable, will be referred to from now on as Jenna or OG.. she claims to be the Original G to Grace's more recent G), and I were joined by Tanya, Charity, and Grace. And that's how I ended up being the only man at a table with New-Nan's 5 most gorgeous women. We adjourned this meeting of the harem and reconvened back at the TanJoe manor, where the drinks are already paid for. The alcohol flowed like... alcohol. And Tanya produced some snacks of chocolaty goodness of which I ate the equivalent of my body weight. And at about 4 AM, it was time to sleep again. Another great night of friends and fun.

(ok, as a side note, there's now a pilot in his uniform sans wings and shoulder boards in here... I may have to leave if another shows up. This neighborhood is going downhill fast.)

Thursday found me waking in a hangover haze, probably sweating Jack Daniels and Jameson. After the mornings first cup of coffee, and a surprise homecoming by Joe, I gathered my self up and took off for some Christmas Eve shopping. I'm proud that this year no gifts were purchased on credit. This could be a first since 1995. After a brief shopping expedition in the New-Nan/PTC area, it was up to Grace's to prepare the gift bags and try to feel more human. We took a quick expedition to Target at Atlantic Station and discovered that they carried the same Starbuck's mug we have trekked about the city looking for... only 5 minutes from G's house. I think would have been better off not knowing that.

Afterward, I was able to meet NoTAC (short for No Talent Ass Clown, or more commonly known as Ryan) and his lady for dinner, then crossed the city to join Charity, TanJoe, and some of the Pollard family for an evening of Glubwien and Wii. It was then that the realization that I had to come back to Louisville soon began to set in. The next morning, very early, I awoke to discover that once again Santa did not leave me a bar of gold or deed to a tropical island in my stocking. Maybe I've been to naughty again. I whisked off to mom's house for Christmas breakfast. I could practically smell the bacon cooking miles away. I was struck by an eerie feeling driving through Atlanta when I realized I was the only person moving on Spring Street. it was like one of those movies where everyone in the world has disappeared but some hapless person who was lucky enough to be sleeping in an iron box or something. Just when I began to wonder if Grace's apartment was indeed built of iron, I saw another car driving. That was close, I was almost the last person on earth.

Christmas morning was the typical flurry of presents, kids, breakfast foods, and lateness. The little ones continue to get more stuff then they could possibly ever play with in a year. I think the best reaction was to the toothbrushes... it was a sort of half-hearted "yay! it's a toothbrush." In all fairness to the kids, I would feel the same way. The challenge of the morning came in the form of an electrical outage. And with perfect timing, this happened before the biscuits were made and the eggs were cooked. At least we had 3 pounds of bacon (yes, there was really three pounds of bacon) and a plate of sausage to occupy us until we could get the generator rigged up to finish the cooking. And then the presents were distributed. I scored a bottle of Grey Goose form Darci... which is kind of repayment for the years of me contributing her delinquency. Mom also tired force a cake and pie on me. I love my mother very much, but I always am confused by the "You look so great, keep up the weight loss... here's a cake".

All too soon I had to leave. The journey back to Louisville loomed ahead. Luckily traffic was light, and there were plenty of places to provide me with sugar-free Red Bull for the caffeine requirements of the trip.

There is more to say about the week, but my hands are tired and I'm fairly sure everyone has stopped reading about 3 pages back. I enjoyed the time I spent with all my friends, and most of the unexpected surprises in meeting some wildly interesting people, finding a new watering hole, discovering how impressive my pin collection looks when displayed properly, and generally enjoying the company of family. I can't thank Grace enough for letting me once again interrupt her life and sleep on her couch. One day she's gonna take my key away I'm sure. I wish I could have spent more time with everyone, and that's the real downside to Christmas. So much busyness and rushing around that we don't usually get to spend time just being around fun people. And often your thrust into the company of annoying people who push in front of you in line to checkout. I enjoyed giving out some gifts, and the look when i get something they really like. Usually by complete luck.

Now, I'm looking ahead to New Years. I'm hoping that everyone will be around (though I know some won't but that's OK, I'll have to harass Jersey more in 2010). Coming soon will be the inevitable reflection blog, so look forward to that. I'll try and keep it shorter :-). Until next time, I hope everyone continues to enjoy their holiday revelry and has safe journey's.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The weather outside is frightful... or just insanely cold.

Once again, I find myself in Rao's Coffee in downtown Amherst, MA. I will forever abbreviate this state because I cannot spell it. Too bad, it's really very scenic here. This is my third visit to Adri's home town. Fall is amazingly colorful, winter is amazingly cold. It's still scenic though, the snow making it all very wintery. As snow tends to do.

This was a quickly laid on trip tog et away from Louisville for a couple days. Otherwise, it'd end up with me dwelling on some things. I like the distraction of Amherst, and the vibe of the town. I could maybe even immigrate here... I say maybe because I'm not sure I react well to the cold. Unfortunately, Adri has been working these few days and I've only had limited time to spend with her. But lunch, and dinners have been very nice. SHe's a great host.

Yesterday, I spent the time in the morning around Amherst meandering. Well, most of it was spent insde the coffee house as meandering outside was almost painful. There's a nice little local bookstore on the square that, while 1/4 the size of a standard Barnes & Nobles, has an incredible selection of books I've never seen in the local B&N. It is a college town and I suppose people here are well read??

After fetching Adri for lunch yesterday, I ventured down to Holyoke and searched for a local brewery I was told about. I must have circled the same block 5 times looking for the place. The GPS/google maps on the phone got me almost exactly not there. I mean I was withing a mile so I suppose that helped narrow it down. Eventually I pulled up beside a large abandon-looking brick factory and asked a delivery driver if he knew where I could find Paper City Brewery. He responded "You're looking at it". It's the kind of place you would never find unless you knew where it was. No signs or adds. Nothing but a grey door with no number or markings. This should be interesting. The owner (Jay) decided to install the brewery on the 5th floor of the building... and up the stairs I went. I walked into a room that had a very old early 1900's feel about it. Not much organization. Boxes and cases of beer stacked all over, except the one wall that was roped off to guard a collection of vintage motorcycles.

I was greeted by a older lady with a cheerful "Are you here to work?" To which I responded "No, I'm here to drink and take a tour if it's available." Well, turns out that even though the website said tours were available Monday through Friday during the day, the omitted that Wednesday was not exactly considered to be between Monday and Friday. I did learn that Wednesday nights are bottling night, and should you feel inclined to come help them with the bottling process you will be paid in a case of beer and fed pizza. If I lived here, guess what I'd be doing on most Wednesdays. It's very brilliant ploy by the owner, especially with the high volume of broke college students in the area. Imagine being able to get a free case of good microbrewery beer as a poor college student. Beats the hell out of drinking Natty Light.

At any rate, the staff (all three of them) were busy getting ready for the night's bottling operation. So no real tour was given, but they did offer to let me sample whatever they had on tap. And since they were busy, I was to just go behind the bar there and help myself. So I did. The lady who initially greeted was waited on something to be delivered, so she kept me company. In the times where she had to actually go do something, I occupied myself with the collection of bikes. For future reference, I'm not a fan of watermelon beer, but they had a wonderful blueberry beer and an excellent winter dark.

The owner was very much into vintage Harley-Davidson's and Indian motocycles (that's the correct spelling). I've been very much into getting back into bikes lately. I'm even thinking that should this airline thing go south, going to motorcycle mechanics school. At the very least I could save myself $70 by doing my own oil changes.

After more than a few samples and a conversation with the owner, I headed back to Amherst to wait for Adri to get off work. She had planned dinner and the Amherst family was coming over. I haven't seen many of them since the infamous birthday party with the missing Grey Goose. I love that hanging at Adri's is like a meeting of the United Nations. Represented were the nations of South Africa, Colombia, Pakistan, and Russia. And unusually I was not the only native born American, but the other American was currently living in SwitzerFrance... I'll explain later.

The other thing about Adri's friends is that when we're hanging out I feel like I'm the dumbest person in the room. I like to think I'm a fairly intelligent person, but when the company are either workin on Ph.D's in Psychology (that's how it's spelled Katya, I looked it up), or engineers, or working at CERN (which is on the border of France and Switzerland... hence SwitzerFrance) creating black holes that are going to destroy the earth. Well, maybe the black hole part is not true, but how often to meet a physicist that's working on discovering the smallest particles of the universe. I think it's cool. And she was cute too. I also learned that Stephen Hawking is an asshole.

That pretty much brings us up to now, where I sit at Rao's again typing this. I feel so studious here aongst the other people typing and studying away. It almost makes me want to go back to college. Except I have no desire to actually do the school work.

I fly back to Louisville tonight, and back again to being in he real world. It's only a three day work week before I head home for Christmas. And i still have much shopping to do! I would like to thank Adri for hosting me. And Mo, Katya, Susya, Razzi, and Elane (not sure that was her name, but I'll call her that for now) for the enjoyable evening. Later.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Neither down or out, there's nothing you have that I need. I can breathe

I've been working a lot. Since I returned home from my birthday it feels like I've done little else but work and sleep. I guess if I want days off I have to eventually pay them back. But that doesn't make me happy. And add on top of that a large measure of uncertainty with the job, it does make for a happy camper. SO, in the spirit of the "F" word being thrown about, I'm making plans on what to do. Unfortunately all them require a pay cut, but maybe there will be some silver lining... We'll see. I guess it really annoys me not being given any sort of definitive word on the next year. That and no matter how good I may be at my job, I'm likely to still get screwed. I know times are tough in the economy, what with UPS only pulling in a couple billion (yes with a B) in profit for the year and the CEO cruising for a 600% raise. We all have to make sacrifices.

Having watched an airline struggle for survival and not make it, these people have no clue what tough times are like. Again, I'm hopeful on some things may work out...

Otherwise, the end of the long Thanksgiving weekend is upon us. I was able to fly home for a few days and spend some time with family and friends. Got in Tuesday morning after working all night (I'm convinced that "peak" season is forever going to catch brown off guard... like they didn't know it was coming). I lucked into a first class seat on the trip down, and caught a little nap. Once I got my rental car, I was headed to mom's. Unfortunately the rental car had a slight issue with the temperature controller... it was stuck on hot. I reversed course to the airport and promptly traded it in. And while the second car was new and a better vehicle, I'm so glad I didn't buy a corolla. Just doesn't have enough pick up for me.

Mom was nice enough to cook me some food while I slept a couple hours, unfortunately she chose fried chicken... not on the diet. I had a small piece and was off to resuscitate my motorcycle. I stopped and spent a ridiculous amount on a new battery and headed to y brothers house where my bike lives now. Poor thing is soooo dirty. But thanx to some help from Brian, we got the girl fired up. Apparently and engine will not run if u have the gas feed turned to off. Who knew?? After getting some work done on the bike, I headed up to visit the hobbled Grace. She was very nice and let me break into her new roommates liquor while she whipped up a tasty dinner. Her cooking skills amaze me, I can't throw together random things and it all work out so well. Fte hanging around for a few hours, I cruised back home to the house.

Now, Mom has decided to move out of the house I grew up in and relocate to somewhere just past civilization. Th old house is still there, and she has yet to move most of the stuff out of it. But I'm not so sure I like the idea of her getting rid of it (in time). It's still home, no matter how weird it may feel to stay back in my old room.

Wednesday I got the bike out on the road. It was a little cool, but warm enough to have a pleasant trip. And everything worked great. Love it. So, after 144 miles and lunch with Jersey, I headed back to Newnan to meet TanJoe and Jersey (and the mysterious imaginary Genevieve.. this person does not really exist, and I base that on the number of times we've almost met, but never quite made it.. she didn't make it this time either... hrrrmmm). After Taco mac, it swung by the TanJoe manor to sample the latest brewed concoction. They make pretty good beer there. Soon, I'm thinking Joe will retire from aviation and go into being a brewmaster.

Thursday was thanxgiving with the family. Much food was eaten. I was stuffed. om made her famous fried apple pies, I'll be running the dozen of so I ate off for a few weeks.

Unfortunately, it all came to an end on Friday morning when reality set in,a dn I flew back to Louisville. Though the highlight of that airport experience was the Delta RedCoat announcing the couple have their 61st wedding anniversary that day. That's amazing?? First of all, living long enough have been with come one for 61 years. And then living with some one for 61 years... a remarkable, and definitely applausable, accomplishment. After that, an even more rousing round of applause for some military folks traveling.

And then I'm back to the grind. I'm searching for some Christmas cheer at the moment, but falling short. Maybe I should put up some decorations.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Another trip around the sun

I got a lot of birthday wishes yesterday. A Lot!! Makes me feel special. So, I guess 33 down, and a lot more to go I hope. SO, as is customary on such occasions, we look back.

Let's see what happened during 32... um. A lot. I put at least a million miles in. OK, maybe not that much, but when you add in a round trip to Australia, a little expedition to circle the earth, and the ridiculous amount of Louisville to Atlanta and Birmingham trips... it's gotta be close. Throw in Vegas, Minneapolis, and COlorado Springs and I should be over it. SO yeah, I got some time in, stepped on 4 continents, and met some new people. Not too bad.

There were of course low points, but they've been taken in stride and moved on. I'm still gainfully employed. I had the thought on the recent drive down to Atlanta about how much of a leisurely life I live. Incredibly lucky.

As evidence by the amount of birthday wishes I received (seriously, thanx!), I have a lot of good friends. Too many, unfortunately, I haven't seen in a long time. But they seem to all have turned out well. Then of course there re those who tend to keep me sane.. and then go crazy a little with me.

ANd of course there's the 78 lbs (as of today) that I've lost. It would probably be more ecept I went off the diet for the birthday. But it was good to have a pizza, chinese, an insane amount of beer, and copious amounts of whiskey (which I'm now a huge fan of Jameson)... oh and cheesecake.

So, to celebrate, the day, I took off to Atlanta when I was graciously sheltered byt Jerssey (again!). I spent Thursday with Grace and JoHnathan around Atlanta for lunch (Margarita pitcher at noon rocks) and then shopping.

That night, Ed(the former bossman) and I closed down the PTC Taco Mac with our waitress, Cupcake. The next morning I woke up with a slight hangover, but took in a half gallon of water and small coffee and was good to go. Ventured to the National Museum of Commercial Aviation... which is a bit grandiose to call the place now, but they have big plans to expand from the office park location. Lots of old airline crap and history stuff, and nice diversion for the day. Then it was back to the Southside for a gathering at the Tanjoe Manor. I love how Tanya and Joe just accept that we're going to throw parties at their house with little prior notice.

Somewhere between a 1/4 and 1/2 bottle of Jack (which I purchased from the distillery on the way down... everyone should go there and ask for William to be your guide.. he's very southern and very funny), we decided Jamie should give a stirring rendition of Crazy Bitch Karaoke.

I spent Saturday with Jersey, and most of the afternoon we sat and conversed at the PTC Starbuck's. There was a time when that was a favorite pastime with Sean and JR on occasion. Being very trendy at the coffee house watching the Delta Wives. Saturday evening I was treated to dinner by my family. Very nice as always, and the younger nieces are growing much too fast. Nothing makes you feel old like seeing the niece or nephew you think is still in diapers walking and talking and talking about school. Doesn't help also that one of the nieces can legally order alcohol now.

I spent the rest of Saturday night with Nolan at Fado's. We had a few and caught up on life. Haven't seen her in a couple years and she's come a long way since I taught her in bad years ago. Yeah, gettin old!

Sunday, Jersey and I went off to see the Falcons at the dome. The second NFL game I've ever been to, and a lot of fun. The only down side was that the Redskin's pretty much didn't show for the game. But good fun was had, and then we went off to Park Tavern for dinner. A stroll around the park while waiting on a table made me realize that I do miss Atlanta.

And now, I'm back to real life. Which really ain't that bad, just a few annoyances from time to time. I'll be back in Atlanta for Thanksgiving, ad then.. who knows where I'll be. Look me up!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No snappy titles tonight...

I just threw together a not so unhealthy and surprisingly tasty meal. I'm still kind of shocked when these things turn out well and doesn't kill me. I don't think a Cab was the right wine for it, but it's what I decided to try for today. Who knew I would start expanding my horizons at 32 (almost 33).

SO I've been kind of sparse with writing. I did write the diatribes about the round the world tri. I'm still wishing I was gallivanting around the world. I plan to do more, but finances are a little tight at the moment. More on that later.

I've pretty much been hanging around either Atlanta or the 'ville. I've spent some time at G's a couple weeks ago, and made some quick visits around town. Oh yeah, and went to see Bono and the boys play a little gig. It was a good time and Grace, as always, was a fabulous date.

Back in Louisville, it's just a lot of working and gym time. I've managed to get into a size jeans that I haven't worn since sometime around high school I think. It' been a while to say the least. I'm surprised at how much I've lost, but I still have a little ways to go before I think I'll say "ok, lets have a pizza!". Or maybe a chili cheese dog, onion rings, and a FO from the Varsity... yum.

I did however screw up my iPhone but letting it upgrade. And it was locked. SO, I did what i should have done in Hong Kong, I bought a new one. A new, in the plastic, unlocked from the factory 3GS. I paid a lot, and I'm gonna say how much to spare me the ridicule. But in the end, it was cheaper than switching to AT&T. So, now I have a nice new phone and love it again.

I'm also kind of concerned about the future here at UPS, in the near term at least. Lat year I barely scraped by staying in a dispatcher position (versus an assistant) and I have a feeling the powers that be are going to try and pull that again. I have mixed feelings on this. I wouldn't mind the better schedule, but I would hate the 26% pay cut. We'll see probably after Christmas. I'm not going to dwell on that now.

I was trying to find away to hit a 5th continent this year, but I don't think i can work it out. It's be a good year for travel, but I'm not done yet :-)

Coming up soon, I have plans to head to Colorado for some fun time with Sean. And then to Atlanta for my birthday. That should be a fun time and everyone should come to a party I think we're trowing. Costumes will be encouraged! That's it, I'm going to settle in with my Cabernet and watch The Lord of War. Something about gun running appeals to me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

See the world in green and blue, see China right in front of you.

A few randomish thoughts from the trip and returning home, in no particular organizational pattern.

I’m immensely glad I pent the money to do this. I think I really needed it I’ feel I’ve gotten a little bit of the youthful wanderlust back. It’s going to be hard to stay home. And I managed to totally not stick to the budget…. I blame the Marriott in Deira for most of that.

But I realized in the 4 hours or so in Cologne how much I dig Europe. The old feeling of a lot of the buildings, the cafes spilling out into the streets, and, in Cologne, the ever impending and ever-impressive Dom.

Dubai was a study in culture mixing. A very progressive Western style newness slamming against the Arab (and Indian/Paki/etc…) old school feeling of being somewhat far away from home. You can shop in some of the largest, most well appointed malls known to man. But for the real fun stuff, hit the souks. Where everything is negotiable. Add to that the feeling of (in newer areas) money being thrown about and the Arab dress and language all around, makes you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore. And it’s cool.

Hong Kong had much the same feel. Language I don’t understand, writing I can’t read, and I don’t look like 99% of the people. As with Dubai, a couple different sides of HK can be found… upscale new and down to earth old. The more local the flavor the more fun.

Though I think I’ve seen more Tiffany & Co, Cartier, Armani Exchange, Ferrari dealers, etc… than I ever though I would in my lifetime.

Other fun things; I like how Europeans and Aussies seem to be much more into going everywhere. With kids in tow no less. Should I ever have children (no worries, not happening anytime soon), I’m going to drag them all over the world. I think they will be better for it. Travel is a real education in other cultures and seeing the best in other cultures and people that you can never get in a classroom or from a book.

The hotel in Hong Kong was the crew hotel for both Untied and Lufthansa. I saw the different crews checking out today, and talk about opposites. The Lufty crew, while not all that young, was very attractive and well put together. A few of the ladies were very hot in that German sort of way (the others were still quite attractive) and the guys looked well groomed and dress sharply, even in the uniforms.

The United crew, well I expected a sewing circle or bingo game to break out at any moment. Very old and frumpy, sort of worn looking. They were just leaving for the trip home. And I understand that long haul flying takes a lot out of you, but I don’t think the Germans had been on any longer of a layover than the United people.

I’ll pick Lufthansa, if only for the scenery and air or solid professionalism.

One consistent thing… Indians love to sell “copy watches.” Everywhere!! The souks of Deira, the markets of Tsim Sha Tsui. And pushy, which I really hate. The Chinese were not very pushy… some bordered on inattentive. Not the Indians (or Paki’s or Bangladeshi), they start coming at you 10 feet away and follow you down the road.

Or maybe I look like a sucker in need of a fake watch.

So, now to find a trip for the next adventure. I am planning on heading to Thailand in March, but I need to get some where far away soon.

I just got back from Jennie's wedding. It was so good to see her and her family. They're such good people and like family to me. Jennie still looks the same to me as the day I met here, something like 17 years ago. Wow, I'm old! The place they held the wedding was a cabin resort near Pigeon Forge, TN. It was kind of cool there, and I wouldn't mind getting a weekend trip together for a group of us to hang out. I think it could be fun! ANyways, it's the first wedding I've been to that lasted less than 15 minute (way to go!) and the reception was football themed. Not in a tacky way, but since the groom's family are staunch UT Vols fans, Jennie and friends (including me) are Auburn fans, and a large portion of her family are Bama fans... well.. they had to accomodate all. So, the tables at the reception were color coded by teams. Off course the reception was wrapped in plenty of time for everyone to go relaxe then gather again for the Auburn-Tennessee game. Not a bad way to spend a weekend! Thank you to Jennie and Aaron for inviting me and arranging for me to have a couch to sleep on and for both families and friends being very accommodating.

Now it’s time to get back to work. I’m not enthused. Tuesday I have a hot date with my fake girlfriend for U2 in ATL. I’m looking forward to that and hopefully I’ll get to see a lot of the Atlanta peeps. Later!

Around the world in a daze: part 6

Hong Kong - 30 September 2009

Didn’t write yesterday, this will cover a couple days span.

First the 29th: I was going to hop out via the MTR and a ferry to one of the other islands. A small one with an allegedly nifty fishing village and supposedly old school, non-city stuff. I made it about halfway when I read in the guidebook that there are only two scheduled ferry runs. I had already missed the morning on, so back to the city and off to Lantau Island to see the “Big Buddha” and accompanying monastery.

Said Big Buddha sits atop a hill, and there’s a scenic cable car that links the MTR station and the reproduction “traditional” Chinese village at the top. The village had been authentically reproduced down to every detail, included the traditional 7-11 and Starbuck’s.

I can only imagine this is a very scenic cable car ride, as I hit the clouds about 5 minutes in. This cable car ride up was the first stupid thing Jamie did yesterday. I’m not a big fan of heights, and I’m in a glass bottom gondola suspended, oh, a 1 miles above the ground. Then the rain started, I was in the clouds and could see about 20 feet ahead. Then the wind picked up followed by the swaying. Not happy! You’d think not being able to see the ground would help alleviate the acrophobia. Nope. Now I can star down, through the glass floor, into the grey nothingness and just imagined falling for days before reaching terra firmly and coming to a rather abrupt stop. The only comfort came from passing gondolas going the opposite direction. At least I know they’re not blowing off the wires up ahead.

Finally, I made it to the top, only to discover it raining harder and more sideways than below I had an umbrella, which I purchased Monday when I realized I couldn’t will the rain to stop.

Not that the umbrella did me a lot of good in this case. After winding my way through the “authentic” Chinese village I found 2 things of interest, a bust sop (which meant I didn’t have to endure the terror of the glass gondola I just escaped from) and a long staircase up to the Buddha base.

And now, I make the second stupid decision of the day. I figured I had come this far and the rain was letting up, so I should go to the top. And I started up. Each step seemed to bring more intensity in rainfall. Soon, the steps had a waterfall appearance to them. By the time I’m halfway up, I’m seriously contemplating jumping the rail separating the up and down stairs, and heading down. But no, I persevere.
As I get neared the top, feeling the burning in my quads, the rain stops falling and starts blowing in a more sideways direction. The umbrella has now being held at a 45 degree angle and basically just there to keep water out of my eyes.

But I’m almost there!

When I reach the top, the umbrella inverts itself. I make for the little shop/museum entrance under the Buddha statue. Oddly enough, I’m ridiculously thirsty. From the climb in the rain. Inside the base, there’s a museum (that I didn’t buy ticket for) and some vending machines… and of course lots of replica “Buddha’s” for sale. None actual size though. I took off outside lone enough to snap a couple pictures (with my old, slow camera) and then ducked back inside.

I’m quickly losing interest in the chatchkis and decide the time has come to make my descent down the stairs/waterfall. It’s now that I realize wet rubber New Balance sneakers and wet smooth cut stone stairs have a coefficient of friction that’s way to close to 0. Now holding the railing for dear life with one hand and the umbrella/wind sail in the other, I gingerly make my way down.

ON the way, I pass and Australian family heading up the stairs and here the dad practically daring the two small kids to see who can make it to the top first. I suddenly feel like a big pussy. They did have the advantages of ponchos and no “sails” in umbrella shape to encumber them.

I get down safely, and head toward the monastery that’s adjacent to the Big Buddha. Apparently commercialism is no problem for the Buddhists. There were more shops and a vegetarian restaurant next to the temple. I’m assuming this particular temple is a bit more grandiose than most, seemed a little glitzy inside.

By this time, I’m over the rain. I’m soaked and I hate the sloshy wet shoe thing I’ve got going on. Time to trek back to the hotel. And since I don’t want to waste my round trip cable car ticket, I forego the safe city bus ride down and load up in another gondola. I should have taken the bus.

It was much windier this time, and I felt the urge to figure out how to get out through the roof hatch and climb down one of the towers if needed. James Bond did in a couple movies. I’m sure I can make this work

Every now and then I hear the sounds of ducks. I was really hoping that its just some recording through the speaker in the gondola and not that a lost duck flying blind in the clouds is going to smack into me.

I survive and make it down safely to head back to the hotel.

One thing I discovered about HK is, in Central at least, you can go from building to building without stepping into too much weather. Either there’s an underground passages or a covered walkway above the streets. I was thankful for this as I sloshed from Hong Kong station to Central station.

Once back in the room, I found dry clothes and relaxed a bit. FYI, it’s only 1 pm and I’m le hungry. I took a stroll to this hole in the wall place I read about in Lonely Planet. It looked interesting. I ordered some noodles with chicken (I think) and green tea (well, I didn’t order the green tea, they just brought it and didn’t ask if wanted an alternate beverage). The noodles came, and they were effin hot (burned my tongue), but yummy. And in a feat of wonder, I managed to eat the whole meal with chopsticks without the other restaurant patrons pointing and laughing. Being the only Caucasian in the place, I feel this was a great accomplishment.

I took off on the MTR to the IFC mall. I had read about a bar (again, thanks Lonely Planet) that had some pretty awesome views called The Red Bar. And it’s not just a clever name, the bar is actually painted red. Unfortunately the place was not open, as it was crappy weather and the bar being all outside. So instead, a glass of wine at an enclosed venue a couple floors down worked as an adequate substitute.

While meandering the mall, I saw a computer store that was all Apple products, but not an “Apple Store” per se. I went inside to check out the prices. In the process, I learned the iPhones are sold unlocked in HK. I was sooo tempted t get a new one that I went and checked around a couple markets for a good deal. None found, but for future purchases I’ll be back.

I stopped by Delany’s on the way back, thinking it was early enough to avoid being accosted by another old lady trying to get me in a strip club. I was partially wrong. This time one of the young “hostesses” grabbed my arm. Again, I pulled away, but I’m still a little curious t see what goes on in one of these places. Purely intellectual curiosity.

After a pint of Kronenberg, I headed back to the hotel (avoiding the “hostess” clubs) only to discover the lounge act was back on stage in the lobby. Two attractive Chinese girls (I’m guessing, definitely Asian but one was named Maybell… hrrmm traditional Cantonese name) and a piano player. Some of the songs even came with choreography. The girls were actually pretty good singers. The piano man, not so much. He had a pretty think accent going on but it made me laugh. SO I had an oriental pizza (BBQ pork, roasted duck and chicken, a few dirty martinis, and enjoyed the show. The most distracting thing was, well, second most distracting after the Jerry Lewis look a like Asian piano man’s singing, one of the girls had not planned her underwear choices well.

The girls wore matching red dresses which had an oval cut out on both sides at the hips with a couple red straps across. One girl had a black strap in addition, which followed the lines of the thong she was wearing (the dresses were tight). SO now I’m just sort of mentally picturing her in just that. It was good.

After the finished, I headed up to bed. I toyed with the idea of going out, but sleep won. I probably would have just gotten myself in trouble anyways.

I woke early. Much earlier than I planned. Again, some one from home called. Actually it was the same some one who woke me up in Dubai (and showed up blocked number on the caller ID, wanted to make sure it wasn’t my bank calling to say they’re going to freeze my ATM card for unusual charges) who wanted to know if I could work for her tonight. I told her I couldn’t make it. I decided to continue the iPhone pursuit at the Western market. I apparently missed the part where that market is all about fabrics and clothes.

So, I packed up, cleaned up, and checked out. Took the Star Ferry over to Kowloon and took a short walk to the crew hotel. Checked my bags with the bell desk there, and spent some time meandering about. I ended dup back at the IFC mall, and was going to spend the money for a new 3G phone. However, they only had the most expensive 3G-S model in stock and I wasn’t up to paying that much. I took this as a sign and moved on.

Met the crew back at the hotel and took off to the airport. Made it through customs and security (I don’t know why, but I always feel like I’m getting away with something when I get through customs without getting stopped and interrogated). And here I sit in my big seat upstairs on the 747 winging my way toward ANC. Now, it’s time to eat and then a nap. Later.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Around the world in a daze: part 5

Hong Kong – 28 September 2009 part 2

So, I did get out tonight. I took off to the Temple Street Night Market. I also broke down earlier today and bought and umbrella… one of the best investments so far this trip.

The market had all kinds of interesting (and not-so-interesting) crap. But I really dig it. More fun than all the malls. After walking through the market for an hour or so, back to Wan Chai to find a couple beers. The Irish Pub tour of the world continues! This time it was Delany’s, rated the best in HK… different location than the one in Tsim Sha Tsui I was at a couple days back.

On the way from the MTR to the pub, one of the old ladies that work for the strip clubs grabbed my arm as I walked by and tried to physically pull me in. Seriously, she had a death grip on my bicep and was spouting something I couldn’t understand. I picked up a few words like “nice girls” and “one drink”. I managed to break free and make to the end of the block and refuge in the Irish pub. Others tried to entice me in, but at least no one else grabbed me. That sort of technique doesn’t bode well for the quality of the strip club, if you have to manhandle clientele to get them inside.

After a couple pints, I decided to head to the room for sleep. However, I got sucked into the lounge act in hotel lobby bar. They weren’t too bad, may have something to do with the 2 girls singing were cute. I may be developing a thing for Asian women. While I was there enjoying the music and a martini, I did spy a tall Caucasian male making for the elevators with a much younger Asian girl in a much less than modest outfit. Hrrmmm… I was tempted to wait and see how long it would be before she came back down alone… but I’m le tired.

That’s it for today.

Around the world in a daze: part 4

Hong Kong – 28 September 2009

Early writing tonight, I, due to poor planning, managed to endure the morning and afternoon rush hour on the MTR. The plan toady was to head off to early to the ferry terminal for a day trip to Macau. I had lots of ideas on what to do. Unfortunately, the rain put a stop to that. SO I spent the day in the casinos.

Macau is a little like Vegas; all the big names are there. I took a walk through the Wynn, the Venetian, and City of Dreams (home of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino). Of the three, the Venetian wins. It’s the largest casino in the world, a massive place that dwarfs the Vegas version, in both size and over the topness.

OK, I got a little ahead of myself. I trekked in the light rain from the hotel to the Wan Chai MTR station. Little did I know there was a covered walkway form the hotel to the station I discovered later in the day, but oh well. Took the train to the Central station and walked up to Central Ferry Pier, which is exactly where I shouldn’t have been. Turns out the Macau ferries leave from a different terminal a few blocks down. So off I go in the rain, though to be fair most the walk was under cover.

The ferry ride to Macau was not unpleasant. I didn’t get on one of the hydrofoils, but a jet-cat. All for about 200HKD (FYI, $1 = about 7.6HKD).

OK, interlude here… A large percentage of the population wears the surgical masks. H1N1 (swine flu) seems to be a big deal here. I guess they still remember the bird flu from a few years back that spread rapidly. When you enter the country, a thermal camera screens you, and if you have a high body temp they quarantine you until an examination can determine if you are a carrier. For the record, I went through this twice today, so I guess I don’t have the flu. Also, most public buildings have a sterilization regime ever 2 hours. They sanitize doors, handles, handrails, bins, and pretty much anything that gets a lot of touching. They take this stuff way seriously.
So, a lot of meandering in casinos. I lost some money, which is my standard way of operating in casinos. I think in all I was out $40, but that’s like 300HKD (or Macau Patacas, they run about 1 to 1 with HKD). But it feels like I’m laying down some heavy bets, and it makes me feel a bit like a baller.

Every now and then while walking around I stop and realize I have developed this stupid grin on my face. I had it going on in Dubai occasionally too. Why? Because I’m doing this. It’s not like Europe or Australia where there’s a small chance of looking like I belong there. Nope, I’m a different tint that the natives. Yeah, I occasionally see some Europeans and Aussies (or Kiwis) meandering about, and a couple of rare Americans. But as a people we don’t seem to get out much. Too bad.
I am a little disappointed I couldn’t get out and see the non-casino part of Macau. Guess I’ll have to come back.

Now, I think it’s chill time. I’ll watch the light show from my room, then maybe head out. I want to check out the night market over in Kowloon, or maybe bar hop around Wan Chai. I saw a “bar fight” last night, or more accurately the end of a bar fight. There must have been about 20 of Hong Kong’s finest gathered around, with riot gear… nice! Till Later

Around the world in a daze: part 3

Hong Kong – 27 September 2009

Let’s recap. I woke up Saturday and found the hotel gym. Well, I was awakened by a call from some one stateside to inform me it was jeans and team jersey night at work if I was interested. I told her I was not but thanks for calling. Since I couldn’t get back to sleep, I decided to spend 45 minutes ellipticizing (I just made that word up). After that, being only 9 AM, I decided a shower and trip to the Deira souk was in order. I spent a couple hours walking the gold, spic, perfume, and general crap souks. You can get just about anything you can imagine there. It was early and many of the shops were just opening for the day, so you would see the merchants putting out the goods, the windows of the Gold shops opening (and very shiny stuff that look ridiculous and would make awesome Bling for back in the ATL).

I had been contemplating getting one of the traditional Arab gowns and head towels. I’m sure there’s a more official name for said garments, but I don’t know what it is. So I stopped into a shop that had some for sale. The owner was asking 1250 dhm for the high quality “gown”, with head towel and rope thingy that holds it on. I asked how much the lower quality “Chinese import” was, since I don’t plan to wear this every day or anything, I didn’t think I need the “Armani” or gowns. The owner wants 950 for the low quality. So, I went with the low quality, and bought it for 200. I think I did ok on the bartering thing. Plus I had to unload the money before leaving and I have a spiffy Halloween costume!

Then back to my hotel, another shower, packed, and off to meet my crew, not looking forward to the 8-½ hours in the 767 cockpit with 3 other guys, but the price is right.

Once again, one of the crewmembers suggested I skip Hong Kong and go with them to Clark (formerly Clark Air Force base in Angeles City, Philippines). Why? Hotel rooms for less than $50, $.87 beers (yes that’s 87 cents) and a girl to go home with you for the night at the price of $20. Yes, for the price of a date in the US, including dinner, drinks, dancing or movie, and coffee/desert, you can have an all night 4some. Of course, you could also catch something penicillin won’t get rid of. I hear they have a new AIDS vaccine that’s promising maybe when that’s perfected…. Right…
So we got to HK about 3 AM local time, after clearing customs (and getting a passport stamp!!! Finally, the 3rd country I enter finally decides I need a stamp), I ride to the crew hotel with one of the layover crew, and take a cab from there to my hotel across the harbour. 5 AM and I crash into my bed.

I had planned to get up earlyish and head to Macau. That didn’t happen. Instead, I bounced around Hong Kong, went up to Victoria Peak, took the Star Ferry across to Kowloon, walked down Nathan Road a little ways in Tsim Sha Tsui, took in the HK History Museum, and the water front for the views and the light show. Lot’s of walking, and I have the blisters to prove it.

Every night, at 8 PM, the skyscrapers in Hong Kong proper are lit up in sequence to music. I highly recommend checking this out for its freeness. Tonight, the narration was in Cantonese, so for all I know they could have been telling everyone in the crowd to find and American and laugh at him. After the show, I took a Star ferry (which, if you come to HK, it’s a tradition, its only 2.50HKD each way and there are great views) back to Wan Chai, the area on Hong Kong island where my hotel is. I went looking for some food and beer. This is when I discovered that Wan Chai is strip club central for Hong Kong. And being a solitary young(ish) male I must be the prime target. Each one had an older lady in front with a few girls who I guess were either the “model dancers” or the old lady’s grand daughters trying to entice people in.

It’s bedtime, tomorrow off to Macau.

Around the world in a daze: part 2

Dubai – 26 September 2009

Last night, Trish met up with me here at the hotel and we set off downtown. At first, I was a little disappointed with Deira, the part of town my hotel is, I’m much happier I decided to stay here. It seems more “foreign” than the newer parts of Dubai down my Sheikh Zayed Road.

Trish and I spent most of last night down on Sheikh Zayed road at a hookah bar place she frequents. She ordered up a pineapple sheesha and I ordered up a chicken pita. The pineapple tobacco tasted nothing like pineapple to me, but it wasn’t bad. Better than any cigarettes I may have or have not ever smoked. SO after I bummed a few puffs of her bong, er hookah, and had some food, we went to a bar called Long’s. Long’s claims to have the longest bar in Dubai, which since it was an oval shape one could make the argument that it goes on indefinitely and never ends. That’s a bit too esoteric for me at the moment. That being said, all the bars in Dubai are part of a hotel, so chances are the claim for the longest bar is easily justified. The best part, they had Victoria Bitter on tap!!! After Long’s, we taxied back to my hotel.
Taxis are ridiculously cheap, plus the meters only run on mileage. Sitting in traffic and not moving cost’s you nothing. That being the case, the drivers don’t like to sit in traffic and tend to speed around town. Reminds me a bit of NY driving.
Back at the hotel, Trish and I played a couple games of 8 ball in the bar there. We tied at one game apiece. Then off to bed. I’d been looking forward to sleeping a stationary bed and was le tired.

We got up earlyish and took off to see some more of Dubai. First to The Mall of the Emirates, where Ski Dubai is located. Then out to the Burj Al Arab and the Jumeirah Beach Resort. Apparently, next time we need to make a reservation for drinks at the Burj to get in. The hotel is very impressive, pictures don’t do it justice. Of course, we had to “sneak” into the Jumeirah Beach Resort to get good pictures. After that, and a brief air-conditioned respite in the Jumeirah, we headed off to the Hard Rock Café. Which was closed. Bastards! Apparently they’re remodeling and building a hotel (I found out later).

We then headed off to the Dubai Mall. They take malls seriously here. This one has a huge waterfall inside, an ice skating rink, and a massive aquarium that you can scuba in for a nominal fee. We had hoped to see the Burj Dubai from an observation deck. Unfortunately it has not opened yet, and neither has the Burj Dubai. Trish informed me that when the Burj Dubai opens (and it’s the world’s tallest building) you will need a medical certificate of some kind to go higher than the 104th floor. Seriously?? I think 104 will be high enough for me.

We had attempted to catch the new metro rail earlier, but apparently it doesn’t open till 2 PM on Fridays. Good to know.

After lunch at the Dubai Mall (where Trish made a bee line for Taco Bell… I declined for something more exotic…. Thai. I guess being away from the states will make you crave certain things after a while), we headed back to the hotel to relax before the desert safari.

If you go to Dubai, you have to do the safari thing. It’s really very cool, and it get’s you out of the city. We took of with Saleem in a Toyota land cruiser. We picked up a couple from Poland and 2 other guys from somewhere, probably Indians or Paki’s. The last 2 people we had to track down in Sharjah. On a side note, Sharjah is way bigger than I expected. I guess I was thinking it was like Macon is to Atlanta. It’s more like if you put Atlanta 30 minutes from say Charlotte. It’s a respectable size place. No idea what there is to do there, and didn’t look nearly as nice or moneyed as Dubai.

Anyways, after a drive out to the desert that was about 30 minutes out of town… ok I guess technically the city is in the desert, but now we were out in the middle of nothing. Initially we stopped for water and to let air out of the tires. Then met with up with the rest of the land cruisers and just sort of walked around the sand until everyone was ready to go. There was some light entertainment in the form of some one in a very expensive looking Audi who was trying to plow around the sand. Didn’t go so well for him. And off we went, over and through the sand, occasionally sideways. After a stop for some sand boarding, where Trish went down the dune like a professional and I wiped out big time, we headed back across some dunes to a “Bedouin” camp. There you can do a camel ride (a short circle but I have now ridden a camel, all that matters), henna tattoos, Sheesha, play dress up, and have a nice dinner of local food (whatever it was… I know there was something that tasted like chicken and some hummus). After dinner, there was some belly dancing.

All pretty neat for the price. Again, I recommend it.

On a more, say, non-tourist side, it’s interesting to no the vast differences you see here. Almost everyone who “does” anything is an immigrant. Out taxi drivers haled from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, and Sudan. They ranged in time in country anywhere from 2 years to 33 years. Taxis are cheap and plentiful, and given that Dubai never developed a system of street addresses, confusing to get anywhere unless you know exactly where it is.

Anyways, some of the immigrants have it rough. Deira is almost all immigrants and driving back into town from the desert you see the busses that shuttle migrant workers parked all along the road in front of the “housing”. The housing areas make the projects of Atlanta look almost luxurious (I’m thinking of the old Techwood homes). Everywhere there are people out in the grassy areas (especially at night or in the shade during the day) just sitting, eating, and sleeping. Trish told me they earn about 50 Dirhams a month, roughly $80.

So like the Egyptians, the amazing monuments in Dubai were built on the backs of slave labor. I’m sure some have found great opportunities here, but you don’t see how the vast majority live while driving between the towers along Sheikh Zayed Rd. Then again, for all I know they got it better here than in Bangladesh.

Still, I would like to return and spend more time here, perhaps when it’s slightly cooler. What’s funny is Trish seemed so happy it finally cooled off to 95F highs. She’s acclimated and will probably freeze through a Georgia winter, if she ever comes back ☺

That’s all from tonight. I’ve washed most the sand off and tomorrow it’s off to Hong Kong.

Around the world in a daze: part 1

These are a serious o things I wrote while gone. Some things have been added since I returned to make things sort of clearer. Enjoy. I did!

Dubai - 24 September 2009

As I watch The Simpsons on TV, with Arabic subtitles, I’m reminded how things are everywhere are sometimes just a little different.

So after 23 hours in transit, I made it to Dubai. It kind of reminds me of a sandy oven. It’s about 100F or so out, which is perfect weather for walking around outdoors.

But first, getting here… a slow process with me taking refuge in a “jumpseat” from SDF to CGN, including a 2-hour stop in PHL. Once in Cologne, the original plan was to just relax at the UPS offices there, but after a chat with the crew van driver, I realized I had about 3 ? hours to spare. SO I rode with my crew to the hotel, where I was given a key to the UPS crew room. Basically a lounge for the pilots to hang out and socialize together. Apparently they can’t be bothered to stop at the numerous café’s that surround the hotel. Having spent the last 8 hours locked in a small space with pilots, I decided to stretch my legs and walk to the Cathedral Square and back. A very nice distraction. Reminds me how much I miss Europe, even if it’s occasionally interrupted by a random group of American youth smoking pot by the Rhine. Way to not be obvious about breaking drug laws in a foreign country. Look for them on an upcoming episode of Locked Up Abroad.

The cathedral, or Dom, just dominates everything in the center of town. A huge focus, and unlike last time I was in Cologne, the squares were open and the cafes, bars, pubs, restaurants, etc spilled out into them. And this was at 11 PM. Last time I was there the Christmas markets were up. A nice change. Did I mention I really dig Europe?

After the walk, I went back to the hotel, freshened up (which amounts to washing my face, brushing my teeth, and applying more deodorant), and met my crew downstairs for the next leg. I liked these guys, they were way more amusing than the previous crew. Of course along the way, every pilot seemed to have a dispatch question about something. Which doesn’t bother me, it’s good to have the communication with them, especially face to face. Plus I was being allowed the privilege to fly with them. Imagine some one coming and just hanging around your office for 8 hours?? Of the 6 hours in flight from CGN to DXB, I spent about 4 ? of them horizontal in the crew bunk. Yay for sleep! I slept some on the flight cross the Atlantic, but sleeping in a chair, no matter how comfy that seat is, doesn’t compare to a bed. I probably could have gotten in one of the bunks on the way to CGN, but I didn’t want to be in the operating crew’s way.

After the nap, I went out, ate, change back into my clothes (for long haul flights, standard procedure is to change into sweats and t-shirts/sweatshirts shortly before or after departure.), and landed in the land of beige. It was hot, damn hot, Arabia hot… and not the nice desert dry heat you get in Vegas. Why any one would chose to stop here and live I have no idea, well before the invention of A/C anyways. TO make the process easier, I rode again to the crew hotel with the pilots (in the large Mercedes with cold bottled water and a cold, wet towel provided… love the service). At the hotel, found an ATM and got some local dinero (or Dirhams technically) and took a cab to my hotel. After some discussion with the staff at the Deira Renaissance about how I was on a discount rate… ugh. Anyways, I got into my room, cranked the A/C down, and changed to go for a meander. Took a cab across Dubai Creek (Khor Dubai) to Bur Dubai and toured through the Dubai museum. After that, I walked through the “Hindi” lane, a Souk. Most the shops were closed but it was a neat little place. I walked down the waterfront until I started feeling like I could sweat no more (I was wrong). I thought it would be fun to take an Abra across the creek to Deira. It was only 1 Dhm (as opposed to the 15 a cab would cost). Keep in mind, 1 Dirham is about $3.67. Turns out, I was the only Caucasian on my boat (which turns out hat most the time I was in Deira I was usually one of 5 or so Caucasians I would see all day, which was kind of cool). I wondered through the Deira Souk for a few minutes, and then decided I need to find Air conditioning. SO off to the hotel to wait for Trish to stop in and the second shower of the day since arriving in Dubai (4 hours earlier).

And here I sit, watching the Simpsons. More later

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Don't say that later will be better now you're stuck in a moment and you can't get out of it

Time for the weekly update I suppose. I'm slightly sunburned and a little tired. Some where I dug up the motivation to crawl out of bed and go to the gym. I suppose it's time to work off the weekend. And it was a good weekend. More on that later.

So, last week started with a kind of a downing note. I was kind of feeling blah about a lot of things. So, I spent some time trying to run out some frustration, which is amazingly more therapeutic than I would think. I thought all you health type people were just trying to get us unhealthy type people to join your cult. But I guess there something to sweating it out or even just putting the earbuds in and blocking out all the crap that can get to you. Not to say it still doesn't get to you, at least you have a little time away from thinking about things.

And then, while in a funk I cleaned up the place. I was thinking that not coming home to a dirty house all the time would be a little less downing. And it's true, I like not having to see the dust gathered on the floor in those places I don't walk often (which ironically seems like most of my apartment). I also have guests planning to come up in a few weeks, which this is like a pre=clean for that. I couldn't imagine letting anyone in my place in the condition it was in. Ad there were some things that needed to be put away, and on occasion just thrown away. I tend to keep too much stuff, a little bit of a packrat. Sometimes, things just need to get tossed out. There's a certain good feeling to the cleansing of ones life.

I'm still not out of the funk, btu I'm getting better. The weekend in Atlanta helped. I experienced riding a MARTA bus for the first time, which as a 30 year resident of Atlanta I think I did well avoiding. But alas, since Grace didn't get an apartment right outside the train station, I had to endure a 5 minute bus ride. Wasn't bad really. I'd be inclined to use more mass transit if I lived somewhere I could.

I arrived at Grace's house about 4 hours before she did. I even tried to burn some time with lunch at Tap. I do recommend the roast turkey sandwich. And you gotta love a restaurant that provides water bowls for dogs on the patio. Once there, I thought some sun time would be nice. Too pad the pool was closed. It's like they planned this just to annoy me.

Friday though, I managed to get some pool time, and accompanying sunburn. And not only that, we were treated to two men in Speedo's. Seriously! How do you think you look good in that? That afternoon we packed up and headed south to stately TanJoe Manor. It was very good to see everyone there and have a few drinks ( a few being key.. I mean a bottle of bourbon counts as a few right??? Don't judge, I had lots of help).

The next morning I awoke on the (in)famous couch in the living room. I felt a little dirty for sleeping on it, just because I know a little of the history this couch must have seen. And not to be outdone by previous couch occupants, I was awakened with a big wet sloppy kiss. Thanx Mac! You're my favorite mutt too.

Saturday consisted of me trying to talk myself out of calling for work and going to Trish's going away pool party. I eventually realized I have a lot of things coming up I need the bank time for, so home I flew. Only to be delayed by a broken beverage cart wheel, which was not deferable (ie can't go without it working, which is usually an attribute reserved for things like engines and wings and compasses and Full Authority Digital Engine Control units... oh wait the last one u can do without it working fully). Shortly after determining that you could indeed go without the trolley brake working (assuming you don't try and use it in flight) we were off.

I made it back in time to get a nap in and drag myself to work. At least I had a clean place to come home to. Today I've managed to restock my bare cupboards and pick up some folding chairs for the back deck (which now has rails on all sides!), which is where I'm sitting typing out this literary masterpiece. Thanx again to Grace, Trish, Tanya, Joe, Mac, and Mandy for letting me couch surf this weekend. I really enjoyed being around everyone! Hope to see everyone soon, and given I'm almost a commuter again I probably will in the near future.

Next week, a trip to San Juan is being formulated... If the price is right I'm there. Nothing like a beach to make one feel better about things.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

From the dark side we can see a glow of something bright

I've been ina bad/blah mood the last few days. Lots of contributing factors that have been gnawing at me. But I'll manage. Work has been kind of blah. I miss the variety and challenges of working international desks. Domestic just kind of bores me, mainly since pilots can call in easier and ask annoying questions. Plus, since I'm working weekends it's slow... unbelievably slow. Which is ok sometimes,but makes the night drag on and on. I'm running out of books and I've seen every movie in AMC's inventory 5 times.

But hey, I have a job and I get paid a ridiculous amount to sit there bored. I just feel like it's a waste of time that I could be doing something more... useful.

And then there's the added fun of watching Fox News for 9 hours 2 nights a week. Which brings me to something that really annoyed me. All the talking heads latched on to Op-ed article by Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer. The headlines all read that these too politicians called the protesters of healthcare reform "un-american". Wow, that's pretty strong for a nation founded on protest. However, if you read the whole column, the line is actually: "Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American". Well, I have no great love for either te Speaker or the Senator, but I gotta kind of agree with them on this one. But hey, it's one hell of a story an gets viewers right??

That's enough of that... I'm over health care, I'm over the economy, I'm past bailouts... I seem to be the definition of apathy.

I am however very excited to be celebrating TanJoe's new floors this weekend. I have a bottle of black cherry bourbon that has my name on it... well, actually it has Jim Beam's name on it, but I'm gonna enjoy his work. And it's already in New-Nan waiting for me.

I am trying to put a lot of things together and make it all work out. It requires me taking a few weekends off.. did I mention I hate working weekends? Let's hope I can make it all work out and still afford my car payment.

I think I'll be getting out of the funk in due time, until I'll just keep running out my aggrevations. I suppose that's healthy. Later.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Band Geek, and proud of it!

I just got back from the DCI movie.. well, life simulcast of the quarterfinals at the movie theater. By the way, this is gonna have a lot of band geek stuff in it, be warned.

Anyways, I'm not arty or esoteric enough I think for modern drum and bugle corps. First off, I'm not a fan of synthesizers and voice overs. I like good old accoustical instruments that don't require sound boards for balance, just an ear and pointing at some one to play louder. But anyways, I guess I'm now old school drum corps, because I miss the loud, fast, and high stuff. That being said, I'm still amazed at what a bunch of kids can accomplish, and so close to perfection in music and motion. And I loved me some Vanguard!! I really dig their attitude, same with BD and their arrogance they exude... obviously would good cause.

I also have to say, I miss those drum corps chicas... great tans with strange tan lines, a lack of modesty, and especially miss the horn chicks.. always so fun to hang out with.

Then I realize I'm old... at least 10 years older than anyone on the screen. It's been 15 years since I last strapped on a shako and stood on the starting line. Hard to believe isn't it. And I still look back on those years as some of the greatest accomplishments, and greatest experiences in life. Who would have thought 14 hour rehearslas and sleeping on buses would feel so appealing. It would probably kill me now...

OK, enough if the reminiscing. The shows were all varying degrees of good, even if I thought some were kind of dull. But it happens.

Otherwise, I'm trying to get back in the groove at work. I'm not enjoying the domestic thing.. same flights to the same places... I need some variety. I'm also really struggling to get back in the groove of working out and doing the diet thing. After my 2 weeks of vacation (with a solid week of work in between them, it's hard tog et back into a groove. I'm trying not to go into burnout mode, since I have come pretty far and I wanna keep going. But I also want a cheeseburger and fries.

I did however discover this week that there's a lot of "distractions" at the gym in the late afternoon/early evening. I usually go out earlier in the day, but I may have to change my schedule. ANd I also don't understand guys who just sit on machines and really don't actually use them... well, ok, they're probably "distracted" too... but do something!

I should clean, but I should also sleep since I know I'm going to be awakened by people banging on my house in the name of "upgrades" and "repairs". They need to accommodate my sleep schedule. Other than that, just another weekend of working. I'm hoping to work it out and make it down to the Tanjoe Manor next week. I'm looking forward to that.

That's about it. Lot's of things coming up and I need to work out some days off to cover it all. Ugh! I really don't like working weekends! Later.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I got nothing...

Well, Let's see how this goes. My first time writing on blogspot. I'm slowly moving the old blogs over from Myspace, since it seems to be abandoned these days.

Let's see, what's been going on... I just got back from a trip to Atlanta. This time I drove, since I have a car capable of doing the trip (more on that later) and I wanted access to wheels while I was in town. I tried to make a visit to everyone, but I think that's impossible without staying a month or more. I would like to think Jersey for hosting me, and Grace for allowing me to crash at her apartment, and Tricia for allowing me use of her bed (sadly without Tricia in it :-P) and the couch.

OK, let's talk about cars. Most everyone knows I bought a new car. Ok, maybe not everyone, but a few people know I have new Scion tC. It goes, and I like that! But I feel remiss if I don't pay tribute to the old car.

The old Honda Accord, a 1997 model V6 with leather interior. Yes, 1997... and I bought it that year. So old that CD players weren't considered standard. It came with cassette. That lasted about a month. The first person I let drive the old accord was Jennie Mills, who promptly found a hail storm in m new car! No damage but it was kind of amusing, and I never have seen Jennie panic like that... so calm and collected she is. The Chrissie had to leaver mark on a trip to a drum corps show, and I think some of the glitter was still there when I traded the car in.

A few trips to Orlando to see Jamie and Shelley, I don't know how many trips to Montgomery, first for drum corps then to visit Susan, an early morning run to Savannah because I was bored, and a lot of adventures around the Atlanta metro are. There's a few nights I slept in the car, simply because I was unable to drive home. (Yeah I know, that's no bueno but when a girl in tight close keeps pouring you shots, u take em! Especially after she whips you on the bar...).

So, 188,188 miles later, i kicked the old Honda to the side. I can't complain... I should really write Honda letter of admiration. I wasn't very good with the upkeep, and the car kept on going... but she was on her last cylinder I think. Here's hoping the the new car gets as much mileage and fun. I think it can be done...

Enough of that. I don't have much else to say. I've been kind of sedate of late.. well, except for the trip to Oz and ATL. Next... who knows. I have a car payment now and that's gonna put a crimp in my fun. But I'll manage.

Some one suggested I go to Vegas on my birthday... thinking about it, but I wanna try something new! I mean, sure Vegas is fantastic... but the Coyote Ugly leaves a lot to be desired... and that's what is important.

I thought of a lot of interesting things to say on the drive home, but I seem to have forgotten all of that. So I'll put an end to this. I have a couple more days off, and I'm seriously thinking about cleaning. It needs to be done, and some things need to be put away... sort of the out of sight out of mind thing... we'll see if it works.

Oh, and final note, Bourbon Festival Sept 15-19. I'm taking reservations... The couch and floors are open.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you know why you came this way.

Back at work tonight, and I can't say how much I would rather be on Vacation. SO, I'll use this as a nice summary of events over the past couple weeks. I took a journey down under to Melbourne and Sydney. For the first time in I don't know when, I bought and paid for a plane ticket. Confirmed seat, and even though I tried to sweet talk my way into business class, I was relegated to seat 49F. Apparently, if I would have non-revved or was a jumpseater I would have most likely been moved up. Sad ain't it.
Also, being a plane person I feel I should describe the Boeing 777. Wasn't too horribly uncomfortable.. Well at least not for the first few hours. Being used to flying cargo planes and in the cockpits of RJ's, the touchscreen movie, TV, music, and games feature was a lot of fun. FYI, apparently they don't edit the movies on planes like they used to. I watched Caddyshack on the trip back and was surprised to see topless scenes left in. Nice!
Anyways, about six hours into the flight I popped a couple Tylenol PM, ate a sandwich, and crashed. I woke up in time to change clothes, enjoy the tasty breakfast (airline food is the same everywhere), and fill out the customs forms. Why they hand out customs forms an hour after departure and say not to lose them is a mystery… any idea how strewn about things can be after 14 hours on a plane? I do.
I wish I would have gotten the passenger next to me's email. He had just graduated with his masters in architecture and couldn’t find a job. Thus, he decided to take off and be unemployed in Australia for a year. I'm jealous a little. When I asked his plans, he had none other than 2 weeks of a hostel in Sydney reserved. Awesome!
After getting into Sydney, I stood in line for 2 hours or so to check in for my flight to Melbourne. I found it amusing how much more relaxed they are down there at the airports. None of this taking shoes off or interrogation at the checkpoints. Very smooth, very relaxed, barely a line. And amazingly the whole flying thing was a lot less stressful. Leaving Melbourne was even better.
So, I left Louisville at 4 pm on Wednesday, and I landed in Melbourne at about noon on Friday. Thursday didn't exist for me.
I made my way to my gracious host's apartment, and she had been very nice and gotten me a tram pass. Using the Melbourne tram system is an art, and I managed to only get on the wrong one a few times. They are great for of mass transit if you have no time deadlines, or really destination to get to. I would have killed for a pocket map of the routes. But alas, I muddled my way through. The time in Melbourne was nice. I made sure to go have a drink with Chloe on arrival…
A little background on Chloe. Apparently this painting of a young, nude girl was once hanging in a local art museum, until it was forced to be removed by those persons with strong Victorian (the time period, not the state) sensibilities had it removed from public display, to save the children's eyes from falling upon it. AT this time, a pub owner bought it and hung in the pub. I can only assume this happened around the end of the 19th century. Now, fast forward to 1999 and a young starry eyed southern boy was preparing for his first trip abroad, which was going to be Australia (later changed to Europe due to scheduling conflicts). I mentioned one day while getting a haircut to my barber that I was about to head down. And older gentleman waiting his turn for a haircut told me I should go find a pub there in Melbourne, where they had a huge painting of a naked woman on the wall (huge I guess is an art term for 6 feet tall). Apparently he had been there during his army days back during the Korean War or something. So I found her, and ever since I make a point to go have a couple there.
I spent the next couple days exploring Melbourne city and surrounds. Gaie and I took a nice wine tour up into the Yarra valley. I'm not a wine connoisseur by any means, but we were instructed on the process of sampling and what to look for. What I got out of this was mostly that the wine country outside Melbourne is beautiful and that you should drink the wines you like, not worrying what's proper for what meal. I apparently like Port, or similar fortified wines. I also like a few other ones. I seemed to like more and more as we went on… could be the large amount consumed. It was very educational and interesting. Not to mention nice to see the country side.
Other must see destinations in Melbourne… the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The MCG is apparently (and I learned this on the tour) the center of sport history and tradition of Australia. Also one of the largest stadiums in the world, dating back to 1853 when the original grounds were established, it can hold the capacity of the the Birds Nest Stadium and the Water Cube from the Beijing Olympics, and still have an entire upper level empty. It's a lot of people. It's a very nice stadium, and i walked on the "hallowed ground" on the field where they play Aussie Rules Football ( a game I don't get, it's like a violent padless form of US football with less rules), Rugby ( another game I don't exactly understand but seems to be ridiculously popular as the entire city of Sydney shut down to watch a game while I was up there), and Cricket (which is like "baseball with out the steriods… one match lasts 5 days and there may not even be a winner at the end").
Also, I love how Melbourne has what look like these little dark alleys where they've just set up cafes and bistros. You would think you might get mugged walking down the crevasses between the buildings, but there in the middle are tables and some really fine food establishments. Also take a walk by the river, more good dining options (though more expensive) and street performers. Seems the people of Melbourne like to eat.
Next it was off to Sydney for a couple days. I do love Sydney, there's something that just strikes you when you exit the train at Circular Quay and see the Opera house gleaming to the right and the Harbour Bridge reaching out on your left. I was feeling a little homesick and ready to get back until I got down to the rocks that night. I went down to the Mercantile Hotel (hotels are often just pubs), and sat down next to three gentlemen who I shortly discovered were the UPS crew on layover. You can spot pilots in public easily once you know what to look for, and being in a bar increases your chances… to paraphrase Brian from Family Guy " An airplane.. Where there's a plane there's an airport, and where there's an airport there are pilots, and where there's pilots there's a bar".
Next "hotel" down they had live music signs out. Everywhere seems to have people playing music there. I really dig that. While there, I met a couple of girls also visiting Sydney, Swanny from Germany and Erica from Minneapolis (via Vancouver). We ended up closing the place down that night and having a generally grand time. Of course more Americans showed up, and now I have new Facebook friends :-). It was a fun time… and really got the "this is why I travel" feeling. That and the great beer…
Oh I nearly forgot that… back in Melbourne I ventured out ti the Carlton & United brewery. That's where the Victoria Bitter comes from… and it is soooo yummy. I went on a work holiday, which they were nice enough to compensate me for with 2 extra schooners ( 12 Oz glass) of free beer. I tell you the Aussies know how to make you feel welcome.
Anyways, back to Sydney.. My last full day I took off to Manly for lunch and to head to the beach. Even though it was cool out (low 60's) there were still people swimming and surfing. Insane. This was the day I totally kicked my diet to the curb and had some fish and ships for lunch.. I spent the afternoon shopping for a few souvies, wandering around the Rocks (the original settlement of Sydney), and then back to repack for the early morning departure. A visit to the Kings Cross area ((which looks to have been cleaned up since last time I was there… no hookers or junkies bothered me this time), and then back to Scubar for some more music (and rugby) before settling in.
And not to leave Oz with out at least one lasting impression, one of my hostel roommates came stumbling in that night, and he brought a friend with. Well, I had set my alarm for 6 AM, but luckily the two of them decided to ensure I was awake by having not so quiet sex. At least she wasn't a screamer and I wasn't the guy in the top bunk. So, after the show was over, and all of us were awake (I'm not sure the others needed that wake up call either). The funniest thing was when one of the other guys in the room, a Korean guy, decided it was time for a bathroom visit right after amorous couple had completed their fun. He opened the door to go out, the light from the hallway flooded through the room to light up a young girl (cute too) sitting there in t-shirt pulled down to cover most of her while searching for her discarded pants. The look on the face is probably the most embarrassment I've ever seen. Being awake, I took off to the shower. Then off to the airport for the journey back.
At least the flight back was empty enough to have a vacant seat beside me. We were served lunch over Fiji, Snack just northwest of Christmas Island, and breakfast shortly before landing. This time though, I left Thursday morning at 9:25 (well 10 AM since we were late for a stupid Maintenance reason… spent 45 minutes trying to get permission to go without a portable oxygen bottle, found out they couldn't, and took another 20 minutes refilling it… why didn't you just refill it to begin with?). Anyways, We left at 10 AM and flew all day, through the night, and landed in Los Angeles at 7 am on Thursday. Again, it kind of messes with my head. The Delta agents were nice enough to push me to the front of the line in customs so I could have a shot at making my jumpseat. It didn't work, thanx to the baggage people. I did however barely manage to make the next flight, where I discovered the joys on inflight internet and onboard trivia games.
After about 18 hours aloft, I made it to Atlanta, met Grace while she waited for her next flight, got JoHnathans car and was at the Newnan Taco Mac by 7 with Jersey. I would like to thank Jersey for accommodating me and allowing me use of her house and JoHnathan for letting me drive his hot rod around. I was able to spend lots of fun time with jersey, get up to visit my family, see some other folks around the area, and add to my beer list at the Mac. However, I wasn't feeling well Friday and felt I was too ill to make it back for work Saturday night, a serious eye problem. So I was able to get the day covered and spent another night down south. For Jersey's early birthday, we checked out the Senoia nightlife with Grace, Tanjoe, and Charity. Who knew Senoia had a nightlife??? The band could have been better (and played something from my lifetime) but we had fun just getting together… or I did at least. We also learned that Tanjoe are haviing triplets.. So good for them!
I hopped a plane back to Louisville, drove home in my still ailing car. Going shopping this week for new wheels. I was slightly confused when I drove up to my house. The landlords had freshly painted the doors (now black instead of white), shutters, and front porch. I almost thought I was on the wrong street. I also learned the downstairs has been rented out to a girl who is "cute" and works at Churchill. I may have to make friends! I suppose I should get back to pretending to work. I think I'm going to start spending more time moving about these days, money permitting. It was a little refreshing to get out of the country again. Where to next?