Wednesday, November 7, 2012

London calling at the top of the dial, after all this, won't you give me a smile?

A couple weeks, I was asked by a close friend if I'd be interested in taking a trip with her.  Obviously, it was just a formality since she knew my answer would be a "hell yeah".  So within a couple days it was determined that I would meet Maggie Brown in London (the one in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, not the one in Kentucky...  where I think the woman at the early voting registration thought I meant when I put "London, UK" in the  "What city and state will you be in on election day?" block on the form).  Seemed like a great plan. 

Initially I wasn't going for the full time, but after some arranging and finally finding a place to stay for a reasonable price (I highly suggest using VRBO), I decided I'd leave on the 31st and come back on the 6th.  Mainly because I wanted to be around for Guy Fawkes Day.  Then came problems, due to Sandy the ebst chance for me getting to London on plan was via Los Angeles.  Sure it's only 3 hours the wrong way, then an extra two hours back.  But the price was right.  And more importantly there were seats available. 

And here I'll throw in Non-rev traveler tip number 1:  Be flexible in routings and times.  You never know when you'll have to go west to get east.  It luckily worked out pretty well and I was able to get on (in premium economy no less) and with no one in the seat beside me.  About 10 hours later, I landed at Heathrow.  The flight went pretty smooth and I was well taken care of.  Non rev tip #2, if you bring some nice chocolate for your crew, they seem to be exceptionally accommodating and generous with food, beverages, and first class amenities kits (the eye shades came in particular helpful when the nearest passenger decided to read about halfway through the flight).  After a short interrogation by Her Majesty's Customs, I was allowed in the country. 

The accommodation I had booked via was a nice separate bedroom/bathroom in an apartment a block off the Thames. I had a private entrance and the rest of the apartment (Also rented out) was walled off by a security door.  The location couldn't be beat really, especially at the price.  I had essentially a hotel room in a prime location for half the going rate, with a pub on the corner  and block walk to the South Bank.

View from the South Bank of the Thames, one block from my flat.

After meeting the owner, a brief tour of the area, and settling in and washing the funk of 14 hours of being in an airplane, I set off to meet up with Maggie.  It was dark by this time (being that dark comes in London at shortly before 5 PM this time of year).  After dinner with Maggie and her hosts, it was time to tube it back to my place and crash.  On the way back I was passed by a parade of police vehicles escorting a vehicle with a royal standard flying.  I didn't get a good look inside the car, but that's kind of cool.  Of course I popped in for a quick pint of Ale at the Thirsty Bear Pub, a neat place in Southwark with tables that had your own taps and an iPad installed for the customers use. 

Friday saw the tourist activites begin in earnest.  A meet up in front of a Notting Hill bookstore (not the one form the movie), then breakfast at Cafe Diana before heading to Kensington Palace.  The place was a small and sparsely decorated royal residence.  OK, it was neither small no sparsely decorated.  You could visit the Kings Apartment (as used by George I and George II) and the Queens Apartment (as used by Queen Mary II).  Also there were special  exhibits dealing with Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebration and another of Princess Di memorabilia. 

The Kinds Apartment - Kensington Palace

After, a walk through Hyde Park (and past some giant geese and pigeons) brought us to the Prince Albert memorial for a couple photo ops.  Then down to Buckingham Palace to see what the Queen was up to (turns out didn't look like she was out doing a lot that day).  Afterwards, a traditional lunch of English meat pies and off to Westminster Abbey.

I feel I should give a little bit of personal history.  This is my second trip to London, the first being my first international jaunt ever way back in the spring of 1999 (the first stop on a 3 country week and half trip).  So much was changed since that trip, both with me and with the city itself.  For instance, the area I stayed for this trip wasn't much thought of at the time of the last trip.  It was sort of run down with not much happening.  That's all changed.  The movie Notting Hill came out after I came home, so that area was considered a very interesting tourist area, unless you just wanted to walk down streets of houses and shops.  I was much poorer then and didn't do a lot of the things I paid to do this time.  Plus, that being my first time abroad, I was a bit bewildered and generally awestruck at all times.  And there wasn't a proliferation of travel websites, iPhone apps, and easy to find information on the interwebs. 

For instance, last time I stood outside Westminster Abbey, I took a picture, and went across to Parliament (where I did go inside and watch a small debate in the House of Commons).  This time, I paid the fee and went in.  It's well worth it.  It's a beautiful cathedral with history just oozing about.  You walk past the graves of kings and scientist (Newton and Darwin... the latter i find it amusing that he's buried in such a notable church given a general rejection of his theories by the church).  Also there are poets and composers, and memorials to many more notable people who are not buried there.  I highly recommend this as a stop on any trip to London.  And then over to Big Ben, Parliament for photo ops before splitting up and making plans to meet for dinner.

The next morning, the plan was to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham the off to the Tower of London.  Well, apparently everyone else had the same plans.  Buckingham was packed, and despite arriving 45 minutes before the ceremony we were no where near the front and in a good viewing spot for the ceremony.  We did watch some of the guards parade by, then squeeze through the crowd to get to the tube and head to the Tower.

The Tower is a must see, more than worth the price of admission (and since we bought a year pass for two it was a must see twice).  And definitely take a tour with one of the Yeoman Warders, commonly known as Beefeaters (and supposedly no one knows why).  If you have the time, take two tours, since each Beefeater tells different stories of the history.  Though I think they all involve MURDER!!  After the tower, and deciding the lines for the crown jewels was ludicrously long, we headed over for a quick look around Piccadilly Square before splitting for the evening.  And i was off to explore some more historic pubs, places where Dickens and Shakespeare had once popped in for a pint for example. 

A quick note, it seems that every Frenchman had taken a long weekend and ventured to London for a holiday.  The place was lousy with French, and eastern European to a lesser degree, tourists.  I suppose that explains the outrageous hotel prices (high demand), but it was just annoying.  Another good reason for mid week visits. 

Sunday morning brought rain.  Which given the time of year, I'm surprised it took that long.  The plan had been to start early back at the tower, and hope for shorter lines.  Well, that plan was replaced by sleeping in until the rain was forecast to stop.  And to the credit of the BBC, they were pretty well spot on with the time the rain would move out.  While waiting outside the Tower tube station, I watched the filming of a car chase scene for some movie or TV show.  And I found it amusing that anyone would use London for a chase scene.  I mean, I get the use of the scenery, but realistically... you're not going anywhere fast in a car in that city. 

The rain had indeed scared away a lot of the tourists, and we pretty much were line free at the Tower for most the day.  After that, we headed over for a proper high tea at the Orangery.  Orginally built for Queen Anne with the intention of being a type of greenhouse, this very classy place serves traditional teas, crumpets, biscuits, and of course cucumber sandwiches (though I preferred the smoked salmon sandiwches) complete with the crust cut off.  All very posh.

After that, we had dinner at a local Kensington place with Maggie's host.  Ffiona's (that is spelled correctly) was very delicious English fare with a little bit of a twist.  Also, apparently Georgia May Jagger (Mick's daughter) frequents the place on first dates (I guess he has a lot of those???).

The next morning I woke up early for no apparent reason.  And determined to remember, remember the fifth of November (ha), I took off for Trafalger Square and the National Gallery.  Since it was so early, I decided to take a nice walk down the Thames, crossing on footbridge by Charing Cross, and up to Trafalger Square for coffee and a croissant while waiting for the gallery to open.  Turns out, I'm not much of an art critic and that all 13th Century Italian paintings seem be representations of saints, Christ, or the Madonna.  It seems that as you journey through the years, the subjects get less religious and a little bit more creative or secular (I think this may have something to do with less and less Church domination of everything after the Renaissance.. just a theory).  The paintings, as time goes on, get more and more abstract in nature.  And I have to say, I do really like Monet's and Van Gogh's works.  We had visited a modern art gallery the day before (Tate Modern) and I really don't "get" that stuff.  After the Gallery, I headed over to the British Museum, but decided not to go in, having been there years before.  Instead, I had a pint in a tavern once frequented by Karl Marx and George Orwell (who, in my one political comment for the week, more people should read today).  I decided to walk over to the Dickens House and Museum, since it was relatively close.  Unfortunately I found it closed for renovations.

Trafalger Square : from left to right: National Gallery, Saint-Martin-in-the-Fields Steeple, and the Lord Nelson Monument

After the full day, met up with Maggie and we went over to St Pauls Cathedral to take in the Evensong service.  This being my first ever event in a Anglican Church, I looked on with interest and enjoyed the choral performances.  It's much more, i suppose ceremonious is a good word, than the Southern Baptist church I grew up with.  Afterwards, I took off for White Chapel to visit the Ten Bells, a pup made famous (infamous) by Jack the Ripper.  Then back to Southwark and a couple other recommended dinner and drinking places.  I ended up stumbling (not in the drunken sense but in the unexpected sense) into a pub full of local musicians "jamming" in the corner.  It was pretty damn cool.

The next day it was time to go.  Headed back to Heathrow for the flight home. (I really enjoyed Delta's lie flat seats).  Non-rev tip #3:  Flying back to the US requires you to pay a boatload of taxes, and the UK it came out to about £185... don't be surprised by this.  Once again, I brought chocolate for my crew, and once again it was greatly appreciated.  Back in the US, I was again interrogated by Customs.  I get it, they ask questions and judge your response to get an impression of why you're really there.. but it's freakin annoying.  Maybe it's because they flip through seeing full pages of stamps and visas from your less than normal destinations.  Who knows. 

It was overall a great trip.  I had good company and we, for the most part, had surprisingly good weather.  I do feel like I walked more in the last 5 days than I have in the previous year, and have the aches and sore feet to show for it.  But the pain is worth it.  And a reminder it's time for new shoes. 

SO that's my triumphant return to London.  There's still more I would like to have done (especially outside the city), but time ran out.  Good reason to go back I suppose.  It's an expensive city, but there are ways to save money (lots of museums are free, and the tube/bus system is extremely economical and useful... just remember to mind the gap). 

The falling leaves drift by the window, the autumn leaves of red and gold

It's been a while, which I just noticed. Before I get to the latest foray I'll do some catching up.  Since I wrote my broke up letter to Insight, I've been enjoying the newness and fun of my relationship with AT&T's cable offering.  I can't say I have many complaints at all.  I also changed mobile phone providers for the first time since 1996ish.  Lot's of upheavel! 

Other than that, there's been days couple days spent in Piedmont Park with Yinyer for music midtown. A meet up with Ms Linda while she was in Atlanta.  Spent some time with Tanjoe at their palatial estate in New-Nan. Went down to Orlando for a work related trip and was able to meet Shelley for lunch and mee tup with some friends working down at Airtran.  Then Back in Atlanta for a day to take in a GT win over Boston College, followed by an evening of brews at the Darkhorse with ET and Yinyer.  Pepper in some meet ups with Grace and AXL, that pretty much sums it all up.  Well, there's been working in there too, including extra shifts. 

Oh, and my niece got in engaged... and I'm very happy for her.  Except I feel a little older now :-).  October was pretty full.  Now, on to fun stuff (as if the above wasn't fun enough) in the next blog. coming soon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Break Up.

This relationship just isn't working for me anymore.  It's been five years since we first got together, and things started great.  All my needs were being met and really enjoyed our time together.  But as time wore on, things just seemed to get dull.  You kept asking more of me.  A little at first, but it added up.  I tried to bring new things into the relationship.  Remember when I bought the new HD TV?  That was a good time.  Sure you brought a little more to this relationship after that, but with newer demands on me.  I endured because I had invested so much into the relationship and thought i had no other options. 

Then came last Thursday.  Out of no where, you denied me a relaxing evening at home.  You refused to allow me to enjoy the Bears/Packers game!  That was the final straw.  I left in a huff and went out to pour over my options at the local watering hole.  It was then I realized there are newer, faster options present to me.  And demand less of my resources to maintain the relationship.  AND, allow me my NFL Network!

So after all the random service interruptions, the grinding down of broadband speed in the evenings, and sudden random bill increases; you're kicked to the curb Insight.  Sure you pleaded with me to keep you.  Offering a lower bill and promising better service... except of course for the NFL network... which couldn't be had at "a reasonable price".  So the annual 5% increase couldn't offset the price of football but would get me instead yet another home shopping network, or HD Lifetime!  Maybe if you quit spending the money to mail me a letter or two every week trying to sell me a new phone bundle I clearly don't want you could afford better channels.  Too little too late.  I shouldn't need to threaten you to get the "best pricing".

Take your DVR and leave, I have a newer faster model now.  Go screw over some other customers.

PS.  You can also eliminate the "greeter" position at the office, a sign that points me to the line for the one person working the service counter would be just as effective and instead train the "greeter" to work the other side of the counter... thus reducing the wait in line. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fuzzy Memories...

Following the advice of the only published writer I know personally (I think), in order to try and get something amusing and creative going I'm going to relay an experience from the past.  Well, at least the best I can recollect.  It's amusing and embarrassing so enjoy.

The day was November 11th, 2005.  Two days before I had turned 29 years young and had delayed the celebration to the following Friday.  I don't remember how the day started, and have very limited memory of how it ended... and a lot in between is kind of fuzzy too.

I had recruited a couple of cohorts to help me celebrate.  Grace was to be the designated driver, since she was either on reserve or going to be early the next morning having just become a newly minted flight attendant.  The other was Jackie, a former coworker and codrinker for the night.  The night started off with a bad omen.  These were the days of living solo in metropolitan Peachtree City, GA and within easy walk to my then usual place, the Outback about a few hundred yards from my door.  Jackie arrived at my apartment, and then Grace called to tell me she had an issue.  Apparently one her pilot friends, while attempting to bench press drunk, dropped the bar on his face.  Grace, being the only person sober amongst the two pilots had to drive the bleeder to the hospital.  I was less than enthused about this.   I mean, a Newnan hospital on a Friday can't be a speedy place.  Jackie and I decided to best spend our time drinking.  So off the aforementioned Outback we went, Grace to meet us later.

It should be said that the drunk weightlifter and the accompanying "too busy laughing at him to be helpful" cohort eventually became my roommates and good friends.

Well, Grace showed up and off we went.  I had chosen to start in Buckhead (the days when there were actually bars/clubs..sigh) at the Coyote Ugly.  From here out things get a little fuzzier as the night goes on.  Apparently Grace and Jackie thought I needed to do as many shots as possible, a few from the pierced navel of a bartender or straight out of her mouth.  Tequila kills germs right?  My accomplices apparently had decided to team up against me at this point and order what was then called a "penalty shot. "

This is not for the faint of heart and I hesitate to put it to paper, but the "penalty shot" involved me being laid over the bar, with a hot little 100lb bartender standing over me.  At which point she removed her belt, which best i can tell was 3 inches wide and an inch thick leather.  In order to demonstrate to the gathered crowd the ferocity at which she intended to use her weapon, she used it to hit the over head air conditioning duct.  As i recall the duct work was well dented.  The she went to work on my backside.  And not lightly.  At my request, she didn't reach down and rip the elastic of my boxers off and use it as a blindfold (I should mention this wasn't the first time this has happened to me).  After my birthday lashes, I was given a shot of... something... directly form her mouth to mine.

It was after that things got weird.

Unable to sit comfortably, i was standing looking around and listening to the laughter of Grace and Jackie when I saw some one that looked vaguely familiar.  Turns out it was Martha, a mutual friend and, at the time, a actress on a television show.  I vaguely remember staring at her and she at me.  In that way that you sort of recognize some one but just can't place her.  I hadn't seen Martha in years, and the mutual friend that introduced us and I had become estranged for reasons I won't get into here.  Just then, said estranged musuatl friend, let's call her A, walked up beside her.  Great... of all the gin joints in all the world.

About that time, I mentioned to Grace and Jackie of the current company, both knowing of A and some of the back story.  I wasn't ready to leave so another round.. and I think a shot was included.  A short while later (not sure exactly how much time was passing at this time, the only measure I can remember was the fullness of the drink in front of me or the numbness of my ass from the beating I had earlier) A and Martha came over and said hello.  A long conversation of various apologies and what's going ons followed.  At that point, they joined the birthday celebration.  ANd we decided time for a venue change.

On to Mako's...

This is the short version of what may of happened at Mako's... there were very scantily clad bartenders, one sitting in the swing in the window.   There was another shot and drink in my hand.  There was dancing.  Grace was lost in the crowd.  Jacking was by my side.  A and Martha were... somewhere.  The bar was keeping me upright.  The last shot did me in, and off to the mens room I went.  FYI, steak and blooming onion doesn't taste so great the second time... or third... or.. well, let's just say I don't remember how long i was in that stall.  Grace later tells me that she noticed me gone, and after about half an hour or so she decided to go looking for me.  I regained some ability to put myself to gether, and stand up right and decided i needed to leave the men's room.  I think I wanted fresh air.

I walked out the door, saw Grace standing there.  And while I intended to stop and say something, I was unable.  I walked squarely into the wall opposite beside her.  Not a gentle transition form movement to leaning against the wall.  I remember walking into the wall and it hurting a little.  Given the amount of booze that had been poured into me, I'm surprised i didn't break a nose.  At this point Grace took command and decided it was time for us to leave.  We found Jackie and they shuffled me outside.  Jackie wasn't exactly sober or cognitive at this time either I'm told.   Grace believing, correctly, that I was unable to make it to the car and she was unable to drag me, left me propped against with wall with the other drunk person to watch over me.

That's about it.  Except the drive home involved 3 stops on the side of various roads.  And not all for me :-).    I woke up sometime the next day... not remembering really how i got into my bed, or why Jackie was asleep on my couch.  As I recall, the entire day was spent watching tv and trying to eat and not throw up (and not being totally successful).

That is the legendary 29th birthday that Grace likes to remind me of occasion when we discuss dumb things, or fun times, we've had.  That also goes down as the drunkest I've ever been.  Since then I've tied a few on from time to time, but never to that level of just being out of control.  Certain parts of the night can be recalled clearly, others are like remembering a dream... only vague moments of consciousness and memories.  The most lasting memory, I never want to be that far out of control or inebriated again.  Also, don't let Grace, when she' not drinking, be the person to keep you from making an ass of yourself.  She'll just sit back and watch and remind you later...but shes still awesome.

So there you go, something from the way back when that's embarrassing and memorable.  And something that will maybe get me ina  more creative mood.  Feel free to embarrass yourself with a not so flattering memories of past adventures.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Still Alive and Typing

It's been a long time since I've managed to write something here.  There have been several false starts which usually result in a firm press of the "delete" key.  Nothing that was committed to the electronic paper seemed interesting to me, and since I'm writing it I probably should be at least mildly entertained.  Or else there's no hope for anyone else.  I was sitting back trying to figure out what I could pontificate about that wouldn't end up either pissing some one off or boring them to death.  So politics are out.  I can whine some more about my job, but it's hard to get that in since I have a well paying job.  And again, it get's old.  I could relay humorous anecdotes from my love life.  Here goes:

OK that's done.

I could post remembrances of my fabulous summer activities.    Except I seem to have nothing much but work all summer.  MY normal wild and free travel life has been pretty much constrained to Atlanta, and that's been infrequent of late.  Or I could relate some of my cool international trips...  wait, I haven't really been anywhere outside the country since the last blog.  So all in all, it's been a dull summer... for me.  It's been all about average  And I'm not much of a fan.  There have been highlights to be sure.  DCI at the Georgia Dome and the resulting reunion of old friends.  Time spent with friends, both in Louisville and away.  My adventure in taking a self-described "country mouse" out for a night in the "big citay".  Very amusing indeed.  But for the most part, the difference a year makes seems to be we all got a little more boring.  That's life I suppose.  The friends are back from Nam and settled into jobs and responsibilities and (worst of all) baby havin'.  Others are just trying to make it through the week...  seems we're drowning in the daily grind. 

So this is what responsible adults do with their summers.  I'm not a fan.  I don't think I'm going to let this behaviour continue.  So far September is booked full of activities.  And it's going to be fun and exciting dammit!  I may even get a new passport stamp (but not too many, I'm out of empty pages). 

So that's a brief glimpse of what's been happening.  I'm hoping to get more consistent in my musings.  It's been suggested that on days of nothing new to recount excitement from the past, at least the excitement i can still remember and haven't blocked out.  Or the statute of limitations has expired on.  I also think some of those who used to write lot's of fun and interesting things get back on it.  

Well I have to run to work and make some money to finance the coming fun times.  

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Step from the road to the sea to the sky

I've probably starting typing here a dozen times over the last few months.  Yes, it's been a while since I rambled, pontificated, whinged, and otherwise enlightened the world with my brilliance.  I keep coming back that either nothing wholy remarkable has happened or I've just put myself in a news void and tried not to pay attention to anything going around me, ostriche style if you will.  Neither are really true.

The summer has found me doing a lot of shuttling about.  Mostly home to Atlanta... well OK all of it home to Atlanta with a brief trip to Nashville to visit some recently relocated pals.  And in between I've had guests about in the greater Kentuckiana area, first with Erika for Independence day (and the sweltering that comes with 105 degree heat mixed with a poorly insulated house... oh and a failed air conditioner).  But we made the most of the situation by spending time in establishments seeking cool, refreshing air along with cool, refreshing drinks. 

Shortly thereafter Grace and AXL (as I now refer to Alida.. it's easier to type and less letters than Parasite).  She seems to be a fairly well behaved baby, as much as I know about babies.  Her one earsplitting outburst was conveniently timed to coincide with a particularly quiet part of the wedding ceremony they were in town for.  But it was nice to have guests, and motivation to clean my cluttered apartment. 

I'm still searching about the Metro ATL for an abode to call my own.  Seemingly fruitless endeavor that's getting old.  A bit defeatest yes, but it seems that banks hate me.  A well paid, fairly good credit history, non felonious person can't get ahead in this world.  I personally feel I should get free money from them, since they got free money from me.  But i'm still looking about.  For some reason the idea of settling down and resigning myself to forever living here kind of makes me sad.

Though I'm wrestling with a bit of a setback with career progression.  Let's just say that apparently some body hates me there, or I'm the worst interviewer ever.  Maybe next time (if there is one) I'm coming in complete with my red Chuck Taylors and showing the interview panel my pimp hand.  I think that would be fun at least :-).

In current events, there's this seemingly endless election going on, bringing out the worst in people.  And there's the Olympics, bringing out the best.  Lest focus on those.

I, for some reason, love the Olympics.  People competing (mostly) for the thrill of winning, or just to show that they too can compete on a world stage, and not to get paid is a refreshing change.  When not facing America, I tend to cheer for those underdogs from countries that most people can't find on a map.  The countries that have a handful of people in the parade of nations.  And, while they generally don't have a chance against the well trained, well financed programs of the first world nations, they're still out there giving it their all.  That, to me, is the most commendable part of the games. 

I also really enjoy learning the rules of sports I never considered being Olympic events (field hockey) or that the players took time off from their professional careers in sports I never considered would have a professional league (water polo... seriously?).  Or that a pub full of people are cheering on a swimmer or runner or gymnast...  when else does that happen?  Conversely, we seem to be overly critical of the 16 year old that didn't stick the landing after to a quintuple somersault with a loopty-loop and a half twist or something after practicing for 14 years to get there... while we enjoy our beer and burgers and have a tough time climbing on to a barstool.

That being said, go team USA!!!  We're gonna win the Olympics!!

Other notable summer events, the quasi reunion of former Southwinders in ATL last weekend.   It's always good to see old friends.  I'm still amazed that after 2 decades (wow, that's been a long time) we can still manage to keep in touch, talk together, and really enjoy each others presence.  If only seeing them once a year, or even less, we still tend to fall back in where we left off last time... even if last time was when the tour bus parked after the long ride home at the end of the season.. 20 years ago.  We've all, for the most part, gained some family members (and some weight here and there).  They told us back then, that the people around us would be life long friends.  Yeah, being 15 I thought they (the adults in charge) were just trying to motivate us.  Turns out, they were right. 

The summer has been slow on my usual concert tour.  One DMB show at Lakewood, which I broke from the past trends of taking the random girl (or Grace) and instead was joined by Sean.  We discovered in the parking lot during the pre-show tailgating that short jean shorts and cowboy boots are in this season for sorority girls.  The band put on an excellent show, and I'm looking forward to the new album.  Next week, I'm planning to see Mumford & Sons, and that's kind of exciting.  Looks like I'll finishing out in September at Music Midtown in ATL, and I'm mostly excited to see Ludacris and T.I.  

Next on the agenda... well.  Work... which is less than thrilling.  And for some reason they just can't seem to get my pay right of late.  Last night I had one of those nights that kept me overly busy.  I mean, I had no time to read my book, watch a movie, or even surf any interweb.  Oh the horror.  But the paycheck still comes (albeit currently incorrect) on Friday. 

The next big event on the agenda is DragonCon.  The annual gathering of nerds, geeks, superheros, and famous people is always a spectacle.  And this year, I actually have tickets!  Now I'm working on logistical details for the weekend.

That's about it for the midsummer update.  No big trips planned, though I need to.  No major life changing announcements.  It's all kind of routine (for me)... you know Brave's games with Yinyer, hanging with good friends in other states, a "day trip" to Honolulu, you know..  normal everyday stuff :-).  Hopefully something "interesting" to write about will happen soon.  Until then...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Broke into the old apartment

I suppose I'm an extremely demanding person.  Take my seemingly endless condo search.  Every time I find something that screams "hey, I could really dig living here" it falls completely apart.  Either a bank comes in and screws it all up, or some one "outbids" me with a lower offer... but in cash.  Seriously, who had $100,000 just laying around?  Or in the last case, the "perfect" place came with an exuberant HOA fee ($900/month...  that had better include a lot of "special services").  Sigh...

So, this past weekend (and by weekend I mean an "airline weekend" of Tuesday-Thursday) I headed back down home.  I wasn't planning to make the journey, but since my niece decided to go and graduate with her masters it seemed like the thing to do.  Hard to believe that little brat turned out so well :-).

Thankfully, TanJoe allowed me to occupy my room at their stately manor, and complete with a hot tub now.  I was able to catch up with several friends and family on such a short trip (helped that they were all in the same place for dinner).  It's kind of sad the place we dined needed to put a disclaimer on their menu that licking the 750 degree lava rock your food is served on is a bad idea.  That means some one tried it.  Personally, that seems like natural selection at work and should be allowed.  If you're that dumb, we need to weed you out of the gene pool.  (I'm mean but it's true).

Thursday, after lunch with Yinyer, I spent the day touring homes all over ATL.  I learned that some people have the weirdest taste in decor.  I mean damn.  Maybe I'm a minimalist or modernist or something that doesn't involve a lot of off crap painted on the walls.  And i really don't like mirrored walls.  However, let it be known that none of this stuff a deciding factor in not being interested in a particular place.  Things like leaky ceilings, locations I didn't like, and no washer/dryers turned me away. 

But seriously... $900/month for HOA fees!!!  At least my realtor is fun and ok with my pickiness (and I think she likes looking around the city more than rural subdivisions).  So, now what?  I'm kind getting to the point where the shopping is getting old.  I can up my price point, or just take the money I have saved and run...  hrrrmmm.  Where can I go where Visa won't find me?

Anyways, I've spent this afternoon catching up on blog posts.  Stuff I wrote weeks ago while away from home and away from interweb access.  Is it sad that I'm so used to typing on an iPad of iPhone that I wonder why a regular computer doesn't autocorrect words for me?  This week is a marathon work week.  I'm paying back a few day trades all in the same week, thinking that getting all the pain over with at once is a good idea.  So for those of you who think I never work, I'm proving you wrong.  And expect a generally bad mood for the next week.  You've been warned.  Now to catch up on a few other things and get ready for another night of work.  I'm hoping for a slow night with no thunderstorms or needing to file ASAPs...  that would be an improvement. 


Thursday, April 26, 2012

My Spanish Heart

I'll admit it, I'm terribly spoiled. I'm riding in coach for the next eight and a half hours and it may be the death of me. Luckily I had a business class seat on the way over, which really helped with my exhaustion.  A solid four hours of nearly flat sleeping was a delight. 

Now I'm back with the masses.  Granted it could die worse.  There's no one next to me and I'm spread out over my two window seats. Still, it's not the business apartment I liked. 

Enough of that.  According to the little inflight motion thing, we're cruising at 36,000 feet and just passing off the northern Coast of Spain. For you aviation geeks we're just passing XUSAN intersection on airway UP177.  And heading back across the pond for the good ole U.S. of A.

The last couple days and been pretty packed.  I left Louisville Monday morning after an all night shift and hour nap.  Spent some quality airport appreciation time in ATL while waiting for Charity to arrive. She almost didn't make it.  Par for the course really.  But she managed to make it just in time. 

Off to Barcelona.  A destination picked for the amount of open seats available.  And it sounded cool and I've never been there.  Charity has never been to Europe and it seemed like as good as a place as any to start. So we arrived bright and early on a Tuesday. We found our housing for the next couple nights, the Hip Karma Hostal and discovered we couldn't check in for a couple hours.  They locked our bags away and we were off to be tourists.  Luckily the main square of the city, Plaza Catalunya, was only a couple blocks away.  From there a day on the big red bus and saw all the major sights.  Some meandering about the Barrio Gotic (gothic quarter) for lunch and back on the other bus.  It was a good quick way to see the city.  And since we were short for time, it worked pretty well.  It's also the first time ever I've taken a "tourist sightseeing bus". I'm generally opposed being a snobbish traveler.  But it worked pretty well.  That night, finally we checked in, cleaned up, and headed out for dinner.

We walked down Las Ramblas, a main walking street full of shops, restaurants, bars, and people selling really annoying noise makers. We found a place for some tapas and paella while the town was all attentive to the FC Barcelona/Chelsea semi final match.  After dinner, a stop was made for the continuation of the Irish Pub tour of the world. We made it back to the hostel and crashed after a full and exhausting day.

Back on the airplane, dinner has been served and we've moved into Shanwick Oceanic airspace and entering the NAT MNPS area and most likely on a westbound track to the US.

The second day started with coffee (café tricolor). The morning we headed to the Mercate de Santa Catarina. Again through the winding streets of the Barrio Gotic.  In the back of the market is an excavation of some ruins there, dating back to Roman times, about the 4th Century, and moving forward.  After ward, down to La Barcolenetta and to chill by the beach.  Literally, we chilled since the weather was breezy and cool, but we sat out and had lunch on a patio, followed by beachside cocktails.  After some  shopping, we made it back to clean up and head off to a flamenco show.  The Travel Bar offered a pretty good deal for for a show, tapas, and all you can drink sangria.  DId you know sangria is made with brandy and gin?  Neither did I but our bartender used all thsat in the recipe. 

We ended up with a group of people: an Aussie couple on an 8 week/21 city euro trip, a German couple who did a random" let the airline snooze your destination" trip, a Québécois couple on a week trip to Barcelona, and a couple ladies from Norway enjoying a holiday.  the Sangria flowed like water, and we all had a great time, eventually some how be befriended the bartender.  We also learned that the tradition Catalan dish that involves cow stomach in a sauce isn't something any of use enjoys. 

I think this night was one of the best parts of traveling, meeting people from all over, making friends, and maybe someday meeting up again.  That by far is the most awesome thing I did in Barcelona. 

A quick sleep, and off to the airport, and as you figured out we're on the way back.  A nice, quick, and really not to expensive trip. Glad I came, and very happy Charity invited me.  On arrival in ATL I'm meeting little Lewis, Alida, who finally decided to grace the world with her presence.  Now, for some inflight movies and relax in coach.. :-).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

There's this one particular harbor, So far but yet so near

Sometimes you look at the world and just have a feeling you don't fit in.  Having been a nerd or "band geek" most my life I'm some what used to not being part of the "in" crowd.  Luckily I can have the smugness that the old "in" crowd is all saddled with debt and life and will never see the Southern hemisphere.  Truly, living well is the best revenge. 

But that's not what's on my mind at the moment.  Let me set the moment, there's a beach.  There's an ocean. There's palm trees.  There's leaves rustling in the sea breeze.  There's an amazing array of stars to be charted.  I did learn that you can see the Southern Cross from the northern hemisphere tonight.  Thanks to an iPhone app, Star Gazer, I've become quite the stellar cartographer.

Anyways, back to the out of time, out of place feeling.  I recently finished yet another book on aviation's early days.  When the world was way bigger than it is today.  When you could trudge off to an island in the Caribbean and be a million miles away from anything.  Unfortunately that's not so true anymore.  But that sort of lifestyle really appeals to me, the days of an imperialistic mindset.  Maybe British (with their sea power of the late 1800s) or American (with their reach in the early 20th century). The ability to be off and away from the reaches of convention, or at least the constraint of constant contact with the world. 

That being said I'm lost without my iPhone at my side.  And even here, on a small bay in the Caribbean without internet access, I'm stressed.  How did it become so imperative that I be in touch with everyone.  How did the world operate at the speed of mail sent by a ship?  It seems like something I'd be up for experiencing. 

So my current fantasy involves a live shortly before WW2, living ob the edge of America...  Crossing oceans on those newly launched "flying boats". Experiencing the unheard of "Orient" and "old countries". I'm sure I'm romantizing things, but it sounds great. 

At any rate, I'm going to continue to watch the Southern Cross float across the horizon while Jimmy Buffett sings of a time before St. Somewhere was condo development. Is there an island left where I can go and live that ideal life?  I suppose I should keep looking until I find it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Gotta Fly to St. Somewhere

Some how this week I became thrifty again.  I had already planned to spend money on a hotel room in ATL due the imminent arrival of the Lewis child.  Turns out, she's stubborn and doesn't want to come out, thus I had a the spare room all to myself.  But after a weekend of fun, I felt needed to not spend a lavish amount don disappearing somewhere. 

Turns out I was wrong, I needed to do that.  And luckily, Delta had a non stop flight to St Somewhere.  And even though beach side resorts were pricey, I decided to splurge for two days there.  After a short flight and a long check in (last minute priceline deals don't always make it to the hotel before the guest does), I bellied up to a pool bar and decided it was time to consume beverages. 

The destination is Bluebeards Beach Club.  And so far so good.  I'm happy with the room, it's larger than nreally need by about double.  The pool bar is staffed by a couple of UGA fans, but otherwise they seem like decent fellows.  Tonight I decided not to venture out. Instead a chill night with my beer. This is more of a time share type place than hotel, thus lots of older types. But I was in the mood for quiet and chill. At least for end night. 

And warm water and sand always helps. I feel Jimmy Buffett or Bob Marley should be a constant musical accompaniment.  So tonight, is quiet and peacefulness.  Tomorrow night though, it's crab legs and booze and the next beach bar down the road. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Same ole same ole... mostly

I recently discovered the show Top Gear. And i recently discovered I have a weakness for fast cars. Ok, that second part isn't recent, but the show makes me think rushing out and picking up a BMW M5 or a Ferrari would be a great idea. And it would if I didn't want a home to live in or eat or have clothes on my back. Though, having a car that's able to hit 200 MPH would be worth it... maybe.

I knew Top Gear existed, just never watched it. And the British version is by far better than the newer US version. The hosts are more humorous, the stunts are outrageous, and they test drive some really neat stuff. The US version aims to be funny, and do a lot of the same goofy stuff as the Brits, but they seem to skip the test driving of new vehicles. I guess their budget isn't big enough to go out and get a Murcielago to tool around a track in, or tool around Nevada in.

Ok, enough car talk. It's been a while since I wrote on here. Since then, I haven't bought a condo. I haven't changed jobs. I haven't fell madly in love. I really haven't been doing much of anything. Except work and the occasional (ie every other) weekend trip to Atlanta. However, I'm open to doing all those things. Just need the right opportunity to come along.

The house hunt is continuing, and there's prospects out there. I'm really hoping to be in someplace by summer at the latest. I do need a place to kick it for DCI at the Dome and DragonCon. I thought I found a satisfactory place last month, but seems the bank wanted to raise the price and start a bidding war for the place. I'm not into war. It'd be nice for a lot of things to really come together over the enxt couple months, I'm keeping my hopes up.

Otherwise, work has been kind of depressing. Not usual depressing, but a new level that owes to the untimely deaths of 2 people in the department as well and the random person sent to the emergency room mid-shift due to possible heart attacks in progress. Luckily those didn't end up being cardiac arrests, but it just serves as a reminder that my job is killing me slowly.

I did pick up a new toy. After months of enduring a slow processing and nil battery life, I finally picked up a new MacBook. This time i upgraded to the Pro . And it zips right along. Unfortunately the migration of all my data from the old to the new may take a while. About 30 hours according to the migration program. I'm working on shortening that. It has not, however, improved my typing skills.

That's about it, nothing spectacular to report. I have had the pleasure of spending time with friends, and reclaimed my bedroom at the TanJoe manor in New-Nan. Even comes with hot tub access. That does not suck.

Well this update is over. Maybe I'll have something more interesting or inspiring next time. I do have some unexpected days off coming up, so that means I need a vacation idea that's cheap. I'd like to hit a beach that is not overrun with spring breakers, but those tend to be expensive places (in order to keep them from being overrun by spring breakers). Any ideas??

Friday, January 20, 2012

"When I'm sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead"

I may come off a little as bragging, but you can just deal with :-). I'm also not really thinking about grammar, you can deal with that too :-D.

It's amusing to watch TV an see places I like to go, and have been to. Currently House hunters Int'l is on. I just watched a family looking in Hong Kong for a new apartment. Now it's a Norwegian who's moved from the arctic to Cairns, Australia. I really need to research this whole immigration thing, or get a new job. She's apparently a worker in a travel agency. Guess there's a shortage of those in Oz. And to the HK families... why would you not pick the 65th floor apartment with the view of the airport. That's a dream home... well, for an aerosexual.

A lot of things I've seen, or even read, and brought back travel memories. The sandstorm in the Latest Mission Impossible seemed a bit unrealistic. But free climbing to the 116th floor of the Burj Khalifa is totally plausible. Another weird coincidence is a book I'm reading. I bought it for the trip to South America, and it's about a sort of mercenary type woman who's asked by friend to retrieve his daughter from a cult. It's the sequel to a book I read on my month long sojourn to Asia last year.

The surprise though, I opened it up on the plane heading south and chapter one begins with "Buenos Aires, Argentina". Interesting. I'm almost through it now, but it was interesting to read a thriller set in the city that you're simultaneously visiting. When the author describes an area or street or landmark and you were just at said place that morning.... well afternoon since I tend to sleep in.

That's one of the beauties of travel. You can more easily picture locations described, or can understand the culture described. It doesn't have to be exotic, but it's good to get out and see the world... and meet new people at random from strange places. Then of course you should go visit these strange places, so not to seem rude to your new friends. It's a vicious cycle, but an awesome one.

In other news, I'm still slugging it out with BofA on the condo. After I walked away from their demand for an increase in price, they came back lower. My last and final offer is in, with a small demand for immediate action, no more 3 month waits. So, we'll see. I think they're sufficently convinced I'm not bluffing and will walk away, and they can start anew continuing to hold on to a property at a loss for a few months. The again, they are a bank who gave loans to people with no way to pay them back...

That's about it, I suppose i should get ready for the work, then a weekend. I'm hoping for some inspriation to clean and declutter my apt. Laters.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Don't Cry for me Argentina

Like everyone didn't know that would be used as the subject line for this one.

I've been trying to figure out to write something about the last few weeks, stretching back to Christmas. It's been a busy whirlwind of a time of highs and lows, and not just in elevation and latitudes.

December was ridiculous busy. Between trying to purchase a new home, the peak rush at work, and the general Christmas time chaos that seems to ensue no matter how much preparation is involved. After three six day work weeks, I took off for ATL for a quick weekend and holiday gathering at the Lewii residence, followed by a quick trip back to SDF for some OT and final push to Christmas eve and the road trip back home. I can't relay how satisfying the 10 hours of sleep at night was, or how good the bacon mom cooked Christmas day tasted. After the family time, It was off to visit with friends and deliver more gifts, and then the long drive back to Louisville. Arriving just in time for a short nap and go back to work. At least that week ended with a vacation.

New Years eve found me looking at two weeks off with only a vague idea of going somewhere. I spent NYE in Atlanta with friends, and apparently walked out in the middle of a rap video shoot on Peachtree St. How women wear such tight clothes I don't get, or how they don't feel exposed. Then again, that might be the plan. But NYE was fun and filled with festive behavior, and pizza obtained from a random delivery guy in an elevator. What sort of hotel doesn't have 24 hour room service on New Years ? Answer: the Atlanta Hilton. (Which was also filled with Auburn fans and players for the game formerly known as the Peach Bowl).

So, the first of the year rolled in pretty well, but I was still indecisive about the rest of my vacation schedule. The South America expedition I had planned was faltering under the unexpected costs. For some reason, I expected it to be way cheaper there. I was wrong. Prices on some things were cheap, sure. But other costs were mounting higher than I wanted to spend (with the impending home purchase). First to be cut was the beach weekend in Uruguay (seriously, $40 a night for a hostel bunk?). Locating accommodation in Buenos Aires was also coming in slightly higher than budgeted. I was almost the point of just calling it quits, until flipping through channels I landed right in the middle of "Don't Cry for me Argentina". I took that as a sign, finished packing my bag, and got some sleep. The next morning, thanx to the generosity of the Lewii, I used a buddy pass for the first time and headed off. Yes, flying in jeans and drinking like the general public... it's a new thing. I even had to ask the ticket counter agent for help checking in. The last time I used a nonrev ticket on Delta I was wearing a suit and tie (required) and had a paper ticket.

The quick flight to Atlanta was the usual nonevent. Then I had a few hours of airport appreciation time that was made much nicer by visits from Charity and JoHnathan. After a couple beers, I boarded a 767 heading south... eventually, after they spent an hour trying to get the movie system to work (it came on over Miami). At least I was in a business class seat :-).

Landing in BA, i got the first surprise of the trip. As an American, there's a $140 fee to pay to get in. Yup, that's awesome. Apparently that's the fee we charge Argentines to enter the US. But now I'm good for 10 years... unfortunately my passport expires next year. Oh well. Grabbed my bag and walked out hoping the hostel shuttle hadn't left. It had, and lo another 2 hours or airport appreciation time till the next one.

There's something about long haul flying that makes me want to shower immediately upon arrival. Could be the close proximity to others, the recirculated air, or just the general feeling of funk after wearing the same clothes for close to 24 hours. But, after the waiting for the shuttle, I found out I couldn't check in for a few more hours. So, I stashed my pack and went off to explore.

I had chosen the HI Florida, and in my old age I sprung for a private room. The hostel was located in the Microcentro, pretty much right downtown on Calle Florida, a pedestrian shopping street. Stores lined both sides, with full on shopping malls, while street vendors sold wares off blankets in the middle of the street. I walked down to a cafe and had a cafe con leche, which became my drink of choice for the next few days. The first impression of Buenos Aires was it was like some one transplanted a European city, but let it run down a bit. Lots of graffiti, lots of just general grittiness. But not the third world level of grittiness. After a quick bite and coffee, and soemwondering, I amde my way back to check in... and crash for the afternoon. THe other thing about long haul air travel, I always want a nap when I get there. I woke up later, took a cool shower (the aircon wasn't up to Dubai or Thailand levels of coolness), and set off to find dinner.

I thought steak was in order and there was a "reasonably" priced Parilla nearby in the San Telmo neighborhood according to Lonely Planet. It was delicious. A fillet the size of my head, and a bottle of wine for about $30. (I didn't intend to order a whole bottle, I thought the price was by the glass.... a pleasant surprise).

After dinner, I continued to check out San Telmo. This is an older part of town, and it shows its age. I couldn't tell if some buildings were abandoned or they were just going for that abandoned look . The stone streets eventually opened up to the Plaza Dorrego, where (at 11pm) a bluesy band was busting out some Jimi Hendrix covers. After settling at a table in the plaza, I ordered a concoction that was similar to Sangria but made with white wine. So the pitcher of white wine with bananas, apples, kiwis, and strawberries floating about hit the spot.

The next day was more aimless wandering about. I ended up at the Cemetario de La Ricoleta. The rows and rows of tombs are pretty awesome to see. Old colonial families, the founders of Argentina, and of course Eva Peron rest there in some pretty ornate tombs. Unfortunately, I didn't charge my camera battery, so the only pictures from the day are form the iPhone.
That night I headed to a Tango show in San Telmo. The show was very entertaining, and I was almost inspired to try and learn the dance. Best can tell is there was a lot of random kicking involved. I was coaxed into learning a short lesson from the dancers by a friendly family of South Africans. It's like people everywhere know I can't say no to a pretty blonde. The steps weren't too terribly tough, maybe I can do this tango thing after all. Obviously not on the show level. And bonus, I have a new friend to show me around Cape Town when I get down there.

The next day I ventured down to el Caminito in La Boca. This area was the original settlement, and like San Telmo, was abandoned by the well to do during a malaria outbreak. After falling into poor shape, this paticular street was revitalized by some artist types, to the point that the building are art now in their own rights. The streets are lined with people selling stuff and cafes (or resto-bars) with their own tango shows going. There i met a Brazilian couple (Rodrigo and Julia) and a Scottish couple visiting. Many Quilmes later, I'm planning to visit Brazil for World Cup with a new friend as a guide.

And that is why I like traveling. You meet some really interesting people and make new friends in far off places. That rocks.

Sunday I learned something else about Buenos Aires, the "Subte" or subway, doesn't always work on Sundays. Oh well, in an attempt to broaden my cultural base, I stopped by the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (or MALBA) to check out some modern art. FOr the most part, I don't get it. But i can admire pretty colors or creative drawing. ANd of course, an multi-floor tangled bench.

After MALBA, I walked through Palermo, a large neighborhood northwest of downtown. The neighborhood reminds me a lot of well to do urban neighborhoods in most cities. Nice houses, upscale boutiques, lots of resto-bars and cafes sprawling out onto sidewalks. After a pint at Sullivan's Irish pub, I checked out the stalls at the Plaza Serrano. Lots of random goods, and a cold Stella at a sidewalk cafe made a nice afternoon. I found a bar, Sugar, showing football. And populated by loud Bengals fans. (American of course). I will say that Sugar has the award for best service I found. Generally wait staff there doesn't run about checking and rechecking like most US establishments. Here, the girl was never still.

The next morning, I checked out of the hostel and moved over to the BA Hilton. This was the last night I planned to stay in Argentina, so I checked into the hotel we use for our crews. I got into my room, dropped the gear (dirty backpacker checks into a 4 star hotel, all eyes on him), cranked up the A/C, and headed over to the Buquebus terminal for a ferry to Uruguay. You know, since I'm there I might as well get another stamp in the passport, a big half page size stamp. Not sure why Uruguay feels the need to do that.

Anyways, the afternoon was spent checking out Colonia del Sacramento, the oldest city in Uruguay and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old town had a very pirate town feel, and again lots of cafes shops. AFter the afternoon of wandering, eating (rice with scallops, shrimp, and calamari... yum!), and drinking.. I was back on a boat..AND... it was going fast! After going back to the hotel, (where disappointingly my room was not meat locker cold), I left a note for my outbound crew basically saying don't forget me, and headed back to San Telmo for my last giant steak. And it was good.

After dinner, I passed by a British themed pub, and had an epiphany. This is how I'm going to decorate my "mancave" should I ever have one. It had the feel of an old "Explorers Club" with old maps, and scenes from around the world, wood paneling, and big overstuffed leather chairs and couches. I really dug it. I also discovered that it's harder than you can imagine to get a foreign brewed beer. You can get Stella, or Warstiener, or Budwieser, but they're all brewed in Argentina. There were taps for Guinness and Kilkenny and others, but not used.

The last day, I slept in late in preparation for the all night flight to Bogota. After a walk around Puerto Madero, and nearly passing out in the heat (104F), I met my crew and headed off to the airport. The spoiling part about flying home like this is some one meets you at the terminal door, and walks you past the lines of immigration to the front of the security line. Otherwise, we'd have to be there 4 hours earlier. We left BA on time, only to have to turn around and come back for a mechanical problem. Was repaired, and off to Sao Paulo we went, and then on to Bogota.

This trip was very unorganized and kind of seat of the pants. The things I had planned to do months ago just fell by the wayside, and for the most part I just ended walking and finding things of interest near me. Not a bad way to see a place. It fit the bill for a warm weather destination in January, though I prefer a beach. And I think the Southeast Asia prices have spoiled me. And I managed to check off continent number 5, Africa is next.

Coming back to Louisville, real life kicked me when I got off the plane. Cold and rainy, my first two text messages were a reminder of a dentist appointment and a message that my condo offer was rejected by BofA (the mortgage holding bank) and they wanted more money. So, they can go find themselves a new buyer. And the house hunt starts all over again. I ended the vacation with another trip down to Atlanta, to deliver schwag and see the recently repatriated TanJoe Roberts. As always, the Lewii graciously put me up (Grace ain't just her name :-).

Tonight I go back to work, I'm thrilled... or not. It's schedule bid time for the next work year coming up, and I'm fairly sure I'm not gonna like my options. Here's hope for winning the lottery before then :-).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Breathing in Bogota

Bogota, Colombia

Didn't spend much time here, but my little foray out today was amusing. Once again, the was a conversation with a taxi driver where I think we both got about 50% of the gist. I did learn that he likes café con leche better than negró and while he thinks the women here are beautiful (they are) he thinks those in Cali are even hotter (not his words).

The Lonely Planet says the country has made drastic improvements as far as crime and random kidnappings of foreign nationals over the last few years. And while I briefly thought about a trip to the main plaza, sleep and lunch by the hotel seemed a better idea. I did manage to venture around two different malls while here, and other than the difference in pricing and language, I could have been in at US mall.

The drive around didn't seem too harrowing really, the area seemed very suburban and middle class. That being said, private security seems to be the largest job sector here. The large mall across from the hotel , Unicentro, had multiple guards at each entrance to the parking lots with handheld metal detectors. I only saw them stop one person and I'm not sure why. After getting past the gates, there's another layer, albeit less numerous, of guards at the actual doors. And of course, roaming patrols inside. Seems like the utmost in safe shopping experiences are expected.

The hotel has similar measures in place, with dogs and men with mirrors checking every vehicle going into the parking deck. Once inside, the lobby is patrolled by three (that I saw) guards with the small earbuds, as if El Presidente was expected to arrive at any moment. Ironically, this isnt the most draconian security I've seen at a hotel, that goes to the Kuwait Hilton or the JW Marriott there, the latter complete with a Hummer mounted machine gun at the driveway entrance.

Still, Bogota may get a repeat visit someday. I've gotten past the lightheadness of the altitude (8600 feet above sea level) and have seem to have lost the dizziness. I think it may have been the beers I had with lunch that helped. That stuff is a miracle drug. There is a restaurant/sports bar next door simply named BEER. They have a wall that was wallpapered simply with different coasters from different brands. I found some inspiration in that idea and may replicate it someday.

I didn't feel threatened at any point personally, no more than any other city in the world. So, that's about it from Bogota. It's about time to head back to the airport for the last legs to MIA and then SDF. I'll post some stuff about the rest of the South America Excursion when I get home. Until then, hasta!