Travelogue – Six and the City

by on Jun.16, 2010, under career, The World

That’s the number of mixed drinks I had last night.  Granted, the first three were so widely spread out I was able to complete the full ebb and flow between them.  But given that I don’t drink in such quantities often, I always forget the critical steps I should be taking to avoid the kind of hangover I’m experiencing this morning.

Prior to the drinking, yesterday was somewhat tedious.  My absence from work has been growing increasingly palpable and desperation is setting in – especially since one of the only other persons who could adequately be my substitute is sharing a hotel room with me this week.  Throughout the training session yesterday, my attention would be slightly divided from the material at hand by a stream of emails of people clamoring for someone to address their issue.  For the most part I’m able to mark them as read and move on, but some bait I cannot leave untouched (though I’m careful to avoid catching any hooks).  I do manage to get caught by one – despite my efforts to provide a best fit solution via email, others seemed intent on needing it explained over the phone.  So after our training day is done, I get on the phone, re-explain the solution, wait for the gradual collective “oh, yeah that makes sense”, and get on with other more pressing matters (like figuring out where we are going to drink) – today’s edition of it only took about 10 minutes.  I must be slipping.

So we head out to meet up with the colleagues from our NY office (which is generally a sales office).  As with SF, the office is much smaller and quieter than the main hub that I’m accustomed to.  As I get introduced around, I am faced with a mix of “Oh! It is so good to finally meet you in person!” and “Oh hi … and what department do you work in?  Are you new?”  I felt like after nearly 4 years I had known and been known by almost everyone at least by reputation (not to be haughty, but I’ve worked on things that nearly every department in our company should be aware of).  Don’t get me wrong, I’m wasn’t upset or concerned, just mildly surprised.  But in my experience notoriety is more burden than reward – especially when sales is involved, so I made little effort to cement myself  in their minds any further … other than joining them for a 4-hour happy hour event at a rooftop bar.

So that brings us back to the drinking.  The waitress attending our party was horrible at her job.  I got the impression that the bar in question aimed for looks over talent in their hiring practices – I guess most guys might be content to wait a while for a drink so long as they can wile away the time ogling the server.  I am not so easily distracted by shiny things.  We ordered a round of drinks and then waited about 45 minutes to receive them.  After 2 rounds of this, most of us got in the habit of asking for the next drink as she was handing us one.  Even at that, I only managed to get 3 drinks to my hand over the course of 3 hours.  So we relocated to a more traditional and less pretentious pub where the drinks flowed more freely.  I guess one needs to be careful what they wish for.

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Travelogue – the Road Strikes Back

by on Jun.14, 2010, under career, The World

I’m back on the road … well figuratively speaking.  I’ve actually spent very little time in cars during my travels at all.  My travels have been mostly in trains and planes – both for the first trip, just trains for the second.  I have to say that Amtrak’s Acela line is really nice – the business class seats are the equivalent to first class airplane seats and I had none of the hassle of long lines, security checkpoints, or landing or take-off queues.  I stepped on and by the time I found a seat we were already moving (and I’d hardly noticed).

After navigating the urban hedge-maze that is New York’s Penn Station, I found my way to the surface and trekked the 10 blocks to my hotel.  Funny how twice the price seems to buy me about half the room space in NYC vs. SF.  I can’t say that I’m surprised, but I would have enjoyed getting another lucky free upgrade to a bigger suite, but I guess that would be akin to lightning striking the same place twice.  This stay will also be punctuated by the presence of a roommate.

He showed up around dinner time and after walking around for a while, we ended up taking in a movie (I probably wouldn’t have bothered seeing The A-Team in the theaters otherwise – it was enjoyable and clever).  Now we are just chilling out avoiding bed with the noise of World Cup Soccer on the TV in the background (neither of us are sure way, really).  But I think I will soon succumb to sleep and how that my jet lag won’t prevent me from making it to the training I’m here to attend.  Wish me luck.

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Travelogue Day 5 – That’s a Wrap, People

by on Jun.12, 2010, under career, Entertainment, The World

I’m going to write this one before bed rather than after as tomorrow will likely be packed with, well, packing, checking out, and making my way to the airport for my long trip home.  It has been a busy week and I look forward to the brief respite coming ahead (emphasis on brief).

Today went smoothly.  I got more substantial information out of the conference sessions presented today (I also found that standing rather than sitting helped prevent ennui-induced sleepiness).  Not that I’m surprised, but this conference has affirmed that I’m not good at listening to people talk for long periods of time nor am I especially extroverted.  I found that I often relied upon my colleague (who frankly is more entrenched with the software at hand anyway) to take the lead – I would find myself standing nearby as he struck up various conversations with vendors, hosts, and other attendees.  I would occasionally engage in these discussions, but not often initiate them.  In truth it doesn’t especially bother me to recognize this either – my primary focus this week was training and I don’t foresee myself joining user groups or contributing to forums on such matters.  Sure there is the networking aspect, but I doubt that I’d be looking to move to Sydney, Vancouver, or Poland for my next career step (well, maybe Vancouver – that place seems pretty awesome, as did the dude from EA that we met from there).

Once the sessions were done as we all stopped loitering around the foyer outside the conference rooms, my colleague and I worked out dinner arrangements with some of our other colleagues from the SF office (thanks btw, to my uncle and my friend who recommended a dining venue).  After meandering little Italy and parts of northern SF waiting for our party to coalesce (managing to buy some fudge somewhere in the mix of things), we eventually made it to this very interesting Italian restaurant called The Stinking Rose – a moderately prices, but elegantly trimmed establishment that seems to specialize in all things garlic.  From their famous appetizer of bagna calda (garlic cloves with anchovies stewed in olive oil and butter) to their garlic ice cream dessert, no dish is complete without garlic involved.  Unfortunately before we made it through appetizers, one of our party had to call it a night (I think he drink wine too quickly before getting food in his system), but we soldiered on through various starters and succulent main dishes.  None of us had the room or were brave enough to attempt the garlic ice cream, but I have a feeling we would have enjoyed it under different circumstances.

So tonight I spend my last night of quiet hotel solitude.  I will be sad to go since it seems I was just getting adjusted to being here.  I’ll be more sad that I will only have a day at home before I hit the road once more for another conference week away.  Given that I will be readjusting to eastern time and I will be sharing a hotel room next week, my travelogue may not be as in depth or as frequent.  But only time will tell.  Now if you will excuse me, there is an empty king-sized bed beckoning to me.

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Travelogue – Day 2

by on Jun.09, 2010, under books, career, The World

Once again, I am sitting and writing due to my displacement-borne insomnia.  I will likely fully adjust to the time zone shift by the time I am leaving to go home.  In the meantime, I will persevere with the aid of caffeine and sunlight as my guides.

Yesterday after reading my way to a respectable hour of the morning, I decided to start planning my day.  It was the only day in this trip that I really had mostly to myself – the rest to follow will be heavily scheduled with classes and sessions and the various other activities that are common to conferences.  I opted to start with breakfast on my way to visit my company’s local office.  After some very good French toast at the counter of a bustlingly busy Mel’s Diner, I ventured on to the office (actually I ventured to where Google Maps told me the office was only to find it was no longer there – after a couple phone calls I got my bearings).  It was an odd juxtaposition to the office I’m used to – I’m not sure what the current count is, but I know that our PA office houses more than 100 people and is often noisy in multiple ways (conference calls, industry climate control, and regular chatter), whereas the SF office only boasted a headcount under a dozen (I’m sure there were people out, but not a lot) and was a lot quieter than I’m accustomed to.  But the people there are great and in the times where it wasn’t silent, the spirit that I’m used to was there.

After spending the day catching up on emails and issues (there are always issues) – a day that seemed much longer than it should have been (me and my chrono-displacement) – I opted to ignore my fatigue and be a tourist for the evening.  I figured it might be my only chance to do so.  I started by catching the F line up to Fisherman’s Wharf.  I walked Pier 39, took in the sight of dozens of sea lions basking on floating docks nearby, and enjoyed a nice seafood dinner with a view of Alcatraz.  After doing some gift shopping for the kids, I decided on 2 additional stops before calling it a night – a bookstore (I’m nearly finished the book I’m reading and need to be prepared for the long flight home) and Ghirardelli Square.  I hoofed it to both destination and considered keeping an eye open for a shoe store as I went to get a good pair of sneakers.  After watching the sky progress through the various phases of sunset over the bay, I found a cable car to carry me back to my temporary home.  Funny – of all the walking I did, I seemed to have missed all of the hills that are so telltale of the area … that is until the cable car ride.  It seemed that the route I was on aimed to hit every slope in town.  It was pretty impressive that the old, bumpy, and noisy box that was our carriage could navigate such grades simply on the electric power provided through the lines above.

I still haven’t made it to the Pacific and I’ve only seen the Golden Gate from a distance, so I don’t consider my adventures complete.  Hopefully time will permit me some additional travels during my stay.  And hopefully I can manage to adjust my sleep schedule before I simply have to let it slide back to normal.  In the meantime, I must get myself some coffee and prepare for the day ahead of me.

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First Stop – Achiness and Lack of Sleep

by on Jun.08, 2010, under career, The World

It’s 5:30 AM as I sit in a quiet, dark hotel room, an expanse of street and headlights that make up downtown San Francisco are just outside the nearby window. I’m tired and blearily studying the In-Room amenities list to see if the coffee provided is as overpriced as everything else (it seems the coffee and tea are complimentary – surprising since a bottle of orange juice is priced at $5). I’m up only because I’m accustomed to being up at this hour – at least the east coast equivalent to this hour. If it weren’t so hazy outside, I might be able to enjoy the sunrise over the bay.  I guess I’ll have to settle with watching the hazy gradually become a brighter shade of blue-gray.

Yesterday was a long arduous day of alternately sitting and walking.  I realize that most days consist of much of the same, but typically the seating is more comfortable and the walking is more leisurely and involves less baggage.  It started with the usual sitting on the couch with the kids eating breakfast while the watched a show while my brain and my wife’s body slowly came to grips with being awake.  But rather than the usual sitting in the car and driving to work, the next part of my day was the inception of a 12-hour travel marathon.  It started with a short drive to the train station (I could have walked, but the kids wanted to see me off) that carried me downtown to the Philadelphia Airport.  Next was walking through the airport to Terminal E for my Southwest flight – I don’t know when the finished the construction, but the new security setup is pretty nice.  Then some sitting in the terminal (I was pretty early) followed by a short walk into the plane and then a long sit in a somewhat narrow seat (if only my company would spring for first class).  I had a layover in Chicago – given the current tensions with the Stanley Cup, I’m glad I didn’t have to disembark.  Though I should have stood for more of the wait and maybe freshed my deodorant for the longer leg to follow.  Given that my flight left at 2 and was scheduled to land at quarter to 7 – even though I knew there were really 3 more hours hidden in there – it didn’t seem like the flight should have felt as long as it did.  Luckily I kept myself entertained with music, books, an episode of Doctor Who on my laptop, and occasionally snapping pictures of the landscape below on my iPhone (I may post some later if any of them turned out).

Finally we land and I am happy to walk with my luggage to the AirTrain and then stand and wait for the BART line to come and carry me on the final leg of my journey.  I arrive in the downtown around 8 PM and have a short walk of about 4 blocks to the hotel.  I am solicited once along the way by an upbeat guy looking for a quarter to make his fare – I oblige him and he is very grateful.  But ultimately I arrive at my destination.

After a very pleasant check-in process and a very fast elevator ride, I find myself in a room that is the antithesis of how I feel.  While I am rough, disheveled, and feeling grungy and weary from my travels, this room is pristine and elegant and seems like it should belong to someone much better dressed than I.  After unpacking my small suitcase of its semi-wrinkled berth into the dresser that seems more fashionable than anything I brought to wear and enjoying various means of winding down (a little HDTV, a little catching up on web browsing, and then a stretch of reading while listening to my tunes on the iHome station next to the bed), I finally decide to call it a night and melt into the luxurious sheets and pillows included with the king-sized bed in my suite.

It is now 6 AM and the dark blue haze has given way to a bright gray haze outside my window.  As I sit here on the top floor of this hotel for which I’m glad my company will be footing the bill, the enjoyment of my surroundings and situation are somewhat muted by the fatigue of the previous day’s travels and a shorter night of sleep than I would have preferred.  But I’m optimistic that between the complimentary coffee and a stint in the very fancy-looking shower, much of this fatigue will wash away.

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