Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Home sweet home

Posted: December 11, 2007 in travel

I love traveling but I love getting home just as much. Just as there is a strangeness to the travel destination, there is a pleasant newness to your own place when you first walk inside and settle back in. To me, it’s just as nice. I got back Saturday night. I wanted to talk about it with what was left of my weekend but I was just too tired and also had plenty of catching up to do with the girls. One item is that apparentely one of my daughter’s stupid cats somehow landed on top of one of the aquariums and cracked it which of course caused it to leak. That is the only explanation I can come up with.

This wasn’t the funnest work trip I’ve made (that crown will alway belong to Key West) but it was certainly the most interesting. This is why: Although our initial jobsite was Parsippany, NJ, we were flying in and out of JFK instead of Newark, NJ like the last time we were there. That meant that we had to drive through New York in a rental to get there.

All my adult life I’ve always declared that the one place I never wanted drive in was New York City and now I had no choice but to do just that. There were two of us and in a moment of reckless abandon (and gallantry) I offered to do it. (Drumroll . . . cymball crash) I’m glad I did it. I can now say with confidence that I can drive anywhere on the planet.

We always get a GPS with the car. Our boss never told us that we could, we just do it. Either he’s ok with it or he hasn’t noticed it on the bills. He’s never asked us about that extra charge. Normally, it’s major time-saver. That wasn’t the case getting out of JFK and into NJ. When we left the car rental place we simply followed the directions and everything was going smoothly. We were easily making our way through Queens. The rows of houses along the way were exactly what you see at the very end of “All In The Family” and that song started playing in my head.

The fact that we were relying on a GPS to get us to our destination meant that we were taking the most direct, not the easiest, route to NJ. At the edge of Queens I came upon a massive bridge which I now think was the Brooklyn bridge. When I got to the top of it I saw the center of the universe below in all it’s nightime glory. I turned to my work partner and said something like “Holy shit!!! we’re about to drive into Manhatten!!!” I’m thinking: “Oh, my God, this can’t be happening to me!!!” There was absolutely no turning back. No turning around. I was about to drive straight through the middle of Manhatten at 6:30 PM in a rented car.

I have always had a fascination with NYC but had never, ever been there before. Seeing this city from the top of that bridge was jarring. Leaving that bridge and rolling into Manhatten was just surreal. I was now doing what I vowed never to do and I was doing it well. I learned that it’s not a stereotype that New Yorkers lay on their horns the whole time they’re driving. It’s true. I got honked at more times than I remember but never got the finger. Too bad. I was counting on it.

It was great to be there and we were feeling good about it until we got into the middle of all those 100+ story buildings that completely line all the streets I was driving. The buildings blocked our GPS signal. We were now on our own in Manhatten without a clue about how to get out. I drove for about an hour (mostly in circles because of the one-way streets) before we got a signal again. During this time I had to awaken the “asshole” Greg to make my way through this fucking nightmare. It only took me about ten blocks of this chaos to have me hitting my horn and cutting other vehicles off. We were totally winging it. Anytime I needed to make a left, I was in the far right lane and anytime I needed to make a right I was in the extreme left lane. I cut my way through that traffic like a typical New York asshole. I didn’t wreck the rental either, which was such a huge relief and believe me, it was nothing short of a miracle that prevented that from happening.

As we were cruising down 6th avenue asking each other “where the fuck are we?” or “what the fuck should we do?” we inadvertantly drove by some very serious NYC landmarks. Two things stand out; fighting traffic and then seeing the giant verticle neon Radio City Music Hall sign ahead, then driving by it and then at a stop light, looking to my left and realizing that I’m sitting in front of Carnegie Hall. I saw that Lyle Lovette was scheduled to play there in a few weeks. The asshole next to me wouldn’t know who he is so I didn’t bother mentioning it. We cruised many famous streets that night, completely lost, but it was so worth it. Before all this we went through the Queens tunnel and in Manhatten finally found our way to the Lincoln Tunnel which took us to the Jersey Turnpike which took us in to Newark, NJ. I think. Now we were in semi familiar territory. Once I got to my hotel room, I ca-rashed!

We spent two days in New Jersey and then made our way back to New York to drop off the car. This time I handed the keys over to Carlos and said “you’re driving back in”. I wasn’t going to argue about it. It was an order. This time our GPS took us around Manhatten. This time I got to look at the city with both eyeballs and in daylight. We took a different route and that allowed a better overall view of the city. This is the reason I offered to drive on the way in. I planned it this way. On the way back to Queens, I got to see Yankee stadium and Shea without the worry of rear-ending someone. Sucker. He should at least once offer to drive on these trips.

After this, we landed in Jacksonville,Florida. It was bone rattling cold in NY and NJ and the wind was blowing about 30 MPH. It snowed the whole time we were there too. He’s from LA and I’m from Houston. We both arrived back in our native climate and frantically fought our way out of our winter wear. It was hot there. We were finally back in our environment. What a difference. What a relief. We finished our work there and then went our own ways. I am so glad to be back home.


I loved the article in the paper yesterday about the Sioux City, IA airport code. I have never been in Iowa so I’m not familiar with it. Apparently, the code SUX just didn’t sit well with certain city officials. Prudes. They tried to have it changed in both 1988 and 2002. Didn’t happen. The article says that at one point the FAA offered them five alternatives, one of which was GAY. The Airport trustees responded with the equivelant of “Thanks but no thanks”.

Below is the article. I think you should read it if you haven’t already. It’s pretty damned funny.

Associated Press Sioux City accepts its airport SUX
SIOUX CITY, IOWA — City leaders have scrapped plans to do away with the Sioux Gateway Airport’s unflattering three-letter identifier — SUX — and instead have made it the centerpiece of the airport’s new marketing campaign.

The code, used by pilots and airports worldwide and printed on tickets and luggage tags, will be used on T-shirts and caps sporting the airport’s new slogan, “FLY SUX.” It also forms the address of the airport’s redesigned Web site —

Sioux City officials petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to change the code in 1988 and 2002. At one point, the FAA offered the city five alternatives — GWU, GYO, GYT, SGV and GAY — but airport trustees turned them down.

Advertising opportunity
Airport board member Dave Bernstein proposed embracing the identifier.

“Let’s make the best of it,” Bernstein said. “I think we have the opportunity to turn it into a positive.”

He noted that many airports, including some of the busiest, have forgettable three-letter codes.

“I’ve got buddies that I went to college with in different cities that can’t even remember their own birthdays, but they all know the Sioux City designator — SUX,” he said.

Mayor Craig Berenstein, who in 2002 described SUX as an “embarrassment” to the city, said he views the new slogan as a “cute little way” to make light of the situation.

I think this airport board member Dave Bernstein deserves a raise.

These damned cycles

Posted: September 20, 2007 in travel, work

My job is like a manic-depressive girlfriend. For months, nothing will be happening out of the ordinary. It’s slow, repetitive and not much fun to be around. Then suddenly it’s exciting and fun but a little too much to handle at one time. It’s now on the upswing again. Things don’t happen in “threes” in my life. They come up in “fives”, “sixes” or more at a time and then I’m scrambling to get everything taken care of. I wish it was more balanced.

Here is the mess this time:

I have my existing accounts to take care of this month.
I have three installs that will take at least three days to complete here in Houston.
I have another install here in Houston that will take a full day.
I am going to Jacksonville, Florida in October for a week to install.
I will be going to New Jersey again in October to tear up what I already installed in order to install another piece of equipment (Three days minimum).
I am in need of some dental work that just can’t be fit in.
When I get back from New jersey I have an over-nighter in Dallas.
Then I go to Port Isabel, Texas (South Padre) for a two or three day install.
I have to find a way of taking care of our existing accounts here in Houston before October runs out.

What frustrates me the most is that a lot of this overlaps. I’ll just leave it up to them to find some way for me to be in two different places at the same time.

With all that taken care of (however the hell that happens) I will then get to the dentist to take care of the pain in my jaw which is the reason I have not been around much lately.


Posted: May 10, 2007 in life, travel

It was only a matter of time. I am now living vicariously through street cams on Duval street in Key West. I can’t get this place out of my mind. I so want to be back there. I never even wanted to leave.

As I was sitting here looking across the room at my Conch Day beads that were thrown at me on the night of the parade and looking at the wooden Duval Street sign that I brought back, I decided that I should drive the stake even deeper by looking up Key West/Duval Street on the computer.

What I found first was a live “street” cam outside of Sloppy Joe’s, a place I went to at least twice while I was there. The other is a “crowd” cam with a broader scope of the street. The former is the better one because you can actually hear the conversations of the people hanging/wandering about the street in front of this place. While I was there I was actually one of these people. I haven’t looked at this during the day yet, but at night you can hear all the bands playing. At least the one from this particular place. Also, remember that this is in Eastern time. I don’t look at this during the day because I’m at work but having seen it first hand I can tell you it’s like vegetable soup people-wise; All types just walking, shopping and taking in the sites.

But, Oh . . . wait till the sun goes down. It starts getting interesting about then and just gets better the later it gets. I believe it shuts down around 2:00 AM. The camera, not the island.

Street cam
Crowd cam

Update (5-12-07/3:11AM): Thanks to a weekend night I now see that the cameras do not shut down. That’s good. I have also added them to my blogroll for easier access.

I’m home

Posted: April 29, 2007 in travel

I love Houston but I have to say that I was not very happy about leaving Key West yesterday. I arrived at Intercontinental at about 1:30 PM in a mood that was less than enthusiastic to say the least. I missed my daughter and I know she missed me too but I wish I could have stayed on the island a few more days.

Where, oh, where do I begin? I guess I’ll start by saying that this install was a very important one. It’s a test site for this particular chain of hotels. If they’re happy with what this water treatment system does for them then we may get, as the chief engineer of this place said, another 50 or more accounts after this one. I am certain that this hotel will be happy with the results and that could mean that I’ll be flying off to some other interesting place in the near future. We’ll see.

Forget work. I want to talk about the fun side of Key West. I was lucky enough to be staying (comped) at the La Concha-Grand Plaza hotel on Duval Street. This was the hotel Ernest Hemingway favored when he visited Key West. I think it was constructed in the late twenties. I really like Papa Hemingway and it was sort of a thrill to be staying in his favorite hotel which had pictures of him in the lobby. The photos of him on the walls were a bit of a comfort as I tried keeping my balance while waiting for the elevator to come down. I’ll be totally honest and say that I did party my brains out after work while I was there.

In my defense I will say that that is pretty much the norm for this place. However, I was in much more control of myself than everyone else. While some guys (and some girls) were being tossed out of places I was just sitting in my seat or standing in my place laughing to myself knowing that they deserved it. I have never seen so many drunk people in the same place at the same time. It’s no wonder that the locals can’t stand the tourists. The visitors are either an ass or a pain in the ass. Believe me, once the sun goes down there isn’t a sober person in sight, at least on Duval Street.

Duval Street is a combination of Venice, California and New Orleans, Lousiana. It’s sort of like Venice beach meeting Mardi Gras halfway. It’s legal to walk down the street with a beer in each hand and there are street musicians, street “vendors” and various other lunatics willing to “entertain” you for a small fee. Actually, for nothing if you choose not to tip them. Duval is completely lined with restaraunts, bars, retail shops and expensive B&B type lodging. In fact, everything there is expensive. Ridicoulously expensive. Rather than using our company credit cards, our boss sent us off with cash. I like this better than using the credit cards because the boss doesn’t need any reciepts, doesn’t care how we spend it and whatever we don’t spend is ours to keep. It’s one of the perks of traveling for the company he says. Yep.

Day two on the island, we needed a two inch ball valve overnighted to us. While my work partner was talking to the boss about that he said “Hey, man, we’re gonna need some more money out here.” I thought he was just joking with our boss. The next day with the ball valve were two envelopes with an extra $80.00 in it for us with this handwritten on the envelope: “Stay out of jail.” I kept that envelope and I’m saving it. It’s very funny to me because in all the years I’ve known him, I’ve never once heard him crack a joke. Then again, maybe he was serious.

I took some pictures there but most of them were taken at night and since I was using a cheap disposable camera they didn’t come out right (that sentence sounded like two lines in a song). Anyway, the only day pictures I got was while I was working and they are of these guys.


The first morning there I got up before dawn, walked to the donut shop for coffee and headed back to the hotel. As I was walking back I thought I heard roosters crowing. I thought my mind was just playing tricks on me since I never get up this early unless I’m going to the beach. Back at the hotel I was on the second story balcony and I started hearing it again. At that point I thought “Wow, someboday has some chickens in their yard.” Nope. I found out later that day that they run the streets like pigeons and grackels. Nobody owns them. They’re what you would call street roosters and they aren’t afraid of anything. I also saw groups of roosters, hens and chicks walking up, down and across streets. It’s so funny to me that nobody pays attention to them and they seem to understand that. Although they do know to dodge the Mopeds, Harleys and what few cars are there.

Why my job doesn’t suck

Posted: April 23, 2007 in travel


In a few hours my mean ol’ boss is sending me to Key West, Florida for the entire week. You can see where I’ll be suffering by looking in the lower, left-hand corner of this map. I won’t even be renting a car when I get there because everything is in walking distance. This sure beats the hell out of New Jersey and Kansas City.