Travel Woes

The plan was simple—fly into Long Beach on Tuesday, spend Wednesday at meetings, then head right back out Thursday morning. I was calling it a “hit and run” meeting because there wasn’t any extra time built in at either end; just come in, take care of business, leave. And up until Thursday morning, it all (more or less) went to plan.

Fortunately, I head to the airport early if possible. Long Beach Airport is really tiny, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to show up a bit early. So even after taking forever to drop off the rental car and running a tuny bit late, I was still there well over an hour and a half before my flight was due to take off. I went to the USAirways self-check-in kiosk… where I was informed that I no longer had an assigned seat on my flights (heading home via Phoenix). Or, it seemed, a flight at all. Never mind that I’d already chosen my seats when I bought the tickets, somewhere along the way it was deemed that I was getting bumped. Nice.

Fortunately, Miriam G. (whom I’m writing a letter to USAirways about) was my savior here; in under five minutes she’d found out that I had no luggage to check (all carry-on, thankfully) and had me rebooked on a direct flight using Alaska Air. The kicker, though, was that the flight left out of LAX instead of Long Beach. And it was scheduled to take off in one hour.

With boarding pass and taxi voucher in hand, I headed out to the taxi stand and explained that I needed to get to LAX, fast. The next thing I knew, we were trying to get out of the series of turns and red lights that is Long Beach, moving towards the 405 and LAX. Now, according to Google Maps, one should expect the trip between the two to take 27 minutes, barring hideous traffic. (Which let’s face it, often exists on the 405.) With one hour to get there, I thought to myself that getting there in under half an hour was key.

We got there in 18 minutes. The ride itself ($68 worth) was paid for with the voucher I received from the airline, but I gave him a $20 tip because let’s face it, he earned it. (“I just wanted to make sure you didn’t miss your flight,” he said when I marvelled at how fast we’d gotten there.) It turned out that it was a good thing I still had 40 minutes before takeoff, because it took just over half an hour to get through security—including, of course, getting “randomly” selected for additional searching. Gah!

But I finally made it onto the flight, and I do love Alaska Air. Aside from having to kick someone out of my seat (nice try, go back to your middle seat), it was a pretty uneventful flight, Charlie picked me up at my new landing time, and I figured all was good.

Well, until this morning when I got in my car, planning to head over to the dealership so they could replace the faulty CD player. Because within two blocks, I was pulling back off the road to deal with what was clearly a flat tire. *sigh* I’m just glad my dad taught me how to change one way back in the day, although I did have to get the owner’s manual out at one point to figure out how to release the spare tire from within the trunk. (There was one bolt I was missing.) And hey, at least I was already on my way to the dealership, right?

So, knock on wood, that should be the worst of it. But if anyone wants me to blow up a Metro line this weekend, just let me know which color and I’ll ride on it too. I’ve got the knack when it comes to travel as of late.

Turnaround Shift

When I used to work in management at Giant Food, I occasionally got the dreaded “turnaround shift”—closing the store and leaving around midnight, then being scheduled to open the store the next morning which meant arriving around 6am. It was never a pleasant experience, but at least most stores tried to keep it from happening. (The exception was my six week stint in Leesburg, where the assistant manager instantly took a hatred to me and did everything he could to give me turnaround shifts, knowing I lived an hour away from the store. It ended because I got a job offer elsewhere and quite happily turned in my notice. The assistant manager was eventually fired for sexually harassing another employee and being stupid enough to do so in front of the security cameras. A happy ending for everyone, really.)

I mention this because I feel like I’m on a slight turnaround shift right now; after going away on a Saturday-through-Monday vacation with Charlie, tomorrow morning I leave on a Tuesday-through-Thursday business trip. So far all I’ve accomplished upon returning home this afternoon was unpacking my bag and starting up the laundry. Shortly I’ll repack the bag with clothes for the next couple of days.

It was a nice mini-vacation, though. We’d gone back to the Guest House at Lost River, which was as relaxing as always. When we went last time it was a Friday-through-Sunday stay, which most people seem to favor. So we met some nice people and hung out with others, and that sort of thing. But this trip was in part because we needed some one-on-one time, and Saturday-through-Monday fit our schedules better. And I’m glad we did it; it meant that almost everyone else left Sunday morning. So while we went hiking in Lost River State Park, the Guest House just about entirely cleared out. That meant once we got back, it was wonderfully quiet. So we read some books and magazines, took naps, and just enjoyed being around each other with no one else in sight.

Canny Crow Overlook

Don’t get me wrong, there were some nice people there on Saturday (one couple we met on Saturday night and then talked to some on Sunday morning at breakfast seemed particularly nice and had a great story about how they’d gotten together), and if we hadn’t been looking for some quiet time I think we’d have really enjoyed hanging out with each other. But instead it was great to just relax. I think we both needed it.

(Oh, and after taking 198 photos, I’ve already deleted 108 of them off the hard drive. And I think only eight of those which remain are actual keepers. Argh. Oh well, at least that’s a higher number than zero, right? Still learning, here.)

Greg the Bartender

Last Friday I worked my last volunteer shift at Artomatic. My first two were a little lackluster; shift #1 was during set-up on a weekend when it was so gorgeous out that the volunteers outnumbered the artists actually setting up by over 2-to-1, and shift #2 was a very quiet 12-5pm shift manning an information booth (that only really picked up in the last hour or so). This time, though, Karon and I (who had unknown to each other ended up with the same final shift) were working a 5-10pm Friday night shift, and were assigned to run the bar on the 1st floor next to the Cabaret Stage.

Waterplanet's Millie LandrumNow, this was admittedly a very rudimentary bar. There were five types of beer, four types of wine, three types of soda, two types of Red Bull, and water. So I’m not talking about us mixing drinks and putting out the shot glasses with hard liquor. And early on it was a tiny bit slow, but that worked well because I got to take a few pictures of the first band to play on the stage that night. But with all of that in mind? We worked our butts off and had an absolute blast; when we left, I turned to Karon and said, “Wow, bartending is where it’s at.”

Part of it was that Karon and I had a pretty good system, coupled with a strong work ethic so that we did things quickly and smoothly; why have a medium-sized line for all eternity when you can work a little harder and end up with little breaks here and there, right? So we hustled to serve people, and rotate in new bottles of beer into the tubs (so that they could cool down), and occasionally restock from the secret beer closet. (In some ways it reminded me of being a cashier at Giant Food way back in the day; there were some who were content to poke through an 8-hour shift every day, but I always felt that I’d rather get people out the door quickly and efficiently.)

But there was more to it than that; there was something enjoyable about interacting with the customers, that shared experience of flashing a smile as you took their orders or popped the caps off of the bottles. They were there to have a good time, and just about everyone was chipper and polite. It helped that (especially once the two 9pm-2am people arrived in the last hour) I wasn’t afraid to go to one side and give the, “Who’s next?” call and wave, and you could tell that the people lining up for their booze were happy to be served quickly. (I will never understand why some bartenders seem content to just ignore half the customers. Great way to earn a tip.)

Alas, we weren’t working for tips, but the number of people who left money in the tip jar (which also went to Artomatic) was pretty darn high. I like to think it was because Karon and I dazzled them with our awesomeness. Or something.

One fun thing to note was that there was a real pecking order in beer selection. From most to least popular—and I won’t deny that I completely approve of this—was something like this:

  • Flying Dog White Belgian-Style
  • Flying Dog Pale Ale
  • Flying Dog Amber Lager
  • Yuengling
  • Miller Lite (of which we only sold one bottle the whole night)

Seriously, it warms my heart that Artomatic patrons don’t want Miller Lite.

So, just another fun, new experience. At the next Artomatic, I think I might try and get all bar shifts if possible. And down the line if I need a career change, well, something to think about.

Two Moments of Hmph (plus One Moment of Victory)

Yesterday, when I got home, I saw another car pulling into the space across from mine (and between me and my apartment). In the passenger seat was a big teenager; I don’t just mean tall, I don’t just mean heavy, I mean big. You know, with that ruddy expression and sullen look and a sense of mass about him. As the other car was pulling in, he was licking a Minute Maid Limeaid Pop—and we are talking huge, exaggerated licks of which you normally only see in a cartoon. I mention all of this because it explains why this guy instantly registered on my radar.

Anyway, they got out of their car, and I got out of mine and fiddled around for a moment with my work bag and such. As I walked by theirs, I noticed that the teenager had dropped the wrapper of his pop on the sidewalk, apparently unable to bring it another 45 seconds towards a trash can. Charming. I knew I had trash to empty, so I figured I’d just pick it up on my way back out in about 20 minutes.

When I headed back out, though, I’d been running late and decided to delay the trash emptying until today. So as I walked by the car with the wrapper on the sidewalk, I scooped up the wrapper—and tucked it under the windshield wiper of the car. Hopefully they got the message.

 

On a non-victorious moment, I hit the morning spinning class today because I already had plans for this evening with my family. And sadly, instead of Barb (who’s been filling in for about two months while they tried to find a new instructor for Wednesday mornings) it was a new woman, Barbara, who’d taken over the slot. And it seems that Barbara’s idea of a good time was playing Jimmy Buffett. As in, probably 35 of the 45 minutes of the class was Jimmy Buffett.

As I loathe Jimmy Buffett’s music with a passion, I have made a mental note that from now on if I know I can’t make the Wednesday night class, I’m re-arranging everything else to hit Monday morning instead. The instructor at that time slot and I have a much closer musical taste. Because, quite frankly, had we been on moving cycles I would’ve contemplated throwing myself in front of another one this morning, in an effort to stop the horrible music from lodging into my head.

There and back again

My original plans for this past weekend were determined a long time ago; Charlie and I would head up to Sag Harbor, New York on Friday so that we could see two dear friends of his get married on Saturday.

Unfortunately, sometimes life throws curveballs at us; in this case, a family member of one of the participants of the wedding becoming ill enough that a postponement of the wedding was necessary. At first it seemed just like the wedding would happen low-key but in Manhattan, but eventually it was scratched entirely. Since we already had our plane tickets, though, we were asked if we could still come up and visit for the weekend.

As it turned out, our role over the weekend really turned into, “Get people out of the hospital visiting room for an hour or two each night” because things had taken a turn for the much worse in the middle of the week. It was an awkward situation to be in—the visitors who are in town at the worst possible time. Part of me knows that they were glad we were there to serve as even a momentary distraction, but at the same time it was hard to not feel horribly out of place.

But on the bright side, it’s not like Charlie and I can’t entertain ourselves. (No, I am not referring to his singing.) We did a little bit of shopping, mostly at Century 21 where I ended up with some new shirts, and at the Strand bookstore. That was fun, but also a tiny bit frustrating at one point because they had a bunch of Ursula K. Le Guin’s re-issued anthologies on the shelves for $4 that came out in 2004, and I could not remember for the life of me which ones I already owned. So Charlie got to watch me dither back and forth on different volumes before finally putting all of them back on the shelf. Ah well. I did go home with a Rick Bayless cookbook that was 70% off, and Patrick McDonnell’s Mutts art book (still in shrink wrap) for 50% off, so it was a nice score.

It also meant that on Saturday I got to pop by MoCCA for a few hours. I honestly hadn’t planned on it until right before I left Friday morning, which meant there was no time to alert anyone or make any real plans. It was a great time, though, talking with people like Jose Villarrubia, Christine Norrie, Mike Dawson, Greg Means, Alex Robinson, Chris Staros, Brett Warnock, and many many more people of whom I am blanking on right now. I ended up with some new mini-comics (including all three issues of Ivy from Sarah Oleksyk, hurrah!) as well as a new sketch in the wine book from Liz Prince. (I need to start posting those again, soon.)

The weekend wasn’t entirely without hiccups, especially on Saturday night when we went to dinner with some others in tow and discovered that the restaurant had no air-conditioning and was, to put it generously, boiling. Ugh. We finally found a place around the corner, but I think everyone was a little grouchy and run down by that point.

Also, we were staying in a brand new hotel from the Thompson group, Gild Hall, which was lovely… even though on Saturday we got a call letting us know that there was “a leak from the room above us” and they were moving our stuff to another room. Eek! Although that actually worked out well for us, as it turned out. While the other room was nice enough, the new one had a living room and a little kitchenette nook. Honestly, if the nook had a stove and oven, I would have cheerfully lived in that hotel room. Seriously. It was that big.

We ended up leaving several hours earlier than planned; our friends were very busy with the familial duties and we felt in the way. We called on Saturday night trying to change our flight home (it’s the Delta Shuttle, it leaves every hour) and were given all sorts of hassle and threats of $100 surcharges. So instead we just went to the airport to check in and were promptly asked, “Would you like to leave three hours earlier?” Why yes, yes we would. See how easy that was? (Our flight home was barely half full.)

Part of me would’ve liked to spend more time in New York, and give a holler to everyone I know in the city to see who could get together. But with the ever-shifting plans and circumstances, that just wasn’t going to happen. Now I’m home to the gentle sound of the dishwasher running. And it’s nice to be back here.