Life's a Slideshow; the camera is just a witness

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Grounded.


I've been grounded.  Not the kind of grounded where you sit in a corner for a time out or lose your TV privileges for a week. No, I received the ‘we have decided that there is no budget for travel’ memo.  So there it is; no more waiting in line to drop off luggage, no more TSA fluffing, and no more amusement via jet lag and cheap drinks.   Writing off subject I found it interesting when you rent a car, the inside smells just like the inside of a plane, especially domestic flights.  That smell, what is that?  It smells like human, the common dominator of all types of body odor trapped in vinyl seats and plastic arm rests.  Imagine the skin oils and dirty sweat ropes condensing over the years in a hot plane cabin or rental car.  Thinking of it that way doesn’t really make business travel appealing.   It’s only appealing to those who have never done it before, it’s like group sex.  Yeah, it sounds good but just make sure you don’t lose your keys.   

I will continue to write, maybe not about travel but people.  People as in people I don’t know, strangers – why, because strangers are hilarious and most of the time they don’t know it.  People that I know are funny but strangers are magic because they could be anyone; the unpredictable, the really bad parking jobs, questionable choice of clothing, you really have no idea what to expect – like that clearance section in the office supply store.

Traveling will be missed; if it wasn’t so challenging I’m sure the memories would remain muted and weak.  Thankfully travel was a banquet full of surprises and leftovers.  There may be a day that I’ll jump back into that winged aluminum people tube, but for now I’ll just watch the planes land and toast the business passengers with a pint of “ha, ha, bitches!”

Until Next Time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Standoff

Didn’t feel like driving so I had them pick me up. You know who they are; those people who drive the special blue van that smells like a taxi cab rear ended a cheap hotel. 5:15am came earlier than expected, then again who expects 5:15am other than insomniacs and the bakery staff. The share rides are like playing Russian Roulette in Canada. I have no idea where the Canadian reference comes in but that’s not important right now. This morning I was the last to be picked up, we made to LAX in record time. The ride there was quiet and dark. The sun wasn’t awake yet and all you could see was the city lights and the dim yellow haze which blanketed the horizon. Our driver was speeding, I am not sure why, maybe he was trying to kill the boredom. It was a stark contrast between the quiet squeaks and muffled road noise inside to the blistering speeds of insanity outside. The guy next to me had his head hung low in near his palms. His face was slightly illumined from the pale blue light of his phone. He was stooped, still and held no expression. The only movements he had were the slight jostles from our economy carriage on this uneven highway; it was like sharing a ride with a modernized zombie.I was waiting for the plane at Gate 32, observing people as they make preparations of flight. There was this toddler that stood out; even being a little guy he had a certain presence. We made eye contact and he gave me that “look”. Oh great, I’ve been marked. Luckily he was quickly distracted by a stuffed animal and laser sounds. Made the usual rounds and found a comfy chair to wait out the remaining time before boarding. I placed my boarding pass on top of my laptop bag, then without warning, that stealthy little toddler showed up at my feet and grabbed my boarding pass. I looked down and he slowly lifted his head and started giggling. For a brief second he became silent, grinned and started to lean to his left as if he was going to make a run for it. I didn’t want to make any sudden movements –afraid he would take off. We locked eyes and remained still; I was in a standoff with a toddler. To my horror he slowly opened his mouth and started to move my boarding pass toward that unretrievable abyss. I placed my hand out as a last ditch effort to resolve our differences, then his parents jumped into the scene retrieved my boarding pass and pacified him with bright colors and a banana. I got up and walked over to the gate and in the faint distance I could hear that little guys giggle. It was an evil, evil, giggle. It was time to head to Atlanta for a layover then to my final destination, Philadelphia. I have talked to many people over the years while on a plane but I will not soon forget passenger 12D.Until Next Time.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Travel Time

So this time I drove, it felt odd not parking in an airport. After logging in just under fifty flights over the last five years one goes into an automatic passenger mode. If I even get near an airport the mind starts churning and mixing like a 1980’s ice cream maker. Airports have a way of conditioning you; the public becomes cattle caught in a twisted Rube Goldberg machine of security check points and over priced croissants. It’s fantastic.

But not today, I am driving to my destination; heading south riding the caustic artery of LA’s 405. Its 4:18am and the sun hasn’t dared to look over the horizon, yet. The road comes fast at this time of day, rolling with the school of big rigs that surround me. I felt like a fly on the back of a wild buffalo caught in a running herd rumbling through the lands. This is the only way to travel.


About halfway to my destination, my throat was dry from the black coffee and my stomach finally woke up. I am sure the stomach was wondering what the hell was going on and why we were up so damn early. I consider myself a morning person but really I think the only reason why one is so energized in the early hours is because they actually are going through shock that in fact they are awake. That is a subject I will get into later but not now. I have to eat. Pulled over, grabbed a bite and made my way south to San Diego.


The traffic coagulated a bit just north of the city but it was quite manageable. The sun started to make the slow climb into the morning sky. Driving through downtown this early is a bit eerie. Quiet, only a handful of people on the streets almost no traffic and most of the street lights hung on solid green. It felt like the entire city was a movie backdrop. Have I entered Fa├žade Diego? Hotel parking was easy but at $26 a day it damn well better be easy. Checked in; they put me at the top floor. It’s a nice view, one of the few times my view didn’t consist of a parking structure or a rusted roof top peppered with air conditioners. Unpacked and took a few minutes to gaze out the window. Small boats dotted the bay while huge military ships were docked nearby. It’s good to be American.


Until Next Time.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Four Hours, 12 Ounces, and Three Years.

The airport was full for a Thursday morning. I mean who travels this early on a Thursday? Glad I got there when I did, the American Airlines terminal was packed will all types of travelers. Waiting at the gate, laptop in hand looking what the weather is in New York, I’m not even going to New York. Holy crap its early - who invented this time anyway? Then it hit me, a child’s toy smacked me in the head, there was a moment of silence which was broken by the hysterical laughter of a toddler. That kind of laugh that only a child has, a mix of hysteria and evil. You can’t be mad because laughing is one of the few contagious things that you don’t mind being around. I turned to my left and there she was, maybe three or four. The child had crazy hair like a static bomb exploded in a blond factory. She smiled and gave me that eye; I knew she was planning something.

We boarded the plane; someone was sitting in my seat. The guy requested that we switch seats so he could sit next to his son. So I took his seat on the other side, which of course was right behind the little girl who hit me in the head with her inflatable bat. It seems her plan is coming to fruition. When I set down I looked up and saw her little fingers wrap over the top of the seat, her head slowly creeped up and as soon as we made eye contact she started that evil chuckle. Great, the three year old toddler with crazy hair knows I’m here – within striking distance.

All was quiet in 35a until about halfway into the four hour flight. Catastrophe stuck. I had a glass full of Ginger Ale sitting on the place mat in front of me. Then without warming the icy cold beverage from Canada decided to commit suicide just as I was pulling out a magazine. For my convenience the ginger ale chose my lap as a good place to end its life. Now here is where things start to get interesting. I am wearing tan pants, not jeans but cotton pants that are tan. Hey look my lap now look likes the bladder has gone full release. Great, now what - the girl next to me had that look of awkward disgust. The first words out my mouth was “Did you see that? A typhoon just flew in my pants!” Almost on cue, the toddler sitting in front of me poked her head over the seat and started laughing in the the language of Hysterics.

Two hours to go, sitting in a wet seat with wet pants. I then realized that in this situation with no change of clothes nearby there really isn’t anything I can do. Using the air nozzle to dry my pants was a valiant but feeble effort. All I could do is wait and think about dry things.

Until Next Time

Monday, November 8, 2010

This taxi gets five near death experiences per mile.

It’s another one of those coast jumper trips, you know the drill – wait in line to be frisked by underpaid blue gloved TSA agents. I carry network equipment with me, lots of it. It’s the arteries of my occupation and a direct path to my financial well being. It’s sensitive in nature so in no way am I going to ship it, especially UPS (can’t trust those brown short wearing ship jockey’s). Where was I? Oh yeah, the airport. Due to my amazing luck and the equipment I tether TSA loves me. When my bag runs through the x-ray scanner it takes at least three agents to look at the screen and ponder. I think they get excited because it gives them something to do and the profile of my bag looks like cables attached to a bomb that looks suspiciously like a Cisco router; and lord knows they can’t let a Cisco router on board an airplane.

My taxi ride to the hotel had more turbulence then an elephant’s fart. I should have known what I was getting into when the taxi driver sped up to the curb and slammed on his breaks sliding about three feet past me. The door seemed stuck and I couldn’t get it open, then I heard the taxi driver say, “just kick it a few times!”. Sure enough, have damage will travel. When getting into the minivan disguised as a cab I noticed open hand prints on the inside of the windows – these looked like marks made from someone getting a panic attack. I knew then, I was in the right cab. The ride to the hotel was one of the most memorable cab rides I have had in years. This guy missed his calling; his driving characteristics were somewhere between a circus act, stunt driver and a crash test dummy. We were on the freeway when an ambulance flew by; he proceeded to follow the emergency vehicle like an attached rail car. It was more vehicular sodomy then tailgating. In and out of traffic he followed the sirens like a piece of cheese hung from a wire. After a while I am assuming the speeding ambulance was too slow so he passed it and moved on. He was changing multiple lanes and cutting people off but what was crazy to me was how calm his demeanor was. Casually moving the steering wheel while a violent fate was making chase. The pure horror locked the muscles in my face and I couldn’t stop smiling. One hand had a death grip on the seat while the other..oh yes, I too was giving the window a panicked high five. The ride came to a halt like air brakes on an old rollercoaster. My head nearly hit the seat in front of me. I told him his driving was awesome and tipped nicely. He smiled and yelled, “top gun!” while giving me the thumbs up. I wanted to come back with a witty response like “mustard!” but my body was still going through shock from the previous 27 near-death experiences.

This trip has definitely started on the right path.

Until Next Time

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

left overs

There was this old man (had to be in his late 70s) I used to work with at my first job. He was bald, had a faded navy seal tattooed on his forearm and smoked Lucky Strikes as if they were a life-source. His name was Vince; he worked in the plumbing department at H&E in Hesperia (a local hardware store that smelled like lumber, grease, soil and sweat. It was cooled by giant swamp coolers so everything felt moist. Every time the desert winds would blow into the store through the automatic doors you could feel your skin shrink under the contrast of environments. Most days I sat with him during lunch and he would tell stories of the war or some adventure he had while stationed in Europe. Although I could not tell which story was actually true he always had a message that went with each of his captivating chronicles.

My favorite story was about his good friend “James”. Now James was married, however he was not pleased with his wife. He would bark it up with Vince at the local tavern and tell these horrible stories about his wife. “She couldn’t care less about me – all she does is gripe about money and how useless I am!” This went on and on for several years but James never left, he just hoped that someday it would get better. It was a Saturday, the yard was mowed and the heavy scent of freshly cut grass filled the air. Vince decided to quench his thirst at the tavern before Marge (his wife of 20 years) got home. When he got to the tavern to his surprise he saw his pal James sitting at the bar. “I think she’s cheat’n on me Vince!!” James yelled with a drunken stagger. “Now hold on there Jimmy what’s the matter?” Vince kept the next Scotch from getting near James. “one of these days…I’ll leave her! I mean it!! – Now bug off I need some air!” James stumbled out the door to the blinding light of the sun. He then heard was sounded like a horn..but then it was too late. Without warning a bus that suffered a blown tire ran up the sidewalk and in an instant knocked the life out of James.

“That was it? That was the story?” I asked. Vince took a deep drag from his filter-less cigarette and sighed. “Now you see James hated his situation but he never left. The longer he stayed the more impossible it seemed to leave. Even when his wife took an interest to the pool guy, he never left. Til that one day a bus drove by and killed him. So if you are ever in a bad situation; leave as soon as you can, or you’ll never see the bus coming.”

Until Next Time.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lanyards and The Fall of Axiom

Lanyards; these are given as a form of identification in the congresses I travel to. They are much more than just a fancy piece of vinyl that is held at the neck, they are more like badges of honor. Something you receive for spending hours in airports, cramped in coach seats, waiting in line to be strip searched by TSA and not to mention the ridiculous work hours while under the influence of jet lag. In airport bars you can make strangers in to friends within a hour but you’ll forget who they were in minutes. Traveling for work is a twisted love story of random events and sterno heated chicken kabobs. A never ending tale of fatigue driven lunacy and time zone lobotomy.

Dull moments can last forever or never happen – at the same time. The hotel staff are the ghost of service; always moving tables, setting up food dispensaries and distributing linens – they are often seen but rarely present. The pungency of taxi drivers, sounds of the street philosophers and the sights of community college bar maids all play a part in this act; a perpetual sequel to a play that has yet been written. The immune system is always under siege and the feeling of “almost sick” is often standard procedure within these grounds.

It’s not romantic, polished or divine. Your never in a place it’s more of a state of mind. Keeping the brain true to the task at hand while dealing with fatigue, hotel nutrition and a hangover can be a challenge but after awhile it all goes numb. Thursdays are Mondays, Fridays are Tuesdays and today will happen sometime tomorrow. Try waking up in a cold sweat because you're late for the meeting only to find out it’s 3am because your mind thinks it’s still in another time zone. After the panic subsides you toss and turn trying to get back in to a hold of sleep only to be awaken again by environment unfamiliarity and the adultery happening next door. Hotels are only familiar due to repetition, the smells and paid smiles are often the same. Bad air fresheners’ and stale cold air being pumped through the vents are just part this element. The rest made up of controlled situations with an uncontrollable circumstance.

The experience of the traveler is feeling out of place; and that’s core of why I’m here. It’s something you look forward to as much as you want it to end, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Until Next time.