Bring your own fork

September 30, 2005 - Friday

 The View From Home

It occurs to me that I keep posting views from all the hotel rooms I stay in, but I’ve never posted the view from my favorite lodging of all: home. So here it is, the view from my front door:

My favorite view

I’m not going to post a pre-pigsty “Room From Here” shot because I “checked in” yesterday, so it’s already a pigsty.


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September 28, 2005 - Wednesday

 The View From Herndon

Don’t fuck with Baltimore, I’m here to tell you. Literally. Here. Stuck.

After talking all kinds of shit about Baltimore in my last entry and on the phone with Beth and over lunch and dinner with the coworker I’m out here with… Well, apparently Baltimore didn’t take too kindly to it. And so to punish me, Baltimore has made me stay. Technically I’m in Herndon, VA, at the Dulles Airport Hilton, but figuratively I’m still in Baltimore.

First I got hung up at work and didn’t leave when I planned. My flight was at 7:03 and my hit-the-road-at-4:00 plan would have gotten me there, only I didn’t leave until about 4:30. Then I couldn’t find the frickin’ airport. Three thousand fucking highways they have here — all ending in 95 (95, 495, 695, 395, etc.), by the way — and they can’t put a fucking sign up on any of them saying “This way to the airport”? Then I finally pulled a cop over (Ha — I pulled him over instead of vice versa. Who’da thunk it?) to ask for help and the fucker gives me directions that have me getting off the 495 about a mile before a huge (and the only) big-ass sign saying “This way to the airport” and instead going 20 minutes out of my way in crawling bumper-to-bumper traffic. Then I finally got going the right way and got stopped by every red light on the way to return my rental car. Then the rental car shuttle driver decided he needed to stare into space for ten minutes while a busload of people waited before finally driving over to the terminal. And as a result of all that, I got to the check-in counter for my 7:03 flight at about 6:40 and the agent wouldn’t check me in — I had missed the 30 minute cut-off. And this was their last flight of the day.

But I’m an intrepid traveler. A little thing like missing the last flight doesn’t stop me. So I took my ticket over to United, who had a flight to LA in two hours, to see about trading it in over there. First I had to wait in a short line to speak to an agent. But we were waiting because of the amateur-hour traveler at the counter, who was unpacking and repacking and unpacking and repacking all of her overstuffed bags in a vain attempt to distribute her voluminous piles of crap across her multiple bags in a such a way that every single one of them wouldn’t be subject to an over-weight penalty fee. And after waiting for about 15 minutes, another agent finally called me over and then interrupted me halfway into my “I missed my American flight and want to see if I can trade my ticket in here” spiel to tell me that I needed to go to the ticketing window on the other side of the kiosk. So first I headed off in the direction she pointed, and 50 yards later discovered there was no exit in that direction and I had to go the other way. So I walked the 50 yards back, and then another 10 yards to go around the other end of the kiosk, only to find a line 100 people long. So I got in line. And waited. And waited. And waited. And finally I stepped out of line and got pushy and interrupted someone and asked another agent if she could at least check to see if there were any open seats on the LA flight so I’d know if waiting to trade my ticket in was a waste of time or not. Her response? Oh, you’re in the wrong line. You need go to ticketing, 50 yards down on this side of the kiosk.

So I headed over there and got in the right line. A short line, just three or four people in front of me. But we were waiting on the world’s stupidest ticketing agent who was helping the world’s second stupidest passenger (the world’s first stupidest passenger was on the other side of the kiosk packing and repacking her bags) with some incredibly complicated ticketing scenario that involved much staring into space and listening to the telephone and generally ignoring the growing line of passengers needing help. And when I finally got to the counter to do my spiel about trading my ticket in, the agent interrupted me about 5 words in to say that he wouldn’t (wouldn’t, not couldn’t) take it because American hadn’t “endorsed” it. So I was fucked. Stuck at Dulles Airport.

Back to American, where they put me on the stand-by list for the first flight out tomorrow at 7:55. But stand-by, not confirmed, which means I might not get on the flight at all. Only way to know for sure is to show up in the morning — 90 minutes early — and cross my fingers. But I was in luck: they could get me a distressed passenger rate at the Embassy Suites: only $130. Such a deal. And they’ll even send a shuttle for me. Just go half a mile to the shuttle area and wait — it’ll be there in 20 minutes.

45 minutes later, after watching shuttles for every hotel under the sun — including friggin’ low rent Days Inn — come and go with no sign of the Embassy Suites shuttle, I gave up. I called Hilton — because their shuttle had come and gone four times by that point — and worked the system. I used my high-level frequent flier Hilton status and 25,000 of my carefully hoarded Hilton points for a complimentary room. So it was free, only not really.

So here I am at the Hilton. But the fun hasn’t stopped yet. First, I’m starving, so I wanted to order some room service. Only guess what? There wasn’t a menu in my room. But no problem, the front desk will send one up in 5 minutes. 20 minutes later it got here. So I ordered some food but balked at their $2.00 price for a soft drink. Instead, I asked them to send the server up with change for a $5 so I could get a drink from the machine down the hall. The food got here pretty quickly but the server didn’t have my singles. Too bad for him: no tip for you!

So I grabbed my five, grabbed my room key, and headed down to the bar to get change. I came back upstairs and found the Coke machine was behind a locked door that my room key wouldn’t open, and it took me a minute to figure out why. When I first came into my room I had thrown my room key on the counter by the door, along with the three room keys I forgot to turn in when I checked out of my other hotel this morning. Three guesses which room key I took downstairs with me. Meanwhile, my food is up in my room that I can’t get into, getting cold.

Back down to the front desk for a new room key. Only guess what? No ID — that’s in the room too, and the desk clerk wants to see it before he’ll give me a key. I finally convinced him I was me by answering a number of security-type questions, the trickiest of which was: “What’s your last name?”

Back upstairs and into the heavily guarded Coke machine room. I feed my dollar bills into the machine and begin to make my selection. I want a Diet Pepsi, and wonder of wonders this machine has Pepsi products. It has several bottles of regular Pepsi and one bottle of what looks like it might be Diet Pepsi, only the label is turned away from me so I can’t read it. But it has a different colored cap and there’s a Pepsi logo on the back label, so I figured it’s a Diet Pepsi. So I buy it. And a Lipton Brisk Lemon Iced Tea comes out. I gave up. I took it.

So now I’m fed and watered and internetted and watching TV and about to be bedded down for the night in a bed rather than on the floor at the airport, so things could be worse. But on the other hand, there’s a long black non-pubic hair clinging to the toilet rim in my bathroom right now — and I’m bald. So Baltimore clearly still has me in its crosshairs.

But what the fuck. I’m in another hotel, so here’s the requisite “View From Here” picture, the view from Herndon, VA:

And a new feature I think I’m going to start doing, “The Room From Here” — what the room looks like when I first check in, before I turn it into a pigsty. So here’s tonight’s room:

Don’t fuck with Baltimore. Seriously.


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September 27, 2005 - Tuesday

 The View From Baltimore

Not much more to say now than: “Baltimore. Been there, done that.”

I’m not loving it here. First, nobody on the freeway here can seem to drive faster than 60. Second, all the stupid restaurants around my hotel close at 10:00 and I didn’t get in ’til 11:00 — because nobody around here can seem to drive faster than 60. Third, I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night. Not one. It was too quiet. Fourth… Eh, fuck it. Baltimore isn’t worth this much effort.

I’m coming home tomorrow night. I wish it was tonight.


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September 22, 2005 - Thursday

 Caller #9 on the Soap Line…

I know you’re all avidly listening to the No Soap Radio podcast and I know you’re on the edge of your seats waiting for us to release the next episode. Thing is, we haven’t recorded it yet. But we’re going to get right on that — tonight, maybe, or maybe Friday. Definitely by this weekend. But maybe tonight. Maybe.

But we need your help. I want to include listener voicemails in the podcast and for that to happen we need to actually receive a few. We do have one at this point, from the eloquent El Guapo, but we need more. We need yours. So do me a favor and call the Soap line right now at (206) 339-SOAP (7627) and leave us a message.

I know, I know: you’re asking yourself right now, “But Chuck, what should I say in my message?” Well, obviously you could tell us how fabulous we are, that’s a given. But if you need more than that, try leaving a question for the Magic Date Ball. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a dating question (Personally, my dating advice is always “Dump her!”), it just has to be a yes or no question. Or maybe you could anonymously reveal a secret about yourself. Or confess to a murder. Or… Well, hell, I don’t know, it’s your message. But just call us, okay? We’ll stick your message in the podcast and make you a stah, baby, a stah.

(206) 339-SOAP. Give us a call.


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September 15, 2005 - Thursday

 One More On The Road

I think I dodged a bullet today.

I’ve been sober for so long that I’ve lost track, something like nineteen years now. I can remember my last drink vividly. I was at an El Torito restaurant with my buddy Mike watching an NFL playoff game — Denver against … somebody. I was coming off a series of serious personal fuckups and crises that all revolved around me and my unhealthy love of alcohol, and I had been entertaining the notion that maybe, just maybe, I should quit drinking.

So Mike and I are watching the game and I’m drinking a Corona and Mike says “Let’s go” and gets up to leave. In a situtation like that, halfway through a beer and heading for the door, my standard practice was to guzzle the rest of the beer, kill it. Leave half a beer behind? What, are you nuts?

This time I just put it down, got up, and walked away. I knew in that moment that that was my last drink. I didn’t think about it, but it wasn’t a snap decision. It was just… time. I just didn’t want it any more.

It’s been something like 19 years since I put that beer down, and it really was my last one. I went the first month on my own, then started going to AA after I had 30 days and went nearly daily and was very active in it for a year or so. But then I started slipping away from the meetings and the people, but I never started up drinking again. I had quit and that was it.

But as time has gone by I’ve started to wonder if I really was an alcoholic or if I was just a 24-year old kid with too much time on his hands and not enough to do. I think there’s a little core deep down inside me that thinks I was making a mountain out of a molehill and that now, as an adult with maturity and self control and blah-blah-blah, I could “drink responsibly.” That I could control it.

Those of you readers who are AA or know the principles, you know how fucked up that is, but also how predictable. AA likes to say that alcoholism is sneaky, that it lies in wait, that it’s always waiting to bite you in the ass, that it makes you think exactly the kind of shit I’ve started thinking. And I’ve known that, but dismissed it. Just like AA says we’ll do.

So today I came face-to-face with it. My boss and I are on the road up here in Vancouver, training at a client site. These people we’re training are very laid back, very fun, and very casual. And as we started winding the training down, one of them made a wine run. And I started thinking.

I’ve been tempted over the years, especially with the kind of thinking I’ve been indulging, but I’ve resisted the urge. I’ve figured that even if I’m not an alcoholic, I’ve gone nearly 20 years without booze, so why start back up again now? Doesn’t the fact that I want to suggest that I “need” to and thus that I’m alcoholic? And I’ve agreed with myself on that — sort of — and said “no.”

But today… Suddenly a glass of white wine sounded really good. I was never much of a wine drinker — beer, vodka tonics, 7&7s, and tequila were my flavors — but I did enjoy a jug of white now and then with my old girlfriend Kelli. And now suddenly a glass of white sounded good. Really fucking good.

So I decided I’d leave it up to chance: I decided if they came back with red, then that was a sign and I’d just say no. But if they came back with white, that left it open to interpretation. And so I turned to WAMCO (the Wise And Mighty Coin Of destiny) and flipped a coin — heads for do it, tails for don’t. And it came up heads.

And I felt my decision had been made, sort of. I was a little excited and anticipatory that, wow, I was going to taste wine again! But I was also a little nervous that I was going to be drinking again. But come on, I was a 24-year old kid who was just out of control. I’m an adult now, I can handle it.

But while half my brain had a nervous little party, the other half was running worst-case scenarios about what would happen if it turned out I really was an alcoholic and ended up totally out of control again. And so I sat there listening to this internal cocaphony while my boss continued training and I totally zoned out of everything but the noise in my head and wasn’t even in the room anymore.

And when the wine-runner got back with both red and white and interrupted my reverie to ask which I wanted, habit or instinct or providence or something took over. And I said “No thanks, I don’t drink” without even thinking about it.

Fuck. That was close.

Obviously, I have some issues to work out. And while “Get to a meeting” is the most obvious piece of advice that some of you are muttering to the screen right now, I know myself well enough to know that I won’t. What I will do, I don’t know. But I know that I won’t be drinking. Today scared me.


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September 13, 2005 - Tuesday

 Stick It In Your Ear

First we did journals: Stitches in Time and chuck’stake.
Then we did blogs: Diary of a SubUrban Housewife and the pie-filled lunchroom you’re currently enjoying.
Now we’ve gone podcast with No Soap Radio.

Would there be any content on the internets without us??? I think not.

Anyway, check it out. You can subscribe to the feed here, or you can find us in iTunes.

Woo.


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 The View From Vancouver

Greetings from Vancouver, B.C.

I’m here through Thursday, staying at the “Sandman Suites on Davie,” in Room 804 if you feel like stalking. They tell me there’s a really nice view of English Bay from this hotel, but I wouldn’t know – my room is on the other side of the hotel. But I do have a great view of the roofs of the neighboring buildings and some condos across the way, so I’ve got that going for me. Check it out, it’s the ever-popular View From Here:

The Sandman Suites presents well down in the lobby, but up here in the rooms it’s a bit cramped. The bedroom, for example, is not only so small you have to step out of it to change your mind, it’s so small I couldn’t zoom out far enough with my camera to take a picture illustrating how small it is. Even at full zoom-out, all I could get was a viewfinder full of wall. But there’s a bed in there – a queen – so I guess I can’t complain. Much.

The pool is quite nice, though. Or it looks like it will be when they finish building it:

Vancouver itself, though, seems nice. I haven’t seen much of it yet, just what I could glimpse out of the cab’s window, but it seems nice. Parts of it sort of vaguely remind me of Manhattan on the Upper East Side (or is that the Lower West Side?) (or mid-town?) as you’re coming in over the bridge from JFK. Or is it Boston I’m reminded of? Or Dallas? No, definitely not Dallas, there’re no bridges there. But some urban area, somewhere. One with lots of tall buildings. And bridges.

Whatever, it’s nice. Beth, be advised: I’m checking real estate prices.


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September 11, 2005 - Sunday

 9/11 + 4

wtc.jpg


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September 4, 2005 - Sunday

 Homeland Insecurity

What happened/is happening down in New Orleans right now is a perfect example of what an utter failure Bush is and what bullshit his “defending America” rhetoric has been.

Consider this:

  • New Orleans is (was) the #4 seaport in the US and thus a prime terrorist target.
  • Bush and his Department of Homeland Security have taken protecting us from terrorist attack as their sacred duty and #1 priority.
  • If terrorists wanted to strike a serious blow to US shipping, oil production, the economy and morale, drowning New Orleans would be an excellent way to do it.
  • The surest way to drown New Orleans would be to blow holes in the levees surrounding it.
  • Any Department of Homeland Security worth its salt would surely have plans in place to respond decisively if such an attack took place to minimize its impact.

I won’t connect the dots for you; I have faith that my readers are smart enough to do that on their own.

They’ve had four years — FOUR YEARS — to prepare for an emergency of this magnitude and this is what they’ve come up with? I can’t see how anyone, not even the most die-hard Kool-Aid drinker, can continue to have any confidence in this Administration after what we’ve seen in New Orleans.


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September 1, 2005 - Thursday

 Katrina

I keep hearing the term “natural disaster,” that Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst “natural disasters” in our nation’s history, that the devastation in New Orleans is a “natural disaster.” Yes, this is a disaster, and yes, it is natural, given that water likes to flow downhill and much of New Orleans is below sea level.

But this is not a natural disaster. It is a federal disaster and the blame for it sits squarely on President Bush’s shoulders.

For ten years, the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project has been under way, with the Army Corps of Engineers spending $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations. After 2003, federal SELA spending dropped to a trickle. In 2004, Bush proposed spending less than 20% of what was needed for Lake Pontchartrain. The “war” in Iraq, homeland “security,” federal tax cuts — all these things were more important than protecting New Orleans from a “natural disaster.” And now New Orleans is underwater, a federal disaster.

People are dying there. People are starving there. People are trapped there. People are in desperation there. New Orleans is in anarchy. And where is the government? Where is FEMA? Where is any fucking help for these people at all??? We can “rebuild” a country that doesn’t want us there, but we can’t care for our own citizens, we can’t save our own people, we can’t count on our President to do anything more than mouth empty platitudes about how it’s going to be “hard work.”

I am furious and I am disgusted.

If you’ve ever gotten even a smile out of reading these pages, you can pay me back by donating to the Red Cross. Those people in the South need more help than they’re ever going to get from Bush. They need our help. So let’s help them.


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Banned from Burbank.

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