Bring your own fork

May 30, 2006 - Tuesday

 The View From Lexington, KY

Greetings from the “Horse Capital of the World,” aka Lexington, Kentucky. The hotel brochure claims that we are “in the heart of Kentucky Bluegrass Country” and who am I to argue? It’s pretty so far — very green (but not so much blue, actually), white fences, even a few horses. And Waffle Houses for days, which you know is always a plus. I think I’ll stay until Thursday.

I’m staying at yet another Hampton Inn (gotta keep racking up those Hilton HHonors points — this trip should put me over the top into “Gold” status), where the view may change the rooms really never do. Here’s the view from Room 513:

The View from Lexington, KY

Notice the signage popping up over the roof of the neighboring Ramada Inn looming just six inches outside my window. Why, it’s a Waffle House! Within walking distance! Cue the angel music.

And here, enjoy the room too:

The Room in Lexington, KY

Remarkably similar to the Room in Atlanta … and Erie … and Hunt Valley … and … well, you get it. They all look the same, they start to blend, don’t they? But at least it’s not Motel 6. Their views really suck.


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May 17, 2006 - Wednesday

 More Views From “Richardson” aka Dallas

So regarding the View From Here picture from yesterday of the little hottie sunbathing by the pool. I lied, I didn’t really take 64 pictures of her. But I did take a few. Just to test my digital zoom. Honest. Here’s how effective the 3x digital zoom on my camera is:

Good View From Dallas

I offer this photo only to contrast the next one. I wrapped up work early today and when I got back to my room and looked out the window, I was greeted by this:

Bad View from Dallas

That’s just wrong. Not that he’s sunbathing, but that he’s doing it right outside my window. With his shorts hiked up. And with his hairy back. And his callousy feet and gross toes. And… And I think I’ve spent entirely too much time looking at his picture. That’s why I had to post the hottie — to cleanse the palate, so to speak.

And finally, a goofy picture of me. It gets boring out here on the road and you find your entertainment where you can. This is me watching American Idol last night. I think this is shortly before I put on my “Catch the McPheever” pin.

Bored View from Dallas

I need to get back home.


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May 16, 2006 - Tuesday

 The View From Richardson, TX

I’m back in the birthplace of Waffle House and Pappadeaux: Dallas, TX. Well, Richardson, TX actually, but who’s counting? And fine, okay, so Dallas/Richardson/Plano/whatever may not really be where Waffle House and Pappadeaux got started, but it’s where I first experienced these two fine examples of culinary excellence, so they’re what Dallas says to me.

Anyway.

So I’m here in Dallas. Just outside Dallas, in Richardson. Which is right next to Plano, where the client is and where I’m working, only my hotel is in Richardson. Which is a suburb of Dallas. Which is where I am, minus the long explanation. Land of Waffle House and Pappadeaux, as previously established.

Dinner last night was the ever-Waffle-icious Texas Cheesestake sandwich plate with the hash browns scattered, smothered, covered, and chunked at my favorite restaurant in the world, Waffle House. Tonight it’ll be crawfish etouffe at my other favorite restaurant in the world, Pappadeaux. Tomorrow will be hospital cottage cheese and jello after I’m admitted to the ER for completely clogged arteries and coronary disease. And cramping cheek muscles from a permanent ear-to-ear smile.

But for now, here’s the view:

The View from Richardson, TX

Notice the young blonde hottie sunbathing by the pool. I felt like a total perv, taking her picture all surreptitious-like. But if I’m going to be honest, I guess I have to admit that taking 65 pictures was excessive. I’m kidding, it was only 64. But I should have stopped at 40. Everything past that was pervy.

…and here’s the room:

The Room in Richardson, TX

And now I’m off to either see a movie or buy a mask at Scuba Toys or shop for a Road King or … whatever.


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May 14, 2006 - Sunday

 You’ve Got Mail!

I went over to my old buddy Steve’s house yesterday to help him out with setting up his new podcast, The Membrane. It’s really good stuff, I recommend it highly. He only has one episode up so far, but it’s really well done and has that certain… Steve-ness about it that made Evaporation so great. This is going to be one to listen to, I guarantee.

Anyway, while I was over there, Steve played for me the sound file he’s been using as his email notification alert. He was over here at my house awhile back, recording interviews with me and Beth to use on The Membrane, and he got a little bit of me in the background while he was interviewing Beth, which is what he’s using for the email. I think email is not a happy thing for El Steve.

Check it out: Steve’s got mail.


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May 10, 2006 - Wednesday

 The View From Atlanta, GA

This is supposed to be the View From Huntsville, AL, but Delta Airlines didn’t cooperate tonight. I missed my connecting flight here at ATL (by about 3 minutes, fuckinghelldammit), so now I get to write to you from Room 320 of the palatial (and really not all that bad if I’m being honest) Wellesely Inn & Suites hotel. For free, thankyewverymuch — not that Delta wanted to spring for it.

In a perfect world, I would have had about an hour and a half between flights when connecting through Atlanta tonight, giving me plenty of time to make my flight to Huntsville. But Atlanta got a little rain today, and when it rains in Atlanta Air Traffic Control loses their freakin’ mind and start diverting and cancelling flights. So my flight’s departure time out of Cleveland was delayed. First for 15 minutes, then for 30, and the final tally was nearly two hours. But still, if the flight had left when they tried to leave at the 2 hour mark, I would have made my connection. Close, running-through-the-terminal close, but doable.

But then the airplane wouldn’t start. I shit you not: they couldn’t start the engine. So they brought in an “aircar” that was supposed to somehow magically invoke a mighty wind that would huff and puff and blow the engine into starting. (But it probably wasn’t nearly as erotic as that sounded.) But the first aircar they got wasn’t a pro — couldn’t… um… “blow” hard enough. So they brought in the Big Momma aircar and she blew that engine good! Started it right up.

But it took half an hour, which ate into pretty much every second of flex time I had to dash from this flight to the next one once we got to Atlanta. And then when we finally got to Atlanta, they couldn’t park the freakin’ plane — our gate was occupied and we sat on the tarmac for another 20 minutes.

So the end of that part of the story is that when I finally got into the terminal and did my OJ run to my gate (the Hertz OJ run, not the crazy knife-wielding OJ run), I got there just in time to watch my flight leave. Last flight of the night, too.

Well.

So I’m stuck in Atlanta for the night. And I needed a hotel room. But here’s the thing about missing a flight and needing a room: the airlines don’t like to pay for it, even when it’s their fault. And they don’t have to pay if they can claim “force majeur” (aka “weather”). Which they tried to do in my case. Until I gave the nuclear smackdown to an escalating food chain of customer “service” agents who all tried to say “no” until I got to the top dog guy in the goofy red jacket. And I politely started my conversation with him by saying “I should warn you, I’m not going to take no for an answer” and then I proceeded to calmly explain that while my flight was indeed delayed by weather in the first place, I would have made the connection anyway if the freakin’ plane had started. Which was clearly a mechanical problem, and not weather. And that I still might have made my connection if my plane had been able to park once it got here. Which was clearly a parking problem, and not weather.

So to make a long story short, I am typing this in my comped room. And I get to go back to the airport tomorrow morning to try to fly standby on the 8 am flight, because I have 12 clients in Huntsville, AL who are expecting me to show up at 8 am tomorrow to train them. Fun, fun, fun.

Anyway, here’s the view…

Atlanta, GA

And here’s the room…

Atlanta, GA

And now I’m off to bed.


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May 9, 2006 - Tuesday

 The View From Erie, PA

Greetings from room 202 of the Hampton Inn Erie South in Erie, PA. I somehow managed to get this room at a special rate — the Reflections of Lake Erie package, but I have no idea what the deal behind it is.

I booked the room online and selected the “best rate” option and this popped up at the same cost as the regular rate, but with a few bottles of wine and an in-room movie for free. When you use the words like “included at no cost,” then you’re speaking my language, so I’m staying here on the Reflections of Lake Erie package. Too bad I don’t drink — I have vouchers for three free bottles of wine from a local winery. The bad news, though: it’s a local winery. But I also have that free movie waiting, so tonight is Decision Time: King Kong, Big Momma’s House 2, or porn. It’s a tough call…

In the meantime, here’s the View From Here pictures for you to enjoy while I browse the “Adult Desires” selections (The Contractor, Xtra Filthy Sex, and Do My Slutty Wife, among others) and see if the maid left any hand cream in the bathroom.

Here’s the room:

Erie, PA

And here’s the view:

Erie, PA

And now… Movie Time!


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May 5, 2006 - Friday

 The Dude Abides

We have altogether too many pets. We have three dogs: Billy, Suki, and Sammy. We have 5.5 cats: Sparkle, Cosmo, Wanda, Nina, Oliver, and March, who basically moved out and just lives in the neighborhood now but checks in with us periodically. And we also have a bunch of fish, but fish don’t count because they live in a bowl. So counting the animals that count, we have 8.5 pets. Way too fucking many.

So I’ve put my foot down. Absolutely no more pets. No bunnies, no hamsters, no rats, no snakes, no birds, no more dogs and expecially no more cats. Well, except for this one:

The Dude

Meet our newest cat. His name isn’t locked in yet, but I’m calling him “The Dude” for now because he abides. Other cats? No problem. Dogs? No problem. Sammy the Jack Russell Terrier getting right up in his face and tasting him? No problem. He just sits there purring no matter what happens. As The Stranger said in The Big Lebowski, “The Dude abides.”

I found him at the local pound last Saturday. One of our other cats, Cosmo, disappeared for a few days (as she is wont to do) and I started to have a bad feeling about her being gone, so I went to the shelter to look for her. She wasn’t there (she’s since turned up at home), but The Dude was. And something about him got to me.

His tag said he’s 13 and that his previous owner surrendered him because they were moving and he had a big head and he was really friendly and… I kept thinking about him. 13 years old, a housepet all his life, but now toward the end he was abandoned to the shelter and was going to end his life in a cage. That didn’t sit right with me. So all week long, he’s been on my mind. And yesterday, at 4:45, i said “Fuck it, I’m taking him.” So I left work early, went to the shelter, and adopted him.

So now we have 9.5 pets. And I am absolutely putting my foot down: NO MORE PETS.

I mean it this time.


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May 3, 2006 - Wednesday

 Whiteboard Graffiti

The Sales team here at the office has a whiteboard on which they frequently write “inspirational” messages that, while they are no doubt deeply profound and life-changing to the sales staff, are impenetrably baffling for the rest of us. But the white board seems to have fallen out of favor in recent weeks, because it’s had the same message posted on it for weeks now:

“I’ll get you, Harry Potter!” — Lord V.

Every day I come in and look at that, and every day it just seems … incomplete. So yesterday, I completed it. I added a line to it:

“You’ll get me what? A prezzie???” — Harry P.

No one else in the office has noticed. They probably never will. But every time I walk by and see it now, I get a secret little smile out of it.


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May 1, 2006 - Monday

 Justice Man!!!

My new superhero name is Justice Man, because I’ve been on jury duty for the past week, and every morning as I left for court Beth would tell me, “Have a nice day, honey. Do justice!” And justice I did. Because I am … Justice Man!!!

I reported for jury service last Monday, along with a couple hundred other jury pool losers. (Star sighting: Janel Moloney (Donna Moss) of West Wing was there too, only I don’t know if she was picked for a jury. She probably played her Hollywood Celeb card and skated.) Me and about 30 other schmoes were rounded up and sent to one of the courtrooms, and by the end of the day 12 of us were on the jury (I was #12) and the attorneys were already doing opening statements.

The case I was on was a civil matter in the L.A. Superior Court. The parties were a landlord and a doctor who was renting office space. The doctor owed a buttload of back rent, and when the landlord sued him for it the doctor counter-sued them for $1.5 million in lost profits, alleged that the deteriorating state of the building led to him losing patients and thus the lost profits.

The opening statements. Oy… One attorney’s opening statement was straight out of a David E. Kelly drama, citing Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth and telling us that “There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear — but you’ll know exactly what it is after I present my case.” Talk about cheesy. I almost groaned listening to it. It was a harbinger of things to come.

We heard testimony from the doctor and the landlord and other witnesses for the rest of the week and the case boiled down to these points:

  • The doctor owed a metric buttload of back rent: $50,000+
  • The building was slightly better than a slum: frequently broken elevators, hot air conditioning and cold heating, smelly corridors, gross bathrooms, drug dealers and buyers in the lobby — basically, your basic South-Central L.A. medical center.
  • Fewer and fewer patients came to the doctor’s office over the years — he claimed it was because of the elevators and air conditioning and general poor condition of the building.
  • Because his patient base was dropping, the doctor was seeking more than $1.5 million in lost profits
  • The doctor claimed he “wanted” to pay his rent but didn’t because A) he didn’t feel he was obligated to because his lease was with the previous landlord, and B) the building was falling apart.
  • The doctor claimed he’d been slandered when the landlord told one of the doctor’s employees that “You people are liars and you don’t pay your bills.”

Both sides rested on Friday, gave their final arguments this morning, and then me and my fellow jurors deliberated for about four hours until we reached our verdict this afternoon. Unfortunately for the doctor, we didn’t go for his story.

  • We didn’t think he’d been slandered because he is a liar and he didn’t pay his bills — especially his rent
  • We felt he didn’t pay rent not because of the building but because he was a scumbag — he was already waaaaaaaay behind on his rent when the landlord he was suing bought the building
  • We felt the landlord was trying to maintain the building, because they produced dozens of work orders and checks documenting repairs to the HVAC and elevators, while the doctor couldn’t produce a copy of even a single complaint about the state of the building — but he did have copies of several letters begging for more time to pay his back rent. In fact, we figured the landlord would have spent even more money on the building if the doctor had paid his rent, because then they’d have been able to afford even more repairs.
  • We felt the doctor gave probably-credible evidence of a decline in his patient visits, but produced nothing to tie that to the condition of the building. He said it was because of the building but didn’t give us anything to prove it. If he had produced even one patient saying “I stopped seeing him because of that,” well, we might have given him some money. But he didn’t. So we were left to speculate about why he might have been losing patients. My pet theory was that it was because they were dying because they were his patients and that’s why they weren’t coming back.

When we had finally voted on each of the issues before us and voted against the doctor on all of them, that’s the first time I felt kind of bad for him. Up until then, watching him in court and listening to him on the witness stand, I didn’t think very highly of him. I didn’t find him credible, I thought he was shady, I thought he was a good example of a bad doctor… I just basically didn’t believe him and didn’t like him and didn’t think he deserved a thing. But after we had decided to give him absolutely nothing and make him pay his back rent besides… Well, that’s when I felt kind of bad for him.

He had gone through all the run-up to the trial, spent money on attorney fees and expert witnesses, and basically had a lot of time and money and energy invested in this case. If he won, he was going to get a big payoff — he’d be able to wipe out his $50,000 back rent debt without paying it, and get upwards of $1,000,000 besides. But we were slapping him in the face and saying “No, no, no, and no,” and making him pony up the $50,000 too. So I felt badly for him.

When we delivered our verdict in open court, I felt even worse. He looked more and more hang-dog as the clerk read each verdict, and his head hung lower and lower. I really felt bad for the guy — his lottery ticket was a loser, and now he was on the hook for a bunch of money. I keep thinking of how he must feel at this exact moment, as I’m writing these words, sitting in his home somewhere and trying to figure out what he’s going to do next. He’s probably considering bankruptcy now, probably feeling like he’s at the end of his rope.

It humanizes him for me and I feel badly for the guy. But I don’t regret my decision, not even a little bit. I know that my fellow jurors and I did the right thing.

It’s not easy being Justice Man.


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