Thursday, April 29, 2010

Luck of the Draw

In terms of life lesssons, I have aced gratitude. I absolutely have that attitude of gratitude and have never taken anything for granted, even being able to sleep all night, or sleep in a warm, clean bed, or have food in my cupboards. I am reminded of it on Thursdays when I vacate my apartment to go have lunch and read a magazine or book in a restaurant while my cleaning woman is here. I come back to a sweet smelling, gleaming apartment with clean sheets on my bed and I have never yet not thought, "How lucky am I?"

Today as I was lingering on my front steps before returning to work, a young man in his 20s was struggling to walk along with an older man who was apparently his trainer or companion or nurse. The young man was shuffling stiff-legged, one tiny step at a time with his arms out in front of him for balance. A tremor in his arms and hands was getting worse with each step until the companion told him to lean against this brick wall of a building right next to me.

If I had to guess, I would say the young man had some sort of brain injury and was learning to walk and talk again. He was barely verbal, but could answer yes and no. The companion was very kind to him and as the tremor subsided as the young man leaned against the building, asked him gently, "Do you want to try for the rest of this block?" and the young man said yes and off they went.

It's hard to imagine anything much worse, but as my eyes followed them down the block, I thought that this might be a huge improvement over lying in a hospital bed and maybe the young man and his family are grateful that he is walking by himself even with such difficulty. Maybe he's gone from a walker to a cane to nothing.

They walked to the corner and then came back my way and I again thought how grateful I am that I can walk unaided, anywhere I want, that I can get up from the steps and go inside. But I can't help but wonder why this young man, why was his life so terribly interrupted. And that's why I have also never forgotten some little prayer I read once that said, "Thank you God for a normal day." I always think of that -- that being able to do nothing more than to go to work, eat dinner, watch tv and go to bed can be a dream come true.

Of course, my wish is that I see this young man in a month or so and be able to report great improvement in his walk.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Blessed Silence

Today my leaky, runny bathtub faucet was fixed. $18 in materials and about an hour's time-- no, not by me. Now when I'm in that bathroom, it's quiet as a tomb. I don't think we realize how much stress something causes until it's gone.

Have you ever sat in a room and then the air conditioning or a refrigeration unit shuts off and it's like you can breathe again? You didn't realize how loud that noise was until it was gone.

With the bathroom, it wasn't just the gurgly steady drip, but the stress the noise caused, reminding me constantly I need to do something about it.

So now it's fixed. And I found my checkbook (finally) which had slipped out of the top of the drawer, to a space underneath a drawer so I couldn't find it until, in desperation, I pulled the drawer out. I had been reduced to looking in ridiculous places like the clothes hamper. The checkbook never leaves my apartment so unless someone snuck in, stole it, and did nothing with the checks or I accidentally threw it away -- both choices seemed really unlikely, I knew it had to be here somewhere, and it was.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Vanishing Sights

I quickly snapped this in the cab on the way home from lunch. This is on East 84th Street, and I don't remember the last time I saw an old-fashioned barber shop, with pole. This was like looking back in time. Inside were two male barbers, with their barber coats and the traditional barber chairs. The place looked like it hadn't been renovated in 45 years. Such a time warp. I wonder how many pure barber shops there are left in NY.

Pastrami Friday

Here's a close up across the street, and it doesn't do it justice. Anyway, today was lunch with my friend Barbara, back at Artie's for motzah ball chicken soup and pastrami sandwiches. This is a big place, and we were turned off when we first went in at the curt yet bored (does that translate to screw you?) treatment where they wouldn't let us sit at a table for four since we were two people only, despite many empty tables.

So we were unceremoniously squished at a tiny table for two which is really one of the drawbacks of informal dining in NY. Our excitement balloon over about to be getting pastrami followed by chocolate pudding had been burst by our unhappiness with the seating.

However, soon Terry the old-style waitress came along, and she changed the chemistry. We just knew we were in good hands with Terry who carries straws in her pocket so when you order a soda, you get a straw right away. She was excellent and we cheered up.

Our pastrami sandwiches, pickles, coleslaw, soup, and chocolate pudding were all that we expected them to be so it was another great lunch at Artie's. It had turned cool here today, and seemed to me to be more like a fall day than a spring day.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Before and After

These two pictures are a few days short of a month apart. The flowers on the building are the palest of purple, but look up at the roofline and you can see how many there are. I'll try to get a better photo tomorrow.

I was sitting on my steps for a few minutes watching people walk by this building and they'd frequently stop and just look at it. Even groups walking together would stop and individually look at it. Many would take a quick cellphone photo and then keep walking. I wish the flowers lasted longer than a week or so, but this is the wisteria at its peak.

Monday, April 19, 2010


You know the feeling when everywhere you look is work? I feel somewhat shamed when my life feels out of control and I think of a single mother with four kids who goes to school and works full time and I have trouble keeping one life in working order, but I do.

My suitcase is half unmpacked... well, maybe I should start with the positives. My apartment is clean. I am down to one load of laundry. I have a pile ready for the drycleaner. I bought groceries. I haven't missed any deadlines yet.

And speaking about how easy my life should be, or rather how fortunate I am on a number of levels, the man who helps me ("helps me" is relative -- he does the work, and I write the check)do my garden came today at my request and did winter clean up and will be back later this week with the flowers.

I found Robert on Craigslist and he is really wonderful. He told me today that he is going on vacation to see the Redwood trees in California. He said, "For a gardener, that's like going to the Vatican." I had been feeling somewhat whimsical so I told him I want a butterfly garden. I know my plants have attracted some butterflies, but we're going to go all out this year.

Ok, so some things are going well, but my bathtub cold water went from drip drip drip to a small, steady stream. I need a plumber. I need to go to the bank. I need to go to the dry cleaner. I need to pay some bills and go to the post office. I need to get some work-work stuff done. I fantasize about how wonderful it would be to have a house manager who did all of this.

So I've been telling myself "babysteps, babysteps" -- that's how things get done, one load of laundry, one piece of junk mail into the recycling bin at a time... and just when I think I'm coping and calm, I get a voice mail to call someone at the bank which holds my mortgage.

Ha ha, I think. I always pay my mortgage on time. I always pay almost double my mortgage payment so there can't be a problem... then that little haze forms in my mind. I know I mailed the check, but now that I think about it... Hmmmm... I don't remember seeing that it had cleared.

I call them back, go through the horrid phone tree experience, and sure enough no check from me this month. The good news is that since I mailed the payment in the original envelope, the post office scans it and so the bank could tell that the envelope from me was scanned on April 5th.

However, that same envelope is a no show, and it's my responsibility. They recommended that I wait to see if the check shows up by the 28th, but I really don't want to wait that long. Of course, they can see my payment record, which I pointed out to them, and the woman said, it's "pretty good." And I replied PRETTY GOOD??? And she said, "Ok, it's very good."

I really hate stuff like this. The mortgage bank said they'd waive the late fee (gee, thanks), but I will still get charged by my bank if I cancel the check. I believe I may just pay April again, and if the orginal check shows up, it can just be applied to the next month. Or the next. Or the next.

And to add insult to injury, I can't find my checkbook. Oh I know it's here somewhere because I never take it out anywhere but this is all part and parcel of being discombobulated.

Babysteps. Babysteps. Babysteps.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 11 of 10 -- No Place Like Home

I'm home. I ordered Chinese food. I am thrilled to be here. Typically I wish for an uneventful trip, but that was not meant to be. I felt as if I had tricked the system since I did pay for prepaid gas, even though consumer sites tell you not to with a rental car because I hate finding a gas station close to the airport.

So the low fuel light went on with the airport exit 9 miles away and I felt pretty good -- that if I didn't screw up, I could coast in on fumes and make the pre-paid gas work for me. The price per gallon was something like $2.60 prepaid which I thought was good.

I arrive at the Hertz return, but all is not well. Those computerized guns/receipt makers they use are down and so he told gave me a piece of paper with my mileage and said I had to go to the service counter.

When I saw on a map how far away the service counter was -- at the opposite end of the airport, I tried to beat it. I called various 800-numbers on my rental folder, all for naught. I didn't even care if I had a receipt -- I just wanted to make sure the car was checked in.

Well, being a Libra, I first decided the heck with it -- I'm not going to do anything, and then I started imaginging the phone call I'd get around Tuesday with Hertz wondering where their car was. How would I prove I turned it in?

I decide to go for medium pain now to avoid the big pain in a few days so I started walking. Imagine a huge international terminal. Now stuff in 1000 families with little kids all running around, all tourists, it's warm inside, it's Friday, I'm exhausted and i'm lugging a big suitcase (yeah, it's on wheels, but still...) and my computer bag and I start walking. And walking. Literally from one end of the terminal... now imagine the place for all the airline counters... past one, past anouther, past another... no end in sight...

Of course I start sweating so I looked and felt horrible. When I finally get back on the elevator to go to the rental car level, there are about 10 parties in front of me. I'm still sweating. I call out,, "I'm returning here because your machines are broken; do I have to wait in line?"

The answer: Are you a member of the Hertz #1 Club?

I have no idea. I don't think I am currently, so I just stood there and sweated. When it's finally my turn, the woman asks for my license and credit card as if I'm renting now. I said "No." She said "No??"

I said, "I have been on quite a hike" and I explained to her. She got very serious, very type-y (started typing all sorts of things in); she told me the car had NOT been checked in so I was right to go through this.

At one point, another clerk interrupted her and she said, "I can't do it now; this woman has just walked from Returns" and they looked at me like "Wow" -- she then told me she was going to take $100 off my rental because of the walk.

OK, I got over that -- but I tell you, I was tired and then back to Delta, through the security, on this fricking tram, to my gate which is always the last one. I was pooped. I sit there and finally they start boarding and I have my boarding pass in my hand and there were 3 or 4 people in front of me, and three (count 'em) TSA Agents pull me out of line as if I'm a drug dealer. (Hey, I've watched "Locked Up Abroad" on National Geo Channel!)

I had to put my hands out palms up so they could swipe them with that cloth thing that they then put into a machine and the guy went through my computer bag-- all for nothing. No drugs, no exploding underpants, nothing.

As soon as we pushed back from the gate, all was well. In fact, the flight was early, got a cab, and since I've been writing this, my Chinese food has arrived!

There's no place like home!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Goodbye Conservative Talk Radio - Day 10 of 10

I have been spending about 90 minutes a day in the car. I don't know enough about recent music to easily find a music station that pleases me. I typically land on music that seems agreeable enough until I figure out it's Country Western or Christian pop and by the time I do, I am usually ready to poke my own eardrums out in order to not hear it anymore.

So I usually like to find some safe talk format, but it seems in Central Florida, there's a whole lot of Rush Limbaugh wannabees... Rush on a local level. The talk this week has been about Tea Parties (pro), Obama (con), health care (con) and Sarah Palin (pro!!!). The callers are really those angry geezer types-- someone this morning called in to say that Obama has ordered that all American flags be removed from the White House... furthermore he said that in order to be in the audience of an Obama speech, you can't be a member of the NRA. He sincerely believed this.

I give the host some credit asking the guy what his source was -- (the Internet). One of the commercials was for some company that sells seeds (like for plants) that have not been genetically altered (which I guess is bad in their world) and you buy an emergency supply of these seeds that will yield one acre of high nutrition food.

Think of what you have to believe to buy these seeds. That the food supply is cut off. That you will have time to sow your seeds and wait for them to grow to mature plants. That if the food supply is cut off, no one would try to steal your vegetables (or whatever they are).

If you want to know more, google "Survival Seeds" and you'll see this is a serious movement. The bad thing is the Tea Party-ers will be vegetarians on their survival diet which has got to be a bad thing. Aren't vegetarians all socialists like Obama?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Back to Cracker Barrel - Day 9 of 10

You can't go home again, or at least you can't go back to Cracker Barrel and have the same experience. I went back tonight for more chicken fried steak, and I have to say I was disappointed. I have to preface this by saying that I had gotten up at 5 am for my press breakfast so I was fairly worn out by dinner. I didn't like that she asked me if I wanted brown or white gravy. Are you kidding? It's like asking "Do you want 1000 Island dressing on that Cesar salad?"

So when my plate arrived, I noticed the uniform nature of the piece of meat. It is typically ragged along the edge, but I swear they must have changed vendors and this was like a pre-formed meat patty rather than a real piece of beef.

I had brought a magazine and the USA Today from the hotel room to read. I know some restaurants do this as policy, but I don't like being given my check along with my food. It's like they're saying, "Hurry up and eat and get out."

I had eaten about half my food, was engrossed in whatever drivel I was reading when my waitress asked me if I was finished eating the cole slaw which was in a side dish and I probably had a bite left. Really? Do you need that little bowl that badly? I really don't like when the dishes are removed one by one as I eat -- I've even had an overeager busser take the plate away as I'm putting the last bite of food in my mouth.

It was really the first time I'd had all day to relax and I was being made to feel rushed.

The cheery manager was going table to table (they call it "touching tables" in the trade)to see if everything was OK. When he got to me, I told him that I was feeling rushed and mentioned the cole slaw bowl. I have to say he did a good job answering my complaint. Said that Cracker Barrel has a recent corporate push to "pre-bus" so they can move new people in quicker and sometimes the servers/bussers get carried away. Fair enough.

On an unrelated note, I miscounted the length of this trip. I thought if I left on April 6 and returned home on April 16, that was 10 days, but it's actually 11. I don't go home until Friday, but I'll be glad to get there!

Signs, Signs - Day 9 of 10

Wish this were clearer, but the sign says
"Warm up with Hot Chocolate." Depsite the sunny skies, palm trees and temps in the 70s, everything must be relative and locals no doubt feel chilly and need to warm up.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Central Florida - Day 8 of 10

I've come to this air show for more than 25 years -- the one thing I do enjoy about it is the Spanish Moss. The airport has lots of old trees just dripping with the stuff. Some years I've taken the dry cleaning bag from the hotel and stuffed it with Spanish Moss to bring home for my own garden. In New York, a fist-sized bag of Spanish Moss is five dollars.

This area of Central Florida is still very rural. Lots of agriculture, including strawberry farms. Loads of roadside stands selling strawberries now -- ranging from a little farm stand to a guy selling out of the back of his station wagon. The going price seems to be $4.99 for a flat -- I think that would be six to eight pints -- great price, but I've never attempted to bring some home.

On the way to the airport today I saw a truck full of oranges and you see orange groves here too. It sounds prettier than it is -- it's sort of sandy soil, small farms and homes.

Everything went well today, but tomorrow I have my press breakfast. It's set up by 7 am, but I'm meeting my client at 6:45 which means I'll be up before 6. I can be a morning person, but I prefer not to be. Of course, I'll do the whole "did I oversleep?" drama all night long.

I really trust this caterer -- it turned out to be someone I grew up with who I had not seen since high school. He went to college in Florida and stayed. So in addition to being an old, old friend, he is also the best caterer I have ever worked with. I was talking to his business partner today and kidding him about getting to bed early so he doesn't oversleep, and he said "That won't happen. I'll sleep in the store if I have to." Which is great. There's nothing like the sight of your catering truck pulling up to the venue.

Monday, April 12, 2010

More Amenities - Day 7 of 10

Today I just did my regular work and finished about 1/2 of an article that's due on Wednesday. The big air show starts tomorrow and I have a meeting at 10, followed by a lunch/briefing. Then I think I'll be able to come back and finish my article.

These are the standard Holiday Inn amenities, and a bad photo to boot. You can see you get a small test tube worth of product. The body cream says soften; the shampoo says shampoo; the hair conditioner says tame and the soap says cleanse.

A factor that makes being able to cleanse, shampoo and tame difficult is that the water pressure is so low. You can adjust the shower head from "thick dribble" which is sort of like a half-hearted hose to "light spray" and spray connotes way more power than there is. It's more of a wide sprinkle. Tomorrow will be my third shower here and each day I spend more time rinsing my hair thinking I'll get all the conditioner out.

I have to say the weather has really been great -- breezy in the high 70s.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Signs, Signs -- p.s. to Day Six

I have to confess to a fascination for signs. Always stop to read them. Always stop to ponder them. This one is from lunch at the drive-thru at Wendy's, and it essentially makes no sense.

What Wendy's is saying is you don't get tomatoes unless you ask for them. So no apology is required. If you don't like tomatoes, you're saved from having to pick them off. If you do like tomatoes, you're still getting them.

I hadn't noticed in New York the tomato shortage, but I haven't priced any in the grocery store either.

View from My Window - Day 6 of 10

Conde Nast Traveler used to -- and may still -- have a feature page that faces the inside back cover called "The View from my Window" where readers have sent in magnificent views from various hotel windows. The caption always sounded so enchanted -- like "Grand Island Oceanfront Resort, Eleuthera, Bahamas -- Room 458" and you'd see pink sand beaches, sailboats, turquoise waters, swaying palm trees -- the works.

I have rarely been that lucky. The view here is fairly typical for my travels: parking lots, highways, gas stations, other hotels. I did manage some stunted swaying palms, but that's about it.

Two highlights in the past 24 hours: [wait, make that 3] -- I did get my Cracker Barrel dinner. I went about 8 thinking the dinner rush would be over, but when I arrived, there was a line and a PA system announcing names of reservations and I wasn't that desperate so I drove around for a while -- didn't want fast food/drive thru, and the other choices were Dennys, and those kind of places. There was a place called Grand China Buffet -- and I do love Chinese food, but man, I thought that might be a risk. I drove around and then went back to Cracker Barrel and those extra 15 minutes made the difference.

I got my chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, corn and coleslaw along with a glass of lemonade. Jesus, take me, I'm ready to go. That was so good. (If I'm ever about to be executed, drive me in shackles to Cracker Barrel for my last meal of chicken fried steak.) Read a magazine and had a wonderful dinner. That was the first highlight.

The second highlight was when I went to brush my teeth before going to bed last night, I dropped the brush head on the floor, immediately bent over to pick it up and it was gone. No really. Gone. Disappeared into thin air. I looked everywhere, including inside the tissue box. You think you're losing your mind. Maybe I just thought I dropped it, and it's here somewhere. Things don't disappear into thin air. Finally I gave up and went to sleep un-brushed which I hate.

This morning I thought surely I'd find it, but I didn't so I eventually called down the hallway to a housekeeper who came in my room, got flat on her stomach and found it somehow wedged into this space under the vanity. I wanted to kiss her. It was the kind of trick that if you attempted to do it, you couldn't. So finding my toothbrush head was highlight #2.

Then I thought I'd have to spend some time looking for a laundromat, a place I hoped never to have to frequent again. The hotel guide that they had on the desk only mentioned "laundry and drycleaning services" and I wasn't about to pay to have laundry sent out. Coming back from dinner last night, I saw something right opposite my room which is a laundry room, the only one in the hotel, and it's right across the hall.

I got quarters and detergent and Bounce from the front desk and my laundry is being done now. What a time saver.

I finished my one article this morning, so now it's on to the next one. I was supposed to have dinner tonight with one of my clients which I was looking forward to -- the kind of business dinner that's with a friend. But the company president is coming in a day earlier than planned so my client has to be with him. Dumped for a president; rank does have its privileges.

Just went to put my wash into the dryer and I saw the housekeeper sweeping in the laundry room and I thanked her again, said I hadn't had to feed quarters into a machine in some time --these hotel machines are two dollars for wash and two dollars to dry. She said the going rate at a regular laundromat is $1.75 to wash and still 25cents to dry. My undies are getting one cycle and if they're not dry, they can air dry the rest of the way.

Hope the view from your personal window is a beautiful one.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Changing Locations - Day 5 of 10

One show is finished, and it's on to the next. The press room got packed up and I stayed and talked with some people, left the big fancy hotel around 2, rented a car and now I'm in Haines City, Florida, which is about 20 miles from where the next show is. But since I'm on my own dime for this show I wanted a hotel that was economical.

When I checked in, I said I was a little farther away than I thought I was going to be and the front desk clerk gave me a shortcut to get there. Plus he upgraded me to a King Suite. Suite is a bit of an exaggeration. It's the room you see in the photo, but then there is a walk-through kitchen area with a fridge, microwave, coffee maker, cabinets and a sink. Also a sofa and coffee table. But it's really one big elongated room.

Of course I thought I'd be able to do my own work while monitoring the press room, but all I accomplished really was to keep up with emails -- I guess that's something so I have a bunch of articles to write -- two of which are due on Wednesday so I'm going to write for a while, then go out and have a nice dinner.

Well nice is a relative term, too. One of my guilty pleasures is the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain which we don't have in New York, and my favorite thing to order there is chicken fried steak, which we also don't have in New York. I noticed there's a Cracker Barrel at this exit -- you can imagine my excitement when I saw the billboard, but I didn't see it yet -- I'll find it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Business Travel - Day 4 of 10

This is my last night in this fancy hotel. What I wanted to point out is that each room has a computer -- I didn't use this one since I have my own, but it's basically a keyboard and a screen. Still pretty amazing that this is the state of our dependence on computers, that now one comes with your room.

Jeff Skiles, the USAirways co-pilot and today's luncheon speaker, was really good. Even though you know he's told the story 1000 times, it didn't have that overly-told story feel to it. He told the story from beginning to end, second by second, and I commented as if I felt that I was getting a real insider look at the incident. He also had photos and then played the whole 3 minutes of Air Traffic Control tapes which were quite interesting to hear.

Tonight the woman I report to here took a bunch of us out to dinner. Turned out to be an Italian buffet. I can't say I'm a fan of buffets -- I think, especially after a long day at work, I want to sit and be waited on. We were sitting in this "open air" restaurant -- and I put open air in quotation marks because it's in the biosphere part of this place and it's a strange experience since you feel as if you are outside but you're not.

So tomorrow (Saturday)I work for a half day here, then pick up a rental car here and go on to hotel #2 which will not be as nice as this one. Bid $72 a night for it on Priceline. Started at $60, got turned down, went to $65, got turned down, went to
$70, got turned down but I knew I was getting close so I went to $72 and got accepted. It's a Holiday Inn.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Business Travel - Day 3 of 10

So here's the bed -- actually one of two in the room. If you look at the height of the nightstand, you can see how high it is. In fact, when I sit on the edge of the bed, my feet don't touch the floor.

The bedspread is weird -- sort of Puss n Boots style clothes on monkeys -- in a Pirate/palm tree background. I say pirates, but there are no ships, just swords and swashbuckling monkeys.

Nothing much to report for today. There was a media lunch in the press room today and that went well. I was supposed to work until 5 and close the room, but I ended up talking to some people so we didn't leave until 6. I was hoping to get other work done during the day, but that hasn't happened so maybe I'll get some other stuff done tonight.

The highlight of tomorrow is the association's main luncheon where the speaker is Jeff Skiles who was the copilot aboard the USAirways flight that landed on the Hudson River. I asked someone today what his message was -- now that he's doing the convention circuit and this fellow who had heard him speak says he is really funny so it's a message of optimism which sounds good. More on that tomorrow.

Last year, I had met Captain Sullenberger -- well, I was talking to someone well known in aviation and he came over to meet the person who I was talking to and so I got introduced as a courtesy. Very low key guy. Really a lovely man.

I started my day with someone holding the elevator for me and I thanked him and he said to me, "You don't remember me, Pat, do you?" and I looked at him and said "No." And he said "It's Willy from Thunder Bay" and that didn't mean a thing to me, but I lied and said 'Oh of course" as if I had made the connection and then he kissed me and I still have no idea who he is. Maybe he haunts convention hotels, reads women's name badges (which I was wearing) and kisses them...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Business Travel - Day Two

Let's talk about hotel amenities. I like the ones here. I think because it's a convention center where people are likely to stay two or three nights that you get bigger bottles.

So here you get the typical shampoo, conditioner and body lotion. I don't like combined shampoo/conditioner as some hotels try to foist off on you -- I feel that when it's combined, it can't do a good job on either cleaning or conditioning.

You can see how much shampoo I used -- and it's great not to be forced to squeeze every last drop out of the bottle and hope they leave you more. I also like the bigger bars of soap. Who's old enough to remember when motels had their own little bars of soap with the hotel names on them? [Just checked ebay and sure enough, one little bar from the Deauville Hotel in Atlantic City is selling for $10.]

And, yes, I do take the leftover home with me. Old habit. If I get room service, I also take the little jars of jelly home with me because it's good stuff. Not so with the ketchup. Sometimes with the mustard.

Today was fine. A fairly new hire at one of my clients -- someone who I talked to on the phone daily but never met in person -- well, we met today and she said she had a present for me. I did not take it literally -- thought she was going to dump work on me, but it was a present and it turned out to be this very pretty little metal bookmark. I am always so sincerely grateful for a little gift like that -- it's so lovely to think that someone made that effort.

Now back in my room, someone kept knocking on the door, and I kept ignoring it until it was clear the person was not going away. Well, it was a waiter with a plate of chocolate covered strawberries that came with this very nice note from the association people -- the people I'm working for this week, thanking me for my work on their behalf.

Living alone and working alone, I have to say I love being spoiled like this.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Business Travel -- Day 1 of 10

Today was a travel day for a long trip to Florida of two trade shows back to back. Took a flight this afternoon which was totally uneventful, other than its arriving 30 minutes early. I had taken this same flight in February -- gets to Orlando at 5:30 which I thought was a good arrival in order to have dinner and a relaxing evening before work, and in February my flight was five hours late.

Well, today I was lucky and I don't think it struck me until I was getting in a cab to go to my hotel that I am on time, I will have a nice dinner, I will relax in my room tonight -- just as planned.

This first convention is an association for companies that manufacture navigation and communication electronics for airplanes -- also a relatively new componenent of Internet, passenger entertainment systems, etc. One segment is the manufacturers and the other segment is the technicians and shops that install and repair the equipment. This is for everything from airliners down to little airplanes.

I write for this association's magazine and since I know most of the aviation media who will be there, my job here is to work the press room. I call myself "press room matron." At conventions like this, the media get their own room to work with computers, refreshments, places to interview people and I make sure it all runs smoothly.

Luckily I just have to show up, not set up, so I start bright and early at 7:30 tomorrow morning. At least there will be coffee ready.

This hotel/convention center is called the Gaylord Palms, in Kissimmee, and it's one of those -- oh heck, what was that name of that self-contained world.. the Biosphere? So it's all enclosed around this atrium where everything is fake -- fake waterfalls, fake foliage (well most of it), fake flowers, fake little village with real little stores, fake rocks, etc. The photo is the view from my balcony overlooking this atrium.

I have been in literally hundreds of hotel rooms in my business travel, and I've often looked around wondering at the sameness of it and what I would do differently. Today, I experienced one amenity which I loved, and didn't even know it was possible. I passed the Coke machine ... oh excuse me, the "vending room" and you could use your room key (like a credit card) to get a Coke.

I arrived parched and was able to swipe my room key for a nice big bottle of water and then a bottle of Diet Coke. Very convenient.

I must say that I arrived in a pissy mood, just on general principals, but the service, the food, my room are all quite good. Since my room is provided by the association who is hosting this convention, I was told when I checked in that I was in the best part of the hotel. So I am feeling like quite the VIP.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday

One of the great pleasures of city life is sitting in an open air restaurant and watching the world go by as you eat. Samalita's is at my corner, on First Avenue, and it bills itself as California Mexican, but it's really an eclectic menu.

My favorite thing on the menu is crabmeat guacamole which the server makes tableside. I don't think I've ever seen it anywhere else -- but if you like regular guacamole and like crabmeat, you'll love this combination.

I was hunting for a book earlier (which I couldn't find -- perhaps I loaned it out) in order to include an Easter message. I had seen Peter Gomes, who had been (and maybe still is) a chaplain at Harvard, on television and I was so impressed and intrigued by his spirituality that I bought a book of his sermons, which is an unlikely purchase for me as a lapsed church-goer.

Anyway, the Easter sermon in this book was about fear. He used the traditional story of Easter morning and pointed out that off all the things Jesus could have said to the women who first saw him alive again... On this momentous occasion that would influence the world for centuries to come, Gomes points out that the first words out of Jesus' mouth were, "Do not be afraid" and Gomes said that's the message we should take from Easter.

On New Age fronts, Louise Hay always says, "Stop scaring yourself" and boy, I'm good at that! I can easily conjure up the worst possible outcomes, the worst possible explanations,and the worst possible events. I am able to stop myself after a few seconds (ok, maybe after a minute or two) and realize that I wouldn't allow anyone around me to be this negative. Fear is really crippling so that's the message this lapsed Christian semi-New Age person is going to have for myself and pass along to you this Easter: Do not be afraid.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Word Play

I am somewhat known among my colleagues as a grammar/usage freak -- maybe that means I'm of an age where the rules of grammar were still drilled into our young heads way back when.

Anyway, a colleague wrote me stumped by the use of the word myriad. He wanted to know which was corrrect: a myriad of options or myriad options.

Hmmmmm... I went to and saw the myriad can be used as both an adjective and a noun, so either was right.

What I learned is that the root of myriad is from the Greek word myrias which means "ten thousand."

I emailed him back with my ruling to which he replied that he guesses myriad is like the F-word -- how you can use it all different ways!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Early Spring on East 87th Street - Part 2

Funny all the things one photo can show. I took this picture originally just to show the trees blooming one block over from me. This block is 87th between First Avenue and York Avenue, but I see more in this photo to talk about.

First, and I noticed this when I took the photo, is that you can see birds in that first tree which are pigeons, and I don't think you normally see, nor do I know if I ever have seen, pigeons roosting in trees. They are more building/statue kind of birds.

Second I notice a payphone, which is a rare thing to see in the City these days. Used to be there was one on every block -- even a little booth with a door that closed which now seems as quaint as a horse and buggy. I don't remember the last time I used a pay phone -- I don't even know if it's a quarter to make a call.

Next, you can see that in the right hand side, I caught a bit of a building which is an ice cream store. Have to admit that I was happy when I heard an ice cream store was going in on my corner, but I don't like the place, I don't like their ice cream, I don't like the people who work there and so in the three or so years it's been on this corner (it was previously a manicure place and before that a fish market), I think I've gone there three times.

The last thing I noticed, which I hadn't noticed before is the building poster on the left hand side for bed bugs. I had pitched a bed bug story to a magazine I no longer work for five years ago, then again four years ago, and one last time three years ago. Each time, the thinking was it was too rare of a problem to write about, but I knew that wasn't the case.

In fact, a friend of mine who lives in a luxury high rise building had a bed bug epidemic in her building where the building management brought in a bed bug sniffing dog to check all the apartments. Luckily hers was (and remains)bed bug free. When I noticed that poster, I thought of it as vindication for my article idea which should not have been rejected.

I had really followed the bed bug situation from its happening in foreign hotels, to crummy US hotels, to good US hotels, to regular people, to someone who I met but was not a friend, and then to a friend. It's like the circle got smaller and smaller. I do remember my mother saying "Sleep tight; don't let the bed bugs bite" but I never thought they were real things!